I’ve been lucky to travel to many places throughout the world with a fly rod in my hand. When I get home though it isn’t long until I have unpacked, strung up my rod and headed to my home water, the Taw in Devon – home to some of my most favourite brownies on the planet…
As trout streams go this is a nice one. It might not be one of the big name rivers but it is where I most love to fish. The fish might not be the biggest either but I don’t care, they are so beautiful. If you fish the Taw you’ll be catching fish in the 8 to12 inch range but most years we catch them from 15 inches and above. They don’t give themselves up easily and are lightening fast but we always say that if you can catch them here you can catch them anywhere.
I spend most of my time fishing the upper section of the river for trout, sea trout and salmon but the lower river below where the biggest tributary, the Mole, joins it is considered the best for salmon.
I get to fish there every now and again and am sometimes lucky too, but for me, the upper river is where I like to fish most.
Rising on Dartmoor the Taw starts as a river you can jump across in places. It drops steeply creating little pockets with super fast rising trout.
Heading down past North Tawton the river becomes less moorland like and more lowland. It still runs clear and is fun to fish with a 1 or 2wt rod. There are often surprises in some of the deeper pools.
I recall fishing a grannom hatch with a friend where we shared a rod, taking it turns to switch over if one of us caught a fish. We had spotted a rise and then made out the shape of what looked like a respectable fish of 10 or 12 inches just below the surface. What we hadn’t seen was the 15 inch trout that had been tucked away under a bank that came out and ate the fly.
The river here is no more than 15ft wide and the trees hang over the pools just to make the next cast a little more tricky. The side cast is standard here and will make the life expectancy of your fly considerably longer if you use it.
As the river heads towards Eggesford it is joined by the Lapford Yeo and just a few miles farther downstream the Little Dart. The gradient eases a little here making some nice slower, longer pools that mean you need to wade carefully especially when trout are rising in the tails of pools.
There is also a little more silt which makes it the perfect environment for mayfly nymphs. The hatch gets going usually in the 2 or 3rd week of May and continues into June. Last year I was guiding people on-to fish feeding on mayfly duns in the last week of June.
The river grows in size after the Little Dart joins it and this is my favourite piece of water in the world. A big claim I know but I just love the mixture and variety of water here. From riffles and runs into deeper pools there is enough here to make every trip different. Sometimes I might be casting a tiny midge to rising trout or pulling a streamer through a deep pool for trout or perhaps a sea trout but each visit is never the same. It is what makes me keep coming back for more.
The river continues for a few more miles mainly over private fishing until it meets the Mole and grows in size again. It is time for the double handed rods now and the perfect place for swinging flies for salmon.
So, for me the Taw has it all but my guess is if you are reading this you’ll probably be thinking about the river you fish and feel just the same. I hope you are!
Pete Tyjas produces the fly fishing ezine Eat, Sleep, Fish and is a full time guide based in Devon