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Devon School of Fly Fishing Team blog

Archive for May, 2009

Always something new…

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

The great thing about fly fishing and I guess life in general is that you are always learning. I think that is why I like it so much. Yesterday I learnt something new, it was a new word. I had Dave over from Portland for the day and although he only had a couple he happened to mention that he had got a “taffle” I’d never heard this before but think it is a nicer word than a tangle. Although I don’t know if this is just a Portland thing or not I like it.

Just before I met Dave yesterday I popped in to the hotel for my pre fish cup of coffee. I’m not much of a coffee drinker but I love the brand the hotel uses. John, who I had earlier in the week, reckons it is real rocket fuel and a perfect kick start for a days fishing.

The weather was similar to what we had for most of the week, overcast and a bit murky. I thought we might be in for more of the same that we had exeperienced earlier in the week but as Dave pulled up the sun broke through and we walked down to the river in bright sunshine. It turned out that the mayfly were a little later and we had to cover some water to find fish that were rising but we got there and Dave managed our second best fish or the season (13 inches) on a great big may pattern. We had to swap patterns around a fair bit and sometimes the fish would like a more yellow pattern or sometimes a more subtle colouring but he did a great job.

I am so pleased that anglers are catching fish. Our catch board in the hotel is now only a handful of fish away from the entire total of last season already so I guess we must be doing something right.

I’m up on the chalkstreams next week with 2 guests for the week and am really looking forward to it. I stocked up on mayflies at Howard’s last week but didn’t think I’d have used so many down here so I’ll be back again today for more!

Dave into a good one!

Dave into a good one!

Fly Fishing in Devon

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

I’m just in from the river and what a week it has been. I don’t think I have ever seen better mayfly hatches down here in Devon in all the time I have fished and guided here. I have had the pleasure of guiding John for three days and we have watched the fish get really turned on as the hatches have intensified. I usually fish a size 14 during the mayfly here but they wanted big flies. We have been throwing size 10’s and fish of all sizes have been hitting them hard. I have to say that I don’t think I have ever been so excited as we watched a fish hit a natural and then watch John make a cast and the fish hungrily engulfing our offering.




I was just talking sea trouting with a guest and told him about Sunday night. I planned to nick a quick couple of hours just in case and had watched the pool I was going to fish. I saw a really nice fish take to the air. There is nothing like this to make the hear race a little. I walked down to where I was going to fish.  The spot where I get in is a sort of slide down into belly deep water. I did this with what I thought was a pretty good effort and was ready to go. I heard some bleating and turned round and saw that a sheep and lamb were caught on a ledge above the river. With me getting in the sheep had become a little agitated and started running along the ledge. Of course the lamb followed but wasn’t as sure footed and slid down into the water. There was no way it was going to get up so I popped my rod down and managed to grab hold of the lamb. This was no easy task in itself but I managed to point it in the right direction but there was no way it was going to get up the bank unaided. Now, I’m not the strongest of fellas but with some huffing and puffing I got it up and to safety but all the splashing around had put any chance of a fish into the “not happening” catagory. At least I’d felt I’d done a good deed for the day!

Fly fishing in Devon

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Well, we’ve had some serious rain at last and I am pleased to say that I have seen a number of salmon moving into our beats. I was on the water with a guest and although the water was against us we counted 7 salmon showing in one pool. I guess the sea trout will be doing the same so watch this space!

It was good to meet up with friends old and new at the Devon County Show today and I have another couple of days to go. I really enjoy it and sounds like we have some good weather for the final couple of days.

Richard the trout slayer came back for another day yesterday and despite feeling a little under the weather he fished his whatsits off again and had a number of fish. We had to head high to find some fishable water so I decided on showing him Dartmoor. We covered some ground and fished short with small dries. The fish liked a black version of a scruffy klink in a size 20 and we had to throw the winning fly away as it had been chewed beyond repair.

It was really nice showing him a new spot and he also has developed a love affair with fishing “pocket water” I think we’d both like to have seen the size of the fish that broke him but sometimes its things like that which keep you coming back for more!


The life of a Devon Fly Fishing Guide

Friday, May 15th, 2009

I was hoping to go sea trouting Thursday night and got a call from pal Toby to say he had heard of a few coming off of a local river and was planning to do the same. We swapped notes and I got my stuff ready. I was hoping to get to the water at 8.45 or so sit back and take it all in and then start fishing. I still felt I had a spot of unfinished business with a pool I had fished on Sunday so I was heading back to the same beat. No doubt as you are probably aware the heavens opened at 8 and it stopped me from heading out.

My real worry though was that I was guiding Friday and I didn’t want to get get washed off of the water entirely. The rain stopped about 9.30 or so but I was awoken at 5am by a heavy downpour. This first of all woke me up but also got me thinking what the plan of action would be. I headed to work and pulled over by the bridge at Eggesford and peered over. Thankfully the sight that met me wasn’t as bad as I had feared. The river was up but wasn’t carrying as much colour as I thought it might be. I pulled up at work and saw two guys having breakfast in what looked like fishing shirts. It’s funny that I can seem to sniff a fisherman at over 100 paces as it did turn out to be Mike and his brother David.

I joined them for a quick coffee and I suggested we hit a few beats for salmon and see what the river was going to do. One thing was for sure it wasn’t going to get better so we hit the river to try or luck. Mike and David were good casters and had their flies running down likely looking spots. It’s funny that you sometimes get a feel something might just happen but it didn’t on this occassion and I suggested we head up river a couple of miles to try our luck. Despite only a short trip in the truck we were met by a more angry river carrying more volume and more colour. The guys threw a few casts into a really good pool but we didn’t hang around too long. It was getting close to lunchtime but I had a hunch that heading to another river that runs off of Exmoor rather than Dartmoor might be worth a try and as trout was our intended quarry that we’d give it a go.

When we peered over the river to have a look it was just starting to colour up. We were in with a shout! There was little going on but I was determined to find a fish or two for the guys and, as ever, the scruffy klink in a slightly larger size brought up a couple of 8 inchers for Mike and a really pretty 12 incher for David. It was the perfect finish for a day that I had feared might not ever really get going but ended well and it was great to see a couple of accomplished anglers try salmon fishing for the first time and really take to it and also get so excited at the prospect of sea trout fishing….


A Fly Fishing Guide’s Nightmare!

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Do you ever have one of those dreams where you have turned up for work and forgotten to put on any clothes? I had the equivalent yesterday but for real when I turned up to guide Chris. Chris was a little early and so we chatted for a few minutes and I then went to put my waders and fishing vest on. My fishing vest sits on the back of my driving seat in the truck so that it is always ready for action. I grabbed it off of the seat and immediately noticed that the fly box that is pinned to the front of the vest was missing. It only looks a small box but I have just checked and it carries 175 flies. This had all of my Scruffy Klinks and a few other of my favourite patterns. I’ve also been tying a lot of quill bodied flies in both dry and nymph form and have been having a bit of luck with them too. Anyway, the box was heaving. I know this as I had tied some Copper Johns the other day and struggled fitting them in. So it was full and was no longer in the vicinity. I got this sort of light headed feeling as I was about to hit the river with a guest and my favourite flies were no where to be seen. I ripped out the back seats of my truck but it wasn’t there. Thankfully I had another very small reserve box and as luck would have it I had one scruffy klink sitting in the corner. We were starting to fish where there were a lot of trees and bushes so I kept him in reserve and as luck would have it when I made the change a little later the best fish of the day took it (12 inches)

I wasn’t so upset at losing them but it was all the hours of tying I had put in that was a shame. The other weird thing was that I had something similar happen before with exactly the same model of box although it was attached to a lanyard at the time and in a different way. The even weirder thing was that I lost that one just 30 yards from where I lost the first one. I have to admit that I had never planned to use one again but my wife Emma and daughter Charlie had bought me this box for my birthday so I was determined to use it. I had securely fastened it but clearly not well enough! Emma came with me down to the river this morning to have a look and as she has found a rod tip Id lost before so I had high hopes that she would be the person to find it. Sadly it wasn’t to be but I was still left without flies and I have, as ever, a busy guiding schedule.

Thankfully I made a call to Simon at Turralls who happen to be just up the road. They don’t sell direct but a fly fishing guide on his hands and knees was enough to allow me to pop in and pick some up. My only worry now is that the fish are going to have to get used to such high quality flies after seeing my stuff!

About 15 dozen flies!

About 15 dozen flies!

Many thanks Simon, I owe you a large one!

Fly Fishing Lessons in Devon

Monday, May 11th, 2009

I love my job. I like that when you meet someone for the first time you have just a small idea of what they are looking to get from their time with our little fishing school and in some small way we are able to help them make that time on the water just a little easier and much more enjoyable. It might be a newcomer holding a fly rod for the first time or a long time fly angler who was struggling with something but with just a little help you, and more importantly they, see what a big difference it makes. My job as a fly fishing instructor is to spot what might be the tiniest of faults but be able to remedy it with a simple and clear explanation. I think it is so important an instructor can see these things and know what is causing it, the effect on the cast and how to put it right. I can’t remember if I have written this before but I read somewhere about someone asking what tools they used for teaching. For me, the most important one I own is my mouth. As long as I can tell the client what is wrong and  break things down simply so that they can see what I am getting at , then we are most of the way there. A simple demonstration might help show the point and hopefully we have helped put it right. The world we live in seems to be riddled with over complication and I worry sometimes that fly casting might get a case of this. I hope it doesn’t. There is little need for it all it ends up doing is baffling the client!

I popped out for a quick sea trout session last night and got spanked. I had one hard smack from a fish which I think surprised the both of us and that was it. It sounds like there is some rain on the way which the rivers badly need to freshen them up and to help the migratory fish continue their journey. Last week I saw a few more mayfly on the water. The last couple of years I have noticed the trout have paid a bit more attention to them than the previous couple of years so lets see what happens.


Devon trout fishing

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

I’ve just had a couple of days with Richard. I think he should be called the trout slayer. He is relatively new to river fly fishing but you wouldn’t have known it. He was soon throwing micro loops under branches and into tight, unwelcoming snags and having lightening reactions meant that he wasn’t going to miss a fish!


All of his skills aside he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge and was firing questions left, right and centre which I had great pleasure in answering. What was really cool was how he was putting everything into practice and the impact it was having on his success rate. We hit a real purple patch where he just could do no wrong and the fish kept coming. Modesty prevents me for saying how many he had but it was a lot and I know the fish of Devon and Hampshire where he lives have something to fear.


I think this is why I love my job so much. It might be a newcomer who suddenly realises the fundamentals of casting and watches their line fly out to the other side of the lake or guiding on a river and my client makes a tricky cast into a back eddy, throws in a bit of slack and the big trout takes the fly. It is moments like these that are both memorable for me but more importantly for my client so that they have walked away having had a good day on the water but also have learnt something that will make the next time they are out on their own just a little bit more easier and enjoyable!

Here’s to you Richard, well done fella!

It has been great to introduce some ladies to fly fishing recently. They are always graceful, elegant casters. I recieved a couple of messages recently:

Hi Pete,

Thanks again, I feel confident that I shall not be a fishing disaster in Scotland in May next bankholiday. I will email you if I catch something!


Hi Pete. 
You have been such a great teacher and I will try to live up to your expectations. Thanks for being so patient on the river today it was a great experience.
Best wishes,

They’re here….

Monday, May 4th, 2009

I was out with Francisco and Beltran yesterday. Beltran had fly fished twice before on a stocked lake a little while ago and Francisco had never held a fly rod before. We worked on casting on our little trout lake and later hit the river. The rain we have had recently had taken the river up a little and there was a chance something migratory might have headed up our way. The top of Beat 6 is a good spot to look as there is a good holding area for anything looking to head upstream if there isn’t quite enough water. The guys put what we had practiced into good effect and Beltran shouted as he lifted his 7wt fly rod into a fish.  The bend in the rod told me this was no trout but it sadly came off after a couple of minutes. The excitement from all of us must have been a picture and we carried on fishing til 9.30pm. I don’t know who suggested we go in but it was pretty dark. As we fished the last pool I managed to get my net caught on a stray piece of barbed wire and had to go back with wire cutters to get it out today after finishing work! 

Bertram and Francisco

Bertram and Francisco

 We have been really busy with newcomers learning to fly fish, the slightly more experienced looking for some new tips or those looking to hit the river and let us help them catch a few. Just a few below…





Harriets first trout

Harriets first trout

Kofi's first trout

Kofi's first trout

I am out with Richard for a couple of days and we are planning to hit the river and see what happens…I can’t wait!

Not fly fishing in Devon…..

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

A good friend has a stretch of water that he has asked if I would like to fish with him. He has very kindly asked me for about 3 years and with the workload it has been a little tricky. I got close last year but this year when he asked I had one clear day and jumbled  tuition around so that I could spend two days.

I have promised to not give any details away and I will remain good to my word, all I will say is that I was not fly fishing in Devon!

I got there late on Wednesday night as I had been guiding Paul on the river and talked with my host for a bit and then went to bed. I don’t know if you are the same but the prospect of fishing a new water leaves me little time to sleep and I was awake at 5.30am and ready to go. I poked my head out of the window and saw that it was raining. Not heavy but it looked pretty set and looked like it was going to be a permanent fixture for the day. Needless to say my host wasn’t up and had been there for almost a week and had settled in to that nice relaxed camp routine and the last thing he’d want is an excited newcomer dragging him out to go fishing!

I decided to get my gear ready and had a brand new Scott S4 to try. It is an 8 1/2 ft 4wt and putting my obvious bias to Scott aside I have to say that I have a new best buddy. The rod has even knocked my beloved G2‘s into second place…it is a really, really nice fishing rod.

After some toast and coffee we headed down to the bottom of the river. My host graciously had left this section so that I was hitting it fresh. After a quick limber up I made the first few casts. As there were some slightly deeper pockets I wanted to cover both bases and so had a scruffy klink with a flashback pheasant tail nymph tied to the bend of the hook NZ style. We quickly saw a rise to my right and my first cast was a little short. I had feared that I had spooked the fish but cast again. This time I was on the money and a fish rose to my dry. I could feel this was a good fish and seeing it run upstream and against the current told me this was the case. I eventually got it under control and my host netted a fish. This was a monster. My new rod comes with markers on it for 12inches and 20 inches.I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the 20 inch marker until then. The fish was just a couple of millimeters below it…I couldn’t believe it!


My host had to pop into town so left me alone to fish. I worked up the next pool and saw a fish move. I covered him a couple of times but nothing. Third cast and the dry dipped. I struck and couldn’t believe it as it felt as though it was another hefty fish. I netted the brown trout and remember saying out loud “This is unbelievable”  This time it was an 18 incher!


I had to sit down for a bit and reflect, I had beaten my best ever UK wild trout and got close to it with my next fish.

The river also has some grayling too and I picked up a nine incher. I carried on and the rain had got a little heavier. As a whole we had been working the tails of pools and slower, slacker areas. I worked my way up a pool and the head reminded me of an area I have had a lot of success with when guiding on the Taw. I threw a couple of casts in and nothing. I thought I’d make one more and I was glad I did. The dry dipped again and another fish was on. In the words of John Wilson it was a clonker. I caught sight of the fish and knew it was another biggie. My host was watching and came up the pool and netted the fish. I measured it and it was even bigger than my first at 20 1/2 inches!


After releasing the fish and high fiving my host he headed down to the pool he was fishing, I threw in the hole again but thought that would be it. First cast the dry dipped again and I was in again and it was another nice fish! My host couldn’t believe it and neither could I. This one was 14 inches but again screamed right upstream when hooked. It really reminded me of both New Zealand fishing and New Zealand Fish. I was also really lucky to get a 16 incher and the amazing thing is that these are all wild fish, nothing stocked and we didn’t luck them when salmon fish, we were trout fishing.

I only fished for a few hours the second day but I netted a 14 inch grayling for my host and I hooked a couple of small ones just to prove they were there. It was just one of those days when the fishing gods smiled on me and one I won’t forget in a hurry but it was great fishing with good friends in a stunning setting.

I have promised not to mention where I was and I will remain good to my word, I’ll just call it mystery river X for now.