Category Archives: Dartmoor Aug 2013: Ultralight Fly Fishing?!

Ultralight Fly Fishing 3: Wild Swimming on the Dart

After pandering to mediocrity yesterday and not catching any dinner, today we set up a new objective. The weather was too hot to catch fish (always an excuse), so we decided to swim with them instead. Our aim was to find a beautiful wild swimming spot, ideally somewhere you could dive into.

We set off along the rock laden river bank moving swiftly when something happened which I’m not entirely sure I should explain. We were moving like ninjas, somewhere between a light jog and a run, effortlessly bounding over rocks, roots and water. One of us was humming the Lord of the Rings sound track and so “prancing” was born.

Verb – to move like an elf or dwarf, covering large distances swiftly whilst looking rugged and singing the LOTR sound track at full volume (definitely scared the fish away by now).

Anyway we pranced for about 47 seconds before we became aware of how absurd we looked and continued the rest of the way imagining we were in LOTR and never mentioning prancing again. Anyway we marched for a ages. Occasionally jumping into the river’s rapids to cool down and have some fun, but still we hadn’t found any really deep water.

Dave cooling down in some rapids
Dave cooling down in some rapids

Given it had been so hot for a few weeks the water level was lower than normal so it was doubtful we’d find anywhere deep enough to dive. But Dave assured me he knew of a place that “would be quite fun”.

This turned out to be the mother of all under statements as he took me to a rocky outcrop that over looked the river. Never has the term over-achiever been more justified than when speaking about Dave. What an incredible find! An old ladder attached to the rock face took us down to an outcrop flanked by a cliff. Ahead of me were rapids and immediately below was a deep plunge pool. We did what any man would do and bombed into the water (let’s not forget that safety never takes a holiday and you shouldn’t bomb into water unless you know how deep it is and Dave knew because he’s a powerful beast).

Dave demonstrating how powerful his shorts are
Dave demonstrating how powerful his shorts are

The pool was deep enough that we couldn’t touch the bottom and there was only the gentlest of currents. It was paradise.


Ultralight Fly Fishing 2: Smoke me a Trout I’ll be back for Breakfast

Our ultra light camping trip wasn’t going as planned. We had failed to catch dinner. The whole purpose of our weekend camping trip was to prove you could travel ultralight with only 25 litre back packs  containing all of our kit, hunt out some trout, smoke them and revel in being self sufficient. However things weren’t looking good. Sure we could see lots of fish through the clear but slightly peaty coloured waters of the River Dart, but they weren’t interested in us. Personally I blame Dave’s lurid shorts.

Dave the Old Boy was casting his fly fishing rod precisely, and you could see the flies on the end of his line weave past the fishes faces, but they were all like “no way man I just want a light salad with no dressing pal, not your crummy fly.”

It was such a hot day, it must have reached 31C and the fish stubbornly stayed at the bottom of the river. As is often the way when the temperatures are high the fish refused to move or do anything.


I empathised.

But this posed a problem, I was desperate to find out how easy it was to smoke a fish, and at that moment we were eye balling defeat straight in the eyes.

However being brave and resourceful fellows we laughed at our underachievement and knew what had to be done…On the way back to our island wild camping spot we made a minor detour to a supermarket and bought a piece of salmon! Sure we cheated blah blah, but it was worth it in the name of culinary experimentation. Once back at base I set up the smoker using my MSR Pocket Rocket gas stove and my mess tin on top. You could use any pot, the key is a tight fitting lid to prevent too much smoke escaping.

wood chippings

I’d lined the tin with foil and placed a load of small hard wood chippings on the bottom (the foil stops your tin from getting too blackened inside). In hindsight I would probably make the chippings slightly smaller than the ones in the photo above. Next I gathered some fresh oak leaves and placed them over the chippings. Then came the glorious salmon which I placed this skin side down onto the leaves and administered a wee sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Salmon placed skin side down on top of fresh leaves, ready to be cooked.
Salmon placed skin side down on top of fresh leaves, ready to be cooked.

On went the lid, and I wrapped any excess tin foil over the top to prevent too much of the smoke from escaping. Then I started the stove on a moderate heat and became very excited about how this would turn out.

If you are using a camp fire to reproduce this dish, simply place the mess tin on some embers and you will achieve the same result. You then need to wait 8-10 minutes until the fish is cooked, orange in colour and has taken on that lovely smokey flavour. We were both chuffed at how easy and delicious this was.

Lightly smoked salmon. For a deeper orange colour and heavier smokey flavour simply cook for a couple of minutes longer.
Lightly smoked salmon. For a deeper orange colour and heavier smokey flavour simply cook for a couple of minutes longer.

For brief details of the smoked salmon recipe and other meals you can knock up on a camp fire visit our main site:!food-and-drink-in-the-wild/cfnz

We’ve made sure we design recipes that can actually be cooked on small gas stoves or on an open fire. We had a few rules when designing meals – they had to be cooked in one pot, couldn’t require hard-to-come-by ingredients and weren’t reliant on you taking about 50 different ingredients with you. Hope you enjoy!