Wistlandpound – Beautiful browns brighten a stormy day

Wistlandpound is just a short drive from my home in North Devon and provides the opportunity for shorts sessions with the fly Rod in search of the wild brown trout and Rudd that abound in the lake.

As I walked to the water via the wooded path I was delighted to hear the sound of chiff-chaffs calling from the trees a sure sign that spring has truly arrived despite the overcast sky and near gale force south west wind. I arrived at the waters edge with the wind blowing from left to right which made it easy to put out a decent line despite its strength.

I retained the team of flies that had brought some success at Colliford at the end of last month. A small black lure on the point and a black spider on the dropper.

I put out the floating  line and paused to allow the fly to sink a little before starting the retrieve. My plan was to cover plenty of water making a step along the bank between each cast. On the third cast I was delighted to feel a strong pull that resulted in a spirited scrap from a wild brown of around 10″.

Half a dozen casts later after missing a few tentative takes I once again felt a strong pull and connected with a good fish that put a decent curve in the rod. After a short tussle I was thrilled to bank a beautiful wild brown of 14″.

This was a truly stunning looking trout that was admired briefly and its image captured.

I continued to search the bank missing several takes and connecting with several more stunning wild browns that were between 10″ and 12″. Each fish was totally different in appearance with some almost silver like a sea trout others golden flanked and crimson spotted. In the short two hour session I brought seven trout to hand each one released carefully ensuring future sport.

I look forward to warmer days with a gentle breeze rippling the lake surface but I doubt the fish will be so eager to grab the fly then.

The River Torridge Fishery Association – News Reel

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The River Torridge Fishery Association

President: Lord Clinton

 

Chairman: Paul Ashworth                                                    Secretary: Charles Inniss

                                                                        Beeches Sheepwash Beaworthy Devon EX21 5NW

                                                                                                tel: 014109231237

                                                                                    e-mail: [email protected]

NEWSREEL: SPRING 2022

 

Subscriptions for 2022 are now due. Please forward your cheque for £20 to the Secretary at the above address making cheques payable to The River Torridge Fishery Association.

                                                If you prefer to pay by BACS:

          account name: Torridge Owners Association: a/c no 00827770: sort code 51 70 16

Our AGM: for the first time for three years we were able to hold our agm. It was an excellent meeting with over 30 attending and The Half Moon laid on a superb buffet at the conclusion of the business. Paul Carter was our Fishery Officer for over thirty years before his retirement in 2020. In appreciation for all Paul has done for our river the Chairman presented him with a retirement gift from the Association: a £100 Snowbee gift voucher.

Election of Officers: the agm re-elected the officers and committee “en bloc”.

Chairman: Paul Ashworth, Vice-Chairman Steve Phelps, Sec/Treas Charles Inniss, T. Harper,

J. Burden, S. McClaren, D. Betts, D. Williams, P. Coles, K. Dunn, J. Graham. T. Birkbeck

Our President, Lord Clinton, is an honorary member of the committtee.

Hatchery Update: having not allowed the hatchery team to trap broodstock from the fish pass at Monkokehampton Weir last year for health and safety reasons, your committee is hopeful that the EA will give us the go-ahead this autumn. The Association continues to support the South West Rivers Association with its ambition to use the hatchery at Colliford Reservoir as a hatchery hub for all the rivers in the South West.

Health and safety issues: at the agm our vice-Chairman, Steve Phelps, outlined how important it was for the Association to make a thorough risk assessment for any work undertaken with regard to the hatchery and to general river maintenance.

EA proposal for 100% salmon catch and release: this will apply to all the rivers in Devon and Cornwall. Salmon stocks in all the South West rivers continue to decline and the EA feel it necessary to make catch and release compulsory. There will be a consultation period when we will all have an opportunity to express our views. Mandatory catch and release will probably be implemented for the 2023 season. There was a lively discussion at the agm with opinions evenly split for and against. With Torridge stocks of salmon and sea trout continuing to decline your committee strongly recommends that all fish are released without where possible removing them from the water.

The season so far: the river was high and coloured for the first ten days of March but then settled down to provide some excellent early season salmon fishing. It has been a most encouraging month with 5 salmon caught so far: 2 from Beam and 3 from Madeira, including a superb fish of 15lb.

Callum Underhill: our new fishery officer, Callum, will be looking forward to seeing many of you on the river bank over the coming season.

Fluff Chuckers – Brown Trout Bank Day – Colliford

I joined the Fluff Chucker’s group event at Colliford Lake on Saturday March 26th in search of wild brown trout. Cast off for this informal competition was at 9:00am with pre meet at 8:00am.

I arrived on time at the car park to meet with fellow fluff chucker’s who were eagerly debating the day ahead and recent excursions with their fly rods. It was my first visit to this vast lake of 900 acres situated high on Bodmin Moor and my first impression was that it was a little daunting. These fears soon evaporated after chatting with fellow anglers who assured me that the trout were often found close to the margins.

I had undoubtedly been lulled into a false sense of security over recent days of warm sunshine as I had underestimated how cold it was likely to be. Whilst there wasn’t a cloud in the sky a bitter east wind was blowing across the lake creating many white caps.

We all donned our waders and set off shortly before 9.00am eager to cast a line with the majority heading for a bank that gave some shelter from the wind.

The lake is surrounded by ancient moorland with craggy granite outcrops and wind swept stunted trees. Sheep grazed here and there with old stone walls and fences dividing this harsh yet beautiful landscape. The water clarity was good and peat stained resembling the finest malt whiskey.

I approached the water’s edge with a degree of stealth and put out a short line with a small black lure on the point and a black spider pattern on a dropper. As I retrieved and lifted the fly ready to recast there was a swirl in the water and the glimpse of a golden flank. This gave my confidence an immediate boost.

It was however three hours before I actually made contact with one of the resident trout after moving to a bank that was being battered by the strong wind. A pleasing wild brown of 12” bringing welcome reward for my efforts. I had spoken with a few other anglers as I wandered the shoreline and knew that no one seemed to be catching a lot which was not surprising in the conditions.

I wandered back and forth along the shoreline trying different retrieves and searching the water. I had confidence in the flies on my leader and stuck with the tried and trusted.

Success came once again as I stripped the lure to suddenly feel that delightful connection as a good fish hit the fly leaping from the water in a somersault of spray.

I was relieved when a pleasing 15.5” wild brown was safely within my net. After a quick photo and careful measuring the fish was returned and swam strongly away after holding in the cold water for a few moments.

The remaining hour or so was a little frustrating  with four more trout being hooked briefly before shedding the hook.

It was all back to the car park for 5.15pm and the prize giving. The event was generously sponsored by Partridge of Redditch, Yeti, Hooks and Hackles and South West Lakes Trust.

I was delighted to receive the runners up prize for the second biggest fish of the day.

Full results below with thanks to Rodney Wevill who was the events main organiser.

Fluff Chuckers / Partridge of Redditch Brown trout bank event.

Not a great day for pictures at the event today.

Bitter cold easterly winds made it a day of heads down and try very hard to find some fish.

A very good turnout with anglers travelling from North Devon, Somerset and the usual pirates from Cornwall.

The overall winner was Roger Truscott with the longest fish and the most fish caught.

The runners up being Jack Welshman, Wayne Thomas and Jon Allen.

Even though it really wasn’t ideal brown trout weather there was a good amount of fish landed with respectable fish from 13” to 17”.

Fluff Chuckers would like to thank all the anglers that supported the event a great turnout and most importantly the sponsors for their great generosity providing the prizes.

Partridge of Redditch

YETI

Trout Fishing South West Lakes Trust

Hooks & Hackles

CASTING A LINE ACROSS THE LOWER TAW

Details on Membership for B & DAA can be found at https://barnstapledistrictangling.co.uk

I cast a line fly across familiar lies on the Lower Taw and as always lingered a moment beside the old club hut. Its sad demise continues with a large tree fallen across its roof and graffiti scarring it front. There are few anglers who will remember those anglers who once rested and shared a tea and chat at this spot. Wild garlic grows in profusion in front of the hut filling spring air with its heady aroma as nature endures.

In front of the hut the remains of an old bridge give Buttress Pool its name.

A hundred yards above the hut is Newbridge that spans the river and as I look up I contemplate the salmon and sea trout that have passed beneath its arches over the years.

As I fished lower down I caught a couple of smolts on their journey back to the sea. These gleaming miniatures give hope that they will return to the river as silver salmon in a few years time.

I have also received news from the Torridge where Seth Tuson landed a salmon  from the Lower River.

South Molton Angling Club – UNDERTAKE CITIZEN SCIENCE

Half a dozen members of South Molton Angling Club attended a  Riverfly count combined with  Westcountry CSI (Citizens Scientist Investigations). https://wrt.org.uk/project/become-a-citizen-scientist/ They enjoyed a Spring day in glorious sunshine beside the beautiful River Bray near Brayley Bridge. The results from both exercises exceeded all expectations with plenty of river life present. https://www.riverflies.org

The discovery of a number of eggs attached to the base of stone raised questions as to their origin. Further enquiries to an expert within the West Country Rivers Trust revealed that they were the eggs of a freshwater bullhead or Millers Thumb that spawn during March and April. These delightful fish are undoubtedly etched upon many minds as small fish caught as children exploring streams and rivers.

RIVER TAW FISHERIES & CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION AGM

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After a two year break it was good to once again sit down at High Bullen House Hotel for the AGM of the River Taw Fisheries & Conservation Association. Chairman Andy Gray gave a warm welcome to a good number of members who attended despite ongoing concerns regarding COVID.

As always conservation of the river and habitat dominated the agenda with enlightening talks given by Adrian Dowding from the West Country Rivers Trust and Dr Jamie Stevens who has been working on the SAMARCH project. https://www.samarch.org

Adrian reported on the results of fry surveys undertaken on forty sites across the River Taw catchment. The results were encouraging for some areas of the Upper catchment with some evidence of improvement following gravel washing programmes over recent seasons.

The RTF&CA has adopted a science based approach to conservation efforts funding valuable research into the river’s health. Good scientific based data is vital in providing evidence needed to establish the requirement for funding.

The complexities of nature were made apparent by the fascinating talk delivered by Dr Stevens. The  five year SAMARCH project uses the genetic codes of sea trout and salmon to establish their movements within the marine environment. This is undoubtedly highly complex scientific research that provides an extremely valuable tool in determining where conservation efforts need to be focussed. The mapping can be used to inform on decisions relating to Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s).

Nature is complex and the more we understand the more able we are in successfully managing it. We wouldn’t need to if we didn’t abuse it!

The associations secretary Ian Blewett gave a passionate summary of the vital work undertaken by the RTF&CA highlighting the need for numerous bodies to come together in an alliance for the long term good of the rivers. There are many groups with different agendas regarding the river who share a basic need. My own personal view is that rivers are the vital arteries of the land and as such should be fit for both fish and humans to swim within.

Ian explained that alliances between interested parties that have at times not seen eye to eye is vital to ensure improvement in agricultural practices and in ensuring adequate treatment of  waste effluent. There are many groups that are starting to work in partnership giving some hope that there is a brighter future for our rivers.

I frequently use the term “Our Rivers”. This is not because we actually own them as we are in reality custodians of the environment with a responsibility to look after this part of the natural world ensuring its long term health. My reasoning is that by inferring ownership it inspires a responsibility to look after that which we perceive as owning.

The catch statistics from the river revealed that in 2021 a disappointing 65 salmon and 120 sea trout were caught by anglers. These results reflect a long term reduction in catches. Low water conditions and COVID lockdowns undoubtedly had some impact on these results so it is possible that this season will show an improvement. At the time of writing at least five salmon have been caught on the Taw and three on the Torridge.

The AGM was followed by a fundraising auction ensuring valuable funding for future conservation projects.

The dinner that followed was delicious and enabled a welcome chance to gather around the table and swap many tales from the riverside and beyond.

Those who value the River Taw should consider joining the River Taw Fisheries & Conservation Association.

http://www.rivertawfisheries.co.uk/index.html

Spring Salmon Fishing – Brightly & Weir Marsh on the Taw

After hearing of a fresh run springer of 11lb caught by Tony Watkins on the Weirmarsh and Brightly fisheries on the River Taw  I decided it was time to reacquaint myself with this prime stretch of water above Umberleigh.

The drive to the fishery culminating in a pleasing country lane lined with spring flowers brought back happy and poignant memories of time spent with the late Ron Warwick whose bungalow overlooked the Taw valley and the river that he loved. Visits to many riverside beats and fisherman’s paths rekindle many memories of those we have known through angling and time at the waters edge. It would be impossible for me to fish the Weirmarsh and Brightly Beats without remembering Ivan Huxtable who looked after the fishing and the anglers for many years. Whilst Ivan himself was not an angler he was always very supportive of the angling community and the river. He also raised a huge amount of money for local charity’s including the North Devon Hospice with his regular sponsored walks over Exmoor.

https://www.northdevonhospice.org.uk/news/ivans-terminal-diagnosis-will-make-for-poignant-exmoor-ramble/

I met with fishery manager Chris Steer for a quick and invaluable refresher on the beats and the likely holding lies enabling me to prioritise my efforts when it came to searching the water.

The fishing is split into three beats; Upper, Middle and Lower with the day rotating between beats with changeover at 1.00pm.

I was fishing the Upper and Middle beats both of which boast some stunning Fly water with good holding runs and pools. As Chris explained the likely holding lies, pools and crossing places I struggled to retain much of this valuable information though when I returned to the water with my rod a short time later much of the briefing had undoubtedly sunk in. As I fished methodically downriver I recalled much of Chris’s wisdom in relation to likely taking spots.

Knowledge of these taking spots are invaluable on any salmon fishery and learning where they are can require many decades of fishing. Fortunately, if anglers share their knowledge these hot spots can be passed down through the generations enabling anglers to have a better chance of hooking into that silver prize.

These taking spots do of course change over the years and also change in relation to the river’s height and flow. As salmon populations dwindle this knowledge built up over the generations becomes ever more vital. Whilst the river is constantly changing to a degree some features that create the perfect resting place for salmon remain. Yet learning about catching salmon becomes increasingly difficult as the experience becomes ever rarer.

I took my rod to the top beat at around 10:00am and began swinging a trusty black and yellow pattern across the first run below the railway bridge. I fished down through each pool and run methodically full of anticipation tempered with a degree of realism in that my prize whilst undoubtedly present is scarce.

As spring flowers bloom beside the riverside path, I cannot avoid contemplating the changing times. Many have walked these paths and some of the pools reflect their names and events that have occurred. They may have sat upon the angler’s bench during times of war and trauma. They would perhaps have been reassured by the perpetually flowing water and the changing seasons. If they could perhaps through some miracle revisit they would be saddened and troubled by the demise of the salmon and sea trout along with dwindling numbers of elvers.

The demise of our migratory fish are undoubtedly an indication of the rivers failing health. This should be of concern to all as water is as vital to life as the air we breathe.

Myself and many others marvel at migrations undertaken by swallows, martins, swifts, cuckoos and chiff-chaffs. The sight of that first swallow always brings a sense of joy yet surely the silver salmon is equally important as an indication that all is as it should be?

Imagine the dismay if we could no longer glimpse the swallow as its scythes through the warm  fragrant summer air. Surely we should be equally dismayed if salmon no longer reach our rivers?

Whilst I continually try to raise the many issues that blight our rivers it is perhaps wise to appreciate the wonders that we still have. The river on this Spring day certainly appeared in superb health with clear water and plenty of fry visible in the margins. There were also what I assume were a few olives flitting above the water though no signs of rising trout.

The warm sun beat down upon lush green fields and lambs played friskily as I waded in the cool spring river. It is pure joy to be immersed in this idyllic rural landscape and fishing somehow connects you and slows things down enabling an appreciation that is not possible during a fleeting visit or walk.

Over the years I have observed wildlife at close quarters for as an angler you merge slowly into the scene. If you observe the patience of the heron as it fishes you will notice its slow and deliberate movement. As anglers we should perhaps mimic this unhurried patient approach for there are undoubtedly far more fish in the river than we perceive.

The late great nature writer BB has this quote at the start of his many books; –

“The Wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their colours, lights and shades, these I saw.

Look ye also while life lasts.”

 

I recently received a delightful email from Dr M George who has fished the Taw for many years. Dr George  expressed appreciation of the river and the wonderful environment. He had fished the river on the same day fishing further up the system. Over the years Mike has landed many salmon and  sea trout during his weekly visits that are often short sessions focussing on the prime taking spots. He gave a valuable piece of advice in that he always holds the rod very high as salmon take “On the dangle” and hook themselves against the loop in the line. No loop a tug but no fish ! I reflected upon this as I read the email for during my day on the river I had received a strong tug as I lifted the fly to recast. Perhaps if I had just slowed down and given a little slack a silver salmon would have pulsed at the end of my line? As we fish we learn and modify our stance those little amendments can eventually make us better anglers. Many thanks to Dr M George for sending the beautiful images (Below) from the River Taw.

Those who value the River Taw should consider joining the River Taw Fisheries & Conservation Association.

http://www.rivertawfisheries.co.uk/index.html

BIG BULLDOG BROWNIE

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Nigel Early reports from Bulldog – A very good day on the fly lake for a recent party of anglers! Phill sSares had 6 rainbows biggest being 8lb.
A number of fish were caught by friends Richard Twyman and Chris Warner-Hill, Chris having a cracking 2-3lb blue along with some rainbows. However the BIG story of the day was when Richard hooked into a monster 13lb brown trout that took him for a ride! Mid way through the scrap Richard had problems with the reel coming loose and falling apart, despite this set back the fish was landed and completely smashed his previous personal best brown by miles! Great to see the lake so productive!
With fly fishing season well under way Quay Sports are pleased to offer a growing range of fly fishing tackle here in store. Have a great days fishing wherever you are today!

Going with the flow

Is there a better place to be than beside a West Country River in Spring ?  A few fresh run spring salmon have been tempted from both Taw and Torridge and with river levels holding up I have spent several pleasant hours drifting a fly across familiar lies to no avail.

http://www.littlewarhamfishery.co.uk

In between these forays after salmon I spent an hour one evening flicking a wet fly into the small pools of my local stream. Scrambling between trees I used a 7ft 3/4 wt Snowbee Classic to search the deeper pockets.

I caught a couple of small browns that reminded me of the fish I used to catch as a child dropping a worm in the overgrown River Umber that flows through Combe Martin. The familiar scents of wild garlic and the wild flowers of Spring are timeless sights and aromas that I have savoured every spring for more than fifty years.