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West Country Angling 2014 Season Report

March 17th, 2015 by David Chapman 0 comments

Westcountry Angling Passport - 2014 Season Summary

A warm year with long periods of dry weather made fishing very tough at times.  The general lack of migratory fish added to the difficulties for the salmon and sea trout anglers.  However, like any year, there was some good angling had and, let’s face it, a day fishing is always better than a day a work!


Scarce to say the least.  Just five fish reported from the whole of the scheme speaks for itself and shows how difficult it was to catch a salmon in 2014.  The first fish of the season was caught in early July at Sydenham on spinner, a 10lb hen fish that was safely returned to the river.  The other fish all came off the late rivers, a small grilse from Rivermead on the Fowey in mid-September was followed by another of 5lb towards the end of the month.  The other two fish were also small but this time off the Upper Yealm beat; they were 3lb and 5lb respectively, one on 20 November, the other on 1 December.

Sea Trout

As you would perhaps expect, more sea trout were evident than salmon although not many of the Passport’s waters are that heavily fished for peal.  Some night fishing does takes place with Rothern Bridge producing good sport mid-season with a number of peal recorded with the best a belter estimated at 4lb (there’s a photo of this one on the gallery).  A number of peal were also taken at night from the Upper Yealm beat, with most of the fish in the 1.5lb to 2lb range.  

Stealthy nymph techniques can also be used by day to sneak up on peal, particularly as river levels drop off a few days after a spate.  Six were recorded from Sydenham on the Lyd over the season using this technique with a best of 3.5lb; no mean feat given the conditions.   A number of peal, mainly school peal in the 3/4lb to 1.5lb range, were also recorded on the Token Beats at Netherbridge on the Tamar, Ham Mill on the Ottery and Tresarret on the Camel.     

Brown Trout and Grayling

Most anglers have their favourite beats, the ones they get to know well and the ones they can count on to produce a good session, even when conditions are tough.  This year, the fishing was very difficult at times but plenty of fish were caught with few surprises on which were the most productive beats. 

Sydenham on the Lyd recorded 289 brown trout and 34 grayling although nothing particularly huge except some larger grayling including a real lump of 18”.  Castle Hill on the Bray was close behind with 281 brownies including a number over 13” with a best of 15.5”, a large fish for a Westcountry spate stream.  Ham Mill on the Ottery (which also includes a length on the main Tamar) also did very well totalling 207 brown trout and 46 grayling.  The Upper Teign fishery, Wiggaton at the top of the Ottery, Knowle Farm on the Lew a tributary of the Lyd and Tresarret on the Camel all also produced plenty of fish over the season. 

Some of the less well known beats also produced well.  Tregeagle in West Cornwall on the little Tresillian River produced plenty of wild browns up to 11” as did Garramarsh Farm on the Mole in North Devon.  Boldford Bridge on the Carey also recorded a good number of browns and also 24 grayling.      

We are lucky in this part of the country to be able to switch to a lake when conditions dictate.  Tokens can be used as payment or part payment for day tickets on all of the South West Lakes Trust waters as well as Drift in West Cornwall (where a boat and float tubes are available for hire).  Roadford was back to its best in 2013 but didn’t quite manage to produce the same level of consistent sport in 2014 although a number of 5lb + grown on brown trout were taken.  Catches held up on the other brown trout waters at Colliford and Fernworthy and sport was often hectic on the rainbow trout waters where bag numbers were good at Kennick, Wimbleball and Siblyback. 

Overall, we faced long periods of very warm weather in 2014 resulting in low river levels; we also had a small invasion of perch on the Tamar, but catches weren’t too bad.  Looking forward, the road bridge at Champerhaies on the Culm will be repaired come the start of the new season meaning this beat will be open for fishing again and, so far, the weather is behaving itself reasonably well over winter which bodes well.  This has also allowed quite a bit of winter grayling fishing to take place (Tamar, Carey, Batherm, Frome) with some still going on, including trotting if you prefer at Downacarey where 8 fish to 1lb were taken by one angler over Christmas.  Also, rainbow trout fishing is available at Burrator Reservoir until the end of February, not quite winter steelhead but at least a chance to wet a line!    

Dartmoor Fishery

The ‘Moor’ usually reflects the weather pattern experienced and this year has been the most challenging that most can remember.  However, when totting up numbers of the fish encountered things were a bit better than expected with 837 brown trout recorded and a largest of 17”, a very large fish on these waters.  There were a few other larger fish in the 12” to 14” range but these seemed few and far between.  There seems little doubt that the long and dry summer really affected the fishery with the fish seeming to disappear during the warmer periods.  As usual, a mix of nymphs and dries accounted for most of the fish with the usual patterns such as hare’s ear, PTN, klinks and elk hair emergers doing well.   

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