Following my previous 'blank' visit to Dartmoors famous River Dart two weeks earlier, I hoped that my second trip would be a little more productive. I had spoken to a few old 'Dart Hands' about methods, flies, locations etc. and decided that a day at Staverton Bridge would be in order.
On arrival I met with a couple of friends who have far more experience than I and followed their lead to suitable locations. Armed with a lot more local knowledge and a little experience from my previous visit, I took up the challenge with renewed enthusiasm.
The countryside around Staverton is stunning and parking the car as close to the river as we could, we made our way over a couple of fields and through stock gates to get to the river. We soon found ourselves passing over the Dart Railway Line where we were fortunate enough to stand safely behind a hedge, but within a few metres of the passing steam train. A bygone era of steel and steam passing at slow speed, the driver, fireman and passengers all waving to us added to the experience.
We continued through fields of wild garlic which grew in numbers that I had never witnessed before and inhaled the heavily scented air as we trudged through this delightful countryside. Approaching the rivers bank I was fortunate enough to catch my first glimpse of a goosander flying downstream, obviously alarmed by our approach. Given the goosanders love of trout and salmon, I thought to myself: where there's a goosander there's fish. The day was looking up. Sadly, this beautiful bird is fast becoming a bit of a nuisance due to its ability to take fish, but from my perspective, it is nice to see this bird in the West country, where once upon a time it was a rarity.
Finding a nice spot on the bank edge I nestled down amongst the scrub and tackled up, keeping a keen eye open for rises or movement of some kind. The water although fast flowing was gin clear and necessitated a little low-level stalking. Entering the water in a location that afforded some cover from view, I waded to midstream and began casting upstream, being a little surprised at how fast the river was flowing and the pressure that was being exerted on my lower legs. Erring on the side of caution and without a wading staff, I relocated myself to a less energetic part of the river and started again. The footing underneath was treacherous, and I found myself on many occasions regretting that forgotten wading staff. The day was punctuated by frequent moves to different spots and changes of fly, again without success.
By midday and following a brief lunch we moved upstream a few hundred metres and found new positions, having discussed the apparent lack of rises but comfortable in the knowledge that fly hatchings were taking place, and this may encourage the reluctant brownies. The River Dart is challenging fishing and for someone who has more experience fishing on lochs, reservoirs and slow-moving rivers, I found myself wondering if there were any fish around despite my best efforts to catch one. Four hours later, it was confirmed there are no fish! Another blank for my friends and I. We packed up and retraced our footsteps back to the car. We had completed around 6 miles of walking and enjoyed the countryside and its flora and fauna, disappointed yes, but not beaten, we will return to this fantastic river.