CARMARTHENSHIRE

It feels to me, a Christ College’ Breconian, to be a wonderful irony that my Carmarthenshire trout might come from the river which flows through the town of our rugby arch rivals, in Llandovery. Me, a ‘Green and Gold’ raider from the Usk, stealing a march, or a trout in this river, from the ‘Hen Elyn’!

I remember it well. It was Monday, September 10, 2018, and Alistair Cook was batting, and around noon, play was halted for two minutes or more so that he could enjoy and take the rapturous applause from his Oval fans after he scored a century against India, in the second innings of his final test match. He eventually scored 147, after recording 71 in his first innings. What an incredible exit from a remarkable cricketer and all round elegant chap. Reception on those parts of the A40 close to Llandovery was affected by the slopes of the Beacons National Park, and the excitement of the TMS team was counteracted by my frustration of blackout moments, and as the inevitable drew closer, a welcome lay by where Aggers could be heard, guaranteed that I could share their excitement from a special sporting moment. A sunny moment on a sunny day.

My day ticket for the Llandovery AA beats on the Tywi was purchased from the Castle Hotel, where I was staying that evening. (Try their Scotch Eggs…I had two for lunch, and feel nothing more need be said!)

My afternoon on the river proved to be hard work as weather conditions worsened. I fished downstream of the town, and also ventured up the tributary, which is the Bran, but failed to connect with a fish. A few rose, but not to anything at the end of my leader.

After heavy overnight rains, the river rose and coloured up, and this Breconian, retreated, beaten but not bowed.

Nearly a year later and on July 30, I returned. After taking advice from Welsh fisher friends as to where I might succeed, the consensus was that the waters on the Towy of either Llangadoc Angling Association, or the Cross Hands and District Angling Association, just below the former Club’s beats, and both downstream of Llandovery, might deliver.

Cross Hands AC has interesting origins. It was formed fifty years ago by retired miners who used their redundancy monies to buy and rent salmon fishing on the Towy.

I opted for their water on the advice of Phil Lewis, a member, who suggested precisely, where I should try. That was below the railway bridge! Hhmm!

From the Club’s website, I read  that the Service Station at Manordeilo sold day tickets, and bought one, then and with the help of GoogleMaps, sought out how to access the river close to ‘the’ railway bridge. A wrong turn off the narrowest of lanes where summer overgrowth of grasses and wild flowers did its best to clean the dust and motorway dirt from the flanks of my X5, and into a farm yard, to the bemusement of the young lads playing there. A grandson, Freddie, lookalike put me right, but not enough, and a turn into the farmhouse drive close by, and said lookalike spotting a townie when he sees one, was at hand to put me right, and minutes later, and two more narrow lanes, then over an unprotected rail crossing next to an ancient short platform and rail hall, now tastefully converted, and along a bumpy track where the Beemer learned who is the Boss, I was on the grassy banks of the Towy. And damn me…fish were rising in the morning sunshine.

So what did I find below the railway bridge?

A flow of forty yard or so width but shallow, but with deeper glides within the pools, created by upstream obstructions of bushes deflecting flows, and fallen trees doing the same. A bed of gravel, small stones and larger pebbles. A lack of rain enabling this summer’s sunshine to encourage algae growth making the slimy stones incredibly slippery; a complete absence of streaming weed of any type; no fly life to speak about, but the turning of stones revealed hundreds and hundreds of cased caddis larvae; fry in the margins suggested a healthy stream; a quiet place except for welcome birdsong and the odd croaking frog! Bankside, there was much evidence of ‘balsam bashing’ but there is so much more to do. Not only here, but throughout our land to eradicate what if we do not, we may regret.

Ridiculously, I caught a fish with my first cast.

After my second cast, and mid drift, my mobile rang and it was Phil Lewis enquiring whether I had found the beat he recommended!

I caught four more before noon, and all came to a small olive emerger from my Dan Popp collection. His flies are sparsely dressed and work for me as well on spate rivers as chalk streams.He is a great tyer, and I will willingly connect anyone who wants to purchase flies from him.

I always planned to return late afternoon and fish into dusk to try to catch a more sunshine wary larger fish, and did, but for just one more, and with only one fish of six, around the half pound mark, to my name, the thundery squalls which hit Cornwall in the morning arrived in S W Wales, and ‘rain stopped play’ at around six o’clock.

Job done, though!

post script:

  • ‘Hen Elyn’, is Welsh for ‘Old Enemy’
  • The Towy is the longest river whose whole length is entirely in Wales

My readers will know, I now have caught trout from rivers in every County in Wales.

 

PEMBROKESHIRE

Auctions are a useful place to find fishing you might not have experienced but this relies on its owners to offer it. In the Angling Trust Auction (2019) the Nevern Angling Association did this very thing, (Lot 68, as I recall) and it was too good for me to ignore, because it would in prospect, enable me to capture my 21st Welsh County, and my bid was successful.

My hosts, Dave Sweet and Phil Lewis excited me with the opportunity, and their enthusiasm was supported by my FFC friend, Stephen Heckler, who described the Nevern as a ‘gem’. I think all hoped that sewin was to be my target for it is sea trout for which their stream is famed, but where there are sewin, there are wild brown trout, my favoured quarry!

I made my first attempt at a visit in early June, knowing that the weather was ‘iffy’ at best and likely to deteriorate. At about Reading and after learning from a BBC travel report of rains of ‘biblical proportions’ on the M5, I called Phil for an update.

‘Bring your spinning rod and some worms’ he suggested, which for a dry fly addict was a major deterrent, and I turned back to London, after postponing my reservation at the Salutation Inn, a move which for a small hotel, was accepted gracefully.

‘But I will be back’’ I confirmed.

Fast forward to the end of July…

It’s a long way from London to this beautiful part of Wales, and the journey takes in the whole length of the M4 motorway, which I now know is 189 miles long! I think that Carmarthen is about as deep into South West Wales as I have visited, and the winding roads from there to my destination at the delightfully named Felindre Farchog, was, on a sunny day, a delight, and I had my first sighting of the renowned but frequently bespoiled, River Teifi.

And soon after I arrived, so did Phil Lewis, Hon Treas., of the Club, and we spent a good hour

or more, chatting as fishers do, about all things River Nevern. I learned of their eight or so miles of single and double bank; of its rightful claim to be a sea trout heaven, with a few salmon thrown in for good measure, of the specimens caught in recent years; a 22lb sewin being caught recently; but how catches have fallen off due a mix of estuarine, coracle netting, and pollution, the latter from farm slurry (which kills the invertebrates on which fry feed) by unscrupulous farmers believing theirs is the right, and of an impotent NRW. How often I have heard that in my travels through Wales, along with the belief that the Assembly is in thrall of the farming community, to the detriment of conservation. Welsh anglers must get aligned to fight off the dual threat from the farming powers, and a well organised kayaking lobby.

But back to the Afon Nyfer. It’s a short river, just 11 miles long from its source from a spring in the south west slope of Frenni Fawr, near Crymych, to the sea, at Newport, on the Cardigan Bay.

Ample water for the 109 members, some of whom, under the watchful and experienced eye of Phil and his fellow Committee members, undertake the maintenance required of a spate stream which rushes through with winter flood waters after heavy rains.

And what a good job they do. The short beats I fished were testament to their effectiveness.

Phil warned me that “the wild brown trout are really rather small”, to which I responded that that did not worry me, “so long as they are beautiful!” They are aggressive feeders he said, and would often come to a slow retrieved Rapala, which at three o’clock in the morning must be a nuisance to sewin hunters.

Upstream from the village is where I headed, and soon learned that here is a river, which over thousands of years has etched out a path through reddish rocks, to create a steep bank, which in its shaded places contains ferns and lichens and more, and is most easily accessed by mountain goats, or Welsh lambs. At this entry point its feels like an assault course!

But from above, it is easy to spot the pools where you just know, lurk some silver tourists, resting before their nocturnal games begin. In the meadows nearby, nettles and balsam grow to five feet. More work here for the Nevern team to conquer this Japanese invader, I think.

There are runs between narrows opening into pools and glides of only a short distance, before turning abruptly and creating yet another deep dark water bend, and in the sunshine pouring between overhanging alders, a dart here and there, revealed the presence of the small trout Phil told me about. Stealth was important for the fish in the feeder lines at the head of the pools did not need to alerted to a two-legged predator! And these were the lies where, five Pembrokeshire wildies succumbed to my elk hair caddis. Phil was right.

They are small, and about four to the lb., but they are lightning fast, and scrappy. I was not sure what their food source was, because fly life was sparse, on this afternoon, but Phil’s fly recommendation to me was either a black gnat, or caddis, so that suggests terrestrials, midge or sedge.

Felindre Farchog is a small village where everyone knows each other, and during my chat outside with Phil, he was greeted, or greeted many. Exchanges more often than not, were in Welsh. Everyone takes care and looks out for each other in this small community. How unlike urban folk! My overnight sleep was in the Salutation Inn, where Brenda and her team made

me welcome, in English. Mine was a simple room with great bedding (how important). Supper, a local lamb burger, was delicious, and the purpose of my visit intrigued the friendly locals.

Thank you, Nevern Angling Association and Phil Lewis and Dave Sweet; thank you Brenda and all at the Salutation Inn for having me; and thank you the River Nevern, for giving me my Pembrokeshire trout. Just Carmarthenshire to ‘net’ now, for a full house!