It’s the people I meet

I have dived on here today to add a post because I could not leave what has just happened without saying something.  Many, many times I have said that one of the best parts about helping people learn all about fly fishing is meeting them in the first place.  They literally come from all walks of life.

A few weeks back I met Joe & Lesley Denham, visiting Exmoor for a 2 day fly fishing course.  It was Lesley who was keen to learn and so Joe had booked them in for the weekend.  Right away we hit it off over the obligatory cup of tea, discussing the days ahead of us and more besides.  I am always interested in what my guests do for a living, especially business owners and it turned out that Joe & Lesley are involved in another huge passion of mine; food.

A lady angler trying fly fishing at Exe Valley Fishery

Lesley realises her dream of trying fly fishing

Not restauranters, deli owners or farmers these guys sell a product that means it is possible to grow your own fruit, vegetables and herbs.  The VegTrug.  I was fascinated by their story and what is a simple, yet very effective product, especially as I had been looking into ways that I could use our fishery venue to combine the process of catching a fish with the important aspects of preparing, cooking & consuming it afterwards.  With home grown salad & veggies!

During the conversation I also mentioned my daughter, her love of the outdoors and that something like this would be just up her street.  After a successful course and a sad good bye I cannot say anything more than how gobsmacked my wife Sue and I were when the following week 3 VegTrugs turned up on our doorstep!

Joe & Lesley Denham of VegTrug with Rainbow Trout

Husband and wife team Joe & Lesley with some Trout to go with their VegTrug

It’s been a busy few weeks guiding and so finding time to spend with the family has been tough, but yesterday we took the day to celebrate Sues 40th birthday, spend some time with the children and set up the VegTrug.  A slap up roast lunch inside us we nosed around a local garden nursery for all manner of tasty things to grow and headed home to set to work.  Here is the result of our first attempt at growing our own food!

Ready to set up a VegTrug

Scarlett looking very pleased with her new VegTrug

Construting a VegTrug

I am not practical shall we say, but fortunately my son was on hand to help!

Half way through building a VegTrug

It was my wife that spotted we were putting it together wrong and Chester soon had it sorted. The VegTrug is actually super easy to build and there are videos to help. I should have used them!


Filling a VegTrug with compost

And now the fun bit – filling with compost!

Planting out a VegTrug

Building & filling- Chester was done! But Scarlett got stuck into planting while even Rio our Black Lab looked interested. Sorry no bones in their old boy!

A VegTrug filled with fruit, veg & herbs

A couple of hours and one completed VegTrug!

Starting from the far right corner we have planted Strawberries, Tomatoes, Chilli, Broccoli, Lettuce (2 varieties), Basil and Black Peppermint.  This is just our first try, so we have not gone mad but hopefully we can get some of that perfect Trout herb, Dill, growing soon and Radishes, Beetroot, Carrots and definitely Garlic are all high on the list!

I realise that this is a little different to my usual posts, but we had a fantastic day with the children and Scarlett’s face was just a picture, so I just had to write about it.  It maybe a tenuous link but all of this was once again because of meeting more incredible people through fly fishing.  Thank you so much Joe & Lesley, you have made the Hart family very, very happy indeed.  We promise to report on our first crops soon!

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Thoughts about working in Fly Fishing – The last 16 years … 12 months … and a bit

I find it hard to believe that this will be my 18th year guiding and teaching fly fishing.  To be fair aged 23 I was only just getting started but 4 years later I was up and running on a full time basis.

Those were super exciting times that I vividly remember, even though I am now well past my 40th year on this extremely cool planet.  And still to this day I can hear well meaning relatives and friends (even clients) offering their advice.  Much of the counsel I received was very good, but sadly due to my youthful exuberance and passion to succeed as a professional fly fisher, I decided to continue upon my path and all that advice fell upon deaf ears!

But one thing really sticks in my mind and that was the comment made by virtually everyone trying to reason with me regarding my intended path.  “Be careful Nick, turn something you love so much into a way of making money and it might not turn out quite how you expect; in fact you may even end up not enjoying or evening hating the very thought of fly fishing

Yeah Right!

Where I am going with this blog post; the first I have uploaded in over a year?

Well I guess what I am about to say is that all those friends and relatives (and clients) were right, but also wrong and during the last 12 months I have been thinking long & hard about the journey during the last 10 years in particular.

First things first; I still love guiding fly fishing & teaching fly casting.  When one of my clients hooks a fish, pulls off a fly … fly cast … or suddenly has one of those light bulb moments when something I say helps them connect with their fishing even more … and it does nothing for me … well there is no other solution is there?  It’s time to hang up the waders and get a real job.

Two anglers pose with Trout caught during a 2 day fly fishing course hosted by Nick Hart in 2015

Guiding & Teaching – The most awesome part about working in fly fishing.

I am not about to give myself a P45 just yet because I reckon I get more of a buzz from guiding with each season that passes, which possibly explains why I am so goddamn miserable during the winter!

Fly Fishing P45

One bit of advice I have for anyone interested in earning their keep as a UK fly fishing guide is beware that you have a window of around 6 months to make some cash and if you really want to be full time, then the only way is to get on a plane and get the hell out of here when the increasingly common winter storms appear.  Either that or you need an off season regular job.  I was waiting on tables in the winter until I was 30.

Which leads me to the truth about those wise words that fell upon my large but uninterested ears all those years ago.  It didn’t take long for me to realise that even a busy guide in the UK will struggle to earn enough cash to make a living and so suddenly my vision became blurred.  While I began employing other people to do the job I loved my own focus became retail and Hart Flyshop was born.

Hart Flyshop in 2007

Hart Flyshop in 2007

The idea was to offer a specialist online fly fishing retail outlet, driven by information direct from a guide spending most of his waking hours on or in the water, using and abusing everything from a tippet ring to pair of breathable waders.  Blog posts, videos, reviews … I had it all in my head but there were three major flaws to my plan (there were probably more like 1003!)

Hart Flyshop - an interior view of the shop floor in the early days of trading

Spartan beginnings

Number One – Time.  100+ guiding days during the season doesn’t leave much time and during the off season the time that is now available in abundance needs to be filled with cash flow based objectives.  Guide + Manage Online Shop + Showroom = Disaster!

Number Two – Online is all about price.  I have had long discussions about this, especially with very loyal customers who have booked me for guiding over many seasons and spent 1000s of their hard earned pounds on the latest equipment that I have recommended.

In the flesh, in the moment, trying out gear, listening to my evaluation; that is very different to sitting at a browser, mouse finger at the ready wanting to make a purchase.  A good few of those loyal customers did use the virtual tackle shop but of course for online retailing to really work you need 1000 upon 1000 of customers ready to Add to Cart.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if the products shown are competitively priced and backed up with outstanding service that the business will grow & grow.  Which in other words means discounting, bundles, lots of staff, a warehouse and … Number 3.

The interior of Hart Flyshop during the busy years.

The nearest I came to my vision of a Montana style fly fishing outfitter

Number Three – Money … & lots of it.  A healthy bank balance is something no UK based guide starting from scratch is ever going to have unless hoards of Bonefish, GTs, Steelhead and Lakers suddenly turn up on the coast, in our rivers & stillwaters offering a year round income.  So although I don’t think my idea was entirely without good reason what I really did not bank on, no pun intended, is that a small independent, specialist online fly fishing retail shop in the UK will not be able to compete.  Back in 2007; maybe.  But in 2016; not a chance!

As of yesterday my own attempt at online retail, no longer exists but instead heads off towards something that aligns with my original vision once more, which is to offer entertainment to people in the form of fly fishing experiences.  Click here to see.

Hart Flyshop was a specialist online fly fishing retailer that opened in 2006 and closed 10 years later in 2016.

Hart Flyshop went offline on Monday 1st February 2016

Was this post just my way of announcing that I don’t sell tackle online any more? Definitely not. Instead I see it as an explanation of why I haven’t posted any entries to this blog during the last 12 months.  I needed to spend time thinking about my next steps, time to focus on my vision again and I needed to make time to go fishing again!

Anyway if you have arrived all the way at the bottom of this post, my sincere thanks for reading and if you visited the blog regularly in the past, my sincere apologies for the silence.  I am not going to promise weekly posts or another series of articles that just don’t happen because my time is being taken up where it should be, on the water.

Even so, if you feel like it please check back in sometime, because now that I no longer have to think about the virtual world of fly fishing sales I have a bit more time on my hands which I hope may become evident on the blog this coming season.

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