Little Warham Fishery on the river Torridge has enjoyed a very successful season with 18 salmon caught from the beat and 11 sea trout. The biggest salmon was caught by Anthony Willmington and was estimated at 19lb. Jamie Walden also caught a salmon estimated at 17lb 8oz.
In addition to salmon and sea trout the beats also gave some superb trout sport with numerous brown trout tempted in the 2lb range.
Pauline and I visited the fishery in mid summer and walked the beats that have some fine looking pools and runs. We will certainly be returning next season rod in hand. Little Warham also boasts a delightful holiday let that is available throughout the year; an ideal escape from the stresses of modern life.
Anglers visiting Little Warham Fishery have enjoyed some fine back end sport with several salmon caught the best a stunning fish estimated at 18lb was caught by Jamie Walden. ( Below)
As the autumn leaves fall silently from the trees into the river salmon are approaching the culmination of their journey their flanks mirroring the golds, bronze and brown hues of the season. Torridge anglers are enjoying a last few casts of an extended season admiring these splendid fish briefly before slipping them back into the cooling water.
The season extension ends on October 14th fishing is strictly catch and release and permits must be obtained from Charles Inniss before fishing.
Whilst the recent rain has not been welcomed by summer holidaymakers it has brought a much needed rise in local rivers that has brought a run of salmon into North Devon’s rivers. I fished the Middle Torridge on Saturday and whilst I did not connect with any salmon the river was in prime trim. Several salmon have been caught on beats on the Upper Torridge which indicates that the salmon have forged up through the river system and are now well spread out.
Little Warham Report – From Amanda and Anthony
After a series of good spates with occasional overcast days, last weekend Anthony caught a couple of fresh salmon with the biggest being 9lb. He also caught a 5lb sea trout. The second spate saw a 13lb salmon caught by a visiting rod. Gary Pearson one of our seasonal rods also caught a 6lb Grilse. Anthony also caught another salmon and see trout over the weekend.
Friday August 4th Johnathon Hellyer, one of our seasonal rods caught two salmon of 12lb and 6lb. Anthony caught a small sea trout and a 14lb salmon!!
Walking the river bank it is evident that the season is passing by all too quickly with spiders webs glistening in the grass and hazelnuts swelling in the trees. The salmons flanks are also starting to take on those richer autumn hues as what is perhaps the best of the season approaches.
Ian Blewett was among successful anglers on the River Taw landing and returning this cracking specimen from a Middle Taw beat.
I have also heard of a 16lb salmon from the Day Ticket Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats of the Taw where several salmon have been tempted in recent weeks. Tickets can be obtained from the Rising Sun at Umberleigh.
The recent rain has brought a welcome rise in North Devon’s Rivers giving excellent prospects of salmon during the coming week.
I took a walk up the Lower reaches of the Lyn earlier today (June 30th) It looked absolutely perfect for spinning and I received confirmation that a salmon was caught from the river the previous day. This 7lb salmon was tempted on a worm presented on a de-barbed circle hook as supplied with the anglers permit purchased from the E.A. Permits are now available from Barbrook Petrol station from 7.00am. The Lyn is now 100% catch and release and as a result it is not fished by as many anglers as in past seasons. Whilst the reduction in angling pressure is undoubtedly good for the salmon stocks I cannot help but feel slightly sad as I remember my own days on the river a couple of decades ago when after a spate like this anglers would hurry to the river in large numbers from miles around. There was quite a community back then and many of those characters have passed away. As I jumped up onto familiar rocks to study the water and search for the sight of a salmon I remembered those anglers and almost expected to glimpse them searching the water with worm or spinner.
On a wet summers day I can think of no better place to be. The river holds many happy memories and whilst I only saw this magnificent river as its salmon and sea trout run started to decline I had a glimpse of what it once produced and in my forthcoming book I can reveal some of its former glories.
The Torridge has also risen and should be fish-able within a couple of days as the turbidity drops out of the water. Day tickets are available at Little Warham Fishery and at the Half Moon at Sheepwash.
Day Tickets are also available on the Taw from the Rising Sun at Umberleigh who can also provide tickets for the Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats controlled by Ivan Huxtable.
This well deserved fresh 7lb salmon was caught by Stuart Eynon at Little Warham on Saturday morning( June 24th). After persisting with the low water levels and mainly fishing dusk till dawn for sea trout, this was a welcome surprise!
Amanda at Little Warham sent me this delightful image above of an enthusiastic group of young anglers who have been making an annual pilgrimage to the fishery. Lets hope they can all pose for the same picture in 2024 and that they will again enjoy success with the Torridge salmon.
The guys first came here in 94 by responding to an advert in the local rag by Group Captain Peter Norton-Smith. They were vetted by him and Terry and told that they were expected to catch! On their first day here fortunately one of the lads caught a salmon and then became annually welcome to the Fishery. Their number of salmon caught at Warham now exceed 100. It was great to have them back and great sitting outside the hut listening to the stories of the Fishery over the years. Terry’s reluctance to have four seventeen year old lads from the north east has certainly paid dividends for the fish numbers and its great being in touch with them and having that connection to the rivers history over the past 23 years! They still love the river just as much and their enthusiasm certainly hasn’t diminished and hopefully will continue to make their annual pilgrimage to Little Warham.
Swallows swooped to and fro above as Pauline and I sat savouring tasty paella on the patio. We were guests of Anthony and Amanda the latest owners of Little Warham Fishery nestled deep in the Torridge Valley near Beaford. It was Midsummer Eve and birdsong resonated all around with pigeons cooing peacefully in the trees. We had met with the new custodians of Little Warham back in the autumn at the Torridge Fishery Associations annual Dinner at the Half Moon Inn at Sheepwash. Summer seemed a long way off then with the leaves turning brown and the evenings growing longer. Anthony and Amanda had told us enthusiastically of their plans for the coming year and invited us to join them at some point for a look around the fishery.
Those eight months had certainly flown past, as life seems to these days. The old Farmhouse has a timeless air about it and glimpses of its history linger. Anthony showed us the larder in which the salmon were stored after being collected from the river by horse and cart. An ancient dark wood smoker stood beneath a fine copper beech tree. The house is thought to date back to around 1790 and was for many years a fishing lodge undoubtedly visited by many salmon anglers in far off days when I guess it was predominantly the gentry who would cast their lines.
We talked of fish, of fishing and life before setting off to the river down a delightful path that lead to fields of wheat and oats that stretched before us to the river that was hidden from view by a row of trees that were in their resplendent peak of lush green. Summer flowers lined the hedgerows. The yellow flowers of spring having now given way to pink fox gloves and dog roses of summer. The scents of summer drifted in the air.
We came to a path leading down a steep slope towards the river that could be glimpsed through the trees. As we reached the valleys base the damp musty smell of the river filled the nostrils. The famous fishing hut stood here the heart of the fishery and place of peace, contemplation and I am sure the focus point of many enduring friendships.
I was passed the key and carefully opened the door of the hut stepping inside to a hut full of memories. The smell of wood-smoke hung in the air. An old gaff hook hung upon the wall and cheap white plastic chairs contrasted starkly with the historic feel of the hut. Anthony lifted the trap door that concealed the cool recess where salmon were stored until the days end.
On the fireplace sat an old black and white photo within a frame. Winston Churchill stood inspecting a row of military personal, one of which was Group Captain Peter Norton Smith the late husband of Theresa Norton Smith who had resided at Little Warham since the mid 1960’s when they had moved to Devon following a long distinguished military career that culminated when he was appointed CBE.
Captain Peter Norton Smith and his wife were instrumental in helping to rejuvenate the River Torridge that was at that time heavily polluted by farm effluent.
Norton Smith was Chairman of the Torridge Fishery Association a post later held be his wife. A hair wing salmon fly was created in his honour and the Norton Smiths were also the subject of a poem, “Torridge Salmon” by Ted Hughes.
Carved into the roof of the hut is the outline of a huge salmon weighing 32lb one of six magnificent salmon landed on April 10th 1932. The six fish totalled 106lb and were landed between 10.00 am and 1.00pm. A fact that reminds me of a conversation I once had with Charles Inniss who told me that the best time to catch a salmon is when you have just caught one.
After lingering for a while within the atmospheric fishing hut it was time to wander downstream to view the river and some of its 17 named pools divided between four beats. Guests fishing the river traditionally swap beats half way through the day after breaking for lunch in the fishing hut. The river was at low summer level and showing its bones. Despite this I knew there would be salmon and sea trout hidden within the deeper pots and expected to see a splash and a glimpse of silver at any moment.
This enchanting stretch of river meanders with a mixture of slower pools, glides and rapids. The far bank descends steeply to the river and is densely populated with pine trees. The right bank we walked upon is populated with sycamore, withy, ash and majestic oak trees. Anthony informed me that the oaks were planted beside the river so that they could be felled and timber floated downstream to the boat builders at Appledore.
Amanda talked of walking the riverbank during the spring and of the snowdrops, wild daffodils, primrose, bluebells and wood sorrel that had preceded our visit.
One of the joys of walking a river is reading the water and guessing where the rivers fish will be stationed. The occasional trout rose as flies drifted down, we saw a mayfly drifting slowly in the surface film and wondered how long it would be before it was devoured by a hungry trout.
As we strolled we caught site of the flash of electric blue as kingfishers darted above the water. The whole valley had a timeless ambience undoubtedly enhanced by a lack of intrusion from road or rail. The Torridge unlike the Taw has long stretches of river that are far from such transport links ensuring it remains silent except for sounds of nature and occasional rumbling thrum of a farm tractor.
Our walk was interrupted at one point by the discovery of a sheep that had become trapped upon its back beside the river. Anthony quickly scurried down the steep bank and helped the poor creature to its feet. It staggered drunkenly for a few yards and then trotted out into meadow free to continue its simple life.
The fishery retains its character no manicured banks here just a few well-placed lengths of rope to aid access to the pools. Anglers have wondered its banks for many decades and little has changed accept perhaps the fish populations that are undoubtedly just a shadow of what they were in those halcyon days of old. It is sobering to think of those Victorian anglers loading horse and cart to take their days catch to the salmon larder at the house.
I look forward to returning once again to the river when a recent spate has brought in a fresh run of salmon, descendants of those fish angled for many years ago.
I will undoubtedly be able to put the flies I purchased during the visit. For they carry a selection of flies tied by those detained at HMS Prison in Exeter.
After reluctantly leaving the river we were taken into the recently refurbished holiday cottage that will make a wonderful base for both anglers and lovers of deepest rural Devon. The cottage is furnished to a high standard with Amanda’s artistic touches evident throughout. A wood-burner ensures that the cottage will be warm and cozy during autumn and winter when the valley is decorated with a crispy layer of frost, autumn leaves flutter to the ground and the salmons journey culminates as they spawn in the river of their birth.
I have tried to paint a picture of the river valley but when I returned home that night I thumbed through the pages of a book in my collection. “ A Summer on the Test” by J.W. Hills.
“ Indeed valleys are not only objects of natural beauty, but necessities, if you are to keep in tune with your surroundings. And there is another point. It is not only that the valley itself is pleasing, but the running water of the river gives it heart and life as a fire gives life to a room: and therefore you have both the attraction of moving water and also of its surrounding scenery. And further, if you follow the river and not the rail or the road, you will find that in its twists and turns it is always showing you the distant view under another aspect and you get a totally different idea of the country from that gained by one who scours the straight highway only. If also you go right down to the level of the water, as you do if you either fish or go in a boat, you step into a different plane of life. You see much that is hidden from him who only walks the banks – the habits of birds, and their nests, and flowers, which before were unnoticed. You see all this life, not from above, but on an equality, as though you formed part of it. All these attributes are the peculiar advantages of river valleys. And they have the further merit that in no other part of the earth can the changes of the seasons be observed better.”
The latest catch report from the picturesque Little Warham fishery on the River Torridge
Our latest catch by John Graham here yesterday.
John Graham’s perseverance was rewarded yesterday with this fine salmon, after having several fish not quite making the net earlier in the season at Little Warham. The pictured fresh run fish measured in at 35.5 inches, believed to be in the region of 18lbs. Despite the unfavourably low water levels and sunny conditions, John managed to successfully land this wonderful fish alone and release it again safely.
The following is a quote directly from John:
“The fish took the fly @ about 4:50. In a micro-second, I was down to the backing, with the fish heading for the sea. It was impossible to hold, and twice more it stripped the line nearly to the end of the backing. The only way to stop it was to run down the river bank. To say it was an epic fight is an understatement, especially when I was only on 12 pound breaking strain. In the end, it came in and after cradling it in the water for 3-4 minutes it swam powerfully away. What made it all the more satisfying, is that it took a fly that I had recently tied”.
A wonderful 10lb spring salmon has been caught from Little Warham Fishery on the Mid Torridge . The fine fish was tempted by Gary Pearson, who is usually a familiar face on the River Taw. Gary was was enticed this season by the beauty of Little Warham and the River Torridge. Gary caught the fish during the late afternoon in rainy, cloudy conditions, during this continued period of low water – which is very encouraging to us anglers. The fish was photographed and returned safely. Well done Gary, your first Torridge salmon.
The long spell of dry weather has been frustrating for salmon and sea trout anglers though some have ventured out and enjoyed success on the Lower beats of both the Taw and Torridge. Steve Maddox fished Barnstaple and District Angling Associations water at Newbridge to bank a stunning 18lb fresh run salmon. Steve told me it was his first and gave an amazing account before being brought to the net.
On the Lower Torridge five salmon have been tempted from Half Moon Beats below Beam Weir all of them double figure fish including a fine 12lb springer to experienced rod Charles Inniss.
A few sea trout are also being tempted including fish to 3lb on middle river Torridge beats.