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.

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.

A Limit of Twelve

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

Mike Weaver selects a dozen flies for trout on rivers and lakes

When the editor of Get Hooked asked me to come up with a dozen trout flies for all waters – both rivers and lakes – my reaction was something between incredulity and panic. A quick look at a couple of my fly boxes revealed dozen of patterns and I am sure that I could have produced a good reason for including every one of them. But a closer look revealed that a much smaller number showed the wear and tear of frequent use, while perhaps the majority were still in a relatively pristine state. So, perhaps the range of flies that catch most of my trout is rather narrower than the contents of the fly boxes would at first suggest.

Here then is a selection of 12 flies that season after season deliver the goods on all types of trout fisheries, starting with the rivers.

When the season opens, the streams are usually high and cold with little sign of rising trout, so it is necessary to get the fly down to the action area – and that means close to the riverbed.

Stream Fishing in Devon

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

Bryan Martin, Devon Fly Fishing

Not so long ago, my river fishing was restricted to Saturday afternoons, having worked ‘up country’ from Monday to Friday. Those few precious hours were enough to completely de-stress me as everything in my head, except the job in hand, melted away. This is stress busting at its best and should really be available on the NHS.

Although relaxing, concentration is essential for success. Take your time, observe everything in detail. This is no time to rush. With careful observation you will become familiar with your stretch of river and recognise the places that hold the best fish. Often these are difficult to fish. Overhanging branches, irregular currents and other obstacles conspire to prevent your fly from reaching your quarry without arousing suspicion. Over time, with experimentation, practice and a bit of luck thrown in, you will deceive your fish. If you don’t lose a few flies en route, you’re not trying hard enough.

Trout in High Summer

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

When I first came to the South West over 35 years ago, the general wisdom was that fly fishing for brown trout on our rivers was at its best between start of the season and early June, and then became so difficult that it was hardly worth fishing for the rest of the season. I had a vivid reminder of this state of affairs when recently looking at some records of the old Devon River Authority, which stocked the upper Teign over a period of four years in the late 1960s. Each year the Authority carefully analysed the catches and in 1968, when 25 per cent of the stocked trout were caught, 89 per cent had been taken by the end of April, with seven per cent in May and less than one per cent in the remaining months of the season. With even stocked trout tough to catch after the end of spring, what chance did anglers have with the wild fish once summer had arrived?

How things have changed. Today, advances in tackle and techniques have made it possible to cast a fly right throughout the summer with every chance of success, even through the middle of the day in low clear water.

With the arrival of high summer you could, of course, await the arrival of evening to improve your chances and there is no doubt that fishing the evening rise in a big hatch of insects can be very exciting. The problem is that evening hatches are far less dependable than we would like to think and all fly fishers can recall far too many evenings when little or nothing has happened and hardly a trout has broken the surface. And there is also the fact that time runs out all too quickly and we find ourselves frantically making the most of the dying light.

My own preference has always been for a leisurely session during the day, quietly wading up a stream and casting a fly into every likely spot or to any trout that rises.

And trout are not the only quarry on those long summer days. On suitable stretches of the Exe and Tamar systems the grayling fishing can be at its best in high summer, and any river with a run of sea trout can give you a spectacular surprise from time to time. However, the fish can be ultra spooky in high summer and your tackle, approach and technique have to be up to the challenge.

Taking advantage of advances in tackle is key to success, and developments in rods, lines, leaders and flies have all contributed to making it possible to go out with every expectation of success on a bright summer day. Terminal tackle took a great leap forward with the introduction of ultra-fine nylon for the point of your leader, light-weight rods with real power have become the norm as a result of carbon fibre, tiny nymphs sink quickly thanks to bead heads, and breathable waders make it possible to fish though the day without succumbing to heat stroke.

So here is my tackle selection for a session on the river in the noonday sun of summer. An AFTM 4 line in double or forward taper is about right and the rod to propel it can be 7 ft or 7 ft 6 in for the confined spaces of the small overgrown streams, or 8 ft 6 in on a big river like the Exe. For many years my choice of leader has been 5 ft of braided butt, attached to about 1 ft 6 in of 5X (.006 in) nylon, followed by 3 ft of 6X (.005 in) or 7X (.004 in) for the point. For really tough conditions it can help to go to a point of 8X.

Hatches of flies from the stream on a hot summer day are likely to be sparse but a variety of land insects will be falling on the water, and a Klinkhamer with its trailing body suggesting a waterlogged insect works well. Many fish, especially grayling and sea trout, will often be lying in deeper water and then a small goldhead or copperhead nymph will get down to the action area. You can hedge your bets, as I often do, by using the so-called New Zealand rig – tie on a bushy Klinkhamer, attach 2 ft of fine nylon to the bend of the hook with a tucked half-blood knot, and then tie a small goldhead Hare’s Ear Nymph to the other end.

Deep wading with body waders is essential on most rivers in the South West and that throws up the problem of spooking the fish with wading ripples. Such ripples can never be totally eliminated on the smoother stretches of river but a wading staff makes a huge difference in wading slowly and stealthily.

So, if you want to put your fly fishing skills to a real test, try a day on the stream in July or August and, providing the chosen river has not been devastated by extreme drought, you may get a very pleasant surprise – and a real feeling of earning your fish.

Wessex Salmon and Rivers Trust

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

Brian Marshall is Chairman, Wessex Salmon and Rivers Trust

The River Hampshire Avon

The high levels of activity and co-operation described in the last edition continue and begin to achieve results.

The formal complaint to the European Commission by Wessex Salmon and Rivers Trust, contending that the Irish mixed stock salmon drift net fishery was illegal, has succeeded. As a result of this, and international pressure from all the north Atlantic salmon nations’ individuals and NGO’s, the Irish Government has closed the fishery with immediate effect. Displaced fishermen will benefit from a Government €30 million compensation and community development scheme. The SAC River Hampshire Avon, with the Rivers Test and Itchen, were scientifically proven by tagging projects to lose the highest percentage of their returning spawners to those nets. Allowing these fish uninterrupted passage home will progressively enhance the breeding stock, and be an important contribution to the river’s long term recovery.

Even so the Avon produced 147 salmon to the rods in the 2006 season. A season shortened by most laudable voluntary suspensions of fishing when high water temperatures threatened fish welfare. All of these fish were returned alive, as were those caught by the Mudeford seine netsmen fishing for sea trout, bass and mullet. We look forward to the contribution these extra returning fish will make, but must continue the existing restraints for some years yet.

A coalition of riparian owners, angling clubs and the Environment Agency are supporting a Wessex Salmon trial of ‘in stream’ incubation using egg boxes, to test if juvenile salmon production can be enhanced by circumventing compacted and silted gravel stream beds.

A similar co-operative effort by WS&RT, The Roach Club, Christchurch and Ringwood & District Angling Clubs and riparian owners have funded the restoration of two major ox-bows, and the construction of a number of coarse fish fry bays on the river.

Initial dip net monitoring of one of the ox bows by Sparsholt College Fisheries Science Department shows very encouraging populations of juvenile roach, chub and dace. The shelter they have found is most timely with the river in almost constant flood conditions since December.

Trials to assist roach production by installing fontinalis boards in appropriate sites are also underway, together with the monitored transfer of juvenile roach from an existing, prolific lake breeding population into carefully selected river habitat.

Whilst the tasks are varied in complexity, duration and cost the objectives are the same; the restoration to historic abundance, and conservation of this wonderful river’s habitat for all the resident species - salmonids, cyprinids, invertebrates, flora, terrestrial and avian fauna.

I mentioned earlier that at last our river flows have moved above their long term average and, for the first time since 2003, the groundwater levels are reaching their long term averages, all filled by the repeated rainfall events of the past four months. It delights me to see the wet meadows covered and the water meadows all heavily populated by huge flocks of wading birds

Those river anglers who have ventured out to find slacks and areas of calm water are catching some of the Avon’s superb specimens of barbel, roach and chub whilst, during the mild weather, the lakes continue to offer impressive bags of bream, tench and carp including an impressive 46lb specimen.

This illustrates that, whilst a great deal of conservation work is underway, our aim is to further improve an already outstanding river that continues to offer quality angling in beautiful countryside whatever discipline individual anglers prefer.

Take to the Hills

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

Spectacular scenery, miles of fishing to explore, hard-fighting wild brown trout, and a price tag that doesn't require a second mortgage - that is moorland trout fishing and here in the South West there is plenty to choose from. Head for the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks and you will find miles of sparkling streams, whether on the high open moors or in the deep wooded valleys that tumble down from the hills. The trout may not be very big, but there are plenty of them and, even after a day that has produced modest catches, there is something very special about wandering for hours along a wild river in unspoiled country.

But, as ever, there is a snag. Every year I meet fly fishermen who have ventured onto our moorland streams for the first time. They have enjoyed the experience and caught a fair number of wild trout but, they complain, hardly anything exceeded 15 centimetres - that's six inches in old money. Yet they have been fishing water where I know that the regulars have been taking plenty of browns from 20 centimetres up to 30 centimetres or more. So where are they going wrong and what can they do to improve their performance?

Many newcomers immediately turn to the fly pattern as the cause of their lack of success but the fly is rarely the problem. On the moors, virtually any suitable pattern will take fish, provided you fish it in the right place, at the right time, in the right way - and, above all, make sure that you have not scared every trout within reach before you even make the first cast. So here are some tips to help you make contact with the better-than-average trout that can seem to be so elusive.

Traditionally, many anglers fished the moors with three wet flies which were cast across the river and allowed to swing round on the current, but the Dartmoor and Exmoor streams are often too narrow for this method, so you are more likely to be successful when casting upstream with a dry fly, nymph or wet fly. As the trout will be facing upstream in the lively current, you have already gone a long way towards avoiding detection by approaching the fish from behind, and wearing drab clothes and keeping off the skyline will add to your chances of success.

Newcomers waste far too much time fishing unproductive water, so here are two places to avoid like the plague. Firstly those deep still pools where you can see the trout swimming around in the depths, but they can also see you and your chances of catching them are virtually zero. And secondly there are the shallow riffles, which are easy to fish but rarely hold anything worth catching. Look out for broken water of medium pace and medium depth, with plenty of cover within easy reach. On the open moors, cover usually means boulders and the pockets and runs on a boulder-strewn stretch can be very productive. And keep on the move. Moorland trout usually come in the first cast or two, so don't waste time fishing a spot that is producing nothing. I expect to fish at least a mile of river in a three-hour session.

To get the best out of moorland fly fishing you need to master the techniques of both the dry fly and the upstream wet fly or nymph - and there are times when a combination of the two is very effective. For dry fly fishing you need a good floater like a Humpy, Elk Hair Caddis or well-hackled Adams, while for wet flies and nymphs you need look no further than traditional patterns like Pheasant Tail, Half Stone, Blue Upright, Red Palmer and Hare's Ear Nymph. These flies should be tied mainly on size 16 and 14 hooks, with a few on 18 and 12 hooks. For wet fly fishing, two flies a couple of feet apart are enough, and it is worth trying a bright floater on the dropper and a drab nymph on the point, the theory being that the dropper catches the attention of the trout and the nymph fools it.

Whether wet or dry fly fishing, work slowly upstream, making a cast or two into every spot that looks likely to hold a trout, and paying particular attention to anywhere you see a fish rise. As the flies drop back towards you, always keep in touch by lifting the rod, so that when a fish takes you only need tighten to set the hook.

Upstream fishing with a dry or wet fly is best when the trout are feeding near the surface but there are times, especially early in the season, when they are almost glued to the bottom. At such times you need a fly that really bumps along the bottom and then a bead head comes into its own. A size 14 Hare's Ear or Pheasant Tail Nymph with a copper or gold bead at the head will often take trout when nothing else will, and your chances will be enhanced by an indicator on the leader to help you spot the takes. I once thought that I could spot any take without such aids but I have long since realised how many fish are missed without an indicator.

If you are planning your first outing for moorland trout, timing is vital to give you a good chance of early success. Eager to get started, many make that first attempt in March or April when the season opens, but they hardly see a fish and don't bother to try again. Even the local experts can struggle in the first few weeks so be patient and wait until late May or June. During this period, the trout normally feed all day and the tough times when the rivers become very low and clear should still be in the future.

There are always, of course, exceptions to any rule, as a day last summer was to prove. It was mid August, when the rivers are often sluggish and the trout very dour, but heavy rains had brought the Dartmoor streams into spate. The bigger rivers were still high and coloured but the tiny Cherrybrook was dropping fast and had cleared to the colour of tea. If the fish were feeding, it would be difficult to fail, so I walked downstream a mile from Upper Cherrybrook Bridge, tied a 12 Red Palmer on the dropper and a 12 Dunkeld on the point, and fished back up to the bridge through the middle of the day. The trout were immediately attracted to the two bright flies and nearly 50 trout up to 28 cm were caught, with fish on both dropper and point on two occasions. Some mediocre outings on Cherrybrook in the past few years had made me wonder if stocks had declined, but on a day when conditions were just about perfect, the fishing was as good as it ever was.

Dartmoor and Exmoor are ideal for really stretching your legs while you are fishing and the following few examples are typical of what the energetic angler can enjoy. On a fine day it is well worth fishing up the East Dart from Postbridge, with some of the best fishing in a lovely series of small pools about a mile above the bridge. A couple of miles fishing will take you almost to Sandy Hole Pass and then you can walk directly back to your car over Broad Down, with magnificent views to the south. Another favourite is to park at Watersmeet on the East Lyn and fish up to Rockford, ideally on a sunny day in late May when the Black Gnats are swarming over the river. Some of the large pools will be full of trout holding just below the surface and rising to anything that looks edible, but watch out for the smaller and less obvious pockets that are often more productive.

My local river is the Teign where the stretch from Fingle Bridge up to Dogmarsh Bridge is just about right for a three-hour session. The middle part of this piece of water below Sharp Tor tumbles down through a series of rocky pools that offer some of the best trout fishing on the upper Teign.

Sea Trout Fishing in Devon

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

Roddy Rae - Reffis/Stanic

The Editor has requested that I do an article on Sea Trout fishing in Devon hence the title. It would be easy for me just to write a few paragraphs on my own experiences of fishing the Teign, Taw, Torridge, Mole or Dart and leave the reader with the feeling of ‘oh what a lucky bugger he is doing this for a living’, but you will be pleased, I hope, to read that’s not what this article is about.

The wealth of Sea Trout fishing available to the visiting angler in the Westcountry is matched, I believe, only by Wales. Rivers such as those that I have already mentioned plus many more, all of which can weave their magic spell on you and send you home in the early hours wondering to yourself how can I crack the code?

The Saltwater Experience - Fly fishing in saltwater

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

As a lad, about 45 years ago I owned a fabulous little rod, about 8ft long, split cane, with a handle that you would reverse, making the reel seat either at the very end, or about a foot up the rod. This made it a great all-rounder, a fly rod, spinning rod and short bait rod and everything else in between. I was very lucky, growing up in the town of Bude, on the North Cornish Coast with a variety of fishing on my doorstep.

I would walk up the canal tow path to a little stream known as Sharlands, at it's widest no greater than 10ft where I could fish for magic little brownies with either fly, or spin with the proverbial Devon minnow. Sharlands then ran into a feeder, which divided into the Bude Canal and into the River Neat, which ran for about 2 miles before reaching Bude.

Going Wild

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

There is something a bit special about tiny streams, especially for the wild trout fisherman. Our native wild brown trout is ideally suited to thrive on the smallest rivers and fortunately the south west has more than its share of these exciting waters, whether high on Dartmoor, Exmoor or Bodmin Moor, among the meadows of the rolling country of mid Devon or on the silky little chalk streams of Wessex.

The great advantage of these tiny waters, many of which you could almost jump across, is that they usually give up their secrets readily, and the hot spots can be identified with an ease rarely possible on larger rivers. So the first trip to a new piece of fishing can often produce as good a catch as anything experienced on later visits.

Success on small rivers, like anywhere else, is all about using the right tackle and techniques, and that means scaling things down. You will certainly need a short fly rod, but not one of those ghastly implements that used to be called “brook rods”.

River Trouting - Tips for Success

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

The margin between success and relative failure in fishing can be very small and this is particularly so in the case of the type of angling that I enjoy most – fly-fishing for trout on rivers. Indeed, there is an old saying that ten per cent of the fishermen catch ninety per cent of the fish and, although this sentiment may include a degree of exaggeration, it is probably pretty close to the truth. So, if you wish to join that small percentage of really successful fly fishers and clean up on the streams, what can you do to achieve success? Many anglers never get past the barrier of thinking that there is a single key to success and that a wonder fly rod or an irresistible fly will guarantee a constant flow of trout coming to the landing net. Fortunately there is no such “magic bullet” and if there were fishing would soon lose most of its fascination. Success, when it comes, is the result of getting lots of little things right, so here are a few tips to increase your strike rate with the trout on our rivers.