Reflections on Turbulent waters

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We took a short evening walk beside the River East Lyn. The water tumbled over boulders as it raced to the sea. The valley was in sombre mood with mist hanging in the warm summer air. The vivid vibrant green of summer was subdued in the early evening gloom.

I fished this beautiful river frequently for close to thirty years and caught my first salmon in 1981 a silver bar with sea-liced flanks. When I say the River valley is in sombre mood what I really mean is that I am perhaps in a sombre and reflective mood myself. The river holds a wealth of memories of fish and fishers. Whilst salmon and sea trout still forge up through the vibrant tumbling water’s they are far scarcer than they once were.

Today all salmon must be returned to the water and whilst I am happy to fish with a fly on the Taw and Torridge, I have reservations about spinning and worming with the dangers of deep hooking. The Lyn is not a river for the salmon fly fisher.

It is not the salmon anglers that have decimated the salmon of the Lyn but it is mankind I feel sure that has contributed to a sad demise. So when I walk the banks of this river the memories come thick and fast. To think of the river with no salmon or sea trout is like a book with no words or a candle with no flame. As an angler I have taken gleaming salmon from the river and extinguished their life. I remember that momentary sadness as that vibrant hue faded from silver flanks. I will never forget the power of the salmon as it battles on the line, the rod bending frightfully in my hands. Strangely this direct contact and interaction with the salmon brings the angler close to the fish and its environment.

I guess what I am saying in a clumsy sort of way is that as angler on the river I feel that I have been in the film instead of watching from afar. I fear that day when no salmon swim the river and that glimpse of silver is no more.

RISING RIVERS SALMON and Memories

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Salmon and sea trout anglers have been hoping for rain all summer to bring the local rivers into spate and bring fresh run migratory bars of silver into North Devon’s rivers. The rain that fell on Sunday whilst welcome was not enough to bring a substantial rise despite washing a great deal of sediment into the rivers. The Taw and Torridge both came up and ran dirty but have dropped back quickly. It is to be hoped that a few fish have been encouraged to move up river. A few anglers have cast a fly on the Taw and experienced rod John Kenyon fished the Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats of the Taw to tempt a fine fresh run salmon of 15lb using a Willie Gunn micro tube.

A few sea trout have been reported from the Torridge but no reports of salmon to my knowledge.

One of my favourite local rivers is the East Lyn that tumbles to the sea from Exmoor through the Watersmeet Estate. The riverside walk has been made even more popular following the TV appearance of Julia Bradbury in a program that showcased the beautiful wooded valley. I have many fond memories of the River Lyn and walking its rocky banks brings mixed feelings. The Lyn was undoubtedly an amazing salmon and sea trout fishery that offered splendid fishing at a low cost. I fished the river extensively over a twenty year period and landed a good number of salmon and sea trout. When I first fished the river back in the eighties individual local anglers often caught in excess of fifty salmon in a season. I never approached those figures but often walked away from the river with a brace of salmon caught on worm or spinner. Back then following a spate the river would be lined by anglers who traveled from far and wide to enjoy the short window of opportunity that followed each spate . When the river flowed with a colour of a fine ale salmon would seize the anglers Mepps spinner with gusto fighting the rod and line in a flurry of spray in the confines of the boulder strewn water course. As the  water cleared the worm reigned supreme as anglers stalked individual salmon. Spotting the salmon is of course an art in itself with a keen eye required to locate the salmon in the turbulent flow. Experience built up over many seasons helped greatly for the salmon would frequent the same lies year on year enabling the anglers to target the right spots.

Pauline and I walked the river on August Bank Holiday following a day of heavy rain the water looked perfect as it tumbled towards the sea. Surely a Mepp’s flicked across the pools would bring a silver reward? But time has passed by and we saw no anglers searching the water. There was once a thriving community of anglers who fished this river who would meet up each season to share stories of past seasons and other waters. There was a darker side to fishing on the Lyn with snatching of fish endemic before the fishery bailiffs stamped their authority.

There are of course a few salmon still running the river and the occasional angler practicing catch and release. As we walked the river we came upon EA Fishery Officer Paul Carter who was hoping to glimpse a salmon as he walked the banks  ensuring that any anglers fishing had their rod licence. Paul also has a vast array of memories of North Devon’s rivers and many characters who have trodden the fishermans paths. Today Paul has the latest technology to help record any hostile reaction from poacher or unlicensed fisher. Sadly the precious salmon stocks have dwindled and it is so important the present stocks are protected. Ironically the anglers who chased those silver bars for many years are those that care most for the future of the iconic fish.

We did see two fishers on our walk, a trout fisher and a heron. Long may there be fishers on the Lyn for a river without fish or fishers is somehow rather empty.

North Devon River Update

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The salmon season got off to a slow start on both the Taw and Torridge as a result of low water temperatures and successive spates that kept the rivers brimful. As the waters have dropped and temperatures have climbed sevral anglers have enjoyed success on both rivers with fish from Lower and Middle beats of both rivers.

 Sugh Smith banked a 6lb salmon from the Weir Marsh and Brightly beats of the Taw. Barry Sutton caught a fine 10lb 8oz salmon on a silver stoats tail and Michael Martin a 9lb salmon on an orange fly of his own design.There have also been salmon caught from the Barnstaple Club water below Newbridge. Reports from Upper Taw beats are scarce but with the prolonged high water levels salmon and sea trout will undoubtedly be present.

On the Torridge Chris Warcup caught a fine brace of salmon estimated at 12lb and 14lb. David Lincoln landed a 10lb salmon from a mid river beat. As the river levels drop on both rivers salmon sport will ease off though lower beats of both rivers will be worth a try.

The lower river levels and higher temperatures will prove more conducive to sea trout fishing with after dark fishing worthwhile. Several sea trout between 2lb and 4lb have been caught by anglers at Little Warham Fishery on the RIver Torridge where day tickets are available. It is surprising how many sea trout can be present in the rivers and a concerted after dark sortie can often unlock the rivers secrets.

The Upper reaches of North Devon rivers and many miles of smaller rivers throughout the area can offer splendid sport with wild brown trout that rise freely to a well presented dry fly. The East Lyn offers stunning fishing in beautiful surrounding for less than a fiver a day. Many streams offer excellent fishing with nothing more required than a polite inquiry seeking permission to fish.