First fish, new river…

I grew up just fourteen miles from here and my father’s childhood home is just eight miles away. Yet as I make my way down the steep slope to the river, I’m struck by how unfamiliar this area is. Roads now connect these eastern valleys that did not exist forty years ago and back then, people just didn’t travel as much.

The Sirhowy river emerges north of Tredegar on the edge of the Beacons park and flows south before turning left to join the Ebbw. Like all of her sisters she was the life blood of the iron and coal industries and paid the price. She ran black and dead for generations. Now, these eastern valley rivers are alive and healthy and hold some extraordinary trout.

The Sirhowy near Hollybush

Today the river is high and pushing fast after a night of rain. It is coloured too and not ideal for the first outing of a new season. None the less it feels good to be on a river and looking for brown trout.

I pick my way downstream, which is not easy with steep woods on either side and no path. It’s surprisingly quiet for an urban river and I’m disturbed by just one dog walker all afternoon. I’ve also more space than I anticipated and I’m already regretting bringing my 7ft 3wt. The wind is strong and I wish I had one of the longer rods still in the boot of the car. I can’t be bothered to go back, so I make do.

I set up a french leader and begin to prospect what any angler would recognise as a really ‘fishy’ run. The head of a pool narrowing to a deeper channel with two quieter areas either side for fish to hold. Even with the shorter rod I can get a good drift.

I’m surprised with no take and the same again in the pool above.

As it’s very early season and just after a spate, I wonder if the trout are not in the usual feeding channels, so a little upstream I try a deeper quieter pool. Under an overhanging tree and about fifteen feet ahead of me, I catch my first trout of the season and my first Sirhowy fish. A typical lean 10 inch march brownie, beautifully coloured. After a long time fishing, the thrill of the first wild trout of a new season does not diminish.

My first Sirhowy trout

Over the next couple of hours I catch a dozen similar fish, all from quieter holding pockets and all to a fairly simple pheasant tail pattern.

The one exception is a more aggressive take and I immediately know it’s a good fish. Hugging the bottom of a deeper pool, it’s a minute before I get him to the surface and ease the fish towards the margins. I’m already celebrating when a flick of the tail near the rim of the net sees him disappear. My profanity is so loud and coarse, I even surprise myself!

Every angler who talks about ‘the one that got away’ will immediately be open to claims of exaggeration and that’s probably justifiable. So I’ll just say 16 inches (at least) and leave it at that.

With the wind getting stronger, I switch to a fly line and fish a single nymph upstream for the final ten minutes, but my opening day is done. Light drizzle is getting heavier as I begin the forty minute drive home. I’ve had access to this little river for a few seasons and I wish I’d visited earlier. I will definitely be back as I think this could be a lovely place to spend a few hours with a dry fly in the summer.

Mr Notherone

Autumn on the Lugg

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A Beautiful Lugg WBT

An actual day off work, no one trying to reach me and no email to worry about until much, much later.

It’s proving a longer drive than I thought though, not helped by what I’m convinced are poor directions. I eventually find the lane that leads to the Lyepole beat. This is a beautiful part of the country, rolling hills and a wide, flat valley floor. The entire landscape is a shade of green and ‘picturesque’ does not do it justice.

It’s one of those Autumn days of bright sunshine punctuated with the occasional small dark rain cloud, but they’re just teasing and there’s not a drop all day. I gaze over the bridge near the parking space and I’m hit with two thoughts; this is a smaller river than I remember and there’s not much water in it.

I head off to the bottom of the beat (a decision I’ll regret) armed with a shortish 3wt rigged with a french leader, sighter and a pair of weighted nymphs. In the first faster ripple, I catch a 9” brownie with my second cast and then briefly hook another. Might be a good day after all, in spite of the water level. This is fishing though and it’s an hour before number two comes to hand.

Back at the bridge I ponder the 5 little trout I fooled and wonder what the afternoon will bring. Resuming my efforts, almost immediately I realise my mistake as the top half of the beat is where I should be spending my time. More fishy places and betterIMG_0497 access. Nice pools with heads and tails all holding trout. One or two pools are deeper than they look and even with chest waders I’m lucky to stay dry.

The little trout keep coming and then close to the top of the beat, where the water cascades through a series of faster runs, I see the first surface activity and so on goes a small olive emerger. My first cast is off and I wonder if he’s bolted. Then I get the mend right and I’m rewarded with the best fish of the day that leaps twice before finding the net.

This really is a beautiful beat. I’ve caught around 15 trout and a couple of grayling and enjoyed a day of solitude. The light is telling me it’s late afternoon as I stroll back through the fields and my legs are telling me I’ve waded and scrambled enough for one day.  But what a day!

Mr Notherone

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