Thursday, 28 September 2017

Autumn rains, Autumn leaves

The past two months have seen exceptional rainfall over the Westcountry, with spates occurring consistently every few days. The water was often hopeless for trout fishing, while night sea trouting was pretty well killed off completely before July had even ended. A huge spate in early August saw the Lyd peak at just over 1.8 meters, while another in early September put the Tamar up to 1.76 meters. Trout and sea trout fishing is just about to close down, while we have another fortnight left for the salmon. With 14 fish on our catch charts so far, plus two more from Endsleigh, we have already exceeded last year's rather poor catch of only 13 salmon, while the sea trout total is likely to be just a few fish less than last year (137).

The view down the Tamar at Lyd Foot pool in the first week of August. The monster Lyd spate was proportionally much higher than the Tamar, and has produced a massive bank of gravel and stones right across the pool, running diagonally from the Devon to the Cornish bank, and clearly visible in this photo. The normal tail of the pool can be seen several yards downstream in the distance. It has not stopped salmon from lying near the head of the pool in the Tamar run, which produced fish of 7 and 12 pounds a few days after this shot was taken.

An 18 inch Lyd sea trout. Just a few casts previously David had a take from a salmon which he had just seen show, when this peal took it behaved more like a salmon and until almost in the net David believed he was playing a small grilse.


In early September John Rigby and party came for a couple of nights sea trout fishing, but had to contend with daytime instead due to high and coloured water. It was not a bad call, with John's fish above being well eclipsed by one of four and a half pounds for Steve Lidgate, unfortunately we do not have a picture. This is likely to be our biggest sea trout for this year.

Eliza Pettit with her first salmon, taken on a Beginner's Salmon Course last weekend. The fish was a 22 inch fresh grilse, from Lower Tunnel pool on beat 7B, which took a small Park Shrimp tube fly. The hook and fly came out as soon as the fish was netted, and can be seen in the net. The fish never left the water, and swam away strongly. Eliza's father, James, had an eight-pounder from Tunnel pool only half an hour later.


David Pilkington, hooking a leaf about every third cast, in Silver Doctor pool on the Lyd. As a highly experienced fly fisher who took his first salmon 50 years ago, and with an intimate knowledge of the Arundell Arms water, David spectacularly failed to catch any of the three different salmon which showed in the pool a few minutes after this shot was taken. He is currently seeking advice on technique from Eliza.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Fun in the sun

Low water has persisted for much of the first part of the trout season, but there has been some fine fishing on our rivers. Sea trout are now running in increasing numbers every night, and we are making forays to the coast in pursuit of the bass.

David Pilkington failing spectacularly to catch a nice trout rising in this tasty little run on the Ottery


A stealthy approach in low clear water.


The reward, a cracking wild brownie in top condition.


David Chapman of the Westcountry Rivers Trust demonstrating kick-sampling for invertebrates on our Wild Trout weekend. Note full summer elegance.


Striding through a gentle surf for bass on the north Devon coast.
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Charlie Coups with her first night-caught sea trout, a beauty of  3 pounds 4 ounces from the Lyd.




David exhibiting the level of concentration needed to catch wild trout. Note the downward glance at a fast moving reflection of a bird on the water surface, the upward glance to determine if it was a cormorant, and the trout taking full advantage of this to take and eject the mayfly. Expletive deleted. It was a mallard.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

April trout fishing


In the words of T.S. Eliot, April is the cruellest month, stirring dull roots with spring rain. Well, true enough, except for the rain, which has been totally absent for the month so far. Some nights have been cruelly cold, frost early, to be swept away by a hard bright sun, not exactly what the fisherman would order, but then, it is April. A symptom of the cold conditions has been the number of grayling still being taken by trout fishers - as the water warms the grayling become preoccupied with spawning and are seldom caught, but are still featuring regularly in catches on our rivers. 


The staring eye of a grayling, taken on the River Ottery yesterday on a nymph. Note the overshot top jaw, indicating the primarily bottom- feeding habit of the grayling.


 David Pilkington about to land a cracking two-and-a-half pound rainbow on Tinhay lake for young Hugh Shilson, fishing on a four-day beginner's courses. Note that we are huddled in winter coats. 

Total focus and concentration on the lad's face as the fish veers away from the net.

Marilyn Whitmell with a five-pounder from Tinhay.

The moment a trout fell for the nymph on the Ottery, necessitating a rapid strike.

Grannom ( Brachycentrus Subnubilis) are still the main hatching fly, although the first of the Black Gnats are already on the water in small numbers - when they really get going, so will the trout,




Superb footage of a dog otter feeding in the shallows at the tail of Willow Pool on the Tamar. Otters regularly work the shallow stickles for loach and bullheads, if you watch this one carefully you can see his jaws chomping. Darren Saunders, fishing wet fly on our beginner's course, was concentrating so hard on his fishing that he failed to see the competition in his pool for several seconds.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The trout season is upon us!


March on the river - spring sunshine and the chance to fly fish once again. Realistically, the fish are still recovering from spawning, and very little fly will be hatching this early in the year. The water is still cold, and we have been close to freezing overnight. However, who could not enjoy a day like this?


In the absence of a rising trout, David tries a nymph in a tempting little pool on the river Wolf.


A nymph of the stone-clinging variety, a heptagenid.

This stone was crawling with Simulium larvae. These little guys will soon pupate in their distinctive flat-sided conical cases, before emerging in swarms as Black Gnats.

A close-up of another heptagenid. The head and leg segments are all angled downwards like the spoilers on a racing car, to allow the nymph to cling onto stones even in a fast current.

The sight of a rising trout prompts a change to the dry fly. A dry Grannom Emerger - how could any trout resist this? 

Here's one which couldn't!

The barbless hook held well, but came out easily.

Absolutely stunning colours of a wild river Wolf brown trout - the adidose fin is always bright red, but the spot on this one is quite unusual.

Winter is not really gone while the blackthorn blossoms.



An underrated flower, the blackthorn is so pretty at close quarters.

Alex really likes photographing nymphs!

Daffodils will very soon be over, but the riverbanks are a riot of them at present.




Friday, 3 March 2017

Preparations are afoot


Meteorological spring is now officially upon us. Dog's Mercury and Purple Toothwort are in flower on the riverbank, and all thoughts are being concentrated on the season ahead. Some lovely and deadly flies are being tied in anticipation, quite how any fish could possibly resist them remains to be seen. The river trout season opens again on March 15th, and for some it cannot come soon enough.


Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Frogspawn in the ditches

Frogspawn in the ditches, snowdrops on the banks. A new sense of impending Spring is creeping through the woods and fields. A blush of bright fresh green is now showing as the new leaves are breaking on the hawthorn, and the wild honeysuckle is flushing a delicate sage-green as the life of another season starts to appear. The first Grannom were seen on the Tamar, and a fish was seen rising last Sunday. It took a dry grannom emerger on the very first cast, not the hoped-for grayling, but a brownie. A few more brownies, along with a peal kelt and a couple of very silver ( and quite early!) sea trout smolts, took the nymph intended for grayling. A brace of grayling did oblige, along with a better one which wriggled free of the barbless hook before the leader could be touched - under accepted rules of engagement, this fish definitely lost, not caught.



Can you see this man? If so, he would like his money back from the Army surplus store. Fortunately, the cormorants were lulled into a false sense of security.

Mankind may have thought himself very clever when he hit on the idea of using a hook to catch fish, but as ever, Mother Nature was there long before. This is the last thing many smolts and other fish see, prior to disappearing alive down the gullet of our least favourite waterside bird. Our licence from Natural England allows us to shoot one cormorant per calendar month, during the winter period only, so that is it for February.