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Pete's Weighty ( Fly Fishing ) Words

Archive for February, 2008

Shows and more grayling!

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

We are off to the Spring Fly Fishing Show for the weekend and hope we’ll see some of you there!

In the meantime a few words from my good friend Paul about his trip to a chalkstream. 

A Beginners Glimpse of Paradise- P Fitzmaurice

I started fly fishing in June last year with two days tuition on a small, stocked lake. Hooked! I spent a happy summer undoing casting knots and hanging flies on bushes beside lakes all over Devon. In September, I had a guided day on the river Exe, catching, a 5″ trout a salmon parr and a grayling. Doubly hooked!

I spent the winter (with still-water fishing limited by an overfull freezer), itching for the river season to begin. I joined the Crediton club (12 miles of bank on our Devon lowland streams), dutifully helping with bank clearing to pick up clues from other members as to how to fish them.

During the season, I fished hard. My first three days were blanks; I lost flies by the score in the narrow, tree-lined streams ; I dropped floatant and fly boxes in the water and watched them sail downstream; filled up my waders falling into holes in the riverbed and suffered all the other frustrations that are part of a fly fishing apprenticeship.

I started to catch fish- and spooked, missed or lost a lot more! One mid-season day, flushed with success (three 6-inchers) I was mortified to bump into another club member, none other than Mike Weaver, who had hoovered up thirty! As the season drew closed, I finished with another blank day; each fish had required nearly two hours of fishing time.

As I thought of putting away my river gear for the winter, I got a call from Pete Tyjas. Pete is my fishing guru. He’s a fishing nut- infectiously enthusiastic about all aspects of fly fishing. He has developed a rare speciality. He uses human live bait to catch fish! He gets more fun from putting other people into fish than catching them himself! He’s also a qualified, professional guide and director of Wellard & Scott, importers of the well-known American Scott rods and Nautilus reels.

Pete invited me to join him for a day on the hallowed banks of a one of the few remaining wild trout chalk streams- the Wylye- on the last day of their trout season. Grayling would be the main target. Despite being desperately excited at the idea, I demurred; I could not possibly be good enough to take on such a challenge after just one season but “If you can catch on our Devon streams you can catch anywhere” easily persuaded me.

I spent a frantic week reading magazine articles about autumn grayling and tying “tiny pheasant tails, pink buggy things and a few Klinkhamers”- not the detailed recipes with diagrams I‘d been used to working from.

The weather forecast was dire- heavy rain and high winds. We set off for the 2hr drive through pouring rain and my heart sank- was this ‘day of days’ to be ruined? A quick comfort stop at a garage “grab a sandwich, there might be a lunchtime rise and we’ll be busy” (Pete’s optimism was undimmed, mine wasn’t!) and we finally arrived. A beautiful, pastoral landscape- someone had taken the heavy roller to a bit of Devon- with a beautiful stretch of river some 30 foot wide full of gentle ripples and slower, oily glides. The rain and wind eased to be replaced with dark, menacing cloud.

We tackled up and walked across the field to the bridge. Pete was talking ten to the dozen about reels, tackle and goodness knows what but I heard him not; I was stunned by anticipation; my surroundings and a foreboding sense of inadequacy. Trembling fingers fixed a klinkhamer to my leader with a tiny, tungsten-beaded pheasant tail, New Zealand dropper style, below it.

We walked into the river- no sliding down six foot muddy banks full of nettles here. A beautiful firm pebbly bottom made wading a joy for elderly, unsteady bones. It was so overcast and dark that the ultra clear water was impenetrable even with polaroids. Pete suggested a short cast into the gentle ripples, watching the bridge behind me in case I plinked the nymph on my backcast. Plink! Tie on another nymph! In quick succession I missed some five or six rises- trying desperately to persuade myself (and Pete) they were not fish but the nymph catching bottom.

Then I got my timing and hooked a grayling that rose to the dry. It was a little bolt of silver with small black spots on its flank; two golden lines along the length of its belly and that wonderful mottled magenta back and dorsal fin; a bit over ½ lb- what turned out to be standard for the day. No stepping up to the next likely stretch as I would back home; these beasts gather in shoals. A couple more were hooked, a couple more lost and (more than) a few casting knots caused by snatching at it in over-excitement.

Then came a slightly stronger, slower pull; dashes upstream then down; slack line tied round my waders; rod tip in a bush; but a 10″ brownie came to the net. Very chubby by the standards of our food- starved rivers; an almost metallic blue sheen from the mosaic of tiny scales along its back; deep burgundy aureoles round the black spots which covered its flanks and gill covers; a white line edging its anal fin and a beautiful buttery gold belly; an absolutely splendid fish.

A short shower was followed by a slight lifting of the Stygian gloom. Suddenly the clarity of the water became apparent- the river in front of us was alive with fish. This was now a real test- casting to individual fish- but there were so many that, if I got a rise from the one three foot left of my real target I could always pretend it was the one I was aiming for!

The next hour or so to lunch was pretty prolific. A little back eddy in a pot at the right of the main stream produced the fish of the day, a fabulous grayling of about two pounds that finally took at the fourth time of asking. The morning session produced 14 grayling (which fought like trout twice the size), Also 7 trout one of which at 12″ was the same length (and probably twice the weight) of my best ever.

Lunch was hurried- I couldn’t wait to get back to the water. The afternoon passed in a blur of fish caught, missed and lost (and of more casting knots!). Three times I caught fish on successive casts. I’ve only twice before had to use two hands to count my fish so I lost count, but the total was more than thirty grayling and over ten trout with at least half as many missed or lost. All these from around 1/2mile of water. Although some came to the dry, the majority took the nymph; there was no need to play with fly size or pattern, just replace those that got chewed up!

Time came for the last cast- at a little pod of unusually large grayling. These were something special even by the standards of the day. Still high on adrenalin, I gave the cast too much wellie and the flies soared into the tree beyond the fish, never to be recovered and spooking the entire shoal.

We drove back, tired but happy, through heavy rain. The next day, still on a high, I had to pinch myself to prove this had not been a dream. Being brutally honest once returned to earth, I was just good enough to have a wonderful day but a more experienced fisherman would have fared much better. Nevertheless, it was a rare privilege to be invited, all the planets aligned themselves and the weather relented. A truly magical day- a glimpse of fisherman’s paradise! Thanks Pete!

Birthday Grayling

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008


Just in from a most excellent day having taken Joe for a days guided grayling fishing. It was a special occasion as it was his birthday and thankfully there were a few presents waiting in the river for him. The river is still thundering through. It is lower than where I left it a week or so ago but still meaning options are still limited to heavy stuff. The pink nasty was the fly of choice and I think Joe was just a little shocked at how pink it actually was. Don’t forget pink is the new black. It again worked pretty well for us and even a brownie or two thought it looked the part which amused Joe as I think he might have had a few reservations about how something so bright would attract a grayling let alone a trout.

I’d love to say it was easy fishing but it seemed the fish have still not really shoaled up after all the water we have had so it has been a case of one or two fish and move on rather than locating and then systematically picking off a shoal. There had also been some overnight rain and the river was carrying some colour and there was a nasty down stream wind just to spice things up a bit.

Despite this Joe was up to the task and more and the amount of fish he caught speaks volumes on a day when many might have stayed at home.

So here’s to you Joe and a very happy birthday!

Down to Devon

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Graham continues to tell us about his fly fishing lessons and a little bit about when he came down to see us guys at Scott Flyfishing School HQ.

Well my next indoctrination to the world of “tight loops” and awesome
casting prowess was a trip down to Pete’s part of the world to meet up with
him, Bob and Mark to find out how inept I still am. I always thought I was
a bit of a nut when it comes to fishing but these guys are the ultimate
true geeky bums who I believe don’t count sheep to fall asleep but the
number of tight loops they can achieve. Upon arriving and welcoming me,
Pete ushered me in to show off a video he and Mark did on …..guess
what… You got it casting. And where did they film it? In a sport hall!
For some odd reason they were rather proud of it whereas I still get more a
kick out of Bond movies. A quick coffee and a chat and it’s off to the lake
out the back of their premises and some hard core casting. Mark’s
enthusiasm is infectious and I enjoyed the lesson immensely and I certainly
picked up many hints and improvements to my technique and that was despite
it being bitterly cold and blowing a gale. Anyhow just to show how badly
afflicted they are, at the end Mark suggested to Pete “let’s see if we can
get down to the backing and get a loop so tight it makes you eyes water”!
I’m sure there is medicine available to help these guys. Anyhow back to my
practicing in my local canal and next venture will be lesson 2 from Brett
and probably a bundle of criticism. Watch this space.

Practice makes perfect!

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Graham has entered the world of casting geekdom and has had some lessons from our good friend in London Brett O’Connor. He has been putting all of Bretts advice into practice on his local canal and wanted to share it with us….Now that Brett had pointed out my multitude of faults it was time to practice and try and iron them out. And boy have you seen my ironing? Anyhow down to my local water I went which is the idyllic Grand Union Canal full of dead bodies, condoms and the occasional barge. I took my trusty 9ft #6 outfit and found a reasonable piece of open water just below a pretty hump backed bridge. That proved to be a poor choice for within 5 minutes of me executing sublime snake rolls, double speys and snap-t casts I had a small audience. Sage advice along the lines of “you’ll never get a trout with that piece of wool” to “see if you can snare a duck” to “caught a cold yet” emanated from the bridge. The final straw that broke the camel’s back was “you need to cast less and give the fish a chance” led to me upping sticks and moving elsewhere. After that my casting fell to pieces. Ah well down to Devon soon and hopefully Mark will give me some “proper” advice.

The Fishing Mobile

Monday, February 18th, 2008

Rays VW is the orginal fly fishing mobile. I have fished with him a long time, the rods might have changed but the one constant is the fishing mobile.

What makes a good fly fishing mobile? Smell is important, it has to have odour of wet waders and perhaps a hint of fishing net too. Maps are a must that have to be shoved into the side pockets. The floor of the fishing mobile needs sweet wrappers from petrol station munchies and there needs to be a least 3 flies either stuck in the dashboard or in the cup holder if it doesn’t have already have an old coffee/water bottle there already.

My truck is getting there. I have had it 2 ½ years now and it has been on numerous fishing adventures. I have added a few little touches of my own. Firstly the back seats are a sort of all season wardrobe. I have 3 fleeces of varying thicknesses and 2 rain jackets. There are also 3 baseball caps and a beanie and my sunglasses are kept on the dashboard so I never forget them. I have the maps for both roads and OS for the moors and from Scott some furry dice that they say are for holding flies.

As all, I am very aware of the price of diesel and carbon footprints and keep thinking that I need a smaller car that is cheaper to run and won’t harm the environment but every time I come to do it I can’t pull the trigger. It starts every time, zooms up the A30 with no problems everyday and is just starting to get that fishing mobile smell.

Fast but clear….

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

I was lucky enough to have Friday off and go fishing with Ray and my good friend Paul from Cumbria. Paul had got up at 4am to drive down and meet us and bounced out of the car some 5 1/2 hours later where we had arranged to meet ready to hit the ground running. Paul is one of the most talented fishermen I have had the pleasure to meet and probably one of the most modest guys I know.

The river was slightly lower from where Stuart had left it the week before and I hoped he’d left a few fish for us too! I hoped that there might be the chance of a little hatch of Large Dark Olives (LDO) and with it a possibilty of throwing a dry at some rising grayling. I took Paul down to the river but although clearer and lower there was a pretty lively flow to things and any hopes of a New Zealand rig were put back and it was down to the heavy pink stuff. I stayed with Paul for a bit to see him in action and to be there when he caught his first fish. It was pretty cool when he did and to see how excited he was. That is the great thing about fishing, there is always something new to experience!

It looked like where the water had been so high that the shoals of grayling had spread a little and instead of picking 4 or 5 fish out of a hole that it was the odd one or two. Thing started to hot up around 4 o’clock time and even a few fish rose but not enough to cut off the ever faithful pink bug!

 I am taking someone up there next week and reckon if things stay as they are we could be in for a really good day.

I am hoping Mark will write about the magazine article he did with our latest member of the team, Jaqui as it sounds like they had a ball.

I had a call from our fishing buddy Toby who says the pike are biting at the moment despite high water and a call from our friend Lewis who is back from NZ and sounds like he has some fishing stories! He is popping in this week and I am going to see if he would like to write something for us as it sounded an awesome trip. 

The courses have proved popular already, especially the salmon and sea trout. Bob has secured another river beat for us that is rough and ready but stunning. We fished it last year and will prove testing for even the most experienced fishermen. I guess we are lucky to have so much fishing on our doorstep!

It is a busy week this week and I hope the weather holds!


What did you do at work today?

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

The last few days of good weather has been a special treat and it has meant all of us at Scott Fly Fishing School HQ have been able to get outside for a quick dose of vitamin D. It might be a case of someone completing a job and wandering over to the rod rack, grabbing a rod, reel and line and going out front and having a cast. Yesterday there was Bob, Mark, Jaqui and myself at work. It was actually a pretty busy day but Bob grabbed a rod and headed outside to throw a couple of loops. Jaqui and I were doing something in the office and Mark was sorting out a wader delivery. As Bob grabbed the rod I counted down the seconds before someone joined him and I am pleased to report it only took Mark 9 seconds to step out with him. Needless to say it wasn’t long before we were all out there having a throw.

We often just play around with some casts and sometimes pop a plate or dog bowl down to aim at but it usually ends up that we try and curve a cast around the target rather than trying to hit it which is a bit more fun. We do have a new game though which involves us trying to cast as much fly line onto the roof of our building as possible which although childish ( I hold my hands up!) is hugely amusing. We have managed to get a whole line up there but the trajectory means that the back cast is thrown down onto the ground and then launched up at an equally acute angle. We have called this the “concrete haul” where I have a theory that the slightly rippled effect of the car park act as an anchor point for the back cast….well thats my excuse!

Anyway, the purpose for this is to let you know that looking after your fly fishing tackle is really important and one of the often neglected pieces of equipment is the fly line. We often cast in the car park here and I am sure you can imagine the amount of muck that the line picks up and also the effect this has on the rod rings. By buying a line cleaning outfit and regular cleaning,  your fly line will give you a much longer service and will remain nice and slick which will give you a few more feet on your cast than if you just leave it sitting in the bag.

 Tim popped in this morning and had a good day on the Tamar yesterday. The water is high but clear and he managed a few on bugs. I have tomorrow off as I am on a chalkstream chasing grayling. Mark and Jaqui are off doing a magazine article and Bob is putting the finishing touches to the catalogue. There are lots of exciting pieces of news to tell you which I will hopefully be able to do next week.


Going green…..ish

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

One of the things I really love is my truck. The only downside is the appalling fuel consumption. Those of you who have sat along side me know that I don’t hang around when driving and I guess this is partly my fault at having a such a heavy right foot but I still have a problem with the amount we pay for petrol and the amount we are taxed.To me, it looks like the UK is in for a tough 2008 with house prices falling, huge consumer credit and other things like huge heating bills and the ever spiralling price of fuel not helping the situation. Looking at the amount I put into the truck I knew I had to make a few decisions. Do I change my car for something a little smaller?…no way. Do I buy an older car and convert it to LPG?…little chance as my mechanical skills are woeful and the chances of me fixing a problem are slightly less than zero.

It looked like I might be heading down the Fiat Panda route when Emma happened to mention that a new Biodiesel petrol station had opened a short distance away from us. Not having the faintest idea what Biodiesel was I popped down and spoke to the owner.

The bottom line is that it is basically refined chip fat. The best thing is that it costs 96p a litre. Not a huge saving but a little bit more bearable than I have paid in the past. The truck seems to run equally as well and the only downside is that the fuel can freeze. As long as I keep the truck garaged I should be fine.

There is one little thing though, I can’t shake the idea that I can smell fried food every time I drop down a gear and accelerate!

What sort of stick?

Monday, February 11th, 2008

My rod collection seems to be growing at an ever alarming rate and as I write this. I am sitting looking at the pile thinking if it had to be one which one would it be?

Well, if it had to be one to cover everything it would probably have to be a 9ft 5wt but if you limited me to one type of fishing for the rest of my life it would, without hesitation, be river fishing. So if this were the case all the 9ft and above rods would be dumped. I use an 8ft 8” 4wt on the bigger rivers and chalk streams but I love the little stuff and this rod would be a tad too big for some of the places I like to go. I have 1wts, 2wts and 3wts as well. The one weight is surprisingly usable in most situations even with a downstream wind and even with a nymph but no good if I were to fish a bigger stream so that goes into the reject pile. Do I do the same with the 2 wt? On the face of it yes but what about if I pop a 3wt line on it? The extra weight will bend the rod at short distances and will do just as well at longer range too but I can add a 2wt line if needs be. There isn’t a rule about how many lines you can use is there?

I always think it’s cool to fish light lines and have always enjoyed it. Don’t forget our fish are small so we don’t usually suffer the titanic battles that stillwater anglers sometimes face. As an aside though I have landed plenty of good sized carp of 4 and 5 wt rods in quick time and with no stress to the fish.

The length of my 2wt rod is 7ft 7 which is perfect for just about everywhere here and would cope on most rivers without too much of a problem. The only difficulty might be on some of the wider stretches of the chalk streams where you aren’t allowed to wade but that is part of the fun isn’t it?

Poking out from all the graphite is some bamboo. I love bamboo. I fish it regularly and enjoy it. Does that mean we have a new contender? It might just be. The pick of my pile is the South Creek 8ft 5wt built for me as a 40th birthday present from Emma, my wife by Mike Clark in Lyons, Colorado. This is a wonderful rod and is called the Bray Special after the wonderful river Bray where I fish and guide.

This is going to be a tough decision and I’m torn but it has to be the Bray Special. The 5 wt might be a little heavy in some of the places I like to go but I can just lengthen my leader. I have fished this rod here and in the U.S. and will cast a size 20 midge to a size 8 wooly bugger with equal ease. Come to think of it I could use it on a lake as well.

If you are heading down to Devon to fly fish I reckon an 8ft 4wt will see you right for just about anything the West Country rivers have to throw at you. All you need is a tapered leader 2 and 3 ½ lb tippet and just a few flies…now don’t get me going on flies!!

High, wide and handsome…

Friday, February 8th, 2008

One thing if nothing else is that I am determined. This was tested to the maximum a couple of days ago when we turned up to try and catch some grayling from a well known chalkstream. I feared the worst driving along the valley seeing how high the water was and it looked even worse when we peered over the bridge and saw that you couldn’t even see the bottom. Stuarts dreams of low,clear water with gently rising grayling were shattered when it looked more like the Taw in full spate.

Walking along the bank (it was flowing to fast to wade!) it looked like we should at least throw some heavy bugs into the margins and see if anyone was home. Stuart is one of these guys who just catches fish no matter what and 3rd cast a 10 inch grayling picked out his pink bug in the gloom. Moments like these spur you on and more fish were to follow to the same method. We kept mobile and covered lots of water and caught more than our fair share of fish. It was supposed to be a 2 day trip and it stayed that way but it ended up a slightly early finish due to more rain but that day and a bit window of opportunity proved the old saying “if your flies aren’t in the water….”

I’m sitting here writing this smiling thinking of the 15 inch grayling Stuart caught that managed to take line upstream when the rule book would state something else!