The upper reaches of the beautiful River Teign took centre stage in the most recent Fingle lecture. On 7th April, Mike Weaver of the Upper Teign Fishing Association, shared his personal enthusiasm for fishing on this stretch of river. Mike is an authority on fishing for wild fish and is well known within the fishing community, he has written a book ‘The Pursuit of Wild Trout’ and he has been described as ‘a Devon fly fishing legend’! His talk offered a whole new perspective on Fingle, one that was focussed on the river and the unique viewpoint this offers for thinking of the impact of land management and the forest.
He explained there are three kinds of fish of interest to anglers on the Upper Teign – salmon, sea trout and brown trout. Their life cycles are complex and the terms used to describe the different life stages of fish can be mysterious to those who are not involved in fishing!
He described how the salmon start to arrive at this time of year, through to Autumn. As Autumn progresses, salmon will move upstream to their spawning grounds and this provides an opportunity for visitors to see that iconic of sights – the salmon running the weirs – especially at Drogo Weir. They have a fascinating and complex life cycle, but it is their epic return journey from the sea to the river where they were born, that seems to capture our imagination. At every stage of their life they face dangers, and in recognition of this to conserve salmon stocks, the Upper Teign Fishing Association (UTFA) only allow one salmon to be killed per fishing season.
Mike Weaver also talked about the trout on the river. Interestingly he explained that brown trout live their whole lives in the river, but after about a year some of them turn into silver smolts and migrate to sea and are then known as sea trout – although they are actually the same species. Sea trout, unlike salmon can return to a river like the Teign, year after year. The small fish, that return to the river in the summer months, are known as small school peal in Devon – a rather lovely term. To protect stocks the UTFA encourage fishermen to release these school peal (the future big fish), as well as any large female sea trout. Brown trout fishing is 100% catch and release.
The Upper Teign Fishing Association has an increasing role in conservation and fishery management. They are now involved with various projects such as restoring spawning gravels and removing obstructions for migrating fish, working with the West Country Rivers Trust
This was a fascinating talk – a real insight into the watery world of the river and its fish species. There have been some changes to fishing rights ownership on the Upper Teign so for information please do look at the Upper Teign Fishing Association website.
Blog by Kate Smith, Woodland Trust. With many thanks to Mike Weaver for the photographs and transcript of his lecture.