Looking Back At 2016 – My Fly Fishing Review

Every year seems to be busier than previous years with new projects and days on the water either guiding or introducing newcomers to the addictive sport of fly fishing and looking back at 2016 it was no exception.

fly fishing review

Many days were spent on the water with fishing friends old and new in search of all manner of fish from trout and grayling through to some bass, carp and pike. Not unlike recent seasons the West Country migratory fish proved problematic with poor summer river levels seeming to make the fishes progress up the river systems later than ever. Even with the local river season extensions the rains didn’t really materialize, so this asks the question, are our river seasons outdated with climate change and should season dates be moved to accommodate? I know on one of my favourite rivers the salmon season starts on February the 14th (a popular date with wives and girlfriends!) and apart from the odd kelt, I would never expect to see a fresh run fish in the system until April.

fly fishing review

Corporate bookings seem to make a bit of comeback in 2016, so the coming year will be interesting with all of the political changes happening around us to see if this resurgence gains any more momentum. Family days were also popular this year which is always great to see, on more than one occasion I had three generations of the same family on the bank with a fly rod in hand.

Working partnerships remained strong throughout the year with some amazing days spent on the bank with the brilliant Vale House Kitchen and Deer Park Fishery, both of which seem grow from strength to strength. Check out their websites for what is sure to be an even more exciting year to come with lots of events and courses on offer.

fly fishing review


The year also saw me doing a bit of promo film work with Vale House Kitchen which was a real eye opener, hours of work went into the film but the results were amazing, you can check it out here. I spent a day on the river Otter with Dominic Garnett, fellow guide and author, for a magazine shoot, again great fun and even made the front cover of the magazine in one of Dom’s shots! You can check out some of Dominic’s work here. I look forward to doing a bit more with Dom in the coming year so keep an eye out for this.

Throughout the year I continued to work alongside Marryat Rods, Partridge of Redditch and Varivas, this gave my guests the chance to try out some of the best tackle on the market before buying. The new rods from Marryat went down a storm this year and I’m sure it’s a name you will being seeing and hearing more and more in 2017. Come and join me in the coming year and try these for yourself, you will be truly amazed!

fly fishing review

So with the New Year looming and the diary filling fast I’m really looking forward to what’s in store and would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy, fun and fished filled New Year.

Winter Fly Fishing

The light weight UV protected fishing shirts have now made their way to the back of the wardrobe and been replaced with the thermals in readiness for getting out in freezing temperatures for some winter fly fishing. Although shirts with UV protection built in seemed a bit optimistic with the weather we had last summer.

For many, the end of the river trout season spells the time to retire the kit to its winter storage home as the warm fire beckons and the thought of standing in ice cold water for a few hours quite literally sends shivers down the spine.

For me, the fly fishing itch is just too strong to not scratch until the following spring so I like to keep throwing the fluff all year round and winter grayling fishing certainly hits the spot for me. Like so many others, contemplating standing in waist deep in freezing water whilst sitting in front of that warm fire seems like a no contest but with a bit of careful thought of what is the right kit for the conditions and the day out it’s now something that doesn’t faze me at all.

Starting with your waders, you have a couple of options here. You either use your summer lightweight breathable set and layer up underneath or invest in some thicker material waders like a thick Neoprene pair and then not go with the extra under layers.

For most, winter trips tend to be less frequent and the thought of forking out for another set of waders just for these occasional forays just doesn’t cut it, so if this is you invest in some decent base layers instead. Go for breathable base layers as these will allow the moisture to pass through them from sweating (yes you will sweat even in freezing conditions!) If you wear basic base layers that trap moisture, then this moisture in turn becomes cold and lowers the body’s temperature by being trapped next to the skin. In really cold conditions it’s best to opt for a base layer then a mid-layer over the top. Like most kit, you really get what you pay for, so the more you spend on an item the more likely you are to get a more technically advanced material that’s going to keep you warmer.

My next must have winter accessory is a pair of decent gloves. Even if you’re not wearing them to fish it’s still nice to give your hands a break from the cold when you’re having a break or walking to and from the beat. I like the Sealskinz brand, again these are breathable, they’re also pretty thin and lightweight, if you want to fish wearing them the fingers are removable to make things a bit easier. They are the best I’ve used on the market and I never leave home without mine in the winter. Hand warmers are a useful addition to carry as well, especially when you need to bring your fingers to life when it comes to tying that that all important knot.

As most people know, a lot of heat is lost through the head (especially if you have a head of hair like mine!) with this in mind invest in a decent thermal hat, something that covers the ears is useful. When it comes to your hat purchase, think function not fashion!

A couple other items you might want to take on your winter outing is a flask of hot drink, not alcohol as this has an adverse effect on your body’s temperature contrary to popular belief. A tub of Loon Stanley’s Ice Off can come in useful for those days when you have ice forming on your rod rings, although conditions may be too extreme for some if this is happening. Most importantly, a spare set of dry, warm clothes in case you take a dunking, and we all think it will never happen to us but believe me you don’t want to prove yourself wrong when you’re stood on an icy bank miles from home. If you start to feel the cold when wading climb out of the water and have a brisk walk along the bank, use this warm up time to check out the next pools you might fish and to check for any redds in the shallower runs that you should avoid disturbing.

So there you have it, with a bit of fore planning and the right kit, winter fly fishing may not be as daunting as you’re thinking whilst you’re sat in front of that warming fire, so give it a go and no matter how cold it is you will soon forget the low temperatures when that monster grayling slides towards the net.

Salmon Fishing.

New video here….. Salmon Fishing.

Big water on the river, bit too high for the fly but gave it a bash anyway, fast sinking line, big cone head flies and plenty of upstream mends, sadly no sign of any salmon but if your flies not in the water….. Best viewed in H.D.

salmon fishing

Posted by Neil Keep Fly Fishing on Sunday, 30 August 2015

Tailing Loops and Wind Knots

Tailing loops and wind knots are the curse of the fly angler but what causes them?

Being early season I have been spending a lot of time on the bank with guests wanting to “tune up” their casting techniques and one comment I have been getting on numerous occasions is “after a couple of hours of fishing, knots appear in my leader and I don’t know why”.

Wind knots are not generally caused by wind but by poor casting technique…..but then who is going to admit they suffer with poor casting knots?! So what is causing these poor casting kn…..I mean wind knots?

tailing loops and wind knots

With ever progressing tackle technology comes the promise of casting further with the latest product, true some rods and lines will cast further than others but only with the correct technique. This greater “distance casting product” promise seems to change the mindset of the angler once in the hand,  then in turn the angler puts a bit more “oomph” into their cast to really get the most out of their latest purchase.

Herein lies the problem. With the extra/incorrect power application comes the tailing loop quickly followed by a generous helping of wind knots.

Applying power aggressively at the start of each casting stroke causes the rod tip to buckle and dip, this makes the fly line pass under itself instead of unrolling over itself and then causing knots in the leader. Another cause can be the casting stroke not being long enough in relation to the length of aerialised line.

Tailing loops and wind knots

Distance casting will only come with the application of “smooth power” and with good timing, all of which need practice.

To help, when you make a forward cast,  start the stroke by purely dropping your elbow, this in turn will pull your hand forward and make the cast for you. Try to keep your hand passive and not to push the rod with your hand too much but think more about pulling the rod tip from behind you into the forward cast, this in turn should really smooth out the casting stroke and improve your loop. You must however raise the elbow into the back cast so that you can drop it in the forward cast. Give it a go next time you are out with a rod and think “smooth power” as you cast, no jerky, snatching movements!

It’s hard to put this down in words but I will try doing a video at some point to demonstrate this technique more clearly, until then happy casting!