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Rivers and hotel fishings

The Coquet, Northumberland - Ecgesford - North and South Devon - Dulverton - Exmouth - Spring Fishing - Weather and Holidays.
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And meet your warmest welcome at an inn. (Pope.)

For those who care for the experience of others when it is at any rate disinterested, and without the object of advertisement, I should like to mention a few rivers and fishings that have come either within my own practical knowledge, or of which I can speak from the letters and accounts of accurate angling friends. It does not in the least follow that anything named here is better than others which are not. It merely means that the others are less well known to me.

To begin with a very northern river, the Coquet can justly claim attention, and can be coupled with the name of the County Hotel, Rothbury, Northumberland. The charms of the Coquet has impelled several local bards to write verses in its praise, while as for the trout their colouring must be difficult to match from other rivers.

The Coquet rises in the Cheviots between Northumberland and Roxburgh, its course being for the most part eastward. Of its tributaries, the Usway and the Alwine may be mentioned, while at Thropton it is joined by the Wreigh. No one can do better than peruse the short account of the Coquet in the small pamphlet issued by the Northumberland Anglers' Federation. In that, they tell us, the river is most carefully watched, 'the poacher deterred and the true angler encouraged.' Would that this could be said of scores of other good fishings.

Permits are issued at almost a nominal charge by the Coquet Committee of the Anglers' Federation, so that it is possible to take one out for a day, a week, or a month. The trout season extends from 4th March to the 30th September. Monthly tickets cost ten shillings; weekly, seven and sixpence; and dally, half a crown. At the County Hotel, Rothbury, the fishing is free to visitors. Mr. Garvin the manager writes to me under date of January 18th this year (1912), that the largest yellow- trout he has seen captured was 6¼ lbs. caught by Mr. Benbow of Edinburgh in August, 1910. As a rule in April good baskets of from two to three dozen are secured, but this last season (1911) there were several catches of between three and four dozen.

To jump a matter of four hundred miles - which is nothing to a really enthusiastic angler with a sufficient length of holiday - I should like to name the Fox and Hounds Hotel at Eggesford, North Devon; where the proprietor has some fifteen miles of good trout fishing. The size limit is eight inches, and the number limit two dozen a day. Wading is not necessary but is an advantage. The season opens from 1 March to 30 September and fishing is free to all the hotel visitors. The terms of the hotel are three guineas a week.

In a letter this year, as to recent doings, the proprietor Mr. Littleworth gives me the following extract from his visitors book of last season (1911). 'March 28th 20 trout weighing nine pounds; March 29th 20; March 30th 10; April 3rd 9; 8th 8; 12th 6; 15th 4; 17th 7; 18th 5; 19th 13; 21st 6; 22nd 13; 24th 8; 26th 18 (weighing nine pounds) and April 28th 12; - a total of 206; the heaviest fish being fourteen ounces, with several of a full twelve ounces.

Of the Axe in Devonshire, and the Dove in Derbyshire, 1 have already spoken.

On the River Otter, South Devon fishing can be obtained either by staying at the Imperial Hotel, Exmouth, or the Rolle Arms Hotel, Budleigb-Salterton. A limited number of Day Tickets, which are not transferable, are issued from the Rolle Estate Office, Exmouth, by Mr. R. Charnier. These were, for last season, six shillings between mid-March and mid-May; or three shillings afterwards, until the close of the season on 31st August. The conditions cited are, that Artificial fly only s to be used; that no fish under nine inches is to be killed, or more than one dozen to he kept; and that no wading is allowed.

During the past ten years the average size of trout on this river has been seven ounces, taking the whole year round. Of course during the summer months individual catches have far exceeded this; having often approximated three quarters of a pound, while in nearly every season a specimen trout of about two pounds has been taken by some fortunate rod.

On other early Devonshire rivers the Carnarvon Arms Hotel at Dulverton can be recommended, where five miles of preserved water on the Exe and Barle are open to the hotel visitors.

With the full list of Anglers' Hotels and Fishing quarters described or advertised each week in the Fishing Gazette there can never be any real difficulty of where to go, provided one has the necessary time and keenness when one's holiday comes round.

Something may be said upon the question of expense: for it is no use pretending that fishing is every man's sport; or that everyone can afford a three guinea weekly bill at a hotel, n addition to the cost of a long journey. In naming the hotel bill and railway ticket, one can claim at least to have named almost all. The temptation to spend money on side issues is removed. There is no pier, no concert hall, no cinema palace, often indeed no billiard room.

The holiday angler therefore, unlike the visitor at a fashionable seaside resort, should be able to work to the strictly moderate estimate he put down, for contingencies, before starting. Whether the river he fishes in is good or bad, whether the days are cold or kind, whether his hand is ' in ' or not, whether his health at the time is normal or below par, the man who returns from a fly fishing holiday to the City generally does so with his head full of the improved plans he will elaborate for his next holiday. Nothing is quite like it. Nothing is so restful. Nothing is so exciting. Nothing so delightful to look forward to - or to look back upon. Of course a distinct pull that the fly fisherman has is his Indifference to wet weather. During the whole of a drizzly spring, when hardly a day passes that can be termed anything but doubtful, we are as happy as the cattle, provided the river is not in flood. When the tennis court or the cricket pitch is sodden, the water is often in its finest condition, and trout in their most generous mood.

Devonshire rivers with gravelly beds are often most favourable for wet fly fishing, during March and April, when the water is beer coloured. On such days between ten o'clock and three I have seen man)- takes of twenty trout, averaging a full seven ounces: which means that a basket contains a few of three quarters of a pound. I have caught a full pounder on the opening day (March 4). Generally the result of early downstream fishing is that one catches a fair proportion of fish but little over the nine inch limit - fish if weighed will often be found to be barely five ounces.

How one can manage at such a t me to select one's trout so as to obtain a good average weight in pure downstream angling is a problem that others must solve. Only this last season as I looked at my dozen fish - three having been put hack which were oversize in order to allow of three better ones being taken - I could see that they averaged between six and seven ounces, and were fully up to the usual run of catches made at this season in many former years. The next morning I met two other strange rods, whom I had seen fishing the same water. I answered the usual questions as to number and commented on the small size of March trout. Neither of them agreed to this. The first man had got his dozen ' and they weighed ten pounds at the hotel last night.' 'Did you put back many?' I asked. ' No, only three or four.'

A little bit later, on thinking this over, I saw the other man who had caught seven. ' Your friend's catch was very good: was it twelve fish weighing ten pounds?' 'Yes, that's right, we weighed them at the hotel last evening, a full ten pounds.' Well, that is a record for this river, I have known it for fifteen years and never seen such a basket.' ' Ah, very likely ' he replied ' my friend is a splendid fisherman.'

The river the preceding day was full and highly coloured. I myself had seen both men fishing downstream, apparently with three flies; casting them out in the orthodox March manner, and allowing them to come round under one's own hank, then stepping forward a pace and repeating the process. How the art of being a splendid fisherman preserved those flies from being taken by the five and six ounce trout, which had so readily come to mine, is beyond any theory I can advance. But the two men had seen the fish weighed at the hotel. Mine I never thought of weighing, but would have bet a sovereign they did not exceed five pounds. Here then is one of the disappointments one has to put up with, to find all records of a river, even its summer records, broken in early March by a comparative stranger to the water.

At Easter last year a friend who owns perhaps the best mile of the river saw ' four fish caught in one day each one over a pound " taken by perhaps the best known angler - either wet or dry - in Devonshire. The same rod. later in the year, ' caught twelve averaging nearly three quarters of a pound in July.' The largest trout caught on his water to his knowledge was 2 lbs. 2½ oz.

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