Sunday, 12 July 2020

This Blog has Moved

There is now an updated website featuring guiding services, plus articles and a new all in one place blog. Please see here for the main site and here for the Nick Hart Fly Fishing blog. Thanks for reading, I know that this blog ground to a bit of a halt. There is a new system in place now, so I hope you will stop by and check out the regular updates. Go to new blog.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Meeting Chris Yates

On Saturday we were all up early and away to Barnstaple so that Chester could have his first hair cut at Unique! He was as good as gold and let Dee tidy up his lovely locks ready for nursery on Monday. As a treat we took him and his sister Scarlett to a theme park. I won't name the business in question other than to say it involved "sheep". We should have kept our money and gone feeding the ducks or catching crabs at the harbour side! It was the worst £19 I have ever spent ... enough ranting!

We actually had a great day otherwise and mine was all the better for meeting Chris Yates in Torrington at a book signing based at the River Reads store. To some this name will mean nothing but if you are an angler who was fortunate enough to tune into the BBC series, "A Passion for Angling" you will know Chris as one half of the duo who got up to all sorts of piscatorial adventures even meeting Mr Crabtree along the way! It has been a long time since Chris and his co presenter Bob James graced our terrestrial screens although occasionally the satellite channels will re-run the episodes(look out for them, they are not to be missed). There has never been another series that captured the magic of fishing quite like a Passion for Angling and having seen the disgraceful rubbish (Extreme Fishing with Robson Green) masquerading as entertainment recently aired on Channel 5 I wonder if we will ever see the likes of it again! Crikey more ranting so I had better get back to Chris Yates an altogether calmer man than Mr Green who in amongst signing copies of his new book managed a few minutes to talk fishing with me.

We discussed various things but it was mainly the subject matter for his book that interested me. Chris has become well known for his devotion to coarse fishing and for his use of old, traditional and even antique tackle. Some may find this eccentric and I am not about to swap my carbon for cane but I found his whole approach to fishing to be charming. He is still using vintage tackle but now he has found his passion has swerved to the ocean. His new book "Out of the Blue - On Fishing at Sea" charts his journey into the unknown and a new love affair with Bass. I have not had chance to begin reading the first chapters just yet of my signed copy, but I hope to change that tonight (hope you are listening Scarlett!!!). I also have a signed first edition copy of a Passion for Angling which I picked up on Saturday and relish the chance of reading at the earliest opportunity. Check out River Reads here, you won't be disappointed. They have a very cool shop including some very rare fishing memorabilia such as Fred Bullers cased Pike and rods used by famous names such as Sawyer or Halford. Out of the Blue is published by Penguin, priced £14.99 and available through River Reads.

OK, enough about books and hair cuts, what about some fish Nick! Well the sun is out as I reported last time and the rivers are switching on. Yesterday Andy Warn hooked up with this lovely plump wild Brown during a guided trip with me. The fish took a Copper John fished New Zealand style and put up a serious scrap on our 8'0" Greys Streamflex. Plenty more fish followed although virtually every take came to the deep nymph.

Today was different however for Neil Keep who many of you will know as an instructor here at the fly fishing school. Neil was on a day off today and so naturally ... he went fishing! Returning in baking September sunshine his beaming smile said it all. A haul of over 30 fish, mainly Grayling and some of them approaching 2lbs! All took a dry fished TG emerger and I have the beat myself tomorrow. Hopefully work will release me for a few hours play! Just look at the quality of this River Exe Grayling ... does it get any better?

Friday, 19 September 2008

Fly Fishing in the Sun!

The River Exe has suddenly come into fine form and at last the sun has arrived. However autumn is in the air and although we have had a day or two of bright blue skies and gorgeous sunshine there is a definite nip in the air. The water temperature is also low and on the river the fish seem to be staying down with heavy nymphs the best tactic.

Last week I spent a few days on Clatworthy Reservoir. I had not been for a good while favouring Wimbleball as it has a catch & release option. However the Wimbleball boats were out of action so I booked Philip Bradney in for a day spent casting over the beautiful expanse of Clatworthy high up on the Somerset Hills. It was not easy fishing but Philip who only began fishing just over a year ago did a great job of tempting the resident Rainbows including these fine specimens.

"I really enjoyed our fishing last week and learned a lot which I am looking forward to putting into practice on a regular basis." Philip Bradney, Leicestershire, 2008

A few days later having landed these fish for Philip I took to the lake myself in the company of good mate James Warbrick-Smith. We spent most of the morning cruising the bays looking for fish but by lunchtime had just a pull between us. At the start of the session we had noticed a few fish moving in the water immediately opposite the lodge and returned in the hope that we would at last hook up with the kind of quality fish that Philip had enjoyed just a few days earlier. We were not to be disappointed and after a few tactical changes I realised the fish were really high and that in fact we had been below them.

The next few hours heralded some brilliant sport as we took several fish, all on dries. Just look at the fins on these fish. A credit to Dave Pursey who manages the fishery and grows on his own fish. Spooning the Trout we found them stuffed with food but virtually all of it was beetles and other terrestrials. Head up there with your dry fly box, take a boat and enjoy the action. We found the best sport was during the warmest hours although a little cloud cover will help. There are also some very nice pound plus Wild Browns to be had which of course should be returned unharmed.

The rivers are also in fine form and following on from Matts success his girlfriend Adele better known as "Browny" has been practicing all year and can now chuck a serious loop. After some casting in the morning we took off to Badgworthy Water and as usual the fish were only too happy to play ball. Short lining we found dries were consumed with confidence, the fish very willing to feed after a summer of high spate conditions. The fish maybe small at this venue but the sport can be explosive and the scenery is breath taking.

Thankyou again for a great weekend we both really enjoyed it and can't wait to get to NZ and put it all into practice. Matt & Adele, London, 2008

Closer to home the River Exe is also getting back into form. I lost a Salmon myself on Tuesday but we won't talk about that! Instead look at this superb Grayling that was caught by Jim Self on a short lined dry at the top end of our beat. He latched into another of similar quality plus another smaller. We also hooked something very big (possibly a Grilse) that took a very deep fished nymph. All we do know is that it charged off downstream breaking our 2lb fluorocarbon tippet with ease!

Today I am out on the water again and really looking forward to meeting and guiding Mike Latham on the river. Tomorrow I have a very rare weekend day off as my young lad Chester is due for his first hair cut! I am also taking some time off to visit Torrington as tomorrow Chris Yates will be there at the River Reads bookshop. He is signing copies of his new book "Out of the Blue" between 10am & noon and then again from 2.00pm to 3.00pm. £2.00 from each signing will go to Wateraid. Anyone who has ever seen the amazing BBC series "A Passion for Angling" will know that Chris is a legendary angler. In fact at one time he held the British Record Carp from Redmire Pool, perhaps one of the most famous fishing venues of all time. For further information check out or call Sandy on 01805 625 888

Sunday, 14 September 2008

High River Trout

I have a load of stuff for the blog but have either been out fishing myself or guiding so no chance to post. All I can say for now is that Clatworthy has been awesome, some of the best reservoir fish I have ever seen in the South West. More on that story soon.

Today I am out with Matt Daley again who fished with me yesterday on a very swollen River Exe. Although the colour is now lovely it is extremely high and the fish are just not interested in dries, even around the edges. This is very unusual for the Exe where the fish free rise throughout the day. However this year the river has been almost constantly in spate and so at present the fish are heads down, feeding at river bed level. Yesterday we caught sight of a few really big Browns but didn't manage to connect.

Matt did incredibly well however in the circumstances wading in very fast, deep water using a string of heavy bugs to pick up fish. We latched into half a dozen which considering the conditions was a great result and in the strong current each one put up a spirited fight. And at last .... some sun shine!

Today Matts girlfriend Adele is joining us and after a short stint on the Exe I will take them North to try some pot holing and maybe find a few Browns willing to take a dry. More soon, right now I must wader up and hit the water. Its such a hard life this guiding lark! My life is almost as difficult as Henry Gilbeys! Check out Henrys Blog to find out what fun and games he has been enjoying recently.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Windy on Wimbleball

Back for another course is Philip Bradney who last year began his fly fishing career here at Exe Valley Fishery. During the last 12 months Phillip has seriously progressed and is now a regular at Thorton Reservoir.

We began with a session here at the lake to tune up casting and make a game plan for the rest of the course. Pretty soon a few faults had been ironed out and Philip picked up a nice Exe Valley Rainbow on a dry. His tip top casting meant that Exe Valley was not going to represent enough of a challenge and so despite the blustery weather we packed the car and headed for Wimbleball Reservoir, just a few miles up the road.

This 385 acre venue was snarling! High up on Haddon hill the clouds rolled across the horizon as a serious South West wind snorted its fury at us. Despite his experience on Thorton this was going to prove a challenging if not daunting task for Philip. But climbing into Ruggs Bay you would have never have known that he has only been fishing for just over a year. Chucking a nice line across wind with a couple of Buzzers I was confident that we would get fish. Instead we got takes!

I tried lighter leader, smaller flies ... but all we got were hard takes and no fish! The hours went past and the cold started to creep into Philip as we were waded deep and taking the full brunt of the wind. By now we had changed to an indicator rig using the Loon Strike Out II which is superb for long distance indicator fishing in rough conditions. We missed a seriously good take early on but as Philip began to shiver we decided it was time to head for home. One more cast out for the road and I said "just imagine how a fish would warm you up", when down went the indicator! A swift strike and this superb Wimbleball specimen was ours. Tomorrow we head out on a boat and although we would love to be fishing Wimbleball it sounds like there won't be any boats available. So instead we will head to another favourite venue of mine, Clatworthy.

Another angler amongst the fish recently was none other than Charles Jardine. This guy is a legend in fly fishing circles and a consultant to Hardy & Greys. During a recent visit to the Kola Peninsula in Russia he landed this wild River Brown Trout measuring a staggering 71cm and estimated at around 5kg. The huge fish was landed using a 10'0" #5 Streamflex Rod, Hardy Cascapedia Reel and Marksman Fly Line.

Charles said;

“If ever there was a fishing experience then this was it. We were left on the Tundra without any helicopter provisions, weather was closing in, there were bears in the area and the fishing and the wildness was staggering. This fantastic Trout was certainly the icing on the cake of a memorable fly fishing day.”

“There can be few greater tests or ringing endorsements for light line, imitative fishing and Hardy & Greys equipment than this. I can’t wait to return!”

Monday, 8 September 2008

Wilderness Fishing

There was a lot to do in the office today prior to 3 days out on the water with previous guest of Nick Hart Fly Fishing, Phillip Bradney. However a message from fellow River Mole syndicate member, Chris Marwood, inviting me to fish his water on the Barle was not to be missed! Best of all we were to try for the Salmon which make their way far up this beautiful river.

But although we tried a few of Chris's favourite areas the river had dropped very quickly and lost its colour. When fishing these headwaters it is imperative to have some colour, which just two days ago was too strong due to the deluge experienced over the weekend! While waiting for Chris at Simonsbath Bridge I could not believe the amount of flattened grass by the river, the water was a full 4 or 5 feet higher just a couple of days back! The lack of fish was of no consequence as this place is sublime and I am already salivating at the thought of returning with my Trout rod in the not too distant future!

Meanwhile Hugh Caslake has arrived back in London after three days getting very wet but catching fish with us. As always it was a pleasure to guide Hugh and his mates Martin and Jim who got amongst fish like this on Fernworthy.

"A fantastic time as always. It says something for West Country fly fishing that we still had options to catch decent fish in beautiful surroundings in the middle of that deluge! Already looking forward to next year mate." Hugh Caslake, London, 2008

Saturday, 6 September 2008

River Exe Floods!

Water, water, everywhere! I think we all thought that 2007 was pretty wet but I reckon that 2008 has beaten it. Yesterday the intrepid trio of Hugh, Jim and Martin headed for Clatworthy Reservoir (nutters!) and I guided in some of the worst conditions ever. But Hugh did hook a fish and raise a couple of others, a serious achievement on a day of biblical weather. Jim also got in on the action landing this Crayfish which took a size 12 Bloodworm!

But the day was all about the weather really which even called for a detour on the way home in the faithful old Toyota because the lane to Exebridge was about 4 feet underwater! Last night the water peaked at about 11pm and I wish I had got some photos because it was 2 feet above the levels that I captured this morning on video. In fact the Anchor Inn prepared themselves with sandbags as the water began lapping at the door.

But it is business as usual for the popular pub that is now prospering under new management. My guests from the last few days have just stayed at the Anchor Inn and will be returning in 2009 for a repeat performance ... hopefully with a little less water! To illustrate just how high the river is I could think of no better way than to put together a couple of short movies ... check them out by clicking here & here.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Fabulous Fernworthy Fishing

Look out the window and I am sure you may have noticed the rain and probably the wind! When will it stop? The one saving grace is that the Salmon will be charging up the river and we have a season extension to look forward to on the Exe. If you want to see perhaps some of the finest Salmon fishing on the planet you should check out Henry Gilbeys Blog. He is enjoying rather finer weather along with Pete from Aardvark McLeod over in Canada.

For all my moaning about the current British climate we are very lucky to have some very sorted fishing here in the West Country which means that if one option is out another is available. After torrential rain on Wednesday night the River Exe was maxing out, chocolate brown and a waste of time in terms of fishing. Hard to believe that we had taken a few nice Browns on dries just the night before. But the blown rivers did nothing to dampen the spirits of my guests Hugh, Jim and Martin.

These guys are full on fishing nuts. They like good food, decent beer and top fishing. My kind of people! Having read my article on Fernworthy in the last issue of Trout Fisherman magazine it was a unanimous vote, lets get down the M5 and A30 to see what this stunning little reservoir could offer us. As you can see from this picture the weather went with us, but then equally quickly we enjoyed tranquility and during these pockets the fish were high in the water looking for a meal.

When Henry and I visited last year to compile the Trout Fisherman feature we witnessed some awesome dry fly sport and in particular the Big Black from the Iain Barr stable scored fish after fish. The fishing was far tougher yesterday due to the constantly changing conditions but all the guys really got their heads down and fished. The result was that all landed some good looking Browns and missed loads. For Martin it was his first ever visit to a reservoir and yet he did not let it phase him in the slightest. Patiently waiting for his dry fly to be intercepted it was very satisfying to be there when he netted his first ever Brown Trout. Later in the day he also latched into one of the really big fish that occasionally appear on this venue. But the take was so hard that it snapped our 5lb leader like cotton. I witnessed the tail as it slapped the water in disgust, a real 2 fin fish salute that said "not this time!"

But that's what makes this fishing game so very cool. The highs and lows, I wouldn't change it for the world. With an enormous low front now crossing the country it looks like we may be office bound today although I wouldn't put it past the guys to wrap up well and head out. In fact high winds and heavy rain can be worth enduring because I have had some of my very best days in these conditions. One thing is for sure, out there in a bracing wind with the rain smacking into your face certainly makes you feel alive and I like that!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Hart Flyshop Open Day

What a cool weekend we have just had, well no, actually it was really hot! As Henry Gilbey will tell you I am well known for picking the wettest, coldest days to go fishing (easy in the UK this year!) but this time I got it right and we welcomed a large crowd to the 2008 Hart Flyshop Open Day in blistering heat.

We were very pleased to have Pete and Charlotte from Aardvark McLeod with us, they supported the event and wowed people with their amazing excursions to far away places such as Los Roques. They were also trying out their new marquee. Both Pete and I purchased a marquee each while at the gamefair and so this was our first trial run. Erecting it was easy, so they tell me. I am afraid I hid in the shop busying myself while Pete, Neil and Charlotte got to grips with the rather bewildering looking instructions. Anyone who has seen me near a tool box will know why I stayed well away ... DIY is not my forte especially when there are spanners involved! Sharing the marquee was Jackie of Exe Valley Smokery plying the public with her gorgeous smoked fish and some very tasty jacket potatoes. Perhaps the only thing we were missing was a bar, an addition to the forthcoming open day perhaps? More of that later.

While the event was taking place battle had commenced on the lakes between 27 competitors who took part in our open day fishing match. All were hoping to strike gold and win a Hardy Demon Rod worth £279.00 for an entrance fee of just £10.00 on top of their usual permit. A few bags came in early but this was a really simple match. No fly rules, no pegs, no time bonus and just a 2 fish limit. This attracted anglers of all abilities including the rapidly improving Pete Tutton who started casting just a few years ago during a course with Nick Hart Fly Fishing. Since that time I have fished with Pete and his wife Marcia a couple of times on both lake and river so it was great to see one of them walk away with top spot. Pete displays one of his winning fish here that made up a total bag weight of 9lbs exactly for 2 fish. 2nd spot went to Dave Dodd from Bristol with 2 fish weighing 6lbs 7oz and 3rd place was filled by Paul Prictor from Wiltshire with a weight of 5lbs 9oz.

We spent the day running around the new look shop helping people with advice regarding all manner of tackle items and Neil spent a good bit if his time offering casting assistance. But of course we found the odd moment to have a play including Pete Gibson representing Hardy & Greys , who couldn't resist testing out his Streamflex on a few Exe Valley Rainbows.

During the day we rolled out our new Hart Flyshop Club providing members with many benefits including 10% off tackle at the store plus a host of activities to enjoy through the year. I will post some more details here soon and there will also be an online joining facility available through Hart Flyshop. Thank you to all of you who joined and double thanks for coming along and making the day such a success. It was so satisfying to hear such positive feedback regarding the shop, the club, the fishery and the open day itself.

Your support has turned a rather spartan looking store from this in 2007 to this on open day 2008! We will continue to improve it and welcome your feed back and comments.

Already we are working on the 2009 open day and will post details soon. We have plenty of exciting ideas that will make this a diary date for many years to come. This week it is back to the river for me with a very old friend of Nick Hart Fly Fishing, Hugh Caslake. He will be attending along with his two best buds and we always have a blast. Two other people who will also be enjoying the week are Pete Mc Leod of Aardvark Mcleod and Henry Gilbey who are taking off to Canada in search of Atlantic Salmon. Check out Petes blog here and Henrys here for up to date reports. If you start to drool, don't worry, I will be too! But you can do something about it! Check out Aardvark McLeod and see this blog during the week for details of my next hosted trip.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Natural Anglers

Over the last few days I have run several one day courses with varied people including a 17 year old student, a Canadian with his own software company and today a financial advisor from Bristol. It is one of the many great perks of my job; I get to meet a lot of people from all walks of life. What has been really interesting, in fact amazing, is that although all of these guys are very different they have in fact been gifted when it comes to casting. I have taught many people to fly fish over the years and the majority pick it up pretty quickly but it is rare to see so many people in the space of a few days who just click straight away.

Josh Chick began his first session with Neil and then I took over on day 2. By the afternoon he was easily good enough to tackle the River Exe, even in high water and went on to land half a dozen Wild Browns in double quick time plus he easily lost as many and missed several more. The key to his success was multiple accurate casts and dedicated concentration. The successful fly was a Klinkhammer (of course!) fished on a delicate leader.

Today I have been looking after Martin East, a lifelong angler who has enjoyed many coarse and sea fishing sessions but had never attempted casting a fly. Situated not far from the well known Bristol waters; Barrow Tanks, Chew and Blagdon lake he felt it was time to investigate them. Some friends purchased him a gift voucher for a one day course and I am pleased to say that we had a ball. Within an hour Martins casting was looking good, within 2 he was chucking such a nice line that we added a fly. The Exe Valley fish could not resist an Iain Barr Harry Potter dry, so much so that by lunchtime we had banked 3 good sized Trout and missed a few too.

We covered leaders and flies but there was still some time to enjoy so I suggested that although it was a big step that we tried a session at Wimbleball Lake. It is rare to head to this 385 acre venue in the company of a first time, first day fly fisher but we had nothing to lose and everything to gain! Permit sorted I was a little concerned that there were several Nil returns in the hut but not surprised based on the changeable wind and weather.

Our first point of call was Ruggs Bay, just off the point near the bench. This is a hot spot and I was amazed to find it available, in fact the lake was very quiet today. Is this the weather, fuel prices or the credit crunch ... or all 3 combined?

Martin set to work casting with a 10'0" #7 Hardy Demon, the same rod I used to bank this Salmon not so long ago. At first he found the strong wind tough to cope with but after half an hour was into the groove. Our leader was simple; 14', tapered out of Rio Fluorocarbon and including one dropper. I tied a Glo Head Diawl Bach to the top dropper and a Crispy Diawl Bach to the point. Martin was fishing across the wind and retrieving with a steady figure 8 when suddenly the line snapped tight and he was hard into his first ever reservoir Trout which we managed to net after a tense battle. The fly, the Crispy Diawl Bach, fell out in the mesh just as we landed it! After a photograph Martin fished hard for a brace but was very happy to end with one, especially as the fishing is so tough. It is all credit to Martin that he progressed so much through the day that he was even able to attempt this large venue in far from easy conditions.

We have had a run of youngsters fishing recently which is great to see and I am out with 2 more tomorrow. Then its time to get ready for the CLA Gamefair which will involve playing with this (see below) ... all will be revealed but you will have to come and visit next weekend! I will add the timetable for my demos with Henry Gilbey soon.