Tuesday, 30 July 2013

I'm on TV! Well kind of...


Step aside Robson Green, watch out Jeremy Wade, because I am on TV! Well not quite, let me explain:

Those of you that read these blogs will know that I am a keen supporter of the Westcountry Rivers Trust and am proud to be an Angling Ambassador for them. A key part of my role as an ambassador is to encourage greater use of the many miles of wild trout fishing that is available through their passport scheme.

So how to encourage people to use the passport scheme? There are a group of anglers out there who are unfamiliar with fishing streams for wild brown trout who could benefit from being guided through the basics, from where to park, to where to cast. The idea for i-ghillie was born. A virtual ghillie showing you how to tackle your beat, what flies you need and how to access the best fishing spots.

The plan is to produce i-ghillies for around 10 angling passport or booking office beats using a number of local guides and instructors. So back in June I spent a day on one of my favourite beats, Castle Hill on the river Bray, fishing with a film crew attached. A tough fishing day with high winds and rain followed by bright sun and sometimes rain and sun together on a painfully low river. It was interesting work and alot of fun.

To learn more about i-Ghillie and to view my footage from Castle Hill click Here

Look out for more I-ghillie films coming soon.


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Catching it, cooking it and eating it.


Hi All,
I have managed to escape to the Welsh Mountains for a few days. I try and get up there every year, generally on my own or with Loops the spaniel, this time however we were able to synchronise diaries to such an extent that my better half - Debs was able to come along. Now, those of you that read these blogs know that I like to travel deep in to the areas I explore, carrying everything I need with me, limiting the creature comforts I can pack. That doesn't really do it for Debs:

Adventure Fly Fishing UK does Glamping! Note the Scooby doo pillow in the tent...
It is fair to say that Debs is at most an 'occasional angler' but she holds dear very similar values to me - fishing in beautiful, natural environments and respect for the quarry. And so I am able to occasionally tempt her to come fishing with me with the promise of a great location and a fishy meal at the end of it. 

Fantastic location sorted, now where are the fish?
The fishing was slow, a bright day with a strong gusty wind, didn't help but I enticed plenty of splashes, swirls and tweaks and perhaps half a dozen small brownies to dries and then pulled wet flies. Debs plied her flies unmolested by such things for much of the day. Pressure mounted as we headed towards the close of the day with the prospect of nothing to add to our camping rations. A reversion to 'shock and awe tactics' by Debs, the most ridiculous, large and fluffy creation to be found in the deepest recesses of my fly box (she had long since exhausted all of the options from her boxes) and of course - instant success:

The smile of somebody that is not going to go hungry tonight
This was swiftly followed by another fish and a better one.

This fish was 'crunchy' to the touch. I have felt this many times before where trout (it seems in my experience to be mainly lake brown trout) have been gorging on snails and when you hold the fish you feel and hear the shells rubbing together. On this occasion though it was tiny clams, not something I have seen before:

Making the decision to kill fish is something I don't take lightly, I feel that when I kill one I accept the responsibility to respect the fish by creating from it a special meal. By 'special' I don't necessarily mean cordon bleu or something intricate from the final of masterchef, I mean one that is savoured by friends and family. In this case with fish in top condition and as fresh as it is possible to be the recipe was simple and stunningly tasty:

Salt, pepper and olive oil. Can you guess which one I caught?

Adventure Fly Fishing UK in Print


Hi All,
I have just uploaded the article that was published in this year's Wild Trout Trust Journal to my article page. Take a look here and let me know what you think! http://www.adventureflyfishinguk.co.uk/articles.php


Saturday, 11 May 2013

Going Back


What is the purpose of an angling club?

For me there are perhaps two:

1. To encourage a greater uptake of the sport through group participation be that competition, fishing events or  taster days.

2. Where the fishing requires access to private waters, to increase buying power for fishing rights by grouping together a number of anglers.

Hence a club should be able to make fishing that would otherwise be too expensive for many anglers individually more accessible to the many (and I suppose helps increase uptake of the sport)

Occasionally a club gets this thing wrong in my opinion.

I went home recently, back to the town in Wales that I grew up in, my folks still live there and I went home to spend some time with them and also I took the opportunity to explore the river on which I grew up. I haven't cast a line on this river for probably 18 years. When I say I grew up on the river, I spent almost all of my waking hours away from school on the banks of this river, fished it, fell in it (many times), climbed trees, built dens and generally just existed on it. Isn't it funny how the sorts of things we did when we were kids would today have our parents frowned upon, descended upon by social services or generally lambasted by society? That's a subject for another day perhaps.

The little river in question is relatively nutrient poor, with a head of small wild brown trout and migrant sea trout (or sewin, as they are called on this river) and a few salmon. As a kid I fished it with my Dad, he had permission to fish from the farmer that owned a couple of fields adjacent to the river, or you could buy an annual permit from him for a few quid - 5 to 15 pounds say and you would fish with worm or spinner generally, I seldom saw anybody fly fish as I grew up. You could start to fish at the tidal reaches of the river and work your way miles upstream quite happily. And the river was fished particularly after a spate when there was a good chance of a sewin.

Now the fishing rights are owned by a fishing club. The club in question is based approximately 20miles away and in addition to this stretch has over 12 miles of salmon and sewin fishing on the famous West Wales rivers of the Towy and the Teifi. Most UK game anglers will have heard of these rivers and the membership and day ticket costs are extremely reasonable to access these rivers where each year sewin well in to double figures (and occasionally approaching 20lb) are caught. But to fish 1.5miles of my little river, located well away from these other rivers, it seems a bit at odds.

And for this little bit of river I feel this club has, in my opinion, got it wrong. By acquiring (it is a recent acquisition) this fishing, different in nature to the other fishing they hold, some distance from the rest of the fishing, there is a strong possibility that in the area of this little river they are failing in purpose one. The membership and day ticket price points are correct - if you intend to fish these famous rivers - but it is completely wrong if you purely intend to fish this little river.

It would be really interesting to know how many people fished it since it fell in to angling club control compared to when it was available through local arrangement. The day I visited it felt that it had been largely ignored for a while. Overgrown and litter strewn, my little river didn't look well. I know this club does some habitat improvement and conservation work, I wonder where 1.5 miles of this little river sits on their list of work priorities.

As a rule anglers care for their environment, less anglers can mean less care and also less pairs of eyes watching the water. I found a large segment of gill net, abandoned and tangled now, but evidence that in the absence of others poachers move in.

 A small piece of the gill net I found.

I fished for a few hours with my Dad, the fishing was slow but it was nice to work upstream, reminiscing about previous fish caught and lost, fishing friends and old times. I think what worries me the most about the whole thing is that Dad and I talked afterwards and wondered how, if we were both 30 years younger, he would have managed to fish the way he used to and how he could have given me the sort of introduction to the sport that set me on my way. That worries me...

The first for a long, long time. The highlight of a difficult day.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Perhaps I am boring, but...


That's all I want is plain old boring normality, nothing exciting, spectacular and certainly not record breaking, just middle of the road, standard.

What am I talking about? The weather of course.

The last couple of years we seem to have lurched from one extraordinary weather event to the next, from record dry springs, to the wettest summer on record, to the coldest March and so on. Now I would like some normal stuff please, not overly warm, unseasonably cold, spectacularly wet or remarkably dry, nothing to bother the record books or to excite the statisticians - normal. If there is such a thing any more...

Talking of cold, here are a couple of photos sent to me by my mate in Iceland a couple of weeks ago, the spring creeping in to the Highlands:

See the bridge? There is a river under there, honest. I know because last year I caught fish underneath it.

This is a photo of a river I am set to explore this year just emerging from underneath the ice. We hope to find rising brown trout and possibly some char here in less than 3 months time. I hope it warms up a bit before I get there.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Hurry up...and wait.


I mentioned that it had been a long closed season, I am not sure I have awaited the start of the season with so much eagerness as I have this one. And so it was with some disappointment that I opened the curtains on the 15th, the first day of our trout season in Devon to be faced with grey skies, high winds and heavy rain. Washout.

That didn't stop me having a bit of a wander about though and for a while the sun even came out.

The river was high and in spate, but nowhere near as high as it had been that winter. My dogs are sat at least 6 feet higher than the flooded river and you can see that the floodwater had been over the top of the wire fence.

It is approaching that time of year when if you are a drake mallard it pays to be looking at your best.

The last of the snowdrops, those that hadn't been flattened by the wind and the rain.

So good as always to be out and about on the river, but for fishing I will just have to wait...


Warm and Tingly


It has been a long, long closed season, it is fair to say I haven't enjoyed it much. Now that the new fishing season approaches I thought I would write a few words about what I have been up to.

Since my last correspondence I am pleased to report that I have become a Westcountry Angling Passport Ambassador, I am proud to be associated with the Westcountry Rivers Trust, a charity close to my heart and over the coming months I will be writing more, helping with some of their excellent habitat work and generally doing all I can to cajole everybody to use the Angling Passport scheme to access some super fishing and support this excellent cause.

A perfect example of the sort of good that can be done through this scheme is the new beat on the River Mole. The Garramarsh Farm Beat of the river Mole has entered the scheme this year. I know the beat well, largely underfished, the stretch had been allowed to become overgrown. To fish the stream in the summer was to fish in almost complete darkness, the stretch was completely overgrown, the river shrouded in a dense cloak of  sycamore and hazel, largely impermeable to light or anglers. With no light there was very few insects and without insects there would be very few feeding fish.

And so two weeks ago, with the season approaching, a Westcountry Rivers Trust contractor backed up by a volunteer working party descended on the beat, tooled up with power tools, hand saws and stacks of enthusiasm (not to mention tea and cake). And this is the best bit, everything we needed to do to improve access to the beat for visiting anglers served also to improve the habitat for fish and fauna - let me show you:  

 You can see how overgrown the beat is, obviously it is the end of the winter, give it a few weeks and you would not be able to see the river through the leaves. Without light this bit of the river will be largely barren of insects and their larvae. And so Gerald the contractor (and expert fisherman himself) fires up the chainsaw.

   Aided by the volunteer working party (here Dave Chapman the WRT Angling Development Manager) huge amounts of hazel is coppiced and the debris removed from the river.

Let there be light.

Removing trees serves to open up access to the river for visiting anglers and also lets light in to the river to encourage a more diverse population of flora and fauna and hopefully some lovely insects for the trout to feast on. Of course it is important not to get carried away, tempting though it is to trim every possible fly snagging hazard, shade is vital. Current scientific advice is that approximately 60% shading is perfect to protect the river water from becoming too warm and so restraint is important.

But it is not just about cutting trees out, here you see Gerald has selected some overhanging branches and instead of cutting them out he makes a cut part of the way through each limb, bends and secures the limbs along the river bank.

The idea is that these limbs will continue to grow in much the same way as a traditionally laid hedge does to produce limbs and leaves from these stems. The result would be perfect habitat for fish fry and insects, a great addition which will also serve to add to the productivity of the beat. As if this is not enough of an incentive to take every opportunity to add this kind of feature there is another benefit. This bankside growth will act as a buffer during spates, reducing the energy with which the water hits the banks and so reduces riverbank erosion. Less erosion = less silting of the gravels = more habitat available for fish to make their redds.

And so a days work, some good company with likeminded people, a new beat to fish and the warm, smug satisfaction that you have managed to do some good for the habitat we treasure. Happy days.