It was nice of the weather to hold for the 'open day' of the brown trout season down here in Devon. I say Devon, but as Derrick and myself had some other fly fishing business in Somerset we opted to fish the river Exe near to Dulverton. It is a stunning part of the world, and during my time here in the South West, I was lucky to live and work here for a season. So it is always nice to get back and meet up with a few old faces and run a few flies through some familiar runs and pools. Unfortunatly we didn't have too much time to fish, so after a quick pastie and a brew we popped in to see Pat at Lance Nicholson and then drove down to the river to make a start.
Surprisingly we had most of river to ourselves which was nice. But due to the lack of water we have had of late, the river was on its bones and crystal clear. Combine this with bright sunlight we knew it would be tough, but nevertheless we were ready for it. Like a gent, I let Dek have the first cast of the season, (well he is bigger than me)! There wasn't much sign of fish activity on the surface. There was a good hatch of midge and LDO coming off, but they got away un-attacked. So to make sure we had a double chance of connecting with something 'the duo' was the set up that we first tried.
Big Dek setting up, before making the first cast...
Apart from the elements being against us a bit, things looked good. The flies were been fished well, the correct part of the river was been fished, the only thing that slowed down the action was the lack of fish! Looking into the river we didn't manage to spot any fish, but that didn't mean that they weren't there. Adapt at living in between the stones, weed and shadows of the stream bed, you will often be surprised by the size of fish that could be hiding just under your feet. Then with one wrong step you witness a large shape dart off in the opposite direction. So with this in mind we covered all the likely looking spots and the not so likely looking spots, just to please our own mind that we covered the water and any fish. We managed a quick flurry of action prior to the sun dropping, with Derrick pulling out of a nymph caught trout and I missed a quick snatch at a dry fly as it passed overhead a small brown. We fished hard, but the fish were even harder. It won't take long for things to really get going. A bit of water in the rivers, a bit of warmer weather to get some larger hatches going, and we will be back!!
The following day, it was good to meet up and take out up and coming local chef Ollie Stevens for a few hours on his local river Okment. He is a keen still water trout angler, but wanted to learn a bit about the wild trout and wild trout fly fishing. Living next to the river for most of his life, it was a surprise that he had never really fished it before with a fly. So he was looking forward to seeing what swam in it, and more so wanted to feel the pull of a fish on a fly rod. We started off on an easier stretch of the river. This was to help get Ollie confident in wading and practising a few of the various casts and mends that he would be using throughout the session. He was pretty good from the start. A few tweaks here and there and the odd reminder to keep him on track and he was away. Learning the difference of how a line works on moving water, and how everything effects the drift of the fly was the main point to get across. Unlike the still water trout fishing that he had done in the past, it was down to him to keep the fly moving as natural as possible by manipulating the rod leg of the fly line in conjunction to what the water was doing.
Before long we came out of the flat stretch and made our way from town to the bottom of the moors, searching and fishing along the way. It was good to take Ollie out due to his enthusiasm for the sport. He was always asking questions, wanting to learn about the aspects of the set-up, fly life, fish behaviour and the art of fly casting. It is good as a guide to work and teach someone with enthuisiam and someone keen to learn and it wasn't too long before he was watching trout chasing after his small nymph and slashing at the dry fly. Hooking into the fish was another matter. But like I mentioned to Ollie at the time, a lot of this comes down to experience of hooking and loosing fish, knowing when to strike or when to let the fly to continue down stream.
The closer to the moors we got, the more the weather started to deteriorate. No surprise here, but Ollie didn't mind so we continued our way upstream. As the rain fell harder, we crossed the river and ducked into an old mining cave where we fired up a brew. There are quite a few of these ancient caves dotted around the moors and next to the rivers, and can be a welcome shelter when the weather turns. It was good to sit in the door way watching the rain hit the river and chewing the fat. But we decided to yomp up river to one of the high pools before the river started to rise. Within a couple of hours these small streams can soon colour up and become unfishable, so it was a race against time. Within half an hour we were standing at the base of the tors where the river was still running steady but started to stain, and Ollie began to fish eagerly to hook into a fish.
Ollie putting the lesson into practice.
With plenty of rises, quick snatches and missed takes it was good to watch Ollie connect with a nice fish. He had worked hard to land it and the smile on his face said it all. I just want to wish Ollie luck with his new found skills and hope to catch up with him again soon for another day. Who knows, he might return the favor and teach me how to cook!
Just before I finish off this blog, I just want to say 'Thanks' for a few of the kind phone calls that I have received. For those who know us at 'Adventure fly fishing UK' will know of our little team mascot and buddy, 'Ratz'. Unfortunately she passed away yesterday after years of nibbling, stealing and playing with our kit and tackle! Born into a life of fly fishing she perhaps knew more about the textures and tastes of fly fishing gear than any fly fisher alive today. It is a sad time for us here, but true to form she had a little ratty funeral and was buried next to the river where I often cast and fish during my free time. On a posative note, at least I should get a bit more time from a fly line now! But she will still be missed.
R.I.P 'Ratz'- 2006-2010.