It feels to me, a Christ College’ Breconian, to be a wonderful irony that my Carmarthenshire trout might come from the river which flows through the town of our rugby arch rivals, in Llandovery. Me, a ‘Green and Gold’ raider from the Usk, stealing a march, or a trout in this river, from the ‘Hen Elyn’!
I remember it well. It was Monday, September 10, 2018, and Alistair Cook was batting, and around noon, play was halted for two minutes or more so that he could enjoy and take the rapturous applause from his Oval fans after he scored a century against India, in the second innings of his final test match. He eventually scored 147, after recording 71 in his first innings. What an incredible exit from a remarkable cricketer and all round elegant chap. Reception on those parts of the A40 close to Llandovery was affected by the slopes of the Beacons National Park, and the excitement of the TMS team was counteracted by my frustration of blackout moments, and as the inevitable drew closer, a welcome lay by where Aggers could be heard, guaranteed that I could share their excitement from a special sporting moment. A sunny moment on a sunny day.
My day ticket for the Llandovery AA beats on the Tywi was purchased from the Castle Hotel, where I was staying that evening. (Try their Scotch Eggs…I had two for lunch, and feel nothing more need be said!)
My afternoon on the river proved to be hard work as weather conditions worsened. I fished downstream of the town, and also ventured up the tributary, which is the Bran, but failed to connect with a fish. A few rose, but not to anything at the end of my leader.
After heavy overnight rains, the river rose and coloured up, and this Breconian, retreated, beaten but not bowed.
Nearly a year later and on July 30, I returned. After taking advice from Welsh fisher friends as to where I might succeed, the consensus was that the waters on the Towy of either Llangadoc Angling Association, or the Cross Hands and District Angling Association, just below the former Club’s beats, and both downstream of Llandovery, might deliver.
Cross Hands AC has interesting origins. It was formed fifty years ago by retired miners who used their redundancy monies to buy and rent salmon fishing on the Towy.
I opted for their water on the advice of Phil Lewis, a member, who suggested precisely, where I should try. That was below the railway bridge! Hhmm!
From the Club’s website, I read that the Service Station at Manordeilo sold day tickets, and bought one, then and with the help of GoogleMaps, sought out how to access the river close to ‘the’ railway bridge. A wrong turn off the narrowest of lanes where summer overgrowth of grasses and wild flowers did its best to clean the dust and motorway dirt from the flanks of my X5, and into a farm yard, to the bemusement of the young lads playing there. A grandson, Freddie, lookalike put me right, but not enough, and a turn into the farmhouse drive close by, and said lookalike spotting a townie when he sees one, was at hand to put me right, and minutes later, and two more narrow lanes, then over an unprotected rail crossing next to an ancient short platform and rail hall, now tastefully converted, and along a bumpy track where the Beemer learned who is the Boss, I was on the grassy banks of the Towy. And damn me…fish were rising in the morning sunshine.
So what did I find below the railway bridge?
A flow of forty yard or so width but shallow, but with deeper glides within the pools, created by upstream obstructions of bushes deflecting flows, and fallen trees doing the same. A bed of gravel, small stones and larger pebbles. A lack of rain enabling this summer’s sunshine to encourage algae growth making the slimy stones incredibly slippery; a complete absence of streaming weed of any type; no fly life to speak about, but the turning of stones revealed hundreds and hundreds of cased caddis larvae; fry in the margins suggested a healthy stream; a quiet place except for welcome birdsong and the odd croaking frog! Bankside, there was much evidence of ‘balsam bashing’ but there is so much more to do. Not only here, but throughout our land to eradicate what if we do not, we may regret.
Ridiculously, I caught a fish with my first cast.
After my second cast, and mid drift, my mobile rang and it was Phil Lewis enquiring whether I had found the beat he recommended!
I caught four more before noon, and all came to a small olive emerger from my Dan Popp collection. His flies are sparsely dressed and work for me as well on spate rivers as chalk streams.He is a great tyer, and I will willingly connect anyone who wants to purchase flies from him.
I always planned to return late afternoon and fish into dusk to try to catch a more sunshine wary larger fish, and did, but for just one more, and with only one fish of six, around the half pound mark, to my name, the thundery squalls which hit Cornwall in the morning arrived in S W Wales, and ‘rain stopped play’ at around six o’clock.
Job done, though!
- ‘Hen Elyn’, is Welsh for ‘Old Enemy’
- The Towy is the longest river whose whole length is entirely in Wales
My readers will know, I now have caught trout from rivers in every County in Wales.