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Devon School of Fly Fishing Team blog

Posts Tagged ‘Orvis Endorsed Guide’

Lessons from fly fishing

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

The low water we currently have has made the fishing a little more testing than usual, but it also makes my job even more enjoyable, as it means we get to fish more outside the box than normal.

Gary on days guided fishing

There have been times this week when I have been switching fly size from an 8 to a 24. There is a pool on one of the beats at the hotel that has just about everything for an angler. A nice lively tail, a slower belly with a nice bank where the fish can hide and a really nice riffle at the head. The belly has really been the interesting bit and the place where most of my fly changes have happened this week. The flow is slow and the fish have all the time in the world to make the choice if they want to take the artificial fly or not. It runs right up against a few root systems from trees and it breaks the flow a little where micro drag can be an issue. Just about every time I have been there a few fish have been rising and it has been great fun getting them to take.

Paul on one of our learn to fly fish days

I have also been checking water levels on the Taw before I go to work each day and since the trout season the most the river has risen is 1/4inch. I think the rain on Friday and Saturday night has brought the river up a similar amount but the fish have seemed to bite harder when there has been just a drop of rain. I have also started watching water temps a little more and the water has been sitting between 11 and 12 deg c. Sometimes though I think we might just think about things too deeply and we can get bogged or influenced a bit  by things we see and hear.

Rennie puts his switch rod through its paces

At the end of the day all the fish needs is food, oxygen and shelter and as long as the requirments are fulfilled they’ll be happy. Our job is to get the fly to them without them becoming alarmed and if we do, we’re in the game. It reminded me of last weekend when I was guiding Gavin and we fished a dry fly on a 5ft 13lb level leader. You know what? He cast the fly to them and they were happy to rise to it!

Tim lets one fly on a learn to fly fish day

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We’re under starters orders!

Monday, March 14th, 2011

So the 2011 trout season is almost upon us. I can’t work out if it feels like a long time since I fished the Taw or not, but one thing is for sure I’ll be fishing there tomorrow.

We’re having a bit of a get together to mark the season as we did last year and it will be great to meet faces old and new to mark the occassion. I was teaching this morning and walked one of the beats with a couple of hotel guests who will be joining us tomorrow. The river is low and clear and it was nice to see the odd large dark olive put in an appearance.

Jamie plays a fish!

I’m hoping the cloud that has come in will keep the temps higher than last night as we had a pretty heavy frost. It doesn’t matter though; I’m happy to be out and on the river again.

Casting tuition has been taking up time and it was great to meet Jamie last Friday. He is a self taught fisherman who had done a really good job with his casting too. We worked on just a few things that really seemed to help add a few feet to distance, along with good presentation.

Bob watches Steve make a spey cast

I have also been busy working on spey casting with single handed rods. It is often thought that the spey is just used for fishing big salmon rivers with double handed rods but this just isn’t the case and can be a great addition to the casting armoury. Steve was back again and we worked on a few spey casts that would be useful for his river trout fishing.

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Fly Fishing Devon

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

It amazes me sometimes how we go about things in a complicated manner when we are  trying to convey a simple point. Fly casting can sometimes be like this and making things uncomplicated and easy to understand allows the learning process to be an easy one.

I have been doing a fair bit of casting tuition over the last few weeks and a phrase I seem to be using a lot is “the line follows the rod tip” it sounds obvious but if you can get a student to grasp that from an early stage it really does help and make a difference. By just demonstrating a forward cast and showing an exaggerated low stop with the rod tip right at the water conveys a lot especially when the line hits the water like a bag of spanners. You can do the same with a back cast too. You use excessive wrist break and the line follows that rod on a downward path into the grass.

Richard gets to grips with single handed speys

I was also teaching an advanced angler the other day who is going to be fishing one of my favourite rivers upcountry and wanted some help with learning some slack line casts. Again, using the same phrase of line following the rod tip he was soon making wiggle casts with ease and putting mends into his cast whereever he wanted. We had great fun coming up with combinations for the ultimate drag free drift.

The drag free drift maestro!

I know there are lots of other elements involved to make a good cast, but this was one that seemed to crop up a lot of late and worked really well with the learning process. I’m from the school of keep it simple!

The trout season is almost upon us and the wind has shifted from the chilly North Easterly we have had of late. It is still blowing a bit but I’m just in from some gentle pruning and making sure access points are all looking good for the off….can’t wait!

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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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Devon Fly Fishing Guide

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

I’ve just been complemented by Emma on how tidy I have kept the table next to where I sit. It doesn’t sound that interesting or noteworthy but in some small way it is. To the casual observer it looks like a pile of junk with fly boxes, nippers, books and loads of magazines piled up on it.

To me it is a place where I know that I need to head for when I’m looking for something. I know that my tide tables will be there and the article that I meant to get round to reading will be there. The needle knot contraption I use on new fly lines is there, along with a couple of camera cables that are always on hand to download the trophy shot. All this on a small table which measures 14″ x 16″!

I also managed to balance, actually topple is a better word, my morning cup of tea on it too. This is a real act of skill and needs to be seen. It certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted!

Of late I have tried my best to try and make it look a little more presentable and I think I am getting there. I plan to do the same with the back of my truck this year too. I am not going to go back and look but while I am writing this I have an awful feeling I promised the same last year. Well, I mean it this year…

Paul and grayling!

It was good to meet up with Paul again and see him catch a few grayling too on his most excellent Bannister rod. Paul is just the perfect gentleman and loves every second he is on the water! It’s always a pleasure to spend time with him.

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A great time of year

Monday, January 17th, 2011

January can be a great time of year as lots of new things hit the tackle shops ready for the new season. There is nothing more exciting (well almost!) than heading down to the river or lake with a new purchase and put it to work on the fish. We were lucky enough to pop up to the Orvis HQ in November and caught a glimpse of what will be new for this season. I had to be restrained as there are a few new things I could be stocking up on!

Flies are a tough one though. Companies must constantly be trying to bring something new to the market which is a must-have pattern for the fly box; something that will work when nothing else ever has. Perhaps it isn’t as extreme as that and  is probably more that we are being offered an alternative and it is always fun trying the new flies.

This is the great thing about fly fishing. There are so many alternatives which we can explore when it comes to flies especially if we tie our own. Hands in the air if you always tie a perfect dozen which conform to the design of the first one? I can’t hold my hand up as I just have to tinker a bit. For me, winter time is  when I tie the ever faithful flies that serve me so well. It’s also a great time to tweak some, or think about fishing situations I faced and how to overcome some of them. Just getting the fly to sit or fish differently in the water might just make that subtle difference. I  love doing this and get a thrill when the new fly I was working on actually fools the fish!

January is also a time for resoloutions and Peter’s was to learn to fly fish. We were only too happy to help him on his way. Watching a newcomer make their first roll cast can tell you a lot about how they are thinking of using the rod and it became apparent that Peter had got it. As the weather had been miserable we had talked through safety and how the tackle works in the hotel over a few cups of tea. It is a great way to start the day.

Peter and his first trout!

Peter did just fine and caught a few fish taking one home for his tea. It was brilliant to see him get as much pleasure making a nice cast as he did from catching fish. Well done Peter!

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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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Back end of fly fishing in Devon…

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

We’re now into the last month of the season and I have to say it is a time I really love. The weather might not always be with us but if we do get rain then there is a chance of a salmon taking a look at our fly. On that matter we had some rain at last but the Taw seemed to take it in its stride and came up a little and coloured a bit and by last Friday afternoon was back to normal. This meant the window for salmon was a small one but it sounds like the Exe had a lot more rain to bring both the levels and the fish up to anglers which is great news.

Chris working down a pool

I managed to get out for a quick fish and managed to have a salmon pluck at the nasty big fly I had cast at it and then took to the air to show me just what might have been. I went back and Charlie joined me in the afternoon and the river was a different place and a lot lower. I cast through the pool hoping the fish was still obliging and felt the line go tight and lifted into a fish. It wasn’t the salmon but a sea trout was just as welcome!

I lost a couple of trout days due to the weather but did some casting with Carolynne and Patrick who are off to Montana today and yesterday I was guiding Chris. He was keen to learn everything he possibly could about fishing streams and everything that goes with it. We even had a go at a likely looking salmon pool and despite hooking a nice trout we didn’t get lucky….this time!

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Fly Fishing on Dartmoor

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

I love to head up on to Dartmoor and fish the many and varied small streams that are found up there. My preference is to head high and fish the smallest pieces of water I can find and to fish the small pockets that are formed between rocks as the stream takes a step down. It never ceases to amaze me that the smallest of these pockets are often home to a trout and sometimes one a little bigger than you might be expecting.

Looking downstream

The typical size of fish is in the 5 to 6 inch range but despite their size they know how to fight dirty and will give you a scrap way beyond their size.

Dartmoor brown trout

I was lucky enough to get up there recently with my good pal Toby. I had recently bought some tying gear from his Funky Fly Tying Range ( and having tied up a few patterns thought it only right that we road tested them before I use them for my guests. There is nothing worse than lavishing time on a fly that you are convinced will work and then, when you tie it on when fishing, it fails to deliver. I think I have written in the blog before that I only have three criteria for my flies. Firstly, they are quick to tie, secondly they work and lastly that if they get hung up in a tree I don’t mourn their loss. I am sure part of this is still down to my “rustic” style of tying though!

Toby had not fished Dartmoor before and despite him being an excellent fisherman I wanted to take him to some of my favourite spots and then the plan was to just keep walking and see what we could find.

The day could not have been more perfect. Warm and overcast and not a hint of wind. It is often the case there is a firm downstream wind when I jump out of the truck but today could not have been more perfect. I’ll often use a 10ft 4wt rod to enable me to keep line off of the water and to almost dap my fly into a likely spot but it was just a fun day. With us not  being motivated by numbers of fish we thought it would be fun to fish lighter lines on short rods and see how we got on.

After a 1/2 hour walk I dropped Toby into a pool and stood back and watched. He expertly dropped his fly into the right spot and a fish liked his fly and Toby was off and running with his first Dartmoor trout. It is always great to be a part of a new landmark for a fisherman and although not a huge one in the grand scheme of things it was still cool to see it happen.

A Dartmoor first for Toby!

I watched for a bit longer and then thought I had better get fishing. I like fishing dry flies up there and had a size 20 klink tied in my scruffy style with loosely dubbed substitute grey seals fur. I don’t carry much by way of flies when I fish up there.  Small and black usually covers the bases.

I unstrung the 3 wt and stepped into a pool. I’d been on the river most days but it had been in a work capacity meaning I hadn’t held a rod to fish with in a little while. I know how fast these fish were and with Toby down stream of me I knew he’d let me know if my strike was a little slow!

I threw a cast into a slightly slower, deeper part of a pool and a fish was on the fly almost immediately. Thankfully my reflexes were up to the job and I was in. It was good to hear a cheer from Toby as he saw me bring the fish in. The great thing about fishing together on such small pools is that you can easily leapfrog each other as long as you stay well back from the pool your buddy is about to fish as these fish are as spooky as they get.

Toby heads up stream

It was really interesting seeing the different way we would both approach a pool. Toby likes to throw a slightly longer line whereas I’ll have a minimal amount out and quickly work a pool. We have spoken about this before and the really neat thing is that both methods work really well. I’m a huge believer that if it works, go for it! We talked about it some more when we had lunch and decided that it was about getting the fly into the right spot. If you did that  the take would be pretty much straight away, so as long as you are primed and set when the fly touches the water you are in business!

The lack of rain meant the water was low and even a well presented fly would be enough to send fish scattering for cover in the slower sections of pools. As the day progressed and there was more by way of hatches then the fish were more confident and our success improved.I concentrated on the slightly faster stretches and seams of pools where I thought the fish would have less time to analyse a fly.

Just a few nice little pools....

We headed for one of my most favourite spots, where the river drops more steeply and there was more pocket water to fish. Toby went to work and picked up a fish and I jumped upstream of him to a spot I liked the look of. It was not a big pool but had a nice deep section with the current running right up against some really big rocks. I flipped my fly in and it was taken straight away. I am not sure who was the more surprised but the the fish certainly reacted more quickly and headed up the pool and in to a crevice where we were parted. Toby had seen what had happened and we both knew it was a good fish but I am from the “better to have loved and lost” school than letting a lost fish get to me.

Toby gets ready for action!

I’m not sure how many fish we had but it didn’t really matter. We’d had a great time and made the long walk back to my truck. The great thing about Dartmoor is the sheer expanse of water to fish. We didn’t see another fisherman and managed to fish miles and miles of water.

It was one of those days you just want to eek the most out of so over a coffee at a service station we decided to hit the Taw for some more trout, have a bite to eat and then hit the river for the off chance of some sea trout. We threw in the towel at midnight and had covered plenty of miles and caught plenty of fish. Did we get lucky with the sea trout?That will keep for another story!

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Fly Fishing in Devon

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Fly fishing in devon has really been pretty good. Despite some ups and downs with the weather the fish have been pretty happy to give a well presented fly the time of day. Dries are still working really well although a nymph hung below the dry in the deeper pools has picked up an extra fish or two.

The mayfly hatch is now just a small trickle towards the end of the day but you’ll still see me tie on a grey Wulff at the slightest sign of a slashy take at the surface. This has been the case as late as the Sunday just gone and I have still used them to try and drag a sea trout up to take a look.

I had 3 days with Steve last week and it was his first season on moving water. The really nice thing was having plenty of time to go through the casts and approaches to maximise success for him and it was great to net his first wild brown trout. It is great to be a part of landmarks in someone’s fishing career and something I will never tire of!

Steves first wild brown trout

We fished all sorts of places to give him a good chance to experience everything a river could throw at him and to show him how far he had progressed. It is great standing next to someone and see them fire a cast straight into the right spot and a fish leaps on to it and think to your self “my work is done”!!

Fly hits its target first shot

Steve rose to every challenge thrown at him and the trout of Wales and wherever else he ventures better look out!

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