Newbridge Spring Newsletter – April 2023

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Newbridge Spring Newsletter – April 2023

The season opened with a flourish but after two days of catching many well repaired kelts we agreed a cessation to give these precious fish a chance to get away to sea. The river  has been in spate for nearly six weeks since and any fresh arrivals are well upriver by now. It is good for the fish to get up to safety but not so good if you’re hoping to catch one on the club water. The rain should back off now and the beat would be expected to fish well for a while.

Our working parties have been busy creating a new shelter and it is now ready for use. We do intend to tidy up the muddy floor but hopefully we have a place to sit, eat, chat and enjoy company as the river slides by. There was a lot of history attached to the old club hut and maybe now we can create new history of our own! We intend to have a club meeting there later in the year to celebrate the revival of such an asset and will post it when the time comes. Meanwhile work continues and the next step is to create a crossing for the stream and to strim a route up through the woods to give access to the dump car park. This will save having to go back out to the lane to access lower sections of the beat.

Member Nick Mcmurtrie has graciously been helping with refurbishment of the club cups and we now have more to offer at the AGM.  We  have a refurbished Mullet cup and a Bass cup to offer as well as the salmon and sea trout cups so sea fish, any method, are welcome on your catch return this year.  We also are looking at the course cups ‘ found’ and trying to identify them for use.  We now have a “junior best fish” cup too and would encourage any one with a young angler in the family,  or knows of a keen youngster ,to engage with the club as they are our future and would be more than welcome.

I’ve had an Email from P.C. Lucy Robinson who is a local police officer, wild life trained and involved in stopping rural crime including poaching and antisocial behaviour. She has supported us in various issues in the past and has asked that we call in untoward activity on the river.  It’s really good to have such support locally. Also continue to report to the E.A. incident line when you feel it’s appropriate, Particularly regarding poaching and pollution. Please reference the club if you do. They don’t always respond but it is all logged and the more we call it in the more chance of action. We have been told the E.A. are recruiting  more Bailiffs which is good news

Hopefully the summer newsletter will have interim catch reports so we wish you a good season.

Tight lines

Don Hearn


A new Season underway – With silver success

March 1st is the first day of Spring and salmon fishing on the Taw and Torridge. I was keen as always to get out on the river despite the chill North East wind that was blowing. With the rivers on the low side after one of the driest Februarys on record I figured that the club water on the Taw would be as good a place to try as anywhere. I was in no rush to get to the water’s edge as I figured the salmon would be likely to respond as the temperature began to rise later in the day. In truth I was not expecting to hear much but my optimism was boosted when I received news of a fresh run salmon from below Umberleigh caught by Simon Hillcox.

I pulled into the layby at Newbridge to find keen river angler Chay Boggis setting off . He had already caught a kelt and reported that river keeper Don Hearn had caught a fresh run springer.

Don Hearn enjoyed first day success tempting a springer on a spinner

I donned my waders, and started to take my rod from its tube when realisation of my first blunder of the season dawned ! I have forgotten to pack vital items of gear on a few occasions. This was the second occasion in over fifty years that I have forgotten to pack my reel. I cursed loudly; should I go home and get the reel or just take a walk along the river bank to catch up with fellow anglers. Fortunately; Chay saved the day grabbing a spare reel from his truck. An 8 Wt floating line would be fine with a fast sinking braided leader added to get the fly down.

Chay Boggis with one of several kelts caught on opening day.

It was good to once again wade out into the cold river that was running clear after weeks without rain. Whilst it was cold, signs of spring were all around pussy willow bursting forth and birds singing beside the river.

I swung the fly, across the river  and after a few casts the line momentarily tightened. Was that a pull? I drifted the fly across the same spot and felt no resistance so maybe it was  a chance or just a trout….

It was good to  be out a new season ahead. I strolled down the bank met up with Don Hearn, John Webber and other club members. It was good to talk of the river and its salmon. The club is enjoying a revival with a strong membership with efforts made to improve river access and promote fishing. The club has for many years given the opportunity for local; anglers to enjoy salmon, sea trout and trout fishing at a very reasonable cost. For full details visit their website; –

Barnstaple Club members gather on opening day

The first visit of the season always tell a tale of the winter floods. Lies change new snags appear yet much remains as it has always been. The deep water of some pools are almost certain to hold silver treasure and the hope to connect is strong as the fly is drifted.

Several club members have elected to try a spinner a method that can be effective in cold water of early spring. Spinning is permitted on the Taw and Torridge until March 31st with single hooks mandatory. Always check individual fishery rules as many are fly only.

Club Chairman – John Webber stands beside new steps giving easy access

            I fished a couple of hours and did not connect with that spring dream. It was good to get news of several fresh run fish and kelt’s. The kelts are welcome sight as they are evidence that fish have spawned during the winter months. The coming couple of months will see the downstream migration of smolts. Great care should be taken to return both kelts and smolts carefully.

Debris tells the tale of winter floods

            Salmon face an uncertain future and need anglers to campaign hard for cleaner rivers and habitat improvement.. We must do all we can to protect and nurture the rivers for the future.

( Above) Ever changing yet constantly flowing

The Lower Torridge looking great as the season starts.


If you follow my writings over several years you will have read my ramblings regarding the Barnstaple & District Angling Clubs hut situated beside the river at Newbridge. During what was perhaps the clubs heyday this fishing hut provided a welcome meeting point where members could meet and socialise as the river glided slowly past. The river then was thriving with salmon and sea trout and the club was also thriving in unison with the healthy river.

As catches dwindled a generation of anglers drifted away from the river and the hut sadly fell into disrepair. In recent seasons the club has seen an influx of enthusiasm and just maybe some sentiment from my writings stirred a will to resurrect the hut. I have spoken with the clubs river keeper Don Hearn on several occasions and was delighted to hear that the hut is to be restored.

It was very sad to recently receive news from Don via an email that vandals have visited the hut setting fire to the old bench and wood saved to help in the restructure.

Don asked if I could highlight the issue in the hope that police could be informed to help with their enquiries.

My initial reaction at hearing this was anger; but as I thought more it was sadness that replaced the anger. The world is sadly full of angry and intolerant people. Anger is contagious hitting out in anger and frustration just extends the problem. I have to ask what is gained by vandalising and inflicting damage to the dreams and efforts of others?

I look forward to enjoying the new club hut with fellow members. There are still a few salmon in the river and we can only hope that efforts to curb pollution and the many other issues that face the river eventually  bring rewards. I hope to write a full article on the huts history and its resurrection in due course.



Details on Membership for B & DAA can be found at

I cast a line fly across familiar lies on the Lower Taw and as always lingered a moment beside the old club hut. Its sad demise continues with a large tree fallen across its roof and graffiti scarring it front. There are few anglers who will remember those anglers who once rested and shared a tea and chat at this spot. Wild garlic grows in profusion in front of the hut filling spring air with its heady aroma as nature endures.

In front of the hut the remains of an old bridge give Buttress Pool its name.

A hundred yards above the hut is Newbridge that spans the river and as I look up I contemplate the salmon and sea trout that have passed beneath its arches over the years.

As I fished lower down I caught a couple of smolts on their journey back to the sea. These gleaming miniatures give hope that they will return to the river as silver salmon in a few years time.

I have also received news from the Torridge where Seth Tuson landed a salmon  from the Lower River.

Barnstaple & District Angling Club – Vice President Rowland “Bob “Keating – A Tribute

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 John Webber sent me sad news from Barnstaple & District Angling Club

It is with sadness that I report the death of our Vice President Rowland ‘Bob’ Keating.

Bob was a longtime member of our committee and an avid game fisherman, spending many happy hours at Newbridge in the pursuit of salmon and sea trout. Ill health several years ago sadly curtailed his fishing activity.

He will be remembered as a bankside companion, whose tales of when he served on HM Submarines and other stories, kept us fellow anglers amused for hours.

A good friend and fisherman. May he rest in peace.

Barnstaple & District AA AGM

Barnstaple and District Angling Association are one of North Devon longest running clubs with a rich history. They control fishing on a popular stretch of the River Taw with salmon and sea trout fishing. They also have coarse fishing at Aller Pond an atmospheric and tranquil water sited within woodland near South Molton.

(Above ) Newbridge on the River Taw B&DAA Club water.

(Above) South Aller Pond

On Monday November 13th a good proportion of the clubs membership gathered in Barnstaple’s Corner House for their AGM.

After the formalities of reports and election of officers members mingled and we swapped tales of local fishing history and prospects for the future. It was good to see that this long established club is still going strong.

Membership Secretary, Colin Ashby, 13 Green Meadow Drive, Barnstaple EX31 4HT. Tel. 01271 323017.
e- mail [email protected]

Club Secretary Sheridan Toms, Upcott Farm, Brayford, N.Devon EX32 7QA. Tel 01598 710857.

Chairman. John Webber e-mail [email protected].

News of stocking Barnstaple & District Angling Association ‘s club course pond at Aller Nr. South Molton

South Aller Pond


With the help of Paul Carter from the Environmental Agency B&DAA have added stocks of Tench and Crucian Carp plus further quantities of ‘Silver Fish’ for this coming year. Further extensive tree work and pond access is in the pipe line to enable easier fishing access with close car parking.

The game section’s water at Newbridge will, weather permitting be fishable as soon as we get a drop in water heights. The club also has subsidised ‘private beats’ available to it’s members on a day ticket basis on the Upper Taw, Lower Torridge & the famous Blackpool Beat on the River Exe.

There are still membership vacancies in both Course & Game sections at £35 for the whole season.

For further details please contact John Webber  [email protected]. or membership secretary Colin Ashby on 01271 323017.