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.

11 August – River Tavy

I got my gear ready early in the morning but then had a frustrating day, unable to leave home, while watching the clock and the rain clouds approaching Devon. Eventually, late in the afternoon, I turned the ignition key and eased the Defender out of its new home.

The track down into the valley had been washed out by the recent heavy rain and the ground was even more demanding. The deep ruts and exposed rocks, damp from the drizzle, eventually petered out and I left the Defender on flat ground near the river.

I watched the water for a few minutes. It looked perfect, a little higher than normal and lightly stained by the peat on Dartmoor. I wandered up to the top of the Beat, using the waist high ferns for cover, until I reached a riffle with a long wide pool and plenty of slack water.

I flicked the weighted nymph into the main current and let it drift down and across. I used some of the rounded granite rocks protruding from the shallow water to hang the nymph in the slacks. After a few casts the rod rattled and I connected with the first Trout of the evening. I slipped the barbless hook from its lower jaw and it shot away so quickly that I didn’t see its departure. The misty drizzle hung in the tops of the fir trees and the mature oaks beside the river dripped on me. I ignored the weather, there were Trout to catch.

I fished the rest of the pool, expecting another take from behind one of the many rocks, but the fish were not impressed. Further downstream the main flow of the river was funneled into a deep cleft in the bedrock. The water was dark and I was confident that I would get a take. A fish rose several times to snatch small flies off the surface and I wondered if it was worth swapping my weighted nymph for something lighter. Impatience kicked in and I positioned the nymph a few feet above the rising fish which shot to the surface and grabbed the fly. It became airborne and shook the hook. The rain got heavier and I sheltered beside the trunk of an ancient oak, watching for signs of fish. The clouds drifted away and I made my way down to the very deep pool that always contains several fish.

I crept across the table sized platforms of slate to approach the fast broken water at the top of the pool. Moving carefully downstream after each cast, I covered the throat of the pool and the big eddy under the oak tree. Nothing. I wondered if newly arrived Seat Trout and Salmon had chased the small brownies out of the best lies.

The rain became more persistent and tired from crawling over granite and slate, I withdrew. The journey out of the valley tested the Defender and I resolved not to use the Volvo for fishing trips in the rain. I relaxed with a single malt and recalled the evenings adventure. The scenery was stunning and I had caught a Trout. Excellent.