Many thanks to Mark Lamude at Quay Sports for this delightful contribution on the joys of spring tench fishing at one of North Devon’s hidden gems.
“So after neglecting a springtime Tench for many years, I dusted off my favourite waggler rod and headed out to Rake myself a swim amongst the spring Lillie growth. After applying some classic simple tactics I managed to build a lovely little swim full of roach and skimmers throughout the session. Fortunately after several hours of plugging away the rod hopped over and I had my first Spring Tench on the end of my rod for a long time and it fought hard, much harder than I thought it would anyway. I had Three nice fish in the end, they were all around the 3.5 to 4.5lb bracket but the size mattered not it was just incredible fun. It’s amazing how good a packet of quality groundbait and a pint of maggots can be when prepared and applied in the right way.”
I was fortunate to grow up in North Devon and as a teenager in the mid to late 1970’s I realise looking back how lucky we were. I wrote a short piece a few weeks ago reflecting upon the wild brown trout that were abundant in the local rivers including the River Umber that runs through Combe Martin.
As youngsters we also enjoyed the freedom to explore and fish the local coastline. In those days access to the coast was far more readily available and even were land was private a courteous request would generally secure access. In many cases free access was taken for granted as normality as it had been for many generations.
Over the years I have seen these freedoms slowly eroded partly due to the ignorant actions of the few and partly due to the ever increasing population of this crowded isle.
We took a stroll along the Old Coast Road near Combe Martin a familiar path and part of the Coastal Path. This old road provides access to several fishing marks that have been a pleasure to fish over the past fifty years. Many memories came flooding back as we walked beneath those old trees where as a young angler we paused to catch our breath after trudging up the steep steps from the rocky foreshore.
Sadly, the signs of restriction have appeared forbidding vehicular access. Physical barriers to prevent access and numerous signs stating the area is now out of bounds for vehicles. I understand that this was in part caused by an influx of people following the first COVID lockdown combined with articles in the National papers extolling the beauty of this stretch of coast.
The loss of freedoms once enjoyed have been brought about by many factors including a combination of an increased population, Lack of respect for land and an intolerance of landowners.
Access to vast areas of the coast have been lost or restricted over the years. As anglers we need to do our bit by ensuring we leave no litter and respect landowners only crossing land after gaining permission or perhaps paying the relevant toll.
This sense of loss can also be felt inland with many old lakes and ponds lost to angling. Whilst we are fortunate to have a vast number of commercial fisheries those smaller club waters have dwindled.
I revisited a local pond once rented by Barnstaple & District Angling Association. The deep dark waters were surrounded by trees their leaves resplendent in rich autumn colours. Fallen limbs disappeared into the depths and the brooding atmosphere held a certain fascination as I recalled those days of forty odd years ago when I had fished in the weekly matches held by B&DAA.
The glimpse of a kingfisher brought a flash of colour to the day. A couple of pheasants rustled through the brambles.
I read on a sign of the plans to turn the area into a holiday complex. Supposedly eco- friendly and in tune with nature. I cannot help but think that the place would be far better left alone with perhaps the occasional angler contemplating the disappearance of a crimson topped float. These neglected corners of the countryside are precious and should not be sacrificed without serious consideration.
A gentle surf broke onto the beach as I paused to take in the view after tackling up a pair of rods. There was no rush with high water a couple of hours away and the sun still high in the sky. I walked along the high water mark to see what the previous tides had left behind. Pieces of driftwood smooth and weathered, where were they from I wondered? Flotsam and jetsam always fascinates me wondering what stories it could tell.
(Flotsam and jetsam are terms that describe two types of marine debris associated with vessels. Flotsam is defined as debris in the water that was not deliberately thrown overboard, often as a result from a shipwreck or accident. Jetsam describes debris that was deliberately thrown overboard by a crew of a ship in distress, most often to lighten the ship’s load. The word flotsam derives from the French word floter, to float. Jetsam is a shortened word for jettison.)
The cliffs showed signs of recent erosion and I noticed that the remains of an old building that once showed on the cliffside had slipped away. My generation would perhaps recall the ruins but as times slips past no one will be aware that the buildings ever existed. There is much that we see in a life time and fail to register, sign posts that tell of times gone by and of other’s lives.
The geographical rock strata with its tortured twisting shapes reflects the power and dynamics of this ever changing world in which we live. Millions of years etched upon the face of the cliffs as erosion reveals a distant history that is hard to comprehend.
As the sun slowly sank lower on the familiar horizon I cut fresh bait and threaded it carefully onto the large sharp hooks. A gentle lob put the baits at the edge of the shingle where I hoped a bass or huss would be on the prowl..
The rods sat poised upon the rod rest silhouetted against the golden light of the sun as it reflected upon the calm waters of the bay. Rob who I was with moved across closer to my station after successfully catching a wrasse having cast out before me, perhaps a little more eager to catch than I was.
I didn’t expect to catch until the sun had set and the tide had reached its high point. The wind was also in the East which gave little confidence but failed to extinguish all hope.
A flotilla of boats paused in the bay carrying sightseers who had undoubtedly paid good money for a spectacular sunset cruise.
The sun eventually sank from sight. The tide peaked and with it ebbed away hope of success. We packed away an hour after high water and trudged slowly back up the slippery cliff path pausing frequently to catch our breath. The air was warm and grasshoppers chirped in the grass. Slugs had emerged to feast in the darkness gliding slowly across the path. The sound of the waves crashing upon the shore far below slowly faded into silence.
At the top of the cliff, we again stopped and looked out over the bay. Where Lights twinkled on the shoreline. As we climbed over the brow we saw the village lights familiar in the valley below. A wasted night some would say but there is more to fishing than catching fish.
A few days later I embarked upon a short mullet fishing session at Lynmouth. It was high tide when I arrived and the tide was pushing up under the main road bridge. I would often take a look to see if any big mullet were present at the top of the tide where fresh and salt water converge but on this occasion I was keen to get set up and start fishing the ebbing tide.
A couple of hours before I had been lying in bed listening to the pitter and patter of rain on the skylight and had briefly contemplated not bothering; fortunately, the quest for a mullet was strong. The morning was by now bright and dry with light clouds drifting slowly across the blue sky.
Fishing trips are sometimes remembered for reasons other than fish as on this occasion. At the top of the slipway, I noticed that a gentleman dressed in what I perceived to be Victorian clothing was arranging a camera and tripod. The object to be filmed was a boat and lady dressed in similar period costume. The boat was being skill-fully manoeuvred by Pete Mold sculling at the rear of the boat. Aware that they might not want an angler casting out at an inopportune time of the film I enquired as to what they were doing. They were performing a piece of classical ‘Elgar’ for their You-tube Channel.
(Above) Mezzo-Soprano Patricia Hammond informed me, “Edward Elgar’s “Sea Pictures”, five pieces for alto and orchestra, which Matt Redman has arranged for alto and guitar. We’ve now filmed four of the five…two others are up on the channel already, and the fourth we filmed in the Valley of the Rocks”
I was told I would not be in the way at all. I was privileged to have a front seat for the performance with the Classical musical notes drifting around the harbour. The morning felt slightly surreal with the towering wooded hillsides, wisps of mist rising from within, the calm sea and boats bobbing upon the waters of the tranquil harbour.
I contemplated upon the contrast between the serenity of the morning and past nights spent fishing the harbour mouth as winter swells surged over the wall. Nights when icy rain beat down and north winds that chilled to the bone as the rod tips reflected light from the head torch.
Later a good friend Andy Huxtable who once lived in my home town of Combe Martin joined me for a chat. We reminisced about fishing and our youthful days in Combe Martin rekindling many good memories. The tide ebbed away and the rod tip rattled as a couple of small mullet interrupted the morning. After a hot coffee from the takeaway I ran out of water and set off for home.
Shortly after arrival I opened the back door of the van to find no fishing bag!! A quick drive to Lynmouth and my heart sank for there was no sign of it on the wall where I had been parked. I enquired in the adjacent shop if anyone had handed in a green fishing bag? A negative response, but as I walked out a lady commented. “ Did you say you had mislaid a bag?” . Yes I replied to be told it had been handed into the National Park Centre at the Pavillion. I was very relieved to collect my tackle bag and camera faith in human nature fully recharged.
A celebratory Ice Cream followed for Pauline and I.
A memorable morning fishing with poor piscatorial results but one that will resonate in the memory for a good while. There is certainly more to fishing than catching fish.
Combe Martin SAC’s annual Fun Fish was once again held In conjunction with the Sea-Ilfracombe Festival at Ilfracombe Pier after a one year break. This year the club had not promoted the event to the extent of previous years as concerns about COVID still linger amongst many across society.
I arrived early to secure a parking place on the pier and called in to speak with Dan at the aquarium as they had offered some containers to hold any donations to the aquarium we could catch.
This event is as stated a fun event aimed at families and those happy to try something a little less serious. The format is a species competition with 10 points for the first of each species with 2 points for the next two after which any more of that species do not count.
We had eleven competitors dominated by the Stanway and Welch families who had come armed with a variety of baits and light tackle. The event was due to cast off at 10.00am and I took the inevitable snap of Verity towering above the pier dividing opinion as ever among both visitors and locals. It was loaned to Ilfracombe in 2012 by the well known artist Damien Hurst and is due to remain until 2032.
A brisk North East breeze was sweeping down the channel causing some concern that fish would be reluctant to feed. These fears were soon dismissed as rod tips started twitching as soon as baits hit the sea bed.
Young smiling faces soon followed as a succession of small pouting and pollock were swung ashore. I was kept busy with the camera whilst club secretary Nick Phillips made busy with the score sheet. Dan from the aquarium made regular visits throughout the morning to take the required fish back to their new home in the aquarium. I am pleased to say that numerous pouting and poor cod from previous fun fishing events still reside safely in the aquarium’s tanks.
The morning proceeded with the species tally growing steadily to include pollock, pouting, poor cod, shanny, smelt, scorpion fish, rock gobies, ballan wrasse and corkwing wrasse. Many of these small fish are handsome creatures with an amazing array of colours decorating their flanks.
A rather concerning observation was a total lack of mackerel or garfish, species that would historically have been abundant at this time of year. General consensus is that this year is one of the worst for mackerel in living memory.
I am sure that by the end of the four hours fishing mums and dads were glad to take a rest after working hard detangling rigs, retackling and unhooking fish. The results are as follows.
1st – Jake Stanway – 90 points
2nd – Charlie Stanway – 70 points
3rd – Ross Stanway – 66 points
4th – Effie Welch – 64 points
5th – Solly Welch – 52 points
6th – Paul Maxfield – 26 points
7th – Malin Marcus Young – 24 points
Longest fish – Solly Welch – Pollock 27cm
An array of quality prizes donated by the clubs sponsors High Street Tackle were presented to the top five competitors. Ilfracombe Aquarium kindly donated family tickets for the two competing families enabling them to visit during the autumn and see the expanded layout and new exhibits.
Combe Martin Sea Angling Club plan to repeat the event next September once again working with the Sea Ilfracombe Festival organisers. With luck COVID fear will have subsided allowing a higher profile event welcoming back those VIP guest anglers and the local coastguard.
An unusual guest appearance at this years event was that of a rather wet and bedraggled grey squirrel that swam onto the pier steps and bounded energetically past competitors!
The competition prize giving was followed by the declaration of winning fish in the club’s lure fishing competition once again generously sponsored by Danny and Pauline at High Street Tackle.
I would like to wish all the readers of North Devon Angling News a Merry Christmas and fish filled New Year. Hopefully 2021 will bring a little more freedom. Special thanks to this who have supported North Devon Angling News since I started the website back in 2016.
See below statement regarding the opening of South West Lakes Trust Waters. At present there is no night fishing in line with the government guidance that states no staying away from home. It is to be hoped that this will be reviewed at some point to allow 24 hours angling.
Please find below the link to our website which has the amended rules for the re-opening of fisheries and guidance around social distancing and measures to protect everyone. Its ESSENTIAL you read this information as it also includes a new update on night fishing which will not be permitted at this stage.
Fishing will be dawn to dusk with the exception of tomorrow 13 May when the fisheries re-open at 10am.
This statement applies to both coarse and trout fishing.
Thankyou for your patience and understanding at this time.
Coarse Angling: Coronavirus Information – SW Lakes Coarse Fishing
Issue date: 12 May 2020 15:45 Prior to every fishing trip, it is essential that you check the information on this page to ensure that you are up to date with relevant site information, rules and regulations. In line with government guidance to continue to stay home but enjoy more time outdoors we ar…
The Angling Trust has given a warm welcome to the announcement today (May 10th) by Prime Minster Boris Johnson that recreational fishing looks set to resume in England on Wednesday, May 13th.
The Prime Minister announced the resumption of ‘unlimited outdoor sports’ from Wednesday providing they are conducted alone or with members of the same household and that social distancing rules are followed at all times.
A government source confirmed that “outdoor exercise includes angling, golf, water sports and tennis providing social distanced from Wednesday.”
The decision to include outdoor activities such as angling in the first wave of newly permitted activities followed weeks of intense advocacy and lobbying by the Angling Trust which unified the angling community like never before and saw over 8,000 individual emails sent to MPs and dozens of articles in the regional and national press in support of a safe return for angling.
The Prime Minister is making a full statement to the House of Commons tomorrow and the Angling Trust will be seeking clarification about the reopening of tackle shops and confirmation of any restrictions on how angling should be practised during the next phase.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden MP tweeted:
“In the least risky outdoor environments we can imminently allow sports like golf, basketball, tennis and fishing.”
Last month, a report from the Angling Trust entitled ‘When We Fish Again’ was submitted to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and the Fisheries and Sports Ministers arguing for recreational fishing to be designated as one of the first permitted outdoor sports when ministers begin to relax the coronavirus lockdown restrictions. It was backed by national angling and fisheries groups including the Canal & River Trust, Salmon & Trout Conservation, the Institute of Fisheries Management and representatives of the angling trade which is estimated to be worth a total of £4bn to the UK economy.
The report recommended a phased resumption in line with the government’s own criteria and identified a number of good reasons why angling should be an early candidate for consideration including:
being a largely solitary sport where self isolation occurs naturally
proven benefits for mental health and social well-being
a reduction in pressure on other public open spaces
evidence that non-contact outdoor activities will not increase infection rates
angling appeals to people of all ages and backgrounds and engages able-bodied and disabled participants alike
the majority of the population live close to a waterway minimising the need for significant travel.
The Angling Trust’s proposal attracted the support of MPs of all parties and from prominent figures within the angling community.
Reacting to the news, Angling Trust CEO Jamie Cook said:
“I couldn’t be more pleased to see the hard work of the Angling Trust and our supporters delivering such an outstanding result for everyone who loves to go fishing. We have demonstrated to the satisfaction of government that angling can be permitted as a safe, healthy, beneficial outdoor activity and why it can take its rightful position at the front of the queue as restrictions are relaxed.
“Our effective and professional campaign was in support of a carefully thought through set of phased guidelines under which angling could be safely permitted without increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmissions. Without these guidelines we would have got nowhere and it is now incumbent upon every angler to respect them and demonstrate that we are still playing our part in the nationwide battle against the coronavirus.”
Angling Trust Policy Chief Martin Salter said:
“There is still work to do to get the tackle shops open and to provide good advice to fisheries, angling guides and coaches but it looks like we are there and it’s no longer a question of When We Fish Again but ‘where are we going fishing on Wednesday?’ We have run a fabulous campaign but we couldn’t have done it without the support of thousands of anglers who wrote to their MPs and of some of the top names in our sport who gave us their time and expertise.”
Korda and Guru Marketing boss Ali Hamidi added:
“This is incredible news for Angling. Fishing can commence from Wednesday. The excellent work of the Angling Trust has made a distant dream a reality. I’m going to name my next 100 carp after Martin Salter and Jamie Cook.”
Life is a little surreal right now perhaps with more time for contemplation. Pauline was sorting through an old tin of my late mothers’ memories. Most of the images raised little interest for me as I read a recently acquired book by my favourite author.
Then she came upon this old photo. Who was the fisherman in this old black and white photograph I wondered? I suspect it was my Uncle Jack who my mother recalled was a keen angler. The River was likely to be the Warwickshire Avon on a tranquil summers day in the 1940’s or early fifties.
I recall fishing the Avon several years ago on a warm September evening. Pauline and I sat beside the River opposite the Shakespeare Theatre and I drifted a float that dipped from time to time as plump gudgeon and roach seized the maggots. I was pleased to catch the gudgeon as it was these delightful fish that my mother once told me she had caught close to this very spot. Pauline and I chatted to a cheerful young man with a dog. Strange how some memories remain etched in the mind. Sometimes I wonder where the fishing gene came from for my family are not awash with keen anglers.
Part way through these jottings we went for our daily exercise or Boris walk as some have christened it. The sun was slowly sinking and wispy clouds decorated the evening sky. As we walked towards an old farm house swallows and martins swooped above in a timeless scene. Perhaps we as anglers haunt the same waters over many generations returning as time slowly drifts through the ages.
With fishing off the agenda there is little to report on North Devon Angling news but with everyone at home I wondered if anyone would like to take on a challenge. Several who have read my book, “I Caught A Glimpse” have commented on how it brought back memories of early days at the waters edge and how our paths have been similar.
Its not easy staying at home away from the waters edge so I thought it would be good if a few readers could take half an hour to recall your earliest angling memories from North Devon. If you could send me your contributions via email or messenger ideally with an image I will have a read through and publish. [email protected]
Of course if your at a loose end you could always settle down in garden and read a good book!