Salmon – journeys end

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I was sent this picture of dead salmon seen on the banks of the Torridge Estuary. Such a sight is not uncommon at this time of year. The majority of salmon will have spawned on the redds high up on the rivers headwaters and many die of exhaustion after ensuring the ongoing survival of the species. This salmon was estimated at 8lb to 10lb and was a cock fish judging by its prominent kype.

I always welcome any fish related news, comment and pictures from North Devon.

It is less that two months until the start of the salmon fishing season on our local rivers. Last season was blighted by low flows throughout a large portion of the season. Rumours are that this has been a reasonable spawning season on our local rivers so we must hope that this is true. Salmon numbers have been in decline for decades and every effort must be made to ensure that these iconic fish continue to forge up our rivers each year.

WINTER READING

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Dark winter nights are made for reading and dreaming and the latest edition of Fly Culture delivers plenty of fuel to inspire. The editor in Chief of this quality read is local Fly Fishing enthusiast Pete Tyjas who was an inspiring Fly Fishing Guide at the Fox and Hounds, Eggesford.

My own book on fishing in North Devon entitled “I Caught A Glimpse” is available from https://thelittleegretpress.co.uk/product-category/author/wayne-thomas/

Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club – Christmas Competition @ Blakewell

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Seven members fished in the clubs Christmas Competition at Blakewell where all members caught their three fish bags of hard fighting rainbows. The fish were caught on a variety of flies mostly small imitative patterns with the water clarity good. The lake was well sheltered from the gale force winds that were beating in from the North-West.

1st – Paul Grisley –  3 Trout – 6lb 11oz

2nd – Dave Eldred – 3 Trout – 5lb 11oz

3rd – Dave Mock – 3  Trout – 5lb 8oz

4th – Wayne Thomas – 3 Trout – 5lb 5oz

5th – Nigel Bird – 3 Trout – 5lb

6th – Colin Combe – 3 Trout – 4lb 11oz

7th – Andre Muxworthy = 3 trout – 4lb 1oz

BLAKEWELL CHRISTMAS COMPETITION 2019

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Twenty seven anglers arrived to fish Blakewell’s Annual Christmas Competition despite the pending arrival of Storm Atiyah with winds forecast to reach up to 70mph. The competition is always an enjoyable day of socializing. Many of the anglers fish this competition each year catching up on the latest gossip from the South West Angling world with stories of places visited and of fishing adventures across the world.

I always find it slightly alarming how quickly this event seems to come around as the years drift past to merge into memories. Coffees, port and greetings are exchanged before the draw. The format is well known to all the regulars with six pegs drawn with an hour to be spent at each peg rotating around the lake throughout the day. With the storm forecast John and Richard Nickell wisely decide upon a slight change to this years timetable bring the competitions close to 2.30pm With dinner closing the event enabling anglers to retreat to the warmth of the tea room as the predicted storm arrives.

At 9.30am we set off for the lake full of expectation with those first few casts often productive. I draw a peg at the top corner of the Lake and have a grandstand view across the water where I observe several bent rods within minutes of the start.

To my surprise the first hour passes without any action to my rod and I am pleased to move to a new area. I have elected to fish a black tailed marabou lure with a bright green head on the point and two spider type flies on the droppers. After twenty minutes in my second zone I hook a rainbow of around 1lb 8oz and feel relieved to get the scoreboard ticking over. Persistence over the next hour sees another three trout caught the best a very pleasing fish of 4lb.

A vicious squall suddenly sweeps across the lake. Lashing rain and hail driven by a raging wind that bends the trees and sends branches drifting down the lake. At this point some anglers appear to be ready to pack away. Others like myself grit our teeth and try to soldier on.

Fortunately the squall is short lived and sunshine once again breaks through the clouds bringing a welcome splash of light and colour to the day. I make another move and soon connect with two more trout to complete my six fish bag.

With mission complete I take a walk around the lake capturing a few fishy moments as competitors chat and share the day. By 2.30pm everyone is ready for a hot dish of chilli con-carne a mince pie and a cool beer.

Many thanks again to John and Richard Nickell for their hospitality and good humour. Hard to believe its 12 months since we heard Richards cheery patter of optimism for the coming year. Once again a steady stream of families walkaway with their Christmas trees a sense of cheery optimism in the winter air.

Competition Results :-

1st Alan Evans – six trout – 14lb 10oz

2nd – Paul Grisley – Six trout – 14lb 2oz

3rd – Mark Buxton – Six trout 12lb 4oz

( Above) Biggest Fish – Alan Evans – Rainbow trout  – 6lb

Great Torrington Army Cadet’s Fly Fishing for Duke of Edinburgh’s Award 2019

This year’s course started on 2nd April 2019 with a basic Introduction into Fly Fishing, over the past 7 months 4 cadets from Great Torrington Detachment have worked hard learning the different elements required to be proficient fly fishermen, these included types of Rods, Reels, Flies, Lines, Leaders & Casting.

On 16th April we had a visit from Paul Carter, Environment Agency Fisheries Officer to talk about his job and Licencing.

As well as Paul we had another visitor, Alan Crawley, River Warden for the Commons Conservators to talk about the work he’s been doing to improve access to the river by installing steps etc.

The Cadets found this evening really interesting.

15th June was our fly tying day where the cadets were instructed in the art of fly tying, this was also an opportunity for them to tie a selection of flies ready for the lake days to follow, all the cadets successfully managed to tie 6 reasonably flies by the end of the day.

13th July was our first Lake day, Simpsons Valley Trout & Course Fishery, near Holsworthy. This day proved to be challenging and despite everyone’s best efforts no fish were caught, but the cadets did get a lot of experience.

27th July should have been our second lake days, Bratton Water Fly Fishery, Barnstaple. Unfortunately due to so much other training happening that weekend which some of the group were involved in, we had to cancel.

30th November was our third lake day, Blakewell Trout Fishery, Barnstaple. This day started with a guided tour around the farm to see and learn about the fish, how water levels, oxygen level and temperatures affect the fish’s growth & wellbeing.

Fishing was challenging with fish following lures and turning away at the last moment, the cadet didn’t let this put them off but persevered in their quest to catch and land their first fish.

By the end of the day the cadets had all caught a fish to take home, best result ever, a perfect end to the course.

The Cadets and Instructors would like to thank the following people for their continued support,

Paul Carter                   Environment Agency Fisheries Officer

Alan Crawley                 River Warden for the Commons Conservators

Paul Cozens                  Simpsons Valley Trout & Course Fishery

Andrew Moores            Simpsons Valley Trout & Course Fishery

Mike Williams               Bratton Water Fly Fishery

Richard Nickell              Blakewell Fishery

John Nickell                  Blakewell Fishery

I CAUGHT A GLIMPSE – A Great Winter Read

I CAUGHT A GLIMPSE – Fishing In North Devon

            I have been privileged to enjoy over forty years fishing North Devon’s varied waters enjoying both success and failure. The places and the many people I have met along the way have greatly enriched the journey and as the years pass I realise that all we ever get is a fleeting glimpse of a period in angling history.

In this book I tell a few of my own stories of North Devon angling along with recollections from others; some from an earlier generation who enjoyed fishing in those good old days.

I have no favourite species of fish just the one I am fishing for at the time and this book reflects this with every discipline of angling represented. From the small crimson spotted trout of tumbling streams to the huge shark that roam the Atlantic Ocean.

Angling is in essence an attempt to reach into a different dimension. Its fascination has for me never ceased and I always believe that the next cast will be the one that connects, that marvellous moment of completed deception. The anglers I have interviewed in writing this book reflect upon past times when they too glimpsed piscatorial events that they enjoyed recalling. Stories of lost fisheries, big fish, record fish of angler’s their attitudes and love of fishing.

I hope that I manage to share and convey the joys of angling in North Devon and provide a glimpse into a century of marvellous fishing.

Just a fleeting glimpse,

Of Memories gone,

A hopeful glimpse of what may come,

When its bitter cold outside its often good to settle down by the fire to read a good book.  ” I Caught A Glimpse” has an array of fishing stories from North Devon with all disciplines catered for if your interested check out this review from Dominic Garnett and the comments from my friend Paul French.

https://dgfishing.co.uk/winter-coarse-fishing-and-new-angling-books-reviewed/?fbclid=IwAR1STJpBKb5FDftACxckmT4Gjl9zb5UknO9M0eyvbEQuhmITPgH2TQLF5As

I received this email from my friend Paul French who took the book on a cruise.

“We’ve recently returned from a cruise to Norway which provided me with ample time to read your book and what a thoroughly good read it was too! The passion you undoubtably have for this pastime of ours is embodied in the words on each and every page. The part mix of autobiographical and part historical is I believe a unique blende and certainly not something I’ve seen attempted elsewhere. It couldn’t have been an easy project to undertake and metaphorically reading between the lines the reader may understandably not appreciate the hours and days of research you have put into it. You’ve smashed it, all round my kind of book. 

All we need now is a Glimpse of the next one”.

https://thelittleegretpress.co.uk/product-category/author/wayne-thomas/

Available from The Little Egret Press or drop me a PM via my Facebook Page or North Devon Angling News.

Last casts of the Wimbleball season

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It always seems difficult to fit in enough time for fishing trips so with the season at Wimbleball drawing to a close I was keen to have one last trip at this rejuvenated water. The last two years have seen this large reservoir return to form after a sterling effort by Mark and Trudi Underhill and their team. Regular stocking of full finned hard fighting rainbows has ensured that a building number of Fly Fishing enthusiasts are visiting the lake.

It seemed a good idea to visit the lake on the last day of the 2019 season on Saturday, November 30th. I contacted my good friend and Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pierce to see if he fancied joining me. He too was keen so we agreed to meet up at 9.00am and take out a boat giving the freedom to explore a larger area than bank fishing.

I am not so sure either of us thought it was such a good idea when we set out at dawn with a bitter east wind and a forecast of temperatures of 5 degrees C. it was certainly a bitterly cold late November day with slate grey skies and a cutting Easterly wind that anglers dread. We have all heard that old saying, “ when the wind is in the East the fish bite the least”.

The only way we were going to enjoy today was to make sure we would keep warm. I had togged up with my full Chillcheater thermals, with a fleece trouser and top. On top of this I wore leggings and a Chillcheater waterproof smock. So suitably wrapped up we climbed onboard the boat and steamed out onto the cold expanse of water.

There were several other anglers braving the elements on the bank all fishing in the Bessom and Rugg’s area of the lake. This area gave some shelter from the wind and had been producing plenty of rainbows in recent weeks.

We both opted to start using sinking lines and a team of flies. Typically, a lure on the point a small imitative pattern on the middle dropper and blob on the top dropper. This was a combination I was to stick with all day.

We dropped anchor and extended our lines searching for fish in keen anticipation. It was great to be out despite the chill conditions and we chatted enthusiastically about past and future fishing forays.

After half an hour neither of us had so much as a pull and decided to make a move. On arrival at our new destination Jeff spotted a fish rise which gave some optimism. I heard a curse from Jeff  who had just cast out letting the line sink as he retrieved a drink from his tackle bag. The rod tip had surged over, loose line zipping tight. A momentary connection followed before the fish shook itself free from the barbless hook. A few minutes later Jeff saw another rise and cast hopefully immediately connecting with a hard fighting rainbow that had seized a tiny diawl bach as the flies hit the water. The rainbow would have weighed around 3lb and was carefully released at the side of the boat.

We fished on in this spot for a while before moving again and again in search of elusive trout. We saw that the bank anglers were enjoying some success with their rods bent and reels screaming in protest. To our surprise they seemed to be catching on floating lines despite the conditions.

Jeff worked hard as always changing his lines from sinking to intermediate and to a full floater. I persisted with the sinking line approach believing that most fish would be down deep. What I did do was change the tip fly on a regular basis and vary my retrieve. Slow and steady, fast and erratic. Sometimes letting the line sink deep and on other casts commencing the retrieve as soon as the fly hit the water.

Eventually the line zipped delightfully tight as something hit a damsel nymph beneath the boat. The fish fought deep swimming in circles with no long fast runs. To our surprise it was beautiful spotted brown trout  of round 2lb that appeared at the surface.

Jeff grabbed a quick picture of the fish at the side of boat and I let the out of season fish swim away into the chill water.

It was now early afternoon and we fished on relishing the challenge buoyed by some success. We both agreed that we looked forward to a return in the spring as swallows swooped low over the water, buds were breaking on the trees and trout were lazily sipping buzzers from warm waters caressed by a gentle breeze. Despite thoughts of spring and summer there is still something beguiling about this bleak winter landscape.

We continued to make regular moves hoping to locate a pod of fish. Once again my line pulled tight and another fine brown trout was brought to the side of the boat.

We watched the bank anglers continuing to enjoy some success which spurred us on to fish ever harder expectant of action with every cast. Jeff had several pulls that he failed to convert.

When my line again drew tight I was convinced I had hooked a big rainbow. The rod took on an alarming curve and line was ripped from the reel. For a minute or so the fish had the better of me causing a few anxious moments as it threatened to take the line around the anchor rope. Relishing the battle I piled on the pressure hoping Jeff would capture the bent rod as the fish tested my tackle. It was undoubtedly a very good fish as we caught a glimpse of its flanks in the clear cold water. Eventually the pressure told and a beautiful brown trout that must have been closer to five pounds than four broke the surface. The fish was drawn into Jeff’s rubber meshed net and carefully unhooked before a quick picture above the water. A stunning fish that would make this a day to remember.

We fished on for another hour moving a few more times but my arm was starting to ache. I suggested to Jeff that another ten minutes would do for me and I don’t think he was too disappointed at my suggestion. It was after all close to 4.00pm by the time we had moored the boat back at the launch pontoon.

We vowed to return in the spring at the start of a new season. It promises to be a good one if this season is anything to go by.

Hooked on Lure Fishing – By Dominic Garnett & Andy Mytton

Lure fishing is I believe one of the biggest growth areas in angling with an increasing number of recruits. I guess lure fishing fits well with modern life allowing short sessions with minimal tackle enabling anyone to get their fishy fix.

The latest Lure Fishing book from Dominic Garnett and Andy Mytton is a comprehensive and informative guide to modern lure fishing tactics. I grew up in a generation that had a very narrow view of lure fishing with just a handful of predatory species targeted by most anglers. The introduction of LRF fishing and species fishing has totally transformed the lure fishing world as is illustrated throughout this fascinating tome.

The emphasis throughout the book is fishing for fun. The quest for big is not high on the agenda it’s all about the catching and the variety of species. From saltwater rockpools and blennies, ‘ minnows in brook’s right up to pike, bass and salmon.

The book is well illustrated throughout with some stunning underwater images from Jack Perks. Tactics, tackle, rigs, lures, watercraft, habitat is all crammed into over 200 pages along with a few tales to inspire and illustrate how it all fits together.

This is a must read for lure anglers whatever their experience as it is packed with tips and new angles. I am sure it will be one of those books that is frequently dipped into for inspiration on the eve of lure fishing trips. The only downside is that it will fuel that dreaded temptation to add to the ever increasing box of must have lures!

Definitely one for the Christmas List !

TORRIDGE FISHERY ASSOCIATION – NEWSREEL

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The River Torridge Fishery Association

President: Lord Clinton

 

Chairman: Paul Ashworth                                                                   Secretary: Charles Inniss

e-mail: [email protected]

NEWSREEL: WINTER 2019.

The salmon hatchery:  

            On Tuesday 5th and Wednesday 6th November we successfully trapped our 10 broodstock (5 hens and 5 cocks).  Four of the hens are about 9lb together with one superb fish in excess of 13lb. All the cock fish are in the 4.5lb range.  All the fish are in excellent condition  and are now being looked after back at the hatchery. We were concerned that with the rivers having been in full spate for the last six weeks all the salmon may have gone through the fish pass, but our worries were unfounded. Indeed there seems to be a steady run in the Okement which is very encouraging.

The lid of the main broodstock tank needed repairing and this was completed by Ken Dunn and David Williams in time to receive the broodstock.

Last year there was a high mortality from the eggs of one of the hens, so the team will be looking closely at out procedures for stripping and fertilising the eggs to minimise the risk of high mortalities.

Juvenile Surveys:

            During the summer the EA carried out juvenile surveys at a limited number of sites on the main river and major tributaries. The results were encouraging. The site at Okehampton Castle on the River Okement always produces good results but this year it was quite outstanding particularly with the numbers of salmon parr.

The Annual Dinner and Raffle:

Another superb evening at The Half Moon. 47 of us enjoyed an excellent meal followed by the raffle and auction. Once again member support for the annual raffle was tremendous and over £1,500 was raised which will go towards continuing our efforts to improve the fishing on this beautiful river. In particular this money is used to finance the running of the hatchery. Particular thanks to Paul Ashworth, our Chairman, and his wife Geraldine who organised the raffle and the auction which as always went off without a hitch with the usual wonderful array of prizes.

The Fishing Season:

Following on from 2018 the salmon anglers were hoping for more water and more fish: but it was not to be. It has been another season with predominantly low flows with few salmon caught. We were all hoping that the autumn rains would arrive in time to provide some good fishing at the back end of the season. The rains did arrive but our weather went from one extreme to another. The river was in full spate for the last 10 days of the season and since then there has hardly been a dry day. In the last fortnight there have been two large floods, with the river over the top of the hedges at Sheepwash on 25th October.

The brown trout fishing in May and June was at times quite outstanding. Often although there was little surface activity anglers who persevered with a dry fly were rewarded with some excellent catches. As in 2018 several trout upwards of 2lb have been caught.

There seemed to be a better run of sea trout this year. A small spate in June encouraged fish to move upstream and they spread throughout the system. I haven’t heard of any very large sea trout being caught and the main run seems to have been in the 2/3lb range with some fish up to 5lb.