Tuesday, 29 April 2008

It is a record!

I arrived back not so long ago from our afternoon session on the Exe. The rain had battered relentlessly for an hour resulting in coloured water. Mike took several fish in quick succession as the colour began to appear including what looked to be a really good Brown. Sadly it took his ever faithful Terrys Emerger back to its lair leaving Mike to wonder what could have been. Packing up early as the sport suddenly died I decided to drop into the shop to continue work on a Trout Fisherman feature.

Settling down to the keyboard there was a loud knock at the door and when I opened it I found a man in a state of shock dangling a large Rainbow Trout in front of me. Well done Colin Wayman this Trout is a new Exe Valley Fishery record weighing in at 12lb 7oz. The fish was caught on an orange lure fished with a floating line.

After finishing up some more of this feature all about Fernworthy Reservoir I will be loading the car ready for a very early morning spent fishing with Henry Gilbey on another Brown Trout only lake, Colliford, high up on Bodmin Moor.

Grayling Surprise

Sat at the keyboard ringing wet after our morning session on the river I can report that there seems to be very little in the way of Salmon around on the Exe at present. I have heard of one fish caught on Saturday and the Taw is producing fish so I shall certainly be headed for the Mole very soon myself.

Today has been fun though. Celebrating Mike Bonifaces birthday we did the usual run down of possible fishing venues and species before finally deciding that a pop at a Salmon just had to be done. Setting off to fish my Tuesday rod on the Carnarvon beat we did not expect much in the way of sport but started slinging a few snakes and double speys across stream ever hopeful. If nothing else it was good casting practice and fun to be out on this lovely stretch of water once more.

Mike has just arrived back and is breathing over my shoulder in true angler fashion so I will post this picture of a surprise Grayling taken in the tail of Old Womans run on a #10 Stoats Tail. The initial solid thump sent a ripple of momentary adrenalin through me as I thought a silver tourist had accepted my offering but I was still very pleased to see this stunning fish in all its glory.

After an Anchor Inn lunch we are recharged and heading out again this time in pursuit of Trout (and possibly Grayling), so I had better shut up and get gone!

Monday, 28 April 2008

Fair Weather Fishing?!

The variety of venues we fish and conditions we experience while fishing them is what keeps us going back for more. Imagine a virtual world where we could pick the conditions and tie on the perfect fly that always catches? It would be like something out of a horror story. In fact it reminds me of a story.

An angler woke up one morning to the perfect day and headed off to his favourite river. There he found the fish to be rising and not another angler in sight. Tackling up hastily he was soon in the water and on his very first cast caught a fish, the most perfect Wild Brown he had ever seen. Fly dried and leader straightened he made another cast, a fish rose and he hooked it. The feeling of joy was immense and at that moment the angler felt as if he was in heaven. After dozens more casts all resulting in a fish no matter if the leader was tangled or fly badly presented the angler realised that actually he was in hell. Imagine fishing with no anticipation, expectation or ............. rain!

Yesterday Jon Hettle and I converged on the banks of Blagdon Lake, one of the most beautiful and special places to enjoy a days Trout fishing in the UK. Tackled up and quietly making our way across to Butcombe Bay under the power of an electric engine the air was filled with anticipation. Just soft shell fleeces were needed to keep us warm and as we began fishing we frequently punctuated each conversation with a remark about how warm and pleasant the day was. The fishing was slow but we had enough action to keep us interested and knew that Top End was producing well, but as there was an England eliminator and an armada of boats in the area we looked elsewhere for sport. However a couple of hours in we finally decided to join the crowd based on lots of rumours that the sport had been prolific in this area. So we set off.

Arriving for our first drift Jon promptly hooked his first ever reservoir Brown and shortly afterwards he had a Rainbow follow suit. Taken on static Diawl Bachs coupled to an 18ft leader this is wonderful fishing , just waiting for the line to snap tight and the fish to tear off on a turbo charged run. Happy Days!

That was until we spied a rather large cloud on the horizon that introduced itself to us via an 180 degree wind shift and a barrage of rain!

I don't think I have ever seen conditions change so quickly. Compare the weather in Jons grip and grin shot to the rather different scene below! We continued to catch slowly but had to alter drifts regularly and found the fish picked out size 14 Diawl Bachs dressed plainly rather than more gaudy size 10 versions. During the torrential down pours we were very happy to be dressed from top top toe in Greys GRXi Waterproofs which proved to be as reliable as ever.

A busy man Jon had to head off by 7pm to sort out a presentation for work. This was a shame because suddenly the rain stopped and I was treated to a stunning scene as the sun lowered. Many said that working as a guide would mean that I would not want to fish. Nothing could be further from the truth! I could feel Home Bay calling and heading back out with a team consisting of Diawl Bachs and Crunchers I took 3 fish in quick succession. I only wish there had been more daylight, I could have stayed for hours.

It was interesting to chat with some of the England lads who had been fishing their eliminator. They found that anything from static to steadily retrieved nymphs picked up fish. Some had sworn by 14s, others had taken good bags on 10s. What was definitely consistent throughout their reports was that you needed to be at the Top End in the morning before the weather turned. To show how prolific the fishery is (and experienced these England guys are), 16 limits consisting of 8 fish came to the scales! I must admit that the buzz of competition in the car park that morning brought back memories of the seasons when I have competed in these events and so in 2009 I am going to make some time and get back into it. Some hate competition and I respect their opinion of course but in fact if it were not for the innovations, tactics and techniques that have been drawn from the competition scene over the years fly fishing would not have advanced into the sport that it is today.

Today I have been guiding local angling junkie David Garth. David only took to the sport during a one day course with me in Feb but since then I have noticed that twinkle in his eye that says he has succumbed to the power and passion of fluff chucking! Check out this picture and you can see that this man does not let an April hale storm get in his way, even on the river. His reward for this perseverance and determination coming in the form of 3 nice post lunch Browns.

As ever I am having a ball guiding and could keep tapping the keyboard but I have an impending trip with Henry Gilbey to organise and tomorrow will be keeping up the tradition of fishing with my mate Mike Boniface to celebrate his birthday. We will be on a river or lake somewhere, the problem in the West Country is where do we go, there are so many places! That's a nice problem to have!

Friday, 25 April 2008

Chew Valley Crocodiles

There is some amazing fishing to be had in the West Country and these pictures prove that point. Wayne Thomas is a mate of mine from North Devon and I think of him as the Ian Botham of fishing! He is an all-rounder to say the least catching Carp, chasing Tope, flicking flies to Trout while spending hours tantalising Mullet (or being tantalised by them!) But occasionally he turns his attention to Chew Valley Lake and the leviathans that lurk within! In amongst all this he has also found the time to author a comprehensive fishing guide and writes a weekly angling column in the North Devon Journal.

This fish was caught just yesterday (24/04/08) using fly fishing tactics and represents just one of a haul of 10 pike including specimens of 26lb 12oz, 15lb 12oz, 14lb, 11lb and 6 other jacks. This is outstanding fishing by any standards and on an easily accessible lake. All you need is a 9 to 10 weight rod coupled with suitable line ( I find an intermediate best), 6 to 8 ft leader which should incorporate a trace made from a supple material such as American fishing wire and some BIG flies. I favour the big Black Pike fly available through Turralls and also tie up Bunny Bugs on size 4/0 Varivas Big Mouth Extras, an awesome hook. You will also need an unhooking mat, a big net and some long forceps. If you plan a trip to Chew (I certainly am, Wayne ... when are we going!?) then try areas such as Herriots, Hollow Brook, Villice and the Stratford area which is where most of Wayne's fish were taken.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Changing Flies

I spent a really interesting day with Dave Benfield from Bournemouth today. At 65 I could not believe the amazing attitude of this guy who survived a serious illness back in 2003. His lust for life was apparent from the moment I met him and to take him fishing today was an absolute privilege. We struggled with the wind a little which has been so apparent this last 10 days but when our fishing session came about there was no stopping Dave who hooked this brace of top quality Exe Valley Rainbows and lost another. Our chosen tactic was to fish a Buzzer under an indicator, the first time I have adopted this method for a while as Crunchers & Diawl Bachs tweaked back conventionally have been very consistent.

However the wind was a problem and so the less time spent casting the better and of course the longer the fly is in the water the better! We started with a Crisp Red Butt Buzzer and at first had plenty of takes but no firm hook ups in water that was slightly coloured due to the river rising earlier today after a spell of heavy rain. Then finally the indicator slid away and Dave hooked his first ever Trout on fly. A short while later a second fish followed suit only to fall off after snagging us in a weed bed! After that we could not buy a take.

So what to do? Strip the flies faster than a hooker in a brothel? Put on a sinking line or go to the pub? In fact all we did was to change our pattern to a Red Buzzer and first cast Dave was hooked up again. Sometimes I think the Trout just get bored and you need to show them something different!

All this reminds me of my experience yesterday on Wimbleball which I mentioned I would talk about today. I had been fishing a Straggle Cat (SC) on the top dropper of a 16ft leader with a Crisp Diawl Bach in the middle and a Black Mini Huey on the point. Attached to an Airflo Di 3 I was soon picking up the odd take and fish while drifting across the mouth of Ruggs bay. The fish I landed all hit the Diawl Bach so I decided to exchange the SC for another Diawl Bach. 2 drifts later I had only achieved a couple of half hearted pulls and I think one of those may had been weed!

So for the 3rd drift I went back to the SC on the top dropper and guess what ... pull after pull and fish after fish! But none of them had taken the SC, every fish hit the Diawl Bach. I have seen this scenario many times before and it proves two invaluable points. Firstly "if it ain't broke don't fix it" and second Rainbow Trout are dead curious and will often follow a lure and then turn on an imitative pattern. So if you tend to fish lures on the point and imitative flies on the top droppers in a team, change then around and see what happens; I think you will be pleasantly surprised!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Keep Your Fly in the Water!

I have been out fishing for the last couple of days while working on a new project which I will be able to reveal in the not too distant future. Essentially my brief was to "fish as hard as possible!" I was only too happy to oblige. The fish were not.

My venue was Wimbleball lake which Henry Gilbey and I visited recently enjoying some prolific early season sport. Setting up the gear I was pleased to see rods bending along the bank of Ruggs and wished that I was already down there. What is that saying? "Be careful what you wish for"?

I arrived, chucked a couple of buzzers out connected to a floater and started a gentle retrieve almost expecting an instant take. At precisely the same moment the wind changed course slightly and then died resulting in a flat calm. The clouds cleared and the sun beat down. Rods stopped bending.

The next 3 hours proved to be very tough. Not so much as a pull. The harder it became the more I concentrated trying every little trick in the book including different lines, flies, leader configurations you name it! The Trout must have been laughing.

I needed a break and to think. What I came up with is some of the most simple fishing you can imagine. A Rio Midge Tip, 16ft leader and two flies with an Iain Barr Diawl Bach on the top dropper and a mini Humungus on the point. A short while later my first Trout was in the net. So what was the difference?

I got my head down and fished. I broke my own rule during that 3 hours and spent so much time searching for answers that my fly was not in the water and we all know what that means! There was another interesting twist to the day but I will talk about that tomorrow as there are things to be done in readiness for my trip to Blagdon.

And if the flies above mean nothing to you, don't worry, Sue will be loading a bunch to the site very soon!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Is it a record?

I have been out guiding on the river during the last few days in some of the worst down stream winds I can remember, even so there have been some good hatches and the fish are feeding. In fact the season seems to have got off to a better start than in 07. Even better the trees are in bud and starting to green up, this is my favourite time of year and with May fast approaching I am really looking forward to meeting up with some old friends and taking them fishing.

Today I was looking after David Sedgwick who has been fishing with me for over 8 years. He started on small waters and then progressed to the reservoirs but found that his real passion is river fishing. A keen river Wylye angler he has now acquired himself some fishing on the Hampshire Avon, setting his sights on the chance of his first Salmon on fly. Dave never messes around when it comes to kit and picked up his Hardy Swift Double Hander, Hardy Zane No2 Reel and a Rio Tips line from the shop which we then spent several happy hours flicking across the length of Island lake. Like a kid with several new toys Dave headed off with a look in his eye that I reckon means he will be out on the river sometime in the next few days.

Closer to home there are migratory species about. A good friend of mine lost a Sea Trout of in the region of 12lb + while another landed a near 25lb Salmon! Both these fish came from the Taw so as soon as I get chance I will be down to our stretch of the Mole (a tributary of the Taw) to see if I can get in amongst this early season run of big fish.

On the main lake Fred and I have just stocked some of the best quality small water Rainbows you could hope to see. These are a credit to Fred's fishing farming skills and one of them is a new potential Exe Valley record. Not the fish you see here, these are big but the "monster" slipped in before I had chance to photograph it! Full finned and full of fight it will be a happy angler that manages to tempt one of these beauties!

I have a full week ahead with guests plus a few other projects but in particular I am very much looking forward to Sunday as I am once again out guiding Jon Hettle, this time on Blagdon lake.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

You can't play football at 80

Blowing a mad one here today, Easterly and howling downstream. Marcy and Pete Tutton did brilliantly well to cope with it. In fact I was quite glad to be guiding rather than fishing, I hate down streamers! They can be coped with though. The trick is lean forward. This will raise your back cast, lower your forward stroke and cut through the wind. Keep the leader short and use big flies, the scudding wind means the surface will be broken so a decent sized Adams or similar will do the trick. The Rambo nymph was the star again today and another Grayling succumbed.

So why the reference to football? Well take a look at this. Brian Stumpe fishing the Exe yesterday at close to 80 years old (he would say young of course). He as a bit of arthritis, but other than that I reckon he is fitter than me (certainly as my kids seem to give me everything except the plague!). In and out of the water, chucking a fly ... no problem. What other sport (bowls ... yuk!) could an 80 year old participate in so effectively?

Watching Brian fish beautifully upstream got me thinking about the whole "traditional / modern" debate. There are those who like to wear tweed when they fish, fair play, but its not for me. There are those who want to flick dries upstream only and hate nymphs, cool, go for it. Others prefer cane, give me carbon anytime. The point is fly fishing is incredibly diverse and can be whatever you wish to make out of it. Check this out, the This is Fly team have perhaps the most dynamic off the wall approach to the casting of flies and catching of fish I have ever seen!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

First Grayling

I am constantly amazed how time zooms by. Today I met up with Brian Stumpe and his son Giles who have visited in the past and as we started doing the maths we realised that the last time they were guided by me was just before I got married, that was in 2001! Time is a commodity that money just cannot buy and although Brian his retired he has not found time to cast a fly during the last 7 years while Giles had added two more children to his tally of one and has a 4th on the way!

A quick casting check on the lake and I was gobsmacked because it was if the guys had never put down a rod. An early lunch ensued as I wanted to get on the river during the heat of the day, I could sense fish. I still need a fleece layer under my Hardy EWS Waders, but the sunlight (it has been a beautiful day) did the trick and a few Olives and the odd Large Brook dun put in an appearance.

We got a couple on dries but it was a Rambo nymph with a heavy bead head that did the most damage. Using a New Zealand dropper rig we picked up fish steadily, plugging away, fishing the likely spots. In particular look for calm meeting fast water, an area I call the "seam". Fish love these areas including this first ever Grayling for Giles which is also the first I have seen this season from the Exe. We are now a month in from open day and the river is just starting to look like it is coming alive, I can't wait for the next few weeks and of course it means we are creeping ever closer to a Montana.

Closer to home indulge in some of Henry's images from the River Exe here. It's 8.00pm but already I am looking forward to sliding into this very special river once more tomorrow! I guess you could call it my office ...

Monday, 14 April 2008

Hardy Demon Reel Review

I usually use my blog to deliver all the latest fishing news live and direct from our venues as it happens, but it strikes me that those who read this blog may not only be interested in the fish but also some of the kit we are using. After all the equipment we use to pursue our chosen piscatorial target is just as much a part of fishing as the fish themselves!

Sure, I would still go with a bent pin and a bamboo stick if I had to but lets face it, there is nothing like gazing at a beautifully engineered reel or lovingly crafted rod when the fish are not biting. Even better during the cold months of winter you can tinker with these bits of treasure as a jeweler would a watch all the time imagining what is to come and reminiscing about a particularly big or powerful fish. OK, so I am a tackle tart and proud of it!

Just before I launch into the review I have just got off the phone to good mate James Warbrick-Smith who has just returned from Inagua in the Bahamas having landed his first ever Permit on fly. This is an achievement that can only be described as the holy grail of fly fishing. JWS will not mind me calling him a tackle tart, in fact a professional tackle tart who I am sure will be staring tear in eye at his Loomis Crosscurrent for several months to come while he remembers the moment when he finally conquered a lifelong fishing ambition. Anyway, to the review! First up is the Hardy Demon Reel. This is without doubt one of the most forward thinking and most practical pieces of kit I have come across in a long time.

The moment I first clapped eyes on the pre-production design drawings for the new Hardy Demon Reel I was certain that Howard Croston and his team had come up with something special. Having now used one of these beautiful creations for several months I am not disappointed. In fact the reel has been a joy to use, so much so that all my reservoir lines are now residing on Demon spools.

So what make this reel so special?

The Hardy Demon is crafted out of a single piece of aluminium and has all the hallmarks of a quality Hardy barstock alloy product .... but look carefully. You will spot that cleverly hidden with the frame is in fact not a full aluminium spool that would cost at least 1/3rd of the full retail value of the reel but a cartridge ... RRP just £9.99 and you receive 3 with every reel! One would expect this nylon spool to make the reel look cheap but with a line loaded you just don't notice it and the clarity of the cartridge is just right so that the spool literally blends into the look of the reel. Even better, you can write directly on to the spool with a permanent marker so that you can spot a line profile, weight and density at a glance.

OK, so this is a very "bling" bit of kit, but that's not important when the fish have just hit the surface and you have a full sinker on; what about changing the spools? Standard cartridge reels frequently jam and almost always at a crucial moment. I have tried to get the Demon spools to jam and quite simply they don't. Operated via a patented spool release system simply twist the spool lock mechanism to release pressure on the rubber O ring and the spool comes away. Clamp another in place, tighten up and you are ready to go. I have practised and reckon that inside 1 minute you can change these spools and that includes finding the correct one out of your bag and tying the leader to the line!

The one touch push button release of the entire spool is another ingenious little extra that makes this reel a joy to use while the drag system is very smooth (quite up to Salmon & Sea Trout plus occasional Bonefish) and changing from left to right hand wind is a doddle, you don't even need a screw driver!

These days Large Arbor is the norm and Hardy have created what I would call a mid arbor reel ensuring plenty of width to allow for nice open coils of line and a generous supply of backing. The machined handle works a treat and I am so glad that quality metal was used rather than the horrible plastic affairs seen on so many products these days. Throw in a carry case and this is a product that is hard to ignore, especially if you are the kind of angler who likes to carry as many lines as possible.

At present the 5000 is available which is ideal for WF5 & 6 lines. The 7000 comfortably swallows a WF7 or 8, and is the model that I have been using on a very regular basis on numerous reservoir visits recently. A small 3000 will arrive in the future along with a Salmon sized 9000 version which is going to represent amazing value for money and versatility. So what about the price?

5000s weigh in at £219 while the 7000 is £249. This is a lot of money for a reel but in reality it is actually tremendous value. Most cartridge reels in the sub £100.00 bracket will deteriorate over a couple of seasons and need replacing, I firmly believe the Demons will go on and on. It is the kind of reel to proudly pass on to your son, daughter or grand children. Once you have the main reel the spools are just £9.99 so the Demon represents not only an investment but also great value for money.

In conclusion I find this a very difficult reel to fault, it really is a Demon bit of kit!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Chew Valley Bonanza!

I reckon most of us work too hard but don't play hard enough! That certainly goes for Jon Hettle; a guest of Nick Hart Fly Fishing. Jon runs a very successful insurance company, if you need commercial insurance do not look any further than Hettle Andrews, these guys know their stuff! Anyway last year Jon basically worked all hours at his office leaving very little time to pursue his passion in life; fly fishing. This year we have already spent several days together and on Thursday Jon arrived bright and early ready to go through some more casting. It doesn't matter how often you go fishing and cast a fly there is always something new to learn. A little tweak here and there can work wonders adding distance or perhaps accuracy but most importantly ... pleasure. After all that's just why we cast and fish, isn't it?

Jon worked hard as usual although I reminded him that while practicing regular breaks are a must if your performance levels are to improve. Relax, make smooth strokes and enjoy the tackle that your hard earned shekels have purchased. By mid morning Jon was really into the groove and seemed to be in Nirvana for a time as he cast the new 10'0" Hardy Demon Rod. The "oohs" & "ahhs" said it all; this is one very special bit of kit and have you seen the reel?!

Day 2 was to be a feast of fishing. Technically this week was supposed to be a holiday for me but while Jon is a client of mine he is also in fact a good mate and so I thought that I would take him fishing on the most major stillwater around here, Chew Valley in North Somerset. After some banter over a few Exmoor Ales at Woods the night before we arranged to meet at Three Acres Country House Hotel for one of Eds famous breakfasts before blasting up the M5 (and I do mean blasting ... sorry plod!) towards 1200 acres of some of Europe's best trout fishing. Arriving to a huge hail storm and pumping winds I began to wonder if perhaps I had got this one wrong. Nevertheless we tackled up in high spirits, after all we were out fishing, not working and that had to be a good thing!

Before we set off I had a chat with Martin, otherwise known as "Skater" who works at the Chew Lodge. The Bristol staff are second to none when it comes to information and skater was only too pleased to give me the low down. The great news, in fact music to my ears, was that there were rakes off fish throughout the area behind Denny Island. Now this just so happens to be one of my favourite parts of Chew so I fired up the engine in earnest and we headed off. Rigged up with a floater and two flies Jon set to work while I went for a 20ft Fluorocarbon leader and 3 flies consisting of Diawl Bachs from the Iain Barr stable and one of my own tying. A Chew favourite, all you need is Black Pheasant Tail for the body, some black cock hackle fibres for the tail and throat plus a copper wire rib and Glo Brite 4 head. Oh and handling 20ft leaders with droppers when landing a fish? Long rod, long handle net and extend your arm fully. Casting without tangling a 20ft leader? Try here!

We set drifts to cruise from the West across the bay behind Denny and into Hollow Brook. The wind at this point seemed to have died down and things were looking good, especially when I felt a heaviness on the line that met with a swift strike and a typically fit Chew Rainbow. Soon afterwards the wind blew up and we sort shelter just in front of the island which was surprisingly calm. A few casts in and I signalled a take only to see Jon's rod slam over seconds later. Brilliant, both of us had fish in the boat and Jon had caught his first ever Chew trout. As Jon said Chew is "real" fishing. With 1200 acres of water to deal with you must set out confident because if you don't expect to to catch, then you probably won't! In years gone by Chew seriously messed with my head and I endured many blanks but now I relish the challenge of a vast expanse of water. Many people believe that rivers are the most technically challenging venues we attempt but in fact I would disagree. Finding fish on large reservoirs, picking the correct tactics and staying with the fish is far more demanding and in many respects I find it is a greater challenge. As a guide I find working out what makes a large venue tick for clients as rewarding as helping them hook their first Salmon or Wild Brown Trout, pinnacles in an anglers career. Back to Chew ...

The weather kicked in. A furious Westerly delivered its worst and although I always advise that anglers "work with the wind", even I was starting to find it tiresome, let alone Jon who was on his first major reservoir boat session. We tried in vain to battle with it, drifting across the bay and even attempted to move from the island wondering if there was shelter elsewhere on the lake. The journey out from behind Denny was spectacular, huge rolling waves that we surfed up and down for about 150 yards. It was at this moment that I was pleased to be wearing a buoyancy aid which is compulsory at most reservoirs these days and rightly so. Exhilarating though the ride was, we knew we were beaten, there was nothing for it but to turn back and get behind the island, tucking right in to the lee shore. Unfortunately upon arriving back we found that most of the other anglers had done the same, leaving me no option but to take us a to the North shore end of the island which was calmer but still pretty fierce. However I was confident, this area has access to perfect Trout depths of 8ft to 20ft and superb drop offs that always hold fish.

It was the Rutland Heavy Buzzer another superb Iain Barr pattern that did it. I swapped it with the point Diawl Bach, chucked out a line, slightly across wind and just kept in touch with an ultra slow figure 8 retrieve. Half way back I felt a tiny tweak and smacked the hook home! A cast or two later and the same! Jon had been playing with his new #6 Hardy Angel which needed christening but soon bowed to my pleas to get going with a Rio Midge Tip on the Demon. Now we had a tactic I set Jon up with exactly the same kit and did it ever work. First cast, FISH! At this point I started to enter what I call "the zone", its like suddenly you are in the water with the Trout and you know exactly what you need to do; what flies, how to retrieve, when to strike. Concentration is at an all time high, the next fish will not be far away and it wasn't. Jon was in the zone too relishing the swift sport as the Demon tamed another Chew resident and then my 10'0" #7 Greys GTec followed. The extra depth achieved by the heavy buzzer had been the difference and it looked like we would not look back. Seven fish in the takes dried up. Had they gone deeper, were our tactics incorrect ... definitely not, the action had been too extreme ... the fish had moved.

Jon commented on the slow sport and I replied with my thoughts regarding a move when he cried "FISH"! Turning to see the rod bent I had to look twice as the angle of the line and rod made me think instantly that Jon was snagged on the bottom. Just one thing ... the line was moving! Instantly I said (as all of you who have been guided by me will know) ... "take it easy, give it line, BIG fish!" The fish just stayed deep and for several minutes all Jon could do was hang on. It was then that I realised this was no Brown, the very dogged deliberate scrap was down to none other than a Pike which had taken the heavy buzzer! I believe the bright wing buds on this pattern spark the Pike into feeding as later on I also had a Pike, though smaller than Jon's on a Crisp Diawl Bach. After a quick photo Jon's fish (a solid 10lb +) was back in the lake and we spent the next half an hour reliving the fight. This was turning out to be some day!

A move did the trick on the Trout front. Not to the other end of the lake, just 40 yards to the right as I had noticed a couple of boats below us net fish. This sparked a hectic spell for me as fish after fish took the Black Diawl Bach on the top dropper, although a few did come to the Buzzer and Crisp Diawl Bach. This is a great lesson in not losing the faith, the fish are there, just move around until you find them again.

The awesome thing about this game is you just don't know what will be next. A tweak on the line and I struck expecting a hard but short tussle to the net only to find that my line had shot under the boat in split seconds! Despite practicing hustling fish to the surface ready for netting and a quick release this fish was having none of it. That is until it turned in the sun and I realised I had hooked no ordinary Chew resident. Jon was on hand with the net and the first chance that came along he scooped up my prize. At 7lbs this was by best ever Chew fish and best from a reservoir. To have taken it on nymphs was even better, an experience I won't forget and thanks to Jon for getting a great photo of the fish. A little better than mine of the Pike taken during the gale, sorry about the horizon Henry!

We ended up with in the region of 22 fish to the boat, but numbers are not important. The day had a little bit of everything, the right mix of lows with some euphoric highs. I know it was good because I left the water buzzing and still am. So my advice to you is grab a rod and get up to Chew yourself because after all you know what they say about all work and no play ...

Chester goes Fishing!

I couldn't resist, I know he is only 16 months old but with a day to spend with my boy what else could we do? Go to the Zoo? Go to the Park? Stay in and watch cartoons ..... please!

With lakes full of Trout at our disposal and a young boy growing more inquisitive by the day what better way to keep him amused than to go fishing? Wildlife, sounds, a bit of tackle and of course a fish or two ... exciting stuff. We of course only went for a very short session but during that time Chester repeatedly used his new favourite word ... "Wow". I have been trying to teach him Henry's favourite word "awesome", but so far no joy! He can however say Dog (he does think cats are dogs however!), Geese and ... "Tish". I am working on the F bit, but for now Tish is just fine. When he sees me with a fish he says "Tish" and I have a great big picture of a New Zealand Brown Trout on my wall which he shouts "Tish" at as he hurtles past at great speed usually in pursuit of something from the cupboard or such like.

Back to our fishing. We caught a couple and I am proud to report that Chester even cranked the reel, as you can see from this picture! There were many more "Wows" and then we headed to the Anchor Inn for lunch. As usual Chester ate everything in sight before we visited the river to let our pie settle (which was extremely good, this place has become superb since new management moved in) and of course throw some stones. Needless to say a few hours later a very content boy was soon crashed out for the night!

I cannot believe how extraordinarily lucky we are to have such amazing countryside at our disposal although pretty soon I think the peace will be slightly disturbed as Chester runs amok shouting "Wow" and no doubt "Awesome"! We live in an amazing technological age and it fascinates me but it will never match the pure pleasure of spending a day out in spectacular countryside ... especially when fishing!

More on Chester's adventures soon!

Monday, 7 April 2008

Warming up on Wimbleball

While I may be a guide and instructor during the week I like nothing better than spending my day off fishing! This week I actually have a few days off and I intend to make the most of it ...

After an evening in the company of good friend Alasdare Lambert and his wife Fiona at Three Acres Country House Hotel we had a leisurely 11am start to our Wimbleball session , Alasdare going with a Kelly Green Intermediate while I opted for a Rio Midge Tip. Based on my previous success while fishing Wimbleball with Henry on Wednesday we headed to Ruggs Bay, fishing the point just around from Bessoms Bridge. The wind was blowing across our casting shoulders requiring a reverse cast but in fact we found the fish were not far out anyway. Alasdare was the first to hook up just yards from the shore while fishing the hang. A sprightly Rainbow came to the net and was soon photographed and heading back to its home. Not long after Al added another fish and then it was my turn as the Midge Tip locked up into a nice two pounder. A few casts later a fish swam past me just a rod tip away, clearly visible in the gin clear water conditions! I heaved on the line ready to make a quick cast at this fish when the rod hooped over into an unseen fish, again just yards from the shore. Meanwhile a flock of House Martins were feeding over a large expanse of the lake and continued to do so even when the weather soured leading to some slow sport during the next hour.

Some welcome sunshine put in an appearance and before long a few fish were on the top taking Buzzers as they hatched. The fly life at Wimbleball so far appears to be excellent which bodes well for the coming season and if they hatch during such cold conditions imagine what it could be like in late spring! The warmth triggered a feeding frenzy so that in one hectic ten minute spell I added another 6 to my tally having swapped to an Airflo DI3 Sinker coupled to a Blob, Dabbler and Pearl Cormorant Booby team. This was fun fishing, throwing a long cast and then as soon as the line hit the water twitching it back quickly with a series of 3" pulls. While in the morning we had experienced a lot of finicky takes the lures moving at high speed did the trick leading to many solid hook ups.

We got some more fish but the sport became sporadic and then as another icy wind blew up the fishing died. This is typical of the time of year so if you find some Trout stick with them and get your fly back in the water as soon as you have had a fish, there will often be another waiting for you! We only had time for a short 4 hour spell as Alasdare needed to hit the M5 back to Twickenham but I reckon we had the best of it anyway and to be honest it was great to be on the lake chucking a line and enjoying some sport. It is very good at Wimbleball right now so I was puzzled to see just one other angler trying his luck. This venue is a challenge but well worth it and at this time of year there is always the chance of an overwintered fish.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Fly Lines & April Snow

Yesterday I was out with Gareth Jones (pictured) who was given a gift voucher at Christmas by his wife after 3 consecutive blank days. To be fair he had headed to Hawkridge reservoir which is not the easiest venue for a novice and so to start with we got to grips with the casting. Despite an icy northerly he was soon in to the swing of things and casting a decent line. As often happens Gareth had turned up with a starter kit. Now these can be great if they are put together by knowledgeable people but often they are just aimed at luring folk into parting with their cash thinking they are getting a bargain ... this often proves to be false economy! Gareth's technique was certainly improving and yet the line was not shooting as far as we expected. Why?

It all boiled down to the line which IS the most important part of your kit. Give me a good line and a not so great rod any day (although a good rod and line is better!) Gareth's line was almost sticky to the touch and made a grating noise through the rings. Examining it more carefully the outer PVC coating seemed almost "lumpy", not great for efficiency through the rod rings. So I strung up Gareths 9'6"#7 Rod with one of our 2 tone Platinum XDs by Greys. First cast and he was beaming! The line shot a superb distance, far exceeding anything he had managed all morning with his own line. Utilising the 2 tone we were able to pull the line back to the head section, false cast it a couple of times and then just let it fly. While these lines are super efficient (Gareth purchased one as soon as we got back to the shop!) they can deteriorate like any fly line if not looked after. At least every couple of trips pull your fly line off and coat it with cleaner. Over time the coating will polish up and you will have the most effortless casting of your life ... coupled with good technique of course!

While yesterday was cold, today was freezing in the North wind blowing down the Exe Valley and across the lake. My guest for the day was David Hilton who is off to the USA in early June after striped Bass. After several years of fly fishing Dave decided that his distance and technique needed checking out. Throughout the day we built the fly cast from scratch going through several elements including timing, rod stroke and of course double haul which so many anglers aspire to. This brilliant technique is easy to learn and in short creates huge line speeds; very important when hurling a 4/0 Bass Fly! Steadily things came together so that by the end of the day Dave's Loomis Crosscurrent was bending very nicely indeed. To finish we added one of the huge flies required for the Stripers and even got a Trout to take while stripping in for the next cast! Dave is an interesting guy who has caught many species on fly including Zander which is in my top 3 freshwater fish within the UK that I would like to tangle with. He is also very generous and treated me to a top carvery (you should try it sometime!) at the Anchor Inn just over the road from Exe Valley. We needed it too because look at the weather we returned to!!! It should be fun if It is doing this tomorrow as I am anticipating running into some Wimbleball Rainbows and these conditions will call for some Boobies. I had better get my kit together ....

Friday, 4 April 2008

Buzzing about Buzzers

The temperature dropped today compared with the amazing heat of yesterday but the fish are still feeding! Laurence and Simon really took to the casting in no time, prior to heading off to the pub for lunch. After an extended session at my favourite venue Woods, the guys were feeling very mellow on a couple of pints of Exmoor Ale and a decent steak salad!

This showed as they were right back into their stride in no time and soon figure eighting an Iain Barr Crystal Cruncher back through the top 2 feet of water. Laurence was the first to hit a fish which slammed the fly and then launched itself into an aerobatic spin. Simon followed up shortly afterwards with a similar fish taken on a Glo Head Diawl Bach finished off in jet black pheasant tail. A few house martins were swooping around nearby and using a marrow spoon I was not surprised to find all the fish feeding well on Buzzers. This for me is a real sign that hopefully spring is close by .... feeding fish and buzzers! Next week I should be on Wimbleball, Clatworthy and Blagdon; I feel a midge tip moment coming on! But if the weather changes I will reach for the DI 7 and Boobies, another form of fishing that I relish.

Interestingly Laurence own and runs the Ilfracombe Aquarium which I will be visiting with my family very soon. Laurence has created a living river to coast experience and now sees in excess of 35,000 visitors each season! During the summer I will be assisting him with stocking Grayling which should be very interesting indeed. In fact fish conservation is something very close to my heart and a subject that in future I would like to become far more involved in. So much so Henry and I are planning a trip to the Bahamas to study and fish for Bonefish early in 2009.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Non stop action

So it has been a busy few days at the NHFF HQ and did those Trout from Wimbleball taste good or what! I mentioned yesterday that I was out on this awesome venue with Henry Gilbey
chasing down a hard fighting rainbow or two. My tactics involved an Airflo DI 7 fished off a 10'0" #7 Hardy Demon Rod. Now this range has got me salivating, particularly the reel which I shall review and place here and on the hartflyshop.com site very soon! Anyway after a bit of searching a huge Humungus Booby did the trick, tweaked very slowly. Takes were either a "tap-tap" that I followed up with a full blooded strike or the fish simply nailed the fly and bolted hooking themselves. This is not a tactic for C&R but if you want some fish for the freezer once hooked on the Booby the Trout has little chance of escape. I love dry fly, midge tipping a buzzer and all that but hooking fish in cold deep water on fast sinking lines is awesome. In fact you just don't know what could come next as Neils 5lb overwintered Wimbleball Brown a few days ago proves.

On the guiding front I was very pleased to take David Garth out for his first ever day on the River Exe, in fact his first ever day on any river. He attended a course in Feb and has been salivating at the thought of hitting the river ever since. I have several guests I look after who have the twinkle in their eye of both obsessive angler coupled with tackle junkie! David is one of these! He is already the very proud owner of a Hardy Marksman combination which I feel is just the start of his collection. We will be out again shortly and hopefully christen this rod as during his Tuesday session we needed to fish heavy bugs in big water using the 10ft Greys Streamflex which I am such a big fan of. Success came in the form of an 8" wild Brown that David was over the moon with ... size is definitely not everything especially on a stretch of river as wonderful as the Exe. Which reminds me we have a new stretch on offer but more of that soon.

Time for a blast up the M5 in the Corrado, MOTHERCARE AGAIN!!! I love my kids but will be happy to see them out of nappies. Lots more news but the need for speed calls.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Fishing Reports

Yesterday I was out on the river, more of that tomorrow along with my report from Wimbleball during a Trout fisherman shoot with Henry Gilbey. For the moment here is the most recent South West Lakes venues news. Some good fish including a 5lb overwintered Wimbleball Brown to Neil Keep which I tried but failed to replicate myself today! And before I go and cook up my Wimbleball catch I must mention Henry's book which was published yesterday. This was a a huge amount of effort that literally took over 6 months of Henry's life! Copies available for sale here.

South West Lakes Fishery reports for March 2008


South West Lakes Trust trout fisheries are now all open (Fernworthy on 1 April). Very mixed weather has meant that fishing methods have had to adapted to suit the conditions on the day, and in spite of some very poor weather, the season’s fishing has begun well.


Kennick – The fishery opened to the public on 29 March (with a preview bank day for season ticket holders on 28th). In spite of driving wind and rain, the fishery got off to a good start, with most fish being caught within the top two feet of water. The fish appeared to have concentrated at the south end of the reservoir, as few fish were caught north of Clampitts Bay. Fish were eager to feed, and were being caught on most types of fly, although something black seemed to be the most successful, with Montana Nymph being at the top of the list. After opening day, the fish went deeper, with sinking line tactics (with booby) proving the most successful. A few buzzers have been hatching, and spooned fish have contained green buzzers, but so far only one fish has been caught using a buzzer imitation. Other successful flies included Damsel Nymphs, Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, Black Tadpoles and Vivas, along with Orange Fritz Lures.

The best fish of the weekend was a 3lb 10oz rainbow caught by Paul Wicks (of Ashburton), as part of a full bag, while fishing from the bank. Other good fish included rainbows of 3lb 9oz and 3lb 7oz caught by Andy Davies (Torquay) in one session fishing from the bank using a Montana.

Siblyback opened for bank fishing on 21 March, and in spite of strong northerly winds, the fishing proved it was worth braving the elements, with half the anglers catching their limits, and a rod average of over four fish per rod during the first two weeks.

The fish were feeding on Black Buzzer Nymphs along the North shore, but few fish showed on the surface. Generally lures proved to be the most successful flies (mainly black, such as Black Tadpoles, Vivas, Boobies, along with a few orange patterns), although a variety of nymph patterns also took fish (Diawl Bach, Montana, Hare’s Ears, and Damsel Nymphs).

Again prospects are promising for buzzer fishing as the weather warms up in April.

Wimbleball – The fishery opened on 29 March, and again, in spite of strong winds and rain, the bank fishing proved to be particularly good on opening day (with rods averaging just under four fish), and Ruggs Bay producing the best results. Boat fishing then improved, and with fish well dispersed around the lake, fishing a drift along the wind-lanes proved to be the most successful. Both nymphs and lures proved successful, with most fish being taken on Black Cats Whisker or Black Tadpoles. Diawl Bachs and Damsels consistently took fish, while a team of Blobs and Damsels proved to be a good combination. While the fish were not too deep, a weighted fly helped to get down to where the fish were feeding. Again, a number of Black Buzzers in the air indicate that buzzer fishing will soon be taking off at Wimbleball.

Best fish caught included a 5lb 6oz Rainbow caught by David Blyfield, fishing from a boat using a Black Booby, a 5lb rainbow caught by Mr. Hayward (of Bradford Abbas) fishing from the bank, and a superb overwintered 5lb Brown Trout caught by Neil Keep (of Oakford, Tiverton) while using a Cats Whisker fished from the bank at Bessoms.

Stithians opened on 15 March, and in spite of some very strong cold North Westerly winds and this fishery’s exposed location, anglers managed a three fish rod average. While most fish were taken on sub surface lures (Viva, Black Tadpoles, Cats Whiskers, and Orange lures), more natural imitations (such as Hares Ear Nymphs and Montana Nymphs) proved successful, with some fish even being tempted to Black Hoppers fished on the surface. Yellowort Bay and Sailing Bank proved to be the most popular locations, with the best fish being a 3lb 3oz rainbow, caught by Mr W. Chegwidden (from Bristol) using a Bloodworm pattern from the bank.

Wistlandpound – the best fishing has been from the bay at the North End, with dark coloured lures (Viva Nomad and Black and Green Fritz Nomads particularly successful.

Colliford fished very well at the start of the season, with the brownies eagerly taking a selection of dark subsurface patterns (such as Montanas and Black Tadpoles), either on an intermediate line, or a floater with a long leader and heavier fly, and fished with a succession of short strips. The north bank and bay by the main car park has proved a successful area, roaming the banks and fishing the margins, but taking care not to spook the inshore brownies. Day tickets this season are available from the Jamaica Inn, off the A30 at Bolventor.

Chris Hall (April 2008)