I arrived at the wettest place in England, even wetter than Manchester, to see a raging torrent thundering under the ancient bridge. The water was the colour of London Pride and even the foam had a brown tint. Moorland rivers rise and fall quickly and by the next day it was fishable. I watched the pool above the bridge and was amazed to see a fresh run salmon attempt to leap the sheer face of the weir having ignored the fish pass on the opposite bank. It was a good fish and I returned to the bridge several times but there were no more leapers, only a giant eel squirming under a sunken log. That evening the local pub telephoned to ask if we would like a take-away pizza and draught beer, the ultimate in customer service. Olives were hatching at 8:30pm on the longest day, a surprising evening rise for an acid moorland river.
I had an OS map and had visited the Beat in March but I managed to turn a fifteen minute journey into an hour touring the narrow Devon lanes. The track down into the steep sided river valley was rocky and I was relieved not to have grounded on the granite boulders. It was early evening and I planned to explore the Beat for an hour or two. I took the wrong path and got lost in the forest where I discovered several mine shafts and the remains of two lost souls.
By the time I’d returned to the car, had a drink and a snack, the sun was below the tree line and the wind had eased. I flicked a nymph about and experimented with several dry flies. I was caught off guard when a fish took the dry fly, the stunning scenery had distracted me. I walked slowly to the top of the Beat scanning the deep pools for movement. Olives and sedges were hatching and several small fish were rising. A few bigger fish snatched flies, leaving swirls not dimples, the splash echoing around the pools.
I sat on the arsenic laden spoil from the mine and cast a small parachute Iron Blue to a rising fish. It took the fly, was hooked but fell off. It was progress. I moved down a few yards and targeted another Trout. It fought well above its weight. It was a fat fish with colours so bright they were unreal. The fish was the first I had caught from a Dartmoor river in 45 years.
I rose several more fish but my timing was out. As I rested by a large pool, admiring the cliff face opposite and the gaping mine shaft, a chrome silver Sea Trout exploded through the surface, hung in the air, then crashed back into the pool. It was taunting me. I had already decided to leave before dark, the steep rocky ascent out of the valley was on my mind. I celebrated my Dartmoor Trout with a Cornish pastie and a glass of Yalumba ‘The Cigar‘ my favourite red wine.