Wet & Wild on the Exe

It has been another year of unseasonable weather patterns.  One minute we were fearing a drought and the possibility of requiring only slippers to wade, the next our drying room is filled with the smell of damp wading jackets.  Where did the summer go?  In all honesty bright blue skies and sunshine are not ideal fishing conditions but then neither is the requirement to wear thermals under waders to stay warm in August!

But enough complaining.  I have to say that this year has been a great season for big fish and Friday last was no exception.  My guests for the day were Jim Pool and JJ from the South East of England, which has witnessed more than its fair share of precipitation in recent weeks.  So much so that I received a couple of nervous emails from Jim requesting a plan B if A fell flat on its face.  I was keen to stick with plan A as during our correspondence I was surprised to see that the golden orb had decided to put in an appearance.  The local web cam also beamed a reasonable river condition back to my laptop, a little high but certainly fishable and the gauges showed that the levels were falling.  Even so I went to bed crossing my fingers.

The next morning I wondered if plan A, a trip to the lower Exe, was indeed flawed.  The sun was well and truly hidden, masked by a thick grey sky which refused to cease pouring copious amounts of rain across the region.  During breakfast I tentatively navigated to the webcam, fearing the worse.  Instead I was pleasantly surprised to find that the river levels had in fact dropped some more.  Result!  At least Jim and JJ would get some fishing today.  But for how long?

Fishing is all about preparation, especially when working as a guide and in particular if adverse weather conditions are to be dealt with.  Boxes were stocked with heavy bugs and large dry flies the night before the trip and 10′ #5 rods packed just in case.  On the way to the venue I collected hot pies from our local butcher, stocked some beer in the cooler and arrived at our meeting point with time to spare.  When the guys arrived our first conversations were unsurprisingly weather related.

No going back now, the guys pulled on waders and we set off in haste … the river could blow at any moment.  The web cam findings were confirmed and instantly confidence levels were boosted.  Were we going to experience some good sport; even in these conditions?  I will let the pictures do the talking!

Jim Pool enjoying a guide session with Nick Hart caught a River Exe Grayling

Drenched but very happy. Jim Pool beats the weather and this stunning River Exe Grayling.

Jim had in fact already got off the mark with a couple of 8″ Browns taken on a Baetis pattern which was pleasing considering the conditions.  However the good old French Nymph fished New Zealand style accounted for this superb fish around lunchtime … note the rain in the background.  We continued fishing, leaving the pies in the truck!

JJ enjoying a guided session with Nick Hart caught a River Exe Grayling

Who cares about the weather?! JJ looks very pleased with his biggest Grayling to date.

That proved to be a good move.  I guided JJ into a run just above Jim and before long his French Nymph had been spotted by this superb fish in peak condition.

Jim Pool with a River Exe Grayling caught during a guided session with Nick Hart

Bigger again! Another Grayling for Jim.

My picture does not do this fish justice.  I think this was down to a mixture of excitement and trying to keep the lens free of water!!!  This was  seriously fat fish and awesome to see these specimens in such good condition.  Heading towards the magical 2lb mark and caught once again on a French Nymph not far from Jim’s first fish.

JJ with a River Exe Wild Brown Trouut caught during a guided session with Nick Hart

Wow! Plan A comes together as JJ lands his best ever West Country Wild Brown Trout

I had set JJ up with an extremely long dropper (4′ +) section hanging from his indicator fly and finished it off with one of our secret Orange rubber legs nymphs, a serious killer this season.  I had waded JJ into a deep section of water after we had seen a big rise but covering the area with a dry repeatedly produced nothing, so we changed to sub surface tactics.  This was the result … and still it rains!

Jim Pool with a River Exe Wild Brown Trouut caught during a guided session with Nick Hart

Jim gets in on the Trout action

After a late lunch washed down with a cold beer (should have been soup, or hot chocolate!) we fished the middle to upper section.  Fish were caught but nothing to rival the previous specimens, although we did manage to get the dry to work.  The river had started to show signs of colour and was definitely cooling, especially after one particular deluge!  It was so heavy I could do nothing but giggle uncontrollably!  We all looked like drowned rats and questioned our sanity if only for a moment.   Perseverance can and will pay off though and Jim finished off the session with this reasonable fish.

So even in such extreme conditions (it did not stop raining all day!!!) our wonderful West Country venues can still produce the results.  To be honest I reckon the guys would have been happy with a few palm sized fish for their efforts.  Well done to them for facing the weather and sticking with the original plan, it certainly paid off … even if it was a little wet and wild!

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