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).
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.