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Devon School of Fly Fishing Team blog

Posts Tagged ‘Orvis Endorsed fly fishing guide’

Grass is always greener?

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

I had to drive over the Moor today to get to Plymouth for a meeting. This is the route I like to take rather than working my way over to get to the A38. It is probably a longer route but there aren’t many routes in the U.K. that are more beautiful. The other good thing is that I get to drive over a number of the rivers I like to fish when the season is on. These days I slow down and have a good look and sometimes park up rather than trying to multitask and trying to drive and look at a nice stretch of water. In the past Emma has asked me to pull over and let her drive as I try and cop a look at a nice stretch of water.

Today was a stunner. The sun was out and the water was pushing a bit but was crystal clear and I was imagining casting a dry into a few of the runs and dropping an nymph into some of the deeper pockets. At Two Bridges I took a left to Plymouth and looked back at the West Dart as it snaked its way behind me before heading up to see the pocket water of Blackabrook on my left. It looked stunning. No, not stunning, just too beautiful for words. It was the sort of day that you’d say “it’s too nice to be writing a blog I should be out there”. Sadly it couldn’t be as the season is over.

It got me thinking how bad I wanted to fish there, as I am only usually up that way to guide or fish myself and being there and not jumping out of the truck to fish felt a little strange. It also got me wanting to fish there all that more knowing I wasn’t able to. I guess this is a bit of closed seasonitis but these are the little things that get you through the winter I guess, along of course with the grayling fishing.

Talking of which I got out with my good friend Toby for a few grayling the other day. This was just before we had the recent rain and the water was low and clear. As ever, we just fished together, laughed and caught a few fish. To me, this is what it is all about.

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Back end fly fishing

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

It’s a funny old game. The leaves are falling, the tempertaures have fallen and there’s some colour in the water and you know what? The fish are biting pretty good.

I am out on the water just about every day and there have been a few mornings when I have peered out and thought mmmmm, this might be a toughie. It’s not like I don’t like the tough days. In fact I really like them. They are the days when you really think about fly selection, where you are going to fish and what might do the job for the day. I’ll carefully think about the beat we’ll be fishing and what will be the best for the conditions. Those I have guided will know I will have them leaping into the truck to try another beat if the one we are on isn’t fishing.

I was guiding Gavin at the weekend and it turned out to be one of those days where everything slotted into place just as I always hope they will. I took him to one of his favourite beats and we had a bunch of fish including a sea trout that we saw shoot out of his hidey hole and nail the Copper John we were fishing. It did his best to weed Gavin but some well executed side strain did the job and we netted the fish. We headed back for lunch at the hotel where the chefs always like to come up with something interesting to eat. Rob said he had come up with the ultimate fisherman’s lunch which he calls the Manwich. Tell you what, it is ideal fishing fodder.

We hit another beat after lunch and fish were soon on the dry. As the day went on the fishing went in pulses of activity but we took advantage of them. Just as we called it a day, the skies opened and the rain fell. It couldn’t have been better timing.

Just back from guiding on the chalk with the legend that is MFD. Report to follow shortly!

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Breaking all the Barriers

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

The great thing about fly fishing is that there are no communication barriers needed to understand what a fellow fly angler is trying to say, even if they don’t speak the same language. A few nods and a look at the fly boxes is often enough to show the other person exactly what they need to know.

I was recently guiding Raphael who was over from Spain for 3 days of fishing with me. Despite what I have written above, Raphael spoke excellent English and made me slightly embarrassed that my few words of Spanish didn’t really do me proud.

We had a great time on the river and it was a real pleasure to be able to show him a nice variety of water. He was an excellent angler who covered the water perfectly and caught plenty of Devon trout.

He liked to use his flies, some of which were a little different to those I normally use, but they worked really well. So well in fact that I took a good mental note and have tied up a few as I think they will make great additions to my box. The flies are quite similar but there subtle little differences that sometimes can make the difference.

I am sure Charles Darwin would see them as a sort of natural selection of the patterns that have been slightly changed to suit their natural surroundings, or in this case trout, but it is nice to see these little alterations work here too. I know when I am tying flies that I tie a few and wonder if a slight change might work. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t but I love trying things out!

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Devon Fly Fishing

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

It feels like the mayfly went in a blur of slashy takes and big fish!  I have been amazed by the good numbers of sizeable fish that have come out of the river as the more wary fish, that we don’t get to see a lot, shake off their normal shyness and hit the big mays as they drift down stream.

We have had plenty of fish in the 10 to 12 inch range and more than a few that have hit 13 inches only to be beaten again by a great 16 and a halfer that was caught last Friday. The sea trout have been starting to show and when guiding Richard from Hampshire for a couple of days it was great to see a pool switch on for a few moments and to watch a sea trout rise to the dry and then, just a few casts later, watch Richard’s rod get almost yanked out of his hand by a fish that we thought must have been a good sea trout. It just goes to show you don’t always have to fish at night, or when the river is coloured to catch them.

RFH works his magic

Richard is turning into quite the river angler now, putting exqusite casts into the hard-to-reach places and getting rewarded with some nice fish. I was also out with Russell and his friends – James, Charlie and Kelvin who were making the shift from stillwaters to rivers on a 2 day fishing course.

It was great fun and the guys all did really, really well. All of them caught some nice fish and a special mention has to go to Charlie for catching the season’s best fish of sixteen and a half inches!

The end of the day....

It’s always great when we have Dave from Portland join us, which he did on Friday, weaving his usual magic and troubling somereally nice fish, followed by Mike on Saturday who wanted to learn how to fish a river. I suspect the fish on the Tone will have something to fear now.

The deep concentration of Mike the river angler!

It was great to meet up with Clare, Fiona and Bev who wanted to learn to fish and, as ever, the ladies showed us guys how to make fly casting look easy!

Fiona, Clare and Bev hit the river

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Fly Fishing Devon

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Last weekend was my birthday. It is the sort of occassion that I get as excited about as I used to but I think this one was one of the best. Getting up early to a beautiful sunny morning I opened some great presents from Emma and Charlie and then sat down to a magnificent breakfast and some chill out time in the garden. We had some birthday cake for lunch and Emma suggested I hit the river to catch a few birthday trout. It sounded like a great idea and so I did just that.

The Taw

The river, although low, was looking good and I knew that grannom had been coming off just around lunchtime so I knew I was on the water at the right time.

Perfect timing!

I rigged up some bamboo and headed down stream to a favourite pool. It is really nice when you get there and the fish are just starting to rise.

A vintage Bannister rod

Judging by the rises they were at the early stage of the hatch and were taking the emerging pupa. I tied on one of my easy-tie balloon caddis and a really simple grannom pupa. I stuffed the first take but managed to get a few more out of the pool.

A Taw trout

I fished for a few hours and caught a few and had what was just about the perfect birthday!

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River Taw fly fishing

Friday, April 8th, 2011

It is always nice to get to fish or guide on a new water. I was down on the south side of the Moor to meet up with David who has over 1 1/2 miles of some really nice water and wanted to see how we would approach and fish it for migratory fish. It was a really nice piece of water with a mixture of deep, shaded, slow pools that looked the ideal spot for sea trout and some classic salmon pools too. David covered it and fished it really well. It was one of those bits of water that, despite the water being low, you are always in with a chance.

David fished his stretch of water!

Yesterday I hit a new piece of chalkstream. Small, overgrown, low, clear and intimate. The sort of water where you have to spot the fish and creep up on them. We fished light with a one weight and worked hard on the stealth stuff. You know what? It worked pretty well. Despite the fish up there not having fully woken up we looked for the shallower water where fish were lying and offered them a CDC emerger. The only downside of this simple, but hugely deadly fly is that once they have had a fish you need to nip them off and tie on another. I had at least three of them being rotated on my fly patch during the day.

The grannom have really been flooding off of the Taw and the fish have been on them. We have a new section of water for our fishing school which is about 1 1/2 miles long. It is lower down the Taw and has some nice salmon pools and spots for sea trout along with brown trout. I have walked it a few times now and reckon it is longer than that as the river twists and turns but there is a great amount of water for our guests to fish, be it migratory or non migratory fishing they are after. This is along with all the great water that the hotel has so I reckon we have nearly 8 miles of private water to show anglers now.

I was guiding further down the Taw with Richard the other day. He has a cottage right by the river and wanted to learn how to fish the water for salmon. I was happy to help and showed him the pools and how best to approach them and how to fish them under differing water levels. It was one of the first bright, sunny days but we had a good go and it was nice walking back to Richard’s cottage for a pizza and sit in the garden before hitting the river again. Things weren’t to be but I’d mentioned that on the bright days it is worth heading down early to the river. I had done this a bit last year and it is really nice being there as the sun comes up. Anyway, Richard did just this and I had a call early the next day saying that he had landed his first salmon. He thinks it was a really well mended kelt but it is a great start to the second day of his salmon fishing career. My advice to him when I left him was to listen to everything anyone tells him about salmon fishing but don’t be afraid to do something from the left field. That is what he did and it turned out well for him. Well done Richard!

Richard swings a cascade

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You know when you’ve been Tangoed!

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

It was great to meet up with Mike from Devon (MFD) yesterday. He has taken up river fishing this year and I have been lucky to introduce him to moving water and I think it is fair to say he has been bitten by it in quite a big way. I have taken him to the Taw and Dartmoor this year and thought it was time he had a go at catching a grayling from a chalkstream too.

We met bright and early and headed off to fish. MFD is a prolific tyer and rather than me tie my flies on I thought it only right that we used his flies as I know he’d have spent a lot of time tying for this trip. We started with a NZ set up as the water was so low and clear and having asked if he had a pink bug the nearest we could get was orange. It did look a good fly and with a tiny hint of colour in the water it might just stand out a bit.

Fish on!

No need to worry on that front as Mike was into his first fish, and soon after, the next one. I must admit I gave him a bit of a ribbing about the brightness of the fly but this thing worked really, really well and he kept me busy releasing fish for him including a couple of hefty grayling that put a serious bend in his Bannister rod. The rod coped really well with the size of fish and cast the flies really well.

First fish!

We popped to the pub for a quick sandwich, or in MFD’s case fish and chips, and coffee and carried on. There was a very brief hatch after lunch, which allowed us to tie on a dry, but after it was over we went back to the orange bug and fished it outright looking for takes. Once again it come up trumps, so much so that I nicked one for myself. We came up with a few names for the fly on the way back but Mike settled on the Grayling Mugger and I think that it is just about perfect. Well done MFD!

Nice fish MFD!

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Salmon fishing….

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

I was off this week for my yearly fish on the Deveron. I have been going there for 5 years or so now and I really like it.

Running at about 60 miles in length it isn’t one of the big name rivers like the Spey, Tweed etc but it is only just below and has a very healthy run of salmon, sea trout and also some really nice brown trout too.

We fish at the very bottom of the river which means it is great fishing if the water is low as we get the fresh fish that will hold until the water levels rise again. If there is some rain the fish tend to head onwards and are usually picked up on the higher reaches of the beats we fish. When we arrived on the Sunday there had been plenty of rain and when we scanned the catch book everything was confirmed that the upper beats of the fishing were the place to be.

We were lucky to be on the higher beats and it was great to see plenty of fish showing. It didn’t take long for a good fishing buddy to see his line tighten and he lifted in to a fish. I did the netting duties and then had three really gentle takes in almost as many casts and then something a little bit more committed and I was attached to a Deveron salmon.  I offered the spot to my buddy and he had another good take.

Next day we were on the lower beats but I fished with Paul who has been a great supporter of our fly fishing school and was on his first ever salmon trip. He was casting beautifully and I stayed with him as I felt there was a chance that he would connect. He didn’t on his first trip down the pool but on the second all hell broke loose as his rod bucked as he was attached to a very angry salmon. He did everything by the book and after a spirited fight the fish was in the net. It was a great moment and even nicer for me as I have been with Paul when he has caught his first rainbow trout, wild brown trout, grayling, sea trout, bonefish and now salmon.

Paul and his first salmon

Next day, (Weds) the water had continued to drop and it felt like there was more chance of fish having to hold and make a bit more of an effort to navigate the pools. That meant that there was a chance of them stopping to have a breather and give us a shot at a few more. It worked really well for my buddy who landed two really nice fish and had some real fun stripping a really big fly across the tail of the pool. It was a sort of mutant Collie Dog fly but the salmon didn’t care and threw themselves at it.

The interesting thing was that I have worn a barometer watch for the last 5 years and it has been spot on when barometric pressure has been steady or rising and the corelation between this and taking fish. This time though we did catch them on a falling barometer which is a first.

Sadly the weather was against us and we got up on Thursday to torrential rain and a river that wasn’t going to fish. It was coming up at around six inches every twenty minutes and apparently ended up 13 feet above normal levels so we decided to head home. It is easy to cuss things and moan but that is just the way things go when you are fishing late in the season. Life is too short to get stressed about it and there will be other times and other trips…..

For the second year I fished a switch rod. I was lucky enough to get my hands on the Orvis Helios 11ft switch rod this time and paired up with a Skagit line it did everything I wanted it to and the 14 footer didn’t even get wet.

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Road trip

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

I love road trips of any kind and I took a few days off of work and Emma, Charlie and myself decided to head up country on a bit of a tour. There was no plan as such and we didn’t have hotels booked we just thought we’d drive and see where we ended up. All I knew was that I was guiding Gordon in 3 days time and needed to be back to meet him.

As the trip took on a life of its own we managed to head up to Stratford Upon Avon and did some culuture stuff. We even saw a Shakespeare play which was excellent. It was a first for me and I was amazed at the humour and how apt much of it is for today. It is funny that as people things don’t change as much as perhaps we think.

Jo on a guided day

We found a place on the M6 and stayed overnight and hit the Lake District. It was a real whistlestop tour but we managed to see plenty of the lakes and at about 5ish decided we’d crack on up to Edinburgh.  We did it in good time and I couldn’t believe we managed to get a room at 7.30pm on a saturday night that was right in the middle of town. We had dinner, went to the room and then hit the town early the next day to see the sights. We walked a fair bit and left at 4ish having looked at the map we thought it might be fun having driven up the west side of the country to head down the east side via the A1 and aim for Yorkshire somewhere. We got to Whitby at 6.30 to witness a superb sunset hitting the remains of the abbey. Being a Bram Stoker fan it was great to see what looked to inspire a lot of his great story.

Nick hits the river for the first time

Next stop was Scarborough where we managed to find a hotel and have something to eat. After an excellent full fry up we were ready to hit York which is a great town with lots of interesting stuff. The last bit was the only planned part of the journey where I had a flight back to Exeter but the girls were staying on a day. We also managed to have a quick look at Harrogate on the way to the airport.

Simon lands one!

It really was a superb trip and although I know this isn’t fishing related it dawned on me what a small country this is and how easy it is to get around (when the roads are behaving) and how easy it is to hop in the car and fish a new venue. In the U.S they think nothing of driving 2 or 3 hours for some fishing. Just think where that would take you here? We found cheap but excellent places to stay and there are some places in the Lake District that I would love to throw a few flies in to!

It was great to have my good friend Brett O’Connor down to stay. He is a great instructor, excellent fisherman and fine company. I was already working but we met up for dinner at the hotel and stayed up late chewing the fat about life and fly fishing. He went off to fish a small stream I know and met myself and my guest for the day, Charles, for lunch. It worked out well as some other guests had seen some salmon move on one of the hotel’s beats.

Charles had taken to fly fishing like a duck to water and so we thought we would hit the river and go over the casting while we watched the maestro Brett in action. We saw a fish move but despite Brett covering it with everything it didn’t take. It was great for Charles to see Brett in action and just watching a great fisherman is inspiring but also good to learn from.

The maestro Brett in action!

If you are based in London and want one of the best instructors and guides around you won’t get better than Brett!

Emma has been a constant companion when I have slotted some salmon fishing in and I said she was going to be lucky. I know she didn’t feel it was the case but it was good to see the line swing and go tight as I got into a small grilse on Thursday. Thanks Em!!

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Fly Fishing Guide

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

I was lucky enough to be on the water with Mike Weaver recently. For me, he is Mr Devon when it comes to fly fishing. He wrote the book that I just keep coming back to and it is the book that has inspired so many of my fishing adventures. It is a little hard to come by these days but if you ever get a chance to buy it don’t miss it as it is a great read!

The Pursuit of Wild Trout

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pursuit-Wild-Trout-Mike-Weaver/dp/1873674007/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1282823359&sr=8-1

It seems that fishing is in two halves at the moment. Black gnats are the main item on the menu in the morning and caddis in the afternoon. We have had great fun on the river skating caddis at both trout and sea trout and I was on the water with Peter the other day where we saw a nice sea trout move. I really like to get the fly moving to provoke an aggressive response and we managed to get one but not the hook up. We stuck with the large G & H sedge and cast it upstream and worked it back with short sharp strips. It was great to see that we managed to get responses for even the smallest of fish and if you are on the water give the stripped fly a go. It might just bring something up!

Peter had fished stillwaters here and further afield he had searched for salmon in Alaska and Canada but was a newcomer to small stream fishing for trout. He soon picked up that you don’t need to throw a long line and was catching fish on both dries and nymphs.

Peter and a Taw trout

It was great to have Mike back down again this year. Although it was a whistlestop visit with the family he managed to get out on to the water. As time was short we managed to hit a few pools and catch some fish too. I am ashamed of some of the things we threw into the deeper pools and I hope you’ll keep it our secret Mike!

Mike having cast one of my nasty flies!

Ian and his wife Mandy wanted to learn how to fish a river and so we were happy to oblige! Ian was a former Pro Golfer and it came as little surprise how quickly he picked up casting a fly rod.

Ian ready to strike

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