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After several weeks without substantial rain the rivers have started to drop away. I fished the Middle Torridge on Saturday and was pleasantly surprised at how well the river level has held up with it at a height that I would expect fish to be present. I fished the lies carefully and failed to move any fish. It was as always a delight to in the river with fresh green growth sprouting forth all around and birdsong filling the cool spring air.

Spring tides over the previous week should have encouraged a few fish into the river. Sea trout will start to show soon with every chance of double figure fish in the early season. Ideally we need some heavy rain within a couple of weeks to replenish the rivers. If the rain does not come it will be well worthwhile targetting the wild brown trout that populate our local rivers. Early season fishing sees the fish rising freely to bushy dry flies ideally fished in conjunction with a small beaded nymph in the so called New Zealand Style.

I received this report from Barnstaple & District Angling Clubs John Webber

“Just received details from Taw Cottage Beat. Owner John Saunders invited local angler Bob Lewington to fish his top beat on Good Friday afternoon, resulting in a fresh run 12lb salmon.Bob was wading in deep water with high bank when fish hooked and managed to net whilst still in the water. This was Bob’s his first catch of the season, which I understand brings total fish landed on the Taw to 14.”


The day ticket Brightly and Weir Marsh Beats of the Taw have produced a fine couple of spring salmon with Andy Nixon catching a fine 10lb salmon and Len Francis one of 10lb 8oz. Day tickets can be obtained from Ivan Huxtable on 0777 9214909 or by calling in to The Rising Sun at Umberleigh where they also have fishing available. Click on the link below.

Below are a few notes from Roger Furniss relating to smolt survival. These highlight the range of problems that impact upon the smolt as they journey to the sea sea. Without smolt of course we have no salmon.

SWRA Council Meeting – 11 April 2017 Paper 5
From Headwater to Headland – Improving smolt survival in rivers and estuaries

From Roger Furniss


I attended a two-day conference in Berwick with the above title, organised by Atlantic Salmon Trust and Tweed Foundation – Programme attached. The Proceedings will be published but there was so much information relevant to how we manage our rivers I have summarised the key points below.

At the end I draw some conclusions about how we should manage our rivers in the light of the information

Freshwater Influence on Smolt Production and Survival

  •   Increasing freshwater temperatures are causing average smolt age and size to decrease (1+ smolts average 10 cm, 2+ average 13 cm on Burrishoole);
  •   Smaller smolts have lower marine survival;
  •   Smaller 1+ smolts tend to produce MSW’s, larger 2+ tend to produce grilse;
  •   Smolts have a narrow ‘window’ when they are in right condition to go to sea;
  •   Run timing is getting earlier (temperature effect) and causing mismatch betweenfreshwater and sea conditions, especially temperature, with cold springs better (sea temperatures do not rise as quickly as freshwater) – earlier migration is correlated with lower marine survival – effect is worse in rivers with short/no estuaries;
  •   Pesticides, herbicides, etc adversely impact home river imprinting, ability to cope with change to sea water;
  •   Smolt survival in freshwater and transit time down river and through estuary inversely proportional to river flow;
  •   Most smolts transit estuary on ebb tide, irrespective of time of day;
  •   Small loss of scales OK, large loss bad;
  •   Managing freshwater phase critical to marine survival;
  •   Hatchery reared fish have poorer survival;
  •   Wetted area of juvenile habitat vital; Smolt Migration in Rivers
  •   Environmental change is happening faster than evolutionary adaptation and may be different on different rivers;;
  •   Rivers with impoundments and in-stream structures have higher smolt mortalities than rivers without;
  •   R Bush salmon run 1975 – 1995 averaged 30,000 pa, reduced to 5,000 pa by early 2000’s. Now back to 30,000;
  •   Factors affecting Bush were siltation of redds exacerbated by weed growth, lower marine survival and predation;
  •   Inland movement of cormorants (increased numbers on coast and less inshore fish) killed 600-1200 smolts a day, totalling 50% of smolt run;


  •   Cormorant shooting/scaring must start early in the run and early in the day – break the habit;
  •   Cormorant control biggest single factor producing better adult runs – also gulls on weirs;
  •   Most smolts leave freshwater in the dark;
  •   Allier (Loire) smolts travel average of 32 km/day, with early migration ‘passive’ – ifnot rapid enough smolts killed by high temperatures and missing the ‘window’;
  •   Impacts of hydro schemes can be direct (shear, pressure and mechanical injury inturbine) and indirect (delay and easier predation) – latter exacerbated by cumulative


  •   Bindon (Frome) hydro (unscreened Archimedes) with parallel river route showed nodifference in smolt survival, speed of travel, or marine survival of smolts passing down turbine and smolts passing down river.

    Smolt survival in the lower river, estuary and coastal waters

  •   Norwegian sea trout from 100’s of streams fall into only four genetic groups, ie individual river stocks are not separate;
  •   High flows increase the proportion of daylight smolt migrants;
  •   Low flow sea trout smolt losses in freshwater can be as high as 50% and kelt 30%,normal flows 20% smolts and 5% kelts;
  •   Model smolt production by classifying habitat (0 unsuitable – 4 very good) andestimating proportion of catchment in each class; survey juveniles in each habitat and

    model survival to smolt;

  •   Deveron – 40% smolt loss between headwaters (80km upstream) and estuary, mainlypredation by sawbills and large trout – loss of 0.77%/km, 18 days average travel time

    – faster smolts more successful;

  •   Dee smolts move out of harbour very quickly (average 1 mile in 40 minutes);
  •   26 % in-river smolt mortality (0.78%/km cf Deveron);
  •   In-river migration speed flow related;
  •   In Moray Firth smolts ‘wander’ in daytime (?feeding?) and go in straight lines at night(?active migration?)
  •   Moray Firth smolts trapped 70km above tide, 50% loss in freshwater;
  •   Salmon smolts move away from river mouths more quickly that sea trout;Impact of Predation
  •   In Denmark recent changes in cormorant numbers and behaviour have had significant adverse impact with coastal population pressure and reduced sea fish stocks pushing birds inland;
  •   In 300 sq km estuary in three weeks 25% of tagged smolts eaten, 50% of tagged eels and all flounders;
  •   Seals, cod and saithe are major predators in inshore waters;
  •   In freshwater up to 70% of smolts lost to predation at some low dams (pike but mostlycormorants);
  •   In some Danish rivers cormorants are the main factor reducing fish stocks to belowWFD standards;
  •   Cormorant egg oiling not very successful, night shooting at roosts better;
  •   Relative values of salmon and cormorants key factor in driving policy;


  •   In 2012 England inland cormorant population rose from 2,400 pairs in summer to >30,000 in winter;
  •   Hampshire Avon coordinated catchment-wide cormorant shoots (licence to kill 20% of estimated population of 700, ie 140 birds);
  •   Scaring include use of lasers, gull spikes on weirs, dummies, starting pistols;
  •   Restigouche (Canada) – increased numbers of double-crested cormorants reversedsalmon recovery – mouth of river colony went fro no birds in 2000 to 2294 in 2015;
  •   Miramichi (Canada) – striped bass in estuary 1990’s nearly extinct, conservationmeasures now 300,000 in estuary at time of smolt migration.


  •   Smolt losses in freshwater are a major factor limiting adult runs;
  •   Climate change is adversely affecting production, migration and survival;
  •   Shading to keep freshwater temperatures down could help;
  •   Helping smolts get to sea quickly will help unless it’s too early (warm freshwater,cold sea) – use of water banks on regulated rivers;
  •   Micropollutants (agri-chemicals) adversely affect survival;
  •   Remove as many impoundments as possible and treat downstream migration asseriously as upstream – potential conflict between maximising smolts to sea and


  •   Archimedes Screws may not be a problem for smolts;
  •   Management can help, especially predator control, habitat improvement – needsa much more aggressive, coordinated approach to cormorant and goosander control.

Trout Fishing Opportunity

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The Taw Fishing Club (TFC) owns/rents exclusive fishing rights on 3 miles of the Upper Taw river sited on unspoiled and tranquil land between

Brushford and Hawkridge bridges in



The club is fly-only and members

predominantly fish for wild brown trout. Sea-trout and the occasional salmon are present in TFC waters.


Taw Fishing Club is looking for a small number of new Full Members. (Junior members and family groups are also particularly encouraged to apply. )


For club details see: www.tawfishingclub.org

Contact with the club can be initially made using email: [email protected]

River Taw Fisheries Association AGM

Alex Gibson RTFA Chairman and Simon Evans Wye and Usk Foundation


Members of the River Taw Fisheries Association assembled at High Bullen Hotel on March 17th for their Annual General Meeting an eagerly anticipated date in the Taw angler’s diary. Whilst primarily consisting of salmon and sea trout anglers there is a growing number of enthusiastic trout fishers who share the love of the river and care greatly about its future.

Many of the association members are riparian owners who work together for the overall good of the river within this well run organisation that has over the years contributed a great deal to enhancing the Taw habitat.

The meeting commenced with Chairman Alex Gibson summarizing the past twelve months on the river. The initial good news was that two salmon had been landed from the Taw in the past week. Alec introduced the evening’s guests including the main speaker Simon Evans (Chief Executive) of the Wye and Usk Foundation and Paul Carter our long serving Environment Agency Fisheries officer. Alex also acknowledged the achievements of Roger Furniss of the West Country Rivers Association and the attendance of Adrian Dowding of the West Country Rivers Trust.

I was saddened to learn of the death of Ron Warwick who I met with on several occasions to share his passion for fishing on the Taw. He was for several years my main source of news from the river and could always be relied upon to have up to date catches from the waters edge. I will always remember catching a silver barred spring run salmon from the Hall water on a silver stoat tail tied by Ron’s own hand. Ron was a true gentlemen his enthusiasm for life and fishing an inspiration.


(Above)The late Ron Warwick beside his beloved River Taw

Last years catches were disappointing with provisional catch returns indicating 146 salmon ad 299 sea trout. This was undoubtedly due in part to a lack of water throughout much of the season. The licensed salmon nets took 44 salmon and 55 sea trout from the estuary. Good news is the increasing number of brown trout being caught in the River particularly in the Upper Reaches.

There has at long last been success with the imminent removal of all drift netting from the estuary and its approaches (IFCA Approved subject to ratification). This will eradicate bye-catches of salmon, sea trout and bass. It will also help to protect vulnerable grey mullet populations and make policing the estuary far more straightforward. Salmon seine netting is EA controlled and will continue in June and July, there are three nets fishing, but net limitation order is for one.

The West Country Rivers Trust have carried out important work throughout the Taw to improve habitat with removal of debris dams, walk over surveys, fry surveys, farming advice and the collation of a catchment action plan. There is also the Riverfly Initiative http://www.riverflies.org/rp-riverfly-monitoring-initiative

Paul Carter gave an update on the latest from the Environment Agency with welcome news of additional support of trained enforcement officers to assist in the patrolling of West Country Waters. Paul expressed concerns at the disappointing redd counts experienced last winter.

Simon Evans (Chief Executive) of the Wye and Usk Foundation was the events main speaker and did not disappoint delivering a passionate talk and presentation covering the work of the Wye and Usk Foundation and the many challenges that we face both now and in the future.

Key elements in the talk were the need for all stakeholders to work together for the good of the environment. Habitat improvement is seen as the key with acidification, fish access, abstraction, drought, phosphates and soil wash off all major issues. The Wye and Usk Foundation have made huge efforts to engage with farming interests to address many of these issues. This is all very complex and we must realise that how we live, what we buy, and what we choose to eat has an impact on farming practices. It is clear that there are ways that farming practices can be modified to improve the environment and at the same time increase efficiency. Soil run off being a typical example, the loss of millions of tons of quality topsoil into rivers is clearly damaging to the river environment and a significant loss to the farmer.

The closing section of Simon’s presentation was perhaps the most alarming and covered the issue of Climate change and in particular the impact of temperature change in relation to salmon spawning and fry survival. There is a critical temperature typically 10 degrees C above which salmon do not spawn. In addition to this high water temperature can lead to premature hatching of fry in late winter instead of springtime when there is adequate food for fry growth and survival.

Global warming is of course a contentious subject that not all subscribe to, despite a huge amount of scientific data to support its existence. I personally accept that climate change happens and has always happened the only question is how much has mankind contributed? There is hope that salmon will adapt and that evolution will ensure their survival. This could of course mean that they simply stop inhabiting our local rivers and shift further north?

The presentation was followed by the annual fund raising auction that provides a significant proportion of the associations income. The association thank all who have made generous donations to the auction and all those who took part in the enthusiastic bidding for lots.

Talking around the table over our meal afterwards it was clear that we had all seen a dramatic decline in populations of both sea trout and salmon populations in local rivers within the last thirty years. It was also apparent that there is still a great passion for the future of angling and an almost inexhaustible optimism for each coming season.


For more information on the Wye and Usk Foundation visit: –



For more information on the River Taw Fisheries Association visit: –



The glorious Taw in summer

A new season commences – Salmon Season 2017

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It’s hard to believe that a new salmon season gets underway on Wednesday, March 1st. It may not feel much like spring at present but it is on its way with daffodils, crocus and primroses already flowering in sheltered spots. Frogs have already spawned in many locations and a few toads are starting to show.

The rivers are in good trim or at least will be within a few days as the weekend’s rains may have muddied the waters slightly. Its typical spring weather really, bitter cold days interspersed with  days of warm sunshine.

The salmon angler knows that fish will probably be scarce during those early days. There is of course the chance of that great prize a Silver Spring salmon fresh off the tide.

The Rising Sun at Umberleigh is greeting the new season on Wednesday evening with the first of this seasons salmon soirees. An opportunity for a get together to enjoy the optimism that pervades as anglers meet up and enjoy a toast or two to a new season.

A few years ago I met with Ron Warwick and discussed fishing on the river Taw whilst researching my yet to be published book. Below are a couple of extracts from those meetings.



         Ron Warwick moved to Devon in the early 1980’s and fished the River Taw for salmon for the first time on March 1st 1984. The fishing at that time was controlled by the Rising Sun, which was at that time the hub of salmon fishing on the Taw. The Inn controlled three and a half miles of fishing split into 7 beats. March 1st was opening day and a party of anglers would meet up each year to greet the new season. In those days it was essential to book a room at the hotel well in advance if you wished to fish the river on opening day. Many anglers would return year after year making it a special time as friendships were rekindled following the long winter break. This influx of spring salmon anglers brought a welcome boost to Umberleigh’s village prosperity. I am sure many happy reflections were made over glasses of amber nectar in the bar full of anglers. It was a sad day when Jim and Norma who ran the pub during this period sold up.

         River bailiff Geoff Eame’s accompanied Ron on his first trip to the river in 1984. They fished a beat below Umberleigh where Ron cast his brown and gold Devon minnow into a section of river known as Sandpits. He had only been fishing for half an hour when a fine fresh run spring salmon covered in sea lice took the lure. While I was talking to Ron his wife Iris reminded him of the long Johns she bought him to keep him warm whilst wading in the icy cold river of early spring. Ron recalled that it was a surprisingly warm spring day with blue sky and sunny spells. After walking back to the Hotel over a freshly ploughed field carrying his prize he recalls perspiring heavily. He hasn’t worn the long Johns fishing since.

         That March day in 1984 saw three salmon caught the best a fine fish of 20lb caught by Michael Martin. This was a great start to Ron’s time on the Taw. Between 1984 and 2007 he caught 275 salmon and 396 sea trout. His best salmon weighed in at 18lb 8oz and his best sea trout 15lb 8oz.

I doubt we will ever see a return to those days of plenty but you never know nature moves in cyclical ways and sometimes against all odds and with a little help from as all! Whatever happens with each cast there is hope of that electrifying tug on the line and the singing of the reel in the spring sunshine. What better excuse could there be to once again walk along those fisherman’s paths.


Taw in top Flounder form

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A Charity Competition based at the Rolle Quay Inn raised over £700 for  Willand House. The flounder competition was won by David Jenkins who landed three flounder for a total weight of 5lb 123/4oz. The bag included a fine flounder of 2lb 61/2oz that won the biggest flounder of the day prize.

15205624_10154127478241538_1152717772_oSteve Luxton was runner up in the competition with a three fish bag of 5lb 3/8oz and David Jenkins son Charlie secured third place with three fish for 4lb 61/4oz. Louis Rooke took the prize for smallest flounder of the day at 14oz.

15215761_10154128792021538_748629422_oCharlie Jenkins

Large numbers of flounder were landed over the weekend in the competition and by pleasure anglers taking advantage of excellent conditions following the recent floodwater tat has flushed out the bait robbing crabs and accumulations of leaves. John Shapland fishing a session on Monday November 28th landed a fine brace of flounder weighing 1lb 14oz and 1lb 10oz.


Flounder Fun for Junior Anglers

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Daniel Welch took his children to the River Taw estuary where they enjoyed flounder fishing fun beneath the warm autumn sunshine. The humble flounder are ideal fish for Junior anglers to target as they are relatively easy to catch and give a pleasing tussle on light tackle.

14611005_10154431991115560_1207465280488067568_nSix year old Effie Welch ( Above)

14563459_10154431991120560_3390013464941977146_nTwo and half year old – Solly Welch




The Rising Sun at Umberleigh played host to a gathering of anglers and their partners at an end of season dinner. A late flurry of action on the river allowed a few accounts of battles over good food and ale as the log burner emitted a welcome warmth. Len Francis hooked a fine 17lb salmon its flanks reflecting the autumnal hues of the season. The fish was tempted from the Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats controlled by Ivan Huxtable.  Nathan Judd also enjoyed success on the beat with an end of season grilse. Nick Briant also  landed a fine hen fish estimated at 18lb that was tempted on a small copper tube fly. The last month of the season proved a little disappointing with those fish caught all stale fish that had undoubtedly been in the river for a while. Sport has generally been very sporadic throughout 2016 with river levels generally low and fish coming as expected on the few spates that we have had. The most disappointing aspect has been the poor numbers of sea trout.

Emma Tyjas
Emma Tyjas enjoyed success earlier in the season.

It seems such a short time since I joined an excited gathering of anglers in the Rising Sun at the start of the season and I feel sure that in six months time enthusiasm will be recharged after the long winter break. Every season is different dependent on both the weather and the success of spawning on the redds in the five years preceding the season. As the leaves start to fall and the swallows have departed those spring days with daffodil lined banks seem so far away yet as live races past they will soon be here once again. In the mean time there is no need to pack away the rods with stillwater trout fishery’s at their best.

The River Torridge fishers have a fortnight extension to enjoy with special permits available from Charles Innis 0n 01409 231237. Fishing is strictly catch and release with single barbless hooks only. A few salmon have been tempted in the last week of September as river levels fluctuate  as a result of some heavy bursts of rain. John Graham and Garry Duggan both landed grilse of around 6lb from mid river beats. When conditions allow there is every chance of a good fish from the Torridge with plenty of water to encourage a run of late fish. Charles Inniss informed me that he had a momentary contact with a large fish whilst fishing the upper river.

dscf2667img_1592Rising Sun





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IMG_0662 It seems a short time ago that a keen assembly of anglers met up in the Rising Sun in early March to raise a glass to the coming season. Optimism was abundant tales were told of seasons past and hope raised for the one commencing. Many offers were made of fishing days on prime beats and plans to fish. Talk of summer nights and sea trout; of spring salmon on daffodil decorated banks. Were has that season evaporated to as we contemplate an end of season meal at the Rising Sun where I am sure those familiar faces will once again meet to reflect upon triumphs and a few tribulations of the past six months. The event is sure to be a popular one so I would suggest contacting Julian at the Rising Sun without delay.

September 30th

The Rising Sun Hotel

End of Fishing Season Menu


Homemade Vegetable Soup £5.95

Trout & Salmon Roulade £7.95

Chicken Liver Pate £7.95

Scallops St Jacques £8.95

Salmon with Pesto Herb Crumb, New Potatoes & Salad £13.95

Moules Frites £12.95

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni £11.95

6oz Rump Steak with Chips, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Onion Rings & Salad £13.95


Apple & Raspberry Crumble £5.95

Cheesecake £5.95

Ice Cream Selection £4.95

Cheese & Biscuits £8.50

IMG_0950Rising Sun


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Experienced Taw rod Roger Bickley has caught his biggest salmon and the best of the season so far. The huge fish measuring 39″ and estimated at 22lb was tempted from a middle Taw beat using a stoats tail variant tied on a size 6 single hook. Roger described the large cock fish as having its flanks shaded in colours of autumn with a large kype indicating that it had been in the river for some time. The fish was undoubtedly stimulated by a slight rise in the water following isolated thunder storms at the weekend. The fish took around twenty minutes to land making several powerful runs that tested Roger’s 12lb leader to the full. After a few minutes of cradling carefully in the rivers flow the mighty fish gave a kick of its tail and swam strongly away. Hopefully this fine fish will be spawning on the redds high on Exmoor before Christmas as anglers sit beside log fires recalling tales of seasons past.

Len Francis also enjoyed success lower down river landing a 4lb grilse from the day-ticket Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats near Umberleigh. Tickets are available from Ivan Huxtable on 01769540835 or call into the Rising Sun at Umberleigh and speak with Jules.

IMG_5374Roger Bickley fishing the Middle Taw

Rising Sun


The recent dry, bright sunny weather has brought fishing on the rivers to a virtual standstill with water now crystal clear. The only realistic chance of catching salmon or sea trout is early and late in the day when the sun is off the water. Before the rivers dropped several grilse and sea trout were landed from both the Mole and Bray.


A few fish are trickling in however and a couple of salmon have been tempted from the Torridge. I fished the Weir Marsh and Brightly beats of the Taw last week and saw several salmon show as I fished down through this splendid stretch of prime day ticket water. Two fish were caught from these beats including a 6lb salmon to the rod of David Rice and a 4lb grilse for David Carhart.

IMG_0950Weir Marsh & Brightly Beats of the Taw

Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Clubs Rogers and Guard Shield was contested by six keen club members on a bright sunny day not conducive to trout fishing. Winner of the event was Colin Combe with tow browns totalling 27inches. Runner up was Steve Edmunds with one quality brown trout of 15”.

Wimbleball catch reports show 1.6 fish per rod day.

Rising Sun