Gwynedd (#20)

Every one of my stories has another aspect which in my mind enhances my fishing experience.

When David (Thompson) promised me a Gwynedd trout, albeit on his terms, and in this case based on the older designation of Welsh counties, it was to be in Merionethshire! Which today, is, of course, Gwynedd. As is Caernarvonshire.

Wales today is so much more than it was. Glamorgan, that famous and successful cricketing county, cannot be so now, because it is…well, how many administrations? Just how small can a county be, and how can Blaenau Gwent be justified, in costs terms? Or Rhondda Cynon Taff, for that matter! Mid and North Wales have lost Montgomeryshire and Merionethshire and Radnorshire. South Wales has added cost on cost, where it cannot afford to. Daft or what?

Anyway…I am sure you get my drift. Is more better, one wonders !

But back to Merionethshire, or rather Gwynedd.

The outstanding sea tout river which is the Dovey enters Cardigan Bay at, of course, Aberdovey. To fish its trouty waters requires a day ticket which can be bought in Machynlleth. And now you will know where I am going with my opening paragraph, for a ticket can be bought in Mr News, at 5 Penrallt Street. So what, you may ask!

Well, behind the counter of this delightful throw back, is a shelf, partitioned with vertical wooden slats about three inches apart, and visible along the left hand verticals are sticky labels with names on them…Dai him, and Ethel her, and I guess those spaces are where are placed the latest edition of Railway Modellers News, or Knitting Weekly, or even the Radio Times (does this still exist?), awaiting the arrival of Dai and Ethel, which prompts a friendly chat between Mr News himself, or his charming assistant, and their loyal and important customers. I love it! Customer service in spades…memo to W H Smith – no self- scanning here. Just people, real people, people who adore and respect their customers….where did that all go?

I bought the latest, and so-called, ‘improved’ edition of Trout and Salmon, to play my bit! (sadly, it’s not improved, by the way)

Bless you, Mr News…and may you and your business, prosper.

The River Dovey (Afon Dyfi) rises in the small lake Creiglyn Dyfi at about 1,900 feet (580 m) above sea level, below Aran Fawddwy, before flowing south to Dinas Mawddwy and Cemmaes Road, then south west past Machynlleth, the only large town in its course, to Cardigan Bay at Aberdyfi. It shares its watershed with the River Severn and the River Dee before flowing generally south-westwards down to a wide estuary. Since the closure of the lead mines and the decline of the slate quarries, the Dovey is now a very clean river, with good runs of salmon and sea trout.

The fishing on the Dovey is controlled by the New Dovey Fishery Association, and day and weekly tickets are very modestly priced.

My ace Navigator, and OS Map ‘junkie’ did a splendid job getting us to the stretches, where we knew were, for sure, in Gwynedd.

I confess that when I am confronted by a stream which is so different to what I am used to, I struggle rather. It’s a psychological thing, and utterly without logic, but I bet I am not alone. Such was the Dovey, whose reputation as a sea trout river far exceed that of a brown trout water, and between 1700 and 2500 are reportedly caught every year. And the parts we sought out looked sea-trouty, and intimidated me!

A morning of casting with no reward, did little to encourage, either, so an early lunch was taken at the Brigands Inn, at Mallwyd, which did little to impress. Waiting a full five minutes at the bar whilst others were served, and without a ‘hello’, or ‘be with you in a minute’, seemed hospitality at its worst. Let’s hope the afternoon would be better, we agreed! At least the beer was worth waiting for.

‘Apres midi’, we explored some very interesting stretches of pocket water,

but upstream, even more sea trouty waters beckoned, but eventually a small brown took pity on me, in a riffle,

and succumbed to this fly.

Now one small fish hardly entitles me claim that I have conquered Gwynedd, but he counts! And I am grateful to him/her!

The scenery here is splendid, and my fish came from a stretch of the river where the southern side of the Snowdonia National Park was visible.

And it was a gloriously sunny day, and enjoyable for that alone. Noisy, too, in part. One of the locals’ past times is to climb to the top ridge of the mountains and look down into the Dovey valley on the fighter pilots practicing low level flying, under the radar, literally, at record speeds, as they race past, out toward the Irish Sea, and photograph them smiling up to said photographers…very dramatic, and a worthy distraction from hard fishing!

But I had my Gwynedd trout.

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Ceredigion (#19)

Have you been to Aberystwyth?

Do you even know where this town is?

Well in my seventy years, I have not but I have/do now!

If you set off on a road journey to this place, Google Maps tells you it should take around five hours from London. And it does, I imagine…unless you slow to admire the extraordinary beauty of the Cambrian mountains in the upper Wye valley, on your way. Or the many other beautiful aspects ‘en route’.

Mine took me along the M4 (the boring bit) toward Swindon, then veering north around this old railway town, (I confess to stopping when my SatNav told me I was crossing a small stream on the A419, and imagine my excitement when peering into the diminutive River Ray, and I saw fish rising, but they were probably dace!) past Cricklade, with its lakes, galore, to Cirencester, then climbing (a relative term) up into the beautiful Cotswolds toward Gloucester (but avoid the City) then onto Ledbury, then driving over the muddy Severn, toward Hereford, a mere thirty miles hence.

On this route, I stopped for sustenance, and was looked after beautifully by bright young things, and spotting some clues from my past enquired whether one Will Chase had an interest in my hostelry, named interestingly,  ‘Verzon’? He did, I was told. He owns it. You will know of Will…Tyrells crisps, Chase vodka (also from potatoes) and more. I tried to do business with him, once, and didn’t, but Verizon is well worth a visit!
Where were we? Ah yes, Hereford. Avoid it and beware the SAS snipers!

But onwards to glory in the acres of apple orchards, all claiming to be the prime source of Strongbow cider, once a Bulmer’s of Hereford brand, but now, not!

This is a very fertile region of our country, and whilst quiet now, in the growing season, imagine the controlled chaos at harvest time when acre upon acre of fruits need to be liberated from their stalks and stems and sent speedily to be cleaned and processed…or pressed!

We are getting dangerously close to the Welsh border now, but still in the Severn catchment, which is important, because every time I spotted a stream, and in spite of what has happened since, at that time, the end of May, it had rained a lot, and every stream I saw was brown, and fast flowing so I was concerned, because I was venturing into the unknown and prospects looked grim, for already I had fished this year less than half the number of days I had in 2017 at the end of May, and I WANTED TO FISH!

My route to this oasis of a town, took me through the picturesque villages of Rhayader and Llangurig, then onwards along the A44, a one road in, and one road out, it seemed, of the most westerly of Wales’ significant towns, and this one, home to 8000 students, as well as the 13000  resident population. And what did I see and feel? Well, somewhere where I recognised today, because of retail brands we all know, but at the same time, somewhere from a past, perhaps the 50’s or later, and where similar ‘sea side’ dwellings as once enriched Brighton or Hove or Hastings…a by-gone era, but reassuring, too. No towers here. People in shorts on a warm Spring evening. People enjoying, simply, what is theirs.

I arrived at mine host’s retreat – a family home of standing owned by David Thompson, friend, entrepreneur, Brewer and fisherman, who had already embraced my Quest, and helped me ‘net’ Salop and Herefordshire, via his membership of the Midland Flyfishers.

He was there ‘en famille’, for their annual gathering from far flung parts, and what a gathering, and what a family. Poor chap has not one but three sisters! What could growing up, totally outnumbered, have been like? Twins, Frances and Lizzie, and Emma, too…all wonderfully bonkers! And what a super evening we enjoyed, with great food, lovingly prepared, and washed down appropriately, accompanied by laughter galore, and great conversation. (Thanks, Mark though, for some sobering sips of said host’s Malt before retiring…wink, wink!)

To the west of the Cambrians, the streams were running clear, and I was relieved, and David took me fishing, for a few hours before the family fun, which I felt privileged to be part of, began

We fished the Llanilar AA water on the River Ystwyth at Rhydyfelin, where fish were rising but not, committedly, to my parachute Adams, and also upstream near to Trawscoed on the Crosswood Estate, where just one did!

Ceredigion has another stream I am interested in – the Rheidol. This is mainly in the hands of the Aberystwyth AA.

Next time?

The Terry Bromwell Auction

It is 10pm and I am sitting in the bar at the Bear at Crickhowell reflecting on our (mine and Rhys’) afternoon/evening fish on the Llynfi…

Firstly, Mark, thanks for your thoughts on where, because without these we might have floundered. We parked up near Pontivethel Bridge and walked as far downstream as we thought you recommended, and the overgrowth made assessing where should enter the river difficult, but we succeeded and by a fallen tree, so maybe that was where you intended we started!
The river was very low we agreed, and we targeted the flows, for casting into the slower was likely to spook whatever might have been there. Flies were few, but we saw midge and caddis, but little else, and the fish were looking down. A persistent Halfordian, me, I fished dry, but Rhys favoured a two weighted fly, French nymph rig.
What happened?
We caught six fish…five WBT, and one grayling,
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and missed/lost as many again.
Rhys’ rig netted more than mine. I lost more than he did.
Wow, it was tough! We spotted the odd fish and cast to these, and whilst moving some, rarely caught what we targeted, and most came from the quicker water at the top of the pools. Technical fishing is how I think it is described…dammed difficult, would be my description, but fishing with Rhys was fun. We leapfrogged each other easily, and he took my rod to try for what he spotted.
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Chatting was more productive than the fishing, but I learned a bit from a very good angler. Dan Popp’s flies worked for me (again!)…thanks, Dan!
We did visit the end of the beat close to the Wye, but in the low flows, it was unfishable.
I so enjoyed this visit, and thank you GAS, and Rob Bending, whose efforts to support Terry Bromwell, is why I (we) did.
Best wishes to all at GAS, and glad you’re better, Terry

Trout in the Town

So many of Britain’s wild brown trout are quite small, but there are some beauties, too, including this fish which came to my net in April when fishing with Rhys Morgan.

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We reckoned it to be between 2 and 3 lbs, but it is overwintered and lean. Imagine what it could weigh after gorging on Spring’s olive hatches! It came from MTAA’s water on the Taff in Merthyr Tydfil, quite close to where Will Millard, guided by my friend Dan Popp, caught a cracker whilst filming the lovely series “The Taff: The River That Made Wales” for BBC Wales. It was one of several fish rising to emerging olives mid afternoon that day, and between Rhys and I, we caught two and I lost a third. All were of similar size – remarkable.

The Taff, in my view, is now South Wales’ most impressive trout river, having recovered from decades of the ravages of industrial waste, thanks, in no small measure to the efforts of the MTAA, a club I am proud to be a member of.

Wrexham (#18)

Some mornings you wake up and get down to the river and just know, it’s going be a good day. Not often, but when you know…you know!

At Castle Mill Bridge, I slipped into the water, thinking this is a shallow stream and

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thigh waders would do, but, stud-less rubber soles and slippery stones just don’t work, so my enthusiasm for what I knew would be, had to wait until I returned to the new X5 to get into the Orvis chesties, and solid and studded boots. They weren’t that much better in truth, but ageing and weary knees need the support of a stick, so booted and supported, I was off!

But there is a prologue to this, which must be told.

Wrexham has a couple of trout streams of note, and probably rather more than an outsider like me can know about. The Alyn was my target for Flint, so this could not be my Wrexham ‘river’, and for reasons I know not, the Ceiriog was on my radar, for its reputation is of an outstanding trout stream. Lloyd George declared that the Ceiriog valley was “a little bit of heaven on Earth” Was he right? Well, from its entry to the Dee, and for the many miles upstream through pretty villages (Chirk, Pontfadog, Dolywern, Glyn Cieriog, Pandy, Tregeriog and Llanarman) it is shrouded and protected from much by a canopy of trees, and mainly the dreaded alder! Until high up in the eastern Snowdonia National park, it is an open stream flowing through the plateau which is farmland. It is a verdant and fertile place, green and lush, peaceful and calming…in the summer! Bankside debris suggested that it can be a little nasty in spate.

Who would not want to fish this splendid stream, but the Ceiriog Fly Fishers website states very clearly – ‘Fishing is by fly only and is restricted to members and their guests’ That means, no day tickets!

My Breconian contemporary, Martin Nicholls (SHR, 63-66) hails from Wrexham, and he intervened and connected me with Secretary, Peter Heath, who was intrigued by my quest, and offered to consider my plea.

So imagine my delight when, after consulting with his directors, he responded with a truly generous offer. Maybe that was what sponsored my optimism? And his was yet another example of the generosity of the angling community, of which I have written before.

But before I tell you of my day, I want you to take a look at Eoin Campbell’s brilliant short ‘youtube’ footage, which is what I watched , and what inspired me, in preparation for this Wrexham adventure –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAFhB5Vsyf8 and note where he states – ’with much of the river treelined, it’s a real test of your abilities and dedication to get at ‘em’

I find that I am preferring to fish lighter than in years past, so my new Orvis Recon, 8’4” 3-wt, was my chosen wand. A Daniel Popp #16 orange post, olive klink was my attractor.

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And my first fish came just yards above the Mill Bridge in the first pool I encountered. I blessed him in gratitude and wondered where his Mum or Dad was, for he was pretty wee, and rather like some of Eoin’s!

 

I moved up stream slowly, casting into riffles as well as the pools.

 

These were so still, the water low, in spite of recent rains, that only a cast or two would likely entice a hungry fella before they realised there was a threat about and fled. The riffles were a different matter, but on reflection, the fish I took in just a couple of hours, five, all came from the slower, deeper pools. Rises were scarce, so the fly choice, which was right for the day, was important. Real flies…a few olives and some midges, were moderate in number so the fish were looking down that morning.

 

My impressions of this stream included…the silence. And it is so clean. I saw no signs of human detritus on this river, which is so rare today. And there are some mysteries on this stream, like, where are the grayling that the EA introduced? Washed away in a spate? And…are there sea trout here? I think there are, but those who know aren’t telling!!

But…Wrexham ‘netted’…lucky me !

Back on the B4500 and ready to pursue my N Wales adventure, elsewhere, I stopped in a lay by and parked up when spying another angler getting ready to enter the river, just upstream from where I was happy. I approached him and our conversation went thus –

  • “I am a guest, are you a member?”
  • “Whose guest are you?” he replied.
  • “Peter Heath’s!”
  • ‘That’s, me”

How serendipitous, that I met and was able to thank, personally, the very man, who made my visit possible. And what an interesting chat we had. I learned so much about this special stream, and more, the decision to fold the Ceiriog Fly Fishers Club into Corwen and District Angling Club, known, colloquially, as CADAC.

Is this the end or a new beginning? Clearly the latter.

Numbers at CFF are around 68, and the resource to maintain a stream which has a strong spate at times, and the implications of that and the overhanging, present a complicated mix of need which has permissions and regulatory costs to bear, and the time to undertake what over the length of their water, can be over demanding. CADAC is a bigger club (600+ members) with a rich tradition of voluntary time giving to working parties. The completion of the integration is expected in July this year, and it is a friendly takeover which bodes well for the Ceiriog.

The next day, I visited the stretch that Peter was on, just a quarter of a mile or so upstream, and much more open, so no tree snags today.

At 10am I was greeted by huge swarms, of what? Caenis? Micro caddis? Whichever, my fly from yesterday was ignored, too big probably. I was sure that I had to tie on the tiniest fly I could see, which was a pale imitation of, I know not what, and at #20, it did seem to interest, and eventually after quite a few showed, nosed or swiped at it, I netted three more Ceiriog WBT, two from pools, the third from the riffle.

What a stream…I love it.

Two new chums (‘Fennel’, and Steven M) were impressed with my catch. Apparently it is not an easy river to succeed on, but then ‘some mornings you wake up and just know it’s going to be a good day’

Wrexham….#18

Thank you, Peter; thank you, Ceiriog Fly Fishers, and thanks for your intervention, Nick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flint (#17)

Flint is a relatively small county and there are just three rivers of note – the Alyn, Cegidog, Terrig plus the mighty Dee, within or along its boundaries

The Alyn is a tributary of the Dee and rises at the southern end of the Clwydian hills. It is just 25 miles long and runs across a limestone surface which creates potholes and underwater caves into which the river flows through some of the summer, depressing water levels, and creating dry river beds at times. Limestone is unusual in Wales where most rivers are acidic and so less fertile. Perversely through winter the Alyn can flood!

But this was the stream which appealed but how to access it?

Perchance I discovered that the Warrington Angling Association had recently acquired a stretch near to the optimistically named Hope village, and after an hilarious exchange with Club Secretary, Frank Lythgoe (mostly around age and costs) I was soon a member of this impressive club which boasts of fishing on four canals, sixteen rivers and their tributaries, and nineteen still waters. (£5 for a key!)

The Hope(ful) beat is best described as a small stream, which I love.

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It had a little colour which was off putting, but that turned out to be no more than the sunny reflection from a silty bed and coloured stones. I was grateful that wading was easy, with no stick required.

 

It twists and turns often, and mostly covered by a canopy of alder, through meadow, and a few feet lower than said meadow. Muddied banks revealed boot sole prints and dog paws galore which meant the best place to seek my quarry was in the more remote corners. Streamy ranunculus clumps, faster riffles and deeper pools, suggested ‘trouty’ to me, but in the heat of the early afternoon sun, no fish were showing although there was a hint of a hatch of small olives and a few caddis.

Early casting was speculative until reaching a wider piece of water where in the back eddy opposite,

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a foolish fish showed himself with a sipping rise. A few casts later he was in my net!

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At about 4pm, I arrived at a short glide,

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where three fish were rising to a short hatch of mayfly. It always excites when even the smallest fish fool us (me) into believing there is monster in there with a massive and splashy rise to engulf a flittering may!

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One came to my net, close to this clump of balsam.

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Beware – some ‘bashing’ will be needed quite soon to arrest the spread of this nasty stuff.

My impression of this stream is that WAA members have still to discover it, and I urge the flyfishing community within it, to give it a go. But polish up on your roll casting before you do.

I would love to know what size of specimens it contains and it was suggested to me that there are some good fish there, although my couple were quite modest…however, Flint is now mine!

 

ps…to WAA membership who happen to read this – does anyone know of flowing water (river, stream or brook) inside the county boundary of Merseyside, where I might find a trout. This is the only one of England’s 46 counties where I have still to net one!

(see https://afishermansjourney.com/)