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.
Peter Dawson recently wrote…”The Monnow Rivers Association was formed to bring together those who had an interest in protecting the river Monnow and restoring it to its former status as “one of the best trouting rivers on the border or beyond it”
Whilst I first fished it in the early ‘noughties’, I learned to appreciate it more, and its catchment, after a day with Dave Smith last season. And that was a lot win, on the MRA Auction, so why not bid again this year, and show support for such a remarkable organisation…so I did!
Lot 12b – the Brue
There was only one Lot 12, but I underbid and missed it, but I was so eager to fish this stream, that I asked Patrick Lloyd if the offerer would accept another bid!
A good man, Luke (Kozak), did.
The second week in June was to be my MRA week, and it began with a “I will pick you up at 5 am…” What! But Luke insisted that fishing his private stream in June was best, as the sun came up, or in the evening, and given that my body clock is better than any alarm clock, I was ready at 445am…but had not slept much as a result. But it was worth it. Transpiration clouds hung low in the folds of the Somerset countryside as we made our way to the headwaters of the tiny River Brue, as he educated me about the countryside he loves, en route (did you know you can take a train from Castle Cary to London? Beeching missed than one!) A short stroll in the chest waders he recommended I wear, to a small stream set between tree lined banks set down below fertile corn filled fields…what a gem! And small fish were rising, although rises were subtle, the sipping type. At least I thought they were small, until netting one of eatable size…and another. Wild life abounds. We saw three mink (unfortunately), kingfishers, roe deer, and the biggest hatches I have seen this season (midge, olives and sedge)
We only fished for a three hours, but what a joy! And the chest waders were needed, for the Brue is a spate stream and the pools were remarkably deep. I stayed at the White Lion in Bourton (recommended), and we breakfasted at the Chapel in Bruton (also recommended)
Now…on to South Wales!
Lot 35 – the Ewenny
“Fishing (the) Ewenny with Adrian Nash”
Take a look at the Pencoed and District Angling Club (PADAC) website and if you fail to be excited, shame on you! I was first alerted to this, one of South Wales’, only two limestone streams, by Dan Popp, and was determined to fish it. This is why I love auctions!
Ade is a colourful character, and right from the start of our time together, I was impressed by his commitment to PADAC, and his love for his stream. It is just as the web pages show it. Tree lined, castellated in parts as a flood control measure to protect Bridgend just downstream, interspersed with lateral stone mini weirs (but no inhibitor to movement) which create holding pools, producing fast runs, tails and so many secure places for the wild fish which flourish here, to lie in and feed from. It is truly a beautiful stream, and I think I have fallen in love with it.
It has an intimacy which appeals to me enormously. It is not necessarily easy fishing for in its intimacy, there is a need for careful casting, and some may feel, it requires a more technical and thoughtful approach, which improves our fisher skills.
The fish, Ade advises, rise spasmodically, and he recommended a ‘searching’ fly, of an Adams type, but modified by Dan Popp, to include a little sparkle in the thorax…and Boy! did Dan’s flies work? My first fish came on my third cast, and Dan’s fly attracted many takes, and a few came to net, but many did not.
Ade, a keen observer of technique, put some of those lost to mine, or rather the bits which were missing, and for me this was most helpful, and once I had come to terms with what he saw, my catch rate improved. We are never too old to learn, so long as we listen!
The fish in the day ticket water reaches upstream are all of modest size. Perhaps, 8”- 12”. Ade would like to hear of the odd 2-lber being caught here, and our chat about ‘why are they not’ suggested that the grayling numbers might absorb much of the foodstuff available, forcing the braver trout to move downstream, and PADAC has a ‘members only’ reach closer to Bridgend where bigger fish, browns and grayling, are caught regularly, along with the odd sea trout, too.
PADAC is some club. Only thirty members, many of whom give their time to work parties which keep this most valuable of assets in great order. Three miles of wonderful fishing…I would love to fish it again, and if anyone reading this and thinking of supporting MRA could, you will not be disappointed by the Ewenny! It is full of wild trout, and will feature in the August edition of ‘Total Flyfisher’, Ade told me, proudly.
I also ‘won’ two lots of flies tied by Neil Hotchin and Simon Clarke…their flies have all worked for me! Looking forward to next years auction, now…if it is run the same as in previous years, it will be found, here, on FlyFishingForums.