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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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’.

Torfaen

Tuesday (April 5) morning was bright and sunny, but cold, although the temperature rose to 11c by lunchtime. It stayed dry.

The sun shone into the Abbey woodlands which enhanced the colours of the wild ground flowers, where wood anemone and buttercup dominated, and competed for the eye with the lime green foliage we yearn to see after the grey wintery months.

It was truly lovely.

The sounds of pre-mating birdlife filled the air, and was far more attractive than the Arriva turquoise rail stock dashing by, en route to Newport. I wish I could identify more birds than I can, but many species played in the trees above me.

I had fished up from the bottom of the beat, last time, so started at the midpoint. The river had a hint of colour after recent showers. Fly life was sparse, so my starting ‘rig’ was a ‘duo’ of parachute Adams and PTN.

Nothing was moving, but after an hour I spotted a rise, and my excitement and anticipation multiplied, but to no avail. And it was all I saw in the morning…sadly abandoned supermarket trolleys were more abundant than fish.

I offer a word of warning to anyone fishing this ‘wild beat’.

Beware approaching its top end, for the seductive smell of cookie dough, emanating from the Burton’s Biscuit factory nearby is quite off putting, and my juices started flowing and lunch called.

Resuming from the bottom of the beat shortly after assuaging my appetite, produced ‘rien’.

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And my hopes off ‘netting’ Torfaen will have to wait until I try here again, in warmer times, and I will, so WUF will hear from me again.

I am an optimist by nature, but a reading of Anglers’ Feedback on the WUF website, reveals that seventeen visits/reports have yielded just two fish. Make that eighteen visits!!!

Torfaen

The Afon Lwyd (Grey River) rises in the Black Mountains and flows through Pontypool and Cwmbran before entering the Usk at Caerleon. Once filled with the effluent from coal mines, steelworks and urban development, it has been cleaned, but it remains, essentially, an urban stream.

The ¾ mile beat at Llantarnam Abbey water is made available to the Wye Usk Foundation which how I found myself on it on September 19th last year (2015) on a bright and sunny Saturday morning.

The river here flows through deciduous woodland and is characterised variably by gravel beds, riffles and deep pools at its bends. On my day, the water level was low, and days of sunlight meant that wading the shallower parts was over algae covered rocks and stones…and slippery!

Fly life was sparse and I saw only one rise, but still persisted with dries! No fish, then but I saw enough to encourage a return visit, to try to net Torfaen, and I will, early in 2016.

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

POWYS

The second meeting of the Moreno Appreciation Club (MAC) was held on Wednesday, June 20th 2012.

The Founders were privileged to receive the President…who presided!

The Founders and the President were excited to be joined by ‘Novitiate’ David Fraser, who had been appraised of the Rules of the MAC, and indeed had commented on them through a series of exchanges, which included some from another (potential) Novitiate, one Howard Mann, who was credited with the most original excuse (albeit very late) for ultimate failure to attend – the swimming pool at his ‘place ’in the Pyrenees was leaking and he needed to go and fix it! And the meeting therefore started ‘a quatre’.

After a hearty ‘Full Welsh’ breakfast at the Three Salmons in the town of Usk, the assembly moved to the town bridge, where, after peering into the coloured flows, it was decided that after recent rains, and whilst visibility had improved on the previous day, and it was possible actually to see the bottom of the river in the shallows, the overall opportunity was limited and the MAC deserved better than was likely on this wonderfully variable beat.

A visit to the legendary Sweets, was the second item on the agenda, and the MAC was privileged (that is two privileges in one AGM!) to be greeted by the similarly legendary and lovely, Jean Williams,

whose shop ‘blew away’ the President.

The river being in the condition that it was, a call was made to the Wye Usk Foundation and this delivered four day tickets in most efficient fashion, for the town water in Brecon, 25 miles upstream, and the MAC arrived riverside at circa 1030am,to find the river USK in good nick.

Moreno wands were waved by the Founders and the President,

and all chose to fish ‘dry’ on water which had the lightest tinge of colour, but where, in sunny conditions, it was noted, also, that a few fish were  sipping emergers in the margins and under overhanging branches, and hopes were high.

Modesty aside, the first fish, a monster of ten inches, was taken by Founder Mair,

on an Adams, and a better fish, shortly thereafter, by Founder Tribe.

Whilst enquiring about the progress of the President, there was nearly an International Incident, when the President missed the only interest he had, and Founder Mair, left him to ponder what might have been.

The morning fishing produced just these two fish, and the assembled retired to partake of an Ale, as prescribed by the Constitution.

A second altercation followed at lunch, when it was necessary to remind the Novitiate of Rule 3…’ All fishing MUST be undertaken during Club events, exclusively and therefore, only, with a Moreno rod’ and that failure to do so would require of the defaulter, that the cost of all libations would be payable (Rule 4)

Founder Tribe wondered whether what he had been doing all morning should be classified as ‘fishing’ in any case; the Novitiate claimed ignorance, and threatened legal action, and since MAC funds are limited (zero) and the Novitiate is extremely rich, he was let off with a warning that future breaches will not be tolerated. His pathetic attempt to bribe the President by purchasing tasty Italian wine at dinner that evening was noted, and the notion that he might be invited to MAC2013 will be debated those with influence.

The afternoon was diluted by the absence of Founder Tribe,

but the President, Founder Mair and the Novitiate all caught fish, and whilst there were none of note, a dozen netted was considered to be a worthy result.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rains of which we have become all to accustomed this season, arrived shortly after fishing ended at 6pm.

Drinks (ale) en route to the Three Salmon, were taken at the legendary  Gliffaes Country House Hotel, and the remainder of the journey to Usk was made in silence as the President and the Novitiate enjoyed a quiet sleep.

Dinner was followed by the required large ‘Jacks’.

The meeting ended in good heart, and the Founders wish to record their delight by the attendance of their President, and also, by Novitiate Fraser. Quasi Novitiate Mann, does not know what he missed (or didn’t)

Conclusion: Moreno’s ‘wonderful wands work’ in Wales. The Usk is a fantastic trout river, and the favourite in Britain of many…it is not an easy fishery, but it rewards the diligent. Hatches are short, and fly life is less prolific than in recent years, and in this most testing season, good anglers will prevail….as the MAC did!