The South West Angling Show

There is an exciting date for South West Anglers to add to their Diaries. The South West Angling Show is to be held on Saturday May 2nd and Sunday May 3rd at Newton Abbot Race Course.

I asked host Zenia Gregorek to send me a few words on the event:-

I am so excited and honoured to be asked to be the host and presenter of the 1st ever South West Angling Show which will take place at Newton Abbot Racecourse on Saturday 2nd May and Sunday 3rd May.

We will be fronting some of the biggest brands from across the country offering great deals and offers on great tackle at the show and also showcasing some fantastic talks on the main stage of influential Anglers interviewed by myself.

We are very excited about bringing an Angling Show to the South West and hope to see everyone join us to celebrate it and make it a success to continue in the future.

Anglers Paradise

Salmon Fishing Season off to a flooded start

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A new salmon season began on Sunday March 1st  but looking at the Taw below Newbridge on the eve of the season I doubt if any of the North Devon rivers will be fishable for at least a week. Early season is often hampered by high river levels and in the longer term this could be to anglers advantage as it will hopefully mean that there is a plenty of water well into the season. The early part of the season can produce some of the biggest fish of the year with big fresh run spring salmon one of angling greatest prizes. Don’t forget that all salmon have to be returned to the river in the first three months of the season. Catch and release is also encouraged throughout the entire season with barbless single hooks preferable.

Salmon close seasons by river

River Start and end
Avon (Devon) 1 Dec to 14 Apr
Erme 1 Nov to 14 Mar
Axe, Otter, Sid 1 Nov to 14 Mar
Lim 1 Oct to the last day of Feb
Camel, Gannel, Menalhyl, Valency 16 Dec to 30 Apr
Dart 1 Oct to 31 Jan
Exe 1 Oct to 13 Feb
Fowey, Looe, Seaton 16 Dec to 31 Mar
Tamar, Tavy, Lynher 15 Oct to the last day of Feb
Plym, Yealm 16 Dec to 31 Mar
Taw, Torridge 1 Oct to the last day of Feb
Lyn 1 Nov to 31 Jan
Teign 1 Sep to 31 Jan

WIMBLEBALL – OPENING DAY – MARCH 1st 2020

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Wimbleball is a good hours drive from our house North of Barnstaple but it’s a drive I always enjoy winding across Exmoor’s wild landscape. A wintry dusting covered the moors on the high ground yet signs of spring were all around with daffodils already blooming and the snowdrops already withering.

I had been looking forward to Opening day with anticipation since my last visit to the venue on the close of the season last November. Storm Jorge had forced the cancellation of the boat launch and undoubtedly deterred all but the hardiest of Fly Fishers. I had arranged to meet Fishery Manager Mark Underhill and his wife Trudi for a chat before joining former England International Matt Kingdon at the lakeside. Mark and Trudi have transformed Wimbleball over the past two seasons stocking the lake with large numbers of fighting fit full tailed rainbows and introducing an enlightened catch and release option that enables anglers to enjoy a full day on the bank.

Mark and Trudi Underhill

Early March is not for the faint hearted as it can be bracing. A cold wind was driving across the lake as I walked down to greet Matt who had been fishing for fifteen minutes without a touch. I had set up an intermediate Snowbee Fly Line with a gold headed black lure on an 8lb b.s leader. I never go below 8lb b.s as the trout at Wimbleball have smashed up many an angler’s tippet as they seize the lure.

I waded out into the cold water and put a line out allowing the fly and line to sink a couple of feet before starting a slow erratic retrieve. The cold wind and icy water tingled on the fingers. I settled into the rhythm of casting and retrieving, relishing the ever changing vista of the lake, hills and sky. Dark clouds threatened bringing showers of sleety rain.

Suddenly the line zipped delightfully tight and the rod hooped over as a feisty rainbow lunged and powered away causing the reel to sing pleasingly. Matt grabbed a couple of pleasing images of the battle. The full tailed rainbow was well over three pound and a great start to the day.

A few moments later Matt cursed as a vicious take smashed his 9lb point! Ten minutes or so passed before another rainbow hit my lure and gave an aerobatic display on a tight line.

An hour passed with a couple of fish coming adrift for both Matt and I. The hectic sport we had hoped for was not forthcoming though neither Matt nor I mind having to work for our fish.

When it goes quiet a move is often a good idea as the walk warms the body and the change of location brings an injection of fresh hope. The move brought two hook ups in quick succession with both fish coming off after a few seconds.

An angler appeared at the point to my left and immediately hooked into a trout his line singing tightly in the wind, rod hooped over forming a pleasing image against the horizon.

Matt suggested a move to some deeper water and so we set off once again in search of rainbows. The ongoing search inevitably brought connection for Matt as his black lure was intercepted. The next hour saw us catch a further four trout all cracking thick set rainbows of between 3lb and 4lb.

Dark clouds hastened towards us and icy droplets of  wind blow rain beat upon the face and hands. It was close to 3.00pm and we both were pleased to have had enough for one day. We walked back to the cars chatting eagerly of the season to come and more days beside the water.

With frogspawn in the shallows, hawthorn in bud and the soft grey of pussy willow tipping the branches spring was on its way and days of warm sunshine undoubtedly just a few weeks away as winter inevitably gives way to a new season.

Calling in to fill in our catch returns revealed that other anglers had also enjoyed some great sport with plenty of five fish bags, one individual catching fifteen trout on a catch and release ticket ;all on snakes and lures.

The return journey across the moors to the soundtrack of Johnny Walkers Sounds of the seventies was a fitting end to the days fishing. The poignant sound of Terry Jacks; “Seasons In the Sun” reminded me of a  work colleague whose funeral I attended a couple of days ago. A prompt to savour these precious spring days.

Storm Jorge delays boat launch but there’s still a chance to cast a fly

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A serve weather warning for gale force winds as forced the postponement of the boat launch at Wimbleball but Opening day still has the promise of some exciting bank sport at Wimbeball. Hope to meet a few of you on the bank where I will be fully armed with rod and camera.

Try a black lure on a slow sinking line for some exciting opening day action.

Wimbleball Fly Fishery launches wheelchair-accessible boat for disabled anglers

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Wimbleball Fly Fishery launches wheelchair-accessible boat for disabled anglers

The Coulam 16 Wheelyboat, a purpose-built angling boat, will join the growing fleet in Somerset

On Sunday 1st March 2020, the opening day of the new fishing season at Wimbleball Lake in the Exmoor National Park, Somerset, a new Coulam 16 Wheelyboat – specially designed for angling – will be launched, thanks to a joint venture by The Wheelyboat Trust, The Angling Trust and Wimbleball Fly Fishery.

The new Coulam 16 Wheelyboat will enable disabled anglers, and wheelchair users in particular, to access the clear waters of Wimbleball Lake, allowing users to fish independently for top quality rainbow and wild brown trout, courtesy of renowned Rainbow Valley Trout Farm near Bampton. The new boat is the result of a partnership between national charities The Wheelyboat Trust and Angling Trust that provided seven part-funded Coulam 16 Wheelyboats. The funds for the project were generously provided by The Peter Harrison Foundation and Lord Barnby’s Charitable Trust. 

Fisheries across the UK were invited to apply for the seven Wheelyboats, and Wimbleball Fly Fishery is the first to be launched.  A crowd of bank anglers, boat anglers and VIP guests from South West Lakes Trust, the Environment Agency, South West Fishing for Life and The Wheelyboat Trust will gather on the pontoon to see the new Coulam 16 Wheelyboat set off for her first fish of the season. Trudi Underhill will launch the new boat with a bottle of bubbly and Gillian Payne from South West Fishing for Life will cut a ceremonial ribbon. Guests will hear speeches from Mark Underhill, who owns Rainbow Valley Trout Farm and leases the fishing at Wimbleball, and Andy Beadsley, Director of The Wheelyboat Trust. Andy Beadsley and Patrick Veale will be the first disabled anglers to take to the water.

Mark Underhill, Proprietor of Wimbleball Fly Fishery, says: “With our new Wheelyboat, disabled anglers will be able to fish across the 374-acre Wimbleball Lake, exploring the many bays and inlets, all stocked with some of the best trout in the country. Our new Wheelyboat will join the existing Mk II Wheelyboat, which was launched in 2005, as well as eight other Coulam-built boats already on the lake, with a further two arriving early in the season. It’s fantastic that our growing fleet of Wheelyboats will be able to accommodate more disabled anglers, allowing more people to indulge in their passion for fishing or indeed take up the sport for the first time.”

Andy Beadsley, Director of The Wheelyboat Trust, says: “As a disabled angler myself, I know first-hand the enjoyment that comes from casting a line and whiling away a few hours on the water doing something you love. We’re delighted that another Wheelyboat will be calling Wimbleball Lake home and hope that many disabled anglers and hopefully those new to the sport too, will come and experience for themselves the joy of angling independently.”

Ben Smeeth, Head of Angling at the South West Lakes Trust, adds: “The provision of a new Wheelyboat for fishing at Wimbleball Lake fits perfectly with our aims at South West Lakes Trust to enable as many people as possible, of all abilities and ages, to enjoy themselves at our lakes. Being outdoors and active and in particular taking part in fishing can have great benefits to peoples’ health and I fully support this great addition to Wimbleball Fishery.”

Coulam 16 Wheelyboats are widely used on fisheries large and small across the country, along with more than 1,000 standard Coulam 15s and 16s that the Wheelyboat model is based on. Access on and off is via a ramp from a pontoon onto a hydraulic platform built into the boat, that lowers the angler from gunwale height to floor level with ease. Once on board, the angler can sit at the bow or the stern and is able to operate the boat entirely independently. The Coulam 16 Wheelyboat can accommodate up to three people, uses an outboard motor up to 10hp and is designed primarily for angling on stillwaters, on the drift or at anchor.  The smaller Coulam 15 Wheelyboat is designed for angling on rivers, e.g. the River Tweed, where a boatman rows and the angler fishes from the stern.

The Wheelyboat Trust currently supplies four models of Wheelyboat that provide disabled people with independent access to a wide range of activities on inland and inshore waters including angling, nature watching, pleasure boating and powerboating. All Wheelyboats are hand built and fitted out to order by Jim Coulam of boatbuilders Coulam Ltd having been designed by naval architect Andrew Wolstenholme.

As a charity The Wheelyboat Trust relies on donations from individuals and organisations and their work could not continue without the ongoing generosity they provide. To donate and help The Wheelyboat Trust get more disabled people out on the water, please visit: www.wheelyboats.org/current-projects.

To find out more about The Wheelyboat Trust, visit www.wheelyboats.org.

More Magic Memories from the River Lyn

Many thanks to John Slader for contributing to North Devon Angling News following on from William Ould’s writings.

(Above)A Young John Slader receives Fly Casting Tuition from his Father Bill Slader whilst fishing the Rivers East Lyn

Your recent post with the contribution from William Ould I found most interesting and it brought back many happy memories of the river Lyn I like to call home.

Not sure if William will remember me but for sure he will recall Bill my father.  There is not much difference in age but being brought up and going to school in Barnstaple our paths didn’t cross that often.  I remember him along with Michael Shute and Chick Andrews, not to mention a host of other individuals that frequented the river.

Regretting not having kept a diary, I nevertheless vividly recollect an occasion fishing for mullet just below Lyndale bridge on a high tide.  William was also there and at the top of the tide he hooked and landed a specimen of a mullet.  I have in my mind it was much bigger than the 4lb 9oz show in the photograph.  It drew a crowd of visitors and Jack Clapp came out of his café to see what all the fuss was about and killed the fish by breaking its neck.  Not such a fitting end to a splendid fish.

As a child I often accompanied my father when he was salmon fishing but my true first time for salmon was in 1960 when at the age of nine he bought me a day’s  licence as a birthday present.  Costing the sum of five shillings, a not insignificant sum in those days, he bought it at Tregonwell’s on the Tors Road.  We sat on the first floor looking down the river as Ronald Burgess filled out the paperwork and my father enquired whether there was a concession for a child. He was told there wasn’t as it was not expected someone of my age would fish for the king of fish.

Licence secured, we went up to Watersmeet walking up the path behind the house towards Stag Pool and Horner.  The route taking you well above the river and what my father always referred to as the “Hangings”;  an area which brought me into contact with a number of fish in later life.  The path eventually comes back into close proximity to the river below Stag pool.  I was given instructions to stay put whilst my father back tracked and ventured down to Dumbledon a particular favourite pool of his although not so easy to access.

As I was waited for his return I looked into the river to see a salmon laying back in what was a very small pool.  I cautiously took a few steps closer and surprisingly managed to get into position without disturbing the fish.  Using a No 4 mepp I cast upstream but my inexperience kicked in as I managed to line the fish which immediately shot off and took sanctuary in the white water.  My heart sunk believing I had scuppered my chances but I had a couple more blind casts only to find myself attached to the fish hooked fair and square in the mouth.  Typical youngster I held my ground not wanting to give the fish an inch and shouting at the top of my voice “Dad, Dad….”  A waste of breath really as any shouting would have been drowned out by the sound of the river.  As luck would have it, looking down river, my father’s head appeared over the rocks as he exited Dumbledon.  He quickly negotiated the rocks to join me and help land the fish; a grilse of just over 4lbs.

Returning to Watersmeet we each had a celebratory small bottle of fizzy grapefruit and Dad caught up on the news with childhood friend Roy Nercombe.

I went on to catch many more salmon in the 60’s / 70’s but none stick in the memory quite as much as the first.

The last time I fished the Lyn for salmon must have been over 15 – 20 years ago.  I was visiting my parents in Barnstaple in August after very heavy rainfall; what would have been the perfect conditions in years gone by.  I arrived in Lynmouth at lunchtime but questioned if I would be able to find a parking space although to my surprise there was only one vehicle parked above Vellacotts.  Thinking everyone had caught their brace and gone home I ventured down to the river to find an angler fishing in Overflow who, along with a friend, had travelled from Cornwall for a day’s salmon fishing.

We chatted and although he had caught a grilse he had little else to report.  Because I couldn’t see the salmon I assumed he had returned it but later during the conversation he opened his bag to reveal the fish.  I went on to fish until dusk casting in every known pool from the Tors Road to Watersmeet without a touch and nor did I see a fish in what I considered perfect conditions.   Rather disheartened I travelled back to Barnstaple wondering whether I had seen the last Lyn salmon!  So sad when I think back to those days of abundance we enjoyed and took for granted back in the 60’s.

Although I still purchase a migratory fish licence I really do call into question whether I will ever cast for a salmon again.  I think I would rather live with my memories and feel privileged that I experienced first hand those days which, when we look back on them, were so special.

John Slader

17th February 2020

(Above) Bill Slader with a fine brace of Lyn salmon

Bulldog – Fly Fishing

Bulldog fishery has reopened after a winter break and offers some fine sport.

Ross Prior from Barnstaple took this double figure Brownie and bagged out with a 5 fish ticket for 19lb 6oz.

Fish tickets are 4 for £30.00, and 5 for £35.00, catch and release for £20.00/ day. Should anyone bag out and wish to carry on fishing its £5.00 with barbless hooks. All brownies to be returned, this allows other anglers the experience of catching double figured Brownies.

Fishery open dawn till dusk, days’ notice required for booking. Contact Nigel Early on 07767492800

Recollections from Lyn Waters

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My thanks to William Ould for this valuable contribution to North Devon Angling News.

(Above) Vellacotts and above Chick’s Rock around 1968.

I noticed a comment whilst browsing on social media relating an old photograph of the River East Lyn at Watersmeet. “I love this place and caught many salmon in the two pools back in the day.” Wrote William Ould. Intrigued as always by any story related to the Lyn I sent an enquiring message. The following feature was the result of our exchange.

William Ould was a successful angler fishing the Lyn and the North Devon Coast as young teenager. He was taught the art of worming for salmon by Cliff Railway Worker and Londoner Chick Andrews. William was an observant young teenager who was prepared to walk miles in pursuit of salmon sea trout and brown trout.

William caught his first salmon in 1962 on a trout spoon whilst fishing for the Lyn’s abundant brown trout during a late season spate. The fish was to be life changing experience for young William. “ My spinner was rising from the milky spate water, just fining down, this huge fish followed and took it not seven feet from my eye. A 5lb grilse, but huge to my eyes when seeking a large Lyn brown trout of 8oz or so. The fight also caused the destruction of my KP Morrit’s Standard fixed spool reel.” William kept a diary of his salmon fishing exploits in the following years recording 29 in his first season of 1963, totalling 257 salmon between 1962 and 1966, including a record catch of 17 salmon in a single day with 15 returned. It would not be permitted today! On another single day when everything seemed to feed a brace of salmon was followed by a full limit of peal and a number of browns too. Such catches of salmon over a season would not have been considered out of the ordinary back in the early sixties when the River East Lyn had an abundance of salmon and sea trout from May onwards as I discovered whilst researching for my book “I Caught A Glimpse’ Published by the Little Egret Press in 2019.

The 14 lb salmon July 26 1963
(Above) Place of capture Willums Island
Peal of 6 ¾ lbs Taken of No. 3 gold Mepps

After leaving North Devon William would return on a regular basis to visit his mother whilst she lived in Lynton. During these visits Wistlandpound Reservoir was a regular excursion to test new fly fishing skills learned on the great reservoir of Grafham Water, which was itself enjoying record returns. Success at Wistlandpound with bag limits of 8 fish on opening day sometimes got repeated later in the season as natural life abounded in warmer waters. However success was certainly not assured on birthdays in June when bright conditions and long days were teasingly challenging.  One occasion produced lethargy towards lunch and a buzzer on a super long leader was launched away from the bank.  In the light wind the line was allowed to work back towards the shore with rod resting against a bag as drink and sandwich was consumed – then line sailed away drawing rod towards and almost losing it and sandwiches to the water but with a fine rainbow resulting. A Happy Birthday!

William also fished the rocky shores around Lynmouth visiting Lee Stone, Hewitt’s Rock, Lee Bay and Woody Bay. One of Williams first good sea fish was a 4lb 8oz grey mullet caught from the roadside wall at Lynmouth using bread-paste as visitors looked on during a high tide in August.

Fortunately, grey mullet still haunt the harbour as they did then and high waters often see me catching grey mullet as the visitors look on asking those familiar questions. “ What do you catch here then?’. “Grey mullet they’re hard to catch aren’t they?”.  I have had hundreds of conversations with visiting anglers whilst fishing for both mullet and bass at Lynmouth.

(Above)  Bass 7 ¼ lbs from the Esplanade Lynmouth Taken on Brent squid. Had whole crab inside

Lee Stone was a popular venue back in William’s youth and he recalls stories of intrepid locals fishing the deep water off the Stone for conger using handlines and 2lb leads when accidents were not uncommon as two pound of lead was swung around the head like a slingshot and launched seawards, trailing big sharp conger hooks and half herring for bait. In those days it was considered improper to fish on a Sunday but it was told that one of the early hand-lining fisherman of the name Hicks went to the Stone one Sunday but returned to town running as fast as he could and in a distressed manner convinced that the devil was after him!  He’d never fish on Sundays thereafter.

One night in summer William was enjoying an all night trip on the Stone when he got “a good but teasing bite, hooked, and reeled the animal ashore. In the dim light from a paraffin hurricane lamp imagine my distress as the very horns of the devil appeared over the ledge. Heart in mouth I lifted it into view. My first fine lobster!”

Right – Will with salmon 11lbs 8oz (l) taken from Overflow and Mike Shute with a salmon 8 lbs 8oz from Willums. 4th June 1963 

Bill Ould  10/2/2020

My family always knew me as Will, and many Lynton people likewise. Thereafter I’ve been known as Bill since when joining industry there was already a William in the same laboratory. My colleagues chose Bill for me.

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BIDEFORD & DISTRICT ANGLING CLUB PRESENTATION NIGHT

It was a pleasure once again for Pauline and I to attend Bideford & District Angling Clubs presentation night and to be made so welcome. Such events are vitally important to the social fibre of angling clubs enabling members and families to join together to enjoy a little fun and banter whilst reflecting on the achievements made by members throughout the year. It is not just about the fish caught but also about recognising the huge amount of effort invested by club members. BIdeford Club is a long established club that has its own waters for coarse anglers, a thriving sea section and a game section that travels across the South West to target trout on the fly.

There were some outstanding fish caught throughout 2019 including a bass of 15lb 6oz to the rod of Tarrant Wotton, a club record couch’s bream of 15oz to the rod of Nathan Clements and a rainbow trout of 14lb 11oz to Matt Sander. John McCullum won the Clubs Game Fishing Trophy with 49 points. Martin Turner secured the clubs Match Mans Cup with 108 points and young Tyler Scott won the club Sam Vaughan Cup for most Match points by a Junior with 42 points. Dick Talbot won the clubs sea league with 49 points. There were a huge number of certificates awarded and trophies congratulations to all of the winners. Let’s hope 2020 is just as productive for club members.

A winner takes all raffle was won by Reg Sutton who kindly donated the proceeds to the RNLI in memory of local angler Cameron Atkinson who sadly lost his life late in 2019.