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There is plenty of reminiscing going on at present and I guess that’s inevitable in these strange times when our freedom has been taken away. Looking at a wide range of pictures on social media has prompted me to put together this short article highlighting a few of the wonderful places that angling has taken me to. I will add that North Devon and my home waters are far higher on the list than these notes indicate. The reason for this is that on trips away there is perhaps a fuller emersion in the angling dimension.
You may notice that each section contains a photo of the expedition party as we all know its not just about fish and places its also very much about friendship!
Arrival to this Island situated out in the English Channel takes one to a world apart where life runs slower. There are no cars, no street lights and few shops. Steep cliffs descend to clear waters where huge grey mullet were our target. Sadly, the numbers have declined since our early visits when we often glimpsed double figure specimens. We also caught black bream to over 4lb on float-fished bread-flake. On our early visits we took the ferry from Weymouth and carried huge packs of gear. We fished all day for mullet then retired to our accommodation for tea before heading out to fish for the huge conger that lurked at the base of the harbour jetty. It was then the then hike back up the harbour hill the autumn leaves smelling of decay as they collected on the path. It was then time to dine on cheese on toast, enjoy a last brew and crawl into bed for 1.00am.
Up at 7.00am, fry up and back out on the push bike for another day watching floats bob upon the water disappearing from time to time followed by a bent rod and screaming reel.
There were of course the occasional visit to the Islands two pubs. The Belle-air ( The Tourist Pub) or the Mermaid Tavern that was like stepping back into the 1970’s. Sadly modern times had started to catch up when we last visited but I remember fondly the smoky haze and nicotine stained décor that reminded me of my youth.
I have been to Ireland on three or four fishing excursions. A week plugging for bass on the Copper Coast. A week fishing for grey mullet on the Copper Coast around Dungarvan and a week on the West Coast with the Combe Martin SAC. Ireland is a beautiful land to cast a line an angler’s dream. In a week long bass fishing trip I managed to blank! But I loved every minute.
When I went back a year later I caught a PB mullet of 6lb 15oz and glimpsed several mullet that would have crashed the scales to over ten pounds. I really must return!
There is a wonderful valley where the River Tay meets the sea at Stradbally Cove. As the tide floods into this tranquil sheltered cove grey mullet drift like grey ghosts into the river mouth. I remember seeing a large sea trout sadly languishing with disease and wondered what treasures this river had once held as it ran through the green and pleasant land on its journey from high in the mountains that the sun set behind each evening as we relaxed after a hard day on the coast.
This wooded valley hidden on the Copper Coast is a place I often wander to in my minds eye. A boat moored upon the bank and mullet browsing as they move in on the flooding tide. The quiver tips poised expectantly as we wait in the peaceful valley far from the troubles of the world.
The land of the midnight sun. Clear cold waters, big fish, snow-capped mountains, glaciers. Almost too much for words to describe or to do justice for as I write I realise there is so much to say and so little time.
So many highlights from our two journeys to this spectacular land. Our fishing was largely divided into day time fishing with lures for cod and coalfish searching the mighty Fjords with deep and mysterious waters that teamed with life. Or drifting the shallows in the long evenings for the mighty halibut with fresh dead-baits bounced over the sand.
On one memorable night we fished through a windless night on glassy tranquil waters catching huge numbers of hard fighting cod the best falling to Rob Scoines a mighty fish of over 40lb on a light bass rod. I will never forget that night with mist hanging in the air as we savoured a twilight of delight to the sound of sheep bells drifting in the cool clean air.
Another highlight had to be climbing a mountain to gaze across a vast vista of mountains and fjords.
A fish every cast I was told by our hosts! To my disbelief this was not too far from the truth for at most marks the rod tip bounced within moments of the bait hitting the sea bed. Codling two at a time, plump dab most over a pound. I also witnessed a shore caught plaice of over 7lb.
The many highlights of this trip included a whale watching excursion where we found several pods of humpback whales getting so close the spray from their blow spume drifted on us in the arctic air.
We fished a competition on a beach and as darkness fell the Northern Lights danced mesmerizingly above the mountains. We bounced back across a rugged road to the hotel and the presentation night as Motorhead blasted out on the car radio; “Born to Raise Hell”. A truly memorable fishing trip and I came second in the competition catching 52 fish if my memory serves me right.
In total contrast to the cold lands of Norway and Iceland in 1997 Nick Phillips and I ventured to the vast Lake Nasser in search of Nile perch. We enjoyed a week long adventure camping each night in the desert and fishing in temperatures that at times exceeded 100 Degrees Fahrenheit. At the time the comet Hale Bop was traversing the night sky. It was strange to think that the last time this had been seen from earth the ancient Egyptians were building pyramids.
I guess one highlight had to be catching a Nile perch of 83lb whilst casting from a rocky shoreline. The huge fish smashed into my Rapala lure its body erupting from the water as it shook its head violently before diving deep into the lake. Twenty minutes later I struggled to hold the mighty fish aloft for a photo!
Then there were scorpions, crocodiles and feasts under the midday sun. The Nubian guides were great people and showed great warmth and friendship. I remember clearly an Island we fished one day where snake skins littered the boulders upon which we stood. Cobras we were told; get bitten by one of those and it’s probably the kiss of death!
Scariest moment had to be when I was unhooking a Nile perch of around thirty pounds. The loose treble found the middle of my finger going right through! The perch was still on the other treble and thrashed around in the boat. A big 3/0 treble and thick gauged wire with a big barb was not good. I have to admit I felt a little dizzy as the blood oozed. A pair of pliers came to the rescue, an oily rag stemmed the blood flow. A hospital was far away; at least six hours and there were fish to catch. Amazingly by the end of the week my finger had healed and all I have is a scary memory.
The first night of our stay was in a luxury hotel I remember the heat and buzzing of a mosquito in our room. Music seemed to drone on in the distance until the early hours. We got to bed at midnight and were on our way into the desert to begin our adventure shortly after 4.00am in the morning. We stayed on safari boats camping at a different location each night as we fished our way along the vast Lake Nasser. I loved the remote desert but I cannot say I relished the craziness of Aswan and Luxor. Dining on a boat moored up beside the Nile was however a memorable experience.
I was sorting through the tackle shed today and there is a quite a lot of old tackle some of it given to me over the years. It has dwelt in those old tackle boxes for years but this lockdown has given time to delve into the boxes and start to tidy. Much of it will never be used again but it does unlock a few memories.
(Above)The Mepps spinners that were favourites for salmon and sea trout in those days of plenty before the Fly Only Rules came into protect stocks.
The Mackerel spinners, Devon Minnows and classic the ABU Toby.
(Above) The Winfield Shanny – Made in Gt Britain
I notice the Winfield Shanny that brought back a fond memory of when Woolworths sold fishing tackle. Every Saturday afternoon my parents went to Barnstaple to do the weekly shop. I would wander off to visit the Rod Room or Gales. Or perhaps to Woolworths to buy a cheap bit of tackle or look through the record department. Them maybe call into A J Watts for some trendy clothes and finish off with a coffee in John Gays Coffee house.
Ross Stanway continues to produce some fine marine art during the lockdown. Here are a few of his latest art works if your interested in investing in one of these stunning art works you can contact Ross either on 07746520209 or via his Facebook Page –Ross Stanway Marine art
The COVID-19 outbreak has probably stopped some of you buying the Journal so he is this weeks column.
North Devon’s angling community are waiting patiently until they can return once again to the water’s edge. Close to three weeks of lockdown have passed it is likely to be several more weeks before the chance once again cast a line.
The lockdown will have had a devastating impact upon many businesses that rely upon angling. Fisheries have lost their income at the busiest time of year with Easter normally a bumper time for both coarse and game fishing. Many fisheries incorporate holiday accommodation and are often fully booked throughout the Easter period. Those fishing tackle shops that have an online presence will continue to do some business as anglers stock up for future times but bait sales will have ground to a halt.
Early April is a time when many anglers renew their Rod Licences in line with the historic financial calendar. I suspect many anglers will have delayed purchasing a licence until fishing resumes. This will have had a significant impact upon funding for fishery work and habitat work throughout the country.
The charter boat sector will have lost a significant part of their season and will be hoping for fair weather to allow a return to fishing grounds when normality returns.
The rivers are now running low and clear so runs of migratory fish will be at a minimal until we have substantial rainfall. Strange how just a few weeks ago the rivers were raging torrents.
The lockdown is in effect similar to a closed season. The older generation of Coarse anglers will remember the closed season that prevented fishing for coarse fish from March 14th until June 16th. The glorious sixteenth was a day to celebrate with anglers often casting their lines into lakes and ponds across the land at the stroke of midnight. It is to be hoped that all anglers can share in the magic of a new season when this tragic pandemic ends.
Nature will have enjoyed a reprieve with many waterside paths untrodden. Birds will have nested undisturbed; grass snakes will have basked in the warm sun upon the banks where anglers normally contemplate their luck. The friendly robins will wonder where the anglers have gone with their handfuls of juicy writhing maggots. The large carp in many of the region’s lakes will perhaps miss the angler’s high protein baits. Will the fish be easier to tempt when we return to the water?
The longer term impact on angling will be hard to predict. A long lay-off could hopefully encourage an eager return to the water’s edge and a greater appreciation of the great outdoors. There is of course the fear that some will get out of the habit and not return.
Barry Kift sent me this picture of his personal best bass weighing 11lb 3oz, caught from Ilfracombe Pier in 1981
Well, after taking a walk down the pier the evening before, and seeing a 9lb Bass landed myself and my brother, Lee Kift decided to go the next evening. Fishing side by side, Lee went to help land a conger down below. Asking me to look after his rod. Well, 2 small bites later, on his rod,.I was hooked into this. By the time he came back up the fish was nearly at the pier. He shouted, GIVE ME MY ROD, I told him to f*** off and go back down to land it ! He was not best pleased and hasn’t forgiven me to this day 😳😳😳 cant imagine why 🤣🤣🤣
Combe Martin SAC member has found that the enforced lockdown has given him time to indulge in his passion for painting the fish he seeks with rod and line. Below are just a few of Ross’s superb paintings inspired during his visits to the waters edge.
(Below) Ross with a nice bass from the North Devon Shoreline
With the ongoing lockdown and no fishing I thought I would start digging into my North Devon Journal Archives.
Late March 2010 and salmon fishing is top of the agenda and the debate rages regarding how to safeguard salmon stocks. Ten years later stocks continue to dwindle despite a massive investment in habitat improvements. It s good to see a few familiar names in the competition results.
ULTRA have ambitious plan
Salmon and sea trout of our local rivers provide the pinnacle of angling experience for many attracting game fishers from all over the country. This has been a significant part of the rural economy for many years with prime salmon fishing commanding a high price. A significant drop in salmon and sea trout numbers has lead to a decline in a once thriving rural industry. Many local anglers can recall a bygone era when riverside Inns such as the Rising Sun at Umberleigh would be packed with anglers each evening returning from the river with their bright silver prizes.
It was therefore apt that a new group calling itself ULTRA held an inaugural meeting at the Rising Sun. The Upper & Lower Taw Rivers Alliance is a group of anglers and riparian owners who have an ambitious plan to restore the spring salmon run using native broodstock to produce smolts for restocking. This is a complex issue that a working party has been set up to explore. The Environment Agency has given early indications that they will be likely to consent to the scheme.Tim Clarke is Chairman of the alliance and Dave Smith secretary; details of the group can be found on their website www.rivertaw.org
The web cam at Umberleigh that proves a valuable window on the river for anglers is temporarily out of action following a fire at Murchs’ Antiques Emporium upon whose building the camera is fixed. Web cams of a dozen West Country Rivers can be viewed by visiting www.therisingsunfc.co.uk
There are rods available on a prime stretch of salmon and sea trout water on the Taw and Little Dart at Tremayne near Chulmleigh. Anyone interested in this opportunity should contact John Smith on 01363 84804.
As spring slowly progresses carp anglers are enjoying action on several of the regions lakes. I fished Furzebray carp lake near South Molton last weekend and found myself fishing a swim between brothers Ally Laird and Ian Laird who had already landed three double figure carp during their weekend session. During Sunday afternoon I was privileged to witness them land a further three carp, two of which were prime mirror carp weighing 16lb 6oz. Boilies, corn and pellets are all tempting fish on this well landscaped fishery.
At Angler Paradise carp are feeding well with several twenty pound plus fish caught including a 25lb 8oz mirror to the rod of Chris Rainbow and a 21lb 8oz specimen for Tom Cole.
At Highhampton lakes the owners have been working hard preparing their lakes for the coming season. The trout lakes have been drained, refilled and restocked in time for the Easter weekend. The coarse lakes already healthy stock has been added to with double figure carp, quality tench and bream. There are also additional facilities including a new toilet and cooking area.
Ilfracombe Match groups latest match at Legge Farm near Hatherleigh saw Peter Slade take top spot with 34lb 15oz of roach and skimmers on soft pellet hook bait. Andy Gray took runner up spot with 31lb 15oz of skimmers on corn hook baits. John Lisle was a very close third with 31lb 10oz of carp on corn the loss of a carp of around one pound in the margins costing him dear. The silver fish bag went to Peter Slade with his fine bag of roach and skimmers.
Don’t forget its time to renew your rod licence at Local post offices or online at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/rodlicence Remember that finance received from licenses is invested in promoting and protecting angling and the environment. Failure to carry a rod licence can result in prosecution and a substantial fine.
The latest heat of the North Devon League saw Julian Stainer secure the top two spots for Triple Hook Club with dogfish scaling 2lb 7oz and 2lb 6oz.
Tony Gooch won Bideford And District Angling Clubs Mid Week Rover with a dogfish of 2lb 4⅝oz. In runner up spot was Jazza John with a doggie of 1lb 15⅞oz and in third Dick Talbot with a dog of 1lb 12½oz
Dick Talbot won Bideford’s 24 hour rover with a thornback ray of 8lb 2oz. Dick also secured runner up spot with a doggie of 2lb 3oz. Nathan Clements was third with a dogfish of 1lb 15⅝oz.
Triple Hook Clubs Flyfishing match at Wistlandpound saw Steve Ousley victorious with a four fish bag totalling 5lb. In runner up spot Daniel Miles and Ashley Curd with three fish each for 3lb 12oz.
My friend Mark Everard shared this post vis his Email link. The Angling Trust has stated that we should all refrain from fishing as advised. Whilst fishing itself is low risk we all need to stick together without exception.
LET’S BE CLEAR. THE LOCKDOWN MEANS NO FISHING. WE WILL SEEK CLARIFICATION AS TO WHETHER FISHING IS AN ALLOWED FORM OF EXERCISE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, BUT FOR NOW WE CAN’T LEAVE OUR HOMES FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE REASONS STATED BELOW. STAY SAFE
People in the UK will only be allowed to leave their home for the following purposes:
Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible One form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home Police will have the powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings. To ensure compliance with the instruction to stay at home, the government will:
Close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship Stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with Stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals Parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings will be dispersed.
I had hoped that angling could continue in its solitary form with anglers pursuing their pastime safe in the countryside social distancing with no risk to themselves or others. Sadly the actions of many members of the public ignoring advice will surely lead to a lock down. The majority of the West countries fishing Waters are now closing their facilities for the foreseeable future. This includes South West Lakes Trust, Wimbleball Lake and Furzebray Carp Lakes. Ammo Tackle are also closing down their operations for the duration of the crisis. Most charter boats are also stopping all trips in compliance with government guidelines.
SNOWBEE Tackle have put out this statement.
Due to the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, our retail shop will be closed with immediate effect, until further notice.
This action has been taken, in line with government guidelines and with a view to protecting both our staff and customers.
If local customers wish to collect items from our retail shop, please ring the office on 01752-334933 and we will have your order ready for collection, adhering to recommended safe distancing guidelines.
In the meantime, the business will remain open, as long as possible or until we are advised otherwise, by the government, but to help our customers, we are offering all mail-order deliveries with free carriage, until further notice.
Russell Weston Managing Director Snowbee (UK) Ltd.
There will obviously be limited angling news over the coming weeks so I will not be posting as regular. I will try to keep things ticking over with a few articles and news as I get it. When this is all over I will ensure normal service is resumed. In the mean time there is plenty of archive articles and reports to sift through whist our away from the waters edge. I have a few ideas for the site in the future so keep an eye on it. In the mean time if you can get out fishing enjoy the isolation.
These are very difficult times for us all but if we work together we will hopefully be back at the waters edge at some point.