Three Devon Rivers

While having lunch in the garden a Blue Winged Olive landed on my arm and I took that as a sign to go fishing. I waited until the sun had gone down before heading to the river. I was undecided about where to fish. The intimate, fast flowing River Plym, the slow shallow water of the Abbey Beat on the River Tavy or a rocky stream on the open moor. The solution was obvious, fish all three, but where first?

23 June – River Tavy

The Defender rattled along the lane towards Buckland and down the never ending forest track to the valley floor. It knew the way. I was surprised at the depth of the puddles but Dartmoor had soaked up most of the rain and the Tavy was low and crystal clear.

Fox gloves filled the open space where I left the Defender. I filled my pockets with fly boxes and fought my way through the wood to the river. I sat watching the water while I set up my rod. A Buzzard drifted overhead and settled in a tree on the opposite bank. Blue Winged Olives, midges and a few sedges gave me plenty of fly choices. I chose a nymph and the gentle downstream breeze helped me drift the fly down and across the central channel. I tried all the usual flies with the usual response. Nothing.

I walked from the Grassy Bank upstream to the Bridge Pool, fishing deeper water carefully and anticipating a take. I returned to the Grassy Bank and hooked a small trout but it fell off after a few seconds. A fish swirled at a Black Gnat as I was lifting off to cast. The river is wide, the far bank is out of reach and the water very shallow. A poor cast immediately puts the fish down. It had been a demanding and frustrating evening.

24 June – River Plym

The wet suit warriors and walkers were out in force. The area was rammed but once in the private woodland, the soft carpet of leaf mulch deadened my footsteps, silence descended and I forgot the real world. The unspoilt river valley was free of litter and parents shouting at wayward offspring.

Blue Winged Olives were everywhere and midges filled the gap between the water surface and the overhanging branches. Yellow Wagtails flew along the river, occasionally stopping on a rock to wag. The water had a slightly cloudy tint but the gravel and bedrock were clearly visible even in the deepest pools. I started in the pool immediately below the bridge, the cutwater midstream split the river which reformed in a wide pool with a back eddy. A fish saw my nymph but shied away, very odd.

I fished each pool, working downstream from the bridge, keeping close to the waters edge. I had three fish, all on a GRHE nymph. I saw two fish come to the nymph and shy away, never to return. Surely they cannot be educated, that stretch of the river is very lightly fished.

I reached the rock wall and attempted to cross the river. The water was deep and fast, the boulders slippery. It was too dangerous. I looked back along the bank but the sheer rock face stretched way back and I decided to call it a day. It had been a great day, the polar opposite of yesterday evening on the Tavy.

25 June – River Walkham, Dartmoor

I was excited about the fishing but nervous about the walk. My last trip to the Beat had left me dehydrated, exhausted and barely fit to drive home. I travelled light and took a packet of Jelly Babies and a can of Red Bull to give me energy.

It was a long walk to the start of the Beat. It took over an hour, north over broken ground, up the slope of Little Mis Tor and then west along the boundary wall, before I could sit on a rock and have lunch.

The first pool was exactly as I remembered. Coch-Y-Bonddu beetles covered the ferns and the tiny white flowers. I had never seen these beetles before and I didn’t have a Black and Peacock Spider in any of my boxes ! I flicked a Black Gnat into the pool and gradually extended the cast until the fly fell into the fast water. I was surprised by the rise and much too slow to react.

I worked my way upstream and saw lots of trout. Unfortunately, most of the fish saw me first. I had several splashy takes, all of which I missed. The cool north-west wind blew downstream and made it difficult to present the fly. I crept nearer the pools and shortened my cast.

The moor was green but quite dry, even the boggy bits were easily crossed. I found a deep pool behind an enormous boulder which demanded a weighted nymph. On the first cast the leader twitched but, once again, I was too slow.

I was conscious of the walk back and didn’t want to fish until I was tired. It was a long climb up the north side of Great Mis Tor, over the granite clitter, contouring around the peak towards Little Mis Tor.

Two and a half hours walking for an hour fishing, was it worth it ? Yes, of course. It’s not something I will do very often but I will return at least once a year.

Three days fishing on three completely different rivers. I need to learn the secrets of the Tavy, fish the middle reaches of the Plym and tie some Coch-Y-Bonddu beetle imitations for next season.