Casting Into North Devon’s Rapid Streams

A couple of hours wading upriver passed all too quickly on a North Devon stream. It proved frustrating at time with the river very low and clear making it difficult to approach the pools without spooking the trout that could be seen darting away as I approached.

Flicking a bushy dry fly into the streamy water at the head of pools and runs rewarded me with a couple of beautiful wild browns of around 10″ and 8″.

www.nigelnunnflies.com

The lush green growth and abundant bird life of the river valley in late spring is undoubtedly England at its best.

The water I fished is South Molton & District Angling Club water on the River Bray. I picked a book of my bookshelf ” Trout Fishing On Rapid Streams”, by H.C. Cutcliffe FRCS, Published in 1883 the book comprises A Complete System of fishing the North Devon streams and their like.
In the preface of the book the author mentions David Bale, now I think a letter-carrier, residing at High Bray. He is the best worm fisher I ever saw, and forever, is a most civil, indeed I may say polite man, truthful and honest and will be found a most respectable and well informed companion to the fishermen, who, I Trust will not forget to well acknowledge the merits of honest old David, now I fancy, not over well provided with the good things of this life”. The picture above shows High Bray Church upon the hill. It is reassuring to think that I fished the waters that David Bale cast his worm into over a century ago and the trout that I tempted would be direct descendants. Long may these rivers continue to thrive with their crimson spotted trout.

“In getting at these several little holes and currents, dont be afraid of your knees: keep down close to mother earth: go on your knees or crawl on your stomach; remember the trout is there, and you can catch him if you work properly and do not frighten him away.” These words of wisdom apply equally today!

A Successful Cast

The river was running low and clear as I  threaded the line through the rings tying one of Nigel Nunn’s scruffy dry fly creations to a fine leader. It was a cool calm overcast evening and no fish appeared to be rising as I watched the water.

www.nigelnunnflies.com

            Lambs pranced in the fields, spring flowers lined the banks and birdsong filled the air. With life throwing a few challenges the river gave a welcome relief as I waded carefully into the clear water. I was using a light weight Snowbee classic rod and flicked the dry fly up stream focusing on the buoyant fly as it alighted and drifted down.

            I have never enjoyed a great deal of success casting into calm still pools on these small rivers with fish far more liable to slip up in the streamy fast water at the pool’s heads or deeper runs.

            Searching the water as I waded and scrambled as stealthily as I could upstream; a true tonic fully focussing the mind upon the moment. The bushy fly bobbed buoyantly and I was heartened to raise a couple of smallish trout that I failed to connect with. Threading the back cast between overhanging branches proved challenging at times but tangles were few and my rhythm felt good as the fly alighted repeatedly in promising spots.

            The living river valley filled the senses, wild garlic in full flower its pleasing scent released from time to time as it was crushed underfoot. Carpets of bluebells beneath the trees with vivid fresh green starting to show. Ferns were unfurling and bird song drifted across the valley with activity all around as parent birds searched for food.

            I had covered perhaps half a mile of water when I flicked the fly into a streamy run.

A swirl on the surface, a flick of the wrist and that delightful connection. The light rod pulsed in my hand as the fish fought in the strong current. I relished the moments and was thrilled when the fish was safely pulled over the rim of the net. I admired its spotted flanks, slipping the barbless fly from its jaws  grabbed a picture of a 12” beauty, holding the fish for a moment in the flow.

It disappeared  with a flick of its tail, gone from whence it had come a vision etched upon the minds eye.

            I continued my search for  another half an hour before walking back to the car as the evening light began to fade. I glanced under the old bridge and thought about exploring the river below next time.

The western sky glowed pink over the horizon as I drove home and I thought of the coast and casting a lure to bass in the fading light or maybe waiting for a smoothound to scream away.

South Molton Angling Club – River Work & Litter Pick

I joined four members of South Molton Angling to undertake some work clearing debris from a stretch of the River Bray near Brayford.

Parking in an adjacent lay-by we were dismayed to find it strewn with litter that had been casually discarded by a section of society that appears to have no shame. Fortunately club Chairman Eddie Rands had a couple of fertiliser sacks in his pick up truck and after ten minutes or so we had cleared the vast majority of the offending material. It is sickening to see this total lack of respect for our beautiful countryside.

In the nearby woods a carpet of bluebells carpeted the slopes as welcome rain fell in the valley giving valuable water to boost the lush spring growth.

In the river we tackled a large trash dam that had built up behind a tree that had succumbed to the winter storms. We trimmed the mass of branches and roots opening up a small pool that will hopefully harbour a few trout that we may tempt with a carefully presented fly. A quick look over the rocks of the riverbed revealed plenty of caddis and a few clusters of bullhead eggs.

We chatted at length about the health of local rivers and the once prolific runs of fish. Stories of poachers that once stole fish from the rivers were exchanged and whilst tales of the fish these rogues killed were sad the fact that the fish are no longer there to steal is even sadder.

The problems that beset our rivers are both complex and many. Understanding the issues is perhaps the start of putting things right.

South Molton Angling Club – UNDERTAKE CITIZEN SCIENCE

Half a dozen members of South Molton Angling Club attended a  Riverfly count combined with  Westcountry CSI (Citizens Scientist Investigations). https://wrt.org.uk/project/become-a-citizen-scientist/ They enjoyed a Spring day in glorious sunshine beside the beautiful River Bray near Brayley Bridge. The results from both exercises exceeded all expectations with plenty of river life present. https://www.riverflies.org

The discovery of a number of eggs attached to the base of stone raised questions as to their origin. Further enquiries to an expert within the West Country Rivers Trust revealed that they were the eggs of a freshwater bullhead or Millers Thumb that spawn during March and April. These delightful fish are undoubtedly etched upon many minds as small fish caught as children exploring streams and rivers.

SOUTH MOLTON ANGLERS – Do their bit planting a few trees

Members of South Molton Angling Club enjoyed a day planting trees close to one of their sections of fishing on the River Bray. In total they planted around 700 trees including oak, willow, birch, alder, hawthorn and holly. The conservation minded gesture was in exchange for increased access to a section of the river following a change in land ownership.