Saturday, 20 August 2011

Fly Fishing Devon - on a bike. Part 5

After a troubled night, with the noise of more heavy rain drumming on my bivi bag, I awoke to a beautiful sunrise and enjoyed breakfast with the rare feeling of sun on my face. I had an appointment this morning with the guys at the Westcountry Rivers Trust at their office, some 25 miles away, so as tempting as it was to stay, I had to get moving. Today was the reward for yesterday’s grind up onto Dartmoor; a glorious freewheel for almost 10 miles off the moor and down through Tavistock.

Across the River Tamar and into Cornwall I very soon arrived at Stoke Climsland, the home of the WRT, to be met by the Director Dr Dylan Bright, Angling Development Officer Dave Chapman and the rest of the staff. Here, over a very welcome Cornish pasty and a beer, I learnt more about the work of the Trust. I am not going to go into the work that this charity does here, I will post seperately on the subject later, suffice to say they are a key player in much of what has happened to improve the watercourses and fisheries in the Westcountry since it's creation in 1995. Take a look at their website

Suitably refreshed I pushed pushed on for the finally few miles to the banks of the River Inny, a tributary of the Tamar. As I set up for the final onslaught I talked to the farmer who owns the beat, he told me about the numbers of sea trout and salmon that run the river late summer given a good spate. However, a good spate is something this river had not see for many months. It appears that Sunday's rain fell only on me. I hobbled down the steep valley to find the river running low and gin clear, 'about as low as I can remember seeing it' said the farmer.

I spent a few hours working my way gently upstream fishing the New Zealand rig or single dry flies, casting to free rising brown trout. I had hopes for a grayling today, alas they failed to put in an appearance. It was a fitting end to my 5 rivers adventure, obliging trout, beautiful surroundings and a warm sun on my back. I have no idea how many fish I caught, it's not important, I have no doubt that my reactions were blunted by 5 days of pedalling, but I do know that I savoured every last second on that lovely beat until it was time to wind-up and make my way slowly (very slowly) up the steep hill to my lift home.


Friday, 19 August 2011

Fly Fishing Devon - on a bike. Part 4

Despite knocking off 15 miles last night today's journey up on to the top of Dartmoor was a grind. The fishing here is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, 15 miles of brown trout fishing with salmon and sea trout a possibility in the main rivers - East and West Dart - given water. Fishing permits can be purchased for cash or exchanged for passport tokens at a number of local outlets including the Two Bridges Hotel, outside of which I parked my bike.

I wandered in to reception where a large group of people were enjoying pre-dinner drinks, ladies in summer dresses, gentlemen in shirts and ties, me in 3 day old cycling gear, sodden from rain and sweat. I would suggest at this stage that I was a little 'bedraggled' and probably the last person the staff were expecting to see. The member of staff that served me was not as versed in the arrangements for purchasing permits as I was and flatly refused to exchange my tokens for the permit, 'we don't accept them this year, its changed'. He would not be swayed, despite me pointing out the Angling Passport logo printed all over the permit, or the 2011 passport brochure which stated very clearly that they could be exchanged. 'Besides' he said, fingering my proffered tokens 'they are wet'. 'They are wet?' says I, my voice rising an octave, 'I have cycled over 100 miles to be here, they are wet, I am wet, everything I own is wet'. He was not going to change his mind (he was wrong, I checked at the Westcountry Rivers Trust, the Hotel has now been re-educated, I understand) so I handed over my £10 note, it too was wet, but he didn't mind. I beat a trail out of there and went fishing.

Cherrybrook is a tiny stream, it is beautiful and tranquil, but that isn't why I chose it, you are spoilt for beautiful and tranquil fishing up here, no the reason I chose to fish Cherrybrook is that it is a flat journey from the Hotel to there, simple.

Fishing the Cherrybrook

I hid my bike amongst the tall moorland grass and walked downstream away from the road bridge and the picnic munching tourists that had gathered there despite the brisk wind. Within minutes of venturing away from the moorland roads I was struck by the remote beauty and seclusion of the fishery. The stream itself was running clear with only the peaty stain, typical to these moorland waters, evident. There was some surprisingly varied fishing for such a small stream, narrow fast running sections, small pools that just scream fish and long canal like glides. With a large head of trout and relatively meagre feeding opportunities the fish cannot afford to be too picky. I found any small, dark dry fly would produce the desired response and fishing was fast and furious. The brown trout were small, 4-6 inches at most, but beautiful with dark backs, to match the peat stained water, gradually fading to a light, silvery, yellow belly with dark red, almost claret spots.

Small, but perfectly formed.
I fished on until dark, completely absorbed into the surroundings and the fishing, I pitched the bivi close to the stream, readied myself for bed and ate dinner - pasta for the last time, I was starting to get bored of pasta.
The gortex coffin. It's all about the location.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Fly Fishing Devon - on a bike. Part 3

Normally anglers blog the great days, big catches, loads of photos of grinning anglers and fish. Not all days are like that, today wasn't like that, here's the blog anyway.

I awoke on day 3 to the sound of rain against the bivi bag and for a second I contemplated cycling the 30 miles to the River Torridge in my chest waders. Despite the weather the journey was enjoyable, some great views, a close encounter with a full pack of fox hounds and not too many hills.
As I popped my 5 tokens into the Gortleigh beat postbox I heard the first rumble of thunder, by the time I was kitted up it was raining again, only this time with more purpose. The beat consist of over a mile of the river Torridge and a small leat, a good amount of fishing for your tokens. Some good runs and excellent looking salmon and sea trout holding pools. Anticipating that the rain might very soon put the river out of condition I quickly tackled up, a Duo Rig, standard prospecting set up for me and set off slowly upstream.

not just a nice fishing spot but I could hide under the bridge from the rain.

With me today was Nikki Davies, a photographer from North Devon (check out, I don't know if she does underwater photography, but it could have come in handy as the rain intensified and started to give the appearance of being 'set in'. She managed some great shots, despite the weather and the good thing about working with a Pro such as Nikki as you forget they are there, I can concentrate on the fishing and not worry about 'getting the shot'.

A photo of the photographer, photographing.

A managed a couple of fish, around the 6-8inch mark, on a weighted pheasant tail nymph fished under the dry fly. And then things went down hill. Firstly the rain got even heavier, so much so that it was time for Nikki to give up before her expensive gear got completely saturated. Working with a pro is a real treat and it was a shame that we didn't get the conditions to get the best from it. Secondly, approximately 5 minutes after Nikki left the sun came out, damn. Thirdly, shortly after that I snapped a rod. Completely my fault, I hooked up on some himalayan balsam (this river struggles with it too) just as I started into the forward cast and I guess that the two sections had been gradually working apart because with a loud crack the rod broke at the male part of the ferrule. So back to the bike, out with the spare rod and try for a sea trout as the river starts to rise. An hour lately, soaked to the skin, river the colour of cocoa I decide to knock it on the head. On my way back to the bike I bump in to a local farmer who fishes the beat regularly. Typically, he assures me that I should be here tomorrow, with the freshwater in the river he expects a good run of peal and salmon.

Wet, wet, wet.

At 4.30pm it was too early to head for the campsite, so back into the riding gear and back on the road. I ticked off 15 miles of the next day's route and at 8pm I pulled in to a campsite on the banks of Roadford Reservoir. As I had neared the lake I had contemplated fishing the last hour or so of day light, I like this lake, some very nice brown trout live there and I considered salvaging the day with a fish or two as we went into dark. And Angling Passport tokens can be used on all Southwest Lakes. However, as I rolled in to the campsite I realised just how cold, wet, tired and hungry I was. It quickly became evident that I needed to concentrate on my own welfare for a while. Thankfully the campsite had fantastic showers, I must have been in them for half an hour. I made camp and went to bed after dinner - pasta, feeling a little sorry for myself and hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Fly Fishing Devon - on a bike Part 2

OK, it has taken me a while to catch up with things following my 5 Rivers Adventure, writing, sorting hundreds of photos, drying out everything I own, laundry, ordering up a new section for a rod I broke, etc, etc. I am there now back on top of things so I will report on the 4 remaining days of the trip in fairly quick order and clear the decks in time for some saltwater flyfishing this weekend - a great motivation!

Day 2 was a shorter journey, 20 odd miles and I guess perhaps because of this I had completely underestimated the task. The first 3 miles were uphill, seriously uphill and damn nearly killed me! I found throughout the trip that as far as cycling goes, I am a slow starter and to climb immediately, before 'things get going' wrote me off for the rest of the journey. I laboured in to Witheridge and on to the start of the day's beat after about 4.5 hours in the saddle. The Little Dart is a tributary of the Taw and as I looked over the bridge it looked low and yet coloured, this could be tough.

Jungle warfare.

I saw few fish moving as I crept my way upstream, nevertheless I persevered with a single dry fly, mainly due to the shallow water. This was a relatively small beat - 500m consisting of a few runs and some slow pools, you can imagine peal coming through here, given water.

with very little flow to disguise your approach, everything had to be delicate and sneaky.

By the time I reached the top of the beat I had two small fish to my name. Thankfully immediately upstream of this beat was another Westcountry Angling Passport beat and after lunch I made my way upstream and popped 3 tokens into the Essabeare beat postbox. Immediately things started to look a little more lively.

the Essabeare beat is descried as 'fishing lilliput' in the brochure. This was the widest section.

Fish rising under the leafy trees with no real hatch evident had me thinking that maybe aphids and bugs blown on to the water were on the menu. A tiny green F-fly fished under the trees produced some good results, a succession of lovely brown trout up to around 10inches graced my net. Given the conditions a pleasing result salvaged from a very slow start.

The trout was suitably impressed with Derrick's two weight.

A short hop on the bike to the local campsite and a well deserved shower. As the clouds gathered I sat down to dinner - pasta.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Devon Fly Fishing - on a bike. Part one.

Hi Folks, well I did it! 150 miles across Devon and into Cornwall on my bicycle, camping at night and fishing at day, 5 different rivers in 5 days. I have been back a few days now and have been sifting through over 400 photographs, writing and talking to people about my trip. If you would like to hear my interview with BBC Radio Devon live from the banks of the river Inny it will be on the iplayer for the next couple of days at:
the interview is 2.43 along the time line.

Day one was nearly 35 miles from home to the river Culm near the village of Bradninch. I had planned the majority of the journey on B roads and minor roads to avoid the traffic and to see more of rural Devon. Unfortunately the Town of Tiverton was unavoidable and lead to the first navigational faux pas of the trip, perhaps adding a couple of additional miles. Suddenly road signs became pointers to distant cities as opposed to the next village a couple of miles away and I found it difficult to find the next waypoint on my journey when offered a choice of the road to Bristol or the road to Plymouth. Anyway, I got there, eventually.

The River Culm is a river of contradictions; absorbing, tranquil fishing yet just 100 yards from the M5 motorway. The beat I fished consisted of long, slow glides interrupted by faster riffles, the banks are lined with thick verges of nettles and himalayan balsam - an invasive weed that is the scourge of so many fisheries in these parts. It would be very difficult to fish here without picking up the odd scratch or nettle sting as you fight your way to the river. Once in the river the tall vegetation serves as a screen and very quickly a found the drone of the traffic, punctuated by the odd train, (I didn't mention the main railway line) disappears into the background.

Fishing amongst the Himalayan Balsam.

I found the fishing to be completely absorbing, not too many fish rising, but responding to a number of different tactics as I chopped and changed to match the different water I encountered. There is a good head of trout here, I had fish to about 12 inches and lost what looked like a beauty, on a dry fly, which let go after a brief tussle, well over the 1lb mark I reckon. The Culm is a mixed fishery, there are chub, dace and roach in addition to trout but I didn't encounter any today.

Culm Brown Trout

I left the river having had a very enjoyable few hours fishing but without feeling that I had actually cracked it, I couldn't help thinking that the river had more to offer. Next time. With the nearest campsite some 7 miles in the wrong direction I found a friendly farmer who allowed me to make camp in his field. Dinner - Pasta. And then squeeze into my bivi bag which for the un-initiated can best be thought of as a coffin made of gortex.

That's it for now, I will post about day 2 soon, a day of hills, jungle warfare and close encounters with hard of hearing animals.


Thursday, 4 August 2011

The start of another adventure!

Well it has arrived - the start of a new adventure. The bike is loaded, the flies tied, the beats sorted and the body steeled (well OK - I have eaten loads of pasta if that counts). The plan is relatively simple, to cycle across Devon into Cornwall and to fish a different river each day. The reality is a little more difficult, approximately 150 miles of cycling carrying loads of kit, food, clothing, camping gear, cooking gear and of course fishing gear. I must confess I am a little nervous.

'The Stead' fully loaded and ready to roll, albeit slowly.

I am fishing beats of the Westcountry Angling Passport. This is a great scheme offering a large number of very interesting wild fishing at very reasonable prices. The scheme is simple, you buy a number of tokens and when the mood takes you just select a likely looking beat from the brochure and off you go. When you get there you will find a postbox, simply put the requisite number of tokens in the box and you're away and fishing. The guys at the Westcountry Rivers Trust have been very supportive and I have been invited to call in on them on Tuesday as I head towards my last beat, they are planning a little welcoming committee and have even had some interest from the local press. I just hope I don't run out of steam somewhere along the way and fail to turn up!

Passport to an angling adventure

The planning process has been interesting, deciding on the kit has been a process of compromise. Luxuries were the first to go of course but I had to also decide to ditch some of the items that I would otherwise have considered essential. The route I have planned takes in a nice variety of beats, a couple I know well and guide on, one I have fished only once and a couple I have never fished, so it should be interesting. I have in the back of my mind an idea of what I would like to catch but I am sure you will understand if I keep it to myself at this stage! The one guarantee about fishing for wild fish is that nothing can be guaranteed!

Tomorrow sees me set off on the first leg, a cycle of about 35 miles to fish the Culm. If you would like to keep track of me as I cycle and fish my way across the County you can follow me on otherwise you can read about things when I get home. Also whilst we are on the subject of keeping in touch Adventure Fly Fishing UK is now on Facebook, please feel free to take a look and perhaps post a message or two.

Back soon.