Sunday, 7 November 2010

Learning about the Upstream Nymph

On Friday I was thinking about the Internet and how it is helping to forward all kinds of fishing. People are meeting, going fishing, talking about tackle, tactics and all manner of other stuff via social media, blogs, forums etc. David Burton brought up a very interesting point in his comment about that post which you can see here. He said that we use the Internet to "virtually" fish when time does not allow us to head to the waters edge. Too true! In a nutshell I guess we would all love to go fishing everyday but the simple fact is we have to work. Is that a groan I hear!? "You go fishing everyday Nick!" I would be the first to put my hands up and say I have a great job but the fact is that guiding is very different to actually "going fishing". That's another post, right now I am thinking about Grayling, Nymphs and Fishing upstream.

I had been relishing the thought of heading to the Anton since we set the trip up almost a year ago. I have guided a lot of chalkstreams and fished them of course. But the Anton is different. I have guided there and watched clients catch a bunch of fish, but in fact had never caught a fish on the Westover Farm beat myself, because I have never fished the venue! That all changed on Saturday.

Fishing with a Pink Shrimp (technically not a Nymph!) from the new Tactical Range by Fulling Mill we all enjoyed some superb Grayling action, fishing mainly short line, upstream. Check out some photos here and here. Now on our spate rivers I often fish (and guide) upstream with a nymph (such as a Copper John), set below a dry fly acting as an indicator. This is deadly in the fast running streams but the slow moving chalkstream allows for some proper "traditional" upstream nymphing.

Other than picking up a few fish off the top on a CDC BWO, I opted to fish a long fluorocarbon leader and see how many ways I could tempt a fish to pick up my fly. Flicking well ahead of a target fish it was all about line control. Get the depth right, watch the speed and observe the fish. Sometimes the takes were obvious as a greedy Grayling charged over and chowed the weighted Shrimp. In the shade I watched for the flicker of a white mouth. If that didn't work I applied a little sweep of the rod, watching the fish and the line for signs of a take which may have been a savage stab or a very subtle stop. Sometimes the line just felt a little "heavy".
Whatever happened my reaction to any or all of the above was a smooth lift. By the end of the day I was having such a great time that I was left wishing for more fishing and more light, the days are just so short at this time of year! Thankfully I am back off to the Anton on Thursday and although I won't be guiding not fishing I will get just as much pleasure out of showing my guest for the day how to fish this challenging but highly addictive tactic.

Friday, 5 November 2010

What would we do without information super fishing?

Yesterday, I took some time out from a busy day working on our new website, sat down and finally set up a facebook page which you can see here. It really set me thinking. What would we anglers do without the Internet? It has changed our lives.

This season I have frequently used the network of web cameras set up by the clever guys at Farson Digital. There are around 24 of them in England now, spying on rivers such as the Exe, Tamar & Lyn in the South right up to the Tees, Wear and Tyne in the North. See the cameras here. If you fish in Scotland then there are a further ten cameras set on famous venues such as the Tweed, Spey and Deveron. Just recently I visited this latter river for a week, but probably spent at least a month before that regularly checking the water height and condition! For guiding purposes the cameras have proved invaluable as the live stream refreshes every ten seconds, allowing me to ascertain the exact state of the river. In the past I would have to make a few telephone calls or just take a chance.

This weekend I am off to the Anton River in Hampshire with a bunch of guys. I gave David Burton a shout through Twitter, within seconds he had replied and a few emails later the day was arranged. I even downloaded a PDF map from the guys at Famous Fishing who offer the finest chalkstream fishing available ... take a look at the website!

(Above) The Anton. A traditional chalkstream in beautiful English countryside. Far removed from today's technology and yet more readily available because of it.

While in the process of arranging this trip I decided to check out Davids recent Twitter posts and clicked on a link to this site. Its a little off the wall, but then with a name like Fat Guy Fly Fishing you may expect that! There are just so many blogs out there now offering viewpoints, tackle advice, tactical thoughts and inspiration that its amazing that we ever manage to go fishing. During the last couple if years I have neglected my own blog and really regret it. One guy who certainly hasn't is Henry Gilbey who surely has THE lure fishing resource online now. There is a whole community on their discussing fish, tactics, tackle ... the problem of lure addiction and of course, metal!

I was looking at Henrys blog last night when Skype came to life and my great friend Chappie Chapman appeared ....all the way from Christchurch, New Zealand. We chatted away for well over an hour, about fishing of course and began hatching a plan for a trip. I showed him a copy of Adventure Fishing over the webcam built into my laptop while chowing on my dinner and at the same time dropped a line to James Dawkins who had just sent me a direct message from Twitter to say he was off to Alderney.

So I guess you could say I spent an evening virtually fishing. And that set me thinking about something else. Would our great sport be as advanced as it is now if the Internet had never been invented?

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Irish Bass Fishing - Catching the Lure Bug!

Anyone who has ever read Henry Gilbeys blog will know how passionate he is about lure fishing in Ireland. A few years back, in fact almost a decade ago, I travelled to Ireland a few times myself to fish in the company of well known guide John Quinlan. Henry came along on one of those trips in the hope that we would hook a few Bass for his camera. It was a tough week and although we got fish I remember feeling back then that perhaps the fly was not always the best method to target this exciting sport fish.

Granted, there is no doubt that on its day the fly can be truly deadly. But what if the wind is gusting to over 30 miles an hour and the surf is rising to in excess of 3 ft? Add low visibility and there is no doubt that fly anglers will be at a distinct disadvantage when these conditions prevail. Heading back to Ireland with Henry last week there was no doubt that I was hoping for the right kind of weather to allow me to experiment with a bunch of new flies and methods. In reality it was never going to happen .... well, at least not this week!

During his many trips to Ireland I know that Henry has found it invaluable to fish with anglers who know the coastline like the back of their hand enabling fishing over the right place at the right state of tide. One such person is Cian of Absolute Fishing who was certainly getting excited by the prospect of Southerly winds which can turn the fishing on along the Southern Irish coast line, creating the all important "fizz" as he calls it. This highly oxygenated water, crashing in over some of the sexiest Bass features you have ever seen (gullies, weed beds, drop offs and more) can turn the fishing on. A brilliant predator, Bass love the "fizz" and whenever we happened upon yet another brilliant mark I felt that the fish were never far away. However, fishing often boils down to conditions and as the wind whipped up into a series of snorting gales fly fishing became impossible.

I did find some fly action, hooking up a bunch of Pollack (always a great fallback for fly anglers looking for Irish Saltwater action) and also realising a long time ambition to hook up a half decent Wrasse on fly. See more here. But then it struck me. Short, sensitive rods. Mouth watering, silky smooth reels clad with braid. And lures! Lots of lovely, fantastic, shiny, amazing .... Lures! I could feel the kind of buzz I distinctly remember when I first got in to fly fishing.

With brilliant names such as Zonk, Xorus Patchinko or the Jackson Athlete Minnow it is hard not to be drawn into this game. But there is much more to lure fishing than being a tackle tart. What a brilliant method of fishing which has so many similarities that simply must appeal to all but the most ardent of fluff-chuckers. Its highly mobile, the lures have a variety of actions and in many cases it is highly important to "work" the lure with subtle wrist flicks. This is when the specialised rods really kick in, especially when coupled with non stretch braid which offers an unbelievable amount of sensitivity. But best of all this is light tackle fishing which can be enjoyed in conditions which rule fly tactics out.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Henry for taking me along on one of these trips, as this is his chance to get some fishing after a season spent behind a camera rather than a rod. All manner of lavish tackle was thrown my way, plus lures (sorry, I did lose a few!) and I even learned some new knots. I must also extend my thanks to Cian, plus his friends James and Paul who had never met me before and yet offered advice, their time and knowledge to ensure that we had an amazing trip. The fish were not easy to come by, but fishing is not all about catching. Its the experience. I will never forget this week, especially as I have now found lure fishing. In fact tomorrow I head to Chew Valley Lake with good mate Karl from Leeda to fish for Pike and will be my goal to hook one on a lure! Now that's a first.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Dreamy Deveron Salmon Fishing

I guess while I am trying to decide which platform & designer to commission to redevelop my blog I may as well being using this one. Especially when the fishing has been great recently! I have been busy as usual guiding throughout the year and managing the shop, but also made time to enjoy a bit more fishing myself this year. It is an occupational hazard .... become a guide .... go fishing less! But I would not have it any other way, especially when fantastic opportunities to visit venues such as the River Deveron arise. 45 minutes fishing and this fresh little beauty had snaffled a Red Flamethrower.

Salmon anglers often head for well known Rivers in the North East of Scotland such as the Dee and the Spey. But the reality is that the Deveron is a very well kept secret. Checking out the hut (which was closer to a small cottage..... complete with wood burning stove, tables, chairs, magazines and refreshments!) provided by the Marnoch Lodge Fishings my eye was drawn to a large map of the river and the best fish caught during the last few seasons. 30lbs, 25lb 8oz .... my eyes were out on stalks! A few days into the trip and fishing the last hour of light I was hit by the most powerful fish I have ever hooked in UK waters. It literally tore me to pieces, screaming off down stream, before unleashing a turn that Michael Jackson would have been proud of. Stripping line like a mad man, I got back in touch with the fish for seconds. But its plan had worked a treat, the line fell limp and I was left to dribble on the bank. I did not stop shaking for an hour. Seriously.

The weird thing is that although I would have given away a reasonable amount of flies, line, rods and quite possibly blood to see that fish, I was so in awe that I couldn't be upset. I felt privileged to have hooked it. It always helps when "the one that got away" is witnessed too and I could sense that both Alasdare & Stuart wanted me to land that fish, just as much, so they could take a look too. But alas, it was not to be and I will need to return. In the meantime we still managed some awesome fish. Add to this some great laughs (in fact we rarely were not laughing), stunning scenery, some obliging weather and the hospitality offered to us by the Marnoch staff (in particular, Shaun) and this ranks alongside one of my top 10 trips of all time. And how easy is it? Jump on a plane from Exeter, get off at Aberdeen and why bother heaving bags? We sent our gear up by courier. Talk about easy fishing and it does not get better than hunting down big wild fish with the fly.

This was my best fish of the week tipping the scales at 15lb. Coloured yes, but a magnificent specimen of a Cock Salmon in spawning colours. It too fell for the Red Flamethrower on a pool which produced the majority of our sport, Lower Hummies.

Great company is so important during a fishing trip and it doesn't come much better than Alasdare Lambert. Laid back, ready for a giggle and a fishing nutter. He also likes a glass or two (make that a bottle!) of red wine and its just lucky that this fantastic 14lb specimen took when it did ... yes you have guessed it .... a Flamethrower but this time Orange. Poor old Al was looking a little worse for wear after an evening of cheap red wine and stories of giant man eating Lamprey. Its a long story and not relevant right now! Needless to say that Al's hangover suddenly disappeared as the adrenalin kicked in and he realised he was hooked up to a decent sized fish. I don't think he fished for an hour afterwards. Scottish Salmon (in fact all Salmon) are very special and I can quite understand anyone who sits back to relax and savour the moment. Especially as this was Al's personal best Salmon.
However, if you wish to live the moment all over again ... get the fly back in the water. After a full week on the water it was very noticeable how the fish would suddenly start taking and then switch off. Also very apparent were the movements in barometric pressure. Every fish we caught was on a rise or a level Barometer and I have to say that after a few years using my Casio Protrek watch with a built in atmospheric pressure gauge I am sold on the theory that Salmon rarely take when there is a pressure drop.

Enough technical waffle. Stu, who lives in Aberdeen will no doubt be heading back to the Deveron soon. After a couple of quiet days he cracked it on the Lower Hummies pool, with the Red Flamethrower and an Intermediate line to land this, his largest Salmon to date at 10lbs. What a week, we all landed our best Salmon during the trip. Most important of all, each and every one went back safely. There were more, but these were the best fish. The very best fish .... well ... they all got away of course!

More about the Deveron soon. Right now I need to get back home and start putting together my gear for a trip to Ireland next week. And tonight when I close my eyes I will relive that moment when an unseen monster chewed me up and spat me out. Speaking with the owner of the fishery today he tells me that Shaun is reporting a fish resting in a pool (Falconers) that is in excess of 35lbs. Did I hook it? Who knows .... all I know is that the Deveron is the stuff of dreams.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Big Brown Trout worth Blogging

Hello all! You may have noticed that this is my first blog post for nigh on half a year. Where did the time go, seems like only a moment ago I was sneezing into a tissue! Since then we have enjoyed (endured?) the coldest winter on record, its still bloody cold and now we have the Clergoron government. Yeah, yeah, Nick, tell us news not history. Wheres the blog been? Well I have been lets say quite busy. Those of you who have visited the shop recently know just how busy as the refurbishment is now 90% there. Tons of stock in too (including new brands Orvis, Airflo & Loop) and just a few finishing touches to go before I start on the next project (or two) But more of that soon, check out my Twitter page as I have been micro blogging away on that for months ... Click for the Nick Hart Twitter Page and I will keep you updated as the new projects complete.

So back to the blog. Of course I usually fill this up with all the people I take out on my fly fishing courses while adding some notes regarding our adventures and the occasional review. More of that soon. But for the moment I have to say that in 2010 I am making sure that I am not only booking out days to spend guiding or managing the shop. Instead after 4 years of growing the shop, raising a family and generally doing some quite crazy hours I have realised that I just have to get back out on the water more often. I had got to the point of rocking backwards and forwards on my office chair a little like a junkie, mumbling to myself. At this juncture I knew that something had to be done and before long had booked in some Chew trips, a couple of competitions, a session on the Bourne, some Sea Trout fishing in Wales and of course how could I possibly forget Farmoor?

And so with a couple of good buddies, James Warbrick Smith and Lewis Hendrie, we descended upon this incredible venue with a growing reputation expecting to sample some of the hard fighting Rainbow Trout which this Oxford based still water has to offer. I could not have imagined for one second what was in store. Rather than bore you with a blow by blow account I am going to post some pictures here and in my next post a short video to show just how strongly this fish swam away. What a great advert to keep those Catch & release sceptics at bay. Plus I have added the press release circulating the web right now. While this Brown was an amazing event and one I will never forget for the rest of my days, in all honesty the Rainbows we caught made it equally spectacular. Super hard fighting fish weighing up to 8lbs. In fact a 4lb razor finned fish was pretty much average!!! In recent weeks James, a Farmoor specialist, has taken them to 13lbs! Before I wear out the exclamation mark key ....

Sorry once again about the lack of posts, there are moves afoot to resurrect my blog but on an entirely new platform, so watch this space. Thanks to those who have kept checking back. Now do the sensible thing. Take a day off work, pack the rod and get down to Farmoor, I know I will be! And before I forget a VERY late happy new year and I wish you an incredible season ahead.

Copy Press Release Circulated 12/05/10

NEWS STORY: Leviathan Farmoor Brown Trout

Farmoor 1 in Oxford is gaining a reputation for its ability to produce grown on Trout of superior quality and Hart Flyshop owner and full time fishing guide Nick Hart has been making the two and a half hour journey from his home in Devon to sample some of the fantastic sport that this catch & release venue has to offer.

During a recent trip Nick hit the jackpot when an enormous Brown Trout appeared close to the margins and showed signs of feeding. Several attempts were made to get the massive fish to eat but staunchly ignored until Nick extracted a Mini Minky from the box of James Warbrick-Smith, a Farmoor specialist who has caught several specimens to double figures.

Nick said “as James passed me the fly I just knew it was the one. I have fished with James all over the world and he has the ability to tie meticulous flies that have “eat me” written all over them. The fish had entered a bubble line created by a pipe running treated water back into the lake, so by using the current I was able to get a really natural presentation of the tiny bait fish as the highly mobile mink fur wafted in the current. Farmoor is home to many species including coarse fish and we had seen several fry near the margins during the day. The Brown could not resist my imitation and without hesitation accelerated and snaffled the fly.”

“We could not control our excitement as I set the hook and line began pouring from the reel. First and foremost I was keen that we beat this fish in quickly to ensure that it could be revived and returned as soon as possible. I am lucky enough to spend a huge amount of my time guiding people and see my fair share of fish but my heart was pumping hard throughout the fight and when it hit the net I could not contain my emotion. What all the whooping and hollering from far off must have looked like I don’t know!”

“Lewis Hendrie, an up and coming young guide was also with us and it was left to him to expertly net the fish. Then by using an SLR camera and our iPhones the two guys were able to rattle off some shots in a matter of seconds. With pictures in the bag we all sat looking at the fish in astonishment as we gently revived it in the margins. The Brown had taken less than 5 minutes to land and was in good health. We were all elated to see it power away into the depths”

Farmoor stocks Brown Trout at around 2lb so this specimen was a true grown on giant that has spent many years gaining weight in the depths of Farmoor. However it is not its first mistake as the same fish had been previously captured at a weight of 17lb 7oz. Judging by the overall length and girth of this fish it weighed every bit of that. However Nick was keen to see the fish go back alive and felt that the extra trauma of recording an exact weight was not worth the risk to the leviathan’s health. In Nicks words “it was just a privilege in its own right to see this fish and I owe a massive vote of thanks to my mates James and Lewis for all their help in ensuring we got a record of the fish. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience made all the better as we were out on a day out together and a fishing moment that will live with me for the rest of my days. This Brown eclipsed my previous personal best Reservoir Trout and I don’t expect to beat it in a hurry, if ever!”