Monday, 7 January 2019

"We hold these truths to be self-evident".

Alexander Jones and David Pilkington looking suitably smug with their woodcock. The self-evident truth is that all 3 woodcock shot that day were killed by chaps wearing ties and breeks, is it just pure coincidence that these sporting little birds allowed themselves to be shot by those who were correctly attired?

The right load, 28 grams of 7 shot.

January has at last dried up a little, making a day rough shooting so much more pleasant. After over a month of heavy floods, grayling fishing has once again become a reality. 27 have so far been caught since Christmas, with pride of place going to Jon Barnard, top rod with a catch of 6 in a morning, topped by an absolute cracker of 16 inches. The fish came from the rough water at the neck of Donkey pool on beat 3 of the Lyd, and proved quite a handful in the strong flow.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Midwinter Blues

Tinhay Lake this morning. Where David is standing was dry land only 6 weeks ago.

Groundwater levels are now rising fast - longer waders needed soon!

After such a dry summer, the absolute polarisation of weather and water through the seasons really hits home. We could not buy a decent drop of rain from May to the end of September, yet the last few weeks have seen endless downpours. It is said that Mother Nature always repays her debts, and how true that is. Roadford reservoir, which was drawn down to less that half its capacity this year, is refilling rapidly, with a 5% rise in just a week.

Pale winter sunshine and leafless trees on the river Lyd.

Silver Doctor Pool on the Lyd. The river has dropped a good couple of feet from the overnight peak, and is still carrying a lot of colour. Grayling fishing is definitely on hold for the moment.
For the fish in our rivers, the high autumn flows have made access to the very highest tributaries nice and easy, so there should be a very wide geographical distribution of spawning fish. Sea trout in particular will push well up tiny streams to spawn, and have been seen in pools where a decent fish could barely turn around. David and Alex saw sea trout redds on the Ottery, Wolf, Thrushel, Lyd and Lew. The big flows have not done any favours to our spawning salmon, which are usually some days later than the sea trout,but there were some late fish still coming out of the estuary very recently. They have evolved in these rivers, and no doubt next summer there will be tiny salmon fry around again.
May we wish everybody a very Merry Christmas, and Tight Lines for 2019.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Now the drought REALLY breaks!

My last post proved to be a little premature - as soon as Storm Bronagh had passed, summer returned, with warm days and nights, and rivers dropping right back to dead low once more. Salmon fishing remained hopeless, and even the trout were tough to catch. I had an afternoon for grayling on the Tamar a few days ago, where each footstep in the water was like an earthquake, each step a tsunami, and the most delicate cast landed like a shipwreck. Despite spooking a lot of fish, I managed 6 beautiful grayling and 8 lovely, out-of-season brownies, all on small dry cdc patterns.
Storm Callum is still raging as I write, with 2.8 inches of rain here at Lifton in the past 30 hours. The rivers are still rising, raging down the valleys in full, glorious spate, carrying leaves, branches and entire trees on their journey to the sea. Salmon and sea trout, bottled up for months in the lower river, will now make strenuous efforts to reach their chosen spawning grounds. It will be quite a sight on the weirs as these fish valiantly fling themselves at the maelstrom. I never fail to marvel at their determination, and we all wish them well on their travels.
David Pilkington

Saturday, 22 September 2018

The drought breaks!

Storm Bronagh swept across Devon overnight on Thursday 20th September. We recorded almost an inch of rain here at Lifton, and the moors and high ground would certainly have had significantly heavier stuff. All the rivers were in a filthy spate first thing on Friday, most of them up around a foot, and carrying all the accumulated silt and algae of the whole summer. The rain had already cleared to a few sharp but very short-lived showers, and in no time at all the levels started to fall.
David walked up to Hartley weir on Beat 3, where the Lyd was roaring over the weir, half of which had been dry land for many weeks. The salmon have taken no time at all to start moving, and a number of salmon and sea trout were leaping at the weir. All the salmon seen were well coloured, as were the sea trout, and are now moving up into the higher reaches in preparation for spawning.
Sergegs Llobanov from Latvia was here for a 50th birthday weekend,  courtesy of his daughter who is at university in Britain. He fished Tinhay lake in the morning and had 4 rainbows, but was keen to fish for real trout on a river. After lunch, having had a quick scout around to check on levels and clarity, David took him to Beat 17 on the upper Lyd which, although still fairly rattling along, had cleared to a fishable state.
A few trout were actually rising, and Sergegs was delighted to catch several trout, including his first ever on a dry fly, an Elk Hair caddis of his own tying. David could not resist a few casts on the Lyd up on Beat 20, where he landed 9 brownies, best two at 8 inches, all on a dry CDC sedge. All the fish were in lovely condition, and the bigger mature trout were obviously well on towards spawning. Careful handling and barbless hooks had them all safely back in the river in seconds.
Rain is falling again, and is forecast to do so all day and on into Sunday morning, so we are expecting rivers to rise again today and indeed tomorrow. At least the summer of 2018, very nice though it may have been for some, has well and truly ended, the parched ground has had a good soaking, and fish are ascending the system once again. We will not be sad to see the end of the drought, and wish our fish a very successful time on the redds.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Leave no stone unturned!

Click on the video below for a view of an otter on the Tamar, taken Sunday 16th September. David had just fished the shallows ( well, the whole river is 'shallows' at present) and taken a salmon parr and two brownies, when the otter appeared almost at his feet. It is difficult to see just what the animal is eating, but by the very quick chomping of the jaws and the immediate resumption of hunting it must be small stuff, possibly loach or bullheads. David filmed the creature for quite a while before, as is obvious, he was at last spotted. The otter makes a poor effort at retreating, takes another look, and carries on fishing completely unperturbed. All this took place at around 4.00 p.m., not bad for a supposedly shy and nocturnal beast.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Still 'enjoying' the 'wonderful' summer of 2018

You may have noticed that it has been rather warm this summer, and slightly short of rain. Here in the now green and pleasant land of Devon, one could almost believe that all was well. Sadly, the dribs and drabs of drizzle which fell here and there in August, although just sufficient to green up the fields and bring the silage munchers out in force, has been woefully inadequate to top up the parched ground. While digging a hole for a fence post recently, David went down to his elbow in the soil and it was still coming up like dust, completely dry. So, unsurprisingly, our rivers are a tad low.

This is the river Thrushel at the gauging station at the top of beat 5B.

This is the river Lyd on Beat 2 by the Ambrosia factory. Although very low and tranquil, the Lyd is fed from the high tops of Dartmoor and has still managed to retain some hint of a resemblance to a river. Sea trout have made their way through to above the weir on Beat 3, but even for night fishers they have been elusive in the sedate and clear water.

Wow! A river bubbling with a strong flow of water. This is the gauging station on the river Thrushel on Beat 4, only a couple of miles downstream from the first photo. Roadford reservoir is currently releasing 80 megalitres of water a day, which comes down the river Wolf, into the Thrushel, then the Lyd, and on down the Tamar to Gunnislake, where it is all pumped out to go and keep the good people of Plymouth suitably hydrated. This picture comprises about 95% reservoir water, and of course this does not reach the sea. However it is very useful to give our guests some flowing water in which to drift a fly.

The river Tamar at Polson gauging station on Beat 9A. Odd bits of drizzle and the occasional shower have given a lift of a few inches once or twice during August, the line of bleached algae on the concrete showing how the river came up all of about 3 inches a couple of times. Amazingly there is a very small number of salmon upstream of this point, but they are unlikely to take at any time soon. A serious monsoon is now very much needed.
The trout have at last come into their true form for September, feeding enthusiastically, but requiring good casting and presentation.