"Both the Erme and the Avon are prolific in sea-trout near the mouth, the Erme especially producing very large ones, up to 4 or 5 lbs. and more; but my boys and myself have chiefly given our attention to brown-trout fishing, which also is good."
Colonel H. C. Eagles kindly enables me to give an account of streams in or near south-west Devon.
The Plym has a run of salmon in October if there are heavy floods; but often the fish do not appear until November or December, when rod-fishing has ended. Most of them spawn in the Meary Brook, above Shaugh Bridge, where the river divides, the eastern branch being known as the Cad or the Plym. There is no pollution in either stream. Owing to causes to be mentioned in connection with the Tamar, salmon are becoming more plentiful.
The Tamar, largest of the streams in the region of which Colonel Eagles writes, should be an excellent salmon river; but it is not. Of pollution there is practically no trace. On the property of the Duke of Bedford all those to whom permission to fish is given are forbidden to retain salmon, salmon-trout, rainbow-trout, or grayling. One never hears of a salmon being caught on any other part of the river. This is the more surprising inasmuch as fully five years ago the Duke of Bedford bought up the nets on the lower reaches of the river, including, it is believed, the tidal ones at Weir Head, and has turned into the river many parr, artificially reared. There are deep pools such as should be attractive to the salmon, and would be very attractive to sportsmen if the fish were less rare. It is difficult to understand why the Tamar is so unproductive.
The Tavy has a much increased stock of salmon. " To my mind," Colonel Eagles says, " it is one of the best sea-trout rivers in England, and it is now beginning to assert itself as a salmon river also. Evidently this is the result of the suspension of the nets in, and restocking of, the Tamar. I think that the fish run into the Tavy in preference to the larger river, because, being nearer the sea and having a much shorter and more precipitous course, the Tavy feels a fresh much earlier. The increase in the stock of salmon has been astonishing. Where once a single fish was rather rare, some rods have now as many as a dozen fish each in the season. The river suffers from pollution. Far up on the edge of Dartmoor are tin and copper mines, from which deleterious matter is turned into the stream. Late in last August there was a small flood. High were the hopes of the fishermen. There were many sea-trout and salmon in the river, and many others in the estuary, waiting for fresh water. Alas! The accumulated refuse of two months was brought down; the fish in the estuary could not face the pollution, and those in the river would look at nothing. The mines had had a flush, and had sent down all the contents of their catch-pits. The wonder is that there was not a great disaster. The Angling Association made representations to the mine owners, but there was no definite result. The County Council seem to be quite unconcerned...
The Gralm is a much-polluted stream lying east of the Plym. Paper and cloth mills about five miles above Gralmpton distribute ruin throughout its course.
The Walkham, a tributary of the Tavy, holds sea-trout and a few salmon, and has no pollution. It has benefited by the causes which have tended to improve the stock in the Tavy.
The Lynher, a Cornish stream, was for forty years utterly ruined by pollution from the mines. Since these were abandoned, about four years ago, migratory fish have begun to ascend the river, which now seems likely to recover its excellence. One young lady of Colonel Eagles' acquaintance killed two salmon last season.
The Fowey shows a lamentable falling-off. It is hard to say whether pollution from mines is the sole cause. Mr. W. Pease, junior, clerk to the Fishery Board, writes:-
"It is certain that the numbers of fish taken, either by net or by rod and line, have been growing smaller year by year; but until the last two years those that died died fairly, and not by poison. During the last two seasons on four or five separate occasions fish have been found dead in hundreds. My brother and I took over two dozen fry from the bottom end of a single pool. Another time the bailiff brought in three large fish. These were sent to the Board of Fisheries and Agriculture for analysis, and were found to contain large quantities of copper. The law which compels Boards of Conservators to produce the dead fish and the poisonous water actually the cause of the deaths, in order to secure a conviction,-which law will not allow a County Council to proceed against an offending mine without the permission of a higher authority, and leaves the real remedy in the hands of apathetic landowners,-must, I am afraid, eventually be held responsible for the destruction of the Fowey as a salmon river. If sufficient poison can be sent down to destroy fish of 7 or 8 lbs., what must be the effect on fry ?"
The Camel, in Cornwall, is in a comparatively promising state. Mr. G. L. Ellis writes :-
" In spite of great difficulty and the smallness of their income, the Fishery Board, having the assistance of most of the riparian owners, who have abstained from the use of nets within their rights in the non-tidal waters, are hopeful that they have materially improved the stock. In as far as peal are concerned, sport has much improved. This is in large measure due to the adoption of bye-laws whereby certain parts of the tidal waters in the river and its tributaries have been closed against the nets. It is very difficult to obtain information about salmon. The season is very short. Fish do not seek to run in any great numbers until nearly the end of November, and the close season begins on the 30th of that month. Thus, only a few fish are taken by the rod. It is hoped, however, that early closing, with the sanction of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, will eventually result in earlier running of the salmon. The stock seems to be well maintained. Last spawning season very many salmon were seen in the upper reaches, and there was little or no disease. At present four or five miles of the river are absolutely mined by washings from the tin mines, which threaten pollution of a much longer reach. The Board are keeping vigilant watch and ward."