Monday, 31 December 2007

2007 Season Review

So this is my last post of 2007, another year gone in a fish filled flash! It has been fun and we could not believe it when in April we were suddenly blessed with unbelievable temperatures and clear blue skies. Sam Langer is dressed for summer on 5th April 2007 looking very pleased with this Rainbow taken on a Buzzer in a flat calm. Check out the bare trees in the background! Little did we know what the summer had in store ....

Sam visited along with her husband Ian. Both have attended a number of my courses and first fell in love with fly fishing during a large group event to celebrate a 60th birthday. Ian came along as a guest and seemed quite relaxed listening to his Ipod while practicing casting. After lunch the headphones came out and it was down to business, he could not go wrong catching fish after fish! This baptism of fire spelled the start of a passion that only anglers can describe. In fact I guess you could call it an obsession! Ian now has plenty of tackle topped off this year by the purchase of one of my all time favourite rods ... The Greys GTec. The 9' 6" #7 is truly awesome and I am pleased to report that there is whole new range coming through in 2008. I cast the 10' 0" #7 at a show earlier in the year and have to say it ranks in my top 3 blanks of all time! I look forward to seeing Ian and Sam again in 2008 who have a gift voucher to cash in.

A couple of days later the big Brown that Freddy had stocked in early March ran out of luck and became the fishery record Brown and subsequently a Troutmasters badge winner. This was an old brood fish but fought very well and made its captor a very happy man indeed!

Have a fantastic new years eve and ensure you drink plenty! I have a good stock of cheese and will grab myself a decent bottle of red on the way home. I may even treat myself to some smoked salmon! No partying for me with a young family, but who cares, a bit of Jools Holland and a glass or two of red will see me right. A break from the review tomorrow to bring you a very special product!

Sunday, 30 December 2007

March Fishing Party

It is a great privilege to spend my days introducing people from all walks of life to the world of fly fishing ... and get paid! However showing young anglers the ropes is best of all. These young lads were celebrating a March birthday and look very pleased with themselves having each caught a fish for supper! You will notice that some are armed with spinning rods. The weather was cold and I have found that this quickly saps concentration. Young anglers need to catch a fish and can take a while to learn how to fly fish, so if you can find a venue that will allow spinning or similar, so much the better. We have just such a venue here at Exe Valley and I will also be adding some junior kits to our online store shortly.

During the previous year (2006) anglers had been battling it out at the fishery to try and catch the largest fish of the month. This was then entered into a competition run by Trout Fisherman magazine known as Troutmasters. Each individual winning the monthly title is then invited to attend a fish off. Here head fish farmer Freddie stocks 2 superb Exe Valley specimens in readiness for the big day. Alas during the match only the Rainbow made its mistake and weighed in at a shade under 10lbs. The Brown will appear later in my 2007 review!

Little did we know what was around the corner in April! More tomorrow!

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Summer in February - BONEFISH!

As a stark contrast to the cold waters of the Exe flowing though Tiverton just a few short weeks later I found myself on a plane bound for Los Roques, in Venezuela on a hosted trip run in association with Aardvark McLeod.

I was joined by Stuart Forsyth, Alasdare Lambert and Martin Newton who have all fished with me at a variety of venues. Also on the trip were good mates James Warbrick Smith and top photographer Henry Gilbey. The journey by Air France is best forgotten but stepping out of the plane on to the Los Roques archipelago to a scenes of Tarpon & Bonefish smashing into minnows soon helped us forget!

Over the next few days we fished a variety of incredible Bonefish habitat, the pancake flats proving to be very interesting. This was Bonefishing at its best, sight casting to a stamp of fish that were always around a solid 3 to 4 pounds. Star of the week was Stu Forsyth all the way from Aberdeen who has been attending my guided trips for many years. He hooked some superb fish including this fine specimen that lead him a merry dance, not bad for a first time Bonefisher!

All too soon the trip came to an end, but with superb images like these to remind us of our adventure I was ready to face the season! Check out the blog over the coming days to see some of my guests notable 2007 catches & adventures. And remember I will also be revealing a very special limited addition product on New Years Day!

Friday, 28 December 2007

Early Season Casting

With 2006 nearing an end Henry Gilbey and I began work on a Trout Fisherman casting series that appeared throughout 2007. Aimed at providing some top tips the idea was to make the articles highly visual while adding as much technical content as possible. Heading to Tiverton we found a large wall as a back drop to the cast. Not pretty but it certainly helped the line jump out! Going for as little clutter as possible I donned a plain black top and hat - it was cold! Howard Croston, product development manager for Hardy & Greys had meanwhile sorted me out with a white rod to further assist the camera and resulting images.

Technique is what casting is all about of course. Great gear does not mean great casting! But, it is still very wise to buy the best you can afford and maintain it carefully. Lines are particularly important and require a decent stretch on a regular basis coupled with a clean using something like Scientific Anglers line dressing

Good casting has many factors involved that were covered during the series. However during my fly fishing courses one of the very first things I explain to guests is how important it is to maintain a relaxed grip. There are various grips but the most popular is thumb on top of the cork with fingers gently wrapped around. Imagine holding a screwdriver if it helps.

Finally never head to the waters edge for a session without decent polarised sunglasses. I use Maui Jims and find them fantastic for spotting fish while very importantly providing me with eye protection should a cast go wrong.

The casting features underway a whole year lay ahead but in particular I was getting very excited about hosting a trip to Los Roques in Venezuela during Feb 2007 on behalf of Aardvark McLeod. This is the great thing about this fishing game, one minute up to your nipples in freezing cold river water the next basking in 30 degrees in ankle deep water on the flats! Truly awesome!

My thought for the day came just an hour ago when a guest of mine popped in for a bit of fishing. Many years ago I taught his son how to fish when just a boy. Now 17 I was shocked to find that he had contracted Cancer and has been undergoing intensive treatment. Thankfully he seems to be on the mend although he still has treatments to come. This disease is unbelievably cruel, I watched both my parents suffer and ultimately lose their battle with it. In this age of the Internet and other technologies surely a cure must be out there somewhere? Why is it then that the government is still ploughing millions in to hopeless war efforts for example when people are suffering from illnesses such as this?

My very best to William Newton and his family. Look after yourself, get well and we hope to see you at the fishery soon.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Force of Nature

Following on from yesterdays scene, take a look at this. The first image was taken during early afternoon on the 1st December 2007. As you can see it was a bit murky, but all in all not a bad fishing day. It was hellish cold of course! Look very closely by the bridge and you can just about make out the figure of a solitary angler who had decided to brave the elements.

Just one minute after taking this photo I heard a huge rush of wind at the door of the tackle shop and turned to find the fishery shrouded in a squall of fog, rain and wind. The angler has all but disappeared and not surprisingly weighed in shortly afterwards taking on the appearance of a drowned rat! Full credit though, the guy had caught fish!

10 days later and while Henry G was still sunning himself in the Seychelles photographing monster GTs and Milkfish the UK had been subject to low temperatures, high winds and RAIN! Just look at the results. This is the River Exe flowing past the lake and almost level with it! Taken from the bridge looking back over the lake towards the shop the level was astonishing, in fact the day before it had actually started to enter the lake! I find it incredible that the fish survive in such circumstances, but they do, huddled into the edges out of the main current. Remember this fact when fishing high water conditions in season as it is possible to catch in what may seem like impossible circumstances. Granted you will need a 10ft rod such as the Streamflex by Greys and some serious iron mongery in the form of Czech Nymphs, but sometimes these hard to catch fish taken in tough circumstances are far more enjoyable than the easy days.

Tomorrow I will begin my 2007 season in review and check the blog regularly because we have a very special limited addition product available that is sure to become a collectors item. Hopefully you are fishing and not at the sales. I was disgusted by the scenes on the news this morning of people behaving more like animals than human beings all in the name of saving a few quid!!! Let us hope they find the joy of fly fishing!

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Christmas Fishing!

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Boxing Day and I am here at the office .... what a fantastic office it is ... just look at this scene! I reckon it could make it on the front of a Christmas card!

What are you up to? Trying to fix the Christmas lights, staring at the washing up in disbelief or perhaps you have hit the sales?

Did you make it out the door rod in hand I wonder? If you did then well done, this is a top time of year to go fishing. Tons of oxygen in the water but not so much food, small water Rainbows are therefore suckers for a lure such as the Humungus or Cats Whisker. Don't always pull them though, try a steady figure of eight and you may have another Christmas surprise!

If Rainbows are not your thing then of course Fly Fishing for Pike has become hugely popular and you can bet that close by you have a canal or lake supporting these cool fish. Crikey ... writing this I wish I were there right now!

But I'm not, there is work to be done as 2008 is going to be a very busy year. The doors to the fishery are open all through the Christmas break, so if you fancy a festive fishing session pack that tackle and get on the road.

As you will see, this is my first post in a long while! Life has been hectic to say the least with the shop, guiding and smoked fish operations to contend with but best of all we are grabbing a few hours sleep here and there now that Scarlett is home from hospital. Thank you to all of you who kindly sent us cards and messages, your support was fantastic and helped us keep our chins up during a difficult time. Scarlett is doing well now and we have just had the best family Christmas ever. Now if I could just sneak a few hours fishing ... it would be perfect!

I am back to posting now so see my review of the 2007 season in words and pictures over the coming days, plus a look at how Exe Valley Fishery looks when the UK weather throws its toys out of the pram in a very big way! Hope you are having a great time!!!