South Molton Angling Club hold bank clearing sessions generally focussed early in the fishing season. I arrived at the River Bray an hour before the working party were due to meet and wandered down below the bridge with a rod to flick a heavy nymph and a spider pattern into a couple of deeper runs. It’s always interesting to take note of the signs at the water’s edge telling of previous visitors. I noted the likely prints of an otter and a Heron that had enjoyed an early morning fishing session before my arrival.
They would undoubtedly have been far better fishers than I as I smiled at my early season incompetence when I snagged my fly in the river bottom and gave it a tug. The fly came loose and was catapulted into the tree branch above, I then managed to knock my cap off into the river giving it a drenching.
As I walked back to the car and the work party I glimpsed a big brown trout in a deep pool and marked its location down for another day.
I met up with fellow club members and we headed off upriver where we carried out some minor pruning to improve casting access. We also removed several large trees from favoured fishing pools dragging them to the bankside where we hoped they would prevent further bank erosion.
We all headed off to our homes and families after a good mornings work beside the river as signs of spring were bursting forth all round.
Details of South Molton & District Angling Club can be found below :-
The South Molton and District Angling Club was established in 1970 and has 5 miles of fishing on the picturesque River Bray for wild Brown trout. The River Bray is a tributary of the River Mole, which in turn is a tributary of the River Taw. It rises in Exmoor National Park, and our fishing beats are near Brayford on the southern edge of the moor.
We have two main fishing sections:
The first beat is called the Stucley Water, which is approximately three miles long and, for the most part, there is fishing on both banks.
The second beat is the Hunter Water, where again there is fishing on both banks for approximately one mile.
Both beats are very well maintained by way of regular bank clearing sessions, annual redds count, Riverfly inspection, along with Westcountry CSI water quality monitoring. This regular programme of maintenance is conducted by club members, and all members are welcome to join in.
The river is a spate river to a degree but does not stay coloured for very long due to the high water quality coming off Exmoor and not too intensive farming in the catchment. Fishing access for the most part, is easy.
Although some restrictions apply to salmon and sea trout fishing, the sport is usually fishing for wild brown trout, on fly only.
We have a series of six, still water, competition events throughout the year, and our chairman organises sea fishing trips off the coast of North Devon.
As a club, we hold monthly meetings, in the relaxed atmosphere of a local hostelry. Fishing business is discussed and fishing tales exchanged! We also have our yearly, more formal AGM which usually includes a speaker and is followed by a meal.
In the autumn we have our annual dinner to which partners are invited.
If you are interested and would like to find out more, then please email:
South Molton Angling Club met at Bratton Water to take part in the Mac Trophy competition that is fished throughout the year at Stillwaters across the region. Bratton water is sheltered from most winds and offers great sport with rainbow and brown trout stocked on a regular basis. Members caught steadily from the start with trout succumbing to various patterns and tactics.
I started using a small black goldhead viva lure with a small nymph fished on a dropper. This proved effective with my three fish bag tempted within a little over 1.5hours. The best fish was a stunning looking brown trout of around 2lb.
Other members tempted fish on orange lures and small buzzers. The fish were a mix of browns and rainbows the best close to 3lb.
The colours of autumn are showing on the tree’s within the valley but considering it is early November there are still plenty of leaves remaining. We commented on how the seasons are changing with the onset of winter getting later each year.
A couple of hours wading upriver passed all too quickly on a North Devon stream. It proved frustrating at time with the river very low and clear making it difficult to approach the pools without spooking the trout that could be seen darting away as I approached.
Flicking a bushy dry fly into the streamy water at the head of pools and runs rewarded me with a couple of beautiful wild browns of around 10″ and 8″.
The lush green growth and abundant bird life of the river valley in late spring is undoubtedly England at its best.
The water I fished is South Molton & District Angling Club water on the River Bray. I picked a book of my bookshelf ” Trout Fishing On Rapid Streams”, by H.C. Cutcliffe FRCS, Published in 1883 the book comprises A Complete System of fishing the North Devon streams and their like.
In the preface of the book the author mentions David Bale, now I think a letter-carrier, residing at High Bray. He is the best worm fisher I ever saw, and forever, is a most civil, indeed I may say polite man, truthful and honest and will be found a most respectable and well informed companion to the fishermen, who, I Trust will not forget to well acknowledge the merits of honest old David, now I fancy, not over well provided with the good things of this life”. The picture above shows High Bray Church upon the hill. It is reassuring to think that I fished the waters that David Bale cast his worm into over a century ago and the trout that I tempted would be direct descendants. Long may these rivers continue to thrive with their crimson spotted trout.
“In getting at these several little holes and currents, dont be afraid of your knees: keep down close to mother earth: go on your knees or crawl on your stomach; remember the trout is there, and you can catch him if you work properly and do not frighten him away.” These words of wisdom apply equally today!
The river was running low and clear as I threaded the line through the rings tying one of Nigel Nunn’s scruffy dry fly creations to a fine leader. It was a cool calm overcast evening and no fish appeared to be rising as I watched the water.
Lambs pranced in the fields, spring flowers lined the banks and birdsong filled the air. With life throwing a few challenges the river gave a welcome relief as I waded carefully into the clear water. I was using a light weight Snowbee classic rod and flicked the dry fly up stream focusing on the buoyant fly as it alighted and drifted down.
I have never enjoyed a great deal of success casting into calm still pools on these small rivers with fish far more liable to slip up in the streamy fast water at the pool’s heads or deeper runs.
Searching the water as I waded and scrambled as stealthily as I could upstream; a true tonic fully focussing the mind upon the moment. The bushy fly bobbed buoyantly and I was heartened to raise a couple of smallish trout that I failed to connect with. Threading the back cast between overhanging branches proved challenging at times but tangles were few and my rhythm felt good as the fly alighted repeatedly in promising spots.
The living river valley filled the senses, wild garlic in full flower its pleasing scent released from time to time as it was crushed underfoot. Carpets of bluebells beneath the trees with vivid fresh green starting to show. Ferns were unfurling and bird song drifted across the valley with activity all around as parent birds searched for food.
I had covered perhaps half a mile of water when I flicked the fly into a streamy run.
A swirl on the surface, a flick of the wrist and that delightful connection. The light rod pulsed in my hand as the fish fought in the strong current. I relished the moments and was thrilled when the fish was safely pulled over the rim of the net. I admired its spotted flanks, slipping the barbless fly from its jaws grabbed a picture of a 12” beauty, holding the fish for a moment in the flow.
It disappeared with a flick of its tail, gone from whence it had come a vision etched upon the minds eye.
I continued my search for another half an hour before walking back to the car as the evening light began to fade. I glanced under the old bridge and thought about exploring the river below next time.
The western sky glowed pink over the horizon as I drove home and I thought of the coast and casting a lure to bass in the fading light or maybe waiting for a smoothound to scream away.
I joined four members of South Molton Angling to undertake some work clearing debris from a stretch of the River Bray near Brayford.
Parking in an adjacent lay-by we were dismayed to find it strewn with litter that had been casually discarded by a section of society that appears to have no shame. Fortunately club Chairman Eddie Rands had a couple of fertiliser sacks in his pick up truck and after ten minutes or so we had cleared the vast majority of the offending material. It is sickening to see this total lack of respect for our beautiful countryside.
In the nearby woods a carpet of bluebells carpeted the slopes as welcome rain fell in the valley giving valuable water to boost the lush spring growth.
In the river we tackled a large trash dam that had built up behind a tree that had succumbed to the winter storms. We trimmed the mass of branches and roots opening up a small pool that will hopefully harbour a few trout that we may tempt with a carefully presented fly. A quick look over the rocks of the riverbed revealed plenty of caddis and a few clusters of bullhead eggs.
We chatted at length about the health of local rivers and the once prolific runs of fish. Stories of poachers that once stole fish from the rivers were exchanged and whilst tales of the fish these rogues killed were sad the fact that the fish are no longer there to steal is even sadder.
The problems that beset our rivers are both complex and many. Understanding the issues is perhaps the start of putting things right.
Half a dozen members of South Molton Angling Club attended a Riverfly count combined with Westcountry CSI (Citizens Scientist Investigations). https://wrt.org.uk/project/become-a-citizen-scientist/ They enjoyed a Spring day in glorious sunshine beside the beautiful River Bray near Brayley Bridge. The results from both exercises exceeded all expectations with plenty of river life present. https://www.riverflies.org
The discovery of a number of eggs attached to the base of stone raised questions as to their origin. Further enquiries to an expert within the West Country Rivers Trust revealed that they were the eggs of a freshwater bullhead or Millers Thumb that spawn during March and April. These delightful fish are undoubtedly etched upon many minds as small fish caught as children exploring streams and rivers.
I joined members of South Molton Angling Club on one of their stretches of fishing along the River Bray. This was the first of a couple of bank clearing work parties organised throughout the season. It was a delightful Spring day with a bright blue sky and a pleasure to be at the waterside with fellow anglers keen to carry out some early season work.
The club rents several stretches of water and work with the landowners permission to undertake a minimal amount of river maintenance to allow access to fishing areas. The winter storm always bring a few fallen trees that can block the river and render some areas un-fishable. Substantial trash dams and fallen trees can also lead to serious bank erosion so these also need tackling.
A couple of hours hard work addressed a few areas of concern and also enabled the normal good humoured banter and discussion to flow. The long dead carcass of a red deer stag intrigued us all as we debated its demise. Had it died of old age, been shot or hit by a car? It is likely that the poor creature had gone to the river for its last drink before passing away to decompose beside the ever-flowing river the nutrients from its body returning to the land in natures never-ending cycle.