If there is one thing in life that I believe in, it is to try and put something back into fishing. If it wasn't for the help and friends that I made during my early days as an angler, I probably wouldn't be where I am today. So with this in mind, whenever the opportunity arises that I can help and put something back, then I will. There are some instructors out there who only look at the fishing scene as a way to make money! It sometimes make me wonder if they are in the business for the right reason. Personally I think it has to be down to the fishing. Been able to make a living out of fishing to me is just a bonus. So when the chance to help someone down here in Devon came along, I took up the challenge and it's been brilliant!
Before I moved to Devon few years ago, I was under the impression that it was all picture card scenery, beaches, blue skies, and fishing. Apart from the blue skies (they are often grey), it is all that I described, and a lot more. But what they don't tell you in the holiday brooches is that Devon is no different than anywhere else in the country. It has its fare share of crime, unemployment, drugs, and kids getting in trouble with the police. Devon is quite a poor area, relying mainly on tourism and farming for its income. But with recent summers comprising of wet crappy weather, both industries have suffered. Combine it with a recession and you can see that living in Devon is like living anywhere else in the country. Like I mentioned, it is true that we have all this beautiful scenery and open areas, but if you can't get to use them, then they might as well not be there. So most of the youngsters hang around town with nothing to do.
Unlike some of the big inner-city authorities who run programmes for youngsters to help keep them out of trouble and try to steer them away from a night in the cells, there doesn't seem to be much of a priority to do this in Devon. I don't want to get into politics or anything, but the way I see it is, surely it must be better to look after the youngsters of the town instead of making sure that the hanging baskets outside the shops are looking good, or the local visitors center is painted! Its seems to be a case that if they make somewhere look nice, then it will mask the problems. It's more like painting over the cracks! Why not spend the money else where and give the local youngsters something to do instead?
Since I have been down here, I have gotten to know quite a lot of the youngsters in town and see their problem. Coming from an inner-city area myself, I can see the same similarities that I faced as a kid. So I thought what the hell. So I decided that any days that I'm not teaching or guiding, I will put my time into helping a few of them and see if they could get into the fishing? The beauty of living in this area, is the expanse of rivers, streams, coastline and open moorland. It isn't like they would learn to cast a fly on the grass, then go down to the canal to catch an old shoe. It has been possible to teach a few of them how to cast, learn about fly selection and river-craft, a bit about navigation and then go missing on the moors for the day.
As I thought, the numbers soon dwindled. Maybe the PlayStation or X-box still has more of a magnetic draw than standing in lashing rain, casting a fly at fish. But out of the group who started, it was good to see that one person was still up for it. I must admit, that out of everybody, I was surprised that it was Dan. But what can I say? He loves it. I can be sitting at home having my tea, and the phone will ring. It will be Dan wanting to know if we can get out fishing or wanting to learn another cast. I try not to say no. Even if I'm busy, I will always try to take him. If he's got the bug, then I want to keep up the momentum and keep him interested. It's too easy to let things slip, and before you know it he's found another way to keep himself occupied.
So I thought how could we put it all into practice? His casting was coming on good, he now knows about river-craft and navigation and could certainly catch fish when we've been out on the river. So I gave him a challenge! Whilst at school, this guy wouldn't probably even be allowed to sit alone on the school bus. He would have to sit next to a teacher to make sure that he behaved and at least, make sure he attended. I think most of today's teenagers are ignored and mis-judged by us oldies. Dan was given a chance, and he was doing good. It was his day to run the show. It was up to him to navigate us over Dartmoor, criss-cross the streams, read the weather and water conditions and catch as many fish as possible. I went along to carry the food and to stretch my legs. If he was pulling us too far off track, I would say something, but it was my intention to leave as much of it to him as possible and see how the day unfolded.
We arranged to meet at mine at 10am and would start the trip off from town. Whilst I was putting a couple of sugars in my brew, the door bell went and he was here. Before I had time to finish stirring my tea, he was climbing into his waders and looking at an OS map of the area. I thought I had better look fired up, so I got into my waders, grabbed the gear and had a quick slurp before we set off.
Dan Moran leading the way over Dartmoor.
Maybe it's me and I'm getting old, but when you've got a youngster leading the way the pace increases to another level. Jump, chop, wallop, run, I'm heading straight up that big hill! When I was his age (during the war), I wouldn't think anything of a twenty mile slog in the mountains, but nowadays I feel it a bit more. My excuse is that I was still a bit tired from the CLA weekend, and I had been up on the moors for a couple of days previous fishing and guiding. After taking me up hill and down dale, he did well and dropped us on the correct section of river and we watched what the fish were up to. We cracked open a bag of sweets to recharge the energy, and set the rod up.
In a tangle before making the first cast!
After 20 minutes or so of Dan setting the rod up, and un doing a nice tangle, he was making the first cast of the day. First cast and he had a take. As usual, the fish were fast and he missed it! Youngsters!! One he got his eye in though, then things began to happen. He was doing well, and fish were coming quite frequent. Nothing big, but all were a nice size for the moors.
First fish of the day, a stunning wild moorland trout.
After spending a couple of hours working along a stretch of the East Okment, we decided (well Dan decided) that we ought to make our way to the head of the river Taw some 3 miles away and over heavy ground. Great I thought! What's wrong with here? Were catching fish. But it was Dan's day, so I grabbed the kit, browsed at the map and we headed off- upwards! How nice it must of been for the people that we passed who were taking a leisurely stroll along the footpaths. It was warm and muggy, and I wished that I had opted for shorts and trainers like the rest of the people out that day. Not us! Waders and boots are designed to worn in water. We were nearly 10 miles from the start of the day, battling with thick gorse, boggy ground, and climbing a gradient over the tors. No wonder I was sweating.
But how nice it was when we reached our destination. The first thing we did was to get into the river to cool down. We looked like a pair of dogs, splashing around trying to lower the temperature. I think Dan must of felt sorry for me, because he handed me the rod for the first cast. Fly selection was pretty basic. We were using a couple of different coloured Klinks and the odd nymph. Most of the fishing was typical up-stream casting, but through out the deeper pools and runs, we opted to swing nymphs and small spiders.
Dan pondering, as the 'old man' hooks into a fish.
We fished a number of runs and pockets as the gradient steepened and the water ran faster. Dan was now picking and choosing the method dependant on the type of water in front of him. Swapping flies and attaching droppers, he was in the zone. The day continued with Dan catching a decent amount of fish on a variety of methods and flies. It was good to watch him put into practice all the stuff that we spoke about and had showed him throughout the various sessions. The walk back to town was a nice stroll back. Dan couldn't stop himself from flicking a fly in the best looking spots as we marinaded our way back down stream. The sign of a true angler in the making! Typically the best fish came about 100 yards from the town itself. Just as he was about to wind in and snip the flies off, we saw a rise from a decent fish that was tucked in under an overhanging bush. He didn't hesitate and fired a fly in the vicinity. I watched as the fly drifted down until it reached the point of the rising fish. Fingers crossed I saw a boil under the fly and before I could say anything Dan was bent into it.
The best fish of the day, only 100 yards from home!
What Dan thinks of it all!
"I have been 'adventure fly fishing' across Dartmoor in rivers and also other places. I am ambitious and interested to keep learning and moving on. I've learnt the basics about casting and fly fishing, but still fascinated because the knowledge and wisdom you learn is always keeps it interesting. Trouble bound this helped me find piece of mind and understand a lot more about myself. When I first undertook the challenges I faced I didn't quite expect it to be as difficult as it was. I am fairly fit anyway but the walking was hard, but never the less mark guided me to the most peaceful of places and found tranquility. With thanks to mark for helping me experience what he must undertake almost everyday and now a new hobby has possessed me. Thanks again for teaching me and giving me the chance, and also letting me develop until I was comfortable to tackle the tasks at hand by myself". By Dan Moran.