Monday, 21 December 2009

Out in the cold.

What, was that famous line from Apocalypse Now? I love the smell of anti-freeze and petrol fumes first thing in the morning. Something like that! He must of been coming grayling fishing on a barmy December morning with us. Most 'normal' people would be watching Christmas telly or better still, still tucked up in bed. Derrick and my self had opted for a days fishing before we headed off back home for Christmas. This was our version of the office party. I can only guess someone forgot to put the heating on. We were fishing up on the rive Exe in Somerset. It was nice to be back on my old stomping ground, and to where I first lived when I moved down to here.

After a drive through the snow, and getting stuck at roadworks we didn't arrive until pretty late in the morning. But with the freezing temperature, there was no real rush to get there too early. I had spent the previous evening tying a batch of heavy nymphs to dredge the bottom to see if we could move any fish. We have both had decent grayling from the stretch we were fishing in the past. The area doesn't tend to hold big numbers of grayling, but they do tend to be a decent stamp of fish. I have had them to 17" in the past, and Derrick had a few around that size earlier in the autumn. I just hope they were up for it today!

The type of heavy weight nymphs that would hopefully stir the fish up.

After setting up and a quick natter to the farmer, it wasn't long before we were in the river and fishing the first run of the day. The level was quite low and crystal clear. I opted for a five weight and nymph taper fly line. Unlike pinging a small dry fly out, when it comes to casting weighted flies that are wrapped in lead or tungsten, turn over is the crux of the cast. Due to the speed of the flow, fishing style was short lining (Czech nymph style), holding the flies as close to the bottom as possible. Hopefully we would pass a few of these flies amongst a shoal of grayling and it would start to warm things up a bit.

Unfortunately the run didn't produce any fish! It wasn't a great surprise. We didn''t spot any fish moving, but it is always worth running a team of flies through it all the same. It was down to Derrick to warm things up with a brew, then we were off up stream to try a fresh area.

Dek firing the first brew of the day up.

After a quick warm up in the sub zero temperature, we made our way upstream and fished a good looking stretch that has boded well in the past. Again it looked empty, and again the flies proved it. There was nothing wrong with the tactics. We fished hard, the fish were either shoaled up somewhere else or not switched on.

Still trying to tease something out.

By midday we still hadn't seen, spooked or hooked into a fish. Not to worry, Derrick was still singing away like a lune. All I could hear was cheesy Christmas songs coming from down stream! No wonder the fish were off the boil! It was good to see a couple of small olives hatching. The air temperature must of been about -5 degrees, but they were happy to emerge and fly off. It didn't temp me to dip into my dry fly box and run a dry over the area. But it goes to show what kind of conditions flies will hatch in.

'Father Jones' keeping cheerie with Christmas songs!!!!!!

It didn't take long before another flurry of snow blew down the Exe valley. Hoods up we continued to search for fish, (after another brew).

Another fine brew. But what goes in, must come out! Brrrrrrrrrr.

We walked and fished for a further mile until the weather got a bit too much. Not for us to stand in the freezing water, or have ice cold wind burning your face, but for the journey back. Derrick had to travel back over the moors and I had got a 60 mile drive back to West Devon. So as a sensible option, we decided to stay out and carried on fishing.

A chilly River Exe as we move upstream.

By dusk things were drawing to an end. We were wet, cold, and knackered. Derrick decided we should take the high path and see if we could spot any fish. So after scrambling and slipping up and down a series of high banks we looked over into the river. I managed to slip down a 30 foot bank, and couldn't be bothered to scramble back up it. So I just got back into the river and guided a few nymphs down the run. Each cast was getting harder and harder as the guides on the rods froze solid. It was a case of dip the rod, make a cast, dip the rod, make a cast. In my last blog I mentioned about cleaning lines to reduce friction.When the rod rings are froze solid it doesn't matter how clean the line is. It still goes no where. Combine this with three weighted nymphs and the thing can seem to have a mind of its own.

Sums the day up really! Cold and icey.

All in all, a tough day. But as office parties go, this was a good one! A few fish wouldn't have gone a miss, but hey, that's fishing. I would just like to thank Derrick for my present. A season ticket on DAA waters. So this isn't the last time I'll be soaking a few flies in this river. I'll be back in new year. I hope Dek appreciated his bag of m&m's as much as I did my gift. Cheers bud. Have a nice trip back to Wales.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Tis the season to be jolley.

I'm not sure who invented Christmas, but you would of thought they would of dropped it in during the summer when it's warm and sunny. Looking at the predicted forecast, snow is on the way! That's great for the kids and those who like a white Christmas, but as Ba-humbug it means an interruption to the week and with snow on the way, probably a slow journey up the motorway!

It has been good to spend some time with the Sage TCX, and would like to thank Jim for the new Rio 'wind cutter' line to put through it. Just in the nick of time, the last one was on it's last legs! The next resort would of been to get the glue and sandpaper out and try to give it a quick makeover. But the guides on my rod would of paid the price for that. As beneficial as practicing is, casting, especially grass casting soon burns through your gear. It's easy to tell people to keep lines clean and slick, but we all get lazy from time to time or forget to do it. The next thing you know, it sounds and feels like your are casting piano wire. Apart from the damage it can do, it hampers your casting no end. The same applies when out fishing. Dirt, grime and grit from the bank side and water sticks to the coating of line and will also cause a few problems. As well as limiting the distance due to extra friction, it will also start to sink the line. This can be alright if your want to get the tip down slightly when buzzer or nymph fishing, but when you need it to float it can be a pain. This can be frustrating especially when fishing a dry fly, as it can keep dragging the fly under as it starts to sink. Apart from cleaning the line to remove any dirt off it, one tip is to apply a layer of gink or muslin to the tip of line to aid flotation.

It doesn't take too much to keep a fly line in good order. As well as keeping it performing well, it will save you money in the long run. If you look after a line, you should get a couple of seasons of hard fishing out of it. When using them on grass whilst practasing, they can be shot within a few months. So it can sometimes pay to have a practice line and a fishing line. I often use Rio cleaning pads and 'Agent X' fly dressing for the job. It is surprising the amount of grime that comes off a fly line, and it soon brings your line back to life. Just a drop of warm soapy water, and pull the line through the pads a few times and the line is clean. Then with a squirt of the 'Agent X' onto a clean cloth and a few runs up and down the line and it's back to slick.

It's not a major chore to keep lines clean and running smooth.

Whilst walking back from a casting session yesterday, it was brilliant to see a few Salmon resting in the park pool. They were the first that I have seen here, and speaking to a few of the local anglers, the first in a few years that have come this far up stream. Unfortunately I came across a dead fish, but at least it had done what it had traveled all this way to do.

I'm no Salmon expert, but I think this one may have died from boredom!

Salmon aren't my first choice as a species to catch. But they still pull my string when one latches onto a fly. I was once called a Neanderthal in a fishing mag, because I said I would rather catch a 40lb pike than a 40lb Salmon! I suppose in the wrong hands Salmon fishing can become snobby. Certainly not with the guys who I know and fish with, but there has always been an element of hora Henry about it. Give me a British home grown pike any day. But that's the beauty of fishing, everyone to their own. Saying that, when I meet up with the guys who have come back from Scotland, Russia and Norway, and see some of the fish that they have been bent into, you kind of wish you had caught it!

Remember 'Spot the Ball?'

I'm sorry about the grainy images, but there wasn't much light at the time. But in the photo above there is a decent sized Salmon resting at the edge of the main flow. It took a guides eye to spot it as I walked past. I managed to get a quick pic before I spooked it and it blasted off upstream. On returning to the river the next day, all of the fish had gone. I'm not sure where to, but they weren't in the same pool as the evening before. Even the dead one had gone! The bank sides are very steep at this point and I would of thought a fox would of had trouble getting it out and back up the bank. Maybe an old bear came down from the moors? Or was it the beast of Dartmoor? Worse still, and in fact probable, it will be in someones freezer ready for a Christmas treat! Give me a tin of tuna any day.

I would just like to take this opportunity to wish all of our friends and customers a 'Happy Christmas, and a top New Year'. We will be out fishing leading up to the big day, so just in case I don't get time. 'Have a good un!'