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Devon School of Fly Fishing Team blog

Archive for August, 2011

Fly Fishing in Devon

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

I’ve just looked up and we’re nearly in September, has it gone that fast?

It seems like it to me. Not that I am sitting here doing a retrospective of the year just yet. On that front though I have already handed out my award for new bit of tackle of the year award and that goes to my Helios 8ft 4″ 2wt. It is just such a good bit of gear. I have been fishing 1 and 2 wt rods for many years but I haven’t got my hands on one that I would use just like a 3 or 4wt. It rammed the fact home to me the other day when fishing with Ray (The Dude) when I was casting a good sized nymph into a deep pot that had two 2.5mm tungsten beads on without a problem at all. I keep saying the thing feels like a 4wt and I treat it like one but it just comes back for more!

Anyway, shameless plugs aside it has been a really interesting time on the water. The fishing has been interesting and challenging at the same time. I guess I am a sucker for punishment but it is really, really good fun working out what these fish want and where they want it. The hatches, at the moment, are more trickles and can switch on and off pretty quickly which means I have been dragging people off one stretch to another to gain the best of the fishing. It is one of the advantages of having plenty of water to show people, and it really does help.

I have also noticed the fish have not been hitting the fly with the same sort of vigour as they did. I’m sorry but I don’t subscribe to the “they have seen a load of flies” theory it is just how it has gone recently. I know anglers like to blame themselves when they miss a strike or think they have pulled out of a fish. Sometimes the fish just miss it or just don’t fully commit. I think it has been the latter over the past couple of weeks, but more settled, slightly warmer weather might just change things a bit.

John has one on a caddis!

I had a cancellation the other day that was booked in Jan. I think this is one of the first signs of how tough things are out there that we have seen and it hurt us a bit from a lost revenue perspective but I guess when the guy first booked he hadn’t figured how bad it might get. I wasn’t told this but it I am reading between the lines. I know, we should take a deposit. Well, it is the first time it has happened and we like to run a more relaxed business and I know when people want to go fishing they always turn up.

The upside is that I get to go fishing and that is not a bad consolation. I know where I am going to head and am looking forward to it.

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The Dude is in the building!

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

I have just finished a few days fishing with my fishing buddy Ray (The Dude). He was over from his new base in Denmark for some fishing and hadn’t really picked up a rod for a while. I had been thinking how long it had been since we had chucked a line together and I reckon it was in Montana last year.

He had flown into Heathrow so we thought it only right that we started with a day on the chalkstream and so we headed to a venue that we have spent so many happy times fishing. I went up early as we were going to fish the next day and stayed in the most excellent Grayling House B & B. Grayling House is owned by Rick and his wife Lorraine. I remember the first time I stayed there and Rick answered the door in a Simms fishing shirt and I knew I was in the right place. The rooms and breakfast are also stunning.

Rick pops one back

As The Dude wasn’t due ’til later I asked Rick if he fancied a fish for a few hours, which he leapt at. We strolled up the river casting to rising fish and caught a few nice ones. As well as running an fantastic B & B, Rick is an excellent fisherman, fly tyer and great company on the river too. If you are in the Salsibury area look them up, it is worth it!

The Dude had arrived and had sniffed us out on the river and as it was dark we thought it best to head to the pub for dinner and a few drinks.

Another one for Dude

End of day grayling

Next morning the sun was out and the fish were rising. Dude was in to fish straight away and I watched him pick up trout and grayling. I got into the river and followed him upstream, thankful that he’d left me a few fish to catch. There was one run I was watching him fish and it looked to me like it was almost a fish a cast!

As with every proper fishing trip we ate some junk for lunch then had a tailgate dinner which for Ray was a Chinese and for me one of the best fish and chips I think I have ever had. It looked as though things were getting cooler and quieter at 7pm but the bugs and the fish got a second wind and we fished on late before heading down the A303.

For the Devon leg of the trip I wanted to show Dude some places he hadn’t fished before, so on the first day we headed to the river that shan’t be named. It was cloudy with some light rain when we left home but when we got there the cloud stayed but it warmed. Perfect. I hung back and watched Dude get off of the mark and then went up and found some water to fish. Dude told me he had been reading the latest Gierach offering and he had mentioned that when fishing with a buddy he would leave 3 large stones in an obvious place where he had got in so that his fishing buddy knew where to get out. We tried it and it works really well. The day was perfect and we fished long and hard and just had a packet of chocolate biscuits for lunch.

A fish from the nameless river

under the tree Dude!

A fish for me from the nameless river

Planning for the last day was easy. We had always planned a trip up to Dartmoor but other trips had got in the way, so this was to be the destination. Weather was ideal and the first stream we headed to had some great pocket water that I know the Dude likes to fish. After a sausage roll (we’d had a barbie the previous evening so there were a couple left over) we fished Cherry Brook. I love Cherry Brook. Although small it is easy to think that there are only small fish in there but I have seen some real hogs that have come after smaller fish that my guests have hooked. I even let out an expletive when I saw this and spent the rest of the day apologising!

Picking a pocket

It is also easy to think that you need to fish tiny flies on Dartmoor. While this is often the case, the monster 14 1/2 incher we had the other week was on a size 14 and Dude fished a 16 on the first stream we fished but we did go down to a 20 for Cherry. The fish don’t read the books!

Dartmoor trout

We walked, talked and fished. It was such a good day with rising fish and we headed back for an ice cream and last look at the river. Where we stopped there were people, dogs and just about everything else and the fish were still rising just beside them I guess they just get used to it all. The hardest part would have been trying to make a cast with all the tourists about.

Cherry Brook trout

So that is the trip. It was great, as ever, to fish with Dude I miss him so much now that he lives abroad but we are already planning another trip. His daughter Mia is showing an interest in fishing and Mia if you are reading I hope you’ll join us one day!

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Devon Fly Fishing

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

I’m probably being a little previous (at least I hope so)  that the river has had a more autumnal feel to it this week. Fishing has felt a little tougher, although it has been a pretty good season so everything is relative I guess. The starts have that cooler temperatures to them and it has meant it has taken a bit of time for fish to start looking at flies and 4pm has been a good time to get into some good caddis hatches.

I sort of feel a bit guilty hearalding the end of summer and a shift into autumn, especially as it is mid August so I hope I am well and truly wrong and that we get a nice Indian summer to end off the season.

Maggie at one with the Taw

It feels like Exmoor is still getting the lion’s share of rain when it falls, which is good for those fishing the tributaries and those below the Mole junction of the Taw but, like I said earlier, the season has been a good one to us further up the line and one that I hope continues.

I have been tying flies a bit more of late and after a day on the river I give a bit of thought to what has gone on and how I can tie something that might be of use when I am working. During the season tying is more of a necessity than a hobby, so that I have enough of the right flies just in case a few go astray. I do it because I need to and I don’t have a problem with it but I like to get them done and ready rather than lavishing great love on them. That having been said I have really been enjoying it of late and have come up with a few easy to tie patterns that like the description says are easy to tie and catch a few fish. Foam has been one of the main materials and I have a balloon caddis that takes a few minutes to tie and floats like a cork and an emerger pattern that sits right in the film of the water and the fish love it. I’ll post some up at some stage.

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Fly Fishing in Devon

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

I can’t remember how many times I have said to myself, Emma and have probably written here too that I intended to do more fishing this year. It hasn’t played out that way but it makes those days when I have a rod in my hand even more special.

It is also great when you get to fish with people that are great company and superb fishermen. Jim Williams ticks both of those boxes for me in a big way. I speak to Jim a fair bit as I think we share the same views about life, business and fly fishing. Namely, that they should all be fun, not complicated, shrouded in mystery and not to be  taken too seriously.

Jim had fished one of the beats here a few years back but I was keen for him to catch a few fish on the Taw and then to head up to Dartmoor the next day. We met at the hotel, had some coffee and hit the river.

It is interesting to watch and learn how other people fish the water you know so well and it was great to see Jim catching fish from the off. As we both had a few days off it wasn’t about catching huge numbers but about sharing the fishing together and enjoying the whole thing. We decided to just fish some dries and see what happened. It worked just fine!

We headed back to mine where Emma had prepared a curry which we wolfed down and then we popped out to have a look for some sea trout. We dropped by the hotel to pick up Daran who I had been guiding for a few days to see if he wanted to tag along. He did and we hit the water. Daran had a good pull off of a fish and I sat back and watched the guys fish. We were all a bit tired so headed back pretty early for a nightcap at the hotel where we ended up talking fishing for a good long time.

Next day I took Jim up to Dartmoor and to a few of my favorite stretches. Once again, within minutes he was in to fish and the pattern pretty much continued. I think we only fished about 3 patterns the whole 2 days but the highlight was watching Jim pick the pocket water of a stretch I like to head to. It was great seeing him enjoy it so much. I have a feeling he’ll be back!

We both like fishing light lines and were both fishing 2wts for the couple of days. I have a new 2wt that I am over the moon with and I think it will be my main rod from now on. Jim is a huge fan of 10ft rods and fishes them almost exclusively. I think he was one of the small handful of people who were first to do so, whereas now they are a common site for me on the river. He really thinks about tackle and what he is trying to achieve with it and puts it to such good effect in both his fishing and teaching.

Jim, it was a real pleasure buddy and I can’t wait to hit the Coln with you. To read Jim’s report and much better photos on our trip click HERE.

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Just Sometimes Part 2

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

I remember reading one of John Gierach’s books where he writes about “expertising”. He and his buddy AK were invited to show a guy how to fish a lake he had on his land for trout. Predictably, they tried everything and couldn’t buy a fish no matter how hard they tried. The guy then rigged his own rod up (it might have been a spinning rod but I can’t remember) and proceeded to pull out fish after fish.

I had a half day booking that Emma had taken from Michael and Andy (Father and Son in Law) to help them with their casting and to show them how to get the best from the mile of river ( I won’t tell you the name!) that was at the bottom of their land.

We hopped into my truck and drove down the steep hill to the bottom. This was fun in itself as I had to engage four wheel drive!

I parked up and saw a really nice little fishing hut and after talking through tackle and rod selections we went on to some grass to talk casting. I managed to get a quick glance at a short section and already liked what I saw.

They cast well and we headed off to have a look at the river. I rigged up a trout rod and salmon outfit to display what would be needed and planned on showing them where they should be thinking about fishing for trout, sea trout and salmon.

The water had some really nice pools for salmon and some nice spots for sea trout to hole up in. I pointed them out and showed them how they should think about fishing them and then came across a really nice pool. Now, one thing is for sure – I never, ever fish when I am working. People pay me to guide them, not to go fishing but I do sometimes demonstrate a cast if it is needed. In this instance I was showing them how to vary the angle they could fish their salmon fly at before Michael had a go. I was explaining about managing the line when it went tight. I did what any angler would do and lifted into what was a salmon. It was on and so I handed the rod to Michael who in all the excitement locked down on the fish a little bit too much and it came off but it was great for him to feel a fish on.

It was amazing water and one I would love to fish one day in a non working capacity!

I had the real pleasure of guiding Daran for a few days this week. He is a very accomplished angler and knows his stuff. The brief was to show him the Taw and then to head up into Dartmoor on the second day. Sounded perfect to me!

I took him to our new beat on Monday and mentioned about potential for sea trout along with the trout. We started with a dry and then tied on a nymph, duo style, when we hit my favorite sea trout holes. The first one didn’t bring a sea trout on but on the last cast, when he was inducing the nymph, he hooked into what we first thought was a salmon. He was fishing a 4 wt and kept the fish skillfully out of the snags and safe from danger. We got a better look and I couldn’t believe it when I saw spots on the tail. It was a rainbow of over 5lb and was way too big for my net. We got to a position where we planned to beach it. I knew it was going to be a toughie and said in true saltwater fashion “if I touch the leader it counts” ! I managed that and as it was coming up the bank I tried to ease it into position when the hook hold came loose and the fish swam off. I think it had been in the river a fair time and the nearest fish farm closed about a year ago so I wondered if it had come from there. I know it shouldn’t be in there but the river is not plagued with them and I work on the basis that everyone should get a break now and again and that goes for the fish too.

So we get to the next pool all excited and Daran’s dry dips. The fish heads upstream and we know it is a strong fish. Fish safely netted and it is Daran’s first sea trout. We spent the afternoon catching more trout and we reckoned we’d hooked another small sea trout. What a great day!

Tuesday and we head to the Moors. Daran excelled again and soon had beaten his best ever tally for trout. I am the worst person to count fish but was nice to count down to the magic number. We stopped counting after that as it only seemed right and I’d have never remembered how many he caught. I took him to a few of my favourite places and then one last spot. We were fishing ( I think) a small dry when we saw a good fish move. We covered it but nothing happened and I mentioned that it looked like it had taken a caddis and tied on a balloon caddis. He cast it out and the fish whacked the fly.  It was a good fish and Daran was christening my new 2wt and kept the fish out of a couple of spots where it tried to wrap him. The fish was landed and we thought that was a good time to end the day with a 14 1/2 inch fish.

Just sometimes it all goes to plan!

Had a great couple of days with my good friend Jim Williams, report to follow.

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