Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Late March, and the trout season is open!

A few dry days, and a decent spell of sunshine, have transformed our little world at Lifton. Storms Freya and Gareth, with floods of 9 and 8 feet respectively, are but a distant memory. March is always too early to really expect to catch very much, but who can resist a few casts in weather like this? An odd fish was rising on Beat 6A, with some Grannom and a few Large Dark Olives hatching. One can be forgiven for thinking that, having been left unmolested by anglers for the winter, the fish would be gullible, but in the clear and lowish water with bright sun and no leaves yet on the trees, they needed a light touch, as befits a truly wild creature. To rise anything at all was a magic experience.





A brook lamprey working the shallows on the Tamar. Then David fishing dry fly on the Thrushel, and Alex in action on the Wolf.

Minus 2 degrees C at Lyd Foot, 6.00 a.m. 


A nice grayling from the Tamar, on the deliciously simple and effective dry Deer Hair Emerger

Beat 6A on the Wolf, David concentrating on his fly.

A sea trout smolt from the Tamar. With any luck he will be back by the end of July as a school peal, having quadrupled his weight. Note the red adipose fin of the 'trutta', and the distinctive black edge to the tail.

Purple Toothwort along the Wolf. Very few of our guests ever see this spectacular flower, which has no stem or leaves, just flowers emerging direct from the root mass. It is parasitic on the roots of alder and willow, and is over and shrouded by faster-growing plants before the trout fishing really gets going.

A lovely view up the Thrushel below the Wolf junction on Beat 6A. A cold north wind belies the bright spring sunshine, but it was extremely pleasant to be back fishing again after the close season, and a weekend in London.

David and Alex on the Arundell Arms stand at the London Fly Fair. A very busy couple of days in the city.

Alex's Hardy Bougle reel, complete with silk line, on the butt of his Hardy CC de France cane rod, nicely framed by the blackthorn blossom.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Invasive Non-Native Species



The North American mink was brought to Britain in the mid-20th century to be farmed for its valuable fur. Equipment failure, accidents, and  smash-and-release raids by animal rights thugs soon found large numbers of these creatures loose in our countryside, and with no natural predators they bred and spread throughout the land. As a water bailiff in the late 1960's, part of my job was to trap and shoot mink, and to advise landowners how to operate the traps which were loaned from the Cornwall River Authority. The Ministry of Agriculture had conveniently passed the responsibility on to the CRA, as they soon found that they had neither the time nor resources. CRA reached the same conclusion, one of the bailiffs with whom I worked trapped 90 in 3 months, and simply gave up. It was not possible to go fishing without seeing a mink, they were absolutely everywhere, using the rivers as conduits, but ranging far and wide. My wife, as a schoolgirl, asked her father what was the pretty little blue thing down by the chickens, and their farm was a good half mile from the Tamar and on top of a hill.
Fast forward to 2019, we now have a thriving otter population (in the 60's they were bordering on extinction in Britain) and for certain this has affected the mink. However there are still a few about, and in areas yet to refill with otters they are still a problem. David Pilkington



This is a 'blue' mink, a colour much prized by the fur farmers, the normal colour being a very dark brown, often with a few white flecks on the upper chest. This chap appeared in front of me while waiting for a cormorant to do much the same on the Tamar last Saturday morning. I had to make a snap decision as to whether it was or not a small otter, but the non-tapering tail and swimming style gave him (it was a dog mink) away. The effect of 36 grams of 4-shot at very close range is apparent.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

A false Spring?

The last few days have certainly fooled us all into thinking that Spring has well and truly sprung. Yellow Brimstone butterflies on the wing, Grannon on the rivers, and even some fish rising, inspired David and Alex to head out with dry flies Alex had 2 grayling from the romantically named Factory. pool on beat 2 of the Lyd, on dries on Friday afternoon, prompting David to take up the challenge on the next day on the Tamar. Having sat in a stuffy meeting all morning it was a breath of fresh air in every sense. 

Let nobody be deceived by the present lovely weather. Remember that the Great Blizzard of 1891 started on the 9th of March. It filled Tavy Cleave with snow level from hilltop to hilltop, and that summer there was still snow on the Moor on midsummer's day. And of course, only this time last year, we were enjoying the 'Beast from the East'.

Tracks in the muddy sand beside the Tamar show where a moorhen and an otter have passed recently.



David releasing a ten-inch grayling from just above the gauging weir on Beat 9, taken on a small dry Deer Hair Emerger.




The video below shows rising grayling, and some wonderfully inept fishing  skills.





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