Early morning in the Exe Valley

Photo by Julia Amies-Green.

Photo by Julia Amies-Green.

The river Exe runs southwards from the heights of Exmoor’s moorland and finally reaches the sea in South Devon at Exmouth.  The word “Exe” comes for the old English world for water “isca”.
You can sit by the River Exe in Exford and Winsford, and catch glimpses of the winding and growing river when driving along the A396.



Letter from Exmoor: Fun Sized Fish

Wow, this weather is incredible.  Not so good for the fishing so it may seem, but in fact there is great sport available, especially on the rivers (find some shade around a bit of oxygenated water) and as we found yesterday it seems the Bass are starting to show on the estuaries.  More about that in a moment.

My guest for the last 3 days has been Simon Whitworth who originally visited me two years ago for a course.  Due to work commitments he had managed just 3 sessions since then so we started out with a casting refresher.  I have to say that Simon did not take long to get back into the swing of things and before long talk about the river began.

Simon Whitworth with an eleven inch wild Brown Trout form the River Exe

A bit better than fun size brown!

He took to the running water scene pretty quickly, nailing a palm sized fish on the first cast!  This was really in at the deep end stuff, casting under trees, controlling the line, watching out for drag and then having to make a cast.  All in the space of about 10 seconds.  By day 2 things just got better and our very last fish of the day was this little stunner which is above average at about 11 inches.  Taken on a gob full of a Sedge pitched into a back eddy under an overhanging branch.

The small stillwater Rainbows Simon had previously caught may have been bigger but as we chatted away about his experience so far it transpired (as I hear so often) that the size of the fish really didn’t matter.  It was the whole package.  The scenery.  The serenity.  The Take.  And of course the chance to witness these beautiful little fish in all their glory.

A River Exe Brown Trout nestled in the net prior to release

Who needs big when you can have beautiful?

We still had day 3 ahead of us; so what to do?  Simon did not need asking twice when I mentioned Bass.  This year they have been few and far between, so I explained that a blank was certainly possible, although if nothing else I could show him a few spots, the flies to use and who knows maybe the tide would deliver us a little bit of Summer Silver?

The first half of the session was as I expected. Hot, sticky and fishless, although within minutes of arriving I managed to spook a Bass of a good few pounds, hiding in some weed fronds just inches from the shore.  So at least there was one to catch!  Despite some cracking casts being thrown by Simon (remember this was just his 7th ever fly fishing session!)  …it didn’t bite.  With the tide changing it was time to rack up the rods and head for a new mark in the hope that the three pounder was not alone in the estuary.

Turns out it wasn’t …. as upon arriving we could see Gulls in a frenzy.  ”That’s Bass – guaranteed” I said and before long we had broken into a jog (thank god for breathable waders!) and were heading towards the activity.  The frustration as can be the case during these bait ball busts is that the fish were moving so fast, oh for a kayak, a float tube … even a set of arm bands.  And to add to the frustration a North Easterly was pushing across Simons shoulder making fly casting at best tricky.  Enter the lure rod.

Simon had never caught a Bass, so what should we do, hope that the fish came within casting range or chuck out a lure?  First cast he was smashed hard twice and then lost a fish on a Little Sammy skittered across the surface (I just couldn’t risk the last 2 Salt Skimmers that I have at the moment … and anyway I had left them at home!) before another chuck resulted in a super visual bust on the surface and this time … the fish was on!

Simon Whitworth displays a North Devon Bass

Fun sized Bass on a fun filled day

The first fish of any species is special and now Simon had three as the day before we had also picked up a nice size Grayling, which would be shown here if I had not locked the SD card and not noticed!  All good but what really pleased me more than anything was that Simon had seen now varied fishing can be.  One minute tucked away on a river wafting stealthy little casts under a tree at Trout sipping on the surface and the next stood in gin clear saltwater frantically casting at Bass smashing bait.  Does the size of the fish really matter during moments like this?

You may notice the black frames on these images, I’m not sure personally but will try a few more experiments with this iPad Snapseed software until I get it right.  I also have the May & June catch up to complete (as promised here) but right now I must admit that the typing is becoming a little more frantic as I think I am going to steal the afternoon and see if I can get into a Bass myself.  There were plenty of the fun size Basslets but I also watched a huge bust and aerial display from a fish that must have been 5lb, along with a further specimen that was even bigger.  Who knows, perhaps my next post will be Super sized?!


Nick Hart originally posted this on his blog on 12 July 2013. You can find more info on how to go fishing with Nick here.