ANGLING TRUST’S WYVERN
The South West’s Wyvern has since 2009 been a jewel in the Angling Trust’s Marine Arm. It has a track record of great success in administrative initiative and a seat on the influential Devon and Severn Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (IFCA). MIKE MILLMAN who helped to set up the Division and was its President in the 1980’s picks up the story.
Wyvern is the Angling Trust’s most Westerly Marine Arm so named from a former military area and it was originally the National Federation of Sea Anglers first independent Division formed in 1964. Its fishing area and administrative responsibility is: North Coast, Crackington Haven beach to the West Bank of the River Axe at Brean Down. South Coast the East Bank of the Looe River including the Banjo Pier to the West Bank of the River Wey, including the Stone Pier and Channel Island waters also come within its remit.
Wyvern was from its very beginning in the forefront of organising competitions. Its first Sea Angling Two-Day Open Boat Festival was fished in September 1967 out of Brixham and in the same year staged its first Open One-Day Shore Festival based on Bideford, Budleigh Salterton, Sidmouth, Torbay and Plymouth and three hundred anglers took part. Affiliated Club Brixham SAC staged its first Open National Boat Sea Angling Festival in September 1971. Its Commodore was Dudley Stone then coxswain of the Torbay Lifeboat who was the pioneer of wreck fishing with electronics using his trawler Koh I Nor. First prize was a week’s angling holiday for two in Gibraltar and two more were donated by Harry Pontin of holiday camp fame. The second Open National Boat Festival was staged the following year, again under the auspices of the Brixham Club and its incorporated Wyvern’s 8th Divisional Boat Festival. First prize was a two-week Winter Sport Holiday in Austria and another was for a family of four at Pontin’s Southport Camp. In that event the angler who had the best specimen gained a holiday for two in Hamlyn West Germany the town being twinned with Brixham. Prize presentations for these events took place at the impressive Oldway Mansion at Paignton built by sewing machine millionaire Isaac Singer. Going up the spectacular staircase to receive an award was memorable. The Division has continued to stage an Annual Shore Championship in January at Slapton Sands and Beesands and an entry as many as 205 competing. In 1944 these beaches were used to train American soldiers for the D.Day Landings at Normandy and from time to time relics of that period emerge from the steep shelving shingle.
Wyvern’s premier award is the Castle Trophy for the best fish over all providing the competitor’s Club has paid a £10.00 entry fee. The winner has the privilege of choosing a charity to receive the money. Another of its popular competitions is a Junior Event, which for the last eight years has been fished Mount Batten Breakwater on the Eastern flank of Plymouth Sound formerly part of the RAF Station from which Coastal Command Sunderlands operated against German U-boats during the war. Watching these great seaplanes taking off and landing across Plymouth Sound was a spectacle.
Wyvern members have enjoyed remarkable success in terms of national and regional records and a short selection in each category is shown in the panel. The North Atlantic Drift brings many species to the Wyvern area, some emerging from the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar then northward past Spain and through the Bay of Biscay to the threshold of the English Channel a distance of 900 miles, not great in terms of fish movement. At this point together with others that have come from the Azores area some go North to Atlantic Cornwall, others into the English Channel passing Cornwall and South Devon and into the waters of the Channel Islands. Biscay has a depth of up to 5,700 feet at the drop off in some places no more than 40 miles from the Spanish coast and is rich in species that prey on huge shoals of sardines. Great White Shark have been known to frequent the Bay and there have been credible sightings off the North Cornwall coast so in time a sixth specie of shark may enter the UK Record List. In 1999 what was almost certainly a Great White judged to be 15 ft in length swam within 5 ft of the Padstow based Blue Fox carrying anglers who were fishing for Porbeagle two miles off Polzeath. Witnesses included Mike Turner a former shark fishermen who was familiar with Great Whites whilst working in South Africa. He was 95% sure the shark was the man-eater. Also on the boat was the then 26 year old Henry Gilbey now an angling writer. He is reported to have said “It is the greatest thing I have ever seen”. Douglas Herdson a scientist at Plymouth’s Marine Laboratory has suspected that Great Whites has been living unnoticed off the coast of Britain for many years. Many semi and full tropical species have been caught commercially in Wyvern’s waters but have yet to be included in the British List of Rod Caught records. Couch’s History of the Fishes of the British Islands written when he lived in Polperro in the 1800’s reveals that many of these were brought to his notice by inshore commercial fishermen who were rewarded with a shilling (10p). Notables include the Scabbard Fish, Dentex Bream, and Swordfish.
National Records currently within the Wyvern Area include:-
TOP FIVE BOAT CATEGORY
Conger 133 lbs 4 ozs Lyme Bay
Coalfish 37 lbs 4 ozs South East of Eddystone
Blonde Ray 39 lbs 10 ozs Salcombe Estuary.
Undulate Ray 22 lbs 13 ozs off Weymouth
Turbot 33 lbs 12 ozs Salcombe Estuary
TOP FIVE SHORE CATEGORY.
Gilt Head Bream 12 lbs 2 ozs Kingsbridge Estuary
Conger 68 lbs 8 ozs Devil’s Point Plymouth
Flounder 5 lbs 7 ozs Teign Estuary
Mackerel 5 lbs 11 ozs 14 drams Berry Head Brixham
Ling 21 lbs 10 ozs Yealm Estuary.
Wyvern operates under the Chairmanship of Alex Parker of the Department of the Environment SAC who has been in the post for more than two decades. Secretary Mike Spiller Honiton SAC, Records Officer Paul Cottell. Brixham SAC, Treasurer John Stanford plus a general committee of six. Wyvern uses the Royal British Legion Club at Alphington Exeter for meetings on the second Wednesday of January, April, July and October and the AGM is held at the same venue in November. It has a saying “To stand still is to go backwards” and whilst like so many organisations difficult times lie ahead it will endure and serve anglers for years to come.
Flounder 5 lbs 7 ozs Barry Sokell South Devon SAC 1994. (Pic 1)
Black Bream 6 lbs 14 ozs 4 drams John Garlick South Devon SAC 1978. (Pic 2)
Ling 21 lbs 10 ozs Kevin Smith Season Point Yealm Estuary 1994. (Pic 3)
Conger 68 lbs 8 ozs Martin Larkin Devil’s Point Plymouth 1992 (Club not known). (Pic 4).
Mackerel 5 lb s 11 ozs 14 drams Maurice Kemp Standard Telephones SAC 1982. (Pic 5)
Porbeagle Shark 252 lbs Mike Millman Plymouth SAC 1980. (Pic 6)
Gilt Head Bream 12 lbs 2 ozs Rob Wheaton Rodbenders SAC 2017. (Pic 7)
Conger 133 lbs 4 ozs Vic Evans Brixham SAC 1995. (Pic 8)
Pictures of the Competition brochures. (Pic 9)
All the pictures are the copyright of MIKE MILLMAN.