High Dartmoor Tenkara.

by David Southall, UK

Dartmoor is an area of wild granite moorland rising to a height of 621 m (2037’) and covering an area of 954 square kilometers (368 square miles). It is located in the county of Devon in the far southwest of England. The Dutchy of Cornwall controls the fishing for brown trout, sea trout and salmon, on 25 km of the high moorland streams.

These waters are made for the Tenkara angler as they are well stocked with beautiful little wild brown trout, mainly in the 10 to 35cm length range. Furthermore, many areas of river are boulder strewn with complex currents that would render the use of western rods and line on the water hopeless when it comes to drag control (if I were to use a western rod I’d choose to ‘high stick’ with a 10 or 11’ two weight). In addition, many of the streams are so small that the only effective way to fish them is with a long rod so that the angler can stay well back from the fish whilst holding the line off the bankside vegetation and awkward currents.
During our three-day visit, In mid May 2014, Steve Donohue and I fished on virtually all the Dutchy’s waters. The rivers were back to normal levels after heavy flooding a week earlier and the weather was hot and sunny with virtually no wind. Despite only seeing a few Stoneflies, Sedges and Black Gnats we found the fish were generally willing to rise to a dry fly or Sakasa Kebari fished just subsurface. Each day we both landed good numbers of trout (mostly very small but with a sprinkling in the 23 to 28 cm range (9 to 11”). Steve’s best fish was 35 cm long and I lost one a little bigger after an epic fight.

I found the TRY 390 7:3, with a 350 cm number 3 level fluorocarbon line and 1 m of 6x tippet, to be ideal for most of the fishing, whilst the TRY 360 6:4, with a line plus tippet no longer than the rod, came into play on some of the more overgrown bits of river. 

Both rods are a joy to use: being so light it was possible to fish all day without any fatigue, whilst their ability to put a fly exactly where one wanted was a real plus factor. As for flies, I mainly opted for a size 18 Black Gnat, but the fish were not too choosy. Steve and I also had plenty of takes on Black size 12 Sakasa Kebaris, size 16 Shuttlecocks and size 14 Elk Hair Caddis. 

Useful kit includes, waist waders, wading boots with studded soles, a good wading staff, knee pads (preferably with shin guards, not only to keep a low profile by kneeling but also to protect waders from gorse bushes and thistles), plus the usual gear you’d take for a day’s walk over wild country.

Tickets to trout fish on the Dutchy of Cornwall’s waters cost £10 per day, £30 per week or £70 per year, available from a number of sources which are listed in the following very useful web site that give a lot of information on the other fishing in the area, including the West Country Passport system that opens up many extra waters to the visiting angler, www.westcountryangling.com. In addition an Environment Agency Trout and Coarse Fish License is needed, available from www.gov.uk/buy-a-uk-fishing-rod-licence (£3.75 per day,  £10 for 8 days or £27 per year).

There is a wealth of accommodation available in the area, but we stayed at a very reasonably priced Guest House, www.theoldposthouse.com, in the lovely little town of Moretonhampstead on the east edge of Dartmoor. Steve and Zoe Williams were perfect hosts and Steve is a keen flyfisherman and a convert to Tenkara since we introduced him to its advantages.

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