The recent rainfall brought a welcome rise in all of North Devons Rivers and anglers have been hopeful of a salmon or sea trout. The rivers are certainly looking much healthier with a lot of the algae flushed away. River Taw Fisheries Association member Mike George sent me these lovely images of the Middle Taw. Like many anglers Mike has enjoyed the beauty of the river but failed to hook the elusive salmon.
With reports of stunning rainbows to over 10lb and trout feasting on beetles I was keen to get back up to the beautiful Wimbleball lake again and do battle with its full tailed rainbows. Our son James was entering a Motorbike Enduro event a few miles away so it seemed a good excuse to meet up for a Father’s Day Picnic combined with a few hours fishing!
I commented to Pauline as we enjoyed the journey across Exmoor’s summer landscape that the fish often went off the feed around midday. An ominous comment as I would probably manage my first casts for around 11:30.
I left Pauline reading her book in the car and hastened to the waters edge looking for a place that would offer a little shelter from the brisk breeze along with a good chance of fish. Conditions were ideal and I soon found the perfect spot with the breeze blowing right to left. A few fish were rising just off the weed bed at the waters edge.
I tied a beetle imitation on the point, a diawl bach on the middle dropper and a black zulu on the top dropper. I waded carefully out and started searching the water. It wasn’t long before the line zipped tight; a pleasing 3lb plus rainbow was battling on a tight line. Ten minutes later a brace were secured and tea secured for the next night!
It was now catch and release time. I wandered back to the car to see if Pauline was ready to join me and take a few pictures whilst enjoying the warmth of the day. On arrival back at the waters edge it seemed the spell had been broken as my first couple of casts resulted in a minor tangle and the rhythm seemed to have deserted me. It soon returned however but it seemed my prediction had proved right for takes became few and far between.
James and Sophie arrived and enjoyed a tasty picnic; Social distancing of course. Several trout rose within casting range and I was soon back casting a line. Rising trout really are not good for my social skills! Despite several chances I failed to connect and at around 6.00pm we headed for home.
It will not be too long before I get back for a more serious fishing session ensuring I get there well before the fish have their afternoon siesta and perhaps hanging on for the evening rise as well!
My favourite place on a wet summers’ day has to be the River East Lyn the river tumbles down the boulder strewn valley. The lush green foliage of the trees and fauna always gives a fresh and vibrant feel.
The river has a wealth of memories for me and I recall the many days I have spent fishing for the river’s salmon and sea trout. Pauline and I walked the river two days running and it was sad to see just the one angler trying his luck. On a summer spate twenty or thirty years ago the river banks would have been full of anglers keen to catch a silver prize from the beer coloured water. These days far less anglers travel to this beautiful river as the runs of salmon and sea trout are but a shadow of those golden days of plenty.
The river is now 100% catch and release and perhaps this does not suit this river where spinner and worm reigns supreme. In the past the rivers fish were abundant and anglers harvest did little to dent the population. The demise of the salmon has also lead to the loss of a vibrant angling community. Having fished the river at the end of its era of abundance I have mixed feelings remembering those anglers I once knew and a sense of pleasure that I was able to cast my line in better days. How I wish that future generations could enjoy the sport we had just a generation ago.
It was very pleasing to see the replacement bridge at the lower part of the river that allows the option of a circular walk from the top of Torrs Road to either Blackpool Bridge or up the Watersmeet.
Today it was sad to see the tea rooms at Watersmeet deserted due to the COVID outbreak. The valley is normally alive with walkers and visitors but today it was far quieter.
Theres something special about being out on the river bank early in the morning before the mist has been burnt away by the summer sun. I wish I had dragged myself out of bed a bit earlier but Im not good at rising at silly o clock. It was around 6:30 when I cast a fly across the river. Twenty yards down the run and the line tightened slightly as if it had brushed a leaf but I knew it was more than that, this was confirmed a second or two later as the line zipped tight and for a moment the rod was bent to the the pull of life on the line. Before I could gauge the size the line fell slack as the hook hold failed.
The water was still a little murky following recent heavy showers but this early success ensured that I fished the entire session with expectation. There are a few salmon around as Simon Hillcox had tempted a fresh run fish a couple of days previous from a beat higher up river. (Below)
Is there a better place to be in mid summer than beside a Devon River with the countryside at its lush green peak?
Kingfishers flashed past, bright yellow wagtails flitted two and fro. In the rivers margins tiny pin fry massed in the margins and hundreds of tiny toads climbed from the river the steep banks must be like Everest to these vulnerable youngsters.
As the sun climbed higher in the sky I knew that my best chance of a silver tourist had ebbed away. Before leaving the river I sat on the Fishermans bench to absorb the surroundings. Damsel flies flitted above the lush green grass fluffy white clouds drifted across a blue sky and suns warmth felt good.
Salmon and sea trout anglers across the region have had their spirits lifted following the recent heavy rain hopeful that the salmon and sea trout waiting in the estuaries will forge upriver offering the chance to enjoy that thrilling encounter with the most iconic of silver flanked fish.
I headed for the River Torridge to find the river at a perfect height but with the water a turbid brown and full of sediment I was not hopeful. Salmon fishing is a frustrating game with those perfect conditions often only fleeting. There will be a moment as the water clears following a spate and runs the colour of ale when the fresh run salmon rise freely to the fly as it swings across the river.
Salmon run up river as they smell the freshwater influx following a spate. The initial rush of water is often foul after a prolonged dry spell so the fish will often pause until the water quality improves. The fish that run up river are often intent on their journey and ignore the anglers offerings. There comes a time though as the fish rest for a moment when they can snatch at that tantalising creature that flutters across the current. The reasons salmon take a fly or lure have been debated by anglers far wiser than I. The fact is that they sometimes do and if you have faith and persist that delightful moment of connection will come.
Despite the imperfect conditions I fished carefully down through the river absorbing the vibrant surroundings of early summer. Relishing the constantly flowing river, the glimpse of electric blue as a kingfisher darted past. The birdsong resonating all around and the abundant wildflowers that thrive along the river bank. I also noted that all is not well in our world as I gazed at the ash trees suffering from the onset of ash die back. It is estimated that up to 95% of ash trees will succumb around 25% of our woodland!
Hopefully I will report on a salmon or two over the coming days for there are plenty of salmon in the river they have been leaping in the estuary for weeks and have been seen forging up over the weirs.
Blakewell Fishery has been in fine form since it reopened in Mid-May with numerous double figure trout tempted. Pete Masters banked a 12lb rainbow and Graham Thorne a stunning 15lb rainbow. Andy Facey banked a rainbow of 10lb. Rick Perry banked a brace of double figure rainbows weighing 13lb and 12lb. Chris Bryan banked a rainbow of 9lb 3oz. Small imitative patterns are proving most successful.
TFFC was formed in 1959 & controls the fishing at Gammaton Reservoirs near Bideford.
The reservoirs are two lakes each being about 4 acres .They are set in a very picturesque location with views stretching to Bideford bay.
The lakes are predominantly stocked with rainbow trout although there are a few resident browns. The fish are fed for a week or so after stocking but then feed naturally on the abundant wild food in the lakes.There are plans to stock some more,
brownies as well as spartics , cheetahs & blues in September to add variety to the fishing.
Annual membership is limited to 40 anglers & costs £175. Members can catch up to six fish a week which can be taken or released.
Day tickets are £20 for 3 fish & are available from Summerlands in Westward Ho! Or Tarka Outdoor Pursuits in Torrington.