Monnow Rivers Association

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.

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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.

Two Counties in one day! Conwy (#16) and Denbighshire (#15)

In the Autumn of every year, the Salmon & Trout Conservation Association hold a fund raising auction. I enjoy the thrill of auctions and tend to participate in this one, as well as those of the WTT and the Monnow Rivers Association, in the New Year, for all offer opportunities to access private waters of renown.

In the autumn of last year the generous offer by the Vale of Clwyd AC of two rods for a day on the Clwyd looked tempting because a hosted day on their waters suggested a tutored way for me to add Counties in North Wales to my Welsh ‘collection’, which suited. (It’s a bit like having a caddy let you know there is a stream over that rise to catch your tee shot, “so, put your driver away and hit a 5 iron, Sir”).

The VCAC has a remarkable eleven rivers in its portfolio, following the merger of the Denbigh and District AC and Clwyd AC clubs in 1991. Waters, from Snowdonia in the west, to the Dee on the English border in the east, and therefore in five counties! The exchange after I was notified of my ‘win’ connected me with Paul King,

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who I had met before after a day with Dave Smith on five Black Mountain streams, and that day, a ‘win’ on the MRA auction. Dave and I were enjoying a pint (probably a Wye Valley ale) at the Bell at Skenfrith, where Paul and his companion that day were doing the same. Paul readily embraced my quest, and was delighted to help me achieve more, and mindful of water levels after the most welcome (sic) rains of recent days, had plans ‘B’ and ‘C’ in mind if GaugeMap suggested ‘A’ might not work.

Paul surmised that the upper Clwyd, a lowland river, and highly susceptible to rain, would provide fishable water as levels were falling, and there was some colour in the river, but to an extent this was normal, so the effect of the heavy rains of previous days had washed through. Locally, the beats are referred to by the bridges which span them, and we headed to Pont Perfa near the village of Llanynys,

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where on a bend just one hundred metres or so below the bridge, Paul had me cast into his ‘go to’ pool.

Under such pressure (!) my early morning casting into the cross steam wind was a little embarrassing, but ‘Damn me’ if a scrapper did not grab the #18 PTN drifting underneath my Foxon’s Klinkhammer, and once netted,

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produced an exclaimed “mission accomplished!” from Paul, pleased with such early success, and expert guiding!

Actually this Denbighshire trout might have been netted even earlier had we not engaged in so much chatter! During one exchange when I revealed that I learned to fish as a schoolboy in Brecon, “A Christ College boy? One of our enemies”, it transpired that we were contemporaries, with he, down the road, so to speak, at Monmouth School. He captained the 2XV from the front row, and I was CBB’s 2XV scrum half, and we wondered whether we played against each other, all those years ago! Small world. A true countryman, with a proper, dirty Range Rover to boot, I learned much from his explanation of the technical aspects behind deer cull, ten-pointers and high seats. It helped put the annual cull in Royal Richmond Park, nearer to home, into perspective. And I enjoyed hearing about how his club is now using catch data, to understand the impacts of reducing the introduction of stocked fish. He hopes that eventually, the VCAC beats will be entirely wild.

Believing that we might be fishing another river in another county in the afternoon, we parted company so he could return home to feed his Labrador puppy, but I thought I had another Clwyd trout or two in me. “You might see Alan (Cuthbert) on the river” and I did.

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He is VCAC’s General Secretary, so knew of my visit, and quest. He was after an early season sea trout, that morning and eager to stay out, for he had not fished for a while.

I asked about the river above Pont y Campbwll, (the lower Clwyd) and he offered to show me his favourite lies.

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And these produced the two more I hoped for, and prompted my invitation to Alan to join me for a beer at the splendid pub in Bodfari, the Dinorben Arms, where I was to meet Paul before our next target. The banter between these two old chums was a joy to listen to! They are passionate about their fishing, their club and their river, and both do much to promote all three, as well to try to engage younger anglers, for their club, like so many has too few. But their efforts may pay off, for a special event just weeks before attracted sixty young hopefuls. A lesson for others, maybe?

Paul was not satisfied.

I had only added one County, this morning, and he knew that more were on offer, and so it was off to Conwy we went, and to the Elwy! This is a spate river and a tributary of the Clwyd, but rising high on the eastern fringes of Snowdonia.

Around the City of St Asaph (it has a cathedral), and onto the narrowest of country lanes, eventually we turned downwards and in the direction of Llannefydd, and toward the ancient Pont-y-Gwydell (the Irish Bridge) where we parked up.

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The sun shone, spinners were dancing in the bright light upstream of the bridge, and in the wide pool below it a fish or two showed…and quite quickly, one avid feeder came to my net, on a klinkhammer.

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I did not stay long, for the rains promised for the late afternoon, did…but, I did not care.

If I lived in North Wales, I think my home club would be VCAC, for it offers such splendid fishing, but its real attraction is the opportunity for an Atlantic salmon and sea trout, and many of these are caught each season. But it has beautiful WBT, too, and they are what excite me more.

To Paul and Alan, thank you…now don’t you have fishing in Wrexham and Flint, too!?

I stayed in the most comfortable place, which is Tan-yr-Onnen, where hosts, Patrick and Sara, go to great lengths to make all their guests feel most welcome (the bed linen is divine!), and they succeed. Breakfast is sublime, if you like the finest bacon and sausage, and the best black pudding, I have ever eaten, and all are locally produced.

And finally, if the S&TCA feature the same offering in their Auction this Autumn…please bid (and high) because I promise it will be worth it.

MONMOUTH

THE MONNOW RIVERS ASSOCIATION

The MRA Fundraising Auction contained the following :

MRA Auction IX Lot 55 : A Black Mountain Odyssey with Tigermoth. One Rod, One Day, Five Streams : A Black Mountain Odyssey.The aim…to catch a trout from each of the following streams: The Dore, The Escley, The Olchon, The Honddu and of course The Monnow. The infamous Tigermoth will be your guide for the day and will take you around some of his favourite Monnowland haunts in search of some wonderful wild trout….and, “I’ll throw in a barbequed Black Mountain ribeye and some beers too”

A keen collector of streams, this appealed, and in a location I know relatively little about, and with the promise of a BBQ and some ale!

Well I had to, and bid, and did high, and aided and abetted by Patrick Lloyd, won it!

And if I overbid, then so be it…a ‘win-win’ in any terms.

A date was chosen with ‘Tigermoth’ via an email exchange, and I checked into the delicious Bell at Skenfrith, which was to be our meeting place.

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Did things run smoothly thereafter? They might have done except for the MetOffice whose forecast around ‘the date’ suggested torrential downpours. But overnight the rains were actually drizzle and the Monnow outside looked little different to the day before, and we agreed via ‘Messaging’ (no point in bringing your mobile to Skenfrith, Prime Minister) that we should try…and then at 830am there was a torrential downpour. But over breakfast just 45 minutes later, the skies cleared, the sun came out, and spirits lifted. The sun was still shining when Tigermoth, aka Dave Smith, arrived and we sat and he suggested a plan of attack!

The drive through parts of Britain I do not know to our first port of call in Tonker Too, revealed much for the two of us to consider and be grateful for, of life and experience, its ups and downs. Dave’s has been rich and varied, and I enjoyed listening to a brave, bold, successful man, for whom fishing has delivered so much. He loves Monmouthshire and pointed out its interesting landscape and allied its history, and the significance of Offa’s Dyke, Skirrid, Lord Hereford’s Knob (!!), to what he described. A land of more than gentle slopes, but green and interesting. The Black Mountains, Sugar Loaf. I ventured that without motorways nearby (the M’s 4 and 50 at its periphery) few have seen what he loves. “Happy to keep it that way” he responded! Good Man.

The sun shone as we parked up on a grassy verge opposite St Bartholomew’s Church in Vowchurch, just over the border in the Golden Valley, in Herefordshire.

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The Dore

 Wikipedia advises that the Dore “rises on Cusop Hill, in the foothills of the Black Mountains, close to the border between England and Wales. It flows for 12 miles (19 km) through the villages of Dorstone, Peterchurch, Vowchurch, Abbey Dore and Pontrilas before reaching the Monnow near Llangua.” The schizophrenic nature of this part of Britain shows in these villages names, a mix of neo Gaelic and Anglo Saxon!

The river is shallow in the main, and under fished I would judge, because in thirty minutes or so, we lost one fish, but between us caught six. Small wild fish not used to the temptation of well presented artificials!

The Escley Brook

 This is a short stream of maybe six miles, rising at Vagar Hill, and flowing through the village of Michaelchurch Escley, giving it its name, to join the Monnow near Clodock. An WUF Passport wild stream, too.

We fished it at its middle section near the Bridge Inn, and as the rains returned, still managed to take a couple of rising fish on dry flies.

Beware the slippery bedrock!

The Monnow

 The Monnow flows for 42 miles from its source below the Black Mountains at Craswall to join the Wye at Monmouth.

We fished this exceptional stream at its upper middle reach near Clodock, where it flows through meadows,

with its banks revealing the red mud of the area, and atop the meadow, the wooded detritus of winter storm run off, and a lot of it, as well as a catalogue of fallen trees. The sun still shone when we arrived but gathering cloud looked ominous. It was 2pm at this time, and Dave was keen to eat. A Wye Valley Brewery bottle later, the portable BBQ was fired, when the cloudburst hit…and how!

Eager to enjoy some quality beef, it was off with his wading jacket for an inevitable soaking and even with me standing behind him as a wind break of sorts…to an observer it would have looked comical (the Odd Couple, indeed), but needs must, and his obvious discomfort after the storm passed, was rewarded by the tastiest sandwiches known to man!

Through all, some fish rose, perhaps to one of the few early Mays we spotted before the downpour, but given some May duns floated downstream unmolested, it was perhaps to emergers?

When the curious and variable nature of our Spring brought back the sun, we set off upstream, and the warm air encouraged a spasmodic hatch and we spotted Mays, and Large Brook Duns, as well as caddis and midge, and rises were localised which helped, and five or six fish came to net, and these were fighting fish, the largest, perhaps, a tad under 2lbs.

The rains will cease. It was wonderful to watch sand martins begin the chore of establishing nesting in the muddy banks, confident that theirs would remain dry. They are so much more attuned to the vagaries of nature, and I trust them more than I do the MetOffice!

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Mercifully the rains had passed. We had not managed to fish the five streams we sought, and during a fleeting visit to view the Hondddu,

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we realised that after six hours on the river, then was a good time to call it a day! And did, and we retired to the Bell for a refreshing ale!!

My thoughts about the Monnow – it is a stream of much character and variety. Flowing in its upper reaches, a small stream, through wooded places, it opens up around Clodock, and is then subsumed by woodland around Skenfrith and on its way to Monmouth. An upland stream, a lowland stream, it is coloured by the soil so spotting moving fish takes a practiced eye, for at this time, rises were subtle, and I was lucky to have Dave’s experience of this river to lean on. In fact, I think that without his local knowledge and expertise, I would have struggled on a stream of this type, which is alien to my ‘norm’ of chalkstream or spate river. He saw so much more than I.

The fish here grow big. It is not stocked very much and far less than in previous years after careful catch monitoring which reveals than fish kill is diminishing, reducing the need for replenishment. And earlier this year Dave caught a magnificent specimen of well over 3lbs from where he took me.

I am so grateful to Tigermoth, who gave me a day to remember, in a beautiful part of Wales (and in a small part of Herefordshire).

If reason were needed to support the MRA in its auction next year, then the fact that its funds have been used to virtually eradicate Himalayan Balsam in the Monnow catchment, is surely it! That and its program to trap ravenous mink which migrate its way (the MRA’ Going Native project).

How many Associations can claim to have achieved so much?