Chay Boggis had a feeling that a trip to the river would be worthwhile and headed for the Weir Marsh and Brightly beats on the Taw. Thinking that the rain although not enough to make the the river rise if there’s fish in the pools its enough to get them to take the fly.. “Absolutely buzzing to have hooked this 13lb spring fish on my little 7 weight switch rod what a scrap.”
I joined four members of South Molton Angling to undertake some work clearing debris from a stretch of the River Bray near Brayford.
Parking in an adjacent lay-by we were dismayed to find it strewn with litter that had been casually discarded by a section of society that appears to have no shame. Fortunately club Chairman Eddie Rands had a couple of fertiliser sacks in his pick up truck and after ten minutes or so we had cleared the vast majority of the offending material. It is sickening to see this total lack of respect for our beautiful countryside.
In the nearby woods a carpet of bluebells carpeted the slopes as welcome rain fell in the valley giving valuable water to boost the lush spring growth.
In the river we tackled a large trash dam that had built up behind a tree that had succumbed to the winter storms. We trimmed the mass of branches and roots opening up a small pool that will hopefully harbour a few trout that we may tempt with a carefully presented fly. A quick look over the rocks of the riverbed revealed plenty of caddis and a few clusters of bullhead eggs.
We chatted at length about the health of local rivers and the once prolific runs of fish. Stories of poachers that once stole fish from the rivers were exchanged and whilst tales of the fish these rogues killed were sad the fact that the fish are no longer there to steal is even sadder.
The problems that beset our rivers are both complex and many. Understanding the issues is perhaps the start of putting things right.
A quick update on the River Taw and any events coming up
I hope that you are all well and enjoying the beautiful weather on the river even if the water is getting a bit low. There are now numerous reports of fish on the Taw. Mark Maitland Jones has connected and lost another already beating my last two seasons put together! It would be great if you would be able to email in any catch reports so that we can forward them to the members.
Also, if you accidentally come across any Shad (Allis or Twaites) it would be great to be kept in the loop. As a protected fish if we can show evidence that they run the Taw it could work wonders for conservation funding!
A few things to report below
The Catch – Mark Wormald
Our newest committee member Will Martin was recently invited to Pembroke College Cambridge by Mark Wormald on account of Mark’s new book The Catch. Following Ted Hughes through his fishing diary the catch features the Mole (‘the wonderful river Mole’ as described by Ted Hughes), the Taw, and the Dart. Mark even managed to land a fish out of Watertown at his first time of asking – a feat I am very envious of! Ted Hughes clearly loved Devon and the book is a fascinating read about a fascinating poet and a great deal of mentions of lots of Devonians!
EA Update from Callum Underhill
First off, and most important is a reminder to please report any suspicious or concerning activity to us at the EA or local police, whichever is relevant for the offence that may be taking place. We have a saying that if it isn’t reported, it didn’t happen – because if we don’t know about it then we are obviously unaware it has occurred and thus cannot do anything about it. If you believe you have seen something you may be concerned about in terms of illegal fishing, please call us on 0800 80 70 60. This number is also helpfully printed on your rod licences.
We have a good working relationship with our local Devon and Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority. As many of you will know, much of the work of protecting salmonids occurs around estuaries and tidal waters, this often overlaps with the work of IFCAs in their protection of marine species. For this reason, we are both cross warranted in Devon. We have powers under marine fisheries legislation and IFCA officers have powers to enforce salmonid legislation. After sharing intelligence between us and IFCA, I was able to locate two individuals netting the estuary illegally towards the end of last year. I reported them for the offences, and I seized the net as evidence. IFCA have now issued both with sizeable fines for the offences – a good deterrent and a strong message to those who may wish to do the same.
As many of you know, illegal fishing is not the only threat to fish in Devon. My colleagues in other departments are working hard to address other contributory factors to salmon declines, including habitat degradation, water quality and barriers to migration. Some factors are beyond our control, such as survival at sea, but we will do the best we can with our (very) limited resources.
Unfortunately, we had a disappointing outcome on the previous River Mole pollution case, which as you know caused much damage to already sensitive fish populations. We are at the mercy of the courts when it comes to sentencing and some days are better than others. On a positive note, we are now lucky to have some specialised colleagues in the area who will be looking at improving water quality by looking at local businesses and ensuring they are meeting legal requirements. These officers will compliment our other Environment Officers Albert and Andrew.
Many anglers are unaware that we at the EA hold much of the rights to the River Lyn around Watersmeet – a challenging yet rewarding water! We operate mandatory catch and release on our fishery and are able to bring in relevant restrictions when necessary to protect the fish in the river. I am in the process of modernising our fishery, with the potential for digital tickets and well as paper for example. Please feel free to try the Lyn if you haven’t before, or even visit for just a walk and support the local rural businesses up there.
Finally, thank you to RTFCA for being so engaging. All of the members I have met have been friendly and welcoming and the Taw is one of the areas in the patch I am always happy to visit.
I hope to see many more of you over the coming seasons.
A good pair of sunglasses are essential for many aspects of angling. They offer essential eye protection when casting flies, reduce eye strain during bright conditions and enable a clearer view into the water opening up opportunities to locate fish and place the bait or fly accordingly. The Snowbee range are excellent at very reasonable prices.
South Molton Angling Club held their AGM at The Coaching Inn South Molton on April 12th. There was a good attendance with the Environment at the forefront of discussions. The local Environment Agency Fisheries Officer Callum Underhill gave a brief outline of the vital work undertaken by the EA across the region. Good news is that two Agricultural EA Officers are being recruited to focus on the issues surrounding agriculture and its impact on the regions rivers. He also reported on a successful operation to target illegal netting last year in the local estuary with cooperation between EA officers, IFCA and the police.
The clubs members have undertaken citizen Science studies in the local rivers including water quality monitoring, River Fly Surveys, gravel washing, redd counts and river clearing.
The clubs trophies were presented with:-
Steve Bendall winning the Mac Trophy for the biggest trout with a fine rainbow from Wimbleball weighing 6lb.
The Tope Cup was won by Matt Brady with a tope of 30lb.
The best specimen was won by Ed Rands with a cuckoo wrasse of 1lb 8oz.
The Bass Trophy was awarded to Wayne Thomas
Mike Moser gave a fascinating presentation on Nature Recovery in the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere.
Mike highlighted the many issues that face the rivers and watercourses within North Devon all of which flow into local coastal waters. He highlighted what we can do as individuals and how local businesses and organisations are collaborating towards a recovery for nature following many years of miss-management.
The decline of salmon and other fish throughout Devon was discussed at length with members sharing many memories of days when fish were more abundant. The loss of habitat for breeding bird populations and mammals was also highlighted.
Mike outlined the many benefits linked to the reintroduction of beavers in South West Rivers.
The clubs chairman Edward Rands would like to thank all those who attended the 53rd AGM last Tuesday at the Coaching Inn who provided us with excellent facilities and food.
Edd opened the meeting at 7.30 pm and gave a very comprehensive re’sume’ of our 2021 season which included all the hard work carried out by members attending bank clearing, redds counting, the Riverfly checks, and the introduction of the Citizen Science program being carried out by himself and the secretary.
The treasurer’s report included the current healthy bank balance but he is concerned about the lowly number of paid-up members for 2022 so far. The resumption of some more normal post covid activities could put pressure on our funds for 2022. The only other expense will be the new website being released shortly.
Our chairman Edd invited Calum Underhill who is our new EA bailiff and gave a short talk and report. This was followed by a very interesting talk given by Mike Moser who is the chairman of the Nature Biosphere Improvement Group.
The meeting closed at 9.45pm.
A CREEPING DEATH
On a personal note I visited the Lower River Taw the morning after the meeting to cast a line in hope of salmon. The river was running low and clear and it was alarming to note how slippery the rocks have become so early in the season. A layer of algae and weed smothers the river bed undoubtedly a result of high nutrient levels in the water. It is sad to observe the decline in the river over the past forty years. I remember fondly how a visit to the river thirty or forty years ago would almost always result in the sighting of a salmon or sea trout leaping from the water.
The decline of salmon and sea trout during my own lifetime has been alarming and if it continues these iconic and once prolific fish could be extinct within twenty years. The reasons for this decline are as I often state complex. Agricultural practices and sewage discharges are undoubtedly a major factor in the decline of the rivers health. Many in the general population fail to appreciate the devastating impacts of intensive dairy farming. Investment is needed to eradicate pollution and improve farming practices. A buffer zone should be implemented beside rivers to create a wildlife corridor boosting biodiversity.
On a positive note it was heartening to catch several silver smolt during my short session and to observe good numbers of fry in the margins. If action is taken rivers can return to health in a relatively short time.
As I walked back from the river I noted the discarded junk lying throughout the river. A Childs buggy, an old piece of carpet and a vast array of other relics illustrating a total lack of respect for the rivers that are at the heart of the land in which we live.
After a successful trip to Wistlandpound last week and reports of good sport from other anglers I headed back to the reservoir again. On arrival I met up with Fluff Chucker Rodney Wevill who had travelled up from his home close to Launceston. It was good to meet up with Rodney on his first visit to the picturesque water close to my home in North Devon. We chatted fishing on our way to the water and I was able to give a quick run down of the waters history since I started fishing it in the late 1970’s.
Starting on the South Bank of the lake we commenced putting out a line on the water. We both connected with hard fighting browns within five minutes and admired their spotted flanks and varied hues. I was using a small black lure on the point with a black spider pattern on the dropper. The fish were hitting the point fly and a slow retrieve seemed to be the favoured approach.
Rodney hooked a cracking fish that came off close to the net whilst I was pleased to bring a pristine fish of around 10″ to hand.
Martins swooped above the lake and birdsong filled the air. It really felt that spring had arrived at last after weeks of predominantly North and East winds.
We fished an enjoyable session with Rodney catching eleven browns to just under 1lb. I managed eight fish the best a stunning trout of 15″, Its buttercup flanks dotted with spots of brown, black and crimson.
These fish though small by commercial fishery standards are a delight to catch offering truly wild fishing at a very reasonable cost. Day Tickets are £11.00 from
I always enjoy joining Wistlandpound Club on the annual trip to Wessex Waters Clatworthy Reservoir which is fished in early April. The fishing at this reservoir in early spring is normally excellent with hard fighting good conditioned rainbow trout generally succumbing to lures fished down deep in the cold water.
On this occasion the competition was to be fished from the bank. Catch reports suggested that fish were being caught on buzzers and dial bachs fished on floating lines with long leaders. Whilst this is a way I love to fish I set up with an intermediate line and an orange blob on the dropper with an olive damsel on the point. We all headed up into the Westcott Bay area to start our search.
The fishing proved to be more challenging than expected and it took me an hour before I hooked my first rainbow of the day.
I persisted with my tactics allowing the flies to sink for 20 seconds or so before starting an erratic retrieve. I completed my five fish limit by 1.30pm and spent the next couple of hours chatting to fellow club members and taking a few pictures of the action and splendid spring scenery.
I am always fascinated to see the remains of the signal crayfish that abound around the shores of the lake these unwelcome crustaceans have established a large population within the lake and I suspect the herons stalking the banks may have been feasting upon them when we arrived.
We gathered at the fishing lodge at close of play with all members catching a few rainbows.
Salmon fishing on both the Taw and Torridge has been encouraging with around half a dozen salmon now caught from each river. Barnstaple and District Angling Association river keeper Don Hearn caught a fine spring run salmon from the lower Taw estimated at 13lb 8oz the fish was tempted on an Rowes variant ally’s Shrimp tied by Terry Rowe . A few sea trout have also been caught of up 3lb and several smolts have also been caught which is encouraging for the future.