Sunday, 22 February 2009

More uplifting fishing

Continuing on from that positive note yesterday I was amazed to find that 4 days of last week were booked up for tuition. This is unprecedented in February which is traditionally quiet due to the cooler weather. However this week we have been blessed with mild temps which coincided with my second father and son team of the year taking to the water. Tim and Harry spent a couple of days at Exe Valley and left fully fledged fly fishers keen to return for some river action. At just 12 years old Harry did the younger generation proud by listening intently and learning to cast in just a few hours resulting in some fine fish such as these.

A couple of days later Tim Watson arrived for his regularly early season tune up. Now more than capable of chucking 25 yards+ we got right down to the more advanced elements of fly casting, looking at drift, loop control, haul timing etc., all with the aim of improving distance, accuracy and presentation. After lunch and a serious shopping spree that has added a Hardy Demon Rod to Tim's already impressive arsenal we embarked on a few hours of Spey Casting using on of the Hardy Swift Double Handed Rods. These are incredible blanks and much fun was had as we got through plenty of Switch's, Snakes, Double Speys and Snap Ts, all in readiness for Tim's trip to Inverness later this year. It is well worth learning to Spey cast (essentially a change of direction roll cast) with single handed rods too, believe me once you have learned you will never look back.

"Morning Nick, just a quick thankyou for a great day yesterday. Learning lots of new stuff is always great fun, and making improvements on the old stuff very satisfying!" Tim Watson, Devon, 2009.

As always Tim, my pleasure and it is very cool to watch you casting developing from season to season.

Continuing on the uplifting theme I sat in front of the box on Wednesday in awe. I refer to the mind blowing new BBC production "Nature's Great Events" that Henry Gilbey (currently getting very excited in France!) mentioned in a recent post. The most recent episode charted the 3000 mile journey that half a billion Salmon make to swim up the rivers of British Columbia and Alaska. Their journey provides food to millions of animals and incredibly they are also responsible for the richest temperate rain forest in the world, although you will need to watch if you want to find out why. Perfectly narrated by David Attenborough, it was jaw dropping, spine tingling viewing, the kind of programme that you just don't want to end. I learned a ton of stuff from it too, like the fact that iron particles in a Salmons brain help it to navigate back to the river mouth that it originally used to enter the sea and that they can sense a single drop of freshwater in millions of litres of saltwater. But above all I realised just how hardy these fish are.

The incredible close up footage showed some unbelievable scenes as the Salmon clattered their bodies relentlessly upstream towards their original place of birth. Many do not make it falling foul of predators such as Grizzly Bears (look out for the scene when a fish clouts a bear in the ear ... very funny!) and suffocating in times of low water. But a huge proportion do succeed only to spawn and then die, unlike our own Atlantic Salmon that in some cases make several visits back to their place of birth. The Pacific Salmon species featured were Coho, Chinnook, Sockeye, Pink and Chums but even so the footage would still be applicable to our Atlantics. And this got me thinking. There is so much written these days about the benefits of catch and release while others (old fashioned in their view, in my opinion) say that all we catch should be killed. Recently in Trout & Salmon magazine there has been debate regarding this and a point of view raised that many of the Salmon we catch & release die or fail to spawn. In my view this is man once again believing that we are totally responsible for all the changes in the world. We are mere pinpricks on this earth. Witnessing those Salmon quite literally battle their way to their home river to survive I am more convinced than ever that so long as we treat our captured fish with enormous respect that they will go on to spawn and protect our future sport but most importantly continue the survival of the species.

You must watch this programme! BBC - Natures Great Events - The Great Salmon Run

Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Futures Bright ... the futures fishing.

Is it me or is there a lot of doom and gloom around right now? Turn on the news and I reckon that the term "credit crunch" (who came up with it!?) is ringing in our ears before we know it. There is of course a lot of bad stuff going on right now but there is also plenty of positive stuff, especially when we talk fishing.

Take rivers for example. A long held view is that many river venues are "dead mans shoes" with vast waiting lists. That is a positive in a way, it means there are plenty of people who want to go fishing! But what if you want some river fishing .... NOW ... that's not going to break the bank? Well the season won't be open for a few weeks yet but come mid March you will be pleased to know that there are literally dozens of budget priced options river fishing options here in the Westcountry offering fantastic Wild Brown Trout & Grayling fishing. Check here for one of the most popular schemes and find about the Fish the Exe scheme here.

But it was the events of last night that got me thinking about low cost fishing in a big way. I was honoured to be asked by the Dulverton Angling Association (DAA) to provide a talk and then afterwards I sat in on the annual general meeting. This is the first DAA AGM I have ever attended and I found it a seriously uplifting, positive experience, which is unusual for an AGM. Formed just a few years ago by Pat Veale the club has grown to over 250 members and now has a very healthy looking bank balance. The cash is being ploughed into projects to provide more and better fishing for its members, all through a network of hard working volunteers. This diligence has allowed the club to keep subscriptions down to an incredible £25.00 for a year. How's that during the "credit crunch"!

(Above) A truly Wild Brown from the DAA Heale Beat

But it gets better. Do you have a child under 16 who would like to go river fishing? If so that child can do so for one whole pound! Yes that's right £1, 100 pence .... a quid! Which is where it gets slightly worse. Last night the AGM was attended mainly by men over the age of 60 with the exception of one female. Now if you are over 60 please do not be offended by my previous comment, it just struck me that there was very little in the way of youth present at the event! But this is supposed to be a positive post and so I quickly perked up when during the AGM the minimal junior subscription was brought up, along with comments that we should be introducing more youngsters to the joys of river fishing. This was music to my ears, a fishing organisation that realises that we need young anglers to survive.

So I urge you to get out there and take advantage of this crazy deal. Lets face it, even if you fished the DAA waters only once the fee would still be less than the average "monthly" subscription to Sky TV who at the moment are spending most of their time telling us that we have no money. Switch it off, grab your membership card and go fishing .... preferably with your son and/or daughter. You can find out more about the DAA here

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Is the NEW LOOK rod licence really a break through?

I was really interested to learn of the new look rod licence about to hit the streets on 2nd March 2009. Nobody could deny that these new licences do look pretty cool, which maybe an incentive for people to buy them? They could almost become collectors items, unlike the current paper variety.

However, what has all this cost? Matt Crocker, Head of Fisheries at the Environment Agency says “The new-look rod licence will deliver real benefits to anglers. The system is now cheaper and quicker to administer – which allows us to spend more licence money on habitats improvements and fish stocking, while keeping the increase in rod licence fees to a minimum.”

Now this sounds great but what is the introduction of this new licence going to cost, there is no mention of that. Only a further line stating "Rod licence sales generate over £23 million in revenue each year, which the Environment Agency ploughs directly back into the sport."

If that is the case, why in the last 3 years have I not had my licence checked or one of my guests enjoying a guided fly fishing trip or fly fishing course? During those years I have been on the banks of venues across the West Country and indeed the UK alongside up to half a dozen clients ... not one check! This must mean that there is a huge amount of evasion going on and that those who do abide by the law and pay for a licence are picking up the tab for the rest who can't be bothered or actually know that they are very likely to get away with failing to purchase one.

There are no doubt some great advantages to the new licence such as the modern credit card size and material, which makes it completely waterproof. There are also fewer personal details on the licence to reduce the risk of identity fraud should it be lost or stolen. Even so I still wonder if the money required to implicate this change would have been more wisely spent in policing the banks of our water ways rather than providing us all with a "pretty" card that will spend most of its days in the dark!

Its an interesting subject and I would love to know what you think about it so check out the vote on the right hand side of the blog. And to buy your new 2009 licence go here or better still support your local post office who will also be administering licences. Below follows a table of the 2009/10 rates with some small increases. Concessions apply to persons aged from 65 +, persons in receipt of disability living allowance & blue badge parking concession holders, juniors who are 12 years old on the date of buying the licence but have not reached the age of 17.

Rod licence prices for 2009-10 season

Licence Category Non-Migratory Trout, Char, Freshwater Fish and Eels Salmon, Migratory Trout *
Full Annual £26 £70
Concessionary Annual (1) £17.25 £46.50
Junior Annual (2) £5 £5
Eight day Licence £9.50 £22.50
One day Licence £3.50 £7.75

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

New Year, New Gear

After all the snow last week it has been great to finally see some blue sky. A bit of time with the family (making snowmen!) was great but once the white stuff has subsided to slush there is not much fun to be had. Well that is of course unless you go fishing! So Henry Gilbey and I did just that, Henry armed with his camera and me with one of the new Greys X-Flite Rods. This new product from the Greys stable is not hugely powerful, (go with the new Greys Competition Platinum XD if you are after something that is!) but it cannot be denied that the X-Flite is a good looking, well priced 4 piece travel rod that will perform perfectly for those who want a mid to tip blank. And if your budget will stretch to more than the £179.99 for a 9'6" #7 model then I would not hesitate to recommend the awesome Hardy Demon Series. I used these rods almost exclusively in 2008 to take all manner of species including a number of Salmon.


Back to our trip. We headed out to Blakewell Fishery which as usual is looking in tip top condition and I had been hoping to try out a new indicator which has been taking the UK by storm. The Thingamabobber will not be every ones cup of tea, but they are certainly interesting. I first came across them when Turrall started importing them into the UK and then last year when visiting Montana. Anyway to cut a long story short there was no hope of us using the new product or imitative indicator tactics as snow melt and a night time storm had turned the water to chocolate. These are not ideal fishing conditions but Henry and I are there to do a job for Trout Fisherman magazine, so with the help of a blue sky and a very pretty looking Rainbow Trout we bagged our feature. Check out Henry Gilbeys site for some Blakewell pictures and I will report on the thingamabobbers another day.

After a day out I always have to spend a day in the office although I booked some more fishing last night, so have that to look forward to. In fact the office has been buzzing today as I am working on a new project plus we have some great new gear that has just arrived from Loop. I took this firm on and decided to stock their goods as I have just been hearing so much good stuff about them, particularly from Iain Barr who incidentally supplies our flies. Iain will be at our open day on Saturday 2nd May 2009 demonstrating his skills, almost certainly with one of the Loop Multi rods and I for one cannot wait to see what words of wisdom he has for us! For those of you who have not heard of Iain he just so happens to be one of the most successful UK competition fly anglers ever and is also part of the world team competing in Scotland this year so we were even more chuffed to secure his services. I am also looking forward to showing him just how good our Sea Trouting is!

Other great gear now in stock is the all new Fishpond Range, which I am in the process of reviewing for the site (and look out for site updates too) plus some cool William Joseph products such as these great Nippers and the Richard Wheatley Malvern Fly Boxes. I will also have more news here regarding our popular group fly fishing events at amazing prices (there is something for everyone), and don't forget to add that date to your diary ... Saturday 2nd May 2009 - Hart Flyshop Open Day.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Topical Snowman

Even my 4x4 was a little put out by all the snow that fell recently and so taking advantage of the conditions I decided to take a day off with the family. After all this is Chester's first sight of snow! He also had his first ride on a sledge all be it that he seemed to enjoy directing me around the yard and across fields more than anything else! I was bloody knackered after half an hour! I think he has got used to riding his pony and pulling on reigns ....

Hoping for a little rest (well I was!) we turned our attention to making a snowman. It is not the very best snowman ever to be created, granted, but it is topical! Anyway, enough words, here is a picture of our creation. Weather permitting back to more fishy thoughts tomorrow.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Fishing versus Health & Safety

I don't know about you but I have become increasingly perplexed by the term "health & safety". Over the last few years it has become a phrase that seems to be attached to just about everything including of course ... fishing. In fact even some of the courses available for wannabe fly fishing instructors now seem to be glorified "risk assessment tests" rather than actually ensuring that the candidate in question has the ability (and experience) to teach.

H&S also reared its ugly head on South West Lakes venue Wimbleball reservoir, a fishery close to my heart and many others. A couple of years back a plan was put in place to move the boat fishing pontoons from their original easily accessible location in the name of health & safety. The justification was that "the steps to the boat are too steep and someone may have a serious accident". This assumption was based on no accidents in the 20 odd year history of the lake! Whats more the many meetings that followed to determine the final outcome were in fact a monumental waste of time, the decision had been made.

So I was saddened to hear this week that Foremark Reservoir in Derbyshire has fallen foul of the H&S onslaught. Run by highly experienced angler, Phil Dixon, the lake has been put back on the map through Phil's determination and enthusiasm. Even more impressive when you consider that Phil is in his early 20s. Now he is threatened by Severn Trents health & safety officials who are about to close down three miles of bank fishing, effectively destroying 2/3rds of the space available. The reason? The authority are "concerned" that the public will get caught by anglers back casts. Anglers have eyes and so do the public. Many can speak too. Whatever happened to communication and common sense? There was another reason too. "Anglers may trip on the uneven surface of the dam wall". Quite incredible! See here for more on this story and check out Phil Dixons Foremark Reservoir here. Sadly I have never had chance to fish Foremark although Iain Barr who supplies a great deal of our shop flies is always raving about the quality and numbers of fish.

This story reminds me of a session I had on Farmoor last year, fishing from a dam. Was I more worried about slipping in or catching the huge, fin perfect fish on offer? Tricky question! And how about Dave Burton who has a really great blog here, check his session on 4th Jan which combined ice skating with fly fishing. He seems happy enough to me without the interference of good old Health and Safety!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Spotted .... First Salmon of 2009

I seem to spend far too much off my time during the winter months staring at a computer monitor, so when I get chance it is good to nip out for a breather and some much needed vitamin enrichment from the sun. Yesterday was a great time to be out as snow had been falling heavily in the morning giving way to a clear blue sky and a picture postcard scene. See here.

Grabbing the digital camera, I rushed into town to sort a few errands and then stopped at the Anchor Bridge for a breather. Just a glance down the river sends a wave of relaxation over me but it doesn't take long until the need for R&R gives way to trying to find a fish in the cool clear waters of the Exe.

It just so happened I was in the right place, at the right time! Peering over the bridge my Maui Jim's reflected back a sight to warm the heart. There, plain as the day, just behind one of the bridge stanchions in a back current lay a Salmon! It was quite clearly a silver tourist and I spent several minutes excitedly trying to get the best shot I could. The result is a little grainy, but I assure you this is a Salmon.

The fish looked very healthy, supporting itself easily in the strong current and chatting with Salmon guru Andrew Maund we arrived at the conclusion that this is quite possibly an early springer. Admittedly in the image it looks a little dark, but I reckon this was the light conditions. Maybe it is a kelt (a spawned Salmon returning to sea) although it seems a strange position for a fish that will have been through so much. Kelts will normally situate themselves in deep pools, resting as they fall back. So with the Salmon season opening in just 2 weeks lets be positive and say this is a Spring Salmon on its way up river!

Last year certainly witnessed one of the best runs of fish for years and I had a ball through the season catching fish such as this one taken during a filming session. The show is due to air on the channel that I reported on a couple of days ago. You can see that story here and take a look at the channel here. Meanwhile if you would like regular updates to include when my Nick Hart Fly Fishing School episodes will air, plus all the latest fishing reports and a whole lot more ... check out the new subscription feature at the top right hand corner of the page.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The Best Office in the World?

I could get used to this weather. Just look at this for a scene, Exe Valley Fishery in all its glory just outside the front door of my shop. It has to be one of the best office views in the world!

I managed to get out and grab a few pictures of the river too and while I was there happened upon something quite unexpected, but more of that tomorrow. Isn't the Exe looking awesome! The amount of water this winter means it is looking seriously clean.

The weather seems to have cleared now which will be in favour with the various stricken motorists I met this morning. Thankfully my trusty Toyota which I have covered 1000s of km in eats up snow like it just isn't there and I actually quite enjoy driving in these conditions. Unlike the the South Africans who turned up yesterday during a blizzard to fish in shorts (see here), skidding their way into the car park ... but then a Jeep isn't a real 4X4 is it!

I am hoping for some more snow so I can enjoy a bit of "let's off road" and also being busy in the office means I haven't had chance to get out with Chester and the sledge yet. Maybe tomorrow. My mind is definitely on some fun in the snow but a call from Stuart Forsyth (pictured below in an image by Henry Gilbey) who I have guided for many years turned my attention to something a lot warmer. We will be heading out, along with Al Lambert next month to sample Los Roques and I am looking forward to this trip more than any other. The location is stunning and there are plenty of big Bones to be had that feed extraordinarily on the enormous population of minnows in the area.

Bones are cool but so to are the Tarpon and I remember like it was yesterday the moment when I latched into a very big fish, just moments from our accommodation. Out on the pier I was casually stroking back an intermediate while sharing a conversation with James Warbrick Smith (see what he is up to right now, here) when this thing just slammed the fly. Holding on to the rod for dear life (sign up and see here for what happens when you don't!) I managed to get it under control and enjoyed several enormous leaps and some blistering runs until the hook gave way leaving me fishless! Ah, the pain! How many Tarpon is that I have now jumped but not landed!!!?? Such great memories, its what fishing is all about. Roll on March ....

Monday, 2 February 2009

Online Fishing TV

Before I give you news about the exciting new venture which is, let me tell you this. I just looked out of my shop window and a fish turned on the surface of one of the lakes. "Nothing surprising about that" I hear you say "after all your shop is situated on Exe Valley Fishery, which is famous for the quantities of hard fighting fish stocked". This is true of course, but .... its snowing! Nobody obviously told the fish or the 3 South Africans on holiday from London who turned up to fish today, wearing shorts! Yes, honestly, wearing shorts! I had to rub my eyes in disbelief! And they caught ....

Meanwhile as London grinds to a halt (why does the weather affect us Brits so bad!) Henry Gilbey and James WS are out in Belize already tangling with some tropical saltwater torpedoes. Alright for some, although next month it is my turn as I head off to Los Roques hosting a trip for a great company called Aardvark McLeod. Check out just how good Los Roques (Venezuala) is here and if you are yearning to try it for yourself it maybe worth getting in touch as we can
accommodate one or two more rods. Anyway, back to my post.

So what is this all about then?

Launched in December 2008 it is an Internet channel devoted to fishing programmes. Many of the shows are brand new and the channel is promising that new shows will be added every month, in fact every week.

So what's the catch?

That depends how you look at it. Some would say it is a great catch as now it is possible to watch fishing on demand. I have seen the shows wired through a wide screen tv and it means you literally have a fishing channel at your disposal. There are also programmes devoted to all aspects of angling, not just the fly with big names such as Henry Gilbey, John Wilson and Kevin Green featured online.

OK so I can watch fishing on demand .. but what is the catch!

Unlike many forms of video online, this is not a free to view channel. But then this is quite a step up from You Tube. We are talking full length programmes available to be played over and over again. Remember the mission statement .... new programmes will arrive all the time, unlike satellite channels that now seem to loop back to back repeats, week in, week out, these days.

So if it is not free, how much is it?

Surprisingly little. The subscription is just £4.95 per month and the initial sign up need only be for 6 months. I make that less than £30 which based on the fact that many people are giving up smoking and various other vices during these challenging times is not a great deal to pay out for a little piscatorial pleasure beamed to your desktop. Is it? Comments and thoughts on this welcomed.

And why am I so keen on the idea?

Truthfully the more people who sign up to this channel the better, because then it can go from strength to strength. I have yet to meet many anglers who don't like a bit of armchair angling, so why not beam it to your PC? Just think, no more fighting with the kids over Bob the Builder or members of the family hooked on soap operas!

Is that the only reason?

Er no. Alongside established director Shaun Fenton of Diesel Films (who is responsible for many of Matt Hayes and Henry Gilbeys programmes) I agreed to put together a series of 5 episodes based around fly fishing for varied species in varied circumstances. The programmes were designed to provide tuition with a bit of entertainment thrown in, which is not hard for me as we all know how good I am at falling over, juggling fish and wading too deep ... and waffling. See how many "deadlys", "tidies", "absolutelys", "fantastics" and "awesomes" you can spot!

Hang on Nick, your jumping the gun, I haven't signed up yet!

And I don't blame you. After all the idea of TV via the broadband connection is very new. But as a regular user of things like the BBC iPlayer I know it is catching on and that it is no doubt the future. Therefore I decided that it would be cool to get involved in such a project.


If you are still not convinced than have a look at my recently uploaded Trout Stream Trailer ... which is FREE! It shows just one of the many tips I provide in this action packed show as we cruise up a section of the River Exe that many of you will know well. There are also programmes available on the channel about small stillwater and reservoir fishing. When I get chance I will add more details here about each programme with a link.

But for the moment when you have 5, check out the trailer and see what you think. If you like it .... awesome, but if you think its pants ... let me know! I have genuinely tried to provide some fun informative viewing and I hope that if you decide to watch, that you find this to be the case, because I certainly enjoyed working on the shows.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Where did January go?

Well there goes the first month of 2009! If I said I have been trying to get to the blog for the last 31 days, you probably wouldn't believe me, but it is true! But I haven't been sat on my hands enjoying the close season, far from it, in fact at this time of year I find my days are filled with things to do.

For example Henry Gilbey (who is currently in Belize) and I have been out and about on a regular basis collecting images for Trout Fisherman magazine. 2009 will see a new series of features for this top Trout monthly which will start to appear around issue 390, out at the beginning of April.

I have seen a record number of people attend fly fishing courses ... during January! Yes, it has been cold! Check the image below. At one point the lake was rock solid for 10 days! But some anglers braved the elements whenever enough water had thawed to allow them to cast a line. During my teaching sessions we had several occasions when the rings froze but wrapped up warm we braved the elements and it was good to get some fresh air.

Many of our customers are also readying themselves for the new season, so the phones have been kept busy and the broadband connection as new lines are spooled, leaders packed and flies lovingly stocked. Preparation is half the fun of looking forward to the new season! But, for me the season never ends and so when possible I have been out after Pike. The canals have been tough at times due to cold, coloured and even frozen water but there are still fish to be caught. Never tried Pike on the fly? Well look out for news here soon about courses I will be running throughout 2009 encompassing many elements of fly fishing including Pike.

The club is growing too and the popularity of our competitions. Just before the new year we were oversubscribed for our Christmas Open match which was won by Doug Jefferies (above) with a 4 fish bag weighing over 19lbs! Dates are already in the diary for the 2009 comps and I will publish these soon here on the blog and also look out in your inbox for a news update any day.

Many of you have been asking about my new Nick Hart Fly Fishing school series that I filmed last year. This is now available and I will post details regarding how you can get to see the shows tomorrow. So if you have been suffering the close season blues keep checking back as now the inbox is cleared I will be back to regular posting ... although forgive me if I wet a line too! There is also a new subscription service now installed at the top of the page to make it even easier to follow the blog.