15 September – New Water

It was time to explore a new stretch of the River Plym. On previous trips I had turned back mid-Beat, baulked by a sheer rock face, fallen trees and a lack of waders. I would travel light and cross the river to the true right bank when the path ended. I walked past the stretch I normally fish and looked for a crossing point. I needed both hands free to wade across the rocky pool and scramble up the steep bank opposite. I secured everything and took my time. It was good to reach firm ground without breaking anything or getting soaked.

I set up my rod and fished the long pool alongside the rock face. I had a gentle take but I wasn’t paying attention, the scenery was a big distraction.

The woodland and river were pristine, no litter or other signs of human activity. It was a bit spooky. Silent, soft moss and damp leaves underfoot. The trees were starting to shed leaves but not to the extent that it interfered with the passage of my nymph down the pools.

The tree tunnel didn’t hamper my casting and a combination of roll casts and short overhead casts enabled me to confidently search the runs along the far bank, the deep pots and crevices. I had another rattle on the rod tip and missed that as well. The trip was turning into a riverside photo session, I stopped every few paces to admire the scenery, fishing took a back seat.

The light changed every few seconds, highlighting the leaves, the moss on the rocks and tree trunks. The rocks and trees provided lots of places to hide while casting.

After a couple of hours scrambling along the river bank, I was exhausted and turned back, not quite having reached the lower section of the Beat. I would have to explore the rest of the Beat next season.

10 September – River Tavy

Last week Dartmoor was dry underfoot but a couple of wet days had coloured the rivers and washed the dust from the air. The uniform grey overcast and occasional drizzle encouraged me to leave home mid-afternoon rather than wait until the evening. I had two options; explore the true right bank of the River Plym below the rock face, or enjoy the scenery of the middle Tavy. A swollen river would be difficult to cross and I therefore chose the Tavy. The steep rocky track was slippery but the Defender lurched and clunked it’s way down into the valley. The misty rain hung in the tree tops and the light was flat, perfect fishing conditions.

I walked to the top of the Beat armed with Southwell II and a few weighted nymphs. The river level was up slightly and the water had a pale brown tint. The rod matched the Rio line perfectly and I soon settled into a rhythm, drifting the nymph down and across. A few Olives hatched, their ascent was laboured as they struggled to gain height in the dense humid air. Sedges zoomed around the bracken tops. A young Dipper flew up and down the river, undecided where to dip. I missed a take and moved down a few yards. I felt at ease on the river, I’d fished the Beat several times and knew the productive riffles and pools.

A long stretch of shallow, broken water produced a fish. Water that I would normally walk past. I concentrated on similar stretches as I moved downstream, missing a few takes and catching another, slightly bigger fish. I thought that the deep pools would hold a few fish but the heavy fly failed to provoke a response. A fish thrashed at the fly as it landed but it didn’t connect. The brownies seemed to be holding in the streamy water looking up for Olives. I only had nymphs in my pocket.

I’d tied a few nymphs with slightly less lead wire and a sparse, pale cock hackle to imitate a drowned adult. It looked perfect to me but the Trout were not impressed and ignored my best efforts. I wondered if a smaller fly might be more successful and resolved to order some size 16 hooks.

A few Sea Trout splashed about in the long, deep pool below the hut. I knew that the chances of hooking one were very low and ignored the distraction while exploring the throat of the pool and the back eddy along the far bank. When their migratory friends are active, the resident brownies seem to keep a low profile and I was not surprised when my fly was allowed to drift downstream without being intercepted.

I fished for about two hours, working hard, occasionally sheltering from the heavier showers under ancient Oaks. Crawling over the wet granite boulders eventually wore me out and I returned to the cottage to dry the soggy tackle and relax with a gin and tonic. There’s time for a couple of trips to the river before the end of the season in Devon.

River Plym – 3 September

September, the end of the school holidays and the start of early morning mists. It arrived, unannounced, with a mini heat wave. It dawned on me that trout fishing in Devon would end in less than four weeks. It was time to go fishing. Without much planning I grabbed a bag and rod and headed for the river.

The Pezon et Michel is just right for roll casting and short casts. Some would describe the rod as floppy but I prefer to think of it as mid-actioned. As usual I spent more time sitting on rocks admiring the riverscape than fishing. The top few pools were unproductive but in the mid section I caught a brownie from a deep cleft in the bedrock.

I hooked another, slightly bigger fish in a long section of broken water but it summersaulted off the barbless hook, a long distance release. At least I’d had the pleasure of a tricky cast, a skillful drift and the take. That’s all that matters.

At one pool I found myself in midstream. I was tempted to cross the river and fish the other bank below the impassable rock face but the heat and midges told me it was time to leave. Next time.

18 August – River Walkham

I hadn’t fished the stretch of river closest to the cottage. I’d abandoned a previous visit because I found the river in spate, it was a washing machine. Recent disputes over access had discouraged me from fishing but with only a few weeks before the end of the season, I felt that it was time to explore the river properly. I could have walked to the Beat but I conserved my energy and took the Defender.

The river is wild, no strimming or pruning, access to the water is tricky. It’s jungle fishing. I followed a stream down into the valley, crossed the ford and found the first pool. On the rocky margin I found Jaws!  A decent fish at last. I thought about the child, playing in the river with a favourite toy, watching it swim off downstream, lost, never to be seen again. I put the plastic monster in my pocket, a great momento of the day. It was a sign from Isaac.

I’m going to need a bigger net

I fished the fast water and worked the nymph around the roots of the overhanging trees. I was surprised by the lack of a response, perhaps my approach had been clumsy. I wandered upstream,  weaving the long rod carefully between the trees, looking for deeper water. I worked a few riffles and pools, rolling out the line under the trees, without any takes. Eventually the bracken and briars prevented from approaching the river and I turned back.

I found a long straight riffle with some deeper stretches, kept off the skyline and worked the water down and across.  The rod grew heavy and I lifted into a little brownie. It was a very dark fish and quite plump. I fished down the rest of the Beat without troubling the trout. The walk out of the deep valley was tiring. Twice I fell over on boggy ground. I was relieved to reach the Defender and relax in the cab while cooling off.