Stunning Blakewell Double

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

As temperatures drop small Stillwater fisheries like Blakewell hit top form. An ideal place to grab a few hours now that the river season has ended.

Shaun Antony Ley spent a day at Blakewell Fishery where he hoped to introduce his children to the joys of angling. After the childrens interest dwindled Shaun spotted a large trout cruising in the clear water. After several casts and fly changes the trout succumbed to a pink spider pattern with a gold head. After an epic twenty minute battle a fine double figure rainbow of 11lb 10oz was safely in the net. Shauns dads wet feet a cost well worth paying.

Shaun said “I was over the moon with one of the best looking doubles Ive ever seen at Blakewell”


A CRISIS IN OUR RIVERS – A BROKEN TRUST – Ian Blewett

There has been considerable coverage recently in the media regarding the dramatic decline in the health of the UK’s rivers and I have written several short articles on this here on North Devon Angling News. I asked Ian Blewett secretary of the River Taw Fisheries Association if he would write an article highlighting the issues we face here in North Devon as I believe that it is important to bring these issues to as wide an audience as possible. Sincere thank’s to Ian for producing a hard hitting and thought provoking feature.

A CRISIS IN OUR RIVERS – A BROKEN TRUST

In September this year, the government released a report that revealed something that many Anglers and Angling bodies had known for some while. The Environment Agency (EA) report showed for the first time ever that not one single river in the whole of England had achieved a good chemical status rating. Proving beyond doubt that pollution from sewage discharge, chemicals and agriculture is having a hugely detrimental impact on river quality right across the country. The contrast with the ratings of a previous survey in 2016 couldn’t be more stark – then 97% of rivers were judged to have good chemical status (albeit the standards are now tougher). Put simply it means that there is not a river system in England that isn’t already polluted and becoming more so. It proves that over the last decade that the water quality in all English rivers has rapidly declined and that the EA had failed in its statutory duty to protect and enhance. This is worrying situation if you are an angler or interested in the environment because it means that we are failing in our fight for clean water and have been badly let down by governments at all levels.

Despite North Devon being such a wondrous place – remember we are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with a uniquely important UNESCO biosphere slap in the middle of it, we don’t have a single river system or catchment that is not being routinely polluted and degraded as a fishery or wildlife habitat. Every catchment in N Devon is affected.  Every lake that collects water from the land, every stream that flows into a river, every river that has an estuary and every river estuary that flows out to sea across a beach. Anglers of all types are affected by this and given that fact, it means that anglers, wildlife enthusiasts and people who care must do more to protect our catchments. It means that those whose job it was to protect and enhance – the EA and other responsible bodies; DEFRA, the agricultural industry, local councils, planning authorities and of course the filthy, leaking, under- performing utility companies are routinely choosing to fail. The reality is that we put our trust in elected politicians and Govt institutions at National and local level and we have been badly let down. We must do better at holding the EA, local government and South West Water to account.

This EA diagram shows how well South West Water are doing in the under-achievers league:

Only Southern Water are worse. See Link below

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/921087/Water_and_sewerage_companies_in_England_environmental_performance_summary_graphic_for_2019.pdf

In N Devon river pollution comes from three major sources: Sewage pollution. Chemical Pollution and Agriculture.

Every house in every town and village is linked to a sewage works or treatment facility. Every rural house or cottage if not connected t mains sewers probably has some form of septic tank or ancient drain away. Every seaside town probably has some form of combined sewer outfall. They are all linked in one way or another to water courses and thus to rivers and the sea. Many of these treatment works or facilities are very old, some are crumbling and many lack capacity. All treatment works are designed to discharge “treated” wastewater into existing water courses (streams & rivers) and at times of high flows or extraordinary demand, untreated sewage is also routinely discharged directly into existing water courses. On the Taw system alone there are at least 32 sewage treatment works. The EA licences SWW to discharge within a given set of discharge criteria but then asks the utility company to self-monitor and report itself when it breaks the rules! Guess what? It is documented that Utility companies regularly break the discharge consents and somehow forget report themselves.

A lack of infrastructure and capacity is a widespread problem in N Devon. Let’s take just one example. The South Molton Town Plan sees an additional 2,240 homes built over the next 10 years or so, that represents a growth in population of probably nearly 20%. The town has a Victorian sewage works that has been upgraded but it is maxed out in terms of space. It also has a system that collects raw sewage from one side of the town and pumps it back to the current sewage works. Currently it lacks the capacity to contend with the growth. SWW say there are plans to upgrade it – but they won’t say how, with what or even when. Why then did the planners give consent for all those houses if SWW can’t deal with the domestic sewage waste? Last year, residents in the area reckoned that the sewage works discharged raw sewage into the Mole for months on end but because they are self-monitoring it is difficult to prove a case for it happening. This is a pattern that is likely repeated across N Devon. Sewage pollution routinely occurs in places like Ilfracombe and Combe Martin and it could be happening near you.

Sewage contains poo. It also contains all sorts of chemicals (washing powder – enzymes), pharmaceutical residue (drugs, hormones and anti-biotics) and micro plastics. Much of the solid waste and bacteria is filtered out by the treatment process but in higher flows the harmful chemicals (nitrates and phosphates) and drug residues (hormones and anti-biotics) all go down the overflow pipe and into the river and because the EA has ceased routinely monitoring the health of our rivers we don’t know what sort of effect this is having. Modern septic tanks tend to contain their contents but must be emptied regularly or they will overflow with similar results. They must by law only be emptied by licenced companies using licenced disposal facilities.

Farmers are of course the custodians of the countryside; we need them to produce our food, but in recent years farming has intensified and N Devon hasn’t escaped the effects of that intensification. The face of agriculture has changed, arguably not always for the better. There are now fewer Dairy farmers but the milking herds are much bigger. Cows are kept indoors and fed a mixed diet of feeds that includes silage and haylidge. Fields are cut often twice or even three times a year to provide the raw material. The waste (shite) is collected in vast lagoons and then applied as slurry to fields once cut as fertiliser. It is potent, powerful stuff and quite devastating and dangerous if it gets in a pond or watercourse. When using or applying slurry or digestates as fertilser Farmers are supposed to comply with DEFRA’s Rules for Water – but a surprising number have never heard of them. Remember, a modern dairy farm milking 300 head of cattle produces as much waste as a small city and uses a vast amount of water so they have a responsibility to abide by environmental regulations and dispose of their waste accordingly. If you witness anyone discharging farm waste directly into a watercourse or spreading slurry in the immediate (within 5m) vicinity of a watercourse you should report the incident to the EA who should investigate.

A combination of so-called green incentives and bigger and more powerful machinery has also seen the face of arable farming change in N Devon. Farmers are being incentivised to grow whole crops and winter maize to feed a demand from biodigesters and intensive farms. Winter Maize is being grown on a large scale. It is harvested in October and November, the wettest time of the year. During the harvest vast amounts of mud are generated from topsoils disturbed by heavy machinery and if the weather is bad then much of that topsoil is washed into our rivers as tons of silt. You see the mess on the roads. Not only does this clog the spawning gravels used by migratory fish, it reduces salmonid spawning success by as much as 90% (GWCT figures). Increased flows also wash this silt down into the estuary affecting water quality and clarity and it is deposited in vast, dirty shifting banks that encourage algal growth in the Summer. These intensive crops need fertilising and growers routinely use, commercial fertilisers, slurry and digestate which is 3 x more devasting than slurry if it gets in the river. Not only that but each maize crop is sprayed several times in a growing season with a powerful aphicide, the residues of which all end up in the water. It all has a cumulative and negative effect particularly in low flows.

It must be said that the majority of farmers are environmentally friendly by inclination and go to considerable lengths to negate the impacts of farming on our rivers and watercourses but there are those who are not and they can do a lot of damage.

What can you do to stop or lessen the effects of pollution on our rivers? I’d like to suggest that there are a few simple steps that we can all take right now and they are as follows:

–           Put this number 0800 80 70 60 in your mobile. Every angler should have it. Keep your eyes open. Report incidents of potential pollution to the EA. Do not just walk by. If you see damage being done to the environment, flooding, any form of pollution (including excessive silt run off or raw sewage flowing into the river or estuary), dead fish, illegal water abstraction or incidents or spillages at waste disposal sites, ring the number and report the incident. All incidents reported to this number are logged and treated in total confidence and must be addressed by the EA. If you see something that looks or smells like pollution then it probably is – take some photos and report it immediately.

–           If you see a planning application for a development that is troubling you, then think about putting a question to your Parish, Town or North Devon District Councillor or even your MP (who states on her website that she will fight for the environment). Don’t just think about it – make an objection. Inquire about the provision of suitable infrastructure and capacity and do not be fobbed off. Ask them why it is that they are not fulfilling their environmental obligations – every political party makes them. Ask them why they aren’t holding the EA and SWW to account. They are supposed to be your elected representatives – hold them to account as well.

–           Whatever sort of angler you are you should probably think about joining an Angling body or Environmental organisation like the Angling Trust or the Wildlife Trust. These organisations are actively fighting the anglers/wildlife lovers corner. Give them your backing, they have access to top quality legal representation and are influencers, get involved and have a say.

–           You might even like to support Surfers Against Sewage in their latest campaign to stop river pollution. Sign up here: https://www.sas.org.uk/endsewagepollution/

–           Maybe if you are a river angler you might think about joining the River Taw Fisheries Association (RTFA – website here: http://www.rivertawfisheries.co.uk/index.html ) or its equivalent on the Torridge. The RTFA has modernised in recent years, it raises thousands of pounds each year and works with Westcountry Rivers trust to fund the removal of weirs, conduct river improvement work and spawning gravel washing.

The angling Trust have launched a campaign that anglers can join to fight against pollution. See link below.

Anglers Against Pollution

Now is the time to get involved. We cannot keep treating our waterways and rivers like open sewers – this is the 21st century and we deserve to have clean water. Our rivers, lakes, estuaries and beaches are incredibly important wildlife habitats and provide us as Anglers with opportunities to enjoy countless hours of fun. Get involved and throw your weight behind the wheel because many voices are better than one and we have to make the EA, our local representatives and SWW do better.

An Autumn Spate

What a difference a week makes! Last week I made my last casts of the 2020 river season for wild brown trout on the beautiful river Lyn with the river showing its bones following a dry September. This morning the river is a raging torrent a cold North Wind swirling in the valley. Salmon are undoubtedly forging up river ready to spawn in a month or so’s time.

 The East Lyn September 27th 2020

Note the debris on the footpath indicating where the river level was the previous day!

River Seasons End

With no significant rain in the last weeks of the season salmon fishing has been slow. A few salmon were tempted from the Torridge as anglers visited the river for the last time. One salmon was also tempted from a very low River East Lyn.

Little Warham regulars –  David and Stuart.Were both determined to fish before the end of season on their annual visit to Warham; let’s just say their 5hr plus journey paid dividends

I took my rod to the glorious river East Lyn to enjoy a few end of season casts. I had decide to try out my new Nymphing outfit purchased from Barbless flies. A 10ft 3wt rod matched to a special light and slender fly- line. I started at Watersmeet and worked my way upriver fishing  pools and tumbling pocket water. The river was extremely low and clear making fishing difficult with small trout darting for cover as I attempted to move with degree of health. In truth catching fish is a bonus in such beautiful surroundings and it was a delight to wonder the river as the sunlight illuminated the stream. Whilst autumn had started to deplete and colour the leaves higher on the moors here in the sheltered valley there was still plenty of greenery on show.

Several fiesty wild brownies seized my nymphs before a better fish took hold in a deep pool, a crimson spotted brown of over 10″.

Crimson spotted beauty returned.

Posted by Wayne Thomas on Sunday, 27 September 2020

South West Lakes Trust Trout Fisheries Report September 2020

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

South West Lakes Trust Trout Fisheries Report

September 2020

Boat and bank fishing is currently available to anglers, with day tickets on sale through the South West Lakes website or via the telephone (01566 771930). Most of the self-service permit huts are now open, but anglers should confirm this before buying tickets on site. Certain restrictions continue to operate and, before fishing, anglers are asked to read the latest Angling Trust advice with regard to health and social distancing. Information is also available on the South West Lakes website – www.swlakesfishing.co.uk.

Where boats are available, these should be pre-booked, and strict guidelines must be followed regarding their use (see website for details). Catch returns can be completed online, where the latest weekly catch reports will be available to view. The fishing has generally proved to be hard on the Rainbow waters, with the best results had where there are Brown Trout or other species which can be caught on a fly. Fish will now start to feed again more actively as the conditions cool down.

Kennick – High water temperatures have meant that generally the fish have stayed deep, with boat anglers enjoying the best sport, generally fishing over the deeper central water, using sinking line tactics with either Boobie patterns, shrimp or tadpoles. Bank anglers have caught fish using intermediate lines, particularly in Clampitts Bay, using Damsel Nymphs and Pheasant Tail Nymphs. Michael Herring (from Thurlstone) caught the best fish of the month – a 3lb 10oz Rainbow, as part of a bag of six fish using an orange shrimp on a sinking line fished from a boat. The ever-popular Peninsula Classic bank competition will be held at Kennick on 11 October this year – later than usual because of the Covid restrictions which were in place earlier in the season.

Siblyback –The hot conditions and water temperatures made the Trout lethargic and the fishing very challenging – however, now that temperatures have started to drop and freshly stocked fish are introduced to the water, the prospects for some exciting sport in late September and October are promising, with Stocky Bay and Crylla the best locations to try.

Stithians – The Rainbow Trout fishing has been difficult during the hot weather at Stithians, but anglers have still enjoyed some exiting sport with the resident Brown Trout, as well as with the Rudd, some of which have been caught up to 1lb, and which on lightweight tackle, provide a lively alternative to the regular Rainbows. Recommended patterns to try include Deer Hair Sedges, Daddies, Yellow Mayflies, Black Buzzers, Greenwell Spiders and Parachute Emergers, fished on floating lines.

Burrator – The fish have been down in the deep water and not enthusiastic to feed. The best results have been fishing from a boat with a sinking line, using a Boobie pattern. Early in the month, Matt Baines had an excellent day’s sport, catching nine fish from a boat in Longstone Bay, using boobies on a sunk line.

Colliford – The Brown Trout at Colliford provided some excellent and consistent sport throughout the month, with plenty of rising fish to dry patterns (Sedges, Black Bits, Hoppers

and Black Gnats) – sometimes cast to rising fish and sometimes catching when fishing blind on a ripple. Sub-surface feeders were taken on Hares Ear Nymphs, Black and Peacock Spiders, Zulus and Soldier Palmers. Phil Messenger-Rogers caught a 2lb Brownie, while Paul Ackland (from Plymouth) caught a bag of six fish, which also included a Brownie of 2lb, using a wet Black and Peacock variant and dry sedges.

Fernworthy – The Brown Trout sport was variable at Fernworthy in September, with weekly rod averages varying between .5 fish and 3.1 fish per angler. On good days plenty of fish were rising, and could be caught on a variety of patterns (Sedgehogs, Foam Ants, Daddies, Black Gnats and Deer Hair Sedges). If the fish were not on the top of the water, subsurface Bibios, Crunchers, Soldier Palmers and Kate Mclarens, all fished well. Jeff Ferguson had the best result, catching eight fish up to 1lb on Black Sedge Pupa and Kate Mclaren patterns, while Paul Ackland caught a 1lb fish on a dry sedge.

Roadford – While fishing at some of the other waters proved challenging over the month, Roadford proved to be the exception to the rule, with the fishing just getting better and better! Anglers averaged 5.8 Brownies per rod, with dedicated specimen Perch fishing (boat only) also available. These Brownies are in superb condition, with a number of grown-on fish in excess of 2lb being caught. The banks at Daveys, Wortha, Big Oaks, North Shop and Grinnacombe all produced some excellent sport and, if small Perch became a problem, one just needed to find some water with a good ripple to get into the Trout again. Boat anglers were most successful when casting into the bays around the edge of the lake. While foam beetles and Daddies brought some fish to the surface, most Trout were caught on sub-surface patterns (Spiders, Soldier Palmers, Zulus, Bibios and Claret Pheasant Tail Nymphs), with lures such as Tadpoles and Zonkers on Di3 lines also catching well. John Rumbold enjoyed an excellent day, catching 14 fish to 2lb 4oz. Dean Boucher landed 50 fish up to 18” in four visits. Later in the month Dean landed another 41 Browns in three visits, with two fish over 2lb.

The Perch fishing continues to be a great success, with plenty of fish to 2lb being caught. The best Perch of the month was a beautiful 3lb 4oz specimen – a personal best for George Hutton who, on a previous visit, had caught 50 Perch up to 2lb 2oz, when fishing with his father, Pete.

Please visit the South West Lakes website (www.swlakewsfishing.co.uk) for more information and the latest updates.

Chris Hall (September 2020)

For more information, please contact:

Rosie Vine

Customer Communications and Marketing Manager

South West Lakes Trust

01566 771930

[email protected]

Angling Generations

Norman Bird was a founder member of Combe Martin Sea Angling Club and I was fortunate to join the club ten years after his son Nigel who joined the club in 1963. Nigel and I fished together with the club on many occasions during the seventies and early eighties and now fish together from time to time with the Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club. I was pleased fo receive this picture from Nigel showing his grandson George enjoying his first fishing trip with his grandad at Bratton Water where they enjoyed catching a fine bag of rainbow and brown trout.

It is great to see the generations as they discover the joys of angling. For many years I enjoyed trips out of Combe Martin on George Eastmans boat Star of Scillionia PW265.  and was also privileged to help out from time to time hauling lobster pots and taking trips around the bay. Those glorious summer days were greatly enhanced by Georges great grandad George Eastman of whom I have many fond memories . Much has changed over the years but I still feel a sense of belonging when I stroll upon the foreshore at Combe Martin reminiscing upon a lifetime of encounters within the bay.

Footnote – Nigel traced Star of Scillionia PW265 around the West Country over the years from the Isles of Scilly to the Helford Passage were she was finally decommissioned and broken up.

An Autumn Salmon

It is hard to believe that it is early September as I approach the river as the sun slowly climbs above the trees sending shafts of light across the river. The river is in perfect order running at a good height with pleasing  a tinge of colour that one could almost describe as that of fine ale.

I wade out into the cool water and begin my search, optimistic as an angler must be expectant that at any moment the line will zip tight. I absorb the familiar surroundings and listen to the soundtrack of the ever flowing river as it ambles to the sea. Wagtails bob about and a kingfisher flashes past. Fry are abundant in the margins giving hope for future seasons.

The seasons passing is obvious as leaves drift past and I notice a large number of ash leaves undoubtedly a sign of the ongoing of ash die back.

I have fished the river in perfect conditions several times this year and last with four or five years since my last salmon. After fishing the beat carefully drifting my flies across the favoured lies I work my way to the bottom of the beat covering the lies for a second time.

The salmons view as the fly drifts across the river

It is clear that the salmon are not  as abundant as they were when I started fishing this Middle Torridge beat ten years or so ago when leaping salmon and sea trout were a common sight. The picture of a twenty pound salmon further up river is of course an image that maintains hope in the knowledge that the fish had swum past the waters I am fishing.

The sun is now well up in the sky as I place my fly inches from the far bank. As it swings across the river there comes that electric pull down the line and in a magic moment that contact is made with throbbing life on the line. I hold the rod high and savour the moment as the rod kicks before the reel sings. I keep a tight line leaning into the fish as I step sideways allowing the salmon to push up river. The fish hangs deep in mid river; the rod bends, the line pointing into mid river, the salmon holding station in the strong current. For a while the salmon powers up river but as the pressure tells the fish seeks help from the current heading down river as I attempt to maintain a position opposite the fish . I glimpse a wide powerful tail and the flash of silver.

Its always a tense experience playing a salmon hoping that the hook will stay put and the knots hold strong. After around ten minutes I detach the net from my back and the battle continues with the fish on a short line. This is a tense time for many salmon are lost  during that time when the fish is so close to the net.

Then suddenly the fish rolls and is in the net as I give a call of triumph. “Yes!”

I carry the salmon to the margins and slip the barbless double hook from the top jaw. The Go Pro is clipped to my rod handle strategically placed at the water’s edge. I hold the salmon above the water for a brief self-take shot. The flanks of the 10lb plus hen fish are already showing subtle hues of the autumn season. Its image will remain etched upon my mind for the rest of my days fuelling the return to the river in search of silver.

The salmon is held in the cool water head upriver for a couple of minutes until I feel its strength return. It is a great feeling when the fish powers strongly away into the river to continue its amazing journey to hopefully spawn in the next couple of months.

Twenty Pound Torridge salmon

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

This 21lb beauty was caught by Barry Mills this evening in Boat Pool at Little Warm Fishery; using his newly acquired ‘weigh net’, which came in pretty handy with a fish this size!

I also fished the River Torridge downstream of Little Warham with conditions perfect  I fished with optimism drifting my flies across proven lies. I failed to connect with any silver tourists but I did see a sea trout leap from the water and glimpsed the electric blue of a kingfisher. With the river now running at a good height i expect salmon to be caught from both Taw and Torridge for the remainder of the season.

Angling Milestones

Two North Devon Anglers set significant personal miles stones this week in different angling disciplines.

Dedicated mullet angler John Shapland spends many frustrating hours targeting grey mullet a species with a reputation for being difficult to tempt. John landed his 100th mullet of 2020 this week!

Ian Blewett is a keen all-round angler with salmon top of his agenda for much of the year. Ian took advantage of perfect conditions on the Taw to land the 100th Atlantic salmon of his angling career. He followed the feat up during the same session with his 101st!

Perfect Conditions on Rivers

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

Recent heavy rainfall has resulted in perfect conditions leading into the last month of the salmon fishing season. Paul Carter kindly allowed me to use this stunning image of the River Torridge at Beam Weir.

I look forward to reporting on catches from both the Taw and Torridge. Day Tickets are available for the Taw at Weir Marsh and Brightly via Chris Steer on 07761285169. Day Tickets for the Torridge can be obtained from the Half Moon Inn at Sheepash or at Little Warham Fishery. The West Country Passport Scheme also gives access to many excellent beats.