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Devon School of Fly Fishing Team blog

Archive for April, 2009

Fly fishing in Devon

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Well, we have had some rain, the river is up a bit and a 6 1/2 lb salmon has come out just down stream from us. It feels like fly fishing in Devon is getting even more exciting!

I was guiding on Sunday and the Taw was the most alive I have seen so far this season. The grannom hatches are easing right back now but they have been replaced with gnats, caddis, olives and I even saw a lone mayfly who was just a little bit early. Up until Sunday the fishing had been in bursts of activity but it really felt that the bugs have felt all is good and are ready to rumble.

I am hoping that the rise in water will also bring some sea trout up to us as well.

We have been flat out introducing newcomers to fly fishing and also showing regular fishers the River Taw and also a few early season surprises too!


 Here is Mike with his first wild brown trout, he is a delightful caster and lands the fly just perfectly. We were really pleased with his casting and fishing and more improtantly so did the fish!








Graham, was a newcomer to fly fishing and spent the day with us after recieving a gift voucher from his son. We showed him how to fly cast and then we did some fly fishing for the rainbows in our lake. The fish weren’t obliging at first but a damsel fly came up with the goods.





 Nick was really keen to try and catch a bass. We first worked on fly casting and how to double haul. We then headed off to see if we could find a bass or two. Some might say we were a tad too early but we always believe that if your fly is in the water you are in with a chance. Nick proved the point perfectly!

Dry as a dry thing…

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

It’s been a bit like the Caribbean of late where we just get a short burst of rain and the weather picks up a bit afterwards. This has meant that the rivers are pretty low right now. This doesn’t seem to have hurt the trout fishing a great deal and the numbers of trout caught on the hotel’s waters are already 1/3 of the total of what they were last year. So if the quality of the fishing continues we should be in for a big year. We’ve had trout to 14 inches and plenty in the 10 to 12 inch range.

I heard of a 6lb salmon coming out just a few miles downstream and so they are not far off now. This is where some rain would come in handy and bring them to us!

We have had plenty of happy fishermen and women who have left some nice comments of late and have enjoyed what we are trying to do with our fly fishing school.

Hi Pete,

Thanks for the lesson on Sunday.

Trout was lovely for dinner. They cooked it really well.

Hope to be able to come out again and get some time on the river.



Hi Pete —

Thanks very much for a good day’s fishing; I greatly enjoyed it, and I
certainly will be back.



Hello Pete

Many thanks for the coaching yesterday – I feel I learnt lots of useful things and am greatly looking forward to getting to the water to try things out again.

With best wishes


Trout Fishing in Devon

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Don’t get me wrong, I love fly fishing stillwaters especially beautiful places like Kennick and rugged Colliford perched above Bodmin Moor. Most of all though I have to be honest and say it is the trout of our rivers that just keep amazing me. I have such respect for them and how they manage to survive in such tough conditions and in some cases how they go on to achieve, despite their surroundings, such great size. These guys have been to the school of hard knocks and play dirty when they are hooked. They have spent their whole lives trying to eek out a living. I often say to guests I am guiding that if you can hook one here then you can anywhere. I think I have written this on the main site somewhere but I really think it is the case. Sometimes it might even just be a rise followed by a refusal and the chance has gone but for me that is enough. I think it is one of the reasons I love fly fishing so much and still to this day find it mind blowing that we tie a fly out of fur and feather that we think might be a good representation of what we think the fish could be feeding on and then we make that perfect cast and the fish decides that looks right I’ll have it.

I guess this is why I fish mainly for the take, I love that moment when you see your line dip or a rise to the fly. There can sometimes be the case that there is something a little special on the end of the line size wise and then the fight is more so I can see a glimpse of what was living in the hole I just got a take from. I think if I ever get tired of this all then it is time to call it a day!

Michael and a Taw brown

Michael and a Taw brown

I had a great day on the river with Michael who was a newcomer to river fishing. We headed down to the bottom of Beat 7 as I knew it had been fishing well. I wanted us to fish a couple of nice runs and it turned out to be a good move. Michael was soon getting into fish and had lightening reactions meaning he connected with just about every take…I have a feeling he might be getting a thing for rivers and it was great to recieve such an enthusiastic email from him!

Thank you for guiding me through the perils of river fishing. I had an absolutely wonderful day and to have caught so many wild fish was delightful. I can say that I am now totally converted from lake to river, which won’t be great for the bank balance but stimulating for the mind.
Your expert advice and tuition really helped, from the adjustments to my casting (I now think I need to get another fly box stocked!) to reading rivers and finding the hot spots. It was obvious that you are totally passionate about your craft and the wildlife we all aim to catch and that really radiates and hopefully has rubbed off on me.
I thoroughly enjoyed spending the day with you, many thanks again



Monday, April 13th, 2009

I don’t know if you are the same but when I go pleasure fishing I sometimes find it fun to set myself a little challenge. Before I go any further I want to say that I am one of the most uncompetitive people around. When I fish it’s just me against the fish. The odds are usually stacked against me but I kind of like it that way! What I mean by challenge is I like to try and set something that makes life a little more difficult and makes me think as a fisherman. I was teaching Peter but when I was done I popped off for a quick fish myself.

I headed up the Taw a bit from work and strung up the 2 wt. Although it wasn’t the warmest of days we have had of late I decided I was going to walk the river and to only cast if I found a rising fish. This perhaps doesn’t sound either that exciting or interesting but try walking up a river and and resisting the temptation not to flick a fly into a likely looking hole!

As I mentioned there wasn’t a lot going on but I decided I wouldn’t crack. I saw a small one rise but my fly was a bit too much of a mouthful for him and he bumped off. A trickle of grannom got the fish a little more interested and although not a heavy rise I saw a couple of fish moving and covered them. I had one and another didn’t like my scruffy klink and refused to show again despite me waiting for an uhealthy amount of time. Moving on I saw a fish move on the seam of a faster run and he didn’t hesitate on hitting the. Again it wasn’t a huge fish but he was welcome.


The nicest fish rose just once towards the tail of a pool and confidently took my klink. So was it worth it? You know what, it was. I also learnt a little bit about myself as a fisherman. I tend to fish pools pretty quickly but it was interesting taking my time and waiting to see if anything happened. Whoever said you don’t stop learning is right!

Philip with a nice trout from the Taw

Philip with a nice trout from the Taw

Fly Fishing in Devon pt2

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Graham wrote an interesting blog regarding the difference between the fly fishing he does back home in the South East and the fly fishing down here in Devon. With fishing generally it is a matter of you sometimes having to adjust your style of fishing to match your location. As he writes below having to alter your strike speed is a perfect example but I always think that if the fundamentals are in place and you have got your fly to your target and the fish has taken then a large part of the job is done.  It is simply a case of fine tuning the last part to make everything click.

Al having a lesson on our trout lake

Al having a lesson on our trout lake

For me fly fishing is about the art of deception and it never fails to amaze me how we tie a fly made from fur and feather that we think a trout might be feeding on, tie it to the end of our leader, cast it to the fish and he thinks it IS food. Sometimes they stick, sometimes they come off. I can honestly say I don’t think I have ever been haunted by a lost fish but ask me at the end of my fishing career and you might just hear a different story.

Anyway, over to you Graham

Richard with one of several he caught on a dry

Richard with one of several he caught on a dry

Being based in the “soft” Southern part of the country it is always interesting to compare and contrast with other parts when the opportunity arises. Last weekend I was able to do that when Pete asked if I wanted to help with a large group he and Mark were looking after and then do a bit of fishing thereafter. Naturally I thought about it, discussed it with my family, relatives, neighbours and friends and after putting it to vote, hesitatingly agreed. So on the Saturday I fished my local water which is the Lea in Herts which is a narrow relatively slow moving chalkstream stocked with predominately browns of circa 2-2.5lbs. The reason for this is we are next to a SSSI and there are quite a few cormorants that particularly enjoy sub 2lb brownies. It is also frequented by many bird twitchers and woe betides us if we were to apply some cormorant preventative measures! We also over winter the fish and some are rather large and wise but in the correct conditions can be caught. We have a mayfly hatch but outside that fly life is sparse and thus, although I am first and foremost a dry fly addict, have to resort to the nymph at times. This was the case on Saturday. Water clarity was pretty good on account of lack of recent precipitation and it was possible to spot some fish. The general approach here is to use very small (#16) lightly leaded grhe or some variant like nymph, cast about 3 feet in front, let it drift down and when just in front lift slightly. This usually prompts a response. If all goes correct a large gob opens, slowly closes and as if in slow motion you raise the rod and we have contact. No lightning reflex action is necessary. This was the case on Saturday and it was a pleasant outing.

Roll-on Sunday and what a difference a few hundred miles can make. Mid afternoon saw Pete and I waving our group of guests goodbye and sped off to the Bray for a few hours. Weather was nice and there was quite a lot of fly-life with grannom showing and some olives. We started off with just a dry klinkhammer and although there was very little surface activity I managed to raise a couple and miss them with style! So we switched to a New Zealand with a small gold bead about 2 feet below. Pete quickly hooked 2 fish and upon giving me the rod I managed to hook several trees in succession – I’m sure they reach out to capture the flies! I eventually caught a small brownie and then lost fish after fish after fish. I give the rod to Pete and he promptly catches a nice one. I get the rod back and promptly lose the two flies and so diplomatically call it a day

Apart from the fact I can’t catch Devon fish to save my life what do I make of this? Well apart from the fact that these Devon fish could dart into and out of a Lea trout’s mouth before he could close it and foliage avoidance is as much a challenge as catching the fish it’s all down to surroundings. The Lea meanders through flattish terrain and the fish are so large they have little in the way of predators and so fishing is more gentle and everything slows down to reflect the surroundings and quarry. Whereas Devon streams are faster chuckling entities with lots of canopy cover and populated with nervous critters who dart away at any unusual movement. The fish have to eke out a life and will engulf and reject a fly as fast as Usain Bolt can sprint. Hence ones approach to Devon has to be quite different to the South and it takes a while to acclimatise (well that’s my excuse anyway!)

What do I prefer? Actually I enjoy both but perhaps not in the same weekend!


Fly Fishing in Devon

Monday, April 6th, 2009

I just love this time of year. Everything is coming to life including the fishing. The settled weather has meant that fly hatches have not just been confined to what the book says about lunchtime and the fish have been taking as late as 5 o’clock and beyond. I know this weather is probably going to break at some stage but it’s  just great to be out on the water as a fly fishing guide and as a fisherman too.

The fish are really getting locked onto the grannom on the River Taw and it has been good to see; not to mention exciting!  Already this season I have seen 3 otters, one of which was a cub that sat on a rock and watched us.  He then showed us how he would swim down stream, jump out and show us how clever he was again. This took place just a few feet away and was a real treat. Nick the owner of the hotel was gutted as he hasn’t seen one yet this season!

Walking along the banks of the river you’ll see the primroses and the smell of wild garlic is everywhere. It’s just all these sorts of things that make being on the river such a special place to be.

I saw the first signs of hawthorn fly on Thursday so I’ll be keeping my eyes open for this to get going too.

Below is a photo from a river course we did Sunday, I popped it up as I feel sure there should be a suitable caption for it!

Many thanks to Nick and Tara for looking after 20 hungry fishermen so well.


Confession Time

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

I know I wrote about how I didn’t clean my truck a great deal and hadn’t since May last year but I feel I have let you all down and washed it. I feel better that I have got this off my chest but I was on my way home from work and the most excellent jet washer at Lapford was empty and I had a few pounds left over from lunch so it seemed rude not to. As ever there was a slight calamity in that I had come straight from the river and was still in my waders and wading boots, the girl at the petrol station must have thought this was a little extreme for cleaning my car but I thought what the hell. The area you park your car in is nicely concreted and has drainage but the area where you stand to jet wash is grassed and very slightly sloped. My excellent Patagonia wading boots can cope with just about anything a river bed wants to throw at them but muddy slopes are slightly tricky. I managed to do what I’d call an impression of Bambi on ice and ended up on my back sending a coloumn of water straight up and back down on to me…oh well, if you can’t laugh at yourself what else can you do?!

Graham did some ressie fishing last weekend and wrote a little bit about it below…enjoy

It’s ok for you folks located in Devon for the trout season opens early in mid March. Here in the “rural” South we have to wait for April 1. So as I had finished my grayling stints there was a void and when John came round by and asked if I fancied some bank fishing at Grafham I hesitated for 0.001 of a second before answering in the affirmative. Now I am not really a stillwater fisherman but I can hack the bank for a bit but at least I can dawdle to whichever bay looks attractive whereas on a boat my rear end generally roving like tendencies get the better of me. Anyhow Saturday was forecast to be rather breezy and so we altered tack at the last moment and elceted to give Pitsford a bash for it has more sheltered spots and does not colour up in the margins like Grafham when there is a blow.
It was one of those days when four seasons passed in several hours but as the wind was over our shoulders and we were well insulated it wasn’t a problem. Catching fish was though!
By lunchtime the score was 1-0 to the fish with not a knock to show for our efforts. We both had intermediate lines on with long leaders and were obviously hitting the bottom for we were dragging in lots of weeds.
We noticed one angler bending in to fish at regular intervals and so upon asking the successful method received the oh so familiar response “booby fished with figure of eight retrieve”. Now I don’t know about you but I am perhaps a little old fashioned and cannot abide using boobies, sparklers or fritz like creations for, in my opinion, they are not flies. So I thought right how about a deer hair sedge on the point and a dawl bach on the dropper with the objective to get the dropper to fish just off the bottom. And hey presto it worked for we started to get some interest. First John had his dropper smashed, and this was 7lb test, and then we missed several strong hits but eventually we connected and during the afternoon landed some lively rainbows in the 2.5-3lb range.
So all in all a good preamble to getting back into  the trout season but give me running water any day!

John with a nice rainbow

John with a nice rainbow