It seems to have been a slow start to Spring this year with relentless rain resulting in bank high rivers. Even the Upper reaches are pushing through hard making fishing challenging.

         With the rivers eventually dropping back and running clear I headed out to enjoy a couple of hours chasing wild browns. It was delightful to revisit the familiar river valley as new born lambs frisked in the fields.

         The river was racing past high and clear as I walked the bank looking for slacker water to drift my heavy nymphs.

It was good to feel the cool water as I focussed on the sight tip of the leader. In the first pool I fished a small trout was on briefly before wriggling free.

         I moved on relishing the smell of wild garlic in the fresh spring air. Chiff Chaffs song drifted through the valley and early bluebells were in bloom.

         I worked my way upriver searching for trout enjoying the spirited tussle that even the smallest trout gave on the light tackle. A good fish of perhaps 10” came off its crimson flanks glimpsed as the rod flexed.

         I drove away contented with a brief reacquaintance with the river.

         A few days later I joined Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club at Bulldog Fishery. As we threaded the line through the rod rings the lake lay mirror calm fresh green trees reflecting in the calm water.

         We chatted for a while before heading to the water’s edge. The water was gin clear and I decided to adopt an imitative approach presenting a PTN and buzzer beneath a foam buzzer that acted as an indicator.

         As I worked the flies slowly through the water I caught sight of a large bird of prey. After a few moments I was able to ascertain that I was witnessing the rare and exciting view of an osprey. These majestic birds migrate North from Africa each Spring and are occasionally glimpsed over large lakes and reservoirs.

         In addition to the rare osprey it was reassuring to glimpse swallows and martins arriving in the valley, a true sign that spring has arrived.

         My quest for trout proved harder than expected with no indications or pulls. Fellow club member Andre Muxworthy had caught a brace of fish and I wondered what he had been using.

         I changed to a gold headed damsel nymph on the point with a longer leader and moved to another area of the lake.

Andre walked over for a chat after completing his three fish bag and generously shared information as to his choice of fly.

         Fishing close to where Andre had enjoyed success my line zipped tight and a decent fish was momentarily hooked before shedding the hook.

         As is often the case a few casts later a hard fighting rainbow was brought to the waiting net. The next fifteen minutes I enjoyed several near misses as trout followed the fly their shadowy forms visible deep down in the clear and sheltered water. A spartic of a couple of pounds seized the fly and was netted after a pleasing tussle.  A couple of casts after landing this fish I watched the dark shadow of a trout following my fly, I paused allowing the fly to sink slowly before twitching it teasing the fish as it moved towards it. The fish appeared to lose interest and I again let it sink.  The trout promptly followed it down and I saw its mouth open, lifting the rod briskly I delighted in the life on the line. A tiger trout its vividly patterned flanks completing a pleasing three fish bag.

         Andre and I watched on as fellow club member Colin Combe hooked into his final fish of the morning.

A pleasing spartic of a couple of pounds that would give him a total bag weight of 9lb 4oz and most likely first place in the competition. Andre’s three totalled 7lb 13oz and mine 6lb 7oz. One club member remained fishing when we left so hopefully he went on to catch his bag.


Talking flies and lures


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       The River Taw Fisheries and Conservation Association held their annual general meeting at the Mole Resort (formerly High Bullen House Hotel) on Friday March 22nd.

Richard Nickell and Andy Gray

       Members from across the region reflected upon a disappointing season in 2023 with catch returns indicating very poor results for both salmon and sea trout. Sixty salmon and around one hundred sea trout were caught throughout the river season. River flow had been low during the early spring and summer but had been good for the second half of the season. A good number of kelt’s caught at the start of the season gave some cause for optimism for future seasons. Redd counting during the winter had been difficult due to high flows.

       Chairman Andy Gray delivered an outline plan for working closely with the North Devon Catchment Partnership to focus on improving water quality and habitat. This ambitious project aims to unite all who have an interest in the River Taw and its tributaries. Farmer clusters are now receiving payments to invest in environmentally beneficial projects and practices that will benefit the rivers. The Environment Agency are also focussing on agricultural issues with increased officers to both police and enforce regulations.

Measures to reduce flooding and slow the flow are being introduced on tributaries of the Taw investment in leaky dams and buffer zones.

       The recent North Devon District Council meeting was discussed with a recognition that there is greater public awareness regarding sewage discharge incidents by South West Water.

       An increasing run of shad into the river Taw each summer is a positive sign that the weir removal project partially funded by the RTFCA has benefitted the river.

       Pete Tyjas introduced guest speaker Nick Measham CEO  Wildfish. Nick delivered a passionate and enlightening talk and presentation about its work to protect wild fish. Nick highlighted the dramatic decline in salmon stocks estimated at close to 90% between 1970 and 2016. Nick highlighted the three essentials for salmon in our rivers. Clean water, enough water and no barriers. Pollution, over abstraction and barriers to migration are the key issues. Wildfish are working extremely hard to tackle all these issues with data monitoring via their smart rivers project, working to ensure compliance with existing regulations and campaigning to get farmed salmon off the table.


       The talk was followed by the associations annual auction to raise valuable funds for river improvements. Discussion  around the dinner tables after the meeting undoubtedly included debate on the preceding presentation and the prospects for the coming season.


Gerald Spiers delivers an engaging casting clinic

I was privileged to be invited to attend the Taw Fishing Club AGM at the Fox and Hounds at Eggesford last Saturday. The Taw Fishing Club has five and a half miles of fishing on the Upper Taw and its tributaries offering some excellent fishing for wild brown trout.

I arrived at 10:00am to join members in the field adjacent to the River Taw where Gerald Spiers of the Devon School Of Fly Fishing was offering a casting clinic for members. It was good to be close to the river with the evidence of Spring all around. Gerald chatted about the intricacies of casting and fly presentation in depth. Engaging the audience in discussion on mending the line, fly choice, reading the water, casting loops, arc, wrist position, and how to approach the water. He also discussed the finer details of tackle choice advising on leaders, tippets, rod choice and line care. I am sure all walked back to the hotel for lunch enthused for the coming season and eager to employ the knowledge imparted by Gerald. The art of fly fishing and fishing in general is a never ending game of interaction with nature that offers an absorbing fascination that can never be quelled once hooked.

Members and guests mingled over lunch and engaged in conversations that I feel sure contained many fishy tales. On our table the fishy agenda drifted into the toxic world of politics and the environment. It seems increasingly apparent to me that populist politicians are leading the human race on a slippery road to extinction. Failure to acknowledge uncomfortable truths to ensure election is a symptom of a generation that is increasingly disconnected with the natural world.

The Taw Club has been running successfully for over a century and is presently in a very healthy state thanks to a hard working committee Chaired by Gordon Murray with secretarial responsibilities carried out by Chris Searles. The club has a current membership of fifty and welcomes new members to its ranks.  The Taw Club is a friendly group that offers plenty of opportunity to mingle and learn during club teach ins and bank clearing days.

The Chair addressed a large proportion of the membership at the meeting and highlighted concerns mirrored across angling clubs throughout the land. There was conversation around the aging dynamics of club membership and the need for a younger generation to take up rods on the water. Angling participation and social interaction has undoubtedly been impacted upon by covid and recovery is slow.

The health of the river was top of the agenda with a focus on working with landowners to safeguard the future. Gordon expressed his views on pollution and quoted the phrase; “ Kind Words butter no parsnips”. Farming incentives to deliver habitat improvement, River fly monitoring, Citizen Science Water Quality Sampling and the vital work of an underfunded Environment Agency was all discussed with passion. It is essential that this desire to safeguard our rivers is put into practice.

                The Environment Agency was represented by North Devon’s Fishery Enforcement Officer Sam Fenner who engaged with the club members offering advice and guidance on a range of river related enquiries.

There was discussion around invasive species including signal crayfish and mink. The increasing population of beavers were also acknowledged which are generally thought to bring wide benefits to the rivers eco systems.

An exciting increase in  shad spawning in the Taw system was noted with hope that this will bring focus upon the importance of the Taw system to this rare and endangered species.

Catches of wild brown trout across the club’s waters has been consistently good over recent seasons with between 300 and 500 trout registered by members each season. The use of an online recording system has been a very beneficial recording tool ensuring up to date information is shared across the membership.

The AGM was concluded with a talk from Gerald Spiers who gave some valuable advice on wading safely. His three top tips being to wade slowly and upright, wear studded waders and use a wading staff.

         Membership details for the Taw Fishing Club can be found at :-






  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

https://www.nigelnunnflies.com 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 https://www.snowbee.co.uk/fly-fishing/rods/snowbee-classic-fly-rod-3-4-4-piece-7.html
I tied a big bushy dry fly to a short dropper https://www.nigelnunnflies.com 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.