Tuesday, 3 January 2017

A very Happy New Year, and tight lines for the 2017 season.

Greeting for the new year to all our guests and readers of the blog. Alexander Jones ( who does all the clever stuff on the blog with photos, videos etc.)is just about to touch down in New Zealand for a month of trout fishing, so there will only be text in the next few weeks from the resident Luddite.
Minus 6 on the Tamar this morning, water splashing from the gauging weir has left a pendulum of ice the size of a rugby ball on the hanging brambles. Now that the main spawning season is over, I am delighted to report that we have seen more redds, of salmon, sea trout and brownies, than we have for several years. Although this may be in part to the fact that we have had relatively low water, making the redds more visible, it is still an excellent sign. We now pray for no devastating floods, as we have had so much of in recent winters, which must have done terrible damage to the slowly incubating ova.
Grayling fishing has been possible for most of the time, this again is due to the lowish river levels. Now that things have turned much colder, the fish have been harder to find, but can still be caught by searching the likely pools with deeply sunk nymphs.
Cormorants are about, and we are having no trouble filling our cull quota. Goosanders have also appeared on our rivers in the last month. The seemingly eternal debate with Natural England about a licence to control these serious salmonid predators goes on, with another meeting forthcoming. Maximising smolt output can only be beneficial to our salmon and sea trout, so fingers crossed for a sensible solution soon.
Meanwhile, from a Devonshire sparkling with frost in the low winter sun, all the very best for the season ahead. David Pilkington.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Salmon and sea trout assembling for spawning

Early December is the usual time for migratory fish to be spawning on the Tamar system, with the sea trout normally starting a few days ahead of the salmon. This video shows both salmon and sea trout in a tributary river, many of the salmon have actually paired up and are lying together. Some fish exhibits spots of white fungus, often on their heads or fins, and while a little distressing to see, this is quite normal on fish whose bodies are virtually exhausted. All the nourishment laid down in their tissue, which has sustained the fish during their long fast in fresh water, has now gone to the eggs and milt. Their reserves are at an all-time low, and many of these fish will be dead only a few days after laying their eggs. 
These fish are the few which have survived for three, four or five years to reach their natal spawning streams. A journey from a pea-sized egg buried in the gravels, two years as a small fish in the river, being preyed on by herons, cormorants, goosanders, not to mention trout, eels and other creatures, even insects such as dragonfly larvae. And then a trip across the Atlantic Ocean, with everything from bass and cod in the estuaries, to tope, sharks and who knows what other predators in the deeps. And this without mankind, whose nets and longlines await the fish in their Arctic feeding grounds. 
The journey back from the ocean is no less fraught with danger, culminating with dolphins and seals in the inshore waters, and yet more men with nets, legal and otherwise, in the estuaries. Within the river, rod fishermen are now more aware than ever before of the problems faced by this iconic fish, with rods at the Arundell Arms now releasing all of the salmon we catch.
 Which leaves these fish in the tributaries to fulfill their whole life's purpose. Note the large numbers of smaller brown trout, hugging the river-bed immediately downstream of the pairs of salmon. They too have to live, and a meal of salmon eggs, grabbed at the very moment of spawning, is a valuable source of nourishment for the trout in an otherwise frugal time of year. 
As a Buddhist, would you return to this life as a salmon?

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Ladies of the Autumn

River levels at Lifton have been very high following Storm Angus, but the weather has now settled into a very dry spell, allowing the water to clear, and levels to fall back to a point where Grayling fishing has once again become possible. It was necessary to fish in the'Czech nymph' style with heavy tungsten- beaded nymphs. Note the multi-coloured braid section above the leader, which helps to give a visual indication of what is always a very subtle and fast take. Along with some out-of-season brownies, a very lively sea trout also fell to the nymph, as can be seen on this video.  

Monday, 21 November 2016

Storm Angus

Storm Angus, the first named storm of this winter, swept through Devon overnight last Saturday, flooding roads and houses, felling trees, and, quite naturally of course, disrupting trains. The Tamar peaked at around 8 feet on Sunday morning, not quite enough to inundate the flood plain here, but enough to precipitate strange events _ the Loch Ness monster, following the Scottish referendum, then Brexit, and now Trump, has finally had enough of the Highlands, and has gone walkabout. As you can see from the photo, here is Nessie, exploring the Tamar at Polson gauging station.

Nessie in the Tamar

Hartley weir on the river Lyd. The spate had dropped significantly by the time this photo was taken, but was still at a more than adequate height for fish to run. Nothing was seen in around 20 minutes of observation, but the river has held sufficient water for the previous ten days, and many salmon and sea trout will have ascended in that time. ( Watch the video in our last blog to see fish running on much less water than this). We expect to see redds being cut by the end of this week.

Hartley weir the week before, young Dan playing his first grayling. Dan caught two grayling that morning, both on nymph in the pool below the weir.

Dan's father Alex admiring the boy's fish.

A happy lad

Friday, 11 November 2016

Spawning run

The catchment of the river Lyd, the main salmon nursery of the Tamar system, has been woefully short of water for most of this autumn. A spell of heavy ( but short-lived) rain overnight on November 8th put the river up by several inches, and although this hardly qualifies as a significant spate, it was certainly enough to precipitate a small run of salmon. Having been bottled up for many weeks in the deeper pools lower down the system, the fish were very keen to take advantage of any extra and water move up towards the main spawning grounds, as this video shows.

Watch closely in full HD.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Autumn Colour

The dying days of the 2016 salmon season saw a few more fish being landed at the Arundell Arms. All of them were well coloured but otherwise in good condition, and had obviously been lying low for some time in the beats on the lower river. Water levels fell back to no more than a decent trout fishing height, but the careful use of a smallish fly did the trick. Our present conservation measure of fly only and 100% catch and release does not seem to be doing us any undue harm, and the fish will surely repay us by spawning the next generation.

One for the boss - an eight-pounder for Adam Fox-Edwards from Tunnel Pool.

A plump five-pound hen fish for Rob Mason in Quarry Pool.

A delighted Rich Pullin, with his first ever salmon, a nice hen of 27 inches taken in Snipe Pool.

A worried Tom Crockett playing his first-ever salmon, also in Snipe Pool

A triumphant Alexander Jones with Tom's fish safely in the net.

A view of Tom's fish in the net.

The distinctive long-snouted profile of a cock fish in spawning livery.

The fish was a six-pounder - it may look small but bear in mind that Tom stands at 6 foot 8 inches

The killer fly - a bright red shrimp pattern with boar-bristle tails.

Tom now in relaxed mode, with celebratory cigar. Snipe Pool in the background.