Welcome to the River Dart. Hopefully you will make the acquaintance of at least one of its Salmon.
Salmon fishing begins on February 1st although there is no appreciable spring run nowadays, just the occasional fish or pod, especially in May. Although salmon and grilse are caught throughout the summer, the main run is in September and, after the season closes on September 30th, in October and November.
The water available to visitors is suitable for both fly and spinning, although some of the deeper and slower water is more useful for spinning than for fly. Shrimp and prawn baits are allowed below Staverton Bridge. The water here is wide and deep with steep banks overhung with trees. You will need thigh or chest waders in high water conditions although you may find that short boots are adequate and more comfortable in mid-summer and low water. Carry a good sized net for use on steep banks and a pair of forceps for hook removal which is best done in the water if possible, with a minimum of handling.
Treat the river with respect and, in spate, with awe; don’t wade where you are unable to see the bottom especially in coloured water and be aware that inches beyond the shallow ledge you are standing on there could be fifteen feet of water. In unsettled weather look out for rising water, increased colour and debris and repair to a safe level – the river can rise several feet in a short time, especially when there has been a thunderstorm on Dartmoor, of which you may not be aware.
If intending to fish Totnes weir pool, please see the notes on its tidal nature, which can be found on the Sea Trout page.
Fishing regulations are subject to change at short notice. For instance, at the time of writing (Aug 2015) the Environment Agency has recently introduced a local by-law relating to salmon fishing. Details here. Please check that you have the latest information before you fish.
Spring and high water fly-fishing requires a double handed rod and sinking lines of various densities but in medium water from June onwards a 10′ rod and lighter lines are quite adequate.
Popular flies include the Black and Copper Darts, Ally’s Shrimp types (including Cascade) and Stoat’s Tail both in tubes and Esmond Druries, sizes 3/4″ – 1 3/4″ and 6 – 12, or even smaller for grilse in drought conditions.
A 9′ (2.7432m) rod is suitable for spinning and shrimping, coupled with a 10 – 14lb line. A fixed spool reel is the most practical, although a multiplier can be used in high water on the more open pools. The most popular lure nowadays is without doubt the Flying C in various colours and weights. Devon Minnows, Rapalas and Meps can also be effective but detailed local knowledge of the lies and how to approach them is probably of greater importance than the lure itself.
Catch and Release & Local Bylaws
By local bylaw, all Salmon caught before 16th June must be released. The Association’s regulations further require anglers to return their first salmon after that date.
The Association, along with the Dart Fisheries Association have entered into an agreement with the Environment Agency whereby we will attempt to achieve a release rate of at least 90% of salmon. We therefore strongly recommend for the time being that all salmon are returned to the water. DAA members have responded to this magnificently and in fact have comfortably exceeded this target over the last few years.
Release should be done with the minimum of stress to the fish. The minimum of time should be spent in playing the fish and if possible it should not be removed from the water at any time. If you photograph your catch, it should be carried out with the fish either in the water or lifted only briefly above the surface. If necessary, please support the fish in well oxygenated water to aid its recovery before release.
For more information on Salmon please follow the links below to the Atlantic Salmon Trust’s Site.