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