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.