ANGLING REPORT. A Long Closed season

The COVID-19 outbreak has probably stopped some of you buying the Journal so he is this weeks column.

North Devon’s angling community are waiting patiently until they can return once again to the water’s edge. Close to three weeks of lockdown have passed it is likely to be several more weeks before the chance once again cast a line.

The lockdown will have had a devastating impact upon many businesses that rely upon angling. Fisheries have lost their income at the busiest time of year with Easter normally a bumper time for both coarse and game fishing. Many fisheries incorporate holiday accommodation and are often fully booked throughout the Easter period. Those fishing tackle shops that have an online presence will continue to do some business as anglers stock up for future times but bait sales will have ground to a halt.

Early April is a time when many anglers renew their Rod Licences in line with the historic financial calendar. I suspect many anglers will have delayed purchasing a licence until fishing resumes. This will have had a significant impact upon funding for fishery work and habitat work throughout the country.

The charter boat sector will have lost a significant part of their season and will be hoping for fair weather to allow a return to fishing grounds when normality returns.

The rivers are now running low and clear so runs of migratory fish will be at a minimal until we have substantial rainfall. Strange how just a few weeks ago the rivers were raging torrents.

The lockdown is in effect similar to a closed season. The older generation of Coarse anglers will remember the closed season that prevented fishing for coarse fish from March 14th until June 16th. The glorious sixteenth was a day to celebrate with anglers often casting their lines into lakes and ponds across the land at the stroke of midnight. It is to be hoped that all anglers can share in the magic of a new season when this tragic pandemic ends.

Nature will have enjoyed a reprieve with many waterside paths untrodden. Birds will have nested undisturbed; grass snakes will have basked in the warm sun upon the banks where anglers normally contemplate their luck. The friendly robins will wonder where the anglers have gone with their handfuls of juicy writhing maggots. The large carp in many of the region’s lakes will perhaps miss the angler’s high protein baits. Will the fish be easier to tempt when we return to the water?

The longer term impact on angling will be hard to predict. A long lay-off could hopefully encourage an eager return to the water’s edge and a greater appreciation of the great outdoors. There is of course the fear that some will get out of the habit and not return.

TEN YEAR AGO – North Devon Journal Report – March 28th 2010

With the ongoing lockdown and no fishing I thought I would start digging into my North Devon Journal Archives.

Late March 2010 and salmon fishing is top of the agenda and the debate rages regarding how to safeguard salmon stocks. Ten years later stocks continue to dwindle despite a massive investment in habitat improvements.  It s good to see a few familiar names in the competition results.

ANGLING REPORT

ULTRA have ambitious plan

            Salmon and sea trout of our local rivers provide the pinnacle of angling experience for many attracting game fishers from all over the country. This has been a significant part of the rural economy for many years with prime salmon fishing commanding a high price. A significant drop in salmon and sea trout numbers has lead to a decline in a once thriving rural industry. Many local anglers can recall a bygone era when riverside Inns such as the Rising Sun at Umberleigh would be packed with anglers each evening returning from the river with their bright silver prizes.

It was therefore apt that a new group calling itself ULTRA held an inaugural meeting at the Rising Sun. The Upper & Lower Taw Rivers Alliance is a group of anglers and riparian owners who have an ambitious plan to restore the spring salmon run using native broodstock to produce smolts for restocking. This is a complex issue that a working party has been set up to explore. The Environment Agency has given early indications that they will be likely to consent to the scheme.Tim Clarke is Chairman of the alliance and Dave Smith secretary; details of the group can be found on their website www.rivertaw.org

The web cam at Umberleigh that proves a valuable window on the river for anglers is temporarily out of action following a fire at Murchs’ Antiques Emporium upon whose building the camera is fixed. Web cams of a dozen West Country Rivers can be viewed by visiting www.therisingsunfc.co.uk

There are rods available on a prime stretch of salmon and sea trout water on the Taw and Little Dart at Tremayne near Chulmleigh. Anyone interested in this opportunity should contact John Smith on 01363 84804.

As spring slowly progresses carp anglers are enjoying action on several of the regions lakes. I fished Furzebray carp lake near South Molton last weekend and found myself fishing a swim between brothers Ally Laird and Ian Laird who had already landed three double figure carp during their weekend session. During Sunday afternoon I was privileged to witness them land a further three carp, two of which were prime mirror carp weighing 16lb 6oz.  Boilies, corn and pellets are all tempting fish on this well landscaped fishery.

At Angler Paradise carp are feeding well with several twenty pound plus fish caught including a 25lb 8oz mirror to the rod of Chris Rainbow and a 21lb 8oz specimen for Tom Cole.

Anglers Paradise

At Highhampton lakes the owners have been working hard preparing their lakes for the coming season. The trout lakes have been drained, refilled and restocked in time for the Easter weekend. The coarse lakes already healthy stock has been added to with double figure carp, quality tench and bream. There are also additional facilities including a new toilet and cooking area.

Ilfracombe Match groups latest match at Legge Farm near Hatherleigh saw Peter Slade take top spot with 34lb 15oz of roach and skimmers on soft pellet hook bait. Andy Gray took runner up spot with 31lb 15oz of skimmers on corn hook baits. John Lisle was a very close third with 31lb 10oz of carp on corn the loss of a carp of around one pound in the margins costing him dear. The silver fish bag went to Peter Slade with his fine bag of roach and skimmers.

Don’t forget its time to renew your rod licence at Local post offices or online at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/rodlicence Remember that finance received from licenses is invested in promoting and protecting angling and the environment. Failure to carry a rod licence can result in prosecution and a substantial fine.

The latest heat of the North Devon League saw Julian Stainer secure the top two spots for Triple Hook Club with dogfish scaling 2lb 7oz and 2lb 6oz.

Tony Gooch won Bideford And District Angling Clubs Mid Week Rover with a dogfish of 2lb 4⅝oz. In runner up spot was Jazza John with a doggie of 1lb 15⅞oz and in third Dick Talbot with a dog of 1lb 12½oz

Dick Talbot won Bideford’s 24 hour rover with a thornback ray of 8lb 2oz. Dick also secured runner up spot with a doggie of 2lb 3oz. Nathan Clements was third with a dogfish of 1lb 15⅝oz.

Triple Hook Clubs Flyfishing match at Wistlandpound saw Steve Ousley victorious with a four fish bag totalling 5lb. In runner up spot Daniel Miles and Ashley Curd with three fish each for 3lb 12oz.

Looking Back Ten Years ago!

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I will publish the occasional old Journal column from ten years or so back as its often interesting to look back and see whats changing.

(Above) Blonde ray caught by John Avery in February 2008

ANGLING REPORT  January 27th  2008

Spring on its way

The recent mild weather is bringing many signs of spring. Frogs have already deposited plenty of spawn in many ponds and bird song is already ringing out. Spring bulbs such as snowdrops and primroses are already out with daffodils well advanced. In lakes and ponds fish will also be stirring and starting to feed more frequently. Whilst many anglers will be targeting carp it could be worth trying a float-fished lobworm in the margins for perch. Attract them with a steady trickle of maggots and chopped worm. The perch is surely our most handsome fish and some huge specimens reside in our local Stillwater’s. Perhaps there lurks a fish to beat the new British record scaling 6lb 2oz that was recently landed from the River Thames.

Bideford Angling Clubs January Coarse match at Riverton saw Nielson Jeffery secure victory with a net of mostly carp totalling 19lb 9oz. Steve Baileys net of 12lb 9oz took the runner spot. John Lisle’s net of silver fish weighing 11lb 2oz taking third.

Stafford Moor continues to provide excellent sport with some impressive weights coming from Tanners and Woodpecker. Nathan Underwood took top spot in a recent Sunday open match with 127lb of carp. The carp took 8mm pellet fished beneath a waggler float. If conditions remain mild then some of the specimen lakes larger residents should be banked. Fishery owner Andy Seary has invited any angler who lands the thirty pound carp stocked recently the opportunity to name the fish. The angler will also receive a weekend’s free fishing.

On the open coast anglers continue to hope for a cod or two. I fished two sessions last week in what I would have termed ideal conditions for cod. A few dogfish and Pollock were all that succumbed to my offerings. Cod are now very scarce in comparison to ten or twenty years ago when devotees landed double figure fish on a regular basis. I have heard of a 16lb fish but have no confirmation. A few anglers have also reported losing fish into double figures. Lets hope I can report on a big cod before the winter is out. Marks within the estuary are giving a few codling to 5lb along with several bass to 6lb. Fresh crab is the most successful bait.

Whilst there are no cod there are plenty of other species to fill the void. In Combe Martin Sea Angling Clubs roving match last week it was Kevin Legge who continued his recent run of form landing a specimen conger of 26lb 4oz. Paul Widlake took the runner up spot with a bull huss of 9lb 8¼oz and Andy Joslin third with a conger of 15lb 9oz. Members reported taking plenty of dogfish, whiting and pollock from various marks along the coast.

Combe Martin SAC member Guy Sprigg’s landed a fine blonde ray of 15lb 4oz from a local rock mark.

Bideford angling clubs latest mid week rover saw Stuart Bailey take a 1lb 15oz dogfish for top spot. A nice whiting of 14⅞oz for Nick Jobe took second with Jazza John securing third with a doggie of 1lb 13⅝oz.

Tony Gussin secured victory in Rod N Reeler’s monthly Rover landing a specimen small-eyed ray of 11lb 15½oz. In runner up spot Julian Stainer with a dogfish of 2lb 10½oz and in third Tony Werner with a doggie of 2lb 9oz.

The recent conditions are ideal for targeting trout on small Stillwater’s. I seldom find it necessary to use a sinking line relying on a nymph pattern fished on a long leader in combination with a floating line. A slow retrieve generally proves effective with an occasional twitch often triggering a take. Bratton Water is an ideal choice offering clear water and hard fighting rainbows. Owner Mike Williams tells me that visitors to the water have been enjoying some good sport recently with fish taking dry flies on a regular basis. Best fish in recent weeks was a rainbow of 7lb 8oz to the rod of T.Evans. Several five fish bags to 17lb have been taken.