Changing Seasons -Autumn thoughts


Another salmon season has drawn to an end as I walked out to fish on the Middle Torridge. On arrival I realize I had arrived too late as the river was up and coloured with flotillas of leaves floating down stream.

As I am there I decide to fish anyway but have little confidence as I work my way down casting across favorite lies with little hope of a salmon locating the fly. Time has run out on this season all too quickly. Leaves collected in riverside eddies a rich variation of browns, gold’s and yellows those green shoots of spring have long gone. Summers gone yet I wish it could linger longer for I had so much more to do.

As I walked back to the car I listened to mournful mewing of young buzzards high above. I had one more trip to the river. and it proved to be my second season without a salmon. I look for no excuses as plenty have been caught just not on my watch.

We had just returned from a week in Scotland. Not a fishing holiday though a rod did get taken along. One afternoon Pauline and I walked up to a small dam within the glen. The mountains towered high above and stags bellowed their war cry across the brown livery of the glen. I cast across the dark water and was thrilled at the tug from a small trout. I caught four perfect wild browns of just a few inches more than enough reward for a miles walk in such splendid surroundings.

This was the only fishing I did yet fishing was never too far from my thoughts. I spoke with a local angler who painted a grim portrayal of salmon and sea trout fishing in the local rivers. He doubted if the species would exist in these local rivers in ten years time.

Whilst I knew that the sea lochs had great potential I did not see anyone fishing throughout our weeks stay. It seemed strange to have harbors that had no mullet. I was told of Pollock and coalfish from the rocky shoreline and wished I had light spinning rod or LRF set up to find out what was there. In the sound of Mull I peered into the deep and clear waters. At Tobermory I talked of common skate within deep waters off shore. Perhaps I need to return one day to answer some of my questions.

Back in North Devon my thoughts turn to autumn sea angling. Grey mullet, bass, conger and tope. As the nights draw in I know where I will be heading and look forward to the excitement of dark mysterious waters.

This angling game brings its frustrations and an awareness of the passing seasons; a brief spell of melancholy is soon replaced by optimism as the next chapter unfolds.

Fun on the dry fly

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North Devon’s Rivers hold plenty of beautiful wild brown trout that provide superb sport on the upstream dry fly. My son James landed this spotted beauty close to twenty years after catching his first fish. These wild fish are a treasure that we must ensure continue to thrive as their presence is an indication of a healthy river. My own fishing journey began on a tiny stream catching brown trout and I still get just as excited by these feisty little fish fifty years on.

Rare sights at Bratton Water

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One of the joys of fishing is the wildlife we see whilst at the waters edge and at Bratton Water there have been some exciting sightings in recent weeks with owner Mike Williams sending me these images he managed to capture of an osprey and a great white egret! Mike tells me the fishing has been excellent recently with some stunning brown trout tempted by visiting anglers. Dry fly and small buzzer nymph patterns always tend to work best at this picturesque water.

The fishery is renowned for the superb quality of its brown trout that have been caught to double figures.

A stunning brown landed earlier this spring by Danny Ford.

Wistlandpound Fly Fishers enjoy brown trout sport at home venue

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Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club held their Edwards Cup Floating line competition at their home venue.  The competition was for the best brace of trout and was won by Dave Mock who landed who two trout for 2lb 15oz, Close behind was David Eldred with a brace totalling 2lb14oz and in third Paul Grisley with a single trout weighing 1lb 9oz.

Wistlandpound superb brown trout sport

Below is a report sent to South West lakes Trust by a very satisfied customer!

Jon Ogbourne enjoyed a Great day on Wistlandpound fishing from the clubs boat. He fished with Peter Coleman-Smith and Mark Stewart taking turns on the oars. Fish came from all over the lake with 50+ to the net by the time we landed at 6pm, the best was pushing 1.5lbs. All fish came to either traditional wets, sedgehogs or weighted mini tadpole patterns on the point. Steady wind blowing up toward the dam all day. Sunshine with broken cloud. Buzzers and hawthorn flies around perimeter of lake but not much out on the water. Fish didn’t seem to mind.

Riverside ramblings

A tumbling river in springtime with the smell of ramsey and birdsong filling the air has been a part of my life since I was a child catching crimson spotted brown trout from the River Umber that runs through the village of Combe Martin. A few weeks ago I found myself looking into the river where I first tempted those spotted trout. Sadly there were no signs of the descendants of those trout  which is a sad refection on the waning state of our countryside.

Fortunately there are still plenty of rivers in North Devon that still have healthy populations of trout. I took a wander along my local river wielding a split cane rod I had bought from a work colleague. The old scottie rod had been bought at a car boot sale and I later found that the rod had been taken there by Richard Mann who I had fished with on several occasions at Blakewell Fishery. Richard was a very enthusiastic angler who had fished far and wide with many a tale to tell. In latter years he had done a huge amount of work for a local branch of the Salmon and Trout Association. Richard sadly passed away last year.

I flicked the flies upstream and thrilled as the free rising trout seized the fly.  The old rod flexed as the trout gyrated and darted to and fro in the clear water. I wondered what other adventures the rod had been on? It didn’t really matter what rod as the small river didn’t demand distance casting, a bit of precision perhaps. A modern carbon rod could have ticked every box in functionality but perhaps the old rod was more in keeping with the late spring evening? The river had those same characteristics I had enjoyed close to fifty years ago, perhaps that is one of angling’s greatest attributes in that it brings back those childish perceptions and feelings.

A couple of nights later I was casting a fly across the River Torridge in hope of  salmon. The river had dropped away but still had a nice tinge of colour. I started hopeful but as the evening swept past I felt slightly melancholic at the lack of salmon surely after the recent spate there would be salmon present? It was a glorious evening full of birdsong and riverside aromas. I did catch one or two glorious spotted brown trout but these were not enough tonight for I had set my expectations higher and with that came a slight feeling of failure. I will of course be back casting again full of expectation next time the river rises and brings fresh hope of silver tourists.

Top Spring Trout Sport at Blakewell

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Thirty anglers gathered at Blakewell Fishery for their Spring Competition a day that was to be blessed with warm spring sunshine. It was certainly a jovial atmosphere that pervaded the morning with old friends and new talking eagerly about the days fishing ahead. These competitions are little more than an excuse for a bunch of anglers to get together for a social with a bit of banter and a bent rod.

After the draw and a coffee we all set out to the lake that was tinged with colour after heavy rain two nights previous. This was probably a good thing as bright sunshine is seldom good for trout fishing. The morning session saw anglers enjoy steady sport with the fish fighting hard in the cool water. Glancing around the lake it was apparent that a multitude of patterns were producing fish. My first peg proved challenging and I only managed the one trout a handsome brown that was to be the heaviest brown of the day at 3lb 5oz.

My next peg proved more productive and within the second hour I had completed my mornings quota of five trout.(below)

This gave me the opportunity to wonder around the lake and capture a few images before lunch.

(Above) Gary Matthews with a handsome brown trout

The hour-long lunch break saw the hungry anglers tucking into a hearty meal of sausages, potato stew, salad, fresh bread and red cabbage and onion. This was washed down with a cool can of beer followed by a slice of delicious homemade cake.

All of this was of course punctuated by plenty of tales of fish and fishy places.

(Above)Brian Howarth with a 3lb brown trout

The afternoon session is often the hardest and that one fish can often prove hard to tempt. But with a blue sky and fresh green buds all around it was not too much of a problem if it took a while to complete the days bag.

The competition came to a close at 4.00pm and all but two of the thirty anglers had completed their six fish limit. The scales showed that it had been a very close event with just three pounds separating the top twenty-five anglers.

Andy Facey with two of the brown trout from his winning bag


1st Andy Facey – 6 fish – 15lb 7oz

2nd John Buxton – 6 fish – 14lb 15oz

3rd – Phil Martin – 6 Fish – 14lb 10oz

4th = Wayne Thomas – 6 Fish – 14lb 9oz

         Colin Matthews – 6 Fish – 14lb 9oz  

             Paul Grisley – 6 Fish – 14lb 9oz

Is there a better looking trout than the brown?


Whilst none of the big trout for which the fishery is renowned were caught several were glimpsed in the lake. A fine 13lb double figure rainbow was landed the previous day.

The fisheries facilities have been upgraded with a new toilet, fish weighing room and extended decking that will prove a hit on summer evenings when John and Richard Nickel plan a few summer BBQs and fishing events.

Richard Nickel feeding next years trout

Next month sees the fishery host a Snowbee Open day when the latest tackle will be on display and available to try out with casting instruction from the Snowbee  and Blakewell teams.

Trout Fishing starts on local rivers

March 15th sees the start of the trout fishing season on running water and we are fortunate to have miles of wild brown trout fishing here in North Devon. What these trout lack in size they make up for in their beauty and tenacity giving a spirited fight on light tackle. Perhaps the real joy of wild trout fishing is the being beside our rivers as spring unwinds all around with wild flowers and birdsong reverberating through the air.

I could not resist a few casts today and tempted a beautifully marked brown trout with a just a few flicks into the fast flowing river. A small gold headed nymph will generally work well at this time with sparsely tied spider patterns also productive.