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.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Salmon Bum

I seem to have an affliction. Its Salmon. These fish have really got into my blood and this year I have made a concerted effort to get out whenever I have time (mainly evenings after work). So much so the back of my truck has started to become a little untidy as waders, rods and reels are flung in and out on a regular basis!

Last night I had to wait my turn on Blackpool (River Exe) but was rewarded for some patience with this 8lb Cock Fish. It was a coloured fish but fought well on my 10ft #7 Greys GTec, which beat it pretty easily. I would rather play a fish hard with risk of losing it, rather than gingerly and then have trouble reviving it. This fish shot off spraying me with water seconds after this rather hazy shot.

Below is how a Salmon should look. A blurred image that Neil grabbed prior to releasing this magnificent fish, a bar of chrome, that fell to his rod on Monday. At present we are finding intermediates and tubes are the best bet, in particular I favour those with a cone head. Three other fish were reported on the Exe yesterday that I know of, there are bound to have been more.

I am an starting to become even more convinced by the barometer theory too. Yesterday evening it had dropped and the fishing was slow. After I had released my fish I checked and it had risen. This has been the case for the last 4 fish taken by Neil and myself.

I must head to the lake but don't forget to check back for more reports and I wait in earnest for some pictures from Ireland by Henry Gilbey. He is out there photographing (and no doubt fishing!) Bass. These are spectacular fish, right up there with Salmon and one day I hope to head out to sample the amazing sport that Henry has been enjoying.

Pack your Salmon rod, more rain is on the way and the fish are running!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

New Generation Anglers

It all seems a bit doom and gloom in the UK right now what with the credit crunch, fuel reaching a record high and of course the weather has not exactly been kind. Although I am not complaining about the Salmon that are being encouraged up the river!

But I am happy to report that we have been having a great deal of fun recently guiding and teaching . In particular it is awesome to see the number of young anglers who seem to be visiting Exe Valley Fishery; what better way for a youngster to enjoy a day in the fresh air? Take 14 year old George Pym who visited in the company of his grand father yesterday for a half day session. Wandering down to the lake it became apparent that George is a young tennis star in the making. We discussed that amazing Wimbledon men's final of course (how could we not!) but more importantly I encouraged George that the hand eye co-ordination he has been mastering while playing tennis would pay dividends when it came to fly casting.

I was proved correct. Within 2 hours he was flicking out a crisp roll cast, followed by a high back cast into and overhead, finally shooting a delicate line across the lake. In fact his skills were so good that within minutes of starting he had already hooked a fish. It was lost but soon afterwards another came along and this time Georges grandfather was able to proudly net it for him. Sure I taught George how to cast but in fact you could not find a more attentive young man, keen to learn. His effort and ability to listen counted for a great deal and towards the end I knew that he was hooked" because every 5 minutes he was enquiring how much time was left in which to catch another fish! He finished with 3 having lost a couple. We are finding at the moment (for those of you visiting the fishery) that Buzzers fished very shallow under an indicator or a suspender style buzzer fished high in the water are the best bet.

More Salmon have been caught on the Exe. I know of a fresh grilse and a nine pound fish yesterday plus another estimated at 12lbs lost at the net. The water is clearing down but it is still at a lovely level. A sink tip and Stoats Tail should do very nicely although I would not discount an intermediate and cone head style fly. There is a lot of fishing available through Fish the Exe, or check angling magazines etc., to find beats. Angling 2000 is also worthy of a look for West Country Salmon fishing and of course there is the Lyn. This amazing river has provided me with countless hours of fun and although it is largely only suitable for spin fishing when targeting Salmon it is possible to nail them on the fly with perseverance. I will definitely be out on the Exe myself over the next couple of days keen to add to my tally for the season. I only hope the Mole comes good for a Sea Trout soon or indeed a Salmon. The barometer is up. Could this help I wonder?

The year is moving very quickly and I can hardly believe the CLA Gamefair is almost here. Last year it was a wash out and cancelled at the very last minute, let us hope that this year the weather is kind. Lets face it, we are due some sunshine! I will be there demonstrating with Henry Gilbey, our slot is late morning/early afternoon. Exact times here shortly.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Fun, Fresh Air and Fish

The title of this blog post is what we at Nick Hart Fly Fishing are all about. This last couple of days Neil and my good mate Mike Boniface have had the pleasure of looking after Jim Pool and a number of his buddies from London. Despite very high water conditions rendering the river unfishable on day one, the guys got stuck in and were rewarded for their efforts.

Day one was spent on Gilberts Lake where we amassed a great total of fish including Trout to the rods of Nathan and Alistair. Nathan has had just one attempt at fly fishing in the past but Alistair had never tried, so it was great to send him off with a Trout to his name. Jim Pool has cut his teeth on rivers but had never fished a lake so it was a pleasure to introduce him to his first fly caught Rainbow Trout. Many anglers expect lake fishing to be 2nd best to rivers, but in fact they provide a great deal of enjoyment and the chance to hone casting/fishing skills. Hugh, JJ and Keith also joined in the action and although during a corporate day our goal is for guests to have a ton of fun and catch plenty we also tune up those all important fishing skills such as casting, knots and watercraft. That's the great thing about fly fishing, it is so practical. You can actually learn while you are doing it!

JJ came in for some stick on day one having stuck to his 8'6" rod rated for a 4 line. Ideal for rivers but a little under gunned on the lake. By late afternoon everyone had caught fish except JJ and I could see that he was anticipating a night of non stop piss taking! Something had to be done! So we strapped on the most obscene Blob I could find and within minutes JJ was bent into a decent looking fish. Shortly afterwards a 2nd followed and his relief was obvious. Leaving in the early evening the guys headed back for a night of banter at the Royal Oak Inn which is receiving many good reports.

Today we once again headed to the lake as the water here is still huge. As can be seen we encountered some strange fish that are indigenous to the lake. You will have to book a day if you want to catch one like this! Of course there were Trout on the cards and Kieth was the first to connect today, followed by JJ who pulled the fish seen here out in a short space of time. What could be better than 3 Trout and a cigar before lunch! However some of the guys, (Jim and Hugh in particular) were itching to get on the river. So leaving Neil to look after Alistair and Nathan we took off in search of Trout.

Parking up on Perry bridge the signs were not good. In fact the River Exe looked even bigger than in the morning when we had passed over it. But we were there and if your fly is not in the water ......... Tackle consisted of 2 very heavy nymphs designed to dredge the bottom and then an indicator set well up the leader. We had to find the slackest water possible which in the height we were encountering was almost impossible. Diligently Jim and Keith set to work while Mike left with Hugh and JJ for a lower stretch of the beat. An hour in and nothing so I headed upstream looking all over for the slowest piece of water I could find. My eyes rested upon the lower stretch of the Haddeo which is controlled by the dam at Wimbleball. It was still very high but running a little clearer and a small pool with an inviting current looked like it may just provide a little respite for a weary fish in need of a meal.

Mike had joined me with the other guys and so I took Keith into the pool. I reckoned our odds were up to 50/50 and so when the indicator dipped I was primed ready to shout "STRIKE" whenever needed. Many of these met with nothing but after 20 odd minutes suddenly the rod hooped over and this lovely little wild Brown was the result. Not the biggest Trout, in fact not even average, but in such tough conditions a triumph. Not to be outdone JJ hooked a monster a little later that threw the hook and then under the experienced guidance of Mikey B, Keith added another to his tally.

But it was all too much for Hugh. He had picked up on the fact that Neil and I had caught Salmon just a few days before and wanted a piece of the action. The only problem is the river is about 2ft above the levels we caught in! But I like a challenge so we headed back to the shop and picked up a double hander. Last year I hooked a Salmon with Tim Watson in huge water using a fast sinking tip and so we adopted the same tactics. Hugh fished perfectly, a godsend for a guide, especially in such tough conditions. We were on a 500 grain head and a cone head tube strapped to just 2 feet of 25lb twang (anyone who has fished this kind of gear knows how hard it is to cast!) when he got hit very hard mid swing while fishing wall pool. It was a Salmon undoubtedly but today it did not stick. Even so it has inspired Hugh to try for an English Salmon as so far he has only caught the species in Scotland.

All in all the 2 days have been tough due to the weather and conditions but it just shows that anglers who persevere can reap the benefits. But there is more to a trip like this than just fish. Its about a bunch of friends getting together and having a great laugh; experiencing the lows and tremendous highs that only fishing can deliver. For me it is a privilege to be involved in such an event, I only wish the time did not pass so quickly.

I have another day of teaching coming up but right now my mind is on the Salmon. The rain looks like it is petering out and this should make the river perfect early next week. In fact fish are still being caught, I know of 2 today, one of them very fresh. It was sad to hear that this fish, a hen, laden with eggs was dispatched. Fish like this are the future of our sport, all we need is a good photo and then put it back. If a fish is to be taken it should be a cock fish and the smaller specimens.

Talking of Salmon, keep an eye on Henry Gilbeys Blog who is currently in Norway fishing with one of the top Spey Casters in the UK. It looks stunning but unfortunately it sounds like they need some of the water we have here! I will report early next week regarding the state of water and fishing for the Salmon as both Neil and I intend to give it a bit of a drubbing.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


It seems hard to believe that just yesterday evening Neil and I were enjoying fishing the river Exe and catching Salmon like this. The river is now huge and Dulverton is on a flood warning.

Jim Pool and I have crossed the Barle, followed the Exe, headed to Badgworthy Water and even checked out the Lyn. All of them are huge and brown. I don't think even the most advanced deep water tactics would hold the flies down long enough for the fish to see them. An 8oz lead and a mackerel dead bait would probably stand more chance! Needless to say we did not wet a line and Jim's new Vision Waders will have to wait until another day to be christened.

Feast your eyes on the kind of conditions Jim and I have witnessed today including a short video clip above of the river Lyn. This is just above the Rockford Inn and always holds a few fish, not much chance of getting in there at the moment unless you fancied a closer inspection of the estuary!

Below is Badworthy water at Malmsmead and the other image shows the scene from the bridge looking back up the river Lyn from Rockford. Spectacular stuff, but not ideal fishing conditions.

But it looks like the rain is clearing a little and the great thing about our West Country rivers is that they soon return to normal plus as the flood waters subside the fishing can be sublime.

It all bodes well for next week and another trip out for Salmon. Meanwhile Henry Gilbey will be heading out for the same species in Norway. Check out his blog during the coming week for his ongoing report. I will also update very shortly with details regarding the rivers so keep checking back if you are hoping to enjoy a session this weekend. Pleeeease ... STOP RAINING!!!!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

BIG River

The rain seems unrelenting at the moment. Thankfully in our area the weather forecasters (aka proffers of doom!) have got it all wrong on the wind front. Rather than the 60 mph predicted we have been enjoying a nice soft ripple, which is ideal to learn to fish in as Kenny Hopkins found. Here he proudly displays one of 3 decent fish caught during his first ever experience of fly fishing during a 2 day course and although it rained our wet weather kit ensured we remained warm and dry. I guide/teach well over 100 days per year and cannot fault the Greys GRXi range. It keeps me warm and dry in some of the worst conditions you can imagine.

But the rain has had an effect on the river. Here is the Exe looking down towards the Anchor Bridge a couple of days ago and as you can see it is up and dirty in a very big way. Not so great for the Trout anglers and we will have to wait for it to clear before the Salmon Flies can be given a swim, but I have to say I much prefer a river enjoying an occasional spate rather than the low water conditions experienced in a drought year.

That said, the rain is becoming daft! Let us hope that soon enough the low pressure pushes on and allows the sun to make an appearance. I am yet to enjoy a proper evening rise on the Trout this year and of course I would love to be hitting the Sea Trout too but once again the conditions have scuppered me. Going back to pressure and atmospheric conditions, I have just started using an awesome watch by Casio which measures barometric pressure. There is a theory that pressure changes can put fish on or off the feed and in the case of Salmon spur them to take or not as the case maybe. I will add a review here soon and on my shop site along with details regarding an excellent book that details the findings of one gentleman who is convinced that pressure changes really are the key to success when Salmon fishing.

For now I must leave the keyboard and ready my kit for Jim Pool. I have looked after Jim on a number of occasions and he is here tomorrow on a warm up prior to his two day corporate day with us. Jim really is a hardcore angler and will head out in any conditions in search of fish. The "proffers of doom" say that we will be enjoying an almighty deluge tomorrow but we will throw caution to the wind and be chasing down fish on the Lyn and possibly its tributary, Badgworthy Water. High winds and driving rain are not ideal but if the fly is in the water, there is a chance. I can also remember days like this ...

Friday, 4 July 2008

Corporate Fly Fishing Days

Over the last couple of days Neil and I have had the pleasure of looking after Peter Anderson and his guests from various businesses including Lloyds TSB and Ernst & Young. We fished on a beautiful private lake that has matured beautifully despite only being constructed a few years ago. Set seemingly in the middle of nowhere it is possible to rent a cottage close by to the lake which is in fact just a 10 minute drive from Dulverton. Even so we did not hear a car on the road all day. Just birds in the meadow and the sound of screaming reels!

I assisted the owner with the design of Gilbert's Lake which features an island plus lots of bays and drop offs, ideal for the nurture of aquatic food items while also providing superb Trout habitat. The lake is now well established and spooning the Trout revealed a huge variety of food including Damsel Nymphs and Flies (very unusual to see the adults in samples), Bloodworm, Buzzers, Corixa and Water Limpets (a sign that the water is extremely pure). This is however not a public fishery so the fish get plenty of time to naturalise, the results are awesome, see below!

Corporate days are ideal for like minded business people to meet and chat about their work, make new deals etc. Many find endless golf and track days become monotonous, a day fly fishing is something a little different! During the course of the two back to back days we looked after several anglers who had never been fishing, let alone tried casting a fly. But all managed to catch a fish and in fact we had a couple of stars who nailed the casting and then proceeded to deplete the Gilbert's Lake stock quite significantly!

What I found very interesting was the Trouts almost complete disinterest for Buzzer pupa imitations. Although we spooned the naturals from the fish we captured, they were extremely small and numbered very few per sample. A very common tactic for us to use when coaching newcomers to the sport is to suspend a buzzer under an indicator. However this proved fruitless and so we caught fishing twitching back various nymph patterns although damsels with and without goldheads reigned supreme. These patterns have such great fishing catching qualities, loosely imitating an insect while possessing plenty of movement to capture the Trouts eye.

Look at those fish! Every specimen had a razor sharp tail and scrapped incredibly well. In fact quite a number were lost due to a frenzied first run and a panicking angler holding on to the line too tight. A number of the guys said they will be throwing their catch on the BBQ tonight, let us hope the weather holds!

All in all the two days went down very well and I look forward to our next corporate guests who arrive for their fishing on Thursday & Friday next week. Meanwhile I have a two day course starting tomorrow (weather permitting!) while very favourable River Mole and River Torridge fishing reports mean that I will shortly be heading out after Sea Trout. I just can't get enough of these fish! Tonight though I have to go and check out the first part of a new project I have been working on that I will be able to make public here very soon.

And if you are looking for a different kind of day full of fun, good food and of course fish, give me a shout. We can help your business! Or why not celebrate a stag or hen night, a birthday or just get the family together for a day out fishing? Check out Nick Hart Fly Fishing or call Nick/Sue on 01398 323 008.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The Lost Fly Box

Have you ever lost a fly box? The only time I came close was during a session when I was guiding on the River Bray in North Devon. In fact I lost a bunch of dry flies that spilled out of the box when a freak gust of wind caught hold of the contents, so the box remained safe. However I was gutted and the same feeling came over me (but worse!) for a few hours during my trip to Montana with Henry Gilbey.

I had one of the new Vuefinder boxes by Wychwood which we are about to load to the shop. Now I have used a good few types of box ( including old cigar tins when I was a kid!) and in terms of value for money and practicality the Wychwood box has got to be one of the best on the market. I feel a review coming on soon! Anyway I had one of the boxes sent to me stuffed full of flies including a whole side of dries and another of nymphs. Throughout the week I used a number of the patterns to catch fish like the one seen below and was quite literally in heaven.

That was until one morning I was double checking all my kit ready for our next outing only to find that my main box was nowhere to be seen. I searched everything. The boat, the car, my bag (10 times), drawers, waders ... you name it. Over and over I went through my mind when I last had the box and slowly but surely all sorts of sinister ideas cropped up. I was sure it must have been stolen, even though Henry did make the point that why would this go missing and not his laptop computer, the car parked outside and ipods left on our bed side tables! Fair point.

Needless to say I was like a bear with a sore head, feeling worse than a kid dumped by the first love of their life. I was sure that I had seen the last of my beloved box and all its contents. Even more worrying a couple of days later I would be out guiding my guests back at home, but what with!? I searched everything again and then resigned myself to the fact that I would have to learn to live without them, falling heavily into the car seat as we headed for a new stretch of water. The mountains, sunshine, gorgeous rivers and Trout seemed like distant memories; all I wanted was my box!

Setting up I tried to laugh it off and cheer myself up when Henry said "I have a feeling we will see it". I thought he was just trying to make me feel better but decided that his positive attitude warranted another check of my fishpond tackle bag. I went through all the pockets just as before and nothing. It was then that I noticed the false base to the bag. It is removable and helps to keep the bag rigid; suddenly the light bulb came on. Pulling back the base revealed ... you've guessed it! I was the butt of Henry's jokes for several hours but did I care; not in the slightest. My fly box was back and I felt whole again!

I am out of the office tomorrow to work on corporate days that we have running back to back over the course of the next few days. We organise these events at this beautiful private lake and look forward to seeing the fantastic fish that inhabit the clear waters of this venue. Lunch will be at Woods of course! But before that lets hope Murray gets himself in to the semis of Wimbledon, the match a few nights ago was fantastic. How cool to see a player from the UK attack his game with such aggression and determination, especially having gone 2 sets down when it looked like there was no hope.

Finally we would like to welcome Ben Allen to Hart Flyshop. A young fishing junkie, Ben loves to tackle Carp but is also now a convert to the world of fluff chucking. You may have seen him one of my recent Trout Fisherman features. Ben will be welcoming anglers to the fishery and on hand to help with general running of the shop. Above Ben casts a tidy loop during our visit to the Mole in the summer of 07.