Official fishing season is over on the Walkham for another year and it felt like time to catch on the gossip with Robin Armstrong, who came to the valley as a river warden and stayed on as fisherman, chronicler and painter – still selling worldwide from his gallery at Sortridge and through the local pubs and Wildwood Arts.
He told us …
“I paint more fish than I catch nowadays but I still hear the chat I guess and I’m still always looking. What I hear is a lot of doom about the salmon but I think the fact is hardly anybody is actually going out to try to catch one any more, legally or illegally. They are still there. You are never going to get the sort of massive runs there used to be, because of what has happened at sea and on the land over a long time, but year on year, I don’t think anything dramatic has suddenly happened to this network.
“The times of the runs vary according to flows and the flow patterns are always changing, as well as the rainfall, and one way and another most of the run this year will probably be from about now onwards, so the fishing clubs will be reporting low catches during the open season, but that’s the way the ball bounces. If you take a regular look at Grenofen Pool, you can still see salmon waiting any time between May and December.
“Can’t tell you more but this summer I saw the most magnificent specimen I have ever seen, a 20-pounder taken from the Tavy.
“In the Walkham, they are trying to get to the redds between Huckworthy and Woodtown Weir, where the gravel gathers in the right way with stones between an egg and a marble in size. There used to be redds higher upstream but water extraction changed the flows long ago and some of them moved and there is no longer the maintenance there once was. We used to go up there in waders and rake out cow parsley. Funnily enough, I can see a possible new laying area forming now right outside the Leaping Salmon, where the gravel is gathering under Paul Bozacki’s wall. Keep an eye on it.
“Meanwhile, the new weir at the bridge seems to be doing its job in terms of helping fish up over. There are more fish using the stair than got over the old weir. But some still just go up over the face.
“The weir pool seems to be back in fashion as a place to fish and a couple of good fishermen have had a few nice peal.
“Above the weir, through Weir Park, is still a good stretch for fish to recover and they are probably lying along there right now, and in the pools between there and Huckworthy.
“In the old days, somebody would have been down along there with a wire at midnight and a couple of hotels would have paid good money for the catch and me and quite a few other people had to be hired to try and stop it. But now you can walk in the supermarket and buy all the salmon you can stand for a fiver and that’s the main difference today, even more than global warming.”
PS: One of Robin’s salmon paintings will shortly be up for bids on a big fly-fishing website at https://midcurrent.com/art/
Robin Armstrong at work: picture by Andrew Pain.
Big salmon picture, up for bids.
WHAT’S ON …
Friday October 25: Bonfire Night and fireworks show, Fillace Park – POSTPONED.
Last chances this weekend to see Tavistock Musical Theatre tackle Sound of Music at Tavi Town Hall, including matinee.
Saturday 26th: Cheese and cider event at the Salmon, from 3.
Sunday 27: Veteran space rockers Wishbone Ash and rock fundamentalists The Groundhogs at Exeter Phoenix.
Exmoor running various outdoor adventures for families during Dark Skies Festival for next week and more.
Thursday onwards: The Ballroom Boys, tour starring Strictly professionals, playing Devon venues.
Also, Thursday and Saturday, Bedford Hotel, one-time Buckland Monachorum boy Calum Grant brings an acclaimed turn as Oscar Wilde back home: Scandalous Love.
Friday Nov 1: Calstock Arts has an offbeat comedy show ex-Edinburgh, Confessions Of A Cockney Temple Dancer.
And Meavy Cinema promises to have the new Mary Queen of Scots.
For more local events, including village pumpkin party, click through to our CALENDAR
Please also check our new local gardening feature at