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…
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.
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.
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
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.
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’
Thank you, Peter; thank you, Ceiriog Fly Fishers, and thanks for your intervention, Nick.
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.
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,
a foolish fish showed himself with a sipping rise. A few casts later he was in my net!
At about 4pm, I arrived at a short glide,
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!
One came to my net, close to this clump of balsam.
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!
I have been asked where the picture of the wood sculpture on the banner of my Blog, was taken.
I took the photograph in 2014 when driving south on the A470, from Rhayader to Builth Wells. It sits looking down on the road on the left hand side at a point just beyond a lay-by, a few miles south of Newbridge-on-Wye. It is a beautiful carving, but I know not the name of the clever artist who produced it, and if you are passing by, stop and take a close look at it.
It is still there, today….I saw it this morning!
Last month I caught what was undoubtedly my largest wild brown from a Welsh river –
He came from the Taff in the middle of Merthyr, on a #18 olive emerger, and with some expert guidance from my pal Rhys Morgan. We think he was between 2 and 3lbs.
A real cracker from an urban space in April, and on a dry (-ish) fly. He was/is a lean specimen, but who knows what he will look like in June…if you catch him, please give him my respects.
I am energised now, because next week, my ‘quest’ in Wales continues, and I will be fishing in Ceredigion and Merioneth (Gwynedd), and in Wrexham and Flint, too, in coming days!