Friday, 22 February 2008

Getting Ready

It was great to meet up with Tim Watson and Tony Kaye again today. These guys are seriously into their fishing and it is a pleasure to work with them on a regular basis. Over the last few years they have attended various courses and it is very satisfying to see their progress. So today we were out on the lake for a pure casting session. These are rare for me, it is not often that we don't tie a fly on and stretch the twang, but we had important work to do. The guys will be back in August for a Grand Slam and if we are to succeed their casting will need to be on the ball, especially for the last part of the marathon day of fishing, a Sea Trout captured in the dead of night. I'm excited already!

Here Tony is working on his first ever Spey casts and really got into the groove using a Hardy Demon rod which he subsequently purchased! This is a double Spey, take note of the purposeful movements and smooth transition from one to another. In particular watch for what we term "the white mouse", that is the spray whipping up as the line is smoothly peeled out of the water and into the D Loop. Check the pause too, allowing the D Loop to kick back and tension the rod. With practice the line can be lengthened and serious distance achieved although on our Devon Rivers there is little need for distance more a keen eye for trees and other vegetation waiting to snare a wayward leader!

We meet up again in March and May where more practice will ensue although I am sure we will tangle with a few Brown Trout and maybe even a Salmon. Casting is great fun but it is a means to go fishing and I always advise little and often as the best policy. A few minutes here and there, perhaps the odd longer session with a bunch of mates but where possible go fishing! Every time we make a cast to a fish it should be practice after all.

While heading back to the lake after lunch I was surprised to bump into Phil Dixon all the way from Chester. Phil is very well known on the match scene and in fact we were team mates in the 2005 England International Squad that fished Grafham. Phil manages the superb Foremark reviews fishery which I hear rave reviews about on a regular basis. When I get chance I will drop by for a fish myself although it is a long way to go to catch fish that are swimming just yards from me right now!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Mixing it Up

I hope to see a day when there are very few dividing lines within fishing. Fly anglers often scoff at coarse anglers and vice versa; almost belittling one another’s sport. But why? It’s all fishing and it’s all cool! Take my day out yesterday with Jon Hettle from Birmingham. We hit Somersets King Sedgemoor drain in search of pike on the fly but carried with us one of the great Greys Missionary 6 range of rods in order that we could hurl a lure or two. The lures accounted for the fish that were caught including this nice little jack that was Jon’s first ever Pike brought to the net. His only other previous encounter with the species was with a fish that had nailed a Roach caught using float tactics! On the day we found the water to be murky which is unusual after such a cold snap. Personally I prefer clear water for fly tactics and so yesterday the addition of a lure rod to our armoury was the difference. Stowed away in a Fishpond Double Haul pack along with the obligatory flask of Tea we wandered for miles while Jon had a cast here and there. In March Jon will return for some double hauling practice so that come winter 2008/09 we are able to get out there and see if we can nail his first double on fluff!

During conversation Jon mentioned Henry Gilbeys new book. If you want a perfect introduction to the delights of light tackle modern fishing tactics then look no further. Encompassing coarse, sea and game fishing this tackle bag sized publication is sure to get your creative angling juices flowing!

My rant for the day is what happened to Chubby Shads! I loved these little lures and have boxes full of the bodies but just a few heads. Dropping by Somerset Angling for a permit I was dismayed to find they have been discontinued. Is this true? If anybody knows where I can get a supply of the heads please let me know!

I mentioned my day out enjoying my first taste of Falconry during a recent post and I am still buzzing after the session. To spend all day in the company of so many amazing birds of prey was a privilege. With the mobile switched off it was very cool to relax and enjoy the instruction provided by head falconer Tony whose passion showed throughout.

There were so many moments that an essay would unfold below if I were to write about them but the highlights were certainly the Peregrines (whistling past my ear at 80 mph!), Owls and the Kookaburra which I was surprised to learn is a type of Kingfisher. If you want a real insight into the lives of these amazing creatures I urge you to visit Exmoor Falconry for a day that you will never forget!

Monday, 18 February 2008

Frosty Fly Fishing

Down on the lake by 8am today for quite a bizarre job. A chap dropped by the shop last week to discuss saltwater fly fishing. As our conversation unfolded it turns out he had not fished for some 30 years. In just a couple of weeks he was due to head off to Grenada for a sailing holiday in the company of his brother, a mad keen angler! Anyway, could I sort some tackle and the flies while brushing up his casting!?

Of course this was no problem and while John decided to go for a budget beginner’s kit his brother splashed out on one of the best saltwater fly rods available, the Greys Platinum XD Saltwater. I sorted the lines, backing and various accessories finishing off the kit with a funky CF Design Box and a selection of bait fish patterns. The guys will be fishing over reef mainly so a deep sinking line coupled to a Clouser or something similar will no doubt result in some seriously fun fishing. In fact I explained to John that having fished 30 years ago in Ireland for Trout he was in for somewhat of a shock! Hopefully he will come home armed with a few battle stories and a picture or two.

But what about the casting? Well considering John had not picked up a rod for 30 years I was amazed and after 2 hours of fine tuning he was chucking out a lovely line. To simulate the conditions as closely as possible I also added a Clouser Minnow as these heavy flies require a high line speed if distance is to be achieved. To make this whole job even more interesting we spent the morning removing ice from the rod rings! What an interesting day and the “Rado” has had its first test run ready for the Falcons tomorrow. It has been a busy month so a day off will be most welcome!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Hard Fishing

It was hard fishing on the lake today in more ways than one! While teaching Paul Humphreys yesterday I noticed a real dip in temperature towards the end of the session. By the time I had sorted the blog and got to the car there was ice on the windscreen. This morning we awoke to this!

Beautiful but the dip in temperature certainly took its toll on the fish as they were reluctant to take until late morning. Along with an iced up lake I also found this! Engrossed in conversation heading back to the shop last night I managed to leave this rod on the table over night. Fearing the worst I got it back into the warm and once thawed took it out for a quick cast. Thankfully all was well!

Plenty of anglers turned up to enjoy the sun, while I looked after my guest Alex Rogers who was in to sort out a few casting niggles. It is certainly great to have guests back at the waters edge and this week is no exception. Regular Jon Hettle is in, maybe for some Trout, perhaps some Pike, or could it be a Grayling ... that's the great thing about our base, so close, to so much!

Then Tony and Tim arrive, fixtures and fittings these days who are in for an early season casting tune up. Later in the year we will be heading out together on a grand slam consisting of a Trout, Bass and Sea Trout ..... all in one day! The weekend looks busy too and the river season is inching ever closer, I love this time of year, so much excitement, its better than Christmas (well, unless you just received the latest Hardy Demon Reel!)

I will post up some web updates soon but right now need to go and find some deicer so that I can get home!

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Another Day in Paradise

Stepping out onto the lake today was Paul Humphreys who enjoyed an early morning blast down the M5 from Birmingham in readiness for a One Day Course at Exe Valley Fishery. This great little lake has seen many of my guests set out on the road to fly fishing nirvana. In fact it is a great source of encouragement for them to step out on a public fishery in the company of an instructor and find that in fact they do not need to attain an incredibly high standard to hold their own. Imagine learning on a private lake and then having to take yourself out on a public fishery for the first time; what a daunting prospect!

Anyway Paul certainly got down to business very quickly and after a run through the gear was soon roll casting. Next came some pick up and lay downs before attempting to false cast and shoot line. By lunchtime he was flying, so we headed back up to the ranch for lunch to talk flies and leaders. I noticed Paul looking around the shop and just knew that he was hooked; this is what fly fishing does to us!

Warmed through we headed back out into the cold and recapped the casting; Paul by now was itching to get fishing. 14ft of fluorocarbon later and a #12 McKay was heading off over the water. I discussed retrieves with Paul as we settled into a relaxing session, enjoying the clear blue skies but both quietly hoping that any moment the line would wrench tight. “Would you have had one by now”, Paul enquired. “Not necessarily I replied, just keep fishing hard and see what happens”

When the line snapped tight Paul could not believe it, his finger clamped the line and with an annoyed cartwheel his first 2lb Trout had parted company, snapping the leader like cotton. No matter, a lesson learned and a new leader in place we got back to fishing. This is never a time to think “if only”, but instead just keep fishing and believing.

Another take came but Paul did not connect. Two casts later his prayers were answered and a lovely conditioned 1 ½ lb Trout capped the end of a very enjoyable day spent in the glorious Exmoor countryside. By now Paul really did have the bug and only a short while ago he left for home in possession of his first fly fishing kit. Another great day on the lake and I look forward to more tomorrow!

Friday, 15 February 2008

Time flies when your having fun!

Where did those days go! This is a seriously busy time of year here at Nick Hart Fly Fishing, beats to sort, web development and as many days as possible spent on the rivers and lakes in the area. Then of course there are magazine articles for the likes of Trout Fisherman and Blinker plus my day to day consultancy for Hardy & Greys. Their kit just gets better and better!

So far on the teaching front I have had been looking after mainly Saltwater anglers heading off to the likes of Los Roques, Belize or similar. They all want to know how to double haul and of course deal with the wind. I love spending a few hours running through all the various techniques and it is surprising how just a little adjustment here or a comment there can assist someone. There is no more satisfying job than fly fishing instruction in my book. I can't wait as I am out all day tomorrow and then over the next couple of days working on some more saltwater fishers. After that I take off for a days break spent in the spectacular Exmoor countryside but not with rod in hand. My little lad Chester bought me a day out flying Falcons which I have heard is fantastic and I will certainly post my thoughts here after I have tried it. What will be very interesting is to see the instructors approach, teaching style fascinates me and was one of the reasons I got into the business of fly fishing instruction the moment I left school.

Behind the scenes the office is buzzing as I get my head around the sophisticated CMS system that runs our eCommerce site and train those working with me how to use it. Steadily we are adding great new products such as the Hardy Demon range set to take the UK scene by storm. We are learning fast and products will be going up pretty quickly from now on so do check back to find what’s new. In particular Iain Barrs Flies are going down a storm, brilliant quality that I now use in my own box. I love fly tying but where do I find the time, with 2 young kids and especially now the VDub Corrado lives once more! Thanks to Adrian for all his efforts, top mechanics are hard to come by but this guy really knows his stuff. Now get a website so I can link to you! I will be taking her for a spin, probably via the scenic route (not involving lamp posts) on my way to flying the falcons!

The weather has been truly fantastic and while out with Henry Gilbey at Bratton water we just could not stop raving about the massive blue skies, crystal clear water and top quality fish. I got down to my shirt sleeves and put the new 9'6" #6 Streamflex through its paces coupled to the awesome GTec reel. Earlier in the day I had some serious fun with the 9'0" #3 version, attach that to a 3lb 'bow and there is some fun to be had. I wonder how it will perform in Montana? Not long to go! Talking of big blue skies and photos, Henrys new book is out very soon. Check out details and pre order here. It is a definite how to for all anglers and has a strong sense of fly fishing throughout which is often lost in many all round books. It is a credit to the guy who I know gave up most of last year to ensure the brilliant end product. Buy a copy, you will not be disappointed!

7.00pm up and I should have been home an hour ago. Plenty of stuff coming up including our private lake news, an addition to the business that I have been after for some time although as fisheries go it does not come much better than Exe Valley Fishery. Surely we have one of the most stunning venues in the country and just a short trip down the M5. When I get 5 minutes I will update the site again as we have been seeing some top class fish. Plus the winter has been an awesome growing season so expect one of the best years ever. New platforms are going in, a lot of tree work has been done and I reckon the fishery looks better than ever. Check out the most recent Trout Fisherman to find out about the day I had here with some Iain Barr Tanskis ... serious fun with Freddie’s brutes! Oh and I almost forgot a new beat on the head waters of the Exe, untouched for some 20 years! If the inbox is killing you why not be the one to make that
inaugural cast. More soon.

Finally thank you to all of you who email so frequently and call regarding Scarlett. Our little girl is doing well now. A small hole in the heart but this is to be checked after a year and for now we have been told to treat her like any other little girl. She certainly has the lungs and a beautiful smile plus those eyes which of course she gets from her Mum. Last year was a tough one for us and Scarlett’s premature arrival turned the last few months of a difficult year into a nightmare. But our friends helped us through and for that both Sue and I thank you. Now let’s forget 2007 and make 2008 the best season ever! The fish are waiting .... and so are we.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Grand Slam

I almost forgot, the season review! I can't believe January has gone already, the new season is just around the corner. So last August regular guests Kate and her father Aubrey Prout turned up for a few days. We had an awesome time with some fantastic weather cumulating in Kate taking a freshwater grand slam on her last day consisting of a Rainbow Trout....

This is a real achievement and in fact I run a few guided days based around this idea. Check out this page for more and new content to be added soon.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Fly Fishing with a Float

There are so many great techniques available to the fly fisher. One of the most deadly is hanging buzzers or indeed many other patterns under an indicator. Granted some perceive this as nothing more than coarse fishing with a float, but so what! Its all fishing, its all fun and if it catches fish ...

If I don't like a method, I don't use it, but if others do, cool, they will be enjoying themselves and why else do we go fishing?

So yesterday I found myself wrapping up in all manner of fleeces and hats to keep out a cold North wind scudding across Burton Springs in West Somerset. In particular I was happy to be wearing my new Hardy EWS Softshell Jacket, I have lived in it for the last month! Shooting a TF feature with Henry Gilbey we had a brilliant time. Tony Evans fish are supercharged and his well thought out lake is one of the best small waters I have ever fished. I caught using some Loon Biostrike nipped onto a fluorocarbon leader coupled with two Iain Barr Buzzers. Most of the fish were taken on a Hardy Demon 9'0" #5 rod coupled to a Hardy Demon 5000 Reel, truly awesome bits if kit that are due to hit the market anytime. The reel in particular reinvents the reel! My very next job is to write the article which I am really looking forward to as I am still buzzing from the trip. And the adrenalin has set in as a long time guest is turning up next week to sample Pike on fly, two whole days of it and I can't wait!

On the business front it is all go. We are still dealing with a less than cooperative web company so my apologies that the Hart Flyshop site does not show all the new products, I am working on this with them every spare moment I have. January was a great month and I met some very interesting people including one guy who was a survival expert. During his two day course fly fishing course he spent each evening under the stars in a homemade shelter, lighting fires with flint and surviving on his catch. A true wilderness angler!