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Devon School of Fly Fishing Team blog

Archive for October, 2009

Lessons From Fly Fishing

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

There is always something new to learn in fly fishing. I think that is one of the resons I love it so much. It might be a new technique or new perspective that makes you think “mmm, I see, I’ll try that.”  The real nice thing is when it works and you, in turn, can share it with someone.

There are so many avenues fly fishing can take us up.  It might be casting, fly tying, entomology or rod building to name just a few and then you throw the actual fishing in too. The moment we think we know it all then the adventure is over and then do we just sort of go through the motions?

I was on the river with Richard The Trout Slayer the other day and watching him catch some nice grayling so I guess we’ll have to change his name a bit. Anyway, the thing that struck us was how much the chalkstreams are suffering through lack of water. It meant long leaders, small flies and gentle presentations and it worked.


We ditched the bright pink stuff and fished size 20 bead head pheasant tails and red Copper Johns under a dry. There were even a few taking the dry despite some pretty heavy rain. I had some nice photos of some grayling that he caught and a nice one of a grayling that decided it didn’t want to pose but Charlie, my daughter, had been playing with the camera and set it to macro. We wanted to get the fish back quickly so the photos didn’t come out but they are etched on our memories….don’t get me going about my memory!

Fly Fishing Tuition

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Well, I’ve covered a fair few miles over the last few days but there will be more of that in slightly later blogs. One of the trips I made was to Wales to our fly fishing instructor’s get together. I was lucky enough to meet up with a few people making their first steps into becoming fly fishing instructors and I was amazed by the high quality of people I met as casters, fishermen and as nice guys too. I guess our Association’s (AAPGAI) standards are high and having this sort of benchmark that makes it such a challenge to pass and such a reward when you have passed it. I was only there a short time as I had to shoot off  and whilst writing this blog have just had a call from Jim saying that sorry we didn’t get much chance to catch up…I hope we can get to fish soon fella!

I was back Monday meeting up with Chris and Joan for some fly fishing tuition who were over from the Isle of Man to learn how to fly fish. Chris had tried it once before but Joan was a newcomer. They are lucky enough to have both lakes and streams on the island so I gave them a good idea of how to approach both so that they can tackle anything the fish over there want  and we did a bit of fishing too.

It is great when people are learning together as you can show them what to spot so that if they are out and something doesn’t go to plan they can help each other out.


It was great to see Joan land her first fish! At the end of the day it started to get cool so we headed back in for a cup of coffee and in Joan’s case a hot chocolate and rum and reflect on a job well done!

It is typical we now get some rain and I guess I’ll be watching the salmon making their way further upstream.

Fly Fishing Guide

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

I got a text from Dave from Portland the other day asking what I was going to be doing now the river season was shut. Thankfully there is plenty to keep me occupied with fly fishing guiding after other species and tuition too but I also get a little bit more time for some fishing myself. I’d told him I was going grayling fishing with some pals and he said he wanted a photo. So Dave this is for you!


The 2 pals I fished with yesterday and I were talking  over lunch yesterday about what fly fishing meant to us and we sort of came to the conclusion that it was everything!

Now, there are probably quite a few other people who could say the same, which is great, but there are also some who enjoy it now and again. I try to fish as much as I can when I have the time and both Emma and my daughter Charlie have become really nice fly casters. When I get new rods I will often ask them to cast them as I get some really good, unbiased feedback. When it comes to the fishing itself I would love it if both of them fished and loved fishing like I do but I have to accept that you can’t just force a passion on someone. That having been said I do use Fathers Day as just a tiny bit of leverage to get Charlie on to the river with me and although she couldn’t make the day itself this year I didn’t forget and she agreed to join me on the river for an afternoon. Usually it sort of ends up as a nature ramble but I took Charlie where there was a chance of catching a few and she duly did the honours. I also wanted her to road test a Helios for me and she gave it a thumbs up!


Charlie is 18 next year and I suspect our time on the river will become even less but I think I can just about remember every fish she has caught and despite my worsening memory I don’t think I will forget either!

Off to Wales now!

Fly Fishing School

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Although the river season is over on the River Taw our fly fishing school  still has it’s doors widely open. I met up with Keith yesterday who has never really held a fly rod before, bar a short stint on a river in Germany over 20 years ago, so he was pretty much coming at it as a newcomer.

He was keen to learn to fly cast and how to approach river, lake, pike and bass fishing. This was a really interesting proposition for me as with these forms of fishing listed there is a need to be able to cast at short and long ranges and to be able to land your fly accurately,overcome drag and to be able to turn over heavy flies. I was also keen that Keith went home with not only a good understanding of how the casts worked but also how to put them right if they didn’t go to plan.

I love this sort of stuff and was really looking forward to meeting up with Keith and to get him going. As ever, I was early knowing that Keith had booked himself in for one of the Fox and Hound’s “Full Devon” breakfasts. I met him as he tucked in and I sipped a coffee!

We headed off with a chat about safety and how the tackle works and I got him roll casting. Within a few casts I could see he was a natural. He immeadiately understood the use of a controlled wrist and letting the rod do the work. This was going to be fun!

One of the things that I notice as a fly fishing instructor is that people try and hang on to everything that you are explaining and can quite often suffer from information overload so I make sure that I explain everything as simply as possible and break things down into digestable chunks. It is easy to “get all technical” but I really believe that keeping it simple is best and as long as my guest has a good understanding then they will hopefully enjoy many hours on the water!

With Keith I wanted to make sure that as we were going to cover so much  I didn’t give him too much to analyse as he was a natural caster. As a result when he picked up the concept and mechanics of the overhead cast I tilted the casting plane over to the side to let him see what was going on with the line and rod. This often allows the guest to visualise how everything is working making the overhead cast a whole lot easier and also gets the caster “false casting” really quickly and naturally without me having to explain until after they have learnt it. It also helps with timing, rhythm and casting planes although I try and introduce this during the roll cast as it shows there is nowhere you can’t get your fly to.


Needless to say Keith was a star and we covered just about everything including how to cast a tailing loop, slack line casts, drift, creep and he was double hauling with no problems at all. The fish better watch out!!


I checked my computer this morning and recieved a message from Keith

Hi Pete
What a great day.  I reallly enjoyed it and I came home confident that your tuition has given me the confidence to perform on the water.
Your relaxed style of teaching was great.  You answered my questions and explained the mechanics of casting so well that I understood it and you also gave me lots of prompts to remind me of how and what is going wrong and also what it feels and looks like when I get it right and how to analise if things get out of synch.  Great.  I will certainly be keeping in contact and would not hesitate to recommend you to anyone who wanted to learn to cast and enjoy it.
I wanted to wish every single fisherman on the Devon rivers that has an extension good luck. Sadly we don’t have it on the Taw but I took my video down to the river after the rain we had on Tuesday. There wasn’t quite enough water but it didn’t stop the fish from wanting to move on. 
Click HERE to see a few Taw salmon.

The end of fly fishing in Devon?…..

Monday, October 5th, 2009

No, not really!  I sort of mean the end of the season. Sadly the Taw doesn’t have the extension to the season a lot of the other rivers of the South West enjoy but sometimes that’s the way it goes. I am sure things will change in time but we’ll see.

I always keep the 30th September to myself as I like to mark the open and close with some time on the river. It isn’t about numbers or even catching a fish but just about being there. As I advance in my years I have found that I have changed as an angler and become more relaxed. In Scotland recently I spent more time with a good buddy cheering him on as he hadn’t connected with a fish and was happy to watch from the sidelines and enjoyed watching him execute yet another beautiful spey cast.

Ray (The Dude) was down at the weekend and we talked about some of the fishing trips we had been on and we both agreed that eating comes much higher up the list of things that we need to do during a fishing day. We also discussed about the ultimate fishing mobile which I think I might just have found but that one will keep for the time being.

Anyway I was going to hit the Bray but decided to hit the Hotel water instead and bumped into some anglers that were staying there so I spoke to them for a while and then headed down to the river. The water was pretty low and I decided to find something just a little bit quicker to put the odds in my favour a bit. I picked up a small one just below the bridge (always a good spot!) and admired him for a bit and slid him back.

I walked a little further to a spot I like to take people to and popped a cast into the tail of the pool and worked my way up. It isn’t a big pool and I worked tight into the bank where the water had worn away a nice little hidey hole for a good fish but there was no one interested. As a result of the current hitting the bank there is also a small back eddy and although I thought a few well aimed casts might bring someone to have a look, it wasn’t to be.  At the head of the pool I decided to throw to the seam first and I struck as my dry dipped.

It turned out to be a nice fish. He knew the drill and I really had to give him some side strain to keep him out of the tree roots and there were a few moments where I thought he was going to win out. While playing the fish I managed to get out my camera, turn it on and hold it between my teeth while I played the fish in. I managed to lift him, take a quick shot and off he went.


Now it would be great to say that was the switch being turned to the “on” position and everything happened. It might have done but I wouldn’t have known as it seemed a really nice place to end things. I’d got everything (and more) that I wanted from the day and it just seemed right. So I snipped off and walked up to make sure the guys I had spoke to at breakfast were having a good time.

Scotland and back on the river…

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

I had some time in Scotland chasing a few salmon and even managed to catch a couple. The river had borne the brunt of the floods that had ravaged Scotland and there were still signs of the damage that had been caused by a very angry Mother Nature.  I even managed to pack a trout rod which was great fun and I was amazed how hard the fish fought. I guess it must be the strength of the water that helps make them super tough. I was a week later this year but brought along a couple of good pals and our group was added to by Karl who was fishing 20 miles up the road. We made sure we left a few fish for him but I’m not sure that they got to him as the water was pretty low.

I was back Sunday night and had Faure on Monday who was back for some more fly fishing in Devon. Again he had got the overnight train and was at the station bright and early ready t0 tackle the small streams of Dartmoor. I was determined to show him as much as possible and I think we managed that. It was pretty cool up there but the fish were still keeping an eye upward and it was great to see Faure adjust to the lightening fast takes.  We walked a lot and covered a lot of water and having only had a few hours sleep Faure had a quick power nap on the way back to the station!


Well done dude!

Tuesday was with Richard. I have guided Richard a couple of times earlier in the year and he was back for some more fishing adventures. We decided to hit the Taw and again a cooler start meant it took a little time to get going. It was a case of hatches happening in small pulses and taking advantage of these when they occurred. As the water was low, rather than hanging a nymph under the caddis I hung a spider and you know what? It worked!

It is great when a little plan plays off and makes it great fun for me as the guide too! I had Richard in some pretty overgrown spots and he adapted his technique to meet each challenge. Sometimes fly fishing isn’t about elegant casts, it’s about getting your fly as efficiently to the fish as possible. I always say that if I have you making the nasty casts you must be doing well!