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Devon School of Fly Fishing Team blog

Posts Tagged ‘westcountry fly fishing’

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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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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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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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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Mayfly fishing in Devon

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Wow, the mays keep coming along with the fish. Big patterns rule right now and we have been working the slower stretches of water with size 8 may patterns. The hatch starts at 11am and I have still seen duns coming off of the water as late as 7pm.

Nearly a photo of a biggie for Don!

I have only been using one pattern for the last week that has been working really well for us in a good mouthful size 8. I think we are lucky that we don’t get as big a hatch as they see up in the chalkstreams but this works really well as our fly is not lost in the cast of thousands that can sometimes hatch on some of the famous rivers up country. We have been covering fish that have been on the mays or making speculative casts into where we think the fish might be holding and sometimes it works but you just don’t know where the take is going to come from. Cast to the likely spot and hold your breath…

Alexander plays a big one we think was a sea trout that wrapped us!

We are lucky having miles of private water to guide on so you know if the fish are biting you are not going to have someone step in front of you. We are over the moon that our newest beat is on fire right now and has a really good mix of deeper water and there is miles of it!

My good friend Luke works a pool

It probably sounds like guide speak but I really can’t remember a more exciting time to be on the river. I have a long stretch of guiding without a break coming but just can’t wait, man, I love the Taw!

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Lessons from fly fishing

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

The low water we currently have has made the fishing a little more testing than usual, but it also makes my job even more enjoyable, as it means we get to fish more outside the box than normal.

Gary on days guided fishing

There have been times this week when I have been switching fly size from an 8 to a 24. There is a pool on one of the beats at the hotel that has just about everything for an angler. A nice lively tail, a slower belly with a nice bank where the fish can hide and a really nice riffle at the head. The belly has really been the interesting bit and the place where most of my fly changes have happened this week. The flow is slow and the fish have all the time in the world to make the choice if they want to take the artificial fly or not. It runs right up against a few root systems from trees and it breaks the flow a little where micro drag can be an issue. Just about every time I have been there a few fish have been rising and it has been great fun getting them to take.

Paul on one of our learn to fly fish days

I have also been checking water levels on the Taw before I go to work each day and since the trout season the most the river has risen is 1/4inch. I think the rain on Friday and Saturday night has brought the river up a similar amount but the fish have seemed to bite harder when there has been just a drop of rain. I have also started watching water temps a little more and the water has been sitting between 11 and 12 deg c. Sometimes though I think we might just think about things too deeply and we can get bogged or influenced a bit  by things we see and hear.

Rennie puts his switch rod through its paces

At the end of the day all the fish needs is food, oxygen and shelter and as long as the requirments are fulfilled they’ll be happy. Our job is to get the fly to them without them becoming alarmed and if we do, we’re in the game. It reminded me of last weekend when I was guiding Gavin and we fished a dry fly on a 5ft 13lb level leader. You know what? He cast the fly to them and they were happy to rise to it!

Tim lets one fly on a learn to fly fish day

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Fly Fishing Lessons

Monday, April 25th, 2011

It feels as though we have entered a really busy period over the last few weeks with plenty of anglers out on the water with our team having a good time and catching a few fish.

Dan into one of our rainbows

The grannom hatch has been really good and we have taken advantage of it but now it feels and looks like that is over and medium and lighter olives are on the trout’s menu.

Elizabeth lets one fly!

Lottie covers a likely run

Mark releases a fiesty Taw brown

There are some big sea trout on the hotel waters and I’ll get down and have a go at them soon. I also took out my good friend and fellow instructor and guide Brett and his friend Simon. They were down for Simon’s brithday celebrations and wanted to see if they could connect with a bass or two. It felt like it might be a little early but they were game and although they didn’t catch big numbers Brett managed 3 fish which was a great start to my saltwater guiding this year!

Brett and a bass!

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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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In the ring of the rise……..

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Thursday was a turning point for the change from early season fishing to the fish getting into the spots where you would expect, and hope, them to be. We’ve had some pretty good hatches of large dark olives, medium olives and some nice march browns too just to spice things up a bit.

MFD works his magic

The low, clear water along with good hatches has meant the fish have had more than half an eye on what is going on at the surface, but as ever the good old pheasant tailed bead head does the business when fishing deeper.

Rob covers a riser

I thoroughly enjoyed our casting day yesterday. I think it is better to call it a casting and fishing techniques dayas we packed loads in to the morning covering casts for the rivers and methods of fishing; both more modern along with traditional. We had 4 of us instructing and Emma taking some pictures as there was a good turnout. We then headed in for a well earned carvery and a team fishing session afterwards. Although I am on the water most days I didn’t fish a great deal last year so I am going to do my best to see if I can do a bit more. It was nice landing a good 11 incher though!

John covers the far bank

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