Monday, 31 December 2007

2007 Season Review

So this is my last post of 2007, another year gone in a fish filled flash! It has been fun and we could not believe it when in April we were suddenly blessed with unbelievable temperatures and clear blue skies. Sam Langer is dressed for summer on 5th April 2007 looking very pleased with this Rainbow taken on a Buzzer in a flat calm. Check out the bare trees in the background! Little did we know what the summer had in store ....



Sam visited along with her husband Ian. Both have attended a number of my courses and first fell in love with fly fishing during a large group event to celebrate a 60th birthday. Ian came along as a guest and seemed quite relaxed listening to his Ipod while practicing casting. After lunch the headphones came out and it was down to business, he could not go wrong catching fish after fish! This baptism of fire spelled the start of a passion that only anglers can describe. In fact I guess you could call it an obsession! Ian now has plenty of tackle topped off this year by the purchase of one of my all time favourite rods ... The Greys GTec. The 9' 6" #7 is truly awesome and I am pleased to report that there is whole new range coming through in 2008. I cast the 10' 0" #7 at a show earlier in the year and have to say it ranks in my top 3 blanks of all time! I look forward to seeing Ian and Sam again in 2008 who have a gift voucher to cash in.



A couple of days later the big Brown that Freddy had stocked in early March ran out of luck and became the fishery record Brown and subsequently a Troutmasters badge winner. This was an old brood fish but fought very well and made its captor a very happy man indeed!


Have a fantastic new years eve and ensure you drink plenty! I have a good stock of cheese and will grab myself a decent bottle of red on the way home. I may even treat myself to some smoked salmon! No partying for me with a young family, but who cares, a bit of Jools Holland and a glass or two of red will see me right. A break from the review tomorrow to bring you a very special product!

Sunday, 30 December 2007

March Fishing Party

It is a great privilege to spend my days introducing people from all walks of life to the world of fly fishing ... and get paid! However showing young anglers the ropes is best of all. These young lads were celebrating a March birthday and look very pleased with themselves having each caught a fish for supper! You will notice that some are armed with spinning rods. The weather was cold and I have found that this quickly saps concentration. Young anglers need to catch a fish and can take a while to learn how to fly fish, so if you can find a venue that will allow spinning or similar, so much the better. We have just such a venue here at Exe Valley and I will also be adding some junior kits to our online store shortly.



During the previous year (2006) anglers had been battling it out at the fishery to try and catch the largest fish of the month. This was then entered into a competition run by Trout Fisherman magazine known as Troutmasters. Each individual winning the monthly title is then invited to attend a fish off. Here head fish farmer Freddie stocks 2 superb Exe Valley specimens in readiness for the big day. Alas during the match only the Rainbow made its mistake and weighed in at a shade under 10lbs. The Brown will appear later in my 2007 review!




Little did we know what was around the corner in April! More tomorrow!

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Summer in February - BONEFISH!

As a stark contrast to the cold waters of the Exe flowing though Tiverton just a few short weeks later I found myself on a plane bound for Los Roques, in Venezuela on a hosted trip run in association with Aardvark McLeod.



I was joined by Stuart Forsyth, Alasdare Lambert and Martin Newton who have all fished with me at a variety of venues. Also on the trip were good mates James Warbrick Smith and top photographer Henry Gilbey. The journey by Air France is best forgotten but stepping out of the plane on to the Los Roques archipelago to a scenes of Tarpon & Bonefish smashing into minnows soon helped us forget!

Over the next few days we fished a variety of incredible Bonefish habitat, the pancake flats proving to be very interesting. This was Bonefishing at its best, sight casting to a stamp of fish that were always around a solid 3 to 4 pounds. Star of the week was Stu Forsyth all the way from Aberdeen who has been attending my guided trips for many years. He hooked some superb fish including this fine specimen that lead him a merry dance, not bad for a first time Bonefisher!



All too soon the trip came to an end, but with superb images like these to remind us of our adventure I was ready to face the season! Check out the blog over the coming days to see some of my guests notable 2007 catches & adventures. And remember I will also be revealing a very special limited addition product on New Years Day!

Friday, 28 December 2007

Early Season Casting

With 2006 nearing an end Henry Gilbey and I began work on a Trout Fisherman casting series that appeared throughout 2007. Aimed at providing some top tips the idea was to make the articles highly visual while adding as much technical content as possible. Heading to Tiverton we found a large wall as a back drop to the cast. Not pretty but it certainly helped the line jump out! Going for as little clutter as possible I donned a plain black top and hat - it was cold! Howard Croston, product development manager for Hardy & Greys had meanwhile sorted me out with a white rod to further assist the camera and resulting images.



Technique is what casting is all about of course. Great gear does not mean great casting! But, it is still very wise to buy the best you can afford and maintain it carefully. Lines are particularly important and require a decent stretch on a regular basis coupled with a clean using something like Scientific Anglers line dressing



Good casting has many factors involved that were covered during the series. However during my fly fishing courses one of the very first things I explain to guests is how important it is to maintain a relaxed grip. There are various grips but the most popular is thumb on top of the cork with fingers gently wrapped around. Imagine holding a screwdriver if it helps.



Finally never head to the waters edge for a session without decent polarised sunglasses. I use Maui Jims and find them fantastic for spotting fish while very importantly providing me with eye protection should a cast go wrong.



The casting features underway a whole year lay ahead but in particular I was getting very excited about hosting a trip to Los Roques in Venezuela during Feb 2007 on behalf of Aardvark McLeod. This is the great thing about this fishing game, one minute up to your nipples in freezing cold river water the next basking in 30 degrees in ankle deep water on the flats! Truly awesome!

My thought for the day came just an hour ago when a guest of mine popped in for a bit of fishing. Many years ago I taught his son how to fish when just a boy. Now 17 I was shocked to find that he had contracted Cancer and has been undergoing intensive treatment. Thankfully he seems to be on the mend although he still has treatments to come. This disease is unbelievably cruel, I watched both my parents suffer and ultimately lose their battle with it. In this age of the Internet and other technologies surely a cure must be out there somewhere? Why is it then that the government is still ploughing millions in to hopeless war efforts for example when people are suffering from illnesses such as this?

My very best to William Newton and his family. Look after yourself, get well and we hope to see you at the fishery soon.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Force of Nature

Following on from yesterdays scene, take a look at this. The first image was taken during early afternoon on the 1st December 2007. As you can see it was a bit murky, but all in all not a bad fishing day. It was hellish cold of course! Look very closely by the bridge and you can just about make out the figure of a solitary angler who had decided to brave the elements.



Just one minute after taking this photo I heard a huge rush of wind at the door of the tackle shop and turned to find the fishery shrouded in a squall of fog, rain and wind. The angler has all but disappeared and not surprisingly weighed in shortly afterwards taking on the appearance of a drowned rat! Full credit though, the guy had caught fish!



10 days later and while Henry G was still sunning himself in the Seychelles photographing monster GTs and Milkfish the UK had been subject to low temperatures, high winds and RAIN! Just look at the results. This is the River Exe flowing past the lake and almost level with it! Taken from the bridge looking back over the lake towards the shop the level was astonishing, in fact the day before it had actually started to enter the lake! I find it incredible that the fish survive in such circumstances, but they do, huddled into the edges out of the main current. Remember this fact when fishing high water conditions in season as it is possible to catch in what may seem like impossible circumstances. Granted you will need a 10ft rod such as the Streamflex by Greys and some serious iron mongery in the form of Czech Nymphs, but sometimes these hard to catch fish taken in tough circumstances are far more enjoyable than the easy days.



Tomorrow I will begin my 2007 season in review and check the blog regularly because we have a very special limited addition product available that is sure to become a collectors item. Hopefully you are fishing and not at the sales. I was disgusted by the scenes on the news this morning of people behaving more like animals than human beings all in the name of saving a few quid!!! Let us hope they find the joy of fly fishing!

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Christmas Fishing!

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Boxing Day and I am here at the office .... what a fantastic office it is ... just look at this scene! I reckon it could make it on the front of a Christmas card!

What are you up to? Trying to fix the Christmas lights, staring at the washing up in disbelief or perhaps you have hit the sales?

Did you make it out the door rod in hand I wonder? If you did then well done, this is a top time of year to go fishing. Tons of oxygen in the water but not so much food, small water Rainbows are therefore suckers for a lure such as the Humungus or Cats Whisker. Don't always pull them though, try a steady figure of eight and you may have another Christmas surprise!



If Rainbows are not your thing then of course Fly Fishing for Pike has become hugely popular and you can bet that close by you have a canal or lake supporting these cool fish. Crikey ... writing this I wish I were there right now!

But I'm not, there is work to be done as 2008 is going to be a very busy year. The doors to the fishery are open all through the Christmas break, so if you fancy a festive fishing session pack that tackle and get on the road.

As you will see, this is my first post in a long while! Life has been hectic to say the least with the shop, guiding and smoked fish operations to contend with but best of all we are grabbing a few hours sleep here and there now that Scarlett is home from hospital. Thank you to all of you who kindly sent us cards and messages, your support was fantastic and helped us keep our chins up during a difficult time. Scarlett is doing well now and we have just had the best family Christmas ever. Now if I could just sneak a few hours fishing ... it would be perfect!

I am back to posting now so see my review of the 2007 season in words and pictures over the coming days, plus a look at how Exe Valley Fishery looks when the UK weather throws its toys out of the pram in a very big way! Hope you are having a great time!!!

Monday, 22 October 2007

New Arrivals!



As you can see, no posting for a while, but there is a reason ... and this time it is not fishing! As some of you may know my wife has been expecting our 2nd child who was due to arrive at the beginning of December. Well our beautiful little girl decided that she was ready for the world right now and appeared on 14th October weighing 4lb 3oz ... not a bad Trout! After a few tough days in hospital she has settled well and is getting some much needed rest after a traumatic entrance into the world. I am dead chuffed of course, now Mum can take daughter horse riding while Chester and I get stuck into whatever fish cross our path! No name for baby Hart yet, sadly Sue and I don't make our minds up about names as quickly as I do about what fly to put on!

On the new arrival note check out the latest Trout Fisherman mag. There are tales of battles with monster Coalfish like these seen on Henry Gilbeys site and I also complete the year long casting series with a feature about how to get that fly into all those fish holding nooks and crannies.

Look out soon on this blog for some helpful winter fishing tips.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Cook your Catch!


So can you believe it, October and the sun is out! We have had some top weather this last week; in fact it has been better than July. I have just spent the weekend in the company of two great guys, Alasdare Lambert who I have been guiding for several years now and his good mate James, a sea fisherman who wanted to find out why Alasdare has got the fly fishing bug so bad! Both Alasdare and James work in a company called Shirlaws, if you are in business you should check them out!

Anyway we got stuck into a Saturday morning session of casting with James while Alasdare kicked off with some dry fly fishing on our Island Lake here at Exe Valley. It was tough going with a very bright sun, cloudless sky and a stiff breeze. Even so a few casts in and Alasdare was stuck into a Trout that promptly threw the hook. Two hours whizzed by as James got to grips with the casting and then it was time to pack up, England v Australia Rugby called! Of course we all know the outcome which was not so good for James being an Ozzy! The next day he was feeling a little off colour; was it the rugby or too much Exmoor Gold ?!


Al and James got some rest at the fantastic Three Acres Country House and then it was time to shake off James rugby blues and get him his first Trout . The island lake Trout began feeding on hatching buzzers with gusto and pretty quickly James had latched into a fish caught off the surface. Photos, more fish and most of all just another lovely Sunday kicking back, enjoying the amazing Exmoor countryside and relaxing. Its hungry work though and so at lunch time we got a Barbecue going. I know, in October, cool or what! I for one hope the great Indian summer continues.



The Trout was gutted and prepared using a stuffing of thyme and a couple of Garlic cloves. Bang it on the BBQ for a few minutes each side and hey presto, a seriously healthy lunch that had been swimming just minutes before! Fish doesn't come much fresher! We got back to more fishing and then sadly the time was up and the guys are now heading back to London as I type. I look forward to seeing them again next year and it sounds like James maybe trying a day out on Syon Park a Trout venue in London! Yep, you can even reach it on the tube!


Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Fishery Reports - South West Lakes

Here it the most recent news from South West Lakes Trust regarding our local West Country game fishing venues sent to us by fishery boss Chris Hall ... get out there quick the season is drawing to a close!!!

Wimbleball has produced another excellent month’s sport, with rods averaging just under 3 fish per rod. While fish have been well dispersed over the reservoir, Ruggs and Bessoms have produced the most consistent results, with fish also being caught by the Dam and in Arthur’s Bay. Sedge patterns and Bibios brought fish to the surface (there were sporadic hatches of sedges and buzzers throughout the month), but most fish were taken sub-surface, either on traditional nymph patterns (Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Diawl Bachs, and Damsel Nymphs), or on lures fished on a sinking line (Vivas, Blobs, Boobies, and Cats Whiskers). The best fish of the month was a 5lb 10oz rainbow caught by Chris Curtis (of Paignton) while fishing from a boat (28 Sept). Other notable fish caught in the month included a 5lb 6oz rainbow caught by Neil Osborne (Exeter), and a bag that included rainbows of 4lb 12oz and 3lb 12oz. The annual boat pairs competition (this year supported by Scott Rods) was won by The Squirrel Tails – brothers Steve and Vince Floyd.

Note from Nick: I guided Jim Parrot here recently (see September Blog entry) and we found a McKay fished on an intermediate line (Cortland Blue) to be deadly. Nice easy fishing, chuck it out, count to 10 and twiddle back with a steady figure 8 retrieve.

Fernworthy - fish showed well on the surface throughout the month, and again, black and dark flies continued to fish well, either on or beneath the surface, with successful patterns including Hoppers, Coch-y-bondhu, Pheasant Tails, and, Bibios fished dry and in the ripple, or Diawl Bachs and Montana nymphs fished subsurface.

Colliford – Hoppers and Daddylonglegs fished in the surface ripple, along with pulled traditional wet flies, have provided good top-of-the-water sport during the month, while subsurface nymph and fry patterns fished in the margins have successfully taken browns throughout September.

Note from Nick: Fernworthy and Colliford are not regular venues for me, even though I can be on both in not much over an hour. However I urge you to get out on them before the season ends. The Browns will be up on the overcast days hunting down as much food as possible ready for the long winter months. This could mean great dry fly sport or try pulling Wets, I like to go for a modern approach and favour Cormorants in #10 & #12 fished through the surface on an intermediate line. Dabblers, especially Iain Barrs range, are also worth a go.

Above: Fishing Fernworthy in September 2007, this turned out to be one of my most memorable days in a long time. You should try it!

Monday, 1 October 2007

End of Season Fishathon!

I don't know how I managed it but for the first time in years I ended up with the last day of the season off! Making the most of it I got together with great mates Alex Bobba and Mike Boniface to spend the day chasing down any Grayling or Trout happy to snaffle our flies.

This is what fishing is all about, a day out with your mates in the fresh air. Mike certainly proved to be the top rod knocking out fish after fish on a great Big TG Emerger including this spanking little Brown Trout. Fishing also brings out the little boy in you and we just couldn't resist a slide or two down Bolham Weir! After a long wet summer it was amazing to see an excellent hatch of Olives and fish very keen to take from the top. If you are out after the winter Grayling though be sure to have some big bugs ... tungsten bead heads with lead. In the late afternoon I scored well with these in the deep water when the dry fly sport dried up. Black and Olive are highly recommended but the Grayling also love Pink, so try some shrimp style flies tied on heavy wire curved hooks.

Sadly the Trout season is at an end but there are still many opportunities to be had with Grayling plus I will shortly go into Pike overdrive! Fly Fishing for Pike is about as cool as it gets, BIG fish on BIG flies and be careful ... they bite! If you fancy trying this for the first time drop me a line to organise a guided session. We have all the kit, the right flies and some cracking venues on offer. The new Trout season commences on 15th March 2008 and my diary is already filling so check out here for more information.



Right now it is back to the keyboard and web work but I am planning my next session out as yesterday was such a blast. Trying hard not to look at Henry Gilbeys blog who right now is in Canada with Aardvark Mc Leod.

Next Stop New Zealand

On Friday and Saturday I enjoyed the company of Phil & Alison Smith who live in North Somerset, well, they do now but not for long! Very shortly they will be heading for Nelson in New Zealand! For those who are not aware New Zealand is a fly fishers mecca, a place quite literally heaving with Trout and many of spectacular proportions. Already keen sea anglers, Phil & Alison decided to try a long weekend learning how to fly fish and here they are with their first catch! They stayed at the superb Three Acres Country House and ate at our local gastronomic delight, Woods. I look forward to hearing from them when they land their first Trout on the other side of the world!

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Varied Fishing ... and weather!

It has been another busy week on the bank. I have recently completed courses with experienced and novice anglers. First up on Thurs 20th Sept was Tony Woods. Tony rocked up earlier in September but found me suffering with a dose of flu (thanks Chester ... my 10 month old little boy, picture soon to be posted!) so we postponed to a day when I was a little more coherent!

What a great day it turned out to be. Tony is already an accomplished angler of 4 years standing so we worked on all manner of techniques including gaining greater distance when casting and improving presentation. It was not all just theory and so I helped Tony out with the finer points of dry fly, showing him how to float the fly with Gink and sink the leader with Ledasink. A few good fish came to the bank, we talked fishing all day and broke it up with a fantastic lunch at Woods, a local bar, come wine bar come bistro. Fantastic food that any angler, in fact anyone in the Dulverton area should sample.

Just a quick line of thanks for all your help and good advice yesterday. I had a great time and picked so much useful and practical information as well as feeling I have taken a major step forward with my casting (as long as I practise!). Tony Woods, September 2007

No sooner had I digested my duck from the previous day, it was time to get back out there, this time opening up a 3 day course with Peter Harlow and Simon Cooper from Kent. These guys are both long time mates and had received a gift voucher to try fly fishing for the first time. Keen coarse fishermen and into their sports, it was not long before their hand & eye coordination started to show and by lunch we were ready to fish. Over the next few days we caught plenty of Trout and ended with a day by the river catching several nice Brown Trout. Pete and Simon left vowing to take up the sport and will be looking forward to their catch arriving on their doorstep shortly after we have smoked and delivered it to them.

Today I have just finished the 2nd of 2 very enjoyable days in the company of Jim Parrot. Jim has visited us before and is now an experienced angler. However he usually frequents small stillwaters and so after a casting tune up and tactical lesson, we headed to the banks of Wimbleball Lake. The fishing was tough and so I picked our location carefully hoping to find some nice depth for Jim to fish over and also out of the cold wind that had blown up. I spent time showing Jim how to find the correct depth, speed of retrieve and fly. It came together and a Slime Line coupled to a Rio Fluorocarbon Leader and 2 Black Flies (Cormorants by Iain Barr) accounted for this fine silvered Rainbow. Jim was chuffed with his first ever reservoir Trout but even happier today when we nailed a decent Grayling in tough conditions on the Exe. The cold wind and rain showers looked like they may spoil the day but once Jim had got into a nice casting rhythm it looked like the many presentations he was making would be rewarded at some point. Fishing a variety of tactics he went on to take another Grayling and several Trout in varied sections of water flow. However the revelation after lunch was the brilliant Greys Streamflex 10'0" Rod coupled to a Rio Fly Line. This kit allowed us to fish very controlled flies at close range and constantly caused the Trout aggro who lay on the meeting of fast/slow water that I like to call a seam.




Back in the office tomorrow but only after working on articles for Trout Fisherman tonight and then its time for another course starting Friday. Plus don't forget, Sunday is the last day of the official open season on many West Country rivers so get out there and wet a line. The air temp is cold but any sun is inspiring good hatches and the fish are often free rising, ready to accept a well presented Klinkhammer or similar. I myself have booked the day off and will report on how I get on! Good Fishing ....

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Busy on the Bank!

Crikey what a season it has been. I love the diversity of my job and the last 10 days have been no exception. New faces, old faces. Beginners, experienced. River and Lake. Here are a few of the people I have taken fishing recently, their catches and stories. Autumn maybe here but there is still plenty of fishing to be done. Look out for some ideas coming soon.

Sunday 9th September
- John & Sue Riley. This lovely couple live just around the corner from Henry Gilbey in Plymouth and were trying fly fishing for the first time. The autumnal weather did not get the better of them and 3 fine Trout for supper was their reward.

Monday 10th September - Corporate Day on behalf of Lloyds TSB. Many say that fly fishing is the new Golf. I agree! Here is Peter Anderson with colleagues and clients from the world of finance all enjoying a day away from the office taking in the fresh air. Peters guests had never cast a fly before but enjoyed success and may well be back for more. Would your company benefit from a day out fly fishing? It makes a change to Golf, Rugby and other more usual corporate activities. " Great day yesterday, thanks, enjoyed by all." Peter Anderson, Lloyds TSB Mark Bailey who works for me was also looking after a corporate day simultaneously for regular client Jim Pool who said .... "One of my clients emailed me yesterday and called Monday “one of his most rewarding day’s trout fishing ever” Basically we all had a great time and yesterday was truly awesome."



Wednesday 12th to Friday 14th September - I always like to catch up with old friends and Hugh Caslake is just that. He has been enjoying guided sessions on rivers up and down the West Country in my company for many years. We did a lot of Trout fishing, the Exe never ceasing to amaze as usual. Of course the Grayling put in an appearance including this beautiful fish photographed just before it headed off back to its home a little wiser! Hugh also tried out a little Sea Trout fishing but the autumnal cold snap had taken its toll resulting in a blank night and so he will return in 2008 to commence battle!

"Lovely trip. Jim always refers to his visit last year as fly fishing nirvana, which is spot on." Hugh Caslake, Setember 2007

Sat 15th to Mon 17th September - Time to catch up with the office work and a bit of fly tying. I am going through Klinkhammers like they are going out of fashion right now. The fish love them! Plus I have been busy writing Trout Fisherman artciles including one about Rost in Norway. See some freaky images from this trip on Henrys website.

Tuesday 18th September - More old acquaintances. I really look forward to taking Tim Watson and Tony Kaye fishing. These guys are improving all the time and now have the fish running very scared. Tony was 45 on Sunday and so treated himself to a session of retail therapy in our tackleshop. He is now the proud owner of a Greys Streamflex 10ft for a #5 line, matching it to a Greys Streamlite Reel and a Scientific Angler Ultra 4 fly line. This is a perfect set up for short line fishing patterns such as Klinks and small bugs in fast water with many currents. The length of rod makes controlling the patterns easy resulting in perfect drag free presentations. Fish take right under the rod tip and all that's needed is a flick of the wrist to set the hook. We fished a couple of beats including DAA water but once again it was the Exe Valley stretch that reigned supreme. Tony tipped his fine Grayling back before we could photograph it but was pleased to well and truly christen his rod during the course of the day. Tim who is no stranger to this blog (see his Salmon here!) managed to hold on to this cool Brown of around 11 inches. All told I reckon we took at least 2 dozen Trout & Grayling despite a cold North wind and very little in the way of rising fish.


Wednesday 19th September - Back in the office, but not for long. Tony Woods is an improving angler who I will be tuning up tomorrow. These sessions are great fun and can cover a great deal of topics including casting, tactics and techniques to mention just a few. See more details about these courses here. Then on Friday it is time to convert 3 Coarse/Sea anglers to the joys of Fly Fishing! Look out for their story here ...

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Top Level Trouting

Just back from a great day out with John Porter. We started the day on Exe Valley Fishery with some casting and I introduced John to the world of Buzzer fishing. Then it was on with the flies and out with the first casts of the day. Fish after fish came to a #12 Big Black and although I serenaded each take with my best "STRIKE!", John missed the first few offers. However after the first fish was hooked there was no stopping him as we nailed fish quickly using subtle imitative tactics.


Such was Johns success that we took off to Wimbleball for the afternoon and a session on the biggest venue he has fished to date. I have left him there fishing the beautiful Ruggs bay bank to enjoy the evening and hopefully a few fish as the sun begins to set. On my way back I stopped to look over this wonderful venue, the scenery is outstanding. The water is also at top level as can be seen from this photograph, cold and therefore full of oxygen. I reckon we could see bumper end to the season on this reservoir. Back on the river tomorrow, once again with John who has never fished running water before. Check the navigation links to the right for the latest fishery reports.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Afternoon Brown Trout

If you read my post yesterday you will know that I took off for the river at around 3pm with Henry, sod the office work! We were after Grayling but a cool wind had sprung up and the sun was high. This meant that shadows were easily cast and the fish were on the look out for anything unusual. I reckon I must have made 30 fly changes trying to figure out what the few sporadic rises were in aid of. There were some good hatches of large Sedge, but the fish were uninterested. Observing carefully I soon realised that in fact they were feeding on a far smaller sedge, sipping it from the surface.

After bumping the odd fish and bringing a 4 incher to hand I finally found a decent 12" fish feeding right in under an overhanging branch. Many casts ensued as I tried to place the fly precisely above the fish, to give it time to check the fly and make a decision. Several times I watched tense and excited as the fish nosed my various emerging sedge patterns only to flick its tail at me in disgust! Finally 10 minutes of casting and changing paid off when the fish gulped back a size 22 Sedge, leaping in even more disgust at its mistake! As the evening arrived the fishing became brilliant with Trout gulping down Klinkhammers like they were going out of fashion!

Here is a decent little Brown taken by Matt Daly during a recent guided trip, I will add a picture of my fish when Henry has processed the images. Right now he is in London brushing shoulders with the stars at the premier of his brother movie, Rise of the Foot Soldier!

Reservoir Fishing Report

Here it the most recent news from South West Lakes Trust regarding their West country game fishing venues ...

South West Lakes Fishery reports for August 2007

General:

Although August saw the weather return to more seasonal conditions, breezes and the wet preceding weeks ensured that water temperatures stayed lower, thus producing better fishing than usual for August. Generally hatches have been short and sweet, with the majority of fishing being sub-surface to buzzers and small nymphs.

Prospects for next month look good for surface fishing with Hoppers and Daddy Longlegs during the day, and sedge imitations in the evenings.

Kennick – With rods averaging 2½ fish, most fish have been taken on imitative patterns – either sedges (particularly in the evenings) or Black Gnats and Spiders fished on the surface, or Buzzers, Pheasant Tail Nymphs, and Damsel Nymphs in the upper two feet subsurface. An abundance of Damsel Flies has resulted in acrobatic feeding (particularly from the Brown Trout), and Daddy Longlegs patterns started to take fish toward the end of the month. Deeper Orange Lures and Boobies have consistently taken fish when the fish have sulked near the bottom. Clampitts Bay fished well from both boat and bank, as did the North end near the causeway, while Boat Bank continued to fish well from the bank.

With many fish over 3 lb caught, the best fish of the month was a 4lb 8oz rainbow caught by Mr. Evans (from Amesbury) while fishing from the bank; Mr. A.Cooke (from Canonteign) caught a 4lb 5oz rainbow fishing from the bank using a Gold Head Damsel. The best bag of the month was caught by Duncan Keir (from Belstone) fishing catch and release from a boat – 13 fish up to 4lb 8oz, using Pheasant Tail Nymphs and Orange Lures.

Siblyback fished well at the beginning and end of the month, with harder fishing mid-month. Surface activity was only evident when light winds blew, when Hoppers and Daddy Longlegs produced the best sport. Sub-surface imitations proved to be most effective, with Buzzers, Hare’s Ears, Diawl Bachs, and Pheasant Tails all taking fish, particularly in the evenings. The North end of the Lake and The Marshes fished consistently well from both bank and boat , with fish also being taken from Stocky Bay.

The best fish of the month was a 5lb 8oz rainbow caught by Arnold Curtis (from Okehampton) while fishing with a Diawl Bach. Mr. B.Bailey (from Horrabridge) caught a 5lb rainbow using a Montana.

Wimbleball has produced another excellent month’s sport, with rods averaging around four fish every week. Fish have been well dispersed over the reservoir, with Ruggs Bay again producing the best bank fishing, and boats taking fish from all over, particularly the Upton Arm. The wind lanes produced particularly good sport. A variety of patterns caught fish, with sedges, Bibios, and Beetles bringing fish to the surface. Imitative nymph patterns proved to be the most successful, with Pheasant Tails, Diawl Bachs, Hares Ears, and Damsel Nymphs topping the list. A selection of lures (including Blobs, Boobies, Cats Whiskers, and Nomads) needed to be fished on a sinking line to guarantee success. A.Asworth (from Crediton) caught the best fish of the month – a 5lb 2oz rainbow caught on a Buzzer from Ruggs Bay. Tony Criddle caught a 4lb 6oz rainbow while fishing in Sailing Club Bay.

Roadford – Early mornings and evenings have provided the best sport, although surface sport tended to be patchy, with nymphs and lures being the most successful patterns (Damsels, Diawl Bachs, and Buzzers, or Leaches and Boobies fished deep). The water level is high for the time of year, and fish are cruising the freshly flooded margins where food is plentiful. Buzzers and Sedges are still plentiful, and the fish should be looking to look to the surface, particularly for daddy longlegs blowing onto the water. Shop and Wortha Bays have proved to be the most productive locations.

Stithians – Fish have been looking to the surface for food, and this is reflected in the success of dry patterns, particularly Sedges, as well as Hoppers and Bibios fished in the surface ripple. Otherwise, imitative sub-surface patterns have produced results, particularly Hare’s Ears, Buzzers, Damsel Nymphs and Invictas. Few fish have been taken on lures, but those that were fell to Cats Whiskers and Black Fritz Lures. A 3 lb rainbow caught by Leslie Ashworth, using a Montana nymph while fishing from the bank (27 Aug).

Prospects for fry bashing are good for next month, as the fish start to feed voraciously on the resident stickleback population.

Colliford – A number of fish over 2lb, and 1 Brown trout over 3lb caught using pulled traditional wet flies. The fish will be looking up for terrestrials, with Hoppers and Daddies both likely to catch.

Fernworthy - fish showed well on the surface throughout the month, and again, black and dark flies continued to fish well, either on or beneath the surface, with successful patterns including Coc-y-bondhu, Pheasant Tails, and, Bibios fished dry and in the ripple, or Diawl Bachs and Montana nymphs fished subsurface.

Chris Hall (September 2007)

Note from Nick: I just shot a feature with Henry at Fernworthy, a Brown Trout only lake. This is an awesome location and I caught well using one of Iain Barrs Big Blacks. Fished just in the surface film on a fine leader the fish would lock on and launch a spectacular attack requiring a lightening quick strike. They are feisty little fellows too!!! I urge you to fish this venue soon before the season comes to a close on 15th Oct. I had to make sure we got fish for Henrys lens but looking out across the mysterious depths my mind began to think that down there somewhere is probably a monster or two. Big Wild Brown Trout are such a cool fish, I will be back!!!

Salmon Parasite

I have just received notification through the Fish the Exe scheme secretary that a parasite has been found in Salmon. Here are the details ....

3.9.07

Dear all,

A number of grilse have been caught this year around the UK with swollen, bleeding vents, and several have these have appeared in the Exe in the past fortnight. These swollen vents are caused by Aniskais spp infection. This is a marine parasite almost certainly picked up by salmon from their prey species, especially crustaceans, that they have been feeding on whilst at sea. This is not a new problem, but is particularly prevalent this year.

We understand that the parasite cannot survive in freshwater, and that the affected fish can probably spawn successfully. However, given the high percentage of grilse with the infection this year, and the possible impact on spawning success, it is important this year that we release all healthy grilse caught on the Exe.

In addition, there is a very small chance of the parasite being passed on to humans. The parasite burrows into the flesh of the fish on death - so it would therefore seem prudent to clean all fish that are to be eaten as soon as possible after being killed for consumption. We do not believe that the parasite presents a problem to human health if the fish is well cooked or frozen for several hours. Fish which have been infected with Anisakis spp. can also produce an anaphylactic reaction in people who have become sensitised to Immunoglobulin E (IgE).

Do please pass on this information as widely as possible to fellow fishermen,

With best wishes,

Tom Le Quesne,

Secretary, River Exe and Tributaries Association

Catch & Release Salmon

Catching and releasing Salmon is of paramount importance if we are to enjoy the continued rejuvenation of stocks and secure sport for the future. The River Exe & Tributaries Association (RETA) have issued the following suggested code of conduct. These are wise words that can be applied to any and every river, not just the Exe and its tributaries.


CODE OF CONDUCT

“We are playing for high stakes, we must not only do this, but we must be seen to be doing it.”

ICES (The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) has advised NASCO (The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation), who in turn have advised DEFRA, who through the EA, will enforce severe restrictions on fishing in rivers who fail to meet their conservation targets. The Exe is one of those rivers that currently fails to meet its conservation targets. That is why we at RETA have agreed with the EA to actively promote a voluntary Code of Conduct for preserving salmon in the Rivers Exe and Barle by returning at least 60% of all fish and hopefully nearer 85% as other rivers manage to do. This will keep the Exe open and unfettered for the time being, but we must see this Code of Conduct through and be seen to be carrying it through. Our positive approach to voluntary catch and release has been important in securing the experimental season extension and Environment Agency support for the net buy-out. We understand that people want a fish for the table but please help us to help ourselves. The RETA Code of Conduct, approved at the AGM, is shown below. We urge you to exceed this and return as many as possible.

· At least 60% of salmon caught to be returned

· No more than one salmon over 27" (ie 8lbs) to be killed per season

· All salmon over 27" (ie 8lbs) to be returned after 16 August

· All coloured fish to be returned

Additional advice

Use barbless or de-barbed hooks. Use doubles not trebles. Handle fish very carefully and only if absolutely necessary. Do not tail fish. Use a knotless mesh net.

RETA is not only asking all anglers to co-operate with this Code of Conduct but we are actively pursuing many other avenues to return the salmon in the Exe to a state of abundance:-

· The River Exe Project, currently funded by ENPA, is pro-actively meeting farmers, coppicing bank-sides to reduce over-shading, fencing and identifying other areas for improved spawning

· The River Exe Project Officer - this fully employed position came about through RETA’s vision for the River Exe

· RETA has worked with the EA to secure estuary net buy-outs

· Fish The Exe is making fishing available to the public which is important locally, politically and socio-economically

· The RETA Hatchery has been started and is set to expand it’s operations quickly

If you are not a member yet please do join us - it only costs £20 and you can make a difference. To find out more please visit www.fishtheexe.org or call Ben Simpson (RETA membership) on 01392 861147

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Grayling - I can't get enough!

Just a short blog today as meeting up with Henry Gilbey for an off the cuff Grayling feature in a little over an hour. Well the weather is awesome and the fish have been rising; many are Grayling like this terrific specimen taken by one of my guests Matt Daly during a guided session. The call of the river exceeds the mass of office work I have to do!

If you are into your films be sure to check out Henrys BAFTA nominated brothers (Julian & William Gilbey) new production, Rise of the Foot Soldier, premiering in Leicester Square tomorrow night.

Check out my website www.hartflyfishing.demon.co.uk as a number of changes have been made to update the content. I must go, there are Klinkhammers to tie!

Monday, 3 September 2007

Dry Fly Heaven

The weather has been nothing short of crazy this year but finally we have had a few days of settled conditions. The water temperatures are low and well oxygenated so the fish are feeding, often looking to the surface for a meal. Matt Daly and girlfriend Adele visited this weekend to sample some of the best dry fly fishing we have had for a long while. Mark Bailey got them going on day one and then I took over on Day 2 with the task of netting Adeles first trout and hopefully realising Matts burning ambition; to catch a Wild Brown Trout on the River.

As you can see the lake produced the goods for the adventurous couple who have both play professional hockey while also taking part in all sorts of other outdoor activities including climbing and skiing. Their goal is to head to New Zealand for a fly fishing holiday, a place that I yearn to revisit after a trip several years ago that blew my mind.


Matt emailed to say: "Thanks again for a great weekend, hopefully we'll be down soon again"

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Go Natural!

Fly Fishing, the name says it all really! However many anglers are not happy unless hurling some fluorescent monstrosity at the local Trout. Take a look at this picture, the contents of a Trout that Kate Prout caught during her grand slam session on Thursday. As you can see it was stuffed full of natural food and therefore we had to copy the chosen diet in order to catch it. Take an even closer look and you may see the artificial's we used hiding away in there somewhere!

While there are many ways to catch fish, certainly those who adopt an imitative approach tend to be more successful. Fishing Fernworthy reservoir high up on the Dartmoor hills yesterday this theory certainly rang true. A dry fly fished static to rising fish caught 3 to 1 against traditional pulled wets. More about that trip soon.

So stuff that box with buzzers, crunchers, damsels, hoppers and hares ears. Then study the Trouts diet by spooning each fish caught and before long I assure you your catch rate will improve!

Thursday, 30 August 2007

The Freshwater Grand Slam!

The Grand what!? A grand slam is basically getting a set number of species in a day. For example when fishing the tropics catch a Bonefish, Tarpon & Permit all in one day and its referred to as a Grand Slam. Well today Kate (Aubrey's daughter) managed the West country freshwater equivalent, taking first a Rainbow Trout ...



.... then this fine Grayling, a cracking River Exe specimen that we stalked and fooled with a Klinkhammer. Kate also caught one a little while earlier but it slipped back before we got a photo!




The icing on the cake came in the form of this tubby little Wild Brown Trout, a perfect specimen that sipped down Kate's well presented dry fly.




Meanwhile, father Aubrey fished up through a number of lovely sections taking several fish, but none as big as his Grayling on day one. Kate also managed to win their wager, the prize being a bottle of Champagne! It was great to guide Kate and Aubrey once again, we love to see our guests progressing their fishing and enjoying the adrenalin rush when a good cast meets with success.

There are a few clouds about and the air temperature has been pretty good so I hope that the Fernworthy Browns are in a similar mood tomorrow!

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Fly Casting to Success

Another beautiful day at Exe Valley Fishery. Here are a couple of guests learning the overhead cast under the watchful eye of Mark Bailey, an AAPGAI instructor and all round casting guru! We aim to provide fun courses with the chance to catch fish but there is no doubt that a decent cast ultimately results in far more fishing success in the future. After all it is no good knowing what fly and what line if the artificial can't be placed accurately within the fish holding zone. Check out the blog soon for some casting tips!



I am looking forward to tomorrow, guiding frequent guests Aubrey and Kate Prout. They have been fishing a North Devon river today. Back with me on the Exe and we are hoping to pick up from Aubreys success on Tuesday ... a stunning River Exe Grayling. See previous post.

Then on Friday I meet up with Henry Gilbey to shoot a Trout Fisherman feature on Fernworthy. There are just so many West Country venues to try and even though I have fished many of them I reckon I have only scratched the surface, Fernworthy will be a first! Chatting with South West Lakes fishery boss Chris Hall it sounds awesome, Wild Brown Trout that love Dries! Lets hope for a warm day with some cloud cover and that I manage to get some sleep the night before. Fishing does that to you, it is like Christmas eve as a kid the night before every session!

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Autumn Grayling

One thing I really love about my job is catching up with guests who have been fishing with us before. These people become far more like friends than clients and watching their skills develop over the seasons is really satisfying. Aubrey Prout is visiting again with his daughter Kate for 3 days of river fishing. After a morning working on casting and following an excellent lunch at our fantastic local bistro, Woods, it was down to the river to get stuck in. Kate picked up a couple of small Parr to open proceedings and is looking forward to bigger and better things to come. Meanwhile Aubrey and I stalked this superb River Exe Grayling using a leader down to 2 1/2lbs and a size 16 Adams. After initially refusing the fly, Aubrey made a perfect cast giving the fish plenty of time to spot and size up the offering. One gentle sip and the fight was on! These fish are stunning and as you can see Aubrey was more than a little pleased. His first ever Grayling taken on upstream dry fly. There is something very special about river fishing, you should try it sometime!

Monday, 27 August 2007

Bank Holiday at Exe Valley

At last we have been blessed with some summer sunshine. This is the view from our tackle shop and office this afternoon .... not bad is it!!! Best of all though this image proves that fishing really is a family affair, half of the anglers here today are children. The UK angling scene (and the tackle trade) must wake up to the fact that kids need to be encouraged to try fishing and also to lose the "uncool" status it seems lumbered with. The U.S.A, New Zealand and Australia are just a few countries off the top of my head who actively encourage their young population to go fishing. If they can manage it surely we can too? Take you sons, daughters and grandchildren fishing. Get them involved. Make sure they catch some fish. Educate them in the ways of conservation, the underwater world and countryside around them. Can you think of a better way to spend the bank holiday?

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Hot Day, Hot Fish!

It is always great to see youngsters taking to the sport. Alex Bush is a bit of a computer whiz at the age of 13, creating websites from his home studio. Dad, Ivan, organised a trip for Alex to try Fly Fishing for the first time and get him away from the mouse mat! Ivan is already an experienced angler and in fact we have taught him before (click here) Alex took to the water with the promise of £50.00 if he caught a fish! Not a bad incentive so Alex concentrated carefully, piecing together his cast until soon he was in a position to tie on a fly. Several missed takes later suddenly everything clicked and Alex was into a hard fighting Exe Valley Trout. Caught on a small Buzzer hung under an indicator this 2lb specimen may have earned Alex £50.00 but most importantly fired his enthusiasm to the point that he is already asking his Dad if they can head to Clatworthy for a session!



Sat sweating quietly here in my office with the blazing sun outside it appears that we maybe about to witness an Indian Summer. There are still Sea Trout about and a few Salmon, plus the lakes are full and well oxygenated. While the conditions over the past few months have been far from ideal it could just be that we are about to experience a bumper autumn season.

Friday, 24 August 2007

hartflyshop.com re-launch


It has taken many, many long months but finally hartflyshop.com the new site, has arrived.
Featuring product reviews, easily navigated menus and pictures by Henry Gilbey I hope that you like what you see. Any comments are welcome! On that note be sure to check out Henry's blog, he has some really interesting advice on taking angling photos and a no nonsense approach to his fishing. At last the sun is here, but will it last for a bank holiday, get away from it all fishing session?! Here's to hoping you will be enjoying a lake or river somewhere soon and not a 40 mile tail back!