Chairman’s Report January 2013

2012 has been a busy and interesting year!

April saw the resignation of Paul Kenyon as chairman of the association.  We owe Paul a great debt of gratitude for the time and energy he has devoted to the association and his tireless hard work on behalf of us all.  His retirement was marked by a wonderful lunch held in his honour at The Avon Mill Garden centre.  I am very pleased to say that Paul still sits on the association committee where his thoughts and guidance are very much appreciated.

I am most grateful to the president and committee for all their hard work throughout the year.  We are very lucky to have such a dedicated team working for the benefit of the association.

I would personally like to thank our president, Chris Peach, for his support, guidance and diplomacy during a year in which all three qualities were needed in abundance!

As you know Tim Reavell resigned as treasurer, in his place I welcome Patrick Bromley. I am very grateful to him for his sage advice on all things financial and look forward to working with him this year.

I’d like to thank Brian Dent for his work as secretary.  His efficiency, good humour and patience are much appreciated.

I very much appreciate the work Dave Farnworth does as membership secretary.  He also manages the waiting list and the annual collection of subscriptions.  It was planned to introduce direct debits this year but due to a change in treasurer and some legal questions this is being set aside for the time being.

I am greatly indebted to Mike Cooper for all the work he does on our behalf. His good offices ensure a harmonious relationship between the association and our riparian owners. His work load has considerably increased this year as he represents us on the Devon Avon Group, Aune Conservation Society and is working closely with the West country Rivers Trust as they carry out their river improvement plan. I am also indebted to him for organising Paul Kenyon’s lunch at the Avon Mill, a splendid afternoon greatly enjoyed by all.

Returns for 2012

The number of fish caught were:

  • Salmon 22(77% returned)
  • Sea Trout 73 (72% returned)
  • Brown Trout 853 (99% returned)

Annual catch returns since 2004 are

Year Salmon % Returned Sea Trout % Returned Brown Trout  % Returned
2012 22 77 73 72 853 99
2011 39 84 56 72 1037 99
2010 52 78 62 56 855 99
2009 16 75 86 60 616 98
2008 19 68 40 75 779 99
2007 15 80 17 35 1007 99
2006 45 66 46 34 359 97
2005 29 96 436
2004 31 78 446
Average 29.8 75.4 61.6 57.7 709.8 98.6

High rainfall and record high river levels dominated the season.  These were not conducive to brown trout fishing nevertheless 853 browns were caught.  Sea trout fishing also suffered yet 73 were caught which is well above average.  Only 22 salmon were brought to the net yet sightings of fish suggest a good run.  High water made it possible for fish to run very quickly through the system which may suggest a lower than average catch.  Larger fish were caught this year which suggests an increase of Multi SeaWinter  fish returning to the Avon.  This is in line with other rivers in the SW.


The Cedric Potter Trophy for largest salmon goes to Andy Daniels with a fish of 35 inches estimated at 18lbs

The Jim Coombes trophy for largest sea trout goes to Stephen Lowe with a fish of 51/2lbs

The President’s prize donated by Sir William Peek goes to Frank Senft for a combined sea trout and brown trout catch of 78

The Bob Sadler trophy for largest brown goes to Dennis Dawes for a fish of 161/4 inches

The Silveridge Conservation Award goes to Paul Edginton who retuned all of the 180 fish he caught

Looking at our figures for this year I was very pleased to see that or return rate for salmon and sea trout was over 70%.  Since 2006 our return percentage has averaged 75.4% for salmon, a most laudable figure.  Our sea trout returns have averaged only 57.7%.  Nevertheless during seasons 2011 and 2012 they have increased 72% and I hope that they maintain this level in future years.  The return of brown trout remains very high indeed averaging nearly 99% annually.

Westcountry Rivers Trust Angling Passport Scheme

This year the income generated by tickets sold was £615.

Social Events

I am most grateful to Paul Edginton who organised the annual dinner at Avon Mill Garden Centre.  This goes a long way towards creating a positive and friendly attitude between the association and our riparian owners and is our way of saying thank you to them for allowing us to fish this lovely river.  I  would ask more members to attend this most convivial event.

In August Brian Dent organised a social event at the Avon Dam.  About a dozen members and guests attended.  It proved so successful that we will run it again this year.  My thanks to Brian for his organisation of this event.

Riparian Liaison

I am greatly indebted to Mike Cooper for all the work he does on our behalf.  His good offices ensure a harmonious relationship between the association and our riparian owners.

His work load has considerably increased this year as he represents us on the Devon Avon Group, Aune Conservation Society and is working closely with the West country Rivers Trust as they carry out their river improvement plan.

WRT  Catchment Restoration

In April of this year the West country River Trust were successful obtaining money for its catchment restoration fund.  The fund is to be used for river improvement work on the rivers Yealm, Erme and Avon. This substantial fund will specifically target the following:

  • Improvement of the catchment area with regards to increasing pH, restoration of gravel beds and numbers of fish
  • Walkover surveys of rivers
  • Riverbank work in conjunction with AFA
  • The removal of obstructions to the upward movement of migratory fish
  • Estimating the numbers of salmon fry and parr by electrofishing , estimating redd numbers
  • Working with farmers and riparian owners to protect river banks and improve riverine environment

This work is to be carried out over the next three years

Since April Mike Cooper and myself have liased with officers from the WRT and we expect major works to be carried out this season.  Electro fishing and redd counts have already been carried out and there will be opportunities for members to participate in electro fishing, walkover surveys and bank work.

River maintenance

The association’s philosophy on river maintenance is that of creating a fish friendly environment and adopting a light touch to bank maintenance keeping as much large woody debris in the river as possible.  Last year work was carried out on coppicing Mortimer’s water and tidying our stretch at Kerry Downs.  The high rainfall experienced created a great deal of disturbance but created some interesting new water, particularly at Kerry Downs.  I am very grateful for the help that I have been given in carrying out maintenance, particularly from my band of regulars; foremost among them being Dennis Dawes and Dave Brooks.  I am scheduling work parties for:  10th, 17th, 24th of February and the 3rd, 10th and 17th March.  I would like to concentrate work at Kerry Downs and Gara Bridge.  We may also be working with the WRT during the year but I will inform members when I have news of this.

Bramble pool was restored this year and so far has withstood the battering it received from very high water.  Many thanks to Toby Russell who supervised the work and to Dennis Dawes for organising the repair materials.

Venn weir was damaged last year.  Work on repairing this was delayed until ownership could be established.  The EA finally discovered that it was their property but have yet to initiate work.  I await developments in this area.

The EA are currently building a level, raised concrete area below New Bridge.  This will help them to gauge river flows more accurately.  This is important as it determines the take of water for the Hydropower scheme at Curtisknowle.

Hydropower Scheme

March of 2012, outline planning permission was granted for a Hydropower scheme which would draw water into a leat at Curtisknowle.  This would leave a depleted stretch of about 400m after which water would be returned to the river after passing through the screw turbine.  The president and myself had a final meeting with the EA, the developer and SHDC planning in order to put our case against the development.  It was not successful and full planning was granted.  Work started in July.  It called for the building of a stone weir with a central notch, clearing of the leat and building of works relevant to the housing of the turbine and screw.

In early September Chris Peach, Mike Cooper, Bruce Stockley and myself were conducting a survey of the river and discovered that the builder was constructing a concrete weir instead of the one agreed.  The EA were informed, as was SHDC.  The EA informed the contractor to stop work; work however, continued.  After several meetings with the EA work was stopped on the weir and the issue was to be reviewed.  Work on the turbine and housing was to continue.

My latest information on the matter is that the applicant has been told by SHDC that she can either remove the weir or  keep it and apply for a new impoundment licence.  I am informed that the weir is being retained and a  new impoundment licence is being sought.  The EA have insisted on an impact assessment and the building of a dedicated fish and eel pass.  I have been told that all of the data will be in by April and matters will be taken from there. I find it very puzzling that the EA is giving money to the WRT to improve fish movement and then agreeing to the construction of such an obstacle in the middle stretch of the Avon!

Matters are still lodged with fish legal and their solicitor William Rundle.

Financial Matters

The treasurer will now give a detailed report on the association’s finances for 2012.

May I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2013 and tight lines in the new season.

John Roberts

Chairman AFA January 2013

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