Monday, 8 February 2016

Storm Imogen, and her pals

From the tranquil fastness of the Home Counties, it may be difficult to comprehend quite what this winter has been like here in Devon. Last week a couple of dry days ( about the only two dry days together!) gave some hope that the endless storms, Atlantic fronts, gales etc., were actually tempering slightly. How wrong we were! Even before storm Imogen gave us today's 80 mph winds and 15 metre waves at sea, last Saturday flooded the village.Trench Foot has now become endemic in Devon, and there are rumours of folks developing webbed feet and gills.

Saturday February 6th saw a day of relentless rain, one Radio Devon weather watcher reporting the highest 24 hour rainfall he had ever recorded in 50 years. The River Lyd peaked at over 11 feet, and was out in the road at Lifton Bridge. The flattened daffodils and scoured banks, exposing stems of flower yet to bloom, say it all.
The water came about a foot up the telegraph pole.
Flood debris in the blackthorn bush on the top of the bank at Silver Doctor pool

The high water mark, shown like the tide mark on a beach by a line of woody debris, right out in the field beside Hairy Mary pool on Bottom beat.

Note the semi-automatic shotgun. Cormorants still fish the river in high and dirty water, and we have yet to account for this winter's quota.

The water level at Tinhay Lake has risen greatly in the past few days. The water beside the willow bush is at welly-top height. However, all is not doom and gloom - whilst trying (unsuccessfully) for a grayling last week,  David caught several little salmon parr and a few trout, along with a bright shining silver sea trout smolt. It is seriously early to find the trout smolting up, but this one had obviously already booked his ticket to the English Channel, and we hope to see him again as a school peal in July. All this rain and wind has kept temperatures well above average, and the blush of hawthorn leaves in the hedges is a joy to see. It would all look just a little better if the sun was shining

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Storm Frank

Storm Frank passed over Devon yesterday, to give us the biggest spate of the winter. We have (so far!) missed the devastating floods which have been hitting the north of the country, but the Tamar burst her banks for the first time this winter and inundated the flood plain - which is what flood plains are designed for by nature.

A howling gale and incessant rain made it a tricky day for shooting some of the Westcountry's best pheasants down at Pentillie Castle, at least it was not too cold.

We hardly dare to look at what havoc has been wreaked on the river banks, there were already several tree fallen, some of which will have been relocated we know not where.

Please do not call to book a day's grayling fishing for a little while!

Click on the video below to see the river in action.

The river Lyd at Lifton Bridge, with the spate pretty well at its peak.

The Tamar at Polson Bridge. 

The view upstream from Polson

The Lyd in Lifton. One very big and dirty river, almost filling the bridge arches.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

T'was the week before Christmas...

While Scotland now has snow, and Cumbria is struggling to dry out, the South West has endured the mildest autumn ever. Some of the night temperatures would have been acceptable for July. Along the hedge bottoms and grass verges the new growth of grasses and weeds is reminiscent of April. And all through the past couple of months it has rained, and rained, and rained. We have forgotten what the sun looks like, and are in danger of succumbing to S. A. D. Grayling fishing remains a distant dream, as millions of gallons of dirty water roll down the rivers, and river maintenance work is restricted to the upper levels of the bank. Most telling of all the signs of Nature, for the past two mornings a cock blackbird has been singing his heart out in the hotel garden, and getting a response from his rival in the next garden.

Campions add colour to the winter riverbank

The tiny, dainty Cranesbill is out of place for late Decmber

The hazel catkins look ready to burst.
Click the arrow on the video below, to see a hen salmon (mid-screen) completely immobile, lying hard on her redd in a strong clear flow on the upper Lyd. The cock fish, who was hovering nearby drifts past, showing a spot of fungus on his nose. Their eggs will be the grilse of 2019, or the salmon of 2020, and we wish them well.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

The camera cannot lie?

These photos show Quarry Pool, one of our best and easiest fished salmon pools, in before and after mode. We have trimmed the encroaching bramble patch, which was catching the back-cast of those who favour overhead casting, and also tidied up various limbs and bushes around the neck of the pool, including some on the opposite bank, which required passports, visas, inocculations etc., to allow us to cross into Cornwall. The panoramic layout of the photo gives the impression that the Tamar curves smoothly to the right, those who know the pool can rest assured that we have not actually moved the river.

Quarry pool 'Au naturel'.

After some fettling.
On a wider note, a foray onto the higher reaches of the Lyd last week failed to reveal any spawning salmon, but I am now happy to report that yesterday on beat 3 we saw the first redds. The weather has been extremely mild, night temperatures well above the seasonal average for the daytime, along with wet, dull and generally miserable conditions. A sharp drop in water temperatures would now really get the fish spawning, and everybody could by now benefit from seeing some sunshine.

Friday, 13 November 2015


Guests who only see us during the summer sometimes ask 'what do you do in the winter?'
The answer is dictated to us by weather and water conditions. When the rivers are low and clear enough we often steal an hour to fish for grayling. Otherwise, there just happens to be 20 miles of river-bank which needs to be maintained and kept fishable, so this is the mainstay of our winter work. Overhanging branches always seem to be growing just where one wants to cast, and when these hang down from a main trunk at a great height, the job is significant.
Soon enough now, the sea trout and salmon will be spawning, and we hope to capture some photos of this in the next two or three weeks. The woodcock will be flighting in on the next full moon, so there may also be the need to accept an odd shooting invitation! 

David fishing the Lyd in water which was clear enough, but really too high for much hope with the grayling. 

A cast below Hartley weir on beat 3. The height and force of the flow clearly shows on the weir. A few small trout came to the nymph, the lady of the stream kept her nose down and her mouth closed. These consistent high flows have encouraged salmon and sea trout to push upstream to their spawning grounds.

The otter leaves his mark on a  riverside stone, note his urine has killed off the moss. His spraint is there for other passing otters to take note. Adult male otters are fiercely territorial and will kill young males trying to move into their stretch of river.

Serious tree surgery on Silver Doctor pool on the Lyd. The limbs being addressed were hanging down to within a few feet of the water surface, but grew out from the trunk some 30 feet higher. Our tree surgeon used his ropes and climbing kit to go another 15 feet up to reach them. Please note that we are still using the imperial system of measurement!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

October Salmon Fishing

October has often been our best month for salmon, 2015 being no exception. A series of spates has combined to give excellent water for the last few days of this season and several salmon have been caught, and all released in line with our current policy. A beginners' salmon fly fishing course over the weekend of 10th and 11th October produced two fish for the pupils, with another hooked and lost and fish seen showing in most pools on the Tamar.

David fishing the Lyd in stunning autumn sunshine

Adam Fozard with his first salmon, a coloured hen of between 5 and 6 pounds, from Snipe pool on Beat 8A

The distinctive blunt head of Adam's hen fish

John Bramall with his first salmon, a well coloured cock fish from Lyd Foot pool on beat 7A, taken on a conehead Cascade tube. David reaching for his tape measure.

The fish measured 26 inches.

Observe the much longer jaw and kype of the cock fish.