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The Upper Yealm Fishery: An appreciation of fishing in 'Lilliput'

The Upper Yealm Fishery offers fishing for wild brown trout, sea trout and salmon in peaceful surroundings near Ivybridge which is a short distance from Plymouth and popular holiday destinations in the South Hams.
Brunel's railway bridge

The fishery lies hidden between two bustling transport arteries that serve the West Country. To the north the Penzance to Paddington railway line skirts the southern slopes of Dartmoor. The A38 dual carriageway between Exeter and Plymouth lies to the south of the fishery. When you emerge from the top of the upper beat there are views of a Brunel bridge in the distance and behind it a rampart of white china clay waste dug from pits at Lee Moor on Dartmoor that was used to produce English porcelain in the 18th century. 

Yealm map Yealm roadsideAccess to the Upper Yealm fishery is easy. It is remarkable how quickly one can leave the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life behind.

Don't worry about the narrow winding road; the locals are friendly and actually pause and thank you for considerate driving. If you tie your own flies you may not be able to resist the 'fur and feathers' roadkill along the way. Turn right at the 'Hump Bridge' road sign before 'Mark's Bridge', go down the track and park by the field gate.

This really is parking for 'gentlefolk'. I'm more used to squeezing into the hedge; my car bears parallel scratches like a badge of honour. Go through the gate. Take a good look at it. You are unlikely to ever again see a farm gate in such fine condition in these parts.

By now you should be lulled into a dreamy state like a child with a mug of Horlicks being read a bedtime story by Nanny. You are on the lower beat which I call the 'Schoolroom' because it is ideal for people who want to learn the basics of fishing for wild brown trout from scratch.

The river runs along the edge of the meadow which contains a flock of noisy guinea fowl – more flytying material at your feet.
guinea fowl
Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service.
Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

More information about directions, parking and meeting point

Yealm Lower beatWalk to the upstream corner of this field. This is fishing in miniature but none the worse for that. Bring a six to seven foot rod and think 'roll cast'. The river deepens in places against the far bank under a protective canopy of trees. Use a Spey cast to align the end of the fly line with your target. Walk down the meadow and the river opens out and slows as it is held back by a weir built in the 18th Century to serve a mill downstream at Lee Mill – long gone now.

Yes, that dark shadow is a  sea trout lying above the weir – and between May and September there may be more hidden beneath trees tight against the far bank. Walk on downstream past a succession of small but perfectly formed pools. Each hold brown and possibly sea trout, but they must be approached with extreme stealth and one's ability to cast accurately will be tested. Tie on disposable flies, you will get caught up and must be prepared to break off rather than disturbing the pool by crashing across it. You can always mark the spot and retrieve the fly later. You will catch fish. Small yes, but with occasional larger surprises and you have the possibility of a sea trout which in these conditions will be a memorable experience. When you have been lulled into a false sense of security you are ready to tackle the upper beat, or as I call it – the “Examination Room”.

Yealm examination roomWalk up the road a few hundred yards to skirt the gardens of houses that back onto the Yealm and pick up the river again by the bridge. Steps have been cut into the bank to aid your descent. Echoes of that fine gate. Enjoy the easy entrance – you are about to be severely tested!. I don't need to tell you to crouch – the overhanging limbs force you to become a human heron. The pools are even smaller now but some are deceptively deep. Creep upstream. Forget about overhead casts. Just remember to never allow the fly to travel above your head and you will simply loose a small fortune's worth of flies, rather than face total financial meltdown !
Go quietly up this stretch and pause to take in the banks of wild flowers and the animals that pass you by.

The owners of Upper Yealm fishery - Josh and Julie Dalton - are welcoming and friendly. The Daltons rent out Oaklands Cottage which is 200 yards from the river. The fishery has an autumn run of salmon and the Yealm salmon season ends on 15th December.

Further information
  • Rod fishing seasons: Brown trout: 15th March to 30th September. Sea trout: 3rd March to 30th September. Salmon: 1st April to 15th December.
  • Daily Rate - £12.50 per day
  • Environment Agency News: New Fish Passes on the River Yealm will help salmon, available online
  • Environment Agency: Yealm Catchment Fisheries Survey Report 2004, available online
  • John Duke Pode and Cyril Augustin Pode, 1918. "Some Descriptive Notes on the Parish of Cornwood and its Inhabitants from Prehistoric Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century", available online
Yealm Lower Beat
Yealm trout cuckooflower-lady's smock

We meet clients in the Upper Yealm Fishery car parking area ....

Yealm map

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service.

Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.
              ...turn right just before the 'Hump Bridge' road sign at 'Mark's Bridge',
go down the track and park to the left of the field gate.

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