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Devon School of Fly Fishing Team blog

Archive for March, 2009

Sometimes you just have to roll your sleeves up!

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Being a fly fishing guide and instructor is a dream job, well, as far as I am concerned it is. I think people often think that you get to go fishing every day and you do but as long as you don’t mind holding the fly rod then it’s fine. If you feel that you need to be doing the casting or fishing then it might be some form of torture!

Anyway, I was on the river for a bit today but it was strictly fly fishing related in the sense going out there and catching fish. It was more of a case of preparing more than anything else.

There is a section at the very bottom of Beat 5 that is a really nice spot for migratory fish to hold and have a breather after they have  negotiated the top of Beat 6.                   



David at the top of Beat 6 on Sat

The only downside of this is that there are some nasty fly snagging branches just where you’d like to aim your spey cast and they’ve been bugging me a bit so I decided to give them a little trim with a saw. The saw I have is encased in a cardboard sleeve and being the great handy man I am it hasn’t seen a lot of action recently. I only realised this when I got to the river and took it out. It was a little bit blunt and a bit rusty. Oh well, I decided to wade across the river and have a go. I am glad the guys who were working on the bridge found it amusing as I hacked at the branches with the blunt saw as best I could and in the end did most of it by breaking the branches by hand. Despite everything I am really pleased and there is still some nice shade but enough room to get a cast and a nice drift.

I just hope I can hold a fly rod after all of this!

This is your last chance….

Friday, March 27th, 2009

It is often said that the back of my truck is a little bit of a mess. I have written before about the sorry state of the interior and I will hold my hands up to that one but the back is, as I see it, an area where everything is carefully filed away for when it will be next used. As I have been both teaching and guiding for both trout and salmon recently I want to make sure I have the appropriate gear ready just in case a client needs something and I don’t have one those “I left it at home moments”

As a result the rods have been stored either on the back seat of the truck broken up or inside the pick up part that is covered by a canopy again broken down. This isn’t one of my smartest moments and thankfully I haven’t come a cropper. What this did do though was make me dig out my rod loft again. The rod loft is an attachment that fits inside the canopy of my truck and allows me to store the rods off of the ground broken down and ready for action.

The Rod Loft

The Rod Loft

 The theory is great, what happens is that the arms have attachments that fit down into the rubber lining of the canopy. The downside is that in the past I have loaded my beloved Scott rods into the attachments and I have driven down the road only to go over a bump and the thing falls out of where I have attached it. There is that horrible moment where you pray that the rods are still in their regulation 4 pieces not 5! Hardly surprisingly the longest I have lasted with this is one day but I am determined to make it work. I epoxied the rubber seals so that they didn’t collapse (they have in the past) and it has held firm for me. I am almost into a week of hard use and it is working fine. I will report back progress in the next month or so.

I popped into Howards today and we got into a dirt kicking contest about who had spent the longest time without cleaning the outside of their car. We are both lucky that our cars are silver and don’t show the dirt up much and I felt pretty confident when I said to him mine was last cleaned in May last year. I was crest fallen to hear he beat me by 3 months.

Many congrats to my pal Jim Williams on passing his latest AAPGAI exam…good on you fella!

Nice weather we’re having?

Friday, March 20th, 2009

How nice has the weather been the last few days? It is stark contrast to the way the season started last year and it has been nice to be out on the water in just a t shirt and light fleece. From a fishing perspective it hasn’t been too bad at all. I feel like I have been suckered in to all this sunshine and my body feels a little like it should be summer already but I think this is wishful thinking. The hatches on the river have been kind of interesting so far in that they have been happening in two spells during the day (well, on the Taw system). I think it has been a case that the cold, clear nights have made the mornings a slow start affair on the rivers and the early riser bugs have shown a brief appearance later lunchtime and then as the sun has stayed out the has been a small second wave around 4 to 4.30pm.

It was like this yesterday. I was with Simon who wanted to do some fly casting tuition in the morning and then wanted to learn a bit about fly fishing rivers in the afternoon. After a sandwich and a pint ( a diet coke in my case!) we headed down to the Taw. We were fishing the home beat that is pretty well sheltered and hadn’t had a great deal of sun on it. We saw some odd large dark olives coming off but it just didn’t feel right. Simon got to grips with the river pretty quickly but the holes I thought might throw out a fish didn’t. It is times like this that you think that it might be worth a quick change of venue so we hopped in the truck. Part of my motivation was that I would hate to flog a piece of water for the sake of it when it is apprent there isn’t a great deal going on and having other options up the sleeve makes the decision process a whole lot easier. I don’t know if you ever get the feeling but it just didn’t feel “right”

Anyway, we jumped in the truck and hit the Bray which has a lot more exposure to the sun than the beat we had been fishing. The levels were still a little higher than I expected but Simon expertly threw his fly into the slacker spots looking for a taker. I certainly felt more confident and it felt a case of when, not if, he was going to get his first river fish. We’d started up the beat a little higher and it just hadn’t happened. I had spotted a few fish at the bottom of the beat as we walked up so we headed back down before heading off as Simon wanted a fish from our lake for his tea. It was just about 4 and the large dark olives were starting. Again it was only a modest hatch but it was enough to get Simon off the mark.

Simon gets to grips with double hauling

Simon gets to grips with double hauling

Support Your Local Tackle Shop!

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

It seems as the GB PLC is in a pretty bad state of affairs right now. Talk of  the “green shoots” of recovery have been a little premature to say the least. With doom and gloom seeming to be the buzz words I was really, really happy to go to a shop opening today. This wasn’t any old shop though, this was a new fly fishing tackle shop. The even better news is that they are just down from me in Crediton…


Fly Fishing Tackle is run by Howard, Helen and Kirsty. They already have a great online fly fishing tackle business but have decided that the opportunity of a new premises was too great and has allowed them to open their doors to the public. I often popped into their old place to have a quick cuppa, talk fishing and pick up some fishing gear but it didn’t lend itself as well to walk-in trade. Despite this there always seemed a steady stream of visitors and I guess this must have helped in the descision to have a proper retail premises. The new place is just a couple of seconds walk from Crediton High street and is large, airy and light it is packed with a very large variety of tackle to suit all pockets and all levels of experience. You are always assured a warm welcome and I think I overheard Howard mention sofas and coffee pots. I think they will find it hard for me to get out of there during the closed fishing season if this is the case!!

L to R   Kirsty, Howard and Helen

L to R Kirsty, Howard and Helen

The thing I noticed was the shop already has a really nice atmosphere. To me as a punter this is really important as you don’t want to walk into a place to spend some of your hard earned cash and you are made to feel like you are doing the shop owner a favour. There is little chance of that here and it is a real pleasure to visit. So it probably sounds like I am gushing about the place a bit and you know what, I am. The reason for this is that I have nothing but respect for a company that is bucking the current trend and trying to have a go and even better it is a fishing shop. With online auction sites offering a way to get a bargain some might argue there is no need for a tackle shop but when that bargain goes wrong or isn’t what you thought it was you’re stuck. You might end up paying a tiny bit more with a tackle shop but you also get advice, back up, the chance to handle or even better still try the equipment and if you are really lucky you might get a cup of tea! So in these hard times when you are considering a tackle purchase I really hope that you might consider popping into your car and supporting your local retailer. I’m signing off and wish the guys all the best of luck but I have a feeling they won’t need it!

Fly Hatches #4

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Whilst writing these I have come to the conclusion that I could have probably put the flies I have written about in slightly better order but it has been nice to just think about a hatch or a fishing situation and write about it rather than having any semblance of proper order. I’ll do my best to try and keep them a bit closer to the calender in future!

So, the next up on the list is the March Brown. This fly is one of our early upwing hatches of the season hence the name. It is a bit of a bruiser in size compared to the Large Dark Olive being about 4mm bigger but still a good 4mm smaller than the daddy of them all the Mayfly. Again like the LDO the March Brown has two tails. rhithrogena1

The nymph likes to cling to stones so when you turn one over you’ll often see them scuttle for cover. A pheasant tailed nymph will usually cover this stage of the fly with a bead head to get you down and an unweighted version fished just subsurface can get interest from the trout. I have hit quite a few hatches of these and I can usually be lucky enough to catch a good one on the Bray. I found a great little March Brown pattern from Simon at Turralls that I have used for a number of years. I usually fish a size 14 but also have them in size 16 as they are a great all rounder for olives too.


    The latin name is again a slightly trickier one to remember but for the record it is Rhithrogena germanica. Getting up close you’ll see the body of the fly is a really dark brown with light rings around the abdomen. If you hit one of these hatches at the right time it can make a really nice start to the fly fishing season with a dry!

I was out on the water yesterday and if it stays dry today we could be in for some fun for the opening of the trout fly fishing season. Interestingly I have noticed that the hatches of Large Dark Olives haven’t been as large as a few weeks back but with some slightly milder weather that we’ll see them get going again.

We are in the process of changing the look of the blog page so please bear with us but if you need the main site it can be found here.

No power….

Monday, March 9th, 2009

I was popping up to Kennick yesterday and hopped into my truck and went to start it up and not a lot happened. It seems like I have a flat battery and I’m not sure what caused it. I say that, I think one of two things might have caused it. I popped on the river with Toby on Friday and he had left his stuff on the back seat of my truck. The only downside of this was that he took a while to set up and my truck, as much as I love it, has this annoying little habit of resetting the alarm when it feels like it. This means that if you are poking around inside with the door open and it decides to rearm you will probably set off the alarm. As I said Toby took a little while to set up his gear and I kept having to reset the alarm…perhaps this did it? Or Emma got me a device that you plug into the cigarette lighter which you then plug you IPod into and it selects a clear radio channel allowing you to play your IPod music through your car stereo. It is really cool but I was thinking that leaving it plugged in the whole time might be draining the battery, the device also charges the Ipod so perhaps this has something to do with it too. Either way it meant I had to jump into Emma’s car and try and remember my waterproof stuff along with hat and glasses. Thankfully I did. I am charging the truck battery now so hopefully it will work…I hope it isn’t anything more serious.

I got a sniff of a fresh salmon being caught a little further downstream from us on the Taw. This means they are starting to head our way. I’ll be waiting for them and will hopefully get a shot at one or two. Toby thought he had a pull Friday but it is always hard to know and he would probably prefer I didn’t say that as he much prefers the black or white approach. You either had a fish or you didn’t. I think he is right but early season it does lift your spirits a bit to see or at least think that something might have been paying your offering some attention. In this case it was a Flying C.

The trout season is less than a week away. If the weather is up to it I’ll be hitting the Taw but most likely the Bray. If not I’ll be heading to Colliford for some brown trout fly fishing on Bodmin Moor. I’ll be stringing up the rod with an intermediate line and the ever faithful black tadpole. Small short, jerky strips usually work and we’ll see if this is the case this year.

Paul sent me an email yesterday telling me that fly tying can be potentially bad for your health…more from Paul below.

Fly tying is dangerous! A cautionary tale.


I have great little study. It has windows facing south and east and therefore catches the morning sun.


The L-shaped desk has one arm along the south facing windowsill with computer, filing etc above and below it.


The other arm sits along the west wall of the room and has all my fly-tying equipment permanently out and ready to go. A captain’s chair swivels conveniently between the two.


A few mornings ago- the first decent day in ages- I was happy sitting at the computer part of the desk browsing the internet and Pete’s new website and blog.



Suddenly, my wife cried out in considerable alarm that something was on fire in the house.


I was out of my study like a shot, nose twitching like a rabbit scenting lettuce. I, too, caught a strong whiff of something burning!


Strangely, it seemed to be coming from behind me! I returned to my study to find flames licking up the white card I place behind my vice to improve my view of work in progress!  Having doused the flames, it was clear a 2” hole had been burnt in the card.


The culprit was the magnifier mounted in front of the vice- a perfect combination of a sunny morning and the distance between magnifier and card perfect for focusing the sun on the card.



Happily no serious damage done- but I hate to think what might have happened had we been out or elsewhere in the house with the study door closed.

Thanks Paul!

Main website for Devon School of Fly Fishing is

Fly hatches #3

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

Next up is the Grannom. I have a special place for the grannom as it was one of the first testing grounds for the scruffy klink that I use almost exclusively these days. Paul is a good client of the fly fishing school and he  wanted some help tackling the Culm. It was early in the season as we hit the river early as Paul is keen as me and we made the long walk to the bottom of the beat. There wasn’t a lot going on at first but I tied on the scruffy klink and if memory serves correctly Paul was in to a fish first or second cast. shammerWe worked round a left bend into a slow moving deepish pool where the grannom were hatching and the fish were rising all over the pool. It was one of those magical moments where we were in the perfect position as everything started to happen. Paul and I were beside ourselves with excitement and he picked off fish as they liked the look of what he cast at them. This was one of the first times I thought we might have been on to something with this fly. I had last used it the last day of the previous season and it had worked perfectly through a caddis/sedge hatch. A week or so later I was on the water with Jo and my only prototype was lost on what looked like a really nice fish. Jo was a little upset that he had lost it but I thought it was a fitting way for the fly to go.

So a couple of facts about grannom. It is a member of the sedge or caddis family (Trichoptera). The easiest way to spot or think of this family is that they have roof shaped wings. I find an easy way to spot them from a distance is that appear and look more like moths flying around rather than how the upwings would fly. It is then a case of working out size and colouration to get you in with a shout. There are about 200 species in the UK but rather than having a multitude of patterns I find tan, green and black cover most conditions. As for patterns I am a fan of Al Troths Elk Hair Caddis and the G & H sedge. I have some G & H sedges in some big sizes that The Dude and I used one time we were fishing the Suir in Ireland at 11 o’clock at night in darkness. All we could hear were the rises so we would throw our flies in what we thought was the right direction!  As a whole though there is no need for a huge variety of sizes and for fly fishing in Devon I find sizes 14 and 16 work really well. Another pattern worth considering is the excellent balloon caddis. The adult fly has greyish wings and green/brown body.

Hatches tend to occur in April from around lunchtime although the one I hit with Paul must have been around 10 to 10.30am. The larvae build a case which is pretty easy to spot if you lift up a few stones. Always remember to put the stones gently back though.

In todays  impress your friends section the name is slightly more difficult to remember than the other flies I have covered as it is Brachycentrus subnubilus.

I have been a great fan of the work Al Troth has done since reading about him in Wisdom of  the Guides (he’s on the cover) and whilst writing  I found THIS on You Tube.

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What would you save?

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

I have various photos of grip and grin shots and of fishing buddies I have met and have fished with over the years. I like to look at them and remind myself of what was a good day or sometimes wasn’t such a good one but turned out well for some  reason other than fishing. I think it was John Gierach who said when asked how the fishing had been “the fishing was good but the catching poor” This sums it all up really nicely on so many levels and shows why we all love it so much. It isn’t about numbers it’s about the whole big picture.

Talking of which I, as ever, seem to have gone off topic a bit and in a bid to get back again I was thinking about all of my fishing photos both on the computer and the actual hard copies I have. Computers are great in that you can have files and files of pics to look through and it is nice to quickly scoot through them but there is something nice about having pile of photos in your hand that you can flick through.

I’m never going to give any serious photographer a run for his money sadly; I don’t have the “eye”, but there are some really good ones about and the internet is a great medium for us to be transported to far away places that we might only ever get to dream about. Sometimes a photo can say more than a guy on TV or DVD can possibly do and it lets us form our own idea of what the place might be like and if we aren’t ever going to be there then that’s a nice thought to have. I remember a website that had a picture of a trout about to take an anglers fly. It really was a cool picture and I found myself imagining it was a spring creek somewhere in Montana despite having no idea where it actually was.

Looking at the old “hard copy” pics the little mistakes that we have made are there for ever and we’ll not be able to change them, not that I’d want to as it all adds to the character-well thats my excuse.

Looks like I have wandered off topic again and what I keep meaning to ask is do you have a fishing picture that means a lot to you? If there were a fire and you could save one fishing pic what would it be?

The pic below is one that means a lot to me for a lot of reasons. Firstly as it was taken in Colorado in 2006 at Mike Clark’s place in Lyons. I had just been there to pick up a bamboo rod he had built for me for my 40th birthday. Emma had saved up for the rod for 3 years, ordered it and only told me when it came to how the rod was going to be finished. This was quite a shock!


From the left: AK Best, The Dude, some scruffy urchin and Mike Clark

The other reason this picture means a lot is that Emma told me about the rod then said as my Christmas present I should go out there and pick it up with The Dude coming along too. This was a memorable trip for so many reasons but the trip to Lyons was pretty special. It was so cool meeting up with AK and looking at his flies and to just to talk fishing with him. I think we covered everything from downstream dry fly presentations to bonefishing and just about everything inbetween!

Mike then shut the shop early and we fished the St Vrain just at the top of the High Street. I will never forget this as Mike was guiding me and Kathy who works with Mike was following me. I fished the holes like we would at home and I covered the water quickly whereas Kathy worked a hole methodically and kept catching fish. I soon cottoned on to the fact and got into the groove…well it was our first day!

One of the other reasons this picture makes me smile is that we had arrived the night before and The Dude had driven us from Denver Airport. I remember asking him (he is American by birth) how easy it was to slip back into driving on the other side of the road to the UK. “It seems to be pretty easy” was his reply. It was about this time he realised we were driving down Lyons High Street on the wrong side of the road. I’ll tell you about our other “off road” adventure we had on this trip another time.

I did try and load a photo of all four of us smiling. As you can see Mike isn’t really showing his teeth but he doesn’t really like his photo being taken and I have about 10 different shots and the expression is the same…I’ll try another time.

Needless to say the rod is everything I hoped for and more, and the attention to detail and skill gone into it is amazing.  There is now a 5 year wait for one of his rods. It fishes pretty well too! I often use it on the first day of the trout season where I usually like to fish the Bray. After all the rod is called the Bray Special so it seems only right.

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Fly Fishing in Devon 2009….

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

The season started in earnest on the Taw yesterday. 1st March is the start of the salmon season with fly fishing for trout on the 15th. I wanted to mark the occassion and fished a couple of pools on the Taw and although it felt like I might have been going through the motions it was really nice to be on the river I love so much. I seem to still have the lurgy thing I picked up on my return from NZ and I could only fish for a couple of hours without feeling a litle tired out. I am sure there is a lesson there which is probably along the lines of fishing hard for 2 weeks without either eating or sleeping properly isn’t good for your health. I tell you what though it was worth it!

I didn’t have any interest from a salmon but there is plenty of time, with the weather turning it might bring some water and a few fish with it. I’ll be waiting……

Our team member Graham who is up country was fishing the Avon for a last grayling session with his fishing buddy Robin. I have met Robin a few times now and had the pleasure of having a fish with him in Mexico. The thing I’ll always remember about him is that, like I, on any fishing trip he wants to squeeze the most out of every day that is possible and so it would often be the case that when the flats boats would come in at the end of the day he and I would pop our heads in to see how everyone had done and then grab a rod and shoot off and fish from the beach. the one memorable thing I remember is him snagging a lure (he was plugging for barracuda) on a mooring post but instead of breaking off he stripped down to his pants and swan out and retirieved it. It was a pretty brave feat considering the sand flies and mossies that were around!

Anyway Graham sent me a report that I have popped below…

My last jaunt out grayling fishing had been a dismal affair as it was during the cold snap just before the UK was “snowed in”. Anyhow, the fish were not in the mood, the water was high and coloured and my rod rings kept icing up. So to make up for it I thought I could squeeze one more day before preparing myself for the opening of the trout season.
So it was with high hopes Robin and I drove down to a middle beat on the Wiltshire Avon in conditions that can only be described as virtually the complete opposite of my previous visit. The river was high but falling and the air temperature was a sweltering 12C. I tackled up with a 8ft 8in #4 and put on two gold bead nymphs to start with. Activity was slow but I was getting the odd knock and picking up the occasional small grayling. Somehow I felt a change was needed and so converted to a New Zealand dropper with a knlinkhammer as the dry and a micro tungsten bead ptn on the tail. Immediately catches improved and the size with some of the better fish nudging 1.5lbs. In addition I caught a lovely out of season wild brown that spent more time in the air than under water. There were a few dark olives on the surface but very little were interested. I managed to rise 3 fish and missed every one of them; with style if I may say!


 The wildlife down here is
superb and today I watched 4 buzzards circling above me, saw 2 kingfishers zip along the river and the coup de grace was was watch an egret slow fly upriver. Robin saw a water vole which can only be viewed as encouraging for the future as these little fellows have had a torrid few years.
I noticed a few pike during the day and mentioned this to Robin as he always has a rod in the car for these critters and within one hour he had two on the bank, best 9lbs, and several swirls and rushes to his fly. The recent high water must have flushed these fish into the beat and the keeper was only too pleased to see a couple on the bank .
All in all a good end to the grayling season. Now let’s hope 2009 is a corker for all us trout bums!

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