We’re very excited to tell you that we have partnered with Catch to be our fishery management and booking partner.
From 16 November 2023 day tickets will only be available through Catch. Season tickets remain bookable through our website, but will be available through Catch from next year.
Catch are giving our season ticket holders a six-month free subscription so you can book day tickets via the app and enjoy the other benefits. If you already have a Catch account this will automatically be applied. If you don’t, Catch will be sending you an email shortly with details on how to access and begin your free subscription.
Download the Catch app from App Store or Google Play, create a free account and take advantage of all the great features straight away:
Interactive lake maps
Masses of information at your fingertips
Receive catch reports, news and events in real-time
Upload your own catch reports directly to our fishery pages
Book your next session days, weeks or even months in advance
Receive automatic reminders when your next session is due
… and much more!
These guys know what they are doing and have your (and our) best interests at heart. They’ve made the platform easy for everyone to use and we strongly believe that we’ve made the very best decision possible: by partnering with Catch we’ve brought our fishery administration bang up to date which will, in turn, benefit you as an angler.
We appreciate you may have questions so feel free to contact us directly or the Catch team at [email protected] for more information. There is also a live chat option on the Catch website.
Michelle Werrett’s book ‘ Song of the Streams’ is set to become a classic of its genre painting an evocative portrait of Exmoor’s rivers and streams as they are today and comparing them with their glorious past. The prose flows throughout the book reflecting upon days with rod and line spent beside the bright waters that flow through Exmoor’s landscape. Pausing frequently to savour chocolate along the way and glimpse dippers, wagtails, kingfishers and other wildlife.
Joyful Spring and Summer days are described in enchanting detail making it perfect reading for those long winter nights beside the glowing embers of the fire. The book highlights the “ ‘Shifting Baseline Syndrome’, which basically means we have short memories. As the world around us changes we come to accept the new state of things, constantly updating our expectations of what is normal.”
Michelle draws upon the writings of earlier generations to highlight the abundance that we have lost from our rivers. The beauty that remains is recorded within the pages of this book as we wander and wade the streams, rivers and paths of fishers from a different age. The beautiful wild brown trout may not be so plentiful as in Claude Wade’s Exmoor Stream days but they still offer tranquil days and escape from the modern world.
The monochrome images taken by Robin Baker give the book a timeless essence that links to the past.
The sterling work of angling groups in conservation efforts is described giving a glimmer of hope for the future. On a personal note; I could connect closely with the book and the locations it describes so vividly having grown up to walk and fish the waters frequently over the past fifty years. I bought a first edition of Exmoor Streams at an auction in Dulverton over thirty years ago and conclude that ‘Song of the Streams’ is a worthy companion.
There are few books that bring a tear to the eye but as I finished reading ‘Song of the Streams’ I could not help but feel moved as the book could almost be an epitaph to the once prolific salmon that are now endangered and could be extinct within our lifetimes.
Hours Spent in company with the river are always enriching and life affirming; relaxing in times of stress, reviving at times of staleness, cheering on days of sadness and always brightening as reflected sunlight sparkles from the shimmering surface. And like the best of companions, the river often makes me laugh and sometimes laughs at me”.
Memories of past glories effectively highlight the process of change and loss our land has suffered. Losses of some things – cuckoos and nightingales for example- are obvious to almost everyone but only fisherman notice the loss of the fish.
‘Song of the Streams’, Michelle Werrett’s first book, is in stock now! Priced at £26.
Michelle will also be signing copies at Lance Nicholson’s shop in Dulverton, on Saturday 18th November from 10am to 12.
The perfect Christmas gift to yourself, or any other angler in your life!
Reserve your copy now…
Introduction by Medlar Press
Fishing and Conservation on Exmoor Streams
Inspired by tales of the past gleaned from old fishing books, the author sets out to fish those same waters, to cast the same flies on the same pools, to explore how fishing the streams of Exmoor might compare with fishing them over a century ago, whether those streams have changed and how they might be faring today. Exmoor rivers and streams appear pristine, barely changed since Claude Wade described them in his 1903 book Exmoor Streams, yet the numbers of trout he and other long-ago writers reported catching seem unbelievable today. Those streams must once have held an astonishing abundance of fish.
Modern problems affect even upland streams, yet many good folk are dedicated to their restoration and there is much we can do to help. River conservation work can be fascinating and rewarding as we develop a deeper understanding of river habitats through, for example, managing a balance of light and shade, monitoring aquatic invertebrates and cleaning riverbed spawning gravels then watching for their use when migratory salmon return home from the sea.
Those nail-booted, greenheart wielding fishermen of the past have gone but the streams still run on their wild ways, singing their endless songs to the moor. This book is for all who share concern for the wellbeing and conservation of our rivers and streams as well as those entranced by the rise of a trout to a well-placed fly.
At long last I have some good news: the EA has given the go ahead for us to run the hatchery again this autumn/winter. The hatchery team have had to attend a health/safety course and we have had to purchase a hoist and harness in case of difficulties netting the broodstock in 18 inches of water!! A working party has tidied the hatchery site and cleaned the holding tanks. All being well we will be trapping the broodstock in early/mid-November. Once the eggs have been stripped and fertilised, 10,000 will be sent to the Colliford hatchery with the remainder being. looked after at our Monkokehampton hatchery.
Our Fishery Enforcement Officer
More good news: a new fishery officer for North Devon has now been appointed. Sam Fenner is very keen to support the Torridge in particular the hatchery project.
The Annual Egg Box Dinner
Over 40 members and guests enjoyed a convivial evening with good company and an excellent meal. We were delighted that our newly appointed Fishery Officer, Sam Fenner, was able to join us and meet several of our members.
The Annual Raffle
Thank you all for supporting the raffle so generously which made a net profit of £1,225.
The prize winners of the raffle:
£100 Orvis Voucher: Nigel Case
Voucher for 12 bottles of wine: a friend of Graham Henderson
£50 Half Moon Voucher: Trevor Glover
The Fishing Season
We cannot complain about a lack of water this year. After a dry hot June the remainder of the season was characterised by changeable weather with regular spells of heavy rain. The runs of both salmon and sea trout were again disappointing. Salmon and sea trout moved quickly upstream and most of the fish were caught on middle river beats. The lack of fishing effort (and I was as guilty as anyone) possibly meant that the rod catch did not truly reflect the number of fish in the river. Three salmon were caught in the last two days of the season, including an absolutely fresh fish of 7lb from Madeira. There was some good brown trout fishing in May and June. There is increasing evidence that the trout are feeding on the baby signal crayfish, which have now infested the whole catchment, resulting in several fish up to 3lb being caught.
Many thanks to Richard for sharing his monthly essay. Always humorous and slightly off piste
Meet the Klutz
You looking at me, kid?
“What kind of creature bore you,
Was it some kind of bat?
They can’t find a good word for you,
But I can … TWAT.”
John Cooper Clark – Punk Poet
A few years ago the stranger (above) and I both arrived too early for check-in at the lodge on the fabled Gjöll River. A place steeped in myth and vengeful Norse gods.
It was a warm, late-summer day and the deck offered fresh coffee with a view of the river and mountains. The perfect setting to kill time with idle chatter. Our hosts were a fine and professional bunch of people and all was well with their world and mine. It was the sort of place that puts a smile on your face and fly-rod to hand.
My fellow guest greeted me with a sneering eyeball shake-down. Perhaps it was the triggering way I had said, “Hi, lovely day isn’t it?”.
Small talk? No. In rapid succession he declared that all forest fires are started by arsonists. That George Soros is Jewish (a terrible thing, he said), heavy snowfall proves global warming is fake, wokesters are provocative bastards and Anne Frank’s latest porn book for kids must be banned & burned (both) along with the paedos, Fauci, all UN scientists and foreigners (me?). And coal is king and should also be burned. It was a lot to take in. And if looks could have killed, I was dead.
Putting the threatening bigotry aside, for the moment, when did climate change become a right-wing wedge issue? The right’s talismanic icon Margaret Thatcher must be spinning in her grave.
I kept my head down for the rest of the trip, although it turned out that it wasn’t anything that I or Mrs Thatcher had said. The next day Mr Wedgie’s newly arrived fishing party erupted into ear-piecing verbal abuse. Our misfit was now at odds with his buddies. I couldn’t work out exactly who he wanted to kill first, but I think Mike Pence was high on the list. Mostly he generalised: Scientists, environmentalists, whales, migrants and probably cute little kittens. You get the idea: Tough Guy v World.
That night found me thinking about Twats on Banks. The who, the why and the such-like. I have a bit of weakness for this sort of thing and, generally speaking, the weirder people are, the bigger their metaphoric car crashes and the more I rubber-neck. And there we were in a Norse fishing lodge with a hotline to 1930s Berlin and I’m suddenly thrust into team Thatcher – weird and weirder.
So with the worrying caution that maybe it takes one to know one … this is my essay, formally titled A Short Discourse on Fishing Twats.
There are two fishing twat-types chewing away at the margins of my watery world. The on-line variety and the much more alarming physical version you hope never to find in your river.
The online twat is, at worst, a minor irritant. Mostly they rally around a pick n’mix of conspiracy theories and grievances with their own victimhood worn as the shared badge of honour. They’re found in small and grumpy internet echo chambers, bickering and shouting insults at the heresies they find threatening: Science, for example. They go unheard even by the new-agers they assertively hate, which is a pity because they have much in common. Intolerance and a high rate of attrition from vaccine-preventable diseases, to name just two.
It is precisely because they heckle the twilight that our online fishing twats are mostly irrelevant and marginalised – for comparison, the online world of Chess players is properly vicious and ruins lives.
So that brings us to the real-life Twat of the sort that invades your space and makes Hotel and Lodge owners miserable. The angler from hell (or, in this story, the Norse Hel).
First, some background: I am not a digital native and hail from the era of flesh and blood – which means my formative years were spent face-to-face with real people. This tended to moderate some of our worst excesses. Maybe you know the song:
“Soon we’ll be out amid the cold world’s strife, Soon we’ll be sliding down the razor blade of life.”
The message is clear: Shape up, or it’s going to hurt. So most of us reached adulthood with a basic set of social skills. For example; avoid inflicting your politics on strangers met on a fishing trip.
They say the boy is father to man, and I was a flawed teenager who, I hope, was more Prat than Twat. Not ideal, but it could have been worse and, like most teens, I have mostly recovered in the decades since. Sadly, some people don’t.
This Prat-predisposition set me in direct conflict with the biggest Twat in my teenage fishing life: My godfather – a groping, leering and utterly repellent misogynist. He even carried a little black book of sexist jokes. Like the man, none of the jokes were funny, and he made life miserable for every barmaid and waitress who had the misfortune to cross his path.
That’s not all: Unforgivably, he could also throw a line further and with less effort than me – something nobody else in my very limited circle could do (this was long before YouTube and Spey Casting brought me crashing down to earth). Being outperformed by such a groping grotesque annoyed me. Meanwhile, he thought I was a long-haired little jerk – and, with hindsight, I can see he had a point. We were not a good mix.
To make matters worse, every year my father would organise a week’s fishing for the three of us (for me it was free, so of course I went).
One year we were blighted by a drought so severe the fishing was impossible. Not that my teenage self was prepared to admit it. I took it all very seriously. Too seriously. So there I was, working my way inch-by-inch through a large, slow-moving pool which had some water, but no oxygen and no fish. Nobody else was making an effort. Just me.
Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of movement in the pool’s neck. Something was drifting downstream towards me. Something blubbery and brilliant white. Something that, bizarrely, seemed to be a belly-up Beluga Whale.
The whale processed all stately and ceremonial into the main pool. I slowly realised it was wearing paisley-pattern boxer-shorts and had my godfather’s porkpie hat perched on its expansive stomach. It was otherwise flabbily naked.
I was, by now, incandescent with rage at this invasion of my territory. My pool. My best chance of catching a fish. How dare he! I was raging with self-righteous afront.
The imperial and imperious Beluga drifted past me and, as it did so, raised a two-fingered salute in my direction. This put me in temper tantrum territory – which was presumably the Beluga’s intention. It was only my awareness of this that kept the lid on my head. I don’t remember how it ended, but no rocks were thrown and I assume the Beluga joined us for dinner that night.
The point of this story is that I learned a long, slow lesson: That prats grow up. Admittedly, it took 20 years for me to realise, but the Beluga was perhaps the funniest thing to happen to me on a riverbank. Had I not been such a pompous little prat I would have been rocking with laughter.
The author pratting around, back in the day.
So I learned some humility and didn’t grow up to be a Twat. However, my godfather, being a fully grown Twat, continued his behaviour unchanged by his exposure to me. So by the time I had eventually realised how very funny the Beluga had been, he was getting a well-deserved visit from the police following allegations of a sexual assault.
So the moral of this tale is simple: Be tolerant of young Prats. They might grow up to be you. But if you meet a full-blooded Twat just walk away. Don’t engage. They’re not worth the trouble and, sooner or later, they’re going to get hit by someone or something bigger and nastier than you or me. Hopefully reality. Perhaps the police. Or maybe guests at a fishing lodge. Thor could do it – but it won’t be me, although I did read somewhere that the pen is mightier than the sword.
Following on from successful screenings of the excellant film Riverwoods at Loxhore and Kings Nympton a new showing is to held at East Worlington Parish Hall. The after film discussion is well worth taking part in to highlight the message of both decline of salmon and wildlife.
Waterproofs hanging drying beside the Wood-burner reflected the story of the previous day as we sat enjoying coffees and full English in the George Inn at Brompton Regis. I was with Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pearce, Nigel Evans and Andy Jesson who had fished in a friendly competition at Wimbleball the previous day.
The nine competitors had recorded thirty trout in a close run event that had seen them battling some pretty severe weather as the strong winds and rain of Storm Babet brushed the West Country. On practice day Nigel and Andy had boated 29 trout between them so were slightly baffled at the relatively reduced catches on match day.
Breakfast chat included in depth analysis of match day and then diverged to include the problems of the wider world and the intricacies of drone flying. These included several accounts of expensive drone crash disasters that must have been stressful for their owners at the time yet highly entertaining in the subsequent retelling. Strange how tales of disaster are often recounted and savoured with an ironic humour frequently lurking far longer than successful events. A bit like the memory of a big fish lost at the net that lingers painfully for years.
Feeling fortified we all set off for Wimbleball confident after referring to the latest from the met office inferring that today’s weather would be better.
After five minutes with the bilge pump to empty the boat Jeff and I set off under grey skies to the sheltered waters of the Upton Arm.
Tinges of autumn showed upon the wooded banks with shades of golden brown amongst the still predominantly green canopy. The Upton Arm at Wimbleball is sheltered by steep wooded banks and always seems to have a unique other world atmosphere.
Jeff manoeuvred the boat into position in an area that had proved productive over recent days. I eagerly extended my Snowbee intermediate line and began to retrieve the team of flies. A solid jolt was transmitted down the line to be followed by an acrobatic trout!
The resulting 2lb plus rainbow was a great start to the day and ensured I had at least ensured my ongoing 100% catch rate during the modern Wimbleball era.
The successful fly was the ever reliable gold headed blue flash damsel on the point. I constantly reiterate that it is important to tie on a fly that gives confidence. I probably catch more than 50% of my still-water trout on this pattern and that is undoubtedly due to my confidence in its use. I am not generally one to swap and change flies repeatedly preferring to try different depths and speeds of retrieve before swapping patterns.
We could see fish moving on a regular basis further along the bank and moved towards these fish. Once again my fly was seized, there was a flurry of spray and an angry rainbow erupted from the water.
Over the first hour or so the pattern continued and Jeff also started to hook up with some hard fighting rainbows. All full tailed fish in splendid condition. It soon became obvious that the fish were tightly shoaled as we glimpsed numerous fish in the dark clear water as they followed our flies.
Sport was to be consistent throughout the day with some epic battles with Wimbleball’s finest the best of the trout nudging 4lb and averaging close to 3lb.
It was the weather though that will linger in the memory along with persistently bent rods and purring reels. The dark skies brought some brutal showers on the tail end of storm Babet.
It seems that we are increasingly weathering the storms to go fishing. Fortunately, modern waterproofs are up to the job ensuring that fishing is enjoyable in even the most hostile of conditions. There can be few climate change deniers amongst the angling fraternity.
Sport proved consistent as the day drifted past all too quickly. The high banks of the Upton Valley provided welcome shelter from the wind and we were joined by Nigel and Andy who fished a hundred yards or so behind us. They too enjoyed consistent action and also noticed that most of the fish were patrolling one side of the bay hugging the shoreline.
A red kite soared high above the valley as the rain eased. The calm surface of the lake reflected the dark trees and as the showers passed by wisps of mist lifted from the lake.
By mid-afternoon we had caught 19 rainbows releasing all but a couple at the side of the boat. Barbless hooks and rubber meshed Snowbee nets ensuring minimal damage.
Inevitably sport eased and we decided upon a change of scenery heading back to the yacht club bay for a final hour. We had a quick drift without success and then proceeded to drop the anchor. A small wild brownie brought the days total to twenty.
Another brutal shower descended upon the lake and a rainbow appeared briefly as the late afternoon sun momentarily broke through the clouds. The trout proved elusive probably switched off the feed for we felt sure they would be present in the area that had been productive over recent days.
In truth I wasn’t too upset when Jeff suggested he had had enough, I had too!
It had been a top day on the lake a water that has provided some spectacular sport under the management of Mark Underhill and his family since 2018. Wimbleball is not always an easy water with a vast acreage the trout can sometimes prove elusive but it is always well stocked with pristine conditioned rainbows. There is always the added chance of connecting with one of the lakes wild brownies that have grown large feeding upon the abundant fry.
Winter sport can be enjoyed with plans under consideration to remain open for most of the winter.
It was a peaceful Sunday morning as I negotiated the winding country lanes of the Quantock Hills on my way to Hawkridge Reservoir near the Village of Spaxton a few miles from Bridgewater.
Countryside illuminated by the early morning sunshine seemed to ooze tranquillity and timelessness. This seemed particularly poignant as I listened to the news on Radio 4. The terror of conflict in Israel, death and destruction on the dawn of a new war that will undoubtedly bring much sadness and breed yet more hatred.
I arrived at Hawkridge the mirror calm surface pimpled with rising trout. Herons stood fishing on the far bank.
The organisation has been running for over fourteen years and provides free fly fishing sessions for people who have one thing in common – breast cancer.
This friendly meeting always results in plenty of smiles as we share boats and try to tempt a few trout.
Members of the two groups slowly assembled beside the lake all eagerly eyeing the lake and its surface still dimpled with rising trout. On the far bank a couple of roe deer bounded into view disturbed by an angler approaching the far shoreline.
The draw was made at just after 10.00am and participants eagerly set off to various parts of the lake. My boat partner sadly failed to show leaving me soul occupancy of the boat a fate of hand that proved fruitful from a fishing perspective.
Loitering close to the dam end of the lake I drifted about for a while searching the water with a floating line and a team of flies. By now the fish had stopped rising as the unseasonably warm October sunshine illuminated the surroundings. After an hour with just one chance, I decided that the fish must be down in the water. As I wound in to change the lines over I felt a strong pull. A good sized rainbow appeared shaking its head to successfully rid itself of the hook.
I persisted with the change to a sinking line and allowed the boat to drift to rest against the buoys near the dam. A few fish were rising and I cast parallel to the buoys close to where a fish had showed. The line zipped tight and a spirited tussle followed before a pleasing rainbow was netted. An exciting hours sport followed as I hooked several trout some of which came off before I completed my five fish limit shortly after 1.00pm. The fish were all tempted using a blue flash damsel and generally took within seconds of the fly hitting the water. The fish were tightly shoaled and I had been lucky as I feel sure I would have headed to the far end of the lake if my boat partner had showed.
The morning session ended at 2.00pm and we all assembled back at the lodge for the presentation of prizes. I was slightly embarrassed to receive the top boat man’s award for my five fish haul that totalled 13lb. Peter Mullins took the SWFFL prize with a 2lb 12oz rainbow.
Sally Pizii had once again done a splendid job of organising the event.
I headed for home after a great morning’s sport and tuned into Radio 2’ and sounds of the seventies. The rest of the Wistlandpound Club headed back out onto the water. David Eldred completed his five fish bag to win the competition with 14lb.
Many thanks to those who attended our screening of Riverwoods at Loxhore Village Hall on October 6th. It was good to see over thirty assemble in the Village Hall a healthy mixture of Villagers, National Trust Workers and Volunteers, Anglers, Conservationists, Canoeists the intrigued. The film was followed by a presentation by myself and James Thomas a wetlands ranger with the National Trust. Special thanks to Adrian Bryant who organised the film and set the whole process in motion.
More showings of the film are planned and I will update as and when I receive dates and venues. Healthy debate punctuated and followed the presentations none of it too hostile or contentious. Answers to the natural disaster we are witnessing are complex and answers driven by good science are required along with willingness for those in society to listen and guide those in power. Not easy in a democracy where politicians crave votes. I will at some point try and put together a feature on the issues but I will need time to get my head around that one.