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.

Casting For Recovery

Submitted by Mandi on May 26, 2009 - 2:28pm

Over the past year, fly-fishing has firmly established itself as a potentially life-changing activity following the launch of Casting for Recovery UK and Ireland, a non profit support and educational programme which provides fly fishing retreats specifically tailored for women who have or have had breast cancer.

Casting for Recovery was founded in America in 1996 and has since spread through Canada and arrived in the UK and Ireland at the beginning of 2006. Although the link between breast cancer recovery and fly-fishing might not be immediately apparent to the uninitiated eye, Casting for Recovery provides a unique opportunity for women whose lives have been profoundly affected by breast cancer to gather in a beautiful, natural setting and learn the skill of fly fishing, “a sport for life.” Participants are offered the opportunity to meet new friends, and have fun, away from the daily pressures of life in a tranquil and relaxing environment, incorporating counselling, educational services and the sport of fly-fishing to promote mental and physical healing. Weekend retreats are provided to any woman who has suffered, or is suffering, with breast cancer, with medical clearance from their doctor, and each retreat provides full medical support alongside a psychotherapist and several fly-fishing instructors to offer a forum for women with similar experiences, learn a new skill and gain a respite from their everyday concerns. Retreats are fully funded by the Countryside Alliance and all fly fishing equipment and clothing is provided by Orvis UK, so there is no cost to participants.

The first retreat was held in September 2007 at Duncton Mill, West Sussex and was a huge success. Twelve ladies participated of all ages and the experience was wholly positive, with some catching their very first fish. Everyone learned the fundamentals of fly casting, entomology, knot-tying, equipment basics - but most importantly, participants spend time on the water practicing catch-and-release fishing.

Having successfully tested the waters, three more retreats have been planned for 2008 with the first one being held in March at the Arundell Arms in Lifton, Devon. It is wonderful that such a worthy initiative is finding a home in Devon for the weekend, and great thanks are extended to Anne Voss-Bark, owner of the Arundell Arms, who was so impressed with the initiative and its aims that she had to get involved. Devon seems like a natural backdrop for such a serene and soothing weekend, and offers ideal surroundings for participants to escape their daily concerns and relax with new friends and the waters of the South West couldn’t provide a better respite for participants. The momentum of the organisation can only be strengthened in the relaxing and tranquil Devon countryside.

Indeed, Casting for Recovery will also be paying a visit to Cornwall in the spring, taking a stand at the Caerhays Castle Open Day on 11th May at Gorran near St Austell. We are delighted to be bringing Casting for Recovery to this family day, which will feature fly fishing demonstrations as well as a diverse range of activities such as face painting, maypole dancing, laser clay shooting, a toy stall and even a novelty dog show.

Further retreats are planned for Builth Wells, Powys in April and back at Duncton Mill, West Sussex in September. Although the application processes are unfortunately closed for the first two, applications for Duncton Mill will be taken until late June. It is hoped that a retreat in Ireland will be confirmed later in the year.

All of this is possible due to the hard work and determination of Sue Hunter, Programme Co-ordinator of Casting for Recovery UK and Ireland, former England Ladies Fly-fishing Captain and breast cancer survivor. Sue brought the initiative over to the UK and Ireland following her own diagnosis, after fly-fishing was suggested by a friend to aid her recovery and she quickly developed a passion for the sport that she wished to share. The therapeutic benefit from the fly-fishing technique mimics the soft tissue and joint mobility exercises recommended following breast cancer, and enjoying the tranquil surrounding offered on each retreat, alongside the expert assistance offered provides a holistic approach to recovery.

The opportunities to be involved in such an initiative are few and far between, and Casting for Recovery UK and Ireland are always looking for more volunteers. Any gesture, however small, is greatly appreciated, from a few additional flies sent to help these brave ladies experience the sport for the first time, to fly-fishing instructors, medical practitioners, and greeters to work on the retreats themselves. Every action helps each person on the retreat, and is a wonderful chance to pass on and share in the enthusiasm for the sport beyond the norm.


Tackle Talk

Submitted by Mandi on May 26, 2009 - 2:01pm

A skilled fisherman will always succeed even if the tackle he is using is less than ideal but having the right selection of gear will certainly give you a real edge - and that definitely applies to the trout fisherman on the rivers of South West England. Fortunately we live in a golden age of superb fishing tackle and, after more than half a century of fly fishing, I would never wish to go back to the tackle that was available when I started.

Rods, reels, fly lines, leader material, hooks, fly patterns, waders – all have enjoyed dramatic improvements so, with such a wonderful range of tackle to choose from, let’s start with rod selection. I cast my first fly in the era of the split cane rod and still have some of the rods that I used in those days, but not one of them has cast a fly in twenty years or more. Every one is a work of art but since the advent of carbon fibre they all seem far too heavy and lacking in the casting performance that we now take for granted. The wonderful lightness of carbon fibre means that there is no longer a weight penalty in selecting a longer rod and for all of the medium to large rivers I use a rod of 8½ feet with a fastish action that will punch a 5 line into a stiff breeze when needed.

Many of the smaller trout streams in the south west flow beneath a canopy of overhanging branches so side casting is almost mandatory. However, these streams can be so narrow that the combination of a long rod and the casting loop of the fly line mean that you will be constantly catching the far bank rather than fish. The answer is a shorter rod of 7 ft with a crisp action that will cast a 4 line with a really tight loop. At one time many manufacturers produced what was described as a “brook rod” but fortunately these seem to be a thing of the past as most had sloppy actions that made casting a chore rather than a pleasure.

It is easy to spend a fortune on a reel but when you come right down to it the main purpose of the reel on a trout stream is to store the line. Where modern technology has really helped is with lightweight materials and there are plenty of well-made fly reels that keep the weight of your outfit to the minimum but don’t cost the earth.

My first fly lines were made from silk and had to be dried out after every outing - storing a wet line on the reel resulted in rapid deterioration. And even after a thorough greasing at the start of a day’s fishing the line often became waterlogged and had to be hung out to dry and re-greased to keep it floating. Thank goodness the synthetic fly lines of today have made all of that history. Floating lines of size 4 or 5 will cover all of your needs on West Country rivers but you have to choose between weight forward (WF) and double taper (DT). I am happy to use both and the skinflint in me enjoys being able to reverse a DT line when one end has become worn. This is a case of “you pays your money and you takes your choice” as the distance casting properties of a WF line are rarely needed on our rivers.

A well-designed leader can really improve the presentation of the fly and enable you to punch a fly into an adverse breeze. For many years I achieved the taper that is necessary between the thick fly line and the fly itself by knotting together various lengths of nylon in different diameters, but today continuous-taper leaders made of nylon or flourocarbon have made life simpler. On the bigger rivers a leader of 12 ft is ideal but on small streams you will have to come down to 9 ft or less. As a general rule I use a 6X (approx 3.5 lb) tippet, or point, in the spring, coming down to 7X (approx 2.5 lb) as the season progresses and the rivers drop and clear.

More and more anglers now appreciate the huge advantages in wading deep for trout but the full-length body waders that have been widely used for decades in other trout fishing countries have only recently come into general use on our trout streams. Breathable material has made chest waders increasingly comfortable in the warmer months and when the rivers run cold you can always put on the thermal underwear – unless you indulge in the luxury of an extra pair of neoprene waders for the cooler months. For more than 40 years I used stocking-foot waders and wading boots but since age and stiffness made it increasingly difficult to get in and out of them I have gone over to boot-foot waders, which are much easier to pull on and kick off. A combination of felt soles and cleated rubber heels helps to provide grip on both the stream bed and the river bank. Deep wading puts you right in contact with the fish but is a waste of time if you stumble around spooking every trout in the stream. Use a wading staff and you always have two points of contact with the river bed, which reduces the risk of taking a swim in cold water as well as ensuring a stealthy approach.

And then there are the flies, which have developed so much in recent years, but that is another story.

The Unconventional Fly Fisher

Submitted by Mandi on May 26, 2009 - 12:47pm

For many years fly fishing has been touted as piscatorial elitism. Legend has it that only those born with a silver spoon in their mouth could possibly hope to afford the vastly expensive tackle and permits required to pursue noble game fish such as Trout or Salmon. There may have been some truth in this statement 50 years ago but modern day fly fishing is quite different.

Quality game fishing for Rainbow Trout is available to the masses through stillwaters offering day permits that frequently cost far less than a night out on the town and for those who prefer running water, there is even more good news. Schemes such as the Westcountry Angling Passport offer budget priced sport on miles of stunning Wild Brown Trout rivers scattered across the South West. But, the fun doesn’t end with Wild Brownies. Grayling, Sea Trout and even Salmon can all be accessed via this innovative scheme aimed at the general public. No waiting lists, no “dead men’s shoes”, just quality fly fishing for game fish on a budget.

If it is not the financial myth that dissuades many to try fly fishing for the first time, then it maybe the complicated looking set of movements known as “fly casting”. But fear not, in reality the ability to cast a fly can be picked up in a very short space of time, especially under the tutelage of a qualified coach. So fly fishing need not cost you a small fortune and the casting certainly isn’t rocket science which is all very well but what if you don’t want to catch game species; does this mean your fly fishing career has ended before it ever got started? Absolutely not! Do not think of fly fishing as a discipline aimed solely at fish sporting an adipose fin. Instead observe a little more carefully and you will soon realise that fly fishing is an ultra lightweight, highly mobile method that game, coarse and sea anglers can apply to their preferred species.

For example Carp are now frequently captured while fly fishing, a technique that lends itself to presenting surface baits. Feed up a few fish on some dog biscuits and once they are confident cast your “fluff”, often a clump of deer hair spun on to a hook and then clipped to look like a dog biscuit. OK, so we are bending the fly fishing rule book here that says we should be copying insects and natural food that fish feed upon, but so what, its fun to catch Carp on fly tackle. The thought of a summers evening spent watching those lips suck away at the surface with a big “sluuurp”, is more than enough to blot out all the stereotypes associated with the casting of a fly and the Tweed trouser brigade! Each to their own. So if you prefer a slightly more purist approach to your sport delve into a dry fly box and pull out a big Daddy Long Legs or perhaps a Mayfly, insects that form part of the Carps natural diet.

Fly Fishing for Carp should not be regarded as a novelty. The ability to quickly pick up a fly attached to a length of monofilament line (known as a leader) and then rapidly reposition it is just one of the practical advantages that fly fishing has to offer the coarse angler. It is also a very sporting method, the light rods and direct drive reels offering the ultimate in feeling when playing fish. Then there is the ability to roam free with minimal gear and no need to stop off at the tackle shop for bait, just open your box and pull out a pattern that will often outwit many fish before it falls apart!

Carp are not the only species that prove worthy adversaries on fly fishing tackle. Roach, Chub and Perch are all becoming popular targets for fly fishers although there is one in particular that has captured the imagination of many anglers. Pike on the fly has become something of a cult and it is now fairly common to spot what constitutes half a chicken wafting above an anglers head before it disappears across the water to an unsuspecting toothy critter! Cast with heavy weight 9’0” rated rods for a number 9 or 10 line, the oversized flies resemble ornate Christmas decorations but frequently out fish conventional lure and dead bait tactics. Try venues such as the Exeter Canal, the King Sedgemoor Drain or for the chance of a monster book a boat on Chew Valley Lake near Bristol which has produced fly caught Pike to over 30lbs.

Fishing for Coarse species with fly fishing tackle is one thing, but surely the ocean represents the end of our fluff chucking ways! No! Mackerel are frequently caught on fur and feather imitations of baitfish such as the famous Clouser Minnow, which will also take its fair share of Bass. This majestic species often cruises close to the shoreline and favours habitat offering gullies, weed and generally anything that will provide shelter to their prey; estuaries are ideal. A shooting head line can be used to obtain distance and a line tray will help stop it snagging on rocks, which is essential as you will need to keep moving. Watch for signs of fish feeding activity such as gulls as they dive upon helpless bait rounded up by an entourage of marauding Bass from below and then cast a fly into the commotion.

This visual surface fishing can be spectacular, especially with water disturbing patterns such as Poppers. Modern fly fishing tackle even allows us to roam out into the deep sea in search of species such as Pollack, cast to with fast sinking lines capable of descending at over ten inches per second. This powerful fish is an unbelievable fighter on most forms of gear but even the most salty of sea dogs may find it hard to go back to heavyweight rods, reels and lines after sampling the blistering run of a fly lured Pollack.

So next time you see someone packing the car with a fly rod, ask them what they are fishing for. Better still give it a go yourself, after all, who wants to be conventional?

A Little Patience

Submitted by Mandi on May 26, 2009 - 12:25pm

No-one has ever accused me of being mature. Quite the opposite in fact. According to my wife, the best way to describe my character after 46 years of evolution is ‘infantile’. I am not a patient man. Not blessed with much composure or equanimity.

And yet, people always assume that fishermen must be very patient, self-contained, contemplative types. I am none of these. Normally, I’m a twitchy, restless, impatient cur, with all the restraint of a hungry stoat. But, just the other day, I surprised myself. I did something almost grown up. Photographer Paul Quagliana phoned me to say he was fishing at Sutton Bingham reservoir. Did I want to come along? He’d fished there twice before this season and caught limit-bags both times, fishing a floating line with nymphs and buzzers from the bank. ‘It was brilliant … stacks of fish’, said Paul. ‘I must have lost as many as I caught. Probably more’.

Sutton Bingham reservoir, near Yeovil in Somerset, is only ten miles from my home. I had not fished there yet that season, and it fishes famously-well in the early months. So it would’ve been churlish not to take Paul up on his invite.

I arrived in the middle of one of the most beautiful afternoons we had so far that year. Too beautiful. As I walked around the south bank to where Paul was fishing, I could feel hot sun on the back of my neck. It was a bright, warm, cloudless spring day; absolutely rubbish for trout fishing. Too much sun pushes the trout into deeper water and normally kills their appetite in the middle of the day. Paul had already tackled-up and was happily thrashing the reservoir with efficient determination. I’d passed several grinning anglers swaggering towards Sutton Bingham’s excellent fish cleaning room, with bulging bags of rainbow trout. And I even witnessed a couple of anglers netting fish as I walked to Paul’s plot.

Although I’d set my rod up at my truck, I didn’t do what I’d normally do and start whipping the water before my shadow’s even caught up with me. Instead, I sat down beside Paul, watched him fish and had a good butcher’s at what all the other anglers were doing. It was now 3.30pm, the sun was at its height still, and although plenty of fish had been caught in the morning, but from what I could see, the fish had stopped feeding. Takes were sporadic and timid. Anglers were gradually losing interest too.

‘I had a knock almost first cast’, said Paul. ‘But nothing since. Not a sausage’. It was that one tiny tug on his string that got Paul all pumped-up and keen to catch. That one pull, and the hazy promise of more like it, kept Paul casting relentlessly over the next three hours. It fuelled him with expectation. But without a single repeat-performance from the fish. It was during this three hour period, that I suddenly grew up and became all mature. I could have thrashed the reservoir to frothy foam and tried every combination of fly and flyline, until I either caught a fish or went mad in the attempt. Or, I could sit still and do absolutely nothing, until the time felt right. Until the fish started to show themselves again; either breaking the surface as they fed on invertebrate fly life, or by putting a substantial bend in another man’s rod.

Neither happened for hours. Ages. So I did nothing. I chatted with a couple of fishermen. I wandered a bit further around the reservoir, but mostly I sat still, watched, chewed the fat with multi-casting Paul, and waited.

Most people reading this probably think I’m a total tosser to claim that sitting still and not fishing is a virtue. But believe me, it would have been far easier to pick up the rod and do what I always do; thrash with optimism. To sit out the dog-day afternoon with a vague hope that things might begin to look up later, took guts. Not just lethargy.

After three and a bit hours, things started to happen. Most other anglers had bagged up, or buggered off, so their absence probably helped the trout move closer in, as the air cooled, the light levels dropped and flies started hatching and rising from the water’s surface.

I moved to a nearby swim and started to cast. I’d been at the reservoir nearly four hours by now, and had not so much as wetted a line. The first take came within three casts. An anorexic little nibble-pluck, into which I struck and missed; the small size 12 gold head hare’s ear nymph failing to find any mouth to hook into. Because I wasn’t feeling too tired and emotional from an afternoon of horse flogging the water, I was able to deduce that the way the surface current and wind made the floating line bend from left to right, might mean it’d be more effective to strike the rod sideways, away from the bend, rather than upwards in a conventional strike. Next cast, I had a chance to put my theory into practise. The gentle nudge-take was transformed into a three-pound rainbow fighting for his life, purely by altering the direction of my strike.

Paul was perplexed. He’d put in the hours. He’d thrashed the lake to foam. But, unreasonably, I caught the first fish. And so it went on. For every one I caught, he lost one, or missed a take. As my bag filled, Paul’s frustration increased. And Paul knows me well enough to be absolutely sure I’m no better an angler than he is. Just, I wasn’t so tired and burned-out with casting.

I caught fish because by 7pm I was still fresh and able to cast consistently. Paul had submitted to all those annoying failings of tiredness; when you catch a tree on your backcast, wrap your leader round the fly line, tangle your trace, snap-off on the strike. All the things I would normally do, but didn’t this time. Because I exercised a little patience and waited.

Does this mean I’m becoming mature? Or am I just an annoying prat who’s carping on about the one day he caught a few trout


Exmoor's Inspirational Streams

Submitted by Mandi on May 26, 2009 - 11:35am

I had a good friend around the house recently and as always we were deep into talk of fish and all things piscatorial. Having become enthusiastic about the delights of river trout I began waxing lyrical about good books on river trout. Selecting several tomes on the subject I made some suggestions on good reading matter.

A few days later it struck me how many of these books related to fishing for the wild trout of Exmoor and how the small crimson spotted trout had inspired some of our greatest angling writers. I guess this should come as no surprise with such fantastic rivers as the Exe, Lyn and Taw having sources within its boundaries.

Books often give a fascinating insight into the times in which they were written and angling books are no exception to this rule. Portraying life from the view of the angler gives far more information on the times than many would imagine. Of course I am inclined to refer here to a time when angling literature was less technically inclined than today. These days angling writers have a tendency to focus on technicalities, techniques and tackle. In days gone by the day by stream and the delights of the waterside took precedence; as it should. One of my favourites has to be “Exmoor Streams”, Notes and jottings with Practical Hints for Anglers by Clavde. F. Wade published in 1903.It tells of an Exmoor before the age of the motor car. A horse drawn carriage takes the angler to the upper reaches of the River Lyn.

Conservation was certainly not a major consideration as huge numbers of small trout were taken from the streams. “catching eighty trout in this comparatively short piece on one July day, all with the fly”. Compare this to today when the vast majority of fish are returned to preserve stocks. I had imagined that in 1900 visitors would have had little impact but this is not so even in the days before the car. “There is a beautiful bit of water up from the farm at cloud, but its not so easy to catch fish in as it used to be in the old days before all the tourists came to look for John Ridd’s “water slide”. Trains and steamers brought rich Victorians to the area and our author is concerned at how they will impact on his beloved Exmoor.

Of course one of the fascinations in reading an old book is comparing what was then to what is now. On New Years day my wife and I took a walk at Brendon. On crossing the road bridge I looked downstream and immediately recognised the old bridge pictured in my old Exmoor Streams book virtually unchanged over a century later. Looking at other old sepia images within the pages of this book I realise that in some places little has changed.

Inevitably there are tales of big fish and it’s the salmon of the Lyn that give the big fish stories in Exmoor Streams; “ In the sixties a well known actor, who was very fond of salmon fishing in the Lyn, got hold of a monster in this pool said to have weighed 40lb and I believe nearly died of exhaustion. All day long messengers were going to and from Lynmouth telling the latest stages of the struggle.” Note that when the author talks of the sixties he is referring to the 1860’s

“Exmoor Streams”, has been reprinted in a limited centenary edition by Rothwell and Dunworth. A few copies may remain in their shop in Dulverton. Failing that it may be possible to pick up an original copy from Antiquarian book dealers.

“Going fishing” Travel Adventure in Two Hemispheres, by Negley Farson is considered by many one of the all time classic angling books. The author visits the rivers Exe and Barle where he talks of an old bailiff who tells “of the flies which are inevitably killed by the oil seeping into the water from the tarred roads and motor cars”. Despite this reference to fears of pollution there is always the feeling that years ago things were far more romantic and this is reinforced when the author talks of “An imperturbable scene which fills you with contentment.” And “ I like to watch the plover, tumbling about in the sky over the red, ploughed fields ; and Mr rat ,emerging from his hole and going about his business; the silent, ceaseless flight of the swallows over some shallow stream”. Of course today’s angling authors seldom wax lyrical about such things as I stated earlier.

The Carnarvon Arms at Brushford has a rich tradition of angling history. Sadly it has been converted into luxury timeshare apartments. In a book entitled “The Philandering Angler,” Author Arthur Applin romances about his visits “I suppose the charm of fishing at the ‘Carnarvon Arms’ was an informality and friendliness that pervaded both the river and the Inn”. Speaking of the Rivers Barle and Exe Mr Applin writes,“ You could not wander along the banks of either the Exe or the Barle without finding happiness waiting for you, whether you chose the valley where the rivers united to slide quietly through sleepy meadows, or on the moors where the Exe rushes down narrow channels.” The book is illustrated by that fine writer and illustrator “BB” who also mentions his travels on Exmoor in his travel book, “The White Road Westwards”.

Reading these angling writers accounts from a different age we realise how much has changed in the Britain of today. The gentry who walked the river banks undoubtedly had much leisure time in contrast to the lower classes that had to work each daylight hour. Society has changed whilst the waters that tumble down through moorland valleys remain relatively unchanged their inhabitant’s descendants of the crimson spotted trout and silver salmon that delighted earlier generations who cast a line.

In more recent times Exmoor waters have proved inspiration to that fine modern day angling writer John Bailey. In his 1985 book, “Travels With A Two Piece” John describes trips to the Barle and fishes near Tarr Steps. He revisits the river again in his book “In Wild Waters”, where he describes the capture of a summer grilse in his normal beguiling manner.

Exmoor’s gurgling streams have inspired many anglers over many generations and I feel sure that they will continue to do so for many more generations. If you are inspired to cast a line for Exmoor’s trout or salmon and cast in the shadow of some of angling greatest writers then a day with a professional guide such as Nick Hart is to be recommended.

Angling Books With Reference to Exmoor
Exmoor Streams - Notes and jottings with Practical Hints for Anglers by Claude. F. Wade. Published in 1903 by Chatto & Windus London - James G Commin, Exeter.

Philandering Angler - By Arthur Applin
Published by Hurst and Blacket

Travels with a Two Piece - By John Bailey
Published by The Crowood Press in 1985

“In Wild Waters “- By John Bailey
Published by The Crowood Press in 1989

Reflections from the Waters Edge -
By John Bailey.
Published by The Crowood Press 1987

The Fishing Year - By John Parsons.
Published by Collins in 1974

The Art of Trout Fishing on Rapid Streams -
By H.C. Cutcliffe F.R.C.S
Published by Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington in 1883

The Pursuit of Wild Trout - By Mike Weaver
Published by Merlin Unwin Books in 1991

Trout On Tiny Streams

Submitted by Mandi on May 26, 2009 - 11:15am

Size is not everything in fishing and that applies as much to the rivers that we fish as the fish that we catch. I enjoy casting a fly across a big and famous trout stream as much as anyone but, let’s face it, big rivers can often be moody and finding the trout when nothing is showing at the surface can be really frustrating. Small streams, however, are quick to reveal their secrets and even when nothing is rising it is easy to pick out the spots that are likely to hold some good trout.

A couple of years ago I was far from home and having a great time on some of the world-famous trout streams of Yellowstone National Park yet when I took a day off from the serious stuff and headed for the high mountains to fish some tiny streams, there was no sense of loss. Indeed, as I waded up tiny Dead Indian Creek at nearly 10,000 feet, picking off rainbows, cutthroats and the occasional brook trout less than half the size of the trout that I had been catching a day earlier, I realised that I was enjoying myself just as much. And with not another angler to be seen, I was certainly not missing the crowds on the more famous rivers.

Closer to home, I recall days on the Kennet and other noted chalk streams when the main river has been decidedly dour, yet the tiny carriers created in the past to irrigate the meadows, have been alive with rising trout.

It is in the south west of England, however, where the opportunities for fishing tiny trout streams, so many of which you could almost jump across, seem almost endless – whether in meadow country or high on the moors. I experienced a vivid example of just how good the tiniest stream can be during a day with the fly rod on the edge of Exmoor. I was fishing the Bray on day when a morning’s hard fishing had produced only a few trout when I decided to try the bottom half mile of Hole Water, a tiny tributary that was included in the beat. In the clear sparkling water the trout were there for all to see and after a careful approach I dropped a buoyant Elk Hair Caddis onto a small pool where several trout could be seen holding in the current. The first cast had hardly touched down before there was a slashing rise and I was into a fish. It proved to be about eight inches and was quickly followed by a better fish of 10 inches from the head of the pool. Those Hole Water trout were really on the feed and every pool produced a fish or two, in sharp contrast with my lack of success on the main river.

Far to the west in Cornwall I recall a day on the Angling 2000 beat on the River Allen at Lemail Mill. Much of this beat is heavily overgrown and the jungle tactics required will test any angler, so deep wading with a short rod is the only way to success. Fortunately trout in such inaccessible places are usually unsophisticated and those River Allen browns came readily to just about any dry fly that I threw at them.

The Arundell Arms has around 20 miles of fishing on the Tamar and its tributaries, but one of my favourite beats is on the tiny River Lew, just above its confluence with the Lyd. This meandering brook is absolutely packed with browns up to around 12 inches and, although it can fish well at any time, is always worth a try when the mayflies bring the bigger fish to the surface.

The Creedy and the Yeo at Crediton, where the Crediton Fly Fishing Club has around five miles of water, offer small stream fishing at its most productive. And the lengthy Angling 2000 beat on the Little Dart at Essebeare near Witheridge has always delivered the goods for me, including a wonderful July afternoon when the blue-winged olives never stopped hatching and the trout came steadily to the fly for several hours. Another Angling 2000 beat on the Ottery at Wiggaton near Canworthy Water is a wonderful place to be when the black gnats are swarming in late spring. The list of tiny streams that have given me countless enchanting days is almost endless and every season I find more to explore.

So, what is the technique that will bring you success with trout on these miniature rivers? First of all, the rod needs to be short – about 7 ft is ideal and certainly no more than 7 ft 6 in. When I started fishing that meant one of the hideous little “brook rods” with their sloppy action totally unsuited to fishing in confined spaces. Fortunately, carbon now means that even the lightest little rod has the crisp action necessary for casting a tight loop under the overhanging tree. An AFTM 4 line is about right, with a shortish leader – I use a 5-ft braided butt attached to about 5 ft of nylon tapered to a 6X tippet, or lighter in very low clear water.

When a specific insect is on the water it makes sense to match it but standard dry patterns like Adams, Klinkhamer, Elk Hair Caddis or Black Gnat will usually bring the trout to the surface, with a small beadhead nymph for those occasions when nothing is showing. To get the best of both worlds, many anglers now turn to the New Zealand dropper. Tie on something like a heavily dressed 16 or 14 Klinkhamer, attach 24 to 30 inches of fine nylon to the bend of the hook, with a 16 or 14 goldhead Hare’s Ear or Pheasant Tail at the other end. The nymph goes in search of any trout that are lying deep, while the dry fly acts as an indicator while attracting any fish that are looking towards the surface. The results can be spectacular.

Finally get yourself a good pair of body waders – preferably breathable for warm summer days. Small overgrown streams just cannot be fished from the bank and many are surprisingly deep – far too deep for thigh waders. Slip into the river and wade carefully upstream under the canopy of branches and you will enjoy a world of peace and, if all goes well, some great fishing.

The Wheelyboat Trust

Submitted by admin on December 8, 2008 - 3:57pm

The specially designed Wheelyboat provides disabled people with hassle-free and independent access to inland waters large and small all over the UK.

Whether it's for the scenery or wildlife, sport or recreation, reservoirs, lakes, ponds and rivers are a magnet to millions of visitors throughout the year. However, by their very nature, access on and around them for wheelchair users and others with limited mobility is very much restricted.

Wheelyboats overcome all the difficulties - they are simplicity itself to board, make the entire water accessible and the level deck provides access throughout thus giving the users the dignity of their own independence.

The Wheelyboat's design is very straightforward. Its principal feature is a hinged bow which, when lowered, forms a ramp making the boat very easy to board. Its shallow draught means it can be driven ashore for boarding and disembarking directly from the bank or a slipway. The flat deck ensures its disabled users can reach all corners of the boat and gives them the opportunity of using the boat independently without relying on help from others.

The Wheelyboat Trust is a registered charity dedicated to providing disabled people, young and old, with the opportunity and freedom to enjoy waters large and small all over the UK. Since the Trust began in 1985 it has supplied more than 100 specially designed Wheelyboats to fisheries, water parks and other aquatic venues, opening up many thousands of acres of water to disabled visitors that would otherwise have remained out of bounds. The Trust's vision is straightforward - open access for disabled people on waters everywhere via a range of Wheelyboat models to meet everybody's needs.

The standard Wheelyboat accommodates up to four people but the 'stretch' Mk II on Roadford Lake can take up to ten. In 2006 the Trust will produce the next generation of Wheelyboats, the Mk III models. These will have a much wider remit than either of their predecessors and will provide even more disabled people with access to waterborne activities across a greater variety of waters all over the UK.

The Wheelyboat Trust works closely with the Environment Agency and South West Lakes Trust to improve angling and boating opportunities for disabled people in the region. In 2006 a new Mk III Wheelyboat will be provided to Siblyback Reservoir in Cornwall. A new Mk III at Wessex Water's Clatworthy Reservoir is also planned for 2006. To celebrate Chew Lake's 50th anniversary, Bristol Water is funding a new Wheelyboat with the official launch booked for April 17th.

Two new Wheelyboats arrived in the region in 2005. The first 20' model built went to Roadford Lake where it is primarily available for pleasure boating and nature watching. Funding for the project was generously provided by the Environment Agency, Hedley Foundation, and Lloyds TSB Foundation. Wimbleball Reservoir's new Wheelyboat mainly provides access to the fishery's excellent trout fishing but is also available for pleasure boating and nature watching. Funding was generously provided by the Percy Bilton Charity, CHK Charities Ltd and the Norman Family Charitable Trust.

For more information about the work of the Trust and the Wheelyboat (including a full UK locations list), visit the website or contact the Director. The Wheelyboat Trust is a registered charity and relies upon the generosity of charitable organisations, companies and individuals to enable it to continue providing this important service on behalf of disabled people. A Gift Aid form is available for individuals wishing to help.

Wheelyboats are hired like any other angling boat except that fisheries tend to prefer 24 hours notice for a booking.

Wheelyboat venues in the region

Blagdon Lake, Blagdon Trout 01275 332339
Chew Valley Lake, Chew Magna Trout 01275 332339

Siblyback Reservoir, Liskeard Trout, nature watching 01209

Roadford Lake, Okehampton Trout, nature watching 01409 211507
Wistlandpound Reservoir Barnstaple Trout 01598 763221

Bushyleaze Trout Fishery, Lechlade Trout 01367 253266

Clatworthy Reservoir, Taunton Trout 01984 624658
Sutton Bingham Reservoir, Yeovil Trout & coarse 01935 872389
Wimbleball Reservoir, Brompton Regis Trout 01398 371372

Coate Water, Swindon Trout & coarse 01793 522837, 01793 433165

Reg charity 292216
Andy Beadsley, Director
North Lodge, Burton Park, Petworth, West Sussex, GU28 0JT,
Tel/fax 01798 342222, e-mail [email protected]

Westcountry Salmon Tactics

Submitted by admin on December 8, 2008 - 3:57pm

Salmon fishing in the westcountry is like no other place on earth. Many river valleys that have evolved over millions of years descend from the highest of Tors across the moors toward the Atlantic and the English Channel, each cutting deep scars through the hidden countryside and providing some of the most rugged yet the most enchanting fishing one can imagine. Others flow unhurriedly through lowland farmland that by their nature produce a much richer flora and fauna than can be found anywhere in England.

From the Avon to the Fowey, Torridge to the Tamar, many of the rivers of the westcountry boast a significant run of salmon during their season, making it possible to fish for the king of fish during almost every month of the calendar year. There are lots of hotels, clubs and association waters that can be found throughout this book, all offering excellent fishing and all at a reasonable price. Many offer the opportunity of fishing a variety of methods, including fly-fishing, spinning, and bait fishing.

Westcountry Rivers Trust

Submitted by admin on December 8, 2008 - 3:57pm

Looking after the river and your interests

The Westcountry Rivers Trust is an environmentally charity established in 1995 to secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of rivers, streams and watercourses in the Westcountry and to advance the education of the public in the management of water.

The Trust’s vision is to have living, working landscapes that deliver employment, food and amenity without impacting on rivers and biodiversity and without the need for heavy regulation and supervision.

The trust is one of the most active conservation organisations in the country. The greatest part of our work to date has been farm management advice targeted to reduce agricultural pollution, work which is not within the remit of any of our statutory agencies. To achieve this goal we undertake catchment scale projects, which are designed to foster environmentally sensitive farming, driven by financial savings in farming systems. To date we have worked in nearly 20 Westcountry catchments achieving almost complete coverage of all agricultural land within the catchments and we have worked with farmers to solve many problems contributing to diffuse pollution. The headline achievements from these projects are as follows:

  • 1800+ farmers & landowners given advice
  • 1380+ Integrated Land & River Management Plans
  • Over 95,000 ha of land targeted with management advice
  • 235 km+ vulnerable riverbank fenced
  • 16 wetlands restored/improved
  • 85+ km ditches prioritised for re-vegetation
  • 350+ sites of accelerated erosion controlled
  • 35 demonstration sites developed and operational
  • 270+ sites of habitat improvement
  • 50+ buffer zones created

Trust staff are also delivering advice on the new Cross Compliance rules which farmers must observe to receive their single farm payment. The rules are complex and the Trust is helping farmers to interpret them to achieve the best outcome for their business and the environment. Trust staff also give advice on accessing the new agri-environment payments called ‘Entry Level Scheme’ and ‘Higher Level Scheme’. By committing to one of these schemes farmers agree to decrease some areas of productivity and alter some practices for environmental benefit. The Trust assists in this wherever possible and we try to ensure rivers and the water resource feature highly in everyone’s priorities.

The Trust also has a hard working education team. In 2006 the Team are pushing forward with primary and secondary school visits and with the teaching of the Trusts newly accredited foundation degree, based at Duchy College. The first year students on the degree course are progressing well and are currently being put through their paces on ‘good soil management practices’. This is just one of the elements making up the degree course in Sustainable River Basin Management. We hope that the students graduating will be tailor made to fit new opportunities presented by the Water Framework Directive. This directive is designed to deliver joined up thinking on water resource protection and the Trust is again at the forefront of its implementation.

The Trust also has a thriving Fisheries function with a very active research arm. Much of the research is based at Exeter University and is largely concerned with salmonid ecology. This work has expanded in recent years to the extent that we are now recognised, jointly with Exeter University, as a leading fisheries research institution. We are asked to provide opinions at the highest level on issues of fisheries management in the UK and internationally. The fisheries team, in collaboration with Kings College London, are also leading the way nationally, investigating the causes for the huge declines in European eel numbers. Trust staff have set up eel traps on rivers and are recording the size age, sex and parasite load of eels entering and leaving rivers. This should lead to a better understanding of precisely which life stage of the eel appears to be under pressure. An international eel symposium is to be held by the Trust in collaboration with the national Association of Rivers Trusts at London Zoo in April 2006.

These lofty undertakings may not, at first sight, seem relevant to the Westcountry but the causes of these problems are often found far away and it is part of the Trusts ethos to tackle problems at their source rather than trying to manage the symptoms.

The fisheries team also deliver lots of on-the-ground practical work to restore rivers and currently we have funding to focus effort on the Little Exe, which has seen declines in salmon juvenile numbers. Practical work will also be carried out on many other Westcountry rivers over the summer.

In addition to this 2006 will see another successful rollout of the Trusts Angling 2000 day ticket scheme. The Scheme was a stroke of genius dreamt up by Dr Simon Evans, the Trusts former head of fisheries. Simon found many miles of very good but under utilised fishing during his routine visits to farms around the Westcountry. The Trust approached the owners of the fishing and offered a free advisory visit and a marketing service for the fishery. The scheme has since gone from strength to strength and day tickets for all the beats in Devon and Cornwall can be bought online, by mail or from the office. The beauty of the scheme is that profits go straight back to the owner and the owner, in-turn looks after the river which is the net beneficiary. The scheme is now available on the rivers Wye and Eden and tickets are interchangeable between schemes. The Wild Trout Trust also sells tickets. The scheme offers truly wild fishing on banks seldom trod and is a must for any really spiritual angler who hankers after a wild experience.

As you can, see the Trust works hard on many fronts to achieve its vision. The Trust can, however, only operate with the help of its supporters and the trusts work is only relevant if it represents the needs and aspirations of its supporters. With this in mind we hope to communicate with you as regularly as we can about our work. We hope that in turn you will guide us to address your concerns and that you will direct others with similar concerns to our door so that they can become a supporter and help the Trust in pursuit of its vision.

Contact details for the Trust:

Dr Dylan Bright CBiol MIBiol


Westcountry Rivers Trust, 10, Exeter Street, Launceston, Cornwall PL15 9EQ

Tel: + 44 (0) 870 774 06 91

[email protected]

Contact details for Angling 2000:

Toby Russell CEnv MIFM

Westcountry Rivers Trust, 10, Exeter Street, Launceston, Cornwall PL15 9EQ

Tel: + 44 (0) 870 774 06 96

[email protected]

Or visit the Trust website at:

Young Angle

Submitted by admin on December 8, 2008 - 3:57pm

Brian Gay is an angling photojournalist
ONE of the moans I hear so many times is about the lack of younger anglers in the sport today so why is that?

Computer games have had a lot of criticism levelled at them as hogging the attention of teenagers offering more appeal than a wet day on a river! Anyone who has kids and a Playstation will know just what powerful attention grabbers they are. Another suggestion is that fishing just isn't trendy enough for today's brand conscious teenagers and maybe to a degree that is also true, but there are a good number of fishing tackle manufacturers producing corporate wear which to some extent could satisfy that angle. I think the major problem lies in the lack of assistance to help get youngsters on the right track. A poorly equipped youngster with no adult help left to try and catch fish on a lake by his or herself is likely to fail and with failure disillusionment follows and soon after the sport is given up. Anyone who has an interest in angling has a duty to help young inexperienced anglers if they want the sport to exist long into the future. The danger is that if there are not enough younger anglers backing the sport the next generation could be in danger of succumbing to the anti lobby and fishing could fall by the wayside.

Okay enough of the doom and gloom so what can you do about it? The short term answer, which handled right should ensure a long term future, is to occasionally stop worrying about catching your own fish but help a youngster instead. My own experience with my 12-year-old son Oliver is that for years he was never really interested in fishing, but I never forced him into going. What swayed him was accompanying me on angling photographic assignments and a fateful cast on a friends method feeder rod which resulted in a 5 lb 2 oz tench. I knew from the moment I dropped him back home that the worm had turned: "Mum I've caught a fish bigger than dad"; he exclaimed - the seed had been sewn but had the bug bitten? It wasn't long before Oliver along with my partner Andi's youngsters Daniel, 10, and Thomas, 5 were also keen to sample a full fishing session of their own.

Now catching fish is key when youngsters go fishing, especially with a 5-year-old whose boredom threshold is low, that means a careful choice of venue, and swim. I decided to take them to a venue where plenty of small fish could be caught in quick succession on simple tactics. Catching fish will keep their interest up, while simple rigs aid tackle handling building confidence before moving on to more advanced tactics.

I wanted somewhere that these small fish could be encouraged to feed in the margins so casting a long way was not necessary. To get them off the mark I decided that a simple small waggler taking three or four BB shot with the bulk locked around the float and just a couple of number ten dust shot spaced out down the line would lead to tangle free casting (very important when the ratio is one adult to three kids unless you want to spend all day untangling rigs!). At this stage rods and reels were too advanced and two metres of pole for each lad was the answer. Fortunately I had enough top-sets from my pole to fulfil this requirement. Such a set up is about as simple as you can get the only problem then was where to go? I knew that the Lands End Farm held lots of 2-6 oz carp in the specimen lake, a spin off of successful spawning, and that they were feeding readily so that was the scene for our first proper session.

It wasn't all plain sailing however as our first choice of swims failed to produce, and the lads began to get a bit impatient. A move was called for and with the help of fishery owner Martin Duckett we moved to a pitch on the opposite bank where the wind was pushing into the reeds. A few pellets fed into the swim soon confirmed the fish were there as they boiled in competition with each other. The three lads sat side by side, and baiting with segments of worm on the hook proceeded to experience their first taste of catching fish with float tackle. A competitive spirit was generated and the two elder boys were concentrating hard to outscore each other. That competitiveness actually sparked their interest even more and the concentration displayed was intense - dare I say more than they apply to their computer games! A shared 30 lb catch of small carp had them hooked. "Fishing's pretty cool" and "When are we going again?" were comments confirming the bug had bitten.

Other trips to Emerald Pool at Highbridge and Westhay's Avalon both in Somerset, have seen us advance to running line feeder tactics as well as short poles and at Emerald Thomas caught two 4 lb carp, while Daniel was chuffed with a first cast 9 lb 8 oz common from Avalon. The elder lads now have their own fishing boxes and angling has become part of their worlds.

I'd like to think they will carry on as anglers throughout their adult lives too but I can't help thinking if they had not had the one to one help to start with, that fish would not have been caught and fishing would not appeal as a pastime. For me it has meant giving up my own fishing sessions purely to help the lads and believe me it is exhausting as you are constantly in demand showing how to do different things like baiting up, casting, playing fish and unhooking them.......oh and untangling rigs! At the same time it has been very rewarding to see the enjoyment on their faces when they catch, and I urge any anglers with youngsters to give them the same help.

If you are not a parent how about offering to take relatives children fishing and start them on the road of discovery that we all know and love. There are umpteen places in the westcountry suitable for novices where bites should be easy to come by especially in summer. Run through the pages of this guide and you should find plenty of venues to choose from. In my own personal experiences aside from the venues I have already mentioned the Viaduct at Somerton Somerset run by Steve Long and Ian Parsons are keen to help young anglers and have run novice matches with one to one advice from experienced anglers.

At Tavistock in Devon Milemead fishery manager Harry Dickens operates help and advice sessions in summer holidays, and the venue is popular with local youngsters, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. Call a few fisheries up and enquire if they run junior sessions, they are a great way for parents who are not anglers themselves to realise their offspring can actually learn about fishing from people who know. Of course booking a holiday at a place like White Acres near Newquay in Cornwall is a perfect way to break the kids into the sport with junior competitions and plenty of coaching advice on hand. Wherever you visit or live in the westcountry there is a suitable venue on your doorstep you may not know it yet but studying the directory listings can reveal venues round the corner you just don't know are there!

I hope I have given you food for thought and if you follow my approach with my kids, be patient and have good luck!

Wimp with a Wetfly

Submitted by admin on December 8, 2008 - 3:57pm

My father in the 1950s wrote many serious fishing articles, one memorably for The Field entitled “Duffer with a Dryfly”. My father was overly modest, however, as he was a fine fisherman, both in temperament, cunning and dexterity. Alas, these are all characteristics I lack.

Whilst my father saw travel as a means to indulge his passion for fishing and thought nothing of punctuating a business trip to New Zealand with several (highly successful) days fishing on Lake Taupo, I always felt pressured on business travel to keep my mind on the job in hand. Father would weasel a few days free salmon fishing off the Canadian Government without any qualms, or even address stony-faced Serb soldiers in schoolboy French in order to get a permit to travel - and fish - in postwar Yugoslavia. But he sadly never had the chance to enjoy retirement and died quite young.

So when I took early retirement I settled in Devon, as far as possible from the business end of England, determined to enjoy the rural life.

One of the first local friends that I made was a retired doctor. Still fishing in his nineties, the doctor is like quicksilver over a style and has the enthusiasm of a teenager. A prodigious catcher of fish, he ties most of his own flies including a hairy monstrosity he once proudly showed me, called a ‘Woolly Bugger’.

“You must join our little club” he said, early in our acquaintance, when I carelessly admitted to the ownership of my father’s old fly rod. Since the doctor had been the founding secretary of this fishing fraternity for the previous 35 years, it was like receiving an order from Christ to join the disciples at the High Table.

I suppose I should have immediately confessed that my casting technique with a fly rod was sadly lacking, but I was too timid to admit this. After all, it was just a matter of extending a line and whirling it around one’s head like a dervish, as indeed I seemed to remember my father trying to show me on school holidays in Austria. When the fish bit, you ‘struck’ and just reeled in with a last-minute swoop of the net to complete the fight. Simple.

Anyway, to be on the safe side, on my first excursion with the doctor, I wore cap, glasses and a high collared jacket on a warm Summer’s day.

This was because I remembered my father telling the awful story of Jock Whitney, one-time US Ambassador to Britain, who inadvertently plucked out his own eye with a mis-cast trout fly. Clearly one needed protection. I would have gladly considered chain mail if it had been light and flexible enough.

Positioned at the other side of the lake, and sandwiched between the venerable doctor and another aged angler, I rapidly realised that I was casting at right angles to the wind which was blowing in steadily from the Bristol Channel. Downwind would have been a much happier option, but this wasn’t immediately available. I soon demonstrated my amateur status by snagging a bramble bush some 20 feet behind me.

Later in the morning I found that I was casting with a complete bird’s nest at the end of my line. Not literally, of course, the trees weren’t close enough, but the cast had become so entwined with the fly that the only remedy was to produce a pair of nail scissors from my creel (a trick learnt from my father) and cut my way out of trouble. Thus both line and cast were dramatically shortened. Still, that meant less of that finicky cast at the end of the line to get caught up on itself.

For a while there was almost total peace and quiet. The only sound was the whistle and ‘thhtt’ of line from my neighbours, who threw out some 30 yards of line on each long, leisurely cast. A moorhen clucked, distant sheep bleated and bright blue damsel flies fornicated elegantly in front of me.

Ah, this was the life. Moments for Wordsworthian reverie. A quick glance at the sky to reassure myself that the scudding clouds did not presage rain.

Oops, oh BUGGER IT. That really was a PATHETIC cast. How could I have about 20 foot of line out and manage to drop the fly only a couple of feet in front of me?

Oh well, pull it all in by hand . . .hope the doctor isn’t looking... Hello, .. .who’s having me on here? It seems I have snagged the weeds at my feet. No, no it can’t be. By God it is. Something silvery-gold is twisting around at the end of my line. Either I’ve caught a clockwork mouse or a live fish.

Reel in, reel in. Oops, too fast. It’s bending the rod double. What if it snaps? Let go a bit. The reel gives an angry buzz and the weight comes off the rod, but slowly, slowly I reel in again. Hey Presto, in 5 minutes (it felt like ages) it’s in my net - a glistening, thrashing 2lb rainbow trout on the end of a red Montana fly so well digested that it took almost as long again to dislodge from the back of its gullet.

“Did you catch one there?” asked my friend at lunchtime. I wondered if I detected a note of sardonic amusement at my inept bungling, or whether he was just being polite.

“Well done” he said. “Actually four is the quota, you know”, and he showed me four fine trout that he had already caught without my seeing.

But I didn’t need to catch anything else after lunch. I moved to a position of solitude where I could cast smoothly downwind and bask in reflected glory. A wimp perhaps, but the luckiest wimp with a wetfly on that water.

Wild Trout in the South West

Submitted by admin on December 8, 2008 - 3:57pm

Thanks to the dramatic growth of stocked reservoirs and purpose-built trout lakes, trout fishing is now more widely available than ever before and these new fisheries have provided countless thousands of anglers with the opportunity to cast a fly for trout without travelling far from home.

This expansion of stillwater trout fishing, however, has come at a time which has also seen a decline in stocks of our native wild brown trout in many areas. Fortunately, there are parts of this crowded island where it is still possible to enjoy a truly wild experience, fishing up a moorland river or a meadow stream for brown trout that have never seen a hatchery, and the south west of England provides endless opportunities for searching out the wild trout.

So, what's so special about wild trout. In the south west it rarely if ever grows to the sizes that are little more than average on lakes and reservoirs. Wild trout are often as moody as the weather, they scatter in all directions at the first wave of your rod or stop rising at the slightest ripple from your wading, and quite often they are feeding on some minute item that is almost impossible to match with an artificial fly. What, however, can match the excitement of wading up a moorland stream, casting your fly into every little pool between the cascades, or crouching by a meandering meadow stream as the browns suck in the mayflies. The trout may be of modest size but when they come to the net you are often staggered by the beauty of what you have caught. And the problems of these moody, spooky and just plain difficult fish are really the challenges that so many anglers are seeking. Yes, you have to put in your apprenticeship to be consistently successful with wild trout, but success when it comes more than repays the effort.

So where can the visitor fish for those wild browns of the south west? The moors are the logical starting point and the biggest of these is Dartmoor, often called the last wilderness in southern England. Many of Devon's major rivers like the Dart, Teign, Tavy and Taw spring to life on Dartmoor and their upper reaches and tributaries provide many miles of moorland trout fishing. Virtually all of the Dart system above Dartmeet, where the East and West Dart join, is Duchy of Cornwall water and a modestly-priced day permit presents you with more than 25 miles of varied fishing. Not only does this permit include the East and West Dart but also the fascinating little tributaries - Cherry Brook, Swincombe, Wallabrook, Cowsic and Blackbrook.

On the western edge of Dartmoor, miles of trout fishing on the Tavy, Walkham, Plym and Meavy can be fished with a Tavy Walkham & Plym Fishing Club permit, and the wooded valley of the upper reaches of the Teign on the eastern slopes are available through the Upper Teign Fishing Association.

Exmoor too offers wild trout fishing in spectacular scenery and nowhere more so than on the East Lyn. From Brendon down to the sea at Lynmouth, the Environment Agency manages the Glenthorne and Watersmeet fisheries, which are full of freerising colourful trout. Cross to the other side of the moor and you find similar fishing on the Barle at the Tarr Steps Hotel, with a long stretch of water above and below the much-visited clapper bridge. The visitor can fish more of the Barle, as well as the upper Exe, downstream at the Carnarvon Arms Hotel near Dulverton.

Bodmin Moor is the south west's other moorland area but here the upper reaches of the Fowey and Camel are looked upon primarily as spawning and nursery areas for salmon, with little trout fishing available. Down from the moors there are many more opportunities to go in search of wild trout. Many anglers who fish for salmon on the middle and lower reaches of major rivers like the Exe, Taw, Torridge or Tamar will often have their flies or spinners seized by good-sized brown trout. This is no fluke as these rivers often hold surprisingly large stocks of trout which are rarely fished for and an outing with the dry fly in May and June, or a summer evening when the sedges and sherry spinners are on the water, can provide a pleasant surprise.

Some of the most enhancing fishing of all is on the small lowland tributaries of the big rivers. These streams, often little more than brooks, provide really intimate fly fishing as they meander through the meadows and respond well to both dry fly and nymph fishing. The accumulation of silt on the bottom of these quiet streams provides an ideal habitat for the larvae of the mayfly and a hatch of this big insect at the end of May or the beginning of June can be the highlight of the season. Many anglers in search of this kind of fishing visit the Arundell Arms at Lifton where the Lyd, Thrushel, Wolf, Lew, Carey and Ottery offer miles of small-stream fly fishing.

The manicured chalk streams of Wessex, in spite of a century of stocking, offer more wild trout fishing than you may think. For more than a dozen years, the Wessex Fly Fishing waters on the Piddle at Tolpuddle in Dorset have operated on a catch-and release basis and many other stretches of chalk stream in Dorset and Wiltshire are now being managed to reduce the dependence on constant stocking, thus providing exciting fishing and reducing costs.

So, there is plenty of wild trout fishing to be found in the south west at a very reasonable price, but this treasure can only be kept intact by adopting the right conservation measures. In the past, the response to declining stocks was to order another truckload of trout from the hatchery. Now, anglers and fishery managers are increasingly turning to habitat improvement and reducing the number of trout killed. More and more fly fishers are returning their wild browns to the river and paying a visit to the nearest stocked lake when they need to fill the freezer.

For 1998, a new voluntary scheme has come into operation on four stretches of the Duchy of Cornwall fishery on Dartmoor. The Wild Trout Society and the Duchy of Cornwall are asking anglers to return trout on the upper East Dart, Cherry Brook, Blackbrook and a stretch of the West Dart in an effort to increase the number of the bigger fish that anglers enjoy catching. At Amesbury in Wiltshire, another scheme coordinated by the Wild Trout Society has restored a degraded stretch of the Avon to re-create the natural sequence of meanders, pools and riffles that wild trout need to prosper. These and other projects show how anglers in co-operation with the Environment Agency can make a real contribution towards protecting and enhancing the stocks of wild trout in the rivers of the south west.

The West is Best!

Submitted by admin on December 8, 2008 - 3:57pm

A large number of Anglers visit the west country each year to take advantage of the excellent Sea and Game fishing to be had in and around Devon.
From Easter onwards the fishing gets better and better with any angler being spoilt for choice. Off the coast anglers can hire a boat for the day, with an experienced Skipper and the use of all tackle included in the cost. The quarry ranges from Porbeagle and Blue Shark to Mackerel and Bass with almost everything in between. Mid summer sees the Bass and Mackerel move much closer inshore and these fish can be caught from any number of beach or pier marks around the coast.
For the Game angler there are also a vast number of places to fish and fish to catch. April, May and June are generally regarded to be the best months to land a Salmon. Mid June, July and August can be superb for Sea Trout with the larger fish showing early on and the 'school peal' entering the rivers in very large numbers from late July. Trout, both river and lake, are at their best in May and June with some prolific fly hatches making for an extremely enjoyable day's fishing. Come September and the season enters its last month. This is the last opportunity to get some excellent river sport as the Salmon and Sea Trout take advantage of the first rains after the summer, to storm the rivers in great numbers. Any angler fortunate enough to be by the water just as the river drops after this first spate can expect some unbelievable sport.

Fly Fishing Tips

When fishing a lake during an evening rise and having little or no success, try changing to a tiny dry fly (about size 16/18) and putting on a very delicate leader (2-2.5lbs b.s.), above all else be sure your leader is sunk.

Sea Trout are not only caught at night. Some excellent bags have been had on small weighted nymphs and dry flies when fishing the crystal clear smaller streams, such as the river Bray.

When Salmon fishing during the summer the commonest problem is using too large a fly. The most successful fly on the Taw and Torridge in high summer is a size 10, 12 or even 14 double Stoat's Tail.

A number of private trout beats are catch and release. If this is the case or if you don't mind returning your fish, squeeze the barb off your hook and make it easier to return the fish.

If you are going out night fishing for Sea Trout ensure that you have walked the beat in daylight and know how deep it is and where the fish are likely to lie.

Wessex Salmon and Rivers Trust

Submitted by admin on December 8, 2008 - 3:57pm

Brian Marshall is the Chairman - Wessex Salmon and Rivers Trust The southern, lowland chalk streams of Wessex have a rich bio-diversity that has, for millennia, supported thriving populations of fish, flora, birds and invertebrates. Foremost among these is the famous River Hampshire Avon. Rising from the chalk aquifer of Salisbury Plain as the East and West Avon, it heads south for Salisbury where it is joined by the Rivers Bourne, Wylie, Nadder and Ebble, each offering individual characteristics and angling opportunities whilst hosting the catchment’s spawning salmon. These revered centres of trout fishing, and on the Nadder coarse angling as well, set the standard for the main river that runs from Britford through Hampshire to the sea at Christchurch in Dorset, briefly meeting with the River Stour, from the west.

Techniques for River Trouting

Submitted by admin on December 8, 2008 - 3:57pm

For the fly fisher who seeks nothing more than a sparkling stream to explore for a trout the South West is a wonderful place. Whether the moorland rivers of Dartmoor and Exmoor or the silky chalk streams of Wessex, this is a region with endless opportunities and challenges, not only for the dedicated river angler but also for many reservoir fishers who head south west for a different experience.

Sadly, however, many anglers find their first attempt at river fly fishing a frustrating experience. Branches seem to be strategically placed to snare every backcast, the fish scatter in all directions before the fly touches the water, and all the trout seem to be tiddlers. Disenchantment quickly sets in and the angler returns to other kinds of fishing that appear less demanding, and in so doing misses out on some of the most fascinating fishing available.