An Autumn Salmon

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.

The salmons view as the fly drifts across the river

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.

Twenty Pound Torridge salmon

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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.

A promising seasons end ?

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.

RIVERS IN DECLINE – Who Cares ?

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

Alex Gibson

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.

Wayne Thomas

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/aug/12/government-britains-rivers-uk-waterways-farming-water-companies?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Salmon and sea trout forge up river as welcome rain falls

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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.

Is there a better place to be in mid summer than beside a Devon River with the countryside at its lush green peak?

 Misty Morning

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?

 Is there a better place to be than beside a Devon River in summer?

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.

Thought for VE Day

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.

RIVER TORRIDGE NEWSREEL – Paul Carter Retiring.

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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: 01409231237/07464190944

e-mail: [email protected]

NEWSREEL:  SPRING 2020.

 

At this extremely unusual and difficult time, here is the Spring Newsreel with the latest news from the Association.

We cannot fish the river at the moment but it is the time of year when subscriptions are due. Please forward your cheque for £20 to the Secretary at the above address. Please make cheques payable to The River Torridge Fishery Association.

If you prefer to pay by BACS: a/c no 00827770    sort code 51:70: 16

 

The salmon hatchery:  the rearing programme last winter and early spring has been our most successful to date and over 38,000 swim-up fry have successfully been stocked out into the headwaters of the main river and the major tributaries. All were stocked out during the weekend of 21st/22nd March: on 23rd the government announced a total lockdown, which would have prevented any travelling to the stocking out sites. We were very lucky!! For the dedicated team of volunteers it is a great relief when the fry are stocked out after five months of hard work.

The fishing season so far: not much to report. After an incredibly wet winter, culminating with over 10 inches of rain in February, the river was in full spate for the first fortnight of March.  On 13th March a salmon was lost at the tail of the weir pool at Beam. I saw a running fish at the tail of the Junction Pool, where the Okement joins the Torridge, the day before the lockdown came into force on 23rd March. So for the time being all fishing has come to a halt. Walking the river at Sheepwash I have seen trout feeding on the surface, which has cheered me up. Since the monsoon season ended in mid-March, there has been no appreciable rain in North Devon for four weeks and already the river is showing its bones. The forecast for the next few weeks is for very little rain. If we are able to fish later in the season, maybe this will coincide with a period of more unsettled weather. Here’s hoping!!

 Luke Bannister maker of fine Split Cane Fly Rods fish a previous spring day on an Upper Torridge Beat for Brown Trout. 

The AGM: the agm which was due to take place at The Half Moon on Friday 3rd April was postponed and will be held later in the year.

Our Fishery Officer is retiring: after 33 years at the helm, Paul is retiring at the end of this month. We have been so fortunate to have a dedicated fishery officer who has always held our beautiful river close to his heart. He has been a wonderful ambassador for the river and a good friend to us all.  Paul will continue to fish his stretch of the Lower Torridge and I am sure will give help and advice when asked.

At present the EA has not appointed a successor, but in the short term three other fishery officers from Devon and Cornwall will be covering Paul’s patch.

Enjoy your retirement Paul and keep fishing.

Paul Carter with a previous seasons salmon fry ready to stock out into a tributary.
Paul Carter stocks out fry into a Torridge Tributary.

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