It’s that time of year again – I’m officially another year older. Having taken enough hints over the last few months, about the need for me to improve my casting, my lovely wife arranged for a days fly casting tuition for my birthday. Somehow she’d managed to get it arranged for the actual day, with Nick Hart Fly Fishing up at the nearby Exe Valley Fishery. To say I had been looking forward to it would be an understatement. Sadly the weather of late hasn’t been that great what with torrential rain, wind and a particularly unwelcome drop in temperature this last couple of days. The River Exe has been flowing fast and high and a distinct chocolate colour all this week so it wasn’t a great surprise that on the eve of the big day I got a call from Nick offering the opportunity to postpone the days fishing. On the basis that if the guide is giving the option to postpone, prospects must be pretty dire, I took him up on the offer and rearranged for another date in a couple of weeks. Fingers crossed for better weather at the beginning of December!
Now with a free day and the excuse that it is my birthday after all, it seemed only right that I at least try to wet a line. Fishing the raging torrent that was the River Exe this morning was out of the question, as would be any of the other rivers around about I guessed. The Exeter Canal seemed the best bet to my mind, as it would at least be fishable.
I decided to try the section from the swing bridge on down to just past the motorway bridge. What’s interesting about this section is that the river Exe runs immediately adjacent to the canal for some way, and the river could be seen running high, fast and coloured whereas the canal was as clear and tranquil as usual. Having congratulated myself on a good call I set off to try my luck with trusty fly rod in hand. Would today be the day I finally christened the #8 rod? and in doing so get my first pike on the fly? Doing so on my birthday would be suitably memorable and fitting! A Birthday Pike!
It seemed the canal was the venue of choice today as I saw several other pike anglers around the Lime Kilns stretch – most spinning but also one dead baiting. Only one guy had had any luck, so it didn’t bode well.
I worked my way down past the Lime Kilns section & under the motorway bridge on the SWW treatment works side of the canal. The water was very clear and all in all it felt very pikey, so I was feeling quite optimistic. Once I’d walked for a while apart from the occasional canoeist I had the canal to myself. The benefit of the treatment works side of the canal is that it isn’t frequented by many people, unlike the other bank, so in that sense it made casting easier although with the bankside vegetation it was a matter of finding the gaps in the trees to be able to find space for the backcast. I used a very large 7″ streamer type fly to no success on the way down stream. Casting this really was a struggle and didn’t feel good. A combination of struggling with the casting and no interest from the fish led to me feeling a little negative by the time I decided to turn back. It wasn’t until I’d switched to a more modest sized fly that It dawned on me what a struggle it was to cast the big fly. Having switched, suddenly I was able to cast effortlessly and much further and my spirits lifted. Maybe the #8 weight rod just isn’t man enough to cast such large flies – or maybe my casting ability isn’t quite up to it. I’ll have to raise this with Nick when I have the casting tuition in a couple of weeks time.
I got back to the car, fish-less but at least feeling pretty good about my casting and glad to have got out in the countryside. The birthday pike may have eluded me this time, but there’s always next year.