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Devon School of Fly Fishing Team blog

Posts Tagged ‘Fly Fishing Instruction’

The name isn’t important

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

I seem to have a really bad case of the fly fishing bug right now. I wake up just as it is getting light and start thinking about the day ahead on the river.

I was due to meet my pal Toby to fish a small stream at 10am. The reason for this was that up until a few days ago it had still been a little chilly early on and getting on the water early didn’t make a lot of sense. Like I say, that was until we had some sun and warm temps too.

I’d been up and at my computer getting the last bits of Eat, Sleep, Fish ready since 6.30am and decided I’d wait until 8ish before I called. It turned out to be 7.45 or 7.47 to be exact. I got his voicemail and left a message. A few minutes later my phone ran and I was soon in my car.

Toby was there just a few minutes before me and we were soon putting our waders on. He said he thought we should just fish dries and I was happy to follow suit.

We walked to the first pool and he gallantly let me have first crack. The water was clear and we both watched the first trout of the day take a look at my fly and eat it.

Tobys ‘glass rod was bent soon after as he had hooked a good fish.

We strolled up the river taking it in turns to have a go at either rising fish or working likely looking water.

We were briefly joined by a pal of Tobys, Mike, who knows the river well. I had met him once before and while we chatted we watched Toby pull out 3 or maybe 4 fish from a run.

The rises were all confident ones that meant some of those early season mistimed strikes were not going to happen. Seeing the fish in crystal clear water helped too.

I’ve no idea how many fish we caught but I think we caught our fair share.

As we got into our cars to leave I have a feeling he may well of headed off to try somewhere else. I hope he did.

Fly Fishing in Devon – Fly Fishing Tuition, Guiding and Fly Fishing Lessons

Fly Fishing Guide

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

I love being a fly fishing guide on my beloved Taw but it is always good to spread your wings from time to time and seek out some new and exciting fishing.Not only for yourself but also for your guests, so that you can always offer them a new fly fishing adventure. I call the trips I make fact finding missions just to make sure everything is as I hope it will be if I take my guests there!

I was lucky enough to have Alan and Pam back with me for 3 days of guided fishing and they were keen to take another look at some chalkstream fishing . We had met up in June to do something similar and I decided to show them some other venues. I think they worked out pretty well and we were lucky enough to hit some really, really good fishing. There were even a few Mayfly making a late appearance that the fish took advantage of along with some Blue Winged Olives and more Caddis than you could shake a stick at. With low water levels we were able to bring fish up to have a look at dries and depending on tempratures and the amount of bugs hatching we varied sizes of flies from 24 up to 12.


The thing I really like about guiding on the chalkstreams is that you can spot the fish and we had great fun stalking our targeting fish and landing a fly in just the right spot to see if we got the desired response. Pam is an amazing spotter of fish and it was great seeing her spot a pod of grayling and expertly pick them off one by one!


We had a great 3 days with lots of laughs (usually at my expense!) and caught a few fish along the way. Alan has a great target in that he likes to try and learn something new each day he is on the water and I think we managed to make that happen.


We have had plenty of visitors of late and we are always touched when we recieve a mail back from guests telling us that they have had a good time with us. It is things like this that spur us on even more to provide the best fly fishing experience we can . On that front keep an eye out for what we have planned for the 2010 season as we have some really exciting things already arranged, but never wanting to rest on our laurels we are just tying up the last few extra things to ensure you have great, new and interesting options available to you for fly fishing tuition and guiding in Devon. We will unveil everything in due course but needless to say we are hugely excited!

A few comments from our guests

wanted to say thank you for the time that you spent with us on Tuesday and for your
continued help thru the rest of this week. Whilst we tried our best to prize a salmon
out of the Taw without any success, I know that everyone had a cracking time.
Thanks again for everything.
All the best
A note to thank you for Sunday. I had an excellent day and look forward to
our next meeting.


Just to thank you again for all you did for me and Roger in introducing us to both the Taw and to night fishing for sea trout.
You could not have been more helpful, informative or enthusiastic and it was all most enjoyable and greatly appreciated.

Very best wishes,


Devon Fly Fishing Guide

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

As a fly fishing guide the most important thing for me is that my guests have a great day and that they learn something along the way. Even if it is the tiniest thing it might just be something that helps get a great drag-free drift over a fish and is the thing that makes the fish decide to take. I also feel very strongly that I rarely touch my guest’s rod and if I do it might only be to illustrate a point and you can be sure it won’t be cast into the fishing area! I remember I showed Pam a cast when we were on The Test and a fish took. I was mortified and had the fish in and released before it even knew it was hooked!

Anyway, the other thing I try and be as honest as possible with is size of trout. As a guide it is easy to say the fish is bigger than it actually is but what’s the point? It is much better to be realistic and if it were a 12 incher and I said it were a 14 incher it is not doing the 12 incher the justice it deserves and lets face it, for our rivers a 12 incher is still a great fish.

Our guests have been catching a few nice fish of late. Ian has been a great supporter of our fly fishing school and this time he came back with his fishing buddy Phil. I had seen signs of salmon on one of the beats a few days before with Faure and so decided to have a quick look for them. The guys were doing a great job and throwing their flies expertly into position and it felt a really fishy morning! Phil had a grilse follow the fly right the way in and despite me quickly changing patterns this didn’t bring him out again but he later had a sea trout have a go at the fly. Ian fired off a cast at an 8lb salmon we saw too but it wasn’t to be. We decided to hit the trout as it felt as though the barometric pressure had dropped and it worked out a good plan. Below is a really nice fish Ian caught.


As you can see this was a fine fish, Ian and Phil were excellent anglers and no doubt will be terrorising trout in Devon again next year.

Sadly I didn’t get some photos of Guy and Roger who came down from Hertfordshire to fish with us. They were great and the saying I will remember from Guy was ” I am only 73″ it was agreat attitude and despite them both fishing some pretty nice chalkstreams and doing really well they wanted to leave their comfort zone and try something different so we went trouting and even went out for some sea trout. They were great company and really good fishermen!

I have just got in from a great day with Richard who is another great supporter of our school and has visited many times this year from Hampshire. He has just moved home and as soon as the dust settled he shot off down to us for a spot of fly fishing!

He had fished solo on Saturday and done really well catching plenty of trout and even skated a caddis pattern down stream and got bust by a great big sea trout. Today I wanted to show him some new water so headed up to the Top of Beat 5 and picked up a few fish there and then before we had lunch we headed to Beat 2 as he is fishing alone on Tuesday so I thought it would be good to show him. We headed down and came across a pool with a few fish rising, we couldn’t leave it…would you?! Richard fired out a shot and the dry dipped. I thought it was a peal but saw it was a really nice brown as it took to the air. Despite it knowing all the dirty tricks, Richard expertly got the fish to the net. We covered lots on the day as we decided it would be great to  analyse each fishing situation and how we would approach it to maximise the potential. It worked pretty well!



Fly Fishing Guide

Monday, August 24th, 2009

One of the challenges of being a full time fly fishing guide is making sure you can get your guests fishing even when conditions might make you think twice. It looked like it might be the case when I had spoken to Dave from Portland about chances of fishing. We knew there was rain coming but decided to have a flier. Dave is as keen as me and I was secretly pleased that we had gone for it.

I mentioned he was keen and I knew he’d be early so I headed to the Hotel a little earlier as I had a hunch he might be there. Spookily enough he was and after a cup of coffee we hit the river. We started by heading higher up the Taw and despite a quiet start we started finding a few fish. We had to head for some shelter as the rain gods did there stuff but it didn’t put Dave from Portland off!


The rain stopped and we headed upstream a bit and Dave spotted a fish, cast to it and caught it. It was simple as that but it was all perfect. After lunch we headed to one of the Hotel beats and again we came across a feeding fish which hit the fly hard. It was a nice fish getting close to 12 inches.


One thing about Dave is that he is cool as a cucumber but when we saw a sea trout take to the air just in front of him I reckon I saw just a hint of the coolness slip just a tiny bit!

Fly Hatches #4

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Whilst writing these I have come to the conclusion that I could have probably put the flies I have written about in slightly better order but it has been nice to just think about a hatch or a fishing situation and write about it rather than having any semblance of proper order. I’ll do my best to try and keep them a bit closer to the calender in future!

So, the next up on the list is the March Brown. This fly is one of our early upwing hatches of the season hence the name. It is a bit of a bruiser in size compared to the Large Dark Olive being about 4mm bigger but still a good 4mm smaller than the daddy of them all the Mayfly. Again like the LDO the March Brown has two tails. rhithrogena1

The nymph likes to cling to stones so when you turn one over you’ll often see them scuttle for cover. A pheasant tailed nymph will usually cover this stage of the fly with a bead head to get you down and an unweighted version fished just subsurface can get interest from the trout. I have hit quite a few hatches of these and I can usually be lucky enough to catch a good one on the Bray. I found a great little March Brown pattern from Simon at Turralls that I have used for a number of years. I usually fish a size 14 but also have them in size 16 as they are a great all rounder for olives too.


    The latin name is again a slightly trickier one to remember but for the record it is Rhithrogena germanica. Getting up close you’ll see the body of the fly is a really dark brown with light rings around the abdomen. If you hit one of these hatches at the right time it can make a really nice start to the fly fishing season with a dry!

I was out on the water yesterday and if it stays dry today we could be in for some fun for the opening of the trout fly fishing season. Interestingly I have noticed that the hatches of Large Dark Olives haven’t been as large as a few weeks back but with some slightly milder weather that we’ll see them get going again.

We are in the process of changing the look of the blog page so please bear with us but if you need the main site it can be found here.

No power….

Monday, March 9th, 2009

I was popping up to Kennick yesterday and hopped into my truck and went to start it up and not a lot happened. It seems like I have a flat battery and I’m not sure what caused it. I say that, I think one of two things might have caused it. I popped on the river with Toby on Friday and he had left his stuff on the back seat of my truck. The only downside of this was that he took a while to set up and my truck, as much as I love it, has this annoying little habit of resetting the alarm when it feels like it. This means that if you are poking around inside with the door open and it decides to rearm you will probably set off the alarm. As I said Toby took a little while to set up his gear and I kept having to reset the alarm…perhaps this did it? Or Emma got me a device that you plug into the cigarette lighter which you then plug you IPod into and it selects a clear radio channel allowing you to play your IPod music through your car stereo. It is really cool but I was thinking that leaving it plugged in the whole time might be draining the battery, the device also charges the Ipod so perhaps this has something to do with it too. Either way it meant I had to jump into Emma’s car and try and remember my waterproof stuff along with hat and glasses. Thankfully I did. I am charging the truck battery now so hopefully it will work…I hope it isn’t anything more serious.

I got a sniff of a fresh salmon being caught a little further downstream from us on the Taw. This means they are starting to head our way. I’ll be waiting for them and will hopefully get a shot at one or two. Toby thought he had a pull Friday but it is always hard to know and he would probably prefer I didn’t say that as he much prefers the black or white approach. You either had a fish or you didn’t. I think he is right but early season it does lift your spirits a bit to see or at least think that something might have been paying your offering some attention. In this case it was a Flying C.

The trout season is less than a week away. If the weather is up to it I’ll be hitting the Taw but most likely the Bray. If not I’ll be heading to Colliford for some brown trout fly fishing on Bodmin Moor. I’ll be stringing up the rod with an intermediate line and the ever faithful black tadpole. Small short, jerky strips usually work and we’ll see if this is the case this year.

Paul sent me an email yesterday telling me that fly tying can be potentially bad for your health…more from Paul below.

Fly tying is dangerous! A cautionary tale.


I have great little study. It has windows facing south and east and therefore catches the morning sun.


The L-shaped desk has one arm along the south facing windowsill with computer, filing etc above and below it.


The other arm sits along the west wall of the room and has all my fly-tying equipment permanently out and ready to go. A captain’s chair swivels conveniently between the two.


A few mornings ago- the first decent day in ages- I was happy sitting at the computer part of the desk browsing the internet and Pete’s new website and blog.



Suddenly, my wife cried out in considerable alarm that something was on fire in the house.


I was out of my study like a shot, nose twitching like a rabbit scenting lettuce. I, too, caught a strong whiff of something burning!


Strangely, it seemed to be coming from behind me! I returned to my study to find flames licking up the white card I place behind my vice to improve my view of work in progress!  Having doused the flames, it was clear a 2” hole had been burnt in the card.


The culprit was the magnifier mounted in front of the vice- a perfect combination of a sunny morning and the distance between magnifier and card perfect for focusing the sun on the card.



Happily no serious damage done- but I hate to think what might have happened had we been out or elsewhere in the house with the study door closed.

Thanks Paul!

Main website for Devon School of Fly Fishing is

What would you save?

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

I have various photos of grip and grin shots and of fishing buddies I have met and have fished with over the years. I like to look at them and remind myself of what was a good day or sometimes wasn’t such a good one but turned out well for some  reason other than fishing. I think it was John Gierach who said when asked how the fishing had been “the fishing was good but the catching poor” This sums it all up really nicely on so many levels and shows why we all love it so much. It isn’t about numbers it’s about the whole big picture.

Talking of which I, as ever, seem to have gone off topic a bit and in a bid to get back again I was thinking about all of my fishing photos both on the computer and the actual hard copies I have. Computers are great in that you can have files and files of pics to look through and it is nice to quickly scoot through them but there is something nice about having pile of photos in your hand that you can flick through.

I’m never going to give any serious photographer a run for his money sadly; I don’t have the “eye”, but there are some really good ones about and the internet is a great medium for us to be transported to far away places that we might only ever get to dream about. Sometimes a photo can say more than a guy on TV or DVD can possibly do and it lets us form our own idea of what the place might be like and if we aren’t ever going to be there then that’s a nice thought to have. I remember a website that had a picture of a trout about to take an anglers fly. It really was a cool picture and I found myself imagining it was a spring creek somewhere in Montana despite having no idea where it actually was.

Looking at the old “hard copy” pics the little mistakes that we have made are there for ever and we’ll not be able to change them, not that I’d want to as it all adds to the character-well thats my excuse.

Looks like I have wandered off topic again and what I keep meaning to ask is do you have a fishing picture that means a lot to you? If there were a fire and you could save one fishing pic what would it be?

The pic below is one that means a lot to me for a lot of reasons. Firstly as it was taken in Colorado in 2006 at Mike Clark’s place in Lyons. I had just been there to pick up a bamboo rod he had built for me for my 40th birthday. Emma had saved up for the rod for 3 years, ordered it and only told me when it came to how the rod was going to be finished. This was quite a shock!


From the left: AK Best, The Dude, some scruffy urchin and Mike Clark

The other reason this picture means a lot is that Emma told me about the rod then said as my Christmas present I should go out there and pick it up with The Dude coming along too. This was a memorable trip for so many reasons but the trip to Lyons was pretty special. It was so cool meeting up with AK and looking at his flies and to just to talk fishing with him. I think we covered everything from downstream dry fly presentations to bonefishing and just about everything inbetween!

Mike then shut the shop early and we fished the St Vrain just at the top of the High Street. I will never forget this as Mike was guiding me and Kathy who works with Mike was following me. I fished the holes like we would at home and I covered the water quickly whereas Kathy worked a hole methodically and kept catching fish. I soon cottoned on to the fact and got into the groove…well it was our first day!

One of the other reasons this picture makes me smile is that we had arrived the night before and The Dude had driven us from Denver Airport. I remember asking him (he is American by birth) how easy it was to slip back into driving on the other side of the road to the UK. “It seems to be pretty easy” was his reply. It was about this time he realised we were driving down Lyons High Street on the wrong side of the road. I’ll tell you about our other “off road” adventure we had on this trip another time.

I did try and load a photo of all four of us smiling. As you can see Mike isn’t really showing his teeth but he doesn’t really like his photo being taken and I have about 10 different shots and the expression is the same…I’ll try another time.

Needless to say the rod is everything I hoped for and more, and the attention to detail and skill gone into it is amazing.  There is now a 5 year wait for one of his rods. It fishes pretty well too! I often use it on the first day of the trout season where I usually like to fish the Bray. After all the rod is called the Bray Special so it seems only right.

Main website address:

Report from the Dude

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Ray is my fishing buddy and is so relaxed I call him the “Dude” after the character of the same name in the Cohen Brothers film The Big Lebowski. He has written a few words about a day we had on a salmon river  in NZ.  It was one of those things where you read about a river and it says no one really fishes it for trout as it is known for salmon.  But it sort of gets you thinking that firstly is that because no one actually does bother fishing it for trout or is it the details you have in front of you like this to keep you for fishing for trout? We probably looked into this too deeply but when it comes to fishing I think you have to…anyway, over to you Dude…

 Pete and I were told by locals that the Rangitata “was more of a salmon river”.  When we arrived at the upper gorge section upriver of Peel Forest, it was easy to understand why:  it was a big, fast water interrupted by long, deep pools.  the water was brilliant torquoise, almost artificial in colour, because of the light reflecting off the volcanic silt collected from its headwaters.

The Dude

The Dude

 Unfortunately, the strong Northwesterly wind was blowing whitecaps in the pools and we quickly decided that we wouldn’t be able to turn over even our seven weight lines.  disappointed, we got back in the car and drove back downriver hoping to find more trout friendly water and shelter from the wind.

 We found what we were looking for, but unfortunately the section ran next to a campground that was fully booked with locals enjoying a long weekend.  We figured that the water got a good pounding but it was getting close to lunchtime and we hadn’t fished so we decided to put in.
Pete took the first pool and I took the second.  Three campers arrived shortly after us in their swim gear and positioned themselves between us.  I immediately became annoyed, but Pete later told me that the two women and one man nuded up and went swimming, so I forgave them and thought what a pleasant addition to any fishing day that would be (seeing the women, that is) provided it didn’t adversely affect the fishing.
We ended the day with two fish each, the largest around 5lbs.  Every day we fished the South Island I learned a thing or two, and here’s what I took away from our day on the Rangitata:      
    1)  Don’t dismiss a river that “was more of a salmon river” as not holding trout.  Pete and I chose the Rangitata deliberately to avoid other trout fishermen.  If you can fish the sections that the salmon fishermen avoid, you may find some trout that haven’t been fished to, even if they are next to a campground.
    2)  Fish lighter tippet than you think would be appropriate.  Although 5lb. tippet is standard for the size of fish we were catching, I fished 3lb. test for most of our trip.  The lighter tippet seemed to help with wary fish.  On big, open rivers like the Rangitata or the nearby Rakaia there aren’t many snags or other places for fish to pop you off.  My normal bias is to fish heavier than appropriate tippet to hasten the fight, but I found that quickly making my way to calm water as the fish tired was the best way to achieve a quick release. 
    3)  Always choose the first pool downriver of nude lady swimmers.