The 2014 Season Review

The trouble with writing up a season review is that there are just so many great memories to pick from.  Fortunately I carry my camera wherever we may go so you can see a few of the results below.

First of all I must say a huge thank you to all of you who have booked my services this year and in seasons past because without you; there would be no season review.  Thank you to all of you for making 2014 my fifteenth season as a fly fishing guide in the UK, I hope you have had a fantastic Christmas and are looking ahead to the 2015 season as much as I am.

The Weather:  I managed to clock up 96 days without too much interruption from the weather for once!  Even so it cannot go unnoticed that we came into the new 2014 season off the back of some colossal winter storms, relatively mild temperatures and of course it was wet.

The Somerset levels became a lake and so all thoughts of winter Pike fishing disappeared as Sky News began their dramatisation of events.  Of course it was a serious situation for those affected, but considering the size of Somerset county it seemed ludicrous how often a wader clad reporter appeared on the telly, shoving a microphone in some poor flood victims face as their belongings floated all around them.

Then the rain stopped and never really restarted, leading to another very low water year.  On a positive note the fantastic stocks of perfectly formed wild Brown Trout saved the day, offering great sport even in the height of summer, with the River Mole continuing to excel as a first class venue for above average size fish.  We are talking 10 inches in West Country terms with the odd 12” to 14” Trout, but use the right gear and these tough little customers offer fine sport.  To this day I would rather introduce my clients to the stunning scenery and these small but perfectly formed fish than the inhabitants of an over stocked chalk stream flowing next to a main commuter route.

A wild west country Brown Trout

A good handful of Westcountry Trout caught by my guest for the day Guy Price in September 2014

Unfortunately the incredibly low water levels once again seriously dented the Salmon fishing and so it seems not only in the West Country.  Many keen Salmon anglers reported very poor fishing across the UK.  The weather has its part to play of course, but more than ever social media seemed to be alive with conversation regarding the plight of our silver tourists.  Over fishing, predators and high intensity fish farming are all being discussed and who knows, maybe this very public voice may make a difference in the future.  You could do no worse than join the Angling Trust who are doing their best to make a difference for all of us anglers.

So far the winter doesn’t really seem to have got going with just a few hard frosts, but mainly wet & windy conditions which have scuppered much of the Grayling fishing opportunities and the Pike which I so love to chase.  This week looks like it may calm down a little, and as I write there is a very hard frost and even a little ice forming in the margins of the lake.  Perhaps there may just be the chance to have a go at those Pike after all and if not I don’t think I will be able to resist a quick trip up to Farmoor or somewhere similar.  So many anglers put away their rods at this time of year and yet the still waters that remain open often produce some of the best Trout fishing of the year.  The big question is what does Mother Nature have in store for us next year ?!

A frosty Exe Valley lit up by the winter sun

Exe Valley Fishery in Somerset on a frosty winters morning in  November 2014

The People, The Fish & The Venues:  This is really what my working life is all about: taking people fly fishing, hopefully giving them a great time and helping them to unwind from their often busy professional lives.

I began by uploading some of my favourite memories from 2014 but there are just so many that I have tried something new, a Smugmug slideshow I hope you like it!

This is just a blog format show, for the full effect click the main Nick Hart Fly Fishing Season Review Gallery here for the story behind each photo.  I have to admit that even this is just a small selection so I will endeavour to add to some more images soon. (Please note: this slideshow may not load when using an iPad – please click here to view)

And the very best moment of the year is … Some moments stand out and I guess just like a business owner securing that major contract or an employee winning an important promotion, for those of us who take people fishing for a living we get the biggest kicks from those very special moments with the people and the fish that we encounter throughout the season.

It doesn’t always have to be the biggest fish or the hardest fighting but on this occasion it just so happened that the fishing gods shone upon us and delivered us the most memorable moment of the year in 2014 in the form of a decent sized Salmon on light tackle.

Its September, we have had very little water to speak of and although the season has been filled with some superb Trout fishing the Salmon have been thin on the ground to say the least. So far the only silver tourist action had been after a spate back in July when I had stumbled on a Salmon laying up in a deep pool with Nigel Tranter.

We managed get that fish to take a Duracell Nymph right before our eyes and then hang on as it cartwheeled around the pool.  Nigel did an amazing job to remain attached to the fish for 10 minutes on a 9′ #4 rod and just 5lb leader before it got the better of us, throwing the barbless hook after a reel smoking run that climaxed with one final aerial two fins up to you display!  See here for the full One that got away story

Nigel Tranter concentrates on a Salmon hooked using nymphs and a Trout rod

This is what a double figure Salmon looks like attached to a 9′ #4 rod!

Once again the rain ceased and no further opportunities came our way as most of my clients preferred to fish for Wild Brown Trout with the prospect of a Salmon seemingly near impossible.  However knowing that Stuart Cowley and his fishing mates Rob & Bill were turning up for a couple of days around the new moon phase in September I decided that it would be a good idea to at least pack some substantial leader and a couple of heavy weight nymphs … just in case!

As you may have seen in the gallery Stuart had once again managed to bag himself a decent Brown Trout from the Mole and so feeling like anything else would be a bonus he decided that some time prospecting a deep pool would be time well spent; especially as I had been working him into a frenzy with the tale of Nigel’s epic battle back in July!  I showed him what needed to be done and after a short time a fish hit the fly but came short and then everything went quiet.

So I moved a short way upstream to fish with Bill & Rob, keeping a close eye on what was going on downstream.  We had probably been fishing away for a good 45 minutes or so and were just discussing that Rob definitely had some one-upmanship, bragging rights, to enjoy over the evening pint having landed a school peal on a dry fly when …. “NICK!!!” echoed through the valley and we turned to see Stuarts five weight hooped over into something quite obviously a little heavier than even the proper pound Brown he had landed a few hours previously.

There was a short tense battle, excitement, adrenalin and then a mixture of elation and relief when I slipped that net under Stuarts first ever Salmon.  And here is a first; I earned a bear hug & a kiss for that fish, don’t worry Stuart I won’t tell if you don’t!  And the best bit, taking photos while Stuart shook all over.  He was literally consumed with excitement with both Rob & Bill gob-smacked that a fish of this proportion had just been landed on a river where usually we get excited about a 10 inch Brown.

Stuart Cowley with his first ever Salmon caught on the River Mole in September 2014

No need for a caption other than – BIG fish, BIG smile!

The successful fly was a big Peeping Caddis nymph, tied on a barbless jig hook, fished using a 12lb knotless tapered leader and of course moments after these photos the hen fish was carefully returned.

Sadly the following day Bill had to leave us to get back home and after not a lot of deliberation both Stuart and Rob opted for another Mole session.  Little did we know what was in store!   The conditions were completely different as a cool wind lowered the air temperature and the wild Trout decided to take a rest.  We scratched some fish together but compared to the free rising fish from the day before the Mole was showing off its moodier side.

Stuart was desperate for Rob to land a Salmon and so we spent considerable time trying to emulate the success from the day before, but despite a good few fish leaping around none obliged.  As the day rolled on the Trout fishing slowed even more and before long it was getting close to the time for the guys to head back up the M4.  But fishaholic Stuart was having none of it and between us we decided that he should use the last half an hour to try his luck with the Salmon again.

While Stuart rolled the Peeping Caddis into a deep section of the pool I left him to see if I could spot anything sitting in the channel just above.  I was just a few rod lengths away from him when I froze.  A perfectly conditioned Sea Trout of several pounds lay deep, but was clearly finning just off the river bed … it looked like a taking fish.

I went into whisper mode and called “Stuuuuart” under my breath as I tiptoed in my wading boots, hardly daring to move.  Twice that fish grabbed the nymph and spat it leaving us to giggle like school children and do that thing where you kind of hold your breath, just in case the fish notices you … and then it appeared.

I don’t know why but a Salmon suddenly decided to cruise down stream, turn and jostle with our Sea Trout for a position.  “Quick Stu; get that fly up above it”  which he did, perfectly.  “Nice one, that’s it lift, lift, steady … HE’S GOT IT …. STRIKE!”  Or words to that effect I am sure!  In split seconds we had gone from pulling the fly out of a Sea Trout’s mouth twice to now witnessing a solid looking Grilse flick its head and inhale our fly as nonchalantly as a hungry Trout.

Stuart Cowley playing a River Mole Salmon

Stuart latched into his second Salmon in two days, hooked on a sight fished nymph.

A few tense minutes later Salmon number two was in the net and posing for the GoPro. It was one of those moments where it all just came together and the result was one very happy Stuart and a totally elated guide.

Nick Hart and his client Stuart Cowley with a River Mole Salmon

Its a privilege to share moments like this.

I don’t think there is a better memory or picture to wind up this, my last blog of 2014. Thank you for reading the post (if you have got this far!) and if you would like to see more of what I got up to with my guests this year don’t forget to click this link for the 2014 season review gallery.

Have an amazing evening tonight whether you are going to paint the town red or like me spend some quality time with your family, remembering the good times past and the ones that await us in the future.  Happy New Year!

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