Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Fly Fishing versus THE FLU!

Allowing Parisian outfit Accent Mix by Vmix FM to pump electronica through my eardrums (at quite a high volume) is probably not the best cure for the Flu. But its more enjoyable than Nurofen. So while melodic tunes course through the office what else can I do to help cure this quite pointless illness?

A trip to the cinema last night to enjoy the Fly Fishing Film Festival may have helped, but its that time of year when the phone rings constantly and the web orders spike as gifts are stockpiled for more than a few lucky anglers. So work had to come first and unfortunately the same has to go for the Itchen trip I had been invited to attend later this week. Two kicks in the butt and then my missus gives me flu, thanks sweetheart!

Nick who organised the film festival event playing out of the Exeter Vue Cinema on 24/11/09 was on the phone earlier today I understand (I was blowing my nose at the time!) and I am sure the evening was a massive success. This review regarding the London showing earlier in the year by Charles Rangeley-Wilson certainly seems very favourable.

A quick break to tap out a blog is definitely helping my flu head and I always enjoy a bit of Twitter in between booking in courses or chatting about the latest in fishing tackle. My new iPhone is here to help with that (how did I live without the calender???) but right now I don't really want to go near the touch screen. I doubt you need the gory details! So gadgets are out too ... (is the iPhone guaranteed against snot!?)

So when I am feeling like life has just given me a kick in the arse there is no better thing to do than think about a particular fishing day or perhaps a fish? So right now I am thinking about this ....

Do reservoir Rainbows get much better? This fish taken on Farmoor last year was just one of an epic haul that James Warbrick-Smith and I enjoyed. I am feeling better already as I begin plotting a new Farmoor trip to make up for the Itchen, the need for overtime and my snotty iPhone!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Pretty Fly Weekend

There is a huge amount going for fishing in general these days and blogs, social networks and forums are all doing their bit to help. I rarely if ever post on forums but now and again I stumble across a thread that is running close to all out war as yet another piscatorial warrior has their say.

I guess that the web allows for this and fair enough, freedom of speech is important. However, I can't help but think that plenty of these unseen wannabe journalists seem to be forgetting that the subject they are discussing is supposed to be .... FUN. Take this weekend for example, to celebrate my 35th birthday I headed off with my better half in the Rado. That was fun, until we hit the M5 and one of the worst rain storms for years hit the South West. But undeterred we continued towards our destination, The Bull Hotel in Fairford, Gloucester.

Upon arrival we met up with a great bunch of people who had also descended on the hotel in pursuit of fun. This was soon forthcoming in the form of many pints of bitter, which was not only fun but helped me to forget the previous few hours dodging articulated lorries, excess surface water and a number of collisions! Sat in the toasty warm lounge laughter ensued as we prepared ourselves for a couple of days on the River Coln. The forecasts were not looking good but it is amazing what a few pints does for the confidence!

We awoke to blue skies and sun, the 3B bitter had worked! Full English down and it was off to the river. This is where the fun really began as we realised that our general attire would probably not go down well with the type of traditional angler who seems to think fishing is about "the proper way to do things" rather than "fun". Take a look.

Above: Fly fishing newbie Loz, fast becoming fly fishing junkie. Baseball cap, shades, a pair of fake breasts and rod over the shoulder ... on a chalkstream ... in England? My god, what next, a nymph on the end of the leader?

Loz again, striking a pose. Could we see NDubz out on the bank soon?

Above: Dave demonstrates how to hold the rod when the fish needs two hands.

Paul and the hip flask, possibly the most traditional part of the day .... and a lot of fun. Note the current rod over the shoulder look.

I am a fan of indicator fishing, in fact I love it. If its good enough for the guides in Montana than its good enough for me. Here I am covertly carrying Strike Out yarn. Possibly the look of 2010?

And if that doesn't work, hide it under a Buff.

Above: In between the childish giggling and gangsta fly fishing imagery we did find some time to wet a line. And it was damn tough! The water was coloured due to heavy rainfall and at times we were lashed by gales, but we stuck in a full day session and some Grayling did succumb. Here is the best fish of the trip to Daves rod. A very special specimen as it is his first ever Grayling.

It had been a wet, fairly unproductive weekend of fly fishing. In fact I reckon I have caught more Grayling in 5 minutes on a Southern Chalkstream than I did during the entire weekend. But the challenging conditions made it all the more rewarding and the thought of a warm fire and a decent pint waiting for us back at the hotel provided yet more inspiration. Overall though it cemented in my mind that fishing is what we make of it and above all, it must be fun. Thanks guys for a great weekend!

Monday, 9 November 2009

New Generation Fly Fishers

Just recently I read somewhere, in a fishing magazine, that there are 3 types of British fly anglers. The small water fly fishers, who apparently have plenty of money and are usually over 60. Then there are the reservoir anglers ... who are reported to be feeling the full effect of the financial crisis! Really, whys that then? The final group identified are those who compete in competitions. It was suggested that this sector formulate a lot of the new techniques that appear on the scene. I agree in part with the latter statement. As for the rest of it .... rubbish!

So what qualifies me to make this statement. Well, I count myself incredibly fortunate to rub shoulders with anglers from all walks of life on a day to day basis and for what its worth here is how I see the scene today.

1) There is a whole new generation of fly angler out there emerging. There is no doubt about it. I see them on courses, we see them at the fishery and look at websites like this. Young people getting off on fly fishing.

Above: The right side of 30 years old, James Groombridge loves fly fishing. Pictured here with a Grayling he extracted from the Exe this summer.

2) I think small stillwaters are great. A brilliant training ground, a kind of fly fishing equivalent of the golfers driving range, but let us face facts, this is scratching the surface of what may lay ahead. Within hours of learning to cast, many of my guests are quizzing me on Wild Trout Rivers, Bass, Pike and even the Tropics. We live in a world of information and times have changed. Marketing has created a fly fishing lifestyle that many wish to plug into and sorry, there is no offence intended here, but they are not all OAPs!

Above: If you are fed up with Trout then cast your fly at a Pike, or maybe a Mullet, or a Grayling, or a Bass, or a Chub, or a .... you get the picture!

3) Opinions are changing. We live in a far more liberal society these days and this even effects fly fishing. Gone are the days of Tweed. The famous material and those who fished in it (poor souls!) will never be forgotten as an important part of our history but nowadays fly anglers have learned that light breathable fabrics are far superior while the appearance of baseball caps, shades and even the odd hoody (god forbid!) has given fly fishing a whole new image.

Above: This is Fly has turned the perception of fly fishing on its head. Look really hard, and you will even find a full on rap tune and video dedicated to fishing (with some skate boarding mixed in for good measure) within its many varied and imaginative pages. Click here to see that video, pick Issue 5, page 37.

4) Tactics have changed too. Some may not like indicators. Simple, don't use them. Others hate Blobs or even fast sinking lines. Fine, don't use those either. But surely we should not try to put a stop to this progress? After all if the thought of watching what is effectively a float with a fly suspended below attracts a young kid with a coarse fishing background into fly fishing should we not rejoice? And why the barriers anyway? Increasingly I speak with anglers who are into all manner of fishing disciplines which has got to be good for the image of the sport as a whole.

Above: Love or hate them, indicators are here to stay. You can buy yours here

5) There is more great value fishing available than ever before. The Dulverton Angling Association is a great example and if Wild Trout don't do it for you then how about an adventurous day chasing Pike, the permits are often ridiculously cheap. But lets hark back to the small stillwaters too. At this time of year these venues offer some great sport, often located not far from our homes or place of work. Here at Exe Valley our high rate ticket is £25 for 5 fish. £5 per fish and a great day out! What was once perceived as an elitist sport for the rich has now become very affordable.

Above: Iain Barr is in his 30s. He goes fly fishing and has got quite good at it, becoming World Champion in 2009. Here he is pictured with his personal best Rainbow Trout weighing in at 14lb 9oz Can you think of a better way to part with twenty five quid?

I could go on but to sum up with a brand new year just around the corner I for one am very excited at the great atmosphere I feel around fishing in general right now .... even though I am 35 later this week! Best of all, I have a whole weekend of fly fishing to look forward to, a trip up the M5 in the Rado and Hardy Demons have just gone 4 piece.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

River Anton Grayling

This is a busy time of year as we ready the shop for Christmas and these days the fishery also sees an influx of anglers who have learned that the cooler months often offer the best sport. Traditionally this is also a period when guests book in to start a winter course of casting, pepping up their game in readiness for the new season. And of course there are also Grayling.

Just last week I was out with Paul, Phil and Damian who enjoyed there first ever Grayling day on a chalkstream. The Anton was the venue of choice and here are a few memories from the session.

Paul's first ever chalkstream Grayling. The smile says it all!

Having settled Paul and Damian into the swing of things I set off up river to find Phil. When I found him he reported 6 fish to his rod already! We found a pod of Grayling together and I began working on them with Phil, watching his leader for any signs of movement. This was a technique that Phil had not used before but he soon mastered it and extracted several more fish including this pretty specimen above. And just look at the vegetation all around. This is a very well kept chalkstream but has the feeling of being wild, in many ways preferable to over manicured beats. Phil also hooked a sizable out of season Brown which snatched the fly away from our intended Grayling, tore all around the pool, jumped and spat the hook! Great sport and great weather, shirt sleeves in October ... can't be bad!

The Anton
- well kept, not over manicured and stuffed with Grayling!

What a lunch! Paul turned up with an incredible spread consisting of Hunters Sandwiches, Pasties and a stunning Bakewell Tart. All topped of with some decent Ale! The Anton is home to several fishing huts that proved to be the ideal venue for this bank side banquet.

Team Grayling. Waders on, pasties and beer in hand ... rods at the ready and a whole afternoon of River Anton Grayling to enjoy. Does life get much better?

Post lunch bonanza. Phil adds to his tally as the ladies of the stream continue to find his charm irresistible!

Damian with his best fish of the day and what a run around it gave us. Three times it almost took but then refused a dry. A nymph got eaten, but rejected before Damian could react and then many casts and changes later we got it all right. The fish actually accepting the original nymph once more! There is little that compares to such visual fishing and Grayling unlike Trout give anglers plenty of chance to tempt them.

Paul with the best fish of the day.

I have many incredible adventures with my guests but some days stand out and this will be one of them. An awesome river, 3 great guys, a top notch lunch and shoals of hungry Grayling. Such events live with me forever and are made all the more memorable when someone takes the time to drop me a line about their experience.

"Thanks for yesterday it was one of the best days fishing I have ever had." Paul Prictor, Swindon 2009

Friday, 6 November 2009

I can see Grayling but not Frogmen

Don't fall in, yes I am posting a 2nd time this month! But I wonder whether I should because I have got top admit to something. I can't see Frogmen.

Take a look at the picture above. The frogman is pretty obvious right? About as obvious as this Pike. Well, I admit, I didn't see him until he was pointed out. Guiding Phil Frapple on beat 4 of the River Anton we had enjoyed some great success throughout the day when towards the back end we neared the section close to Goodworth Clatford. Wide and shallow I fancied that we should leave proclaiming that "this is not the best of the fishing Phil. Look how spooky the Grayling are in the shallow water". To which Phil very calmly replied (as if it were an everyday occurrence) "yes, and the Frogman won't help much either". "Frogman!" I said "What Frogman!?" Trying to hide his look of amazement Phil pointed upstream in exactly the direction I had been looking. In fact I had already spotted the Grayling that I then realised were sat not in front of a log or other obstruction but indeed a Frogman!

Needless to say it was one of the most bizarre experiences of my guiding career and also one of the most amusing. By the end of the day my ability to see fish but not frogmen became hotly debated between Phil and his two mates along for the ride, Paul and Damian. The debate did involve a high degree of taking the piss of course. In all honesty who can blame them!

My excuse was of course that I focus so hard on finding fish that I block out everything else, including Frogmen. The excuse lead to more piss taking. And feel free to take the piss yourselves if you like, I admit that I deserve it! And I should take even more flack because before Phil could get a cast in the Frogman surfaced. I would have loved to have seen our faces at that point!

So who was the Frogman? Well if you have a UK rod licence then you will be aware of this mans work, because once his disguise was removed it revealed top wildlife artist David Miller. See his fantastic work here. David had been baiting Grayling so that he could film them in readiness for future pieces. In all honesty this chance meeting only added to the occasion and on our return to the lower beats yet more Grayling came to the net. Although of course each time I spotted a fish .... I suffered! I don't think I will ever be allowed to forget my lack of observation! More about the River Anton trip soon. And if you fancy a crack at this beat yourself and the opportunity to bend my ear over the frogman, drop me a line for details.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The Hectic World of Fly Fishing ... usual service resumed!

Whoops .... there went October! One post later its already Guy Fawkes night and after this I guess its downhill towards Christmas. The trouble is these days I am spending less and less time at the computer (actually that's a good thing!) in between guiding and running Hart Flyshop ... so my chances to blog are few and far between. But that is about to change ... all thanks to the iPhone.

I am signed up with the Orange mobile network although I came very close to signing up with O2 during the summer, such was my desire to get my hands on an iPhone. But the O2 signal around here is terrible so I hung on and was very pleased when Orange announced their new deal allowing them to sell the iPhone. I for one cannot wait to get my hands on one ... especially as I know a ton of friends and more than a few guests who own one. Just last week I was growing more envious by the moment during a guided session on the Anton as one of my guests, Damian, showed me the benefits of this incredible gadget. So in 2010 my posts will often be live from the riverbank and judging by some of the great experiences I have enjoyed alongside guests recently this will bring a whole new dimension to the world of Nick Hart Fly Fishing & Hart Flyshop.

Take last week for example with two of my regular guests Tim and Tony. Fishing the River Test during a perfect Autumnal day the duo managed to extract Grayling after Grayling on a mixture of techniques, although sight fished Pink Hares Ears Shrimps did most of the damage. We went for long tapered leaders in the clear water, tipped off with fluorocarbon and it was imperative to lift the nymph in a seductive manner with the help of the rod tip. A straight dead drift resulted in a very few takes. The tackle of choice was a 10'0" Streamflex which makes for excellent control when practicing this technique. Here are a few memories from the day.

The days just got started but already Tim has banked his first Grayling of the day measuring in at 17" This fish required a couple of fly changes and I altered the leader diameter for Tim too, its always satisfying when a change pays off.

All the fish caught during the session were safely returned including this specimen, Tim taking one final chance to display that famous iconic fin.

Tony Kaye gets in on the action too with another pristine chalk stream Grayling. These are never the cheapest venues to fish but look at the clarity of that water in the background. Hard to resist.

There was no stopping Tim, in one hectic 20 minute spell he banked another 6 fish. By lunchtime he was approaching a double figure tally after just a couple of hours of fishing. Numbers don't matter of course, but hit it right and big catches are possible. The Test was rammed full of Grayling and this year the average size is well up on past seasons.

A well earned rest and lunch out of the back of my trusty fishing wagon. This Toyota has done me proud now for 7 seasons! I was going to change it this year and then found my dream Black VR6 Corrado. I hope to get my hands on a G60 in the future to pair up with my 16V and then I have the full set. Oh and by the way many thanks to the Aston Martin and Evo owners I shared some time with during my trip back down the A303 from The Phirm on Monday. I digress .... lunch hit the spot so it was time for some more fishing!

After lunch we ran into someone else looking for a meal. See above. Can you spot it? Answers on a postcard please! And I almost packed the Pike gear!

After a few more River Test Grayling I loaded up the truck and transported Tim and Tony to a stretch of the Anton, a tributary of the Test that joins the main river close by to the Mayfly Inn. Tim was soon aggravating the Anton residents too!

Tony sporting the fashionable one hand Grayling fin up "rod over the shoulder pose", a look finished off with one of our great baseball caps. Get yours here. And this was the deadly fly, Grayling cannot resist them! Buy your Pink Hares Ear Shrimps here.

Tomorrow .... can you spot fish? Then you should be able to spot a frogman!