I took a day’s holiday to head down to Taunton to visit Toby Merigan at Funky Fly Tying. It’s a bit of an epic trek but the sun was shining and the traffic was light. I am going to be doing some fly-tying projects with Funky in the future which I am looking forward to. When I arrived, Toby was keen to show me some of the new rods that he had been sent to try out. Some interesting stuff, a fiberglass rod which was a lot of fun and a new 10' 6" nymphing rod that was so light in the hand it seemed effortless. After a successful meeting Toby took me up to the Tone, the day was glorious and the river was running clear. I hope the Avon goes the same way soon!
As we walked down the very convenient path we came across an environment agency sign saying Danger Will Robinson...danger! No, it didn’t say that it said Caution electrofishing …. FFS. It's nice to see the environment boys out checking the health of the river but could they not have done that when it was high and coloured.... lol. Toby seemed unperturbed though and suggested that we just walk a little further downstream then fish up to the point that had been electrofished. We decided to fish each pool together no easy task in such close quarters.
Toby opted for a straight dry fly and I fished a delicate Duo, I let the host go first and after only two or three casts a pristine wild Brown trout was brought to hand. Toby had warned me the fish were small but what they lack in size they more than make up for in proportions and markings, just perfect. My turn next and after only a couple of casts, I had claimed my first ever river Tone fish. Unused to fishing in such tight areas I did spend no small amount of time re-rigging and it took me a good half hour or so sorting out casting under the canopy. The straight dry Vs Duo there was nothing in it to be honest the fish are ravenous and Toby kept putting on bigger and bigger flies and the fish kept coming.
The fish finally stopped coming when Toby's fly got stuck between the two banks, only joking but they did draw the line at a huge size #12 Stimulator. I have no idea what the preoccupation with big fish is, I was as happy as a fat kid in a sweet shop. I could have spent the rest of the afternoon there but we soon reached the point where the electrofishing had been carried out. Toby suggested we head up to Clatwothy reservoir to catch the evening rise. Toby did have a spare 5wt rod with him so we headed up. As we arrived the sun had dipped behind some thick cloud and a cool wind had picked up a little.
I had decided to stick with my trusty 3wt, we were only going to fish dries anyway. I opted for a single caddis pattern with a trailing shuck. This was not because I could see a hatch coming off in fact there was very little surface activity and little signs of a hatch. The first fish took me by surprise from nowhere there was a huge boil under my fly and as I lost sight of it I lifted my rod. The next thing my inadequate reel screamed at me in protest and the rod buckled around to the side. I should have taken the heavier rod the fight if you could call it that (I was getting my arse kicked) went on for a short time before the fish slipped the hook.
Toby was next into some sport and was fishing with fiberglass rod which looked fantastic as it was bent nearly double. After a quick injection of bad angling, Toby got in the way of his reel as it was trying to do its job and the fish snapped him up. The fish had started to show a bit now and we could cover a few. I saw Toby get some interest in front of the boat but the fish refused, I pitched my offering in the area and it was sucked down sweet as a nut. As I played the fish we laughed about the poaching but I stopped laughing after hearing bang as my reel fell to bits quite literally as I was playing the fish. Two reels in two outings, WTF. Now pushing the spool into the reel so that the line could run and completely outgunned you can guess how that battle went. Shortly after Toby hooked and landed a cracking fish but after some quite spectacular juggling, we failed to get the trophy shot.
With the long drive home looming over me we decided to call it a day and headed in only an hour or so but we managed to hook a few fish and had some other opportunities. Many thanks to Toby and Polly for making me feel welcome at Funky Towers. It was nice to see the bottom of a river again and a nice change to just go and fish dries blind from a boat and getting sport. I think the next meeting must be done entirely on the river bank or in a boat ;-)