As we write our thoughts are now firmly focused on the coming season which starts as usual on 1st May. Despite a very dry February I’m pleased to say either side of that we have had decent rains and the river is running high and clear. The water table is still on the low side and water reserves are still depleted in the Southwest but fishing at Butterwell should be unaffected at least until the late summer due to the proximity to the tidal reach and the absence of major barriers to migration. There are always a few spring salmon around in May so why not make a visit to fly fish by day before the sea trout start to run. Last year an early run of large sea trout ran in May, before anyone fished at Butterwell! So an early call to Sam and a few nights in late May early June will definitely be worth a shot with the fly. By mid-June we can expect more consistent sport as the main groups of larger sea trout make their way off the tide and if we have some extra water we can expect the bonus of salmon opportunities on the fly by day.
Prices for fishing remain as they were in 2021.
Although 2021 was officially the driest since 1995 and the second hottest on record, Butterwell sea trout fishing still fared well mainly due to the proximity to the tidal reach and shaded pools, keeping water temperatures below 18c. Fishing only really slowed in August, although fresh sea trout continued to run and take the fly. With 56 Sea trout, largest caught by regular rod Wayne Heard in July in Dead Elm on a floating lure weighing 7lb, it was well below par but still good fishing.
Salmon numbers were poor with such a prolonged drought and anglers only started to appear with the rains in November. The best fish was caught by Charles Whiteway in November on fly and weighed 12lb.
The good news for the Camel remains that it is receiving considerable attention from The Environment Agency and West Country Rivers Trust and fry numbers and habitat are very healthy and sufficient to sustain very good runs of sea trout and salmon. 2022 was the sixth year of fry surveys using electro fishing and the results show a majority of sites had excellent/good numbers of trout fry, maintaining the improvements seen since 2017. The salmon fry levels continue to show excellent/good ratings in the upper main river sites but low levels in the tributaries, which is consistent with historic surveys and also a significant improvement on 2017. Work has been undertaken to remove many barriers in the tributaries in recent years and improve spawning habitats with invasive species removal and gravel augmentation below immovable barriers. There are clear signs this has benefited trout and some signs it has helped salmon migration but it’s early days and there are more barriers to tackle in 2023. At this stage the existing Camel Bylaw for catch and release and hook/bait restrictions will remain in place for 2023.
On water quality. The Camel has not been totally immune from the issues plaguing English rivers but, as a SSSI, Natural England and Cornwall Council have taken decisive early action to avoid the severe issues facing many other English rivers. The Camel was one of the first five catchments in England to halt all phosphate enrichment. This has required all developments to cease and agricultural intensification to stop until these activities have proved phosphate neutrality. This has required scientific reports and mitigation plans before construction or increased farming can continue. Work is ongoing to devise a system of phosphate credits for construction activities to fund reduced farming intensity. Extensive independent monitoring of the outflows from water treatment plants is now taking place, including establishing two permanent water quality monitoring devices at Butterwell. Together with the extensive investment in water treatment infrastructure announced by South West Water we are hopeful the Camel can stay ahead of this latest potential threat to our migratory fish stocks as well of course to our own health.
We look forward to seeing all our angling guests in 2023 and wish you all a productive season.
Sam and Rachel