The river is a fast flowing river spate river. It rises on the moorland above the Avon Dam where the population of South Devon extracts water for consumption. Several small brooks supplement the flow in the main river from moor to entrance of the tidal water at Afton Gifford. The level of precipitation determines water level, evaporation and the amount compensation water added by the Water authority. As a result the river level is low in summer but can rapidly become a raging torrent after heavy rainfall. Once the Dam has reached its maximum level, the effect of heavy rainfall will be experienced at the start of our fishing in South Brent. In all 3 sections at some stage, the river flows through steep wooded gorges, which accelerate the flow as well as increasing the strength and depth of the current. The Upper Water contains gullies and pots too deep and too fast to wade. Several deep pools are to be found in the Middle Section above and below Gara Bridge. Wading can be particularly difficult above Topsham Bridge arising from the steepness of the Right Bank and the nature of the riverbed. The Lower Section contains a broken down weir. From here, water quickly flows down through a series of runs and pools to gentler meandering and deep canal like water of the flood plain above Venn Weir. The weir is complete. AFA fishing ending at the lip of the weir.
By its very nature the river poses a risk
to the user whatever the activity.
Provided the user is aware of the risk and takes precautions to minimise
the risk e.g. using a wading stick when crossing the river
then, the overall risks are assessed as MEDIUM. No serious accidents or fatalities have been recorded as a direct use of the river but it is necessary to inform everyone of its risk potential.
The main hazards exist during periods of high water and particularly during October and November during the Salmon run. A lot of the water must be fished from the bank, which can create a problem in landing a fish. Trees at the bank edge have to be negotiated difficult in itself but more so when a long rod is used. It is almost impossible to fish much of the steep slippery wooded left bank as far down as Avonwick and too deep to wade. Often there is a temptation to cross the river and no more so than at the bottom of Forky Pool. The water here can be deeper and faster than it would appear and demands a wading stick. It is better to cross the river by Kerry Down in this situation. Recent reports of incidents elsewhere, suggest that cattle should be avoided. As cattle are often grazing the field next to Kerrydown Bridge keep to the edge of the field and away from the stock themselves. On no account should dogs accompany the angler. Care should be taken in all 3 sections of the river but particularly here where the rock surface shows the strata tilted and exposed. This produces a slippery, rough deep clefty surface creating hazardous wading conditions and where a wading stick is useful even when walking along the bank itself.
All weirs are potentially dangerous in heavy water but Silveridge is broken down and without any undertow below its exit. This also applies to the weir on the Flats. But for reasons of safety it is not advisable to cross the lip in very high water and care be exercised when fishing in the dark. The weir at Venn is more serious hazard because the weir leads to a tidal pool of deep water. There isn’t any good reason for crossing the lip at any time during the day or in night fishing.
Power lines cross the river about 200 yards above the bridge at Gara Bridge. Electric cables are also strung across the river and run just underneath the soil about 150 yards downstream of the weir at Loddiswell Flats. Carbon rods are good conductors of electricity. Although the line may be well above rod height in electric storm conditions an angler should keep at least 30m distance from the line and not pass under them with a carbon rod. Anglers are particularly vulnerable when standing in the water.
Where the river runs close to a public footpath e.g. Upper Water Gara Bridge or when a fishing spot is shared with other members of the public e.g. Silveridge weir the angler should take care with the direction of the backcast.
Where access is only possible by crossing a barbed wire fence, the angler should avoid injury by using any available style or positions where the barbs have been protected. Anglers should be aware of the precarious nature of the river bank on the river side of the barbed wire fence stretching from Venn Weir to the Beach. The land is soft and likely collapse into deep water at any time.
Swans, in certain circumstances, pose a hazard e.g. when sitting eggs or with young chicks. It’s safer to give them a wide birth. The angler himself can become hazard to wild life. He should be aware of the importance of the potential damage his own actions and movement. This is particularly important in spring the main reproductive period of most plants and animals. A considerable amount of Japanese Knotweed is to be found on the Avon e.g. below the new A 38 Bridge at S.Brent. This powerful invasive plant will regenerate itself from small sections of tissue. Breaking the plants to gain access to the river raises the possibility of these accidentally entering the river and establishing new colonies lower down the river. Celery leafed buttercup (Ranunculus scleratus) flowers from May to September and produces an acrid sap that has a bitter taste readily blistering the mouth and skin. Discarded nylon provides the hazard of entanglement to birds and small mammals. It should be cut into small sections before discarding. Debarbed or barbless hooks are recommended. These can be removed with minimal damage to the fish. A pair of forceps facilitates removal of a hook deep in the gullet.
Deep Water occurs in many sea trout pools. In low illumination it is difficult to gauge the depth of water. The angler should make a daytime assessment of any unfamiliar water that they intend fishing at night especially if they considers wading. This particularly applies to the stretch from Venn Weir to Round Bend. In addition, these deep-water runs canal like at a level several feet above the water level. The bank is soft and unstable and it would be difficult escaping from the water should the angler find themselves swimming.
The flat flood plain between Venn and the Spinney contains much boggy land. An attempt has been made to drain the land by a network of ditches. The river meanders and in the dark it is easy to become disoriented and unable to find the path back to the car park and take a short cut across the wet land. This is not advisable as the ditches obstruct progress. Sometimes they are deep. They contain water and in the dark their position not obvious. A more sensible solution is to avoid disorientation by marking the point of arrival at edge of river and never straying from the meanders.
Weil’s Disease is a form of Leptospirosis produced by infection by a bacterium hosted by the common rat and introduced into the water and waterside environment in its urine. Every river has its own population of rats. Weil’s Disease is usually a fairly mild feverish illness. Occasionally, it is severe and the patient develops pronounced jaundice, haemorrhages of the skin and often the eyes, with violent muscular pains and even kidney failure. The disease begins with fever and malaise and after a few days meningitis develops. It is a disease not to be taken lightly.
To prevent infection the following precautions are relevant: -
a. Cover cuts, sores and scratches with a waterproof plaster
b. Cover food with a wrapper or wash your hands before eating it
c. Don’t put your hand in your mouth after immersion in the river
d. Never place items of fishing equipment in your mouth
e. Avoid touching dead rats
If flu like symptoms occur after fishing and persist then contact your doctor
Risk of injury and flooding of land caused by sudden release of upstream blockages by an accumulation of debris e.g. large trees that have entered the river and temporarily lodged so restricting the flow until some unexpected occasion.
The Association has 55 members. In addition transferable tickets are granted to a number of owners or occupiers of land who allow Association to use their fishing.
All members are permitted to purchase an additional book of five guest tickets and weekly, visitors to the area can purchase fortnightly and monthly tickets.
Anyone in receipt of a ticket enabling them to fish the river is requested to report to the Secretary any potential hazards, any incidents or accidents involving members or the general public. This should be done as soon as possible so that the insurers can be informed without delay.
The Association accepts no liability, howsoever caused, for accident, injury or death involving any member of the Association or public whilst in the immediate vicinity of the Association waters.
Bank Clearing Code of Practice.
Members will be informed at the end of the season of the days on which Bank Clearing or river improvement activities will be taking place. Any operation will aim to improve the accessibility of the fishing and at the same time maximise the potential of the river as a salmonid fishery. It will necessary for any person attending a bank clearing session for the first time, to sign an Acceptance of Work Practices and Disclaimer of Responsibility Document.
Before any work commences the organiser of the bank clearing will have prepared a risk assessment document relative to the work proposed for that day. One person will be in charge of ensuring that work is carried out under the following safety precautions: -
a. An Ordnance Survey Reference for an access point to the area of work should be known.
b. A mobile telephone should be available and people taking part must be aware of the location of the nearest public telephone.
c. Anyone using a power saw should be aware of the rules relating to their use and wear the appropriate clothing.
d. A comprehensive first aid box should be available.
e. There should be an exclusion zone of 5 metres around anyone using a power saw and a clear signal should be given before the commencement of sawing and again at the end.
f. A safety rope should be available which could be used as a lifeline.
g. No person should work alone.
h. All injuries should be recorded and the secretary informed as soon as possible.
i. A car should be readily available in case of emergency.
j. All participants should be aware of the need for operating in a safe way at all times.
k. Owners of land on which the work is taking place should be informed of the details of the work and date of the operation.
L. Prior to the operation the organisers of the work party should have carried out a survey and
decided the details of the work programme. Large material to be removed should be identified by
a paint mark.
l. The site should be left clean and tidy.
m. A risk survey document should be prepared prior to the operation.
As determining the risk is a subjective
process it is beneficial to use some common criteria to ‘score’ the factors
(severity and likelihood) so that meaningful comparisons can be made: