It’s the warmest day of the year so far and as I leave home around mid-morning, the car already feels like an oven. A forty minute drive finds me parked up beside the upper Monnow and peering over a little bridge trying to spot trout.
The Upper Monnow
The beautiful spring day feels more like mid-summer and although I can’t spot any fish, I’m looking forward to an afternoon and early evening on the river. A white land rover pulls alongside and I chat with the most stereotypical farmer imaginable. His look is of a man who has never spent a day indoors in his life. He seems knowledgable about the local rivers and he’s telling me to look out for a pair of kingfishers just below the bridge.
Water Temperature Is Still A Little Low
The beat is under a mile long and I’m going to go minimalist. This is partly because I’m always trying to carry less but mostly because it’s so hot. I’m greased up with sun lotion and with a small shoulder bag and a handful of essentials I’m off. I’m carrying my 8ft 3wt and starting with a specialist nymph line and a pair of lightly weighted pheasant tails. I have another reel and regular line with me and whatever happens I’m determined to spend time with the dry fly today.
As I walk down the beat I meet a family on a weekend break. The little lad has a bent pin, piece of string and a stick and is trying to attract the fry with bacon rind. He looks at my rod and reel with envy and so rather than tell him he’s poaching, needs a rod licence and that it’s fly only, I give his Dad a couple of little flies and some tippet and tell the six year old to be careful waving it about in front of his sister! I’m genuinely hoping he catches a tiddler but I’m also hoping he’s moved on by the time I’m fishing back at this pool.
Given the recent rain, the river is lower than I expect but still a little cloudy. All in all I think the river is about a month behind where it should be. There are various sporadic hatches throughout the afternoon but I see just one rise all day.
No Net Needed Today
I spend several hours leisurely working upstream, exploring each likely spot and bring several lovely little fish to hand. It’s hard work though, and I’m constantly swapping flies and changing depth. Today I’m in no rush and I spend plenty of time just watching the river, soaking up the sun.
All the fish are similar, beautifully marked and full of fight. Both the lighter dropper and heavier point fly have taken fish. As I run the nymphs though a deeper pool I see a slab of silver and then the sighter straightens a little. I tighten up and for a few brief seconds I feel a better fish and then he’s gone. I relax back out of sight and after about 15 minutes I try again, but to no avail.
Upper Monnow Brownie
Back You Go
A whopper lives beyond this stone
I fish the whole beat picking up small brownies from the faster top of the pools, but on the slower glides I see nothing. The boy with the stick has disappeared.
Back at the car I dispense with the bag and just stuff a small box of drys, tippet and floatant in my shirt pocket. I’m going to fish the whole beat again targeting any rise and prospecting a few likely haunts. After an hour I’m done – just one rise and in spite of me creeping on all fours and kneeling to cast, he gets away. My cast is on the money, but I can’t get him up and I suspect I’ve spooked him. Today is not the most prolific, but a day to remember none the less.
The Crown offers a very welcome drink and a few locals enquire after my fortune. My mind wanders to the little lad with the deep brown eyes and how his face lit up when I showed him my fly box. Who knows, perhaps I’ve caught more than small brownies today and another would be fly angler is hooked already.