South Molton & District Angling Club – Vacancies

South Molton & District Angling Clubs AGM was held on February 20th at the Coaching Inn, South Molton. A good number of members were present to listen to reports from the clubs officers. Eddie Rand’s delivered a humorous account of the clubs year focusing on the rivers health and plans for sympathetic work to be undertaken at a suitable time to both improve fishability and fish habitat. 

Roger Bray stepped into the role of secretary following the resignation of Ian Binding following many years of loyal service to the club.

Ian Binding was one of the clubs founding members and has fifty years of fond memories of his years with the club. Ian told me that the club was initially formed as a sea angling club with members enjoying excursions to local venues. They often fished from local ports aboard local charter boats including the Combe Martin boats whose skippers included Mickey Irwin and George Eastman. When fishing became available on the River Bray courtesy of the Poltimore Arms they took on the fishing and have remained tenants on the water via the Stucley Estate. The rivers are primarily wild brown trout fisheries that offer fine sport for the dry fly fisher using light tackle.

The club has room for a few new members with game fishing membership allowing access to 5 miles of fishing for just £50 per year. Social membership stands at £10. The club holds monthly meetings at the Coach and Horses, regular outings to local still-water trout fisheries including Blakewell, Bratton Water and Exe Valley. There are also boat trips throughout the years from local ports. Anyone interested in joining this friendly and active club should contact Roger Bray on 01271 371506 or via email – [email protected]

Matt Kingdon gave an enlightening talk to the membership outlying his experiences of fly fishing for Team England at various venues including the renowned Chew Valley Lake. He also gave a fascinating insight into the rules, tactics and effort involved.

Following the formalities and talks Eddie Rand’s presented trophies to Rob Kingdon for his capture of a 30lb + tope on one of the clubs boat trips in 2017.

Mike Latham won the clubs Fly Fishing Trophy with a 4lb 5oz trout.

There were of coarse plenty of fishing tales exchanged throughout the evening covering all disciplines of angling. Eddie had several tales of a recent trip to Spain’s River Ebro where he caught catfish of over 40lb and a fine carp of 37lb.

Contemplating days

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The shortest day has been and gone and we have that interlude before the New Year gets underway; though nature has already turned the corner ahead of mans timelines. The last few days have seen benign weather; mild and damp with misty days. This passing of the year can be a time for contemplation and I often cast my mind back to winters of the past and in particular days and nights spent beside the water.

My own fishing at this time of year has tended to be spent upon the shoreline-seeking specimens from the rocks as I have done for past forty years. I fished a deep water rock water mark a few days ago in Combe Martin SAC’s Christmas Competition and was lucky to land a spurdog of 12lb 3oz. Just a few years ago such a catch would have been a rarity and anglers would have been targeting  the cod that were a worthwhile target from North Devon’s coast line. Decent sized cod are certainly a rare sight from North Devon’s shoreline these days but why?  They after all are caught in reasonable numbers up Channel.

(Above)A shore caught cod from the last century!

Many species of fish have declined with whiting and pouting numbers certainly down on a few decades ago. It would appear that herrings are plentiful along with good numbers of sprats in recent seasons.

(Above) The humble pouting its numbers have declined.

In our short time on the shoreline it is impossible to get a true picture of the life within our waters. I read a fascinating and thought provoking article on line yesterday; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/20/selective-blindness-lethal-natural-world-open-eyes-environment-ecosystem

An extract follows:- So we forget that the default state of almost all ecosystems – on land and at sea – is domination by a megafauna. We are unaware that there is something deeply weird about British waters; they are not thronged with great whales, vast shoals of bluefin tuna, two-metre cod and halibut the size of doors, as they were until a few centuries ago. We are unaware that the absence of elephants, rhinos, lions, scimitar cats, hyenas and hippos, that lived in this country during the last interglacial period (when the climate was almost identical to today’s), is also an artefact of human activity.

And the erosion continues. Few people younger than me know that it was once normal to see fields white with mushrooms, or rivers black with eels at the autumn equinox, or that every patch of nettles was once reamed by caterpillars. I can picture a moment at which the birds stop singing, and people wake up and make breakfast and go to work without noticing that anything has changed.

I’m not getting any younger; none of us are and I guess that at this time of year we pause to think a little more. As I clambered to the cliff top during a recent session I slumped onto the grassy cliff top. Across Combe Martin Bay a Westerly wind blew and the waves tumbled against the rocks, the damp breeze on my face and salty tang of the sea. The lights of Combe Martin shone brightly and farmstead lights could be glimpsed high on the Northern slopes of Exmoor. It was all so familiar and great to be alive.

There is something fascinating and mystifying about the dark waters and the fish that may be lurking. It is this that draws us to this vast natural amphitheater to connect with nature via a relatively gossamer thread.

There is plenty of pessimism about regarding the state of our seas and their stocks of fish. The evidence I see as an angler is contradictory. I look back and remember the good days whilst the average days get lost in the haze of time. Whilst cod are scarce there is no shortage of dogfish, bull huss, spurdog or conger.

Far out to sea during the warmers months catches of shark are on the up with some spectacular catches of blue shark over recent seasons. Blue fin tuna are once again featuring in catches off the South West. If these mighty fish at the top of the food chain are making a recovery how can things be so bad?

My gut instinct and that of the majority is undoubtedly that the seas are less productive than they once were. I feel for certain that the present generation have inherited a less healthy marine environment than that in which we first cast our lines. Will these be the good old days? Perhaps there is a growing awareness that the seas are not that endless provider of life and that there is much to lose. Will increased awareness and protection of stocks bring a revival in the seas bountiful stocks?

Henry Gilbey- Thoughts on safety at sea

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I was going to write a few words about safety on the shoreline following the recent tragedies in Cornwall but when I saw Henry Gilbey’s post on the same subject I asked him if I could copy  to my site. Sharing my concerns Henry duly obliged. The sea is unforgiving and many of us have had near misses and as I get older I see the dangers more and more.

Henry Gilbey- writes on safety at sea.

Following on from the tragic deaths of two anglers the other day from a part of Cornwall I know very well and have fished plenty, well for some reason it’s really banged home to me that too many of us who fish choose to ignore the simple things we could be doing to give ourselves the best possible chance of surviving if and when something goes wrong. I have found a good contact at the RNLI and had an interesting chat with him about all this, and also why anglers like you and me are so resistant to wearing lifejackets out on the rocks for example. Also had a good talk with a lifejacket company about some of their products that would be most suitable for the sort of shore fishing I do etc. I never thought I would say this, but I am going to buy one of those compact and unobtrusive, auto inflate life jackets. Not sure which one yet, need to choose between a couple of makes and models, but I am looking at around £100-150 – think about what we spend on rods, reels, lures and waders for example. More to come about what I hope might be some food for thought. They found a body in Constantine Bay this morning, most likely the second angler who went in last week……………..

The essence of fishing

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I think we sometimes take this whole fishing thing too seriously and that’s quite a statement coming from someone who is seriously addicted to that next piscatorial fix. I have spent years chasing fish of dreams and don’t get me wrong I love to get a big fish on the line and admire it before slipping it back into the watery dimension. But fishing is about far more than fish, its about the chase and as the lyric goes; “The Chase is Better than the catch”.

Last week we fished Anglers Paradises Lure Fishing weekend. The weather was generally dark and gloomy and fish hard to find. Looking through the pictures of the event I noticed something quite striking in the smiles of grown men clutching tiny fish. In amongst the egos and tales of big fish there shone that childish delight that true anglers never lose.

Close to fifty years ago I watched a crimson topped float bobbing optimistically about in Mill Pond at Berrynarbour.

I watched for hours in anticipation delighting in its disappearance as a tiny perch devoured my worm or maggot impaled upon my hook. Fortunately that same joy can still be found in the catching of a fish.

Bigger may well be better but in essence its all about the chase and the expectation.

A few weeks ago I stood waiting for the start of a competition; the fifteen minutes until cast off seemed to last an eternity the following five hours evaporated in a flash. The line in the water is connected to another world strange how this connection is so essential.

The perception of change

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The perception of change

Everything changes through time just at different rates so whilst our perception may well be that something’s never change the fact is everything does, we are just not around long enough to notice! I of course write this from an angler’s perspective and find myself trying to gauge where we are or I am in piscatorial terms.

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We walked down to Watersmeet a few days ago and I stopped to take a photo of the waterfalls. Stood tall and proud in the river was a grey heron patiently stalking his next meal. I thrilled at the sight of a fellow fisher fishing the waters that I have fished. I recalled a salmon of 11lb that took a Mepps spinner in the pool above. I also remembered another salmon I tempted from the little pool below where the bird stood. These great memories are tempered by my knowledge that the rivers salmon stocks are in serious decline. I have many fond memories of the river thirty years ago when salmon and sea trout were abundant. Yet back then I spoke to locals who reminisced about a river when they were young when salmon and sea trout where packed into pools like sardines, tides of silver that moved up river following a spate.

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The good old days – Fish on River East Lyn

I frequently recall a sentence uttered in jest during a TV comedy show. “They were the good old days, yet no one told us at the time!” How true this is if I fish the river next summer I may well hook a salmon and of course I will now have to return it carefully to the water. I just hope that in thirty years time if I am still around that I don’t speak to a young angler and recall when salmon once swam in this river!

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Fish populations do of course fluctuate and hopefully salmon will be ascending and descending our rivers long after I have made my last cast. I am not so gloom ridden when it comes to sea angling for in this huge expanse of water things evolve. Fish populations ebb and flow and whilst there has been a decline there is plenty of room for hope as each season we see superb catches of some species. The adaptable sea angler will always find sport. Thirty years ago we chased twenty-pound cod from the North Devon Shoreline now its spurdog that seem to be the go to fish. The cod have gone but the spurdog have been protected from intense commercial fishing and have filled an ecological gap. I am puzzled where previously bountiful numbers of pouting and whiting have all gone?

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(Above)The good old days – An 18lb plus North Devon cod

The carp fisher has never had it so good in many ways with big carp now readily available in many waters. The old timers like me can wax lyrical about the old days when we had to work for our fish. Of old waters with overgrown tree lined banks, of carp that were nigh on impossible to catch pre hair rig and boilie.

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The carp fisher has never had it so good- 45lb 8oz Anglers Paradise carp for Kevin Hosie

The coarse fisher has a multitude of waters containing silver fish and handsome perch to specimen size. In some ways we have never had it so good yet we always look back with fondness at those good old days. We should remember that in angling as in life things are so much better when we are young or at least they are looking back. I guess we need to just seize the moment for what it is fish for what’s there and enjoy.

3-06A fine perch for Chris Lambert

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Rising Sun

JAMIE MILLERS – NORTH DEVON TACKLE

Jamie Miller is the owner of North Devon Tackle with extensive carp fishing experience and a great deal of knowledge gained during his employment in the bait manufacturing industry. Jamie is also an experienced coarse and sea angler and this is reflected in the shop where there is an extensive range of tackle and bait to cater for coarse, carp and sea angling. Jamie’s personal best carp is an impressive 47lb 4oz caught from a Sussex carp water. Jamie offers valuable advice and is a friendly and approachable individual,
15644312_10154839695207533_1993548359_nThe tackle shop located in  Queens walk arcade just off the car park in Bear Street Barnstaple has an extensive range of bait and tackle from popular brands including Korda, Drennan, ESP, Guru, North Devon Company Lakebed Leads, Mainline Baits and Sticky Baits.
The sea angler is also well catered for with Sakuma tackle and frozen baits from Devon Baits. They also stock fresh worm baits and maggots.
The shop has now been up and running for over 18 months and provides a valuable resource for North Devon anglers. With Christmas just a few days away Jamie pointed out that they have tackle vouchers available in denominations of £5, £10, £20 and £50. There is certainly plenty to tempt any angler within the shops extensive range.

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The Pier

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The Pier

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Ilfracombe pier is not a venue I often fish these days but it is a venue that has a certain appeal. I have many fond memories of the venue that has to be the most heavily fished venue along the North Devon coast and it is undoubtedly for this reason that it has over the years produced an outstanding track record.

Being a veteran I can of coarse remember the pier in its heyday when you could fish from the Victorian structure at any state of the tide in pretty well any weather conditions. The beauty of the pier was that you could turn up and fish being confidant that you would have company. It was the social hub of North Devon’s sea angling community easily accessible, safe and at times productive.

Of course back then we didn’t value what we had taking it for granted like many things in life that are only really appreciated in hindsight. I value the memories of those cold winter nights on the pier and witnessing some fine fish caught. I also look back with a tinge of sadness at the lovely people and characters I fished with who are no longer with us; I won’t mention names but those who were there will share my sentiments.

Ilfracombe lost a huge asset with the demolition of the pier a place where people fished and others strolled to watch us watching our rod tips. Some inquiring what we had caught, some understanding the fascination; others perplexed at the fools who wasted hours staring out to sea.

Those who were there in those distant days will still remember and visualize how it was when anyone mentions the North End or by the Club hut. Beneath the water there were of course always tales of the mighty conger that lurked within the structure eels that divers glimpsed as they explored. Strange that the biggest eel recorded at 42lb was caught from the pier in 2015 long after the pier was demolished.

( Note Chris Wilson refers to an eel of 56lb has anyone got a record of that?)

I fished the pier with Rob Scoines on October 26th the main reason I chose the venue was because I had a few leftover harbour ragworm left from a flounder fishing excursion. With news of a few red mullet being caught I thought why not try the pier might even catch a sole. It was a very calm mild night after a week or so of easterly winds. We offloaded the van and ambled the few yards to the lower landings. There were a handful of other anglers already set up in the hot spot on the corner so we set up where there was space.

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I fished two rods one with small worm baits the other with a larger offering of mackerel, to be exchanged for a fresh pouting shortly after catching one on the worm baits. The worm baits brought a steady succession of small whiting, tiny pouting and a solitary dab. Danny Watson from High Street Tackle chatted enthusiastically about prospects for the coming winter. Fellow CMSAC member Ross Stanway turned up with his young son Charlie. We chatted about old times and made plans for future forays. Young Charlie caught a few whiting; bringing a smile to his face.

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When we packed away at the end of the night beneath the deviant structure of Damien’s Verity Rob commented that it wasn’t his favorite venue. It’s not mine and the fishing was poor but it still has a certain value as an easy sociable venue where good fish are sometimes caught.

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It’s Raining!

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Its raining and whilst that’s bad for the visitors it’s good news for salmon and sea trout anglers. There have been a few salmon and sea trout trickling into the Taw with peel now throughout the Mole. Chris Steer landed an 8lb salmon from the Weir Marsh and Brightly beats of the Taw; a day ticket water available by contacting Ivan Huxtable on 01769540835.

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Alternatively contact the Rising Sun at Umberleigh where day tickets are also available. The steady rain that is falling now should offer every prospect of sport on all three of our main North Devon Rivers the Taw, Torridge and Lyn.

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River Lyn in spate – A few years ago!