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Devon School of Fly Fishing Team blog

Posts Tagged ‘Fly Fishing Guide’

Fly Fishing in Devon

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

I’ve just looked up and we’re nearly in September, has it gone that fast?

It seems like it to me. Not that I am sitting here doing a retrospective of the year just yet. On that front though I have already handed out my award for new bit of tackle of the year award and that goes to my Helios 8ft 4″ 2wt. It is just such a good bit of gear. I have been fishing 1 and 2 wt rods for many years but I haven’t got my hands on one that I would use just like a 3 or 4wt. It rammed the fact home to me the other day when fishing with Ray (The Dude) when I was casting a good sized nymph into a deep pot that had two 2.5mm tungsten beads on without a problem at all. I keep saying the thing feels like a 4wt and I treat it like one but it just comes back for more!

Anyway, shameless plugs aside it has been a really interesting time on the water. The fishing has been interesting and challenging at the same time. I guess I am a sucker for punishment but it is really, really good fun working out what these fish want and where they want it. The hatches, at the moment, are more trickles and can switch on and off pretty quickly which means I have been dragging people off one stretch to another to gain the best of the fishing. It is one of the advantages of having plenty of water to show people, and it really does help.

I have also noticed the fish have not been hitting the fly with the same sort of vigour as they did. I’m sorry but I don’t subscribe to the “they have seen a load of flies” theory it is just how it has gone recently. I know anglers like to blame themselves when they miss a strike or think they have pulled out of a fish. Sometimes the fish just miss it or just don’t fully commit. I think it has been the latter over the past couple of weeks, but more settled, slightly warmer weather might just change things a bit.

John has one on a caddis!

I had a cancellation the other day that was booked in Jan. I think this is one of the first signs of how tough things are out there that we have seen and it hurt us a bit from a lost revenue perspective but I guess when the guy first booked he hadn’t figured how bad it might get. I wasn’t told this but it I am reading between the lines. I know, we should take a deposit. Well, it is the first time it has happened and we like to run a more relaxed business and I know when people want to go fishing they always turn up.

The upside is that I get to go fishing and that is not a bad consolation. I know where I am going to head and am looking forward to it.

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The Dude is in the building!

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

I have just finished a few days fishing with my fishing buddy Ray (The Dude). He was over from his new base in Denmark for some fishing and hadn’t really picked up a rod for a while. I had been thinking how long it had been since we had chucked a line together and I reckon it was in Montana last year.

He had flown into Heathrow so we thought it only right that we started with a day on the chalkstream and so we headed to a venue that we have spent so many happy times fishing. I went up early as we were going to fish the next day and stayed in the most excellent Grayling House B & B. Grayling House is owned by Rick and his wife Lorraine. I remember the first time I stayed there and Rick answered the door in a Simms fishing shirt and I knew I was in the right place. The rooms and breakfast are also stunning.

Rick pops one back

As The Dude wasn’t due ’til later I asked Rick if he fancied a fish for a few hours, which he leapt at. We strolled up the river casting to rising fish and caught a few nice ones. As well as running an fantastic B & B, Rick is an excellent fisherman, fly tyer and great company on the river too. If you are in the Salsibury area look them up, it is worth it!

The Dude had arrived and had sniffed us out on the river and as it was dark we thought it best to head to the pub for dinner and a few drinks.

Another one for Dude

End of day grayling

Next morning the sun was out and the fish were rising. Dude was in to fish straight away and I watched him pick up trout and grayling. I got into the river and followed him upstream, thankful that he’d left me a few fish to catch. There was one run I was watching him fish and it looked to me like it was almost a fish a cast!

As with every proper fishing trip we ate some junk for lunch then had a tailgate dinner which for Ray was a Chinese and for me one of the best fish and chips I think I have ever had. It looked as though things were getting cooler and quieter at 7pm but the bugs and the fish got a second wind and we fished on late before heading down the A303.

For the Devon leg of the trip I wanted to show Dude some places he hadn’t fished before, so on the first day we headed to the river that shan’t be named. It was cloudy with some light rain when we left home but when we got there the cloud stayed but it warmed. Perfect. I hung back and watched Dude get off of the mark and then went up and found some water to fish. Dude told me he had been reading the latest Gierach offering and he had mentioned that when fishing with a buddy he would leave 3 large stones in an obvious place where he had got in so that his fishing buddy knew where to get out. We tried it and it works really well. The day was perfect and we fished long and hard and just had a packet of chocolate biscuits for lunch.

A fish from the nameless river

under the tree Dude!

A fish for me from the nameless river

Planning for the last day was easy. We had always planned a trip up to Dartmoor but other trips had got in the way, so this was to be the destination. Weather was ideal and the first stream we headed to had some great pocket water that I know the Dude likes to fish. After a sausage roll (we’d had a barbie the previous evening so there were a couple left over) we fished Cherry Brook. I love Cherry Brook. Although small it is easy to think that there are only small fish in there but I have seen some real hogs that have come after smaller fish that my guests have hooked. I even let out an expletive when I saw this and spent the rest of the day apologising!

Picking a pocket

It is also easy to think that you need to fish tiny flies on Dartmoor. While this is often the case, the monster 14 1/2 incher we had the other week was on a size 14 and Dude fished a 16 on the first stream we fished but we did go down to a 20 for Cherry. The fish don’t read the books!

Dartmoor trout

We walked, talked and fished. It was such a good day with rising fish and we headed back for an ice cream and last look at the river. Where we stopped there were people, dogs and just about everything else and the fish were still rising just beside them I guess they just get used to it all. The hardest part would have been trying to make a cast with all the tourists about.

Cherry Brook trout

So that is the trip. It was great, as ever, to fish with Dude I miss him so much now that he lives abroad but we are already planning another trip. His daughter Mia is showing an interest in fishing and Mia if you are reading I hope you’ll join us one day!

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Devon Fly Fishing Guide

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Well, we have had some rain at last. It feels as though all I have done is watch the water levels continue to fall and what little rain we have had until now has not made much of an impact.

The two Alans out for a days guided fishing

That having been said, the fishing has been pretty good. We’re through what has been a really memorable mayfly season and are now enjoying some great caddis and blue winged olive hatches. It has been great to tie on a dry and enjoy seeing the fish like what we cast to them.

Bob lets one fly

I have not tied on the ever faithful klink as much as I usually do and am giving other patterns more use. It will probably come as little surprise that they are little different from the usual offerings and my guests on the river have seen that, as ever, we like to look at things from a slightly different angle!

Gary knows its a good fish!

The rain over the weekend has brought the river up and given it just about a couple of inches of visibility, but I have a feeling it is going to drop pretty quickly again but my fingers are crossed it has been enough to bring a few more migratory fish up to us.

Steve and a fish caught on something a little different!

I thoroughly enjoyed giving a talk to the Worcester Fly Dressers Guild the other Saturday about fly fishing in Devon although I was a little nervous of handing over some of the flies I use for them to look at!

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Devon Fly Fishing

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

It feels like the mayfly went in a blur of slashy takes and big fish!  I have been amazed by the good numbers of sizeable fish that have come out of the river as the more wary fish, that we don’t get to see a lot, shake off their normal shyness and hit the big mays as they drift down stream.

We have had plenty of fish in the 10 to 12 inch range and more than a few that have hit 13 inches only to be beaten again by a great 16 and a halfer that was caught last Friday. The sea trout have been starting to show and when guiding Richard from Hampshire for a couple of days it was great to see a pool switch on for a few moments and to watch a sea trout rise to the dry and then, just a few casts later, watch Richard’s rod get almost yanked out of his hand by a fish that we thought must have been a good sea trout. It just goes to show you don’t always have to fish at night, or when the river is coloured to catch them.

RFH works his magic

Richard is turning into quite the river angler now, putting exqusite casts into the hard-to-reach places and getting rewarded with some nice fish. I was also out with Russell and his friends – James, Charlie and Kelvin who were making the shift from stillwaters to rivers on a 2 day fishing course.

It was great fun and the guys all did really, really well. All of them caught some nice fish and a special mention has to go to Charlie for catching the season’s best fish of sixteen and a half inches!

The end of the day....

It’s always great when we have Dave from Portland join us, which he did on Friday, weaving his usual magic and troubling somereally nice fish, followed by Mike on Saturday who wanted to learn how to fish a river. I suspect the fish on the Tone will have something to fear now.

The deep concentration of Mike the river angler!

It was great to meet up with Clare, Fiona and Bev who wanted to learn to fish and, as ever, the ladies showed us guys how to make fly casting look easy!

Fiona, Clare and Bev hit the river

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Fly Fishing Devon

Monday, May 16th, 2011

It has been another great week of helping reach new milestones in their angling careers from beginners up to the experienced. There is nothing more exciting than seeing everything slot into place!

Caroline has always wanted to try fly fishing and had 2 days with us bought for her by her husband Terry. Despite never holding a fly rod before she was throwing some really nice loops in no time and had a rainbow in the freezer at the hotel to take home with her. Next day she was on the river and made the step with ease, catching a few nice Taw brown trout. Caroline re-strings violin and cello bows for a living and was intrigued to see if the skills she employs on a day to day basis would be of use in fly tying. They would be and after showing her how to tie a couple of flies we tried them out on the river and the fish thought they were pretty good too. Really well done Caroline!

Caroline plays a Taw brown on.

I had Paul down for a Spey Casting session and showing him a few casts that he can put into good effect on the Wye in the next few weeks should have the salmon a bit worried. I think he did fall in love with my switch rod though and I had to prise it out of his hands at the end of the day!

Nick had tried some still water fishing and wanted, with his Dad Rod, to learn how to tackle moving water. We covered the casts and tactics and took them down to where they put what they learnt to practice.

Nick ready to strike!

Geraldine had tackled river fishing a bit before but wanted to get all of the bases fully covered so that she can set out on even more fly fishing adventures.

Looks like a big fish Geraldine

We spent the weekend covering everything needed to maximise success and enjoyment and how well it all slottted into place. Her timing was perfect as the trout are really starting to lock on to the mayfly and were really taking them confidently. She caught some really nice fish and also had our first sea trout of the season on a French Partridge.

It was a big one!

We did the same last year and had sea trout on dry flies. I have tomorrow off  (Tuesday) and haven’t cast at fish for almost 3 weeks so am itching to get going…sea trout on dries will certainly be on the agenda!

Lastly a special mention has to go to Mark. I guided him a few weekends ago and know how much he loves the Taw. I was amazed to see him in the Hotel car park as Paul and I stopped for lunch. Apparently he had got the 9am train from Paddington and then took a train to Eggesford where he had booked in to fish for 4 hours and was then getting the train home again….Dude, you are a hard core fly fisher and worthy of the Trout Bum label!

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Devon Fly Fishing

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Pheeeew! Well, it seems like we have been pretty non-stop with myself and members of the team out on our lake and river fly fishing with guests of our fly fishing school.

The really nice thing is the amount of people who like to come back and spend time with us. I think it is probably because we have so much water to show them that there isn’t always enough time to see it all on the first visit!

The timing of this post has been perfect as I have had a spell of returning guests who have wanted to get to grips with the trout of the Taw.

It was great to see Neil again after he joined us for a group course last year. He fished really well and with great skill to make sure he maximised his chances of success. It was great to see him back on the water!

Neil back on the Taw again

I guided Gordon last year and he was back to do battle with the trout of the Taw again. It was such a pleasure to see him get his fly in the hardest of spots and get the reward he deserved for it. I think the new Orvis rod helped, but that would sound biased coming from me!

Gordon with a brownie

I was with Gavin for two days. Gavin has been a great supporter of our little fishing school and I always enjoy guiding him. He is at the top of his game and fished just about the best I have seen him fish. We had a great time and I love that Gavin likes to fish a bit outside the box and always loves to be a part of my wild eyed plans. Last time it was sea trout on dries but this time we thought it would be fun to try and catch a fish on a mayfly on 1st Mayand after catching a few the day before we thought it was worth a try. He almost did it but the nice trout came adrift at the last moment…what are we going to do in June?!!

Gavin plays a fish

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Fly Fishing Devon

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Last weekend was my birthday. It is the sort of occassion that I get as excited about as I used to but I think this one was one of the best. Getting up early to a beautiful sunny morning I opened some great presents from Emma and Charlie and then sat down to a magnificent breakfast and some chill out time in the garden. We had some birthday cake for lunch and Emma suggested I hit the river to catch a few birthday trout. It sounded like a great idea and so I did just that.

The Taw

The river, although low, was looking good and I knew that grannom had been coming off just around lunchtime so I knew I was on the water at the right time.

Perfect timing!

I rigged up some bamboo and headed down stream to a favourite pool. It is really nice when you get there and the fish are just starting to rise.

A vintage Bannister rod

Judging by the rises they were at the early stage of the hatch and were taking the emerging pupa. I tied on one of my easy-tie balloon caddis and a really simple grannom pupa. I stuffed the first take but managed to get a few more out of the pool.

A Taw trout

I fished for a few hours and caught a few and had what was just about the perfect birthday!

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River Taw fly fishing

Friday, April 8th, 2011

It is always nice to get to fish or guide on a new water. I was down on the south side of the Moor to meet up with David who has over 1 1/2 miles of some really nice water and wanted to see how we would approach and fish it for migratory fish. It was a really nice piece of water with a mixture of deep, shaded, slow pools that looked the ideal spot for sea trout and some classic salmon pools too. David covered it and fished it really well. It was one of those bits of water that, despite the water being low, you are always in with a chance.

David fished his stretch of water!

Yesterday I hit a new piece of chalkstream. Small, overgrown, low, clear and intimate. The sort of water where you have to spot the fish and creep up on them. We fished light with a one weight and worked hard on the stealth stuff. You know what? It worked pretty well. Despite the fish up there not having fully woken up we looked for the shallower water where fish were lying and offered them a CDC emerger. The only downside of this simple, but hugely deadly fly is that once they have had a fish you need to nip them off and tie on another. I had at least three of them being rotated on my fly patch during the day.

The grannom have really been flooding off of the Taw and the fish have been on them. We have a new section of water for our fishing school which is about 1 1/2 miles long. It is lower down the Taw and has some nice salmon pools and spots for sea trout along with brown trout. I have walked it a few times now and reckon it is longer than that as the river twists and turns but there is a great amount of water for our guests to fish, be it migratory or non migratory fishing they are after. This is along with all the great water that the hotel has so I reckon we have nearly 8 miles of private water to show anglers now.

I was guiding further down the Taw with Richard the other day. He has a cottage right by the river and wanted to learn how to fish the water for salmon. I was happy to help and showed him the pools and how best to approach them and how to fish them under differing water levels. It was one of the first bright, sunny days but we had a good go and it was nice walking back to Richard’s cottage for a pizza and sit in the garden before hitting the river again. Things weren’t to be but I’d mentioned that on the bright days it is worth heading down early to the river. I had done this a bit last year and it is really nice being there as the sun comes up. Anyway, Richard did just this and I had a call early the next day saying that he had landed his first salmon. He thinks it was a really well mended kelt but it is a great start to the second day of his salmon fishing career. My advice to him when I left him was to listen to everything anyone tells him about salmon fishing but don’t be afraid to do something from the left field. That is what he did and it turned out well for him. Well done Richard!

Richard swings a cascade

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Fly Fishing in Devon 2011 and a bit of 1953

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Life is full of little twists and turns and sometimes a series of events all seem to drop into place perfectly into a perfectly formed, completed jigsaw.

Something like this has happened over the last few days to me. I was at the hotel talking to some early season salmon anglers who turned out to live just where my parents do. No big coincidence there but next day I was at the hotel ahead of pruning some of the banks when Nick the hotel owner showed me a copy of a book they had left behind for him to read. It turns out that one of them had “liberated” it from a hotel he was staying in while on a trip to San Francisco.

The book, called Where to Fish, is a 1953 edition and just inside is an advert for the hotel where we are based: the Fox and Hounds. It even says that it was possible to get a train from Waterloo Station in London direct to Eggesford. This probably doesn’t either sound much or mean a great deal either but Eggesford Station is now just a little provincial station where a 2 carriage train stops once an hour.

So this is a nice little start to things. Next though,yesterday Emma and I decided to take the train from Eggesford to Barnstaple instead of making the drive in. It is a great journey for the fly angler as the train follows the Taw all the way. I think it was a little embarrassing for Emma as I jumped from side to side of the carriage as the river turns and twists its way to the sea. It was great to see the water I work on from a different perspective and further down the river I even saw a couple of anglers out on the water.

We did a little wander around Barnstaple and decided to head back. We quickly darted into WH Smith as I like to keep up to date with the fishing magazines and as we walked out of the door I saw a little section of local books. The cover of one had a guy fishing on the cover so I called back Emma and popped back in.

I flipped open the cover and saw that it was a collection of essays regarding fishing trips a gentleman had made over his fishing career. The one that caught my eye was 20 odd pages about fishing the  Taw at the Fox and Hounds. At  over 200 pages and in hardback the £2.99 seemed pretty fair and made it even cheaper than all the magazines, so I bought it.

When we got home I sat down with a cup of tea and opened the book at the Fox and Hounds chapter. The next spooky bit was the the writer first visited the hotel in 1953, the same year as the book I picked up the other day.

I have to be honest and say when I bought the book I was guessing it was going to be one of those “it wasn’t like that in my day” sort of affairs, but it wasn’t. It probably won’t mean much to most people but I read the chapter intently as it describes the fishing down all of the beats. It was so nice reading about pools that I have come to know so well and see how the writer used to fish them. I even picked up a tip on how he used to fish one of them!

I don’t think I would have noticed this book unless it was placed right by the door as I hardly ever go in the book section at Smiths.

The writer, Peter Harvey, was born in 1921 but the book was published in 2006 so I have contacted the publisher to see if they can try and put me in touch with him (if he’s still alive as he’d be 90 now) as I would really love to talk to him about the times he used to fish on the water so my fingers are crossed that he gets my message. I’ll keep you posted.

The book has some other sections about his fishing experiences so I’ll have a read of those too. It probably won’t mean a lot to a lot of people but just in case it does here are the details.

So, there are just 11 days til the trout season starts…getting excited?

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Fly Fishing with Friends

Monday, February 21st, 2011

One of the great things about fly fishing is the friends I have been lucky enough to make. There is nothing nicer than getting a call from a pal telling you the fishing is hot on their river or lake and would I like to join them to have a go? It is, of course, reciprocal and I get as much pleasure calling friends and saying they have to drop everything as the river is on fire.

We were lucky enough to venture up to Yorkshire this weekend to see some good friends and to take a look around and see the river they fish.

I know I have said it before but it still amazes me how small our country actually is. We set off at around 9am and were sitting in a cafe in York at 2ish having also made a stop for a cup of tea elsewhere.

On Saturday morning we got up and I mentioned to Emma that it looked a little foggy. After blinking a few times and taking a closer look ( I am a bit slow first thing) it turned out to be snow. We sort of knew it was coming and there was a nice scattering on the grass, but thankfully it wasn’t really cold enough to settle on the roads.

We’d come a long way and I really wanted to see the river I’d heard so much about and, as the roads were clear, we headed off.

It turned out it was everything I had hoped it would be and so much more. A beautiful setting, with water to match.We weren’t on a fishing day, I just wanted to see a place I had heard so much about. That having been said, I did have a cast of my new Access rod for 20 mins or so just to see and it worked perfectly.

I am pretty sure we’ll be back during the trout season, but in the meantime when we get the report of how well that river is fishing it will be nice to know that I’ll have a really good idea of exactly the spot being described. You know, the sort of thing about the riffle just below the path…

I had a great picture taken of me fishing in the snow, but just can’t seem to get it to load right  now…enjoy Charlies painting of a trout instead!

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