Game Fishing Articles: Fishing Tips and Advice

Salmon fishing on the
Fowey in Cornwall

These angling articles, some written specifically for Get Hooked, will help you get the most out of your fly fishing in the Westcountry.

There is advice on tackle, bait and where to fish. Some are specific to particular areas, others more general. Even seasoned local anglers are sure to find some useful information among them. Not all are advice, some are humorous, others intend to inform on ecological and environmental issues. We are sure you will enjoy reading them.

Lucy Bowden Talks About Fishing For Everyone And Her Passion For Angling November 2011

Submitted by Mandi on November 3, 2011 - 3:19pm

November 2011

One of the questions many people ask me when they find out I’m an angler is what got me into it and why is it such a big part of my life. My response always is, “My Dad got me into the sport and for that I am eternally grateful.” Angling like with many of us, to me is more than just a hobby, it is my life and everything I do, the people I know and my career revolves around that one hobby. Fishing For Everyone was first created in 2005 from the adolescent idea that I wanted to encourage more people, in particular more females into the sport of angling. I was young at the time and wanted to make a difference for the good. Although things didn’t happen overnight, over a period of time I feel I’ve established myself as a dedicated and proactive role model for ladies in the sport.


Many people do not realise it but in fact the FFE website was just that to begin with– an information website before a year following its initial launch it was developed into an e-commerce website selling ladies angling clothing and accessories, and later on, my coaching services. Although I’m only 24 years old now, two years ago I decided I wanted to give something back to my community and so went about founding the Fishing For Everyone Ladies Fishing Club, an angling club dedicated to encouraging more ladies into the sport of angling. Although it wasn’t an easy task, in its first year the Club proved such a success that by year two we applied for official angling Club status and a committee was put in place, along with club rules and a constitution. Today the Club hold regular events every month covering all angling disciplines from fly fishing to predator, sea and coarse fishing.


The club is open to all females and junior members under the age of 17. I stand as Chairman and I’m very proud of what we’ve created. Recently someone asked me, what’s in it for you, why do you give up your free weekend’s to voluntarily run a ladies fishing club? Why not I often say back... there are few things I’d rather be doing. Seeing the faces of those young and old catch their first fish does it for me every time... it’s more than just catching fish, it’s an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives. Since forming the club I’ve qualified as a level 2 UKCC Game Angling Coach and the youngest female coach of this description in the UK. Knowing this fact is a huge honour for me and actually quite a scary thought. I love coaching and like to get out regularly – it’s in my blood, young and old, male and female – it doesn’t matter.

As well as running my own business and standing as Chairman of a fishing club I also work full time for world renowned fishing tackle manufacturer, Hardy & Greys. I’ve been with the company for nearly four years and love the variety of the job. Recently I have attended various enterprise days in local schools and

workshops where I have given motivational talks.Many have asked, do you think you are a success or where do you want to be in five years time? I like to get them thinking and ask them what determines success. Is it making money, having a nice house or flash car or is it achieving what you’ve always wanted, being happy in yourself, self assured and confident with the person you are. For me, it’s certainly the latter.

Lucy coaching Lucy

Fishing and the great friends I’ve met along the way have made me who I am today... I’m sure no other industry can do the same. As for where do I want to be in five years time, I often look back five years ago when I was 19 and never had an inclination I’d ever be where I am today so the answer simply is, who knows – happy, healthy and successful I hope. Bring on the fishing!

 Contact Details

Email: [email protected]
Follow on Facebook / Twitter:LucyBowdenFFE

South West Rivers Association 2011

Submitted by Mandi on September 22, 2011 - 3:47pm

SWRA is the voice of riparian owners and game angling in the South West. It is the umbrella of the individual river associations in the South West and a powerful lobbying body regularly consulted by the Environment Agency and Government. Its main aim is to see salmon and sea trout stocks and the sport of angling for them return to their former glory. As with many aspects of modern life, angling and our freedom to enjoy it have been threatened by an ever-growing bureaucracy. Our rivers are also subject to pressure from abstraction, pollution and public access. By enabling individual rivers to work together to speak with one voice SWRA continues to influence the political and environmental agenda in a number of key areas, including: Salmon Stock Assessment - we lobby for a more accurate approach, a requisite of good management. Salmon Stocking Policy - we support effective stocking to compensate for the effects of environmental degradation. Our Hatchery Best Practice Group, supported by the Environment Agency and Westcountry Rivers Trust, is ensuring the best possible use of our volunteer hatchery teams.

Canoeing - we continue to support the policy of voluntary access agreements and have helped secure more acceptable ones on some rivers Abstraction - over-abstraction remains a serious threat. In South Devon we are working with the Angling Trust to reduce the unacceptable levels of abstraction. The biggest and newest threat is the rapid growth in hydropower developments. Our Secretary is not only active at a local level but sits on the National Hydropower Stakeholder Group set up to ensure best practice..

Partnership Working - with the inevitable cuts in Environment Agency funding, the management of our rivers and their fisheries will increasingly depend on the work of the charitable and voluntary sector. SWRA is a lead player in developing this approach.

If you would like to know more about the work of South West Rivers Association by joining the mailing list for its Newsletter, or wish to become an individual member, please contact the Secretary, Roger Furniss at: [email protected]

South West Fishing For Life

Submitted by Mandi on September 22, 2011 - 12:44pm


South West Fishing For Life was started early in 2008 by Gillian Payne as a non profit organisation to help anyone suffering from, or recovering from, breast cancer. Fly fishing has been found to be very beneficial to anyone with breast cancer as it tones muscles, and talking to other people in the same situation always helps. The club has three groups at; Wimbleball lake on Exmoor, Kennick lake in Devon, and we are delighted to announce the third group at Siblyback in Cornwall which started in the Spring of 2011.

These venues are all South West Lakes Trust lakes, to whom we are most grateful. Tuition and tackle is provided to allow a mornings fishing, with lunch. Other venues are sometimes used and during non fishing months we still meet for fly dressing, socials, talks and other interesting activities. After lunch participants are encouraged to fish independently, with friends or, if tired, are free to return home. All Instructors are professional and hold suitable qualifications and insurance. South West Fishing For Life not only aims to provide fishing for participants but also would like to see other venues set up their own organisation in other areas.

If you would like to read more about SWFFL please look at our web site:

For enquiries please contact:

Gillian 01398 371244

Email: [email protected]

or Patrick, 01398 323409 Email: [email protected]

A Golden Age Of Fly Tackle

Submitted by Mandi on September 21, 2011 - 11:33am

Throughout the ages old codgers have always been ready to tell the world just how tough things were when they were young – and how easy things are for the new generation. Perhaps that view is wearing a bit thin, especially in the present economic climate, but there is one area where we have never had it so good – modern fly fishing tackle These thoughts came to the surface as I was sorting out some old tackle that had been cluttering up the house and getting it ready to go to auction. One rod in particular made me realise how far we had come. It was a greenheart salmon fly rod made by Hardy around 1900 that was 23 ft long and weighed in at 2 lb 12 oz – I can only assume that most of the salmon anglers of that period had a ghillie to carry the rod down to the river.

Fast forward half a century to the 1950s when I started fly fishing and the split cane rod that I used to fish at Chew Valley and Blagdon just topped 8 oz and had only a fraction of the power of the 4 oz carbon fibre rod that I now use on the lakes. And the rods that I use on the trout streams are only around 2 oz. Today we take for granted fly lines that both shoot smoothly and float well but my first line, like that of other anglers at the time, was made of silk and quickly absorbed water. The first task of the day was greasing the line, which was fine until casting removed the grease. 

Then – and this was often just when the trout started rising – the line began to sink and it was necessary to strip it off the reel, hang it out to dry and then grease it all over again. By that time, of course, the rise had come to a stop. Fortunately, I did not have to wait too long before the first synthetic floating lines came along and today we enjoy a wonderful range of fly lines from the highest-riding floater to the fast sinking lines that get us right down to the depths. One of the items that went to auction was a damper tin in which the brittle gut casts of the first half of the 20th century had to be soaked before they became supple

enough to use. By the time I became a fly fisher, monofilament nylon had arrived and in much-improved form remains with us as a leader material, though now joined by fluorocarbon and copolymer. These developments – and others like ever lighter fly reels, breathable waders, an infinite range of fly hooks – provide the fly fisher with the means of being more effective than ever in angling history. Fortunately, the very best tackle can only support our efforts to fool the fish and we still need as much skill, river craft and experience as ever to be successful.

Thankfully there will always be days when the fish make complete fools of us all.

Salmon Farming and Wild Fish 2011

Submitted by Mandi on July 13, 2011 - 12:11pm

Salmon farming and
wild fish just don't mix!
What is the problem?
There is overwhelming scientific consensus that salmon farms pose a threat to wild salmon and sea trout. Parasitic sea-lice from salmon farms can kill wild fish, particularly juveniles migrating to sea, while
farm escapees breed with wild adults, diluting natural gene pools.
Fish farms are struggling to control sea-lice problems. In Norway,
farm-origin fish can constitute up to 20% of salmon found on the spawning grounds.Salmon are currently farmed in open-net cages, allowing parasites,disease, waste products and pesticides to flow freely into the wild and
impact wild fish. And many fish farms are located close to estuaries important for wild salmon and sea trout, making interaction between farmed and wild fish inevitable.

Sea Trout Protection English and Welsh Version

Submitted by Mandi on July 11, 2011 - 3:30pm

English and Welsh rivers were colonised by sea trout at the end of the last Ice Age, and their descendents are the populations of brown trout and sea trout we know today (both Salmo trutta). Resident and migratory characteristics have developed within individual catchments, so that some fish now remain permanently
resident (brown trout), some always migrate (sea trout) and others can do either, depending on circumstances. It is believed that both genetics and environmental issues, such as habitat and available
food, play a part in whether or not a trout migrates to sea. What is a Sea Trout? SALMON & TROUT ASSOCIATION
Game anglers for fish, people, the environment.At the 1st International Sea Trout Symposium at Cardiff University in July 2004, four key issues emerged as being vital to the future of our sea trout stocks:
lSea trout utilise tiny spawning streams, but these are the very habitats most at threat from unsympathetic land use and agriculture. Finnish sea trout stocks have been savaged by fish being accidentally
caught in the coastal white fish gill-net fishery. The UK's coastal waters are exploited by bass gill-netters, and the potential threat to sea trout is obvious.lLarger female sea trout are often multiple repeat spawners with a potential to deposit many eggs over their lifetime, so maximising their contribution to local stocks. They have proven their fitness to survive in both the river and the sea and so contain important genes to pass on to their progeny. Protection of larger fish is therefore vital. Some scientific opinion suggests that salmon are on the edge of their viable range in the southern half of England and Wales. If our climate becomes warmer, as is widely predicted through global warming, sea trout will also be
vulnerable to the resulting environmental pressures, such as droughts, abnormal winter flows, inevitable changes to their growth/life history and,weakened by sub-lethal levels of pollution while in rivers, they might be unable to survive the additional stress of migrating from freshwater into the
marine environment.
What can you do to help?

Get The Drift

Submitted by Mandi on February 24, 2011 - 12:45pm

Looking down over a lake prior to getting to the bank, or into a boat for a days fishing, we have all watched the stretches of wind lanes. Some, gently wandering across the water, others, in high wind conditions showing as a definite path of foam amongst the wave breaks. These wind lanes often hold feeding fish I am fanatical about fishing wind lanes and would like to point out their advantages. Let me explain the formation of these wind lanes, why they attract the fish, and how best to use them. Wind lanes were studied in depth (excuse the pun) by Irving Langmuir, an American physicist, after noticing the lanes forming on the water surface. He discovered that when the wind was blowing across the top of a water mass in one direction, because of the ‘Coriolis’ effect (this is what make your bath water spin whilst going down the plug hole) cells are formed below the surface, and actually break the surface at the top of each cell. These are known as ‘Langmuir Cells’ What we actually see is the top of each cell where it breaks the surface, and in fact the water in that space is turning very slowly at right angles to the wind direction.

South West Rivers Association 2009

Submitted by Mandi on July 10, 2009 - 12:26pm


SWRA is the voice of riparian owners and game angling in the South West. It is the umbrella of the individual river associations in the South West and a powerful lobbying body regularly consulted by the Environment Agency and Government. Its main aim is to see salmon and sea trout stocks and the sport of angling for them return to their former glory.

As with many aspects of modern life, angling and our freedom to enjoy it are affected by an ever-growing bureaucracy. Our rivers are also subject to pressure from abstraction, pollution and public access. By enabling individual rivers to work together to speak with one voice SWRA continues to influence the political and environmental agenda in a number of key areas, including:

Salmon Stock Assessment - we lobby for a more accurate approach, a requisite of good management.
Salmon Stocking Policy - we support effective stocking to compensate for the effects of environmental degradation.
National Sea Trout and Salmon Strategy - we welcome the addition of sea trout and will campaign for effective Salmon and Sea Trout Action Plans to restore stocks to former levels.
Canoeing - we continue to support the policy of voluntary access agreements.
Abstraction - over-abstraction remains a serious threat and we are working to reverse it.
Water Framework Directive - our Secretary sits on a Panel guiding implementation of the Directive in the South West.

If you would like to know more about the work of South West Rivers Association by joining the mailing list for its Newsletter, or wish to become an individual member, please contact the Secretary, Roger Furniss at:
[email protected]

Fishing With Bristol Water

Submitted by Mandi on May 27, 2009 - 4:21pm


Big fish prizes

Every month a prize of £50.00 is awarded to the biggest fish reported from each venue. The biggest fish for the year from Chew, Blagdon and the Barrows will win its captor £200.00. (Fish must be witnessed by a member of the fisheries team).


Chew Valley is the host to many national and local competitions arranged by various clubs and organizations. Bristol Water also organize an Evening League, a Teams Challenge for teams of six local anglers and a Pike Fishing Tournement. Details of all of these can be obtained by ringing Woodford Lodge on 01275 332339.  


Anyone can learn to fly fish and it’s not as hard as you may think. You don’t need to have any tackle or expensive equipment to start with and Bristol Water supply tutors, helpers and experts to make sure that everyone can enjoy a day at the water. Our instructors are all STANIC* and REFFIS* qualified guides. These are nationally recognized qualifications. As well as running the courses listed here we can also arrange for private instruction. *Salmon and Trout Association National Instructor’s Certificate; Register of Experienced Fly Fishing Instructors and Schools.

Casting tuition

We offer two-hour casting tuition sessions for beginners and near beginners most Saturday mornings from 11am to 1pm during the fishing season. The cost is £20 per person; tackle is provided if needed; groups are kept small and advance booking is essential.

Fly fishing tuition

Once a month, normally on the last Saturday, we offer a fishing class with carefully supervised bank fishing. The four hour course also covers fly selection, entomology and safety and costs £40 per person; groups are small and advance booking is essential. Two half-price bank visits may be taken after completing this course. Boat fishing instruction for one or two persons can also be organised. A four hour session costs £40 - the date and time to be arranged by mutual agreement with the instructor.

Beginners’ days

We offer beginners a chance to try fly fishing on Saturday afternoon sessions throughout the fishing season and some weekdays during August. Here they will learn the basics of fly casting and fishing, as well as have the chance to bank fish, and if available, boat fish during the session. Tackle can be supplied and the cost is just £20.00 per person. Minimum age for juniors is 12 years. Advance booking is essential as there will be limited places on each session. Apply to Woodford Lodge.

Free tuition with John Horsey

John Horsey, our local professional guide, has fished here for many years and is well qualified to give advice and help to newcomers and regulars to the fisheries. This advice is available to anglers free of charge! On six occasions during the season John will be available at Chew Valley to give assistance from boat or bank. You can book him for an hours free tuition. For dates and to book just ring Woodford Lodge.

Enquiries and Bookings

Phone or write to Bristol Water Fisheries, Woodford Lodge, Chew Stoke, Bristol, BS40 8XH. Telephone 01275 332339 for a free brochure, for all enquiries and for bookings.

Weekly update by web or via email.

Visit our web site for regular updates on the fishing at, If you would like the weekly fishing results and news to be emailed to you email: [email protected] to be added to the list.

Fishing With South West Lakes Trust

Submitted by Mandi on May 27, 2009 - 3:31pm


South West Lakes Trust manages around 30 lakes as fisheries in the South West of England. The Trust was formed to provide, promote and enhance sustainable recreation, access and nature conservation at these lakes. One of the most popular activities for visitors is angling for both coarse and game fish.

Each of the lakes has its own unique character. Some lakes are found in wild and secluded settings, or you may choose to fish at locations which offer other amenities such as campsites with modern facilities, and cafes. The lakes are regularly re-stocked with good-sized fish, and regulars will be familiar with the legendary large fish landed at some of the coarse fishing sites.

Bank, boat and more

We aim to provide great fishing for both experienced anglers and beginners. New ventures introduced during 2008 included the South West Fishing For Life scheme which gives a group of women who have suffered from breast cancer an opportunity to experience fly fishing, which aids their physical and emotional healing. In conjunction with Wellard & Scott, who are based at Roadford Lake, we also introduced kayak fishing with introductory experience days. There is also a brand new fishing lodge with improved facilities at Kennick.

Our successful training and family days are held regularly throughout the year. Juniors will be encouraged to fish for both coarse fish and trout with the parent/child ticket again being available allowing youngsters under 12 years to fish for free, sharing the parent bag limit. Please note that children under 14 years should be accompanied by an adult over 18 at all times.

Tuition for beginners

Beginners’ Days are held in conjunction with local qualified professional instructors and the Environment Agency. They include national Fishing Week family events at Siblyback and Stithians, as well as Beginners Days, Junior Days, Ladies’ Days and Family Days at Kennick, Siblyback, Wimbleball and Stithians. For more details contact 01566 771930 or click on fishing at

These events have been very successful over the past seasons, with many novices taking up the sport, including the formation of a Ladies’ Club at Kennick. All equipment is provided and the team of professional instructors will share their knowledge and experience in the use of equipment and where to fish. The tuition days are very popular, so prior booking is essential. Or individual tuition can be arranged with local, qualified instructors.

Access for all

Through its partnership with the Wheelyboat Trust, South West Lakes Trust is able to provide wheelyboats suitable for wheelchair access at Roadford, Wimbleball, Siblyback and Kennick. These must be booked at least 48 hours in advance. There is also a Wheelyboat at Wistlandpound, which is operated by the Calvert Trust. We provide facilities for disabled anglers at some of our coarse fisheries.


The Trust holds three main trout fishing competitions each year: The Peninsula Classic bank competition at Kennick in June, supported by Wellard & Scott; the Snowbee Team bank competition at Siblyback in July; and the Wimbleball 2000 boat pairs competition in September, supported by Orvis.

Dates and booking information are available from the Angling Centres at these lakes or click on fishing at The Trust also holds its successful Carp Fishing weekend competitions at Upper Tamar. Details of these may be found on the website.

Porth and Upper Tamar are both popular coarse fishing competition venues which may be booked in advance by contacting 01566 771930, along with other coarse fisheries. Details of all competitions at these sites and other Trust waters in the region may be found on the website on the Fishing Diary page. Fishing news and catch reports may also be found here – photos of your successful catches, or articles, are always welcome.

Season permits

In addition to pay-per-visit, you can also purchase a season ticket. These are available locally through the Trust’s Angling and Watersports Centres, on-line from the Trust’s website, or through Summerlands Tackle in Westward Ho!, either in person or over the phone on 01237 471291.

Westcountry Angling Passport tokens, which are available through the Westcountry Rivers Trust and other outlets, may be used as part-payment for fishing on the trout fisheries. This payment option may be used at self-service lodges and at ticket agents.

What’s going on?

If you would like to receive a copy of the Trust’s Coarse or Trout Fisheries Newsletter, please email: [email protected] or phone 01566 771930 to be included on the mailing list.

The Trust is committed to angling and creating the best possible experience for its visitors. So any comments are welcome to help us provide what you, the angler, really wants.

For information on sites, facilities, instruction and competitions please contact our specialist Fisheries Managers:

Coarse fishing:

Ben Smeeth - 01566 771930

[email protected]

Trout fishing:

Chris Hall - 01647 277587

[email protected]

or visit


Fishing With Wessex Water

Submitted by Mandi on May 27, 2009 - 2:24pm

Both regular and occasional anglers enjoy using the various fishing facilities provided by Wessex Water at its reservoirs in Somerset. The fisheries at Clatworthy, Hawkridge and Sutton Bingham reservoirs offer a friendly, personal service and the chance of sport in surroundings second to none. Durleigh reservoir, west of Bridgwater, provides coarse anglers with a similar opportunity.


Clatworthy reservoir is situated in the Brendon Hills on the edge of Exmoor National Park in West Somerset. It impounds the head waters of the river Tone and the surrounding rolling hills provide a picturesque setting for walking and fishing. Anglers can enjoy fishing for rainbow and brown trout from the banks of this 130 acre reservoir or from a boat. A “wheelie” boat is available for wheelchair users. Fishing boats may be hired for rowing or you may use your own electric outboard.

The seven water inlets at Clatworthy are all described as hot spots for fishermen, but generally the south bank is considered to be the best area. Clatworthy offers good top of the water fishing with nymphs or dry flies or at the deep areas with sinking lines and flashing lures. Anglers can use the fishing lodge which has a stunning view and includes a drinks machine, lounge area and toilets.For further information about fishing at Clatworthy, contact the ranger Dave Pursey on 01984 624658.


This upland reservoir nestles in a small valley on the Quantock Hills in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The reservoir lies seven miles west of Bridgwater, just beyond the village of Spaxton.

The 32 acre reservoir provides fishing facilities for brown or rainbow trout from the bank or boat which anglers are recommended to book in advance. Anglers can use the facilities at the fishing lodge which include drinks machine, lounge and toilets. An updated fishing report as well as information on the latest flies, tactics and catch rate can be found in the lodge. For further details about fishing at Hawkridge, contact the ranger Gary Howe on 01278 671840.

Sutton Bingham

Sutton Bingham reservoir is 142 acre lowland fishery in the gentle hills on the Somerset Dorset border. Situated four miles south of Yeovil it can be approached from the A37 Dorchester Road. The reservoir offers excellent fly fishing for rainbow and brown trout, either from the bank or a boat. A “wheelie” boat is available for wheelchair users. Because Sutton Bingham is a lowland reservoir, the water is not deep and the most popular method of fishing is by floating line and small lures and nymphs. Tuition is available by appointment from the ranger who offers advice on best spots and on the most effective fishing methods of the day. The fishing lodge has been designed to cater for the disabled and includes a fish cleaning room, hot drinks, shower and a large lounge area. For more details about fishing at Sutton Bingham, contact the ranger Ivan Tinsley on 01984 872389.


This lowland reservoir is one of the oldest in the Wessex Water region. It is open every day of the year except Christmas day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Durleigh reservoir is the only Wessex Water reservoir dedicated to coarse fishing. Anglers can fish over 80 acres which provide an abundance of coarse fish for match or the casual angler. The reservoir contains carp, roach, bream, perch, tench and specimen size pike. For further details about fishing or matches, contact the ranger Paul Martin on 01278 424786.

General Information

For general enquiries on fishing, to request a free brochure, or for season tickets call Wessex Water customer services on 0845 600 4 600. Day or evening tickets for fishing and boat hire are available on a self serve basis from the public fishing lodge.

A Few Thoughts On Those First Casts

Submitted by Mandi on May 27, 2009 - 11:05am

There is delight in the early years of angling that can live forever in the memory. The thrill when that first fish is brought to the water's edge, an intriguing creature from another dimension.I have taken several young people fishing over the last few years and most are captivated by the experience. Though not all follow on to become anglers most, I feel, develop an understanding of what angling is all about.

I have spoken with teachers from several schools that have taken young people to the waters edge and they have commented on how many of the pupils become fully focused on the pursuit of contact with a fish. They learn to appreciate the environment by actually interacting within it and not simply reading about it in a textbook. Fishing, it would seem, has a calming influence even upon young people who do not thrive in a classroom environment.The Environment Agency has invested a considerable amount of effort in promoting angling amongst young people. Schools and Youth Clubs can contact the agency to arrange block licences to allow introductory events to take place free of charge.

There are a few golden rules to follow when introducing young people to angling. First is to ensure that there is an awareness of the dangers present at the waters edge. Ideally they should be able to swim. Ensure that the banks are stable and not slippery. Wear sensible clothing to match the weather conditions. Wear protective glasses when fly-fishing. Always wipe hands with an antiseptic wipe before eating food, as Weil’s disease is a real danger where rats dwell.It is best to keep sessions short for young anglers to avoid disillusionment setting in if the fish refuse to feed. Choose a venue that contains plenty of fish. Do not start off by attempting to catch big fish instead aim for plenty of bites from small fish. There is nothing that captivates the attention more than a brightly tipped float that frequently disappears.

During the session try to engage an interest in the wildlife that surrounds the venue. The vivid blue of a kingfisher, a stalking heron the friendly robin that alights upon the rod tip looking for morsels of food.When a fish is hooked ensure that it is carefully unhooked using the appropriate disgorger. Return the fish to its watery home with care after pausing for a moment to admire the fish and perhaps take a photo with the smiling captor.

Finally when you pack away ensure you have left no litter and pick up any in the vicinity that may have been left by those less considerate than yourselves.

Fixing The Frome

Submitted by Mandi on May 27, 2009 - 9:52am

Thirty years ago, heavy diggers were driven to the edge of the River Frome, just downstream of Dorchester, to excavate the banks and scoop out the riverbed, in order to make the river deeper and straighter. Now, the diggers have once returned to the exact same stretch of the Frome to fill it all back in again.


Standing on the bank of the Frome, among the recent scars and troughs of heavy plant machinery, John Aplin, river keeper and restorer, explains why his club, the Dorchester Fishing Club, is undoing all the hard work that went on three decades ago.

‘It was all done in the name of flood relief,’ explains John. ‘The river below Dorchester was canalised; dug into a uniform U-profile for a few miles, so that more water could flow and so reduce the risk of the river backing-up to flood the town.’

You might be forgiven for assuming that in these days of global warming and scary flash flood warnings, this kind of flood relief is more necessary than ever. But, as John explained, water and flood management is still in its infancy and still very much a case of trial, error and experimentation. The error that engineers made in the 1970s was to see flood relief as a function of just the river itself, rather than in conjunction with the huge network of water meadows that spread for miles on either side of the river corridor.

Farming practices changed in the 60s and 70s; the water meadow sluice gates and hatches were allowed to fall into disrepair; the tradition of flooding meadows, to warm the soil in preparation for a second crop each year, was abandoned. As the meadows were used less, the water – rather than being leached-out to feed the network of meadows and channels – remained within the river course itself. Not surprisingly, the river couldn’t cope with such a massive increase in volume being forced between its banks. And so ‘canalising’ rivers became the accepted method of dealing with extra flow. By taking out all the interesting kinks and bends and shallows in the river, engineers encouraged more water to pass through.

‘Of course, it was hopeless for fish,’ says John. ‘It was just one big uniform glide with nowhere for young fish to hide and absolutely no shallow gravel redds for fish to spawn into.’

With financial help from English Nature and the Environment Agency, survey help from the Dorset Wildlife Trust and practical expertise from fisheries specialists Kingcombe Aquacare , John ordered 200 tons of local gravel to be delivered and dumped into the river.

The three sites they chose to deposit the gravel are destined to become active redds on which trout, salmon and sea trout will spawn, as early as next month. The huge gravel deposits create shallow sections of river, where it flows quicker over the stones. This extra flow increases oxygen levels and helps to wash away any silt deposit which might otherwise suffocate fish eggs. Adding these three gravel sites has more than doubled the amount of potential spawning sites downstream of Dorchester.

But John’s labours don’t just increase spawning redds. ‘We want riffles, glides, pools and back eddies,’ he says. ‘We want it all. We want to create variation and improve habitat, not just in the water but on the bankside too. We’ve customised steep banks to encourage the local water vole population; we’ve made new habitat for kingfishers and other birds. And all of this has happened because we love our fishing and love this river. Really, without fishermen, none of this would ever get done.’

Since the whole of the Frome valley was declared a Special Site of Scientific Interest, much has been done to improve the river. Many water meadows have been reopened and repaired, which now means many function as intended and help regulate flow and any potential flood. It hasn’t all been easy though. ‘Many of the old school river owners, the retired colonels and majors, were up in arms at the thought of all these university graduates and boffins getting their hands on the river,’ explains John, whose job it was to mediate between the two camps.

The range of improvements that were needed were many and varied, from putting in groynes, or upstream deflectors, to increase flow at strategic positions, to paying local farmers not to grow maize alongside the river. This is done to reduce the amount of top soil run-off that occurs in the autumn, after the maize harvest. A badly situated maize field can cause a vast amount of silt and dissolved mud entering the river and clogging the spawning. John is the first to admit that, much of the time, river restoration is guesswork. ‘We’re all of us on a steep learning curve,’ he explains. ‘We’ve made mistakes and hopefully we’ve learned from them. But at the end of the day, Nature always knows best, and it’s a wise man who listens.’

A river is a living thing, with a mind and a will of its own. Many people who work in restoration have discovered that you can only manhandle and manipulate Nature so far. ‘It sounds weird, I know,’ says John, ‘but a river responds to your respect, and even your love. Of course, you can force it to do something. We have the technology. Or, you can see what the river wants to do. The sites we’ve picked to locate the gravel redds were really dictated by the river. It’s like it knows where these would work best. All we had to do was listen.’

For John Aplin, the work he’s overseeing on the Frome is payback for all the pleasure the river has given him over the years. He moved to Dorchester aged 5 and soon started fishing the Frome. By the time he left school, he knew he wanted to be a river keeper, and has done it with great enthusiasm for the last 22 years. ‘To be working on the bit of river I grew up on and loved so much, makes me a very happy man,’ he said. ‘One of the things that makes me most happy is to see the enjoyment that our work brings to the quality of our members’ fishing.’

Brown trout sits at the top of the food chain in a river like the Frome. If you can keep brown trout healthy and growing well in a river system, then you know that the other end of the food chain is working properly. ‘Look after the bottom end of the food chain,’ says John, ‘the invertebrates, shrimps and insect life. Keep them happy and the trout will take care of themselves.’

To find out more about river restoration, contact the Dorchester Fishing Club ( or Casterbridge Fisheries Management on 07889 680464 ( or Kingcombe Aquacare on 01460 279200.