The River Torridge Fishery Association -NEWSREEL: WINTER 2020

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The River Torridge Fishery Association

President: Lord Clinton

Chairman: Paul Ashworth                                                                   Secretary: Charles Inniss

e-mail: [email protected]

NEWSREEL: WINTER 2020

The salmon hatchery:  

The Hatchery team in 2018

            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.

River Seasons End

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

I took my rod to the glorious river East Lyn to enjoy a few end of season casts. I had decide to try out my new Nymphing outfit purchased from Barbless flies. A 10ft 3wt rod matched to a special light and slender fly- line. I started at Watersmeet and worked my way upriver fishing  pools and tumbling pocket water. The river was extremely low and clear making fishing difficult with small trout darting for cover as I attempted to move with degree of health. In truth catching fish is a bonus in such beautiful surroundings and it was a delight to wonder the river as the sunlight illuminated the stream. Whilst autumn had started to deplete and colour the leaves higher on the moors here in the sheltered valley there was still plenty of greenery on show.

Several fiesty wild brownies seized my nymphs before a better fish took hold in a deep pool, a crimson spotted brown of over 10″.

Crimson spotted beauty returned.

Posted by Wayne Thomas on Sunday, 27 September 2020

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.

Angling Milestones

Two North Devon Anglers set significant personal miles stones this week in different angling disciplines.

Dedicated mullet angler John Shapland spends many frustrating hours targeting grey mullet a species with a reputation for being difficult to tempt. John landed his 100th mullet of 2020 this week!

Ian Blewett is a keen all-round angler with salmon top of his agenda for much of the year. Ian took advantage of perfect conditions on the Taw to land the 100th Atlantic salmon of his angling career. He followed the feat up during the same session with his 101st!

Salmon from the beautiful River East Lyn

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Will Barret spent a recent weekend  fishing the East Lyn landing a brace of salmon estimated at between 5lb and 7lb both caught on flying c and homemade mepps. The river was low after a small spate but producing fish non the less.

If you have read my book “I Caught A Glimpse” you will know that I have a great fondness for the East Lyn and its salmon so I am grateful to Will for sending his recent pictures showing that the river is still producing a few precious salmon. I walked the river recently as the river was swollen by a brief summer spate.  I took a few pictures that I intended to share on here as I know several readers enjoy seeing pictures of this beautiful river.

( Above)The River East Lyn had a reputation for unscrupulous fishers snaring fish by whatever means. The graffiti cut into the concrete path at Overflow pool is testament to a few dodgy rogues who frequented the river in those good old days.

Summer salmon run on North Devon Rivers

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North Devon Rivers are producing some splendid silver bars following a welcome spell of rainfall. Paul Carter enjoyed success on the Lower taw tempting these two stunning salmon on recents trips to the river the larger of the two estimated at 14lb. The salmon were tempted on a small black and yellow barrels double that dropped out in the net. Ian Blewett also enjoyed success banking a 7lb hen salmon. Note all salmon reported are carefully released to continue their upriver migration.

A large salmon estimated at 20lb left one angler heartbroken when his leader snagged and broke on a submerged rock.

The elusive salmon!

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The recent rainfall brought a welcome rise in all of North Devons Rivers and anglers have been hopeful of a salmon or sea trout. The rivers are certainly looking much healthier with a lot of the algae flushed away. River Taw Fisheries Association member Mike George sent me these lovely images of the Middle Taw. Like many anglers Mike has enjoyed the beauty of the river but failed to hook the elusive salmon.

Welcome rain brings hope

Salmon and sea trout anglers across the region have had their spirits lifted following the recent heavy rain hopeful that the salmon and sea trout waiting in the estuaries will forge upriver offering the chance to enjoy that thrilling encounter with the most iconic of silver flanked fish.

I headed for the River Torridge to find the river at a perfect height but with the water a turbid brown and full of sediment I was not hopeful. Salmon fishing is a frustrating game with those perfect conditions often only fleeting. There will be a moment as the water clears following a spate and runs the colour of ale when the fresh run salmon rise freely to the fly as it swings across the river.

Salmon run up river as they smell the freshwater influx following a spate. The initial rush of water is often foul after a prolonged dry spell so the fish will often pause until the water quality improves. The fish that run up river are often intent on their journey and ignore the anglers offerings. There comes a time though as the fish rest for a moment when they can snatch at that tantalising creature that flutters across the current. The reasons salmon take a fly or lure have been debated by anglers far wiser than I. The fact is that they sometimes do and if you have faith and persist that delightful moment of connection will come.

Despite the imperfect conditions I fished carefully down through the river absorbing the vibrant surroundings of early summer. Relishing the constantly flowing river, the glimpse of electric blue as a kingfisher darted past. The birdsong resonating all around and the abundant wildflowers that thrive along the river bank. I also noted that all is not well in our world as I gazed at the ash trees suffering from the onset of ash die back. It is estimated that up to 95% of ash trees will succumb around 25% of our woodland!

Grey skies and ash die back

Hopefully I will report on a salmon or two over the coming days for there are plenty of salmon in the river they have been leaping in the estuary for weeks and have been seen forging up over the weirs.