Out of Minehead – Ray and hounds with CMSAC

After several aborted trips due to bad weather it was good to eventually get back out to sea on a Combe Martin SAC boat trip out of Minehead with Steve Webber skipper of Osprey Charters. As a club we have been fishing with Steve for many years a skipper who has provided us with some exciting fishing trips over the decades.

On this day we had six anglers on board two of which are good friends who kindly came along filling vacant places left by club members who could not make the trip.

The forecast for once promised calm seas, light winds and perhaps a little sunshine!

The boat was due to sail from the harbour at 10:30am so a rendezvous at the Minehead Witherspoon’s was arranged at 9:00am. This proved an unwise move in some ways as discussing the days fishing prospects over a full English was difficult as it appeared that Butlins stags had invaded in numbers. Alcohol in quantity at 9:00am certainly fuelled the volume making hearing a little challenging for those of us who have impaired hearing. Like many anglers we are getting on a bit!

And so we climbed onto Osprey all pleased to be leaving the raucous delights of Minehead to the young Butlin brigade.

Steve welcomed us with an ever cheery greeting and we set off for familiar fishing grounds to the West of Minehead. The tide was ebbing as Steve dropped anchor at the first mark. The steep wooded cliffs were lush and green. The sea a pleasing calm beneath a blue sky interspersed with light white cotton wool clouds.

Fishing talk flowed freely with a bit of local politics, reminisce and fishy tales thrown into the mix.

         I think I was lucky to catch the first fish a small smoothound. Dogfish were to prove a menace throughout the day snaffling baits intended for more worthy fish.

Jack Phillips caught a smoothound of perhaps seven pounds that gave a good account and was the first of several caught throughout the day.  The best a fish of around ten pounds to my good friend Bruce Elston his first of the species and a welcome catch adding to his impressive tally of species across salt and freshwater.

Bruce Elston with a double figure hound.

Ray were the main target and several small eyed ray were tempted at this first mark of the day.

Club Secretary Nick Phillips with a nice small eyed ray.

Jack hooked a very good fish that put a healthy bend in his rod before severing the 60lb b.s hook length after a ten minute tussle in a strong tide.

A battle lost…what was it?

As the tide eased towards low water. Steve up anchored and steamed further west to a renowned area for ray.

I decided to drop down my down-tider for the first time having concentrated on Up-tiding for the first couple of hours. A mackerel head and flappers was devoured within a few moments of it hitting the seabed. A large huss of just over 10lb appeared on the murky water surface and I was pleased when it slid safely into the net. They have an annoying habit of spitting out the bait on the surface.

A steady succession of hounds and ray were brought to the boat. Steve kept us fully hydrated with tea and coffee throughout. Friendly banter flowed and the sun shone down.

Peter Robinson

Keith Armishaw with a small eyed ray

As the tide flooded we made a couple more moves to new areas based upon Steve’s extensive knowledge of this spectacular stretch of Somerset coastline.

Our last mark was close to where we had started and after a quiet start gave a frantic last hour with several small-eyed nudging double figures and a stunning thornback to Peter Robinson.

I lost a good fish that slipped the hook just a few yards from the boat. A good smoothound or a big bass? I will never know.



Jack Phillips with a good small eyed ray

After close to nine hours at sea Steve called last orders and we steamed back to Minehead. The sun was sinking in the west as we washed down the boat. It had been a great day typical of a day out of Minehead its murky waters home to an array of ray and other species. All within a very short steam of the port.

Steve and his family have three charter boats and Speed-bait operating out of Minehead. Check links below:-








Gerald Spiers delivers an engaging casting clinic

I was privileged to be invited to attend the Taw Fishing Club AGM at the Fox and Hounds at Eggesford last Saturday. The Taw Fishing Club has five and a half miles of fishing on the Upper Taw and its tributaries offering some excellent fishing for wild brown trout.

I arrived at 10:00am to join members in the field adjacent to the River Taw where Gerald Spiers of the Devon School Of Fly Fishing was offering a casting clinic for members. It was good to be close to the river with the evidence of Spring all around. Gerald chatted about the intricacies of casting and fly presentation in depth. Engaging the audience in discussion on mending the line, fly choice, reading the water, casting loops, arc, wrist position, and how to approach the water. He also discussed the finer details of tackle choice advising on leaders, tippets, rod choice and line care. I am sure all walked back to the hotel for lunch enthused for the coming season and eager to employ the knowledge imparted by Gerald. The art of fly fishing and fishing in general is a never ending game of interaction with nature that offers an absorbing fascination that can never be quelled once hooked.

Members and guests mingled over lunch and engaged in conversations that I feel sure contained many fishy tales. On our table the fishy agenda drifted into the toxic world of politics and the environment. It seems increasingly apparent to me that populist politicians are leading the human race on a slippery road to extinction. Failure to acknowledge uncomfortable truths to ensure election is a symptom of a generation that is increasingly disconnected with the natural world.

The Taw Club has been running successfully for over a century and is presently in a very healthy state thanks to a hard working committee Chaired by Gordon Murray with secretarial responsibilities carried out by Chris Searles. The club has a current membership of fifty and welcomes new members to its ranks.  The Taw Club is a friendly group that offers plenty of opportunity to mingle and learn during club teach ins and bank clearing days.

The Chair addressed a large proportion of the membership at the meeting and highlighted concerns mirrored across angling clubs throughout the land. There was conversation around the aging dynamics of club membership and the need for a younger generation to take up rods on the water. Angling participation and social interaction has undoubtedly been impacted upon by covid and recovery is slow.

The health of the river was top of the agenda with a focus on working with landowners to safeguard the future. Gordon expressed his views on pollution and quoted the phrase; “ Kind Words butter no parsnips”. Farming incentives to deliver habitat improvement, River fly monitoring, Citizen Science Water Quality Sampling and the vital work of an underfunded Environment Agency was all discussed with passion. It is essential that this desire to safeguard our rivers is put into practice.

                The Environment Agency was represented by North Devon’s Fishery Enforcement Officer Sam Fenner who engaged with the club members offering advice and guidance on a range of river related enquiries.

There was discussion around invasive species including signal crayfish and mink. The increasing population of beavers were also acknowledged which are generally thought to bring wide benefits to the rivers eco systems.

An exciting increase in  shad spawning in the Taw system was noted with hope that this will bring focus upon the importance of the Taw system to this rare and endangered species.

Catches of wild brown trout across the club’s waters has been consistently good over recent seasons with between 300 and 500 trout registered by members each season. The use of an online recording system has been a very beneficial recording tool ensuring up to date information is shared across the membership.

The AGM was concluded with a talk from Gerald Spiers who gave some valuable advice on wading safely. His three top tips being to wade slowly and upright, wear studded waders and use a wading staff.

         Membership details for the Taw Fishing Club can be found at :-




Bideford and District Angling Club – Welcomes game fishing enthusiasts


Bideford Angling Club welcomes game fishing members to join in friendly competitions at waters across the South West. Like many club’s recruitment of younger anglers into Fly Fishing is in need of a boost. The club has access to a prime stretch of the River Torridge with salmon, sea trout and wild brown trout fishing. Adult membership is just £12.50

            The club holds six regular competitions from March through until August.

For more details contact Terry Dymond on 07585588595

Potential new members are welcome to attend the clubs presentation night at the Bideford Conservative Club on February 23rd .

More Information can be accessed via the club,s informative website : –


Game Section Competition Dates 2024


31st Mar.  Clatworthy Somerset.


28th Apr. Wimbleball Somerset.


26TH May  Roadford Devon


30th Jun. To Be Confirmed. 


28th Jul. Clatworthy Somerset


25th Aug. Colliford Cornwall.

All Comps can start when venues open. weigh in @ 4pm

If you require any further information phone Terry Dymond 07585588595.



         Twenty five or more club members assembled at the Coaching Inn in South Molton for the clubs 55th AGM. Members chatted in a convivial atmosphere as glasses were filled and anglers swapped tales.

         The meeting was called to order by Chairman Ed Rands and proceeding duly followed as they have on this  February night on the second Tuesday for many years. Ed welcomed guests that included Sam Fenner the new North Devon Fisheries officer and Gordon Murray Chairman of the Taw Fishing Club.


         Secretary Roger Bray delivered his report on the 2023 season that brought some good news from the clubs fishing on the River Bray. The forty seven members had recorded close to 270 wild brown trout and 3 sea trout. There were no salmon recorded which is a reflection on fishing across the region.

         Riverside walks during the salmon spawning season had revealed very little information as the rivers were bank high as a result of an exceptionally wet Autumn.

         River-fly monitoring had been carried out by members with encouraging results that indicated generally good quality water. There was discussion around the potential around gravel washing, gravel raking and limited bank clearing.

Chairman Ed Rands discussed forthcoming club events that would be put in the diary’s during the next meeting.

 The club’s officers were elected en-bloc with Roger Bray continuing as Secretary and Treasurer and Ed Rands as Chairman.

Trophies were awarded with Danny Boyles winning the Mac Trophy for a rainbow trout of 3lb 10oz caught at Blakewell during the clubs Christmas competition. The sea Angling trophies were presented to Wayne Thomas for bass and tope caught during the year.

         The Chair then introduced Environment Agency Fisheries Officer  Sam Fenner to give a talk to members about his work and the broad picture across the region.

         Sam talked about his background in fishery and environmental regulation. He has gained considerable experience in an Agricultural advisory role and will be focussing on the Taw catchment. His role also involves fishery enforcement work with rod licence checking and byelaw enforcement. He will also be working with the D & S IFCA fishery officers on areas of dual interest.

         Sam highlighted the dramatic decline in salmon numbers across the region with Rivers such as the Taw producing close to 800 salmon in the 1980’s and less than forty in 2023!

         Virtually all of Devon and Cornwall’s rivers are at risk in regards to salmon populations. Catch and release is now practiced by virtually all anglers but could soon be made mandatory.

         There are glimmers of hope with some Exmoor Rivers showing some reasonable fry counts.

         Water quality, Low flows, High water temperature and predation are all factors in salmon decline though general concensus is the that survival at sea is the biggest threat with just 5% of salmon returning to the rivers of their origin.

         I will be meeting with Sam in the near future and will discuss the issues with him in greater detail.

         The main message from Sam is to report any incidents or pollutions to the Environment Agency via their hotline :-

0800 807060 its on your rod licence!

Barnstaple & District Angling Association Newbridge  end of season report 2023

                             BDDA Newbridge  end of season report 2023

Another difficult year but it has had its moments , the Kelt run in March was spectacular ,all well repaired fish in the 6lb to 8lb range we had 14 reported in the first 2 days of the season before we asked for restraint and hope at least some make it back!! Also, Several good fish were caught during the year . I saw an old ghillie from the Tweed on TV recently explaining that salmon are called the fish of 10,000 casts .However we do actually have a new member who caught a salmon after just a couple of visits. This goes to show that Anything can happen at Newbridge but as ever “you have to be there”

A member sent an article from very first issue of Trout and Salmon in 1955 saying 100 fish were caught in the Taw Torridge tidal pools that year .They say it was a record and the result of  restocking with Scottish fish a few years before. Food for thought.

We’ve had another year of low warm water ,leading to more angling restraint requested, the short spate in august brought a few fish up but the September spate was once again too late for us . Just as the fish started showing we had to stop.

Apart from Salmon ,Where are the sea trout? So, few have been reported even from traditionally prolific beats up river. It does seem that  as the fish decline so does the fishing effort which doesn’t help with reported numbers.

We have good news ,as most are aware We have now finished the new club hut. This has been a huge effort by dedicated volunteers and the club are very grateful for it. It’s a lovely peaceful place to rest a while with a companion and watch the river pass by. We intend to have a formal opening on the first day of the season next year and Members will be notified nearer the time. Also, John and Hayden Kenyon led a working party for the installation of steps and a ladder to improve access to the railway swirl pit, now called the Chairman’s steps .They have our thanks for that.

You may not be aware but Earlier in the season our local wildlife trained police officer  Lucy Robinson and our local EA bailiff Sam Fenner  had a person excluded from our water due to  antisocial behaviour connected to Elver poaching. This isn’t an easy process that included a difficult “home visit “and We are very grateful to them for this action. It’s good we have this level of support from our local enforcement officers. They always do as much as they can for us but they are under so many constraints and can only do what they are resourced for. The EA bailiff Sam Fenner also got involved with the cattle encroachment from just above the bridge  .After a meeting The estate has now replaced the fencing and that is ongoing. The West Country rivers trust has installed water quality monitors just upriver from us and we’re all interested in any reports from that. Another item of interest is that Adi’s wife ,Caroline Podesta ,is in the citizen scientist project and takes monthly water samples at the bridge ,it all helps to keep the pressure up on abuse of the rivers and the genie is firmly out of the bottle in regard to that. Who does what about it is another matter though! We can but support any campaign we come across . We generally have a negative attitude to these agencies but mostly the people on the ground are on the same page as us and as frustrated as us when it comes to any deployment of resources. Please be patient with them if you have any personal contact, we have to support them too as they are doing their individual best under a lot of pressure .We are encouraged to call in incidents/events at least it will get logged.

As a club We always doing our best to protect and improve The Newbridge beat we’re but always happy for any suggestions. Very exciting news is the club is finalising the purchase of another beat further up river. All details regarding fees and access will be forwarded to all members ,hopefully in time for the coming season.

Club cups were awarded at the recent AGM  and this year the committee cup went to Dave Winter for his efforts at Newbridge, Paul Meredith gets the most salmon cup for his 3 good fish, Chay Boggis gets the Bass on the fly cup for his lovely 7lb fish from Clovelly, and I was lucky enough to get the best Salmon  34inches estimated at 13.5lb.

Don Hearn

Newbridge river keeper

Colin Ashby presents Dave Winter with the B&DAA Committee Cup


(Above) Some of this years superb prizes from our sponsors at Sakuma

Combe Martin SAC hope you enjoy this open competition  with kind permission of the landowner.

The club is very grateful to local tackle shops and Sakuma for supporting the event.

SAKUMA, , Quay Sports and Braunton Baits.

The prize table for 2023 is the best yet for the Putsborough competition.

The weather this year holds no concern light North East Winds forecast that will be right over our heads.

Outlook for Saturday to Monday: Met Office

Staying dry with high pressure remaining dominant. Plenty of strong sunshine but some cloud bubbling up at times. Warm days, albeit cool overnight. Breezy along the southern coasts.

Fishing is for single best specimen, with £100 for first place and £50 second plus pick of the prize table and so on. There is an optional £1 pool for the best specimen. There will be prizes for the top fifteen fish!

Small-eyed ray are the principal target and can show up anywhere — so pick your spot.

Sandeel is generally best but fish can be tempted at times with a whole squid or mackerel bait. Bass will show if there is some surf, the obliging dogfish is usually around — along with the odd small turbot, conger, smoothound and occasional blonde ray.

Low water is 00:24am and the best period to fish is usually two hours either side, with the last hour-and-a-half of the ebb and first hour of the flood often proving the most productive. There are some small pits and sandbanks along this beach, so if you can spy one out it might be worth heading for…

For the purpose of this competition two rods and four hooks may be used, with a pennell rig counting as two hooks. Combe Martin Competition size limits apply.

Please leave a space of approximately 20 yards between yourself and the next angler — it’s a large beach!

When you catch a fish, please check it against the sizes overleaf and complete the capture form, before showing it to another competitor and asking them to witness it.
[Witnesses: Please also print name so you can be identified if need be!]

Steward’s decision is final. All complaints must be issued in writing to organisers before the scales close.

Please do not bring fish to the scales in water, unless the intention is to release them alive. Each angler is limited to two fish per species, but we would ask you to minimise killing of fish and endeavour to keep only your single best specimen.

Please respect the beach and do not leave litter, discarded line or old tackle behind and do not start fires.

If possible, please ensure your vehicle is parked at the bottom of the car park to the far right.


South Molton Angling Club – Adventures at the waters edge

South Molton Angling Club hold bank clearing sessions generally focussed early in the fishing season. I arrived at the River Bray an hour before the working party were due to meet and wandered down below the bridge with a rod to flick a heavy nymph and a spider pattern into a couple of deeper runs. It’s always interesting to take note of the signs at the water’s edge telling of previous visitors. I noted the likely prints of an otter and a Heron that had enjoyed an early morning fishing session before my arrival.

They would undoubtedly have been far better fishers than I as I smiled at my early season incompetence when I snagged my fly in the river bottom and gave it a tug. The fly came loose and was catapulted into the tree branch above, I then managed to knock my cap off into the river giving it a drenching.

As I walked back to the car and the work party I glimpsed a big brown trout in a deep pool and marked its location down for another day.

I met up with fellow club members and we headed off upriver where we carried out some minor pruning to improve casting access. We also removed several large trees from favoured fishing pools dragging them to the bankside  where we hoped they would prevent further bank erosion.

We all headed off to our homes and families after a good mornings work beside the river as signs of spring were bursting forth all round.

Details of South Molton & District Angling Club can be found below :-


SMAC had a good day on Charter boat Susie B out of Lyme Regis the fishing was slow at times but we had some good fish
Pollack to 7lb and huss to 12lb, mackerel, plaice, cuckoo wrasse, pouting, poor cod, conger and dogfish.
Shawn, our skipper was very helpful with advice, good gear, tackle, bait, tea and even filleted our fish for us. The consensus was we’d go again.


The South Molton and District Angling Club was established in 1970 and has 5 miles of fishing on the picturesque River Bray for wild Brown trout.  The River Bray is a tributary of the River Mole, which in turn is a tributary of the River Taw.  It rises in Exmoor National Park, and our fishing beats are near Brayford on the southern edge of the moor.

We have two main fishing sections:

The first beat is called the Stucley Water, which is approximately three miles long and, for the most part, there is fishing on both banks.

The second beat is the Hunter Water, where again there is fishing on both banks for approximately one mile.

Both beats are very well maintained by way of regular bank clearing sessions, annual redds  count, Riverfly inspection, along with Westcountry CSI water quality monitoring.  This regular programme of maintenance is conducted by club members, and all members are welcome to join in.

The river is a spate river to a degree but does not stay coloured for very long due to the high water quality coming off Exmoor and not too intensive farming in the catchment. Fishing access for the most part, is easy.

Although some restrictions apply to salmon and sea trout fishing, the sport is usually fishing for wild brown trout, on fly only.

We have a series of six, still water, competition events throughout the year, and our chairman organises sea fishing trips off the coast of North Devon.

As a club, we hold monthly meetings, in the relaxed atmosphere of a local hostelry.  Fishing business is discussed and fishing tales exchanged!  We also have our yearly, more formal AGM which usually includes a speaker and is followed by a meal.

In the autumn we have our annual dinner to which partners are invited.

If you are interested and would like to find out more, then please email:

The Secretary [email protected] or The Chairman [email protected]

River Torridge Fishery Association – Friday 24th March 2023


The River Torridge fishing community gathered at the Half Moon Inn at Sheepwash for the AGM of the River Torridge Fishery Association. Pauline and I always enjoy the twice yearly coming together of the membership for the AGM in the Spring and the annual fund raising dinner at the seasons close at the end of September.

The Inn was reassuringly busy as we stepped inside the familiar bar where many members of the association were catching up on all the latest news. After half an hour of rekindling friendships and fostering new ones  it was time to head the meeting room for the formal proceedings to begin.

As with many angling clubs the River Torridge Fishery Association’s officers are long standing stalwarts with Secretary and treasurer Charles Inniss and  Chairman Paul Ashworth controlling the meeting with an ease born from long experience in their roles.

Thanks to Charles for the below summary:=

“Over 30 members attended the agm on Friday 24th March. The Chairman announced that for personal reasons the North Devon Fishery Protection Officer had been transferred to work nearer his family home. The EA were currently interviewing for a replacement to the vacancy. The EA proposals for the mandatory release of salmon throughout the season had been deferred for twelve months. Members were keen for the hatchery project to continue and several members offered their support. Izzy Moser gave an interesting and informative talk on the work of The Devon Wildlife Trust, particularly the pros and cons of the inevitable spread of beavers into the headwaters of the Torridge catchment. After the meeting The Half Moon provided an excellent buffet.”

            I would suggest that any anglers who fish the Torridge join the association and help support sterling efforts to protect the river for future generations. Subscription is just £20 per year. For details visit their website http://www.rivertorridge.org.uk

            The report from 2022 was very concerning with the drought conditions resulting in perhaps the worst salmon season in living memory. A total of 15 salmon were landed from the river all of which were returned.

            Fortunately, as I write this the rivers are brimming full last summer’s drought seems long ago. However, Roadford Reservoir is still at only 62% and Colliford in Cornwall 47%. In the Spring of 2022 these reservoirs were close to 100%. It doesn’t take a genius to conclude that another drought summer would have serious consequences. There is concern that South West Water would be forced to consider abstracting from the regions rivers an act that would be devastating for the rivers eco systems. Discussion reflected upon the apparent lack of water resource planning with no significant reservoirs constructed since Roadford in 1989. A new reservoir takes many years to come into being with years of consultation, planning and construction my own estimate would be at least 25 years before a new reservoir could be completed. One has to question why with an increasing population and climate change at the top of the agenda this is not happening?


            The Associations Hatchery has been an ongoing project that unites the membership. The past few seasons have seen the project stalled by COVID and issues with permissions from the EA ,largely around risk assessments and health and safety concerns. The committee are working hard to progress with significant help and expertise from within the angling community many of whom bring skills from their roles within society.

Torridge members at the Hatchery pre COVID

            The decline in salmon and sea trout stocks is alarming and many feel that the hatcheries are the only hope for slowing this decline. The EA hatchery at Colliford is to be an integral part of the future plans to rear ova to swim up fry stage. This hatchery has the facilities to enable essential temperature control a major problem for salmonoids as global warming takes a hold.

            It is of course essential that the habitat into which these future salmon are stocked is suitable. The Torridge faces many challenges with intensive farming resulting in pollution from sediment and nutrients and sewage discharge resulting in further issues with phosphate levels that promote algal growth.

            The Torridge River Association are working closely with the Devon Wildlife Trust  and the West Country Rivers Trust to seek solutions to many of the issues. Guest speaker Izzy Moser delivered an inspiring illustrated talk on projects to restore the river and the environment. These include slow the flow initiatives like leaky dams, meandering river courses, gravel introduction and creation of wild flower meadows and wetlands. The introduction of beavers was discussed with some concerns about their  impact on fish migration and woodland.


            There was considerable interest in Citizen Science Monitoring to flag up any pollution incidents and to assess the ongoing health of the river. River Fly Monitoring has also proven to be a valuable tool in tracking keystone species. Data gathering is essential  in tracking success in any projects in our rivers.

            Invasive species are an ongoing concern with signal crayfish reported from several locations along the Torridge. Any sightings should be reported to the Devon Wildlife Trust.

            A good news story on the Torridge is the healthy population of wild brown trout that were caught in good numbers last season with wild fish to over 4lb caught and released. Dry fly tactics also resulted in several good sea trout. With dwindling salmon numbers many feel that the future of the rivers angling very much lies with trout fishing that I hope to promote over the coming season.


Summer Trout Fishing on the Torridge