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.

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