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The Scout Hut Pool


The ‘Hut Pool is a deep narrow gut that flares into a wide tail. A down and across approach is favoured in coloured water. The large boulders at the tail are where fish are most likely to be found but they will often follow and take at your feet.
If the water is clear it has to be fished upstream from the large stones at the tail.

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River Plym near Shaugh Prior

Shaugh to Bickleigh Tactics The Pools

by Bob Mountjoy

The Plym beats are as follows:-

  1. Cad The right bank from Sheepstor Parish Boundary to the Blackabrook.
  2. Both banks from Blackabrook to Cadover Bridge, to Lower Cadworthy Farm.
  3. Left bank to Shaugh Bridge.
  4. Both banks to Bickleigh Bridge (see below), except for approx 180 yds left bank under Harscombe Farmhouse. Access to and from fishing above is on the right bank only.

Seatrout on the River Meavy

Beat 1 Shaugh to Bickleigh Bridge.

The River Cad flows in a South Westerly direction from the centre of the South Moor down past the Dewerstone and Shaugh Prior where it meets the River Meavy and becomes the Plym. The Cad is fast flowing and tumbles over beds of well-worn granite boulders. It rises near the China Clay workings and this often effects the colour of the water. The Cad invariably carries a very slight chalky sediment that increases with heavy rain. When combined with peat stain from the moors it can often appear to be a river of British corporation tea.

The River Meavy is dammed at Burrator and the reservoir provides drinking water for Plymouth. Burrator provides a very pure water source and is piped to Plymouth water treatment works where the water is said to require less treatment than that from other sources. The Meavy is fed by the compensation flow from the reservoir and the resulting stream is usually much clearer than that of the Cad. After heavy rain the Cad can be dark and opaque but when the two rivers combine, the darker water of the Cad is thinned to create the perfect colour for fishing.

During heavy Autumn rain the reservoir frequently overflows. This can turn the Meavy back into the river it was meant to be and the healthy flows help fish run through the system.

Both rivers provide good sport for brown and sea trout with some late salmon as a special bonus. Brown trout are best pursued on the Meavy and the Cad above Cadover Bridge. The Plym, between Shaugh and Bickleigh bridges provide the best salmon and sea trout fishing. The daytime sea trout fishing is highly rated by some local specialists, as the best in the area. In his book Holidays with a Rod (Robert Hale 1949), H.S. Joyce claimed “This is probably the best stretch of sea-trout water in the south of England” p31

I have seen caught, two sea trout of over 8lb and one morning in 1990 I caught thirteen sea trout to 5lb (9 returned). My personal best is 6 1/4lb.

Sea trout arrive in April and the first fish are large difficult to hook and harder to land. A real challenge! A month later and we see the arrival of schools of fish in the 2 – 3lb class that provide terrific sport and excellent eating. July and August sees the arrival of the ‘Harvest Peal’ - fish of eight ounces to a pound in weight. Sport can be fast and furious with a take practically every cast but landing these fit young fish is another matter. September fish are a mixed bag but the mature sea trout become full of eggs or milt and make poor eating. Please return these carefully.

Salmon arrive in November and can be fished for until 14th December. Some heavy rain and a big river at this time will encourage significant numbers of salmon to run the Plym. Rain that arrives on a South or South Westerly wind seems to be most beneficial.

Through late October and in the first weeks of November the river can seem full of spawning sea trout and these are often aggressive, less wary and are accidentally caught by salmon fishermen. These can be very large. Sea trout in the 5 – 10lb class can be encountered and are often mistaken for salmon. Sea trout are most likely to be encountered in the ‘pebbly’ runs and less so in the deeper holes where the salmon will lie. Anglers are asked to take special care and return any fish that they are not 100% certain are fresh salmon at this time. Please beware anglers have been prosecuted for taking sea trout at this time claiming they thought they were salmon.

From Shaugh Bridge Down
From where the two streams meet at Shaugh Bridge down to Bickleigh Bridge the fisherman has access to over a mile and a half of wild river fishing. The Plym runs fast crashing between great pebbles and through rapids to small pots and pools.

There is plenty of easy parking at Shaugh Bridge as this is a popular beauty spot for summer tourists, walkers and climbers. At Bickleigh Bridge the parking is tighter but there is space for a few cars on the east (left bank) of the bridge and a few more on the road on the west side just up from the bridge. In between the two bridges there are not many places to park. The T junction below Ham Farm provides one of the few places.

Accessing the river is easy from either end of the beat and from the right bank. There is a public footpath running the length of the beat close to the right hand side of the river. In parts this is well maintained with footbridges and markers but is not an easy walk and very few ‘trippers’ venture out of sight of Shaugh Bridge.

From the top of the beat the fisherman can get to the river by stepping over the low wall of the Shaugh Bridge near its right hand side looking downstream. The going is a little difficult for the first half mile as the river has high banks overgrown with holly and oak. At the end of this section the river runs through well-cropped fields, larch plantations and oak woods. No houses or roads come near to the river for over a mile.

Although some of the pools at the top of this beat may be better fished from the left bank access is much more difficult as there is no maintained footpath. Anyone new to the water is recommended to keep to the right bank until some familiarity has developed. From the Style Pool down the river is much better fished from the right bank anyway.

You will meet walkers and (mountain) cyclists but the river is largely undisturbed and can be fished at any time during the season without being interrupted. The river is lightly fished and you can often walk the entire beat and not see another human.

The woods are full of wild life and boast a population of Fallow Deer, descendants of escapees from a nearby park. The noise of the river often prevents them from hearing your approach and if you are walking into the wind you can often get quite close before they become aware of you and spring away.

Fishing is from the both banks for most of the beat and with artificial baits (fly or spin) only. Fishing from both road bridges is prohibited. The rivers above Shaugh Bridge are within the Dartmoor National Park and spinning for brown trout is prohibited.

Recommended Tactics
The Plym is a small river and its pools are mainly small deep pots which can be covered by half a dozen or so casts. Most local fishermen favour a light spinning rod and fish a Rapala or a small Mepps for trout when the river has any colour. A slightly heavier rod and a large Mepps, Flying C or Rapala are favoured for Autumn Salmon.

The technique, in coloured water is most commonly ‘down and across’. Fishing ‘the water’ allowing the lure to flutter over known or possible lies. A few short casts into each hole and a move on to the next hole is the usual routine.

The traditional approach is often difficult to employ as the shortness of the pools and the speed of the flow make it hard to fish methodically in successive arcs. The fisherman is forced to be innovative. Dropping the spinner into the fast water at the head of the pool – allowing to drift a little and then holding back so that it rises enticingly can work remarkably well.

When the river is clearing ‘downstream fishing is rarely effective. Clear water requires close contact tactics as the quarry, facing upstream, will see the fisherman before the lure. The size of the pools, the speed of the flow often makes it difficult to fish ‘fine and far off’. Stealth is important and once a fish has seen the fisherman they will not come to the lure. If the river is running clear you must approach the fish from below.

Not many fishermen can be found on the river when it is running clear but this is when the most exciting fishing is to be had. In clear low water conditions it is possible to stalk larger individual sea trout and take them with a fly rod and small leaded nymphs. There are a few local specialists who revel in this technique. Working their way upstream they drop a weighted nymph or goldhead into the flow at the top of a pot and raise the rod to bring it gently up through the broken water. Very difficult - but very rewarding.

Another approach is to cast a small wet fly upstream and across, allow a belly to form in the line and accelerate the fly downstream. This generates a lot of follows and some takes.

Sea trout will take a dry fly on this water but the fast flow makes it very difficult to keep a fly afloat and not ‘dragging’. A small Deer Hair Sedge is been favoured by some of those locals devoted to this method.

During heavy summer rain, large numbers of slugs are washed down and some sea trout seem to be unable to resist these molluscs. I have not seen it documented elsewhere but an occasional fish is caught that has gorged itself on slugs. When this is happening a large olive ‘Woolly Worm’ fished on a dead drift will take fish. Far more satisfying than taking one with a spinner.

There are some pools that can be very productively fished for sea trout at night. Sand Pool and Commando Pool at the bottom of the beat are the most popular as all others require a significant walk over difficult terrain in the dark. There are many other pools that can be as productive for the sure footed and brave!

More fishermen are fishing the fly for salmon on the Plym than ever before but this is not the river for a double-handed fly rod and 30-yard casts. One rarely need to cast more than 10 yards. A rod that will handle this and a heavy lure with comfort is what is required.

The fly needs to be heavy and a one inch copper tube with a black, blue or orange dressing is successfully used. Others have experimented with brass and tungsten beads on large singles. What is to be remembered is that with short casts into fast water there is not much time for the fly to settle down and sink to the correct dept before it is over the lie. The fly needs to be capable of fishing almost as soon as it hits the water. ‘Dibbling’ in the necks of pools can incite a salmon to rise from ‘nowhere’ and lunge at the fly.

The Plym is not safe to wade in high and coloured water and it is not necessary to do so as all lies can be covered from the bank. In low water it is sometimes advantageous to paddle a little into the river, especially when fishing upstream. In most cases Wellingtons will be found to be sufficient as deep wading is not required.

The Pools (from top to bottom of the beat)

Shaugh Bridge Style Scout hut Beech tree Tram Bridge Cauldron

Ham Macs Iron Bridge Two Meadows Sand Commando

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Shaugh Bridge Pool
This is a regular resting point for fish travelling upstream and regularly produces a few salmon. The deepest section is under the left arch and fishing from the left bank and casting upstream provides the best chance of covering a fish. When the river is high the fish are forced out of this lie and fall back around the boulders at the tail and these are best covered

Shaugh Bridge

from the right bank.
The runs immediately below Shaugh Bridge are well worth fishing but access is difficult. One December I hooked three salmon in succession in these runs that took me all the way down to the Style Pool where they were lost.

The Style Pool
The runs from Shaugh catch up with themselves at the Style Pool. This pool has a deep pot under the run at the head where salmon and large sea trout lie. In heavy water it becomes a roaring cauldron. The left bank is high and overgrown and this makes it difficult to cover the deep pot from the right bank. There is certain skill to keeping a lure working while not passing the fish at too fast a pace when casting upstream to this lie. When the river is high this pool becomes a cauldron and the tail is then best fished from the right bank and the footpath.

The Beech Tree Pool

This is an excellent salmon and sea trout pool considered by many to be the best on the beat. It can be fished from the footpath and from above and below the ‘beech tree’. In high water fish will be found near the tail or right under the near bank. In low and clear water the fish will lie in the middle where it is quite deep. If undisturbed they will spread into the easier water - under the beech or right up amongst the pebbles at the head.
The Tram Bridge

Below the Beech Tree Pool the river divides and a small stream breaks from the right bank to curve alongside the footpath to rejoin the river under the old Tram Bridge. The old bridge that served the quarry has long fallen into disrepair but its central pillar creates an interesting lie. When the river is high a large quiet pool is created under (what was) the right span and this will hold sea trout that lie alongside the pillar. When the river is really high the tail of the pool will produce fish. When at summer level and clear the left hand span can be fished from a wading position (ankle deep) immediately below.

The Cauldron Pool

The Cauldron or Quarry Pool has a deep run under the left hand bank where there is a tall rock bank. To the right hand side the run shelves slowly amongst granite pebbles and boulders. It fans out at the tail but a deep run continues down the left hand side.
This pool always holds sea trout. When the water is low and clear they lie in the deep run under the far bank where there is overhanging ivy (centre of photograph) When the river is high they fan out around the boulders and are often caught at ones feet halfway down the right bank. Every inch of this pool (which can only be effectively fished from the right bank) will produce fish in high water. I have never fished it at night but it should produce fish.

Hampool

Hampool is probably the largest single pool on the beat. It is a long wide glide over a slate bed, shelving to the left bank. The footpath follows the right bank from which it can be fished. At the tail a small stream joins the river before the stream divides around a large island.
The pool has few deep holes and does not hold a great population of fish but in high water will become the resting place for entire shoals. It is easy to fish with fly or spinner in the traditional down and across manner and it will always provide some sport in these conditions. Although it often looks beautiful, in low water sport is more likely to be found in other pools. One day in April I watched a very large sea trout take tadpoles in this pool. Alas I only had a spinning rod and the fish showed no interest in my offerings.

Ham Fields
Below Ham pool there are a number of pools; Boulder Pool, Mossy Bank and Evan’s Pool, bounded by holly bushes and overhung by oaks that provide perfect holding water for sea trout. Walking quietly by in low water conditions sea trout can be seen perfectly in the clear water as they lie still, hoping their camouflage is working. Once you walk level with them, they panic and dash upstream.
These pools will provide excellent summer sport at all river levels. Downstream fly or spinner in high water and upstream fly in low water will provide sport.

Iron Bridge

A modern timber footbridge carries the footpath that takes walkers across the Plym below Ham Farm. Long ago an iron bridge spanned the deep gut at this spot and the pool is named after this feature. Under the new bridge a deep gully runs between slate banks to fan out below across shingle and slate. The neck is deep and fast and holds fish at all levels. It is often fished from below the bridge with a heavy spinner thrown up stream and brought back just ahead of the current. In heavy flows the tail will hold fish and sea trout drift back here after dark.


Two Meadows
This pool was modified a few years ago when the riverbed was excavated for a water main. An overflow drain enters the river here. The pool has a steep bank and it is difficult to fish it without being silhouetted against the sky. This is the only pool where it pays to slip down the bank and fish it from the water when conditions allow. In heavy water this is unnecessary and unsafe.

Macs Pool (sometimes known as Mossy bank)

This pool has deeper water running against the left bank and shelves towards the right it is a good sea trout pool and is open enough to be fished at night with the fly. Some summers ago I saw a young man take an 8lb sea trout from this pool with a size 3 Gold Mepp.

Nb. ‘Mac’ was an ex RM, who loved fishing the Plym. He didnt bother with fishing much, else where. This was his favourite pool.
Mac was an honorary club bailiff, and was very good at carrying out single night patrols, Those fishermen who he came across and were known to him were passed by without a word, they wouldn’t realise it until he mentioned it to them a few days or weeks later. Then there were those who shouldn’t have been there, that was a different story, they probably went home cold and wet!. Mac passed away suddenly last year, and is remembered by the plaque, by his family, friends Dave Bickell and our honorary bailiffs.

Commando Ground

This is a long deceptively quiet pool which is really an extended run of gullies and boulder filled pots. . It runs under a canopy of alder and holly trees. This is difficult to fish as the back cast is limited but can be very productive in all conditions.Two hard rock out crops form natural flow deflectors and these create some pockets where fish can be taken. With a fly rod the fisherman will be roll casting a weighted lure and trying to get it to flutter in the flow behind these obstructions. A spinner needs to be flicked across to the far bank and allowed to sweep around.
Please note electricity wires cross the river here to take power to Harscombe House. Take care with your casting!

Harscombe (The Bend) Pool

This is a wide shallow pool on a corner. It can be easily fished from the right bank at the neck of the pool and fish take in the deeper run towards the opposite bank. The pool frequently holds large shoals of traveling sea trout but does not seem to hold a resident population. Down and across works well, when there is colour in the water, with both fly and lure. When the water is low the occasional fish can be stalked from downstream with a dry fly or a nymph.

Sand Pool
Sand Pool is a favourite and it regularly produces both salmon and sea trout. Fishing here is from the right bank only. Half way down the pool a large holly bush with oak and ash tree (just off right in photograph) creates both useful cover and an irritating obstruction depending upon your point of view. Fishing is therefore from either above the bush the sand bank that is revealed in low water (see photo) or below the bush.
The main lie is immediately opposite the bush against an overhanging rock sill but fish often lie in the fast water at the neck. In high water fish seem to get pushed back to the tail.

Commando Pool

This is probably the most popular pool on the beat and the most frequently fished after dark. It is wide and deep, running out across wide flats at the tail and around a steep outcrop. Fish can be found anywhere in this pool in high and coloured water with the neck and the tail often holding the taking fish. The bare slate ramp towards the head of the pool can be slippery when wet – take care! After dark it is the centre of the pool and the run out of the pool that regularly produce takes. Both these areas can be conveniently fished from the slate ramp (with care) and a sand bank near the tail (just out of the photograph).

The photographs
The photographs of the pools were all taken on a mild day in December. Compensatory flows from Burrator had raised the river to a few inches above the normal level for a dry period in winter. Please note that summer leaf growth may make the pools look a little different.

The photograph of the ‘spawning sea trout’ (top of page) was taken on November 17th. This highlights the fact that spawning sea trout can be encountered when salmon fishing in late Autumn.