A lovely wild 'Brownie'
The outbreak of Foot and Mouth in 2001 did more than decimate the farming industry, many other businesses went to the wall because of it. Both local fishing hotels near Dulverton shut their doors to guests, the Carnarvon Arms Hotel and Tarr Steps Hotel had both supplied anglers with day tickets to fish the Barle and Exe. With no river fishing available to either local or visiting anglers I re-launched the Dulverton Angling Association in the hope we could find some water to keep anglers coming to Exmoor to fish. 

I wanted an association that was accessible to all, with the minimum of restrictions possible. I was expecting that it would take a couple of years to find some water and thought we would do well if we had a membership of 30 – 50.

We first approached Sir Ned Goshen of the Pixton Estate who was delighted to help and allowed us to use the Pixton stretches on the Exe and Haddeo. Peter Regis, the owner of Hollam Estate, heard of our ideas and offered the Hollam waters as well. At the end of our first year we could offer about 7 miles of bank fishing for wild Brown Trout, Grayling and an occasional Salmon plus we had a membership of over a hundred.

To say I was delighted would be putting it mildly. Since then membership has grown to over 200 and while the Pixton and Hollam estates have changed hands the new owners recognised the importance of easily accessed fishing for the area and have continued to support us. 
Since then we have added several other stretches on the Barle and Exe and partnered the River Exe and Tributaries Association (RETA) and the Fish The Exe scheme to provide accessible Salmon fishing as well. 

Management of the river is a large part in any responsible angling association and thanks to its members DAA is recognised as being very proactive in river habitat restoration. We work with the Wild Trout Trust, Westcountry Rivers Trust, the EA, The Riverfly Partnership, Exmoor National Park and other bodies to learn new skills and to contribute to larger national programmes and local catchment initiatives such as the Exe Project. We have working parties several times a year to keep banks and vegetation in good condition plus bigger projects like removing stands of trees which are too close to the river, removal of debris, better fencing, water quality and predatory bird surveys. Not only does this improve the fishing but it improves bank stability, increases plant growth in the river which provides more food for all the aquatic insects and therefore more food for birds, frogs, newts etc. 

While the association is lucky to be able to use so much water belonging to other owners my ultimate aim is to be able to purchase our own fishing rights to ensure the DAA survives for many generations yet. If you want to help us in all we do then please join us, even if you aren’t an angler, your money will be put to good use. 

in 2014 the Wild Trout Trust provided a report on the Haddeo and Little Exe beats and you can read what they had to say here.

Pat Veale

September 2015