From Agony to Ecstasy

After yet more manic days, I can only hope spring brings a little more semblance of peace and order back to life. Because while I’m used to ups and downs, I would love a few days where not a lot happens. Where exactly do I begin?

Well, this morning’s visit to the dentist seems logical enough, given that my gob is still throbbing. I spent over an hour having a tooth extracted for a crown, along with two fillings. To cut a long story short, I suffer from quite severe acid reflux and it’s bad news for my teeth. Today was fairly brutal to put it mildly, but in the dentist’s chair with my jaw gaping open the one thing I kept thinking of over and over about was a little trout stream not too far from home. Not a very private place, but pretty nonetheless. Prettier than the dentist’s drill anyway. “It’s only discomfort” I kept telling myself, “the pain will be brief, the river is for the whole season.”

A few hours later it didn’t entirely feel that way. Once the numbness wore off, my whole jaw and head felt abused. But by God was I looking forward to that afternoon on the stream even more keenly. The conditions looked good too. The dullness of the light made things look a little wintry still, save for the splash of odd daffodils. But if you closed your eyes it felt decidedly warm for March.

Klink & Dink

I had no hesitation in going with the old New Zealand dropper set up to kick off; a Balloon Caddis with a little Brassie suspended underneath. As pure as it might have been to try and tempt them off the surface, there was bugger all squared hatching or even thinking about rising. While on the subject, I tend to treat my dry flies for this method with floatant twice; once at home prior to fishing, and again on the bank. It helps smaller flies float like cork and suspend a nymph better.

It took me a while to even see a trout, in fairness. I failed to get a sniff in a favourite, deep pool that usually does the goods early season. But to my surprise I managed a couple of little trout in quick succession from tiny pockets of fast water just a foot or so deep round the next bend. Before some sucker’s dog jumped in. Even so, there’s always the next corner. And it’s lovely when the walkers look at you like you’re a nut job and you extract a perfect little trout with a deadliness to rival the dentist extracting a tooth.

urban fly fishing March Devon

Nor was I done, because the fishing just got better and better as we reached late afternoon.  Water levels were low for March, which perhaps explained why the lively bits of water and little tumbles with two or three feet of depth seemed much better than the smoother glides.

Brilliant fish they were on a three weight too, ranging from five or six inches to around double that. Lean and crazy battling too, having not yet gained their prime back after winter. Several looked a bit like fish versions of teenagers; thin and mean and ready to lash out, but not quite filled out just yet.

Talking of teenagers, the next pool was spooked by local students on the way from school as a mini rush hour took place. A rugby ball splashed down and then a dog joined it. Usually I take these things philosophically, but somehow with your jaw aching you take more offense. I paused and pondered on things for a few minutes rather than get riled further. Do physical pain and the thought of your body getting older and weaker make you less tolerant? Is this why old people get cranky and more right wing? I hope not. It has not because the way things are going I will be a UKIP voter by 2020.

All the same, these early days of spring have a way of winning you round. Flowers bloom. People stop and chat to you. Teenagers hold hands and have that glazed look of shy love. And the world seems that bit newer and more welcoming, finally.

Quite often these early season escapades with a fly rod are tricky, but today the trout just wanted it, provided it had a gold bead and twinkled in the current. Just one fish rose in three hours, coming tantalisingly close to my caddis before going “nah, what am I even thinking? It’s only March.”

Once that rush hour of dogs and kids and people had gone home, it was even more blissful. I’d left my phone in the car, which always helps too. I totally lost track of time and it was only the evening gloom that told me it was probably a good point to think of home. But not before I’d managed some more fish, including the best of the lot at around eleven inches and astoundingly beautiful, with a a beautiful smudge of blue on each cheek.

wild trout Devon UK

I drove away happy and quickly turned the radio off because I didn’t want Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon spoiling the afterglow. Those two old trout can do one, I prefer the spotty ones.

Back at home, I was also glad to find two new arrivals on the doormat. One is a book of tokens ordered from the Westcountry Angling Passport Scheme. There is so much water to fish on the fly in this project and this year is no different; so many wonderful places open to everyone at amazing value. The biggest joke is how lightly many of these streams are fished, in spite of being rammed with wild trout! My fellow Fallon’s Angler writer Bruno Vincent is also working on the project this year in a new angling development role, which is exciting too. He ties a mean fly and takes some formidable pictures, which gives me all the more excuse to get out again soon.

Secondly, I have also assembled a new set of flies from Turrall. Not my designs this time, but a collection of ten of my absolute favourite fly patterns for fishing on the smaller rivers and streams of Devon and Cornwall. I’ve deliberately selected nice small nymphs and visible but not OTT dries. Just the job- and these also should save me a small eternity tying flies for those I guide and for my own fly box this season! Find them on the website HERE.


In other news, I can also report from a massively positive London Fly Fair and provide a sly tip off about a little film project I’ve been involved with. The London show, to start with, was such a great one to attend; without doubt one of the best organised fishing events I’ve ever attended.

I thoroughly enjoyed exhibiting alongside Fallon’s Angler, not to mention giving a talk on fly fishing for coarse species on each of the two days. I owe photographer Nick Fallowfield Cooper a beer for the pic above. And I cannot wait to see his next project, which will feature in Fallon’s Angler issue 9, out soon! Nick has had an interesting time snapping a very interesting site; a “time capsule” tackle shop basically, which was closed down in the early 90’s but left completely untouched. The photos I’ve seen so far look amazing; the owners glasses were still on the shop counter!

Back at the Fair, more than once I also did an almighty double take at the characters walking around; Paul Whitehouse was someone I’d always wanted to meet, to give just one example, while design guru and angling fanatic Steve Edge also grabbed a copy of Crooked Lines! Matt Hayes loitered at the stand too, having a proper old discussion with the Fallon’s Angler crew about the world of current angling media and politics; what a great ambassador for angling he is too, the most genuine of people with time for everyone.

My own recent filming feats have hardly been in his league, but I am quite excited to tease you with a shot from my last successful pike session of the river season. I’ve kept this under my hat a little, but I had the pleasure of doing some filming for an angling development project, having been invited by my pal Scott West.

Cameras have a habit of adding pressure, so you can probably understand my joy and relief when I hooked a cracking pike just ten minutes in (pic above by Bruno Vincent). It fought like stink on the fly too. This was only the beginning, but that’s all I’m giving away for now!

Until next time, I wish you happy angling, not to mention sound mental and dental health. And I leave you with my likeness, as depicted by Garrett Fallon’s daughter Sally, aged 7. Pretty good don’t you think?


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