…was placed at the spot where I caught my first wild brown trout from the Usk in Brecon last week.
I love fishing auctions and regularly bid in those of the S&TCA, the WTT (to which I also submit offers for fishing in the streams in the southern Alps near to where my wife and I have a home), the Monnow Rivers Association…and the Wye & Usk Foundation, and the latter, for reasons that readers of my blog, will be well aware.
Last year the W&UF offered a lot which intrigued, and I bid for it and won.
It was for an engraved stone which would be lovingly released into the river Usk, which is where my fly fishing adventure began. And it will be post lockdown and I hope to witness it but may not be able to.
Eventually someone may pick up this (my) stone from the bed of the river where I learned to fish and wonder…well what?
Will that happen next year, in five or fifteen years, or fifty or five hundred years?
When they do, will spates have smoothed the stone and erased, what was carefully engraved?
If I cannot be there, I have asked that it be placed, or maybe dropped, into the river on the downstream side of Llanfaes Bridge.
This is my stone.
I have now ‘netted’ wild brownies in every one of Wales’ 22 Counties…mission accomplished !
Now I will put ‘pen to paper’ in the hope I can encourage more anglers to see and enjoy the more remote places my journey has enabled me to enjoy.
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 trout 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.
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.
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!