Another trout season slips away….

So another trout season has come and gone with the usual ups and downs. I was hoping to get out one last time, but the ‘Monmouthshire Monsoon’ has left my rivers in spate and running a milk chocolate shade of shit. 

When I drive over the bridge at Usk, I usually have to glance quickly in each direction and strain my neck to see the water. Today whilst looking straight ahead I can see the river on both sides. It’s high.

Time once again to reflect on a spent season, celebrate the highs and to see if I have the wisdom to learn from the lows.

An uninviting river Usk on the last day of the season

Before the trout season kicks off, I’m able to chase some grayling with trips to the Avon, Irfon and upper Wye. The fishing isn’t bad but predictably the winter weather can be challenging.

Spring

As March approaches so do the storms and this season will be topped and tailed with a lot of rain, flooding and no fishing. Once again it’s April before I wet a line and once again it’s the Usk that gives up the first trout of the season. In a heavy river and stiff breeze I manage just four smallish brown trout. I’m pleased though and my season has started.

I have access to a beautiful stretch of the Monnow this season and mid-April sees me exploring new water. Knowing a river well is a pleasure but there is always something special about fishing somewhere new and I catch my first trout of the season on a dry fly.

Seasons first on a dry

April also sees me catch a fantastic grayling at just over 18″. I’ve only caught one larger grayling (from the Wye a few years ago) so it’s a shame it’s OOS. The fish takes a heavy pheasant tail fished on the point and gives me quite a run around.

As the weather improves in May, my job starts to wind down and so with a break from earning a living, I find more time than usual to fish. May is a good month. The hatches gradually improve and increase and the trout are obliging. Several good fish at 16″ and 17″ are eventually bettered by my best wild river brown, a 19″ beauty that takes a mayfly, drifted under the far bank overhang.

I am a glutton for self inflicted punishment so I roll up for my fourth Monnow Social. The fishing is great, the company is better and I’m pleased not to have to struggle to work on the Monday following! https://fishingfortrout.blog/2019/05/13/fishermans-tales/

Summer

Early June sees me in the middle of one of the best mayfly hatches I’ve seen for years, reminiscent of some I remember from when I first started fly fishing. The spinner fall is extraordinary with trout rising in every direction. Only poor light forces me off the wicket.

With long summer evenings and time to fish I fill June with trips to the Monnow, Usk, Honddu, Wye and Lwyd. The fishing is excellent and I enjoy a lot of dry fly action. I manage to fall in one evening, thankfully with no great consequence and thankfully with no witness. Embarrassing as it is, there’s no better time to fall in than on a pleasant June evening, just before home time.

This Summer, on a few occasions, my daughter comes with me to take photographs for a school project. It’s welcome company and adds a new dimension to chasing trout up streams and rivers. She is getting better at taking the piss out of her dad and is good at not taking things too seriously. She’s a good influence.

The weather shifts in August and I find myself with less time on the river.

Autumn

Last season, I spent most of September either working or busy with family stuff. This year it’s the weather that keeps me off the water. I manage a couple of evenings and one afternoon trip before the rain comes and ruins the last few weeks. At least the last few trout are caught on a dry.

So that’s it. October already and a few grayling days in the diary.

This has been one of my better seasons for some time. More fish caught than in the last few seasons, more trout on the surface and some of the best mayfly activity for years. A new PB for a wild river brown was a highlight, but I won’t forget the little Honddu brownie that took a dry emerger only fifteen feet away, after possibly my most accurate cast of the season. It’s not just the bigger fish that bring reward.

It’s also been great learning new water, although I’ve sacrificed time on the Usk as a result. I’ll just have to make up for it next March. Until then, bring on the grayling….

Mr Notherone

Fisherman’s Tales

What do thirty fishermen do when they get together for a Social? Tell tales of course. Not the stereotypical fishermen’s exaggerations about monster fish or the ‘one that got away’ (although everyone does have a ‘one that got away’ story). 

No, they tell true, heart felt, funny, often hilarious stories about real life, fishing, more real life and more fishing. Real life is so much funnier than a joke. After all, don’t the funniest comedians just tell stories we can all relate to?

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The Monnow

I’m reflecting on another Monnow Social. There is the usual chat about the weather, rivers we fish, insects (and the lack of), leaky waders and our prospects of catching over the next few days.

The fishing also proves to be very good with encouraging numbers reported, particularly later in the afternoons when the dry fly sport picks up. I fish with Matt who is providing great company and whose outlook to fly fishing seems similar to mine. We fish two beats of the Monnow new to both of us and enjoy catching in beautiful surroundings. I also spend a few hours on the Honddu where one particular cast I make, whilst almost lying down in the river, results in a lovely little wild fish which will last long in the memory.

Saturday’s auction, once again generates some moments of hilarity and generosity and hopefully raises a pile of money too. Strange that on Sunday morning, whilst looking as if he can’t remember his own name, quick as a flash Patrick is able to tell me the cash I’ve just handed him is a fiver short! A true professional.

This year though it’s the tale telling which emerges whenever a few of us gather, that I’ll particularly remember.

The river angler who puts his life jacket on under his vest and then can’t get his arms around to reach any zips when it auto inflates on the bank. Or the guide who breaks three of his own rods closing his own car door. The image of swinging over the river on a rope swing, only to get stuck in the middle with trousers heading south. I’ll certainly not forget the technique required to “czech nymph a salmon” in a hurry and I doubt I’ll ever accumulate enough fishing wisdom to park a chair by the bank and have the trout come to me!

It’s the banter with people who share a passion for fly fishing that makes the Social so much fun. Great to catch up with some friends and make a few new ones.

At the risk of sounding morbid, there are adverts on the telly telling me (to avoid leaving my family with the ‘burden’) I should start planning for my demise. Although hopefully it will be some time away, I was thinking perhaps a humanist ceremony, with maybe a bit of Radiohead playing in the background. After this weekend, I have another choice and should now consider the real possibility of going out like a viking.

The thought of being floated down river strapped to the nearest log whilst drunken fly anglers try to hit me with a flaming arrow has a growing appeal.

As they say, you probably had to be there…

Mr Notherone

 

First serious fish of the season…shame it wasn’t a trout!

The river has dropped significantly over the last week and is just clear enough to be able to avoid stepping in anything too deep. It’s mid-morning and the sun is threatening to make this a very pleasant spring day. I’m also looking forward to fishing some new water. There is something about exploring that makes fly fishing even better.

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Perhaps it’s because this is a new beat, but I decide to tackle up two rods. I usually can’t be bothered carrying two and I remind myself that I once left a rod on the bank and was very lucky to retrieve it the next day. Surely I’m not going to repeat that.

I set up the Hanak with two nymphs, a hares ear on the dropper and a heavy PTN on point. The Sage SLT has a furled leader and a little size 16 dry olive emerger.

This early in the season I’m just hoping to find some fish. I haven’t been out much and I’m yet to catch a trout on the dry. Realistically, I know I’ll be relying on tungsten as there’s too much water, but I clutch the Sage a little tighter more in hope than expectation.

I select a nice access point with a faster riffle in front and a few features upstream to provide some holding areas. I’m setting a good rhythm with the nymphs and managing to get a reasonable drift each cast. I target a quieter area at the edge of the main current and just as the point fly hits bottom there’s a strong take and I immediately know this is a good fish.

It charges downstream and as is usually the case with tight line nymphing, I’m reluctantly playing the fish off the reel. I know everyone is different but I always prefer to hand play a fish – isn’t that what the left hand is for!

A good size fish, down stream in a fast flow is never easy. I don’t want to bully it too much but I need to get it across to the quieter shallows. It’s then that I catch sight of the telltale mainsail. The immediate disappointment is quickly replaced with the realisation that this could be one of my better grayling. It is.

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My best grayling came on the Wye a few years ago. That was 19″ and although I didn’t weigh it, I don’t think it was far off 3lb. Today’s fish measures 18″ nose to fork, is stunningly marked and a similar weight. It’s out of season of course, so I want to get it back as soon as possible. It’s too big to recover in the net so I cradle it until the big tail launches the fish back into the depths.

For the next few hours I explore upstream, stopping at likely spots and avoiding falling in the deep holes. I alternate between the nymphs and prospecting with the dry. As expected, it’s not a dry fly day but it’s still nice to cast the Sage. I catch four small brown trout (largest at 13″) on the hares ear and then call it a day.

I walk back to the car with both rods in hand (no need to dash back in the morning on a frantic rod search).

The sunny afternoon does not materialise and it’s chilly when I drive off. I still don’t have a trout on dry fly and I’m not catching in any great numbers. It is only April though, and one thing I’ve learned is there is no such thing as a ‘typical season’. You’ve got to take what’s on offer.

I think I’ve had a successful day on the Monnow – and when it comes to fishing, I’m the only one I need to please.

Mr Notherone

Socially Speaking…….

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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