North Devon Rivers Latest

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

A lack of rain has undoubtedly contributed to another poor season on North Devon’s rivers with salmon and sea trout numbers below expectation. As the last month of the season looms anglers will be hoping for a big spate to bring in the fish that are hopefully waiting in the estuary. Good sport in last few weeks can very often restore many an anglers season.

Ian Blewett tempted this stunning River Taw salmon on  Size 12 Stoat’s tail. The fish was hooked in the fading light of dusk and eventually unhooked and released after darkness had descended. An exciting encounter in what Ian described as a poor season so far.

River Torridge Newsreel

The River Torridge Fishery Association

President: Lord Clinton

Chairman: Paul Ashworth                                                               Secretary:

Charles Inniss                                                                                                                         Beeches

Sheepwash                                                                                                                         Beaworthy

Devon

EX21 5NW

                                                                                                      [email protected]

                                                                                                                        tel: 01409231237

NEWSREEL: SUMMER 2021:               

The Annual Dinner and Raffle: will take place at The Half Moon Inn, Sheepwash on Saturday 25th September. Please book direct with The Half Moon.         Tel: 01409231376. e-mail:  [email protected]

The Half Moon has recently changed hands and the new owners, Haydn Beynon and his wife Kim are keen to meet as many of you as possible. They want to retain The Half Moon as a traditional fishing inn and in particular wish to encourage newcomers to take up river fly fishing. Our new fishery officer, Callum Underhill, will be joining us and is looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible.

Environment Agency – North Devon’s New Fishery Officer

The Hatchery: it’s that time of the year again: in early November we will be trapping the broodstock of five hens and five cocks. This winter we are again planning to rear 30,000 swim-up fry to stock out into the headwaters next spring. After the disappointment of not being able to operate last year, the EA are happy for us to run our hatchery this year with 50% of our eggs being grown on to “swim-up” fry at the Colliford hatchery in Cornwall.

The season so far: it’s been an unusual year. An exceptionally cold and dry April was followed by a month of incessant rain and not until early June did the river come into good fishing condition. Because of the Covid restrictions there have not been so many visiting anglers but several large sea trout over 5lb have been caught by those fishing after dark: mostly from middle river beats. An 8lb bass was recently caught in the weir pool at Beam!!

The AGM: the agm could not be held this year, but all being well will take place next spring.

SUBSCRIPTIONS: most of the £20 subscriptions for this year have now been paid. Thank you all very much. I would be grateful to receive the few that are outstanding. Please make cheques payable to the Torridge Fishery Association and forward to me at the above address. If paying by BACS: a/c no: 0082770: sort code: 51 70 16. Ref: Torridge Owners Association. Raffle ticket money and subs can be paid with one cheque.

We look forward to seeing many of you at the dinner: it is always a most enjoyable evening.

SAMARCH Project aims to track salmon and sea trout migrations.

Several North Devon sea anglers expressed concern when they spotted large numbers of net floats in the area off North Devon’s headlands. Rumours spread rapidly that this could be illegal fishing activity. A call to the local Environment Agency confirmed that the nets were part of an important research programme to help protect salmon and sea trout stocks. The SAMARCH Project Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust . www.gwct.org.uk For further information on this project visit https://www.samarch.org

SAMARCH is a five-year project with a grant of €5.8m from the EU’s France (Channel) England Interreg Channel programme.

The SAMARCH project will :

  • Provide novel information on the survival and migration of young salmon and sea trout in four estuaries of the Channel area
  • Provide novel information on the movements and swimming depths of adult sea trout in the Channel
  • Create a genetic data base for trout on both sides of the Channel
  • Create a map of areas that are important for sea trout in the Channel based on sea scape
  • Provide new information to further improve the models used in England and France to manage their salmonid stocks
  • Train students in the management of coastal and transitional waters
  • Engage with stakeholders throughout the project
  • Inform current and develop new policies for the better management of salmonid stocks in our coastal and transitional waters

There is close working between the IFCAs and the EA in coastal waters with the EA focussing on migratory fish within I believe six miles off the coast. Anglers are urged to contact the EA on 0800807060 if they have any concerns regarding illegal fishing or pollution.

RIVERS RISE BRINGS GRILSE

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

Recent rain has brought all local rivers up  hopefully encouraging a few salmon and sea trout to forge up river. Simon Hillcox tempted a fresh run grilse of around 4lb 8oz from a Middle Torridge beat. The salmon was tempted using a Thunder & Lightning double. At present the water is coloured but as it fines down there is a good chance of taking fish.

( Above) River Taw at Umberleigh

Double figure Taw sea trout

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

Richard Nickell co-owner of Blakewell Fishery followed up recent successes with salmon and Twaite Shad tempting this stunning sea trout estimated at 10lb 8oz.

As the rivers drop back after the recent summer spate sea trout will provide exciting fishing for the nocturnal fly fisher.

Salmon numbers after the big summer spate have been disappointing with around half a dozen reported from both Taw and Torridge. This could be as a result of reduced fishing effort from the ongoing COVID crisis or possibly as a result of the salmon run being well spread after the prolonged spate.

Moments

A gentle South Westerly breeze and broken cloud are perfect conditions for fishing. With Low water at 7.00am I headed for the coast armed with the trusty lure rod. The sea was calm with a moderate swell caressing the shoreline. Water clarity was good with minimal amounts of weed present in the shallow rocky water. I felt confident from the first cast expecting a take at any moment. I watched the lure intently upon each retrieve hoping to see that shadow intercepting my pulsing soft plastic. The tide pushed in and my favourite taking places passed over. A slight knock at the lure gave encouragement to persist.

The sea air, calm conditions and a pleasing backdrop made the whole experience enjoyable as I followed the edge of the incoming tide. I changed to a bright green Mega bass lure and second cast there came that pleasing jolt as a bass hit the lure hard. A brief tussle in water less than a foot deep followed and a silver flanked bass was briefly admired before being carefully released. That moment of success is etched upon the mind and encourages future casts.

Later in the day I get an offer to fish a mid Torridge beat. With the river still at a good height and colour how can I resist this kind offer? I fish the beat with care covering each known lie in expectation. A wild brown trout of just over a pound seizes my fly and gives a brief tussle.

I walk to the top of the beat and wade out into the river working a line out across the river and searching one of my favourite runs.

Shafts of evening sunlight penetrate the tree canopy illuminating a world populated by thousands of flies dancing and darting above the water including a few mayflies. I glimpse a movement on the far and bank watch mesmerised as a stoat scurries quickly along the top of the bank totally unaware of me watching from my position waist deep in the cool river. I pause briefly until the stoat disappears and then resume with a swish of the rod watching the line unfurl, the fly alighting inches from the far bank. A kingfisher flashes past iridescent blue.

The line draws tight and there is life pulsating at its end. I keep it tight as a fish surges up river before erupting from the water. It’s a sea trout of perhaps a pound and a half. I draw it towards me and it flips free, I reckon it still counts as a catch and release prize!

Such moments accumulate in an anglers life painting a picture that is etched upon the mind.  These memories draw you back to the waters edge time and time again and perhaps they even give a place to retreat to when things in life are not how we would wish.

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.

STAY HOME AND STAY SAFE

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

(Below)The E.A’s Watersmeet Fishery is closed to fishing in line with Government advice until the current COVID-19 pandemic is over.

(Above) Ross Stanway sent this image of his latest artwork. A sea trout painted a piece of slate. Many will be hoping that there will be some season left after shutdown to cast a fly for these stunning silver tourists.

River Taw Fisheries Association – Chairmans Report

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

Alex Gibsons report due to have been delivered at the RFTA AGM at the end of March.

A couple of salmon were caught from the middle Taw before the present lockdown. The rivers are now dropping quickly after a couple of weeks without rain. A cold North East Wind would not have been good for fishing.

http://www.rivertawfisheries.co.uk

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT 2020

First some thanks to the whole Committee for their support and the work they have done during the last 12 months.

Particular thanks to Richard Nickell, our Treasurer, and to Ian Blewett, our Secretary, for all their good work; to Judith Kauntze for the excellent Newsletter she produces; to Bryan Martin for looking after the website; to Chris Taylor for his auction work which unfortunately has been delayed this year. Thanks also to John Smith for representing us on the Dartmoor Steering Group and to Andy Gray for keeping the Committee up to date on all farming matters affecting our river and also for printing and mailing our Newsletter.

The weather continues to dominate our fishing lives and I thought the story about the businessman who went to Bergen for a week might lighten the tone. It was raining when he arrived and rained solidly every day. As he was leaving his hotel in dreadful weather on the last day he turned to a small boy standing nearby and asked: “Does it ever stop raining in Bergen?” The boy replied: “I don’t know I’m only seven.” The North Devon version would have a different ending for the businessman who goes to South Molton in November. The reply he receives is: “Not in the winter, but in the summer we get hardly any rain at all.”

Simply put, last season low water conditions seriously reduced the number of good fishing days. The rain didn’t arrive till October. Abnormal weather seems to be the new normal weather these days.

This of course affects the rod catch numbers. I have continued to do the annual beat survey, canvassing all riparian owners. Last season’s results show 82 salmon and 265 sea trout against 2017 figures of 72 salmon and 71 sea trout. The provisional EA numbers for 2019 are 76 salmon (91% returned) and 239 sea trout (86% returned). We can take some comfort from the upturn in sea trout numbers and I believe our salmon numbers will look good relative to the numbers for other south-west rivers when we see them. Brown trout fishing had an excellent year with almost 3,000 fish caught, up from about 2,000 in 2018. The brown trout fishing community is of crucial importance to us since they are the custodians of those parts of the river where the fish spawn and spend their early life.

Turning to the Mole pollution incident, let me summarise where we are with this disastrous event. Back in July last year a large digestate spill apparently wiped out the fish population over a 5km stretch of the Mole from above South Molton to the junction with the Molland Yeo. I say apparently because the EA will not release to us the fish survey they conducted after the incident for fear of prejudicing their prosecution of the person responsible. A figure of 10,000 fish has been mentioned, but we do not know the number of salmonids in this number, nor the breakdown by type and class. We originally understood all invertebrates were wiped out, but recently were told by the EA that the invertebrates were affected only slightly. This is encouraging in terms of recolonization, but we have not seen the invertebrate survey either.

Fish Legal has been briefed to mount a civil claim for us, but this cannot proceed until the EA is much further along with its prosecution and we can obtain the fish survey.

This is all very frustrating.

On the other hand, the EA have confirmed that they will do a fish survey on the polluted stretch this summer. The results will be interesting. The problem however is that we will still have no base line to work from, namely the original fish survey. Until we learn otherwise we will assume that all salmonids were killed and that any juveniles that show up in the survey are the result of last winter’s spawning and recolonisation.

The sad situation that we find ourselves is the direct result of having anaerobic digesters on our catchment. There are three, one on the Mole and two on the Little Dart. We had identified the threat, but were powerless, just waiting for an accident to happen, you might say.

As many of you will know there is a chain, winter maize from farm to anaerobic digester, digestate from anaerobic digester to farm. If any part of the chain fails, and that includes the anaerobic digester itself, the river is threatened. That of course is without considering the siltation damage caused by growing winter maize in the first place. In the last two years in particular the character of the Mole has changed. It now runs dirty for longer and silt is deposited along its length. The optimists think that the New Agriculture Bill will solve all these problems created by bad farming practice; the pessimists adopt a more cynical approach. Things can go spectacularly wrong as evidenced by the Mole incident. While waiting for new rules and regulations to be implemented it may be a good idea for us to keep our fingers crossed.

This brings me neatly to river improvement work which is driven by the siltation problem. The Committee has decided that the “best bang for our buck” is to continue our gravel cleaning programme in conjunction with WRT. This is a short term solution until farming practices change, but we don’t know how long short term is. Last year we spent almost £20,000, having carried £10,000 forward from the previous year. The full 2019 gravel cleaning report can be read on our website. In summary we did 8 days on the Molland Yeo, 3 on the Crooked Oak, 8 on the Mole, 8 on the Little Dart and Sturcombe and 11 on the Upper Taw. To encourage recolonisation an emphasis was placed on the Mole. For this season the Committee has committed £10,000 for gravel cleaning work. Again there will be some emphasis on the Mole.

This continues to be a difficult climate in which find complementary funding. We were unable to gear up on the funds we spent last year. This year look more encouraging.

We continue to be concerned about South West Water’s 35 sewage treatment works on our system. South Molton and Chulmleigh, perhaps the worst, are due for an upgrade in the next 5 years, partly as a result of pressure we have applied. We will continue to press for further improvements.

To broaden our fight against sewage in the river and also the threats from siltation and anaerobic digesters we link up with other organisations who share our concerns. These include South West Rivers Association, Westcountry Rivers Trust, The Rivers Trust, Angling Trust, Devon Wildlife Trust/North Devon

Catchment Partnership and Surfers Against Sewage. These problems are not Taw specific, nor south-west specific, but national. Fortunately there is a growing groundswell of public concern which we welcome.

Paul Carter, our EA Fisheries Enforcement Officer, retires in April. My intention was to make a presentation to him at the AGM and to thank him in a proper public arena for everything he has done for us. The presentation now has to be done behind the scenes unfortunately. It consists of a day’s fishing on seven of the best beats on the river. Paul is a very keen fisherman.

Paul has worked tirelessly for us and has always been available to give us the benefit of his advice. His contributions to our Fisheries Management Meetings and Committee Meetings have always been valuable and valued. He has been a good friend and supporter of the Taw. We shall be sorry to see him go and wish him well. To date it is unclear how he will be replaced.

One final point. I have been Chairman now for about 13 years which means it is probably time for me to step down. The 2021 AGM would seem to be the right moment. Discussions with Committee Members have started and, when these are brought to a conclusion, I would expect a prospective successor to emerge who has the full support of the Committee.

My best wishes to all members for the 2020 season.

Alex Gibson March 2019

WELCOME SUMMER RAIN

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

As I write this rain is beating down and I am optimistic that the long summer drought is well and truly over. Whilst many will be grumbling about the wet summer we have not in truth had much rain so far certainly not enough to bring the rivers up and encourage good numbers of salmon and sea trout into the rivers. Sea trout wise it has not been as bad as last year and a few salmon have trickled in. Bob Lewington fished on the Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats of the Taw and was rewarded with fine salmon of 9lb. A few salmon have also been tempted on the River East Lyn.

( Below) Chay Bloggis has landed a 7lb fresh run salmon from  the middle Taw on  a Stoats Tail, variant.

The cooler weather is also welcomed by Stillwater Trout Fisheries where the trout do not react well do extra hot conditions.

Pete Tyjas was rewarded whilst searching for silver on the river catching a superb brown trout.

Pete Tyjas “We’ve been hitting the river pretty hard hoping that any small lift might bring some salmon up. Despite our efforts nothing has materialised as yet.

Emma and I popped down this morning just in case and while she fished a pool for salmon I rigged up a single handed rod and decided I’d pull a streamer. At first I thought I’d hooked a grilse but it turned out to be a trout, the sort that I have only really dreamt about catching in Devon. I’m pleased Emma had a salmon net!

I’d love to say that it were perfect conditions for a heavy hatch and rising fish but it wasn’t and I just used what I had to hand.

Perhaps this method isn’t for for the purists but I don’t think I’d bump into a fish like this other than late at night or during a good hatch of mays. Happy? Just a little, sometimes your dreams do come true.”

DISMAY & ANGER – At Fish kill

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

North Devon’s anglers are shocked, angry and dismayed following news of a major fish kill on the River Mole one of the River Taws main tributaries. Various reports indicate that up 10,000 fish have perished over a 5km stretch including salmon, sea trout and brown trout. Early indications are that the pollution was anaerobic digestate. It is vital that the perpetrators are apprehended and a substantial response is imposed by the Environment Agency. A vast amount of time, effort and energy has been invested in improving the habitat of the Taw and its tributaries and it is heart-breaking that this has been impacted upon so severely by this tragic event. With river levels very low at the time of the pollution impact is likely to be severe with no dilution. Anglers are very often first on the scene and should report any incidents immediately to the Environment Agency via their hotline number 0800 807060. Whilst I seldom comment politically, I do feel saddened that the EA’s funding has been cut over recent years as focus is directed elsewhere. As voters’ anglers should give serious consideration to environmental issues when casting their votes.

I have very fond memories of fishing on the Mole and encounters with sea trout and otters. It is to be hoped that the river recovers from this tragic event. Lessons must be learnt from this to prevent future incidents and it is hoped that the penalty imposed will go some way towards highlighting the need for vigilance.

The rate of decline in West Country Rivers is truly alarming. In the forty years that I have visited the rivers I have seen a dramatic collapse in stocks. Remember that in natural terms forty or fifty years are short spans when you consider the long term evolution of salmon and sea trout. Each generation of anglers relates to their own life beside the water and as a result often fail to comprehend the longer term decline in stocks.

The interviews I conducted in research for my soon to be published book , “I Caught A Glimpse” have brought this home to me. Whilst it would be nice to think that salmon will be running our rivers for future generations; I have my doubts. It is likely that without a huge effort salmon will be non-existent within many West Country Rivers within decades. That this should happen during our watch is shameful.