CHENSON FISHERY BEATS 1 and 2
Salmon are often caught on the first day of the season (e.g. 1994). The river is ‘flashy’ rising and falling quickly with rainfall on Dartmoor. Given sufficient water, fresh salmon can be consistently present throughout the beats. Most summer fishing is for sea trout and the salmon are ignored unless conditions are perfect. One look at Chenson or Alder in the evening with all the salmon crashing about may indicate that this is a mistake! but sea trout fishing at night is more of a certainty (as much as anything is in fishing!) and from June until August many anglers dedicate themselves solely to their pursuit … anyway, you can’t fish night and day without getting exhausted! WATER GAUGES: Opposite Junction hut, by Alder Hut and by Chenson Bridge.
The largest salmon in recent years was 28lbs (Johns Pool). Largest sea trout 17.5lbs (End Pool), 10.5lb (Alder Run) in 1997. Generally the fish landed are under 15lbs and of typical Taw ‘torpedo-shape’ although fish over 20lbs are frequently lost. Salmon are sometimes hooked at night…these are normally lost for obvious reasons! Double figure catches of sea trout happen once or twice every season. Generally we get 12-24 salmon and 75-125 sea trout.
In 1994, 16 salmon and 104 sea trout were caught on beats one and two, the majority from the lower beat (which is much harder fished). Most salmon were caught from 1st March to mid-May and mid-August to the end of September (first salmon was on 1st March from Alder).
Even in droughts, over 600 redds are counted on the system … including down as far as Eggesford weir. How they manage to see fish spawning in the murky winter waters of the Taw, I don’t know … one can only assume that for every redd counted dozens are not. Let’s hope the river is getting back to its pre-1980s levels … before the war over 10,000 fish were caught annually from the Taw and Torridge systems (compared to the recent 400 on the Taw and 350 on the Torridge). The Taw was still recording 1250+ sea trout annually, one of the best catches in England and Wales and the best of a ‘fly only’ river.
In 1998 winter, fresh silver fish were reported running the river from 21st January and fresh fish were moving throughout the beats in a mild mid-February. The spring run seemed to be very early and although fish were present in many pools from opening day, it wasn’t until the 26th June that the first salmon was taken. 12 salmon and 68 sea trout were taken (although several returns are not in and I know there are salmon and sea trout on at least one of them). Best pools for salmon were Alder, End and Little Alder. Best for sea trout were Corner and Chenson. The number of grilse moving on some nights was astounding (particularly tail of John’s/ top of Corner and Little Alder). Although they proved hard to catch (mostly I think because it took until August for it to register with some of us (yes, including me) that they were grilse not sea trout!). Largest salmon was 12lbs, largest sea trout from beat 1 was 5.5lbs, largest from beat 2 was 4.5lbs (several over 4lbs). Over 90% of fish were returned.
The sea trout were very lean in 1998 which we blamed on that old chesnut of overfishing at sea, however in 1999 they were very plump!!!A 1.5lb ‘salmon’ was caught (and returned) in April 1999. This may have been a smolt. I’d be interested to hear any other theories.
The winter floods have been dramatic this year as last (1998/99 and 1999/2000). Salmon were seen spawning above Chenson Bridge both years. Otterkilled salmon are regularly seen.
In 1999 13 salmon and 76 sea trout were recorded caught (3 salmon were retained).
In 2000 16 salmon and 48 sea trout were caught (all but 1 salmon was returned).
No fishing was undertaken in 2001 due to foot & mouth.
In the past the gathering of returns has been rather hap-hazard so little information is available beyond numbers of fish retained. Please fill in your fishery returns and record all migratory fish whether returned or retained on your return form. PLEASE NOTE SALMON MUST BE RETURNED UP UNTIL JUNE 16th. ALL BROWN TROUT MUST BE RETURNED (unless injured). TROUT FISHING BY BARBLESS HOOK ONLY.
WADING: Chest waders are very useful (I use the a pair of light weight stocking-foot Simms with felt and stud boots), although in low water thigh waders are adequate for most pools. Although several pools fish well from the bank, most pools fish better ‘from the water’… but wade carefully and quietly. Sea trout and low water salmon spook easily. There are many deep pots of 8’+ even in the lowest water Alder has its deep pot and the pot at the top of Little Alder Run can catch even the most experienced local fishers unawares! Holly and Ash Tree have very deep holes. Even on the Yeo, there are some very deep spots – especially Cliff and the lowest pools (also beware the lie under the railway bridge). Be prepared to try fishing up and stripping flies back to you as well as the ’45 degrees down and across’. Particularly important for those who don’t like to wade at night: Alder Run (except at top), Alder (except to fish far slack from the tail bar – upstream), Moor (at night only), Corner, End Run and top of End Pool; Junction and Rook’s Run can be fished perfectly well WITHOUT wading.
The mayfly hatch on both Taw and Yeo can be spectacular and salmon and sea trout are also regularly hooked on a dry or nymph mayfly. Don’t fish too fine, match your tippet to your fly size!
The estuary nets (all but three) were bought off in 2004.
SALMON FISHING TIPS
10 named pools, 5 named runs.
Park your car in the lower lay-by (this is easiest – and a quick walk to the hut) marked on the map, or opposite Chenson and work down from the top.
This beat is some 20 miles from the tide, yet sea-liced fish are often caught here – given some rain .
The best holding pools are Chenson, Alder and End which always hold fish. Corner, Moor, Little Moor and Little Alder almost always hold fish. Given adequate water, the whole beat fishes well. In summer the river can rise swiftly (BEWARE WHEN WADING – PARTICULARLY AT NIGHT) and it often drops down quickly too – often with many fresh fish in the pools.
Spinning is permitted in March. Floating/ wooden Devons with suitable weight ( Wye’s or bullets …try two 1/4oz or 1/2oz bullets depending on river flow). Silver size 3 or 4 mepps are also good, if worked slowly, in fining water. Metal Devons work well – but they do get snagged up a lot. Flying ‘C’s’ can be very good – especially upstream. Some superb catches of brown trout were also made with this method in 1999 (with a very large, barbless black and silver Flying ‘C’).
Fly fishing only is permitted from March 31st, but most rods seldom fish with anything else as most of this stretch of the river is superb fly water. Silver Stoat, Stoat’s Tail and Willie Gunn are good throughout the season, try Ally’s Shrimp and wispy tailed flies in summer (the latter in the fast water on a short line and the former on a sinking line or sink-tip worked in slower water). Large tube flies and dry flies have caught fish on summer evenings.
The river fishes differently in different colours and depths. The river may be brown or red (if a Yeo flood) and fines to green or bluish green (best colour). When clear, dawn and dusk fishing is best.
It is a good idea to leave untouched the pools intended for night sea-trout fishing – at least from the afternoon on – as this will delay the start of the sea-trout’s taking period….these fish are quite shy in low water. For some reason, they are more spooky on beat 1 – on Alder, if one remains out of sight or in the shadow of the hut they seldom spook (take the gauge reading in the afternoon or after your fishing effort – that goes for salmon and trout as the lies at the top of Alder can be excellent even in very shallow water!).
END POOL: A spoon-shaped pool. Excellent for sea trout and summer grilse at the top. The flow breaks by the trees. Salmon lie here and by the stump as well as along the flow from our bank to the middle of the river. In c. 2′ 2″, fish lie on our side of the current – particularly about 2/3 down the pool. The lower half of the pool also provides lies for summer and autumn fish.
END RUN: Grilse and lower water salmon, fish (sea trout and salmon) move up from End Pool in the evening. In higher water they lie along the far bank – particularly adjacent to the reeds.
BIG MOOR POOL: Large seat. Almost always holds fish. A superb pool for the fly. Get in at the tail of Little Moor and wade all down the pool (chest waders are essential above 1′!) following the sand bank that lies parallel to the shingle bank and fish thoroughly from the head right down the pool. Fish lie all the way down, particularly close to the roots on the far bank and in the pots and flow in the middle and towards our bank. 2/3 down is a rock and a rocky ledge (behind first clump of trees on far bank) which are good lies. Fish lie on both sides of the current all the way down. There is a big pot below the seat which is also a good lie. There is also a big rock, which in lower water can be a snag…fish lie around this, particularly on the far side. In the evening the fish move up into the faster water. The tail fishes better for sea trout and late summer/ autumn fish. Sea trout lie in the tail from quite early on in the season (March, given sufficient water!). Fish often take viciously – particularly at the top. Line control is important!
LITTLE MOOR POOL: Almost always holds fish. Cast upstream from the two stumps and you will cover two good lies. Others are under our bank. Wading down from Gate Run gives a good chance of covering most of the water…or creeping up from the tail. There is a deep hole, our side, and fish lie here and along the current. There is a ledge by the upper stump, and a lower ledge upstream from the lower stump also produces a pot; another good lie is in the middle of the river up from the second stump up from the tail (where there is a rock). Chest waders are useful.
LITTLE MOOR RUN: Sea trout and grilse, wade down … lies off stumps on both banks and in the stream.
GATE POOL (The Tail is ‘The Gut’ or ‘The Tank’) : Sea trout and some grilse lies … and some nice brownies, wade down from Gate run … watch the trees!
GATE RUN): Sea trout, grilse, brownies; best fished from the water.
LITTLE ALDER POOL: A good holding pool. Fish lie at the top – in the current, along the middle, and at the bottom about 2/3 the way across. Another good lie is in front of the tree at the tail (deep channel in middle. Most may be covered from the bank below Little Alder Run. The tail lie can be covered from the tail – but you often see a shadow bolt upstream when you line the fish! Sea trout lie close to the bank over the top 2/3 of the pool – and under the bushes in the fast water at the top can be packed with them – although they seldom show themselves at the top, they often show in the eddy half way down the pool.
LITTLE ALDER RUN: Very deep and with a surprisingly strong current…beware. You must wade down from the tail of Alder with care. Salmon and large sea trout lie here (also a very good night spot for a large heavy tube fly). Salmon lie in the first channel and sea trout right the way down into Little Alder, although they seldom show themselves.
ALDER POOL: Fishing hut. One of the best pools on the Taw . Always holds fish. There is a large sea trout pot opposite the hut (in the fast water). A ledge (‘croy’) runs down the middle of the pool. Salmon lie along this and also in the big pot on our side of the current, close to our bank. Fish also lie in the eddy along the far bank…and salmon have been caught on dry flies in this! In a summer flood, the tail provides a good salmon lie … best where the channel comes up our bank and where the flow hits the far bank, by the gravel island. At the top of the pool, salmon and sea trout lie just into Alder Run and just below into the pool. Beware of the rock – fish this section thoroughly. This pool and Alder Run are best fished from the run into the pool. Some anglers take all day (or night) to painstakingly fish both. The otter on this beat normally hits this pool at about 9.30 and often will taunt you from the far bank, while sitting on the rocks devouring a sea trout. Fish will often go down for 10-20 minutes after his/her visit but seem to perk up (perhaps with relief) remarkably quickly thereafter.
ALDER RUN: This run is very deceptive. From first glance it looks like nothing and yet is one of the most productive on the beat. In the evening, fish often move up from Alder into this run. However, given decent water levels, salmon and sea trout lie all along here all the time…in particular: The lip, as the water breaks, at the tail of the run (excellent…particularly at dusk/ night); around and on the flat rock about 6′ out from the overhanging bush on the far bank. Fish lie right up into the shallower water (which is fairly deep towards the far bank) at the very top of the run. The middle and lower parts of the run are quite rough and rocky. Best fished by wading carefully in at the ‘rapids’ between here and Pericles’ and covering every inch of the water down and into Alder Pool. There are numerous rocky outcrops and channels (which you may well stumble over when wading – take care) many of which are good taking lies.
PERICLES POOL: A developing pool, surprisingly deep under the drop off and our bank; trout, peal – lots of parr! Difficult to fish properly – fish once hooked dive back towards the bank with alacrity. (This pool was filled in in 2003)
CORNER POOL: Almost always holds fish. An excellent pool for salmon and a nice clear pool for night sea trout (beware bushes on far bank!). Fish lie along the far bank … particularly under stumps and in the slack along the far bank right at the pool head (where the bottom shelves away into the pool)… along the current (both sides) in the small eddy on the far bank (our side of this) and into the shelving tail. The latter is a good place to polish up on your night-time technique. NB 2006 insert: This pool has been eroded badly in recent years due to land drain infilling the head – you can see the line of trees where it used to be.
JOHN’S POOL: Named after the late John Guard, former bailiff of these parts. Best to wade in below the tail of Chenson and fish the top 2/3 carefully. Salmon and sea trout lie here (and at the pool’s tail, where they move up from Corner Pool) particularly close to our bank and all over the gravel bar. A very good grilse spot on a summer flood or summers evening.
CHENSON POOL: Always holds fish. In summer, there is a wonderful grilse lie at the top in the stream ( far bank …. watch the trees!) which can be covered (fishing downstream) by wading (preferred) or by casting upstream from the upper casting platform. The tail of the pool, by the reeds, is an excellent sea trout and grilse evening lie….don’t fish this too early – fish are caught in 6” of fast water here! The fish lie all over this pool, particularly under stumps on both banks. A sinking line with a smallish fly, retrieved slowly, or an upstream cast with faster retrieve can work well. There are two casting platforms and easy access at top and tail. One successful method is pure ‘Netheravon’!…getting in at the tail and fishing an upstream weighted black nymph (yes, for salmon!). On a calm summer evening this pool can seem packed with fish… great care must be exercised not to ‘spook’ them. Wade very carefully up from the tail. Cover the water diligently. A sinking line in higher water – and in the small hours- and in the main pool (or a larger fly), floater in lower water and in the bottom 10 yards (and smaller fly)- fish can lie in only inches of water here. Six fish in succession were caught from here in 2000.
Barbless hooks are MANDATORY when trout fishing as there is a large number of parr on beat 1.
12 named pools, 5 named runs.
There are brown trout of 3lb+ on this stretch (one was landed in 1999 on a salmon spinner) and plenty of over 1lb. Except early on in the year, they tend to lurk close to the bank and on several stretches e.g. Rook’s Run, they can be seen chasing small fish and sedge pupae creating bow-waves on a summer’s evening. The Otter on this stretch comes upstream at about 8.30pm and can cause a 20minute cessation of activity – particularly from the peal.
Park your car at Chenson and walk upstream to the white notice at the first fence (where the gap between the railway and the river widens out) where there is a white notice ‘Beat 1’… the bottom of the beat. Alternatively, park your car at the top lay-by and walk across the railway to Junction Pool.
This beat is very lightly fished. The Yeo gets a good mayfly hatch.
In all flows except summer low water wading staffs and chest waders are essential.
6 named pools, 2 named runs.
ROOK’S RUN: Sea trout lie all along here, moving up from Frank’s Pool (Frank’s is not Chenson water) at night – it is a very productive spot, even in the evening; grilse also in lie here.
ROOK’S POOL: Best fished from the water. There are many lies along our bank and above and below the rock ledge at the top of the pool (dibble or get in by the steps). In front of the steps (where this pool merges with Holly Tree) you can dibble (lies along our bank right up beyond the Holly trees).
HOLLY TREE POOL: A very long pool. Fish lie along our bank all the way along. You can dibble or dap, or -best- get in the water and fish it down. There are many very deep pots in a rocky bottom, particularly opposite the clear bank two thirds the way down (beware when wading – you can’t stay on our side all the way down!). You can hold the flies for a long time over the lies, which can induce a take. Sea trout also lie along here, all the way down. Stoat’s Tail and Silver Stoat work well.
HOLLY TREE RUN: Sea trout and grilse in hollows – and some very large browns.
UPPER PETER’S POOL: Named after the late Peter Fullwood, former Chenson River Keeper, who fished this water for much of his life – and loved it with a passion. A deep head with strong flow, shallowing towards the tail. Fish lie along the flow, particularly around the stump on our bank. Get in at the tail of Ash Tree and fish it, and the lower pool (and then keep wading down Holly).
LOWER PETER’S POOL: Shallower than the upper, but just as rocky and with a similar strong flow. Fish lie in under the tree and, in higher water, on both sides of the stream.
ASH TREE POOL: At the tail is a good lie – in the middle- and close to the bank some ten to twenty yards up are several lies. Around the rock ledges about 2/3 down the pool and there are very good grilse lies at the top of the pool, as the water deepens from the run in from Junction Pool.
JUNCTION POOL: In higher water, fish lie along the gravel bar (our side) into the Yeo’s stream. They may also move up into the Yeo itself (particularly later on in the year – sea trout run the Yeo from early June). Sea trout and grilse lie here in numbers the evenings, prior to running the Yeo. Also, try the faster water in the run into Ash Tree. Wade in here to fish up Rainbow – very good at night. There is a seat here and a style.
6 named pools, 3 runs.
Fished from the water, casting (side casting under the trees) is seldom a problem. If waded with care, you can catch fish at very close quarters.
The best pools are Rainbow (above the Taw confluence), Hawk and Cliff; with Railway Bridge, Wide and Dryad’s also useful. The whole fishes well for trout, and the pools for sea trout – during the day and evening – for Peal from mid-June. Best night pools are Cliff and Rainbow. A long cast is certainly not necessary, but careful wading is.
Some of the pools are not easily wadeable above about 1’9″ on the gauge, chest waders are needed to 1’3″; below this thigh/ trouser waders (with great care!) are adequate for most pools (NOT Railway Bridge – unless you wade along the far bank, or Cliff – except, again, close to the far bank) . The Yeo holds a wonderful head of wild brown trout (please return all those under 10″ and over 14″). Sea trout run in from mid-June and autumn salmon also ascend the Yeo in numbers (but are very difficult to land!). Wading is essential … the fish are very wary, particularly in low clear water …. fine leaders are necessary in lower water. Bushy flies (Wickham, Brown and Black Palmers, double hackled Greenwell’s, Pheasant Tail and Blue Upright are all readily taken and the extra hackles aid floatation and stop the trees snagging your fly!). Tup’s Indispensable in a size 12 can be good for sea trout by day (dry or wet upstream). Leaded nymphs work well … if you don’t snag the trees!
The best plan is to wade up from the confluence (with chest waders) all the way up…you may have to get out part way up Rainbow (it’s too deep) or scrabble along the bank, then get back in at Hawk’s tail and fish up, wade under the right hand railway arch (the left is too deep) fishing Cliff from the far bank (we have double bank fishing on this section), and fishing Railway Bridge on the way back down.
The Yeo is mostly in shade – fish can be caught here when all but Holly Tree and Gate on the main river are difficult to fish because of the sun.
Barbless hooks are MANDATORY when trout fishing as there is a very high percentage of parr on beat 1.
RAINBOW POOL: Sea trout, trout, late salmon … in the middle and under our bank … in lower water in the current at the pools head. This pool can be very good for peal, the water is deep (chest/ trouser waders!) or cast up from the confluence. Barry Hunt (the opposite bank) catches many – some surprisingly sizeable – each season from this pool. There are also many large brown trout along the bank. Try a deep, leaded nymph.
HAWK POOL: Sea trout, trout, salmon. Fish lie along the current.
DRYAD’S POOL: Peal, trout. Autumn salmon.
DIMITRA’S RUN: Summer peal, trout.
RAILWAY BRIDGE POOL: The water shelves away quickly from the head of the pool. I could not wade it with chest waders at 2’1″ beyond half way up, into the bridge. Fish seem to lie by the bridge supports, the head and into the tail. Autumn salmon, sea trout, trout.
LONG RUN: Trout, sea trout. Careful when wading – there are a few pots!
WIDE POOL: Double bank fishing. You will have to climb over the fallen tree (not difficult) to get to Nymet Cliffs. Fish up from the angled birch (which has been trimmed to facilitate casting). Sea trout lie under, behind and in front of (fish down to) the fallen tree and in the streams along both banks. Trout cruise in the eddy along the far bank..
CLIFF POOL: A very deep pool, on a ninety degree bend. It shelves quickly towards Chenson side from a gravel bend, towards a steep rocky ‘cliff’. Fishing is from both banks. Best fished from the tail then from the gravel bank (Nymet side). A very good holding pool for peal and salmon (and once a favourite poaching haunt) it also holds many large trout.
TOP RUN: A pleasant series of shallow trout runs with the odd deeper lies for summer peal.
SEA TROUT (PEAL) FISHING:
Although they can, sometimes, be caught during the day in shady areas and in higher water , most are caught at night. They hang around these beats from late May until the end of September, although they have been caught in March and April. Fox and Hound’s records show them caught on these beats (when they were Fox controlled) during these months on Queen of the River and March Brown wet flies by people trout fishing (during the day).
The best sea trout in 1995 was a 4lbs cock fish, caught in June. A 3 1/2lb fish was caught on dry fly during the day on beat 1. . In 1962, a 17 1/2lbs peal was taken from End Pool and in recent years sea trout of 8-12lbs have been recorded including a 1999 6lbs fish from Rook’s and a 10 1/2lb fish from Alder Run…..don’t fish too fine!
At night Medicine, 2-3″ tubes, muddlers and sedges (‘dragged’) are popular; Silver Invicta, Coachman, Peter Ross and Silver Stoat patterns are also useful. The Alexandra and Jungle Alexandra are popular as well. Size 6 long shank is the most popular, but a smaller fly on the dropper may help span the field. Generally, increase the fly size as the night progresses. Secret weapons can be useful. Sea trout can be very active and caught at dusk, but they still spook more easily than at night … make sure you keep the main night fishing pools untouched until an hour after dark (and agree which pools are to be kept undisturbed with your sharing rod, if you have one). Most -if not all- the pools and runs will hold sea trout when they are ‘up’.
Long casting at night is more likely to end up in the bushes (they seem to grow at night!) or in tangles. Search the water carefully. Avoid torch light as much as possible. If you have a tangle move away from the water. Some red cloth or a red filter over your torch will help retain your night vision. Move the flies in slacker water…but only slowly. Floating lines are normally all that is necessary, but try sink tip lines (or sinking lines in higher water levels) if the fish ‘go down’. Intermediate lines are also useful.
Beware of wading at night. Some pools do not need wading at night (e.g. Corner). If you do have to wade, make sure you have waded it during the day (preferably that morning). It is a good idea to keep a point of reference (a light stone, the gauge in Alder e.g.) to keep an eye on river level. Don’t wade too deeply at night.
If a moon is shining down the pool (e.g. Big Moor) then try alternative pools e.g. Alder Run which will not be hit by the full moon….or you will spook the fish…the line will appear feet thick to the fish (as in strong sunlight).
In higher water, they can be caught during the day (Silver Invicta, Yellow Torrish singles, Silver Stoat, Peter Ross and small tubes may take fish).
Upstream wet fly/ nymph (particularly weighted nymph with indicator) is most successful. arly fish like a very large brown or black fly. Sedge and dries can also catch fish well, particularly in the evening. Downstream and across can work well on beat 1, although beware of the large percentage of parr that are attracted to this method. Trout fishing is by catch and release with barbless/ de-barbed hooks only, please.
Any suggestions for further inclusion (such as new or well defined lies/ amending inaccuracies) are most welcome. Last updated March 2006.