Pinch, Punch, First of the Month..

IMG_1140

A few miles above Usk

My daughter is first off the mark.  She delights in pinching and punching dad and I can’t help noticing her punch is getting stronger.  I take her for a sports trial in the morning and I plan on a couple of hours on the river this evening.  She’s nervous, plays well, and I enjoy the morning with her.  It’s another day in our current heat wave and we have no rain to speak of for weeks.  So much for my little rain dance last weekend.  With river levels this low, the trout will seek out the oxygenated water, lay low in the margins or hold in deeper, cooler pools.

This beat, a few miles above Usk, is a lovely place to spend a few hours.  It’s a long track down to the river and I’m surprised to find no other cars at the bottom.  A fine Summer evening, and I’ve got a mile of the Usk to myself.  As I ease myself into the water , there’s a huge splash near the bank below me and I turn just in time to see what looks like a good fish, bellyflop back into the pool.  Encouraging.  A few clouds roll in, and the evening will be a mix of bright sunlight with overcast intervals.

There are small and frequent rises all along a food seam where some faster water trails away.  I work my way upstream and one by one the trout hit my dry fly.  I’ve struggled at times this season with the dry.  Not so much hitting the hook up, but rising fish have ignored fly after fly as I hunt for the right pattern.

IMG_1193

Small Usk Brownie

Not this evening.  I start with a tiny Klinkhammer pattern and straight away I get a take and a lovely little wbt is to hand.  Several more follow to the same fly.  Unusually, I’m on my game and I’m 100% on hook ups, not even a long range release!

I notice a larger fish about 40 feet directly upstream.  I creep up and after several reasonable casts, fail to get a take.  I guess maybe he’s onto something different and there are little midges everywhere.  I look for the one of the smallest black patterns I have.  It’s probably technically a Griffith’s Gnat, size 20.  Second cast and I’m in, but rather than the thump I’m expecting, a relatively modest 12″ brownie comes to the net.  He has a nasty looking wound on the flank and probably thinks he’s down on his luck, but I get him back in the water in a few seconds.  Unsure if this is the larger fish I think I see, I cover the same water, pick up a couple of smaller fish, but no sign of Mr Big.

 

My best fish of the evening also falls to the black gnat.  It’s a well marked 14″ fish that literally jumps into the net.  I hook him directly across stream and he immediately runs below me.  With a size 20 hook and 010 tippet I adopt the ‘gently persuasive’ rather than ‘full on bully’ approach.

Two hours on the river, 9 fish and a very pleasant evening.  This is why I love fly fishing the Usk.

On the short dive home, there’s an interesting sound from the Land Rover.  More like a transmission problem than engine, is my gut.  If you drive an old Defender, these things become expected and nothing to worry about.  After all, a worrier doesn’t buy a Defender.

It’s a Sunday to remember for all the good reasons.  Let’s see what Monday (and the rest of July) brings.

Mr Notherone

 

When that extra effort pays off…

IMG_1019

Pen y Fal.  The Monnow Valley in the distance.

This sunny spell is lovely.  A family barbecue yesterday and now as I open the bedroom blind, this morning looks much the same.  One of the wettest May’s has given way to one of the driest June’s.  Gardeners aside perhaps, not many are hoping for rain, but I suspect I’m not alone amongst river anglers in wishing for a bit more flow.

The family is busy today and very early I find myself with just the dog for company.  I want to go fishing but the rising heat and brilliant sunshine will make a day on the river a challenge.  Perhaps an evening session is the best bet.

I head off in the land rover for an early morning walk with Ollie and thirty minutes later we are heading up Pen y Fal (more often known as the Sugarloaf).  For a while I think we are the first to make the climb.  Then I spot a couple ahead of us on the western most path – still, I calculate that we will be up and back home in time for breakfast.  Certainly not late enough to call it brunch.  Although it’s early, it’s hot.  Even Ollie is slower than usual and by the time we are back at the car we both are wacked and share a litre of water.

The day drifts away and I potter around avoiding some jobs that need doing.  I make a business call and get a few things ready for an overseas trip this week.  I can slide into the evening, put my feet up and wait for the family to get home.  I tell myself that it’s not good enough and I should grab my kit and head to the river.  I’m right of course, I always am when I talk to myself.

It’s 7pm when I stroll along the bank.  I’ve my 9ft 4wt, a long leader and a trusted olive emerger tied on.  I’ll probably only fish until 8.30pm and I’ve decided to just use a dry fly.  I select a spot just below some faster water.  The seam tracks towards the far bank and deepens a little.  It looks fishy and there is a gradual shelf where I can edge out without making too much of a disturbance.  I spot a rise and position to cover the fish.  My first few casts are good with no drag – no take.  Over the next forty minutes, I try half a dozen patterns targeting several fish within range, but nothing.  Then quite suddenly there is a hatch and fish feeding in every direction.  This is the first time this season when I’ve seen this much surface action.  As none of my flies has caught yet, I’m unsure what to use and it’s not obvious what has turned them on.  I reach for a ‘tups indispensable’ in the top corner of my Wheatley.  It’s tied and given to me by an angler I met on the Monnow a few seasons ago and as yet, not been wet.

IMG_1041

Fell to a Tups Indispensable

Over the next fifteen minutes I catch 3 brownies and hook two more that I use to practise my long range release technique.  Then as quickly as it started, all is quiet.  The little size 18 tups did just the job.

I’d like to say that my growing entomology knowledge helps me crack the feeding code.  Actually I just get lucky.  All the fish are only about 12 inches, but they put up a good fight.

I’m pleased I make the effort this evening.  Funny how I always am after the event.  I resolve to keep making the effort and remember this evening when next the lazy gene start to win through.  As I’m traveling this coming week, I also do a little rain dance.  Just enough to make sure it’s nice and sunny again when I get back on Friday.

Mr Notherone

 

IMG_1050

 

Season’s Best….So Far

IMG_0975

The weather has put paid to a day on the Monnow so with the gear already packed, I decide to head for the Usk to see what impact yesterday’s torrential rain has had.  I’m pleasantly surprised, a little colour but fishable and I can see a few small fish topping.  I decide to tackle up and give it a go for few hours.

At the bottom of the beat there is a fast ripple, deepening towards the far bank.  I run a couple of dry’s along the whole seam but nothing so I switch to a beaded nymph on the point and a spider pattern on the dropper.  Second cast and a small brownie about 10″ comes to hand and I tap the leader and he’s gone.  A few more casts, the sighter straightens and a similar size fish is on. Not a bad start.  One to the nymph and one to the spider.

As I reach the top if the pool, I spot what looks like a larger fish feeding on the surface.  Not big splashy rises but a definite and regular pattern.  There are a few Yellow May’s on the water but I don’t see much else.  I tie on a small size 18 emerger pattern.  My first cast is short; there is that silence that you want to be broken with a splash, but nothing happens.  Second cast is better and almost immediately the fish hits the fly.  I curse as I lift into thin air.  Time to move on up the beat.  I try a few more faster ripples with two nymphs and then the duo with a tiny hares ear and a small klink.  I miss two more takes before the third brownie come to hand, smaller this time, perhaps 8″.  The fourth is another 10″.  Time for a break.  I sit on a welcome wooden bench, throw down a sandwich and decide to move on to another beat a few miles upstream.

IMG_0974A five minute drive and I’m locking the Land Rover and heading down to the river.  Over the last few seasons, I’ve caught well on this short beat.  I set up with two nymphs and fish my way out towards the confluence at the bottom of the beat.

After only about ten minutes, I am hit hard and I’m into a much better fish.  This is a proper trout.  I try to keep him upstream but he runs twice below me and it’s all I can do to bully him back.  I miss the first attempt with the net….success on the second effort.  The PTN falls out in the net.  The fish is 18″ nose to fork and my season’s best.  He takes a few minutes to recover and then slowly glides away and out of sight.  Time for the last of my chocolate bar and a drink.

I catch two more smaller fish and then spend half an hour casting a dry to a small fish repeatedly rising in impossibly shallow water.  I try half a dozen flies to no avail and part of me wants to sling a rock at it!  I decide to spend the last half hour back at the pool that produced earlier.  I cast a weighted nymph through the ripple and it hangs in the current below me, as I prepare to use the water tension to cast forwards I feel a solid tug and then something takes off like a train, stripping line from the real.  Then nothing.  The tippet is snapped at the tippet ring.

I don’t see what I’ve hooked, but I’m guessing a salmon.  Certainly heavier than any trout I’ve hooked in a river.

The final count is seven, including my season’s best.  It’s a warm, pleasant late afternoon as I drive home.  Not a bad way to spend a day off.

Mr. Notherone

A Sneaky Few Hours…

The little track down to the Usk is overgrown and unlikely the right way.  I’ve been here before though, so I know I’m only a few hundred yards from parking up and only a few more from the river.

IMG_0925

Downstream On The Usk

The path is overgrown too and I take my time, a slip here could spoil my afternoon.  The river looks spot on, just the right height, running clear, but it’s sunny and the water still feels cold

I’m grabbing a couple of hours on a middle Usk beat at the last minute.  Today was supposed to be busy with other stuff, but no complaints, I’m on the river.  I’ve seen so few rises this season that when I spot a fish rising on the far bank as I walk down the beat, I stop and plan my approach.  This turns out to be one of just five rises I see.  I catch two of the five in the first hour, presumably I’m too clumsy for the others.  I’m pleased that my size 18 olive emerger does the trick as today I’m only fishing a dry fly and I pass over the faster water at the top of the beat, in favour of the more likely dry fly water.  My first cast is good enough and a 12″ brownie comes to the net, followed ten minutes later by another.

IMG_0919

Today resembles one of those days that I yearn for during the colder months, perfect in every respect, apart from the distinct lack of fish.  It’s a similar story to a week ago and a week before that.  Everything looks just right, except the fish don’t show.

I continue to prospect with the dry, concentrating on the far bank and I manage to rise and catch two more brownies to the olive emerger and an Adams.

A hundred yards upstream is a family messing around with a dog splashing in the margins, so I slow down and take a break.  I just sit, take a drink and watch the river.  There are some duns coming off and I see two yellow mays, but no fish are interested.

IMG_0916

Fell To An Olive Emerger

I’m tempted to stay longer but I’ve promised my daughter a barbecue.  I can catch some more if I work the faster water with nymphs but as this is a dry fly day I call it a day.

On the way home, near Raglan, I’m held up by a driver doing 25mph.  Diving a Defender, it’s rare that I find much going slower than me.  There’s a certain irony that the ‘go slow’  is driving a Suzuki Swift.  I bide my time, drop down a gear and plant my right foot.  There’s a three to four second pause as the land rover tries to work out what’s happened, before doing it’s best to respond.  It’s quite possibly the first time I overtake anything moving in my Defender.

Today I enjoy a few hours on the Usk on a warm Spring day and catch four smallish trout on a dry fly.  Nothing too remarkable.  However, I’ll remember the day for the rush of adrenaline as I see the Suzuki driver mouthing “hooligan” in my mirror as he eats my dust.

Mr Notherone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Socially Speaking…….

IMG_0893

It’s Sunday evening and I’m slumped in the chair.  I’m aching all over, my feet are sore, I’m hoarse from laughing non-stop since Friday evening – oh, and I smell like a wrestlers jock strap.  There’s no other explanation needed, as I’ve just returned from the annual Monnow Rivers Association Social.

This is my second year attending and in-spite of my exhausted condition I’m hoping for many more to come.

There are those for whom fly fishing is a solitary pursuit, but even if it is, there is always room for a gathering like this where the friendship, banter, fun and fishing is served up in spades.  I’m richer for the experience even if poorer in the pocket.  Once again I’ve returned with a few “essential bargains” from the infamous auction, including a book from the 1980’s on still water trout fishing; something I don’t do and have no intention of starting.  Last year I was naive; this year I have no excuse and Patrick and Rob prove equally adept at removing my cash.

There is a lot of talk about the rivers being late this season and that appears to be true.  Some excellent anglers are made to work hard for their fish.  The conditions aren’t quite there yet, perhaps another three weeks?  None the less, I catch 16 fish in two and a half days, I learn a lot and I’m very pleased.  I experience two Monnow beats new to me in stunning surroundings and in the good company of Dave with whom I’m buddied up.  I also revisit a favourite beat of mine on the Honddu.  There is fly life (particularly under the stones) but the trout don’t look up much yet.  They can be tempted and the patient angler is rewarded.  A few very good fish are caught and returned.

In the evenings, the conversation and alcohol compete for which can flow fastest, with the inevitable winner.  Stories and anecdotes are shared with a passion and I now know what it means to literally ache with laughter.  I indulge more than I have for a while and eventually retire, fortunately to the same tent I put up earlier.  The mornings start with a procession of disheveled individuals armed with mugs, fresh from a night in a tent with varying degrees of discomfort, looking for caffeine.  A good breakfast revives the spirit and with fishing partners and beats distributed, the pursuit begins.

A lot of folk put in a lot of work to make the Social successful, something for which all us participants are very appreciative.  I’m already looking forward to next year and have worked out that there are only eleven and a bit months to go.  As a proud social (small s) media luddite, I’ve even been moved to join something called Facebook, so that I can keep in touch with MRA gossip – whatever next!

Mr Notherone

Sizzling on the Monnow

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.

IMG_0815

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.

IMG_0813

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.

IMG_0829

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.

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.

Mr Notherone.

Struggling in the Honddu Valley

As I turn off the road and onto the track that leads to the river it’s not the sight I am expecting.  Looking forward to a remote few hours on the Honddu, I’m confronted by what looks like a well established campsite and the usual array of green, orange and blue  tents.  There is the smell of campfire and breakfast on the air.  A few early risers are friendly enough as I pass and make my way downstream of the bridge to the bottom of the beat.  The campers are as entitled to be here as me, but I’m already feeling out of sorts.

IMG_0801

The Honddu below Llanthony

No reason really, the river looks good with a nice flow and very clear water.  I decide to fish with a pair of nymphs, traditional upstream rather than European style.  Nothing for twenty minutes then I hook and lose a small brownie in some pocket water before bringing another to hand.  They seem to be in the quicker water today.  I hook and lose two more as a spaniel from the campsite follows my every move from the bank.  At least he’s not interested in a morning bath.  As I fish past the campsite my mind is wandering; I’m not sure if it’s the smell of bacon but I’m not even looking when the next small trout snatches the pheasant tail.  This time he stays on and the fly falls out as I cradle him in the water before he bolts for cover.

IMG_0806

What’s not to like

Back at the car I grab a drink and a rethink.  I’m not fishing well.  I’m stumbling around heavily and in this small stream stealth and presentation is paramount.  I resolve to give myself a metaphorical kick up the arse.  The early morning sunshine disappears and now the wind picks up with a little rain in the air.  I head upstream where I’ve only the sheep and new lambs for an audience.

There is no surface activity but I decide to tie on a dry emerger and prospect.  I’ll probably miss out on more of the lovely little brownies in the quicker water but maybe I’ll tempt a better one up.  I’ve a rhythm going now and perhaps a quarter mile above the bridge my fly is taken as soon as it lands and a better fish is soon to hand.  A good fight, quick picture and he’s back.  Unfortunately, my mood uplift is short lived as I follow this success with two casts into a tree before putting a knot in the end of my furled leader!  Time to call it a day.

IMG_0249

Honddu Brownie

As I drive away it’s warming up and this is probably the time I should be arriving.  The Honddu is a lovely stream in a beautiful valley.  Today I’ve not made the most of this Monnow tributary and I’ve only myself to blame.

I decide to cheer myself up and stop at the Half Moon for a pint.  I’m greeted with a warm welcome and a “what can I get you on this beautiful Spring day”?   Not such a bad weekend after all.  What do they say about even a bad day fishing being better than a good day anywhere else…

Mr Notherone