Moving Upstream

Yet again our British Summer weather is proving to be fickle and variable, impacting on even the best laid fishing plans.  Chris Ogborne takes a look at one way aspect of our sport that is almost immune to the weather – small river fishing.

Cornwall Fly Fishing Chris Ogborne
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With summer holidays in full swing, I actually find myself feeling sorry for the thousands of tourists who head for the West Country at this time of year.  They come with expectations of beach fishing, boat trips or kayak fishing, only to find that the weather has conspired against them and that wind or sea conditions make their plans impossible.

But the good news is that they can still go fishing.  It’s a little known fact that there are literally hundreds of miles of moorland streams, small rivers and tributaries inter-lacing the counties of Devon and Cornwall.  It’s even less well known that such water can be fished for an incredibly small sum of money and that £6 will still buy you wild brownie fishing in true wilderness conditions, surrounded by spectacular scenery and wildlife.

Devon Brown trout

In fact, the choice is endless.  The Westcountry Rivers Trust still operate their excellent ‘passport’ system, where you can purchase a book of vouchers online that will give you access to over 100 venues, ranging from tiny brooks through to stretches of mighty rivers like the Tamar or Dart.

Many are stocked but almost as many rely on natural regeneration, and the fish you catch will be as wild as the wind that brushes over the moorland heather.  With the excellent passport project you can have a full days fishing for under a tenner, yet feel as though you’re just as privileged as the Hampshire chalkstream angler who would need to add many zeros to his fishing bill!

It’s also a really user friendly scheme, where you simply buy tokens to fish and post these on the day. See the site for further details and to buy tokens online: westcountryangling.com

Another great source of where to fish information, along with the right flies and that all important local knowledge, is to visit one of the many tackle shops.  Most shop owners will either be able to sell you a day or a week ticket, and even if they can’t I’d bet that they will direct you to someone who can.  On my home River Camel, the Bodmin Anglers Association will happily let you have a day ticket for £15. (It’s actually a 24hiur ticket so you can split afternoon and morning if you like) and this gives access to some 15 miles of stunning river fishing, the likes of which are the stuff of dreams.  Canopied pools for nymphing, long glides for spider or wet fly, moss covered rocks carried here by ancient glaciers where you can sit and watch Kingfishers or Dippers, and sparkling runs that just beg to fished with dry fly.

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For those who find themselves further East in Devon, Dartmoor is also well worth a try if the conditions have been unsettled. As Dartmoor’s rivers begin life high up in the hills, they seldom ever get badly coloured. Various spots offer prolific wild trout fishing and cool, clear water even when rivers such as the Exe, Taw and Torridge run brown.

Turrall have a whole range of flies to cover all these conditions, with classics such as our emergers and nymphs always worth having in your box. Classics such as the Klinkhamer, Black Gnat, PTN and Copper John continue to catch every season. Or if you prefer you can buy one for their excellent selections, which take away all the guesswork for you.  My own range of Barbless River Flies cover pretty much any set of weather or water conditions you’re likely to come across.

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So don’t despair this year if you happen to find yourself in rain-soaked West Country.  Look on it as a bonus and take yourself up-river.  It could be the start of a life-long love affair with the stunning rivers in this amazing part of England.

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