CARDIFF (#13)

After a somewhat frustrating morning on the Taff at Abercanaid where I lost three casts and six flies, fished ‘duo’, in trees and bankside scrub, but still landed my first wildie of the season on a lovely sunny morning when wading in a low stream with algal growth on the rocky bed made wading very precarious, I decided to head to an MTAA beat where wading would be easier. Quakers Yard, perhaps.

But driving south along the A470, Tonka Too took on a life of its own, it seemed, and we headed to Cardiff, instead.

I knew that the Ely had some ‘free’ fishing below the bridge on the A48 and that was where we were headed, Tonka and me, that is.

On arrival, I walked the bank, thinking that this was a bigger river than I had imagined, and I spent some time just looking. But not for long, because a rising fish, under overhanging leaf free bushes, on the near bank persuaded me to get my rod. Getting into the water was a downward slide over large angled boulders into a stretch where the bed of small rocks made wading easy.

Some more rises in roughly the same area encouraged me and I waded closer.

I think the attractive, were Large Brook Duns, smaller than March Browns, but tan coloured also and with two (or was it three) tails. The fish, and there were now three or four rising, were ignoring the duns, so must have been taking the emergers.

I had my 10ft, 4-weight rod, rigged from the morning at Abercanaid, and removed the #16 Adams (Gareth Lewis’ tied) and smaller, tungsten beaded PTN, and replaced these with a single emerger from the selection tied by Simon Clarke, which I had ‘won’ in this year’s Monnow Rivers Association auction. Browny/greeny bodied, with spiky elk hair keeping it upright, in the surface film.

First cast and I was ‘in’, then, just as quickly, ‘out’, and never knowing what had grabbed a good offering, obviously.

More rises, more flicks, then, a take!

It was on, but what was it? It flashed, ran, but never close enough for me to determine what I had hooked. Then? Damn! Panic! I lost traction of the retrieved line hooked under my right forefinger against my rod handle, and fumbled quickly not knowing whether having done so, my prize was still attached. (Heh! We have all been there!!)

Stripping quickly, the line tightened and he was still on, which surprised given the barbless emerger he had taken. He flashed left and right, plunged, ran, but tired, and when netted, he would have heard me say, as if he were interested – “You, are my Cardiff trout!”

Quickly photographed and released, and this angler, happy, I flicked again and hooked but lost another, but ‘what the hell’?

Back home I downloaded my pictures and searched Googlemap to identify some reference points to describe my whereabouts.

I was mortified to find that there are two bridges on the A48 just north and west of the City Centre. One near Llandaff, and the next a little further west. I had been fishing below the easterly bridge. I had been fishing the Taff, and not the Ely.

I must have been on the Glamorgan Anglers Club water, and to this Club I offer my most sincere apologies, for I would never, knowingly, fish where I should not.

I have written to GAC, accordingly.

“Dear Mr Turner (Richard)

I am on a personal ‘quest’ to catch a trout from a river in every county in Wales.                 This week, I caught a trout in the County of Cardiff, on what I thought was the R Ely, but I now realise (after searching some detail via GoogleMaps) that there are two bridges on the A48, to the NW of the City Centre, and I was fishing below the wrong bridge, and on what is probably the water of the Glamorgan Anglers Club, where I had no right to be fishing. I am embarrassed by my oversight and would like in retrospect, and with your agreement to, make good a ‘wrong’, presuming that my conclusion is correct. Will you allow me to do this? What will be appropriate? Please let me know

Regards

Tony Mair”

What a good man the Chairman is –

“Hi Anthony and thanks for letting us know.  Don’t worry about righting a wrong.  We have stretches of the Taff, Usk, Wye and Trothy all of which contain trout and can be fished on our standard coarse licence if you”re interested

Regards

Richard”

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CAERPHILLY

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,

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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.

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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!

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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.

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I enjoyed his company enormously. Perhaps someone will tell him, for with no computer, he may not read this on my Blog!

TORFAEN

After a special Tuesday, when feeling lucky after netting in Bridgend, I returned to the Ebbw and to a good afternoon hatch, and netted in Newport. Wednesday was special too, after a great day with Dave Smith in the Monnow catchment, courtesy of a ‘win’ in this year’s Monnow River Association auction.

And I was still feeling ‘lucky’ on Thursday morning when I arrived for my third attempt at netting a Torfaen trout on the Afon Lwyd, an WUF ‘wild water’, at Llantarnam Abbey.

An early cast mid beat in quick water below a fallen tree, produced a rise from a small trout which was encouraging, then a few casts later, I hooked but quickly lost a second. My excitement that today was to be ‘the’ day increased, but patience was required. Time to let that run ‘rest’, so I moved upstream still using a duo rig. Another fish showed interest, but nothing was taken. The day has started promisingly but weather which started well, became cloudy and the temperature dropped a bit. Fly life was scarce and I guess that the odd emerger was all that excited what rose, and I stuck with the ‘duo’. The spot along a grassy meadow was where I saw fish rise on my last visit and was where I hoped for something but there was no activity.

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So I returned to where I started to see if I could entice what I sought, but that first run delivered nothing. Above it is a flat pool of some fifty yards, and where I knew that a landing line would spook anything, but there were three fish coming up to what, I knew not, for there was nothing on air. Switching to a pink parachute Adams failed to attract what I imagine were small fish did not work, so on with a larger version of the same to try the faster waters at the head of the pool and the runs above, for the second time.

Still nothing, and feelings of anxiety increased, and I began to wonder if my luck had run out, and yet another visit would be required!

Onwards and upstream I cast until I reached the same meadow side glide I fancied.

It was brighter and warmer now, and…

Was that a swirl, I just saw? It must have been for there was another close by, and I wondered whether there was a fish moving sidewards to pick off emergers. I tied on a #18 orange parachute Adams and had a take with my third cast. It pulled and fought hard and felt like a good fish and it was.

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On netting it, I glowed, satisfied, and marvelled at this fish with few, but large black spots, on pale creamy flanks. It is easy to over estimate the weight of ones catch, so I guess this chunky fellow was less than 2lbs, but more than 1 1/2lbs, but to say I was thrilled is an understatement, for all the reports on the WUF webpages suggest fish are few and far between (to which I attest) and most that are there are small.

Torfaen…my 7th Welsh county!

nb…Gareth Lewis flies work!!

nbb…this beat is just downstream of Theo Pike’s description of the Afon Lwyd in his iconic, ‘Trout in Dirty Places’.

BLAENAU GWENT

In October last year (2015) I noted that in the Salmon & Trout Conservation UK (previously the S&TA) Annual Online Auction, there was an offer for two rods on the Gwent AS waters in S Wales, of which theirs at Ty-Mawr on the Usk is most highly rated.

But my motivation was different, because Gareth Lewis has previously told me of a little gem of a stream which ran through Blaenau Gwent, and one of his own favourites, to boot!

So, I mused, if I was successful, then I could chance my arm alone, to the benefit of the S&TCUK! And I was!!

I had to contact Chairman, Mark Roberts, who could not have been more helpful. He sent me maps, Google Earth web-links, Club blog page links, and a ‘name’, one Alan Parfitt, who knows the Sirhowy, my hoped for, Blaenau Gwent ‘river’, better than almost anyone. He’s been fishing it since an 8 year old…a few years ago!

After a morning on the Taff (MTAA) in April, I went for an exploratory ride to find the Sirhowy, and on a bright and sunny, but cold afternoon, my appetite was whetted. Tiny, meandering, rocky, variable, and many, many feet below the equally meandering A4048, linking Tredega and Blackwood…a stream for small stream fishers (at least, this one) to drool over!

My meeting with Alan was set. “Meet me at the entrance to the old Markham Colliery” he suggested. Folk are friendly in this old mining area, and an elderly couple out for an early morning stroll helped me locate where I had to be, and Alan was there already. “You caused some consternation at the Club” he suggested…the Sirhowy, not the Usk!

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You know when you meet someone, you know instantly, you will like them? I felt this with Alan, and our walk down to the river was spent with me listening intently to man who is utterly passionate about this place. His knowledge of its mining history and heritage was inspiring. Its impacts on ‘his’ stream both depressing and uplifting. This water once ran black with coal ‘wash’ but is now clear. He described how the river colour would change through the day, according to the cycle accorded at the mines higher up the Sirhowy valley. The remnants of the past are still evident.

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This stream, like so many tumbling off the Brecon Beacons to its north, could tell us so many tales. I wonder whether how many appreciate where the product of the coal mines and the steel manufacturing abundant hereabouts, is to be found? The US railway system…?

And yet, when the Sirhowy ran black with coal dust and the effluent of the industry which is now long gone, its indigenous brown trout survived.

Please watch this lovely tribute to the change in the Sirhowy’s fortunes.

And Alan advised me that the odd salmon and a few sewin have found their way this far from the sea!

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The Sirhowy is not a long stream. Rising on the hills above Tredegar, it flows for fifteen miles or so and joins the Ebbw at Crosskeys.

Alan introduced me to it at Gwent AS’ beat 4, close to and just upstream from Markham. We tackled up on the walk bridge there and he showed me where in the low waters, he would be seeking my prize, with dry fly preferred by these hungry wild fish, for which stealth and craft were essential. Short casts into the head of each riffle was the order of the day, with presentation more important than fly choice, but for me, a para-something for visibility, and fluff for him to attract a quick snatch!

Early morning wading in a stream where the rocks were algae covered, was a little like the first run of the day at Courchevelle, when the ski legs are not quite ‘engaged’ It is the same with wading, but, Boy! were they slippery, and I am not sure that they made for the required ‘stealth’!

Nothing happened for me, even though a few fish were rising. “You’re doing nothing wrong” he encouraged, and I tied on a different fly. He had to leave, but with his words still echoing, I set off upstream, and an elk hair caddis into the run above the bridge brought up my first fish, which was far too quick for this angler. As it was with the second! The wading into the river which narrowed was easier, and I have rarely felt I was ‘wild fishing’ as much as did there. Evidence of floods/spate abound, and does some of the urban detritus which would have been swept down from Tredegar, but there was less than in some streams, and my over riding memory is of clear water, wild flowers (the bluebells were magnificent), and may riffles and holes where I just knew, were far many more wild fish than I had seen. Beautiful fishing water.

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But…hurrah! In a pool carved out form the roots below a fallen tree, my first was netted. Hardly a ‘monster’ but what colouration.

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A few more came, a couple were lost.

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(Look at the similar colours…dark and broody…coal stained!)

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At 230pm, the forecast rains came, too, but after four hours on this lovely river I was already heading back to my car. And this took a while. A dog walker provided welcome distraction from the ardour of a climb of several hundred feet, as did the de-feathered parrot in its own wired cage. Its screams, I hope were reserved for the little terrier, rather than me!

 

 

 

MERTHYR TYDFIL

I ‘won’ a season’s membership of the Merthyr Tydfil AA in the 2014 Autumn Auction held by the Salmon & Trout Association. I bid for it after fishing their water on the TAFF at Quakers Yard, which fascinated me, and I determined to fish it again, so what better means to try to?

I sent Tony Rees a write up from my first visit which he published in their Spring Newsletter.

” In the Salmon & Trout Association Auction last Autumn, I bid for a season’s membership of the MTAA…why, you might reasonably ask!

I fish all over the place and want to fish more places than possible. I just love ‘collecting’ rivers. I have notes and calendars over years which remind me where I have been, by state, county, area, region, in Italy, France, the USA, Iceland, Europe and Slovenia, NZ, and more.

In 2014, and impatient for the start of the season, I took a day via the WyeUsk Passport scheme mid April, and fished the Quakers Yard beat, but to no avail. But my appetite was whetted, for the Taff is a remarkable story of restoration! But fishing new waters excites me, and if I fail to take a beautiful brownie, big or small…I must try harder

My bid was modest, but it won. Ha!! Lucky me.

Tony Rees graciously informed me of the possible.

My members’ detail duly arrived, and a passport sized selfie was installed in my adhesive sleeve, almost before the envelop supplying it, was opened.

Impatient? Me!

Enough of this nonsense.

It’s early March. I called Gareth Lewis, who advised the same Quakers Yard beat would be his recommendation. The morning should probably be a nymphing session, but be prepared for a hatch and rising fish around noon.

If, by chance you have seen my Blog (www.afishermansjourney.com) you will know I am a Halfordian, so after arriving on said water at ten-ish, but on a rare and beautifully sunny morning (March 10) and the water clear, I tied a nymph set up, and even though (stupid bugger) I had packed the wrong rod, an eight weight (I told you I was impatient to get on water again…I stop on September 30, and torment myself, for months but am not a member of the Thymallus thymallus winter fan club) I set off, disgusted that my 5-wt Greys Missionary was at home, 140 miles east, in London.

A bead head pheasant tail on the point with an orange spider type dropper produced not a touch in riffles, glides, tights, or gulleys.

It was getting warmer, though, and a style in a sunny spot attracted. A little rest, a little watch, perhaps.

Izaak was right…I saw my first Kingfisher of the year. I watched yellow wagtails courting…but no they were feeding. On pale wateries, I think, but I am not expert in fly ID-ing. Then at the top of the pool, no more than a coupe of hundred metres upstream from the remarkable Pont-y-Gwaith Bridge, I saw a rise.

Excited I moved towards where I though he was.

He rose again.

I cast twice to where I thought he lay.

He rose again…but this time, to my Robert Hakansson tied parachute pale watery.

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A stocked fish, and over-wintered and 17”, so maybe just a pound and a half or so, but my first of 2015, my first from the Taff, and I intend that he will not be my last…love it. I stopped after catching him. I didn’t need another fish.

I fished some weeks later with Gareth who introduced me to the TAF FECHAN.

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And what a stream that is,

and I was fortunate to be there on a good day when several small wild fish came to my Gareth tied parachute Adams