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, 14 December 2008

Back up for air with some winter Grayling

Apologies to my regular readers, over a month without a post! I will do my best to resume normal service.

It has been quite a month with all sorts going on. In fact it amuses me because I vividly recall the early years when I started out in this business always dreading the quiet winter season. My only option at that point was to work many long hours in a local hotel, but I wouldn't change it for the world because those were exciting times. Ten years on and things are even more exciting as new prospects, adventures and opportunities are never far away. There is always something to be done as although the official season should be 3 months away the fact is that nowadays people are looking for year round sport. Neil and I have been flat out through October and November with guiding while of course at this time of year the shop ups another gear as people prepare for Christmas. Stuck for a gift or desperate for the piscatorial present you have wished for all year? Check out our shop site here for some ideas.

Put our feet up, tie some flies, go fishing all the time ... there is no time for that right now ... although I do intend to sneak another trip to Farmoor before the year is out.



On the river bank I have either been Pike fishing with guests or taking them Grayling Fishing, including Stuart Forsyth from Scotland who took this lovely example of an Exe Grayling during a bitterly cold morning. The Exe is a great venue but hard in the winter, a place to really test your skills. In fact I reckon that one Grayling on our system here is worth at least 10 on a chalkstream. It amazes me how these beautiful fish behave in the different locations, but believe me, in most cases chalkstream Grayling are greedy to point of being glutinous and will even free rise during the coldest of days. Not so up here. Strap on some heavy bugs (probably 3) under a yarn indicator (or just watch the line), cast well upstream and get those flies tumbling along the river bed. Its the only way to enjoy regular success, classic dry or nymph fishing just don't do it. To be honest I love this kind of challenge so long as I am well layered with decent under wader wear. The sight of that indicator or the line suddenly coming to a halt will soon warm you up.!


I have a ton of news but must get back to work so check back for some updates over the next few days. Plus if you need to get away from the family for a few hours, why not enter our Christmas Open Competition? Just £30 to enter, including a 4 fish permit, with £500.00 of prizes on offer! Fishing will be from 10am to 2pm on Sun 28th Dec. Just a few places left so if you fancy a shot yourself please drop me a line.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

F*** Me Farmoor!

I could have called this post Fantastic Farmoor or Fabulous Farmoor but I spent a fair amount of yesterday turning the air blue as I enjoyed perhaps one of the best, if not the best session of reservoir fishing I have ever had in the UK. From a scenic point of view Farmoor ain't much as you can see but I can assure you that once you have tangled with the fish that roam these waters your surroundings will not matter that much!


You may want a full in depth report regarding the day but to be honest that would require an entire article and I hope that maybe one day I get chance to write it .... Henry Gilbey will freak when he sees this fishing!

My fishing companion for the day was highly talented angler James Warbrick-Smith who has worked these fish out perfectly. His Minky fly caused absolute carnage and for the first couple of hours I was nowhere near emulating his fishing. But after a while I got to grips with it and then to be honest I can only say that both James and I were like kids in a sweet shop! What follows is a blow by blow account of the fish we caught and in actual fact there were more but .... 1) The fishing was so amazing I couldn't be bothered to clear my memory stick and ... 2) The fishing was so amazing that we felt our time was better employed catching another fin perfect 4lb + Rainbow rather than taking another photo!

Anyway more details about the fishing another day, I will let the pictures do the talking .... just take a look at F*** Me Farmoor!


Second Cast!


Third Cast!


Look at the bloom in this tail - Trout Perfection



I'm in! This would usually be the fish of the day on most reservoirs ... on Farmoor its pretty much average!


Sorry about the out of focus shot ... but you get the gist. The fish above took so hard that by the time I landed it the hook was only just staying together aided by the fly tying silk! And this is a Kamasan B175 and we know how strong they are!


But James is still showing me the way ...



James may I relieve you of one of those flies???


James generously hands over the killing pattern and my smug grin says it all!



The grin is now a Cheshire Cat Smile.


I love the Rio Midge Tip and coupled to the JWS Minky it was causing carnage.


I promise these are different fish!


F*** Me!


Outbound for James! (check your backing before you fish Farmoor)


Another for James ... to be honest he had lost a couple of others and I had him running up and down the bank to record my purple patch!


We were like schoolboys ... but seriously, have you seen better conditioned fish?



James said we didn't see any big ones during this session! This year he has had fish to double figures.


You maybe thinking that it is a shame to kill all these awesome fish? In fact Farmoor 1 has a 100% catch & release policy! How cool is that? All these fish were returned ... who was it that said catch & release doesn't work?


One for me and one for James! Again ... just look at those tails!


We had a load more Rainbows but to end the day perfectly I latched into this perfectly conditioned Brown Trout. Farmoor 2 has just produced a 14lb 4oz fish that was stocked originally at just 1lb 8oz!

The conclusion? Probably the best conditioned, hardest fighting reservoir Trout around right now in the UK. Plus what a cool concept to provide a full C&R policy on Farmoor 1 and for just £17.50 per day, less than a couple of rounds in the pub and you won't have a headache afterwards ... far from it. My only problem is I have to trek 2 1/2 hours to get there, but that doesn't worry me. Right now I am frantically going through my diary trying desperately to find some time in beween guiding and the shop so I can visit again!

James ... thank you for showing me this amazing venue and for handing over the killer Minky. It is a day I will never forget and although I am so lucky to be able to fish rivers and all manner of other venues I have to say that tangling with such pristine fish is hard to beat. To coin Henry Gilbeys descriptions holy cow, eat my shorts, awesome and bring it on ... although in this case I think a profound F*** Me says it all .....

Friday, 7 November 2008

Brilliant Blakewell Fishery

So October has been and gone and already a week of November has passed, before we know it the season will be here once again! But is there really a season anymore? I reckon there is just as much fishing to be had now as at any other time in the year. I really enjoy my Grayling and Pike sessions but there are plenty of people who love to wet a line on a small still water and Trout Fisherman magazine caters for these anglers extremely well. Working as a main contributor on the magazine this is therefore the time of year when I head to various small waters across the region to put together a few winter features.


Leaving base the weather was not looking so good for pictures as I headed out with Henry Gilbey to perhaps one of the UKs very best small stillwaters, Blakewell. A beautiful 5 acre fishery the lake is run by Richard & John Nickell who employed me during my days as a North Devon college student. In fact I was rarely present at my A Level lectures, spending most of my time either at the local tackle shop or working at the fishery (or fishing some place of course!). As it happened I had already decided long before I enrolled at the college that I wanted to be a fly fishing instructor and so I look back on those missed lectures as a blessing in disguise!




Since then Blakewell has strived forward and I am always blown away by how well managed this venue is. Stringing up my 9' 6" Hardy Demon I was relishing the chance of a few hard fighting fish, although it was strictly work of course! There was a juggernaut cruising that I spotted through my Mauis which took the fly on one occassion but I missed it! After that it staunchly refused to accept anything I threw at it. Even so we got what we needed as the light improved to show Blakewell off in all its glory. Many may think that putting these features together is easy but in fact Henry never stops thinking about the next angle, point of focus, light situation etc., and he certainly rarely picks up a rod while out on a job although it looks like we will be tracking down a few Pike together soon.

Yesterday we were back on the road bound for Temple Fishery, but I will post about our experience another time. Right now I am being called into a meeting as we have a whole bunch of stuff going on over the next few weeks and I must double check my tackle too as James and I are out for a sesh on the Farmoor heavyweights tomorrow. The weather looks a little inclement, but so what .... I am sure that will be the last thing on my mind as my backing fizzes out behind one of the grown on specimens I have been hearing so much about recently! Well ... I hope so anyway.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Tough Pike

I was hoping to get on the blog yesterday but have been busy writing up all our new courses and sorting plans for next season. It seems crazy to be doing this as the nights draw in ever faster but with Neil working with me full time through the off season it gives me chance to get stuck into all the things that have been put on hold for so long. But enough if that, lets talk fishing.

The week has zoomed by but this Pike is still fresh in my memory. Not a huge specimen by any account, but a half reasonable canal fish that took a # 4/0 Black Fly. It was caught during the last round of filming with Shaun Fenton of Diesel films and proved to be a tough fish to catch after the canal had coloured up due to some heavy rain. Just a couple of weeks prior to this the Pike had been nailing flies in the clear water, but as I have found when filming you have to expect the odds to be against you. That's cool, because it made me work harder and I hope this will show in the final product. Shaun has certainly done a great job of editing the programmes and as soon as I have any information regarding when you can view them I will add it here.


After a long day staring at computers and answering the phone constantly I relish the chance to get out in the fresh air (I am missing it already!) and so tomorrow will head to Blakewell with Henry Gilbey to shoot a Trout Fisherman feature. This is a stunning little lake and I haven't managed to visit for a long while so it will be great to catch up with John, Richard and hopefully a fish or two! Plus on Saturday I have my first visit to Farmoor to look forward to with James, a buddy of mine who I last caught up with a few weeks back on Clatworthy. The reports are that Farmoor is fishing its head off, I hope the barometer remains steady and that we get in amongst the action. It may be a concrete bowl reservoir but if the fish are overwintered and superb charged I really don't mind!

Friday, 31 October 2008

New Generation Fly Fishing

I am lucky enough to have been involved with the business of fly fishing for many years and during that time I have seen a definite change. Once upon a time our lake was surrounded by green clad old men slinging Montana's at any fish that would have it. Now that is not to say there is anything wrong with green clad men throwing Montana's at any fish that will have it, but, it is certainly nice to see a new generation of angler frequenting both our shop and the fishery.


Often sporting jeans or the latest hi tech waterproof clothing the other essential wear seems to be a baseball cap and a pair of the latest wrap around shades. Anyone who knows me will know that I have a fair collection myself! Well, lets face it ... who wants to look like Sherlock Holmes on the river bank?



So many people seem to be of the opinion that young people don't want to go fishing but that is just not the case. They want to go fishing, they want to catch fish. What they don't want is to look like a reject from a BBC period drama! Fighting the corner today were these energetic lads from Somerset who I had the pleasure of looking after for a half day. The youngest, Oscar (far left) is just 12 and his Dad (back row with rods!) is only too willing to admit that his boy can out cast and out fish him, no problem. 7 to 1 in fact today ... well done Oscar. I think you will agree he looks like a pretty cool dude too. Leo, James and Harry also did incredibly well and all went on to fish until last knockings. Not a mobile, ipod or Nintendo in sight! We like to do our bit here at Nick Hart Fly Fishing to promote this youthful generation into the sport by offering special discounts. Now it is time for the manufacturers out there to do their bit and realise that to inspire anglers such as these boys is to secure their business for many years to come.

On that note I stumbled across this blog with some very cool images of amazing fish caught on ultra lightweight tackle. Put together by guides involved with the fly tackle brand Loop, it is this kind of imagery and ethos that I would like to see entering the UK market. Its inspiring. In fact I have been thinking very seriously about adding Loop to our range here at the shop and after checking them out at the T&G show we are very shortly going to start doing just that. No blog entry tomorrow as I have some time with the family at last but look out on Sunday for some Pike news ... my favourite winter species. Oh, and I almost forgot, Happy Halloween!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Big Fish Bonanza

I thought October was supposed to be a quiet month! In true "Harry & Paul" style perhaps their idea of a new 13 month ... "Augtember" ... is not such a bad one! If you didn't see their recent series then you won't know what the hell I am on about so I shall move on!

It has been a busy few weeks and although it has been cold we have enjoyed some glorious fine, dry days such as this one when I guided Tim Watson and Tony Kaye on the River Test. My Saturday date with the Avon fell through at the last minute as my guest for the day, Tom Steele, had some serious work issues to sort prior to his flight to India in search of Mahseer. I can't wait to hear his report when he returns and hopefully will post some details here. From what I can gather he is hoping to target these incredible fish on fly.

From one big fish ... to several others, but this time much closer to home. We have been having a real bonanza with Freds specimen sized Trout stocked into Exe Valley Fishery, the glorious base for our fly fishing courses. During the weekend and early this week we got 3 first time fly fishers into Trout exceeding 8lbs ...

The first lucky angler was David Atkinson who fished with Neil during a 2 day course over the weekend resulting in this 8lb 5oz specimen which took a Damsel fished deep.



Next up was Jonathan Maxted who has to be one of the most naturally gifted casters I have ever looked after. A whizz with the fly rod his efforts came to fruition when this superbly conditioned 9lb fish took a slowly fished Hares Ear. I haven't fished this pattern in anger with my guests for a long time but recently with the fish turning their attention to Hoglouse/Water Slaters (kinda like an underwater woodlouse!) it has been extremely effective.



Top fish of the week so far though is this 9lb 3oz Rainbow caught by John Denton who visited with his brother in law Len and his niece Robin to enjoy a 2 day course with Neil. The fish fell to a Buzzer under an Indicator and put up a tremendous scrap. There is no better way to hook people than a few fish and on her last day 18 year old Robin hooked up no less than six Trout and Dad had to dig deep for a fly fishing kit at the end of the day! You have to treat yourself sometimes though and so he also splashed out on a Hardy Demon for himself ... a rod I have been raving about all year.

Big fish have been plentiful on Exe Valley Fishery recently but the big news dominating the papers and our screens seems to be all this nonsense regarding Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. OK, so the guys pushed things too far although watching the interview with Georgina Baillie it looks like she can handle herself. Andrew Sachs is an old man and yes the messages may have been offensive, but this great man is also a performer that starred in perhaps the greatest comedy show ever and his interview says that he accepts the apologies ... so if he can move on why can't everybody else? Fawlty Towers pushed boundaries did it not? I am not condoning what Brand and Ross said for one moment but based on their reaction, neither are they. Both are in my view talented guys and to be placed under the public spot light for something like this seems a little over the top. What a shame that as a nation we so often build people up just to knock them down.

Cynical types may say that this story is a great diversion based on the recent bad press that many politicians are receiving. If anyone should be placed under the spotlight for regular bouts of insane stupidity it is that lot!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

River Test Grayling

What a perfect day for fishing we encountered yesterday. Heading out at 7am with Tim Watson and Tony Kaye, we were all excited at the prospect of a session fishing the Fullerton beat of the River Test. Anyone who has spent any amount of time fly fishing will need no introduction to this river that is steeped in history. For my own part I find it a little manicured and I would always prefer to fish for wild fish (much of the Test is heavily stocked) but during the winter months this productive chalk stream provides hours of intense fishing fun for one of my favourite species, the Grayling.


We arrived at the Mayfly Pub in Fullerton a little after nine with frost still showing on the surrounding fields and had a quick look before eagerly heading to our beat where upon we were met by a beautiful scene as mist lifted from the water. Why didn't I get a picture!? Scenic it may have been but I learned long ago that during these early hours the water is best left alone, start fishing too early and you will spook a lot of fish. The mist also makes it difficult to spot fish and this is why I love chalk streaming so much in the first place; its visual fishing.

After a decent breakfast of pain au chocolat very kindly donated by Tim, we were soon donning waders although in fact waders are not strictly necessary! The banks are so well manicured I reckon you could get away with a pair of slippers and wading in the river is strictly forbidden to ensure the fly life is not damaged. Despite the relatively low air temperature through the day I believe this policy works as there was a great deal of fly life to be seen, especially during the warmest part of the day.


The fishing proved to be excellent. I got Tim and Tony started on an upstream nymph, using just one heavily weighted artificial to beat the flow connected to a long tapered leader. We greased from the fly line to around three feet before the fly and then made casts directly upstream. The idea behind this is to allow the fly to sink to the correct feeding depth of the target fish and it takes some practice to master. Tim soon had hold of the technique and despite a couple of missed takes, the greased leader suddenly stabbed forward and with a smooth lift the first fish was on. Takes can be obvious but at other times the line will just stop and very often I watch the fish to see their reaction. If they so much as twitch, I strike!

The Test Grayling are beautiful creatures and we landed many specimens through the day although by the afternoon the nymph was resigned to the fly box and instead we changed to small CDCs and mini Klinhammers for some top dry fly action. The Brown Trout can be pretty daft on these stocked chalkstreams but to outwit the Grayling everything had to be just right, especially in the bright sunny conditions. The sun did warm the day briefly and the fish took full advantage of the conditions as a hatch got going. Tony also made the best of the autumnal sun ending up in his shirt sleeves! Its late October, the sun is out, we are in shirt sleeves and the Grayling are biting ... does it get any better?!


Sometimes ... One real moment of excitement developed when while guiding Tony I spotted a jack Pike laid up near the edge of the river. I always carry a Pike fly and a length of trace, just in case we happen upon one of these toothy predators as they are very often willing to smack a fly. Not this fish, it staunchly ignored everything until all of a sudden there was a huge commotion and a fish shot out from the opposite side of the river and nailed our fly! My first reaction was that another, unseen Pike, had taken. In fact as the line tightened the fish cleared the water and a Brown Trout approaching double figures flicked two fins at us!!! The fish spat the hook in disgust leaving us to gibber for a good while afterwards!


Maybe the fish knew that this bad weather we are now experiencing was on the way because they made the most of the day feeding heavily right until the sun was almost set. The air temperature had dropped and usually this switches everything off, but not tonight, the fish just kept on coming. It was a cracking finale to a day of non stop sport which the guys deserved after enduring a couple of tough sessions this year at the mercy of our British summer. Leaving this beautiful scene at the end of the day we stopped on the way home for the obligatory pint and the conversation soon moved from fishing to .... Tim's home made cider! From the reports I have had I don't recommend drinking this the evening prior to a fishing session, the results maybe not so favourable!

On Saturday I head top another chalk stream ... the Avon ... but I am not so sure the weather is going to be so kind. But it would be boring if it was all the same. Fly Fishing is all about being able to adapt and if that means dealing with a gale and rain, so be it!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Getting ready for Grayling

After our session on the Pike I headed to Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire with Sue for the Tackle & Gun trade show. It was great to catch up with the companies who supply us and make some new contacts. Look out online and in the store soon for the results as there were some very cool new products on offer.


Today though I have been engrossed in writing an article for Trout Fisherman and look out in the next issue (385) for a winter feature plus some more casting tips; this time dealing with the techniques required to deal with a head wind.

Right now I have to load the truck with gear which I have spent the last hour preparing in readiness for my first visit to the chalk streams this winter, guiding two regular guests on to some Grayling. This once persecuted fish has now become a cult hero amongst anglers and I for one relish the trip up the A303 in search of this particular species, especially as we will be fishing for them on the Test. I am not really into fishing for the stocked Trout that often find themselves living out their days in this river but the Grayling are truly wild and very often willing to accept a dry fly.


The weather looks good, my clients for the day are very good company and I have just loaded my box with at least 5 dozen new flies ... now all I have to do is manage some sleep! Not so easy when all you can picture is that little dimple as the fly is accepted with an almost inaudible sip resulting in a bent rod and a Cheshire cat grin for my guest. I love to catch them myself but guiding is just as good ... in fact often it is better. Full trip report on Thursday but for the moment check out the beauty of this fish captured above in all its glory by Henry Gilbey.

Monday, 20 October 2008

First Pike on Fly

A little while back I wrote a post here discussing my views on the close season. Right now the rivers are closed in this part of the world to all species except Grayling, so game anglers must turn their attention to small stillwaters or reservoirs, although a few of these will also close soon.

So what to do? Grab yourself a 10 weight, some big hairy flies ... a bit of wire and try some fly fishing for Pike. This is awesome sport and often prolific as Alasdare Lambert found during a session we enjoyed on Saturday.



Fishing the King Sedgemoor Drain I decided to ditch my fly gear for the day and try out some new lures that we are about to stock any day in the shop. More on the blog soon. Now I am no lure angler, if you want to find out more about this area of the sport check out Henry Gilbeys site. However, I have become very interested in the whole concept of carrying both a fly rod and a lure rod because there are times when one or the other will be more effective. Now ... had it just been me out fishing I would have put it down to my ineptitude with a fixed spool but Alasdare and I were in good company.



Mark Gibbs had joined us for our session and he has just recently landed this stunning 23lb + fish from the drain. Mark and I managed one hit apiece using the lures .... er hum! Alasdare was on his first ever Pike trip with a fly and took 6 fish from 3 different locations on the drain! This does not include the hits and lost fish he had!



Full credit to Alasdare, he fished very well. However I have seen this before during my own fly fishing sessions for Pike, the fluff can totally out fish even dead baits and certainly lures. There is just something irresistible about that pulsating fur and feather on a monster hook that this toothy critter can't ignore. None of the fish were big on Saturday. But .... Marks specimen was taken just a few yards from where Alasdare had most of his Pike! Put in enough hours and one day the 10 weight will snap tight to the tune of a 20 that will cause carnage as it tail walks in an attempt to shed the fly... that thought makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! I have heard people say that Pike don't scrap but this is ludicrous ... even Alasdares fish that went no more than 6lbs gave the rod a work out. So that's my goal this winter ... a 20lb canal Pike on the fly and with so many miles of the KSD and other great venues to explore I can't wait to get started!

"An absolutely fantastic weekend - great day with you on Saturday" Alasdare Lambert, London 2008