Over fifty years ago I caught my first brown trout from the River Umber that flows through the village of Combe Martin. The fish was tempted on a small red worm a small wild brown trout with a butter shaded belly, olive flanks and crimson spots. Sadly, their numbers have plummeted in this tiny stream as a result of pollution and reduced flows.

            Fortunately; there are still many miles of healthy rivers in North Devon and whilst migratory fish have declined the wild brown trout are thriving and offer delightful sport on light fly fishing tackle.

            I decided to start my 62nd  birthday with a couple of hours on a local river chasing those wild brown trout that were amongst the first fish I caught as a child. Armed with a 7ft Snowbee 4 wt rod I waded into the clear water and started to search flicking the flies upstream beneath a canopy of green.

            Starting with New Zealand style tactics I made my way slowly up river. A kingfisher flashed by an electric blue streak that brightens the day.

            After searching several runs and stickles I hooked a sprightly brownie that pulsed and turned in the current before being coaxed to the waiting net. A beautiful trout of perhaps 10” that had taken the nymph. I admired it briefly and reflected that fifty years on I still enjoy those same emotions of pleasure from catching these jewelled creatures that dwell in cascading waters.

            I tempted another three pristine browns using dry flies in the next couple of hours.

Pheasants called in the nearby fields a reminder that the shooting season is not far away. Another six weeks and the river trout season will have closed again. How times flies it seems ever faster as life passes by.

            There are plenty of fishing adventures on the horizon with mighty tuna and shark on the agenda. Its still good though to tune back into those wild browns in intimate waters.

Captured memories to treasure

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         A mild August Sunday morning with a hint of moisture in the air, a light South West breeze bringing clouds from the Atlantic. The river was looking healthy, fairly high yet clear as morning sunlight occasionally broke through the lush trees that overhung the river.

            It was only a short session but good to be wading in the cool water as I searched the river working my way slowly upstream. I was fishing a large bushy dry fly tied by Nigel Nunn beneath which was tied a small copper head nymph. I tempted a couple of small wild browns on the nymph and had a few splashy rises to the dry that I failed to hook.

            A good sized trout rose to the dry fly and I failed to connect so marked the spot and decided to have a try as I came back down river. I fished up covering a few likely spots with just the dry but failed to rise anymore fish.

            I decided to try once more for the good fish I had risen earlier without connecting. I walked back and climbed into the river at the bottom of the pool. I worked slowly up flicking the dry fly over promising spots until I reached the place where I had raised the trout earlier. The fly floated on the river and brought a splashy rise that I again failed to connect with.

            I decided upon a few minutes searching deeper with just a small jig headed nymph pattern, I leant back against a tree as I changed flies.

            I wrote earlier this summer about how we go fishing to make memories and the next few moments are one of those captured memories to treasure.

            As I prepared to flick the nymph into the river there was a flash of vivid electric blue as a kingfisher flew past just a rod length away. Whilst only fleeting the sight will linger in the minds eye for years to come. Downriver a movement caught my eye and I stood stock still as a heron and watched transfixed as three otters moved upriver along the far bank. I watched as they negotiated the tree roots, twisting, amazingly agile in the swirling water, scurrying in and out as they moved oblivious to my presence.

            After they had passed I wandered if it was worth casting a line? I flicked the small nymph and watched the tip of the fly line as the nymph sank into the deep water. The line twitched, I lifted the rod and a trout pulsed at the lines end. Eight inches or so of crimson spotted perfection. I admired my prize briefly before slipping the barbless hook and releasing into the cool clear water.

            It was time to go home with more memories made at the water’s edge.


Recent rainfall has rejuvenated North Devon’s Rivers and the countryside bringing a lush green to the landscapes. I have reported several salmon caught from the Taw and Torridge over recent days and was delighted to make connection with a special fish myself, more of that later. On leaving the River I was delighted to receive a message from Paul Carter who had just netted a fine fresh run silver salmon from the Middle Taw estimated at 15lb.

The guys from Shady River Fishing have been enjoying some excellent fishing higher up the River catchments targeting wild brown trout. Euro Nymphing tactics producing some stunning fish in the high water conditions. The pick of recent catches being this stunning wild brown of 14” that was estimated at 2lb.

Visit ‘shady river fishing’ on Instagram.

The middle Torridge was looking close to perfect when I arrived for a morning session. Peering into the river I could easily make out the stones at a depth of 18”, the water was the colour of the finest ale. The water glistened in the morning sun and I admired a large silver wash fritillary butterfly as it settled upon bankside grass. I paused for a minute or two sitting on the bench as the river flowed past. A  juvenile buzzard mewed above a sound synonymous with August and the passing of summer.

I waded into the cool water and grimaced as I felt a leak in my waders. I put a line out across the river allowing the fly to drift across the flow searching for the increasingly illusive Atlantic salmon. It was good to be here following the familiar pattern of casting, drifting and stepping down through the pool.

At the point where I knew salmon had taken my fly in the past I felt a strong pull and lifted the rod tightening into a fish for just a few seconds. A chance gone perhaps? The margins between success and failure are often small. I analysed my response to the take, had I lifted into the fish too quickly? It is good practice to allow a little slack to allow the salmon to turn down with the fly but in all honesty the delectable moment of the take is so fleeting. In truth most of the salmon I have caught have hooked themselves or at least I have difficulty in actually visualising that fleeting moment of deception and connection.

I fished on searching the river and its known lies. It has been a little disheartening so far this season to drift the fly over the lies time and time again. Fishing the river in conditions like this even ten years ago I feel certain I would at least have seen a fish jump.

Despite the lack of success and ongoing concern regarding salmon and sea trout stocks I have stubbornly retained a sense of expectation as I fish, whilst there are still salmon to be caught hope springs eternal.

The river and its surroundings have a feel of late summer, early autumn. The invasive Himalayan Balsam are sadly flourishing their pretty pink flowers attracting bees and butterflies. Vivid blue damsel flies flutter amongst the riverside vegetation. Pin head fry flit to and fro in the river’s margins.

After fishing the top of the beat I fish back down searching the water heading for my final casts of the day in the bottom pool.

I wade out into the river once again still hoping almost expectant as this pool has provided many of the salmon I have caught from the Torridge over the years. As I proceed slowly down the pool I hear the piercing call of a kingfisher and glimpse the electric blue as the bird flashes down river. My optimistic heart views this as a good omen.

As I reach the bottom of the pool the line swings round in the current. The line zips delightfully tight and the water twenty yards below erupts as a fish  leaps high above the river gyrating at the lines end. The rod hoops over and the fish heads downriver as I relish the moments of drama. For a few minutes salmo-salar dictates making several strong runs and leaping several times. There are a few anxious moments as the fish lunges near  to branches on the far bank. Pressure eventually starts to sap the salmon’s energy and I coax the fish up river. The fish holds station in mid river and I slip the net ready to secure my prize. There are tense moments as line is gained and lost at close quarters. I pile on the pressure and the salmon rolls into the net. I wade up to the reed fringed bank above and take a moment to admire my prize. The salmon its flanks decorated in autumn hues signifies that it has been in the river for a while. I slip the barbless hook from its jaw and take a quick couple of pictures with the salmon in the net. I then carefully slide the fish into the river cradling the fish in the current  lifting its head momentarily to capture an image. The fish is strong and kicks its tail as I support it. I watch satisfied as the precious fish swims into the ale coloured water to hopefully fulfil its destiny on the spawning redds later in the winter months.


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The wettest July for many years is starting to pay dividends with several salmon seen and caught in our local rivers. Simon Hillcox tempted this beautiful salmon( Below) from the middle Taw. Several sea trout have also been caught from both the Taw and Torridge.

( Below)  Anthony Wilmington netted this 15lbs cock salmon at Little Warham last Sunday, a coloured fish which had been in river for a while. A very strong fish which took a while to land in high water. Safely returned after being pictured.

In other news… Numerous good sized brown and sea trout have been enjoyed by our anglers this last week.

Chay Boggis fished a tributary of the River Taw and caught this stunning wild brown trout using a 3wt set up with a nymph. There are some stunning wild brown trout throughout North Devon with some surprisingly large fish hidden away to be discovered by the skillful angler.


The River Bray flowed through the heart of a peaceful valley in early May with new born lambs frolicking on the riverside fields with bluebells and wild garlic abundant. As I drove to the river I tuned into Radio 4 with commentary of the Coronation of King Charles taking place in London. The pageantry and splendour was described in great detail and I was content that my wife Pauline would be relishing the spectacle in front of the TV at home.
The call of the river is strong and after several fruitless visits to the Lower rivers searching for silver I relished a sortie with lighter tackle in search of wild browns.
I parked the car and pulled on my waders, heading to the river with my 3 weight Snowbee
I tied a big bushy dry fly to a short dropper beneath this on the tip I tied a small copper John nymph.

The river had a tinge of colour following heavy overnight rain and I hoped this would make the fish a little less easily spooked as the river here is often crystal clear with the trout scattering in all directions as a clumsy angler like myself approaches the water.
I flicked the duo of flies into the streamy water. The dry fly bobbed under on the second drift and a tiny brown trout was swung from the water. I admired its beauty and shook it from the tiny barbless hook into the water without touching it.
I was soon totally absorbed in the tranquillity of the river valley totally focussed on the dry fly as it drifted down after each searching upstream cast.
I came to a deep pool and carefully flicked out the flies whilst knelt behind a tree stump. Moments after the flies alighted a good sized trout appeared from the deep water to seize the dry fly. I lifted the rod and made contact with the trout that took off downstream with power that surprised me. It soon became apparent that the fish was hooked in the tail. I had missed the fish as it took the dry, foul hooking it in the tail with the nymph. So, this fish really didn’t count despite it going for the fly and giving a great scrap in the fast water.

I waded on up river searching likely runs and tempting a couple of tiny trout with one or two other better fish throwing the hook.
A tumbling trout stream in late Spring is a pure delight as bird song reverberates all around and the lush green of spring abounds.
I prefer to search the faster deeper runs at the heads of the pools and it was here that I found the better trout. The dry fly disappearing as a fish intercepted the tiny nymph below.

The rod took on a healthy curve and the trout erupted from the river gyrating airborne above the water in one of those moments that are etched in the minds eye forever. I admired the pristine wild brown that was close to 12” before releasing it back into its home.
Fifty yards or so further up river I added another beautiful trout to the mornings tally its bejewelled flanks far superior to any created for his majesties far away in London.

I returned home in time to watch the Royal event culminate in the traditional gathering upon the balcony. As I watched the thousands cheer in celebration I reflected upon the jewels I had witnessed that morning beside a tumbling stream in the heart of a peaceful valley.

Later in the day we headed to Lynmouth to watch the Coronation Day parade of boats. Shanty singers, boats and flares brought cheer and smiles.

At the top of the tide huge numbers of mullet could be seen their sides flashing as they browsed on the rocks as mullet do. With big mullet abundant I couldn’t resist returning the following evening to find lots of tiny mullet and an absence of bigger fish. Every tide is different I guess and mullet always appear as if they would be easy to catch when you have left the rod at home.

A Spring Trout at Wistlandpound

A short session at Wistlandpound brought reward in the shape of a fin perfect brown trout. A bitter cold Easterly wind was blowing down the lake as I enjoyed a short morning session. The sunshine occasionally broke through a grey sky illuminating the lush green growth of early spring. Sand martins swooped low over the water and I thought of the epic journey they had just made from Africa. What a chill welcome they were getting as our spring stutters towards the warmth of late spring and summer.

I did my normal routine walk around the reservoir casting into familiar spots that had proved successful over the years. I chose to use three flies, a black lure on the point with a black pennel and black spider on two droppers. There were no fish rising and very little sign of insect life. After numerous casts I changed the point fly for a beaded PTN and adopted a very slow retrieve.

After a further searching the line momentarily tightened giving that encouraging injection of hope. A few casts later the line zipped properly tight and the rod absorbed the plunges of a hard fighting brown. I admired its spotted flanks and delighted in its return to the cold spring waters.

South West Lakes Trout Fisheries Report

March 2023

The new season is now firmly underway at the South West Lakes trout fisheries, with the rainbow waters opening on 11 March, and brown trout on 15 March. Where available, boats are now on the water, and should be pre-booked (online or via the telephone). Generally the weather for the opening weeks has been challenging to anglers, with strong winds, rain, and cold temperatures, and the fish mainly feeding in the deeper waters, although fish have been looking up to feed at a few of the waters.


Kennick – Rods averaged 3.7 fish per angler on opening day, with a variety of methods and depths all producing good results. Paul Osborne (from Exeter) caught the best opening day fish – a rainbow of 3lb 8oz, as part of a bag of five fish, while Duncan Kier (from Belstone) caught the best bag – twelve rainbows, using a blob fished from the bank. The week continued well, with the best results coming from using a variety of nymphs (Damsels and Buzzers) and lure patterns (Cats Whiskers, Black and Olive Snakes, Orange Fritz, and Boobies) fished on an intermediate line, with fish well spread out around the lake. Notable bags included ten rainbows to 3lb, caught by Johnny Mac (from Plympton) using a sinking line and stripped snakes, as well as ten rainbows to 3lb, caught by both J.Stainforth (from Brixham) and Mick White (from Bovey Tracey) – the latter caught using a flashy blue damsel on an intermediate line with a slow but constant retrieve. The level at Kennick is now up to 87% and filling.

Siblyback – The lake is full now, and opened the season on excellent form, with anglers averaging 5.3 fish per rod on the opening weekend. Tony Chipman (from Truro) caught nine rainbows (including two nice overwintered fish of around 2lb) using a slowly retrieved floating line with a team of buzzers. Generally intermediate or floating lines with a sink tip have been the most productive, with plenty of fish around Crylla and Stocky Bays, as well as the dam area, with a wide selection of nymph and lure patterns all catching fish. John Henderson (from Falmouth) caught the best bag, with eighteen rainbows to 2lb, all caught on a floating line with a sinking leader.

The Snowbee ‘Teams of Four’ bank competition was held on 2 April, with ten teams competing, and anglers averaging 3.05 fish. Roche Angling Club (Tony Chipman, Dave Perks, Pete Williams, and John Hutchings) were the winners, catching 21 fish weighing in at 32lb 7oz. Runners up were Fishiotherapy Time, and Kennick ‘C’ team came third.

Burrator – Levels are now full, with the best fishing to be had at Longstone Bank, Pigs Trough, and The Point. Al Lawson caught the best fish on opening day, catching four rainbows to 2lb from a boat shared with his brother Andy, who caught five rainbows on a floating line and jerky retrieve. Generally, dark lure and nymph patterns  fished on floating or intermediate lines with a variety of retrieves has proved to be the most successful tactic. Phil Adlam (from Plymouth) caught the best fish – a rainbow of 2lb11oz, using a sink-tip line and roly-poly retrieve, while Rob Slaney (from Yelverton) caught a bag of thirteen fish (including some browns and a blue), using a Black Damsel.

Stithians – The lake is now over 90% full. Opening day fished extremely well with anglers averaging seven fish per rod. Stephen Glanville (from St Agnes) caught the best fish of the day – a 2lb 11oz rainbow, as part of a seven fish bag, while John Henderson (from Falmouth) caught 16 rainbows and a brown, with many fish being taken on a dry Black Gnat (these were hatching on the day). Averages fell to a still respectable 3.64 fish per rod as the month progressed, with fish well spread out around the lake; intermediate and floating lines with a sink tip and various retrieves all caught well, with nymphs, lures and some dries all accounting for fish. Simon Peters (from Cusgarne) caught a bag of 20 fish on a floating line and fast ‘figure-of-eight’ retrieve, and John Henderson caught another bag of ten fish to 2lb 8oz.

Fernworthy – Surprisingly, this high Dartmoor lake (which is usually slow to start), opened the season with some excellent sport in spite of the adverse weather conditions, with anglers averaging eight fish per rod in the opening week. Rodney Wevill fished a Welshman Minnow on a floating line, and with Jack Welshman, the pair enjoyed a superb day’s sport, catching 22 browns, with 17 weighing in at between a pound and 2lb 8oz. With midges on the surface later in the month, anglers using the dry fly (Black Gnat, Black Klinkhammer, and Claret Hopper) were rewarded with some excellent sport, while other fish were taken using Soldier Palmers and black nymphs and tadpoles. Fish were well spread out around the lake, but the south bank, Thornworthy Bay, and area around the old permit hut proved to be particularly productive. Nicholas Freeman (from Andover) caught six browns to 2lb 6oz below the old hut, where fish were eagerly feeding throughout the day.

Roadford – Now at 68% full, and slowly filling, Roadford started the season well, with the dam area and Grinnacombe producing the best sport. Rodney Wevill (from Launceston) caught five browns using a Welshman Minnow and a mini Scruffy Tiger on a floating line. Plenty of fish have been in the shallows, and floating lines with Daddy Longlegs, Humungous, and Blue Zulu patterns have all caught fish, with anglers averaging 2.5 fish per rod.

For anglers’ information, this May and September, carp fishing will be introduced at Roadford Lake as a trial venture. Carp fishing will be limited to 12 swims and fly fishing will not be permitted in this area only. The long term aim is to improve Roadford Lake as a brown trout fishery.

Colliford – This water is still only just over 50% full, and so far has been slow to start, with only a few fish caught.

Wistlandpound – This lake North of Barnstaple offers some superb fishing for wild browns with good numbers of fish in the 8oz to 12oz size range and the occasional fish over 1lb. The rudd that have thrived in the lake can offer fun sport on dry fly tactics and its is likley that the bigger browns feast on these fish. Browns to over 3lb have been caught in recent seasons. Small black lures and tradiional wets flies work well.

Please see South West Lakes’ website ( for more information on buying tickets, boat availability and booking, and forthcoming events.

Chris Hall (April 2023)

Fluff Chuckers Event – Roadford

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The path to the water
Many thanks to Rodney Wevill for the report below.

The Fluff Chuckers Yeti brown trout bank event was held on Roadford Lake on April 8th..

The weather forecast had been showing bright sun all day and that was going to make things a little more difficult.

But the day was warm with sun but a nice bit of cloud cover especially during the afternoon.

Anglers met at 8.30am for a 9.00am start in the main car park.

It was good to see many like minded anglers from Bristol, North Somerset, North Devon and from deep down in Cornwall with the same attitude, have a good fun day and if we catch a good one then we might even win a prize.

We fished from all different sections of Roadfords bank and what stunning country side surrounded us.

The fishing was steady in the morning but the afternoon seen a lot more fish to the nets.

A total of 80 Brown Trout were caught and all safely released for another day.

The competitive side of us boys started to show, all trying to find a bigger fish or just another one to the net before the 5pm finish.

We met back at the main car park to tally up the score cards and it was soon very obvious that things where going to be very tight indeed.

The longest fish was between Roger Truscott and Jack Welshman with Jack sneaking it by a couple of millimetres.

The most fish to the net was also extremely tight

With Simon Peters catching 16 fish and piping Mr consistent Roger Truscott by one fish with Wayne Thomas one behind that with 14 fish.

So a cheery end to a great day with some wonderful fishing with a great set of anglers.

A typical Roadford brownie

Final results 

Longest fish Overall winner

Jack Welshman

Runner up

Roger Truscott


Pete Williams

Most fish caught winner

Simon Peters

Runner up

Roger Truscott.

Fluff Chuckers- Fly Fishing Fanatics would like to thank YETI for there help with the prizes for the event.

Trout Fishing South West Lakes Trust for their help and prizes

All that came and supported another great event

Notes from the waters edge :- My first trip to fish for trout on this large lake that supplies water for most of North Devon. Despite a wet Spring the lake is still well below top water level and If we get another dry summer prospects are concerning. I very much enjoyed the day finding plenty of brown trout that gave a good account on the light 5wt rod I was using. Most fish took a small black pennel fished on a dropper, my standard set up for early season brown trout  being a small black lure on the point and two small black flies as droppers.

Always good to meet up with fellow fluff Chuckers. Special thanks to head chucker Rodney Wevill

Early season success at Wistlandpound

    With the Rivers running too high for salmon it was time to visit Wistlandpound and reconnect with its splendid wild browns. After an icy start warm sunshine was illuminating the reservoir as I arrived. A blue sky  and calm waters full of nature’s reflections.

            It was good to be back on this familiar water with a rod in hand. After last summer’s drought it’s great to see the water level full to the brim. Significant growth of withy has restricted access to some areas of the lake but this is not a problem with the low number of anglers fishing the lake. On this day I was surprised to see three other anglers fishing.

            This was only to be a short visit searching various areas. I had set up a floating line and started off with a small black lure on the point and a black cruncher on a dropper. The water felt cool as I waded out and started to search the water. The occasional fish was rising far out. It probably wasn’t ideal conditions but the beauty of the surroundings made up for any lack of action.

            The far bank looked appealing with a slight breeze caressing the shoreline. I wandered over and waded out into a gap in the bankside growth. There were good numbers of buzzer shucks drifting on the surface and a fish rose just beyond the rod tip. The session was drawing to an end and I yearned for that connection.

            Suddenly the line zipped delightfully tight and I lifted the rod to feel a strong fish pulsing at the end of the line. I played the fish carefully and was relieved when it slid over the rim of the net. A perfect wild brown trout, its flanks golden with hues of bronze decorated with dark spots and vivid crimson.

            I had a few more casts, reflecting upon the beauty of the fish I had caught. I spoke with another angler fishing further along the bank as I headed for home. He was pleased to have tempted half a dozen good browns. I pondered that I perhaps could have caught more but In truth I was contented with that one fine brown and I know that the season is young and there are hopefully  plenty more days to fish.

Wistlandpound Wild Brown Trout Fishing

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Jason Hayes set out for a few hours fishing at Wistlandpound Reservoir near Barnstaple. This lake is a favourite of mine.  Where I regained my love for fishing a few years ago.
The water levels are fantastically high and it was crystal clear. The gusty wind was difficult but certainly not unmanageable. I started late morning with my 5 weight #xplorer classic matched with #Guideline 5/6 weight reel. I decided on an intermediate line with sink tip in order to cover the deeper water. I was into a nice butter yellow #wildbrowntrout on my second cast using a pheasant tail nymph I had tied myself. So nice to be out on the water and into a few fish.
A few hours and 5 more fish later, the winds picked up and it was time to leave.
It’s definately a destination that needs to be explored and its a great price for a day’s fishing as well.
Can’t wait to return.