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.
The Honddu at Pandy
Another Honddu Brownie
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!
The Honddu at Pandy
Nice Dry Fly Glide
Plenty of Varied Water
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.
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.
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.
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…