Game Fishing Articles: Fishing Tips and Advice

photo
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.

The River Camel

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

Jon Evans is Secretary of the Camel Fisheries Association

The River Camel rises on Bodmin Moor and reaches the sea about thirty miles later at Padstow on the North Cornwall coast. The Camel has been fished for salmon and sea trout for centuries and the first royal charter was granted in1199. Records show that in 1750 rights were available on payment of a fee to the Duke of Cornwall to take salmon by use of barbed spears. Needless to say, these rights have now been revoked.

There are four main tributaries, the Allen, the Ruthern, the de Lank and the Stannon and these provide wonderful nursery and spawning water. There are also countless small streams offering safe havens for sea trout and occasionally salmon. The Bodmin Anglers Association has worked extremely hard over the years to ensure that the upper reaches of this beautiful river are largely designated as sanctuary areas which should not be fished.

The Camel has a reputation for good runs of both species but things are not what they were.

Fishing from a Female Point of View

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


I began fishing when I was six years old after months of persuading my Dad, an angler of over forty years, to take me out with him and I'll never forget my first catch!

It was on my first ever what I call 'proper' day out fishing, as previous to that dad would take my sister and I river fishing with our nets for minnows. We headed up high into the Scottish Borders to visit a newly opened fishery where we were fishing for rainbow and brown trout. We had a chat with the owner who told us about the fishery and the fish in it. He told us about the largest fish - an 8lb rainbow trout and he also told me that I was the first female to fish on the lake. In hindsight it seems almost fate that I was destined to catch the largest fish in the lake, especially because I was the first female angler and when I look back now it seems almost as though my path has been mapped out.

Following the catch my face appeared in all the local newspapers and fishing magazines, advertising both myself and the fishery, it was unbelievable, although as I don't eat fish I sold it in our local fishmonger! However, now fourteen years later I am still fishing and I am now devoting my time to encouraging more people to get into angling, especially more women, children and disabled people. After all, fishing is something anyone can be involved in, no matter what your age, race, gender or ability - anyone can fish!

I have been trying to encourage more people into angling through my website at - www.fishingforeveryone.com. As a child growing up with her favourite sport being angling it used to annoy me how few female anglers there were on the bank side and how, more often than not, when dad and I arrived at a fishery ten out of ten times the anglers present were all male. So, aged sixteen years old I decided it was time to do something about this, to change this aspect and show people that you do not have to be that stereotypical old man, sitting on the bank side, rod in hand and smoking a pipe that everyone sees in their minds eye to be a fisherman. Instead I suppose I offered myself as a role model, someone breaking this moulded stereotype and, perhaps, added what some people might call 'glamour'. However, there was a strong and meaningful purpose behind all I did and that was to get a more diverse range of people into angling. In April 2005 I headed over to Ireland to help at the Jack Charlton disabled angling competition in Bantry. The event was fantastic and a real life changer. Not only did these people not worry about what they wore to go angling or what they looked like and they did not care whether they caught fish or not. They were enjoying a day out together in the fresh air, and in my mind this is what fishing is all about - a chance to get outside in the fresh air and to be at one with nature, a sort of therapy.

When I was fifteen I became ill with a virus called M.E. The virus can completely debilitate a person and, in my case, it prevented me from going to school on some days as well as playing sport and going out with friends. During this dark period fishing was very important and I guess now I could say it was my lifeline. Angling allowed me to get out and enjoy myself. I was able to do something without getting tired or feeling fatigued.

So I set up fishingforeveryone.com in 2004, dedicated to encouraging more people into angling. In March 2005 I attended a conference - 'how do we get more women and children into angling?' and I appeared as a guest speaker for The Salmon and Trout Association. There were around fifty attendees at the conference and towards the end we split off into groups of five or six to discuss ways in which to get more women and children into angling. It was interesting that many of us came up with similar issues dividing women and children and angling. Issues raised included more role models, such as in sports like running and swimming, more parental encouragement from a young age and, perhaps more importantly from a female point of view, clothing that fits, is practical and comfortable yet stylish too.

This fired my enthusiasm so much that this year I decided to re-launch fishingforeveryone.com as a business, including a range of equipment and clothing suitable for women, children and disabled people. Currently the site has a range of rods called Beulah Rods which are absolutely fantastic. These rods are so lightweight it's like holding a feather, and casting with the rod is fantastic as the line just shoots out! What is also great about these rods is that they are suitable for people with disabilities. For example one lady who bought a Beulah from me had a neurological condition which consequently meant she suffered quite severe pains and had casting difficulties. However, having used the Beulah, the lady couldn't believe it, her casting was made a lot easier and her fishing technique became much improved.

We also sell fishing equipment on the web site, including Silver Creek U.K. products, all at very reasonable prices including selections of ten fishing flies for less than £5! In the coming few months we were also be introducing footwear including ladies Hunter wellies, perfect for the winter weather, as well as fishing clothing including vests and waistcoats!

Now I look back on all I have achieved through my involvement in fishing and with the launch of fishingforeveryone.com and I cannot believe it all! To think that I am one eighteen year old girl living in a small town in the north of England and I receive hundreds of emails from all over the world every day directed to my website is scary! To know that I have appeared many times on international television, in international newspapers, magazines and radio shows and have met some top fishing people doesn't bear thinking about - I mean, this is what dreams are made of! Like one guy said - I am living the dream! However, I enjoy what I do, I have a great family back up behind me and a solid base keeping my feet flat on the floor. I honestly think fishing is one of the best sports there is out there, nothing else can compete with it and I think that everyone should at least give it a go, you never know - you may just enjoy it!

At the end of the day more and more people are developing fishing products for ladies and I think this can only encourage more women to take up fishing, and in turn their families will try it which will follow into generations to come. I am just proud that I can help encourage more people into angling.

Today fishingforeveryone.com is going well and I am enjoying it. Last October I went over to New York City to meet with members of the Juliana Anglers and the International Women's Fly Fishing Association and went fly-fishing on Long Island. Then in February I spent some time in New Zealand for a holiday and of course some fishing too!

Lucy x

www.fishingforeveryone.com

[email protected]

The Experience Factor...

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

The fish rises again, the angler tenses, makes final adjustments to tackle and fires an artful cast upstream towards the unsuspecting Brown Trout. The fly line lands cleanly behind the fish, hardly making an impression on the waters surface as the carefully prepared tapered leader turns over positioning the fly perfectly above the quarry. Now the river current takes over, seconds later the anglers artificial is within the Trout’s window of vision, totally fooled the fish gently sips in the rogue offering. Stunned that this fly has actually bitten back the little spotty takes to the air in a rage tussling all the way to the anglers moistened hand, within moments the barbless hook is gently released and the fish swims back to it’s territory, just a little wiser. Makes your mouth water, doesn’t it?

So what caught that fish? Was it the expensive carbon fibre rod? Well that helped. What about the computer designed and profiled fly line? Again it is certainly important. Ah, then it must have been the loving crafted dry fly. Well, actually no, this fish would probably have taken almost anything that was the right size and colour. No the answer to this question is … experience.

The problem with experience is that it cannot be purchased like a rod or whipped together like our little dry flies, no, this valuable asset has to be earned through many hours of trials and tribulations on the river bank. I suppose that this very fact is what keeps the hooked angler coming back for more; it is the constant learning curve and search for a new challenge that sees millions of us stringing up our rods each week. All very well but many of us have families, work commitments and all the other stresses and strains of modern day life to think about which doesn’t always leave us much time to become piscatorial masters. Enter the Fly Fishing Guide.

This new breed of Ghillie has started to grow in popularity across the U.K. and especially in the West Country. Now for a fee you can hire your own personal tackle box of experience. A Guide can set up beats for you, organise accommodation if required and most importantly be right there to advise you just before you make that important cast. Guides will have an intimate knowledge of their venue, the flies required, which angle to approach the fish from, the best times of day, and indeed most will (and should) posses a casting qualification. So, if you are in a situation where you need to make a single handed Spey cast, perhaps a specialised mend or avoid a variety of obstacles, professional help is right there by your side. Of course many people will immediately shun the idea because they like to fish in solitude, don’t we all! But, hiring a guide at the beginning of a trip can give you that extra edge. Now the casting is in tiptop shape, you have all the local fly patterns in your box and you know exactly how to go about catching that big old Trout under a root. This surely increases the enjoyment factor immensely and after all isn’t that why we go fishing in the first place?

Not convinced that a Guide can help you? Perhaps you fancy trying for a new species on fly? Don’t know where to start? Guides are available to catch not just Trout, Salmon or Sea Trout. Now there are stunning fish such as the Bass on offer, hard fighting Pollack or Mackerel and in some cases even Wrasse. When tackling saltwater species such as this and with such a vast expanse of water to cover a Guide is invaluable. But the list doesn’t end there with Fly Fishing Guides diversifying into Coarse fish such as the awesome Pike or crafty Carp. So how do you go about finding a Guide?

Hiring guides is easy enough, for a start just take a look at “Get Hooked!”. Other places to enquire at are Hotels with fishing rights, local tourist boards and indeed many venues nowadays have a “resident professional” Guidance is most often purchased by the half or full day and no it won’t always be cheap. However with that extra experience under your belt you can return to a venue with an edge, which could have only been achieved by spending many years, fishing it. We Brits do tend to be a bit of a D.I.Y. bunch but just think about it for a moment, hours of frustration trying to find the right fly, or a few extra tenners and a memorable fishing holiday?

So fly anglers seeking that extra bit of help with their fishing are well catered for but what do you do if you have never cast a fly before? Often providing the services detailed above Fly Fishing Instructors go one step further and offer regular courses which teach the skills required to become a proficient fly angler. This interesting experience doe’s not only centre on fly casting but also the whole process of finding fish, choosing the right fly through matching the hatch and finally hooking, playing and landing your prize. Many people say that you can teach yourself but look at it this way, how many golfers purchase a set of clubs and then go hacking their way through the nearest course!? Full time Fly Fishing Instructors are professionals and will have all the gear required to hand, plus suitable venues and often a set of notes which can be referred to at a later date. Most importantly they should also come complete with a qualification such as that set by the Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructors ( APGAI ).

This network of Instructors and Guides has opened Fly Fishing to the masses. No longer is it the preserve of the rich dressed in traditional attire, these days you are more likely to see a Fly Fisher sporting a Baseball Cap and Jeans rather than an old-fashioned tweed number. With this barrier gone it has made way for Fly Fishing to become a multi cultural sport not dominated by males but enjoyed by women and children also. Indeed in my experience as an instructor I often find that women and children listen more intently and learn faster (sorry chaps!) than most men!

This season I urge you to look up a guide or instructor and make use of one of their exciting services, I assure you that the results can be fantastic and even on the more difficult days at least there is someone on hand to sort out those annoying tangles! Yes, a day out with a Fly Fishing Guide can certainly be an experience to remember. I wish you all tightlines, screaming reels and dry waders ….

Fish Taxidermy

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

The art of taxidermy today remains very much alive, although gone are the days of every town having its own taxidermist. Today's exponents, however, still use the same basic techniques as their forbears.

The oldest existing specimen is said to be a rhinoceros dating from the 16th century, but the collector is highly unlikely to come across anything preserved before 1850. Along with the increased interest in antique fishing tackle, cased and mounted fish are now considered highly collectable and although prices have dropped slightly from the dizzy heights reached a few years ago they are now starting to rise again.

The most sought after cases were produced by John Cooper & Sons of Radnor Street, London. The company was started in the 1830's but most of the `Cooper' cases around now date from the 1870's to 1950. Most of the fish were displayed in bowfront glass cases edged with gold line trim and gilt lettering. Occasionally the details of the fish were written inside instead, presumably when insufficient funds were available for the full works! Even if no details exist it is still possible for an expert to date the case as their style changed throughout the years. Early cases had pale blue backgrounds with an abundance of reeds and groundwork. By the 1950's this had progressed to a green backing with a sparse interior. The fish gradually became more heavily painted with every scale accentuated. The trading label along with their address changed frequently and is another helpful factor in dating them accurately. Age is not a particular concern when it comes to value - more consideration is given to the size of fish for its species, the quality of the mounting and the overall aesthetic appearance. Multiple cases and those with original gold lettering are worth a premium. Fish taxidermy tended to be more specialised than other forms and as Cooper's fame grew fish were sent to them from all over the country and although they appeared to have the monopoly other equally good firms were in business. One of these was W. F. Homer, also of London and although examples of their work may be harder to find the search is usually well rewarded as their cases are most attractive. Malloch of Perth also produced excellent specimens, many of which were finely painted plaster casts of trout and salmon often mounted in unique barrel shaped cases. They also produced many of the carved wood game fish earlier this century.

If you are lucky enough to find an old case of fish, but in a damaged and sorry state - do not despair! More can be done to restore these back to their former glory than any other form of taxidermy and unlike many antiques, good quality restoration will hardly detract from its value.

A number of auction houses now run specialist piscatorial sales. But beware, this can be shaky ground for the uninitiated. Fakes abound and are sometimes hard to distinguish from the genuine article even for the experts. Buying from a reputable dealer will bring you peace of mind and is likely to be cheaper too.
So what if you land your dream fish and decide to have it preserved for posterity? No problem, although these days it is normally only game or sea fish that are mounted. The most important thing to remember is NEVER gut the fish as this will ruin the whole procedure. Wrap your catch in plenty of newspaper, taking care not to damage the fins and place in a freezer as soon as possible. Once frozen it can safely remain there for several months. Mounting your trophy can be a long process (fortunately giving you a breathing space to save up for the high cost!). The recent world record 1331b eel set up by us took around five months to complete. Much of this is drying time, depending on the size and oil content of the fish and speeding up this process will only produce a poor result in the long term. After defrosting, the fish is cut along the lateral line, skinned out and cured with a preserving solution. Meanwhile a false inside (a mannequin) is carved from styrofoam to the exact shape of the original fish. The skin is then placed around this and left to dry with regular checks made to correct any oil seepage, a particular problem with salmon. When completely dry the skin has to be painted as by this time it will have lost all its colour. This is the really skilful part and sorts out the men from the boys
Dulux, in this instance, is not the right medium!) Several washes of colour are applied to make the fish look as realistic as possible. The casing is a matter of personal choice and although the fish may just be mounted on a wooden board it is not generally recommended. A traditional setting in a bow fronted glass case complete with gilt lettering is still the best method and will become an antique of the future, not to mention the pleasure gained of having a permanent record of the big one that didn't get away!


Further information on any aspect of taxidermy available from:

David McKinley,
Heads n' Tails, Wiveliscombe, Somerset.
01984 623097.

The Buzzer Factor

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

The majority of fly fishers in this country concentrate on fly fishing in stillwaters, whether reservoir, lake or pond. For many this is simply a choice of convenience, with few or no available rivers containing game fish in their area.


Others, such as I, are lucky enough to live in areas where there is an abundance of good river fishing at extremely reasonable prices, as well as many good lakes and reservoirs. You would think that with so many rivers available one would stick to the Trout, Sea Trout and Salmon that run them and stay well clear of the stillwaters. Whilst this may be true of many, I still get enormous enjoyment when fishing a stillwater, essentially with a floating line and particularly with the dry fly or buzzer.


The buzzer is the angler's term for the pupa of the midge, that is the Chironomid midge, not the wee nasty biting thing of the west coast of Scotland. It forms the major part of the diet of all lake trout and as a result SHOULD be a major fishing technique with any stillwater angler. In its natural state the midge can be eaten by the Trout in four different forms - the larva, the pupa, the emerger and the adult. To be a really successful angler you will need to be able to recognise when the fish are feeding on what form and to be able to imitate the natural accurately, both in what it looks like and how it moves.

The larva live in the mud and silt at the bottom of the lake and are usually found in large numbers. They vary in colour and can be olive, brown, green, translucent or, most common, red (known as the bloodworm). Though forming a major part in the trout's diet the natural larvae swim in a very active wriggle which is very difficult to imitate for the angler.

Much more common and easier to fish is the pupa. The naturals start their `hatch' anytime between March and November and leaves their burrows in the mud on the long hazardous journey to the surface. This may take some time depending on the depth and the currents in the water and this will affect your fishing tactics, It is extremely possible to get a major hatch of buzzers being fed on by the Trout eight or even ten feet deep and one should not ignore the use of buzzers on hi speed sinking lines. As the pupae near the surface of the water the rise forms of the trout will give away the depths they are feeding at; a flattening of the ripple indicates the fish are feeding between 8" and 2', the 'head & tail' rise usually indicates the fish feeding on the buzzer in the top 8" and the full blooded swirl is a sure sign that the fish are taking the hatched adults off the surface.

Having discovered the depth the fish are feeding at, you will need to assemble something make all the difference sometimes. A very valid tip when fishing the dries, always degrease your leader and dropper arms heavily so that they sink into the surface film and not sit up as an outline to 'spook' a wary trout.

Unless you know exactly which size and colour of midge the fish are feeding on you will need to fish a variety of sizes and colours until your are successful. Where legal I would suggest using a team of buzzers to start with and usually a size 12 grey buzzer on the top dropper, size 14 black buzzer on the middle dropper and a size 16 olive buzzer on the point when faced with no evidence of what is hatching. This team has been devastating on many trips and I will almost always start with it when the fish are on wet buzzers, again, regardless of the line used, i.e. Hi-D, Wet Cel 2 or floater, A similar set up can be used when the fish are on top - a size 12 black hopper on the top dropper, size 14 olive shipmans buzzer on the middle and a size 16 brown raider for the point. Not only are you fishing different colours and sizes of flies with this set up, but you are also presenting a different silhouette to the fish with each fly, a fact that can make all the difference sometimes. A very valid tip when fishing the dries, always defrease your leader and dropper arms heavily so they sink into the surface film and not sit up as an outline to 'spook' a wary trout.


Finally, if you are not catching fish, though you know you are fishing the right depth, keep changing the colours and sizes of your team - you will get it right eventually!

Thanks Dr Beeching

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

This article was published in the February 1994 edition of Trout Fisherman under a different title.


So what has Dr. Beeching got to do with fishing? Well, if it wasn't for his infamous massacre of Britain's railways a particular piece of branch line on the Devon-Cornwall border might still be in use.

Instead about 220 yards of a secluded cutting has been nurtured into an idyllic piece of private fishing for Rainbows and Browns. The railway closed in 1963 and I can still recall riding, as did many others from the locality, on the last steam train from our small Cornish town. The piece of line in question remained unused until 1985 when the owner built a dam at one end of the cutting creating 100 yards of water about 30 feet wide and around 9ft. deep. That same year an initial stocking of 40 twelve inch Rainbows and 10 twelve inch Browns was introduced into this virgin water to provide sport for the owner and some fortunate friends.

A few Minnows were also put in at this point and the fact that their numbers have remained low proves they are doing their job in providing food for the larger inhabitants. Also just four Loaches were added and now there's one under every other stone.

The cost? Initially about £1500 but this was not a site designed purely for fishing. The pond and its immediate surroundings were intended as a conservation area and have proved very successful. Ornithological sightings have included Kingfishers, Herons a white Egret and Canada Geese Insect life has also prospered with a stunning population of iridescent Damsels as well as a profusion of Butterflies and Dragonflies.

The first year was not, however, without problems! The predictable one, in a water this size perhaps, was lack of oxygen in high summer. Emergency measures were taken by pumping oxygen into the water to try and persuade the Trout to stop swimming upside down and a long term solution seems to have been found in Potaganta Crispa. This is a curled pond weed and an excellent oxegenator also it is very soft stemmed, the advantages of which you'll read about later!

In 1988 the water was extended further back up the railway line, creating shallows at the 'top' and a heavily weeded area which proves very popular with the Trout. At this time the pond was drained and, having kept a close record of the numbers of fish caught, the owner found himself about 30 short. Picturesque Herons may be, but along with Cormorants they were, no doubt, responsible for the deficit. A change in stocking policy remedied this problem as introducing the Trout at 2.5 to 3 pounds seemed to make them too big for the predators to handle. The Trout are no mean predators themselves as the following account explains.

The owner and his young son Ben were at the waters edge one evening when Ben found a full grown frog in the bankside vegetation. He 'kindly' slipped it back into the water and it started out for the other bank. Both spectators were observing its progress when a dark shape approached the luckless amphibian. The water was barely disturbed as an enormous mouth opened and leisurely closed, engulfing the frog completely. Now there's a challenging imitation for an enterprising fly tier!

A beautiful summers afternoon in June formed the perfect backdrop when I was given the opportunity to fish, allowing the owner a chance to get some photographs at the same time.

I tackled up with an 8'6" rod, level 61b 10ft leader and a single pheasant tail nymph. The physical shape of the water and the wonderfully lush vegetation makes casting a little tricky and it's surprisingly difficult to reach the other bank, a mere 30 feet away. The owner obviously knows the water intimately and suggested a lure with a predominance of yellow would get the best results, but as I prefer using a more natural pattern I stuck with the pheasant tail. I started at the dam end and worked my way along, covering the water 'fan' style and varying the depth as I went.

I had not moved anything by the time we reached the 'top' where the trees open up a little and the weed provides excellent cover and, no doubt, an abundance of food for the residents. So, a yellow lure is it? The ends usually justify the means and just such a fly lurked in the box.

With a bit more room to manoeuvre I could just about manage a steeple cast to the other bank, dropping the fly next to a tree stump and letting it sink a couple feet before starting a steady retrieve. Two casts to the same spot and about 4 steady draws into the retrieve, the fly slowed up in a most leisurely fashion just like being snagged on some soft weed. I eased on a little more pressure and as the line accelerated away I tightened into a fish. Wallop! The Trout cleared the water in a burst of spray and headed off down the pond in a fashion reminiscent of the steam trains that once thundered over this very spot. Within a couple of seconds the entire line and 20 yards of backing followed the fish helplessly into a large weed bed where everything went solid. There's nothing to do in such cases but steadily pump line back and hope the fish is still attached, luckily (aided perhaps by that soft-stemmed pond weed) it was and I now had it under a little more control. She turned in front of me (I could see it was a hen fish) and I felt a pang of guilt as her mate appeared fleetingly beside her then vanished, surely just curious, following an instinct, although it could have seemed, to those with a vivid imagination, a last farewell. The battle was almost over now, a couple of despairing lunges for the nearest cover was all she could manage, the weeds over her snout testament to her efforts. The net slid into the water and the fish was mine.

She was quickly despatched and turned the scales at just over 8lb 8oz, a fish of classic proportions grown on from a couple of pounds and in all probability nearing the end of her natural life. The late afternoon sun provided some beautiful natural light for the photographs and although I could have stayed and fished on I felt spoiled enough. Very rarely does the opportunity present itself to fish in such gloriously unspoilt surroundings. Combine that with the quality of the quarry and it's more than enough for most anglers, certainly for me.

Brown Trout Hot Spots

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

From the tumbling rivers of the high moors to the silky chalk streams of Wessex, the South West has something for just about every fly fisher who likes to go in search of brown trout in running water. You can drift a tiny dry fly over a rising brownie, work a team of traditional wet flies through a stretch of fast broken water, or explore the depths of a deep pool with a heavily-weighted nymph - the choice is yours. As this Guide clearly demonstrates, plenty of this fishing is available to the visiting angler who buys a permit from an association, hotel or fishery owner, but making the right choice is the key to success. So let's take a look at a selection of trout fisheries that regularly produce good fishing for anyone prepared to take the time to learn their secrets.

The Bass Bug - Saltwater Fly Fishing for Bass

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

I have been lucky enough to turn fishing into a career. Each week I can be found on river banks, messing around in boats and gazing over wide expanses of lake. Most of the time I’m teaching, but every week I manage a trip of my own. Lately, there have been some changes. Instead of heading for those venues described above I now make for the sea shore armed with neither a Beach Caster or Spinning Kit. My chosen weapon is the fly rod and the quarry are non-other than “Dicentrachus labrax” although I prefer to stick to their common name, Bass. Around two years ago my good friend Simon Gawesworth first introduced me to this exciting new branch of the sport. Having caught so many stocked Trout it was a revelation to catch such a wild, hard fighting fish in unusual surroundings. Abroad Saltwater Fly Fishing is nothing new but believe me over here it does attract the odd puzzled glance! Bass can be found in warm water areas of the British Isles, and are widespread along the South Coast.

My 45 years with a fishing pub

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

In 1961 with my late husband Gerald Fox-Edwards I bought a fishing pub. As a Londoner and an actress I knew positively nothing about fishing and little about hotel keeping. But Gerald’s health was worrying and his doctors advised country air. He was a passionate fisherman and his mecca was to own a fishing inn with a river at the bottom of the garden, so we bought The Arundell Arms in Devon.

The hotel was pretty spartan in those days with one optional private bathroom for 17 rooms and a coke boiler which smoked so badly that when the wind blew from the west, half the dining room had to be evacuated! Around the car park was the Lifton Police Station complete with cells, where the occasional over imbibing local was lodged, the local Magistrates’ Court and the Lifton School. At the back of the hotel was stabling for eight horses, which reflected the hotel’s origins as a coaching inn.

The hotel only opened during the fishing season from March to October. A week’s full board cost £20.00. The hotel was positioned on the busy A.30, the main road through to Cornwall, and the traffic queues stretched either side of the village for many miles. But it owned twenty miles of trout, salmon and sea trout fishing on the river Tamar and five of its tributaries which ran through wonderful unspoilt Devon countryside - for Gerald his dream come true. After lots of paint, a new boiler and double glazing in all the front windows, we opened on March 1st 1961 - the start of the fishing season.

The rivers in the 60’s were prolific. Clear, sparkling streams with an abundance of small wild brown trout, always hungry, which rose freely to the fly. In the Tamar there were excellent runs of salmon and sea trout. The bird life was magical with no sign of the dreaded cormorant. Most people fished for trout and were extremely skilled dry fly fishermen. A few would venture down to the Lyd after dinner for an evening’s sea trout fishing but most preferred a glass or two of port. In those days fishing was almost exclusively a male pursuit and very few women came to fish, in fact very few women came to the hotel at all.

In 1969 Cornish born Roy Buckingham, a young bailiff with the then Cornwall River Board joined us to help Gerald run the fishery. Roy had already achieved fame as a tournament caster, a skill which he put to good use as a fly fishing instructor. A former colleague of Roy’s, David Pilkington, joined us in 1976 and together they look after the fishery. They have taught many thousands to fish on the Arundell Arms fly fishing courses, and in particular have encouraged many fishermen to try the magical sport of night fishing for sea trout on the River Lyd.

My own passion for fly fishing really began after Gerald’s death in 1973. In the early years I was far too busy to learn to fish, not only running the hotel - on a shoestring, and working as a marriage guidance counsellor but also having children. But without Gerald’s guidance I clearly needed to know about fishing, so I asked Roy to teach me. I can still remember the magic of catching my first wild brown trout on a dry fly - work became a bore and all I wanted to do was fish.

There have been many changes over the years, most of them for good. The traffic no longer roars past the windows, the police cells are now the village pub, the old school a conference centre – and bathrooms abound! The hotel has developed winter sporting interests, a restaurant with a great following year round and, situated as we are on the River Tamar, the Devon/Cornwall boundary, we have the privilege of hosting many of the fishing activities in the two counties.

More and more women are coming to learn to fly fish – often they out number the men on our fishing courses (and dare I say it they are sometimes better than the men!)

Many of our former fishing pupils are now bringing their children to us to be taught to fish. My youngest grandson Thomas, aged 5, had his first lesson with David last August and caught (and put back) a ‘baby’ salmon.

Fly Fishing for Sea Trout

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

It has been said to me by several trout anglers over the years, that you must be mad to go fishing at night for sea trout. Rushing home from work, gulping down your evening meal that your partner has lovingly prepared for you, and then a quick peck on the cheek and you disappear for the rest of the night.

Over the years I have taken a great many anglers on their first sea trout fishing expedition, and have found there was an occasional angler who said their night vision was almost nil, and their casting went to pieces at night, they would not have missed it for the world, but would never do it again. Others would go out at night if accompanied by someone else, because they were scared of the dark, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. A heron screeching, a sheep coughing, or a herd of inquisitive young bullocks galloping towards you can be scary at night if you are not used to it. The majority, however, get hooked on night fishing and feverishly wait for the sea trout season to begin each year.

Most of my sea trout fishing is done on the Tamar and Lyd, one of the main tributaries. A few larger sea trout enter the lower reaches in March and April, but where I fish on the middle reaches we do not see any significant numbers until the second half of June.

If you have not fished at night before, it is always a great help to have someone who knows the water take you out during the day, and show you where the fish lie and where to cast from to avoid trees and bushes. One problem at night is knowing exactly how much line you have outside the rod tip. There is nothing more annoying than pulling your leader through the rod tip at night. An easy way to avoid this is to pull out a rod length of line, and then practise pulling off exactly a foot of line at the time. Pull off ten feet, cast it out, and then pull in ten feet, and you should still have a rod length outside the rod tip. Try it first in the daytime with your eyes closed. For night fishing I use a rod of nine or nine and a half feet that takes a size six or seven line. Most of my fishing is done with a floating line, and a leader of around nine feet tapered to eight pounds breaking strain.

Sea trout are unpredictable, so you must be prepared to change your size of fly, and sometimes your method of presentation. I well remember fishing the tail of Quarry Pool on the Tamar with my usual team of three flies. After covering all the likely places without a single touch. I changed the tail fly for a large muddler minnow, greased it up and skated it across the surface. In the next half hour I caught six sea trout all from the same spot. If I had not changed my fly, I think I would have had a blank that night.

My reasons for fishing three flies is to save time having to change the fly size, and of course the flies will fish at different depths as well. Normally I would use something like a size 12 Alexandra or Coachman on the top dropper, a size 8 Silver Invicta in the middle, and a big fly on the tail such as a black lure or a palmered fly such as a Zulu on a size 6 or even a 4 long-shank hook. Do not be tempted to use droppers until you feel proficient at using just one fly at night, or you could end up with one horrendous tangle in your leader.

Always try to arrive at the river in good time before it is dark, and wait until you cannot see the colour of the grass, then you can start fishing. If you cannot wait, then fish another pool as the light is fading. This can often be productive, but could spoil it for night fishing. Sea trout will often lie in just a few inches of water at night, so always start with a short line and then gradually extend it, fishing it back on a slow retrieve. When you feel a take it could be anything from a gentle pluck to a really savage snatch, so do not strike too hard or you may end up being broken even on a strong leader.

Never leave anything lying around at night. It is surprising how your can put something down and the next moment it has disappeared on a dark night. You can buy adhesive luminous tape which can be used on nets, fly boxes, priest etc., or even a thermos flask. One angler who had fished hard for a couple of hours, decided to stop for a well earned cup of coffee, he sat down and poured his coffee into a mug. Just at that moment a sea trout splashed in the pool beside him. Creeping down to the water’s edge he cast out and caught it. Feeling rather jubilant he sat down once again, picked up his now lukewarm coffee and took a large mouthful, only to spit it out again… While he was away, a large slug had crawled up his mug and decided to share his coffee ! The grass was wet with heavy dew, and when he switched his torch on, he saw that everything was covered in slugs, including the coat he was sitting on and his sandwich box.

All kinds of things happen at night. I remember sitting down at 1am to have a cup of tea. There I was, quietly sipping my tea and listening to the river in complete darkness, when my legs and bottom felt wet. We had not had rain for a couple of weeks, and the ground was bone dry… After switching on the torch I found myself sitting in the middle of the biggest fresh cow pat you have ever seen. You can imagine what my wife was thinking when she opened the back door next morning and found my trousers and a pair of white underpants stained in a sort of olive green lying on the step!

If you do not like going out at night it is perfectly possible to catch sea trout during the day. An odd fish is taken when salmon or trout fishing, but you will catch more if you fish specially for them. My normal outfit is what I use for trout. A rod of 8’5 or 9’ with a size six floating line. Because sea trout are so easily scared during the day, use a leader as long as you can manage. My own formula is made up as follows. Buy a Leeda Profil Knotless salmon leader tapered to ten pounds, which I needle knot to the end of my line. To this, add 24” of 8lb, 18” of 6lb, 12” of 4lb and 3ft of 3lb. A leader tapered in this way will present the fly very gently on the water, and the heavy butt section will help straighten it out. Braided leaders tend to absorb water and will fall more heavily no matter how careful you are.

For daytime fishing I use small weighted wet flies such as coachman or black and peacock spider, or goldhead nymphs, hares ear or prince, sizes 12 and 14 or even smaller at times. On our small to medium sized rivers fish all methods upstream during the day. Wet flies and nymphs should be cast upstream or up and across and allowed to sink for three or four seconds before starting to retrieve slightly faster than the current. If there is little or no current, use the induced take method with a weighted nymph. Cast upstream and wait for the nymph to sink almost down to the bottom, and then slowly raise the rod tip, drawing the nymph up towards the surface.

Sometimes you will see them feeding on surface flies, but they can be taken on dry fly even when you do not see any rising. It is always a great advantage if you can see the fish, because if a dry fly is cast well upstream and allowed to drift over the fish, I have found this much less effective than casting into the sea trout’s window of vision, which can sometimes create an immediate response. If after two or three casts the fly is refused, cast a little further upstream and retrieve the line a little faster than the current to create a wake on the surface. This will often produce a fish when all else fails.

Summer spates will bring fresh sea trout and salmon into the rivers and, as the water is clearing, sea trout will be easier to catch under these conditions. Use a sinking line and a leader of eight or nine feet tapered to eight pounds. Size of fly will depend on the height and colour of the water. One of my own favourites is a waddington type silver stoats tail between one and two inches in length. Fish the fly downstream and across in the tails of the pools as you would for night fishing. There is no need to retrieve, in fact you might have to mend the line upstream to slow the fly down a little.

The great thing about this kind of fishing is you could catch anything from a cheeky seven inch brownie to a lively sea trout, or even the occasional salmon.

So, what's the attraction?

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

Fiona Armstrong, International broadcaster and presenter

Some are born to fishing - some achieve it and others have fishing thrust upon them. I come, alas, into the last category. All that wasted time! All those empty years! When I was a gal, fishing was a strange pastime, indeed. To me, the men (yes, anglers were generally male and elderly), would escape from the wife, don green rubber and sit out in rain and wind, hurling sharp hooks laced with wriggling worms into murky ponds. As for flyfishing - well, flies were a nuisance at a picnic; reels, a Scottish dance. To me, the attraction was as mysterious as the technique.

So what changed?! Well, the fact that I went to work in the Scottish borders. The fact that I found myself living in a house by a river. The fact that I married a man who HAD been born to fish - and that was my option. River widow or river widow? I took the only course available.

Let me say here, that getting your husband to teach you to fish, is about as romantic as getting him to teach you to drive. I mean, would you really want his gentle words of encouragement in your ear? ‘Not that way, for God’s sake! You nearly took my ear off!’ No. That is a sure fire way to disagreement. Take a lesson from the highland ghillie who’s seen it all before.

‘They came up here on their honeymoon’, he said casually. ‘Really in love they were. And she sat on the bank and watched him fish. And then...’ His voice rose a little. ‘Then, he hooked a salmon - and she was so excited, she couldn’t help it. She rushed into the water and threw her arms around him...’ The ghillie’s voice became sombre. ‘And she stood on the line and pulled the hook out of the fish’s mouth.’ He looked thoughtfully across the great expanse of cold, fishless water. ‘They’re divorced now, of course. Though I canna think that was the main reason...’

I tell you, it probably was. And there’s another reason for not allowing your spouse anywhere near your precious fly rod. Because what usually occurs with a learner is a touch of what’s referred to as Beginner’s Luck. It always happens and it usually means a fish or three on the first outing. And there you are, you have caught a fish and he, a veteran angler, has not. I ask you - is that any way to court marital harmony? No, when it comes to fishing, choose your husband’s best man, his father, or even his mother. But not your better half.

The hard stuff

Yes, there’s fishing and there’s life and death. And there’s a spot of the hard stuff, too. Most anglers like to see either whisky or fish in their water. I, personally, could live without the former, but I do remember the late, great fishing guru, Hugh Falkus, taking me for a lesson and telling me that a good caster should be able to throw out a line with a glass of golden malt balanced neatly on their head. If that wasn’t impossible enough, his first words were meant to be encouraging. They just didn’t come out that way. ‘Enough! I’ve seen enough. You are sadly at fault!’ I had been fishing for ten years at this stage one minute of that in front of him. That’s the thing about the sport. You can practise for years and still be floundering in the shallows. They say the only experts in this game are the fish - and that is the one true thing you can say.

Other pearls of wisdom are frighteningly contradictory. ‘If your line’s not in the water, you won’t catch fish’, sounds a plausible enough truism. But when you come to: ‘To get a fish, you should have been here yesterday...?!’ That excuse could leave you fishless all year.

Seriously, forget about the cold and the wet, which it inevitably is. Forget the blank days (you really SHOULD have been here yesterday!) Forget the times when your fly gets tangled up in a prickly gorse bush or your nylon twists into a thousand tiny windknots. (Note: if you really find yourself in trouble, always ask the older fisher for help. This veteran of the waterside has usually seen it all before, has nothing more to prove and will readily come to your help. The ones to avoid are the younger, macho types. They are generally there for one purpose only and that is to flog the water black and blue until they force some poor fish to surrender.) Forget the time you had to go to hospital after pulling a sharp hook into your hand or the frustrations of trying to master the twists and turns of the Spey cast, and the loops and curls of the double Spey, the Snake and the Switch. Forget the midges with bites as big as bullets. Forget all of this.

Remember instead the pride you take in assembling your very first fly rod and the feeling of satisfaction when fourteen foot of reel and line are ready to go. Remember the very first river you chose to fish on - be it a small spate stream, or a wide expanse of Tayside water. Remember especially that it is your first fishing trip - and that you, with your Beginner’s Luck have a good chance of catching more than a mere cold. Remember how you chose your fly - that red and black, long tailed creation with the delightful name - was it a Muddler or a Hairy Mary?! It doesn’t matter. It looked quite simply delicious and the best lure for the day, a day on which conditions were just right, the water dropping back after a heavy fall of rain, the sky overcast.

Remember the first trembling casts with that unwieldy rod. And the way you learned to pull in line, jerking the fly ever so gently to make it resemble a waterborne creature. And then, who could forget the nibbles and the touches, as something out there bumps your lure in the water. And the swirl and thud as the line tightens and starts to reel off the end of the rod.

‘Keep your rod tip up!’ ‘Wind in!’ ‘Let him run!’ A first fish will always cause the greatest panic to all around, not least to the novice. For they will be as desperate as you are to get that offering onto the bank. Especially as it is an unwritten rule that beginners catching a first fish must buy the drinks all night. (I actually made that up, but you never know, I might end up on a river bank with one of you one of these days...)

The play will be endless, as you try to tire your fish, but at some stage, be it minutes or hours, there will be less resistance on the line. As he quietens in the water, get your net ready and pull the fish gently into it.

First fish

Your first fish! The feeling is indescribable, but I will try. You might climb a mountain, try a thirty-six year old malt, meet the man of your dreams, win the lottery...! No, all these will pall in comparison. You are triumphant and eager to get back into the water to try again. But first, wait! Here is the dilemma. Game fishers have traditionally killed and eaten what they catch. But these days, there is a growing trend toward catch and release especially in the spring. Always try to convince yourself that the landing is better than the keeping. It might be a Kelt, an old fish, or a hen fish, full of eggs and about to spawn. In which case, put it back quickly and carefully. Do not stand around posing for photos to show the chaps in the office. But, if you are on a water where catch and release is not compulsory - and if it is your first fish and a good silvery male - then, by all means, do keep it, if you are prepared to kill it yourself. Keep it and eat fried gently in butter with a squeeze of lemon and some buttered brown bread.

You have caught your first Fish! So forget the forgets. And remember the other side of the sport. The camaraderie. I have never yet met a nasty angler. The chats and the jokes, the sharing and the sympathy. The characters you meet, the ghillies and water watchers, or the locals out for a walk. The drains (or wine) in the fishing hut at the end of the day. Above all, the freshness of it all. The water and the wind and the grass and the trees. Away from faxes, phones and children. Free to concentrate on the matter in hand or to let you imagination soar with every upward cast. And of course, the best of all, the tall tales. For angling really is a sport where you can do this shamelessly. Like the man who was sitting in the fishing hut with his arms stretched three feet wide. ‘Oh, come on’ said one of the other anglers. ‘It can’t have been that long!’ ‘Long?!’ replied the first man. ‘That was the width between its eyes!’

I wish you the joy of the river and the luck of the draw. Luck does play a huge part in fishing - especially in salmon fishing. But luck is not all - and as my wise old father-in-law says. If your line’s not in the water, you’ll not catch fish. So, if it’s your first time, keep it wet and keep it moving and let me know what it was like for you!

The Fisherman's Hut

Submitted by admin on November 18, 2008 - 6:46pm

I stopped on the bridge, as always, to peer into the river below. The sun shone and the water took on that blue green translucence typical of springtime. A few martins and swallows swooped, seeking nourishment following their long flight from far off lands and, after a brief survey of the pool, I moved on and came to the old gate that leads to the river bank.

The gate hung partly unhinged, it’s fastening broken, a few bits of litter caught my eye, probably discarded by some ignorant motorist, a problem that blights our country’s hedgerows. Continuing down the steps I glanced at the old fishing sign, rusting and grimy, the club’s name still present above the words, “Private Fishing Club Members only”. The pathway beside the river had always been well trodden at this time of year (early April) yet now it was partly grown over. Celandine flowers brightened the waterside meadow with their yellow hues. It felt good to be walking the river bank again but strange, melancholy feelings drifted into my being. I glanced at the old corrugated fishing hut. It's door was open, someone was about I thought, tidying up or fishing somewhere downstream.

My club membership had long since lapsed and I was heading to fish the free water a hundred yards or more downstream. I had fished this section of river heavily twenty five years ago hoping for a silver spring salmon but had returned rarely over recent seasons. However a river is like a long lost friend, familiarity returns quickly and certain things retain a core character. The constant flow of a river towards the sea has always given me an almost spiritual, reassuring sense of stability. A feeling I had always treasured each spring as I trod the banks rod in hand hopeful of one of anglings greatest prizes, a fresh run silver salmon. The grass flourishing, buds bursting into life on riverside trees and spring birds filling the air with song, a sign of the coming warmth of summer.

I had very little time today just a stolen moment from life’s busy schedule, no time to fish methodically, just a few random casts into favourite lies. I remember long ago seeking my first salmon, a prize that seemed unattainable. Eventually after many days by the river I tempted a fish and what had seemed so difficult I realised was really quite easy. You just had to be in the right place at the right time and have a little good fortune. Salmon are a perplexing fish, totally ignoring all offerings one minute then suddenly erupting from the water to seize your bait, lure or fly with an unbelievable determination. After catching that first salmon an angler will always be able to cast in hope for he believes in the impossible. This faith remains forever, fuelling the desire for cast after cast.

I climbed down the river bank, entering the water above a sweeping bend in the river. An old tree stood, its roots exposed from the annual attack of winter floods. Beneath the tree was a favourite lie that had held many salmon and sea trout over the years. I waded out into the river, relishing the feel as the cool water pushed against my legs. I extended my fly line above the water and dropped a bright orange Ally’s Shrimp fly near the far bank. I allowed the fly to swing tantalizingly across the flow, took a step downstream and repeated the process. Many times in the past I had seen salmon and sea trout leap from the water at this spot. I hoped to see one now.

Strange really, since the introduction of catch and release in the early season I have lost much of my determination to seek salmon. I always used to relish taking that first fresh Springer home to enjoy with new potatoes and lashings of butter. I regularly fish for a wide range of species and return ninety percent of the fish I catch. I have no problem returning a coloured salmon in the autumn but I somehow struggle with returning a bar of silver sea liced salmon.

I often think of Hugh Falkus’s comments on catch and release and his view that it was somehow wrong. Somehow I feel he had a point there is something undignified in toying with a fish so magnificent as the Atlantic salmon. Perhaps I just don’t like being told I have to return the fish, I remember catching a well mended Kelt several years ago. It had inhaled the Mepps spinner to the back of its throat and was bleeding profusely. I gently returned it to the river, to my horror it keeled over and drifted away to die. How would I feel if this happened to a prime fresh run fish?

I continued to fish on downstream, ice cold water started to seep into my chest waders. I realised that my repairs to the holes had failed and a new pair would be needed before my next trip.

It was soon time to leave as I had to collect my young son form his cricket coaching. I climbed from the river, my boots squelching as I retraced my steps along the riverside path. I came again to the old fishermen’s hut. The door was still open, inquisitive I strolled over and peered inside. The door had been broken from its hinges, the old leather seat was torn, old mugs stood in an old wooden cabinet where mice had made their home and the old hut was damp and derelict. A feeling of sadness came upon me. I immediately understood the melancholy feeling I earlier sensed. Twenty odd years ago I had spent many hours beside this river and talked with the club anglers of the day. They were generally anglers in their fifties or sixties who had fished the river for many years. They generally had a tale to tell of the good old days, of encounters with huge spring salmon, some won some lost. They had intimate knowledge of the river and a deep respect and love for the salmon. Each year working parties would trim troublesome branches and carry out repairs to gates and stiles. The fisherman’s hut was a meeting place where tales were swapped over cups of hot tea. Fishing magazines sat on the table to provide inspiration during break in fishing or tending to the river bank. There was always a rod leaning against the old rails that segregated the front of the hut from the bank side. A bench dedicated to an angler invited one to, “rest here and find pleasure”.

It dawned upon me that a generation of anglers had passed away. Few anglers now trod these banks in search of spring salmon. Upriver on prime beats people still pay large sums to fish, but here on the club and free water few bother to cast a line. Perhaps restrictions have taken away the motivation for these anglers to fish or perhaps people no longer have the patience to chase dreams. I realise that back then we seemed to have time to talk, time to fish, time to dream.

The faces of a host of anglers fill my minds eye as I walk away from the river and the derelict old fisherman’s’ hut. I realise that whilst the river flows relentlessly on we anglers are just passing spirits. The comfort of the rivers immortality is temporarily shadowed by the realisation of our own fleeting visit to its banks.

As I walk across the bridge I again pause as always for one last look at the river. A car races past, a train thunders along the nearby track I re-enter the modern world and walk back to the car. On getting home I think back to the old fishing hut and vow to jot down my thoughts before they get lost and drift away like the old anglers who once fished the river.

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