Casting Into North Devon’s Rapid Streams

A couple of hours wading upriver passed all too quickly on a North Devon stream. It proved frustrating at time with the river very low and clear making it difficult to approach the pools without spooking the trout that could be seen darting away as I approached.

Flicking a bushy dry fly into the streamy water at the head of pools and runs rewarded me with a couple of beautiful wild browns of around 10″ and 8″.

www.nigelnunnflies.com

The lush green growth and abundant bird life of the river valley in late spring is undoubtedly England at its best.

The water I fished is South Molton & District Angling Club water on the River Bray. I picked a book of my bookshelf ” Trout Fishing On Rapid Streams”, by H.C. Cutcliffe FRCS, Published in 1883 the book comprises A Complete System of fishing the North Devon streams and their like.
In the preface of the book the author mentions David Bale, now I think a letter-carrier, residing at High Bray. He is the best worm fisher I ever saw, and forever, is a most civil, indeed I may say polite man, truthful and honest and will be found a most respectable and well informed companion to the fishermen, who, I Trust will not forget to well acknowledge the merits of honest old David, now I fancy, not over well provided with the good things of this life”. The picture above shows High Bray Church upon the hill. It is reassuring to think that I fished the waters that David Bale cast his worm into over a century ago and the trout that I tempted would be direct descendants. Long may these rivers continue to thrive with their crimson spotted trout.

“In getting at these several little holes and currents, dont be afraid of your knees: keep down close to mother earth: go on your knees or crawl on your stomach; remember the trout is there, and you can catch him if you work properly and do not frighten him away.” These words of wisdom apply equally today!

The Lyn’s Beautiful brown trout

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Dan Spearman enjoyed a session on the spectacular River East Lyn tempting a dozen of the rivers wild brown trout. The fish were tempted on nymph and dry fly tactics. The wild brown trout of the Lyn are surely amongst the most beautiful in the West Country. Dan was delighted to report that there was an abundance of fly life on the river during the evening he fished. The Lyn tumbles through moorland and wooded gorges and its water quality is not impacted by the intensive farming practices that blight many other West Country Rivers.

Many thanks to Dan for allowing me to use his stunning images.

A wonderful time to fish the East Lyn for its beautifully marked wild brown trout.

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Many thanks to Simon Francis for sending North Devon Angling News this update on the beautiful East Lyn

April and early May is a wonderful time to fish the East Lyn for its beautifully marked wild brown trout.

The sun has warmed the waters (which this year is very low). Hatches of grannom and olives are trickling off from mid morning, and the fish are looking up, presenting the dry fly enthusiast with enviable sport. The trees are green but not in full leaf (so casting is mercifully easier), and the native birds are nesting (wagtails, dippers, wrens) and summer migrants like the flycatchers arriving. It’s a wonderful time to be by the river whether fishing or not.

I avoided the few walkers from Watersmeet by fishing upstream from Crook Pool, up through Rockford, and onto Brendon. The water was low so I skipped over the pools in favour of the runs and pots. Fishing these is fun. Presentation can be tricky, with swirling currents and a breeze, and drifts short, but the broken current allows you to get closer than you can on the pools. I fished a 7 foot 2wt old Orvis, overweighted with a 3wt line. I fished a ten foot leader down to 2lb tippet. Some new flies from Phil Middleton (https://instagram.com/thephilmid?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=) graced the business end and worked fantastically. Sedges, olives, CDC’s, work well in this early  season. When the rain comes, a change to Klink and Dink set up with a gold ribbed hairs ear or is very effective, if not as much fun as the dry flies.

Day and season tickets for the Watersmeet fishery can be brought from Barbrook service station, both at a fraction of the cost of single “stockie pond” ticket.
If you would like details of the fishing or stay to stay at www.primrosecottageexmoor.co.uk please email [email protected]

Bratton Water – Wistlandpound Club Monthy Competition

Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club visited Bratton Water for their monthly competition and all those attending caught their three fish limit despite challenging conditions. It was a beautiful day to be beside the water but a bright blue sky and crystal clear water are always likely to prove difficult. The margins were alive with tadpoles, lush greenery all-around the occasional mayfly hatching. A perfect day in early May; is there a better place to be than England in late spring?

The trout could be seen cruising slowly just beneath the surface with the occasional fish slurping down surface flies. Shortly after arriving I dropped a  goldhead PTN on the nose of a cruising trout that took the fly without hesitation. A pleasing brown trout of over 2lb.  This proved to be   the exception for I failed to get another take for a couple of hours.

A fresh stocking of trout were introduced whilst we were fishing. I did not move to this area for a while but eventually moved to the half of the lake that had been stocked. With the help of polaroid glasses I observed a shoal of freshly stocked trout and dropped  the PTN into their midst. There was a swirl on the first drop and on the second connection with a rainbow of around 1lb 8oz. I fished on in this spot for 15 minutes or so but the trout appeared to have wised up taking no notice of the fly.

By now my fellow members had bagged up fishing from the dam. I decided to move and drop my fly amongst a fresh selection of trout. A couple of casts and couple of follows then a good brown turned, the white of its mouth showing as the stillwater dinkhammer moved ( dry fly indicator) I lifted the rod and watched the trout react in the clear water. After a spirited tussle the fish was safely in the net.

It was time to weigh in.

Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club – May Competition Result

1st Wayne Thomas  3 trout 6lb 10oz

2nd – Colin Combe 3 trout 6lb 9oz

3rd David Eldred 3 trout 4lb 14oz

Short Sessions with Brown Trout

A cool South West wind ruffled the surface of Wistlandpound and mist descended upon the tree lined perimeter as I waded out into the lake. I had left the rod set up since my last visit with a black tadpole on the point and small black pennel variant on a dropper. I commenced to search the water and after ten minutes hooked into my first brown trout of the evening a valiant scrapper of perhaps 10″. This was only a short session but proved to a good one. During the next hour I banked ten trout up to 12″ and on one cast even managed a brace with one on each fly.

I wondered if the rudd would still be present in the shallow inlet and wandered up for a cast or two. Six rudd later I returned to the trout area and added another brownie to the total as the light faded from the day.

The following morning I decided to head for a short session on the Torridge once again targeting brown trout as with river levels now very low there was little chance of a salmon.

It was a delight to be wading in the cool waters with lush green growth all around. I started out with a new Zealand style set up and hooked a brown trout of perhaps 8oz after a few casts but it came adrift after a brief tussle.

It was good to see plenty of fry darting about in the margins and a few toad tadpoles. I was hoping to spot a few rising fish but they were very few and far between. At the top of the beat I changed over to a pair of nymphs and tried drifting these over promising lies to no avail. With only a short time left a few fish started to rise and I hastily changed over to a dry fly. I flicked the fly into the streamy run where I had spotted the rising fish. A glance at the time and I realised that my time was almost up.  One more cast… a splashy rise and I was into a 12″ brownie to save a blank session.

One of the joys of fly fishing is the lack of preparation required. Just pick up the rod and head to the waters edge.

A Successful Cast

The river was running low and clear as I  threaded the line through the rings tying one of Nigel Nunn’s scruffy dry fly creations to a fine leader. It was a cool calm overcast evening and no fish appeared to be rising as I watched the water.

www.nigelnunnflies.com

            Lambs pranced in the fields, spring flowers lined the banks and birdsong filled the air. With life throwing a few challenges the river gave a welcome relief as I waded carefully into the clear water. I was using a light weight Snowbee classic rod and flicked the dry fly up stream focusing on the buoyant fly as it alighted and drifted down.

            I have never enjoyed a great deal of success casting into calm still pools on these small rivers with fish far more liable to slip up in the streamy fast water at the pool’s heads or deeper runs.

            Searching the water as I waded and scrambled as stealthily as I could upstream; a true tonic fully focussing the mind upon the moment. The bushy fly bobbed buoyantly and I was heartened to raise a couple of smallish trout that I failed to connect with. Threading the back cast between overhanging branches proved challenging at times but tangles were few and my rhythm felt good as the fly alighted repeatedly in promising spots.

            The living river valley filled the senses, wild garlic in full flower its pleasing scent released from time to time as it was crushed underfoot. Carpets of bluebells beneath the trees with vivid fresh green starting to show. Ferns were unfurling and bird song drifted across the valley with activity all around as parent birds searched for food.

            I had covered perhaps half a mile of water when I flicked the fly into a streamy run.

A swirl on the surface, a flick of the wrist and that delightful connection. The light rod pulsed in my hand as the fish fought in the strong current. I relished the moments and was thrilled when the fish was safely pulled over the rim of the net. I admired its spotted flanks, slipping the barbless fly from its jaws  grabbed a picture of a 12” beauty, holding the fish for a moment in the flow.

It disappeared  with a flick of its tail, gone from whence it had come a vision etched upon the minds eye.

            I continued my search for  another half an hour before walking back to the car as the evening light began to fade. I glanced under the old bridge and thought about exploring the river below next time.

The western sky glowed pink over the horizon as I drove home and I thought of the coast and casting a lure to bass in the fading light or maybe waiting for a smoothound to scream away.

Wistlandpound – Beautiful browns brighten a stormy day

Wistlandpound is just a short drive from my home in North Devon and provides the opportunity for shorts sessions with the fly Rod in search of the wild brown trout and Rudd that abound in the lake.

As I walked to the water via the wooded path I was delighted to hear the sound of chiff-chaffs calling from the trees a sure sign that spring has truly arrived despite the overcast sky and near gale force south west wind. I arrived at the waters edge with the wind blowing from left to right which made it easy to put out a decent line despite its strength.

I retained the team of flies that had brought some success at Colliford at the end of last month. A small black lure on the point and a black spider on the dropper.

I put out the floating  line and paused to allow the fly to sink a little before starting the retrieve. My plan was to cover plenty of water making a step along the bank between each cast. On the third cast I was delighted to feel a strong pull that resulted in a spirited scrap from a wild brown of around 10″.

Half a dozen casts later after missing a few tentative takes I once again felt a strong pull and connected with a good fish that put a decent curve in the rod. After a short tussle I was thrilled to bank a beautiful wild brown of 14″.

This was a truly stunning looking trout that was admired briefly and its image captured.

I continued to search the bank missing several takes and connecting with several more stunning wild browns that were between 10″ and 12″. Each fish was totally different in appearance with some almost silver like a sea trout others golden flanked and crimson spotted. In the short two hour session I brought seven trout to hand each one released carefully ensuring future sport.

I look forward to warmer days with a gentle breeze rippling the lake surface but I doubt the fish will be so eager to grab the fly then.

Going with the flow

Is there a better place to be than beside a West Country River in Spring ?  A few fresh run spring salmon have been tempted from both Taw and Torridge and with river levels holding up I have spent several pleasant hours drifting a fly across familiar lies to no avail.

http://www.littlewarhamfishery.co.uk

In between these forays after salmon I spent an hour one evening flicking a wet fly into the small pools of my local stream. Scrambling between trees I used a 7ft 3/4 wt Snowbee Classic to search the deeper pockets.

I caught a couple of small browns that reminded me of the fish I used to catch as a child dropping a worm in the overgrown River Umber that flows through Combe Martin. The familiar scents of wild garlic and the wild flowers of Spring are timeless sights and aromas that I have savoured every spring for more than fifty years.