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Devon School of Fly Fishing Team blog

Archive for December, 2009

Fly Fishing in Devon 2010

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

I was going to write this and suggest a list of things that would be cool to accomplish in 2010. There are certainly lots of things I really would like to do and to experience and will hopefully get the chance in some cases but is it always good to set yourself targets? I guess sometimes this is the case and can be rewarding to tick things off as they happen but I want to enjoy the ride and whatever is thrown at me. It can sometimes be the little things like that drag free drift to THAT trout that you would never have thought of listing but all the little things add up along with the big things too.

Sometimes it all comes together, a UK fish to remember….



I think that is why I like being a fly fishing guide. No two days are ever the same and all the fun and challenges that go with it are always different.

I think someone once said that “it’s an adventure” and I’m going to make sure I enjoy every moment I get on the water be it working, fishing alone or in the company of good friends.

Have a great festive period and I hope a fish filled 2010!

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Sometimes you’ve just got to go for it

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

There is that funny feeling you get when you get a report of the river you are about to fish that says “it’s sort of fishable”  The next question is “what do you mean by sort of fishable?” the answer was along the lines that the the clarity was good but the height was bad. Not so bad that the river was over the banks but bad that most would probably give it a miss. I’m not one of those who won’t and nor are my fishing buddies.

When you picture a chalkstream you see an image picture of crystal clear water and a nice even flow with a rising fish every now and again to make it perfect.

When I got there this wasn’t exactly the case. After all the rain we have had there were still flooded fields and the springs had been filled to the maximum and were pumping water back out into the river as quick as they could. The river was up and really pushing. That having been said it was a day’s fishing and nothing was going to get in the way.

Four of us had arranged to fish and special guest was Jim. Jim lives and guides on The Coln in Wiltshire and I wanted to show him the bit of chalkstream I fish.  We jumped in and water that is usually shin deep that was now thigh deep. I hung with Jim for a bit and watched the maestro in action but decided, with some prompting, to grab my rod and have a go myself.  I worked the slacker margins with a couple of heavy bugs and managed to pick up a grayling as The Dude joined me in the river. He’d spotted a slack line the other side of the river and manfully waded across to try his luck. The water got too deep and strong for us to continue so I jumped out and Ray did some pretty cool climbing up a dead tree his side.

Lunch and a chance to warm up!

Lunch and a chance to warm up!

The fishing was pretty tough but we all did ourselves justice. I had a spell where I thought I was going to get into a sensible pod of fish but after a couple in as many casts and one off and then one landed that was it. The rest of the day I picked up odd one and twos but that was about it and think that was the story for everyone.

 I was hoping for a few more for Jim as he has been slamming them on The Coln this year and I really wanted to show him fishing  as good. The light was starting to go and we ‘d decided to end the day in the pub but Jim and I headed in search of just one more. Needless to say he came up trumps.

A bright pink bug in size 8 worked best for me and I think Toby too but Jim fished a more subtle pheasant tail in a 14 and I would have guessed The Dude did the same. It sort of reminded me of a time I was fishing there once and there was a nice lunchtime hatch and the guy I was fishing with and I had a long debate about whether to fish a 16 or 18 Para Adams  to the rising grayling. We bumped into another fisherman at the end of the day and told him how we found the fish didn’t want the 16 but hit the 18 happily. We asked him if he had found the same but he said the big shrimp pattern he’d used had worked just fine.

Darkness but time for just one more!

Darkness but time for just one more!

I’d tried a different brand of burger for lunch and although tasty I thought the meat to roll ratio was just slightly the wrong way round but they were pretty good. All in all it was good fishing, great food and excellent company.

Winter Beard Watch- Gave it a trim on Sunday and took a bit too much off although it is still hanging in there. Fly Fishing Tuition and Guiding

Devon Fly Fishing Guide

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

It is that time of the year. I’m not a bah humbug sort of person and certainly get in the Christmas spirit but sometimes it takes just a little bit longer for me to get there.  I don’t get what all the fuss is about when it comes to Christmas shopping. As I see it you either do it in Feb which is a no no in my case as when it comes to December I will have forgotten where I had hidden them so as a result it is a last minute seat of the pants affair. I assume this is how all men shop as it leaves little time for dithering about what to buy as if you have done this properly then you have no time to go home and think about what you should have bought. As I see it Christmas shopping should take no more than 1 hour and should include a coffee stop of some sort.

I’m told I am a nightmare to buy for but as long as it is fly fishing related it will be a good choice. There are some really good DVD’s around this year and my fingers are crossed that they might feature. There is nothing better than sitting down with a mince pie  (told you I was getting in the spirit of things) and watching some fishing.

I have already treated myself to a little present and bought a new Hydros fly rod. It is a pretty sweet piece of kit and I am looking to try and catch a grayling or two with it soon.

I was talking to Alan today and we both admitted that we really like sorting out flies and getting them organised for the coming season or sometimes even just a fishing trip. After all of the unfishable weather we have had I can’t say how many flies I have tied but it is a lot. I have thought about and refined a few things and churned out the ever faithfuls. There is something for everyone in there and I hope the fish feel the same. This means the fly boxes are pretty well replenished already and are primed, ready for action. I am just about to commence on some bonefish patterns.

The weather has settled now but I was down casting where I work and the river was still carrying some colour but the height is dropping right out. A few pics of the “office” below.


taw 12 12

Winter beard watch- We seem to have bonded and got used to living together. Not sure this will be a long term relationship though.  Full time fly fishing tuition and guiding in Devon

Not again!

Monday, December 7th, 2009

I had hoped for an outside chance of some grayling fishing today. Alas the river is in the same state as last week but I am told that the weather might be calming down just a little bit from Thursday onwards.I met up with Andy on Saturday and we did some casting which was great fun. I can wait and the fish are going to keep.

  I popped out this morning to see how The Taw looked slightly higher up from where I work and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. The photo is from a stretch of water belonging to The Crediton Fly Fishing Club. I have been a member for years and this is one of my favourite places to fish. I didn’t get much of a chance to fish it last year but I have made a deal with myself that I will try and put it right next season. It is a great club and I guess this is down to the members who are a welcoming bunch with some pretty nifty fishers in their ranks too. It is probably a bit weird but I really enjoy the bank clearing sessions that they have before the season. It is a nice way to burn off some of the excesses of Christmas and to catch up and talk fishing.

taw 712

I have probably mentioned it but my 17 year old daughter Charlie has a boyfriend. I have dreading this for a while and had planned how I was going to “interview” him. I have always felt that I would need a pipe for this. I don’t smoke but thought it would make me look a bit more menacing. I sort of planned how I would lean on an imaginary mantlepiece with my pipe and ask him his prospects but would only really need to know the answer to one simple question. “do you fish lad?”. I thought adding lad would also make me sound a little bit more frightening. There would have been a sharp intake of breath and a draw on the empty pipe if the answer was no but I am sure Charlie would have prepped him and said that if the answer was infact no that he had always wanted to learn. It turn out that she has known him for a number of years and so have we and it is the case he is a really good guy. I guess it saves me a trip to the tobacconist.

Lack of fishing has meant if I can’t do it then I am going to read about it. I have just finished The Earth is Enough which is a really sweet book and makes just enough of a pull on the sentimental heart strings.

Winter Beard Update- Used trimmers and feeling more comfortable. Toyed with amputation Sunday but will stick with it for the time being.  Fly Fishing Tution and Guiding in Devon

Gone but forgotten?

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

I know I am not supposed to moan, I’m not a moaner by nature and don’t subscribe to the “poor me” way of thinking but when is the weather going to let up? I thought there might be a break this morning and a chance to pop out and throw a few loops but once again it is throwing it down!

This time of year is a quieter one for guiding for me as many of the rivers of Devon are shut and The Taw doesn’t have any grayling. It means I have to travel further to both work and also to fish. I use this time to catch up with all the friends I have promised I would fish with when the fishing season is in full swing. The travelling doesn’t bother me , you’ve got to do what you can to get to the fish and I enjoy the drive and enjoy listening to music on the way.

I was talking to a pal about driving tunes yesterday and one of my favourites to get the trip going is The Foo Fighters “Times like these”  along with anything by The Specials. I’m fishing Monday (weather willing) and they will be blaring out of the truck at stupid o’clock in the morning.

I was planning to write something about what defines good fishing and being the time of year that it is I sort of expanded that and got thinking about what defines a good season. I suppose it is lots of things. A memorable fish, a big one that you had to get to which was rising in a back eddy, one that you had tied a specific fly for on nothing more than a hunch and, for some perhaps, it is all about numbers. The really funny thing about this is how we always seem to remember the one we had on briefly and lost. I can remember loads of those occassions not just from this season but from a long way back too.

One I’ll never forget is a trip The Dude (Ray) and I made to Wales. The wind was blowing a bit and Ray was sat sheltering on a bank and I tied on a March Brown and was going through the motions a bit. I turned to him and probably said something along the lines of we really needed to get some food. As we have matured the days of fishing, fishing and fishing have eased just a very small notch and we now stop for some food every once in a while. Anyway, I turned to Ray and my rod just bucked over, seriously bucked over. I struck, felt a pull and it was gone. I have no idea about what it was but I know it was a big one and it would have been good to see. Funnily enough a similar thing happened to Ray on the same trip and as I have said before he is Mister Chilled but that one got to him.

I went through a spell in NZ where fish were just busting me no matter what I tried. I hooked plenty but went a couple of days without landing one. On one of those days we were on a river. It had split into two 10ft wide forks so Ray and I took a branch each. I came across  a really good fish rising in 4ft of water and knew if I landed my fly in the right spot he was mine. I even went as far as playing the fight out in my mind before I made the cast. He was tight in one the banks (aren’t they all?!) and there was a lot of roots he could wrap me on. It had been a case of fishing slightly heavier tippet and hanging on when they took and trying to keep them out but this fish was bigger and probably smarter. I thought that I would give him hard side strain into his bank so that he would swim away from there. Well that was the plan. I made the cast, he took, I held my breath and then struck. He was on and my plan sort of worked. Applying big side strain to his bank did stop him from heading where I feared and he shot out headed upstream a short way and bust me off in a similar spot to where he had been holding.  One of those things I guess. The funny thing is that the next day I hooked and landed a fish that I had a long chase down stream through all sorts of obstacles and landed that turned out to be one of the biggest of the trip. This was one I was amazed that stayed on!

 I am hoping to fish on Monday and will tie a few extra flies just in case we do get out…..

The beard has settled down a bit now but I am not sure I am in it for the long term with facial hair.

Below is a pic of the stream in NZ where the magic nearly happened, unremarkable looking with remarkable fish.

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Fly Fishing Guide

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

There is nothing more rewarding that sitting down and dressing a few flies. Being a full time fly fishing guide the winter is a good time to do this. During the downtime I have been getting plenty ready for next season and I’ve been busy restocking the fly boxes with home tied flies.

The ever-present flies are there but I have tweeked a few things and am going to try some new patterns just to see if they work. It is nymphs that I have been tying most. I had been thinking that the usual and most consistent patterns have been bead head pheasant tailed nymphs and copper Johns. This is probably because I have great confidence in them and that they actually work really well. I am sure confidence is a large part of it but when I show my guests the underside of rocks these look like the stone clingers and the free swimmers too so we are also matching the bugs effectively.

I’ve also paid a lot more attention to caddis and have played with some hydropsyche and rhyacophila patterns that I have added to the flies I already use.  I try and tie them as generically (is that a word?) as possible so that they suggest not just a single food source but perhaps a little wider range and put the odds in my favour a little bit more. I try and knock out either a half dozen or dozen flies and my brief is simple. Tie them as close as you can to perfect but don’t lavish too much love on them. I would hate to slave over one fly for hours and then a stray cast lands the fly on the far bank of a juicy run without it ever getting wet. As an aside I always say to my guests that it is much better to lose a fly going for that far bank rather than throwing it in the tree behind you. One of the first lessons I try to instill in my guests is to have a quick look behind you before you make the cast. Sounds obvious but on our small streams in Devon it will pay dividends and save you a whole bunch of flies.


I have, along with a lot of help from Emma, tidied the wreckage that is my fly tying area and it is looking almost respectable. I have a radio up there and listen to Radio 5 so that I can keep up with news and sport. I find that working in fly fishing means that it is always on your mind but not everyone wants to always talk fishing ( I do).

It has felt like the weather has lifted a little here. It has been nowhere as bad as Cumbria but we have had wind and rain for what feels like 2 1/2 weeks solid and we have had our first frost of the year today. I will be out casting  and will try some of the new caddis patterns out on some grayling on Thursday. They might even work!

Winter Beard Watch- Day 6- Is this itching going to stop soon?

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