Saturday, 26 September 2009

Two's company!

Well, this decent weather is a turn up for the books. My brothers thought the same and asked if they could pop down for the weekend. I was hoping to travel up to Bristol to fish one of the lakes up there for the day and chill out. But unfortunately it didn't quite come off, so I was stuck holding the baby. Two of them! It's always good to catch up with them from time to time. They often find an excuse to pop down when the weather is grim up North and shining down here! Usually to chill out and go fishing. I had booked the week free anyway, so we decided to head down to Looe for some sea fishing. I don't know what it is about Looe, but I love it. It reminds me of the old Jaws movies. It has that 'old salty sea-dog' atmosphere, that gets inta ya blood me arty. See what I mean. I nearly turned into a pirate just talking about it.

'Babysitting the kid brothers for the weekend' Gav & Baz.

I don't admit to been the best sea angler in the world. I spend half the day fighting sea gulls, and un doing knots. But I get a kick out of it. Baz does quite a lot of it off the coast of Anglesey (so he says), so this brought on a bit of brotherly rivalry. Gav was also up for it, so I could see there was a bit of a comp coming on. They always like to try and show me up, and try to catch more fish than me. They think it's clever. But I just wait until they mop all the small things up, and then I go in and finish it off with a brute! I wish! They are both pretty good at fishing in their own right. Baz talks about it, and Gav drinks to it. So it was going to be interesting........

We spent the first day hanging around Polpero (Nr Looe). We decided to hire a boat and do a bit of fly fishing off the rocks. There were a few bass patrolling around, but we were mainly catching small sized Pollock that were tucked away near the rocks and hiding amongst the sea weed. Baz and Gav opted to spin for them. Gav at the time was casting away his big rubber shad when he had the first hit, but pulled out. Baz have given him a rusty hook, that was blunt. 'Good lad'. I saw him smirk. I managed to pull into a nice bass on a white Clouser, and after a bit of a tussle and some surface slapping it was in. Where's the photo? They refused to take one! They were too busy seeing who could do the most skims with a stone. That's brotherly love for you. The next bass that I had hooked ripped off into the sea weed and thrashed around until it came free. Checking the hook point when I pulled the fly in, it looked like it had been dragged across a rock and chipped the point off it. Er, or had it been pinged with a pair of pliers? Where was Baz at the time! Saying that probably hooking into clumps of sea weed and making out they were fish.

Polpero rocks entertaining us with its Pollocks.

As the sun began to draw in at the end of a top day, I fancied showing them a nice piece of beach, and hopefully if we had got the tide right catch a few fish. We walked a couple of miles along the Polpero to Looe coastal path and dropped down one of the rocky crags to get us onto a stunning beach. The sun was just dropping and we could see the signs of fish moving in the distance. Always a good sign, and been the kind of guy I am, I went down to make the first few shots. As if! My brothers would of lynched me. We sent Gav down for the first attempt , and his cast was just falling shy of the commotion. So Baz stepped up to the hocky and made a few similar cast. 20 minuets later and the fish were closer in and Baz kept thrashing away until the had, had enough, (and the fish were bored). I just sat back and watched the lack of action. That'll teach them for not taking any photo's (maybe I should of given them a decent fly).

Sitting back and watching the lack of action!! Kids for you!

Stunning sun set over Looe rocks

The following morning we had booked to go out on a wreck fishing trip. We more or less had the boat to ourselves, apart from a couple on their honeymoon! Conger fishing. How romantic!! Saying that, it's probably the kind of thing that I would end up doing. So it was obvious that their day was going to be spoilt. We lifted Baz's boxes of tackle into the boat, and Gav just threw his pack of crisps onto the deck. Baz was busy talking to the skipper about the different methods and baits. Up or down tiding, rubby-dubby mixes and weather forecasts. The new couple were more interested in each other, Gav was nearly asleep, and I was more concerned about the size of the boat!

Phew! I thought it was the blue one. Like the famous saying goes"I think were going to need a bigger boat".

Baz tackling up before we'd even set off!

I think the agenda for the day was to start off by catching the bait, probably mackerel, then travel out a bit further over the reef. Mackerel always seem to want to give themselves up easily. Its unfair the justice we give them when we jig for them when bait fishing. It's a totally different fish when it's hooked onto the end of a 5 weight fly rod. But nevertheless, we wanted quite a few for the day's fishing ahead. So sport was out of the question. We just 'jigged' and winched.

Heading around the famous 'Banjo Pier'

The sea was quite gentle, thank God, Baz and Gav had queasy stomachs from the night before. I wouldn't of minded a bit of swell, just to get things going for them. We headed out for about 8 miles before we dropped anchor, and got into the first tangle of the day! Trust it to be Gav! Not a clue. But completely chilled with the event. We managed to 'wind in' a good number of mackerel. Some were a nice size too. Baz thought he was the daddy, because he had a three'er. Until Gav landed a full string of fish. I think it was about 6.

Gav and his prize catch! Poor lad.

When the heavy artillery came out. and the baits were lowered to the depths of the reef, then the comp was on. Gav had caught all the bait that we needed. So it was my turn to blow Baz out of the water and the day would be sorted. Gav took an early lead with a scrappy 'doggie'. The first rule in the book was, who ever caught the first dog fish had buy tea when we got back onto shore, or is it dry land? Anyway, the fish and chips were on him. Baz massif, hooked into a decent conger, and the strain on his face was showing it. I though his head was going to explode!Ah, it fell off. He was gutted. He must of pulled it up a good 150' before it spat the hook. There were a few nice fish landed. Gav caught a stunning Cuckoo wrasse, and Baz caught the best tan of the day. Shame there were no pics of their fish. Funny that. But at least I had the last laugh and landed the biggest conger of the trip. Not huge, but it did me.

Cheers Boys!! Better luck next time.

After a good weekend catching up with them, and taking them down to the coast for a bit of reef and saltwater fly fishing, it's always nice to drop them back at the train station. I can get on with a bit of gentle fly fishing again now.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Hooks, books, and new looks.

Well, it's fare to say that summer is on its way out. The past few nights I have reluctantly been forced back home, due to it going dark early! It only seemed like last week when I was still out at 10pm messing around down the river. I got in at about 7:30 last night and I nearly tripped over the doorstep. It was already dark, and there was a slight nip in the air. That reminds me, next time I'm in bed, I'd better swing my arm over and turn the electric blanket up another notch! It's been a a tough week, the fishing has been quite good, but I've ended up with a kidney infection, and I'm sure I've broken my back!! But the fishing must go on. Nothing a packet of pills can't put right.

I mentioned in an earlier blog, that I was waiting for some of the new Rio wire to arrive. Well it has arrived from the States, and hopefully it's gonna get a good hammering next week. Over the years I have used AFW which has served me well, but I wanted to give the Rio wire a good try over the winter. I decided on a couple of breaking strains to try, 20lb and 30lb.

Rio wire to be put through its paces.

As it says on the spool, it is knottable. So this will be perfect for fly fishing for pike. I have tried various wires over years, and found that some claiming to be knottable can sometimes be too springy for the job. When knotting wire, it is always best to work the knot tight. Unlike co-polymer or fluorocarbon etc, wire doesn't tend to slide as easy when pulling it tight. If you try and slide the knot tight, the wire tends to pig-tail and can damage the strands. The Rio wire knotted well, and the outer coating didn't strip off when I tried to slide the knot.

So with the nights drawing in, I have been tying a few more 'Chewed Up' flies for our forthcoming adventures. I have been using some of the new materials from ' Funky fly tying Products'. In days gone by, a lot of anglers would of spent a lot of the 'old' closed season tying flies for the following season. Nowadays we have the luxury to fly fish all year round for a wide variety of species, so we tend to tie flies for the following session. It was good to meet up Derek again for a cast and a catch up the other day. The river Exe had given up a few decent grayling to him, with a beaut of about 17". When I lived in Somerset, I used to love the grayling fishing near to Dulverton, not far from where he was fishing. He's also been pulling a few big bass out as well from along the North Devon coast. Been a coast guard he has got his finger on the pulse and has found a few new marks for us to try. Right, that's more grayling, bass and pike flies that will need tying.

Bunny and Bait-fish patterns tied from 'funky-fibre' products

As well as tying flies on these dark lonely evenings, I have dusted off a few books that I fancied a re-read. I'm no book worm. Since Devon has switched over to digital, I'm hooked on them shopping channels. It amazes me how they can spend an hour talking about a piece of tat. Then I realise that they have sucked me in, and Ive ordered two singing snowmen, and a roof-rack that won't fit my car! Anyway a few choice buys in my time are a few books that are always worth a browse. If you are into your fly casting, and want to progress as an angler then have a look at........

........... 'Jason Borgers' Nature of fly casting. This is an in depth book that can really help you understand the mechanics of fly casting, as well as describing a huge variety of casts that will help you in almost any fishing situation.

One book that is always good to have for reference is a copy of..............

At least learning to identify a few basic, but important insects that live in your local rivers and streams will be a bonus. This will help you to select the correct pattern of fly and hopefully catch you a few extra fish. John goes into great detail and has excellent photo's to back the text up. If your not too concerned about it all though, if a green fly comes buzzing past you, just tie a green fly in and go for it! You might still fish. But reading and understanding books like these will bring consistent catch rates.

Another buggy book is 'Trout and the subsurface fly', by Lou Stevens. It's true that between 75%-80% of a trouts feeding life is sub-surface. So it pays to learn something about the insects and the fishes behaviour. Some people thrive off catching fish on a dry fly, and others love to fish nymphs. It's a good job really that everyone has their own preferences and styles, or else we would all be standing in the water like robots all doing the same thing until the fish wised up to it. Lou Stevens book is easy to read, and is ideal for all anglers starting fly fishing or moving onto running water.

One last book that I often thumb through the pages of is Simon Gawesworth's 'Spey Casting'. Whether your in double or single handed Spey casting this book looks at the subject in great depth. Spey casting is continuing to advance with new rods and lines. But without doubt this book is still one of the most up to date on the market.

For those who don't like to read or the youngsters out there who don't seem to come across books anymore, there are plenty of good DVDs out there. The best ones that Ive seen recently and certainly worth a view are:

Running down the man! (Rooster fish fishing in Baja)

Trout Bum Diaries Vol 1 and 2. (New Zealand and Patagonia)

Sexyloops (The instructor).

Raising the ghost. (Wild Steel head fishing)

Location X. (Big Tarpon fishing)

Chasing silver. (Big Tarpon fishing)

Fly fishing tuition. Fly fishing in Devon. Guided fly fishing. AAPGAI. Mark Bailey. Adventure fly fishing.Rio pro guide.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Old school, new tricks!

One of the flies that seems to make a regular appearance on the end of my line is the 'Thunder Creek'. By no means a new pattern, the Thunder creek has been around since the 70's and maybe a little earlier than that. Originally tied to entice big river trout over in the States, we often use the same style of fly for our bass and pike fishing at aff-UK. It has also accounted for a good number of decent perch over the years, and will no doubt make a good zander fly. It has also been very popular with some of the saltwater anglers who fish around the Devon and Cornish coast, where we have been busy tying a few for the guys.

The 'Thunder Creek' fly- Pike style.

With the trout season drawing to an end for another year, and with thoughts perhaps turning towards winter predator fly fishing, I thought it would be of interest to show the tying of the fly. I like to carry an assortment of various sizes and coloures, dependant of the species we are looking to catch. For saltwater fly fishing, I tend to use sizes from 6-1, and when fly fishing for pike tie them on larger hooks from size 1-3/0. Nearly all of my flies are tied on Varivas hooks nowadays. They are strong and sharp, and have yet to let me down when there is an angry fish trying to shake it apart.

1. Materials used for the 'Thunder Creek'.

2. Place the hook in the vice and lay on a small bed of thread.

3. Tie in a length or pearl tinsel, (or not). It's one of those extras that can be missed if you want!

4. Touching turns, wrap the tinsel back towards the bend of the hook, and back to the eye and fasten down with a few wraps of thread.This will help to form a reflective under-body, and add durability to the fly. Cover the body in a couple of coats of 'Hard as nails' for extra strength, and to 'tooth-proof' it.

5. Tie in a slim bunch of fibres (colour of your choice), and tie down to the top of the hook shank. As with most of my larger predator flies, I like to use as much synthetic fibre as possible. Unlike the traditional dressing which consisted of bucktail, I have turned to the modern fibres to aid with water-shed, and enable me to tie modern pattens and coloures. One tip when tying in the body fibre, is to wet it prior (bit o spit), to help stroke the fibre into shape and check the taper. Trim the waste ends off.

6. Add a few strands of krystal flash or other eye catching material, and trim off the waste ends.

7. Repeat the same process as pic 6, but using a different colour materials tie one bunch on top of the hook, and one on the underside, making sure the tips are the same length and facing forward. Here you can add some more tinsel to the top of the fly, that will shine through the body once the fly is complete.

8. How the fly looks at this point.

9. Form a dubbed rope of pearl hair or something similar. This will help to do two things. First it will hide any untidy and uneven head problems and also build the head up to a decent size to suit the profile of the fly.

10. When the head had been dubbed, and your happy with the shape, then it is time to separate the top and bottom fibres at the front of the hook. Again moisten the fibres before doing so, to help them fold back easier. Once the top fibres are pulled back, secure with a few turns of thread. Next is to fold the bottom fibres back. This is a little more tricky as they have to be worked either side of the bend to even the under body out. Again, once pulled back secure with a few turns, and bind the head tight. Next is to whip finish the fly (tying the knot over the neck area of the fly).

11. Finish the fly off with a pair of eyes and epoxy the head. I say epoxy, I always use Loon Hard Head for this kind of work. It's as good as epoxy, and a lot less hassle. It is already mixed, you can thin it with water, and it cures in about 20 minuets. Giving time for any bubbles to rise and pop. (The head on the photo is lacking the finishing). When using resin for big heads, its always worth investing in a rotary drier. This helps eliminate any drips, and rounds the head off nicely.

Thunder Creeks are perfect when fish are bait bashing.

They can be fished either single, or as a team.

"I hope this is some use to you, If you decide on trying the thunder creek, it would be good to see a few fish that have been caught on them. Email any pics to us at and we will stick them in our gallery".

Fly fishing tuition. Guided fly fishing. Fly fishing for pike. Guided river fishing. AAPGAI. Rio Pro Guide. Fly fishing in Devon. Saltwater fly fishing. Mark Bailey. Adventure fly fishing.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Casting makes perfect.

The beauty of fly fishing, especially fly casting is that improvement is visible. It can be a hard and frustrating past time at times, that can soon turn into obsession if left unchecked. Fishing is one of those things that can be measured by the enjoyment that you have. It's not always about catching fish. Sometimes it's just as good to be there. But when the fish are on, and your up for the fight, then it pays to be sharp. This is where the long days of practicing comes in. It's not always the case of flicking a small dry fly to a sipping trout. There are the days when the hood is up and the weather is closing in, fighting the elements and obstructions to pitch a fly on target.

Unlike all other forms of fishing, fly fishing consists of more casting. It isn't very often you come across carp anglers practising their 'spod distance' on a field. I have come across guys practising beach casting during my travels, but in my personal opinion fly fishing is where constant practice is worth the effort. When you are met with such a wide variety of fishing situations, and have an arsenal of casts to help you out, then learning them to their best potential will help you to pull them extra few fish. On the other side to this is only learning half of a certain cast, or Struggling with the ones that you use. I hope I don't sound like I am touting for business (that's not my style). But if you can afford a professional lesson with an AAPGAI instructor, it can takes months off your learning curve and pull out any niggling faults that may exist.

Fly casting is easily practiced (as long as your working on the right thing). Find any open area and your away. Over the years I have practiced on multi-story car parks, wasteland, fields and of course on water. Dry line casting soon damages fly line coatings and can soon dig into the guides of the rod. So unless you are lucky enough to be sent free rods and lines in the post, then it's best to stick to an older outfit that you don't mind the wear and tear. At the moment I am trying a batch of Rio fly lines that are orange for demo purposes. With this in mind try to use a bright coloured line for your practice sessions. This will help to show your line speed and loop shape easier.

Practice will make perfect!

When practising try to work with a short line to start off with. Find what you're looking for and build from that. We are all guilty of ripping line off the spool, and spending the next few hours trying to cast it to the horizon. Practice for your next fishing trip. If you're going on a small river or stream work on presentation cats. Learn about different drag free casts that will work the fly longer. It pays to play around and learn casts that will help when your faced with deep cover or steep bank sides.

The kind of cover you can soon get tangled into.

There are the other benefits that fly casting brings with it. First, when it's going well, it feels good. In this modern world of 'we must eat this' and 'run here and there', fly casting has it's own chilled way of helping you stay in shape. It must be more active than sitting on a box and pulling a few maggots out of a tub and throwing them in the water. Take a look around any typical fishery or down river and check-out all the fine figures smoking tabs, and eating biscuit's! Or is that just me?

Trying a new Rio line and checking things are OK with the casting.

It was nice get an email from Helen Stubbs regarding her time down in Devon with us:

Hi Mark, thanks for the great time again. It's always good to meet up with you. We will be down again next year for another couple of day's fishing. I can't wait!! As long as you don't make me wear them waders again, that make me look fat in the photo's!! (Thanks). Jon sends his best, and looks forward to seeing you again soon.

Thank you for a brilliant time,
Helen and Jon. xx

Fly fishing tuition. Guided fly fishing. Fly fishing in Devon. AAPGAI. Mark Bailey. Rio fly lines. River fly fishing. Adventure fly fishing.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Wire it, or not?

When it comes to fly fishing for fish with teeth, then it always pays to use some kind of protection. I'm not talking about body armour, gloves and a helmet, but when presenting a fly and leader close to a mouth full of nippers, then that is where the protection should be. There has been a longstanding debate on whether you should bother using wire, or use a length of mono or braid etc instead. Personally I don't really see the debate. It's simple. If I'm fishing or guiding and expect to come across pike or zander, then it's wire every time.

Over the years I have played around and tried countless different wire, mono, braid and Kevlar traces to find which suited my style of fishing the best. I have never been a big fan of mono or braid traces when fishing for pike. There are products on the market that will stop and hold most pike, and probably land 99% of the fish that are hooked. But at the end of the day mono isn't designed to be tooth-proof. Mono is perfect for fish that have abrasive pads or skin that will rub against it during the fight. I often use a Rio Hardmono leaders when saltwater fly fishing around sharp rocks and shingle for exactly the same reason. But once a pike as inhaled a fly, spun like a croc, and chomped on your leader a few times then it wont take long for it to break for freedom (with your fly and leader still in its mouth).

Perfect for fish with abrasive pads or fishing over sharp ground.

There are plenty of good wire trace materials available to try. If you are unsure how to construct a leader/trace set up, then you can always buy them ready made. Again I have tried numerous ways over the years to make mine up. It's not rocket science. It's just a case of using the correct wire for the job. Some wire is designed to be crimped, some twisted and some that can be knotted. When fly fishing, I always opt for a knottable wire. This allows you to eradicate any extra weight from the leader by not having to use snap-links and swivels. As with nearly all of my fishing I use either a tapered leader or a poly-leader to aid energy transfer. The trace is simply attached using a double grinner or an Albrite special knot.

When fly fishing I always opt for a knottable wire.

Attaching flies to the end of the wire can be done in various ways. As I have mentioned, when using wire, I prefer to tie the fly on using a knot instead of snap-links. Dependant on the type of fly will depend on the type of knot. If the fly has a lot of it's own natural movement then I use a half-blood knot, but if the fly needs that extra bit of swing then I will use a loop-knot.

Dependant on the fly, will determine the knot that is used.

If the correct wire is been used, then the knots should be secure enough on their own. But as an added security I like to give them a splodge of glue. Well I say glue. I like Loon UV knot-sense for the job. Superglue, as good as it is breaks down in water overtime. Whilst on the subject of knots, one thing that I have learnt throughout the years is to keep knots simple. There is nothing worse than having wet, cold hands in the middle of winter and trying to fiddle around with complicated knots. I tend to use the same knots when fly fishing for trout, grayling and when fly fishing for pike.

Autumn will soon be upon us again (sorry to the sun worshipers out there, but it's coming to an end), and the pike will be on the feed. If you haven't already blown the old cobwebs off your pike gear, now is the time to get it prepaid. Again the tackle industry has produced a few new products in time for the season, and with the British fly fare around the corner then there will certainly be a few new materials to try! I have just finished spooling up my reels with a few new lines. The first to be given an outing will be the Rio 'Outbound short' in a 9 weight. Get the correct line speed with that, and your flies are hitting the horizon. Event a strong head wind has a job of blowing the fly back towards you. And that's the last thing you want when a cold North Easterly is hitting you square on. Brrrrrrrrrrr! The best option would be to sit it out by the fire with a brew, and watch the crap weather through the widow. But why would we want to do that? Were pike anglers!!

Perfect Piking weather

I would like to say 'Thanks' to all the people who have been supporting us at aff-UK. Thank you for your kind comments and emails. It is much appreciated!! Mark

If you have any questions regarding fly fishing tuition, pike, or whaterver fly fishing question is buzzing aroung inside your head- feel free to send us an email.

Fly fishing for pike. Fly fishing tuition. Guided fly fishing. Fly fishing in Devon. Mark Bailey. Adventure fly fishing. AAPGAI.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Not finished yet!

Not long till the end of the brown trout season now. Things have been good. Plenty of fish caught and all of our guests and friends have had their rods bent. Spending most of my days out fishing and working, you soon learn that it's not all about catching fish. I think all anglers have their own goals and achievements in mind. Some want to catch a fish every cast, and some enjoy whenever they catch or blank. I have just returned from a three day trip over Dartmoor. I wanted to make the most of fishing whilst the streams were in good condition. The weather has been a bit mixed again. It was nice lower down in the woodlands, and the fishing along the low level streams was very productive. High up over open ground, the conditions were a bit different. Wind and drizzle kept the hatches down a bit. There was a definite drop in air temperature and things were looking like early autumn was poking it's nose through.

Living quite high on Dartmoor, it doesn't take long for them to recover after a flood. We have had another useless summer again. My tan had started to fade by the end of May!! But still, the streams were fish able for most of the season. Dry fly fishing on the whole has been really good down here again. There have been some real good hatches of olives and stonefly. Fly selection is pretty basic. Dry fly will readily be taken in almost any condition. We have used a selection of small olive, black and tan klinks throughout most of the season. When the fish have been feeding sub-surface, then pheasant tails and hairs ears have fooled a lot of trout.

The start of a three day'er.

I'm going to miss the wild fishing on Dartmoor after the closed season. We have spent weeks up there this season and covered hundreds of miles in total. But hey, life must go on! And so it will! Roll on Autumn and winter. Bring on the pike and graying. Maybe a bit of winter carp fishing on the fly! That reminds me, I still haven't looked at that new lake. I wouldn't mind getting a few people into some of those 'thirty pounders. Not that I'd mind one myself either. I'm just getting things ready for a few trips to Chew. The pike have had long enough hiding in the summer weed beds. I have been working on a few new patterns for the big reservoirs. They have been tried and adapted throughout summer, so hopefully they will play their part in the winter campaign. We have also been invited to try a few unknown waters in the area and that hold good numbers of pike (so i'm told), so.............

I'm looking forward to a bit more of this................

and this.......

and this!

As I am writing this, the sun is shining and its gone quite warm outside again! So I will keep it short, because I'm going to crawl into my waders and see what's going on. It's not that the weather will help the fishing much. Most of the trout will be hiding under the stones and rocks. But I fancy a bit of sun on my back, and bit of a wander. It may be near the end of the trout season- but it's not finished yet.

Gone fishing.......... Back soon!!

Footnote: We have just returned from the fishing. As expected it was a bit tough due to the conditions. We managed to sneak a few fish out on the dry. But swinging nymphs seemed to pull the better fish. The moors were looking stunning. After spending a few days looking at it from under a hood and trying to see through drizzle, it was nice to be able to look around and see what it really looks like.

Nice weather.... Stunning stream!!