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Devon School of Fly Fishing Team blog

Archive for September, 2011

Back on the Deveron

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

I think this is my 6th year of travelling up to fish the Deveron in Scotland. It is a wonderful river that is often overshadowed by the “big name” salmon rivers but I like it that way. It is the sort of place that is great if you know about it and you shout a bit about it Not too much that it draws too much attention.

This trip was different for a couple of reasons. Firstly that we decided not to fly. I am a little tired of the stealth costs of flying, especially when you are lugging a lot of gear with you. For this reason it made sense that we took the new fishing truck out to stretch its legs and I have always wanted to drive from the bottom of the country to pretty much the top.

The second reason is a pretty significant, and special one. It was to be Emma’s first fishing trip. I can’t really write how exciting this was to me and all the way up my fingers were crossed that we would have a good one.

We decided to split the upward leg of the journey by leaving on Saturday, staying in Kendal in the Lake District and then heading up to Banff on Sunday. Bar the usual traffic problems on the M6 we checked in to the hotel on Saturday night had a good dinner and excellent breakfast the next morning and headed north. That was, of course, before we made the obligatory stop at John Norris in Penrith. They very smartly open on a Sunday and the place was jammed full of fishermen making the trip up to Scotland who were eager to stock up on a few last minute essentials and even a few I saw who were getting completely kitted out for their fishing trips. It really is a nice store with friendly, helpful staff. It sort of reminded me of a store in Colorado The Dude and I visited a few years back that was the sort of place you wanted to visit before hitting the river.

As we made it just over the border into Scotland we passed over the Clyde as it snaked under the motorway. I think it was the third time we passed over it and looked to the left and it looked just like a stream from Mid West America. I really, really liked it!

When we got to the river on Monday it was just dropping, having come up a little. In my experience what usually happens is that after it has coloured it then goes a really dark peaty colour before clearing completely. As we are pretty much at the bottom of the river it means that the fish will run through pretty quick and so the top of the beats is the place to fish. That is where we started. We did see plenty of fresh fish along with a few coloured ones but no joys.

Circle Spey

On Tuesday we were towards the bottom and again we saw some fish but we didn’t really feel like we were in the game. I did have a trout followed next cast by a small sea trout.

Wednesday we were back at the top and in the afternoon Emma and I had the very top beat and the water was starting to just about clear a little. I was fishing a pool lower to Emma but heard her let out a yell and saw the rod briefly buck before a fish came off. I ran up quickly to help but the moment had passed. That was only before I had got back in and again Emma was briefly attached to a fish. The really nice thing was that she just laughed it off and made another beautiful cast.

Covering the water.....

It looked like the fish were on and not long after my line went tight and I lifted into a fish. I was guiding Paul just before we made the trip and he described the salmon he had caught as being plugged in to the electricity. That sounds just about right. Emma netted the fish, abeautiful hen, perfectly which we admired briefly before letting her continue her journey upstream.

One for me....dig the hat!

Thursday and we were back on the very lowest beats. Again Emma cast and fished beautifully and again was briefly attached to a fish that just didn’t stick. I had another small sea trout but despite covering the water well that was it for us.

Friday and the water looked really good but it felt a good deal cooler. Morning was quiet but after lunch it warmed a little and Emma chose her fly and decided the pool she wanted to fish. You know what? She was dead right as the line went tight and she lifted into a fish. I was standing by the truck putting an intermediate tip on my line as I had done with hers as we had fished fast sinkers all week.

The fish was hooked on the lip at the very tail of a pool and Emma expertly played the fish, keeping it under control. I headed out with a net and after a while the fish was netted. We thought we would keep the fish as it was a cock fish and Emma’s first salmon and so after dispatching, we hugged each other and I don’t mind admitting that I had a tear in my eye. It was the perfect moment and after all of the hard work Emma had put in she had been rewarded.

The reward for all of the hard work!

We had planned to fish the morning of the Saturday but thought that we would make the drive home in one go and so didn’t hit the water.

There were so many highlights of the trip but the main one is looking upstream and seeing Emma smile as she watched her line swing through the pool or being upstream of her and hearing her sing as she sent out another beautiful cast.

I don’t think it could have been a better trip. I think that the spinner outfished the fly that week but we wanted to fish the fly. It isn’t a snobbish, or certainly not an elitist thing – we just enjoyed making a nice cast feeling we were covering the water.

The other thing was that you don’t need a whole load of tackle or gear. As long as you can cover the water efficiently you are in with a chance. All we did was use a variety of differing sink tips and had doubles and various tubes. Emma used a Skagit set up which made life easy when you coupled it with a Circle or Double Spey.

Sometimes we get all hot under the collar with technicalities but there just isn’t always the need. We could easily say the Skagit line can land a little heavy on the water but when Emma had her first two takes it was in shallow, relatively clear water and the fish didn’t seem to mind too much. They are the ones who decide if we have done things correctly or not and they certainly don’t care how nice the loop was on the cast or if you have the latest “must have” fly on!

All in all though the fishing wasn’t the easiest but it was the most enjoyable. The truck was excellent (fishingmobile V.3), the food and accommodation outstanding and Emma, thank you so much for making this such a wonderful trip, I don’t think it could have been more perfect.

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Oh so nearly….

Friday, September 16th, 2011

“Call me Ishmael” is the opening line of Herman Melville’s epic story about one man’s search for a fish. I write this for two reasons. Firstly, if you don’t already know this line it will come in handy, especially if you are a quiz fan. I have seen it on a number of occassions and it is worth remembering especially if you are sitting opposite Chris Tarrant and you have only one last question to answer and they ask you what is the first line of Moby Dick. all I ask is that if it is the question don’t forget your friends!

The second is that there is a pool I know well which I work on that gives me a good idea if there are salmon up our neck of the woods. The upper Taw has been hard work for the salmon angler this year, with a majority of the rain seeming to fall on Exmoor and feeding the Taw’s major tributary, the Mole, with plenty of water. Further upstream of the junction we have had to kick our heels a bit and wait things out. I don’t mind and I hear there have been some good catches further down which I am really pleased to hear. It has felt that most of the rain that has fallen has been more localised and we get a small rise of coloured water and then it drops straight back down to low levels within a day.

So I sort of scout this pool  when I am working in a Captain Ahab sort of way and look for a sign of a salmon. The recent rain looks as though it has given Dartmoor a good soaking and the river has held its level pretty well. It has also really helped the trout fishing in the shallower spots. The beat out back of the hotel has some areas that needed some water and it has really got the fish biting.

Dave learns there is nowhere you can't put your fly!

Anyway, I had a day off and rather than writing from a computer that salmon might be about, I like to keep and eye out when I am working or go try it out myself when I get a chance. I got one of these when I had taken Friday off after a long spell of guiding. Emma has been my constant companion on these trips and I have loved having her along. She has bought a migratory license and has even been making a few nifty spey casts in the pools too.

Friday was about as good as it gets, higher water, cloudy and humid and we felt lucky. I went to my favourite pool. Perhaps we should call it Ahab’s as while we sat down we saw a salmon leap. It looked like it was a running fish and it looked like things might be going our way. I like to fish my switch rod in this pool as it is a good size and it is fun to fish.

Steve on a learn to fly fish day

With salmon angling I sort of think of it like having a baby. You get lots of advice. Some of it is worth hanging on to and some isn’t always. The great thing is that there are no rules. In my humble opinion as long as you A) Don’t spook the fish B) Cover the water C) The salmon are in a taking mood you are in with a chance. I know there are other parameters but if the basics are right you never know.

Anyway, I was fishing this pool and had walked down it  a bit when a good fish rolled about 10ft behind me. Emma had seen it too from where she was sitting on the bank. I don’t advise you do this if you are fishing with someone else but I quietly walked back, covered the spot and the salmon took. This sort of knocked rule A of my humble opinion out of the window but reinforced rule C.

Andrea learns to fly fish

The salmon took off and shot around the pool and leapt several times. We both got a good look and although a coloured fish we reckoned it was about 12lbs. I kept it out of snags that I knew about in the pool and thought I might just have it. The fish had other ideas and in the recent rain it seems a large branch was down in the first deep section of the head of the pool where it wrapped me.

I thought I had done everything but it just wasn’t enough. I don’t think I spoke for a bit. Emma did her best to console me and it just about worked.

If you are out with me and I get that far away look in my eye and mutter something or other you’ll know what I’ll be thinking!

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A day with MFD

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

As much as I love the Taw I do love to jump in the truck and and guide on some other water that I know well. On Tuesday it was with Mike (AKA MFD) He is great company to be with both on the river and in the truck too.

He has a skill I would love. Actually, two skills I would love to have. The first is the ability to come back with a witty reposte. I am the sort of person who thinks I wish I had said that only when the smart reply I could have said pops into my head two days later. Mike just rolls them out with the added glint in the eye and I never tire of hearing his car ordering story. He is a regularly on the F & H water so make sure you ask him.

The second is more fishing related, actually it is fly tying related. The guy ties some seriously nice flies. I’m not saying this to be polite, he really does. They are beautifully tied and in perfect proportions. I always like to try and use my guests’ flies as there is nothing nicer than catching a fish on a fly you have tied yourself. I do have to confess though that 3 of MFD’s flies ended up on my fly patch. I know you’ll be reading Mike, so I promise I’ll get them back to you once they have caught a few more fish!

After a breakfast stop of a sausage sandwich, the food of any serious sportsman, we hit the river. I know Mike likes to fish a dry but it was a little cool and no signs of anything hatching so I tied on something a little bigger and juicier to make it worthwhile for the fish.

The morning was a great one with plenty of fish and a quick pub lunch. The afternoon we fished somewhere different and although the fishing wasn’t as hot Mike had some nice fish, both grayling and trout, before we headed for the drive back and some excellent banter.

I was working next day on the Taw so we stopped by Eggesford Bridge so I could check the water and look for salmon. Speaking of salmon, I’ll be telling you about my very near miss. I think I can just about speak about it now!

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Back end fly fishing

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

It’s a funny old game. The leaves are falling, the tempertaures have fallen and there’s some colour in the water and you know what? The fish are biting pretty good.

I am out on the water just about every day and there have been a few mornings when I have peered out and thought mmmmm, this might be a toughie. It’s not like I don’t like the tough days. In fact I really like them. They are the days when you really think about fly selection, where you are going to fish and what might do the job for the day. I’ll carefully think about the beat we’ll be fishing and what will be the best for the conditions. Those I have guided will know I will have them leaping into the truck to try another beat if the one we are on isn’t fishing.

I was guiding Gavin at the weekend and it turned out to be one of those days where everything slotted into place just as I always hope they will. I took him to one of his favourite beats and we had a bunch of fish including a sea trout that we saw shoot out of his hidey hole and nail the Copper John we were fishing. It did his best to weed Gavin but some well executed side strain did the job and we netted the fish. We headed back for lunch at the hotel where the chefs always like to come up with something interesting to eat. Rob said he had come up with the ultimate fisherman’s lunch which he calls the Manwich. Tell you what, it is ideal fishing fodder.

We hit another beat after lunch and fish were soon on the dry. As the day went on the fishing went in pulses of activity but we took advantage of them. Just as we called it a day, the skies opened and the rain fell. It couldn’t have been better timing.

Just back from guiding on the chalk with the legend that is MFD. Report to follow shortly!

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