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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :-
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 programme: Three 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.
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.
A new salmon season gets underway on March 1st and with river levels looking good there is optimism that a few spring fish will be tempted. The River Taw Fishery Association have sent recommendations to all their members who fish the Taw. See below.
As you are all probably aware we move into a new era on the river this coming season. We will no longer have any salmon and sea trout nets on the estuary and while we have campaigned successfully against mandatory 100% catch and release (C&R) the Environment Agency expects us to reach and maintain a release level for salmon of over 90% for 2019 and beyond. Failure to comply could result in the imposition of mandatory 100% C&R.
When we fish this coming season and thereafter how should we adjust to the fact that the EA expects us to maintain this release level for salmon bearing in mind that our release levels were 88% in 2017, 79% in 2016 and 85% in 2015?
Given the 90% plus C&R target, the EA salmon bag limits which form part of the River Taw byelaws have become largely irrelevant – 2 fish in any 24 hour period, 3 fish in any 7 day period and 10 fish in a season. From now on, in theory, an individual would have to catch and release 10 salmon before keeping one to ensure the Taw stays above 90% C&R. In practice this translates into each of us operating on a 100% voluntary C&R basis whenever we possibly can. The RTFA Committee now recommends this.
It will be important for RTFA members, including our three fishing hotels, to take responsibility for getting this message out to non-members and visiting anglers who fish their water.
We appreciate that will not be to everyone’s liking, but it should beremembered that during the consultation process we were faced with the real threat of mandatory 100% C&R.
If we turn our attention to sea trout, for which the EA is not setting out an expected release level, our historical release levels were 77% in 2015, 82% in 2016 and 81% in 2017. Again the EA bag limits have become largely irrelevant – 5 fish in any 24 hour period, 15 fish in any 7 day period and 40 fish in a season. All of us know, particularly the specialist sea trout fishermen amongst us, that sea trout numbers have been falling dramatically in recent years. In 2017 for
example, the last year for which we have complete figures, sea trout numbers dropped below salmon numbers for the first time – 193 to 243 (EA rod catch figures). From preliminary numbers that I have received this situation persisted last season. We are still trying to understand the reasons for this decline, but without knowing the cause we cannot put together any remedial plans. As a result your Committee recommends that until there is a significant improvement in sea trout numbers we should practice voluntary 100% C&R whenever we possibly can.
By operating the same system for salmon and sea trout we will ensure that the largest possible numbers of both species are able to reach their spawning grounds. At the same time we will continue to make as many river improvements annually as funding permits. Particular emphasis will be placed on finding out what is behind the sea trout decline and taking appropriate remedial action to the extent that it turns out to be an in-river problem.
The beginning of the season is a good time for each of us to remind ourselvesof “good practice”. Our Good Practice Guide can be found on the RTFA website – www.rivertawfisheries.co.uk.
Let’s hope for a successful season this year with a full river and no droughts. That will give us a good opportunity to assess the true condition of our lovely river and its fish stocks.
Charles Inniss has sent this news to members of the River Torridge Fishery Association. It is great news for angling in North Devon.
NEWSREEL: XMAS 2018.
New salmon and sea trout byelaws:
At long last DEFRA has confirmed the new salmon and sea trout byelaws, which will become law and come into force on 1stJanuary 2019.
As far as the rivers Torridge and Taw are concerned:
All salmon netting in the estuary will cease. Currently there are three licensed netsmen and their licences will not be renewed. Following on from the ban on drift netting for bass and mullet in the estuary twelve months ago, this means that all estuary netting (apart from netting for sand eels) has come to an end.
In my wildest dreams I never thought the day would come when I would write the above!!
Being classed as rivers “Probably at Risk” there will be voluntary catch and release for salmon with the expectation that release levels are above 90%.
To support the new byelaws and to ensure as many salmon and sea trout are able to spawn successfully, the Torridge Fishery Association encourages anglers to return all migratory fish. In recent years the decline in sea trout numbers has been more pronounced than salmon, so returning sea trout is just as important as releasing salmon.
You can find all the details of the new byelaws on the EA website.
Mid winter and high on the moors salmon and sea trout are cutting redds ensuring the ongoing survival of these enigmatic fish that forge into our rivers each year in a struggle that is every bit as dramatic as the migration of the wildebeest on the Serengeti. This marvel of nature is overlooked by many who pass over swirling waters without a thought for these majestic creatures.
Anglers have a deep fascination for these fish and a passion to preserve stocks for future generations. I joined members of the River Torridge Fishery Association for their annual trapping of salmon for their hatchery located close to a tributary of the Torridge.
Below is a copy of Newsreel by kind permission of Charles Inniss.
The River Torridge Fishery Association – News Reel
Over the weekend 10/11thNovember we successfully trapped the broodstock: 5 hens and 5 cocks all about 8/10lb and all in excellent condition. On Saturday 8thDecember we were able to strip all five hens in one go despite the gales and heavy rain. We now have just over 30,000 eggs laid out in the trays. All the fish have been successfully returned to the river and this year for the first time there was no sign of disease on any of the fish. So far so good.
The West Country Rivers Trust surveyed 40 sitesduring the late summer and early autumn. The results have not yet been published but apparently several sites on the Okement and Lew were encouraging. The sites on the Upper Torridge again revealed poor densities of salmon fry and parr.
This spring we released some salmon fry from the hatchery into the mill leat by the hatchery. This is a controlled area with no natural salmon production. The juvenile survey in September revealed good densities of salmon fry. The hatchery team was delighted to know its offspring were doing well and surviving in their natural surroundings.
The Annual Dinner and Raffle:
Another superb evening at The Half Moon. Over 50 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 and the cost of the juvenile survey. Particular thanks to Paul Ashworth, our Chairman, and his wife Geraldine who organised the raffle and the auction. There was the usual wonderful array of prizes.
The Fishing Season:
There are good years and poor years. 2018 will go down as one of the poorer years. Low river levels and high water temperature made fishing difficult. Too many of us, me included, wait for the ideal conditions and do not bother when the conditions are unfavourable. Those who ventured out caught fish having some success with the sea trout using dry fly.
Proposed Measures to reduce salmon exploitation:
Despite rushing through the consultation process in the autumn of 2017, all has since gone quiet: presumably the proposals are sitting on a desk at DEFRA. Let’s hope a final decision can be made for the 2019 season.
My very best wishes to you all for a peaceful Xmas and a healthy New Year.
In 2012 River Reads Press published “Torridge Reflections” a fascinating tome by Charles Inniss I am delighted that a fresh print run of 100 copies has been announced wirh copies available from River Reads, Cochybondu books and Charles Inniss. The first edition sold out and is highly sought after by book collectors and lovers of fishing in North Devon.
Observation of salmon, sea trout and brown trout spawning is an important part of river monitoring and since the dramatic reduction of Environment Agency staff this job is often undertaken by volunteers. The South Molton Angling Club visit the spawning areas on their waters on the River Bray each winter to assess the numbers of salmon spawning. This years observations have been encouraging with good numbers of salmon, sea trout and brown trout seen before winter spates clouded the waters.
Just a quick update on our redd counting morning from Ed Rands.
“The river was in good shape to see what was going on although most other rivers were high and brown.
We walked a familiar strech of river and saw several salmon and sea trout.
There were also a good number of redds there, of different sizes e.g. brown & sea trout and salmon had been spawning which is very encouraging as we didn’t see much last year.
Hopefully they will hatch in the spring and go on their intrepid journey to keep these precious and vulnerable fish in our rivers.
We also picked up plastic and other foreign bodies from the river.
So all in all a very enjoyable morning, thanks to those who attended.
Ed Rands shared a number of old photos with me that had been found in the attic of a house during a house move. They are fantastic images that give a fascinating glimpse into the past.The images are from the Fortesque Hotel at Kingsympton and show salmon caught from the River Taw probably from the Junction Pool area. The these spendid catches of salmon were made during the 50/60’s.
In those days of plenty virtually all salmon were killed as stocks were abundant and few feared for the future of the species. Whilst anglers undoubtedly contributed to dwindling stocks other factors have had a far more dramatic impact. Pollution, Poaching, Global Warming, Disease, Over Exploitation, Farming Practices,Silting of spawning grounds, Obstacles to Migration, Predation and other factors have all played their part. These days anglers are fighting for the survival of these magnificent fish removing barriers to migration, improving habitat, campaigning to remove netting, practicing catch and release and attempting to improve stocks by using hatcherys to improve fry survival.
It is sad to see how stocks have been allowed to decline over the years. We have lost a great deal from our rivers it would be tragic if salmon were to be consigned to the history books like the mighty sturgeon that once migrated up many of our local rivers.
After a prolonged drought; the most significant since 1976 there has been some welcome rain though not enough. Local rivers have only risen slightly with each spell of rain and have dropped back quickly. Reports of any salmon and sea trout are scarce with a couple caught on the Lyn last week. If you have any news of fish from the Taw or Torridge please let me know.
I ventured onto a Middle Torridge beat in the middle of last week and found the river extremely low despite it having risen 18″ two days before my visit.
It was good to be back on the river however and I was initially hopeful that a few fish may have moved up with the rise in water. After a couple of hours without seeing a fish move I began to have concerns that the river was devoid of life. As I stepped into the river at the top of the beat I caught a fleeting glimpse of electric blue as a kingfisher flashed past. Following its flight up river I admired the view as evening sunlight broke through illuminating the trees.
I fished my way downriver searching the lies and noting the contours that were exposed by the low river. I would hopefully retain some of this info later in the season when the river is once again running at more healthy level. A savage pull on the line yielded a pleasing brown trout of close to a pound.
Its not been a good season for the salmon angler with no water equaling no fish. A few signs of autumn brought a slightly melancholic atmosphere to the session as I wondered slowly back to car in the fading light.