A New Year dawns and an old year passes a time that we all tend to both reflect and look to the future. Hopefully anglers will have managed to get to the water’s edge over the Christmas holiday and in the days that have followed. If all goes well I will be out boat fishing when this goes to print hoping for a cod in the murky waters off Minehead.

(Trip was cancelled due to strong winds and swell)

Chris Bond with a cod from the murky waters off Minehead.

The winter cod season has been producing some excellent cod with fish to over twenty pounds boated already this season along with ray, huss and good sized conger. Archie Porter is taking anglers out from Ilfracombe on Reel Deals Sister boat “Predator 2”. Spurdog, conger and huss dominate catches in this part of the Bristol Channel with cod surprisingly scarce in recent seasons. The reason for this is open to speculation as there was a seemingly healthy cod population off the North Devon coast during the 1970s, 80’s and 90’s.

The dynamics of angling have certainly changed over the past twenty years or so as society changes. Boxing Day used to be a busy day in North Devon’s angling clubs fixture programme yet this tradition seems to have lost its popularity. I remember well when Bideford Angling Club always held a Boxing day fixture and Ilfracombe & District Angling Club held a match on Ilfracombe Pier. This decline in participation does not reflect a decline in the numbers going fishing for some disciplines of angling are in the healthiest state for many years. The COVID pandemic has perhaps encouraged many more to discover angling or rediscover its pleasures and benefits.

The angling clubs of North Devon have to some extent not seen the full benefit of this resurgence in angling participation as societies habits change. The ever changing workplace with many working throughout the seven day week has impacted upon weekend fixtures. Solitary angling such as carp fishing and sea angling is thriving whilst the social aspects are to some extent ebbing.

Anglers Paradise

Commercial Fisheries such as Stafford Moor and Anglers Paradise offer superb fishing for a wide range of species. Match anglers fishing bespoke match venues can regularly put together nets of fish well in excess of 100lb. Such huge bags of fish would have been rare a couple of decades ago yet today it has become the expected normal.

Carp fishing has boomed in recent decades with North Devon waters reflecting the countrywide increase in carp weights. When I started writing this column over two decades ago a twenty pound carp would have been noteworthy. I now report on thirty pound plus carp most weeks with forty and fifty pound plus fish included. I have mixed feelings about this as I remember with nostalgia a time when carp were viewed as almost uncatchable mysterious creatures that drifted through lakes where they were seldom caught except by the dedicated specimen hunter. In today’s carp angling World the long stay angler dominates bivvied up beside lake’s traps set waiting to hook carp that have been given names. The mystery has to a large extent been lost, a reflection that perhaps mirrors the wider world where the knowledge we gain in life sometimes subtracts from its richness.


Whilst the artificially created angling world booms the wild salmon and sea trout that once surged into our rivers have declined at an alarming rate. If the salmon and sea trout numbers continue to decline at the same rate since I started fishing for them back in the early eighties they could be all but extinct within fifty years. This is a sad indictment of how mankind has squandered the wealth of the natural world. The reasons for the decline in wild fish populations is complex though overfishing, climate change and pollution are all contributory factors driven by an ever increasing population that demands evermore from natures dwindling store cupboard.

I took my fly rod the Wimbleball Reservoir a couple of days before Christmas and experienced exciting fishing for the rainbow trout that have been stocked in this extensive reservoir high on Exmoor. This reservoir completed in 1979 is a fine example of how mankind can create a rich and diverse almost natural environment. The trout within this lake are hard fighting and fin perfect. Standing waist deep in the clear cold water looking out over a vast sheet of water as the light constantly changes it felt refreshingly wild.

I look forward to reporting on North Devon’s angling news in 2022 and would like to wish readers tight lines for 2022. Special thanks to all the sponsors of North Devon Angling News.



Focus on Barnstaple and the Taw Estuary

Focus on Barnstaple and the Taw Estuary

The market town of Barnstaple straddles the River Taw that meanders from its sources on Dartmoor and Exmoor to converge with its sister River Torridge before flowing into the lower Bristol Channel. There are many opportunities for the angler in and around Barnstaple with the estuary providing sport all year for a variety of species.

The Autumn is very popular with flounder anglers whose season traditionally kicks off around the time of the towns famous fair that visits the town in mid-September. The humble flounder offer relaxed fishing from Rock Park above the towns bridge down to Fremington Quay and beyond.

During the summer months the upper estuary provides good sport with thin lipped grey mullet that can be tempted using spinners baited with ragworm on light tackle. Thick lipped grey mullet are also present in the estuary and provide a real challenge for anglers prepared to persist with light tackle and freshwater tactics.

Bass can be caught throughout the estuary from April until late autumn with the lower estuary proving most productive with a variety of tactics working. Fly-Fishing for school bass has become increasingly popular with large numbers of these silver flanked sport fish caught. Lure fishing is also very popular with a wide range of patterns bringing success.

The lower estuary also holds increasing numbers of gilthead bream with fish of over 5lb caught each season to anglers using small crab or worm baits. May through until early autumn is probably the best time to target these hard fighting fish.

During autumn and winter the lower estuary once produced good catches of codling and these fish are still occasionally caught but sport is a shadow of what it once was. During the 1970’s several outsize cod were caught from Crow Point the best over 30lb.

Recent seasons have seen smoothound and dogfish caught in the Lower estuary.

The estuary around Braunton where the River Caen flows into the estuary also brings success for anglers targeting grey mullet and bass.


Salmon and sea trout

The River Taw is an iconic game fishing river famous for its salmon and sea trout fishing. Whilst much of the river is Privately owned day tickets are available via the Rising Sun at Umberleigh and via the West Country Passport Scheme. The Barnstaple and District Angling Club gives access to water at the top of the tidal section of the river at a very reasonable cost. Day Tickets can also be obtained at the Fox and Hounds, Eggesford and from Highbullen Hotel., Chittlehamholt.

For information on the Taw visit the River Taw Fishery Associations website. http://www.rivertawfisheries.co.uk/index.html

River Trout

Brown trout are to be found in the majority of rivers in the Barnstaple area and can provide great sport on light weight fly tackle. In some instance’s permission can be obtained by asking the landowner. The Lower Taw has water available via the Barnstaple and District Angling Club. The West Country Angling Passport provide access to some fine trout fishing via their Token scheme: –  westcountryangling.com

Stillwater Trout

The Stillwater Trout anglers is well catered for with two of North Devon’s top fisheries located within five miles of the town.

Blakewell is a well established trout lake situated just off the B3230 road to Ilfracombe.

The fishing lake is generally crystal clear and is well stocked with quality rainbow and brown trout to specimen size. Additional stocking is also made with both spartic trout and tiger trout.

The fishery is an ideal venue for both the experienced fly fisher or the novice with fish responding to a wide variety flies. Small imitative patterns are generally favoured with floating fly lines effective throughout the year even during the depth of winter when longer leaders and bead headed nymphs a wise choice.

There are two main day ticket options available including a catch and release option that allows the first two fish to be retained with fishing then allowed on a catch a release basis for the remainder of the day. A standard five fish ticket entitle the angler to retain five fish and then stop fishing.

The fishery has well stocked tackle shop on site that sells a variety of flies suitable for the venue and a range of tackle from West Country Tackle company Snowbee. The tea room is open throughout the day with delicious cakes, tea and coffee to enjoy during a break from the fishing.


The few miles North of Barnstaple is Bratton Water situated in a steep wooded valley it is well sheltered from most winds and boasts crystal clear water and some stunning brown trout that can often be tempted on dry flies or small nymph patterns. This water is also suitable for novice or experienced fly fisher with its small acreage proving less daunting than the larger reservoirs.


There are numerous Coarse Fisheries in the Barnstaple area including Furzebray Near South Molton a fishery that has a well-deserved reputation for producing some stunning carp approaching fifty pounds.

Hacche Moor Fishery near South Molton opened to day ticket anglers in April 2019 and has already produced carp to well over thirty pounds.

Riverton Fishery also has day ticket opportunities for a wide variety of coarse fish.

Barnstaple & District Angling Club have fishing at Aller Pond near South Molton for details contact:- John Webber [email protected]









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We visited today’s North Devon Show enjoying a great day among the crowds. Driving over the River Taw on route to the show I of course noticed that the River was up and colored and out of order for fishing; should be perfect by the end of the week! Angling was unfortunately a little low profile at the show though we did find Fly-Fishing represented by the Salmon and Trout Conservation UK, formerly the Salmon and Trout Association. In a rural area like North Devon that has so much fishing on offer its seems strange that angling is not represented more prominently. My wife Pauline did  however take advantage of some Fly Fishing Tuition from Fly Casting Instructor Alan Barrow.  John Dawson was also at hand giving Instruction. If anyone is considering taking up Fly Fishing then tuition is well worth it as even a short session with an instructor can avoid developing bad habits that can last a lifetime.