After one of the driest Autumns for many years the rains eventually came courtesy of storm Angus the West Country’s rivers became raging torrents sweeping tons of leaves and debris seaward. The game anglers of the region are well aware that the deluge of freshwater will allow thousands of salmon and sea trout to forge eagerly upstream towards the redds where they will fulfill their destiny in spawning at their birthplace to ensure future generations.

Those who fish for salmon are amongst the most active of conservationists working with the Environment Agency and organizations such as the West Country Rivers Trust to give nature a help in hand wherever possible. Members of the River Torridge Fishery Association have for several years run a small hatchery that was initially set up under guidance from the EA. The hatchery is now run entirely by the association with volunteers working tirelessly each winter to secure broodstock, strip, fertilize eggs and then nurture the precious result of their efforts until stocking out swim up fry in early spring.

img_3742(Above) Paul Ashworth, Ken Dunn, John Graham and Paul Coles

I was delighted to join four members of the association to assist in trapping this years broodstock at a location nestled away in a valley within the Torridge catchment. The salmon are trapped and netted before being carefully transported to the hatchery in an oxygenated tank of river water. The salmon are then kept after careful treatment to reduce risk of infection. When ready to spawn they are stripped of their eggs and milt before being returned to the river.


The first trapping of the day had been unsuccessful as thousands of leaves had blocked the traps upstream end. This second trapping was to prove more successful with a 9lb hen salmon secured. A fine sea trout of around 4lb was also caught and released above the trap to continue its upstream journey. It was thrilling to get up close to this beautiful fish as it neared the end of its migration.

The following day produced two more hen salmon and two cock fish. Another trapping session will hopefully secure enough fish for another successful hatchery season.


It is difficult to measure the success of the hatchery that has over the years produced many thousands of swim up-fry. The anglers that work so hard can only hope that they are making a difference and that one day one of the fish they have helped will give that delightful draw on the line as the fly is seized in a magical moment of deception.

Salmon will be spawning on many locations across the West-Country high on the moors and in rivers where few suspect such mighty fish can swim. Each winter I take time to walk the river bank in the hope of glimpsing the salmon as they  carry out their annual ritual. It is always fun to speculate upon the size of fish that make it to the spawning grounds and dream of those spring and summer days when the fishing season is once again in full flow.

img_3728(Above) A fine sea trout

img_3734(Above) The salmon is carefully measured and a record kept of all fish caught as broodstock.

img_3716(Above) These brown trout would delight the trout fisher on long summer evenings.


The Pier

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The Pier


Ilfracombe pier is not a venue I often fish these days but it is a venue that has a certain appeal. I have many fond memories of the venue that has to be the most heavily fished venue along the North Devon coast and it is undoubtedly for this reason that it has over the years produced an outstanding track record.

Being a veteran I can of coarse remember the pier in its heyday when you could fish from the Victorian structure at any state of the tide in pretty well any weather conditions. The beauty of the pier was that you could turn up and fish being confidant that you would have company. It was the social hub of North Devon’s sea angling community easily accessible, safe and at times productive.

Of course back then we didn’t value what we had taking it for granted like many things in life that are only really appreciated in hindsight. I value the memories of those cold winter nights on the pier and witnessing some fine fish caught. I also look back with a tinge of sadness at the lovely people and characters I fished with who are no longer with us; I won’t mention names but those who were there will share my sentiments.

Ilfracombe lost a huge asset with the demolition of the pier a place where people fished and others strolled to watch us watching our rod tips. Some inquiring what we had caught, some understanding the fascination; others perplexed at the fools who wasted hours staring out to sea.

Those who were there in those distant days will still remember and visualize how it was when anyone mentions the North End or by the Club hut. Beneath the water there were of course always tales of the mighty conger that lurked within the structure eels that divers glimpsed as they explored. Strange that the biggest eel recorded at 42lb was caught from the pier in 2015 long after the pier was demolished.

( Note Chris Wilson refers to an eel of 56lb has anyone got a record of that?)

I fished the pier with Rob Scoines on October 26th the main reason I chose the venue was because I had a few leftover harbour ragworm left from a flounder fishing excursion. With news of a few red mullet being caught I thought why not try the pier might even catch a sole. It was a very calm mild night after a week or so of easterly winds. We offloaded the van and ambled the few yards to the lower landings. There were a handful of other anglers already set up in the hot spot on the corner so we set up where there was space.


I fished two rods one with small worm baits the other with a larger offering of mackerel, to be exchanged for a fresh pouting shortly after catching one on the worm baits. The worm baits brought a steady succession of small whiting, tiny pouting and a solitary dab. Danny Watson from High Street Tackle chatted enthusiastically about prospects for the coming winter. Fellow CMSAC member Ross Stanway turned up with his young son Charlie. We chatted about old times and made plans for future forays. Young Charlie caught a few whiting; bringing a smile to his face.


When we packed away at the end of the night beneath the deviant structure of Damien’s Verity Rob commented that it wasn’t his favorite venue. It’s not mine and the fishing was poor but it still has a certain value as an easy sociable venue where good fish are sometimes caught.



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I look back on the seventies with fond nostalgia at my early year’s sea angling with my teenage friends who were junior members of the Combe Martin Sea Angling Club. The tackle we used then was generally inferior to the equipment we use today yet am I alone in having a strong connection with past memories when I glimpse familiar items of tackle? I was peering into the window of a second hand shop in Minehead last weekend. On display was a Mitchell 624 boat reel a workhorse of a reel that I well remember clamped to my ABU Pacific 6; where it went I cannot remember. I do however remember those days afloat on the sturdy old wooden boats of the day.


I was prompted to write this when a friend at work showed me an Intrepid Sea Streak he had undoubtedly looked after with a degree of care. I recalled that as youngsters we all treasured our latest tackle as if it was the latest sports car. The most popular shore reel of the day was the Ambassador 7000 with red side plates. I clearly remember being given a 7000 for either Christmas or Birthday. Other popular shore reels of the day were the Mitchell 602 and Mitchell 600. Both had black plastic or fibre glass spools and were very prone to bird-nesting. That brings back memories of tangled blue Sylcast line produced by Modern Arms.


If you Coarse fished you may well remember the Efgeeko Green Vinyl seat box? Everyone had a Mitchell 300 with a Match spool and a specimen spool. It would be interesting to see what vintage tackle pictures readers could send me. The appeal in old tackle is not in its usefulness but the memories that are rekindled of good days fishing.

I  was struggling to remember the small black reel that every Junior angler took fishing in the seventies. A quick search on Google brought the answer; the Black Prince.

Chris Wilson read this article and sent me a couple more images including this Mitchel 602