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Along with the clocks; Sherlock and I stepped back in time and headed for the river. It’s a walk that is popular with locals, especially now during these periods of lockdown. The river soothes my brow and blesses my senses. Eyes feast on the autumnal activities of the wildlife and enjoy the fire red and orange leaves that are illuminated by the low lying sun that lay sentry along the old railway line. It is here that we head first. It is not Sherlocks favourite part of the walk. He tiptoes his way along the shingles as if he is walking on hot coals. This was once a thriving local line that connected the folk of Honiton and Ottery to the seaside town of Sidmouth until Lord Beeching in his infinite wisdom closed it in 1967. Now as you walk along the remains of the track, under this natural canopy of autumn gold, you can imagine the sights and sounds and smells of the steam trains as they passed this way. Now just ghost trains. History. We follow the trail to the point of light at the end. Through the gate and into an open green field with a huge cloudless blue sky that releases all the thoughts of tunnel claustrophobia. The big picture. Sherlock senses the freedom and chases around in huge circles like a wind up toy with a bent axle. Ever increasing circles. His madness disturbs an egret that was wading through the shallows.

A large group of mallards watched uneasily from the old river bed as Sherlock gradually ran out of steam. Together we cross the old bed. Our feet leaving imprints in the silt between the rocks where once there was a lovely trout lie below a fallen tree. Here we used to sit on the trunk and catch minnows and sticklebacks and hunt for bullheads and eels amongst the very rocks we now walked amongst. Strange that I call it the old river bed; for to me this was the new river bed. One that has slowly crept across the pasture land, eventually devouring the old footpath and in one flood a few years back sent the old stile floating down to Budleigh Salterton. Now, just a mere trickle remains. It is strange to find the river has now returned to it’s original path of forty years ago. The only thing that is certain in nature is it’s uncertainty.

Heading back upstream we pass the pool where during the summer locals spend their time swimming in it’s cool refreshing water and swinging on the rustic swings that hang from the boughs of the obliging trees. Lily and her friends reckon there is one spot in the pool that is bottomless. I’d love to think that it was true. A little mystery is good for the imagination.

As we continued back up the river I heard a loud splash. It came from a set of rapids just above one of the last pools before the bridge. At first I though maybe it was part of the bank collapsing, or Sherlock had fallen in. But neither were the culprit. Perplexed I stood and waited for a repeat. Perseverance can be rewarded. And indeed it was, for a couple of minutes later the performance was repeated and this time I saw the silver flash and the great square edged of a tail. Salmon or sea trout I could not be sure. But they are running up the river to spawn. In this current period of pessimism it is good to know that nature always bears optimism and hope.

It’s amazing how different occurances can transpire to make you miss the start of a fishing season. June the sixteenth. Oh the anticipation! The buzz remains intact even after nearly sixty years. For many anglers the close season is a thing of the past. I still belligerently stand by the rules of yore.

So today is the twenty sixth, ten days late. Ten lost misty lily pad and ochre sky dawn reflections. This year has been particularly challenging; including a few false dawns (overslept,) work, an unusual bout of angler’s apathy, a broken tooth and a knackered ankle. These have all playing their part in my delayed angling forage. But last night I ran through my check list. Put new line on reel. Load tackle in car. Don’t forget the landing net. Check maggots and bait in fridge. Make a sandwich. Get flask ready. Set your alarm. Repeat all above several times. It’s all part of the tingle; the planning. The ritual.

Four am. A raucous awakening. The dog sighs deeply annoyed at the disturbance, but I manage to resist the urge to doze. I am up, dressed suitably in drab greens and browns and await the kettle’s boiling whilst it imitates a jet plane taking off. Outside there is a hint of daybreak in the sky. A hint of promise. I’m going fishing!

The pond is an old clay pit. Back in the 60’s Dick Walker and Jack Hilton; two of angling’s finest ambassadours tested their carp fishing skills here. This was when it was believed that fishing for carp was a complete waste of time- because they were uncatchable. Mike Winter, a local angling legend regaled to me many a story of his encounters with the lake and as I stand and drink in the atmosphere I like to think that somewhere in the swirling mists the ghosts of Dick, Jack and Mike are watching over the lake and perhaps their spirits are flowing through the green tea tinged water.

No carp for me today. I leave them to the barrow boys and their mountain of tackle, tents and electronics. Each to their own. I’m a simple man. A tackle luddite. An old Sealey Nufloat cane rod, speedia reel and a bag with my tin of tackle, provisions for the morning and yes- I remembered the landing net. On my hat I have a Crabtree Society lucky badge (although that tag hasn’t been earned yet!) Rod is assembled, line threaded- eventually, quill float attached, single bb shot near the hook, a couple of maggots- oh sh1t, I forgot the maggots! And as it transpired the luncheon meat as well. Never mind, the tench will love the strawberry flavoured sweetcorn. Even though my dyed red hands from handling the darn stuff will look like those of an axe murderer.

A warm summer scented breeze blows gently into my face as I throw some free offerings close to the lily beds. How quickly a family of moorhens can scuttle their way over to my swim at the sound of a couple of handfuls of ground bait being introduced. The water begins to fizz with bubbles. The moorhens duck and dive and strut around like drunkards looking for a fight. The pecking order for the welcome freebies is strictly observed by all. My inner self fizzed in unison with the rippling water. Each dip and twitch of my ancient quill float heightened my expectancy levels.

Today the tench were not to oblige. They were there, and feeding. Their presence being given away by the telltale trail of tiny bubbles that rose to the surface. Bream though, loved the corn and also my marmalade sandwich which proved an admirable substitute for the maggots. For anyone wishing to know the secret to getting this delicacy perfect, make them the night before. Everything oozes together.

I shall return in the autumn to fish for the large Perch which reside here. And yes, I will remember the maggots- hopefully.

Keep it simple. Just a rod, a reel and some bread and worms for bait and a small measure of expectancy that hangs like your breath in the air.


There is a strangely perverse pleasure to be had by spending a few hours on the riverbank in Winter. The coldness of the silt filled river seeps through thermal clothing and into your bones. All can seem desolate, almost lifeless. But look around and through that grey shroud that spans the landscape and there is much to enjoy. An old dog fox looking more bedraggled than me skulking along the hedgerow; hoping for a meagre morsel. Maybe he could smell my pasty. Sandpipers, both common and green, a snipe and having just checked in the Collins bird book, a rare sighting of a red throated diver.

There are a thousand excuses for an angler not to catch a fish; but not one for not being there.


With a few hours to spare on my day off before I had to take Lily to the fracture clinic to have her wrist replastered  having broken it whilst doing the hurdles at school, I decided a short fishing trip was in order. Having hurriedly thrown a couple of made up rods, net and a bag of bits I headed for my local tackle shop for a pint of maggots- and came out with much more! Back in the van I  suddenly found myself in a bit of a quandary. Where to go?

Lily was in Exeter on a school trip and I had to pick her up at two pm prompt in the city centre. My usual spots on the Culm were quickly dismissed; due to the time it would take to battle through the hordes of sweaty shoppers. As the van rattled down the dual carriageway, I made up my mind for the tenth(or eleventh) time and decided on a spot that I have driven past, or rather over, when heading to north Devon on a surfing trip. The confluence of the rivers Exe and Creedy just outside of Exeter- perfect to cut off and nip back into town. I hadn’t fished there for over twenty years; so a quick reconnaissance  trip would be the perfect solution.

Crossing over the bridges as slowly as I dare without stirring the angst of the drivers behind, I glanced over at the rivers. On the plus side there wasn’t the usual field of heifers that seem to wait for me where ever I fish. The rivers though were both very low. Not surprising with the lack of rainfall (not complaining, folks.) Even from my moving vantage point I could see that the Bankside vegetation was very tall and very dense. Luckily I chose a long sleeve shirt!

I parked up the van in the lay-by next to a couple of rusting vans which didn’t appear to have moved in a long time- therefore my van didn’t look to conspicuous. As I unpack my few items of tackle I couldn’t help but notice how hot the day had become.

So there you go- I’ve got my excuses for blanking out of the way early! Very hot day, very short session, very low river, very tall and foreboding vegetation, and a very crap angler to boot!


The rivers could not be more dissimilar if they tried. On the left we have the Exe, a river that seems to be in a hurry to enter the sea. In comparison the Creedy seems to be in no hurry at all. A wide slow paced and deep affair that seems resigned to it’s fate, save for it’s brief “last huzzah” in the shape of a lovely weir and a very enticing  looking pool below it, which is sadly out of bounds to us anglers.

Firstly I tracked the Exe downstream, with the return journey being the upstream ramble along the Creedy. From the road bridge the Exe was a  collection of shallow rapids interspersed with a few deeper glides; some flowing deliciously under the roots of the willow and ash trees that sporadically inhabit it’s banks. Peering through the holes in the jungle, disturbing  the myriad of resident damsel flies (I spotted Emeralds, Southern, Blue tails and Azures,) I spotted a shoal of small chub chasing each other for no apparent reason apart from to entertain me, and more excitingly a large grayling at the tail of one pool rising freely to take what appeared to be caddis flies. It’s huge dorsal fin being the give away sign. No signs of any larger fish, the hopes of a fleeting glimpse of the few resident barbel were extinguished by the high noon sun and the heat (have I mentioned the heat?) The confluence of the rivers was not reachable. I could hear the rapids in the distance calli, but there was no way I was going to burrow through about twenty yards of impenetrable head high nettles, teasels and pollen heavy grass- especially as I hadn’t taken my daily hay fever tablet and I was an extremely hot and sweaty, nettle weary wreck already. It was here that I remembered that I had a flask of iced water in my bag. Better late than never.

Fully replenished, I set about the return leg up the Creedy. the shallows below the weir pool and the pool itself were inaccessible without a scythe or industrial strimmer, but just above the weir there was a small trampled path which led to a large sycamore tree, its branches providing a shady natural umbrella to the slowly flowing waters beneath. I peered into the darkness for several minutes whilst offering a few tempting maggots and corn to any residents but to no avail. Moving upstream I came across a huge flattened out area, about the size of a  bivvie, along with a broken v shaped stick rod rest.  A positive sign albeit that the  swim had obviously been created by a carp angler. Directly opposite was a row of trees and some lilies with deep slow flowing water beneath their branches. Ideal habitat for the carp which inhabit this stretch which apparently get hammered for the first few weeks of the season. Time for cast I thought- I’d been here for over two hours and I hadn’t yet wet a line.


How a rod that was hurriedly disassembled after a last moonlight cast on the Culm back in June can suddenly have a twisted line between rod ringsI shall never know. All I did was put the hook in it’s keeper ring and separate the two sections and securred them with a couple of stolen  glittery hair bands from Lily. But after my cast plopped beside the tempting tree and the worms were allowed to do their thing, I realised what had happened. “Sod it” I thought and took a chance. I needn’t have worried, and anyway it gave a couple of damselflies something to laugh about. Feeling slightly better for finally having a cast I wound in and progressed up river. I must have passed a half dozen more bivvie sized pitches, having a cast here and there but to be honest I was just happy checking out a different stretch of water.

Eventually I arrived at the road bridge, the last swim available. Here I trotted baits downstream and each cast bought a fish. Mainly huge minnows which happily devoured a couple of bronze maggots on a size 16 hook. Pausing for a drink I glanced down at the water by my feet; it was teeming with minnows and small chublets. I spent the last half hour feeding a steady stream of maggots to the hordes. Great fun to watch the small fish battling with each other for the wriggly spoils. After a while the small chub started muscling in and the minnows disappeared. At this point it was time to go and meet Lily.


I headed back to the van where I met a fellow angler who informed me of the number of small barbel being caught on the Creedy and the large grayling and roach on the Exe. The field between two rivers and the best of both worlds for an angler like me.






Defied Storm Gareth on my last trip to the Culm this season. Managed to hook and land two substantial branches as they hurtled downstream. One of which put up a superb barbel like fight all the way to the net. Just a tad disappointing; even though it was a personal best branch. Testament to the vintage Dawson’s of Bromley 600 rod and Speedia centrepin reel. The river was still rising as I packed up in the late evening gloom. As I was leaving I saw the comical sight of a very noisy and angry heron trying to negotiate a safe passage across the wind ripped sky. It’s ungainly flightpath took it back across the river, just as a huge roach- the biggest I’ve seen in years, rolled on the surface. It’s these signs of hope that keeps me coming back to this enchanting stretch of river. #culmfisher #traditionalangling #vintagefishing #fishing


I know it’s all my fault. Laziness is not a disease; just a state of mind and as minds go mine is pretty static- unless it’s full of thoughts which are absolutely useless to me or anyone…

I go back to the end of last season- March 14th. I finished work and threw the creel and a couple of rods into the van and headed for the Hele stretch of the Culm. The weather was warm and a few chub even allowed themselves to be fooled by my lurching float and graced my net. No problem so far. The long walk back to the van was periodically broken with stops to note some likely gudgeon swims on the leat and to watch a couple of crows give a buzzard a hard time on their way back to their evening roost. The pasty I had bought to fortify me was waiting on the passenger seat and it was this that I concentrated on whilst stowing away the tackle before sliding the door shut. I shall never forget the sickening snapping sound as the door smashed it’s way through the tip ring and the middle section ferrule of my Dawson’s “Sabina” rod. I once heard a similar sound when playing football for a local team. The visitors were short of a goalie and so their  fifty year plus linesman took his place between the sticks. After ten minutes he was in a collision with one of our forwards and a resounding “snap” echoed around the Otter valley. To see the chap calmy smoking a cigarette with his femur sticking out of his skin and happily telling everyone that “it was his own bloody stupid fault,” whilst waiting for the ambulance…i digress.

Staring at my beloved but now shattered Sabina, I was distraught, distraught to the point of losing my appetite. the pasty remained unopened and showed it’s displeasure by sliding around on the seat beside me, the plastic packaging making a hissing noise as if mocking me in my misfortune.

June 16th.. First day back on the river. The close season spent being driven mad by bass ignoring my lures and mullet, well, mullet just doing what they do- infuriate.

The Culm was bright and clear, the bankside full of colour, oh, and nettles filled with venom. I wandered happily along, armed with my other Sabina, Allcocks centrepin, and a pot of worms. The day was good, the fish were few, but natures distractions reminded me of why I go fishing in the first place. Solace.

As the crows headed back to the woods to roost, I had to have my last cast. The swim looked so inviting. A deep run between two weed beds, an ideal place to send a worm for a swim. A gentle flick of the wrist was all that was required. The cast was made, but instead of the “plopping” sound of quill hitting water, I heard nothing. All I could see was my float hanging from a willow branch and the worm dangling tantalisingly a couple of inches above the water.

The river here was quite narrow, infact I could have reached my float with my cane landing net handle and thus release it from it’s woody lair. But no; in my haste I simply pulled hard, the line tightened and I heard the snap as my float and baited hook flew past my face into the field behind…followed by the top four inches of the rod.

I need add no further.

Having seen footage of rivers flowing through houses and waves too big to surf on. I have contented myself with central heating, glasses of port and Chris Yates’ excellent new book “The Lost Diary” ( for details.) But with a day off ahead and a blue sky beckoning I hurried the children off to school and then cogitated about where to go and what to fish for over a plate of eggs on toast and a cup of coffee…or two. Outside our nine year old Labrador “Marley” (named before the film came out OK!) was skating across the decking like Bambi, in his conquest to catch the grey squirrel that was sat in the apple tree. “Pike” I rather randomly thought. Associating the icy conditions with the fact that my recently acquired old Esox slaying rod which was originally designed for salmon fishing (i think)  and a speedia reel were propped up in the corner of the hallway. The rod is named “The Monnow” and also has the name W.G Haynes and Son of Exeter emblazoned on it- so it be a local bay! In truth it could use a little tlc, but with over one hundred intermediates to re-whip it can wait a little while longer (who am I kidding?)

Decision made; I set about transferring the jumbled assortment of necessary tackle from my old canvas bag to my new creel which my daughter Kim had very kindly bought me for Christmas. I announced each item aloud as it was transferred, carefully wiping off any crusty cheese paste and furry luncheon meat as I went along. All was going well until I put my finger through a rotten banana that was lurking at the bottom of the bag! With hands washed I suddenly remembered the plastic wallet with my fishing licences in. Thankfully it was in the front pocket and I managed to retrieve it, along with a rusty old sea hook that decided in it’s last throws of usefulness to impale itself into my forefinger (size 1/0 for the technically minded.)

With hands washed (again) to stop the fragment of decomposed mackerel from infecting me (just in case you were beginning to think I had an OCD  disorder,) I began flicking through the contents of the wallet. Old Royalty day tickets, Christchurch Angling Club, Sturminster Newton Club permits, a few day tickets for carp pools that were either now Theme Parks or Car Parks and finally countless Exeter Angling Association annual permits…ending in 2013. The realisation that it was now 2014 finally struck me. “*** it!” I thought. Now normally this wouldn’t be an issue as I can usually rely on the gratuities that I am kindly given by the customers on my mail round. This year however most of the general public have decided that as we Postie’s are now “stinking rich” with our free shares (even though we can’t sell them for a minimum of three years, by which time they will either be worthless or owned by the French- which is probably the same thing,) from Royal mail we no longer need a Christmas tip to buy our fishing permits and the odd bottles of cider and port.

Skint, I considered my options; Sell the dog on ebay? No that would take too long and I would probably get more for him at the local Chinese- I mean, who would spend a fortune on a pedigree gundog that was scared of loud noises…? Who…? You guessed it. Maybe I could raid the children’s money boxes? No they are still full of Euros and old sixpences from last time. Time to face the fact that fishing is off today’s menu. Which is a shame because I was going to christen the new hat that my wife Rae bought me for Christmas. It’s made from an old Brazilian tarpaulin ( Hang on, I think I am missing a trick here. If  when you go to these links and decide to buy a book or hat could you please mention you saw the links on my blog and that I can’t afford my permits, cider or port this year and a little commission wouldn’t go amiss.

So, there it is. My first “nearly” trip of the year became my first post of the year. The next one will definitely contain the catching of a fish or two, or at the very least a glimpse of a river…please.


#fishing #traditionalangling #vintagetackle #IMG_3268a

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