The bright sunny morning was forecast to turn wet mid-afternoon but Dartmoor has its own microclimate and weather forecasts cannot be relied upon. Rather than wait until the evening, I decided to set off early and find a quiet stretch of river with no spaniels or kids throwing stones.
My first choice was like Butlins; campers, barbecues, dog walkers and swimmers. I drove further downstream, to the next bridge. There were a few dog walker’s cars but they had all gone upstream along the well trodden footpaths. I found a small gap in the overgrown hedge and clambered over a barbed wire fence. The ancient wood was quiet, even the birds were silent. Green lichen covered the trees and massive boulders were scattered around the woodland, put there by spates over hundreds of years. It was a bit spooky and I trod quietly.
The river looked superb; clear and fast, slightly above the normal level. White water forced its way between the boulders and tree roots. Each long wide riffle probably held several Trout, sheltering in slacks and gullies in the bedrock. I chose a small black spider and rolled it down and across, exploring the slower currents, sometimes draping the leader over a rock to cover the deeper water behind the rounded granite. At every pool I was distracted by the beauty of the sunlight on the trees and the sparkling water. I spent considerably more time watching the river than fishing. The river was magical, timeless and unspoilt.
I found a huge boulder at the top of a pool and sat on its upstream side, flicking the fly into water that I was convinced held a fish. I changed the fly to an olive and ginger spider heavily weighted with black wire. I dangled the fly over the boulder and let it sink about four feet towards the hollow scoured out under the rock. The rod bent and a feisty Trout fought well above its weight. It was a little gem and it arrowed back into the fast water when I slipped the barbless hook out of it’s jaw.
Spurred on by the success I explored similar pools but the rod stayed straight. I came to a rock cliff where the path had been blocked by a fallen tree and I was forced to turn back. The air felt thundery and as I drove away from the river it started to rain. I had seen neither people nor dogs. It was a good choice of location and immaculate timing weather-wise.
PS – I visited the Abbey Beat on 7 September and after a long, dodgy off-road drive and a long walk, I realised I’d forgotten my nymph box. It was a nice sunset.