The River Torridge salmon season is underway and the scoreboard is ticking over as regular Torridge angler Duncan Betts tempted a fine 9lb fresh run springer. A cast in the right place at the right time and a springer that most prized of catches could be yours.
I hope to bring more news from the rivers as the week progresses. On the Taw a 3lb sea trout was tempted from the Day Ticket Brightly and Weir Marsh beats.
Sadly the hatchery programme for this winter is currently on hold. The hatchery team was ready to trap the broodstock from the fish pass at Monkokehampton Weir when the second lockdown restrictions were announced early in December. We have not given up hope and if the restrictions are lifted on 2ndDecember will endeavour to catch up at least a few broodstock, which by then should almost be ready for stripping.
Steve Phelps, our vice-Chairman, has been working closely with William Entwistle, the vice-chairman of the South West Rivers Association, to develop a South West Hatchery hub at the Colliford hatchery on the River Fowey. This hatchery is currently funded by South West Water in mitigation for the loss of spawning streams on the Fowey catchment when Colliford Reservoir was constructed. Initially the Torridge and the Axe will be the two rivers directly involved. With the support of the Colliford hatchery team, the Axe Association, South West Water, The South West Rivers Association and the EA we have permission to grow upto 50% of our eggs to the swim-up fry stage at the Colliford hatchery. Their progress will be monitored under almost laboratory conditions. Last year we achieved a very high success rate at our own hatchery and it will be very interesting to compare the results.
As salmon stocks in all the rivers in the South West continue to decline there may will be a need to develop and expand the Colliford hatchery so that it can support all the rivers in our region.
A new Fisheries Enforcement Officer:
Some good news to cheer you all!! Following the retirement of Paul Carter in the spring, the EA has appointed a new Fisheries Enforcement Officer (FEO) for North Devon. Callum Underhill is fully trained and skilled as a FEO and for the last five years has been based in North Wessex. Callum is very enthusiastic about his new appointment. He is a keen fisherman!! Paul Carter has been very supportive and will continue to do so. I am sure next season many of you will meet Callum on the riverbank.
The Annual Dinner and Raffle:
Sadly we were not able to hold the Annual Dinner at The Half Moon, but the raffle did go ahead and as usual it was wonderfully well supported: thank you all very much. The raffle, together with several generous donations, raised over £2,000 which will go a long way towards funding our own hatchery and the costs involved at the Colliford hatchery.
The winners of the raffle prizes were as follows:
1st prize: £100 wine voucher: Richard Henry, an extremely experienced and successful angler who has fished the Torridge and been a regular visitor at The Half Moon Inn for over 50 years.
2nd prize: £50 Snowbee voucher: Robert Clark, a friend of James Mumford. James has been fishing the Torridge for many years and still travels from his home in Somerset to fish for salmon and sea trout several times each season.
3rd prize: a day’s fishing on The Half Moon beats was won by Bill Blake from Somerset.
4th prize: a bottle of wine donated by Reg Lawton was won by Tim Birkbeck, a committee member.
5th prize: a day’s fishing on the famous Madeira beat was won by Nick Gunn, one of our newer members.
The Fishing Season:
For the first three weeks of the season the river was in spate and then all fishing stopped until the end of May, by which time the river, after a spring drought, was down to summer level. For the latter half of the season the weather was changeable and river levels held up reasonably well. Fishing effort has been very light, but those anglers who have fished regularly have been rewarded with some good catches. Barry Mills caught a salmon in excess of 20lb on the Little Warham water while Martin Weeks and his brother Ed enjoyed some excellent night sea trout fishing. Catch totals seem to have been similar to last year: about 30 salmon, 100 sea trout and plenty of good-sized brown trout.
With no significant rain in the last weeks of the season salmon fishing has been slow. A few salmon were tempted from the Torridge as anglers visited the river for the last time. One salmon was also tempted from a very low River East Lyn.
Little Warham regulars – David and Stuart.Were both determined to fish before the end of season on their annual visit to Warham; let’s just say their 5hr plus journey paid dividends
Several fiesty wild brownies seized my nymphs before a better fish took hold in a deep pool, a crimson spotted brown of over 10″.
It is hard to believe that it is early September as I approach the river as the sun slowly climbs above the trees sending shafts of light across the river. The river is in perfect order running at a good height with pleasing a tinge of colour that one could almost describe as that of fine ale.
I wade out into the cool water and begin my search, optimistic as an angler must be expectant that at any moment the line will zip tight. I absorb the familiar surroundings and listen to the soundtrack of the ever flowing river as it ambles to the sea. Wagtails bob about and a kingfisher flashes past. Fry are abundant in the margins giving hope for future seasons.
The seasons passing is obvious as leaves drift past and I notice a large number of ash leaves undoubtedly a sign of the ongoing of ash die back.
I have fished the river in perfect conditions several times this year and last with four or five years since my last salmon. After fishing the beat carefully drifting my flies across the favoured lies I work my way to the bottom of the beat covering the lies for a second time.
It is clear that the salmon are not as abundant as they were when I started fishing this Middle Torridge beat ten years or so ago when leaping salmon and sea trout were a common sight. The picture of a twenty pound salmon further up river is of course an image that maintains hope in the knowledge that the fish had swum past the waters I am fishing.
The sun is now well up in the sky as I place my fly inches from the far bank. As it swings across the river there comes that electric pull down the line and in a magic moment that contact is made with throbbing life on the line. I hold the rod high and savour the moment as the rod kicks before the reel sings. I keep a tight line leaning into the fish as I step sideways allowing the salmon to push up river. The fish hangs deep in mid river; the rod bends, the line pointing into mid river, the salmon holding station in the strong current. For a while the salmon powers up river but as the pressure tells the fish seeks help from the current heading down river as I attempt to maintain a position opposite the fish . I glimpse a wide powerful tail and the flash of silver.
Its always a tense experience playing a salmon hoping that the hook will stay put and the knots hold strong. After around ten minutes I detach the net from my back and the battle continues with the fish on a short line. This is a tense time for many salmon are lost during that time when the fish is so close to the net.
Then suddenly the fish rolls and is in the net as I give a call of triumph. “Yes!”
I carry the salmon to the margins and slip the barbless double hook from the top jaw. The Go Pro is clipped to my rod handle strategically placed at the water’s edge. I hold the salmon above the water for a brief self-take shot. The flanks of the 10lb plus hen fish are already showing subtle hues of the autumn season. Its image will remain etched upon my mind for the rest of my days fuelling the return to the river in search of silver.
The salmon is held in the cool water head upriver for a couple of minutes until I feel its strength return. It is a great feeling when the fish powers strongly away into the river to continue its amazing journey to hopefully spawn in the next couple of months.
This 21lb beauty was caught by Barry Mills this evening in Boat Pool at Little Warm Fishery; using his newly acquired ‘weigh net’, which came in pretty handy with a fish this size!
I also fished the River Torridge downstream of Little Warham with conditions perfect I fished with optimism drifting my flies across proven lies. I failed to connect with any silver tourists but I did see a sea trout leap from the water and glimpsed the electric blue of a kingfisher. With the river now running at a good height i expect salmon to be caught from both Taw and Torridge for the remainder of the season.
An early start on the middle Torridge this morning as the river starts to drop and the colour starts to clear there should be a silver tourist somewhere ready to take a fly? The mournful cries of young buzzards and the croak of a raven hangs in the warm air as I walk to the river.
The rivers running high and full of hope as I drift my flies across time proven lies. I start with bright and bold hues of orange, yellow and gold. Then I go subtle with a silver stoats tail.
A kingfisher flashes past, a squirrel darts from branch to branch, wagtails flit to and fro. In the shallows pinhead fry dart as I wade the shallows. Vivid blue damsels alight upon the riverside grass. Bees gather upon the pink flowers of the invasive Himalayan balsam. Hazlenuts, blackberries and seed-heads tell of the passing season. The river is topped up and flowing well with more rain in the forecast it could be a good end to the season on both Taw and Torridge. Big tides at present and rough seas all bodes well for the September so often the salmon fishers best.
Todays blank trip is all to common but ever the optimist. Its good be at the waters edge as always.
See Below message from Alex Gibson of the River Taw Fisheries Association. I have repeatedly stressed the need to report incidents and concerns to the relevant bodies. It is sadly true that they may do nothing but at least our concerns are registered and if there is enough concern shown then just maybe something will be done.
The River and the Estuary; the EA and IFCA
While the cat’s away the mice will play.
As you all know our EA Enforcement Officer, Paul Carter, retired earlier this year. As things stand it is not clear when or indeed if he will be replaced. This presents us with a major problem not just for the river, but also for the estuary. Paul was cross-warranted to IFCA.
It is therefore even more important than ever for members to report pollution, poaching, illegal abstraction and other untoward events on the river as well as suspicious fishing activity including fixed long lines on the estuary where no netting is permitted except for sand eels. By putting reports into the EA we will demonstrate the importance of having an EA enforcement officer on our river. IFCA which is Brixham based with no North Devon presence or cross-warranting currently will send officers to the estuary to look into illegal fishing activities if there is appropriate intelligence information.
EA Hotline 0800 80 70 60
Devon & Severn IFCA (Brixham) 07740 175479
DIRTY WATERS – My Personal view – Wayne Thomas
I was wading down through the River Torridge a few weeks ago with a good height following heavy rain. I enjoyed my couple of hours swinging the fly across well known lies but I was down hearted by the lack of response in near perfect conditions. As I walked the river I struggled to get a grip on the slippery stones. It was as if the river bed had been coated in a layer of grease and eventually I lost my footing and fell heavily onto the stones. Fortunately my pride took the biggest blow and I fished on with a wet arm vowing to buy a new set of studs for my waders.
Last night I was wading the foreshore casting for bass waring the same waders and I reflect now that the rocks were not slippery. They were not coated in a film of slime like those in the river. Reading the article in the Guardian below I can relate to how our rivers are sadly being allowed to decline. It is a sad story and we must do all we can to stem this sad decline born of neglect and lack of focus. We must put this higher on the political agenda for surely the health of our river and environment is priceless?
I grew up in the village of Combe Martin and fished the River Umber that is the heart of the long valley that I once called home. Precious childhood memories abound of a stream full of life, crimson spotted brown trout with bellys of buttercup yellow hues. Elvers ascended the river in early summer and could be found under every stone close to the rivers mouth. I was chatting with a fellow villager a few weeks ago and he related to the river of our youth. “Don’t see any trout in the river these days, not since the sewage works was built up river”. The sewage works was of course built to end the disgusting practice of discharging effluent directly into the sea. I can well remember the turds floating in the sea at Camels Eye close to the outfall. Whilst this was not an ideal situation and not acceptable I sometimes wonder if we have just hidden the problem shifting the issues. Investment is of course the answer but who pays?
In a corrupted world it is the environment that pays the price. But eventually we will create a vast cesspit and from what I have seen with the litter left strewn around there are those who would not mind this.
See below link to an article that recently appeared in the Guardian.
A rise in local rivers has brought a few salmon and sea trout into North Devon’s Rivers. Middle beats of the Torridge have seen both salmon and sea trout caught in perfect conditions. With more rain falling as I write this prospects are excellent for the next week. Several sea trout have been caught on the Torridge along with Salmon. Reports from the Taw are scarce though I would be very surprised if there have not been a few tempted.
Anthony Willmington netted a stunning 14lb fresh run salmon at Little Warham Fishery. A deep set cock fish which put up a strong, powerful and enjoyable fight before being Safely returned.
At twilight last Barry Mills netted this fantastic 4.5lb sea trout @littlewarhamfishery a silver sparkle and a joy to see for tired eyes! Returned safely.
Theres something special about being out on the river bank early in the morning before the mist has been burnt away by the summer sun. I wish I had dragged myself out of bed a bit earlier but Im not good at rising at silly o clock. It was around 6:30 when I cast a fly across the river. Twenty yards down the run and the line tightened slightly as if it had brushed a leaf but I knew it was more than that, this was confirmed a second or two later as the line zipped tight and for a moment the rod was bent to the the pull of life on the line. Before I could gauge the size the line fell slack as the hook hold failed.
The water was still a little murky following recent heavy showers but this early success ensured that I fished the entire session with expectation. There are a few salmon around as Simon Hillcox had tempted a fresh run fish a couple of days previous from a beat higher up river. (Below)
Is there a better place to be in mid summer than beside a Devon River with the countryside at its lush green peak?
Kingfishers flashed past, bright yellow wagtails flitted two and fro. In the rivers margins tiny pin fry massed in the margins and hundreds of tiny toads climbed from the river the steep banks must be like Everest to these vulnerable youngsters.
As the sun climbed higher in the sky I knew that my best chance of a silver tourist had ebbed away. Before leaving the river I sat on the Fishermans bench to absorb the surroundings. Damsel flies flitted above the lush green grass fluffy white clouds drifted across a blue sky and suns warmth felt good.
In these troubled times we look back at the dark days of the second world war and some have drawn parallels to those dark times. Can we really compare the sacrifice of staying home to stay safe with the terror and destruction of a conflict that raged for more than six years?
I recalled a photo I saw a few years ago sat upon the mantle piece of a fishing hut beside the peacefully flowing River Torridge. It is somehow reassuring to stand beside a river and feel the continuity of nature. I am sure there were anglers who rested here thankful to have survived the horrors of conflict whilst casting a line across tranquil waters.
In the coming months it is to be hoped that anglers can once again return to the waters edge. Sadly the numbers of salmon are much depleted since those days 75 years ago when the nation celebrated Victory in Europe.