Barnstaple & District Angling Association Newbridge  end of season report 2023

                             BDDA Newbridge  end of season report 2023

Another difficult year but it has had its moments , the Kelt run in March was spectacular ,all well repaired fish in the 6lb to 8lb range we had 14 reported in the first 2 days of the season before we asked for restraint and hope at least some make it back!! Also, Several good fish were caught during the year . I saw an old ghillie from the Tweed on TV recently explaining that salmon are called the fish of 10,000 casts .However we do actually have a new member who caught a salmon after just a couple of visits. This goes to show that Anything can happen at Newbridge but as ever “you have to be there”

A member sent an article from very first issue of Trout and Salmon in 1955 saying 100 fish were caught in the Taw Torridge tidal pools that year .They say it was a record and the result of  restocking with Scottish fish a few years before. Food for thought.

We’ve had another year of low warm water ,leading to more angling restraint requested, the short spate in august brought a few fish up but the September spate was once again too late for us . Just as the fish started showing we had to stop.

Apart from Salmon ,Where are the sea trout? So, few have been reported even from traditionally prolific beats up river. It does seem that  as the fish decline so does the fishing effort which doesn’t help with reported numbers.

We have good news ,as most are aware We have now finished the new club hut. This has been a huge effort by dedicated volunteers and the club are very grateful for it. It’s a lovely peaceful place to rest a while with a companion and watch the river pass by. We intend to have a formal opening on the first day of the season next year and Members will be notified nearer the time. Also, John and Hayden Kenyon led a working party for the installation of steps and a ladder to improve access to the railway swirl pit, now called the Chairman’s steps .They have our thanks for that.

You may not be aware but Earlier in the season our local wildlife trained police officer  Lucy Robinson and our local EA bailiff Sam Fenner  had a person excluded from our water due to  antisocial behaviour connected to Elver poaching. This isn’t an easy process that included a difficult “home visit “and We are very grateful to them for this action. It’s good we have this level of support from our local enforcement officers. They always do as much as they can for us but they are under so many constraints and can only do what they are resourced for. The EA bailiff Sam Fenner also got involved with the cattle encroachment from just above the bridge  .After a meeting The estate has now replaced the fencing and that is ongoing. The West Country rivers trust has installed water quality monitors just upriver from us and we’re all interested in any reports from that. Another item of interest is that Adi’s wife ,Caroline Podesta ,is in the citizen scientist project and takes monthly water samples at the bridge ,it all helps to keep the pressure up on abuse of the rivers and the genie is firmly out of the bottle in regard to that. Who does what about it is another matter though! We can but support any campaign we come across . We generally have a negative attitude to these agencies but mostly the people on the ground are on the same page as us and as frustrated as us when it comes to any deployment of resources. Please be patient with them if you have any personal contact, we have to support them too as they are doing their individual best under a lot of pressure .We are encouraged to call in incidents/events at least it will get logged.

As a club We always doing our best to protect and improve The Newbridge beat we’re but always happy for any suggestions. Very exciting news is the club is finalising the purchase of another beat further up river. All details regarding fees and access will be forwarded to all members ,hopefully in time for the coming season.

Club cups were awarded at the recent AGM  and this year the committee cup went to Dave Winter for his efforts at Newbridge, Paul Meredith gets the most salmon cup for his 3 good fish, Chay Boggis gets the Bass on the fly cup for his lovely 7lb fish from Clovelly, and I was lucky enough to get the best Salmon  34inches estimated at 13.5lb.

Don Hearn

Newbridge river keeper

Colin Ashby presents Dave Winter with the B&DAA Committee Cup



There was a late flourish in salmon fisher’s fortunes as the 2023 season ended. Heavy rain during mid- September brought the regions rivers up and as the season faded to its conclusion on the last day of September levels dropped along with the colour to provide near perfect conditions. On the Taw system several salmon were tempted. Paul Carter caught a 12lb salmon from the Middle Taw, Don Hearn and Adi Podesta tempted  salmon estimated at 15lb from the Lower Taw and Simon Hillcox tempted a 7lb salmon on the seasons last day.

         Members of the River Torridge Fishery Association held their annual egg box dinner at the Half Moon Inn at Sheepwash last Saturday. There was talk over dinner about a fine 15lb salmon caught from the middle Torridge by Brian Lovering a 7lb salmon caught by Bernard Crick and of James Crawford tempting a fresh run silver bar of 7lb.

Little Warham Fishery

What a week to close the season at Little Warham writes Amanda :-  “Barry Mills kicked things off with an 8lb salmon caught in boat pool on the 24th Sept, followed by an 6lb salmon caught in Willow Run on 26th Sept. Jonathan Hellyer then netted a cracking 10lb hen fish in First and Last on the 28th. Well done everyone.
Meanwhile on the infamous Spey Anthony was thrashing the high waters in frustration whilst the fish just passed him by!”

 Sometimes the grass really is greener at home!


The Half Moon Inn – A Delightful Old Fishing Inn that has been refurbished to a high standard yet still retains its tradition.

On a hot April day in 1964 fourteen year old Michael Bull went to stay at the Half Moon Inn at Sheepwash. Conditions were not ideal but a young Charles Inniss took young Michael to the river and used his fishing experience and intuition to give Michael the best chance of a fish.

       Michael cast his  spinner into a deep pool and as the metal lure touched down upon the water a beautiful silver salmon seized it. Later that evening the splendid fish lay upon the cool slate slab to be admired by the fisher folk staying at the hotel.

       Close to sixty years on Michael and Charles share  vivid memories of that glorious spring day at the Torridge Fisheries Annual Egg Box dinner. The Annual Dinner brings members from far and wide to celebrate the seasons, share stories and raise valuable funds towards the hatchery that members hope will stem the dramatic decline in salmon numbers.

       It is to be hoped that the hatchery will be up and running later this Autumn after lengthy consultation with the Environment Agency.

       Michael told me it took a further three years to catch his next salmon but he was of course hooked for life and has been revisiting the Torridge and the Half Moon ever since lending support to the Association and staying at this delightful old fishing Inn.

       Attending the annual dinner with Pauline each year gives a deep appreciation of the bond formed beside the water and how the quest for those iconic migrants is about so much more than rod and line.

       That deep connection with the river its environment and the fish within illustrate all that is good about angling. The well-respected carp angler Jim Gibbinson entitled his book on fishing; “ A Glorious Waste Of Time”.  I’m sure those dining at the Half Moon would drink a toast to that!

       As we left I commented to Adam behind the bar that it had not been the best of Seasons. He replied cheerily that “next season will hopefully be better”.

The eternal optimism of the angler will ensure that next March as the wild daffodils bloom flies will be cast in hope of silver.

       I will leave it there safe in the knowledge that whilst there are those who care deeply for the river and its fish there is hope.


Recent rainfall has rejuvenated North Devon’s Rivers and the countryside bringing a lush green to the landscapes. I have reported several salmon caught from the Taw and Torridge over recent days and was delighted to make connection with a special fish myself, more of that later. On leaving the River I was delighted to receive a message from Paul Carter who had just netted a fine fresh run silver salmon from the Middle Taw estimated at 15lb.

The guys from Shady River Fishing have been enjoying some excellent fishing higher up the River catchments targeting wild brown trout. Euro Nymphing tactics producing some stunning fish in the high water conditions. The pick of recent catches being this stunning wild brown of 14” that was estimated at 2lb.

Visit ‘shady river fishing’ on Instagram.

The middle Torridge was looking close to perfect when I arrived for a morning session. Peering into the river I could easily make out the stones at a depth of 18”, the water was the colour of the finest ale. The water glistened in the morning sun and I admired a large silver wash fritillary butterfly as it settled upon bankside grass. I paused for a minute or two sitting on the bench as the river flowed past. A  juvenile buzzard mewed above a sound synonymous with August and the passing of summer.

I waded into the cool water and grimaced as I felt a leak in my waders. I put a line out across the river allowing the fly to drift across the flow searching for the increasingly illusive Atlantic salmon. It was good to be here following the familiar pattern of casting, drifting and stepping down through the pool.

At the point where I knew salmon had taken my fly in the past I felt a strong pull and lifted the rod tightening into a fish for just a few seconds. A chance gone perhaps? The margins between success and failure are often small. I analysed my response to the take, had I lifted into the fish too quickly? It is good practice to allow a little slack to allow the salmon to turn down with the fly but in all honesty the delectable moment of the take is so fleeting. In truth most of the salmon I have caught have hooked themselves or at least I have difficulty in actually visualising that fleeting moment of deception and connection.

I fished on searching the river and its known lies. It has been a little disheartening so far this season to drift the fly over the lies time and time again. Fishing the river in conditions like this even ten years ago I feel certain I would at least have seen a fish jump.

Despite the lack of success and ongoing concern regarding salmon and sea trout stocks I have stubbornly retained a sense of expectation as I fish, whilst there are still salmon to be caught hope springs eternal.

The river and its surroundings have a feel of late summer, early autumn. The invasive Himalayan Balsam are sadly flourishing their pretty pink flowers attracting bees and butterflies. Vivid blue damsel flies flutter amongst the riverside vegetation. Pin head fry flit to and fro in the river’s margins.

After fishing the top of the beat I fish back down searching the water heading for my final casts of the day in the bottom pool.

I wade out into the river once again still hoping almost expectant as this pool has provided many of the salmon I have caught from the Torridge over the years. As I proceed slowly down the pool I hear the piercing call of a kingfisher and glimpse the electric blue as the bird flashes down river. My optimistic heart views this as a good omen.

As I reach the bottom of the pool the line swings round in the current. The line zips delightfully tight and the water twenty yards below erupts as a fish  leaps high above the river gyrating at the lines end. The rod hoops over and the fish heads downriver as I relish the moments of drama. For a few minutes salmo-salar dictates making several strong runs and leaping several times. There are a few anxious moments as the fish lunges near  to branches on the far bank. Pressure eventually starts to sap the salmon’s energy and I coax the fish up river. The fish holds station in mid river and I slip the net ready to secure my prize. There are tense moments as line is gained and lost at close quarters. I pile on the pressure and the salmon rolls into the net. I wade up to the reed fringed bank above and take a moment to admire my prize. The salmon its flanks decorated in autumn hues signifies that it has been in the river for a while. I slip the barbless hook from its jaw and take a quick couple of pictures with the salmon in the net. I then carefully slide the fish into the river cradling the fish in the current  lifting its head momentarily to capture an image. The fish is strong and kicks its tail as I support it. I watch satisfied as the precious fish swims into the ale coloured water to hopefully fulfil its destiny on the spawning redds later in the winter months.

Barnstaple & District Angling Association – Mid season Report

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

                                        B.D.A.A                                                                27/6/2023

Don Hearn on the river bank at the start of the season back in March

Many thanks to Don Hearn for allowing me to share Barnstaple and District Angling clubs mid-season report below.


After an exciting start to the season with several good fish taken and seen we are now, as last year,  faced with extremely low water. The temperature was measured yesterday by the bridge at over 20 degrees and this of course can be threatening to migratory game fish. We have seen Salmon gasping on the surface and several casualties have been found. Some from mishandling, we think, but not by our members as far as we are aware. We are asking for restraint from salmon/sea trout angling during these drought conditions as any fish caught would be at risk of not recovering from the experience. You may have seen online that this is happening nationally and is disastrous for the species. We can but hope for rain. The Hall Estate up river from us has also asked beat holders for angling restraint until the water levels improve. Hopefully, as last year, we will get a decent run of fish when the rain finally comes.

We have now completed the new hut and after a bit of tidying of surrounding areas will soon be declaring it formally open! Hopefully this will last for many years and be a peaceful place to rest and shelter while watching the river pass by. This has involved a great deal of work from our volunteers but we all feel it’s worth it. The original hut was very substantial but in these changing times we couldn’t hope to compete. We are however proud of what we have achieved and hope it will serve its purpose for many years to come. With this downtime from angling at Newbridge work continues with strimming and clearing and if anybody has any suggestions for the beat they would be welcome. Also feel free to carry cutters etc and help yourself!

However, the restriction on the river doesn’t mean you can’t go fishing. One of the most popular options is fly fishing for Bass in the estuary. A greater challenge would be the Mullet. Both would give you a great scrap in lovely surroundings and well worth the effort. We do of course have course fishing at Aller pond which fishes well in summer with such deep water keeping temperatures down. Yet another quiet place to while away a few hours.

Whatever alternative you may find we look forward to getting back on the river when conditions improve and wish you, as ever, tight lines.

Don Hearn

Newbridge River keeper

My own comment :-

The low river levels as a result of prolonged dry conditions are a serious concern and if as is generally thought are a result of ongoing climate trends this does not bode well for the future. We all share the burden of potential climate disaster and need to consider how we should react. My own observations as an angler and conservationist are concerning. Indications that the natural world is in a bad place are all around. If salmon in the river are the proverbial canary in the mine then we should all be concerned.

Thoughts from the waters edge

The warm late May sunshine is starting to impact upon the rivers with levels now dropping and the water becoming clear. A few salmon have been tempted from the River Taw with Ian Blewett amongst the successful anglers with a silver springer from a Middle Taw beat.

The Torridge has seen very few salmon caught and with the river now below ideal height most will wait for the next spate before casting a salmon fly. The wild brown trout fishing on the Torridge can be superb so as the mayfly start to show there could be some exciting sessions.

I wandered down through the beat I fish on the Torridge swinging a salmon fly and ever hopeful of success. Whilst I delighted upon the beauty of the river I couldn’t help but feel a certain unease at the lack of swifts and swallows. Looking up river I savoured the evening light streaming as it illuminated the water. Yet even here I noticed the bare branches of a tree ravaged by ash dieback. I and others of my generation have witnessed a catastrophic decline in nature. It is likely that salmon will be extinct in West Country Rivers before our granddaughter is old enough to drive. Whilst there is a lot of effort by keen conservationists to stem the decline I cannot help but feel a sense of melancholy as I walk away from the river.

It is perhaps time to get out onto the coast and taste the salty air and relish the savage pull of a bass?

Salmon brace from Middle Taw

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

Chay Boggis tempted a brace of spring run salmon whilst fishing a middle Taw beat. The fish were tempted using black and yellow flies. The warmer weather coinciding with a dropping river has lead to several salmon being tempted including rumours of a fine 18lb fish.

Newbridge Spring Newsletter – April 2023

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

Newbridge Spring Newsletter – April 2023

The season opened with a flourish but after two days of catching many well repaired kelts we agreed a cessation to give these precious fish a chance to get away to sea. The river  has been in spate for nearly six weeks since and any fresh arrivals are well upriver by now. It is good for the fish to get up to safety but not so good if you’re hoping to catch one on the club water. The rain should back off now and the beat would be expected to fish well for a while.

Our working parties have been busy creating a new shelter and it is now ready for use. We do intend to tidy up the muddy floor but hopefully we have a place to sit, eat, chat and enjoy company as the river slides by. There was a lot of history attached to the old club hut and maybe now we can create new history of our own! We intend to have a club meeting there later in the year to celebrate the revival of such an asset and will post it when the time comes. Meanwhile work continues and the next step is to create a crossing for the stream and to strim a route up through the woods to give access to the dump car park. This will save having to go back out to the lane to access lower sections of the beat.

Member Nick Mcmurtrie has graciously been helping with refurbishment of the club cups and we now have more to offer at the AGM.  We  have a refurbished Mullet cup and a Bass cup to offer as well as the salmon and sea trout cups so sea fish, any method, are welcome on your catch return this year.  We also are looking at the course cups ‘ found’ and trying to identify them for use.  We now have a “junior best fish” cup too and would encourage any one with a young angler in the family,  or knows of a keen youngster ,to engage with the club as they are our future and would be more than welcome.

I’ve had an Email from P.C. Lucy Robinson who is a local police officer, wild life trained and involved in stopping rural crime including poaching and antisocial behaviour. She has supported us in various issues in the past and has asked that we call in untoward activity on the river.  It’s really good to have such support locally. Also continue to report to the E.A. incident line when you feel it’s appropriate, Particularly regarding poaching and pollution. Please reference the club if you do. They don’t always respond but it is all logged and the more we call it in the more chance of action. We have been told the E.A. are recruiting  more Bailiffs which is good news

Hopefully the summer newsletter will have interim catch reports so we wish you a good season.

Tight lines

Don Hearn


posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

            After one of the wettest Springs for many years the salmon season has got off to a slow start with the rivers unfishable for several of the early weeks. There have been a few salmon caught during brief windows of opportunity when river conditions have come right.

I have heard of at least two springers from the Taw system one from the Weir Marsh area and another on the Mole. With the rivers so high salmon will potentially have run far up the rivers and could be caught from areas where they have not been tempted for several years so early in the season

            I headed to the middle Torridge and found the river running high but with a perfect tinge of colour. The dying daffodils told of how the early  season had already passed as new spring flowers bloomed and lush green growth started to burst out on the bankside trees.

I glimpsed martins flying across the rural landscapes of spring as I drove to the water, another great marvel of  migration.

            It felt good to swing the fly across familiar lies and I initially felt a tingle of expectation. A momentary connection with a trout raised the pulse rate but as I fished on the reality of the salmon fishing these days descended. After close to three hours covering the water in near perfect conditions I couldn’t help thinking that ten years ago there would have been salmon here.

            Perhaps the recent talks I have attended and television programmes documenting the demise of the salmon are taking their toll? Salmon anglers like salmon are resilient creatures and I know that I will back full of hope next time. Heavy rain is forecast again as I write this and the rivers will be back bank high soon. The longer term prospects for this season are good as the rivers should hold up well with May likely to  be a great month to be at the river. Even if the salmon and sea trout prove elusive the brown trout fishing will be excellent. Brown trout to over 1lb 8oz have already been tempted by salmon anglers swinging large flies.

It’s well worth watching the Channel 5 documentary. A fascinating documentary about efforts to restore salmon rivers in Scotland.