The middle and upper reaches of the river Exe offer some of the best fly water in the West Country. Above Tiverton, given water, the river is wide enough for the double-handed rod to be used if salmon fishing, but not so wide as to discourage the user of the single-hander. There is excellent trout and grayling fishing too and all set in some of the most beautiful countryside Britain has to offer.
I was lucky enough to fish a private beat near Dulverton recently; a beat that is considered by some to be the best on the river. I tackled up with a double handed rod as I was fishing the Taw at Umberleigh later in the day and tied on a small editor (fly) tube made of something heavy and fished the water thoroughly through two lovely looking pools (there were half a dozen all together but obviously time was limited, so I took a chance). As I was going about this rather pleasurable business I considered other options worth exploring next time – should I be invited back of course. These would hold true on any of the water from around Dulverton down to Tiverton.
The water was holding at about a foot on the gauge and clearish, with just a hint of colour. There were some very obvious possible lies apparent like rocks and shelves and in the conditions I wished I had been fishing a single handed rod and concentrated a bit more on working the fly over these. There is nothing nicer than progressing down a beat spey casting a line both squarely and at various angles to forty-five degrees with the two-handed rod, but sometimes water cries out for casts of very varied lengths and angles in quick succession, over very specific features. With a ten foot rod and a double taper seven line one can still spey cast quite happily (and in much tighter spaces and with a much shorter line), but also retrieve a square cast over a likely looking drop off very quickly. These square casts on a river like the Exe can be very short but angled casts of longer distances can also be required and the shorter one-handed rod is much more adaptable, especially as the fly can be worked close in and a longish cast re-presented with little or no effort.
Then there is spinning. I don’t generally spin as the rivers I fish either tend to be fly only or have obvious spinning pools that are deep and sluggish, which I avoid as I find them uninteresting. This was great fly water but at the height it was on the day of my visit, a lot was bound to be fishless. The aforementioned rocks and shelves, did not produce a fish to my flies that swam very nicely above them, but did that mean there were no fish in any of them? I couldn’t help but think, on another day, a small mepps with a little added weight, dropped into the lies from various up and down stream positions, then worked through and out of them, may have at least tempted a fish to betray its presence. It has in the past on other, far less productive beats on other, far less productive rivers.
These were just a couple of things I thought of in the time it took to fish the bit I fished. We are very lucky here in the west, to have rivers like the Exe and they really do deserve your best shot. If you come and fish them, be imaginative, be adaptive and be positive. Small river salmon fishing is intimate and interesting. It’s a real thinking person’s game and one that I can thoroughly recommend. We have several professional guides who specialise in fishing them – give them, or us, a call.