Unless you have been in hibernation, you may have noticed that this winter has been a bit wet. The Westcountry had more than its share of the rains, and we lost most of our winter grayling fishing to high flows. When it was possible to have a few casts, some lovely grayling fell to our nymphs, with a noticeably higher average size of fish. Plenty of out-of-season trout also came to hand, and most surprising of all, a number of sea trout smolts, some as early as the first week of January. This bodes well for the season ahead, and indeed some early smolts last year probably accounted for the good run of school peal during 2019. The high flows and wet ground have hampered our usual trimming and maintenance work on the rivers – it is a little tricky , not to say dangerous, trimming lateral branches when they are under 3 feet of water. David and Alex have bravely done what they could, and some of the pools on beats 2 and 3 on the Lyd have been nicely trimmed. There is plenty more to complete before fishing and teaching starts in earnest, so a spell of drier stuff would be most welcome some time soon. It remains to be seen just how much havoc storm Dennis has wreaked, but with the Tamar peaking at around 12 feet and the entire flood plain inundated, we will only know when the waters allow us to get out along the rivers again and see what needs to be done.
The good runs of sea trout last year had ample opportunity to run well up into the headwaters, and sea trout spawning was good. The salmon run last year was well below expectations (as it was over much of the country, not helped by the drought) but we did see some salmon redds up on the tributaries, inspiring hopes for the future.
Eyes are now on the approaching fishing season, and the weather, though wet, has remained pretty mild, with many wild flowers sprouting. The purple toothwort and dog’s mercury are already out, wild garlic leaves are up (the chefs will ask us to pick some very soon) and the primroses, pussy willow, hazel catkins and all the other joyful signs of spring are showing along the hedgerows. Early season trout sport is of course highly weather dependent, but we are already keeping our eyes peeled for the first hatch of grannom, and the large dark olives will be close on their heels. In spite of much doom and gloom about salmon stocks, our trout are doing well, and obviously are not affected by the factors at sea which afflict the salmon. A day out on the rivers, with the spring flowers around your waders and a rising trout taunting you in the pool, is the very best tonic to banish the winter blues.