by Jon Evans - Secretary:
The River Camel rises on Bodmin Moor and reaches the sea about thirty miles later at Padstow on the North Cornwall coast. The Camel has been fished for salmon and sea trout for centuries and the first royal charter was granted in 1199. Records show that in 1750 rights were available on payment of a fee to the Duke of Cornwall to take salmon by use of barbed spears. Needless to say, these rights have now been revoked.
There are four main tributaries, the Allen, the Ruthern, the de Lank and the Stannon and these provide wonderful nursery and spawning water. There are also countless small streams offering safe havens for sea trout and occasionally salmon. The Bodmin Anglers Association has worked extremely hard over the years to ensure that the upper reaches of this beautiful river are largely designated as sanctuary areas which should not be fished. Other improvements consist of removing large infiltrations of Hemlock Water Dropwort (Oenanthe crocata) whose roots have bound the spawning gravels with clay and sand and this prevents the salmon and sea trout from spawning naturally. We have also built some new spawning beds on the Stannon Stream and this project won conservation awards from the Wild Trout Trust and the Association of RiversTrusts.
The Camel has a reputation for good runs of both species but things are not what they were. Even so, during the 2006 season, there were more than twice as many salmon caught on the Camel as any other river in the South West. In 2007, salmon over 20lb were taken at Boscarne and in 2005, a 19 lb hen fish was donated to the hatchery. There is also an excellent run of sea trout, although there is concern that the Camel is having the same drop in sea trout numbers as is being found all over the UK.
There are about twelve miles of fishable water and most is in the hands of the two main clubs, the and the , both of which offer day tickets for visitors. There are also a number of private riparians and a few private fisheries. The whole river and many of the tributaries are designated as a SSSI and SAC with the Atlantic Salmon and the Otter the two principal species; and the anglers welcome both.
The has been formed by the clubs and the private riparians to try to ensure, with the Environment Agency and Natural England, that the river stays in good heart, and provides a self sustaining environment, with a range of habitats, as well as excellent sport for anglers. We have been stocking the river with our own fry for many years and usually manage to plant out 50,000 juvenile fish into the many nursery areas at the top of the catchment. The local anglers catch the adult fish in the winter and they are taken to our two local hatcheries at and Trafalgar Farm, where the eggs are stripped from the hen fish and the juveniles grown on until the spring and summer. The hatchery programme was started eight years ago by the past Secretary and another member of the Bodmin club who built a hatchery on the Clerkenwater Stream.
Most of the Camel runs through wooded valleys and farmland and this conditions the ways in which the river can be fished. Below Polbrock, the river is tidal and can be fished as far downstream as Wadebridge. Below this, you need a boat or an interest in fly fishing for Bass.
Most people fish the river with a spinner or worm, although both clubs have beats which are suitable for fly fishing and many sea trout are taken at night. There are also a number of salmon taken on fly on club and private beats and on the tidal water where the trees have thinned out.
A local rule is that when worming for salmon after September, circle hooks only are permitted. We have found that this is particularly valuable in protecting juvenile fish which are very greedy and sometimes have eyes bigger than their stomachs. The season opens on May 1st. This began many years ago so that kelts were not caught during the early weeks. A few spring fish are taken in May and June but the real sport at this time of year is with the early sea trout. Most seasons, one or two fish of eight or nine pounds, as well as a number in the 3 to 4lb class, will be caught in late May or June either on spinner or a worm or fly at night. The main run of sea trout, school peal, will come in early July, but there will always be a number of good peal mixed in with the smaller fish of three quarters to a pound.
There is an agreement that all peal will be returned after the end of August for conservation reasons. The salmon run tends to get under way in late August or September. Grilse around the five pound mark start to come off the tidal water and if there is rain, they push on up through the lower stretches to Tresarrett and beyond. The best of the season, and the bigger fish, comes in October and the season ends on December 15th. Throughout the winter months, fish of any size from a 4lb grilse to a 25 lb. multi sea winter fish can be taken.
The catch and release rates for both salmon and sea trout are rising each year, and although the river is currently reaching its spawning target there is a lot of local effort to ensure that we do not endanger the future of our sport. We have concentrated on habitat improvement and the restocking programme and hope to use chemical and genetic markers, as well as fin clipping to allow us to demonstrate the success of our work.