Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Happy 2nd Birthday - Hart Flyshop

Today marks 2 years of Hart Flyshop. I won't say it has been easy juggling guiding, writing, family and the responsibilities that go with owning and managing a fly fishing tackle shop. But enough of that, being able to work in fishing is fantastic, a privilege in fact. Despite some ups and downs the support of our customers and friends has put us where we are today. Today I am off to have a cast with some mates after work, two years ago I collapsed in a heap after our opening day, the stress of last minute building and the run up to throwing our doors open 3 months late in mid season all became too much. But those times are past so ...

The Hart Flyshop & Nick Hart Fly Fishing team would like to say a huge thank you to all of our customers who have believed in and supported us during the last 2 years. It may seem like a small milestone to many but for us, we are overjoyed at watching the shop develop; it has come a long way in that time. We look forward to being of service for many years to come!

I would also like to personally thank Henry Gilbey who has taken photographs of the shop and allowed us to use all manner of images on our website, magazine adverts and brochures. Like the man says, "fishing has never looked better".

Representatives Karl King of Leeda, Martyn Robinson of Guide Fly Fishing, Pete Gibson of Hardy & Greys, Dave Fryer of Shimano/Loomis, Bill Hatton of Maui Jims and Iain Barr who now provides much of our fly stock have all been a huge support and instrumental in the growth of the business.

There are many others who I should mention but that would make this a VERY long post .... although Alasdare Lambert deserves a very special mention. Part of the Shirlaws group this guy has helped us to focus on delivering the very best service possible and has been a rock to Hart Flyshop for the past 12 months. We are forever in his debt.

Jon Hettle, of Hettle Andrews is another amazing guy who has provided advice, support and also sorts out our commercial insurance. I look forward to his regular visits and fish like this.

Mike Boniface is also brilliant, a great mate who I fish with regularly and always at the end of the phone ready to drop everything when the computers go wrong. He also sorts all our print, don't look any further than Maslands for superb brochures etc.

Neil Keep joined us a few months ago and has slotted straight into place in the shop and on the banks with guests while Mark Dawkins visits every week to give the shop the once over with all manner of cleaning materials! Thanks guys for mucking in.

To everyone else who has supported us, huge thanks and I hope that we get to go fishing soon.

Now the river is calling (a spate will have the Salmon in) so I will be celebrating with a cast very shortly but there is one other person who I need to thank. That person is my wife Sue who is bringing up our two children while helping me build the business. A whizz on the internet she is now solely responsible for the day to day running of the online business leaving me to get on with guiding, writing and running the shop. Thank you sweetheart for everything.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Sleeping Sea Trout

After a highly charged Friday night spent Sea Trout fishing with Nick Mansfield and Stuart Jebb I was up for a bit of action myself. During the Sunday wherever possible I grabbed a few moments and tied up some new fly mounts, while going over the gear. Steak for supper, truck at the ready I was fuelled up for an intense evening on the river.

It never happened ...

Driving over to the Mole I almost turned back as an ominous sky loomed. It is rare for me to have second thoughts; if I am fishing, I am fishing ... try and stop me! My parents did for years. Well that's not strictly true, they tried to stop me being 2 to 3 hours late for evening meals. Non of their punishments ever worked, I was the original last cast king. Ask Henry Gilbey ... he puts up with me on Trout Fisherman feature days!

I digress. The pressures dropped, the clouds rolled in and although the air temperature seemed good there was something lifeless about the river. On Friday night we arrived to fish popping on the surface while bats flitted up and down the river. Last night was spooky, a gentle breeze rushing through the trees resulting in the odd heart stopping "crack" as an old trunk groaned under the strain. Very few fish rose and the bats were nowhere to be seen. But I worked at it and did get hit hard once. Another 2am close to proceedings but I know that if I put the effort in an early run double figure fish may be the result. The amazing anticipation keeps me going back for more and more; its like a drug. You should try it some time! Nick Mansfield did and here is what he had to say about it.

" A big thank you Nick for providing me with my first (and hopefully not my last) Sea Trout, it was the wildest fishing kick ever!! It is certainly a big credit to you that you could teach me to spey cast in the morning to the extent that I felt fully confident to tackle the river that same night. And yes it was really dark! The River Mole is a most beautiful river which takes on a mystical allure at night which provided me with a really special memory. So, thanks again Nick, I will never forget the slap the Sea Trout made re-entering the water fighting against the line, a true night-time duel and really the most fantastic adrenalin rush ever!! The only problem Nick is how can you outdo this experience on our next guided adventure with you?"

Nick Mansfield - May 2008.

Many thanks for your comments Nick, much appreciated and I look forward to our next outing and to see more about Nicks trip check this page.

Just before I go, the action and lack of it (I should stick to guiding perhaps!) has all been taking place on the river Mole. In this months Trout Fisherman you will find an article regarding this beautiful river captured by Henry Gilbey and a day I shared in the company of young up and coming angler Ben Allen. This guy is a fishing nut and we are really pleased that in a few weeks he starts working with us. During our day out on the Mole we tackled Wild Brown Trout but during the summer I think we could be heading out for a few late night Sea Trout sessions. Although right now the filthy weather and rising Exe makes me feel that perhaps tomorrow could be the time for a Salmon. I have my beat for the day and should be catching up with Mike for a chuck. I hope the silver tourists are listening!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Sexy Sea Trout

They are here!!! Friday night was a very cool night, in fact so was the day. I was guiding Nick Mansfield and Stuart Jebb who I have looked after in the past, helping them last year to their first Bass on Fly. This time the guys had hoped to tackle Salmon but the low water conditions meant that the chances were slim. I like to provide my guests with the very best opportunity for fish action and so advised that perhaps a session of Sea Trout fishing would give them a chance of a migratory fish. Casting tuition and going through the motions is fine but lets face it the object of the whole exercise is to catch a fish!

Heading off to the Mole by late morning my first job was to touch up Stuarts Spey casting while teaching Nick from scratch. This cast is so useful and many assume that they are difficult to master, but in fact Speys casts are just change of direction rolls. The weather was outstanding and with all the fishing rising, many to Mayfly I wondered whether we should have packed the Trout kit. But we had a job to do, so we cast and then visited the pools we were going to fish that night. Disturbance must be kept to an absolute minimum when Sea Trout fishing but I do believe visiting the site of your fishing prior to a night session is imperative. It is amazing how things look so totally different in the dark.

Through the day I watched as both Stuart and Nick improved their casting, eventually ending up on a couple of Salmon pools, flies tied on, just in case there was a late springer about. The real purpose however was to imagine how it would feel to be casting and fishing during the dead of night. One of the best ways of doing this is to shut your eyes during the day, then cast and allow the line to fish. They call it "visualisation" and it works!

By late afternoon I was happy that the guys were ready so I left them to head back to Ashwick House and visited the shop to prepare for the evening ahead. Sea Trout fishing (in fact all fishing) is about preparation so final checks completed the truck sat poised for another journey to my beloved River Mole. Meeting up with Nick and Stuart by 8.30pm we were slightly concerned that the skies had cleared a little after the warm day we had experienced. I love cloud and warm air temperatures for Sea Trouting, my confidence soars in these conditions. After a brisk stroll to the first pool we were delighted to see a large bank of cloud heading our way that thankfully did not cascade upon us. The air temperature was constant, the trees darkening as the sun lowered and the anticipation was at an all time high. Is there anything better?

Climbing into the water I was amazed how dark the run we were about to fish looked. Just a few days back I had been on the same beat with my friend Mike Boniface when a full moon meant that we could walk back to the car without torches! Tonight we could hardly see our hands in front of our faces. In fact while moving between the guys during fishing I had to call to check they were not to close to one another, that's how dark it was! Nick was first down the pool and showing great confidence. During the day he really chilled out after some tuition and had a consistent double Spey cast that was presenting the fly to the far bank. After a few casts I left Nick and set Stuart along down the pool. I was helping him when there was a shout from Nick ... "I think I have got something!" Rushing down with the net I was puzzled as this fish seemed big, certainly not a small wild Brown and yet it had not jumped. Sea Trout almost always jump! Coaching Nick to stay calm and let the fish take line if it needed it the close range fight came to an end when I took a net shot at a splash. I had been looking for a silhouette of a silver fish, but could see nothing and was loathed to use the head torch for fear of spooking any fish still lying in the pool.

Heading to the bank for unhooking I turned away from the pool to survey Nicks catch and was gobsmacked when I saw what was lying before us. What a river the Mole is, look at this fish. A Wild Brown Trout of close to 2lbs if not over! What a result. Not a Sea Trout but a very worthy catch which was safely returned after some snaps. It was not long before Nick was back casting in earnest.

It didn't seem long, perhaps 10 minutes and as Nick neared the hot spot a huge shout went up. With a thunderous splash this time Nick had not hooked a Brown, there was no doubt that this was a Sea Trout. The fight was typically explosive, big jumps, hard runs and all at night! The sound of heavy breathing could be heard for miles around as the Hardy Demon Rod did everything it could to tame the beast while the drag on our Greys GTec Reel proved as reliable as ever. Nick played the fish faultlessly and as the apparition appeared in front of me I scooped it up letting out a small war cry in the process. Nick, a first time ever Sea Trouter had done it from beginning to end. The effort had been worth it and this spectacular fish was his prize. Even better he was keen to release the fish after a few pictures.

We continued fishing into the night and I concentrated on Stuart, willing a fish to take. It happened in an area that has produced frequent fish over the last few years, but sadly the fish did not stick. Later on that night Nick hooked another that also slipped the hook. Even so our mission was completed and the drive home all be it at gone 2am was easy, the adrenalin had not ebbed! Within a few hours we were back on the same river but this time had swapped the Sea Trout flies for something a little more sedate, casting to Wild Browns with nymphs and dries.

There is nothing like Sea Trout fishing; its a mystical, adventurous and exciting . The throb of a huge fish cannot be explained , you have to experience it. So much so Nick and Stuart are booking up again for another chance at this majestic species that right now are highest on my list of must have fish. In fact perhaps I will swap the sofa for the river tonight, lets face it, there is no contest!

Delightful Damsel

Look at this beautiful Damsel fly that I found while out guiding on our stretch of the River Mole on Friday. This delightful stream is not only full of Wild Brown Trout, Sea Trout & Salmon but also provides a home to a plethora of wild life. It is not available on a day ticket basis but we can set up a guided trip if you would like a crack at it. Due to the low fishing pressure and bank side maintenance the fishery has gone from strength to strength yielding fish like this superb specimen caught by Nick Mansfield just yesterday.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Trout 3 Ways

I was guiding Bob Harding today who has been a customer of the shop for some while now. For Christmas he received a gift voucher to spend a day with me learning how to river fish. A lifelong angler Bob has been into the still waters for a long while and his practiced casting technique confirmed this. But we can all learn something new, so while waiting for the river to warm up and a hatch to get going we spent a while chucking a line back and forth on the lake with a Greys Streamflex 8'0" #4. A few overheads, rolls and sides later and it was away to Bend Pool, a favoured spot of mine on the truly awesome river Exe. To have such a fantastic river on our doorstep is a privilege and although I have guided many of its beats hundreds of times over the years I never tire of it.

Stringing up a tapered leader the East wind we have been experiencing over the last few weeks was still with us but a little less ill tempered. Our first method was dry fly, consisting of a parachute Olive knotted to just 2lb leader. Carefully Bob made his way upstream, getting to grips with the unusual process of retrieving line in time with the flowing river, rather than having to animate the flies stillwater style. As is often the case he missed the first take which was typically lightening fast! But soon afterwards we landed a palm sized Brown followed by this 10 inch "specimen", that snaffled one of my home tied Klinkhammers without hesitation. We fish this fly so often; so often with results.

River days are a great deal of fun and to be honest in many circumstances a dry fly fished upstream will catch a lot of fish, but while out for the day I like to show people as many techniques as possible, so having fished the morning out we headed back to the river with a 10'0" #5 Hardy Marksman outfit to fish short lined nymphs and dries in fast water. This is becoming a favoured technique of mine and when its working (which is most of the time!) the results are devastating. We took 3 fish in the morning, within 5 minutes of starting the afternoon session Bob caught 1 fine Brown in the 10 inch bracket that took the dry, followed by 3 escapee Rainbows (all taken back to the lake!!!) on a Black Birds Nest Nymph. Before we left the pool Bob also added a Grayling plus some more Trout to his score.

Finally we took off upstream to complete the day with a New Zealand Dropper, but alas the sport was over as a cold wind kicked up and the fish went of the feed. Heading back to the shop Bob was champing at the bit to buy some gear and get out on the rivers, after all this was his first ever day on flowing water and at 68 years old he has some catching up to do! Making use of our "try before you buy facility" we played with a variety of rods before finally settling on the Hardy Demon, a product that is impressing me daily and one of our top selling rods of all time.

The short lining game has really bitten me; it is such an amazing way to present flies with a drag free drift. So much so, Henry Gilbey and I took off for Badgworthy yesterday, a river that I reported on recently. We got a long way up, but still not as far as I want to go and so very soon I will be heading up to find the source and some of the leviathans that I believe inhabit these head waters. It is always cool working with the stunning fish that these moorland stream provide a home to. Check out Henrys pictures here, isn't that one of the most beautiful Browns you have ever seen? Palm sized it may be, but size has nothing to do with a day on these heavenly moorland streams. Go for the solitude, adventure and challenge. Where else can you get such a buzz for a fiver?

Just to confirm how deadly short-lining is I had another note from Tim Watson this morning titled "Shortlining conquers Dartmoor".

"Just a quick note to thankyou for the advice about fishing on the upper West Dart.
You may not remember, but you suggested we try fishing on the West Dart above Two Bridges. Despite a cold East wind, we both caught well using short lining up through the pot holes. The river is small this high up, but it still holds a decent head of fish in the 8-10" size."

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Fly Fishing for Pike

I was on my day off yesterday and had arranged with my mate Wayne Thomas to hit Chew and the Pike, after seeing specimens like this and this recently, I had to get in on the action. Sadly Henry Gilbey was not with us due to "politics". I hate the word and it should have no place in fishing. In my book if you want to catch Trout on indicators, use them! If you don't ... don't! Blobs, Boobies, Weight Forward Lines even "who came up with nymph fishing for the very first time?", it's all been debated. And then we have those who at the mere thought of casting a fly at anything but a Salmon break into a long ramble about "tradition and all that". Everyone is entitled to their opinion of course but not when it's to the detriment of progress. So ... quite why we were "silenced" when we attempted to capture a days Fly Fishing for Pike on camera I will never know, but we were and so that left it up to Wayne and I to do battle. Fortunately we took digital cameras!

I am pleased to report that battle we did using the ever consistent Big Black Pike Fly which I hope to have online soon. This marabou and crystal hair concoction catches toothy critters on every venue I have fished and Chew is no exception. However, a few hours in all the action my Pike Fly had seen was a couple of very small jacks. In fact Wayne's fish seen here could have swallowed them without even noticing. So I had some catching up to do after photographing this beautiful specimen.

I wonder if the fish I "lost" was bigger. Using a product that has never failed me, American Fishing wire in 20lb test, I was dumbfounded when a hit resulted in the trace arriving back, bitten in half and minus my fly! Scaling up to 30lb Tyger wire I then spent a less than confident hour pulling back and watching this silver trace product glinting at me from beneath the clear water. Off that came and on went a bit of braid which I treated with leader sink to reduce glare. It caught a couple of jacks, but still I was not so sure. Wayne was still catching using a much darker trace. Pike are far more clued up than many would give them credit for.

In these circumstances I like to start from scratch so I went back to the American Fishing wire but swapped my Black Fly for a Big White Bunny Bug. A fly that Henry used in his series Fishing on the Edge to take a near 20lb specimen. Constructed from Bunny fur, the pattern absorbs some water and takes a bit of casting; especially on a Tarpon Intermediate with a warm water coating! I had bust my 10 weight intermediate on a previous outing and a new one had arrived at the shop while I was fishing, never mind, next time! Anyway soon I was into the rhythm and feeling confident, another jack had fallen foul of the rig in double quick time. A few casts later it all went solid and this time it was my turn to boat one of the crocodiles that this venue has become famous for. Not my biggest Pike on Fly by far but very pleasing non the less. During the day Wayne and I chatted about the prolific nature of this fishery. There were several other boats out on the lake, all of whom took doubles using fly gear; quite amazing fishing.

The rest of the day we chased down Pike all over but no more big ones turned up although several more jacks to 8lb were not to be sniffed at! Finally the Trout gear was put together for the last hour and Wayne got his first ever Chew Rainbows on a Buzzer while I persevered in the hope of a fish to the dry fly which I took finally on the last cast of the day. It was 11.15pm by the time I walked in, tired, but happy. This has been one of the most amazing years so far for getting back out on the rivers and lakes I love so much on my own time in the company of fellow fishing nuts!

Talking of which I will be joined by Bass crazy Henry Gilbey tomorrow who will be heading with me to a moorland river for some all out Trout action. Lets hope that this time the paparazzi are welcome ....

Fish n Chips

I got together with my mate Mike a few nights back for a session on the Sea Trout. This is as close as we came ... a fish and chip supper! The moon was out (never good) right until we packed up in the wee small hours when the clouds finally rolled in. No sign of any fish that night, not even a pull although Mike did have a mini heart attack when he trod on a fish while we waded a pool after fishing it!

Who knows perhaps John Wilkinson who poses here with a nice Exe Valley Fishery Trout taken on a Buzzer during his fly fishing course will be out there after Sea Trout himself in the next few years. As I always say to my guests, once they have grasped the casting there are many and varied opportunities to explore. Fly Fishing for Trout on stillwaters is awesome and I love it but variety is what really keeps me going. As my next post confirms ...

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Crash Course Fly Fishing

This is silly season, guiding, guiding and more guiding, which means the blog has suffered for a couple of days. So here's what has been going on, I know a lot of you sit in London offices .. and Birmingham ... Bristol ... etc., reminiscing on days spent fishing our glorious venues and more to come, so apologies I have not had chance for a couple of days to feed your addiction!

A few days back I met up with Matt Sullivan from Essex who last year dropped by my shop to have a look around. A conversation around the Hardy Angel Rod developed and upon enquiring I found that Matt was in fact a novice fly angler. Now don't get me wrong, the Hardy Angel is a very fine bit of kit and as a consultant to this fine company I am proud to own a number of models. However this is an extremely fast actioned rod that is really designed for the "experienced" market.

So what are rod actions? Well in a nutshell this term refers to the amount of "flex" within a rod. There are loads of resources on the web that discuss the various actions and many manufacturers now provide guidance. To keep things simple though rods fall into 3 main groups: "through action", a softer rod such as fibre glass or cane, although it is possible to purchase carbon rods that have this action. I prefer not to use rods that have a through action, although I can see the benefits for small streams and fine leaders. "Middle to Tip" rods are fantastic; the best starting point for a learner. This action has a huge amount of "feel" and with a little tuition a novice can soon be up and running, feeling for the line loading the rod. Finally we have the "Fast Action", my preferred choice. Such rods generate tight loops, recovering very quickly and make for completely effortlessly casting, but beware, muck the timing up or cast without a positive stop and fast action rods can seem lifeless. If some of this seems a little technical check out my book "The Essential Guide to Fly Fishing" which simplifies it or if you are thinking of starting up in fly fishing, visit us to enjoy a course.

I started Matt out on the new Hardy Demon Rod and from the off it was obvious he had some natural talent. Pretty soon he was roll casting a nice straight line, popping it in the air and shooting some line with an overhead. By lunchtime we were learning all about fish food (entomology), tying up leaders and casting to our first fish. Matt returned the next day and we sat down to recap the previous days events before Matt tied on his own leader, picked out a fly (a Harry Potter Dry) and proceeded to pick off fishing cruising the surface layers. In fact he progressed so well that we headed to the river for our afternoon session. Needless to say Matt is now looking forward to a long fishing career, especially as he has started it in the company of a shiny new Demon Rod, Reel and Line Kit!

It is always pleasing to receive your feedback so thanks Matt for the following ...

"Just a very quick note to say thank you very much for a most enjoyable couple of days fishing – tuition, scenery, fishing and company was second to none!! I am really looking forward to coming back down for more fishing, and using the lovely kit that you sorted out for me – thank you!! It seems criminal that I will not have a chance to play with it for a few days"

and thanks also to Tim Watson who recently fished with me at Badgworthy and dropped me a line to say...

Hope you're not getting sun burnt in this blistering sun! Just a quick note to thank you for a fantastic three days last week. What rivers! I was just sat at my desk looking at the photos on the blog- if you don't mind me pinching you're favourite phrase, they look AMAZING!

Once again, thanks for a great week and already looking forward to the grand slam!!!"

Much appreciated guys and makes my job even more worthwhile. Good Fishing to you both.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Ladies First Trout

Summer seems to have arrived with more reports of high temperatures in the coming week. This is great news for sunbathers but for anglers, especially on stillwaters, a high sun and flat calm can mean a tough day ahead. My advice when its hot; get out there early. I have had some great sport on Wimbleball by heading out by 5am arriving back here for 9am in time for work.

Today Lucy Daluz overcame the heat and calm conditions to land here first ever Trout on fly after just a few hours of casting tuition in the morning. It is great to see more and more ladies attending courses and fishing here at Exe Valley. Lucy visited with here partner Pete who I also helped out. He has been fishing for many years and has an excellent all round knowledge. However as is often the case he was a self taught caster in need of a tune up, so I spent some time sweetening up his loops and helping out with presentation. The results came in the form of 5 decent fish to varied methods which were joined by 4 more to Lucy's rod. All in all a successful day.

I opened my email this morning to this ...

"Hi Nick Have been putting my new casting skills to the test with this 23lb 8oz chew pike. Dave."

and the image you see here ...

Feast your eyes on this brute! Dave Hilton is a client who came to me recently to spend a day learning about super distance casting using a selection of varied techniques. This was aimed at a trip coming up soon to the USA in search of fly caught Striped Bass. It looks like he has been practicing, well done Dave! Having seen this fish and another caught by my mate Wayne Thomas recently I think that I will be heading to Chew myself very soon to try and get amongst one of these crocodiles!

Friday, 9 May 2008

Dry Run Sea Trouting

I have had a couple of nights Sea Trouting now. The first was guiding Tim & Tony who have just spent the last few days with me on various rivers including the Exe, Badgworthy Water & Barle. They return in August to try and net themselves a grand slam ... this is our equivalent of the famous saltwater slam comprising a Bonefish, Tarpon & Permit all in one day. Later this year we will be attempting a Brown Trout (possibly a Grayling), followed by a Sea Bass in the afternoon and then a Sea Trout in the evening. It would be great to add a Salmon but maybe this is asking a little too much of the guys!

We caught up at the Anchor Inn for a meal and then headed down to a fantastic stretch of the Mole (as this day time picture by Henry Gilbey shows) that I manage along with two other friends. This is top Sea Trout water but at this time of year the expectation is to make a few trips fish-less in the hope that a big fish finally takes hold as the large specimens often run during the early season. Tim & Tony were therefore in deep but both coped very well in the enclosed conditions, double speying their way down one of the well known pools.

It takes a while to adjust to the conditions but by the end of the session I was confident that we were fishing the water effectively. We returned without any fish as the air temperature suddenly dropped, but this was after a few hours spent fishing under a beautiful star lit sky. By the time they return the river will be in a very different state and the fish will be running; look out later in the year for a full grand slam report!

Last night I spent the evening on the Mole myself and took the chance to fire up the Corrado and make the short drive to the river. I met up with Andrew Maund who is part of the syndicate with me and owner of the Exe Valley Fishery. Don't tell him I said so, but Andrew is one hell of a Sea Trout angler and I have learnt a lot of the techniques I use today through evenings spent fishing with him. Although there are a couple of superb pools that we know hold Sea Trout, this year we intend to explore more as in fact the whole river has massive potential. So just below Sandmartin I watched as Andrew set off down a new stretch while he provided a constant commentary regarding where we should fish and how many fish he was going to catch! Anyone who has fished with Andrew will know what I mean, but in fact it is very helpful. As I said in a recent post, never be too proud to learn from your fellow angler.

Once he was down the pool I waded in an began fishing myself. There is something about Sea Trouting; it is just electric. Every cast I expect that explosion of anger as a fish realises its mistake. A fish splashed close to Andrew and I called "Fish On?". "No, a bugger just moved, very close to my line", he replied. "Their here then" I said. All fell silent, this is Sea Trouting.

Steadily I continued but as I neared the area where the fish had moved I slowed, allowing the Rio Midge Tip a bit more time to sink. Several casts in and nothing, in fact I was almost out of the pool when the fish hit me ... hard! The rod bucked ... and then fell slack. This is also sometimes Sea Trouting. But the lost fish didn't matter, I had hooked up and felt that moment of euphoria when the line snaps tight and an invisible force pulls line from the reel. We fished on for another hour but with the rain belting down and no other signs of fish we set off for home keen that in just a few weeks the wonderful evening silence will every now and again be disturbed by the sound of a screaming reel. I can't wait.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Lovely Landacre

I can't believe we have fished 2 such stunning places in the last couple of days and that both are within a short drive of my front door. Even more unbelievable that I have not found them sooner, I must be blind.

Once again I was guiding Tim Watson and Tony Kaye. Our destination today was the River Barle; set in arguably some of the most beautiful moorland I have ever clapped eyes on. The guys really picked their trip dates to perfection this year as last year was a wash out for them (although deep bugging still caught on the Lyn) and just last week I was suffering torrential downpours while shooting a feature with Henry Gilbey. See more here.

So what did the Barle have in store for us? A completely different river to Badgworthy Water that we visited yesterday but a New Zealand Dropper or straight dry fly rig is still the best approach. What was most important was to sort out the pools the fish actually inhabit as large areas seem to hold nothing but Salmon Parr (a good sign that the Salmon are spawning) while others would produce a fish or two.

Tony got off to a flying start on his own picking up 3 fish in the first run he fished while Tim and I made our way through an inviting glide that yielded little. We eventually arrived at a tasty looking pool which Tim fished to no avail. Upon closer inspection we found it to be at least 5 feet deep but I reckon 6 feet would be closer. Just above this a classic Trout "riffle" appeared and a short lined Klinkhammer soon had Tim off the mark.

The rest of the session was very similar, tough going but challenging and rewarding. The terrain is not the easiest to negotiate but that is what makes this place so special. The huge rolling moorland combes and areas of forest are absolutely breathtaking. Permits are available through Barry at the Exmoor Forest Inn in Simonsbath who also provide accommodation and food. If you need a guide, equipment and waders then we can help, check out this page for more details.

Back at the office to sort the blog I will shortly be away with the guys to the Anchor Inn before we embark on a night time quest for Sea Trout. This is early season but the air pressure has been high this last couple of days and there are good reports of plenty of fish in the Taw. Our section of the Mole could well be seeing its first run and although we don't expect many fish they could be BIG! And if they don't succeed tonight, well there is always the Exmoor Grand Slam to look forward to which they return for later this year.

I have always been in love with our local fishing especially on the rivers; right now I feel infatuated. With a day off around the corner I am wondering if I myself can sneak off with the 10 footer!!!

Bowled over by Badgworthy

The fishing in Florida does look very good but I have to say that yesterday I would have chosen the UK. There is something unique about the UK that I have found in no other country when the sky is blue and the golden orb is out. What better conditions to sample a new bit of fishing?

Heading out to Badgworthy Water with Tim and Tony I was full of adrenalin. I had never clapped eyes on the water we were about to fish and so this makes it interesting for the guys to see my approach and interesting for me as I really have to think about it. A tributary of the incredible river Lyn, I reckon this stretch of outstanding Trout fishing is very close to as good as it gets.

Technical, exciting and the fish were of a great average size with a gorgeous yellow belly, flecked with a marbled grey and a dark back typical of moorland specimens. We had nothing over 9 inches to the net but we had loads of them, in the end well over 30 between the 2 of these guys and if they had hit the missed takes ... double that. Although some areas are very enclosed and others almost unfishable, the 10'0" #5 style rods such as the Streamflex range by Greys are perfect. This is leader just out of the top of the rod stuff! The bigger the dry the better it seemed and from pool one we were into fish. This venue is also so diverse, pot holes, glides, runs, waterfalls and very deep pools ... it has everything!

I could go on and on, this place really is a sensual fishing extravaganza. If you love wild Trout in far out places, you will love Badgworthy. How many times I said "this is amazing" through the day, I don't know, but I wouldn't have minded a new Klinkhammer in my box for each! Just to add spice to the day we ran into some politics which I can't publish here but the long and the short of it is that £5 gets a huge amount of fishing right into the moors... where you can jump across the river. As soon as I have chance I will be packing my Fishpond Wasatch Tech Pack and exploring. This place is just 20 miles from my front door ... Why haven't I been before?!

Today I will be guiding another new stretch of water I have found out about. Now I do know this river and I have actually spent time swimming in a few of the pools as a small kid but have never had chance to fish this beat. I will tell more later when Tim & Tony have fished it but let me say this, I have high expectations. And the sun is shining.

Monday, 5 May 2008

2008 British Open Kayak Fishing Championship

I have just had a very excited call from Mark of White Water Consultancy who last year sponsored me with a fantastic Wilderness Tarpon 140 sit on top, a superb craft to fish from.

They have just put together the first UK kayak fishing competition and anyone can enter. You will need a kayak of course and two buddies. The match is to be fished on a team basis which will also provide safety benefits and the fishing will be based on a catch and release species hunt. This is a saltwater match going out of South Beach, Tenby in Pembrokeshire.

See the PDF entry form and further info/rules here. I think this is a great concept and hope that White Water Consultancy and the competitors have a successful event. This could be the start of something BIG!

Match dates are 21/22 June.

I wish I could attend myself but have a date with some Montana Trout during the event! I love kayaks and Bass but the thought of the Yellowstone National Park and all those crystal clear rivers (and fish) just edges it!!! I will be going with Henry Gilbey who as usual is sunning himself far away (this time in Florida) while photographing awesome fish like this.

An interesting session on the river today. The air temperature has climbed but not a huge amount hatching. Today is the first day I have ventured out without under wader wear or a jacket. That was a mistake! The water is bloody freezing and we watched fish hard on the bottom, occasionally taking nymphs but rarely venturing to the surface. We took a good few fish on Black Tungsten Beaded Nymphs up to 10" and left the water praying that the weather forecast of climbing pressure and temperatures is true. Over the next two days I will be guiding experienced anglers Tim and Tony on 2 stretches of water that I have never seen. I am very excited by this prospect and it shows how much fishing is around here, I will explain more about the beats after we have fished them. Full report soon and I have news of another new beat that we will have access to in the near future.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Rainbow Perfection & Lessons Learned

This morning I was fishing Wimbleball by 7am. I have fished this lake since aged 11 and still I find it captivating; today has been particularly so.

Tackled up with a floater and long fluorocarbon leader I fished a Mini Humungus on the point and a couple of Diawl Bachs. Fortunately the rain had left me alone and happily I slung a long cast and mixed up the retrieve. Inside 1/2 an hour I had lost a fish and netted another that had fallen to the Humungus. Meanwhile I was joined by a chap who I recognised from his visits to the shop. Fishing just to the left of me on Ruggs bank he too soon latched into another Wimbleball resident.

Then it went dead. I tried the intermediate as a couple of mates had been catching well deep the day before and again mixed it up. I swung buzzers on a floater and a midge tip. No joy. However during this time the fellow angler to my left had made a change and hit 3 fish in no time flat. All had taken buzzers fished on a long leader and anchored with a huge Rutland style buzzer on the point. But here is the interesting bit; all the fish had been taken using an indicator.

Never be too proud to make the change when you need to. What's better stick with your method hoping it may work or be lead by example? First cast with an indicator and it bobbed, but I struck like a loony, way over eager! Next cast there was no messing and I whacked home a size 10 Black & Red Holo Buzzer. This fish was super fit and as it neared the bank after a strong tussle, I could see why. The Wimbleball Trout have been awesome this year and I reckon this is about as close to perfection with fins as you can get. Very kindly the chap who had been responsible for the technique captured the fish on my digital camera in all its glory before I carefully slipped it back.

We waded back out, I missed a fish on my next cast while the angler to the left had hooked up. Next cast I was in too! On my right we had been joined by another angler who quickly hot footed it up the bank to find out what an earth we were using. This was an R&R session for me but I love to see people catching fish so set up the same leader and indicator rig for him. Guess what happened on his first cast!

I never did get the chaps name who hit the right technique but what a gent for sharing it. I find that there is such a great social network on the lake bank and my mornings sport was all the more fruitful for a bit of assistance from a fellow angler. But we can also learn that if you are fishing as mates out on a boat or on the bank, always try different techniques. One of you will get it right! If you both sit there doing the same thing and its not working how will you ever find the fish? And ... if you have found the winning formula share it with someone else on the bank. I got just as much pleasure seeing the guy nail a fish first cast on the indicator as I did taking the superb fish above.

Sadly even though I eked out as much time as I could I had to leave the water and head back to the shop as technically I had been skiving! Arriving back to the lake surrounded by anglers I was soon in the shop advising on rod and reels but feeling all the better for that early morning session. Back to the river tomorrow for me with Tim and Tony who are veteran guests and this year determined to catch Sea Trout and Bass on the fly.

More BIG Exe Valley Fish

During a particular crazy bank holiday weekend Richard Hooper has just managed to extract this huge 10lb 12oz Rainbow from the main Anchor Lake. It took an Orange Blob and apparently required 3 nets to land it! Crowds gathered on the banks to watch the fight and were keen to bag themselves a few Blobs in the hope of catching up with a similar specimen themselves! Up until a few days ago this fish would have been a new record but take a look at this.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Unusual Catch

After a great day with Henry Gilbey on Colliford yesterday it was back to teaching today. I had expected to find myself on the river but upon meeting my guest Paul Carr and discussing his experience to date found that he had not fly fished for 10 years and had only ever been 4 times! So we decided to stick it out on a lake spending his one day course learning about tackle, technique and tactics. You will be pleased to see that my sun dance fell once again upon deaf ears! Hail ... in May!

But the day was a great success despite the weather which in fact ended with blue skies and sunshine. Paul rounded off his day perfectly with this unusual Exe Valley capture. A fin perfect Brown Trout which took a Buzzer fished under a bite indicator. It provided Paul with a very dogged scrap and has enthused me even further to get back down to Colliford.

More fishing tomorrow (its a tough life!) with a regular guest Chris Greenham and then its bank holiday weekend and I feel it is time to break out the Sea Trout flies ...

Fishing Reports - May

All the latest from the shores of South West Lakes Trust venues ....

South West Lakes Trout Fisheries ( April 2008)


Very mixed weather has continued through the month – this has included snow, frosty nights, bright sunny days, strong winds from all directions and heavy rain! In spite of this, buzzers have been hatching, and fish have been showing on the surface. Most sites have found the fish feeding eagerly, and have produced some excellent sport. The outlook for May is for fish to start looking to the surface for food, and great top-of-the water sport once the Hawthorns arrive.


Kennick – The fishing at Kennick proved to be excellent throughout the month, with weekly rod averages varying between 3 and 4 fish, and a number of fish over 5lb being caught. The staple diet was black buzzers, with some fish feeding on caddis and snails. While fish took a wide selection of fly patterns, the most consistently productive fly proved to be the Damsel Nymph, while other successful patterns included Montana Nymphs, Black Buzzers, and Diawl Bachs. Dark lure patterns (such as Black Tadpoles, Vivas, Ace of Spades, and Black Boobies) all caught fish when fished deep. Surface patterns only started to work toward the end of the month, when Black Hoppers, Beetles, and Black and Peacock Spiders fished in the surface film caught fish. Best locations depended on the weather and wind direction, but both Clampitts and Boat Bank fished consistently well.

Best fish of the month include a 5lb 6oz rainbow caught by Dave Wilson (Christow) from the bank on 22 April; a 5lb 5oz rainbow caught by Phil Sharpe (Exeter) using a Pheasant Tail Nymph from the bank on 23 April; and a 5lb 4oz rainbow caught by P.Griffith (Ashburton) using a Pheasant Tail Nymph from a boat on 4 April.

Siblyback - in spite of the weather, Siblyback fished well throughout the month, with the catches getting better and better, culminating in a rod average of 5.9 in the last week of April! As soon as the cold winds eased, the buzzers started to hatch and the fish started to feed. Floating and Intermediate lines fished the best, with a variety of patterns all taking fish, including Buzzers, Diawl Bachs, Montanas, and Black Pennells, as well as Pink and Orange Lures. Stocky Bay, Crylla Bay, as well as the North Bank and Bay all produced good results, with the wind direction playing an important role in locating the fish.

The best fish of the month included a 5lb 10 oz rainbow caught by M.Morris (Newquay), using a Black and Silver Muddler from a boat in the North Bay area on 2 April; a 5lb 2oz rainbow caught by Mr. Lewis (Bodmin) using a Black Lure fishing from the bank.

Wimbleball – the fish have been well dispersed around the lake, with Ruggs Bay, Cow Moor, and the Upton Arm all producing good catches. Generally, because of the cold water temperature, the fish have been fairly deep, with sinking lines fishing Tadpoles and Damsel Nymphs generally working well. In the warmer spells, buzzers have started to hatch, and a floating line with a team of Black Buzzers has worked well.

The best fish included a 5lb rainbow, caught by Mr. T.Thompson (from Ilfracombe) while fishing from the bank at Ruggs, using a Pheasant Tail Nymph (3 April), and a 4lb 10z rainbow caught by B.Carl from Nort Molton.

South West ‘Fishing For Life’ was launched with a Taster Day on 13 April, and was received with much enthusiasm.

Stithians – has fished well during April, with Hawthorns already in the air, and fish looking up to feed. The best areas to fish depended on the wind direction (Stithians is more exposed to the elements than most), although Yellowort fished well throughout. Successful flies included Hoppers, Daddies, and Hawthorns on the surface, with Diawl Bachs and Invictas fishing well at shallow depths. Popular lure patterns were mainly either orange or black, and fished well in the deeper water by the dam.

Wistlandpound – some nice rainbows up to 2lb 8oz have been caught from the banks during April, mainly to traditional style nymph patterns such as Pheasant Tails Nymphs and Buzzers, as well as Bibios and Montana nymphs.

Colliford – has continued to fish well throughout April, with the fish feeding eagerly

on small buzzers. Apart from Black Buzzers, traditional nymph patterns such as Hares Ears and Mallard and Clarets, as well as Bibios fished in the surface film, stripped Black tadpoles and Fritz patterns have all caught fish.

(note - I fished Colliford on 30/04 and had a ball ... see report here)

Fernworthy – Mainly dark traditional patterns have been taking the early season fish at Fernworthy (Blae and Black, Black nymphs, Grouse and Claret, and Diawl Bachs), and in spite of the cold conditions, a number of browns have been tempted to take surface patterns, such as Black hoppers, Daddies, Black Gnats, Beetles, and Black and Peacock Spiders fished in the surface film. Keeping on the move and covering as much water as possible is the best method, although it is always worth fishing the bays with the feeder streams.

Chris Hall (May 2008)

Cracking Colliford

I met up early yesterday with Henry Gilbey to shoot a feature on Colliford. Leaving my house at just gone 5am I was amazed to be at this huge Brown Trout only venue by 6.30am including a stop for fuel and a slow start due to fog. As I arrived at the lake I could not believe the light, a huge Rainbow and blue sky. I should have taken a picture at that point but was far too excited at the prospect of some Brown Trout action tackling up as fast as I could! I ignored the ominous looking cloud heading our way and got down to business.

There was not another soul in sight so I had this huge venue and the Brown Trout that inhabit it to myself. The fishing is never easy on these wild fisheries. Expect to cover some ground so pack and travel light. Henry got his set up shots and we began fishing towards the North bank, making some casts, trying a few different retrieves and then moving a few yards. Not long into the session the cloud arrived .... big time! I don't think we have ever shot a feature in such incredible rain. Deluge was the right word!

But for all the wet and cold the fishing was superb and once again I found that Gold coloured patterns and Brown Trout go together like bread and butter. The sport was not thick and fast but using an intermediate and Gold Mini Humungus fished with varied retrieve soon got us into a lovely 1 1/2lb fish. The markings were quite simply stunning and these fish put up a very dogged scrap. Landing the Trout in torrential rain was easy for me but Henry had to work hard under his umbrella to get the shots he needed. One drop of rain on the lens and the shot is ruined. Certainly tough conditions but that made it all the more fun.

A fish in the bag always helps and so we worked even harder although all I received for my efforts was one very strong pull. I get twitchy if the fish are not taking and so started searching for an answer. Changing to a floater and mini booby on the top dropper with the Huey still on the point I wondered if the fish may chase a disturbance pattern. Half an hour in and nothing so I gave up on that and reeled in only to see a huge bow wave take chase! I tried for another 5 minutes following this, but nothing.

The rain continued and the wind blew ever harder but it was awesome to be out there, we certainly knew that we were alive (although Henry had started to mention cafes and coffee!) "No way" I said let's stick at it, "come on weather, do your worst!" Making a move away from the North shore and past the main car park I found a nice point to fish from and began considering the temperature drop. Back on with the intermediate and a slow figure 8 to allow the fly to get down. Bingo! A Brown hammered the Huey and once again scrapped away as the heavens threw everything it had at us.

I have a great deal of guiding coming up but I have to say that the very first chance I have I will be headed towards Colliford once more. Driving around the lake at the end of the day (see picture - it had stopoed raining!) I realised how little of the venue I have actually fished. There are some sexy looking bays near the dam for example. Why not try it for a change yourself? Rainbow Trout are cool of course but Browns are our indigenous game fish and personally I feel a huge connection with them. Right now I am away to the river with a guest which after a rise yesterday and temperature lift today could fish its socks off. Check out the blog to see what happens but if you have the chance today, pack the rods and get down to Coliford. You won't be disappointed.