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Devon School of Fly Fishing Team blog

Archive for November, 2009

Fly Fishing, the weather and driving

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

The weather has been relentless of late meaning fly casting tuition has had to take a back seat until things calm down. I haven’t even been able to throw a line myself and I have missed it.

I was hoping to see my good friend Glyn in Cumbria next week to have a fish of  The Eden for grayling. He is a guy I really look up to and is a real gent and fantastic instructor and guide. The plan was to pick up Karl on the way and have a fish and meet up but as everyone knows they have had it pretty bad up there and when I spoke to Glyn yesterday to check that everything was OK he came back with “yup, it’s a bit damp up here” ! Needless to say we have pushed things back til Jan. It has been a difficult time for the people up there and listening to the radio and reports of the devastation I have nothing but the utmost respect for the people and the way that they have dealt with things in what has been an extremely difficult time.

I went fishing last week with Howard. He has been rushed off of his feet of late and needed a bit of a breather and fishing was the prescription. The Dude was meeting us too and I’d picked up the usual barbie lunch. The rain had brought the river up a bit which was exactly what it had needed. The grayling have spread, making it a bit more interesting from a fishing perspective. Previously they had been bunched and it didn’t feel right just hitting fish after fish. It would often be the case that we’d have a few and leave them alone but more water put the odds a bit more in the grayling’s favour.


 I couldn’t resist the photo above as it is more than unusual for Howard his wear a cap like this

I’ve noticed that I can barely remember the amount of fish I have caught on a day, whether it is a small amount or a few and it is probably a function of my ever worsening memory but also that it doesn’t really matter. I am so uncompetetive it is unbelievable and take as much pleasure in my buddys catching as myself. It is probably why guiding is such a great job for me as I live the day through my guests and it doesn’t bother me I’m not holding the rod.

We had a small hatch around lunchtime and caught some fish on dries. We fished til dark despite it cooling down and had a great time. We were lucky it was the one break in the weather we had and I just fished in a t shirt and fleece.

I popped down to Exeter to see The Rise film festival and met with a bunch of pals for some excellent noodles beforehand and then to see the films.  I had been thinking about another trip and watching great big steelhead taking Green Drakes kind of makes you feel a bit restless again!

My daughter, Charlie, has just taken her driving test and passed first time I am so proud of her. Yesterday she was just walking around with one of those stupid grins on her face. It sort of reminds me of when I passed my AAPGAI!

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Fly Fishing websites, mags and bamboo

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Apparently the server for the site got hacked into. Sounds exciting, perhaps agents are trying to get the details of how to tie the scruffy klink…

I suspect it is more a case of someone trying to load spam selling products to enhance prowess in the sporting, or more likely, some other arena.  All the excitement! I probably shouldn’t say that as I know the web guys have not enjoyed the ride too much, reminded me of a great film that was out a few years ago called Sneakers that deals with hacking and espionage. It looks like I am going off on a wierd direction again but even this has a link with fly fishing as it stars Robert Redford and we all know his link with fly fishing. Sneakers was actually the next film he made after that fishing one.

I met up with my pal Luke the other day. He builds excellent bamboo rods and has come up with the taper of all tapers for his latest creation. It is a fast one that sort of feels familiar to a graphite rod but still has that bamboo feel to it. You could say it is the best of both worlds and I think that is just about right.  I have either the first or second of these rods and it has the ability to pick up and laydown the shortest of lines but will also throw a long one with needle pointed loops if that is your thing too. It fishes fantastically and works perfectly as a rod for someone who has grown up with graphite but would like to try bamboo. 

A lot of people think you have to buy an old rod to try bamboo but it is great to hear that there is an army of builders making brand new rods on well tested and trusted tapers of yesteryear. Luke also does this and I have one of those too but I do have to admit I am a avid fan of all things bamboo!


I was trying his latest prototype and was honoured to be asked.  To see Lukes wares take a look here.

The fly fishing magazine hunt goes on and I find myself popping into newsagents just to see how many fly fishing magazines they have on offer. Carrying on from the last blog I went to Exeter Station and there were none but I was really pleased to see a healthy selection in WH Smiths in Exeter the other day. They even had an American one which I ended up buying. It is always nice to get a different perspective.

Fly fishing with friends

Monday, November 16th, 2009

I quite like surprises, the nice kind that is. We had one about a month or so ago when my fishing buddy Ray (The Dude) and his long time girlfriend Christina came to stay. Ray and I tried bassing but we both knew in our heart of hearts that the howling wind we had at home was going to be amplified when we got to the coast. It was indeed the case and we made a few casts, pulled a few flies but decided 60mph winds were just a bit much.

I had told Ray about the excellent steak sandwiches that The Hotel had made me during the season were something he should try along with a cup of their coffee. Steak sandwiches weren’t strictly on the menu it was a peri peri version (also excellent) that you would find but poking my head in the kitchen and asking head chef Al nicely has often worked. It did and we both enjoyed them. The chips were pretty good too and it is nice to see that they are not the oven variety.

So we enjoyed those and headed back where the guys told us that they were getting married in a couple of weeks time and wondered if we would be the witnesses. We were so pleased and also touched and there were a couple of thoughts that immediately leapt into my mind. Firstly it would mean that I would need to dress up and I don’t really do smart these days and those last remnants of my smart wardrobe would be more fitting for a Dynasty/ Miami Vice themed party but secondly and more importantly we needed to celebrate this momentous occassion with some fishing. We quickly arranged a date and before we knew we were meeting to wet a line.

As ever I was early and was already fishing when Ray pulled up. “Fish biting?”  The answer was a resounding yes. We were fishing on a chalkstream and the lack of water meant the fish were bunched. A buddy and I had hit one pod and thought it best that we left them after taking what felt just about the right side of being greedy.

The fishing continued on a similar vein throughout the day and a light hatch at lunch gave me a chance to throw on some 24’s that I had tied up that even caught a few fish. We had decided to fish for as long as possible so it meant that we had barbecued burgers for lunch and a tailgate chinese for dinner. I called the Chinese through and picked it up. I have passed any sort of worry of people seeing me wander down a high street in waders ( a favourite pastime of Ray and I) and this was no exception as I couldn’t get parked anywhere near the Take Away. I was really impressed though when I walked into a supermarket and asked for some paper plates and the girl serving pointed me to where they might be without even blinking. We don’t usually go for plates but I though as there were 3 of us and it were a special occassion that we should at least try and do things properly. I think part of this is that I am still shamed by Champo who pulled out a stove and cooked vension steaks at exactly the same spot when we fished a year ago. I’ll always remember that for the food but also as we fished the biggest BWO hatch either of us had ever seen.

We had the chinese lined up on the tailgate of my pickup and it was a vaguely civilised free for all. We talked about the day and fishing in general. The light was going and any warmth had gone. The guys thought about quitting but it was 2 days before Ray got married and I thought it might be cool for him to catch one last fish as a single man. It was a nice landmark. I even bought some new clothes for the wedding.


I was up in Bristol a week or so ago for my fix of sushi. We popped into the Asda ( it might even be called WalMart). It is worth a visit for the price of the petrol but also that you have to go through a drive through to pay. We don’t have one of these in Devon and I still haven’t figured out if it is good idea or not, or what the thinking behind it is but it is amusing to use anyway and I wonder if it is a little touch of America.

The reason I mention this is that when we were in the store I looked at the magazine section there which was pretty extensive and had just about base covered.This included fishing but there wasn’t any fly fishing mags there. Now I know we don’t have many but I thought there might be a chance of one but sadly not. Fly fishing is the centre of my world and a lot of my friends but I guess it just doesn’t register in the minds of Asda. I have been keeping an eye out recently to see if this is the case in other shops too and thankfully there are the odd one poking out but not the “full house” of all 4. I’m hoping that a lot of them are ordered on subsciption and that is the reason. I haven’t paid much attention to this sort of thing in the past and guess it has always been the way but it did strike a chord with me. I wonder what circulation numbers are like these days?…My hope is that they are on the up….

Hopefully fishing with pals on Tues…I’ve been tying like a madman!

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Fly Fishing in Devon and beyond!

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

I recently thought of a good question to ask a buddy when heading off on a fishing trip or having a coffee by the river which was sort of along the lines of where would you fish if you were allowed to go one more time. On giving an answer myself I thought about this and then changed the rules a bit so that I could fish once more on my beloved Taw and then one other place world wide.

This is one of those questions that you probably need to fire the answer from the gut as the more you think about it the more variables come in. Should it be somewhere I have fished or should it be somewhere I would like to fish? Would it be fresh or salt water? There are some places I have fished in the salt and would like to go back to and there are some I would like to visit and fly fish for bonefish, tarpon and perhaps, if I am lucky, a permit. So does this mean we should have a fresh and salt water section?

I think probably not and if pressed I would opt for freshwater as first choice but if I had a saltwater section it would be one right out from left field. Tobago. It will never rank up there with the great destinations but I don’t mind too much. I liked it for what it was and it wasn’t trying to be something it wasn’t. The guide knew what he was doing (he was excellent) and he knew his stuff. The fishing wasn’t pressured and there were plenty of fish. Within a few hundred yards I was fishing a small flat for bones and permit and then hopped into the boat for 2 minutes and we were casting to tarpon. If I only had 1 day this would be ideal as there is a 5 minute trip to the flats and all the fishing I would need for that one last day and I wouldn’t need to waste valuable time travelling…looks like I have spent too much time thinking this through!

So, I have decided my last day will be casting flies to brown trout. There are so many places in the UK I would love to revist like the Wye, Usk, Irfon or the Derbyshire Wye. I haven’t even scratched the chalkstreams but I know the Wylye would come top for me in that category without any serious competition. Then there was a “secret river” I fished in April where I caught 5 fish from 14 to 20 1/2 inches. That is certainly a contender!


Looking further afield I love Colorado and just about every stream I have fished there. Favourites are probably The Frying Pan and The South Platte but The St Vrain just edges it for me. It was a special stream with some of the most beautiful trout I have and will probably ever catch.

It looks like I am coming to the conclusion that the last place I fish will be somewhere I have been before. It might sound boring but what if I choose somewhere that when I get there I don’t like it?

New Zealand has to feature too and casting dry flies at huge rising trout is something I will never forget and a magical day The Dude and I had on The Mataura where we caught our fill of trout and then some more.  I also liked the small streams and just loved the idea that we would drive along a road and see a river come into view and if it looked nice we’d park up and have a cast.

It probably sounds like these are dream destinations but most of these trips are put together by my good friend Ray (The Dude) and we have a simple brief. Maximum fishing time, minimum cost.  He excelled himself on our NZ trip.

Looks like I have wondered off topic a bit but when writing the last paragraph I have come to a final conclusion.  I don’t think I would want to fish anywhere but The Taw for my last day. I love it.


I think I mentioned Gierach the other day and apologies if I did but he talks about fishing anyone’s St Vrain (his home water) and say that when he fishes somewhere new he compares it to The St Vrain. I know what he means and always make a comparison to The Taw in many ways wherever I am fishing. So I guess I’d fish anyone’s Taw.

Taw Salmon

Fly Fishing For Grayling

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

I have been busy tying flies for next season already. It has been a case of retying proved patterns or just tweaking a few just in the interest of research but also that the theory behind them might work. I tie flies that I want to be functional, catch fish and are something I am not going to worry about if they get lost in a tree. I so admire the work of the great fly tyers but it would break my heart to see one of their creations lost, whereas mine I don’t give a second thought to if they go. I always say to guests I am guiding that I would much prefer they lost a fly going for a tough cast rather than playing safe. We all know the big boy, or girl for that matter, will be in the hardest to reach spot!

I don’t think anything would get between Paul and his fishing and this was certainly the case when I met up with him the other day. I picked him up from his house and as we were on our way to the A303 we, as usual, swapped fishy stories and he happened to mention that he had taken a nasty fall during the trout season and his shoulder was playing him up a bit. I asked him if he were OK and he had fished Kennick a week before and it hadn’t been too bad.

We got to our venue, set up and headed down to the river where I realised I was standing the wrong side of Paul as he was casting left handed. Now, I know which hand Paul casts with as I had taught him as a beginner and I could only stand back in admiration and watch him cast his fly out to a spot we thought might hold a grayling.

It turned out that the shoulder was more sore than he had let on and so he had spent the last week teaching himself to cast left handed. You know what? It worked and really well at that. He was soon into the fish and I don’t think you would have known the fact that left hand wasn’t his dominant one.


Paul thinks about his fishing agreat deal and is like a sponge. After a couple of casts I asked him to lift his rod as the flies drifted over a likely spot. He was straight on to the plan and said ” Ahh, so you want me to induce them”  I can’t remember if it was the case or not but I think it did catch a fish on the first attempt. As soon as Paul had seen it happen he was on to it straight away as he picked off a pod of grayling.

We even had a surpise visitor…


All in all it was a great day and I have massive respect for Paul and I hope the shoulder is sorted soon!

Taw Salmon

Being a fly fishing guide

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

I love my job more than I could probably write down but as my life revolves entirely around fly fishing I somtimes wonder if when I meet people for the first time (outside of fly fishing) that I worry I am going to bore them within a few minutes talking about fishing. John Gierach said that a good fly fisherman can turn any conversation to fly fishing but I often find that when you are asked what you do for a living it is often enough to get the conversation going on a fishy basis.

In the grand scheme of things it probably strikes most as a pretty uninteresting job ( to those that don’t fish) and compared to “real” jobs it doesn’t really rank that highly on the important scale.  I guess it is no different from teaching people to ride or even drive a car. That having been said I have always wanted to be just a little different (not too much) from the norm and being a fishing guide is just about “out there” and you know what? I like it just that way and man, do I love my job!

Grayling have been the target species of late and Faure was back to try his hand. I’ve a new name for Faure it is the “Inducinator” We found that by finding a pod of grayling that just a gentle lift was enough to make the difference between just a couple and picking off a fair few. We managed a few on dries too and saw a bunch of late mayfly. The fishing was pretty consistent throughout the day but as the afternoon turns to early evening and the sun is covered it just switches off. Sometimes you need these moments to get you off the river and on your way home at a vaguely sensible time compared to when it is summer.

It looked like there were a few other anglers on their way for some grayling and I hope they had a few too!