According to the weather forecast, it is the coldest winter for thirty years. They say it has something to do with high pressure over Siberia, causing freezing winds and heavy snowfall all over the UK. I noticed this when my car got stuck in snow and had to walk about 8 miles back to home. It does prove that it sometimes pays to be prepared. One inch of snow in this country and it has had it! The whole place comes to a stand-still and local councils can't seem to cope with sprinkling a bit of salt on the roads. Good job for the council tax that gets paid to them every month. We have to keep the boys topped up with brews and biscuits whilst they sit around depot. When they have run out and the thaw starts, you begin to see them on the road firing grit all over your car!
So what do you do? You can sit in the house watching telly, better still tie a few flies, or even better, get out and make the most of it. Leaving the car where it was, I decided to get out for a bit of casting practice as normal and then have a stroll down to look at the river. One thing that I enjoy about this time of year is been able to see more of the river and its surrounding areas. This can help during the fishing season when overhanging trees are in leaf and the bank side cover is disguising the shape and features of it. Knowing where likely looking holding areas are will help when the river drops back and the vegetation starts cover the area again. Whether you can get a fly into the area is another story. But that's the fun of wild trout fly fishing.
Looking upstream a cold and bare West Okment.
Searching for new smaller feeder streams running in to the main rivers can also be interesting. Many of the streams that come off the moors are often topped up with the help of run-ins and feeders. These then can hold into small streams and pools which can hold trout in quite good numbers before reaching the main river. These can often be located on OS maps or by searching for them on foot. Unfortunately during mid season these areas will often be unfishable due to the overgrowth. So finding these areas during the bald spell, will always be worth a look early season before the cover gets too thick, making casting a fly impossible.
One of the many feeders that run off the moors into the Okment
By mid summer, these areas will be overgrown and unfishable.
Well worth a visit early season.
Well worth a visit early season.
Woodland cover will also be thinner, so tracking the river will be easier. I've ragged a few wading jackets scrambling through thick trees, bushes and gorse in the summer, so only having to make the odd duck to miss a branch or two means you can keep can eye on frozen patches of marsh that love to suck the boots off your feet. Walking is fairly easy. The cooler temperatures and lack of flies is a bonus for a start. Sweat loving flies that swarm around you in the summer soon get on your nerves. At least this time of year they will be hibernating somewhere I think! So all that you have to do is concentrate on not slipping over.
Make the most of thinner woodland cover to check
out harder to reach parts of the river.
If you do decide to go out in the sort of weather that we are having at the moment, make sure you are prepared. You may think its bit of an overkill having to carry spare clothing, stove, map, compass and a shelter when making a trip that you usually make in shorts and t-shirts during the warmer months. But when you are high on Dartmoor the weather can soon come in. Preparation and having the right kit with you will make things easier and safer. The same applies when fly fishing on the moors even when the weather seems good. Knowing how to get off a moorland stream and back down in thick fog is always worth learning. Nowadays you can pick a GPS up for around £70. These are always a winner when searching new areas for plotting grid references, but also a lifeline when the weather blows in and you can't see where to go. This is especially true if you start to track off river and go overland in search of another stream. If the weather starts to close in whilst tracking a single river, then it's just a case of walking back along it until you know where you are. At Adventure Fly Fishing UK we also use GPS on some of the larger still waters that we often work and guide on. Sometimes they have helped us back to shore when the weather has turned bad, other times for 'marking' holding areas of fish. I remember a 10 mile trip back through thick fog and rolling waves of Lough Derg in Ireland. If it wasn't for a GPS it would of meant spending the night on a island. But using the track back feature, it directed us straight back to the jetty.
Not standard fly fishing kit, but useful in bad weather
or for plotting fish holding areas.
As I am writing this the snow is falling even harder than the past few days. I might even get out for a spot of winter camping when it settles a bit. If not I will get a few flies tied. Beats sitting around watching the telly!
Taking the easy path to the camp.