Early Season thoughts beside the river

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Today I cast a line for salmon on the middle Torridge with the river running high and at a good colour there should be a few salmon about and I have read reports of a couple of fish hooked and lost. Catching really did not matter today it was just good to be beside the river and feel the waters flow and cool air. In these worrying times its a great comfort to be beside the river as spring flowers bring a splash of colour and a feeling of normality.

After a winter away from the beat its always interesting to note the changes that have occurred after winter spates tear down the valley. The odd tree has succumbed but overall little has changed. The present situation in the wider world has made me focus on the present far more and today I walked slowly along the bank savouring the familiar spring flowers and birdsong. The pheasants, strutting across the fields, the cooing wood pigeons in the woods, a grey squirrel flitting from branch to branch.

I have been a keen collector of the books of BB and I recalled somewhere in his writings a dark tale of the Village of Faxton abandoned as the  spectre of the Black Death reaped its curse in 1665. “The Country Mans Bedside Book” was published in 1941 during the dark days of World War 2. At the end of the introduction I found this fitting prose.

One day this dark dream will be over, the iron of winter will pass, the village bells ring out again over tranquil meadows and we shall have peace again. When that hour comes let us help to build a saner, simpler world on the one true foundation.

Nature is master of all, there will be wild violets blooming along the sheltered bank whatever we may do, the joyous bird will sing, grass will cover the old scars. In this I find quiet comfort and a pointer to man’s folly. 

‘BB’

Northants, April 1941

It is comforting to look back into history and see that previous generations have been through dark days and that they have passed as these will do. We as anglers are very fortunate to have this connection with nature that can give assurance that all will be well in time.

I leave you with a few images from the waters edge.

( Below)The winter floods have washed away several freshwater pearl mussels. These can live upwards of 100 years and have not bred in the Torridge for many years. It is sad to see these casualties beside the river. https://www.northdevonanglingnews.co.uk/2017/04/28/saving-freshwater-mussels-torridge/

The above pearl mussel shell undoubtedly belonged to a mollusc that started its life somewhere around the time of World War 1 just a couple of years before the last flu pandemic to inflict death and misery across the world. It is sobering to think of this grim history but also perhaps comforting to reflect on all the good times that have happened in this century since this old timer was born in the ever-flowing waters of the Torridge.

River Torridge Postpone AGM as a result of Covid-19

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The River Torridge Fisheries Association have reluctantly had to cancel their AGM that was due to be held at the Half Moon Inn at Sheepwash on April 3rd. The Covid-19 outbreak is causing widespread anguish and will leave a long lasting legacy as it spreads to cause ill health and both social and financial hardship. It is to be hoped that anglers can at least access the waters edge and enjoy a reprieve from the concerning news from around the world.

The latest news from the association can be found on their website –http://www.rivertorridge.org.uk

RIVER TAW FISHERIES ASSOCIATION AGM POSTPONED

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The River Taw Fisheries Association have made the decision to postpone this years AGM that was due to take place at Highbullen Hotel on March 27th  due to ongoing concerns regarding the Coronavirus.

Angling on the whole is not severely impacted upon by the Coronavirus.  Waterside activities in the fresh air are undoubtedly amongst the safest place to be when it comes to Coronavirus. After one of the wettest winters for several decades Devon’s rivers are brimful with water and whilst the first two weeks of the season have been a washout the rivers levels bode well for the coming season. With dryer weather forecast for next week I expect a few anglers to get out and wet a line.

Alistair Blundell ventured onto the lower Torridge and spotted a salmon showing at the tail of the pool. He used his double handed rod to drift a fly across the spot and was rewarded with that delightful connection with a double figure spring salmon. After a few exciting moments the fish managed to shake the hook free in the strong current. The hooking of the fish is a great sign that salmon are in the rivers and as the water level drop there is every project of that most prized spring run salmon.

Salmon Fishing Season off to a flooded start

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A new salmon season began on Sunday March 1st  but looking at the Taw below Newbridge on the eve of the season I doubt if any of the North Devon rivers will be fishable for at least a week. Early season is often hampered by high river levels and in the longer term this could be to anglers advantage as it will hopefully mean that there is a plenty of water well into the season. The early part of the season can produce some of the biggest fish of the year with big fresh run spring salmon one of angling greatest prizes. Don’t forget that all salmon have to be returned to the river in the first three months of the season. Catch and release is also encouraged throughout the entire season with barbless single hooks preferable.

Salmon close seasons by river

River Start and end
Avon (Devon) 1 Dec to 14 Apr
Erme 1 Nov to 14 Mar
Axe, Otter, Sid 1 Nov to 14 Mar
Lim 1 Oct to the last day of Feb
Camel, Gannel, Menalhyl, Valency 16 Dec to 30 Apr
Dart 1 Oct to 31 Jan
Exe 1 Oct to 13 Feb
Fowey, Looe, Seaton 16 Dec to 31 Mar
Tamar, Tavy, Lynher 15 Oct to the last day of Feb
Plym, Yealm 16 Dec to 31 Mar
Taw, Torridge 1 Oct to the last day of Feb
Lyn 1 Nov to 31 Jan
Teign 1 Sep to 31 Jan

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]

NEWSREEL: WINTER 2019.

The salmon hatchery:  

            On Tuesday 5th and Wednesday 6th November we successfully trapped our 10 broodstock (5 hens and 5 cocks).  Four of the hens are about 9lb together with one superb fish in excess of 13lb. All the cock fish are in the 4.5lb range.  All the fish are in excellent condition  and are now being looked after back at the hatchery. We were concerned that with the rivers having been in full spate for the last six weeks all the salmon may have gone through the fish pass, but our worries were unfounded. Indeed there seems to be a steady run in the Okement which is very encouraging.

The lid of the main broodstock tank needed repairing and this was completed by Ken Dunn and David Williams in time to receive the broodstock.

Last year there was a high mortality from the eggs of one of the hens, so the team will be looking closely at out procedures for stripping and fertilising the eggs to minimise the risk of high mortalities.

Juvenile Surveys:

            During the summer the EA carried out juvenile surveys at a limited number of sites on the main river and major tributaries. The results were encouraging. The site at Okehampton Castle on the River Okement always produces good results but this year it was quite outstanding particularly with the numbers of salmon parr.

The Annual Dinner and Raffle:

Another superb evening at The Half Moon. 47 of us enjoyed an excellent meal followed by the raffle and auction. Once again member support for the annual raffle was tremendous and over £1,500 was raised which will go towards continuing our efforts to improve the fishing on this beautiful river. In particular this money is used to finance the running of the hatchery. Particular thanks to Paul Ashworth, our Chairman, and his wife Geraldine who organised the raffle and the auction which as always went off without a hitch with the usual wonderful array of prizes.

The Fishing Season:

Following on from 2018 the salmon anglers were hoping for more water and more fish: but it was not to be. It has been another season with predominantly low flows with few salmon caught. We were all hoping that the autumn rains would arrive in time to provide some good fishing at the back end of the season. The rains did arrive but our weather went from one extreme to another. The river was in full spate for the last 10 days of the season and since then there has hardly been a dry day. In the last fortnight there have been two large floods, with the river over the top of the hedges at Sheepwash on 25th October.

The brown trout fishing in May and June was at times quite outstanding. Often although there was little surface activity anglers who persevered with a dry fly were rewarded with some excellent catches. As in 2018 several trout upwards of 2lb have been caught.

There seemed to be a better run of sea trout this year. A small spate in June encouraged fish to move upstream and they spread throughout the system. I haven’t heard of any very large sea trout being caught and the main run seems to have been in the 2/3lb range with some fish up to 5lb.

 

Salmon on the Taw and Torridge

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The recent rain has brought a welcome run of fish into the Taw and Torridge with the above salmon tempted by Emma Tyjas from the Taw.

Bob Lewington tempted a 9lb salmon from the Weir Marsh and brightly Beats of the Taw.

Simon Hillcox tempted 6lb salmon from the a middle Torridge Beat and a brace from a Lower Taw beat estimated at 6lb and 4lb both tempted on a Willie Gunn.

I fished a middle Torridge beat with great expectation but failed to tempt a fish. Great to be back out on the river though now that the river has been topped up.

Rivers rise to bring a run of silver tourists

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The recent rainfall has boosted rivers levels and brought a welcome run off salmon and sea trout to both the Taw and Torridge. Around a dozen salmon have been tempted from the River Torridge and I suspect a similar number from the River Taw. One angler was certainly in the right place at the right time catching three salmon in a short session on a middle Torridge beat. If we get more rain to top up the rivers more sport can be expected.

A fantastic fresh run 18lb salmon was caught, landed and returned safely by Jamie Walden who was fishing alone in a challenging location mid river, on the Little Warham Fishery testament to his skills being able to land it on his own. Jamie also lost two sea trout in the same session.

Tales from the River Bank

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The areas rivers are already at summer levels bringing concern amongst salmon anglers that we could be in for a repeat of last year’s disastrous season when rivers ran low for most of the fishing year. A brief rise last week after localised rain encouraged at least one fish into the Taw with Bob Lewington tempting a fresh run grilse of 6lb from the Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats. There are positive stories from the Taw and Torridge in that the brown trout fishing has been excellent with wild trout to over 1lb caught on Half Moon Beats of the Torridge. Anglers have also caught and returned good numbers of silver smolts on their way back to the sea a sign that all is not doom and gloom.

With salmon and sea trout scarce, I contacted Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pearce and suggested an evening fishing the middle Torridge for wild brown trout. Jeff was keen to visit a new stretch of water and I picked him up whilst the sun was still high in the sky.

Arriving at the river the lack of recent rain was apparent with the river running very low. When I say there has been a lack of rain this not entirely true as localised heavy showers had brought a short spate the previous week bringing the level up three feet. As is often the case in recent years the dirty river dropped very quickly as a combination of dry ground and thirsty trees mopped up the welcome water.

Despite its subdued and sedate flow rate the river and its surroundings looked resplendent in its late spring flourish of vivid life and colour.

I expected to see plenty of trout rising as fly life seemed abundant with insects flitting above the water illuminated by the slowly sinking sun. We walked to the top of the beat discussing the various holding pools as we passed them. Each pool held its memories and I enjoyed recounting stories of salmon and sea trout caught during previous seasons.

I had tied a small grey duster dry fly to my light tippet and started to wade carefully up a long glide. I cast the fly to likely spots as I scanned the water for signs of feeding trout.

A splashy rise twenty yards upstream raised expectations and I waded stealthily to get within range.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pearce
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Pearce
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Pearce

After a couple of casts there came that most delightful of moments as the waters surface was broken as the  dry fly was taken in a sublime moment of deception. A flick of the wrist set the tiny hook and the water bulged, the rod flexed and line was ripped through the rings as I was forced to give a little line. A twelve ounce wild brown trout gives a pleasing account on a three weight rod. Jeff was soon at hand to capture the moment and commented that such a fish could be the best of the season.

I fished on for a while rising a couple of more trout that came adrift after a few moments. Fishing the upstream dry fly to rising fish is perhaps as close as one can get to the true essence of the hunter fisher. This searching and seeking is so different to the trapping mindset of the static bait fisher.

Don’t get me wrong I am not setting out one type of fishing as superior to another just highlighting the contrasting approach. Non anglers find it difficult to contemplate upon the diverse nature of angling. Why we need so many rods, reels, lines and tackles.

I am in danger of wondering into complex waters so to return to the night in question. Jeff was fishing a slower section further down and had found several trout sipping flies from the surface. I watched him place his fly delicately upon the water and hoped to see him connect. As I turned to walk away down-river I heard a  triumphant exclamation. The Snowbee Prestige G-XS Graphene Fly Rod ( Matched with a Thistledown 2 Wt line) was well bent as a good trout battled gamely on the gossamer thin line. After a few anxious moments a delighted Jeff gazed at his prize in the rubber meshed net. A pristine wild brown trout that would probably weigh close to 1lb 8oz. A splendid prize that was twice the size of  the trout I had returned a few minutes earlier.

Jeff held the fish close to the water at all times lifting it only momentarily from its watery home to record a pleasing image to take away. It would be difficult to surpass this success and as the sun sank the temperature dropped and we both changed over to nymphs and spider patterns fished down and across.

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Pearce
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Pearce

This style of fishing is less demanding than the upstream dry fly and allows the attention to wonder slightly absorbing the sights and sounds of the river and its banks. The electric blue flash of a kingfisher, the yellow wagtails, the handsome cock pheasants and the lively brood of beeping ducklings all part of the rich scene.

We both enjoyed success with hard fighting trout tempted as the light faded. Hopefully as summer arrives and a little rain the brownies sea run brethren will provide some more exciting sport.

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Pearce

Latest from the River Torridge

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It was good to once again arrive at the Half Moon Inn at Sheepwash as members of the River Torridge Fishery Association assembled for the AGM. This is always an enjoyable occasion with members coming from far and wide to reaffirm their commitment to the river Torridge by supporting the great work that is undertaken each year to protect and promote the river, its fish and ultimately the unique community that it supports.

Charles Inniss announced the sad news that Mrs Terry Norton Smith had recently passed away at the age of 94. Mrs Terry Norton Smith is fondly remembered by many who have fished the Torridge as she lived for many years at Little Warham Fishery with her husband Group Captain Peter Norton Smith https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1555385/Group-Captain-Peter-Norton-Smith.html

LITTLE WARHAM FISHERY

Last summer was one to be forgotten so far as salmon fishing is concerned with the long dry summer resulting in very low flows and consequently poor fishing. Catch returns show a rod catch of around 30 salmon and 75 to 100 sea trout. The nets took a total of 35 salmon and 23 sea trout from the Taw and Torridge Estuary.

The Torridge Fishery Association Website carry full details and all the latest news :-

Torridge River Association

The Half Moon Inn at Sheepwash gives a discount of £5 on fishing for Association members.

Below is the latest Newsreel from the Torridge Fishery Association giving a full round up of the AGM reports.

NEWSREEL: Spring 2019: Issue 40

Chairman: Paul Ashworth:                                         Secretary: Charles Inniss,

Beeches  Sheepwash Beaworthy Devon EX21 5NW

Tel:  01409231237

e-mail:  [email protected]

SUBSCRIPTIONS: for 2019 are now due please. If you have not already paid, please forward your cheque for £20 to the Secretary at the above address, making cheques payable to The River Torridge Fishery Association.

EA Proposals to reduce exploitation by rods and nets: Just before Xmas DEFRA gave us the good news we had been hoping for. The new salmon and sea trout byelaws have been confirmed.  All netting for salmon in our estuary has now ceased. This together with the ban on drift netting twelve months ago means that there is no netting in our estuary apart from netting for sand eels.

Catch and release remains voluntary but the EA expects a release rate above 90% for salmon. This effectively means that anglers are expected to release all salmon.  If the release level above 90% is not achieved, DEFRA will not hesitate to make releasing all salmon mandatory.

Your committee is concerned about the stock of sea trout and recommends that as well as salmon, all sea trout are released.

Please follow the following guide to good practice when releasing fish:

  • Use barbless hooks.
  • Use a fine knotless net.
  • Use strong tackle so fish can be played out and netted as quickly as possible.
  • Always net the fish: avoid handling fish and certainly do not pick them up by the tail to weigh or photograph.
  • Keep the fish in the water all the time: If you want to know the weight, measure the fish in the water and calculate accordingly. If you want to take a photo, do it while the fish is in the water.

Three year juvenile survey programmeThree years ago your committee agreed to fund a three year programme of juvenile surveys. The results of the initial survey (a semi-quantitative survey by the West Country Rivers Trust) in the summer of 2016 were disappointing. Salmon fry were present in only 10 of the 35 sites. In 2017 a full quantitative survey was completed by the EA. The results were much more encouraging with salmon fry present at most sites. Salmon parr numbers were poor but brown trout were evident throughout the catchment. This year the West Country Rivers Trust completed the third survey. This survey showed a continuing slight improvement particularly on the Okement and Lew tributaries. The three surveys have given us a better picture of the health of the river and where to target habitat improvements.Siltation and compaction of the spawning gravels continues to be a major problem.

The Salmon Hatchery: The rearing programme this winter has again been very successful. The broodstock of 5 hens and 5 cocks were all returned safely to the river. In the last week of March, 26,000 swim-up fry were stocked out into selected sites in the headwaters of the Torridge, Walden, Lew and Okement. For the dedicated team of volunteers, it is a great relief when the last fry are released into the river after five months of hard work.

Prospects for 2019:

After the disappointment of very poor fishing conditions in 2018 caused by the summer drought, we are all hopeful that 2019 will provide some good fishing. At least four salmon have been caught in March and even more encouraging sea trout have been caught as far upstream as the Junction Pool, where the Okement joins the main river. On 1stApril I saw the first trout rise of the season and anglers fishing the Half Moon beats at Sheepwash have enjoyed some good sport on dry fly and nymph.

Clay Discolouration: on the middle and lower river continues to be a problem after heavy rainfall, sometimes making the river unfishable just when it is an excellent height and colour for fishing. Discussions between the EA and Sibelco are continuing to minimise the problem. The obvious time to discharge clay water is when the river is in full spate.

The Fishermen’s eyes and ears:Our fishery officer, Paul Carter, is now responsible for all the rivers in North Devon and more than ever he is dependent on the eyes and ears of fishermen. If you have any concerns (poaching or pollution) please call him direct on 07768007363, or the EA Emergence Hotline 0800807060 or the Association Secretary 01409231237.

The Annual General Meeting: held at The Half Moon Inn on 5thApril was a great success with 46 members attending. The presentation by Adrian Dowding (WCRT) was particularly informative and interesting. We all enjoyed an excellent buffet and social get together after the meeting.

IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY DONE SO, PAY YOUR ASSOCIATION SUBSCRIPTION, BUY YOUR FISHING LICENCE, AND ABOVE ALL ENJOY YOUR FISHING.

Salmon fishing News and prospects from Taw and Torridge

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At least two salmon have been tempted from beats on the the Torridge this weekend with Jonathon Sykes catching a 9lb sea liced fish at Beam and Anthony Ward tempted a fine fresh run salmon estimated at 13lb from a middle Torridge beat. There are also reports of a few sea trout to around 4lb. Not had any reports from the Taw but I suspect a few fish have been tempted over the weekend.

After a week or so without substantial rain the rivers are starting to drop back and run clear. Northerly winds are forecast over the next week with lower temperatures which could impact on sport. Best chance for fish will come from the Lower beats of both rivers and spring tides towards the end of the week could encourage a few fresh fish to run. It won’t be long before we are hoping for rain.