More Magic Memories from the River Lyn

Many thanks to John Slader for contributing to North Devon Angling News following on from William Ould’s writings.

(Above)A Young John Slader receives Fly Casting Tuition from his Father Bill Slader whilst fishing the Rivers East Lyn

Your recent post with the contribution from William Ould I found most interesting and it brought back many happy memories of the river Lyn I like to call home.

Not sure if William will remember me but for sure he will recall Bill my father.  There is not much difference in age but being brought up and going to school in Barnstaple our paths didn’t cross that often.  I remember him along with Michael Shute and Chick Andrews, not to mention a host of other individuals that frequented the river.

Regretting not having kept a diary, I nevertheless vividly recollect an occasion fishing for mullet just below Lyndale bridge on a high tide.  William was also there and at the top of the tide he hooked and landed a specimen of a mullet.  I have in my mind it was much bigger than the 4lb 9oz show in the photograph.  It drew a crowd of visitors and Jack Clapp came out of his café to see what all the fuss was about and killed the fish by breaking its neck.  Not such a fitting end to a splendid fish.

As a child I often accompanied my father when he was salmon fishing but my true first time for salmon was in 1960 when at the age of nine he bought me a day’s  licence as a birthday present.  Costing the sum of five shillings, a not insignificant sum in those days, he bought it at Tregonwell’s on the Tors Road.  We sat on the first floor looking down the river as Ronald Burgess filled out the paperwork and my father enquired whether there was a concession for a child. He was told there wasn’t as it was not expected someone of my age would fish for the king of fish.

Licence secured, we went up to Watersmeet walking up the path behind the house towards Stag Pool and Horner.  The route taking you well above the river and what my father always referred to as the “Hangings”;  an area which brought me into contact with a number of fish in later life.  The path eventually comes back into close proximity to the river below Stag pool.  I was given instructions to stay put whilst my father back tracked and ventured down to Dumbledon a particular favourite pool of his although not so easy to access.

As I was waited for his return I looked into the river to see a salmon laying back in what was a very small pool.  I cautiously took a few steps closer and surprisingly managed to get into position without disturbing the fish.  Using a No 4 mepp I cast upstream but my inexperience kicked in as I managed to line the fish which immediately shot off and took sanctuary in the white water.  My heart sunk believing I had scuppered my chances but I had a couple more blind casts only to find myself attached to the fish hooked fair and square in the mouth.  Typical youngster I held my ground not wanting to give the fish an inch and shouting at the top of my voice “Dad, Dad….”  A waste of breath really as any shouting would have been drowned out by the sound of the river.  As luck would have it, looking down river, my father’s head appeared over the rocks as he exited Dumbledon.  He quickly negotiated the rocks to join me and help land the fish; a grilse of just over 4lbs.

Returning to Watersmeet we each had a celebratory small bottle of fizzy grapefruit and Dad caught up on the news with childhood friend Roy Nercombe.

I went on to catch many more salmon in the 60’s / 70’s but none stick in the memory quite as much as the first.

The last time I fished the Lyn for salmon must have been over 15 – 20 years ago.  I was visiting my parents in Barnstaple in August after very heavy rainfall; what would have been the perfect conditions in years gone by.  I arrived in Lynmouth at lunchtime but questioned if I would be able to find a parking space although to my surprise there was only one vehicle parked above Vellacotts.  Thinking everyone had caught their brace and gone home I ventured down to the river to find an angler fishing in Overflow who, along with a friend, had travelled from Cornwall for a day’s salmon fishing.

We chatted and although he had caught a grilse he had little else to report.  Because I couldn’t see the salmon I assumed he had returned it but later during the conversation he opened his bag to reveal the fish.  I went on to fish until dusk casting in every known pool from the Tors Road to Watersmeet without a touch and nor did I see a fish in what I considered perfect conditions.   Rather disheartened I travelled back to Barnstaple wondering whether I had seen the last Lyn salmon!  So sad when I think back to those days of abundance we enjoyed and took for granted back in the 60’s.

Although I still purchase a migratory fish licence I really do call into question whether I will ever cast for a salmon again.  I think I would rather live with my memories and feel privileged that I experienced first hand those days which, when we look back on them, were so special.

John Slader

17th February 2020

(Above) Bill Slader with a fine brace of Lyn salmon

Recollections from Lyn Waters

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My thanks to William Ould for this valuable contribution to North Devon Angling News.

(Above) Vellacotts and above Chick’s Rock around 1968.

I noticed a comment whilst browsing on social media relating an old photograph of the River East Lyn at Watersmeet. “I love this place and caught many salmon in the two pools back in the day.” Wrote William Ould. Intrigued as always by any story related to the Lyn I sent an enquiring message. The following feature was the result of our exchange.

William Ould was a successful angler fishing the Lyn and the North Devon Coast as young teenager. He was taught the art of worming for salmon by Cliff Railway Worker and Londoner Chick Andrews. William was an observant young teenager who was prepared to walk miles in pursuit of salmon sea trout and brown trout.

William caught his first salmon in 1962 on a trout spoon whilst fishing for the Lyn’s abundant brown trout during a late season spate. The fish was to be life changing experience for young William. “ My spinner was rising from the milky spate water, just fining down, this huge fish followed and took it not seven feet from my eye. A 5lb grilse, but huge to my eyes when seeking a large Lyn brown trout of 8oz or so. The fight also caused the destruction of my KP Morrit’s Standard fixed spool reel.” William kept a diary of his salmon fishing exploits in the following years recording 29 in his first season of 1963, totalling 257 salmon between 1962 and 1966, including a record catch of 17 salmon in a single day with 15 returned. It would not be permitted today! On another single day when everything seemed to feed a brace of salmon was followed by a full limit of peal and a number of browns too. Such catches of salmon over a season would not have been considered out of the ordinary back in the early sixties when the River East Lyn had an abundance of salmon and sea trout from May onwards as I discovered whilst researching for my book “I Caught A Glimpse’ Published by the Little Egret Press in 2019.

The 14 lb salmon July 26 1963
(Above) Place of capture Willums Island
Peal of 6 ¾ lbs Taken of No. 3 gold Mepps

After leaving North Devon William would return on a regular basis to visit his mother whilst she lived in Lynton. During these visits Wistlandpound Reservoir was a regular excursion to test new fly fishing skills learned on the great reservoir of Grafham Water, which was itself enjoying record returns. Success at Wistlandpound with bag limits of 8 fish on opening day sometimes got repeated later in the season as natural life abounded in warmer waters. However success was certainly not assured on birthdays in June when bright conditions and long days were teasingly challenging.  One occasion produced lethargy towards lunch and a buzzer on a super long leader was launched away from the bank.  In the light wind the line was allowed to work back towards the shore with rod resting against a bag as drink and sandwich was consumed – then line sailed away drawing rod towards and almost losing it and sandwiches to the water but with a fine rainbow resulting. A Happy Birthday!

William also fished the rocky shores around Lynmouth visiting Lee Stone, Hewitt’s Rock, Lee Bay and Woody Bay. One of Williams first good sea fish was a 4lb 8oz grey mullet caught from the roadside wall at Lynmouth using bread-paste as visitors looked on during a high tide in August.

Fortunately, grey mullet still haunt the harbour as they did then and high waters often see me catching grey mullet as the visitors look on asking those familiar questions. “ What do you catch here then?’. “Grey mullet they’re hard to catch aren’t they?”.  I have had hundreds of conversations with visiting anglers whilst fishing for both mullet and bass at Lynmouth.

(Above)  Bass 7 ¼ lbs from the Esplanade Lynmouth Taken on Brent squid. Had whole crab inside

Lee Stone was a popular venue back in William’s youth and he recalls stories of intrepid locals fishing the deep water off the Stone for conger using handlines and 2lb leads when accidents were not uncommon as two pound of lead was swung around the head like a slingshot and launched seawards, trailing big sharp conger hooks and half herring for bait. In those days it was considered improper to fish on a Sunday but it was told that one of the early hand-lining fisherman of the name Hicks went to the Stone one Sunday but returned to town running as fast as he could and in a distressed manner convinced that the devil was after him!  He’d never fish on Sundays thereafter.

One night in summer William was enjoying an all night trip on the Stone when he got “a good but teasing bite, hooked, and reeled the animal ashore. In the dim light from a paraffin hurricane lamp imagine my distress as the very horns of the devil appeared over the ledge. Heart in mouth I lifted it into view. My first fine lobster!”

Right – Will with salmon 11lbs 8oz (l) taken from Overflow and Mike Shute with a salmon 8 lbs 8oz from Willums. 4th June 1963 

Bill Ould  10/2/2020

My family always knew me as Will, and many Lynton people likewise. Thereafter I’ve been known as Bill since when joining industry there was already a William in the same laboratory. My colleagues chose Bill for me.

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Big tope wins Lynmouth Open Competition

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Twenty anglers competed in Combe Martin Sea Angling Clubs week long competition to catch the best mixed brace of specimens. The event was held in conjunction with the Lyn Sailing Club with  proceeds split between Combe Martin SAC and the 1st  Lyn Scout Group. Several anglers invested a degree of effort into seeking out specimens from both boat and shore.

The presentation was held at the Ancient Mariner at Lynmouth as part of the Lynmouth Maritime Festival. The winner of the event was James Fradgley Gubb who boated a fine specimen tope of 50lb and a blonde ray of 12lb 12oz a combined rating of 210%.

James was also presented with a special prize from Ardosia Slate for the best specimen fish caught during the week.

Prize winners at Lynmouth

Results – 

1st James Gubb Fradgley – tope 50lb & blonde ray 12lb 12oz    210%

2nd – Dan Welch – smoothound 10lb 2oz &  blonde ray 11lb 14oz  200.208%

3rd – Rob Scoines – rockling 1lb 10oz & small eyed ray 8lb 6oz

Dan Welch – blonde ray – 11lb 14oz
Dan Welch – smoothound – 10lb 2oz
Rob Scoines- blonde ray caught off Minehead on Osprey
Rob Scoines – rockling 1lb 10oz
Dan Welch – Bull Huss 6lb 2oz
David Jenkins – small eyed ray 10lb 5oz Caught on Osprey off Minehead
Rob Scoines – bass caught on Osprey
Rob Scoines – ballan wrasse

Paul Lorrimore – small eyed ray caught on Osprey off Minehead

Lynmouth Open Competition Result

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The Lynmouth Open Competition was a week long event suggested by Lynton angler James Gubb Fradgley to run in conjunction with the Lynmouth Regatta and Maritime Festival. Promoted by North Devon Angling News and Combe Martin SAC the first three prizes were cash prizes of £100, £50 and £25. The proceeds were to be shared between Combe Martin SAC, Lynmouth Sailing Club and Lynton Primary School.

The presentation was held at The Ancient Mariner at Lynmouth where large crowds had assembled to celebrate with a party atmosphere prevailing as live music drifted  across the harbour.

The winning angler was Daniel Welch who caught a boat caught tope of 38lb 2oz, grey mullet of 4lb 7oz and a spotted ray of 4lb 8oz.  (296%)

In runner up spot was James Gubb Fradgley who caught a tope of 37lb 2oz, bull huss of 9lb 10oz and a small eyed ray of 9lb 10oz. (260%)

Very close behind in third place was Ross Stanway who caught a tope from the shore of 35lb 7oz, a bull huss of 8lb 10oz and a dogfish of 2lb 5oz. (259%)

The prize for the best specimen of the week went to Ross Stanway for his shore caught tope of 35lb 7oz.

A raffle was held at the presentation that boosted funds raised for the Lynmouth Sailing Club and Lyntom Primary School. Many thanks to the Ancient Mariner for hosting the weigh in.

Combe Martin SAC plan to repeat the competition next year encouraged by the enthusiasm of competitors. It is to be hoped that sponsors can be found to boost the prize table.

(Above)Ross Stanway(Left) and Daniel Welch at the presentation

OPEN WEEK FISHING COMPETITION – UPDATE Monday Evening

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This Fishing competition commences at Midnight on Friday so if your in for a bit of action book in ASAP details above. I will be keeping a regular update on this page with catches and images. The prize giving will be at Lynmouth at the Ancient Mariner at 9.00pm. As its the culmination of the Lynmouth Regatta and Maritime Festival it should be a good atmosphere so bring the family and join in the festivity’s.

If you contact Wayne Thomas or Nick Phillips above you can pay entry by BACS Transfer.

Lets hope this summer weather continues!

Fishing started early in the competition with a party of boat anglers off Lynmouth dropping their lines as midnight struck.

Alex Mcleish boated one of the first fish in the Lynmouth Fishing Festival a hard fighting conger 0f 22lb 2oz.

Dan Welch and Ross Stanway enjoyed a hectic days boat fishing though the specimen fish proved elusive.

John Shapland has got off to a good start with the first 100% plus specimen of the competition so fat a thin lipped mullet of 3lb 10oz.

LEADER BOARD SO FAR

Dan Welch pollock – Boat 8lb 66.667
spotted ray – Boat 4lb 8oz 90
Smoothound – Boat 12lb 4oz 81.667
238.334
Ross Stanway Dogfish 2lb 5oz 77.083
bull huss 8lb 10oz 63.889
140.972
John Shapland thin lipped mullet 3lb 10oz 103.571
James Gubb Fradgley 102.5 tope 41lb
Alex Mcleish conger 22lb 2oz
73.75

CMSAC – Lyn Fish Open Competition Result.

A fine specimen grey mullet scaling 5lb 1oz took top spot in Combe Martin SAC’s and Lynton C of E Primary School PTFA Open Fishing Competition. The event fished between Minehead Harbour and Clovelly Harbour resulted in success for several anglers who landed a variety of specimens from both boat and shore over the two days. The event and the raffle held at The Rising Sun, Lynmouth raised over £120 for Lynton Primary School Funds. The competition received generous sponsorship from Sakuma Tackle.

Full Results –

1st – Dan Welch – thick Lipped grey Mullet – 5lb 1oz

2nd- Ross Stanway – smoothound – 11lb 2oz

3rd -James Gubb Fradgley – conger (boat) 32lb 4oz

4th – James Gubb Fradgley – conger (boat) 29lb 1oz

5th – Wayne Thomas – thick lipped grey mullet – 3lb 7oz

6th – Matt Jeffery – bass -6lb 7oz

7th – Nick Phillips – thick lipped grey mullet – 3lb

8th – Rob Scoines – thick lipped grey mullet – 2lb 10oz

9th – Ross Stanway – ballan wrasse – 3lb 3.5oz

10th – Wayne Thomas – thick lipped grey mullet – 2lb 9oz

The competition was fished on a catch and release basis with witnesses and photographs submitted at the end of the day.

(Above) Ross Stanway smoothound 11lb 2oz

(Above) James Gubb Fradgley – conger (boat) 32lb 4oz

(Above) Wayne Thomas – Thick lipped grey mullet 3lb 7oz

(Above) Rob Scoines – thick lipped grey mullet 2lb 10oz

(Above)The top three outside of The Rising Sun.

Many thanks to Tony and all at the Rising Sun for a delicious buffet at the presentation and raffle following the competition.

Special thanks also to those who generously donated raffle prizes.

COMBE MARTIN SAC LYN FISH 2016

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The annual Lyn Fish open competition attracted twenty local anglers competing for cash prizes and an impressive prize table from sponsors Sakuma Tackle and Braunton Baits. The event is a catch and release specimen match with fishing from boat and shore.

Anglers fished a wide variety of marks between the boundaries Minehead Harbour wall and Clovelly Harbour. Most of the winning fish coming from marks in the Lynmouth to Ilfracombe area.

Day one was blighted by a strong westerly wind that made boat fishing impossible and shore fishing a bit of a trial. Grey mullet were a popular target species with several competitors and it was these hard fighting fish that were being targeted by Daniel Welch on Saturday night when he hooked a hard fighting fish that took off on several long runs before eventually being netted. The fish turned out to be fine conditioned bass of 7lb 13oz tempted on bread-flake and size 8 hook!

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On the Saturday evening tide James Fradgely- Gubb and Rob Scoines fished a rock mark buffeted by the strong wind. A couple of good fish were lost but James eventually managed to land a specimen bull huss of 10lb 1oz.

In the early hours of Sunday morning Kevin Legge and Dave Brooke fished a rough ground mark where Kevin landed a couple of huss the best scaling 9lb 6oz. Kevin also landed a blonde ray of around 7lb that was a surprise on the rough ground they were fishing.

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John Avery and myself targeted grey mullet and at 6.00am on the Sunday morning I cast out a two hook rig baited with bread flake. Seconds later I noticed the rod tip rattle and grabbed the rod as the butt lifted from the ground. A powerful fish surged away and battle commenced. A few minutes later John expertly wielded the net and a very pleasing mullet was secured. At 5lb 2oz it was a great start to the day! img_3583

After a couple of quiet hours fishing we moved to another mark and found the mullet in a feeding frenzy landing half a dozen with John and Callum Gove landing the majority with Johns best scaling 2lb 9oz.

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Louis Rooke and John Shapland paid a visit to the estuary in search of grey mullet and flounder. Louis managed the only weigh-able fish of note a plump flounder of 1lb 6oz.

The calm weather on Sunday enabled the boats to get afloat and Rob Scoines boated the best boat caught specimen of the day a small eyed ray of 9lb 13oz. Ross Stanway boated the biggest fish of the weekend; a tope of 30lb.

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The weigh in and prize giving was held at the Rising Sun Lynmouth where platefuls of scrumptious sandwiches and hot chips were provided for the hungry anglers who had fished hard over the two days. Raffle tickets were sold for an array of impressive prizes donated by local businesses with the proceeds going to West Exmoor Federation.

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The raffle and fishing competition helped to raise £400 for the West Exmoor Federation of schools.

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Full Results:-

1st – Wayne Thomas – Grey Mullet – Shore – 5lb 2oz – 128%

2nd – James Gugg-Fradgely – bull huss – Shore – 10lb 1oz – 101%

3rd – Rob Scoines – Boat – small eyed ray – 9lb 13oz – 98%

4th– Daniel Welch – Shore – bass – 7lb 13oz – 97%

5th – Kevin Legge –Shore – bull huss – 9lb 6oz– 93%

6th – Ross Stanway – Boat- tope – 30lb -75%

7th – Louise Rooke –Shore – Flounder – 1lb 6oz – 68%

8th – John Avery – Shore – Grey Mullet – 2lb 9oz – 64%

Combe Martin SAC give special thanks to all who participated and supported the event, to Sakuma and Braunton Baits for donating some excellent prizes. Thanks also to Tony Vickery and all at the Rising Sun for providing delicious food and making all welcome.

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