Lest we get carried away with the idea that the Dart is all about Sea Trout, here is a reminder that there are some really good Brown Trout in our river.
The following is a link to a BBC news article prompted by the WWF charity’s warning that our rivers are being “used as open sewers”. At present, it states, only 21% of south west rivers reach ‘good’ environmental standards. We seem to be rather more fortunate than the Thames area, where the figure is 3%. However, we do have the highest rates of pollution incidents here in the south west.
The DFA is part of the Anglers’ Riverfly Monitoring Initiative ( ARMI ). This initiative involves anglers like us in monitoring the biological health of their home river by sampling the numbers of selected invertebrates present at intervals throughout the year. Importantly, these data can give early warning of pollution incidents and lowering of water quality.
At the moment the Association has only one team of two volunteers, both from the DAA, who cover four locations on the Dart. They were out recently at Fogdens, where a healthy count of olive, caddis, stonefly and Heptageniidae larvae was made.
We could do with at least one more team of volunteers to give more coverage to the river. It is possible to operate as a team of one, but two is ideal. Volunteers attend an official one-day Riverfly Partnership workshop, run by an accredited Riverfly Partnership Tutor. The workshop includes presentations and practical demonstrations. Subsequently they would choose a site or number of sites, which, when approved, they would proceed to monitor.
If you feel you would like to become involved in this interesting work please contact the River Dart Coordinator Luke, at email@example.com
More information on ARMI can be had on the Riverfly Partnership website
We are still awaiting the updated report on last years results from the fish counter but according to what we know now about 2000 fish were counted, 500 of which were greater than 50cm in length. However, major problems with heat and low water during the summer affected the counters accuracy, particularly its ability to detect small sea trout so figures are likely to be a significant under-estimate.
The counter has now been upgraded with new cameras, electrodes and polypropylene panels (the white panels seen in the photographs below). It started working again in early April this year and now appears to be working well.
The count so far suggests 180+ fish through in April and 80+ fish so far in May so the outlook is not as gloomy as we might have thought.
Below are some photos from the re-vamped counter. Unsure what the electrode spacing is now but if, as before, they are 45cm apart it will give you an idea of the size of fish.
Here is Rob Dart with a beautiful sea trout from Totnes Weir Pool, estimated to be about 8 lbs. Unfortunately though, the fish had been foul-hooked and was definitely above the maximum weight for a ‘keeper’ so after a brief pause for a photo, back it went.
A few sea trout are now finding their way into Totnes weir pool. The first of the year, weighing in at about 2.5lbs was taken by Chris Wilcox on April 30th, a full month later than usual.
The Hon Sec’s report from the Dart Fisheries Association. Points may be discussed at the AGM
DFA 2019 AGM SECRETARY’S REPORT
2018 season and our Catches– The EA have reported that, provisionally, our catches were: Salmon 8 – we think number may have been closer to 20 against a previous 4 year average of 19 , Sea trout 120 – we think the number was closer to 200 against a previous 4 year average of 195, and Days fished was tba against a previous 4 year average 810days. Nb the Agency have advised that they are increasing catches by a factor of 1.51 to allow for those anglers who don’t submit their catch returns . Additionally the Westcountry Rivers Trust, who run our Passport scheme on the Duchy waters, have reported that 417 brown trout were caught, mainly by DAA members, in their first year of their agreement with the Duchy, in addition to 5 sea trout. Clearly our catches and effort, or lack of them, were affected by our long hot dry summer when there were very few days when it was possible to fish for salmon in a reasonable height of water, however the better news was that [a] there appeared to be a reasonable run of sea trout [b] there was evidently considerably less disease than in 2017 [c] the redd counting carried out in the early winter showed an encouraging number of both salmon and sea trout redds on the gravels that were worked on by Dave French and his team of volunteers in the summer. Information from our fish counters on Totnes weir will be provided at the meeting.
National salmon byelaws– notwithstanding that our river is considered to be “Probably at Risk” we have not had mandatory 100% Catch and Release imposed on us, but we are expected to achieve a release ratio of not less than 90%, which effectively means that all salmon caught should be returned. We also need to be aware that survival rates have been closely linked to water temperature and we should probably not be trying to catch salmon at all if the water temperature reaches 20 C, as it surely did last summer.
Electro-fishing– it was decided that the WRT would not be asked to electro-fish our upper river system last summer, instead our monies would be better spent on improving our spawning gravels on the Cherrybrook, Wallabrook, Stannonbrook and Blackabrook, which turned out to be money well spent. So e-fishing was limited to that carried out by the EA on the Cherrybrook and Wallabrook with disappointing results. This year it is likely the EA will cover more sites and we will ask the WRT to complement its work, so we should get a better picture idea of the numbers of our juveniles, both salmon and trout, in our upper river system. Then in 2020 the EA will be carrying out a full programme which they do every 6 years or so.
Water quality– considerable monitoring of the quality of our water has been carried out by the EA, SWW, DWLT, Plymouth University and ourselves in the past two years without any alarm bells being rung, but we still have concerns that low ph flushes [ the WRT will be reporting on their liming trial in the upper West Dart at the meeting], pollution including from pesticides and discharges from our various sewage plants in the river system may be having an adverse effect on our salmonid stocks. Tom Hutchinson of Plymouth University will be our main speaker at our meeting on this subject. Luke Chester –Master and Chris Glover continue their good work on our fly life project, and it would be good if others would be willing to work with them.
Staverton hydro-electric scheme application– we are concerned about this application as, if agreed, it would mean a substantial amount of water being diverted from the river at Staverton weir into a leat to power the large [3 metre diameter] Archimedes screw at Town Mills. We have submitted a strong objection to the South Hams planners written for us by Roger Furniss to whom many thanks are due. The EA and NE have also objected so hopefully the scheme will not be approved.
Canoeing – little news to report other than to mention Roger’s letter in the spring edition of the Dartmoor magazine demolishing Ben Seal’s [BC] contention that appeared in the magazine’s winter edition that the law is still unclear. The fact that BC have not disputed Roger’s arguments would suggest that it knows full well what the legal position is and is just trying to “muddy the water” for its members. Before that BC launched a new Charter in Westminster, promoting 365 day access on all rivers, in November which would appear to have been something of a damp squib, with little publicity nationally.
Our Partnership [DFA/EA/WRT] Work Plan– attached is our 2018 Work Plan showing progress, or lack of it, on the many issues affecting our river over the past 12 months. We have yet to finalise our 2019 plan, but it is likely to be very similar, with priorities being [a] to continue to improve our spawning gravels in the upper river system [b] try to ensure that our migratory salmon and sea trout can reach them without difficulty [c] to ensure as far as possible that the quality of the river’s water is not adversely affected by pollution from whatever source [d] continue, and possibly expand our liming trial, aimed at trying to reduce the damaging impact of low ph flushes in our river system.
The GWLCT’s ongoing Samarch project– which includes the monitoring of movement of sea trout smolts from 5 rivers has shown that sea trout during daylight hours often go down deep. This information is likely to have an effect on the legal depth of off shore nets in due course. Re these offshore nets it appears there are around 2,500 legal ones in place around the Cornish coast on a daily basis!
There is a vacancy for the job of Secretary of this Association. Applications to our Chairman most welcome!
All DAA members are cordially invited to the DFA AGM
DART FISHERIES ASSOCIATION
Notice is given that this year’s AGM will be held at 6.30pm on Friday May 10th 2019 at the Dartmoor Lodge Hotel, Ashburton.
- President’s welcome to our guests.
- Apologies for absence.
- Minutes of the AGM held on Friday May 11th 2018, and matters arising.
- Chairman’s report.
- Treasurer’s report.
- Secretary’s report [see attached].
- Election of Committee and Officers [see below].
- Change of name of our Association to the Dart Fisheries Conservation Association.
- Our liming trial and electro-fishing – WRT to report
- Results from the Totnes weir fish counters
- SWRA matters – Roger Furniss to report
- EA matters.
- Any other business.
The following have volunteered to be your Committee for the next 12 months
DAA representatives: Ian Scofield, Phil Prowse, Peter Edwards
Riparian owners: Sir Simon Day [President], Sir David Hoare, Patrick Simpson, Tom Stratton
Others: Dennis Mitchell [Chairman], Bill Robertson [Secretary], Giles Hammersley [Treasurer], Glynn Loyd-Jones [ Duchy Fly Fishers representative] , Humphrey Walters and David French
Co-opted members:Mark Simpson, Tim Hassell , Graham May , Jonathan Camp and Luke Chester-Master
NB If any member would like to raise any other matters at the Meeting would he/she advise me before Wednesday May 8th.
There will then be a talk by Tom Hutchinson, Professor at Plymouth University, on the quality of our river’s water and that of other rivers in the South West and steps being taken to improve it.
- After the meeting a carvery will be available – cost £11 per head to be paid at the meeting. It would be helpful, however, if you could let me know if you can stay for the carvery.
Bill Robertson – tel: 01364 652574, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Arrangements have now been completed and visitors tickets are now available from Dartmoor Lodge Hotel , Ashburton.
The Sea Trout Inn, at Staverton, where our visitors tickets have been sold for some years, is closed presently. The position as of 15th April 2019 is that tickets should be on sale within the next few days at Dartmoor Lodge Hotel , Ashburton. We will post confirmation of this as soon as things are up and running, which should be before Easter.
Update: Up and running!