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The Advancing Angler

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We are delighted to welcome Nick Hart onto the Fish and Fly team on a regular basis. Because Nick has so much experience in the flyfishing world - both as a tackle dealer and as a guide - we felt it sensible to ask him, over the weeks, to take us all from our comfortable proficiency to a more advanced stage. Nick really does have the knowledge to make us all better.

How tackle can improve your levels of performance

I'm glad we're starting with tackle. It's no secret I've got a tackle shop and it's the tackle that's the starter for everyone. I'd like to say from the outset I've got absolutely no bias, no sponsorships, nothing to influence me when a customer asks for genuine advice. This is a business I want for my lifetime and I'm going to build it on that firmest possible foundation - trust. My aim is to sell anybody exactly what they want whether it's a rod for £500 or a rod for £50.

And I think customers can trust what I say. Everything in our shop has been tried and tested and flogged to death down here in Devon over the seasons. I don't sell anything that I don't believe in. If I tell you something's good it's because I know it is and it's not just technical speak. I like to think we're all about gear in action. Let's take waders as an example. Now, I just haven't been able to get on with the Greys breathable waders. (Have to disagree with Nick here. I've used two or three pairs over the last five years and I've found them remarkable for the money. But, we all know, breathables are moody beasts. Ed) However, the Hardy EWS waders have been brilliant. I've smashed the hell out of them and they've stood up and come back for more. I've got total confidence in them and that's why I'm selling loads.

Gear to make you better?

Let me say from the outset that most anglers turn up for a day with me with at least a half reasonable rod. It might not be top of the range but, these days, it's going to be serviceable. Reels, when it comes to trout fishing, are really not that important. Providing they are tough, that does for me. It's nice to have a jewel on the end of your rod but it's not essential.

But this is the rub: a huge proportion of the anglers that I meet up with let themselves down totally when it comes to fly lines. They'll have fly lines that are old and cracked. Lines that aren't clean. Lines covered in grit and dirt. Lines that are the wrong weight for the rod. Anglers seem happy to spend £200 on a rod and yet want to scrimp and save on a fly line. Total false economy. With a crap line I can't teach and I can't demonstrate. I've often had an angler struggling to put out a cast, given him my rod and my line and it's simply whizzed out. They look at me as though I've worked some sort of miracle but it's simply down to my lines and the way I look after them.

So what do I look for in a fly line?

• The line has just got to be smooth. Lines vary in quality and don't hesitate to buy the best you can afford. I am a great supporter of the Greys Platinum XD lines. I like the two-tone colour effect because it gives you a great visual indication. A couple of flicks and out goes the running line, always with perfect control.

• Any fly line you choose, must have as little memory as possible and lay as flat as a pancake. Fly lines with memory simply destroy your chances.

• Colour doesn't bother me. I actually like bright lines because it's easier to see hesitant takes. If you're casting correctly and your leader is set up right, the trout won't be seeing the actual fly line itself anyway. Even on skinny rivers, a bright line doesn't bother me in the least.

• I recently talked with a comparatively experienced angler who always does well down here. He wanted a new fly line and I asked him what weight rod he was using. Weight, he asked me? How should I know? A few ounces! This guy genuinely didn't have a clue what the figures on his rod meant at all. He had no idea that the rod had to be matched to the line. And that, second nature to most of us, is crucial.

• I think that weight-forward is the way to go. If you're fishing close, a weight-forward turns over perfectly. If you're fishing at distance, you'll find a weight forward far better than double taper. I use weight-forwards pretty much across the board both in running and still water and I'd recommend you to do the same, without a doubt.

• Above all, whatever line you've got, keep it clean. I use Scientific Anglers line cleaner and I use it at least every other trip on all my lines. Regular as clockwork. You'll find that the more often your lines are cleaned, the better they perform. It's like you're polishing them up and they will cast better and better as the weeks progress. Cleaning a line also increases its life. Our lines are fished senseless. They're used every day for teaching and they're trodden on, covered in mud and subject to all manner of horrendous casting actions. Yet, because of the cleaning, they will still last a full season.

Obviously, we'll be talking about flies a lot in the future but as a general rule, don't by cheap rubbish. These are over-tied and they're tied on cheap hooks which are going to let you down. Buy a quality product and you will catch more and you'll lose less.

And Polaroids

You wouldn't believe how many people come to me without Polaroids. You just can't fish without them. I use Maui Jims. Their polarization is second to none. MJs aren't just another company offering off-the-peg products. Their glasses are proper works of optical genius. They're comfortable, they're light and they're durable. I, personally, use the Turtle Bay design and I don't expect to see a scratch on them even after half a season.

Visit Nick Hart's website and the Hart Fly Shop.

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