Saturday, 20 March 2010

The good, the bad and the ugly!

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...

....then like a slow whippet making his way upstream.

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.

Ollie taking his first steps into running water.

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!

This is what it is about. A stunning wild brown trout.

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.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Ready or not, here it comes!

As the old saying goes, time, tide and trout seasons wait for no man. At last the opening of the season can be counted down in days instead of weeks, and it seems that we have been preparing for this forthcoming season since the close of the last one. The rivers and streams are looking good. A bit on the low side maybe, but I would prefer this compared to a flooded river on the day. Fingers crossed that we don't have buckets of rain prior to the big day. Our original plan was to get out for a few wild trout up on the moorland streams, but due to a meeting later in the evening we have opted to fish up country a bit and cross over the border into Somerset.

It was good to catch up with Derrick at the weekend. He has been busy sorting his kit out for the season and it was only right that he brought it down to play around with. We often get asked why we have so many different types of rods and fly lines? This is mainly down to two reasons. First, and most important is the type of fly fishing it will be used for. We tend to have a selection of rods dependant on the species of fish that we are hoping to catch, with different lengths and line ratings (AFTM) designed to cast and handle different sizes and styles of flies. For example, you would be hard pushed to cast a 2/0 pike fly on a #3 fly rod. And vice-versa, it would be a massive overkill to cast a size 18 dry fly with a #9 fly rod. So everything is in proportion with the style of fishing that we are doing at the time. Rod length is again determined by the style of fishing. On a small overgrown stream, a rod that is too long will end up getting caught up in the bank side vegetation and trees whilst casting or walking. On a wider river when fishing longer lines or perhaps when Czech nymping, then the extra length of rod will aid line and fly control, and enable easier mending.

The second reason for having a wide selection of rods is 'Why not?'. Deep down I think most fly fishers are tackle tarts. We all like to get our hands on a new rod or reel, cast a new fly line or step into a new pair of waders. We may not have needed them, but we still ended up buying them! Derricks new choice rod is the Vision Cult 8' #2, matched with a Rio Gold fly line, which is perfect for the small moorland streams that we will be encountering.

Derrick practicing a few trick shots with his new rod!

At one point he let me have a go, but soon had it back!

With this bit of nice weather we have been having of late, (apart from the cold breeze), I decided to have a ramble over the moors and see where I ended up. I'm glad I did. I know there is some stunning fly fishing to be had on most of the Dartmoor streams. Get the weather right and your blessed with it all. OK, your not going to break any records for the size of fish you will catch, but this isn't what fly fishing is about in my opinion. If you want to catch a monster fish, then you have to fish water's that hold monster fish. These streams hold small, wild trout. If you catch a 10" fish, then this is your equivalent of a 20lb pike or a double figured trout from a big fish water. If you are into wild fishing for wild fish, in a wild location then this is the place.

Wild water, wild fish, and wild times ahead.

It was nice to see a few fish on the feed. Unfortunately they were still safe for the time been. Due to the pH level of the streams, food is often small and at certain times sparse. But saying that, there is more food in these streams than a lot of anglers give them credit for. As I have mentioned in past blogs, fly selection isn't anything complicated. The majority of food in the higher reaches of the stream tend to be small flies such as midge, stoneflies, sedge and small olives.

A typical, non discript parachute pattern. Used in a
variety of coloures and sizes will be productive all season.

When to go and fish high up on the moors is down to the angler. Most often choose to wait until things warm up slightly. I don't blame them, it can sometimes be quite a bleak place at times. But I prefer to target these waters before it gets too warm. As all anglers know, high temperatures, low skinny water, bright sunlight and the fish will seek shelter and wait until later in the day before they show themselves in numbers. But with such stunning scenery it is always nice to work along a stretch of stream and find feeding fish. Even if the fishing is challenging it is always a pleasure.

With scenery like this, it is never a chore searching for fish.

For anyone wishing to try their hand at a bit of wild trout fly fishing we will be running regular tuition and guiding days for those who fancy a chance of a wild fish. Alongside the regular tuition that we do at 'Adventure fly fishing UK', we will also be running a series of Bass, Pike, Beginner and intermediate fly fishing open days at various locations throughout the South West. For more information please feel free to get in touch or drop us an email.

The kit is ready, the season is nearly here, don't forget to
get yourself a new 2010 rod licence.