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


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 ....


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.


“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 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 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!