Angling Heritage are delighted to announce that Mr Torridge, Charles Inniss, author of the classic book Torridge Reflections is giving a talk about the River Torridge and its history, his life on the river and thoughts on the future at Torrington Museum (in the middle of Torrington) on Thursday 23rd August at 2.30pm. Entry is FREE, refreshments are provided so make sure that don’t miss this opportunity to meet the man and learn about the River Torridge.
I caught my first coarse fish from Mill Park Pond near Berrynarbor whilst in my early teens a tiny perch with bristling spiky fins and bold stripes. It took a worm suspended beneath an orange tipped quill float in a scene that could have been lifted direct from the pages of Crabtree that evocative book that inspired many young anglers in that age long before computer games and mobile phones. I spent many hours fishing at Mill Pond as a youngster fascinated by the mysterious quality of its tree shaded waters.
Roach, perch, bream and eels were our target as young anglers and it was generally simplistic fishing with float fished maggot or worms. As we grew older we sometimes tried for the carp that glided through the water on sunny days appearing almost blue as the shafts of sunlight penetrated the water. I caught my first carp from water on float-fished sweetcorn in 1981 a fish that took close to an hour to bring to the net on just 3lb b.s line. In the early eighties I went on to catch several carp from the lake to almost twenty pounds. The pond also produced several big perch during those years the biggest I heard of was found washed up dead and weighed 4lb 10oz a fish that was at the time very close to the British Record.
Whilst I always had affection for Mill Park or Mill Pond as we knew it then my visits dwindled as my fishing focus changed and the pond of my youth fell into decline with silting issues and dwindling stocks of fish. In recent seasons I was pleased to hear of good catches of roach, skimmer bream and carp.
I was recently delighted to receive an invitation to visit the lake once again and seized the opportunity to revisit my early memories of fishing. Knowing that the lake held good numbers of silver fish I decided to invite three match angling friends to fish the pond on a summers evening. I would tag along with my camera and attempt to capture some of the ponds magic. They would undoubtedly be far more able to show of the fantastic fishing available than myself.
I am always wary of revisiting childhood abodes as time and maturity can sometimes shatter those treasured memories. Fortunately Mill Park has retained its charm and many of the features from my youth remained unchanged whilst the addition of a few water lilies, sympathetic bank work and de-silting has if anything enhanced the water.
Martin Turner, Neilsen Jeffrey and John Forster are all keen match anglers and all enjoy regular success on the local circuit. On this summer evening in early July I joined them in the swims I had fished all those years ago. Sunlight streamed through the trees into the greenish opaque waters. Carp basked on the surface in the warm sunshine. The quaking of ducks echoed across the water. It was as if time had stood still for over forty years.
Martin and Neilsen had elected to fish side by side, Neilsen using feeder fishing tactics whilst Martin pole fishing with tares feeding hempseed. I was absorbed immediately watching the quiver tip as it shook and pulled round and the float as it sat optimistically before darting beneath the surface.
It was fascinating to watch these masters of their craft at work as they constantly made tiny adjustments to their set ups as the fickle fish appeared to constantly change in their willingness to take the bait. It was Martin whose tactics appeared to win over on this evening with quality roach responding to constant feeding with just a few grains of hemp every cast. At times the water seemed to shimmer silver sided roach fed in frenzy beneath the calm surface. Steady feeding seemed to be the key to consistent success with a few grains of hemp fed each cast with Martin getting into steady rhythm of feed, hook fish, unhook, feed and repeat.
Martin handed me the pole for five minutes and I swung a couple of roach to hand experiencing the sensation of pole elastic and a lack of running line.
A few yards along the bank John Forster was using pole tactics to winkle out roach from beside a lily pad. He also made brief contact with a carp that smashed the light tackle as it surged for freedom.
After close to three hours fishing it was time to check the total catch and take a couple of pictures. The owners had allowed us to use keep-nets for this friendly evening demonstration of fishing tactics. Martin, Neilsen and John caught well over thirty pounds, all four of us then retired to Mill Parks on site bar for a lengthy discussion on fishing over a well earned cool pint.
Mill Parks campsite is set in a stunning valley with modern well-maintained facilities. The lake is stocked with carp, roach, bream and chub. As a site for summer camping with excellent fishing it comes highly recommended. It is especially suited for young anglers who should be able to catch their first fish with ease and delight in the excitement of that unique contact with nature that can lead to a lifetime of joy.
Out of season Mill Park offers superb roach fishing with regular matches staged with some stunning nets of silver fish winning matches.
This is a fun fishing venue teaming with rudd and a few carp that have probably grown to a little over 5lb maybe more. I had persuaded Snowbee ambassador Jeff Pearce to join James and I on a fun trip to try and catch a carp using fly fishing tactics. James would act as back up using free lined stalking tactics to get a carp for the camera if Jeff and I failed. Jeff is a dedicated Fly Fisher and loves to catch his fish on Fly Tactics whilst I tend to be a little more flexible in my approach generally using whatever tactics are within the rules to catch. On this occasion however I was going to remain strictly Fly Only!
Jeff was first to tempt a fish a small golden scaled rudd.
This was closely followed by a couple more tiny rudd on Jeff’s small nymph patterns. The fascinating aspect of this being that once a couple had been caught it seemed that the lakes population had been briefed for catching consistently became frustratingly difficult.
James was persisting with the traditional bread tactics and caught a pleasing rudd early in the evening and glimpsed a couple of carp cruising the margins.
After a couple of hours we retired to the lakeside Summerhouse for a well earned cuppa with delicious ham and chutney sandwiches, salad, crisps and Kit Kat’s. Special thanks must go to Sandra for making us welcome and ensuring we didn’t go hungry.
Fortified we returned to the fishing I dabbled my chum mixer fly in the margins and watched the rudd nudge and nibble at it whilst I hoped to see a carp materialize from the green tinged water and devour my offering. Jeff and James had crept up to the shallows where James had spotted a few carp. I strolled up to see how things were going and Jeff said a good carp had slurped up a bit of floating crust from amongst the reeds. James had modified his tactics and was using a chum mixer on the hook that slowly sank with the weight of the hook. This tactic proved successful as the line suddenly zipped tight and the rod hooped over as a carp surged to and fro stirring up clouds of silt as it fought gamely before eventually slipping over the rim of the net. Sandra appeared at this moment to congratulate James on catching the first carp of the season a handsome mirror carp of around 4lb.
Agapi is the perfect venue for a family fishing excursion with hordes of small rudd to ensure plenty of action and the chance of a carp to set the pulse of the young angler racing. This is thie sort of water all young anglers should start off on for many anglers today set their sights so high that they reach the summit too early without enjoying the journey. Of course old timers like me still get immersed in the fascination of the chase and the challenge of catching whatever the lake holds.
If you are going to Agapi I suggest you give Sandra a ring for directions and to book the lake and secure a few hours of tranquil seclusion deep in the countryside.
I was reading a post on Facebook relating to shark and impact of temperature on their migration and behavior and this got me thinking about temperature and fishing prospects. The post was at first relating to blue shark and if the recent beast from the East would delay the start of the shark fishing season off Cornwall. Anglers commented that the optimum temperature for blue shark to feed is around 13 degrees. Porbeagle shark are apparently less affected by temperature and can be found throughout the year around our coastline.
I used to consider grey mullet a fish of the summer months yet we now catch them all year. Does the cold water temperature stop them feeding. I often fish a local venue where the mullet are clearly visible and ignore baits for the majority of the time. They do this all year yet when I fish in winter I blame water temperature. Is this relative? With heavy snow melt dropping the water temperature I would feel success unlikely but will a rise in temperature trigger feeding even if the water rises to a temperature that is still low for the time of year.
A bitter east wind is undoubtedly bad for fishing but why? The temperature of the water does not drop that quickly so why is it so poor for fishing?
Each species we fish for is impacted upon differently by water temperature. Water temperature can impact upon both feeding, migration and breeding. It is this complexity that makes angling so fascinating. Whatever we fish for water temperature impacts upon the behavior of the fish we seek. Each species has its own niche of coarse and we think of winter cod and summer bass. We consider mackerel a fish of summer yet I saw some caught in Norway where water temperatures are far lower than South West England even in mid July when we were there.
In lakes we now catch carp all year and these were once a fish of the summer months. The reason we catch carp all year round is of coarse twofold in as much that we fish for them and expect to catch them. They have more food and are kept more active by anglers fishing for them.
I have perhaps rambled around a bit casting a few thoughts with no real direction in relation to water temperature and fishing but then that’s what anglers do at times just think of fish and fishing. Temperature is a big factor in fishing for many reasons. For my own sake I say roll on summer but how much does it impact upon the fish we seek?
Its seems that spring is slow to arrive and just as we think its getting milder another cold snap is forecast. But any day now we will get that first real day of spring when warmth prevails and balmy air descends.
There are of course signs that spring is here as daffodils, primroses and celandine’s line the hedgerows and roadside verges. Frogs spawned a couple of months ago now and their spawn is already transforming into tadpoles. It will be soon be the turn of the toads to converge onto lakes and ponds their birdlike croak echoing around. Any time now we could glimpse that first sand martin and then that true harbinger of spring and summer the swallows.
As anglers we are of course very aware of nature that is around us and this is all part of what fishing is all about. I am always filled with optimism as the days grow longer and the chance to fish evening sessions in daylight arrives. Of course many plans are made and time is as ever less plentiful than desired. In just a couple of weeks the clocks spring forward.
There will be the chance to cast a fly across the river for spring salmon. Flick a dry fly upstream for wild brown trout or fish a buzzer on a Stillwater for hard fighting rainbows.
Carp anglers will relish the warming water knowing that carp will become more active and as a result will search for food maybe even coming onto the surface where a chum mixer will be slurped down with that delightful sound of summer evenings.
If you’re a sea angler your thoughts will be turning to bass, smoothound and ray. It will of course depend upon your favourite angling style what you seek. The bait angler will enjoy sitting back waiting for the nodding rod and screaming reel. The lure fisher will be more mobile searching for fish casting here and there searching for that electric tug on the line.
I could ramble on but I am sure you get the vibes that I am trying to convey that excitement at the arrival of new a season and fresh piscatorial adventures. I hope to report on your catches over these coming months, not just the fish but also an appreciation of all that angling means. So please feel free to send me your successes, stories and any images of the angling world you enjoy.
Many thanks go to those who sponsor this site and support this project.
I occasionally receive emails from members of the public in relation to my weekly angling column and always try to answer in a polite and informative matter. I recently received the below email from Robert Durrant a non-angler who has undoubtedly taken an interest in my weekly column. His inquiry relates directly to sea angling and the killing of fish. I will let you read through the exchange of emails below and I will add a few comments at the end.
Wayne, Every week in the Journal you write about vast numbers of fine fish, targeted for sport and brought to weigh-ins. Many are species of shark which are endangered and protected. Are all of these fish bought dead to the scales, or have these anglers moved into the 21st century and found ways to weigh specimens at point of catch without harming them and then releasing them live and unhurt back to the sea? I wish you’d write more about such practices. Best wishes, Rob
Thank you for inquiry and prompting me to give more coverage on angling practices in relation to catch and release. Angling has progressed a long way in recent years and catch and release has become the predominate practice for all angling disciplines. In relation to shark the larger species are all returned alive to the water and in some instances are tagged to enable scientific research to track migration routes. Sadly many of the blue shark tagged are recaptured by long-liners in foreign countries where the fish are targeted for making sharks fin soup. Spurdog numbers have increased dramatically in recent seasons as a result of a commercial ban on the species and all of those caught by boat anglers are returned alive.
Fortunately the practice of bringing dead fish to the scales is becoming a thing of the past with most anglers happy to weigh and return fish after a quick photo. You will notice that the vast majority of pictures I use for the Journal are on location and the fish returned alive. There are sadly a few clubs that have weigh ins where fish are brought to the scales due to a lack of trust amongst members. I do not think this will continue for many more years.
Salmon anglers now return over 90% of salmon caught, with no fish retained before June 16th. Bass are now catch and release only for recreational anglers, though this may be reviewed later in the year if scientific data determines it is possible.
I have no problem with anglers retaining the occasional fish for the table if stocks are healthy. But I have no time for killing fish for competition purposes.
I will write about the changing practices in a future Journal column and on my website. I do not know if you are an angler or have ever fished but I would point out that angling does engage people with the countryside and many anglers are keen conservationists who have a deep love of nature.
Thanks so much for your courteous, informative, and encouraging reply, greatly appreciated.
It would be great if you could give more coverage to the enlightened practices followed by ethical anglers these days, as so much emphasis is given to weights and trophy specimens that it often seems that conservation of species and fish welfare comes a very long way behind.
I’m delighted that we see eye to eye about avoiding killing fish except for table use where the stocks are healthy.
I’m not an angler, though of course I’ve enjoyed a little sea fishing in my earlier years; but my interest stems from a particular awareness of marine conservation issues, where I have some involvement, from recording marine species found from the shore, and from diving. I’m very much aware of tag and release practices involving sharks, but little is ever mentioned about this in the media regarding local practices, or indeed in the publicity put out by local sea fishing operators. Maybe it’s just taken for granted; but it would be good to see greater emphasis on conservation and environmental issues.
Yes, I have noticed that most of the photos you use in the Journal do show the fish displayed apparently close to place of capture, but without confirmation that these specimens are not later hauled away to the scales elsewhere, it was difficult to be confident. Certainly friends of mine who have been involved with sea fishing clubs in the past have been nauseated at the pointless waste and indeed cruelty involved in these inland weigh-ins which used to be standard practice. I’m so pleased that in recent years things have moved on.
I hope that an emphasis on decent practices will help make those benighted clubs which still insist on weighing dead fish at the club’s scales realise that they have become social pariahs, whatever happened in the past and too often still happens overseas.
I look forward to reading your comments in the Journal, and your website too.
Thanks again for your very positive response.
All the best, Rob
Hi again, Wayne,
Just been looking on the North Devon Angling News site. Lots of pics there of sea catches displayed on the beach or in the boat, but too many not good – one on top of the harbour wall at Clovelly, eg – particularly lots of sharks being dangled by their tails. Shark Trust handling guide very strongly emphasis that sharks must never be held up by their tails alone, and abdomen must always be supported. Otherwise, though the shark may be able to swim away after return it may very well die out of sight from internal injuries.
Maybe you could put out a warning that you will cease publishing pics showing bad practices? Would be a brilliant idea if boat skippers showed a bit more responsibility in guiding their clients correctly!!
All the best, Rob
Thank you for your reply. Following on from our exchange of letters would it be possible for me to post the letters on my website followed by a brief article on conservation practices and changing times. I think using the exchange of emails would give a good introduction to the feature and demonstrate to anglers how non anglers view what appears in the media, It might also make people think a little more deeply. This will have more impact than me simply stating my views.
Certainly very happy for you to do that, sounds a good plan.
I look forward to it.
I am an all round angler and fish for species in all disciplines of angling and I can understand Rob’s concerns to an extent as sea angling is to some degree less focused on fish welfare than Coarse and carp anglers. To some extent this is due to the fact that Coarse Fish and Carp are valuable commodities stocked into lakes that cost the fishery owners considerable sums of money. For this reason fisheries have strict rules to safeguard the welfare of the stocks. The use of unhooking mats, antiseptic solution to prevent infection, safe rigs, barb-less hooks and the sterilization of equipment prior to fishing is common practice.
Anglers also embrace good handling practice because they value the fish and have a respect for their quarry. I fish for pike and know a good number of pike anglers who are very passionate about the pikes welfare preaching the use of correct tackle and the care needed to safely remove hooks.
Game Fishers who fish for salmon and sea trout now return the majority of fish caught and get very involved in protection of river habitat and even run hatchery projects to attempt to halt the decline in stocks of wild salmon and sea trout. When I first fished for salmon over thirty years ago the majority of salmon were kept for the table and I delighted in feasting on a wild salmon caught from a local river. I always felt a tinge of sadness though after administering the last rites and seeing the vivid colours of life drain from the vibrant flanks. Today I take far greater pleasure in seeing the occasional salmon I manage to tempt swim strongly away to hopefully complete their Journey to the spawning grounds.
Sea angling I concede has been slower to move towards catch and release practice in part I suspect down to the vast and wild nature of the sea and the once misguided perception that fish stocks are not impacted upon by angling. There is only one reason to kill fish and that is to eat it. At this point I will confess that I used to fish in local angling competitions and dispatch fish to bring back to the weigh in. I also killed fish to submit for specimen trophies. As time passed I and many other anglers grew concerned at this unnecessary slaughter. The Sea Angling Club that I have fished with over the past forty years now practices catch and release for all competitions. In modern times with quality scales and modern digital cameras and phones there is no reason to kill fish except for the table. Images of live fish at the waters edge are far more rewarding than a dead corpse held aloft in the garden or in a club house.
As a child I gazed in wonder at the corpses of dead blue shark at Looe in Cornwall brought ashore by members of the Shark Angling Club of Great Britain. This club is now 100% catch and release promoting responsible angling practice that minimizes mortality of these magnificent fish. I have fished for shark on numerous occasions and thrilled at the power of these fish on the line. I have enjoyed the privilege of interacting with the shark and delighted in seeing them swim away. In some instances shark are tagged and this has proved valuable in scientific research tracking the vast migration taken by sharks. Sadly many shark are recaptured by commercial long liners who target the fish for use in shark fin soup.
Whilst sea angling has moved towards conservation there is room for increased awareness of good handling practice. Thought can be given to tackle used with circle hooks sometimes beneficial in reducing deep hooking. Tackle used should always be strong enough to give a good chance of landing the fish hooked. Fish should be weighed in a suitable bag or weigh sling and not hung up by the gills. When holding the fish for a picture it should be handled firmly and supported to reduce risk of damage to internal organs.
As anglers we have a responsibility to show respect for the fish we seek to catch and to always show the pastime in a positive light. We should not judge past generations by today’s standards. Perceptions change and as we realise the fragility of the natural world we adopt more enlightened practices. I have always been a passionate angler and believe interaction with nature via angling has given me a deep bond with the natural world and an appreciation of the great outdoors. Angling in general is a healthy sport, good for both mental and physical health and an important social pastime that also bring huge financial rewards to local business via angling tourism.
Thanks for the reference in your article this week, linking to the great article in your blog, which I found very helpful; and I most grateful to you for the very positive way you have responded to my approach to you. I am sure that many readers will be encouraged by what you have written; and I hope that it will nudge angling practices a bit further in the right direction.
Steve Dawe tells us about his Fishty two Challenge a very worthwhile cause and one I am sure many reading this will be able to relate to.
It was a huge shock when I found out that a good angling friend of mine had suffered a massive stroke only a week after our last fishing trip together, this particular stroke has left friend Andy, wheel chair bound and in need of a full time carer. My father had also suffered a mini stroke around the same time and the two instances really highlighted just how indiscriminate and instant a stroke can be. With friend Andy determined to get fishing again and suffering the pain and frustration required to rebuild his life, I felt inspired to try and do something. This is when the concept of the Fishty Two challenge was formulated and as an added bonus this year is to be my 52nd birthday. The challenge is set across the 52 weeks of 2018 commencing on January the 1st and concluding on December the 31st. During the year I need to catch 52 different species of fish from Sea, Freshwater and Game fisheries and all on a catch and release basis.
The charity I am raising money and just as importantly awareness for is the Stroke Association, a national charity that supports victims of strokes and their families. When I approached the charity with my idea they were really excited at the uniqueness of the idea and offered as much support as I needed. The next issue I had was setting up a web page, twitter account and just giving page all massive hurdles for a technophobe, time to enlist the help of my daughter who quickly sorted it all with a few dozen clicks. The definitive list of species is still a close guarded secret and I have even gone to the trouble of colour coding them green, amber and red with the red species being the most difficult. Much of my angling is on the north Devon coastline either boat angling or shore fishing but during this challenge I will be travelling the length and breadth of the country after species not indigenous to the west country.
The great thing with anglers is that when a fellow angler needs some help we step up and offer a hand, this is indeed the case with my challenge with many angling friends offering assistance so I can be in with the best chance possible to catch a particular species. So far I have raised nearly £400 and my target is £552 so it’s a fantastic first month, species wise I am on 17 and these are split between sea and coarse species. The easier species can be knocked off fairly quickly but the harder ones may take many trips so the more I have in the bag the better. Fishing from North Devon in January I landed, Spurdog, Dab, Dogfish, Conger, Whiting, Rockling and Bullhuss highlighting just how great our coastline really is. The challenge has been very enlightening from an angling perspective and even the smallest of a target species is met with much rejoicing. Sadly since starting the challenge at least three of my angling friends or their families have had their lives affected by strokes, it does appear that the average age of a stroke victim has come down, a worrying trend.
I have a website showing the gallery of fish, info on the stroke association and where to donate if you so desire, I also do a weekly blog which is also accessible from a tab on the web page. The webpage link is https://stevedawe189.wixsite.com/fishtytwochallenge
Hopefully the rest of the year will be successful and I’m banking on North Devon to throw up a few more of those needed species, thanks to everyone who has supported me thus far and to all those who will be soon.
The North Devon Coast is a dangerous location especially during the winter months and keen sea anglers live on the edge. Despite plenty of warnings of the dangers of the sea events make the news every year some of them tragic. I have with kind permission of the Ilfracombe RNLI repeated their latest news post from social media.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning both boats were launched to the assistance of three fishermen cut off near Sandy Cove, Combe Martin.
The pagers sounded at 1.25am and the volunteer crew soon mustered to launch both boats despite a frosty start for their vehicles. The All Weather Lifeboat, The Barry and Peggy High Foundation and our Inshore Lifeboat, The Deborah Brown II, made their way to Broad Sands beach and soon located the casualties.
All three were caught out by the tide, although experienced fishermen they had underestimated the rise of tide, and a 1.5m swell was running in choppy seas. When realising their difficulty one took the decision to raise the alarm but with no phone signal, he moved across the rocks and was taken into the water by the swell. The casualty was wearing a flotation suit but had a backpack and waders on, so had a struggle to free himself. He managed to kick off his waders but was battered on the rocks, he then wrestled to make his way to land and picked up a phone signal to call the Coastguards and raise the alarm.
The Ilfracombe Coastguards brought him back to Ilfracombe Lifeboat Station, while his two friends were picked up by the Inshore Lifeboat and transferred to the All Weather Lifeboat, and taken back to Ilfracombe Lifeboat Station.
The injured casualty said ‘ I never imagined I’d end up in the water and had serious concerns for my safety’
These anglers normally carry vhf but felt it was such a good evening it wasn’t worth carrying. Also mentioning that 112 can be picked up more easily would be advantageous. The casualty had to climb to the main road barefoot to get a call out.
The Coastguards administered first aid and the casualties were picked up for home. Volunteer Second Coxswain Carl Perrin said ‘ it was a very favourable outcome which could have been so easily a far worse result’
Both boats were back and ready for service at 3.45am.
If we are honest most experienced sea anglers have had a few close calls. There are always lessons to be learnt and one of those has to be knowledge of the tide and weather conditions. I know Outer Stone Broadsands well and have fished there many times. It is a low water mark that I would only fish during settled conditions. Access is via a gulley that dry’s out for a short time over low water. An observation I would make is that it is easier to cross the gulley as the tide drops but far more difficult to get back if the water is at the same level on the flood. It is imperative that the rock is vacated in plenty of time as the tide floods.
The wearing of waders adjacent to deep water is questionable as falling in wearing these will make getting back to shore difficult. The wearing of flotation suits or aids is to be recommended but is not common practice. The carrying of a mobile phone to raise the alarm if all goes wrong is essential. The carrying of a lifeline is also a wise addition to the anglers pack. It is also unwise to fish alone. Always let someone know where you intend to fish and an approximate time of return.
The RNLI and Coastguard do a sterling job in rescuing those that get it wrong and are to be applauded.
I joined seven members of Bideford & District Angling Club at Clovelly this morning to carry out a beach clean of the foreshore and harbour area. Following issues with angling related litter Bideford Club were determined to show that anglers do care and condemn those who drop litter and tarnish the majority of anglers who do take their litter home. In all we collected 16 bags of rubbish of which I would estimate 1% was angling related. The vast majority of the litter was plastic and its long levity was illustrated quite starkly by this old Ski Yogurt pot that I googled to find it probably began its life in the mid 70’s.
Children’s plastic toys were also abundant along with plenty of household containers. Some of the debris has undoubtedly come from waste that had been dumped on the cliff-side by villagers in times gone by to be dislodged as the cliffs subside and the sea pounds the upper foreshore. Giving up a couple of hours to pick up the unsightly waste from the foreshore brings home the immensity of the plastic and waste issue that is caused by our modern lifestyle. There is a minority of anglers who add to this problem with their own debris but society has a big problem as could be seen as I drove home along the Atlantic highway with its littered verges.