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Devon School of Fly Fishing Team blog

Posts Tagged ‘Fly Fishing School in Devon’

Spring has sprung?

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

We noticed for the first time that the swallows were back at home today, primroses are in the hedgerows, the large dark olives seem to be more abundant and the trout are more in their rightful feeding spots. Perhaps this is the first time so far this season that things feel like they are getting there. I even taught in a fleece and T shirt today.

Temperatures are set to rise a little and this should give the season the kick start it really needs so the trout better watch out!  I have a day off tomorrow and after seeing the anglers at the hotel I plan to head out for some trouting myself.

The new lake is now full, although it still looks a bit “just finshed” and it needs to settle. But it is great to be teaching on there as it is a great size and I am really pleased with how it has turned out. As it is not a public fishery I have planned it so that not only are there  lots of areas to fish from but also areas that will be useful to teach casts, especially single handed spey casting. The fish are on order and will be in soon, so then it will really come to life. It really is a great addition to what we are trying to do and offers a great spot for anglers when the river is unfishable.

Mr Barrow gets to grip with the double spey

Leon lets one fly! Fly Fishing in Devon Fly Fishing tuition,lessons and guide

Fly Fishing in Devon and beyond!

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

I recently thought of a good question to ask a buddy when heading off on a fishing trip or having a coffee by the river which was sort of along the lines of where would you fish if you were allowed to go one more time. On giving an answer myself I thought about this and then changed the rules a bit so that I could fish once more on my beloved Taw and then one other place world wide.

This is one of those questions that you probably need to fire the answer from the gut as the more you think about it the more variables come in. Should it be somewhere I have fished or should it be somewhere I would like to fish? Would it be fresh or salt water? There are some places I have fished in the salt and would like to go back to and there are some I would like to visit and fly fish for bonefish, tarpon and perhaps, if I am lucky, a permit. So does this mean we should have a fresh and salt water section?

I think probably not and if pressed I would opt for freshwater as first choice but if I had a saltwater section it would be one right out from left field. Tobago. It will never rank up there with the great destinations but I don’t mind too much. I liked it for what it was and it wasn’t trying to be something it wasn’t. The guide knew what he was doing (he was excellent) and he knew his stuff. The fishing wasn’t pressured and there were plenty of fish. Within a few hundred yards I was fishing a small flat for bones and permit and then hopped into the boat for 2 minutes and we were casting to tarpon. If I only had 1 day this would be ideal as there is a 5 minute trip to the flats and all the fishing I would need for that one last day and I wouldn’t need to waste valuable time travelling…looks like I have spent too much time thinking this through!

So, I have decided my last day will be casting flies to brown trout. There are so many places in the UK I would love to revist like the Wye, Usk, Irfon or the Derbyshire Wye. I haven’t even scratched the chalkstreams but I know the Wylye would come top for me in that category without any serious competition. Then there was a “secret river” I fished in April where I caught 5 fish from 14 to 20 1/2 inches. That is certainly a contender!


Looking further afield I love Colorado and just about every stream I have fished there. Favourites are probably The Frying Pan and The South Platte but The St Vrain just edges it for me. It was a special stream with some of the most beautiful trout I have and will probably ever catch.

It looks like I am coming to the conclusion that the last place I fish will be somewhere I have been before. It might sound boring but what if I choose somewhere that when I get there I don’t like it?

New Zealand has to feature too and casting dry flies at huge rising trout is something I will never forget and a magical day The Dude and I had on The Mataura where we caught our fill of trout and then some more.  I also liked the small streams and just loved the idea that we would drive along a road and see a river come into view and if it looked nice we’d park up and have a cast.

It probably sounds like these are dream destinations but most of these trips are put together by my good friend Ray (The Dude) and we have a simple brief. Maximum fishing time, minimum cost.  He excelled himself on our NZ trip.

Looks like I have wondered off topic a bit but when writing the last paragraph I have come to a final conclusion.  I don’t think I would want to fish anywhere but The Taw for my last day. I love it.


I think I mentioned Gierach the other day and apologies if I did but he talks about fishing anyone’s St Vrain (his home water) and say that when he fishes somewhere new he compares it to The St Vrain. I know what he means and always make a comparison to The Taw in many ways wherever I am fishing. So I guess I’d fish anyone’s Taw.

Taw Salmon

Devon Fly Fishing Guide

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

As a fly fishing guide I do enjoy the challenge of sussing the fish out when conditions aren’t as perfect as we would all like them. I was lucky enough to have Pam and Alan down here for a week and having left perfect conditions in Hampshire we were greeted with something a little less friendly in Devon.

The river on Sunday was unfishable but was coming down fast and although had a tinge of colour was safe to wade and looked like it would just get better. The morning was pretty slow with a few half hearted plucks but after lunch things hotted up and a few mayflies got the fish interested. As the water still had a push to it we worked slacker, slower areas and any indents in the bank. We decided to make it worthwhile for the fish to take a look so fished size 1o stimulators. This might seem a little extreme but there have been some pretty big ones coming off this year. The nice thing was that the plan worked and we had some nice fish to 13 inches.

Later in the week Alan hooked an landed a 14 incher matching our best for the season. We had a great week with plenty of fish and it was a real pleasure to guide them both and to have such a good time!


Fishing Towns

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

There is nothing like wandering into a fishing town. The one I remember the most is Basalt that sits right on the Frying Pan river in Colorado. The Dude and I pulled in for some breakfast and coffee and saw a row of drift boats lined up ready for a day in the water. We popped into the two fly stores there and there were guides busily stocking up on flies and talking their guests through what they were going to be doing on the day. I also remember walking into a restaurant in waders and sitting down at a table without anyone batting an eyelid.

I have just come back from a week of guiding Alan and Pam in Hampshire where we have been fishing a few juicy bits of water. They were based in Stockbridge and I would pick them up each morning. I think Stockbridge qualifies as a fishing town. Well, almost. The two fishing shops open early and there are even a few guides knocking around (me included). The reason is that I am not sure how much of a fishing town it is or not as I am not so sure it is the same once the mayfly have gone. I have been there plenty of times but it does usually coincide with mayfly and there are plenty of anglers around but I am not so sure if this is the case all year round. I will be back later in the year and will let you know.

The fishing itself was really good. The mornings were best with gin clear waters where we stalked and cast our dries to rising fish. The mayfly was OK but not stunning. We fished several different stretches of water and did well on all of them. There is nothing like seeing a fish move towards the fly and take it!

Pam and Alan were new to fly fishing the chalkstreams and are used to casting a fly on spate rivers. You know what? They took to it like they had always done it.

Fly Fishing in Devon pt2

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Graham wrote an interesting blog regarding the difference between the fly fishing he does back home in the South East and the fly fishing down here in Devon. With fishing generally it is a matter of you sometimes having to adjust your style of fishing to match your location. As he writes below having to alter your strike speed is a perfect example but I always think that if the fundamentals are in place and you have got your fly to your target and the fish has taken then a large part of the job is done.  It is simply a case of fine tuning the last part to make everything click.

Al having a lesson on our trout lake

Al having a lesson on our trout lake

For me fly fishing is about the art of deception and it never fails to amaze me how we tie a fly made from fur and feather that we think a trout might be feeding on, tie it to the end of our leader, cast it to the fish and he thinks it IS food. Sometimes they stick, sometimes they come off. I can honestly say I don’t think I have ever been haunted by a lost fish but ask me at the end of my fishing career and you might just hear a different story.

Anyway, over to you Graham

Richard with one of several he caught on a dry

Richard with one of several he caught on a dry

Being based in the “soft” Southern part of the country it is always interesting to compare and contrast with other parts when the opportunity arises. Last weekend I was able to do that when Pete asked if I wanted to help with a large group he and Mark were looking after and then do a bit of fishing thereafter. Naturally I thought about it, discussed it with my family, relatives, neighbours and friends and after putting it to vote, hesitatingly agreed. So on the Saturday I fished my local water which is the Lea in Herts which is a narrow relatively slow moving chalkstream stocked with predominately browns of circa 2-2.5lbs. The reason for this is we are next to a SSSI and there are quite a few cormorants that particularly enjoy sub 2lb brownies. It is also frequented by many bird twitchers and woe betides us if we were to apply some cormorant preventative measures! We also over winter the fish and some are rather large and wise but in the correct conditions can be caught. We have a mayfly hatch but outside that fly life is sparse and thus, although I am first and foremost a dry fly addict, have to resort to the nymph at times. This was the case on Saturday. Water clarity was pretty good on account of lack of recent precipitation and it was possible to spot some fish. The general approach here is to use very small (#16) lightly leaded grhe or some variant like nymph, cast about 3 feet in front, let it drift down and when just in front lift slightly. This usually prompts a response. If all goes correct a large gob opens, slowly closes and as if in slow motion you raise the rod and we have contact. No lightning reflex action is necessary. This was the case on Saturday and it was a pleasant outing.

Roll-on Sunday and what a difference a few hundred miles can make. Mid afternoon saw Pete and I waving our group of guests goodbye and sped off to the Bray for a few hours. Weather was nice and there was quite a lot of fly-life with grannom showing and some olives. We started off with just a dry klinkhammer and although there was very little surface activity I managed to raise a couple and miss them with style! So we switched to a New Zealand with a small gold bead about 2 feet below. Pete quickly hooked 2 fish and upon giving me the rod I managed to hook several trees in succession – I’m sure they reach out to capture the flies! I eventually caught a small brownie and then lost fish after fish after fish. I give the rod to Pete and he promptly catches a nice one. I get the rod back and promptly lose the two flies and so diplomatically call it a day

Apart from the fact I can’t catch Devon fish to save my life what do I make of this? Well apart from the fact that these Devon fish could dart into and out of a Lea trout’s mouth before he could close it and foliage avoidance is as much a challenge as catching the fish it’s all down to surroundings. The Lea meanders through flattish terrain and the fish are so large they have little in the way of predators and so fishing is more gentle and everything slows down to reflect the surroundings and quarry. Whereas Devon streams are faster chuckling entities with lots of canopy cover and populated with nervous critters who dart away at any unusual movement. The fish have to eke out a life and will engulf and reject a fly as fast as Usain Bolt can sprint. Hence ones approach to Devon has to be quite different to the South and it takes a while to acclimatise (well that’s my excuse anyway!)

What do I prefer? Actually I enjoy both but perhaps not in the same weekend!


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!

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