| Fly Fishing Devon | Fly Fishing Paradigm Shift

This essay, in the  Heuristic Trout series,  explores why Halford's circumscribed method of dry-fly fishing has not replaced completely local methods of wet and dry-fly fishing for wild brown trout. Privately-funded stocking of English chalk streams has been carried out from the 19th century. Several sections in this essay explore the possibility that Halford's method of fishing a dry fly may be particularly successful at catching stocked trout on chalk streams, but less effective on stocked freestone spate rivers in, for example, South Devon and America.


Fly-fishing history as a series of paradigm shifts

The history of fly-fishing for trout might be seen as a series of 'paradigm shifts', rather than a continuous linear accumulation of increasingly effective and sophisticated techniques. A paradigm shift (Kuhn 1970) involves an old paradigm being replaced by a new, better one that may retain some elements from the older paradigm; for example, in medicine, the shift from clinical judgment to evidence-based medicine.

This essay suggests that Halford and his followers mounted an ultimately unsucessful paradigm shift at the beginning of the 20th century. Instead Halford's approach is an important 'school of thought' about dry-fly fishing that satisfies the socio-economic needs of anglers, and riparian owners, to this day on stocked English chalk streams.


Halford's initial contribution to the fly-fishing paradigm

A paradigm consists of a theory and methods used by a group of people who share a common literature, set of beliefs, and values. Halford's first book, published in 1886, made a significant and undisputed contribution to a loosely formulated fly-fishing 'paradigm' that already existed at the end of the 19th century. For example, he provided a clear definition of dry-fly fishing, and a method of fishing with a dry fly. He has had a lasting impact on English chalk streams, but his approach to dry-fly fishing had less of an effect on British freestone spate rivers.

"To define dry-fly fishing, I should describe it as presenting to the rising fish the best possible imitation of the insect on which he is feeding in its natural position. To analyse this further, it is necessary, firstly, to find a fish feeding on the winged insect ; secondly, to present to him a good imitation of this insect, both as to size and colour ; thirdly, to present it to him in its natural position, or floating on the surface of the water with its wings up, or what we technically term, " cocked ;" fourthly, to put the fly lightly on the water, so that it floats accurately over him without drag; and, fifthly, to take care that all these conditions have been fulfilled before the fish has seen the Angler or the reflection of his rod" (Halford 1886 p117-8).

Halford appreciated that circumstances might preclude casting upstream. But to avoid drag, that produces a wake on the surface, he advised casting upstream, or across and upstream. He recommended using a single-handed rod up to 12 feet in length made of greenheart or cane, a tapered silk line waterproofed with deer fat to assist floatation, and a tapered gut cast from one and a half to three and a half yards in length  (ibid p123-9).

My impression, reading the following section is that he is describing a method that tries to give the angler the best chance of catching a rising fish. In 1886, he was careful not to place dry-fly fishing on Southern chalk streams above wet-fly fishing on Northern freestone rivers.

"For obvious reasons it is as well not to enter on any controversy as to the comparative merits of the two schools of fly-fishing : the wet or North Country style, and the dry or South Country style. Each is beyond doubt effective in its own particular streams and under circumstances favouring its use, and a considerable degree of science is attained by the earnest followers of both. We Southern anglers are far too prone to look down on what was wittily described in " The Fishing Gazette," as the " chuck and chance it " style, and our North Country friends are too apt to chaff us for our enforced idleness when the fish are not rising. [emphasis added]

He added this sensible piece of advice: Let each pin his faith to the particular school in which he believes, but at the same time let each admit that there is a certain degree of skill in his opponent's method, and arguments to be advanced in favour of its relative success. " (Halford 1886 p116-7)

Initially, Halford's intention was to present a  'school of thought'  about fly fishing that would sit beside other regional schools of thought within an overarching fly-fishing  paradigm.


Northern school of wet-fly fishing

At the end of the 19th century, Basil Field (three times president of the Fly-fishers’ Club in London) described the Northern school of wet-fly fishing in these terms: "one, two, three, or more flies were fastened at intervals on a line; a cast was made across the stream, the rod-point was depressed, and the flies allowed to sink as they drifted down the current. When the line became fully extended, the flies began to rise to the surface, and to sweep round in a curve towards the bank on which the angler stood, the fly nearest him, called the “bob-fly,” tripping and dancing as it skimmed the water" (Field 1894). At that time, Northern anglers probably fished up- or downstream according to "the strength and direction of the wind," (Smith 2021).

Upstream and downstream fly fishing with a cast of several flies continues to this day to be practised in the North (Fitton 2021). Clearly, at the end of the 19th century, Halford was content that fishing with wet- and dry flies were complementary fly-fishing methods.


Fly fishing in Devon and Cornwall in the mid 19th century

For the same reasons, there would have been no reason for Halford to criticize the fly-fishing technique described by   George William Soltau  on the freestone spate rivers around Plymouth (Devon, UK). Soltau cast upstream with two flies, a dry fly above a wet fly, and moved the dry fly to mimic the behaviour of the natural insect.

"Never use more than two flies, one at the end of the collar, called the 'stream-fly', the other about three feet from it, called 'the bob'.... The stream fly should fall lightly on the desired spot, and the line, being just of sufficient length to allow of the exact point being reached, the bob fly will rest on the surface of the water, and by imparting to the rod a slight tremulous motion, from right to left, the stream fly will appear to be struggling in the stream, whilst the bob will occasionally bob up and down, (from which circumstance its name is derived) exhibiting the movement of the natural fly, when it alights, rises, and again alights."  (Soltau 1847 p38 & 48).

There is  evidence  that Soltau's combined dry and wet fly method has been used up to the present day in South Devon.

Nowadays Soltau's (1847) method of fishing two flies, a dry fly above a wet fly or nymph, is universal. It is referred to by various names: 'Klink and Dink', Duo Method, Dry Dropper, New Zealand style, as well as Fitton's neologism Wry fly (i.e. Wet and Dry Fly). These are probably re-inventions, rather than being directly inspired by Soltau.



The fly-fishing paradigm at the end of the 19th century

At the end of the 19th century, Halford's first two books fitted comfortably into the literature of an existing paradigm of varied and sophisticated fly-fishing techniques for catching trout under a varity of local conditions across Britain. In 1886, Halford had developed his dry-fly method as a 'school', or type of fly-fishing, to sit alongside wet-fly fishing.

However, a problem arose, when the chalk stream angler, Skues used a sub-surface (wet) fly - a nymph - to overcome the problem posed by 'bulging' trout that would not take a dry fly because they were focussed on taking a sub-surface nymph rather than a dun.

To put it mildly, Skues method was not welcomed by Halford and his followers. It was not accepted to sit as an additional method to complement the dry-fly and wet-fly schools within the fly-fishing paradigm. Skues contribution was conflated with growing criticism of wet-fly fishing.

This anti wet-fly fishing sentiment is reflected in this conclusion from the fly-fishing historian J. Walter Hills: "Halford ... considered that the dry fly had superseded for all time and in all places all other methods of fly fishing and those who thought otherwise were either ignorant or incompetent" (Voss Bark 1992 p91).

Halford's sweeping claim suggests that he and his followers were trying to bring about 'revolutionary' change - a paradigm shift in fly-fishing - involving a replacement of the wet fly with the dry fly. The problem came to a head in 1938 with an inconclusive, so-called, Great Debate (Overfield 1077 p249-) at the Flyfishers' Club in London. A great deal has been written about the events leading up to this inconclusive debate, and the consequences that rumble on to this day (e.g. Robson, 1998).

Kenneth Robson (1998 p216) credits "Skues's 50-year advocacy of the upstream wet fly and nymph" with preventing a paradigm shift to an "even more universal and rigid" version of dry-fly fishing.

Some people realized that what should have been a source of relaxation and pleasure was in danger of being taken far too seriously. In the Introduction to his book Fishing the Dry Fly  Dermot Wilson, who lived in Nether Wallop Mill on the banks of a chalk stream, offers this opinion: "Dry-fly fishing, on the chalk-streams especially has often been described as an art, and sometimes as a cult. People in fishing books always seem to be 'initiated into the mysteries of the dry fly', so that all sorts of secrets and probabaly painful rites come to mind... so that acceptance into the brotherhood of the elite can come to them only at the end of a very long process...What a load of nonsense! Dry-fly fishing takes less time to learn than most other sports." (Wilson 1970 p viii).

Was this really an attempted paradigm shift? It can be argued either way. Halford meets the definition; he wanted to replace an old paradigm with a new, better one. Was his new paradigm really better than the one it replaced? Perhaps, but only to the extent that it satisfies the socio-economic needs of most dry-fly anglers, and riparian owners to this day on stocked English chalk streams.



The (Mis)behaviour of hatchery-raised stocked trout

Privately-funded stocking of English chalk streams has been carried out from as early as the 1830s; "Chalkstreams will not provide decent sport without stocking. Because they are for all intents and purposes artificial sporting rivers" (Cooper 2021 - minute 52). Halford's method of fishing a dry fly may be particularly successful at catching these stocked trout.

The practice of stocking was not restricted to chalk streams. Devon rivers with a head of wild trout were stocked with farm-raised brown trout until relatively recently. The Wild Trout Trust (WTT) is a reliable source of current evidence-based advice on stocking: "Overall, the best option for wild trout and their rivers is to operate as a catch-and-release wild fishery"

Current WTT advice is based on the genetic impact of inter-breeding between domesticated and wild fish, as well as competition between introduced and resident populations for food. I am not qualified to review these topics. Instead, the next sections consider how possible differences in the behaviour of stocked and wild brown trout have influenced regional fly-fishing traditions.

A 1974 Anglia TV programme
showing fishing for stocked trout, and the 'feeding station syndrome' on a chalk stream - the Test
From Simon Baddeley

Writing in 1894 Field recognised that stocking created a problem: "...the last proposition I have to consider, namely:—“That trout do not rise to the fly as freely as they did.” The consensus of opinion on this point seems so strong that I think we may admit the fact and seek its cause."


Field explains the problem in terms of what we now separate into 'genetic' and 'environmental' factors (i.e.Nature and Nurture, or Innate and Acquired factors ).  "I have little doubt that the primary cause is hereditary vice  [i.e. a quasi-genetic factor]. We have seen that the angler in most streams is dependent on the artificial propagation for his stock."  Field suggested that this hereditary vice was the result of choosing as brood stock large fish that fed on small fish and crustacians, rather than the insects represented by anglers' artificial flies.

Field explains the mechanism underlying hereditary vice: "It is probable that the fry inherit the taste of their parents;.  This Lamarckian  explanation is questionable.

He then introduces the importance of the environmental factor:" and this taste is confirmed by education"  [i.e. a truly environmental factor].  This education about food, and where to find it, takes place in the trout's juvenile environment - the stew pond:   "...the first food presented to him is liver and dog-biscuit, .. and of such is his daily food until he is transferred from stew to river. Here he has to shift for himself, and he naturally continues to seek his food, as heretofore, in mid-water, not on the surface."  This creates a problem for dry-fly fishing that targets fish taking food from the surface.

Field outlines a way of testing his theory: "If there be any truth in this theory, it might be well to catch the parent fish with the fly, and to feed their offspring in the stews, as far as possible, with floating food, thus teaching the young trout from early infancy to look towards heaven for his food, instead of grovelling for it at the bottom of the water."

Many anglers who have visited a very recently stocked stillwater fishery will have witnessed the following behaviour described by Field: "If a fly be cast in one of Mr. Andrew’s stock-ponds at Guildford, there is a rush and a fight for it amongst all the trout within whose range of vision it falls... But when several have been taken and returned — although the pond is large and crowded with fish — cast the fly where you will, the trout are shy, suspicious, and hard to catch." A plausible explanation for the difficulty catching trout in catch-and-release situations is provided by Mirza and Chivers (2000); injured or disturbed fish release olfactory (smell) cues that serve as alarm signals, and convey to other fish the risk posed by a predator(s) in the vicinity From: What are trout 'prepared' to learn ?

Halford also recognised that there was a problems associated with stocking to supplement the natural head of chalk stream trout (Halford 1913 p74,392 ). Under the sub-heading "The degeneration of chalk-stream trout" he commented: "They do not grow to the dimensions of those we killed in bygone days, they do not rise as freely, they do not play as well, they are not as handsome in shape, colour, or markings, and they are not as palatable on the table."

J.C. Mottram (c.1948) believed that the rearing conditions of stocked trout were the cause of the problem: "The usual way of obtaining them is to bring up trout in stews for two or three years until they reach the required weight; they are then turned into the river, generally at the beginning of the fishing season. At first, at any rate, they are not difficult to rise, this makes the fishing rather artificial, though if they happen to be pricked or lost a few times they become as cunning as wild fish. There is another disadvantage in thus stocking; these fish have never had to find their own food under wild conditions so that when turned out, they starve, lose weight and if not soon caught, became 'gas pipes' " (Mottram c.1948 p.94). Mottram's observation about the growth of stocked trout is consistent with an  experimental study conducted by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust which found that the growth of stocked brown trout, released into rivers, was negligible.

Field, Halford and Mottram appreciated that newly stocked fish were easy to catch possibly because they had learned to associate surface disturbance with the arrival of food - the 'feeding station syndrome’ (Wellard ?Date?). This point is implicit in  Colin Willock's  commentary 10 minutes into the  video  at the start of this section: "right from the start they must get used to looking for food, like the angler's fly, on the surface".   One approach to encouage trout to eat aquatic insects was to stock the river with young (undersized) fish that would be released if caught by anglers, and hope that they became naturalised to the wild environment. However, the practice of supplemental feeding in the river with floating trout pellets continued. The stocked trout's repeated exposure to surface disturbance associated with food would have helped, rather than hindered, dry-fly anglers.

Peter Hayes gets straight to the heart of the matter in these comments: "Halford and his coterie were complete believers in stocking, and it was not until much later that the disastrous experiences of Ramsbury, Abbotts Barton, and the Bourne finally demonstrated that stocking destroys wild trout fishing. Not that many fishery owners took much notice. Skues was one of the few who opposed the practice, which, when you think about it, compromises the whole idea of imitation as the key to the sport, insofar as a stock fish is more likely to be deceived by an accurate imitation of a pellet." (Hayes 2016 p. 31). Some say it's also the sound of the pellet hitting the water.

On a lighter note, on the fiftieth anniversary of the American Museum of Fly Fishing, the revered fly-fishing publisher Nick Lyons recounted that he " had invented the Lyons Pellet Fly, made by Magic-gluing a no. 17 fine PrimaDoofus hook to a rounded piece of wine cork" so that his nearly blind  "friend  Knox Burger,  one of the finest and toughest literary agents, was nearing his last days"  could catch a trout in a local lake where the trout preferred pellets to Pale Morning Duns. Lyons can be forgiven; after all he had identified what the trout were eating, tied on a precise imitation, and hopefully presented it with a mighty splat - pure Halfordian dry-fly theory.

In this important  article,  Bob Wellard (Director of Fisheries - The Piscatorial Society) reviewed the history of their approach to stocking as described in the journal of The Piscatorial Society: "One-year-old trout, often referred to as ‘yearlings’, of 6-8" (150 –200mm) were, until recently, stocked in July each year. Historically it was perceived that a large proportion of stocked yearlings quickly became ‘naturalised’ in the wild and that they made a significant contribution to the available trout resource for angling. These fish react in a more natural way than stocked fish, which frequently have difficulty in adjusting to a river environment and have shorter survival rates...By 2007, the practice of feeding fish in-river had become ever more popular ... " 

In 2007, concerns were raised about the legality, and ecolological impacts, of this in-river supplementary feeding of trout. Therefore in 2008, to seek a solution to these problems, the society began a scientific study, over three years, to examine the feasibility of stocking yearlings without in-river feeding. The results were stark: "Of a total of 1200 yearlings stocked, only 72 were still present after three months (6%) and just two were still present after 15 months (0.16%). Of those yearlings captured, a large proportion was observed to be in a poor condition and was of a lower weight when compared to wild fish of a similar length. Several yearlings exhibited predator (possibly cormorant or heron) damage and/or secondary infection".

These findings did not come as a surprise to Wellard, who remarked that in his experience, stocked fish fail to take cover when predators are present, and quotes from  Bachman (1984)  who compared the behaviour of wild with stocked brown trout in a central Pennsylvania chalk stream: "Hatchery brown trout, introduced for experimental purposes, fed less, moved more, and used cost-minimising features of the substrate less than wild trout. "

Wellard concludes with these revealing comments:
  • "Even our limited study has revealed sufficient evidence to suggest the naturalisation of stocked trout yearlings without in-river feeding is highly questionable and provides a very poor return. "
  • and this worrying comment about stocking with larger trout:
  • "All things considered, it is also possible the naturalisation of larger, takeable-size stocked fish is questionable and that is maybe something we will look at in more detail in future."
  • Wellard's results are consistent with previous findings. In 2007 the Environment Agency published a report that included a review of the published literature on stocking trout. The author concluded that this showed that: " There is a good deal of support within the published literature for the view that stocked trout disappear from a typical fishery relatively rapidly. These fish may die of natural causes, be caught by anglers or may migrate either upstream or downstream." (Giles 2007 p. 54)

    Like Gubbins (2018), I am left wondering to what extent in-river supplementary feeding with floating trout food is an important element in the success of dry-fly chalk stream fishing.


    Stocking trout in South Devon Rivers

    The Environment Agency's conclusion explains the results reported from South Devon rivers that have been stocked in the past. Mike Weaver reports that: "... the old Devon River Authority, stocked the upper Teign over a period of four years in the late 1960s. Each year the Authority carefully analysed the catches and in 1968, when 25 per cent of the stocked trout were caught, 89 per cent had been taken by the end of April, with seven per cent in May and less than one per cent in the remaining months of the season" (Weaver, 2008).


    The Devonshire Avon - A Case Study of Stocking

    Why a Case Study? In situations where quantitative data is deficient in some way (e.g. lacking, unreliable or disputed), a case study approach (Crowe et al, 2011) may provide useful insight into behaviour(s) that cannot be studied under laboratory conditions.

    In this case study an experienced local angler, Mr. J.B.S. "Jack" Notley, gives his impression of fishing on a river that was stocked with various sizes of brown trout: "The Writer has fished the river for eighty consecutive years starting in 1899 when he caught his first trout, with a nurse beside him to prevent him falling in; he was six years old. He has tried to give a sort of history of the river and the activities of those connected with it as it affected the river. Some of the statements may be, although correct, in the wrong periods. Best trout bag by Captain Vickers (the Brigadier's father) 1467 in about 1910. My best bag 998 during the holidays about the same time. All trout over 8 inches."

    The River Avon in South Devon was stocked on a  regular basis   with mixed results: Jack Notley gives an interesting perspective on stocking ( Avon Fishing Association, 1979). Here he is writing about the period between 1899 and 1914: "The river was restocked every spring with 5" to 6" trout from the Exebridge hatcheries, they were brought down by train from Dulverton in milk churns and the G.W.R Company allowed the train to stop at different places between the stations so that churns could be taken out and the fish transferred to the river. Empty churns were picked up the same day from the same stopping places. The places I remember where the train stopped at Skellard Pool 500 yards below Diptford Manor House, Broadley, Topsham Bridge and Silveridge Bridge, including the Stations Avonwick, Gara Bridge, and Loddiswell. 1500 trout were the usual number purchased."

    " There was no limit to the number of trout to be allowed to be taken but the size was 8 ins. or over. One day two members of the Committee saw me with 36 trout, and afterwards the Committee put on a limit of 18 per diem. Most of the trout I caught my father gave to sick or crippled villagers, none were wasted. On a good day to catch 18 over 8 ins. was not very difficult."


    Avon at Topsham Bridge

    "Another season the Association found that very small trout were a gamble, as having put in 2000 a flood occurred next day and they were washed away to the sea. It was decided that 5 ins. to 6 ins. size was the best bet. There were a large number of 6 ins. and 7 ins trout in the river and anglers had many to return to the water in a days fishing so it was decided to permit 7 ins fish to be killed for one season. This was a great mistake as the following season the 8 ins. and 9 ins. trout were missing! "

    Mr. Notley served from 1914 to 1918. "This was the War period and I don't think any restocking was done. Officers from the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth were allowed to fish without A.F.A tickets. In spite of the well stocked river they did not have much luck, and the standing joke at Dartmouth was that there were no sizeable fish in the Avon."

    The river was not stocked during the second World War. The post-war period up to 1980 saw increasing interest is stillwater fly fishing, and the cost of stocking fell on local fishing associations: The South West Water Authority".. restock some of the reservoirs many times during the season but they leave the restocking of the rivers to riparian owners or angling Associations."


    The Devonshire Avon - A Survey of Stocking

    On a yearly basis from 1949 until 1963 the Avon Fishing Association stocked significant numbers of brown trout into the Devonshire Avon (see Footnote #1.

    In December 1960 the committee considered a letter from a colleague with suggestions about re-stocking:
  • Get permission from the Devon River Board to allow out of season netting to reduce the late salmon run, and thereby increase food stock for remaining fish stocks (see Footnote #2)
  • Discontinue stocking because the food supply is already low
  • There are adequate stocks of small trout in the river that would benefit from the removal of salmon parr
  • As a result of this suggestion, a survey of fish stocks was carried out by the Devon River Board.


    Here is the design and results sections from the final survey report. The full report is   available here .

    On 2nd and 3rd May, 1962, 490 tagged brown trout were introduced into the river at the following points:-
  • 125 at New Mill Bridge, Loddiswell
  • 114 at Hew Bridge, Loddiswell.
  • 125 at Avonwick Station,
  • 126 at Hazelwood Boathouse,
  • A fishing returns leaflet was distributed and anglers were invited to send in details of all fish caught whether tagged or otherwise. At the date of writing this report (20,11,62) 48 returns have been received and the information contained thereon can be summarised as follows:-

    (a) Twelve tagged fish with confirmed tag numbers were taken and Table 4 shows the places and times of introduction and recapture of these fish.

    (b) Two returns were made quoting a tag number which had not been used in the survey and the tag was not enclosed for confirmation. One angler reported that, he had caught a tagged fish but had lost the tag before being able to read the number-,

    (c) A number of anglers reported that they had caught undersized tagged fish but, as requested, returned them to the river without trying to read the number. One of these returns read:- "Two tagged fish caught and returned, both 8” and in good trim. Above Hatch Bridge on day's fishing, 7th May, 1962,

    (d) Sixteen ’Nil* returns were received.

    (e) The 32 anglers who disclosed the number of untagged fish they had caught since 1st May had a total bag of 457. Individual success varied enormously, one fisherman having 56 fish in two weeks whilst only three others had over 30.

    Since there are an enormous number of unknown factors influencing the total number of fish an angler will catch, it is not considered worthwhile to derive an average catch per angler or a ratio of tagged to untagged fish taken. These figures would have no scientific significance or practical value, and the statistics given above are for general interest only.

    Information resulting from Tagging experiment
    It is difficult to derive much information from so few recaptures but it is significant that a number of the marked fish which were recovered had undergone a considerable downstream migration from the point of stocking. No upstream migration was recorded although some fish were shown to have remained in roughly the same area in which they were introduced. That the downstream migration can occur immediately after stocking is illustrated well by 4397 which was caught at Topsham Bridge after having migrated about one mile downstream less than 24 hours after its introduction to the river.

    It is not known whether tagging itself in any way influences the behaviour of a fish and it is difficult to account for these migrations. It is possible of course that some of the marked fish went out to sea and it will be interesting to see whether any return next season as sea-trout.

    In February 1963 Gordon Bielby, described as an official from the Devon River Board, attended a committee meeting.  "Mr Bielby explained that the Survey was not as comprehensive as he would have liked, but it did show that very few of the tagged fish which had been put into the River earlier in the year had been caught [by anglers]. An explanation given was that quite a number of the fish may have moved right down the River. He was of the personal opinion that to improve fish stocks in the River it would be better for the association to open up the banks, except of course for the deep pools, than to continuously restock. "

    Bielby's comments created a dilemma for the Association. The dilemma is illustrated in this chart which shows the numbers of trout of different sizes across the nine sampling stations that were electrofished as part of the 1962 survey.

    Some of these fish may have been those stocked by the Association in previous years before the survey was carried out. If the Association was to abandon or reduce stocking, then, as these fish and their replacements declined, this might cause a deterioration in anglers' catches.

    Bielby was careful to make clear that his advice on how to improve fish stocks in the Avon was his personal opinion,  because as Giles (2007) and Wellard (2007) pointed out, stocked fish disappear from the stocking area, but their fate is unclear.


    The Association did take steps to honour their obligation to their Rule #1 " This Association .. is formed to improve the fishing in the River Avon" One problem that frequently arises is measuring if a change has, or has not brought about improvement. Anglers' Catch Reports are often used. "The submission is a legal requirement for all salmon and sea trout anglers"   but for an historical reason, is not a legal requirement for brown trout anglers.

    This chart shows that, in some years, little attention was given to recording overall catch returns in the Association's minutes. The large catches in the 1950s may be the result of the size limit (7 in.) at that time.


    The Association took a number of iniatives to improve the fishing:
  • The daily bag limit was reduced from 9 to six trout.
  • Members were keen to stock with 9" fish, and the river was stocked in 1965.
  • In 1966 the Devon River Board put 300 fish into the river from above the Avon dam; the Board continued stocking fish, removed by electrofishing the dam, for the next four years.
  • The Devon River Authority "maintained that the best way to improve the fish feed, as to encourage weed growth." By 1972 members were complaining that the introduced weed was a problem, and a weed cutting commenced to keep it under control
  • The possibility of resuming stocking was discussed from time-to-time up to 1976.
  • In 1969 the committee agreed to purchase Betta Floating Trout Food for in-river feeding twice a week at Kerrydowns and at Gara Bridge; in-river fish feeding was discontinued after one year. The next section illustrates an important role for in-river supplementary feeding in retaining stocked fish at a particular location for anglers, particularly for dry-fly anglers who rely on fish rising to food on the surface.


    Dry-Fly Fishing for Stocked Trout: The American Experience

    The American fly-fishing historian John Gubbins (2018), author of  The American Fly Fishing Experience: Theodore Gordon: His Lost Flies and Last Sentiments,  is well placed to describe how Halford's dry-fly philosophy was enthusiastically adopted by some American fly fishers.

    He also traces the history of raising trout to stock Michigan rivers from 1873 until stocking began to be phased out in 1964. The reason being that the cost of stocking rivers made it economically unviable to provide trout from the public purse so that they could be caught by anglers wedded to Halford's dry-fly purism "What made the trout caught ... so expensive was the disappearance of so many hatchery raised trout never caught by an angler"  Gubbins (2018 p72).

    The American experience with the behaviour of stocked trout echoes that reported on English chalk streams. Gubbins described an experiment that recorded the reaction to surface disturbance by three groups of brook trout: a domesticated group, a wild group, and a first generation group taken from wild stock.

    Gubbins reported that: The stimuli tests revealed that hatchery bred trout are peculiarly suited to dry fly fishing. First, a marked difference attended the positions wild and domesticated trout took in the water column. Undisturbed, more wild trout took positions near the bottom of the water column while domesticated trout preferred to hold near the surface.

    Disturbed, the groups reacted even more differently. When a surface disturbance was created, domesticated trout rose into the upper layers of the water column. This reaction of domesticated trout was in marked contrast to wild trout which dove lower to settle themselves in the lowest parts of the water column (op cit p74).

    Gubbins argued that fish raised in a hatchery and then stocked into a river were easier to catch on a dry fly than wild-born trout. " The ordinary regimen in hatcheries is to deliver trout feed from above the surface of the water. The disturbance food pellets creates when falling on the surface of the water comes to act as a dinner bell for domesticated trout. And they carry this hatchery trait into the wild. Thus when a dry fly fisher casts his floating line and floating fly on the surface of a stream, the disturbance caused by the cast stimulates the domesticated trout to rise upward in the water column to feed. It is possible that a clumsy cast or the slapping down of the fly will draw even greater interest from domesticated trout. "

    Halford came to the same conclusion when trout were transferred from hatchery to river: "When first thrown on their own resources they will take any fly offered to them, give little sport, and a large proportion soon succumb to the wiles of the dry-fly fisherman. Those that survive, never having had to seek their own food, rapidly fall off in condition and drop from the streamy water to deep and comparatively sluggish reaches, when they rarely feed on the surface of the stream" (Halford 1913 p393)

    Gubbins (2018 p76) comes to this rather unflattering conclusion about Halford's dry-fly purism: "Dry fly fishing relies on domesticated trout to flourish. The more hatchery trout in a water, the greater likelihood the dry fly purist will succeed. "

    The Wild Trout Trust is a useful resource on the pros and cons of stocking trout in rivers: "Our experience is that many fisheries can become wild trout fisheries, and this is achieved by spending money on habitat improvement rather than farmed fish for stocking, and using catch and release." This has led to an improved chalk stream experience for anglers (e.g. Salisbury Angling Club).

    "However, on other chalk streams, including several famous ones down south, stocking does occur because fishery owners are under pressure to provide easy fishing in nice settings and can charge a lot of money for it" (May 2020)



    Halford's influence on fly fishing for wild brown trout

    Devon is blessed with mile after mile of rivers holding wild brown trout that are not stocked, and can be readily caught on a dry fly using local techniques (e.g.  Soltau's Dry-Dropper)  that were developed many years before Halford wrote about fly fishing for stocked trout on chalk streams. Halford's circumscribed method of dry-fly fishing has not swept aside upstream and downsteam fly fishing on North Country and South Western rivers. Fishing with wet and dry flies continues in both regions. The pre-Halfordian fly-fishing paradigm survived in these regions at least.

    In my opinion, rather than bringing about a paradigm shift, Halford is responsible for creating a 'school of thought' about fly fishing that sits today beside other schools of regional thought. This is exactly what Halford had in mind in this passage from his first book published in 1886.

    Let each pin his faith to the particular school in which he believes, but at the same time let each admit that there is a certain degree of skill in his opponent's method, and arguments to be advanced in favour of its relative success. " (Halford 1886 p116-7 emphasis added)

    This type of co-existance between different schools of thought is not unusual in many human affairs, including science. For example, in an essay on The influence of ethology on fly design, I discuss the tension in the 1960s and early 70s between ethologists and behaviourists who clashed over their very different approaches to recording, analysing and interpreting the behaviour of human, and other animals including fish.

    Nevertheless, Halford's view on three important elements continue to stimulate fruitful debate in Britain, and overseas:
    1. Waiting for the rise before casting one fly on a leader
    2. Precise imitation of the natural fly
    3. Ensuring a drag free drift
    Each of these core elements in Halford's teaching have been the focus of critical attention in the 20th century. The intensity of some of the debate is captured in the titles of two books by separate authors: Wright's Fly-fishing heresies: A new gospel for American anglers , and Wyatt's What Trout Want: The Educated Trout and Other Myths.


    Using one, two or more flies on a leader

    In later years Halford became increasingly dogmatic: "Those of us who will not in any circumstances cast except over rising fish are sometimes called ultra purists and those who occasionally will try to tempt a fish in position but not actually rising are termed purists... and I would urge every dry fly fisher to follow the example of these purists and ultra purists" (Halford 1913 p 69-70)

    On freestone rivers , fishing with a dry fly is unlikely to completely replace wet-fly fishing because trout rising to large hatches are encountered less frequently, and trout are less visible 'in position', on these fast-flowing rivers.

    A follower of Halford wrote this restriction on the number of flies on a leader: "The dry-fly fisherman never uses more than one fly on his cast at the same time ..." (Dewar 1910 p 39) [underline reflects emphasis in original].

    Dry-fly purists only needed to have one fly on their leader because - if they were dry-fly purists - they would choose an artificial fly that matched the natural they had seen the fish take.

    On other rivers anglers were faced with sparser fly hatches, and relied on trout feeding on unseen sub-surface insects. Therefore, it is reasonable to use more than one fly on a wet-fly leader.

    Before, and after Halford, Northern wet-fly anglers successfully fished with three flies on their leader: a bob or top dropper, a middle dropper, and a point fly (e.g Fitton 2021).

    In 1847, Soltau advised fishing upstream with two flies, a dry fly above a wet fly on rivers in Devon and Cornwall. There is some evidence that a two-fly arrangement persisted in Devon (Hearder, Rabley, Wilson, Joyce, Cutcliffe), and was also used in Yorkshire, and on Border rivers, from the 20th century to the present day (Lawrie, Rollo, Fitton).

    Berls (1999) records that in 1899, Skues recognised that eventually there would be a reconciliation of dry - and wet-fly fishing: In the past, he (Skues) observed, "anglers used to get good baskets on Itchen and Test with the wet fly. Thev will have to come back to it again. Someday they will learn to combine . . . wet-fly science and dry-fly art . . . ". This has now come to pass. Lawton gives the 1930s as the date when the 'trailer nymph' was re-discovered in New Zealand, and spread across the world under various catchy labels: Dry-Dropper, 'Klink and Dink', Duo Method, New Zealand style, or Fitton's (1992) neologism 'Wry Fly'. This is discussed in more detail in my essay The Return of Soltau's Duo Method: A Journey 'Back to the Future'  available here.

    In England, the use of a weighted wet fly suspended below a dry fly became increasingly popular from the late 1980s, following Roman Moser's introduction of his  Gold Head nymph.


    Precise imitation and the selective trout

    Precise imitation is at the heart of Halford's chalk stream dry-fly school. Followers of Halford on both sides of the Atlantic have striven for precise imitation.

    Originally published in 1971 as Selective Trout , and republished in 2018 as Selective Trout The Last Word on Stream Entomology and Aquatic Insect Imitation, the front cover proclaims that Doug Swisher and Carl Richards have written "The book that changed fly fishing in America".

    For me, this next quote sums up their philosophy "The right fly is one that resembles the natural so closely that the fish seem to prefer it to the real thing.." [emphasis added]. In 1914,  La Branche  made the same point in order to highlight the logical flaw in Halford's theory.

    For statistical reasons the angler's fly must stand out in some way from the crowd in a large hatch. The chance of the artificial fly being selected from among the great number of naturals on the water is one to whatever the number may be (La Branche 1914 p60). Therefore, the answer may not lie in simply mimicking Nature.

    "It might be said that all the flies ever tied to imitate hatches have been formulated in the search for the correct sign stimulus for different situations" (Steeves and Koch, 1994 p 70 emphasis added).

    The term 'sign stimulus' is synonymous with 'trigger' - a word that increasingly appears in the fly-fishing literature to describe the stand-out property identified by Swisher and Richards. To the human eye, sign stimuli and triggers look nothing like the natural insect.

    There is a large literature on this topic. Whole books are devoted to fly patterns, and even more on how and why you should use them to deal with educated selective trout.


    But increasingly there are dissenting voices against this omniscient view of trout. Bob Wyatt's 2013 book title What Trout Want echoes Proper's seminal 1989 book What the Trout Said. However, Wyatt is much more forthright in his attack on fly-fishing's myths: "Most of what has been written on fly fishing for trout is based on a single premise: Trout are intelligent, suspicious, even capricious creatures that are wise to our tricks."

    My essay  "Why does a trout take your fly?"  examines these challenges to remnants of Halfordian dry-fly dogma that still exist within recent fly-fishing books. I suggest that a trout takes an artificial fly because it is recognized by a heuristic that compares a trout's 'search image' with the 'prey image' presented by an artificial fly.



    Movement and drag free drift

    Halford emphasized the importance of achieving a drag-free drift when fishing with a dry fly.

    However, early anglers, such as Soltau, who used a "dropper-fly and a tail-fly simulated living insects by twitching them over or under the surface of the water - a practice that is the exact opposite of the method of the dry fly fisher, who casts a single fly lightly upon the surface of the water and permits it to float with the current ..." (La Branche 1914 p5).

    The importance of dry-fly movement was 'rediscovered' by the American fly-fishing author Leonard M. Wright in Fishing the dry fly as a living insect: an unorthodox method; the thinking man's guide to trout angling (1972) and "Fly-fishing heresies: A new gospel for American anglers (1975), and brought to a wide audience by John Gierach (2005), and Tom Rosenbauer (2008).

    This topic is discussed in my essay Leonard Wright: :Surface movement & the induced take.


    Imitation and Presentation

    The terms imitation and presentation often arise in the form of a question: "What is more important, imitation OR presentation ?"  Pychologists call that a 'forced choice' question. Journalists try it when interviewing politicians. It rarely works. But it does work with angling guides. Philip Monahan  collected answers  from ten experienced anglers; most gave presentation more importance that imitation. I liked Carl McNeil's answer to the imitation element "But hey, you tie on what ever gives you confidence: that’s half the trick." That's characteristic of angling guides. They tell you what you need to know - the tip of the iceberg - but they will describe the larger underwater element if you show an interest.

    Each respondent added a more nuanced explanation to their answer involving the interaction of both factors.

    Imitation refers to the similarity, or otherwise, of an artificial trout fly to a natural insect. Some  would argue that a close similarity may be necessary if the trout happen to be feeding on a particular insect, at a particular point in the fly's life cycle. This is called 'selective' behaviour. This approach has its roots in one of Halford's dictums: present " to the rising fish the best possible imitation of the insect on which he is feeding in its natural position" (Halford 1886 p117-8, emphasis added).

    I emphasised position in that quote from Halford because position is an important element in descriptions of presentation (e.g. Rolston 2014). And Halford adds more on presentation in his definition of fly fishing: "to put the fly lightly on the water, so that it floats accurately over him without drag; to take care that all these conditions have been fulfilled before the fish has seen the Angler or the reflection of his rod" (Halford 1886 p117-8)."

    I don't think any modern 'presentationist' would quibble with Halford on presentation - as it stands. For example, Tim Rolston (2020) who writes about imitation as well as presentation, has this to say about presentation "I spend quite a bit of time on the things which I believe to be most important, almost all of that to do with “PRESENTATION”.. casting, leader set up, positioning on the stream as well as where to find fish, current lanes, food supply etc." [emphasis in original]

    Dave Kumlien recounts a remark made to him by Lee Wulff who " said he’d be willing to take ANY pattern I suggested and go out and catch trout." (Monahan, emphasis in original)

    I think most of us would be less confident, and say that presentation is always important, we are all presentationists now , but we like to have confidence in what is being presented.

    We are now at a transition point in fly-fishing theory. What makes an artificial fly a good 'imitation'  ?

    The current debate is between those who, like Halford, have confidence in an artificial fly that is a good imitation of what a particular natural fly looks like ... - to human eyes (e.g. Swisher and Richards, 1971 & 2018).

    The alternative is to use an artificial fly that contains sign stimuli that trigger a trout's feeding behaviour. Such a fly may not look like anything that exists in Nature. A good example being the  Gold-Ribbed-Hare's Ear  - a fly so effective that Halford had to abandon its use as Skues noted with a certain amount of ill-concealed satisfaction:"At one time the late Mr. F.M. Halford was a great advocate of the Gold-ribbed Hare's Ear [GRHE], but I believe that latterly his enthusiasm for precise imitation induced him to give it up, successful pattern though he knew it to be, because he could not explain its success to his satisfaction" Skues (1921 p91).

    The possibility of incorporating sign stimuli into the design of artificial trout flies in considered in this more detailed essay:
  • Supernormal Sign Stimuli & Heterogeneous Summation


  • About the author

    Paul guiding ITV News reporter in June 2019

    with sea trout in camera range ...

    Paul Kenyon lives in Ivybridge on the southern edge of Dartmoor about 6 miles from the Upper Yealm Fishery.

    He retired in 2006 from the Department of Psychology, University of Plymouth where he lectured in behavioural neuroscience and evolutionary psychology.

    He now devotes more time than is reasonable to his love of all things associated with fish, fishing, instruction and guiding on Dartmoor rivers.

    Paul is the author of a series of web-based essays on fly-fishing: The Heuristic Trout

    email paul@flyfishingdevon.co.uk

    The author's  YouTube channel


    Acknowledgements

    In this video Bob Wyatt ties his Snow Shoe Hare Emerger

    Bob uses this material in place of CDC because he has found that CDC tends to be "a one fish fly" which is an absolute no-no for guides on local rivers.

    These articles would not have been possible without the help and encouragement of Bob Wyatt. Bob is an artist, author, Certified Fly Casting Instructor and long-time angler. Born in Canada, he fished the freestone streams of southwestern Alberta in the late 1950s. He now lives on New Zealand's South Island. His articles have appeared in Fly Fishing & Fly Tying(UK), Gray's Sporting Journal, Fly Rod & Reel, and Flylife Magazine (AU). He has published two books: Trout Hunting: The Pursuit of Happiness (2004) and What Trout Want: The Educated Trout and Other Myths (2013). In this interview by April Vokey he discusses his “prey image” theory, trout fishing and the early days of steelhead fly fishing.

    John Shaner has been a constant source of encouragement, and source of hard-to-find fly-fishing literature.

    Alex Jones (fly-fishing instructor and guide at the Arundell Arms, Lifton, Devon) for providing an important element in Soltau's story - Hearder J.N. & Son's (1875). Guide to Sea Fishing and the Rivers of South Devon and Descriptive Catalogue of their Prize River and Sea Fishing Tackle Cricket, Archery, Croquet, Umbrellas, Parasols, &c . Seventh edition. Published by Hearder & Son. Plymouth.

    Kevin Lyons for his enthusiasm in bringing Soltau to the attention of an American audience, and gently pointed out a gaping hole in my reading - the pioneering work of his friend Leonard Wright author of Fishing the dry fly as a living insect: an unorthodox method; the thinking man's guide to trout angling (1972) and Fly-fishing heresies: A new gospel for American anglers (1975)

    Colin Burbridge and Geoff Stephens for sight of extracts from the Western Times for May 1890

    Jonathan Ward-Allen (founder of the Medlar Press) for sight of the complete text of Rabley, Chas. A. (1910). Devonshire Trout Fishing. W. S. Cater & Co., Launceston, Cornwall (1910)


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  • Credits

    Picture of Brent Mill Bridge. Mr Brian Richards. Source: Historic England Archive

    Joseph Mallord William Turner. Ivy Bridge, Devonshire. c.1814–15. Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

    Photo of Bickham Bridge © The Dartmoor Trust Archive. History of Bickham Bridge avavailable online

    Magnus Angus for permission to use his picture of Bob Wyatt's Snowshoe Hair Emerger (SHE).

    Tom Sutcliffe for permission to use his picture of Kite's Bare Hook Nymph from Sutcliffe (2016)

    Tim Sandles for permission to use his picture of the rivers of Dartmoor.

    Mayflower Steps: RobertBFC at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Lord Kelvin's Keith medal in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow By Stephen c Dickson - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=67455885

    I am grateful to Gordon Bielby for a copy of minutes 15,117 to 15,161 on page 452-453 of the Royal Commissioners' 1860 visit to Totnes ""to inquire into salmon fisheries (England and Wales".

    I am grateful to Kevin Lyons for bringing my attention to his friend Leonard Wright' s influential book "Fishing the Dry Fly as a Living Insect".


    Footnotes

    Footnote #1 Extracts from AFA minutes dealing with stocking

    In 1949, a season ticket cost £5, the river was stocked in April with 1,500 6" brown trout from Exe Valley Fiheries at a cost of £97 at five locations:
    1. Hazelwood
    2. Railway bridge below Topsham Bridge
    3. Avon Mill
    4. Brushford Bridge just below Avonwick Station
    5. Stabb's cottage
    It was agreed that some form of re-stocking should take place every year, funds permitting. The association was in a healthy financial state (£360).

    In 1950, 1000 6" yearling brown trout were stocked in April at the original five locations. However, members seldom reported the number of fish they caught so it is impossible to judge the results of this stocking policy. After prompting members reported catching 1350 brown trout in 1950.

    In April 1951, due to the generosity of a late member's relative more than the anticipated 1000 6" yearling, and 650 3" to 4" brown trout were stocked Avonwick Bridge (500), Brushford Bridge (400), Loddiswell Road Bridge (475), and Hatch Bridge (475)

    In May 1952, 1000 6" yearling brown trout were stocked. Members caught 972 fish that year. 1952 saw the ntroduction of the Devon River Board (Contribution to Several Fisheries) Order that included reference to levying a rate on riparian owners of fishing rights. The committee were prepared to pay the estimated £30 rates bill on water they rented. In addition, if the Devon River Board was not prepared to bear the cost of stocking the river, then the AFA were prepared to continue to cover that cost as well.

    At the 1953 AGM, it was suggested that the river be stocked with larger 9" and 10" trout. The committee agreed to stock 500 9" fish (cost c£90). Steps were taken to improve the amount of food available in the river for fish. The committee discussed a report from the Devon River Board Fisheries Officer that covered fly boards, wire netting cages filled with bracken and damming. The Devon River Board bailiff placed fly boards in the river, and 2 of the 3 in-river bracken tubes remained in place. Catch returns for the 1953 season: Brown trout (total 1127)
  • March 22
  • April 123
  • May 95
  • June 224
  • July 251
  • August 250
  • September 162

  • Sea trout 66
    Salmon 4
    No decision was taken on reducing the daily catch limit, and reducing the size limit from 8" to 7". Members reported that during a 'rise', there seemed to be plenty of fish in the river, at other times very few fish were seen.

    In 1954 it was agreed to stock with 500 larger 9" fish at the three bridges below below Loddiswell station. This stocking was agreed a success, and should be continued at the same scale in 1955 with permission from the Devon River Board. The secretary was instructed to explore like-for-like stocking with the Board. The committee met with engineers involved in constructing the Avon Dam; it was ""considered that there would be very little (f any) pollution of the river, and a consulting engineer stated : "that there would always be at least 1,800,000 gallons of water per day passing the Dam into the River"  (Minutes of AFA committee meeting on 18th November 1954).

    In 1954 the committee heard that: "26 Cannibals [trout] were caught in the upper reaches of the Avon, 8 of which were over 1 lb. It was unanimously agreed that Mr. Wallis should again arrange for the destruction of Cannibals." There was no news :"concerning destruction of Cannibals in the lower reaches." In 1954 members caught "over 1,500"  trout.

    In 1955, the association were offered "£20 worth of 6" fish by the Devon River Board". . The association also stocked the same number of 6" fish, (giving a total of 400 fish), together with 500 larger 9" trout. Mr. Wallis "reported that 22 cannibalsf had been taken out of the upper Avon - the largest weighing 4 lbs 2 ozs. " In 1955, members caught "Just over 1,500 trout, the greater majority during the months of May and June".

    In 1956, due to members concerns over the congestion caused by the number of visiting anglers, ticket sales were restricted, and prices increased. Members caught 1681 trout.

    In April 1957, the association stocked 500 9" trout and 300 6" trout.

    In 1958, the association stocked 500 9" trout and 300 6" trout. Due to the healthy financial state of the association, rents wereincreased by 50%. The Devon River Board requested that the AFA no longer paid the a gratuity - he was an employee of the Board, and could inspect rod licence s, but he did not have the power to inspect the fishing permits issued by the AFA. The suggestion was made to appoint an assistant who would be given a £30 honorarium, as well as a season ticket for the train between South Brent and Kingsbridge. The committee discussed using in-river fly boards and bracken bundles to increase food for fish. Some members favoured stocking with 6" yearlings, others favoured stocking 12" trout. The chairman, after discussions with the Devon River Board Fisheries Officer and a Director of the Exe Valley Fishery recommended stocking 700 8" fish, and 300 6" fish. Allowing fishing on Sundays would deter poachers. This proposal was not pursued because of objections from a few riparian owners.

    In 1959 the finances had continued to improve with a bank balance of £600+. The association stocked 800 9" trout on 24th February, and recommended that fishing should be delayed until 1st April "thus allowing the new fish to become acclimatized and to reach a wilder state." At the AGM the chairman, in his remarks on stocking, referred to the first Rule of the AFA "to improve the fishing in the river Avon". At a committee meeting in December 1959 there was a long discussion a long discussion about re-stocking (the term that was used throughout previous years). Was it necessary to re-stock? It was suggested that some fish be tagged to record their in-river growth. It was agreed to consult the Devon River Board. In 1959, 896 brown trout, and 218 sea trout were caught.

    In 1960, After consulting Exe Valley Fiheries it was decided not to proceed with tagging fish to check on their growth "in view of the additional cost and the likelihood that fish might become diseased, no further action should be taken. The Chairman also reported on correspondence he had had with Frank Sawyer concerning the placement of groins in the river. The letter received from Frank Sawyer was considered most helpful . It was agreed that groins, consisting of concrete slabs, resting on logs held in place by wire attached to a picket driven into the riverbed should be given a trial in the Hazelwood water" (Minutes of AFA committee meeting on 21st January 1960). Four concrete slabs were placed in the river at Hazelwood. Stocking with 500 6" and 250 8" was arranged for delivery in early March 1960.

    In December 1960 the committee considered a letter from a committee member with suggestions about re-stocking:
  • Get permission from the Devon River Board to allow out of season netting to reduce the late salmon run, and thereby increase food stock for reaining fish stocks
  • Discontinue stocking because the food supply is already low
  • There are adequate stocks of small trout in the river that would benefit from the removal of salmon parr
  • The minutes record that: "it might be inadvisable to re-stock for a period of say three years" (Minutes of AFA committee meeting on 15th December 1960).

    In 1961 the chaiman recommended strengthening the existing stock by stocking "from another source" with 500-600 6" trout that would be paid for by the Devon River Board. He felt this would be "Helpful in keeping good relationship between the AFA and both riparian owners and visiting fishermen". At this time there were 14 riparian owners who let their fishing to the association. At the AGM the chairman commented: "The Association maintained that that the Avon was primarily a Trout River and that as such Salmon were not to be encouraged. The experiment of placing concrete slabs into the River with the intention of breeding snails etc. , so far appeared to be successful, in that they had withstood all the floods and were still firmly secured." Day Tickets for visitors were abolished unanimously.

    In March 1961 there was much discussion in committee about the stocking in May with so few (500-600) 6" fish. And "A lengthy discussion followed as to whether we should keep the Avon as a Brown Trout River or whether we should encourage the Sea Trout. "

    In 1962 the Avon Riparian Owners Association was formed. At the AGM the chairman reported from a meeting of various fishing interests on the Avon. "It was thought that stocks of brown trout were decreasing because of the large of Sea Trout and also destruction of fish food by artificial fertilizers , insecticides etc." The AGM agreed to "re-stock with 500 4" fish and 500 8" fish.". The committee discussed tagging stocked fish at their February meeting, and again in March where the chairman "reminded the committee that the overwhelming number of Association members who were in favour of keeping the Avon as a brown trout river". It was agreed to tag all the 8" stocked fish. The November 1962 committee meeting recorded that: "The presence of a large number of cannibals above Avonwick was no doubt the cause of the shortage of small fish in that area."

    In 1962 river survey was in progress.


    Footnote #2

    From time-to-time anglers can get bees in their bonnets. For example, in 1961 "The Association maintained that that the Avon was primarily a Trout River and that as such Salmon were not to be encouraged." This was not a new idea, as shown by this extract from "Casts from a Salmon Reel", by Kenneth Dawson "West Country", circa 1948 which describes an unusual fisheries management proposal for eliminating salmon from the Devonshire Avon.

    Salmon kelt Graham Stickland (SWW, NRA & EA fishery warden)
    and I found on the riverbank at Knapp Mill.

    "There is a river in South Devon which nowadays has only a very late autumn run because a reservoir built in the headwaters retains so much of the water that it is only in autumn and winter that salmon can exist in the river or reach the spawning beds. For some years the local Fishery Board took a number of these salmon for examination, and there was a project to try and exterminate them since, as they only began to run in late December, which is in the close season for the district, they are useless, and the young consume food which would be better employed in feeding the brown trout. The condition of these kelts in January is better that that of many fish in the other rivers in the area in September before they have spawned , simply because they fed up to within a few weeks of spawning. Another interesting thing about these very late runners is that, although the river is a very small one, the average size of the salmon is much higher than those in the bigger rivers in the district. This also is obviously the direct result of their long stay in the sea and short fast in the river."


    #33. The Plymouth Athenaeum (Wikipedia).Available online. Accessed 28 May 2021.

    #34. Compiled by Shirley Paterson, Jo Power, John Power, Richard Wilcockson, and Sheila Wilcockson for the Council of the Plymouth Athenæum The Plymouth Athenæum 1812 –2012. (Plymouth . Devon, The Plymouth Athenæum, 2012) . Accessed 29 May 2021.

    36. Obituary Notice: Jonathan N. Hearder, D.Sc., Ph.D., F.R.S. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. Vol. IX, Part 2, (1877), pp. 55-60. by The Rev. W. Harpley, M.A., Hon. Secretary of the Association. Prepared by Michael Steer.Available online . Accessed 29 May 2021. Obituary Notice. Chemical Society Anniversary Meeting. Chem. Soc., 1877,31 501. Available online. Accessed 29 May 2021.

    #37. Annual Report and Transactions of the Plymouth Institution and Devon and Cornwall Natural History Society. Vol III Part II. 1868-9. (I.W.N. Keys and Sons. Plymouth 1868) 85-8. Available online. Accessed 29 May 2021.

    #44."The Voyage of the H.M.S. Challenger 1873–1876" Available online Accessed 30 May 2021. Trevor John Kenchington. The Introduction of the Otter Trawl . The Northern Mariner / Le marin du nord, XVIII, No. 4 (Autumn 2018), 327-46. Available online . Accessed 30 May 2021.

    #45 U and non-U English, "U" standing for upper class, and "non-U" representing the aspiring middle classes. Wikipedia Available online Wikipedia

    #46 "Jacques de Neuflize was rather better known in the world of high finance and fly-fishing than in bibliophilic circles. He was Regent of the Banque de France and in that capacity negotiated the the Great War lease-lend arrangements with the United States in 1916. Soon after World War II he engineered the merger of the Neuflize and Schlumberger banks. " (Christie's 1999)

    "Managing partners of the Neuflize & Cie bank in 1944: Jacques de Neuflize, Baron de Neuflize, Louis Monnier, Pierre Girod, Lucien Ménage, Philippe Cruse and Christian Monnier. In 1936, the bank of Neuflize et Cie had a capital of ten million francs: three and a half million for Jacques and André de Neuflize, two million for Louis and Christian Monnier, one million for Mr. Lucien Ménage, one million for Mr. Pierre Girod, five hundred thousand francs to Mr. Philippe Cruse (cf. The Masters of France , Vol. 1 - by Augustin Frédéric Hamon, Éditions sociales internationales, 1936, page 234)" From Neuflize OBC. Wikipedia Available online

    From (Hamlin 2008). "There was also a very short-lived Plymouth Health of Towns Advocate (1847). Its activities, reflected in its publications, were of three sorts. One mission was didactic, to reiterate the principles of the new sanitary science or detail the workings of new sanitary appliances. Another was inspirational. Writers and speakers sought to make urban sanitation the crusade of the day. They catalogued the sins of existing urban administration, commemorated martyrs to the sanitary cause, celebrated the sanitary kingdom to come, and presented petitions for the committed to sign. Finally, as in its lengthy critique of Lord Lincoln's 1845 Public Health Bill, the association was also concerned with the technical, legal, and financial minutiae of legislation." (Hamlin 2008)

    George Soltau was an early follower of the Plymouth Brethren, and Plymouth mayor in 1841-2 (Worth 1871 p132). His wife cut up her drawing-room carpet to make rugs for the poor. (Gill 1979 p151)

    "The Liberal leader George Soltau had led the formation of the Plymouth of the Health of Towns Association in 1846 two years after its national inception. " (Gill 1979 p163)

    Prince Arthur of Connaught, grandson of Queen Victoria. Wikipedia entry

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    In the United Kingdom, a deputy lieutenant is a Crown appointment and one of several deputies to the lord lieutenant. Wikipedia entry

    A justice of the peace (JP) is a judicial officer of a lower or puisne court, elected or appointed by means of a commission (letters patent) to keep the peace. Wikipedia entry

    The Keith Medal was a prize awarded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's national academy, for a scientific paper published in the society's scientific journals, preference being given to a paper containing a discovery, either in mathematics or earth sciences. The medal is no longer awarded. Wikipedia entry Available online