14/05/2023 - Braunton brownies part two

Was a bit knackered following my efforts (and 30,000+ steps!) on Saturday, so had a lie in. The weather was also a bit cooler - breezy and overcast - so after some breakfast I had a leisurely walk with a couple of the lads around the coast into Croyde and then back over the headland. 

By the time we returned those that had ventured out surfing were back and showered, so we had a discussion about what to do with the rest of the day. Whilst there was talk of fishing up at Ilfracombe, either off the pier on on a charter boat, we decided that it would be a bit windy. Instead we decided to head off to Crow Point again to have a walk along the estuary and to have a mess about with a drone that one of the lads had brought with him. After a couple of hours of mooching about we headed into Braunton to grab some bits for dinner. 

Whilst the others disappeared into Tesco I had quick look at the river and decided to have another couple of hours after the trout. Let the others know to go back to the bungalow without me and got the waders on once more. Dropped in at the point that I had finished the previous day, so as not to go over old ground. Happened to be the relatively straight, riffly section adjacent to the Tarka Trail. However, I was several feet below the level of the footpath and shielded by vegetation, so not really obvious to anybody passing by. 

Made my way slowly up the section, casting the baited jig head into the pockets. Again, there seemed to be lots of fish about, albeit tiddlers, as the worm was harried relentlessly as it drifted back downstream towards me but without me getting a decent hook up. Wasn't until I got to a pool mid-way along the section that I found some better fish. 

They must have all been hiding right under the lip as a worm cast up into the riffle beyond the pool was taken as soon as it dropped into the deeper water and I quickly had over half a dozen in succession - all stunners. All this time the people passing along the trail were completely oblivious both to me and to the pair of dippers that were constantly whizzing up and down the straight, presumably feeding a hungry brood somewhere. Picked off the odd fish here and there before eventually getting to the footbridge over to the supermarket. 

Added a few more from the pool directly under the bridge, the last one as a bloke walked over with his dog, his eyes glued to his mobile phone. Seemed a good point to finish - I'd managed to net 14 brownies, but had again missed loads more. Will be trout closed season the next time we are down, so I bid farewell to the river for another year - a proper little urban jewel. Just wish it was on my doorstep!

13/05/2023 - Estuary bassing

Got back from our walk to Georgeham just in time to grab a cup of tea and a bite to eat before I was off out again. Had been in touch with Joel Squires before coming down about the prospect of some bass on the lures and he was confident that he would find somewhere despite there being just small neap tides all weekend. 

Therefore headed out to Crow Point to meet him in the car park at the end of the toll road. Had a quick catch up before we got the waders on and made our way through the dunes to the mouth of the estuary of the Rivers Taw and Torridge. He'd fished it the previous day on the ebb and had a few small bass before it coloured up as the the dirty water from upriver from the recent rain was sucked out to sea. When we got to our starting point we had a chat about what lures would work best. With some sandeels already showing he suggested paddletails would be a good start, so I clipped on a weedless Savage Gear sandeel  in olive. This was cast upstream and then bumped back in the ebbing flow with a slow retrieve and low rod tip to keep it working near the bottom. 

Could feel the jig head clipping the tops of the ridges of sand on the bed of the estuary, so felt confident that I was in the right zone. Every few minutes we would wade a few metres downstream and start again to cover as much ground as possible. Joel's theory was that some fish would be moving with the tide, but others would also be lying in wait for food to pass by them.

After about half an hour I looked over to see Joel land a small bass. He'd just changed his lure over to a Savage Gear slender scoop shad and had a fish on it straight away, so he immediately offered it me to use instead. It had a nice flashy, rolling action that seemed to have made the difference, so I clipped it on and carried on casting out into the tidal flow. Shortly afterwards I felt the electric bang of take, which resulted in a little schoolie that punched above its weight in the current.

Both blanks avoided we carried on slowly making our way down the estuary with no further interest until we reached an area of rockier ground. At this point Joel suggested that I put the Savage Gear sandeel back on, but retrieve it with the rod tip held high to keep it up in the water. Followed his instructions while he went to see if they would be interested in a top water lure at this stage. After a couple of moves I again felt the thump of a fish through the braid and beached another hard-fighting schoolie in the shallows. A bit later I had another take from a better fish that took a bit longer to subdue, giving Joel time to spot my bent rod and jog back just in time to see me land it. Long and lean and hollow in the belly it was a nice fish nonetheless.

Whilst he reported that he'd just had a fish follow his Patchinko, I decided to stick with the eel for the last hour of the session. However, whilst I had another take that unfortunately failed to result in a hook-up, neither of us added anything else to the scorecard. 

The breeze that had been building switched round and starting blowing up the estuary, turning things chilly despite the late evening sun, so we called it a day and made the long walk back to the cars, putting the world to rights as we did so. I'd already had a cracking evening in good company but it was topped off, firstly with an amazing view of a barn owl working the fields next to the toll road and secondly with a well-earned fish and chip supper back at the bungalow with the lads.....oh, and something called Eurovision! 

Joel's contact details can be found here if you are ever in the area and fancy a few hours with a top bloke and very knowledgeable lure angler.

13/05/2023 - Braunton brownies part one

The first of the "lads" bi-annual trips to Saunton Sands, although advancing age and various physical ailments mean that these are now less about surfing and more about walking, fishing and the odd round of golf. Had some personal stuff to sort out so arrived late on Friday to find the others already several bottles of red wine in. 

Did my best to catch up while I cooked dinner - butter paneer, tarka dhal, rice, samosas, onion bhajis and all the trimmings - which was consumed with even more wine. Was therefore a bit bleary-eyed the following morning when the alarm went off at 05:30. Got dressed and crept out of the bungalow, although the loud snoring coming from the other rooms suggested that the occupants probably wouldn't have heard a bomb go off. Headed into Braunton and to the River Caen (pronounced "cane" by the locals) that runs through the centre of the town to target its abundant wild brown trout population. Got togged up in my new chest waders - some heavy duty, ripstop jobbies from Hart - and dropped into the river just upstream of the fish ladder that marks the boundary with the tidal section. 

The river was still high after the recent rain, but at a steady level and just carrying a tinge of colour - perfect for what I wanted to do. Waded up to the first pool, flicked the worm-baited jighead upstream and had a tickle straight away as it bumped back along  the bottom towards me. Next cast it was taken with a thump, the culprit going airborne and then shooting past me downstream a split second later. After a short but spirited fight I swept a stunning Devonshire brownie into the net. Carried on upstream under the tree canopy that shielded me from the adjacent industrial estate that was just starting to wake up for the day. The resident trout population certainly seemed to be in a ravenous mood as virtually every cast into a likely looking spot resulted in sharp rattles on the rod tip as the worm was grabbed and shortened by degrees by tiny teeth. 

Missed a lot of bites by being a bit too eager, but then got my eye in and started to improve the bite to fish ratio as several more cracking little brownies graced the net - all red and black spots on the back and flanks, buttery yellow bellies and with black and white trim to the leading edge of the fins. 

Looked at my watch to see that a couple of hours had flown by, although I'd barely covered half of the section up to the next road bridge as I'd been that busy. Outside of my little bubble it was still pretty quiet and the only "locals" aware of my presence were the birds - a pair of dippers, a kingfisher and a treecreeper being the highlights. Therefore carried on until I reached the bridge, which gave me a convenient route out of the river without having to risk pushing through the brambles in my waders. At that point I'd had eighteen spotties, but had been mugged by many more. That first fish had been the biggest of the bunch, but what the others lacked in size they made up for with looks.  

Had turned into a fantastic morning  by now - warm and sunny - and the town was getting busy, so headed back to the bungalow in time for a quick shower before joining the others to walk over Georgeham, a couple of pints of Exmoor Gold the reward!

27/04/2023 - A few Derbyshire brownies

Had built a stupid amount of flexi-time at work and it was a question of use it or lose it, so booked the day off to sort out a couple of domestic issues and hopefully get a few hours fishing in. Luckily the weather was playing ball, having been all over the place again in recent days, and it actually felt a bit warmer for a change

Trout were the target again, but with the fly rod this time. Had not been back to the Ecclesbourne for a while, so waited for the rush hour to finish and then headed over towards Duffield for mid-morning. The river here has recently benefited from the removal of a major insurmountable obstacle to fish trying to move upstream from the River Derwent. A 2.5 metre high, 10 metre wide concrete weir at Snake Lane was demolished and replaced with a rock ramp in a project funded by the Environment Agency and managed by the Wild Trout Trust . A testament to the success of the work was when the remains of a spawned out salmon was found upstream just a few months after the weir was removed - worthy of nomination of being named European dam removal project of the year (see here)!

Not that I was after a silver tourist - a few wild, Derbyshire brownies would suffice - so got togged up in the chest waders, walked across the field and dropped in at the downstream limit. Went with the previously successful tactic of a single, goldhead mini-streamer on a tapered leader with a 4lb fluorocarbon tippet. No fancy casting required here with all of the fishing done at close quarters, the fly propelled up to the head of each little pool with just a flick of my brook rod or with a "bow and arrow" cast in the tighter corners. Had nothing in the first couple of spots, so carried on wading upstream, the occasional fallen tree requiring me to get out of the river and detour through swathes of wild garlic and butterbur. First chance came in a faster run, although I never saw or felt the take and only realised I'd got a fish on when I mended the line. 

Needless to say it came off after a few seconds! Next one I did feel but missed on the strike - not a great start, but at least it looked as if there were a few interested fish about. Eventually managed to get the brain into gear on the third time of asking and, after a short tussle and a flirt with some tree roots, bundled a wild spotty into the net - long and lean and with enough energy left to flick free of my hand as soon as the hook came out. 

Carried on and had a handful more over the next couple of hours, all of them coming from the faster, broken water in the runs or at the head of the pools. Didn't quite make it to the end of the section as unfortunately I had to get back to Nottingham for an appointment. However, I had only fallen on my arse once, not lost a single fly and had managed to avoid putting a hole in my new waders on their first outing, so a satisfactory outing all round!