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Devon School of Fly Fishing Team blog

Archive for November, 2010

Wiltshire and learning by osmosis

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I have been doing some casting in the back garden of late and have got the tape measure back out to see how all is fairing.  It can be easy to assume that seeing the backing knot disapear out of the rod rings means that you have thrown all of the fly line plus 10ft of leader which many think equals 100 odd feet. Sadly this isn’t the case and it can be quite sobering to see that it usually ends in the 80ft area.

I’m not one for huge distances these days but having the tape measure allows me to check on my tracking. If you want to throw any sort of distance you want that rod to track as straight as possible. When you are carrying a lot if line and your tracking is out it is like having a brick tied to the end of the fly line and makes the task a lot harder than it needs to be. As a right hander, tracking problems can often highlight themselves when the line lands on the water and a right hander usually has the end of the fly line hooking to the left or has the line laying from where the rod has stopped across the body and continuing to move from right to left.

The tape measure gives you a good clear idea of how straight the rod is moving and I sometimes let me back cast drop on the grass behind me to see that it is nice and straight. You’ll see that your best casts always run parallel to the tape.

It is fun to do and, although it doesn’t lend itself to fishing conditions too well, the ability to hit 90 to 100ft casts consistently and with ease will make the real life fishing casts of 50 to 65ft all the more simpler.

The really cool thing is that Emma has been coming out and watching and then joining in with a few casts. It is a dream of mine that she comes fishing a bit more and things look more like that will happen. It is easy to try and force things a little too quickly so I have also been careful not to interfere too much but she was casting away and throwing some pretty mean loops. We had set a target which she met and then the next day she said she wanted to try and beat it again. I didn’t cast but stood down by the end of the measure to see how things were going and to shout some encouragement.

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The next thing I know I see the leader pass over my head and another PB was reached! All this has happened because she has started to double haul. Now my memory isn’t what it was but I don’t remember teaching her to haul! It turns out that she had watched me doing it and mimicked it. The great thing was that it was spot on and worked perfectly. I just let her get on with it and she was carrying a nice amount of line and hit a very creditable 72ft. Clearly I started saying that she would catch fish anywhere in the world with a cast like that but I managed to calm down a little and, like before, we’ll keep taking small steps. Great casting Em!

It was great to meet up with my good pal Jim Williams on his home waters. No wonder the grayling of the Coln have so much to fear. I love watching him fish a longer rod and light line, he is class in a glass!

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The importance of a healthy diet

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

The Taw has some water in it at last and Emma and I have been making regular trips down to watch the salmon, sea trout and brown trout make their way upstream to do their thing. It never ceases to amaze me the sheer determination of these fish to reach their redds and make sure their genes are passed on. We saw some pretty nice sized fish and it is good to know that they are there, I am sure they’ll keep til next year…

Although the season has finished for us, there was someone fishing when we got to our usual spot. In fact, they have been there a few times. It was a heron who I have seen a few times when I have been guiding but he was waiting where the fish like to pass and as the small ones leapt he would have a try at catching them. I suppose it is our own version of what the grizzles and salmon do in Alaska but involves a lone heron and a 5 inch trout.

As always, he would shoot off and wait for us to leave keeping an eye on us from a safe distance. It is hard to detect annoyance in a bird but we thought he looked pretty calm. I wonder if a human would be the same if we tramped into his spot? I suspect not but he was happy to just wait us out. We thought we were doing our bit for the trout population and saving a few but in the grand scheme probably not a lot. And let’s face it, nature always finds a way and if it doesn’t then it weeds out the weaker members of that gene pool. That having been said, I wonder if the trout feels elation at finally making the fish pass only to be grabbed by a heron. “oh bugger”!

I popped a link from a video I took of the salmon pass last year. Taw Salmon

We’re in to trying to be healthy but fishing means real food and Ray (The Dude) has written a bit about what we ate in Montana.

As regular readers of this blog know, unhealthy food always features
in fishing trips for Peter and me. Montana is known for the quality
of its beef, so naturally we decided to eat as many burgers as we
could during our ten days in the Treasure State.

Our first stop was in a small town called Wisdom (population 114) on
the banks of the Big Hole River. We had low burger expectations since
Fetty’s was the only restaurant in town, but we could not have been
more wrong. One of the locals who was seated at the table next to
ours was inhaling The Haystack, a double decker that leaves no artery
unhardened. We ordered “normal” burgers – only a third of a pound in
weight – with Beer Batter Fries on the side. They were delicious and
comforting comfirmation that one can almost always get a good burger
in the States no matter how remote the location.

We had good fishing on the Big Hole thanks to an intermittent hatch of
small upwings. We were fishing on the section of the river between
Wisdom and Dillon which is generally wide and featureless, precisely
the type of water I fish with no confidence in the absence of a hatch.
However, the fishing gods were smiling upon us and Peter and I
enjoyed good sport most of the day despite the wind and rain.

After two days on the Big Hole, we made the three hour drive to
Missoula, where we would be based for the rest of the trip. Despite
being Montana’s second largest city (population 75,000; more if you
count the college students) the fishing within a short drive of the
city center is superb. We fished all four of the major Missoula
rivers: The Bitterroot, The Blackfoot, Rock Creek and The Clark Fork.

Our first meal was at Fuddrucker’s, a build-your-own burger joint.
After Fetty’s it was a letdown for me but Peter seemed to enjoy his
buffalo burger.

The next morning we got an early start on the Bitteroot, which would
eventually become our favorite Missoula area river. Peter was having
great success with the dropper setup on the Hamilton town waters. The
fish were less impressed with my size 8 stonefly pattern. We were
surprised at how good the fishing was on the section of river that
flowed right through the middle of town. It must get pounded and even
townspeople walking their dogs along the river’s edge didn’t seem to
put the fish off.

Dinner that night was at Five Guys, an up and coming burger chain that
offers the burger aficionado a choice of fifteen different toppings.

We ordered Cajun fries on the side which came in a large cardboard cup
because any paper bag would have collapsed under their weight. We
were washing it all down with our bottomless soft drinks when we
suddenly saw crates of help-yourself-to-as-many-as-you-want and
throw-the-shells-on -the-floor salted peanuts. Despite an
uncomfortable fullness, your correspondent grabbed a handful before
heading to our budget hotel.

John Wallace (AKA The Boy) kindly took off two days work and rolled
out his drift boat. We floated the Bitterroot between and once again
had good fishing. The fish didn’t come easy – on the contrary – but
we managed a fair few including some at or near 20″. Commercial drift
boat guides favour big hopper and streamer patterns, but all of our
fish came to size 16 or smaller patterns on light tippet. The Boy is
a skilled oarsman and put us in great positions, often rowing against
the current so that we could have extra casts at rising fish.

After a hard day on the Bitteroot, John and his wife Jolene hosted us
for – you guessed it – BBQ burgers at their beautiful home on the
outskirts of Missoula. There’s nothing like the comfort of a friend’s home to
relieve road burn and the homemade burgers were the best of the trip.

The next day we floated the Clark Fork. The Clark Fork is Montana’s
biggest river and is recovering from environmental mishaps and
consequently doesn’t hold as many fish as the other Missoula area
rivers. It is a wide and meandering river and there were no other
boats in sight so it was a good time for a crash course in rowing.
The Boy reluctantly gave up the oars to me and it was a result that
all of us survived to fish another day. We again managed a few fish
but far short of what the river is capable of producing. We hope to
return one day as the river will continue to heal itself and the
fishing improves.

The Dude on the Big Hole

Rock Creek was the smallest of the waters we fished. After fishing on
bigger rivers it was a welcome change to have easy wading. The
average size of fish was smaller than the big rivers but we caught
more of them. In the late afternoon we stopped off for coffee at Rock
Creek Lodge, home of the annual Testicle Festival, a well attended
event that features plenty of beer to drink and cow balls to eat. The
event is held in August but the locals holding up the bar looked like
they enjoyed both year round. Those of you who have seen American
Werewolf in London will remember the Slaughtered Lamb scene, so we
left with coffees in hand.

Our final burger experience was at Blue Canyon which was recommended
to us by John and Jolene. “The best burger in town.” they said.
Peter and I rocked up in our fishing gear after a hard day’s fishing
on the Blackfoot only to find that it was one of Missoula’s most
upmarket restaurants. We were slightly uncomfortable but no one
seemed to care despite the fishy smell coming from our table.

A lone two pound whitefished saved the day for me on the Blackfoot.
“The Blackfoot is a streamer river.” advised The Boy after hearing me
complain about my near fishless day. Peter had that figured out as he
was having good success using a six weight rod with a sink tip and
streamer setup.

On our final day of the trip, we had the opportunity to fish for a few
hours before catching flights to our respective locations, me to
Denmark and Peter to the UK. We decided it was best to leave well
enough alone and had a leisurely breakfast instead. We had some great
fishing and memories and thought that another few hours on the river
would spoil things. I had a burger at the international terminal at
LAX but it tasted worse than the disappointing burger I had at

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You know when you’ve been Tangoed!

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

It was great to meet up with Mike from Devon (MFD) yesterday. He has taken up river fishing this year and I have been lucky to introduce him to moving water and I think it is fair to say he has been bitten by it in quite a big way. I have taken him to the Taw and Dartmoor this year and thought it was time he had a go at catching a grayling from a chalkstream too.

We met bright and early and headed off to fish. MFD is a prolific tyer and rather than me tie my flies on I thought it only right that we used his flies as I know he’d have spent a lot of time tying for this trip. We started with a NZ set up as the water was so low and clear and having asked if he had a pink bug the nearest we could get was orange. It did look a good fly and with a tiny hint of colour in the water it might just stand out a bit.

Fish on!

No need to worry on that front as Mike was into his first fish, and soon after, the next one. I must admit I gave him a bit of a ribbing about the brightness of the fly but this thing worked really, really well and he kept me busy releasing fish for him including a couple of hefty grayling that put a serious bend in his Bannister rod. The rod coped really well with the size of fish and cast the flies really well.

First fish!

We popped to the pub for a quick sandwich, or in MFD’s case fish and chips, and coffee and carried on. There was a very brief hatch after lunch, which allowed us to tie on a dry, but after it was over we went back to the orange bug and fished it outright looking for takes. Once again it come up trumps, so much so that I nicked one for myself. We came up with a few names for the fly on the way back but Mike settled on the Grayling Mugger and I think that it is just about perfect. Well done MFD!

Nice fish MFD!

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