Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The Fly Fishing Jobsworth - Dress Code - Tweed

I am all for tradition. Its our roots after all. Nostalgia and all that. But today I came across the worst sort of tradition. The encounter was with a couple of individuals that (amongst many words a little strong for this blog) I could only come to refer to as a miserablists. I know miserablist is not a word in the dictionary, but it should be, there are too many miserablists around these days.

The first miserablist in question had arrived upon the other bank of the stretch of river we were fishing, obviously hoping to have a cast. But, before we could exchange pleasantries the gentlemen then disappeared inside his fishing hut, reappeared momentarily and then he was gone again. I think he was hiding.

The calm before the storm

Meanwhile a guest who I have been guiding for many years was grinding out cast after cast, hoping for a last minute Salmon. I use the word "hope" because we should always really be "expecting" a fish, but in the current low water, hope is nearer to the truth. Meanwhile my other guest (the daughter of the Salmon angler) was flicking a nice cast upstream, around 50 yards down the pool. The fishing was slow, although the consistent aerobatics of several Salmon waiting for some fresh water maintained our enthusiasm. Everything was peaceful although we were all wondering what the stranger hidden in the hut was up to. We did not need to wait long to find out.

There was a commotion and a man burst from the woods. The angler in hiding appeared and exchanged a few words with the man, there was some general nodding (in our direction) and then the man from the woods set off towards us. Clad from head to toe in Tweed, sporting a tie and a flat cap we could tell from his body language that he was not about to enquire if we were having any success.

No good afternoon either. Instead there followed a barrage of "rules" and "in all the 70 years that I have been fishing", topped off with "what do you expect, your wearing a baseball cap and shades!?" In essence we were made to feel that somehow we were not quite adequate. I guess that Tweed blokes plummy accent and the arrival of an interpreter in the form of a lady with an equally plummy accent did not help. Over his bellowing I doubt he could hear anything which his interpreter or I were saying. Or perhaps he just didn't want to hear. He was after all a miserablist himself. My guests found it highly amusing and we dined out on it for the remainder of the afternoon. The fishing being slow it did make for some excitement.

But this encounter left a sour taste in my mouth, not only because I pay good money to lease the beat but more importantly because there is no room for this kind of behaviour. It does fly fishing no favours. I am not saying for one moment that those who wear Tweed all behave in such an ill mannered or ill tempered way and of course I understand that the sport that I make my living is steeped in tradition. However the kind of jobsworth I had the displeasure of meeting this afternoon personifies an element of fly fishing tradition that I hope disappears sooner rather than later.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Crossing the borders of Fly Fishing

When I first started out with this blog I frequently posted pictures of our guests with their catches, from the lake here at Exe Valley. One such angler is Lester Beckett seen here with his first ever Rainbow Trout taken on a fly. A Buzzer of course! However as the shop has become busier and busier, my chances to size pictures in photoshop and load them up here have reduced drastically. However Lester got me thinking because although he has only just cast a fly in anger for the first time yesterday he was already keen to see what opportunities lay before him, other than stillwater Trout. This is a recurring theme that I have noticed more and more during the last couple of years as the diversity of fly fishing continues to expand.

Lester comes from Zimbabwe and so the air was soon filled with talk concerning the possibility of Tiger fish on fly. However he would have to try that the next time he visits, as Lester currently resides in the UK. I therefore suggested that Pike or maybe even Zander gave the best opportunity of something toothy to target. But to tackle these fish requires some hefty gear and plenty of line speed so my advice was to practice hard and build a seriously good set of foundation casts before moving into the realms of double haul and other advanced techniques required for distance casts with large flies. It is great to have a goal but I have witnessed many fly anglers attempting to run before they can walk which results in nothing more than frustration and sometimes anger. Whats the point in that, fishing is after all supposed to be fun?

However, there are plenty of fish that Lester can tackle before he becomes a familiar face on his local canal. One such fish is the Grayling. In just a couple of weeks hordes of fly fishers will head to their favourite haunts in search of this beautiful species which appear frequently in our guests catches. See here for some recent Grayling captures. I have several dates booked to guide the species but I have to say more than any other this is a fish that I try to fish for myself as regularly as possible, the winter season providing me with a little extra time to enjoy a few days. So far I am looking forward to a weekend on the Coln and some days on the Itchen & Test.

I look forward to those days but at present all eyes are on the Salmon. I have guests here this week to fish for them and although the water is now low on the Exe, we have had a release of water from Wimbleball Lake that has definitely stirred the fish up. And if the Exe does not produce then I also have the Mole and the Torridge which of course will have a few straggler Sea Trout running them too. The Exe and The Torridge both benefit from season extensions so if we get some rain then good sport can be had as I found out last season, capturing this fish just the before the extension expired.

A winter season enjoying some Grayling (and of course the pike) is an exciting prospect in itself but I must admit that my latest obsession comes in the form of 4 wheels. As many of you who have spent time fishing with me over the years will know I am more than just a little bit of a petrol head. My own weakness being VWs and in particular the Corrado. After 6 years of waiting the right one finally turned up in the form of this Black VR6, finished in Black leather. I came across the car quite by chance while looking for a new truck and still pinch myself regarding how lucky I have been.

It turns out the car had previously belonged to an enthusiast who had spent thousands adding a Quaife differential (could be good for a turbo then) and a quick shift in the process, not to mention a Magnex Exhaust, Koni Filters, GMax suspension kit (this thing rides low!) and all finished off with diamond cut Speedline rims. Putting damn near 3 litres of engine in a coupe like this equals serious fun, close to 200 bhp when standard. But of course, I won't be able to leave it at that.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Fly Fishing for Bass - An enquiry from abroad

This morning I had an interesting enquiry from Dimitris Adamopoulos who is keen to target Saltwater species such as Bass on fly but also Barracuda. Here is what he had to say:

Nick, I just checked your blog and I saw that you are a fly fishing guide so i just wanted to ask you about the setup which would me the best for me. As you see in the attachment I will fly fish in the sea for sea bass and small barracudas. Could you tell me about what backing, lines (#8) , leaders and tippets are the most appropriate for those setups? The flies I am going to use is on 2 and 2/0 hooks. Should I use sinking lines or sink tip ones? Thanks for your help! Best Regards, Dimitris Adamopoulos

And he even included a diagram!

Dimitris has been discussing the option of a Greys X Flite, an OK rod but in my opinion for the kind of cash a Greys Platinum XD Saltwater would set him back it is well worth the little extra. I have used this model all over the world and have nothing but praise for it. Chasing up the rear as a budget saltwater fly rod is the Vision GT Saltwater Dimitris is also keen on the Lamson Litespeed, a reel that I have in my own collection and a product that can be relied upon, the drag systems just do not fail or lose their bite. However Litespeeds don't come cheap so other options would include the very popular Lamson Konic or the sexy Loop Multi. In all honesty though most of the smaller Bass and even Cuda don't merit a top notch drag. In which case a Vision Koma is hard to beat. As with any gear you use in the salt wash it well in fresh water after every session and keep it greased. One word of warning, don't use a shower head to rinse down. I have learned the hard way that this actually forces salt into the mechanisms.

OK so that's the main gear but we now need to take a look at fly lines. This is a huge subject and one which I could tackle I guess, blog post by blog post, but lets try and be brief now. If fishing in hot climates/warm water conditions, a fly line with a coating designed to tackle such conditions is required. Otherwise go for the cool water products, which means that even standard Trout lines will suffice. Ensure lines match the rod and select a weight forward profile or similar (rocket taper, triangle taper etc) although shooting heads are also worth a look.

Dimitris also enquires about what density of fly line he should use. Well, like all fishing this really depends on species, weather conditions etc. But as a general rule a floating line will be great for Bass, especially when fish can be seen busting at the surface (look for gull activity). Poppers are an ideal artificial to use with a floating line to cause a disturbance although I also like to fish this pattern fast on an Intermediate. They splutter, then dive in a very enticing fashion, spewing bubbles as they go. Bass and Cuda are great fun but Mackeral also offer the prospect of exciting sport and maybe even some small Tuna such as Bonito. Tackle these with a fast sinker, the Depth Finder 500 series by Airflo is spot on. On the subject of backing, 20lb to 30lb is fine and try to get 150 yards to 200 yards on the spool, just in case something very big is encountered. You never know what might take hold in the salt ... even a Great White Shark perhaps, see here!!!

The leader used to catch Bass will be the same as for Cuda, although Cudas are toothy predators that will need the addition of a wire trace to save bite offs. There are a ton of great products out there although I am particularly keen on the Dyneema cored Armour Leader by Pro Leader. This stuff is just so easy to knot. Double grinner 12" of this on to an 8' length of fluorocarbon and go fishing! Not on our website at present but we do stock it here at the shop. Also great for Pike.

Quite by chance I am off to Crete soon with the family and will definitely be sneaking out a rod so perhaps I maybe hooking a few Greek saltwater species of my own!

Monday, 21 September 2009

New Wychwood Competition Fly Box

For the last year or so I have been using the great range of Wychwood Vuefinder fly boxes and many of my guests have been converted too. These brilliant products come with a range of inserts (although the slot foam is my own favourite), tough clips and a waterproof seal.

The Vuefinder is finished off with a see through lid which gives the box its name. Of course it is great to be able to look through at all that lovely fluff but far more practical is the ability to pick the deadly pattern you need, prior to opening. Very handy in the rain.

During the last year I have been using the the two sizes available for both stillwater and river fishing and have nothing but praise for them. The boxes are tough, they float (which is handy because I drop my frequently!) and fit easily into my fly pack. See here for the original Vuefinders.

But, now there is an all new addition to the range, a Big Daddy of a Vuefinder. This is the Wychwood Competition box that will store up to 1000 flies!

Think of the enjoyable evenings ahead spent by the fire stocking up your mother ship box, ready for the new season. And if your a competition angler there is an ingenious design element that has been incorporated into the reliable locking clip. A competition hook & fly gauge. In a word .... outstanding!

If you would like to be one of the first to get your hands on one of these brilliant boxes that retail for just £29.99, and take advantage of our 10% off launch deal, please see here Wychwood Competition Box

Writing this at 7.45pm and its almost dark outside, can't believe it! Oh well, lets hope we get a late spate and a few Salmon to ease the pain of the long winters nights. Although Eumer tube has me looking forward very much to a rekindled desire for fly tying, especially once our house is extended and at last I will have my own fishing den again. Cool.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Autumn Fly Fishing Tactics

Brrrr ... its cold for the time of year. Fleeces at the ready, the unseasonable cold snap does not mean we have to forget the fishing! However, it maybe that the fish are not looking up so why try this? Then they (or we) get the best of both worlds.

Some people love the New Zealand dropper, others feel that it gives an angler too much of an advantage. My own opinion is that it presents a fly very realistically and that is what fly fishing is all about! This illustration is just one of many others produced for me by Andy Steer, a very talented illustrator based in the Netherlands. Very soon I will post news here of the 2nd edition of my book which is about to be finalised with the printers and contains many more of Andy's brilliant illustrations. The guy can fish too ... check this Chum Salmon.

I can't mention my book without mentioning Henry Gilbey. Henry supplied all the photographs and has just returned from an outrageous trip to Mongolia! Find out more here. On that note Henry travelled with Aardvark McLeod. These people are International Fishing Specialists and I have been privileged to host a couple of trips on their behalf. In 2010 I am heading up another trip for them to Los Roques. See how our last trip went here and if you would like more details drop me a line with your address and we will mail out both an itinerary and a brochure.

Have a great weekend ... try the New Zealand dropper!

Monday, 14 September 2009

More Big Grayling

What a glorious weekend! Finally the sun has been shining, the skies were blue and best of all the fish were really switched on. My Saturday rod was Brian Frost who has been fly fishing for well over 20 years, but always on still waters. So his son decided to do something about this and purchased a Guided Fly Fishing session on a river.

We spent a half hour tuning up casting on the side of the lake, mainly discussing the requirement for a smooth stop. Brian had got used to forcing the rod when making his final presentation. But this experienced angler learned fast and soon we were stepping out on to the River Exe.

The day could not have gone better. Flies were hatching, the Trout were popping and best of all very willing to take a well presented artificial. We fished a short morning session, breaking for an early lunch as I am finding the fish are really switching on at about 1.00pm to 3.30pm, then things virtually switch off. The cooling autumnal breeze makes sure of that.

Brian's best fish of the day is shown here, another stunning Exe Grayling. Of course plenty of Wild Browns showed too although the only mishap of the day was a rather large specimen that took Brian by surprise, powered downstream and slipped the hook. The Grayling pictured was interesting. Just 20 minutes previously we had picked up another, smaller fish. After fishing for it over a 20 minute period we witnessed it move to a couple of small dry patterns but not take them. We tried a nymph or two, no good. Then back to the midge and once again it looked. So I then decided that we should throw it a real gob full and asked Brian to cast a Stimulator at it. First chuck, up it came and woofed it! This was Brian's first Grayling on his first ever river session so you can imagine his delight. Moving to the next pool we spotted the Grayling pictured skulking on the bottom. Dries had no effect, but an X Factor nymph was snapped up on the first presentation. The point here; it pays to be adaptable. Just because one method worked on a fish, does not mean it will on another and this is particularly the case when river fishing.

I am also enjoying the fact that this year we have broken away from the Klinkhammer and started alternating patterns, the Balloon Caddis and Stimlator have become particular favourites. The X Factor nymph is also going to feature regularly in catches during the winter Grayling season.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Curing Wrist Break when Casting - Movie 2

Yesterday I posted a short movie I shot on Thursday with Jon McBride. This showed a classic case of "wrist break". If you missed the video check it our here.

Now wrist break is a serious problem for the wannabe fly fisher, so it was down to me to work with Jon and provide him with ways of beating this affliction, resulting in high back casts, better line control and nice tight loops.

The movie above was shot early on during session 2 and in comparison from the previous morning Jon's wrist is now far more controlled. Yes, a little more speed is required on the back cast and if anything a fraction more wrist movement. However overall this is a vast improvement. Note the left hand is close to the right and the line is starting to shoot. Perhaps the key point here is the relation of the thumb to the amount of wrist break. Check out the previous movie and you will note that Jon's thumb is "cocked", sending the tip low. However by now watching for his thumb within his peripheral vision while casting, Jon is able to stop the thumbnail reasonably upright which helps to cure wrist break. Why? Well nobody has so far been able to show me how it is possible to cock the thumb back, without bending the wrist. Therefore, an upright thumb pretty much means a firm, controlled wrist. It is not a cure all, but it will help and is one hell of a lot better than strapping the wrist which will impede movement. If you want to learn more about this or to book tuition aimed at curing casting faults or furthering your skills please see my fly casting school website here.

Casting is cool and I love it, but lets face it the whole idea is to chuck out a line and wait for it to go tight! So, once Jon was tuned up we strung up a leader and enjoyed some exciting action, the Exe Valley Trout only too happy to reward Jon's efforts!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Curing Wrist Break when Casting - Movie 1

The dreaded wrist break, a problem that anyone who has picked up a fly rod for the first time will know all about! I spend much of my time working with anglers to solve this problem and over the last couple of days it has been the turn of Jon McBride from North Devon. Jon originally received his fly fishing gift voucher in 2005 but after an argument with a quad bike and some time spent in the presence of a Harley street doctor, it has taken until 2009 to make his visit. Now that he is fit and well, would I be able to cure his casting?

Here is a movie from the first morning showing a classic case of wrist break. The butt of the rod is well away from the forearm and check out the angle of the rod, this would create a low back cast.

Jon is a right handed caster, so also note the left hand dropping to one side, creating a great deal of slack during the cast.

Finally there is a lack of acceleration into the back cast and no overall fluidity.

Look out for movie 2 tomorrow when we will take a look at Jon's progress after tuition. Right I am heading to the river, big blue skies and sun! Keep up to date on Twitter.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Fish on the TV and at the Cinema

Anyone who has read Charles Clovers book "The End of the Line" will know that our oceans are being plundered. Mr Clover paints a very depressing (although well researched) picture that will raise the hairs on the back of most anglers necks. In fact most peoples necks who care about the environment and its fishy inhabitants.

So last night I tuned into Hugh Fearnley Whittingstalls new programme, River Cottage: Gone Fishing, in the hope that finally a TV chef has had the good sense to cook fish that many of us would not even give a second sniff. And what a brilliant programme it was! Hugh and well known journalist Nick Fisher did not let us down as they took to the high seas in search of sustainable fish and won. On the menu were Pouting, Garfish, Mullet, Gurnards and even Launce, although this latter species did not score highly with the presenters. The others however met with the usual round of oohs and ahhs as Hugh presented them alongside some simple recipes that had me conjuring up ways that I could get away and catch a few for myself to try!

Charles Clover notes in his book that many TV chefs use fish that is currently unsustainable based on modern trawler fishing methods. It seems that this has now been addressed. While I marvel at Jamies Olivers influence on the UKs eating habits and love Gordon Ramseys outbursts, I have to say that right now HFW gets my vote. You can find out more about the programme here.

Staying with the screen I am pleased to announce a new concept in fly fishing entertainment that is about to hit the UK. That is a whole 2 hours of unadulterated fish porn on a cinema screen near you! There are tickets available for shows in London, Reading, Manchester, Edinburgh and Exeter. If any of you are interested I thought it maybe nice to put together our own crew of fish-porners, head to the show and maybe grab a beer afterwards? See here for more information and booking. If your male, how can your wife or girlfriend refuse you looking at 2 fins? And if you are not already a mad keen fisher lady, why not join the other half and see just why they are so obsessed by this fly fishing lark?!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Success on a Guided Salmon Session

Over the weekend I spent a very enjoyable couple of days fishing with Tim Watson and Tony Kaye. The original plan was to go after Bass, but the fish are just not around right now. The weather is very much to blame but also I like to head to marks where 6" school Bass don't keep impaling themselves on large hooks, even if they are de-barbed. A weight 8 rod seems crazy in such circumstances but the wind condition will often dictate that it must be used. So instead of the Saltwater we turned our attention to the River Exe.

A spate just a few days before had curtailed any ideas of a Salmon for Hugh Caslake and Martin Baum who instead went after Wild Brown Trout on Wednesday as the river began to rise. See here and many thanks Hugh for your kind words received by email "Cheers for a wonderful three days - the Exe was as good as ever and the Barle, which is amazingly beautiful seems to hold a rising fish every few feet. Mart and I both lost count of the fish we caught which can't be bad can it! Hugh.

But Tim and Tony were about spot on for the Salmon. The river was up, perhaps a little clear but from the first cast I was confident that we would encounter fish and we did. Tim caught this Grilse at about 2pm in the afternoon. Just a small specimen of perhaps 6lbs and no more, plus it was a red Cock fish, but non the less a Salmon which got the adrenalin flowing. The fish was of course safely released.

The day was all the more sweet for Tim as he has had a 100% success rate on this beat, taking another Salmon back in 2007 which was in fact my very first blog posting. See here for that story. After this initial excitement the Salmon fishing died a little and only a few reports of fish came in. This seems to be changing today (Monday 7th Sept 09) and I hope that maybe a few more fresh fish may turn up. I have to say that the pulling power of Cone Head Tubes (responsible for the capture of Tim's fish) is amazing and tomorrow will give a few a swim myself as I know that the Exe just a few minutes away has produced at least 2 fish during today. You can keep up with my daily River Exe reports here

We all love to see fish return safely to their home and especially when the migratory fish in question is about to help produce further sport for the future. Here Tim's Grilse makes its way back to the depths of Bend Pool.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Mystery River

Take a look at this river and you could be forgiven for thinking that it is located in the highlands of Scotland. In fact this location is set within the Exmoor National Park and I feel privileged to be able to guide there. Yesterday it battered with rain and rivers for miles around were blown but this beautiful jewel in the Exmoor countryside did not disappoint.

Guiding Hugh and Martin who were enjoying a 3 day session is always awesome fun .... despite lashings of rain and a howling wind! The beauty of fly fishing is that it takes us to some amazing places and while some need a plane ride I still never fail to be amazed by the quantity and quality of our fishing here in the West Country.

The rivers are dropping back now after the rain and pretty soon I would expect that the Salmon reports will start pouring in. Indeed just yesterday a couple of fish were taken on the Barle near Tarr Steps. Check out the cameras here and my new daily River Exe report for up to the minute information. And there is also a chance to catch up with my ramblings on Hartflyfishing at Twitter.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Fun in the Rain

Now I promise this won't be my only blog post of September and hey, I did do one just a few days ago anyway .... see here. I have also got into this twittering lark, check this. Nick Hart Fly Fishing on Twitter

Anyway what a great day we had yesterday! Hugh Caslake who has been progressing as a fly angler for several years made his annual pilgrimage to our shores. Yesterday he stepped out on his favoured River Exe with me and despite the inclement weather heading towards us a few tactical changes resulted in a very successful session. After a bunch of the usual 8" Wild Browns this lovely plump Brown in prime condition snaffled a tiny dry.

Next up was a Grayling. These fish are one of my favourite of all time and I just love the fact that we can get guests into them on a frequent basis. Hugh went on to take another couple of fish of this kind of standard. Again the successful method was a tiny dry. At this time of year going smaller and dropping leader diameter can be the difference between fish, or no fish. Up leader length too. 14' plus is not too much. The successful dry in question is a tiny Klinkhammer that I asked Iain Barr to have tied for us, with a subtle pearl rib and hackle that supports the fly perfectly, this fly has accounted for a great deal of fish including this specimen Grayling. Balloon Caddis are also getting a pasting.

Hugh is visiting with Martin who has been after a Wild Brown Trout for a while now but never managed to land one. We set to work and after a little bit of casting tuition the rhythm was found and I was confident that pretty soon we would be into fish. The first one hooked jumped 3' clear of the water and threw the hook but the 2nd was kept under control and netted. That fish opened the floodgates for Martin who had a go on his own and took more Brown Trout and a Grayling which judging by his excitement was quite a fish. The camera was not there for that one but lets see what the next few days bring. The rivers are going to be out due to the heavy rainfall but we are blessed here with all manner of fishing opportunities so finding something to do won't be a problem.

Check out this rain. Hugh was even pulling fish in these conditions although a switch to the nymph was required. Not the most pleasant of weather but decent waterproofs keep the rain at bay and while I would prefer to have been guiding in short sleeves my thoughts did wander towards the chance of a Salmon. Fish are reportedly queuing up at the estuary and there is every chance of a bumper end to the season. On that note we had better head to the waters edge.