Where would we be without a PTN…….?

I get a rare chance to spend a second day on the river this week. With the trout season around the corner this is my last effort to catch grayling and I head for a little stretch of the Avon in Wiltshire.

I’m not a scholar of the history of fly fishing, but there will be few devotees of the art, unfamiliar with Avon river keeper Frank Sawyer. He is accredited with inventing the pheasant tail nymph and I came to the conclusion a while ago that when it comes to nymphs, variations of the PTN are pretty much all that’s needed. So it proves again today.

IMG_2283

The Avon above Upavon

It’s six months since I was last here and today the river is pushing through strongly with a dark colour to the water. This is not one of those chalk days when you can count each grain of gravel in six feet of water. Every river looks different in each season, but this stream is unrecognisable from last August.

I decide to fish traditional upstream nymphs and just vary the weight to suit the flow. The banks are accessible and I can cast to many pools without wading; an impossibility in summer. My 8ft Sage SLT is perfect.

In the past, I’ve had as many as thirty grayling on this beat, but something is telling me this day will be different. As I make my way downstream, I can’t resist stopping at my ‘banker’ pool. I’ll fish through it again on my way up but I’ll just run the fly through a few times now. No response.

After nearly an hour, I’m still at the same pool and after several fly changes, I continue south with just one small grayling to hand. It doesn’t feel like a red-letter day is in the offing.

Things look up when I get back in the water and first cast I have another small but perfectly formed grayling posing for a snap as he slides back in. I continue upstream but I get no activity from the suspect lies. At the next pool, I’m convinced it’s holding fish but after a dozen drifts, again no interest.

I have little patience and keep tweaking the presentation. I switch to a size 16 PTN with a red tag and straight away I have the best fish of the day at around 14″ and it’s followed by another two smaller grayling. The fishing is not prolific but it’s fun.

The red tag stays on and lands two more grayling from my ‘banker’ pool and four OOS small trout from the next glide. I check my watch and I’ve only an hour before I need to head home. I spend the rest of the time on the upper beat, mostly kneeling trying to hide my profile whilst prospecting likely water. If anything the water is colouring up more and I’m fishing blind.

IMG_2342

I have half a dozen boxes of nymphs, mostly variations of pheasant tails and hairs ears. The majority have never been wet and I’ll guess that goes for a great many fly anglers. We all have our go to patterns. I wouldn’t dream for one minute of denigrating the ‘match the hatch’ approach, but here’s my reality. I have seen precious few hatches in recent years and most of the time I can’t identify the chosen food. I catch my share and when I’m not fishing a dry, the PTN variations work more often than not.

IMG_2345

I find that red, orange and pink tags work well with grayling and won’t escape a passing trout.

I catch everything today on the red tag PTN and a shrimp, both size 16. For those of you watching in black and white, the red tag is the one next to the pink shrimp (yes I’m old enough to remember Ted Lowe and Pot Black).

I think the count today is eight grayling and four trout. I’m not sure when I’ll get back to the Avon. This coming season, I’m planning to spend as much time as possible on the Monnow, her tributaries, and of course the Usk. Alas, there are only so many days for fishing.

On a few chosen occasions, I’m fortunate to be able to get to a chalk stream within a reasonable drive and for a reasonable price.

Mr Notherone

 

 

River Irfon Magic…

The drive up Mynydd Eppynt is a little daunting. The narrow road, hairpin bends and wayward sheep, all focus the mind. This would probably make an exciting race track and I imagine how the Caterham I owned thirty years ago would fair. Fantastic I’m sure. Today though, my land rover is not accustomed to such mental agility and even if this is one of the best off-road vehicles available, I’m determined not to test that claim here.

I’m also aware of the frequent artillery range signs and red warning flags. I imagine some snotty nosed trainee gunner tracking me in his sights with the latest hi tech kit, itching to pull the “trigger”!  He doesn’t, of course.

Irfon Valley

Irfon Valley – beautiful grey morning

My last visit to the Irfon ended in a wash off – nothing could have persuaded me into the river that day. By contrast, today is grey and mild for the date, with a little on and off drizzle. The water is fairly low and running clear. I fully expect to spend the day euro nymphing but conditions suggest otherwise and I opt for the duo to give me a little more distance. I have my 9ft 6″ Hanak that will manage a fly line and the french leader if I want it.

I walk to the downstream limit and realise with the water this low there are really only a handful of pools that will likely hold grayling. Long stretches are no more than ankle deep, clear and with a distinct lack of fish.

I prospect the first few ‘fishy’ seams and have to change the depth and weight of the nymph several times. I’m fishing well (for me) but I’m lacking the confidence that the grayling are in this quicker water. At the first more obvious pool I take a break, eat an apple and plot my line of attack.

It’s not obvious. I think the grayling will be just out of the main current and somewhere before the back eddy, so I’ll have to cross over and clamber around a fallen tree.

IMG_2248I wade out, slightly further than I’m comfortable, and try to cover the water. It’s the third or fourth cast when I get a take at the end of the drift. A pristine grayling of about a pound. The pool is at least 6ft deep and my nymph is hitting the bottom.

I catch three in this pool before all goes quiet. The next pool is also productive and another three similar grayling come to hand. On this beat there is plenty of room for casting, however the the wind picks up and as I round the next bend it’s hard in my face. Time for lunch.

Over the next hour I manage three more grayling, two from an eddy where the bank falls away and one from some faster water at the head of a longer glide. They are all the same size and I see only one larger fish. When I peer over the bank like a beginner, I succeed in spooking the fish and it bolts downstream. I make a mental note that surprisingly, I’ve no interest from an OOS trout in four hours of fishing.

I’ve not been out for a while, so I’m pleased with nine grayling from a river I don’t know. The Irfon probably plays second fiddle to it’s big brother the Wye, but she is beautiful and well worth a visit. I will definitely return for the grayling, ideally when a little more water is flowing. I’ll also do a little research to see how the trout show later in the year.

Back at the car I’m shocked to see that I have a phone signal – probably only happens one in ten trips where I fish. I discover it’s tuna steak for dinner. Apparently, in our house I’m the “best at cooking fish” which I have learned is code for “you’re doing dinner”! After a day on the river and a ninety minute drive my reward will be slaving away in the kitchen. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mr Notherone