Short Sessions with Brown Trout

A cool South West wind ruffled the surface of Wistlandpound and mist descended upon the tree lined perimeter as I waded out into the lake. I had left the rod set up since my last visit with a black tadpole on the point and small black pennel variant on a dropper. I commenced to search the water and after ten minutes hooked into my first brown trout of the evening a valiant scrapper of perhaps 10″. This was only a short session but proved to a good one. During the next hour I banked ten trout up to 12″ and on one cast even managed a brace with one on each fly.

I wondered if the rudd would still be present in the shallow inlet and wandered up for a cast or two. Six rudd later I returned to the trout area and added another brownie to the total as the light faded from the day.

The following morning I decided to head for a short session on the Torridge once again targeting brown trout as with river levels now very low there was little chance of a salmon.

It was a delight to be wading in the cool waters with lush green growth all around. I started out with a new Zealand style set up and hooked a brown trout of perhaps 8oz after a few casts but it came adrift after a brief tussle.

It was good to see plenty of fry darting about in the margins and a few toad tadpoles. I was hoping to spot a few rising fish but they were very few and far between. At the top of the beat I changed over to a pair of nymphs and tried drifting these over promising lies to no avail. With only a short time left a few fish started to rise and I hastily changed over to a dry fly. I flicked the fly into the streamy run where I had spotted the rising fish. A glance at the time and I realised that my time was almost up.  One more cast… a splashy rise and I was into a 12″ brownie to save a blank session.

One of the joys of fly fishing is the lack of preparation required. Just pick up the rod and head to the waters edge.

The River Torridge Fishery Association – News Reel

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The River Torridge Fishery Association

President: Lord Clinton


Chairman: Paul Ashworth                                                    Secretary: Charles Inniss

                                                                        Beeches Sheepwash Beaworthy Devon EX21 5NW

                                                                                                tel: 014109231237

                                                                                    e-mail: [email protected]



Subscriptions for 2022 are now due. Please forward your cheque for £20 to the Secretary at the above address making cheques payable to The River Torridge Fishery Association.

                                                If you prefer to pay by BACS:

          account name: Torridge Owners Association: a/c no 00827770: sort code 51 70 16

Our AGM: for the first time for three years we were able to hold our agm. It was an excellent meeting with over 30 attending and The Half Moon laid on a superb buffet at the conclusion of the business. Paul Carter was our Fishery Officer for over thirty years before his retirement in 2020. In appreciation for all Paul has done for our river the Chairman presented him with a retirement gift from the Association: a £100 Snowbee gift voucher.

Election of Officers: the agm re-elected the officers and committee “en bloc”.

Chairman: Paul Ashworth, Vice-Chairman Steve Phelps, Sec/Treas Charles Inniss, T. Harper,

J. Burden, S. McClaren, D. Betts, D. Williams, P. Coles, K. Dunn, J. Graham. T. Birkbeck

Our President, Lord Clinton, is an honorary member of the committtee.

Hatchery Update: having not allowed the hatchery team to trap broodstock from the fish pass at Monkokehampton Weir last year for health and safety reasons, your committee is hopeful that the EA will give us the go-ahead this autumn. The Association continues to support the South West Rivers Association with its ambition to use the hatchery at Colliford Reservoir as a hatchery hub for all the rivers in the South West.

Health and safety issues: at the agm our vice-Chairman, Steve Phelps, outlined how important it was for the Association to make a thorough risk assessment for any work undertaken with regard to the hatchery and to general river maintenance.

EA proposal for 100% salmon catch and release: this will apply to all the rivers in Devon and Cornwall. Salmon stocks in all the South West rivers continue to decline and the EA feel it necessary to make catch and release compulsory. There will be a consultation period when we will all have an opportunity to express our views. Mandatory catch and release will probably be implemented for the 2023 season. There was a lively discussion at the agm with opinions evenly split for and against. With Torridge stocks of salmon and sea trout continuing to decline your committee strongly recommends that all fish are released without where possible removing them from the water.

The season so far: the river was high and coloured for the first ten days of March but then settled down to provide some excellent early season salmon fishing. It has been a most encouraging month with 5 salmon caught so far: 2 from Beam and 3 from Madeira, including a superb fish of 15lb.

Callum Underhill: our new fishery officer, Callum, will be looking forward to seeing many of you on the river bank over the coming season.


Heavy rain has brought the river up a bit and brought some turbidity, if it was late Spring I would welcome this but somehow in early Spring the murky water does not inspire. I drift a big brass tube across the favoured spots. Its good to be back despite the cold wind and less than perfect river.

Salmon have been sighted leaping further downriver so its only a matter of time before someone strikes silver!

As I arrive a large bushy tailed fox scrambles into the hedgerow. I note the Spring flowers, daffodils, Primroses and celandines in what I often think of as Springs yellow phase.

I catch a movement in the corner of my eye ! A branch drifting downriver, but its strangely moving across the river? It somersaults in the river a tail slapping the water as it dives. My first glimpse of an otter this year. Whilst otters generate a lot of anger and debate amongst anglers I always thrill at the sight on this River made famous through the writings of Henry Williamson and Tarka the Otter. Otters belong here on this river; it is mankind that has upset the balance decimating the stocks of fish upon which the otters feed. Nature has a fine and complex balance that we so often upset.

In search of Spring silver

The March River

It was great to be back once again swinging a fly across familiar salmon lies on the River Torridge. The river level was just about perfect with the first week of the season hampered by high flows and turbid waters. Spring salmon are a great prize that have become increasingly hard to win in recent seasons. Ten years ago today I was lucky to hook and net a beautiful fresh run fish from the Middle Torridge. I have fished every March since without repeating this. I will keep trying savouring the spring flowers and the hopes of a new season.

It is sad to see the empty shell of a freshwater pearl mussel. These mollusc can live for over 100 years are not thought to have bred successfully since the 1960’s.


An out of season brown trout brought a welcome pull on the line. I hope to target these wild browns later in the Spring when they will hopefully take well presented dry flies or nymph.

The River Torridge Fishery Association – Newsreel

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The River Torridge Fishery Association

President: Lord Clinton 

Chairman: Paul Ashworth                                  Secretary: Charles Inniss

                                                               e-mail: [email protected]


The Salmon Hatchery:

            Sadly, I have to report that the hatchery team plans to rear 30,000 swim-up fry to be stocked out into the headwaters in the spring will not be going ahead. The EA has closed down all access to their fish passes except for essential maintenance work by their fishery staff. This decision was taken after a fatal accident to an EA employee although the incident did not involve a fish pass and did not occur in the South West. As a result we have not been able to use the fish pass at the side of Monkehampton Weir to trap our brood-stock. The EA gave permission for six of us to try and catch the brood-stock with rod and line. During November we twice tried to catch our broodstock using spinning tackle. Our Fishery Officer, Callum Underhill, arrived with an oxygenated tank but despite our best efforts we had no success. Knowing how difficult it is to catch just one salmon these days the chances of catching several in a few hours was extremely remote.

The Torridge Hatchery Team in November 2020

            This also means that the plans to develop the South West Hatchery hub at Colliford hatchery on the River Fowey have had to be put on hold. Steve Phelps, our vice-Chairman, has liaised closely with the Colliford hatchery and together with the Axe Association we are all still determined to move the project forward. Hopefully next year 50% of our eggs will be reared at Colliford. As salmon stocks in our South West rivers continue to decline the aim is to expand the Colliford hatchery so that it can support several rivers.

The South West Rivers Association: Roger Furniss:

            Since helping to set up the SWRA over 25 years ago Roger Furniss has been the driving force: for many years as Secretary and for the last three years Chairman. At the SWRA AGM in October Roger handed over the reins as Chairman to William Entwistle. Roger will remain a Council member. The committee would like to thank Roger for all the help and sound advice which he has given on many occasions.

The Annual Dinner:

            Our Annual Dinner was held at The Half Moon at the end of September. It was a wonderful evening: well supported with good company and an excellent meal. The new proprietors, Haydn and Kim, joined us for the evening. We wish them well in their new venture. They are keen to support the Association in its efforts to improve water quality, stabilise river flows and restore migratory stocks to their former levels of abundance. Thank you all for once again for supporting the raffle so generously. We raised over £1,600 which will be used to make further improvements at our hatchery.

The Fishing Season:

Rod catches were disappointing. Due to Covid restrictions fishing effort was limited and even those of us who lived locally did not fish regularly. There were only a handful of anglers who did fish regularly and they all enjoyed some success. It is often said that 90% of fish are caught by 10% of the anglers. This season 95% of the fish were caught by 5% of the anglers. Let’s all make a New Year resolution to get out and fish our beautiful river more often. From the reports I have received 25/30 salmon and about 120 sea trout were caught. Several sea trout over 5lb were landed.

Best wishes to you all for the festive season. Charles

Last casts of the season

After a long dry late summer and early autumn the rains have arrived swelling the local rivers into a dirty torrent. On the last day of the salmon season following rain earlier in the week the rivers had started to drop. I took my rod to the Middle Torridge and swung the fly more to say goodbye to season as in expectation of catching.

The river was at a good height but visibility was no more than 6″. I put on a big orange tube fly in the hope that it could be seen. The water was dark and turbid and rain beat down. The Bankside trees and vegetation showed little sign of the changing season. I savoured the sights of the river bank, the invasive Himalayan balsam has spread widely in some areas. Its pink flowers added colour, water droplets shone like jewels upon  seed heads that popped as I walked past. Rose hips added a splash of colour as persistent rain beat down on this grey final day of what has been a disappointing season. In a few days the river will have fined down and will hopefully be full of salmon and sea trout forging up river to spawn high up on the redds.

Rose hips add a splash of colour on the dullest of days.

We are living in strange times the ash trees suffering from ash die back some already dead and cut into lengths. Nature will heal of course I read recently of the loss of the nations elm trees during the dutch elm disease outbreak during the  60’s and seventies when an estimated 25.000,000 elm trees perished in the UK.

It is hard to believe that another season has passed by and for me a season without a salmon. As an all-round angler there is much to look forward to as autumn arrives and I will be torn as to where to cast my line. Until the wild daffodils once again decorate the banks I will no longer cast in hope of silver.

Early or Late on those hot summer days

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I was delighted to receive this wonderful image of Graham Dunn fishing the Middle Torridge during the early dawn. During these hot summer days it’s better to be at the waters edge either at first or last light as the temperature is more comfortable and the fish more likely to take. During this short trip Graham tempted a dace, five brown trout and  a sea trout all carefully released with minimal handling.

Big Rivers Bring Silver Tourists

The Taw and Torridge are both running high following the recent spell of heavy rain but as the rivers drop and clear salmon and sea trout should start to show in good numbers. Jack Hillcox was fishing a River Taw beat with his father Simon who was acting as ghillie.

Simon told me ” The one thing better than catching a salmon  is acting as ghille when your son lands one.We had half an hour left before I had to drop him at Tiverton Parkway and were just philosophising how we had a great day and fish didn’t really matter ….then wham! A memorable day and hoping we all have some action over the next week or so.”

The salmon was returned quickly and swam away like a rocket.

As the rivers drop salmon and sea trout will settle into known lies where for a few days they will be catchable. Im sure a few good brown trout will also seize the salmon flies like this fine brown tempted by a seasoned Torridge fisher.

I fished a middle Torridge Beat as the sun started to rise above the trees and had  a couple of good pulls on a brass tube fly. The colour was perfect but the river is running just a little high and should be perfect within two or three days. Despite the lack of success is there a better place to be than in the river as the English countryside reaches early summer perfection?

After posting this I received news that Jamie Walden tempted a fine salmon of 16lb from Little Warham Fishery.