Eat-Sleep-Fish, the E-zine written by anglers, for anglers, today published this piece, and my first for it
And for this this itinerant London based, and passionate angler, needy of having goals and achieving them, and currently 68 years old, who has this silly ambition to catch a trout from a river in each of Wales’ 22 counties…it has been a year to remember.
I made seven trips to Wales this season.
I have met such interesting and inspirational folk; learned much of South Wales’ rich history; been DEpressed by what I have observed in towns, once bustling and proud, but now dominated by ‘pound’ shops, charity shops, and empty shops; but IMpressed by just how much the coal black waters of the valley streams of the ‘60’s’ now run clear and clean, and where aquatic life, now prospers.
To all the generous folk who have advised and helped me, and some who have fished with me…Alan P, Tigermoth, Terry B, Ron J, Elliot P, Ade N, Peter A, Tony, Lyn D, Ron S, Dean, Mark R, the WUF, and to Gareth L, who has ‘tied’ for me…my thanks.
Oh! And I caught trout in nine Counties this year, which makes twelve in all so far, and just another ten to ‘net’…the plotting begins!!
Social media working at its best
A lot of people read my blog…and after 90000 hits, every now and then I receive a message enquiring about where to, or how to. I had one a few days ago about the Tillingbourne at Albury in Surrey. And the host of a previous visit of my own, wrote to tell me that the winner of his donated WTT lot in this years Auction, bid ‘after reading of my exploits on his stream’. Lovely!
This time it was my turn, to benefit from social media.
I was web searching for trout streams in the County of the Vale of Glamorgan and discovered that one of my correspondents, Peter Anderson, he of ‘Walks and Fishes’ fame, had fished the Thawe, courtesy of a Monnow Rivers Association auction ‘win’. (Peter has suspended his writings, and I am one of probably many, who hope he will be back – lovely narrative, informed and interesting, and glorious pictures of our countryside, too)
Peter’s response to my email to him, suggested that his ‘host’ might be able to arrange a visit, and emails connected we three, which led to confirmation from Ade Nash that he could and would. Richard Jones, who is Secretary of the Cowbridge & District Angling Club, joined in Ade’s enthusiasm for my project and happily agreed a Guest Ticket, even though as Ade wrote, ‘there is no physical ticket to hand you’. How refreshing! How rare! Trust survives!
Sadly, Ade could not join me, and he suggested that finding my way to the beat he recommended might be difficult, but GoogleMaps work, and my drive to Llandough Bridge proved easy! What did I find? A sign denoting the Cowbridge & DAC rights, embellished/graffiti-ed ‘No English’ .
Ade advised that his stream was small (I like small stream fishing enormously, but have yet to find a definition for what is smaller than ‘small’. ‘Smaller’, ‘tiny’, ‘diminutive’…all of which could be used to describe the Thawe!) and at this time of year was overhung by branch and much foliage; access , therefore, was limited; casting , ‘tricky’, and a six foot rod was the recommended tool. I have an Orvis Clearwater, of that length but only used it once, and it was still ‘virgin’.
Walking as far downstream from Llandough Bridge as seemed possible, I ‘got it’, and sought pieces of water to cast into on my way back. The walk through muddy, cattle trodden meadow was slow and confirmed what I had been told of heavy rains the weekend before, but the stream ran clear. Very clear, and the wild fish here spook easily, and several tore away ahead of my clumsy treading.
I cast into a few runs with speculative dry fly ‘flicks’, switching to nymphs where I thought appropriate, but to no avail.
Clambering in and out, more than a few times, I wondered if this was to be a futile trip and when I could call on Ade for some local expertise for a repeat visit, for, after all, it took three trips to Torfaen to take a trout from the Afon Lwyd, and if a return was necessary, so what!
Nearing the top of this lower reach, I was sure I saw a small surface swirl. Then another, prompting a slow retreat, and the removal of the weighted nymph and its replacement by a #20 cdc olive pattern.
I only need one fish, so picture this, and then imagine the pleasure…
Yards below the swirls, in shallow water bathed in sunshine, just behind a sunken stone, was a small trout, holding in the flow, fins flapping, seemingly not feeding. He hadn’t seen me, nor sensed me. My first cast was short, my second, to his right, and he stayed, undisturbed. My third, just beyond his protective stone, drifted over it and just to his left hand side. It passed him, and I watched (in slow motion, it seemed) as he turned, rose, and nailed my fly. Well hooked, he pulled and struggled, but came to hand quickly.
Fishing at its best. Photographs. Safely returned. Bliss…fishing delight.
In the beat upstream of Llandough Bridge, I caught a second in the hole scoured below a fallen tree, and on a weighted nymph, just knowing there was one there!
But my joy was…in the sunshine, where the same fish resumed station, but below where I first spotted him. Or maybe this was another ‘little fella’.
Terry Bromwell ‘introduced’ me to Ron Jones and said “if anyone can help you catch a Rhymney trout, he can”.
Ron doesn’t do technology, but espouses that wonderful practice we have lost. “I prefer to talk”, explaining that then, “no one can complain that, ‘I never received that email'” Wise man!
So our connecting was via mobile phone (so Ron is NOT a complete Luddite!) And a couple of phone conversations found me me to Tony’s Tackle again,
to purchase my second day ticket, but for a different beat, and for the ridiculously cost to my exchequer of just £5.
Ron had chosen the Llanbradach AC beat, one of half a mile or so, and just two miles upstream of Caerphilly.
A cloudy afternoon at the outset but sunny spells too, and with little rising, and with us both dry fly preferees, it was on with Ron’s ‘Orl’ dry, in water which had a hint of colour after weekend rains, until faster waters persuaded us (him) to switch me onto a duo rig, which quickly produced a couple of grayling, for which the Rhymney is better known. And the fish came to his dry!
Wading is easy above the bridge, but becomes a little more challenging, at least on the near bank, further up stream, but not for long. If anything, it is getting into the river which is the most challenging, protected and built up as it is in flood defence by large rock blocks, angled into the water, and overgrown after the years with alder and sundry other tree species and surrounded by ‘nasties’…balsam and bramble (“waders curse”, proclaimed Ron)
I fished two long runs comprising all you would want – faster, slower, deeper (but not by much at this time of year), rock fronted hollows, tempting runs, bankside, and under overhanging trees, where you just knew…but only grayling liked what we presented.
Arriving at a left hand bend, where the waters created a useful pool on our far bank, Ron spotted a couple of rising fish, and I opted to concede the trailing nymph, in the hope that with rising temperatures, warmer air, some hatching might occur. A couple of small rises to the Orl, encouraged, and a splashier one really excited. But no takes.
My turn to switch and choose, and I went for a Gareth Lewis tied, pink posted para Adams, and smaller (#18) than what had been on before.
A grayling take can be, but is rarely aggressive, in my experience.
They pull, seem moderately irritated that their afternoon appears to have been interfered with, shake their heads, employ that amazing dorsal to try to disengage, using the current to their advantage, but usually yield quite quickly. Until in the hand, when muscles tighten and twitch, prolonging the removal of the fly they are now offended by, and more determined protest is obvious.
On the other hand you know you have a trout on, when the pulls are aggressive, the runs determined, the rod bends, the fish move upstream, downstream, using depth and cover to its advantage, and will often shake the hook with true piscatorial cunning and with a survival instinct unknown to Thymallus Thymallus.
And a Caerphilly trout was indeed, on, but for my hope to be realised, I had to use my 5-weight 8’3’’ Greys Missionary to its full potential and pulled him into shallow water so quickly that there was little time for escape, and surrender was inevitable. For trout are outnumbered by grayling to such an extent in the Rhymney, that this might just be my only chance, at least on this day!
Five fish in a couple of hours, and another County, to boot. Some learnings from a lovely man who has fished this river for decades (I will not reveal how many!) and ‘knows his stuff’ and has a catch record to prove it.
I now have caught trout in half of the 22 Welsh Counties…but ‘who’s counting?’
Thanks, Terry, and my huge thanks to Ron, for giving me his time.
I enjoyed his company enormously. Perhaps someone will tell him, for with no computer, he may not read this on my Blog!
OK…so I fish because I want to catch.
But the years have convinced me that the maxim, based on the fact that we have no God given right to catch when we do, that our past time is called ‘fishing’ not ‘catching’, is a reality…but there is more.
The more is ‘where’ and ‘with’.
I have seen more kingfishers than most of our population. I have been startled by deer crashing into the waters I seek to fish, swans (blast them) galore, voles and other aquatic mammals I do not recognise, views to die for, sunsets…I could go on. I have seen parts of England and Wales which are beyond beauty, and only visible away from M- this and A, or B-that. I love hedgerows, too…the Devonian, excel!
Best of all, I have met and fished with the nicest of Homo Sapiens. And I have written before that fishermen are the most generous of species, Homo Sapiens…(Terry Lawton in Norfolk, Mike Palmer in Northants, Peter Ward (RIP) in Lancashire, and my great Buddy, Jimmy Devoy in Powys)
My first connection with Terry Bromwell prompted an unexpected response from him, which began, ‘Hi Butty!”
Curious, I thought. Does he think I am stupid? What does he think! ‘Butty’! And it was Dave Smith who explained, and when Terry and I met and I took him through my reflections on his note on this, and he chortled. No he didn’t. He roared with laughter, and so did I. Buddy/Butty…why did I not ‘get it’?
It was a lovely and humorous start to a great day together.
For he is very generous, and found a day (actually I think he took a day off) to help me find an RCT trout.
I explained my opinion that competitive fly fishing is at odds with my view of the gentle art that we enjoy. But then I watched, in awe, as Terry , the Welsh National Champion, showed me how to nymph fish a water he knows so well. I was spell bound, but comforted when he told me that it took him years to master ‘French nymphing.’ But to my eye, he makes it an art form, and to a Halfordian, a distant and difficult skill.
He cast under branches and foliage which would test all who fish the open streams in Wessex, and even most spate rivers. He flicked, pulled, set and the sixteen foot leader and its attractive flies, was magically put exactly where he wanted it. He caught several fish in minutes.
Where were we? For £10 I had a day ticket to fish the Osprey Fly Fishers Association water on the Rhondda (as well as their beats on the Usk, Clydach and Taff) but it was an RCT trout I sought, and it was toward Trehafod that we went.
The Rhondda flows for fifteen miles from an elevation of 1600 feet on the eastern side of Craig y Llyn, through old mining villages with evocative names (Treherbert, Treorchy, Pentre and Tonypandy) before joining the Taff at Pontypridd. For too many years it ran black with all the mine water and coal wash being pumped into it, untreated. Along with very basic sewage disposal arrangement, the river was very polluted and supported virtually no aquatic life. That is, until the 70’s, since when water quality has been improving steadily and today, it is alive with trout, and the presence of grayling is testament to good, clean water. But even today, trickling streams from extinct mines disgorge minerality as a reminder (maybe) of a proud, productive, past. Prone to flooding, much of the bank in the Trehafod area is shored by big boulders, making a very dramatic statement.
I cannot fish/ have not the skills to, French nymph and Terry recommended the ‘duo’ which I can do, and the morning (just upstream of Pontypridd) yielded a salmon parr (quickly recognised by its forked tail) and a ‘lost’ grayling before this brown came to my net. My Rhondda Cynon Taff trout!
And then some more.
In the afternoon we ventured upstream to Trehafod, where Terry knew we might encounter rising fish. And we did, and both caught a few.
But the ‘catching’ at this time was surpassed by the chatting, the learning (mine), and the realisation that TB is quite the most talented angler I have fished with, and I thank him, hugely, for his sharing and his time.
Post Script – the Welsh National Fly Fishing team is organised under the umbrella of the WSTAA, the Welsh Salmon and Trout Angling Association. The team, is largely unfunded. Its members have pay (themselves) to represent their country. This seems wrong to me. What a sponsorship opportunity!
Now who’s up for that?
I am sure that there is a trout with my name on it in the Ebbw near Risca, but that eliminates the Ebbw as far as the county of Caerphilly is concerned because already, it has featured in my ‘Quest’ as my Newport ‘win’ and I try to find new rivers in all of my searches as I seek to add to my counties’ list.
So the Rhymney it was most likely to be.
But this tale is not about trout..!
It started with a visit to Tony’s Tackle Shop in Caerphilly, a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of a place, but mainly for coarse fishers. His shop is within a well struck four iron of the Castle, which on a sunny day as it was when I visited, is just a splendid monument and with many a tale to tell, no doubt. Tony issued me a day ticket after enquiring delicately whether I was entitled, a senior, you know! But where to fish? He suggested the Caerphilly & District AA water below the Industrial Estate at Pant Glas, but I was none the wiser. The local postie was delivering and he enquired, “would the post code help?”…what a Star, and what a lovely attitude.
The beat is pretty.
It was a blissfully hot and bright day, and looking down onto the stream there were many enticing places. “Fish the runs below the weirs”, Tony advised, and for good reason. For whilst sheltered from the bright light by overhanging trees, the fish would be disturbed by the many late morning walkers and dog exercisers, and would be less likely to be feeding, if at all, in the silky glides.
And there were so many perambulators, two and four legged, on the Rhymney Riverside Walk,
I thought…it’s nearly lunchtime, so why not wait until hunger pains and noon plus traditions kick in, and they all go home, or to the pub! And they did, and at 1pm I was alone.
It was not the best of fishing conditions but I had driven from London and was on a mission, was eager, so did.
And on my third cast, fishing a duo of an Adams and a #22PTN, I felt the tiniest pull at the end of the swing, and this was the culprit!
I didn’t know what this was and Terry Bromwell (of which much more – see Rhondda Cynon Taff) suggested an FB enquiry, which via the WTT, Merthyr Tydfil AA, and Gwent AS (to all of which I subscribe), produced a series of suggestions, and to all who did, my thanks. Because I was baffled, and whilst I thought on magnification, there were signs of an adipose…the general consensus was that I had caught ‘phoxinus phoxinus’…a minnow! But what a specimen!
“That’s a proper minnow” said Paul Dale
“That’s a massive minnow” said Oliver Harrison
“Tony did you weigh it? The British rod and line caught record is less than 1oz Your one looks like a contender it must be more than 3 inches in length” asked my chum, Paul Jennings!
James P Hutton was far more practical. “Great bait for a predatory trout” he suggested.
But blimey! I may, unwittingly, have broken the British record!!
In any case this is for me a ‘PB’, and, a ‘first’
Anyway, no trout, but half a dozen grayling later, I retreated, and began to reconsider how to ‘net’ the Caerphilly trout I seek.