Sunday, 29 June 2008

Montana Memories

I guess it must be because I am busy and love what I do. Lets face it, being a fly fishing guide rocks! What am I talking about? Time; where does it go?

Around this time last week Henry and I were just about to get up for our final morning spent in the USA. Now here I am sat catching up on the blog prior to going through a mountain of paperwork. It was straight back to work on Wednesday when I fished the Exe with returning guest James McKellar. On Thursday Rick & Nathan Tombleson who have visited a number of times in the past visited in the hope of catching a Salmon or Sea Trout. Sadly although we have been getting what seems like a great deal of rain it had done nothing to the river so instead we fished for Wild Browns and Grayling. In the cooler temperatures it was noticeable that the fish took the nymph about 3 to 1 in preference to the dry. Come on summer! On Friday we took off to Wimbleball for a boat trip and found fish in all the areas we tried, but deep! The conditions were ideal for top of the water sport but the low temperatures are stalling the fly hatches. Every fish we spooned was full of Daphnia so pack your Di lines and some lures if you are headed out to this stunning venue. Yesterday I completed my guiding week on the Mole and now have 4 days catching up with all the things I didn't do while in Montana. Talking of which ...

Here are a few memories from my own camera. With a photographer of Henry's talent capturing the trip it hardly seems worth taking pictures myself but I always have a little digital slung around my neck in either an Aquapac or more recently the Simms version of this waterproof case which I picked up in a flyshop while away.

On Monday 16th we awoke full of excitement ready for a day spent in Bozeman trawling around the flyshops. But before we got stuck into that we headed to Adams and Son to see Jim, Mary and Mark who built the fly display that now has pride of place here in Hart Flyshop. It felt weird to be handing over the cash in Montana at the very work shop used to build the display when just a few days before it had arrived on our premises!!! Needless to say I was hugely impressed by the very professional set up that Jim and Mary have created and will be installing more of their work into the shop in the near future. With a possible trip out to Montana in October, who knows, maybe I will be able pay them in cash again!

There are so many other moments related to the fishing and the scenery that I could wax lyrical about for hours but to be honest the very best way to put across how utterly amazing I find Montana is to point you in the direction of Henry Gilbeys Montana Gallery and also check out our blog entries starting here and here. But Henry did not totally escape my lens. First of all here he is at work on the Bighorn photographing Clark Smyth and then relaxing on the kayak that we launched on Dailey Lake.

Big Exe Brown

Just before I took off for Montana Neil guided Martin Moore on the River Exe, a few miles above the fishery. This superb fish going over a pound fell for, yes you guessed it, an Adams! What an awesome pattern. This fly catches all over the world and outwits fish on days when all else fails.

Now when compared to Montana this Trout is nothing more than a below average specimen, but fishing is relative. Here on our Exmoor Rivers the average is around 8 inches and a few ounces but size is not why we target these stunning creatures. It is all about the stealth and fishing skills required to outwit these cunning little fish. When a big one turns up it really is a bonus.

Just over a week ago I was floating down the Bighorn River with Henry and Clark Smyth. Already this week I have spent 4 days guiding myself and the only fish that comes close to the size we took in America was taken by Nathan Tombleson on Wimbleball Reservoir. However I have hugely enjoyed all my guests company and while I have fallen in love with Montana it was awesome to arrive home to see my family and feast my eyes on the local scenery. I may have grown up here but I never tire of it.

Just yesterday evening Lee Holden hooked a nine inch fish during a guided session on the Mole which fell to that other deadly fly, the Klinkhammer. Lee had one 2 hour lesson about 4 years ago and since then a couple of quick trips to a local stillwater. We spent the morning learning various casts on Sandmartin Pool and as the sun warmed the surface layers our attention turned to the fish. The "specimen" nine inch Trout was caught on the last cast of the day and prior to that we hooked nothing above 7 inches. But Lees smile said it all.

There are many amazing places to fish across the world and South West England is one of them. You can also expect a welcome from Nick Hart Fly Fishing on a par with our American cousins because as Henry Gilbey says in his recent blog entry it is such a shame that many of our service industries don't follow the example set across the Atlantic. Without exception the service we received last week was second to none.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Bighorn Baptism

Although we have only been here a few days I feel that Montana is my second home. This place is just so special and I hope that Aardvark McLeod will push this venue hard. Quite simply it is a Trout mecca and no one who has ever fished for this species should miss seeing this amazing place. It is a little more crowded than New Zealand but then a few hours on a plane and you are here, New Zealand is a very long haul. The flight from Heathrow to Denver and connection to Bozeman is easy.

In fact Henry Gilbey and I have crammed in so much that I didn't get to the blog for a couple of days, so what have we been up to? Friday was spent sorting out gear shots for Hardy and then we headed off for Dailey Lake in search of some Trout from a kayak. What incredible fun. I have my kayak at home but have been so busy guiding that I have had little time to use it. After a peaceful afternoon spent flicking a fly from this silent means of transportation I have been inspired to get out and really give this from of fishing a crack. During our session a huge sedge about 2 inches long was hatching off and fish could be seen smashing them across the lake. In fact the takes were so violent that it looked more like a school of Bass on the hunt than Trout. We had some bad luck with the light as a sudden storm set in but prior to this Henry still got some awesome shots and we picked up a couple of fish. Again the Buzzer worked. I cannot wait to return with my English patterns and hit this lake hard!

Dailey Lake was very cool but paled into insignificance when matched against our final venue of the week. This was to be the world famous Bighorn river. Controlled by a Hydro Electro dam it his hard to imagine that within my lifetime this river was just a brown mess home only to a few "suckers" (a bit like an ugly barbel!) as the Americans call them. Then an inspired set of individuals created the lake and started releasing water down the Bighorn. This cleaned the gravel which is perfect habitat for Trout and their reproductive cycle, while creating large volumes of highly oxygenated water. The water also flows at a constant temperature, even in winter. The result? A staggering 9000 Trout per mile. Now imagine of this was even just 4500 per mile! As Henry and I floated the river in a drift boat under the skillful guiding of Clark Smyth of Rock Creek Anglers we just could not believe the astounding amount of Trout cruising below us. In fact the only time I can ever remember seeing so many fish is during trips out after Bonefish.

However the fish are not easy as many anglers float this river in search of one of the trophies that can run to a mind boggling 10lbs! Believe me this would be some adversary (especially on a #5 weight!) in the weight of water flowing the Bighorn. Clark worked hard to find the right combination of flies and also weight (they use split shot) in order that the flies worked close to the river bed and fish. Our main target was Trout of course and we caught both in Rainbows and Browns in large numbers but Clark also got into a Whitefish and for my sins I also hooked an ugly "sucker" (and by that I promise I don't mean Henry!)

The scrap that the Trout put up was amazing and once landed I could not believe the power of their jaws. Once or twice while unhooking I got quite a nip! The style off fishing was also different and very interesting. Clark would back row the boat, a very light flat bottomed craft referred to as a drift boat. As the guide works the oars the water literally skids beneath allowing an angler to cast and then perfectly dead drift the flies in time with the flow. A few mends help to steady the pace and indications of a take are spotted via a curious indicator resembling a tiny balloon. I admit this may not be to every ones taste but I loved every minute of it and also realised that in the huge water conditions (10,000 cubic feet / second, it is usually just 2500) there was very little other option. We did see good numbers of fish rise, or at least I thought so! Clark said that he would want to see fish rising every 10 seconds before he would even think about dries. During normal water conditions apparently this is normal and the dry fly fishing is mind blowing. A good day could yield over 60 fish and remember the average is over 17" long!

So I must close this entry as we have the hike home before us. I have a heavy heart to be leaving this place but look forward to seeing my family of course. They will certainly be spending time is this wonderful place sometime in the future. I truly believe everyone who possibly can should come and take a look at this place, angler or not. It has just about everything you could wish for. Equally I look forward to getting back to work, after all I have a great reminder of this trip in the shop. An authentic Jim Adams fly display just like the ones seen in the Fly Shops here! And I hear it has been raining so perhaps another Salmon is on the cards ....

To wet your appetutue take a look at images from this trip on Henry Gilbeys Blog and I will add a few to my entries when I get home.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Montana just gets better!

I slept like a log last night, the Montana air and long days fishing do that to you. But it is that nice relaxed tired, the kind that tells you have spent another amazing day living life in this extraordinary place. The air is as pure as the scenery and the service here at Yellowstone Valley Ranch is about the best I have ever experienced at a fishing lodge. These guys bend over backwards to help us with our fishing requirements and keep us very well fed in the restaurant. For example tonight I had Crab Bisque followed by Sea Bass and a Creme Brulee to finish. At a fishing lodge! But enough of the gourmet food what about the gourmet fishing?

Well it would be unfair to say that it was not so memorable as that 3 course meal because one of our hosts "Woody" worked his socks off for us today. Woody runs the restaurant but at 30 also has several years guiding fishing under his belt. Today he took Henry Gilbey and I to the lower Madison in search of the elusive big fish that we have been seeking. Stopping off for the mandatory fly buying session we visited a really cool shop called Rivers Edge which was furnished from top to toe in displays crafted by non other than Jim Adams who built the fly display now installed in Hart Flyshop. Woody helped pick out some patterns including big heavily weighted Crayfish and variety of bead head nymphs. I already have 1000s but you can't have too many! He also picked up some curious looking cork balls that were bright orange and designed to serve as an indicator. Shopping completed we took off for the river.

Woody took us all the way up to the start of the run, off loading our drift boat and then sending the car back down to our get out point with a lady who provides this service for a living. They charge $25 a time to pick up the vehicle, drive it to your required location and then park up. They lock the keys in the car and Woody then lets us in with a spare set. Genius!

We fished that river hard, casting in close to the bank and then Woody skillfully back rows to maintain a dead drift presentation of the flies. If the indicator goes down all that is needed is a strike. This sounds like simple fishing, in fact I promote the use of indicators and guide with them regularly myself back in the UK so I know what they are all about. But this was different. Cast then mend; then mend again! Strike at anything unusual, even if the indicator should momentarily pause. The flies were a big heavy crayfish (Woolly Buggers in #6 are also popular) tied to a 9 feet foot leader and then a further 2 feet of leader was tied off from the bend of this pattern. To this we fixed a bead head pattern such as the Copper John or a San Juan worm. We even used split shot at times to gain more depth!

All in all we managed 3 fish and missed a few plus I lost a big fish while Woody was taking the boat out of the water at the end of the day. The fish consisted of 2 Browns and a Rainbow, the last fish only making about a 1lb and yet it had nailed the big Cray! I changed to a yarn indicator as I found the ball to be more of a hindrance than a help, especially when casting, plus I was dubious about the sensitivity of it. Fishing while confident is always important and it was upon making the switch that I got into the groove and started catching. Even so it was proving tough for Henry to capture the day on camera. He strives for perfection which is why his images turn out looking so good and unfortunately today the light and river conditions were causing problems. Trips like this may seem to be nothing more than a chance to spend time on a jolly. But of course it is in fact our lively hood and we treat it very seriously, after all we are here for the benefit of Hardy rather than our own self gratification! Although we are acutely aware of how lucky we are to work in fishing it is such a frustrating business when tried and tested tactics are just not working or the light conditions mean we can't get the shots required.

Getting back to work I had been searching for ideas to fill our Friday as we will be fending for ourselves. Scanning a local map I picked up on a local lake called Daileys and suggested that after dinner we should visit. That was a mistake ... we should have gone an hour earlier! Pitching up at this unbelievably clear and scenically stunning piece of water I instantly fell in love and was soon frantically pulling on my waders. The clarity of this lake has to be seen to be believed and just to wet my appetite fish were moving fairly frequently. But they were a long way off shore and so I waded out until my Hardy EWS were almost overflowing. During the next hour there were many expletives as fish ventured tantalising close but just short of even a 25 yard cast. I tried a dry and then switched to a buzzer which proved so effective last night. No joy but the fish were still rising and every now and again one was within range.

Swapping back to the dry I decided to play the waiting game standing patiently while scanning for a confidently feeding fish. I fluffed my first chance big style due to shaking so much! The second fish I cast at boiled at the fly but missed it and then the wind kicked up. The fish went off. Then they came back on! "Pleeeease give me a chance I'm tired, have fished hard all day and just need that one chance!!!" It came in the form of a fish that was gently sipping just 15 yards away. I calmed myself, allowed it to rise again and then popped up a cast allowing it to flutter gently to the surface. There was no hesitation as once again an English midge pattern, the Big Black by Iain Barr was snaffled!

Walking steadily back to the shore I knew this was a decent fish worth a "grip and grin" even if it was with a flash which I know Henry hates to use. As he dashed back for this piece of equipment I concentrated on playing my fish which alarmed me when its tail cut through the surface. This was no small fish, conservative estimates say around 4lb. Suddenly a burst of power hit me with that enormous low following the high as my fly pulled out. Disappointing but all the same amazing and now tomorrow Henry and I will return with a drift boat. I love rivers and of course have come to Montana to see them but there is something very special about stillwaters and after all if the river is out of sorts why not use them? I don't think I have ever seen such gin clear water since my trip to New Zealand and to be honest a crack at this venue can't come soon enough. Talking of which I had better get some shut eye as right now this is being typed on auto pilot! I have been taking some pictures and will upload a few in the UK but right now why not check out Henrys Blog to see why we are so excited about the fishing out here and already planning a second visit!

Finally I must applaud the staff here at the ranch again (especially manager Paul, Restaurant manager Woody and chef Josh) and have a distinct feeling that some of you reading this blog maybe meeting them in the future! Just before I go, congratulations to Paul who shaved off his moustache today!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

A Montana Chalkstream

After blanking yesterday (see blog and Pete McLeods helpful comments!!!) we decided to stump up the $100 required to fish the DePuy Spring Creek, just a few miles down the road from the Yellowstone Valley Branch. Typically Henry Gilbey was up once more by the wee small hours and I have to admit I was not far behind. After yesterdays tough learning curve I was full of anticipation and dying to see the crystal clear water that the creek is famous for. A great asset to the area and a valuable resource to fall back on in times of high water.

Heading down to the venue with Paul Robertson the ranch manager (a great guy with an even greater moustache!) we discussed what I was about to see. In essence it sounded just like one of our English chalkstreams and so it turned out to be the case. Fishing 12 rods on just 3 miles of water the inhabitants consisting of Brown, Rainbow and Cutt Throat Trout are super spooky. It is case of find your spot, wade in a little and then let everything rest a while. Meanwhile tie on a long leader tapered leader and watch carefully for signs of feeding fish. Blind casting is a definite no, no!

People are very helpful over here, especially in the flyshops. Right on the site of the DePuy (which takes it name from the family that own the river) there is a chance to dive into Buzz Basinis cute little shed like offering that provides everything a spring creek angler needs should they have forgotten it. I have bought current "must have" patterns in virtually every shop I have visited so I also asked Buzz to pick me out a dozen! Then Henry and I headed down the river to look for somewhere to fish.

It did not take long to find them. A beautiful weed lined channel was crawling with fish of all sizes and the odd one was feeding. It took a good hour maybe more for them to really get going but as soon as a fish began rising consistently I was on it. Fishing 2 1/2lb test line and a Pale Morning Dun I was ecstatic when a glorious sipping rise finally transpired ... only to be dismayed as the leader popped and my fish was lost, plus the fly! I never like to lose flies in fish but today has been very strange; at least 5 fish all broke the leader. Hugely frustrating as I wouldn't usually expect to break off in 5 all year!.

However on to the good stuff. Working hard we did manage a small Rainbow, perfect in every way imaginable and it certainly pulled on my favourite Hardy Demon 9'0" #5. Henry finally had a fish to photograph and I had broken my American duck! It took an emerging PMD very confidently and I thought I had cracked it, but no, despite chucking at several more rises the fish did not want to know this pattern. As the day went on the sun got up and the temperatures followed, soon enough the river looked dead. Time to head back to the ranch and an early dinner.

Fed and watered (the food and service is awesome here), Henry and I jumped in the Nissan once more and headed out to a lake that dissects the DePuy Creek known as Dicks pond. Ideal for float tubing we fished the bank a while waiting for Paul to arrive with a boat who then kindly rowed me all over the lake. What an evening. Great light, very moody and fish after fish. I chose to forget all the advice about PMDs, gossamer leaders etc., and instead looked in my Fishpond Pack for a Buzzer. First cast and I lost a fish (only pulled out this time, not a break!) but soon enough Brown after Brown succumbed to the pattern. I don't think they had ever seen Buzzers European style before! Casting a reasonable length to keep the flies well away from the boat in the crystal clear conditions it was a case of dead drifting the patterns along with the natural flow of the lake created by the outflow from the river. If I spotted the merest shimmer on the line a swift lift usually wound up as a fish.

So an all together much better day and really it is obvious to see why, the venue we were targetting was fishable; unlike those we attempted yesterday! Tomorrow we are hopefully heading out by drift boat to the lower Madison to go after the big fish with streamers. I love this kind of fishing for a change and truly hope that finally Henrys lens will be dancing to the the tune of a 20" Montana specimen. Also very exciting is the prospect of heading to Wyoming for a crack at one of the rivers there which is apparently fishing well. All in all I think the next few days could be very interesting and I can just feel that we are building up to something special. When all said and done every day spent in this amazing landscape is an occasion to relish and although I am knackered from travel and fishing hard I have to say that I am willing the nights past so that we can get out there and capture more of this piscatorial paradise on camera! Beer and Bed are calling so for now why not check out the amazing vistas that make Montana one of the most amazing places in the world to fish here on Henry Gilbeys Blog.

(P.S.) I hope that Henry provides a full blow by blow account of the highly technical tactics he uses to outwit Montana Rainbow Trout! In short it involves casting in, turning around, winding in a bit and then shouting an expletive! Novel but effective!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Mental in Montana

Fishing like many things in life is about learning; today I have learned the hard way! They say that "too many cooks spoil the broth" in my case it was a case "too much thinking not enough fishing!" You guessed it, the old blankety blank cheque book and pen! How, in Montana of all places? The fact is that Henry and I are visiting perhaps one of the most beautiful fishing destinations on earth right in the midst of huge snow melt. Yep, you read right. Snow melt .... in mid June!

This has put the rivers way up on normal levels and so the Yellowstone that we originally set out to fish is a non starter for the week. It has to be up at least 2 if not 3 perhaps even 4 feet. Put it this way, I love water and catching fish but I would not so much as place a toe in the big Yellow right now, it would be suicide. So, based on knowledge and advice gleaned from various fly shops and helpful staff here at the ranch Henry and I grabbed a Yellowstone National Park pass and set off in search of the Fire Hole River. I was advised to take small nymphs and plenty of Pale Morning Duns or PMDs as they call them here. Well stocked and a range of Hardy gear at the ready we set off in earnest. During the trip I think we broke the world record for the most times two people have said "wow" and "awesome" on the way. The scenery was breath taking to say the least. So too was the wildlife, herds of bison, pelicans, squirrels and I think marmots or something akin. It took us a while to get to the fishing in amongst the nature watching!

Once through the park border we made haste for the river and by the time I was tackling up I was honestly shaking like a leaf. The excitement was bubbling within like no other excitement I can describe. Fueled by coffee, jet lag and an early morning rise due to extreme buzzing (the brain won't stop!) I could hardly thread up the Marksman. But finally it was done and so last minute checks over we dropped down a steep bank to the river.

From the moment I made my first cast I was wary of the "small fly" advice. The river seemed massive and flowing at such a rate that a #10 Klinky Adams seemed lost amongst it all. I tried a nymph under it but had nothing that was nearly heavy enough. My first lesson was learned. My gut instinct in a fly shop yesterday was to buy up some seriously heavy bugs, but for some reason I didn't! Minkies ... didn't have those or buy either! A sin after my success on the New Zealand venues such as the Tongararo! But I did have some big wool Sculpins and quickly swapped to this pattern on an intermediate line. To fish it effectively I would have needed a super fast sinker such as the Di 7! That was way back up the incline in the car. Second lesson ... always go prepared! I usually do but this time had trimmed the kit down and now stood un-confident and rapidly losing hope. Time for a move ....

I could go on but I guess you can see where this is going .... Henry and I slogged from one bit of water to another all day. All the sections were high. Many were very busy with other anglers and none seemed to be having much success. I am a full time fishing guide in the UK but oh how I wished I had a guide today! I am sure some local knowledge would have put me straight. On the other hand I think that local knowledge had also been my undoing. Sometimes you must go with your own gut instinct.

In all honesty though fishing is a great leveller. I guess I thought that the Montana fish would come thick and fast; in many situations they would I am sure. But not today and that's how it should be. My anticipation is now at fever pitch, on the one hand because I want to see my first Montana Trout while of course there is also a job to do! Henry may now have many fabulous wide angle scenics (plus bison!) but it is time for some fish! Tomorrow we fish a spring creek which sounds very interesting (and challenging) but then on Thursday we will be fending for ourselves once more. I relish this challenge but this time we will go armed with the right flies and choose our venues more carefully! That's the great thing about fishing, tomorrow is another day that will dawn with fresh hopes and dreams. Fishing aside, waking up in an area as stunning as Montana is nothing short of a privilege.

On that note I think I will head off for some shut eye and to dream of the moment when I hook my first Montana Trout. Will it be tomorrow? That's the great thing about fishing ... its unpredictable!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Heaven or Montana?

There is only one thing wrong with right now, well no actually ... two things. The first is minor. I have yet another cold which I think comes from my kids but is probably more late nights and a hectic season! The other thing is that I wish that I was sat in my own office here in Montana, with my wife and kids besides me, rod poised ready for a crack at the Yellowstone. You see I am yet to even wet a line in this amazing state of but already I have already fallen in love. At first sight? Yes, you had better believe it!

I for one hope that Montana is a destination that Aardvark McLeod will promote the hell out of because honestly folks this place has to be seen to be believed. For several years I have been thinking about the possibility of heading to New Zealand but right now I am starting to think otherwise ...

It all started on Sunday morning when Henry Gilbey picked me up for the journey to Heathrow. Airports are never much fun but I have to say from check in, to security and finally the flights; things could not have run more smoothly. Even so Henry and I were both bleary eyed upon touch down and heading to our hotel in the hire car I have to apologise to the motorist who I first sprayed wind washer at, followed by indicating both right and left before flashing my lights for good measure!!! Thankfully our brilliant Nissan 4x4 stayed on the right side of the road and arrived safely at our digs. Needless to say that within moments of opening my bedroom door I was spark out!

We have spent today trawling around the endless flyshops in and around the towns of Bozeman and Livingston. Many thanks to Jim and Mary of Adams & Son whom Henry and I met with this morning. They provided great advice regarding the shops we should visit and virtually without exception each establishment contained furniture and point of sales in red oak created by the crew at Adams & Son. In fact head to Hart Flyshop to see our amazing new fly display built by Jim that has now arrived in the UK, meanwhile I am here! What a small world we live in.

Having spent far too much money on kids clothes and of course one or two tackle goodies Henry and I headed out towards the Yellowstone Valley Ranch to another typically friendly American welcome. I should elaborate but after a long couple of days I will leave that until I have managed to finally make the all important inaugural cast. This will not be on the Yellowstone as it is completely blown by snow melt, but this doesn't bother me in the slightest ... there are spring creek options waiting!

So tell me am I in heaven or Montana right now? Another beer and a gaze across the incredible landscape before me (and just outside my room!) should help me decide. I will not be able to post images while out here but check Henrys blog here to see what we are up to. Its all "work" of course!

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Back into Fly Fishing

It was great to hear the voice of John Peter recently. He called up to book 3 days fishing with us in the company of his mate David. Now John is one of my first ever clients, attending 10+ years ago when I was still working out of the White Horse Inn! An extremely busy guy John had unfortunately laid down his rods 4 years ago and had not made a cast since! So it was up to us to set the piscatorial fishing juices flowing once more.

Neil got the course off to a flying start taking John and David to fish on Gilberts Lake (a private facility with a self catering cottage attached and a growing reputation) as back here at Exe Valley we had a corporate day running. David got stuck straight in and the skills came flooding back to John. By day two I could hardly recognise that John had ever stopped casting, in fact I think he was better than before! We had a real laugh on Exe Valley targeting fish with dry flies, in particular Iain Barrs Big Black which the Trout were snaffling with confidence. Interestingly and this turned out to be the case the day before, the fish were very picky and if the fly was not at the right depth, it didn't get taken.

Day three dawned and it was time to drop the lake rods and head to the river. The air temp has cooled but the flies are still about and this year has seen some of the best free rising Trout sport I have witnessed for a long time. We picked off some decent fish throughout the day and catching up with Neil at the pub later that day found that he had guided an absolute monster of over a pound on another river Exe beat.

I will get images of that fish up sometime soon but right now I must get away from this office and the many jobs that need to be done! I have last minute preparations to make for my visit to Montana with Henry Gilbey and just yesterday our fly display arrived in from Bozeman; how weird that I will be there on Monday! More soon ....

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Gorging on Trout!

I took the Macdonagh family fishing on Saturday, see the full report here. Today the father Ru contacted me to say ...

"Many thanks for a lovely day last Saturday. The boys really loved it and want us to stock our pond immediately!! We have been eating trout for almost every meal since."

It is great to see young anglers getting into the sport. Lads and Dads are welcome and of course Mums and daughters. Mothers day has been and gone but what better way to treat you Dad this fathers day than to send them on a fly fishing trip in the beautiful West Country? Find out more here or book online anytime here.

Latest Fishing Reports - May/June

We are in the midst of a mini heatwave which I actually like for the Trout Fishing, especially as the river was up last week which resulted in the capture of a few Salmon. It may still be worth trying for this species with a long fine leader and sparse flies but to be honest I would now concentrate on Trout or Sea Trout. Parachute Dry Flies have definitely reigned supreme on the Trout scene and look out for the occasional Grayling. I love to fish for the lady of the stream and the Exe is home to some fine specimens. Sadly I do not have a picture but a very reliable source witnessed a fish that scaled over 3lbs caught just moments from our base!

The next lot of rain could set off another run of Salmon and lets hope that a few Grilse put in an appearance. A single handed rod is all you need in this area and a floating line will often suffice, although it is wise to carry a tips version and a full intermediate.

now I tend to leave my fishing for early mornings and the later evening. On the lakes the fishing seems to have been very good according to South West Lakes fishery boss Chris Hall whose report can be seen below. During the hot weather we are experiencingFlogging it out through the day can prove rewarding but I love to be up early and out to the hot spots enjoying some brisk sport prior to teaching or working in the office. Fast sinking lines and Boobies are a safe bet in warm weather on our reservoirs such as Wimbleball and Clatworthy while reducing leader diameter and size of fly will pay dividends on the small waters. Keep it slow too!

South West Lakes Trout Fisheries ( May 2008)


The mixed weather has continued through May – this has included bright sunny days, warm muggy days, strong winds from all directions and heavy rain! In spite of this, in the right conditions, 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. There have been some Hawthorns about, and the Coch-y-bondu beetles have started to appear when the sun shines.


Kennick – The fishing at Kennick again proved to be excellent throughout the month, with a monthly rod average of 3.3 fish, and a number of fish over 5lb being caught. The staple diet was olive buzzers, with some fish feeding on caddis and snails – on warmer days the beetles have been in the air, and Coch-y-bondus have provided some great dry fly sport. There was a good evening rise on the warmer evenings. While fish took a wide selection of fly patterns, the most consistently productive fly again proved to be the Damsel Nymph, while other successful patterns included Montana Nymphs, small Buzzer patterns, and Diawl Bachs (particularly red-heads). Brighter lure patterns (Orange Fritz especially), Nomads (Olive or Brown) and Boobies all caught fish when fished on a sinking line. 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 Clampitts, the Narrows, and Boat Bank fished consistently well.

Best fish of the month included a 6lb 6oz rainbow (the best fish of the season), caught by Joe Bee of Exeter, caught during the Peninsula Classic Bank competition (1 June), and a 5lb 9oz rainbow caught by Paul Wicks (from Ashburton), caught from the bank on 8 May. 7 other rainbows over 5lb were caught during the month.

Siblyback - in spite of the weather (Siblyback offers little shelter when the wind is blowing), the fishery performed well throughout the month, with a monthly rod average of 3.6 fish. There were plenty of buzzers about, with some Hawthorns and surface feeding fish when the weather conditions suited. Two Meadows, the North Shore, and Stocky Bay consistently produced the best fishing, with bank anglers enjoying slightly better sport than the boats. Montanas, Damsel Nymphs, Buzzers, and Hoppers proved to be the most successful patterns.

The best fish of the month was a 4lb 12 oz rainbow caught by Mr. Sharpe using a Diawl Bach, while the best bag was caught by Roger Truscott, with fish of 4lb 2oz, 4lb, 3lb 12oz, and 3lb 9oz.

Wimbleball Ruggs and Bessoms were the most consistently productive areas during May for bank anglers, while boat anglers who made the journey to the Dam and the Upton Arm were rewarded for their efforts. Apart from the calmer days, when the buzzers were hatching, some of the best fishing was to be had fishing lures (preferably Orange or Black) on a sinking line. When conditions suited, sub-surface patterns (such as Pheasant Tail Nymphs, Black Buzzers, Black Pennels, and Montanas) fished on a floating or intermediate line produced good results.

The best fish was a 4lb 7oz rainbow caught by Colin Harvey (of Worcester), using a buzzer.

Stithians – has fished well during May with a rod average for the month of 3.3, and with Hawthorns and beetles in plentiful supply, the fish have been looking up to feed, resulting in some superb top-of-the-water sport. The best areas to fish depended on the wind direction, with Yellowort Point, Hollis Bank, and the Dam area all producing fish consistently. Successful surface flies included Hoppers, Foam Beetles, and Hawthorns, with Diawl Bachs and Buzzers catching well below the surface. Successful sinking line patterns included Bloodworms. Orange Lures, and cats Whiskers.

The best fish of the month (and season, so far) was a 3lb 6oz rainbow caught by J.Gowans (of St Agnes) using a Kicking Beetle on the 18th May – he also used the same pattern to take a 3lb fish on 9th May.

Colliford – has continued to fish well throughout Mayl, with the fish feeding eagerly
on small buzzers, as well as surface insects. Apart from Black Buzzers, traditional nymph patterns such as Hares Ears and Mallard and Clarets, as well as Bibios and Hoppers fished in the surface film, stripped Black tadpoles have all caught fish.

Fernworthy – This brown trout fishery continues to fish well, with a wide variety of patterns all taking the eagerly feeding fish - mainly dark traditional patterns have been taking fish (Bibio, Black Pennell, Zulu, Grouse and Claret, Spider patterns, Hare’s Ear, and Pheasant Tail), with Black Gnats and Cul de Canard emergers taking fish off the surface. 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.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Take 2 Trout

Kim and Caroline are a fishing crazy couple from Taunton. They first visited us on the opening day of Hart Flyshop on 27th May 2006 and since then have been regulars at the fishery. Kim has always yearned to have a go at River Fly Fishing and so for Christmas Caroline purchased him a gift voucher for a guided day.

Sadly the first day came and went as the water was up along with the wind which was blowing bitterly cold. It is always frustrating to postpone things but are we glad we did or what! Today was stunning, big blue sky and sunshine. The wind was still with us and caused problems at times by blowing down stream but Kim was soon in the groove. Once the water had warmed and the hatch had got going fish started popping ... it was only a matter of time.

But they were hard, ignoring lots of patterns and feeding sporadically. But the double act stuck at it and their reward was to catch perfect Wild Browns such as these seen here. Are there many more beautiful fish? Again the Parachute Flies did the trick fished on long, fine leaders.

This week will be hectic as tomorrow I head to Newport to collect a new passport. How crazy is the world! I have until September to run on my current passport but need to have 6 months validity for it to be valid! So why are passports not valid for just 9 1/2 years? Beats me. Anyway I am not complaining, to sample fishing like this is well worth a trip to Newport and anyway I haven't had a good long journey in the Corrado for a while. Sitting around for 4 hours awaiting my travel documents will see me busy organising the new Hart Flyshop / Exe Valley Fishery club which I will detail on the blog and various web sites soon. If you would like an application form, drop me a line.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

An Awesome Week of Fishing

Before I head home to supper tonight I must catch up on the blog as it has been an awesome week of fishing both on a personal and professional level. It all started on Monday morning when I landed a 9lb Salmon, see here for the story. Next day I was revved up for more, especially after a day in the office. I was due to head up to the Carnarvon water with Neil that evening and felt we had a good chance so I also called up Henry. He has never photographed UK Salmon so it didn't take much to persuade him. The night was quieter than expected based on the water levels and colour but I had a Salmon to my own rod which weighed in at 7lbs, a cock fish that had taken a Kylie Conehead. I hope Donegal start tying this fly again, it is awesome! And if not, I have the pattern and will tie up a load myself as soon as I have created my den in the new unit down the road.

I am really getting into the migratory stuff now and pray that some more rain comes soon. Summer Grilse fishing is outstanding especially on single handed rods such as the Hardy Demon. I used the 10'0" #8 model on Tuesday evening coupled to a Hardy Demon Reel. Both products have provided superb service this season; I highly recommend them. The Salmon was of course carefully released and afterwards Mike Boniface joined me in the Anchor for a pint to celebrate. The week was off to a very good start!

Wednesday commenced with Andrew Bulgin who had joined me for the start of a 3 day course. His casting was looking very fine by lunchtime and we concluded the day with a fine Exe Valley Rainbow. In fact it was all going so well that Neil did not hesitate to take Andrew to Wimbleball Lake, a 385 acre venue high up on Exmoor. In tough conditions he managed to hook 3 fish, losing two but landing one. A brilliant result in such a short space of time. Finally I completed Andrews three days with a session on the River Exe in search of Wild Brown Trout. He dealt with a tough downstream wind and sporadic fly hatches to pick up several fish mainly casting to the edges with small Hi Vis Dry Flies. In high water conditions the Trout can really go on the feed and these Parachute Male Tricos sit perfectly and get taken confidently. Use a tapered leader and don't be afraid to drop down to 2.0lb test.

Andrew headed home and so did I with a huge tray that needed kitting up with our new stock of Donegal Salmon flies. Not cheap but absolutely brilliant. Superb tying on fantastic quality hooks. Salmon fishing costs enough anyway; why scrimp on flies! We will add these to the online store soon. I sat up until gone 11pm doing this (in fact I was quite enjoying it, I love stocking fly boxes!!!) which I shouldn't have done as today we had 8 people in for teaching! Four were with Neil and have just started a two day course while I was looking after Ru (short for Rory!) and his boys. Tom age 17, Sam age 13 and Will age 11. From the off I knew these guys would do well and my late night and 5am rise was soon forgotten, there were casts to be taught and leaders to tie! Ru is a surgeon (so I guess he has steady hands!) while the lads all love the outdoors and sports. Tom showed particular flare and by late morning we had progressed from casting to fishing. First cast Tom was into a fish that he lost!

Within a few casts the same happened and then a shout of "FISH!" echoed around the lake. The youngest, Will, had hooked and was playing his first ever Trout. To see the grin on the guys faces is what I love about my job and I am happy to say that in the end Ru, Sam and finally Tom got their fish. Living in the Quantocks the family are lucky enough to have their own lake which is currently choked by weed. It looks like Dad Ru has now been inspired to clear it out and stock it with Trout!

Don't forget that next Sunday (15th) is fathers day! A Fly Fishing trip to learn or improve with Nick Hart Fly Fishing makes a great gift and is certainly far more fun than socks, after shave or a new drill!

Adding to the fish and fun were some great comments this week. It is so satisfying to hear from our guests and many thanks to Tom Steele in particular. I arrived on Friday morning to find a bottle of wine waiting for me ... and St Emilion too!!!

"Thank you so much for a glorious days fishing, I really appreciate you staying out so late. I haven’t had as much fun on the water for ages and this short line casting has opened my eyes.

Would love to book a repeat session before the end of the season, maybe try to make a weekend of it and get some night fishing in."

Tom Steele - London, 2008

"Thanks very much for a very enjoyable 2 days fishing last weekend. Nick and I enjoyed it ( and your company!) enormously. It’s a bit difficult getting back to the day job today!"

Stuart Jebb - Surrey 2008

I can hardly contain my excitement as a week tomorrow Henry and I head to Montana. But there is a fun few days ahead, especially as one of my very first ever clients, John Peter, will once again be joining us for three days of fishing. John has been threatening to retire for several years and finally it looks as if he has done so! This means he is about to pick up the rods again, so Trout, look out! I will need some early nights this week but with a warm front currently with us the conditions should be good for Sea Trout. Perhaps I will manage a night before we head off as I am yet to land one this year although Nick Mansfield had a lot of fun with them recently during a guided trip, read the report here.

Monday, 2 June 2008

A Salmon is Landed

After a late one in the office I was determined to get out on the Exe this morning for as flick. The water condition looked great last night and as I walked along the river in the early hours today I thought it looked even better. Surely there had to be a chance!

Fishing with a Rio tips line and a Cascade I made my way through 3 pools without so much as a sniff. I live for my fishing but there are times when chasing Salmon that you wonder if it is ever going to happen! But the water just looked so good. Work ... or do another pool? Easy choice really.

Stepping into a pool that I have always fancied on the Carnarvon Water, Otter Ledges, I swapped over to a Conehead. We have done so well over the years with the Coneheads and immediately that I had completed the knot I felt a wave of confidence. Carefully fishing the pool everything looked good and then the line went tight. A small escapee Rainbow had taken hold. It was enough to quicken the pulse but of course I was disappointed.

Having unhooked the fish I was sorting my tackle ready for another cast when in the corner of my eye I saw a splash, right under a tree that provides shelter to a very sexy looking pool. I didn't need anytime to think about it, there was a Salmon there alright and all I needed to do was put the fly over it!

A few casts in I had a strong pull as the fly crossed the pool, swinging beautifully in the current. Next cast I felt a couple of plucks and then that moment every Salmon angler yearns for; the line became heavy, the rod tip throbbed and then 10 minutes of high octane action took place. Despite being a little coloured and beaten from its journey this cock salmon measuring 28.5" (weight around 9lb) was out of the water, charging down the run and making me earn my keep! In under branches, almost around a tree root and swearing! I always swear when I hook a Salmon!!!

But my luck was in and after the plucking at the fly I assumed that this fish was well hooked. I need not of worried, it had in fact engulfed it! Some quick photos and a few scale samples followed before I released the fish. Watching one of these awesome fish glide back to its home after such an adrenalin rush is hard to beat.

My thanks to Neil who let me fish his rod for the morning. He has been towed off to a garden centre today, I wonder what he would have rather been doing!!!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Freestone Trout Fishing

May seems to have zoomed by and during that time I have enjoyed the company of many guests while fishing a hugely diverse array of venues. Yesterday I guided Tom Steele from London who turned down the chance of a Salmon in favour of heading to Badgworthy Water for small Wild Browns. I headed well into the hills with Tom, walking for a good hour prior to fishing. From the first cast Tom enjoyed take after take to dry flies. The weather was perfect, big blue sky and no wind. Short-lining with a Marksman 10'0" proved to be deadly once again. Arriving back at the car park I bumped into buddy Mike Boniface who was off up the river for a chuck or two. While he did that Tom and I dived into Malmsmeads last chance saloon (it is a little like the wild west!) for a stone-baked pizza and a pint!

During the week I enjoyed a great session on Southwood fishery, run by Nigel Early. Give them a shout on 01271 343608 and book your session on this fantastic venue that holds the best small water fish I have ever seen. Henry Gilbey captured the day and you can see some of the results here.

The Salmon are starting to show. I know of a 12lb fish and another of 9lb taken just minutes from where I sit typing up the blog! Get some fishing via Fish the Exe or give me a shout on 01398 323 008 and I will see what I can do. While the fish are running it is worth having a fly in the water. My own rod is set ready for an early morning campaign tomorrow prior to work and I will be getting out as much as possible over the next couple if weeks. Talking of Salmon today I was in the company of regular guest Steve Talbot who is determined to master Spey casting. We spent the session working on all aspects of this beautiful and yet highly practical cast finishing off with a few casts down the river in case a Salmon felt like taking hold. Steve has set off for the practice water armed with a new Hardy Demon Double Hander from the shop; I cannot believe how popular this range of rods has become! Well, actually I can, they are bloody good!!!

Montana is drawing ever closer, the Sea Trout are in and now that we have just picked up the keys to our new unit we have more space. I am looking forward to June!