The stunning moorland fishery offers miles of unspoiled countryside to enjoy with excellent water quality and, in turn, food availability for the indigenous brown trout to survive
Set amidst the Duchy’s Dartmoor Estate is an impressive network of some of Britain’s most beautiful rivers, extending to some 26 miles and comprising much of the East and West Dart and their tributaries, the Blackabrook, Cowsic, Cherrybrook, Stannon Brook, Wallabrook and Swincombe. In addition there are stretches of the Teign and Taw. These rivers not only provide fantastic scenery but also a valuable habitat for a range of wildlife, and are a key source of water.
The Duchy identifies the value of these rivers, and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales is keen to ensure that access is available to as many stretches as practically possible for people to enjoy the let fishing which is administered on the Duchy’s behalf by the Westcountry Rivers Trust. This charitable organisation, based in Cornwall, was established in 1995 to secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of the rivers, streams and watercourses in the West Country, and to advance the education of the public in the management of water. The Trust launched the Angling 2000 scheme 14 years ago in order to increase the opportunities for people to fish while also raising owners’ awareness of the scope that exists to derive income from fishing, thus incentivising investment in the rivers.
Fishing on Dartmoor
Angling 2000 has now been rebranded as the Westcountry Angling Passport, and a specific insert within the Passport document covers the Duchy’s Dartmoor Estate. Fishing is available on a day, week or season ticket basis and tokens can be purchased from a range of outlets across the Moor or via the Trust direct. Prior to the Trust’s involvement with the Duchy’s fishery, the Duchy administered the letting itself via its Estate office in Princetown and the various local outlets that now market the Trust’s tokens. Not all stretches of river are available for fishing, and the Taw and Teign are particular examples where the rivers are left as fish nursery areas.
The Trust has produced a river management plan for the Duchy relating to the East and West Dart, and over the last three years extensive works have been undertaken to deal with the priority areas identified to improve habitat and access for fishing. Walkover surveys have also been undertaken by the Trust on many of the other Estate rivers and the results of these are now being collated to inform further practical improvement work.
Fishing on Dartmoor
River ownership interests associated with the Dart are represented by the Dart Fisheries Association, and the Duchy is represented on the committee which provides a voice for river and fisheries management. The Westcountry Rivers Trust and Environment Agency are also regular contributors to the committee. The Association also undertakes a range of conservation work on the rivers utilising a combination of contracted and voluntary labour.
The West Dart near its confluence with the Swincombe
The special nature of this wild fishery has been recognised nationally and internationally, and in 2012 and 2013 the Estate hosted the National Fly Fishing Rivers Final, organised by the Peninsular Fly Fishing Federation based in Cornwall. In June 2014 the Estate will host the Commonwealth Championship, with representatives from 30 countries traveling to Dartmoor to enjoy the fishing. Brown trout fishing proves productive on many of the rivers and there are also reasonable runs of sea trout during the season, with occasional salmon.
Dartmoor is increasingly being recognised as a vital catchment for water and the focus of public and private sectors no longer simply focusses on the lowland for the catchment of water. Having just endured the wettest winter since records began, the desire to ensure that water can be gathered and retained within the uplands for longer periods seems likely to increase and this may provide opportunities for all those with an interest in upland management.
Map of the Dartmoor Estate
For more information on fishing on the Duchy’s Dartmoor Estate contact www.westcountryangling.com. For information on becoming involved with practical conservation work and the Dart Fisheries Association contact Bill Robertson tel: (01364) 652574.
In the next feature in this series the Duchy’s involvement and that of its tenants in food and farming on Dartmoor will be reviewed.
For further information on the Duchy of Cornwall visit www.duchyofcornwall.org.
The life cycle of sea trout and salmon
Spawning usually takes place from October to January. Fry hatch three to five months later, depending on the temperature of the water, hatching more quickly in warmer water.
Newly hatched fish – alevin – gradually absorb their yolk sac as they develop into fry, about one inch in length. In good conditions this will take about 20 days. The fry can now feed on live prey, but are very vulnerable to predators. Their markings and colouring will start to appear after three to four weeks, and may change throughout their life as they adapt to their environment. As they grow the fry will move, usually downstream, to find food.
Parr – the next growth stage – tend to stay in slightly deeper areas of water. From this stage trout can either mature into adult fish that stay in the river (brown trout) or, like the salmon parr, start to prepare for migration out to sea after around two years’ living in the river.
The migrating salmon and trout parr start to turn silver and begin to head downstream in spring, usually in April, as smolts. These go out to sea to feed in the richer marine environment and mature into larger adult fish. Most trout tend not to go too far before returning to the river regularly each winter to spawn. The salmon travel further, usually to the North Atlantic, although some return after only one year at sea, when they are known as grilse. The fish that stay out for more than one year are usually larger, and are known as salmon. A high proportion of salmon and grilse return to the river only once, and die after spawning.
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