These cold winter days are delightful on small Stillwater’s where rainbows seem to feed hard. Just wrap up warm and enjoy.
Paul Carlisle with a cracking 13lb 4oz rainbow caught at Blakewell.
The River Torridge Fishery Association
President: Lord Clinton
Chairman: Paul Ashworth Secretary: Charles Inniss
e-mail: [email protected]
NEWSREEL: WINTER 2020
The salmon hatchery:
Sadly the hatchery programme for this winter is currently on hold. The hatchery team was ready to trap the broodstock from the fish pass at Monkokehampton Weir when the second lockdown restrictions were announced early in December. We have not given up hope and if the restrictions are lifted on 2ndDecember will endeavour to catch up at least a few broodstock, which by then should almost be ready for stripping.
Steve Phelps, our vice-Chairman, has been working closely with William Entwistle, the vice-chairman of the South West Rivers Association, to develop a South West Hatchery hub at the Colliford hatchery on the River Fowey. This hatchery is currently funded by South West Water in mitigation for the loss of spawning streams on the Fowey catchment when Colliford Reservoir was constructed. Initially the Torridge and the Axe will be the two rivers directly involved. With the support of the Colliford hatchery team, the Axe Association, South West Water, The South West Rivers Association and the EA we have permission to grow upto 50% of our eggs to the swim-up fry stage at the Colliford hatchery. Their progress will be monitored under almost laboratory conditions. Last year we achieved a very high success rate at our own hatchery and it will be very interesting to compare the results.
As salmon stocks in all the rivers in the South West continue to decline there may will be a need to develop and expand the Colliford hatchery so that it can support all the rivers in our region.
A new Fisheries Enforcement Officer:
Some good news to cheer you all!! Following the retirement of Paul Carter in the spring, the EA has appointed a new Fisheries Enforcement Officer (FEO) for North Devon. Callum Underhill is fully trained and skilled as a FEO and for the last five years has been based in North Wessex. Callum is very enthusiastic about his new appointment. He is a keen fisherman!! Paul Carter has been very supportive and will continue to do so. I am sure next season many of you will meet Callum on the riverbank.
The Annual Dinner and Raffle:
Sadly we were not able to hold the Annual Dinner at The Half Moon, but the raffle did go ahead and as usual it was wonderfully well supported: thank you all very much. The raffle, together with several generous donations, raised over £2,000 which will go a long way towards funding our own hatchery and the costs involved at the Colliford hatchery.
The winners of the raffle prizes were as follows:
1st prize: £100 wine voucher: Richard Henry, an extremely experienced and successful angler who has fished the Torridge and been a regular visitor at The Half Moon Inn for over 50 years.
2nd prize: £50 Snowbee voucher: Robert Clark, a friend of James Mumford. James has been fishing the Torridge for many years and still travels from his home in Somerset to fish for salmon and sea trout several times each season.
3rd prize: a day’s fishing on The Half Moon beats was won by Bill Blake from Somerset.
4th prize: a bottle of wine donated by Reg Lawton was won by Tim Birkbeck, a committee member.
5th prize: a day’s fishing on the famous Madeira beat was won by Nick Gunn, one of our newer members.
The Fishing Season:
For the first three weeks of the season the river was in spate and then all fishing stopped until the end of May, by which time the river, after a spring drought, was down to summer level. For the latter half of the season the weather was changeable and river levels held up reasonably well. Fishing effort has been very light, but those anglers who have fished regularly have been rewarded with some good catches. Barry Mills caught a salmon in excess of 20lb on the Little Warham water while Martin Weeks and his brother Ed enjoyed some excellent night sea trout fishing. Catch totals seem to have been similar to last year: about 30 salmon, 100 sea trout and plenty of good-sized brown trout.
It has been said that many anglers go through several stages in their angling journey. The first stage is undoubtedly to catch a fish. From this point most anglers progress into different directions. Some will become competitive entering the world of match fishing and trying to catch more than other anglers. Others will become specimen hunters attempting to land big fish, others will adopt a particular type of angling becoming Fly Fishers or lure -anglers. Some will be labelled pleasure anglers a strange term as surely all anglers fish for pleasure?
Whilst I have dabbled in all branches of angling I guess I tend to lean towards being the specimen angler. I have always tried to keep my feet firmly on the ground keeping a perspective on my angling goals. In angling as in all sports and pastimes there is a danger that targets become unattainable diminishing the participants enjoyment.
Back in 1980 I caught my first double figure carp a mirror of 14lb 8oz that was tempted on float-fished sweetcorn. I remember it clearly an accidental capture using just 3lb b.s line and 13ft match rod. For over half an hour I played a game of give and take until the fish was coaxed into my landing net. Back then this seemed a huge fish and for a while encouraged me to fish for carp after reading a wealth of literature available at the time as carp fishing began its trajectory towards todays state of play.
Just three decades before this carp fishing was shrouded in mystery with a twenty pound carp considered a monster. Richard Walkers book Stillwater Angling was published in 1953 and within its pages is documented the capture of the British Record Carp scaling 44lb. The previous record carp was caught by Walkers friend Peter Thomas and weighed 28lb 10oz. Both fish came from Redmire Pool a location that is revered as the spiritual home of carp fishing. Close to seventy years later carp of this size scarcely raise an eyebrow and even here in North Devon we have waters such as Furzebray that hold a stock of carp superior to that of Redmire Pool in its heyday.
Todays carp anglers have in truth never had it so good. The advent of modern methods have also de mystified catching of carp making them relatively easy to catch.
Many of todays young carp anglers expect to set out and catch a twenty pound carp treating ten pound fish as insignificant catches. There was a time when a double was a worthwhile catch a twenty a significant achievement and a forty was the fish of a lifetime. Has this change in the merit of fish weights brought extra enjoyment to anglers?
This phenomena is not of course exclusive to the carp angling world. I clearly remember fishing Wistlandpound Reservoir when it was stocked with rainbow trout that averaged 12oz to 1lb. A limit bag of five trout was a good day even if the total bag was less than 5lb. During the eighties came the era of put and take trout fisheries with large rainbows stocked into double figures. Within a few year’s anglers wanted bigger trout and expected to get their limits. In response to demand fishery owners stocked ever bigger trout but had to increase prices to achieve the angler’s expectations.
I have caught a few double figure rainbow trout but I know that they are stocked into a water and need no special skill to tempt. An 8oz wild brownie from a tiny stream is in truth a greater catch and there are an increasing number of anglers who appreciate the value of wild fish.
Anglers are perhaps a complex and diverse group who are perhaps a mirror on society and how it changes. As the decades have passed how we value many things has changed. Forty years ago we had perhaps three channels to watch on the TV, now we have hundreds. Fifty years ago we had black and white TVs. Are we happier today?
To hark back to the carp; imagine Richard Walker casting into the mysterious waters of Redmire Pool. They new it held monsters but they had no idea how big. As the line trickled out on a dark night they had no idea what had taken the bait. It is this mystery that we have perhaps lost in this modern age? What are your thoughts are we happier anglers with today’s well stocked lakes and modern?
Thanks to extensive efforts by the Angling Trust angling can continue throughout lock-down as an outdoor recreational activity providing anglers only meet up with one other person. This is a common sense approach as individual angling is COVID safe and is recognized as having valuable benefits for participants mental well being. Individual fisheries will continue to implement all relevant guidelines to ensure anglers safety. Match Fishing is unfortunately the inevitable casualty of lockdown but hopefully this can resume next month enabling a little festive cheer.
For full details please visit the Angling Trust Website:- https://anglingtrust.net/covid-19/
Gale force winds and heavy rain were forecast to sweep across the South West but with the wind from a Southerly direction I was optimistic that I would find the trout on the feed. November 1st was an informal meet up for members of South Molton Angling Club with the Mac Trophy up for the biggest trout banked at one of the clubs meets.
I set off at around 8.00am for the drive across Exmoor and arrived at Wimbleball for around 9.00am. A couple of members were already fishing and I wondered how they were faring. I had visited the lake a couple of weeks ago and found fish in the sailing club bay so I decided to head there for the first hour and see if I could connect. After half an hour I caught one small brown trout and decided to move on and find somewhere with a bit more movement. The gale force winds that had been forecast had failed to materialize and the rain was light and sporadic. To my surprise it was also very mild.
I tramped along to the Bessom’ bank and started searching the water using an intermediate line and a small black lure. After my previous blank my confidence was starting to wane a little. An angler fishing to my left had found some action and I wondered what tactics he was employing. I changed flies a couple of times trying olive damsels with a long leader and a couple of droppers.
The sight of a bent rod once again to my left was too much to resist and I wondered over to take a look at the handsome trout that had just been netted. There was a warm cheery greeting from the angler who had now completed his five fish bag concluding with a superb looking 5lb 8oz rainbow. The Taunton based angler Krystian Makucewicz was eager to assist and showed me the fly he was using combined with a floating line and long leader.
It is always a pleasure to share in the joy of success and I was inspired by the fine bag of trout displayed on the bank.
I changed over to a floating line with a long leader and attached a black lure on the point. Half an hour later the line zipped tight and an acrobatic rainbow was battling on the end of the line. Confident in my tactics I persisted catching steadily over the next four hours completing my bag at around 3.30pm as the light started to fade slightly. The fish were all good full finned rainbows the best an ounce under four pounds.
My fellow club members also managed a few rainbows but no other limits so I must give thanks to Krystian for being so generous with his advice.
When I got back into the car I was surprised to see the temperature was 15 degrees C exceptionally warm for early November. The ride back across the misty moor listening to Johnny Walkers sounds of the seventies rounded off another perfect Sunday.
Fishing is due to continue at Wimbleball until the end of December COVID regulations permitting.
The Angling Trust and many other conservation minded bodies are urging those who care to write to their MP expressing the need to back this bill to end sewage discharge into inland waters.
Below is a letter from the West Country Rivers Trust
As you may know, the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill is currently passing through parliament. Ahead of the parliamentary debate on the 13th of November, we are encouraging people to ask their MPs to support the Bill.
Working in collaboration with Surfers Against Sewage and the End Sewage Pollution Coalition, we have developed an online tool which enables people to easily and quickly contact their MP. With a postcode, first name and email, the tool generates an email to the individual’s local MP; all they have to do is click send.
If each of our local Trusts could share this with their audience, we could see a real growth in support of the Bill. Click the button below to view the online tool and please don’t hesitate to share this with whoever you think might find it valuable.
Click on the below link to email your MP
In these troubled times time with the rod is so precious bringing a sense of stability to life that is in the shadow of ongoing uncertainty. To the East of Dorchester there are a number of small quintessential English villages nestled in the Upper Frome valley that exude that reassuring essence of continuity we perhaps need during these unprecedented times.
The River Frome is a chalk stream that rises in the Dorset downs passing through Dorchester and numerous villages before converging with the tide at Wareham before entering Poole Harbour.
For an angler the Frome has a rich and varied variety of fish to pursue with the upper reaches dominated by game fish and the lower reaches more suited to coarse fish that grow to specimen sizes. Salmon and sea trout also migrate throughout the river their dwindling numbers of concern as they are throughout the land.
The autumn and winter months are grayling season on the Upper River with the spring and summer trout season. John Aplin is custodian of several stretches of the Frome and carefully nurtures the river to provide a thriving habitat where wild trout and grayling reside within the crystal clear flowing water between swaying fronds of ranunculas.
Pauline and I were staying at the Dairy House West Stafford a well-furnished and comfortable Self catering http://www.chalkstreamflyfishing.co.uk/accommodation/
The accommodation is situated just a short walk away from an exclusive beat of the River Frome that has a reputation for producing huge grayling. It was these grayling that I was hoping to connect with and a day fishing had been booked to coincide with our stay.
The Autumn weather preceding our trip had been unsettled with weather fronts rushing across South West England from the Atlantic. I hoped that the rain had not rendered the river out of sorts as had happened on my previous two visits to the river in search of grayling.
We arrived mid-week and walked the river in late afternoon as the light began to ebb from the day. The river had a tinge of colour but was at a good height and certainly fishable. A herd of Sika deer were grazing in the meadow a large stag in attendance with his harem of fertile females. In the river a pair of swans searched for food gliding gracefully upon the water. Rooks swirled above the trees and leaves fluttered to the ground as the mild westerly gale swept the valley.
Rain pattered upon the windows overnight driven by the westerly wind. I slept fitfully through the night my mind full of weighted nymphs, running water and grayling.
After breakfast I assembled the tackle and chatted with John who told me that the river had dropped slightly and should be in good order despite the overnight rain.
I headed eagerly for the bottom of the beat the path winding its way through dense woodland. The river was slightly clearer than the previous day and at a good height. I was using a 10ft 3 weight nymphing rod, and two weighted nymphs on a 4lb fluorocarbon leader.
Whilst with polaroid’s I could glimpse into the river spotting fish would not be easy. My tactics were to wade carefully upstream searching likely lies trundling the nymphs over the gravelly runs and probing the deeper darker lies. Reading the water is a skill that is learned over many trips to the river though it is fair to say that all rivers share many characteristics and the language of the chalk-stream I waded now was not that different to the River Umber I explored as a child angler many decades ago.
Searching the water is a wonderfully cathartic experience requiring total concentration as the bright tip of the line traces the progress of the nymphs bouncing the gravelly runs. Each flicker of the line as the hook catches weed required a tightening of the line in case it is a fish that has been deceived. The wind conspires to send each cast astray, tree branches reach down to ensnare and tangle the nymphs that I have collected after succumbing to tempting emails and posts from https://www.barbless-flies.co.uk I hoped the grayling would be equally impressed!
After half an hour of searching I lifted the rod to flick out another cast but there came a pleasing living resistance. For a moment I was almost spellbound in disbelief as the rod plunged over, the line moving purposely upstream. The fish hung powerfully in the strong current then used the flow to gain a few yards of line heading down river. I caught sight of a silver flank and the distinctive sail like dorsal fin. Tense moments followed before the fish was safe within the folds of the net. The tiny pink nymph fell from the fishes underslung mouth, I gazed in wonder at the lady of the stream, put a number to it weighing in quickly in the net
(2lb 12oz) and took its portrait before holding the fish in the current relishing the sight of the fish swimming strongly away into the stream of memory.
I sent a picture to Pauline who was relaxing back in the Annexe. I fished on up through the beat immersed in the contentment of success. An hour later I broke away from the river for a late morning coffee.
Shortly after midday I was back in the river Pauline close at hand to take a few pictures of the river as I flicked my offerings into the stream ever expectant now having had my confidence boosted by success. One more grayling succumbed in early afternoon a feisty fish of perhaps 12oz. I caught a glimpse of a couple more grayling that had undoubtedly seen me before I had focussed upon them in the ever running stream.
The day passed away far too quickly as most days beside the water do and I packed away the rods and waders as the light faded. I will return to the river again in search of grayling and maybe even in the height of summer when the water meadows will be lush and green, the river running crystal clear and wild browns will be supping mayfly as the river meanders quietly on.
The following day we headed for home two more anglers were on the River undoubtedly spurred on by news of my grayling. The grayling of the Frome grow to record proportions with fish caught in the past to over four pounds. This autumn has seen at least three fish of over three pounds tempted but these are not prolific fish. Such a grayling is hard won and I look back upon my success contemplating how small the margin is between catching the dream or not. There are many hundreds of casts in a day on the river and with these rare and precious fish there is often only one cast that will connect with the top prize.
Its over twelve months since the publication of my book “I CAUGHT A GLIMPSE” and I am pleased to say I have had plenty of positive feedback and appreciate this and the healthy sales the book has earned since publication back in September 2019. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the book it can be obtained on line via The Little Egret Press. https://thelittleegretpress.co.uk/product/i-caught-a-glimpse-ltd-edition-hardback/
I only have a few copies left with me so if you want to purchase one for collection or delivery please PM me via Facebook or email.
Since publication I have had many interesting conversations with North Devons anglers and have enjoyed sharing their memories. One thing I have learnt is that many fishermen paths are similar though they often fail to converge.
Fly Fishers are enjoying some great autumn sport at Wimbleball Reservoir with hard fighting rainbows and stunning wild brown trout. Harry Plant banked five rainbows including a stunning rainbow of 7lb 8oz. Barry Ware boated a prime conditioned brown trout of 6lb 8oz.
Wimbleball Lake is attracting Fly Fishers from all over the country as its reputation for producing hard fighting rainbows and stunning wild browns grows ever stronger.
I was keen to get back on the Lake and booked a boat and a day off work to share with our son James in mid-October.
In life not everything goes to plan and James Fiancée’s raging toothache resulted in James staying at home leaving me to take the boat out alone.
The drive over Exmoor in the early morning light was a delight with bronzed beech hedge rows illuminated as the leaves took on their rich autumn hues.
I had arranged to launch the boat at 9.00am and arrived shortly after this to be greeted by the ever enthusiastic Trevor who told me that the fishing had been a little slower in recent days in calm sunny conditions. The brisk South East wind should improve matters and this view was reinforced as two anglers were already enjoying bent rods in the sailing club bay.
I eagerly loaded my gear onto the boat and set off up the lake. I dropped the anchor part way up the Lake towards Bessom’s and tackled up. An intermediate Line an olive damsel on the point and diawl bach on the dropper. A few casts and then I up anchored, put out the drogue and started a drift up the lake 30-yards off the shoreline. After a dozen casts or so there came that thrilling jolt through the line as a trout hit the lure. I failed to connect but there was plenty of time ahead and more chances to come.
A couple of hours later my confidence was ebbing after searching several areas of the lake. The wind was picking up and had become a little challenging at times. I changed tactics frequently. Set up a second rod and had short spells drifting a set of buzzers on a floating line. With no fish showing I went to a sinker searching with black lures and the olive damsel. The other two anglers had left the Sailing Club Bay and were fishing close to lakes inlet. Their tally was up to five each with an orange blob the successful pattern.
A moment of hope came as a large rainbow materialized behind my lure, an image that remains etched on my mind’s eye as I type this account of the day.
As the hours drifted past at an alarming rate I decided to try the Sailing Club Bay. By now the wind was uncomfortably strong and getting the anchor to grip was a challenge. With plenty of rope out I got the boat to hold firm thirty yards off the bank and sent out my lure and blob combination. First cast and I felt a good tug. Next cast another. Then after fifteen minutes I hooked rainbows on consecutive casts both coming adrift after a few seconds with the rod well bent.
A handsome wild brown trout of around 8oz eventually saved a blank. At 5.30pm I reluctantly admitted defeat. Disheartened? Not at all I often liken fishing to a game of chess with nature and on this occasion the fish had won the day. The fishing at Wimbleball is not always easy the the fish it holds are without doubt a worthy prize. I will be back in search of success as soon as possible. As autumn enters its final month the weather may be cruel and frosty mornings may sting the fingers but those hard fighting rainbow will be waiting and really need that reel to sing!