Another year has almost ended as we approach the Winter solstice on December 21st and whilst we have only just entered winter this date signals the journey towards the spring and rebirth. As an angler my thoughts are tempered far more by the changing environment than the man made calendar.

Much of my angling effort at this time of year is beside the sea casting baits into the darkness from the local rock marks. The mystery of the sea entrances and entices vigils beside the water in hope of spurdog, bull huss, ray, conger and perhaps cod. The changing climate is influencing what we catch and this provides an exciting ever evolving challenge.

As I grow older I know that my days clambering around the rocks are numbered. I have had a few near misses and grow increasingly aware of the risks. But I just love being beside the water the anticipation and the feeling of being out there in the elements.

Whilst the salmon and sea trout fishing is months away I still take an interest in their life’s journey and try to glimpse the fish spawning on the redds high on the moors. I peered over a bridge on Exmoor a few days ago, a salmons wasted carcass lay upon the gravels. I wondered if it had succeeded on its journey and contributed to the next generation?


How has the weather impacted upon this years spawning a big spate in mid November had helped the fish to forge to their spawning grounds but since then the rivers have shrunk back after a period of little rain. What happens this year will affect the fishing season around 2021.

Stillwater trout provide a temporary connection with fish of an adipose nature. Hard fighting rainbow trout in cold clear waters with the thrill of the take and a great excuse to be out enjoying the great winter outdoors.


I read of carp and plan to cast more for these fish next year if I can find the time. There are so many waters that hold carp these days but which water suits my style of fishing. Commercial fisheries offer the chance of a personal best and I am tempted to chase a thirty pounder. Yet a neglected overgrown pond that is seldom fished appeals more to my carp fishing soul.

If I find time I will target perch and pike over the coming months. Pike is surely the essence of winter coarse fishing. A red tipped float optimistically poised upon dark waters that reflect the skeletal trees and dead reeds of winter.


A foray after grayling in cold clear waters trotting a float or casting an upstream nymph. Perhaps a session after silver flanked roach with crimson fins. As I list the joys of winter fishing I no longer struggle with the melancholic atmosphere of the season for I know that I cannot hope to fit in all that I wish to do before the spring arrives full of promise. All too soon we will meet in a riverside Inn and discuss past seasons and enthusiastically embrace the start of new salmon season. Trout fishing will commence on rivers and reservoirs. In the words of Jethro Tull; “Life’s a long song,
But the tune ends too soon for us all”.


Rising Sun


Members on the way to the water.

Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club members enjoyed a brown trout bonanza at Bratton Water Trout Fishery where they assembled for their Christmas Competition. All but one of the members who took part successfully completed a four fish bag limit with the trout averaging over three pounds in weight. The first hour of the competition saw the trout on a feeding frenzy with most members catching their days allocation within this golden hour.


The brown trout within the fishery are stunning looking fish each one carrying a distinctive pattern of dark and crimson spots upon their flanks of gold, bronze and buttermilk. Each fish is so much more distinctive than the rainbow trout and  in my view deserves a far grander title than brown trout.


Members used a wide range of patterns to tempt their fish with damsel nymphs and small gold-head nymphs all successful.

Winner of the competition was Roger Bray who caught stunning browns of 5lb 4oz, 5lb, 4lb and 3lb 12oz for a total of 18lb.


Runner up in the competition was Matt KIngdon with a four fish bag of 14lb 4oz that included the days biggest trout scaling 6lb 4oz.


Full results

1st Roger Bray 18lb 2nd Matt Kingdon 14lb 4oz 3rd David Eldred 13lb 4oz 4th Wayne Thomas 12lb 5th -Colin Combe 11lb 4oz

6th – Nigel Bird 11lb 7th Andre Muxworthy 10lb 4oz


The event was fished in calm conditions with glimpses of winter sunshine. This intimate lake is nestled within a peaceful valley providing an ideal location for a winters day of trout fishing, After catching their bags of trout members retired to the fishing hut to chat of future plans for the coming year as they drained their flasks of hot tea and coffee.


My own twelve pound bag of stunning trout( Above) would delight from any fishery throughout the country. The lake is certainly well worth a visit over the Christmas period if you fancy tangling with some hard fighting trout; an ideal time to test out those fishing related Christmas gifts.




After one of the driest Autumns for many years the rains eventually came courtesy of storm Angus the West Country’s rivers became raging torrents sweeping tons of leaves and debris seaward. The game anglers of the region are well aware that the deluge of freshwater will allow thousands of salmon and sea trout to forge eagerly upstream towards the redds where they will fulfill their destiny in spawning at their birthplace to ensure future generations.

Those who fish for salmon are amongst the most active of conservationists working with the Environment Agency and organizations such as the West Country Rivers Trust to give nature a help in hand wherever possible. Members of the River Torridge Fishery Association have for several years run a small hatchery that was initially set up under guidance from the EA. The hatchery is now run entirely by the association with volunteers working tirelessly each winter to secure broodstock, strip, fertilize eggs and then nurture the precious result of their efforts until stocking out swim up fry in early spring.

img_3742(Above) Paul Ashworth, Ken Dunn, John Graham and Paul Coles

I was delighted to join four members of the association to assist in trapping this years broodstock at a location nestled away in a valley within the Torridge catchment. The salmon are trapped and netted before being carefully transported to the hatchery in an oxygenated tank of river water. The salmon are then kept after careful treatment to reduce risk of infection. When ready to spawn they are stripped of their eggs and milt before being returned to the river.


The first trapping of the day had been unsuccessful as thousands of leaves had blocked the traps upstream end. This second trapping was to prove more successful with a 9lb hen salmon secured. A fine sea trout of around 4lb was also caught and released above the trap to continue its upstream journey. It was thrilling to get up close to this beautiful fish as it neared the end of its migration.

The following day produced two more hen salmon and two cock fish. Another trapping session will hopefully secure enough fish for another successful hatchery season.


It is difficult to measure the success of the hatchery that has over the years produced many thousands of swim up-fry. The anglers that work so hard can only hope that they are making a difference and that one day one of the fish they have helped will give that delightful draw on the line as the fly is seized in a magical moment of deception.

Salmon will be spawning on many locations across the West-Country high on the moors and in rivers where few suspect such mighty fish can swim. Each winter I take time to walk the river bank in the hope of glimpsing the salmon as they  carry out their annual ritual. It is always fun to speculate upon the size of fish that make it to the spawning grounds and dream of those spring and summer days when the fishing season is once again in full flow.

img_3728(Above) A fine sea trout

img_3734(Above) The salmon is carefully measured and a record kept of all fish caught as broodstock.

img_3716(Above) These brown trout would delight the trout fisher on long summer evenings.



img_3710 I joined Kevin Legge on saturday night as storm Angus approached; the weather forecast predicted the storm to arrive overnight with heavy rain. Close study of the forecast indicated that we should enjoy a few hours before conditions became too severe and with our quality Reeds waterproofs a little rain would do us no harm. Kevin had fished the previous night and had landed the first of the winters spurdog! Rain persisted through the night but the wind held off and the sea conditions were close to perfect. On the first cast of the night Kevin’s ratchet sounded as something grabbed his Ammo squid and launce cocktail. I descended the rocks and lifted a pleasing huss of 9lb 6oz from the water. The rest of the night brought a small conger and few dogfish. The wind picked up as high water passed, right on cue we packed away and headed for home. As always at this time of year grabbing the window of opportunity is key.

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Whilst we need a good stir up conditions are favorable for getting out there and trying for a fish or two during what is historically one of the best months of the year for shore fishing. Ilfracombe Pier is producing a bit of variety as Ross Stanway discovered when he enjoyed a short session landing, whiting, codling, gurnard and dab. Several decent pollock have also been tempted from marks along the coast with several over 2lb.


Ollie Passmore with a decent pollock

Big baits fished off deep rock marks should bring results with conger, huss, ray and possibly tope.

Boat anglers are enjoying sport up channel with the first spurdog of the winter season along with qaulity cod, conger and ray. I am sure anglers will soon be catching these ferocious predators from John Barbearys ‘Bluefin’ off Ilfracombe.


Steve Pinn’s Personal best carp

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image1Steve Pinn with his new PB of 23lb 11oz from Stafford Moor’s Lodge lake fishing 18mm Pacific Tuna Boilie’s with mainline tiger nut flavour syrup all purchased from the fisheries.

Steve is a regular  at Stafford moor as in every week he loves it here he calls here his second home .


Holsworthy Anglers – Off Ilfracombe

14692086_1842015892751634_2167318841396943805_o(Above) Paul Cozens

Holsworthy Sea Anglers had a Club trip out of Ilfracombe  with John Barbeary on the Bluefin.
Morning started off well with quite a few bass to 4lb and pollock whilst in drifting inshore. Anchored up later produced the inevitable doggies followed by some quality bull huss, tope to 26lb and smoothound.


(Above) Steve McDonald


(Above) Andrew Braunton


(Above)  Graham Verrall

14753365_1842015429418347_4086637876469672976_o(Above) Paul Cozens