I fished the river yesterday and it was too high and coloured. I return today and its dropped a bit with less colour
Warm September sunshine the river dropping, It feels right If a little high. I select the fly and wade out.
The cast is good I feel I’m doing everything right, each cast the line unfurls and the fly drops in the right place. Swing it around in the current expectation as the fly passes familiar lies.
As I walk the riverside field’s I note the fungi, hazelnuts and the subtle changes that tell of seasons end.
At the top of the beat I look up river to briefly glimpse the graceful roll of an otter. As I climb from the river having fished the pool through a kingfisher brings a flash of electric blue.
Its hard to believe that another season has come to an end. It seems only yesterday that I walked the banks as the wild daffodils bloomed.
Inspired by tales of the past gleaned from old fishing books, the author sets out to fish those same waters, to cast the same flies on the same pools, to explore how fishing the streams of Exmoor might compare with fishing them over a century ago, whether those streams have changed and how they might be faring today. Exmoor rivers and streams appear pristine, barely changed since Claude Wade described them in his 1903 book Exmoor Streams, yet the numbers of trout he and other long-ago writers reported catching seem unbelievable today. Those streams must once have held an astonishing abundance of fish.
Modern problems affect even upland streams, yet many good folk are dedicated to their restoration and there is much we can do to help. River conservation work can be fascinating and rewarding as we develop a deeper understanding of river habitats through, for example, managing a balance of light and shade, monitoring aquatic invertebrates and cleaning riverbed spawning gravels then watching for their use when migratory salmon return home from the sea.
Those nail-booted, greenheart wielding fishermen of the past have gone but the streams still run on their wild ways, singing their endless songs to the moor. This book is for all who share concern for the wellbeing and conservation of our rivers and streams as well as those entranced by the rise of a trout to a well placed fly.
Vellacott’s Pool – East Lyn – Image Roger Baker
Sad news from Wimbleball Fly Fishery
It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we inform you of the death of our good friend & team member Trevor. For the last 5 years Trevor has been the stalwart of Wimbleball Fly Fishery, making many friends & gaining massive respect for his help, support & fishing knowledge while organising the boats & helping our anglers. Trevor’s funeral service was held at the Taunton Crematorium on Wednesday 27th September at 12.40pm… Mark & Trudi Underhill
Trevor always had a warm smile and imparted optimism at the start of each fishing day. He will be sadly missed by those who frequent this gem of a fishery high on Exmoor.
The River Test in Hampshire is undoubtedly the worlds most revered Chalk Stream its gin clear waters flowing through country estates whose names are steeped in the history of fly fishing. Its waters fished by the likes of F M Halford who penned the classic tomes Floating Flies and How to Dress Them in 1886 followed by Dry Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice in 1889. Halfords Dry Fly Tactics were controversially questioned when G E M Skues published his books Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream and The Way of the Trout with the Fly.
A century later Fly Fishing rules on the River Test still reflect the tactics employed by Halford and Skues. In truth these codes of conduct ensure that a degree of sportsmanship and etiquette are practiced on a River that is trout fishing equivalent to Crickets Lords or Tennis’s Wimbledon.
So, what is it like to fish the River Test? I was privileged to be invited for a day’s fishing on a beat a few miles below Stockbridge in the heart of the Test Valley.
We arrived at the River for a 9.00am start assembling our tackle beside the fishing hut. Fishing beats on the Test invariably have well equipped fishing huts where anglers can share tales of fishing forays, discuss tactics and put this ever changing world to rights.
It is early September and I noticed the onset of early autumn colours as I drove the country roads shrouded in trees. It is the end of a record breaking September week of high temperatures with over 30 degrees recorded for an unprecedented seven consecutive days.
It is exceptionally warm and humid with thunder forecast later in the day.
Talk is that the fishing is going to be hard with the trout uninterested in feeding during the heat. We set off to search the water peering into the gin clear flow, lush water weeds swaying in the current. Its not difficult to spot our quarry if you’re tuned into the task.
I cast a small bead headed hares ear nymph up into the first pool I come too. After a couple of casts, I see a fish rise and change over to a grey Wulf dry fly. First cast the fly disappears in a delightful ring of water. I lift the rod and feel the pulsing of a hard fighting River Test brown trout. I am using a 7ft Snowbee 3/4wt Classic, with a 2/5 WT Thistledown Line, the light rod absorbs the lunges of the trout protecting the gossamer 3.7 lb tippet I am using. At a couple of pounds, it’s a delightful start to a glorious day.
The banks of the Rivers are carefully managed to provide a perfect experience for the angler. A strip of mowed grass provides a delectable fishers path, the rivers edge is buffered with a strip of grass reed and wild flowers. This provides a haven for bees, pollinators and brilliant blue and green damsel flies. In parts the river dissects thick lush growth of reeds trees and bush that are a haven for birds and other wildlife.
When the light is right peering into the gin clear waters is like looking into an aquarium, fry are abundant flitting around in the calmer eddies. The focus for the fly angler is of course the trout a mixture on this beat of wild browns and stocked brown and rainbows fish averaging 2lb with good numbers of fish between three and four pounds.
The river here meanders through a maze of carriers criss-crossed by wooden bridges. It is a delight to stroll the banks spotting the trout that haunt the mesmerising waters. The clarity often disguises the true depth of the water and I need a long leader to ensure my tiny weighted nymphs can reach the trout suspended in ever flowing waters.
After a couple of hours exploring the river we meet up in the fishing hut for a welcome coffee. There is no rush in this haven of tranquil riverside retreat.
I catch more than my share of fine brown trout returning several to the river after spirited battles. In the afternoon the sun illuminates the river enriching the colours and exposing the shadows of trout resting between swaying fronds of ranuculus. I cast a nymph above a group of good sized brown trout, The biggest of the trout moves and I glimpse the white of its mouth. I lift the rod and the fish lifts in the clear water shaking its head. The light rod hoops over, the reel screams as the trout dashes into weed beds. I put on as much pressure as I dare with the ultra-light tackle, the trout leaps from the water droplets of spray glisten in the hot afternoon sun. The trout’s image is imprinted forever in my mind’s eye a bar of gold and fiery copper leaping from the Tests revered waters. Eventually the big brown trout is almost beaten as I ready the net, it’s mine I think, but as I coax it to the net it gives a last shake of its head and the light tippet parts. The magnificent trout of perhaps five pounds sinks slowly back into its home and I watch it recover before swimming back to its station in the middle of the river.
I sit back and contemplate my loss for a few minutes. The river flows majestically on its never ending journey. I tie on a new nymph and catch a couple more consolation fish the best a shade over 3lb.
Its mid-afternoon and I have a long drive home. I savour a precious few moments sat absorbing the scene. It’s truly a riverside angling heaven, crystal clear waters, hard fighting trout and total peace. Once in a while it’s good to visit these legendary waters casting in the shadows of those who have created a tranquil stage in which to immerse and gather those piscatorial dreams.
Before driving home, I take a short walk with my camera to try and capture the essence of the river. Its good to visit perfection from time to time but is it any more rewarding than those clear waters that tumble from the moors back home in Devon?
As a child I dangled a worm in the tiny river Umber in Combe Martin a lifetime away from casts on the revered Test. Those butter bellied miniature brown trout were every bit as beautiful as those of the Test so sad that their numbers have been allowed to dwindle.
Rivers are the arteries of the land and it is so vital that we care for them by fighting pollution and over abstraction on every stream and river from the revered Test to babbling brook.
I stayed at an Air B & B near Andover the hosts son runs https://hookafly.com
Langage Business Park
Plymouth, Devon PL7 5JY
South West Lakes Trout Fisheries Report
The weather was mixed throughout August, with a mixture of wind and rain as well as some warm humid days with the occasional thunderstorm, interspersed with some bright sunny days. Generally water levels continued to fall, although at a fairly slow rate.
Kennick – Boat and bank anglers both enjoyed equal measures of success, averaging just under two fish per rod, with both floating and sinking lines catching fish. Clampitts Bay, Smithacott, Poplar Bay, and The Narrows proved to be the most productive locations. In spite of some large hatches, only a few fish succumbed to dry patterns (Sedges, Daddies, Amber Hoppers, and Klinkhammers), with most fish preferring to feed sub-surface on a variety of wet and nymph patterns (Damsels, Montanas, Diawl Bachs) or lures (Boobies, Vivas, and Blobs). Peter Gilpin (from Newton Abbot) caught seven rainbows to 3lb, mainly on Green and Black Boobies; Graham Roberts (from Totnes) caught a nice 3lb rainbow, fishing deep from the bank at Poplar Bay. Anthony Jenkins (from Modbury) caught five rainbows to 3lb using a sinking line, fishing deep in Clampitts Bay using yellow and Black Blobs. Graham Roberts (from Torquay) caught four fish to 3lbs from a boat, including a spectacular, beautifully coloured brown trout of 2lb 4oz, using a dry fly in Clampitts Bay.
Siblyback – Fishing continued to be challenging at Siblyback this month, with only very few surface feeding fish evident – this, however, changed in the last week of the month (when rod averages dramatically rose to six fish per rod). Floating lines were the most popular, with a few fish taking dry patterns (Hoppers and Black Gnats), and more taking sub-surface nymphs and wets (Diawl Bachs, Montanas, Soldier Palmers) or lures (Red Baby Dolls and White lures). Most fish were congregated around The Meadows, Stocky Bay, The North Bank, and by the dam. Simon Peters (from Truro) caught a bag of twelve rainbows, most fish coming to a single goldhead Blob, fished on a floating line and long leader, in Stockie Bay. Benjamin Lang (from Launceston) enjoyed a good session, catching a superb wild brown trout of 1lb 8oz from the Meadows bank using a Claret Hopper, as well as five rainbows to 2lb 8oz from the margins along the North Bank using Claret and Ginger Hoppers.
Burrator – Longstone, Lowery Point, Back Bay, and Bennetts South Bank produced most of the fish caught over the month, with anglers averaging just over two fish per rod. Large numbers of flying ants meant that plenty of fish were showing toward the end of the month, when floating line tactics tended to work well, often when pulling a Cats Whisker or Bibio Snatcher – Alan Lawson (from Plymouth) used this method to hook five rainbows to 2lb one morning; on another session Alan caught five rainbows to 2lb, four on a dry Sedge pattern. Mark Sinclair (from Horrabridge) caught three rainbows to 3lb, using a deep-fished intermediate line. Patrick Murphy (from Plymouth) caught a beautiful wild brown of 1lb 8oz in an evening session, fishing tight into the tree cover on South Bank.
Stithians – The fishing proved to be more challenging this month at Stithians, with anglers averaging just under two fish per rod. Generally floating lines with a range of retrieval methods worked best. Successful dry patterns included Sedgehogs, Black Beetles, Sedges, Daddies, Hoppers, and Hawthorns, while Black Pennells, Cormorants, Montanas, and Orange Nomads all caught deeper feeding fish. Fish were well spread out, but Yellowort, Pub Bay, Hollis, and Goonlaze all regularly featured on catch returns. Simon Peters (from Cusgarne) enjoyed a good early morning session fishing in the fog, catching two browns on Daddylonglegs, and three rainbows using Hoppers and fast retrieved Blobs. David Williams (from St Just) caught seven rainbows using Cormorants and Orange Blobs on a floating line.
Fernworthy – A quiet month at Fernworthy, with little surface activity, in spite of plenty of flying ants on the water. Floating lines with fast retrieved sub-surface patterns (Blue Flash Damsels, Black and Peacock Spiders, Hares Ears, and Pheasant Tails) caught fish, mainly below the boathouse, Brownhills, and Thornworthy. Dave Redding (from Ropely, Hants) caught four browns to 45cm using a Black Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, while fishing in strong winds.
Colliford – Great sport continues at Colliford, with anglers averaging just under 5.5 fish per rod, and the best locations including Lord’s Waste, Fishery Hut Bay, and the bank by the dam (although it always pays to keep on the move and cover as much water as possible). Floating lines, fished either with single flies or teams of three wets, proved to be the most successful, with the most productive patterns including Soldier Palmers, Bibios, Blue Zulu, Daddy Longlegs, and Hares Ear Nymphs. Chris Tilyard (from Fraddon) caught nine browns (and lost another six) in one session, and 9 browns to 16” using a CDC Hopper fished close to the bank in another. Brian Robinson (from Chandlers Ford) caught a bag of sixteen browns to 1lb.
Roadford – The fishing has at last improved at Roadford, with anglers averaging over 5.8 fish per rod, with the best sport at South Wortha, Shop Bank, Grinnacombe, and the Big Oaks. Floating lines are the preferred method, fished in conjunction with a selection of nymph patterns (Hares Ear, Pheasant Tail, Diawl Bach, and Kate McLaren). Charles Langton (from Chagford) enjoyed an excellent session, catching nine browns to 14”, using nymphs and a floating line, some in less than a foot of water in the margins, while others were caught fifteen yards off the banks at Big Oaks.
Wistlandpound is giving good sport with rudd and quality brown trout.
Please see South West Lakes’ website (www.swlakestrust.org.uk/trout-fishing) for more information on buying tickets, boat availability and booking, and forthcoming events.
Chris Hall (August 2023)
July and August are often quiet months for Stillwater trout fishing with last season an absolute disaster with the prolonged drought and hot weather putting fish off the feed or sending them into the cooler depths of the lake. This year has been different and after a wet and cooler July and August I had heard that Wimbleball was fishing well. A trip was undoubtedly needed but with jobs to do at home an all day trip was not an option.
A half day ticket at Wimbleball starts at 4.00pm and gives over four hours fishing during August at what should be the best time of day.
The weather forecast gave light North West Winds with occasional showers some of them potentially thundery. It was raining when I left home at around 2.30pm and I hoped the rain would ease by the time I arrived.
It was a pleasant drive over Exmoor and I noted the tinges of Autumn starting to show on the trees. I drove through occasional heavy showers and spells of sunshine that illuminated the moorland landscape.
It was raining steadily when I pulled into the car park where another angler was parked up waiting for the rain to ease before heading out to the lake. I set up under the shelter of the car boot opting for a floating line and longish leader with a tip fly and two droppers. I tied a damsel on the point and daiwl Bach’s on the droppers.
It was good to walk out onto the lake’s foreshore once again, I was a little surprised at how far the lake had dropped since my last visit. I knew it was now at around 75% but that’s quite a bit of exposed shoreline. The foreshore is coated in lush green growth of wetland plants and flowers that exuded a pleasant almost minty aroma as I walked eagerly to the water’s edge.
I waded out and put a line out onto the water slowly retrieving as I took in the panorama of lake, sky and land. Dark foreboding clouds, glimpses of blue, lush green fields and trees bedecked in their dark summer foliage. Ducks foraged in the shallows their heads emersed and curly rears exposed in typical duck fashion. A heron’s call echoed across the lake, swallows and martins swooped low over the water. The margins were alive with tiny fry that would surely provide a feast for predatory trout over the coming months.
I settled into the searching mode of cast and retrieve occasionally trying different flies and trying different areas of the bay. I saw a couple of fish rise shortly after starting but nothing seemed interested in my offerings and after three hours I was starting to have a few doubts. I have not blanked at Wimbleball since the lakes fishing has been under the management of Mark Underhill in 2018!
After trying different areas, I headed back to where I had started and again commenced the searching rhythm. A fellow angler fishing along the bank to my right seemed to have the body language indicating a lack of success. I heard him comment to his friend; “time to cut our losses and head for home”.
It was now just after 7.00pm and there was just an hour and a half permitted fishing time remaining. I had reverted to the damsel on the point, a diawl bach on the middle dropper with a sunburst blob on the top dropper.
As the luckless angler disappeared from view the line suddenly zipped delightfully tight. A trout erupted from the water and after a strong encounter a slim full tailed rainbow graced the net. The silvery flanks, full tail and sleek appearance reminded me of a fresh run grilse.
Next cast the line again zipped tight a trout leaping from the water. A beautiful wild brown trout of close to a pound that was quickly returned after capturing an image. To my delight the next two casts produced another brace of wild browns with vivid spotted flanks of olive green, bronze and buttery cream.
I fished on expectantly and missed one more fish as the light began to fade. Judging by the size of the swirl behind the lure it was a good sized fish. Shortly after sunset I eventually made my tenth last cast and walked back to the car.
In just over four hours hard fishing I had tempted four trout within a frantic fifteen minute spell. Had a shoal moved in? Had they just switched on for that short feeding spell? Whatever had happened it had whetted my appetite and I look forward to return trips during the autumn months when the fishing promises to be very exciting. With ongoing stocking of full tailed rainbows throughout and those wild browns that will surely feast upon those marginal fry. I wander how big those browns go to? Only one way to find out!
On October 6th North Devon Angling News will be hosting a screening of Riverwoods supported by the National Trust and Adrian Bryant from Braunton’s Countrywise Centre . The film is an evocative documentary highlighting the decline of salmon and how this catastrophic collapse of natural ecosystems can be prevented.
The film will be followed by short presentations from National Trust Wetlands Ranger James Thomas and Wayne Thomas talking from the heart about salmon populations across the West Country. Refreshments will be provided to enjoy with discussion and debate around the issues raised.
THE CHALLENGE – SALMON IN HOT WATER
Over many centuries, the loss of natural woodlands alongside rivers has profoundly changed their ability to support the salmon runs that once flourished. Today, many of Scotland’s rivers run through bare, treeless glens, reflecting the ecological decline that we have come to accept as normal.
Within those rivers, the King of Fish is in crisis. Atlantic salmon rely on cold, clean water and are susceptible to pollution, abstraction and rising river temperatures due in part, to a lack of river woodlands that would once have shaded and nourished our rivers.
Restoring a rich mosaic of woodland habitats to Scotland’s river catchments is a vital step in providing food and sanctuary to young salmon, giving them the best chance of migrating to sea before returning as titanic adults to their natal river to give life to the next generation.
- Only 3% of Scotland’s native woodland remains.
- More than 90% of all living Atlantic salmon measure under 12cm, making young fish in particular, susceptible to rising river temperatures.
- Salmon eggs can survive water temperatures up to 16c. In a changing climate and without the shade afforded by trees, recorded water temperatures in some of Scotland’s rivers are exceeding the lethal limit for Atlantic salmon.
- At any given time, 90% of the world’s salmon exist in rivers, placing an emphasis on restoring their freshwater habitat.
- In the 1960s, 30% of adult salmon returned from the sea to spawn; today that figure is 3%.
RIVERWOODS – the initiative
Riverwoods is a broad partnership of organisations, focused on restoring a network of riparian woodland* and healthy river systems throughout Scotland, and increasing the ecological connectivity between land and rivers.
Learn more here: https://www.riverwoods.org.uk/
*Riparian woodland includes trees and woods within a river catchment, that influence river processes such as recycling nutrients, storing carbon and regulating water temperature, and flow. This includes instream woody structures, gorge and floodplain woodlands, wet and bog woodlands, and those far beyond the riverbank that still shape and govern river processes.
Why are river woodlands special?
Native trees and shrubs next to rivers, streams and lochs perform a range of vital functions. They provide shade, which helps regulate the temperature of the water; their roots stabilise riverbanks and offer vital shelter to young fish; leaves and insects falling into the water provide a valuable food source for a range of aquatic creatures, and a rich tapestry of vegetation locks away carbon, filters pollution and slows run-off.
RIVERWOODS – the film
The salmon need the forest. The forest needs the salmon. And Scotland needs them both.
Riverwoods is a spectacular and compelling story of Scotland’s Atlantic salmon – a fish that is the angler’s ultimate prize and a key building block in a complex forest ecosystem.
The feature-length documentary filmed and produced by rewilding charity SCOTLAND: The Big Picture,shows how Scotland’s rivers have been greatly diminished but crucially, how they could be reborn through a shared vision of restoration and recovery.
- Restoring river woodlands at a catchment scale is an effective nature-based solution to help secure the future for Atlantic salmon.
- River catchments with a mosaic of native woodland habitats, sequester carbon, reduce erosion, improve water quality and slow catchment run-off.
- The health of Scotland’s rivers and the life within them, is directly dependent on the health of the landscapes through which they flow.
- HOW YOU CAN HELP
- Tell your friends, family and work colleagues about the Riverwoods film and encourage them to attend one of the film screenings (it’s free!).
Shady River Fishing shared this cautionary tale recently that I feel is worth sharing on North Devon Angling News.
Ticks are very common in the vicinity of moorlands streams and rivers.
I THOUGHT I SHARE A CAUTIONARY TALE……
About 2 months ago I was fishing in the Devon countryside as usual. When I got home I noticed a Tick Nymph on my inside leg, so I pulled it off as I usually do when I see them on me. I’m always getting bit by ticks and did not think much of it, I just pull em out and forget about it. The next day I noticed a red rash around the bite, now normally the tick bite stays small then it goes away. This Rash was much bigger than usual and prompted concern from my fishing widow partner, who insisted I go and check it out, so I of course I didn’t do that. Anyway a few weeks later I was feeling very tired and aching knee joints and generally put it down to being over 40. After about another week or so I rang the doctor and went to see the Nurse who took some general blood tests, at this point I said “could you test me for Lymes Disease by any chance?” She said “yes we can do”, so she did.
Fast forward another four weeks and I was wondering on the test because I hadn’t improved much. I rang the surgery and was told in no uncertain terms that I had indeed contracted Lymes Disease!!!!
I was quite shocked but perhaps I shouldn’t have been as I am always up the River chasing Salmonoids and I can’t remember how many times I’ve pulled ticks off of myself, so suppose it was just a matter of time before this could happen. Anyway it’s a big long course of antibiotics and no Beer either ♂️ I was fishing on this occasion on the Mighty River Lyn when I got bitten, it’s full of ticks up there at certain times, but Ticks are everywhere around this part of the country and unfortunately so is the Disease. So be careful out there folks.