by Charles Inniss, published by River Reads Press
The Torridge is a small river in south-west England that is best-known for the Henry Williamson story Tarka the Otter. Small the Torridge may be, but its story encapsulates
all the trials and tribulations that have assailed most rivers over the past 50 years.
Cormorants, abstraction, netting, selfish riparian owners, poaching, UDN, industrial run-offs, even Himalayan balsam: this 27-mile river has suffered them all and yet, it still manages to produce a decent run of salmon and sea-trout.
At the heart of it is the Half Moon Inn, a fishing hotel that the Inniss family have run for more than 50 years. It has supplied them with a decent living, but this is a classic story of giving as much as receiving, for the author has played a core role in battling to oppose continual threats to the river’s wellbeing.
So this is much more than one man’s memories of running a fishing hotel: it’s as much the story of a river and the need for constant vigilance to fight the dark forces.
Many feel that fighting bureaucracy and large corporations is not just a thankless task but an impossible one. Inniss, though, proves bloody-mindedness can achieve results. Since 1992, no abstraction has taken place on the Torridge. Charles Inniss has been at the heart of such initiatives from the days when he left teaching in 1972 to run the Half Moon.
There’s a fair bit of history about both river and hotel, plus an interesting section on clay mining, which colours the river milky-white and makes fishing impossible, and how Inniss and a friend exposed the clay company for discharging straight into the river.
The Torridge only recently became a fly-only river. Spinning and worming were the recognised methods, catch and release was unthinkable and Inniss himself admits he was horrified when a government inquiry as late as 1980 recommended a fly-only approach to preserve stocks. “My initial reaction was one of dismay and anger. Catching a Torridge salmon on a fly was virtually unheard of. I was convinced many regular salmon fishermen would go elsewhere.”
If that £35 price tag seems high, I’d add that production values are very high. The book runs to more than 230 pages and is lavishly illustrated, though the chapter order is a bit confusing. My only real quibble is that anyone new to the river would surely appreciate a better map, rather than one that assumes reader will know the area and the various beats. KE