The River Torridge Fishery Association – NEWSREEL

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The River Torridge Fishery Association

President: Lord Clinton

Chairman: Paul Ashworth                                                                Secretary: Charles Inniss


The Salmon Hatchery

            At long last I have some good news: the EA has given the go ahead for us to run the hatchery again this autumn/winter. The hatchery team have had to attend a health/safety course and we have had to purchase a hoist and harness in case of difficulties netting the broodstock in 18 inches of water!! A working party has tidied the hatchery site and cleaned the holding tanks. All being well we will be trapping the broodstock in early/mid-November. Once the eggs have been stripped and fertilised, 10,000 will be sent to the Colliford hatchery with the remainder being.  looked after at our Monkokehampton hatchery.

Our Fishery Enforcement Officer

            More good news: a new fishery officer for North Devon has now been appointed. Sam Fenner is very keen to support the Torridge in particular the hatchery project.

The Annual Egg Box Dinner

            Over 40 members and guests enjoyed a convivial evening with good company and an excellent meal. We were delighted that our newly appointed Fishery Officer, Sam Fenner, was able to join us and meet several of our members.

The Annual Raffle

            Thank you all for supporting the raffle so generously which made a net profit of £1,225.

The prize winners of the raffle:

            £100 Orvis Voucher:                   Nigel Case

            Voucher for 12 bottles of wine: a friend of Graham Henderson

            £50 Half Moon Voucher:            Trevor Glover

The Fishing Season

            We cannot complain about a lack of water this year. After a dry hot June the remainder of the season was characterised by changeable weather with regular spells of heavy rain. The runs of both salmon and sea trout were again disappointing. Salmon and sea trout moved quickly upstream and most of the fish were caught on middle river beats. The lack of fishing effort (and I was as guilty as anyone) possibly meant that the rod catch did not truly reflect the number of fish in the river. Three salmon were caught in the last two days of the season, including an absolutely fresh fish of 7lb from Madeira. There was some good brown trout fishing in May and June. There is increasing evidence that the trout are feeding on the baby signal crayfish, which have now infested the whole catchment, resulting in several fish up to 3lb being caught.



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.

Notes from the river at the Seasons End

I fished the river yesterday and it was too high and coloured. I return today and its dropped a bit with less colour

Warm September sunshine the  river dropping, It feels right If a little high. I select the fly and wade out.

The cast is good I feel I’m doing everything right, each cast the line unfurls and the fly drops in the right place. Swing it around in the current expectation as the fly passes familiar lies.

As I walk the riverside field’s I note the fungi,  hazelnuts and the subtle changes that tell of seasons end.

At the top of the beat I look up river to briefly glimpse the graceful roll of an otter. As I climb from the river having fished the pool through a kingfisher brings a flash of electric blue.

Its hard to believe that another season has come to an end. It seems only yesterday that I walked the banks as the wild daffodils bloomed.


Torridge Fishery Association – Newsreel Summer 2023

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 The River Torridge Fishery Association

President: Lord Clinton

Chairman: Paul Ashworth        Secretary: Charles Inniss Beeches Sheepwash Beaworthy Devon EX21 5NW

                                                                        e-mail: [email protected]      tel: 01409231237



The Annual Dinner and Raffle:  this is always a most enjoyable evening and hopefully our new fishery officer, Sam Fenner, will be able to join us. This year the dinner will be on the last day of the season: Saturday 30th September. To book contact The Half Moon Inn:        TEL: 01409231376           E-MAIL: info@

Jeremy Burden: sadly I have to report that Jeremy passed away about a month ago. He had lived in Sheepwash for 25 years and was a valuable committee member. He loved fishing the Torridge and with his dry sense of humour I know many of you will have enjoyed his company over a pint of beer at the bar of The Half Moon.

 The Hatchery: we are determined to get our hatchery operational again this autumn. The number of Torridge salmon, like all the rivers in the UK, is declining at an alarming rate and it is now more important than ever to help arrest this decline by using our hatchery to rear upto 30,000 swim-up fry before releasing into the headwaters of the catchment in the spring.

            Haydn, the proprietor at The Half Moon, has drawn up a lengthy document detailing the health/safety requirements and risk assessment statement regarding the use of the fish pass at Monkokehampton Weir to trap our broodstock. This has been forwarded to the EA. Once approval has been confirmed we can then prepare to open up the hatchery this autumn. All the hatchery team will have to attend a “confined space” training course and we will have to hire/purchase a portable hoist and harness to safely retrieve any member if necessary from the holding tank of the fish pass. This is all extra expense so it is even more important that the raffle is well supported this year.

Defending the sport we love: the future of river fishing is increasingly under threat. Rivers are no longer regarded as the preserve for anglers. Wild swimming, canoeing threaten the peace and quiet so important to the fishing fraternity. Conservation is currently the in-word. If we are not careful compulsory catch and release will be followed by the conservation lobby demanding a total ban on fishing with our rivers merely becoming a haven for beavers. Be warned!!



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.


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Simon Hillcox took advantage of a swollen river to tempt a fine Torridge salmon. As Storm Antoni sweeps in the rain will add to the river flows bringing the chance of salmon for several weeks to come. Hopefully restoring some of the damage inflicted by the drought of spring and early summer.

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?

From the river bank – May 1st

The 1st day of May heralds the opening of a glorious season for anglers, a time when an all-rounder like myself is torn as to where to cast next. With the countryside and nature bursting into life it is certainly a great time to be  at the water’s edge.

On Mondays I fish a middle Torridge beat and with the river at perfect height and colour salmon were the intended target. I tied on a pleasing brightly coloured salmon fly that I felt confidence in and fished through all the known lies methodically. With conditions perfect there was that essential degree of expectation.

The line tightened a couple of times as wild browns intercepted the fly as it swam across the river. Beautiful spotted fish that I will target later when the river drops further making the pursuit of salmon even less hopeful.

I savoured the abundance of wild flowers on the river bank. Each year when I walk the beat rod in hand I witness these wonders of  natures cycle.

Old rails assist the angler to climb from the water and I cannot help but mourn the loss of  abundance within the river. The decline of salmon is surely a wake up that all is not well within our natural world?

Years ago, previous generations fished this river and on good days a horse and cart would transport the salmon caught from the river. The ghillies of the day would apparently limit the anglers to 3 salmon of between 15lb and 20lb as they couldn’t carry them up the hills! The taking of these fish would have impacted upon the salmon populations as would the netting in the estuary. This was not however the main reason for the salmons decline. Today there are multiple issues impacting upon the salmon mostly symptoms of a sick planet that has been plunged into an eco-logical downturn by mankind’s growth and greed over recent centuries. Sadly, our generation has witnessed one of the greatest collapses in the natural world. Is there hope? We can try and raise awareness but I fear the general populace cares little for the arteries of the land. Read the latest political agendas from councillors; how many have the health of the countryside at the top of the agenda?

On a positive note, there have been a couple of fresh run spring salmon caught on the lower Taw.

From the river bank – April 17th

Back on the River Torridge and the River seems to be at the same level as last week after spells of heavy rain the river has been up and down. The colour is good but it’s still just a little higher than ideal.

I follow the normal ritual drifting the fly across the river hoping a springer will be resting up and ready to take my fly. After several weeks of good water there are undoubtedly salmon throughout the river but they are likely to be well spread out and I feel they will be more likely to intercept our flies when the river drops a little more and they begin to settle into those longstanding resting places.

After fishing most of the beat I take a short break. Setting the rod down I enjoy a packet of crisps and a satsuma. A high pitched familiar piercing cry caught my attention followed by a streak of electric blue as kingfisher streaked past. A movement caught my eye on the muddy bank and a leech was looping towards me in what could almost be a sinister lust for blood.

I had been watching these amazing creatures on Countryfile a few days ago. They are bred in leech farms for use in the NHS.

I fished back down through the beat casting into familiar lies. As I approached the last pool my confidence grew and as I drifted the fly across the hotspot I expected a take. Strangely it didn’t materialise as in the past that feeling has brought success. Next time?

Shortly after writing the above I recieved a report of 9lb salmon caught at Okement Foot by Alistair Blundell.