The Half Moon Inn at Sheepwash has long been at the heart of the River Torridge angling community and a meeting place for the River Torridge Fishery Association. Many of the anglers who visit the Torridge to cast a line have been visiting for decades migrating to this old fishing Inn in Spring and Autumn.

 In Springtime the AGM greets a new season, plans are made for the coming months as swallows arrive to swoop over the spring countryside as life springs forth after winters chill. In early Autumn fishers return for the annual dinner as the swallows depart reflecting upon the season just past.

The salmon season of 2022 will go down in history as one of the worst on record with a long drought keeping the river low throughout most of the season. Fortunately, the Torridge angling community is still bound by its traditions and the Half Moon Inn is an integral part of that bond. Fishing Inns are sadly dwindling along with the iconic salmon that face an uncertain future as many factors combine to thwart a heroic drive to survive.

Pauline and I sat down with forty guests to enjoy a delicious meal sharing stories of life, fishing and the Torridge. Joining the association this year was author Mark Wormald whose excellent book ‘The Catch’ I read earlier this year. The book delves back into the life of the late Ted Hughes, poet Laurette who fished many waters with passion the Torridge being one of his favourite haunts. It was good to chat briefly with Mark about his book that is available to buy at the Half Moon where 50% of any purchase will be donated to the River Torridge Fishery Association. Mark pays several visits to the Half Moon throughout the books narrative with Charles Inniss and Adam vital stars of the books strong cast of characters.

Mark Wormald author of “The Catch”

Whilst stories of recent fish were scarce fish from other tributaries of angling provided vital piscatorial content with carp, bass, perch and the occasional trout peppering discussions.

As Pauline and I left on the Sunday morning Autumn sunshine illuminated the village square. I paused to note the plaque that commemorated the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth Ⅱ 1953. It seemed rather poignant to note this just a week after Her Majesty’s Funeral.

Just a few days remain of the 2022 salmon season on the Taw and Torridge and soon it is hoped rain will fall swelling the rivers and bringing salmon forging to the redds that will ensure the future of both salmon and the community that is brought together by their presence in the rivers.

Torridge Fishery Association – AGM

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The Torridge Fishery Associations Annual General Meeting was held at the Half Moon Inn at Sheepwash on March 31st and was very well supported by its membership. I always look forward to attending this meeting as this and the Annual Dinner is the  time when most members get to meet up and share in their passion for the river and its health.

As always the river Environment was at the top of the agenda and of course the fish stocks. Paul Ashworth gave an update on the hatchery. The clubs project to attempt to stem the decline in salmon and sea trout numbers. The past winter has proved a successful one with brood stock successfully caught stripped and returned to the river. The result has been 30,000 fry stocked out into tributaries of the Torridge. It is impossible to know for sure if previous years stockings have proved fruitful but with a 95% survival to swim up fry stage there has to be a chance that a few eventually make it back as adult fish.

Environment Agency Fisheries Officer Paul Carter gave a report on the latest regarding staffing levels with the agency and highlighted the need for anglers to act as the eyes and ears of the river bank. Any environmental concerns or suspicious activity should be reported immediately either direct to Paul or via the agency’s hotline – 0800 807060. Paul expressed concern at the apparent lack of salmon spawning activity on the upper reaches of most local rivers. My own hope is that this is a temporary situation with a poor return of salmon as a result of the extensive and severe floods of 2012 washing out large areas of the salmon’s redds. In light of the ever decreasing stocks Paul emphasized the importance of catch and release and in particular ensuring large fish of over 70cm are returned to the river even later in the season as these fish are often the ones returned by anglers fishing earlier in the spring. Provisional 2016 returns for the Torridge indicated 58 salmon and 206 sea trout.

Izzy Moser from Devon Wildlife Trust gave an enlightening talk on the successful attempts to breed freshwater pearl mussel with the intent of reseeding areas of the Torridge where the species is threatened with extinction. These mollusks can live for over 100 years and require pollution free waters to survive. The creatures can also contribute to the rivers health by filtering large quantities of water as they feed. For more information on this fascinating project visit

One of the major factors impacting upon the Freshwater mussel is that of sedimentation caused largely by farming practices. Devon Wildlife Trust is working with anglers towards a purer river that will benefit both mussels and salmon.

Adrian Dowding and his colleague Phil Turnball of the West Country Rivers Trust gave a presentation reporting upon  an extensive fry survey undertaken last season. This did not make good reading with fry numbers very disappointing throughout most of the Torridge catchment despite extensive work over recent years to improve habitat. The survey highlights the urgent need for extensive efforts to address habitat issues on our rivers. The loss of salmon and sea trout in any of our West Country Rivers would be a tragedy.

Invasive species are also a major concern with Himalayan Balsam one area that anglers can make a difference. A campaign encourages anglers to pull up ten of these plants every time they visit the river.

Despite all of this concern for the river anglers remained upbeat and optimistic for the season ahead with river levels now dropping after several spates some fish should be caught. John Hellyer caught a fine 10lb salmon from the lower river, the second so far this season showing that a few salmon have already moved in.

The Half Moon Inn has for many years been the hub of fishing on the Torridge and fortunately this is set to continue as the new owners Andrew Orchard and Alan McIntosh have vowed to continue the Inns future as a premier fishing Inn that will undoubtedly be well supported by Charles Inniss whose years of knowledge and enthusiasm has provided inspiration for generations of visiting anglers.







As I walked to the river rod in hand it seemed difficult to comprehend that another season had passed by for it seemed such a short time ago that I had trod this same route to see the wild daffodils lining the bank back in early March. It was a still morning without a breath of wind a good thing at this time as it would reduce the number of leaves fluttering into the tree lined river. October 8th end of the first week of the two week Torridge season extension. Looking at the trees still bearing their foliage in predominantly dark shades of green it seemed that nature was denying the passing of the year. Yet I know that within a month the majority of the leaves will have dropped and the rivers salmon will be beginning their  spawning ritual in earnest high up on the redds.


The river is looking good a slight tinge of colour still, but a little below perfect height, a week having past since the last spate. I wade out and cast the fly across the river allowing it to drift across searching for the salmon that are surely present? The fly I have selected is a barb-less single with a gold tinsel body and brownish wing with a flash of orange. I bought a small selection of flies at Ilfracombe’s Variety Sports a couple of weeks ago, after fifty odd years this well established tackle shop is closing down its owners John and Janet Fennel taking a well deserved rest after many years serving the local angling community.

I fish the pools and runs methodically enjoying the seclusion and savouring the timeless scene that somehow always reminds me of a Constable fine art painting. With the river at its present state I have a hunch where I will find a fish a deep tree shrouded pool. The first fish through brings no result. I select a tungsten headed fly with a black and silver body with long marabou tail. An awful fly to cast but it sinks quickly and may just cover a deep lying fish. First cast, I watch the path of the fly as I lift it I spot a big salmon rise in the water its flanks a mix of gold and bronze hues. Its mouth clearly opens as it attempts to  seize my fly, unsuccessfully! Two casts later it again pursues my fly and again misses. The margin between success and failure is small. The image of the salmon within the river will live in my minds eye for many years. A valuable image that will ensure I return next season hopeful of success. That occasional glimpse is essential to maintain the desire, that and the tales from other anglers who have tasted success.


On this last session I have seen kingfishers, squirrels, pheasants, long tailed tits, wagtails and even a salmon. It has not been a successful season fish wise for myself with no salmon or sea trout landed. Others have fortunately fared better as I discover at the end of season dinner.

The annual Torridge Fishery Association dinner was held on Saturday October 8th at the Half Moon Inn, Sheepwash. Opening the door of this old fishing Inn Pauline and I stepped into a burble of excited chatter. The pub was packed with locals and fishers from near and far, a mixture of both old and new faces. Enthusiastic greetings from the ever cheery Charles Inniss immediately set  the warm tone of the evening.

We  were joined at the dinner table by  Anthony and Amanda the new owners of the historic  Little Warham Fishery two miles of some of the River Torridges best salmon and sea trout fishing. Listening to their plans  gives confidence in the future of fishing on the Torridge.

One of the main beneficiary’s of the annual Egg Box dinner as it has been called is the associations hatchery that has enabled the stocking out of close to 250,000 swim up fry over a ten year period. This years dinner will also help to fund vital  fry surveys on selected stretches of the river. The association thank all those who gave generously  buying raffle tickets in the hope of winning an array of prizes donated  by supporters of the  association.

The three course meal was as ever delicious and enjoyed over deep discussions primarily relating to subjects of a piscatorial nature. The previous week had seen around half a dozen salmon caught. A 12lb salmon to the rod of Chris Powell fishing a middle river beat, a brace of 6lb salmon to the rod of Reg Lawton, a 6lb salmon for Anthony McInness fishing an upper river beat and another 6lb salmon to the rod of Graham Henderson fishing an Upper River Beat.

Members of the Torridge Association will meet again in the Spring when they assemble at the Half Moon for the AGM. By then another season will be underway and with good fortune several thousand more salmon fry will have been stocked out into the river’s tributary’s.  During the winter months the hatchery team will have spent many hours nurturing the salmon eggs through to swim up fry stage.

2016 has not been a brilliant season with river levels on the low side throughout much of the season. Seasons fluctuate greatly and are always dependent upon  many factors particularly the success of spawning fives years previously. Some have speculated that the severe floods experienced a few years ago may have impacted upon this years run of fish.

I will bring any news I receive from the river over the winter months as I receive it so watch this space.