A new Season underway – With silver success


March 1st is the first day of Spring and salmon fishing on the Taw and Torridge. I was keen as always to get out on the river despite the chill North East wind that was blowing. With the rivers on the low side after one of the driest Februarys on record I figured that the club water on the Taw would be as good a place to try as anywhere. I was in no rush to get to the water’s edge as I figured the salmon would be likely to respond as the temperature began to rise later in the day. In truth I was not expecting to hear much but my optimism was boosted when I received news of a fresh run salmon from below Umberleigh caught by Simon Hillcox.

I pulled into the layby at Newbridge to find keen river angler Chay Boggis setting off . He had already caught a kelt and reported that river keeper Don Hearn had caught a fresh run springer.

Don Hearn enjoyed first day success tempting a springer on a spinner

I donned my waders, and started to take my rod from its tube when realisation of my first blunder of the season dawned ! I have forgotten to pack vital items of gear on a few occasions. This was the second occasion in over fifty years that I have forgotten to pack my reel. I cursed loudly; should I go home and get the reel or just take a walk along the river bank to catch up with fellow anglers. Fortunately; Chay saved the day grabbing a spare reel from his truck. An 8 Wt floating line would be fine with a fast sinking braided leader added to get the fly down.

Chay Boggis with one of several kelts caught on opening day.

It was good to once again wade out into the cold river that was running clear after weeks without rain. Whilst it was cold, signs of spring were all around pussy willow bursting forth and birds singing beside the river.

I swung the fly, across the river  and after a few casts the line momentarily tightened. Was that a pull? I drifted the fly across the same spot and felt no resistance so maybe it was  a chance or just a trout….

It was good to  be out a new season ahead. I strolled down the bank met up with Don Hearn, John Webber and other club members. It was good to talk of the river and its salmon. The club is enjoying a revival with a strong membership with efforts made to improve river access and promote fishing. The club has for many years given the opportunity for local; anglers to enjoy salmon, sea trout and trout fishing at a very reasonable cost. For full details visit their website; –https://barnstapledistrictangling.co.uk

Barnstaple Club members gather on opening day

The first visit of the season always tell a tale of the winter floods. Lies change new snags appear yet much remains as it has always been. The deep water of some pools are almost certain to hold silver treasure and the hope to connect is strong as the fly is drifted.

Several club members have elected to try a spinner a method that can be effective in cold water of early spring. Spinning is permitted on the Taw and Torridge until March 31st with single hooks mandatory. Always check individual fishery rules as many are fly only.

Club Chairman – John Webber stands beside new steps giving easy access

            I fished a couple of hours and did not connect with that spring dream. It was good to get news of several fresh run fish and kelt’s. The kelts are welcome sight as they are evidence that fish have spawned during the winter months. The coming couple of months will see the downstream migration of smolts. Great care should be taken to return both kelts and smolts carefully.

Debris tells the tale of winter floods

            Salmon face an uncertain future and need anglers to campaign hard for cleaner rivers and habitat improvement.. We must do all we can to protect and nurture the rivers for the future.

( Above) Ever changing yet constantly flowing

The Lower Torridge looking great as the season starts.

Salmon Season Starts

March 1st is the first day of the salmon season on North Devon Rivers and both the Taw and Torridge are looking good running high and clear.

I took my rod the bottom of the Taw at midday and had a few casts to greet the new season. This was on the Barnstaple Club Water and I suspect any fish that have moved in will have pushed up river with plenty of water and big tides. It was good to wade out into the cool water once again and flex the rod. I can remember the river on opening day when I started fishing for salmon back in the late seventies when club members would have been out in numbers hoping for that first fish off the season. Sadly the number of anglers have dwindled along with the spring salmon. Another major factor is the mandatory catch and release that is now enforced along with a spinning being discouraged despite being legal for the first month of the season.

I  am always fascinated at the amount of debris brought down by the winter spates. It is hard to imagine the ferocity of the waters that carried this so high onto the bank. It is also fascinating to see how the river changes each year as nature moulds its path to the sea.

A new Salmon season on the way!

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A new salmon season gets underway on Thursday March 1st. Hard to believe that winter is on its way out and in just a few weeks the first swallows and martins will be swooping low over the water. Winter is reluctant to release its grip and ice and snow is lining the river bank and it will be the hardiest of anglers who venture out. With the water temperature very low and river levels dropping the best chance of a salmon will be on the lower beats with a fly fished slow and deep.

Those wishing to celebrate the seasons start can call in for a welcome nibble and raise a glass to the new season at the  traditional  salmon Soiree, beer and nibbles  at The Rising Sun; Umberleigh. Snow permitting of course. My guess is that an assemble of anglers will enjoy a warm fireside chat reflecting on past seasons success and renewed hopes for the coming season.

The fisher constantly is as it were in a wild garden, and this very pleasure to be found in the beauty around him he has made a part of his sport itself. It has a spirit: it is not merely the sport of taking fish.

But in England,since the time of Walton, the first thought of your true fisher is of fresh air, the glowing sunsets, the flowers and trees, the birds, and all the river loving things in furs or feathers.

On sunny mornings in some quiet valley he sees the white breasted ‘dipper’ curtsey to him from some stone ere she plunges in again to search for food upon the shallows. or the kingfisher skimming the water with his gleam of blue, or hovering, a flutter of blue and orange, over some luckless minnow. The swallow, sandmartin, water-wagtail, sandpiper are to be seen at every pool, and not seldom a great grey heron slowly and clumsily rise and flaps off at his approach

Taken from that angling Classic from over a hundred years past – LETTERS to A SALMON  FISHERS SONS – 1910 – BY A. H. CHAYTOR

The above joys of angling remain unchanged that and the hope of life on the line.