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The Devonshire River Avon as described by A.G. Bradley in 1914

The word 'avon' is a pre-Roman ancient British word meaning 'river'. There are four River Avons in England. The Devonshire River Avon rises in the mires of south Dartmoor. Close to where the river leaves Dartmoor a dam was built in 1957 to form the Avon reservoir. On its 23 mile journey to the sea the river passes by the villages of South Brent, Avonwick, Diptford, Loddiswell and Aveton Gifford before reaching the estuary mouth at Bantham and Bigbury on Sea.

In 1914 A.G. Bradley described the fishing on the Avon in his book "Clear Waters: Trouting Days and Trouting Ways in Wales, the West Country, and the Scottish Borderland"

This page contains extracts from the book and a map of water owned or rented by the Avon Fishing Association (AFA). Bradley indicates that he fished on AFA water.  The complete text of "Clear Waters" is available  online

Season and Visitor Tickets are issued by the Avon Fishing Association at £56 weekly, £71 fortnightly, £87 monthly (2007 prices). Please email pkenyon@pkenyon.entadsl.com for ticket outlets and membership application.


map of Avon Fishing Association water on the River AvonRiver Avon at Humpy Bridge, AvonwickCHAPTER 7 "THE DEVONSHIRE AVON"

SOME of the best rivers in Devonshire have been
greatly damaged of recent years by the
increase of salmon, which is a vast pity. For
trout give more continuous sport to a great many more
 people, and if they do not furnish the fevered quarter
and half hours provided by the king of fishes, there is
more varied interest as well as more science in the
pursuit of them. ...

.... I would give preference, as a trout stream pure and
simple, to a river scarcely known by name outside the
county. Something of its obscurity is possibly due                           River Avon at Humpy Bridge, Avonwick
to the very fact of its name, which, for reasons obvious
to the most elementary etymologist, is shared by so
many notable rivers in the three kingdoms. I have
River Avon at Gara Bridgenever yet met any outsider who was even aware that
there was an Avon in Devonshire. But there is and
a very bewitching Avon too, the very antithesis of                       those placid, silent, and rather turgid haunts of pike
and roach that fame has chiefly illumined. Of the
rivers that flow out of Dartmoor the Tavy may boast
of her peal, the Dart of her scenic pre-eminence and
her fair share of sea-going fish, but the Avon in her
lower half may fairly, I think, take precedence of either  
for the quality of her trout ; and that is what chiefly
concerns us in these pages. My own angling experi-
ences of the Dart are of such ancient date as to be
worth nothing in the matter of comparison. But an
old local friend who has fished both rivers almost                            River Avon at Gara Bridge
from his cradle has showed me his fishing journals
extending over many years by way of rubbing in the
 contrast which, in these pages, at any rate, is con-
spicuous. The Dart in its upper reaches has long
River Avon at Topsham Bridgemiles of moorland waters which provide entertainment
for many visitors in the way of small fish, as fish are
judged even by the Devonshire standard, which is
another business. But in its wider and lower reaches
below Holne, in my friend's records, which have much
significance, it does not come near the Avon. Nor
are the Earne and the Teign, which also run south out
of Dartmoor, nor yet again the Okement, which runs
north, quite in the same class.

But then the Avon is very short, the portion of it,                        
that is to say, to which these eulogies are applicable.
It rises, to be sure, far within the moor behind South Brent
, and in its pilgrimage out of the wild has a                                     River Avon at Topsham Bridge
right tempestuous journey, deep channelled in woody
River Avon above Venn Weirgorges, and leaping betimes in high white cataracts
that cannot even be seen without effort for the tangled
foliage that meets above them. Running pictur-
esquely down past the rectory and church of Brent,
diving under stone bridges, and skirting the village,
the little river tumbles through open meadows for a
mile, and for yet another frets again in a contracted
and bosky trough. Then all at once, within the space
of half a mile, it becomes to my thinking one of the
best bits of water in Devonshire. On the moor the
Avon is prolific of fingerlings, and practically nothing
else. In the tangled hollows below the fish are a
little better, but hardly worth the arduous struggles                         River Avon at Venn Weir
necessary to their ensnaring. In the meadows below
Brent, the sportsmen of the latter being free of this
much of the water, flog it pretty hard, while through
the gorge below, the force of the current at least we
always thought so was against it as a holt for fish.

It is at Avonwick, just below this, that the river
comes into its own as a trouting stream, and thence it
is but a dozen or so miles to the little estuary where
it joins the sea beyond Loddiswell. Nearly all of its
wayward, sparkling journey thither lies through as
snug a valley as there is in Devon. There are many
valleys in the county more beautiful, to be sure, but
this one is absolutely and completely typical. Even
the single track railroad which follows it to Kings-
bridge has done little aesthetic damage. When I first
knew the valley in my college days, and indeed for long
afterwards, there was nothing of this. If bound for the
Kingsbridge country you joined the coach or your
friend's trap at Kingsbridge Road station, now re-
christened Ugborough, after the tor at whose foot it
lies.


I have since fished the Avon in early spring when all
England is, I think, pretty safe from debilitating in-
fluences. But I would not give one day of May or
June, when the water is low, for three in spring when
it is usually in what is known as good condition when
the streams, that is to say, are heavy to beat up against
continually, and the fish rise briskly perhaps for a couple
of hours, and then go down for good, and the surface
of the water becomes, as they say in Scotland, dour.
Moreover, in spring the good fish, of which there are
or were a great many in the Avon, half to three-quarter-
pounders, have not come out into the shallows nor
taken seriously to surface food, as they do later. I
think the river in this particular is rather different
from most Devonian streams, though exactly like so
many of them in physical characteristics.



Urging its bright, impetuous streams through most
of its seaward pilgrimage beneath a rarely interrupted
canopy of foliage, this obscurest of all English Avons
purls upon gravelly beds or lingers in deep rocky pools,
overshadowed by fern-tufted crags and the spreading
foliage of wild woods that clothe the hill-sides and
hold the river in their sylvan grip. There are green
meadowy strips too, plenty of them, on one bank or
the other, sometimes on both. But even then thick
foliage often bristles along both banks and holds the
would-be bank angler at arm's length. Old stone
bridges, too, festooned with trailing ivy, give here and
there a more perfect finish to some vista of water
that dances through flickering bands of sun and
shadow beneath the swaying boughs.

All, or nearly all, this water is in the hands of an
association whose moderately apprised tickets make                               
any one free of this Avon fishery who feels equal to
grappling with it, an effort well worth the while.
But it is no use poking about dry-shod on the bank
here if you mean business, though there are brief inter-
ludes where you might take your ease in this rather
unprofitable fashion. You must get right down into
the water and stay there, and push your way between
and often beneath the trees, and face a current that
is generally strong and rocks that are always glacial.

The Avon is no brook, nor again is it a broad river,
but of precisely the right dimensions in my opinion
for a first-rate trouting stream. I prefer it, as I have
said, in May and through half of June, and do not
mind dry weather, sunshine, and thinner water in
the least. Nor, I am sure, do the Avon trout. They
are then, in my experience, almost always ready to
rise, and the good ones too, if you can circumvent
them.

Looking down from the high bank at such periods
when the voice of the stream is fluting in its highest
key, and the stickles are running low, and the top
waves of the pools have subsided into mere tremulous
eddies, it looks, I admit, pretty hopeless. You can
see the fish travelling affrighted up the gravelly runs
into the deeper waters, among them that old pounder
marked down of yore, followed by a score of halves,
thirds, and quarters. You will not, however, be on
the bank when you are fishing, but down in the water
creeping warily up beside its alder fringes, and getting
here and there some fine vantage-points behind an
out-thrusting bush. No scurry of fish will be thus
provoked, thin and clear though the stream be, if you
are careful. A short line is not usually much good.
This is a convention much too freely associated in
print with up-stream fishing and a short rod. Well
enough in high water or in early spring ; but a longish
line must be thrown somehow between or under the
trees, and it comes easy enough with habit and practice.
' Fine and far off ' is just as true of this woodland
fishing as of a chalk stream, but with a great difference,
for in the latter you have probably a twenty-acre
water meadow behind you, and you must present the
dry fly in becoming attitude, properly cocked, and
all the rest of it.

It does not so much matter how you present the
wet fly. You have got to get it there through diffi-
culties, above and around. And you must also know
where to make the effort, and when it is worth while to
run risks, commensurate with your skill, of hanging
up your flies. These things are outside description,
nor can the ' smittle ' spots upon a river's surface be
chronicled, for experience alone, which becomes a
second instinct, can read such lessons. Ingenuous
fools have written of wet-fly fishing as an operation
conducted on ' chuck-and-chance-it ' principles. Pos-
sibly they refer to fishing a lake from a boat. Let us
hope so ! Nor is the phrase wholly amiss as applied
to ' salmon-fishing ' for trout down a big river. But
in connection with up-stream fishing, and above all,
in such a river as this is, it is a deplorable exposure of
innocence. Let the man who can throw a decent
fly, and has nevertheless such callow conceptions
of wet-fly fishing, try his hand against some habitual
exponent of it ! How shifting, too, according to
weather and conditions, are the sort of places where
the trout are feeding. It may sometimes take an hour
or so to discover that some strange whim, as it would
incorrectly seem to us in our ignorance, has seized
upon the whole river, and that every fish is, as it were,
out of place !



 

I used to fancy Woodleigh wood, or 't/dleigh 'wde                    
(with the Devon u of course), as the old natives had it,
as much as any stretch in this delightful river. It
clothes the high hill-sides with a fine tangle of varied
foliage and spreads its protecting fringes over the pools
and stickles for a long mile or so above Loddiswell.
But down in the river, if you do not mind timber,
there is here a prolonged treat of good things as you
push up the current beneath the overhanging boughs
of oak and hazel, of alder and mountain ash. Barbed
wire, to be sure, has added new terrors for the fisher-
man as it has for the fox-hunter. Once upon a time
you could drag yourself up the densely fringed steep
bank of the Avon when you felt in the mood for a rest
or were confronted with deep water. You could cram
your rod, basket, and landing-net somehow through the
thick frieze of tree roots, saplings, and briars, and
achieve the upper air and a grassy resting-place. The
last time, however, I battled with these rough rocks
and swift currents, the swifter on that occasion for
April rains, all old avenues of escape were destroyed,
the natural chevaux de /rise being everywhere en-
twined with barbed wire ; and when all further
progress up the river was barred by some deep pool,
you were virtually imprisoned in a cul-de-sac. There
was nothing for it but to wade wearily down again
over the waters you had just fished, and clamber out
into the upper air at the point from which you de-
scended into it.

This waste of time and energy is particularly annoy-
ing in spring fishing, if the trout happen to be on the
rise. For, unless the season be very forward, a great
objection to spring trouting in my opinion in this class
of river is that the rise, though sometimes furious and
uncritical, is usually limited to an hour or two, leaving
those before and afterwards a rather weary blank of
futile casting upon dour waters. Every fisherman,
of course, knows this, and furthermore that you can
never be certain when that brief but blithesome
interlude will take place, to say nothing of the possi-
bility of its never turning up at all, though this last,
of course, is all in the angler's business. It is tolerably
certain that it will occur between eleven and four, and
in rivers like the Avon one is constantly haunted by
the fear that the fish will come on in awkward or in-
different bits of water, sandwiched between the pet
places you have already fished in vain, and those again
higher up where you fain would be. It is not safe
when the moment seems to have arrived either to push
on or to drop back, for you might possibly find another
rod in possession. Moreover, it is not easy to drag
oneself from any water when fish come suddenly on
the rise and face a journey through tangled woods or
over untrimmed Devon fences, in waders and brogues,
when you know all the time that the trout are splash-
ing merrily at the March browns or blue duns. It is
better to stick to it and receive this gift of the gods
wherever it finds you on the stream. So it comes to
pass that very often two anglers of equal capacity will
turn out very different baskets on an April evening.

Queer things, however, happen in every month. Not
very long ago, after nearly a week of battling with the
rather full April streams of the Avon in most inclement
weather and with very poor luck, my last day had
arrived. It was far the worst to all outward seeming,
even of this bad week. As I descended to the river be-
low Loddiswell station, a biting north-easter cut rasp-
ingly down even that sheltered valley. To make the
situation from an angling standpoint more supremely
ridiculous, a violent thunderstorm without rain broke
upon the scene while in mournful mood I was putting
up my rod. Fork-lightning played in the leaden sky
above the bare hill-top where the village of Loddiswell
shivered in the icy blast, and repeated crashes of thunder
rolled down the valley towards Kingsbridge and the
sea. This, in truth, seemed a gratuitous piling up of
the agony on an unfortunate angler, with no alter-
native for hours but the waiting-room of a diminutive
station. If the humblest inn or fireside had been
accessible I should have lost a quite enjoyable day's
fishing to an absolute certainty.

As it was, I descended into the icy waters where they
come out into the meadows from Woodleigh wood,                          
and at the very first cast to my amazement was into
a good fish. I took three out of that pool in quick
succession while the thunder was still rumbling, and
the lightning playing, and the north-east wind lashing
the bursting willows on the bank, and threatening
snowflakes every moment. They were the better
class of Avon fish, and weighed a pound between them.
I went on picking up fish all the morning, for in the
heart of the woods the cold wind seemed to sink to
rest, and a rise of blue dun set the trout astir in
flagrant violation of every rule which is supposed to
guide them. But better, to my thinking, than zephyrs
and April showers are those days in the thinner waters
of later May and early June when fish may be picked
up on and off all day, and on the whole better ones
too, if harder to catch. The playing of a strong
June fish, too, in these leafy avenues, amid rocks,
boughs, and rapid currents, is a different business
from the same encounter in an open stream. There
are about twenty more things to think about, and no
time to think of them, as the fish dashes and jumps
from one danger spot to another, and the point of
the rod has to be dipped like lightning under trailing
boughs, and the line shortened as quickly by a grab
at it below the bottom ring. Instructions to a young
angler how to play a fish would be mighty little good
here ! There is no time to reel in during these fast
and furious early stages as the trout runs down towards
you or darts like lightning for a submerged bush.
And with a longish line out these critical moments
are inevitable, while as for holding the point of your
rod up, you have got to hold it at just such an angle
as the all-embracing foliage for the moment admits of.
A half-pound fish will give you no end of a time in
such situations for about thirty seconds. After that
another minute, perhaps, may see him in the net.
Though if perchance you are a fixture, as often happens
where the depth of an uneven slippery bottom varies
from one to three or more feet, you may have had to
let him run down stream a long way, and be forced
to reel him on fine gut, by slow stages up a rapid
current, which is a slow and ticklish business. A
three-quarter-pounder, which is always possible in
the Avon, will give you anywhere in its waters, and
above all in these very prevalent awkward places,
some really stirring moments. You should not be
wholly ungrateful if you get him safely in at all, and
the encounter, if successful, will possibly occupy five
minutes, which will seem like a quarter of an hour.
I am talking, of course, of real honest half- and three-
quarter-pounders, not those lesser fry which anglers,
particularly those accustomed to waters where trout
run large sometimes, airily allude to as such. A half-
pounder in the Kennet or the Test is by comparison
a poor, immature weakling, who in his own waters,
unvexed by trailing boughs and rocks, and torrents
and sunken bushes, may be handled with something
like contempt. But in the western streams he is a
well-developed lusty veteran, the tyrant and the bully
of the few square yards of water over which he rules.
As I have already intimated, in the Devonshire Avon
the herring-sized fish, going about three to the
pound, are far more numerous than in most Devonshire
streams. This evidence of good feeding for the look
of the river hardly suggests this standard used to be
attributed, whether truly or not, to the presence of
the fresh- water shrimp.

It is needless to say that the tail fly in up-stream,
clear-water fishing kills two or three fish for one taken
on the dropper, or droppers if a couple are used not
altogether advisable, I think. It alone reaches many
of the far-away fish, and gets into brushy nooks, par-
ticularly where the water is shallow, and a slight but
significant enough wave is the glad sign of a fastening
fish. The trout at this season and in such places, if
they come at all, nearly always mean business, and
are generally of the better type. Where a screen of
alder brush dips into a gravelly run, with little recesses
here and there, into which, standing well below, you
can curl your tail fly sideways, are perhaps the spots
which on these bright early summer days upon the
Avon come back to me as the most prolific of all upon
the varied surface of this beautiful stream. And as
tail fly upon the Avon at this season there is nothing
like, certainly nothing better than, a good old-fashioned
Devonshire red palmer not a coch-y-bonddu, but
a rather full red hackle with a plain body, and with
for choice a few turns of gold twist round it. Four
varieties of the red palmer, as used by the oldest and
best fisherman I knew upon the Avon, have occupied
a pocket of my fly-book for the last twenty years, on
' in memoriam ' account alone. His generation never
dreamed of fishing without one. It is certainly a
wonderful fly there in early summer, the fish taking
it under water as freely as on the surface.

The decline in the number of fish, probably in a
majority of rapid rivers, is, I think, an accepted fact,
and is certainly a perennial source of discussion among
anglers, and that, too, in rivers where neither poach-
ing nor over-fishing can have had anything to do with
the trouble ; for in such cases there is nothing to discuss
or theorise about. The Avon is a case in point. I
am pretty sure there are as many fish as there were
twenty years ago, and in fact there are quite enough
for any reasonable person. It was, roughly speaking,
in the twenty to thirty years before that period that
the change was effected by some mysterious agency,
here, as in other streams known to me in many parts
of the west and north. In a long spring and summer
for other brief visits are not worth considering
I spent upon the Avon, I never killed more than five-
and-twenty sizeable fish in a day. And I am quite
certain that much larger baskets were not then made
by any one, nor indeed would an occasional exception
alter the case. But in the sixties thrice that number
were frequently taken. There was some correspond-
ence in the Field many years ago as to the baskets
made here in these brave old days by local worthies,
country parsons and suchlike how they filled their
creels and then their pockets, till even these last over-
flowed, obviously not from any mysterious super-
excellence, for many an expert, more efficiently armed
and with finer tackle, has fished the river since these
days. I have good reason, however, for knowing that
these tales are absolutely true. The contrast between
the then and now, or rather between the then and
twenty years ago, must be looked for in this case as in
many others to some natural cause. Nothing con-
cerned with fishing, legal or illegal, has brought it
about ; that, at any rate, is pretty certain. The theory
of improved drainage which carries off flood water
and its store of feed in a day instead of several days
seems to me the most worthy of consideration ; a
theory which may be applied to scores of rivers like
the Avon with plausibility, for there really is no other.
The Barle of my boyish Exmoor days, for instance, is
another case in point. There is nothing like the
stock there was then. The casual, unobservant person
goes on repeating in all these cases that there are more
fishermen than of old. This sounds reasonable, but
it is not always true, and even were it so, amounts to
nothing when the fecundity of trout and the frac-
tional toll taken with a rod and easily estimated in
protected rivers, is totted up.

A curious coincidence occurred during the last visit
I paid to the Avon, and if the hero concerned catches
sight of these lines, I hope he will forgive me. Now
on the Welsh border there was, and possibly still is, a
certain cleric who enjoyed a tremendous and justly
earned reputation as an angler. Though a native,
his cure of souls happened to lie in a county in which,
from my knowledge of it, I should say there is not a
trout but such as have been recently introduced into
reservoirs and the like. But his operations were still,
and naturally enough, carried on upon his native
streams. I know some of these last pretty well myself,
and also many of the local fishermen who are justly
accounted great men upon them, and with one voice
they used to declare that there was no approaching
this terrific parson in the matter of a basket. I have
often heard them, both gentle and simple, discuss the
problem of why and how it was that he never failed
to make them all feel second-raters when he descended
into their midst. But such was undoubtedly the case,
and there are other magicians of this kind in various
parts of England, men who for some mysterious reason
stand out above the best. It was even said that some
owners hesitated to give this one a day's fishing, which
merely exhibited their ignorance of the natural history
of trout. His patterns of flies were eagerly sought after,
and named after his name. But this was no good.
The users of them had half-baskets while the parson
filled his. He has even been watched by envious
professors to see if he has any special patent dodge,
but there was obviously nothing of the kind. His
execution was apparently precisely the same as that
of any other good local fisherman.

But this brings me back to the gist of the story and
the fact that when fishing the Avon some three or
four years ago an old local friend officially connected
with the river remarked, among other items of gossip,
' We have got a demon fisherman on the river now,
a regular otter. He has killed bigger baskets than any
one within my memory.' [This last went back fifteen
or twenty years.] ' His name,' quoth I. ' Captain
,' replied my friend. ' Good Heavens ! ' said I,
for the name was a rare one, ' a brother of the famous
parson, I 'd lay a hundred to one.' And so he proved.
Here indeed was a study in heredity ! I positively
dreaded to meet him on the river. It was that un-
satisfactory week before alluded to, which ended up so
genially in the north-east wind and the thunderstorm ;
for abjure rivalry as you may, and as I always try to in
fishing, it is never pleasant to encounter success with
failure. Moreover, I met the keeper in due course,
and he instantly unbosomed himself on the subject,
namely that of the newcomer, the like of whom had
never been seen in his time on the river. His baskets
ran up in the neighbourhood of fifty fish, which was
certainly an unprecedented figure in modern times,
and there were plenty of experts here as on the Welsh
border.

Now this is really curious and should give fishermen
something to think about, though on the lay reader
its significance must inevitably be lost. It is indeed
a matter of scientific interest that two brothers should
be thus miraculously endowed. There is no dry fly
subtlety in their case, no casting of phenomenally long
lines with a fly laid beautifully cocked at the end of
them, no persistent studies of nymphs and images and
cunning contrivance of imitations. In fact, I doubt
if any dry-fly fishermen stand out with such singular
consistency above their brother experts ! It is in this
case simply a question of thrashing up-stream with
practically the same flies as other men who have also
been at it all their lives.

These occasional superfishermen, if the phrase be per-
missible, are to be found on lakes, too, which is still more
curious ; for lake fishing from a boat, the least attrac-
tive to my mind under most conditions of all forms of
trouting, one would think, reduced all practised fisher-
men who indulge in it to more or less even baskets.
But I have encountered at least three lake-fishers in my
life who are admitted to be supermen in this respect,
and invariably bring home the largest basket in what-
ever company and on whatever water they may find
themselves. One of them was a Welsh squire, the
other an English parson, and the third a commercial
gentleman. The latter represented England against
Scotland in the competitions that are or used to be
held on Lochleven. He was quite frank himself re-
garding his phenomenal gift, and admitted his in-
ability to account for it. Lake fishing over a drift of all
methods of trouting one would fancy left nothing by
which the most gifted angler could consistently lift
himself above his brother experts. The last-men-
tioned one had a theory that some kind of fourth
sense had been vouchsafed him which enabled him in
some mysterious way to divine and anticipate the
movements of unseen fish.

The Avon isn't everybody's river not by any
means ! There has been, I think, some thinning out
done of late years, but I have often seen strange anglers,
officers or the like from Plymouth, wandering down
the woody banks below Garabridge or Avonwick,
asking in despair where the river was get-at-able.
These were mostly no doubt what the Devon folk used
to call ' up-countrymen,' handy enough some of them
perhaps on moorland, or water meadows, or on lakes, but
daunted at the first flush by the uncompromisingly
sylvan character of this river, on to whose banks the
little train had dumped them. A military friend of
mine who used sometimes to fish for sewin with me
in the bush-free waters of West Wales, and heard me
speak betimes of the Devonshire Avon with that strong
regard I feel for it, hailed upon this very account the
call of duty which planted him at Plymouth for a
season. He was one of those anglers, of whom I fancy
there are a good few, who, I am convinced, enjoy the
prospect of fishing and its after-memories more than
its actual realities ; and these mental and conversational
pleasures associated with the gentle art are of course
perfectly genuine. In hunting or shooting such an
attitude comes instantly under the suspicion of pose.
But humbug is happily impossible in trouting, and
these people, I am quite convinced, honestly enjoy
those anticipated excursions which will very likely
never be made and the recollection of others actually
achieved but clouded at the moment with disappoint-
ments now forgotten. All the aesthetic and outdoor
charm of the craft appeals to their imagination, but
when it comes to the actual point the glamour fades a
little, or perhaps they are a bit lazy, while they are sure
to be rather indifferent performers.

However, my friend went to Plymouth full of rosy
anticipation of many spring and summer days upon
my much esteemed river, which is only about an hour
by rail from the famous west country seaport and
garrison town. He did get there once, of course, but
only once, and he wrote to me that he most assuredly
would never repeat the experiment. He could not
understand my predilection for the river or indeed
how anybody caught any fish there. The trees were
too thick, the banks were too high, and the wading
too rough. It must be said he was rather middle-
aged in habit of body as well as in years, and a very
middling fisherman. But he was one of those enthu-
siasts who fish a great deal in dreams, and thoroughly
enjoy the prospect of days and hours that are so rarely
fulfilled. And after all why should they not ? I re-
member, too, on a certain day in early June when the
fish were taking nicely, encountering a young marine
sitting gloomily munching his sandwiches on the bank
of the Avon at one of its open interludes. He com-
plained bitterly of the secretive nature of the stream,
and that he had been sitting all the morning by the big
open pool beside him waiting to see a fish rise. As the
fish were then feeding in the stickles and runs his vigil
had of course been bootless. He proved, poor fellow,
to be an embryo dry-fly fisherman, nurtured up in
Hertfordshire or some such country, and a victim of
dry-fly literature in what may be called its arrogant
days. He honestly thought that * chuck-and-chance-it '
fishing, as he called it, had disappeared among sports-
men everywhere, and that waiting for a rise and throw-
ing a dry fly over it was the only legitimate method of
catching a trout. And the Avon seemed to him a
deplorably awkward river for such noble endeavours, as
indeed it was. Of course he was young and hadn't
been properly * bred a fisherman.' So presuming on
the discrepancy of our years, which for that matter I
could gladly have dispensed with, I endeavoured to
get him into a more knowledgeable frame of mind,
by explaining that he was in another world from
Hertfordshire, and must brush all these fallacies from
his mind if he wished to be a happy angler and enjoy
the four years of Plymouth, to which he told me he was
destined. I felt I might venture, when we had smoked
a pipe together, to offer him an illustration of how all
of us, good, bad, and indifferent, fished a woody, west
country stream. He came along with me on the bank
above for half an hour, and though the spectacle could
not have been of much practical service to him he
was quite grateful, and declared that his eyes were
opened to a condition of things he had never dreamed
of and that he would re-commence his angling career,
which I do not think had been a very full one,
from another standpoint. I dare say before he was
ordered off to Chatham or Portsmouth he became
quite an adept, for he was very keen.

I don't know whether the Avon is more beautiful
in April or in June. Its lush verdure in the latter
month is delightful, and I like better to fish it then
for reasons more than sufficiently stated. But in the
spring, in the woods of Devon, above all along the
margin of the streams, what a spangled carpet nature
spreads upon the cool mossy ground, before the
foliage of the trees and saplings has yet been shaken
out and the eye become accustomed to the warmth
and colouring of summer verdure. What a blaze is
here of primrose, violet, and celandine, of campion,
anemone, and marigold beneath the still bare branches
of the oak and ash which play so prominent a part in
Devonian woods. One misses, to be sure, the opulent
sycamore, that precocious harbinger of summer, by
the streams of Wales and Cumberland. And if the
larch, first of all trees to illuminate the brown woods,
is in fair and welcome evidence here, one may be
thankful for the comparative scarcity of the sombre
pine in all its varieties. The rectangular fir plantation
with its monotonous colouring and stiffness of out-
line, so baneful to my thinking in many northern
valleys, is happily not an obtrusive feature in south-
west England.

Both salmon and peal (Devonian for sea trout) run
up the Avon in limited quantities, but very few of the
former are taken, while the latter do not, as in the
Tavy, rise freely either by day or night. Let us hope,
even if such a thing be possible, no attempt will be
made to spoil one of the best trout streams in the
county by turning it into a second-class salmon river ;
for there is little doubt that a horde of young salmon
fry makes demands upon the food of a river that
is most detrimental to its stock of trout. The Barle,
the Bray, and the torrential and beautiful Lynn seem
still to retain a fair portion of their old fecundity. The
Tavy, which the peal love and rise freely in, though
the salmon reject it for the larger Tamar, is also a
fair trouting stream despite the copper mines in its
upper waters. So are the Lydd and the Lew, which
flow out of Dartmoor to join the Tamar with the
Plym, the Meavy, and the Walkham, all beautiful
little rivers which find their several ways into Ply-
mouth Sound.

Away from the two great moors and their skirts, the
beauty of inland Devon lies almost wholly in its deep,
winding valleys. Save perhaps in the south-east, the
Honiton portion of the county and a few others, look
almost where you will, from any inland hill-top, you
will see little but a succession of bare, humpy hills
criss-crossed with rectangular lines of bank fences,
and everywhere patched with square tillage fields.
A distant background of moor redeems in a measure
these long, rolling, chequered ridges, neither wild nor
wooded, that nothing but a hardy superstition could
absolve from the reproach of monotony if not of
actual ugliness. Dreary outlooks are these beyond
dispute, yet not dreary enough to touch the imagina-
tion with a redeeming sense of mystery. A survey
of the same kind in Hereford or Monmouth, let us say
for example, because the colouring there also is De-
vonian, is rich, broken, and beautiful. But one cannot
truly say that such outlooks over the average inland
Devon landscape is anything of the kind, and the many
exceptions are not to the point, for the valleys are
hidden, and it is down in the valleys that most of the
beauty of non-moorland inland Devon assuredly lies,
and of this beauty the trout fisherman most un-
doubtedly sees the most and the best.