‘Musings’

12.9     Ghost Pepper Fly Fishing

There is a terrific new fishing website in the States, and owner, Ryan Patterson invited me to write a ‘Guest Post’ which can be found at

http://www.gpflyfishing.com/what-qualities-make-a-guide-a-great-one/

Enjoy…and maybe respond/add…!!

12.8       ‘IT STARTED WITH A CLICK!’

Huddi’s Loop

Out of nowhere, or so it seemed, my right knee developed a ‘click’!

But what has that got to do with fishing?

Well, in Iceland, you need to walk, and for miles…

And that’s fine, because the fishing Gods smile and reward effort, just as they do everywhere…but this ‘click’ appeared just a few weeks before my tenth visit to this extraordinary country, and you cannot get to the monsters in the big pool on Brettingsstadir on the Laxa, or at the bottom of Hammar, without a considerable hike, and this demands strong pins, because the lava covered grassy bits hide crevices and cracks which will devastate the limbs of the unfit and even the fit, if you slip into them.

Truth be told, I was a worried soldier, and ventures onto Geldingey, Arnatvatn, Hoffstadaey, and Hoffsstadir, did nothing to quell my ageing concern for my latest ‘concern’…my right knee! Please understand that wading in the Laxa is not for the faint hearted, in any condition, let alone mine…and just as Rory drops putts when he is in the zone, or Tiger does when his karma is cool, so anglers catch when their confidence is high. Mine was not and fish for me, those first few days were scarce, so Jon (King Wart) suggested a confidence reboot was needed and Huddi’s stream might provide that.

Huddi’s Loop is a stream of circa 5kms, which is fed by the Laxa just upstream of Hodda’s farm and is called there, the R Arnarvatnsa. It flows south for over 2kms, then bends west for a short time and is joined by waters from L. Arnavatn, and from that point bends again and flows north for the remainder of its journey, as the R Helluvadsa, to rejoin the Laxa. It collects spawning fish from the lake as well as from the river, and some who stay, grow on in water where competition for foodstuff is less aggressive than in the main river.

I began my rehabilitation at its end, and after clearing a few obstacles and enduring a few ‘clicks’ of discomfort, found my way into water where rocks were replaced by a bottom of coarse larval grit and sand, where wading was necessitated in places, and bank casting from others.

Nothing happened for me in the first couple of hours of fishing, except for a couple of juveniles which took a Klinkhamer from their lies close to Rt 1. where the stream is narrow.

The important factor was that I was approaching from the north and casting upstream and into the mid morning sunshine, so my presence was less easily detected  than fishing from the other end of the Loop, the fish facing away from me!

Then some more serious swirls suggested that maybe some feeding was going on…but having seen only one upwing, I guessed that there might be a midge hatch.

A couple of fish came to the same Klinkhamer, and these were upwards of 1lb or so. And I arrived at a wider stretch where the shallows demanded caution.

I tied on #14 Black Gnat and cast to the right of a stream centre sand bank into water leached into a quicker run, where a fish moved. I lengthened my leader by another 6 feet and standing well back, delivered a fine cast which gently landed at the head of the rush of water. In an aggressive swirl and a splashy rise, said fish took my fly….and literally ‘took off’. Angrily ripping off line from my reel and heading away from where I stood, enough rod pressure persuaded him to try something different and he turned and came careering toward me. Stripping back line to maintain rod pressure and trying to get that line back onto the reel was hard but achieved as he headed toward a grassy overhang behind me seeking security from this unwitting assault on his dining. In trying to regain the upper hand, my 5-weight rod was bent almost double, and in addition I was worried that the strain on my 3.5lb tippet made a break a real possibility, so I gripped the line and dropped my rod into the water, to try to handline him free of his grassy refuge. He edged out and the waters muddied with the flapping of his great tail in the anchoring soil. He was free…and me, rod back in hand, assumed the upper hand, and soon he was mine…all 4lbs of him. A fine cock fish with growing kelp, it seemed unfair to hold onto him for photographs, for he was well fatigued, and had earned a speedy return this watery lair.

Could there possibly be more to build further on my fishing rehab?

Forty metres upstream there seemed to be more feeding and quite a few fish…

There followed one of those dreamy sequences where my casting was accurate, my choice of fly appropriate, and a dozen or so fish came to net. Including one of two, which I swear both tried to take the dry I had just cast between them!

Never mind how big or how small they all were, I was in dry fly heaven…and my confidence was regained!

The truth is I am happiest on small streams, where my knowledge of fish habit is better developed, and my reading of the water more adept, than in wider, bigger waters. In the smaller I am in ‘my comfort zone’ and it shows. And I am a far better Halfordian, than I am a Skues-ite!

And Huddi’s Loop did the trick, and to prove it, the next day, this beauty of 3 3/4lbs took a Klinkhamer, too, from ‘The Channel’ in Geirastadir on the main river –

12.7   A new and better Fly Box

Alex Cortet introduced me to this box –

 

 

 

 

 

They are light weight, durable, and slim; the moulding has 156 slots, fashioned so that inserting or removing flies can be done without disturbing the rest of the flies which usually happens in boxes of single sheet foam!

Alex advised that they were developed by French tackle maker, JMC who make a truly interesting range of products which are not necessarily available in the UK, yet, but these are produced and sold now, too, by Orvis, at a modest price.

I recommend them.

12.6    What a start to the season…!!??

In this month’s online edition of ‘Fly Fishing & Fly Tying’ , Malcolm Greenhalgh  has an  article entitled ‘The worst spring for river trouting in the north-west since 1959’ His perspectives are mirrored by those of river keepers I have chatted to, as well as by most anglers, too.

Rains have meant that I have had to cancel numerous planned trips and have had others curtailed, , and I am BORED with this atrocious weather.

So I took a look at my logs, and found that my stats for the three months since the start of my season on April 1st, bear out my fears, and endorse Malcolm’s top line comment.

days fished                trout caught                   average

2010                                     18                          55                                  3

2011                                     22                          55                                  2.5

2012                                     18                          31                               < 2

The surprise is that I have been on water on 18 days, but three of those were in France, and if I confine this data to rivers in the UK, then the figures confirm l what I sense –

2010                                     15                           52                                 3

2011                                     22                           55                                 2.5

2012                                     15                           26                               < 2

Just half the number of fish caught two seasons’ ago, in the same number of occasions!

But Malcolm writes of success on the chalk streams, whose flows are moderated by their uniqueness, and colouration is rarer than in the spates. And all bar four of my fifteen came from such streams (the Dever, Ebble, Loddon and Avon), too. A year to live in the South, perhaps?

The season has still three months to go, and my optimism is fuelled by five days in Iceland to come, and two days when on vacation in California, and I am still targeting Northumberland, Cheshire and the Isle of Wight, to add to my County Count.

Nature has a habit of (re)balancing things. Where matter is finite, there has to be cold to match hot, and vice versa, and dry to match wet. And hopefully, feast will follow famine and next season will have a cracking start to it?

12.5   Thank you, Dear Readers…

Clever things these Blogs!

It is now possible to track ‘hits’ and ‘visits’ on a frequency basis, and also by geography!

So I know that in addition to the growing number of visitors, I know from which country they emanate.

Its 4pm on May Bank Holiday Monday, and I am writing this because the weather continues to make fishing impossible, and I am as frustrated, and miserable about this, as all my fellows!

The rate of daily hits is increasing all the time, and at circa 45 today, this more than twice what it was, a year ago.

The total number of visits has grown to nearly 16000, and in six weeks time, I will have had as many by the middle of June, as in the whole of 2011.

With the UK and the USA leading the way, I have had visitors from a total of 45 countries all around the globe, including Trinidad & Tobago, Saudi Arabi, and the UAE (are there Salmon in the Yemen ?), and Myanmar!

Wow! My thanks to all…I hope you will continue to enjoy my photographs and scribblings, which will include some notes on visits to the Dordogne in May, Iceland in August, and California, later the same month!!

And if it stops raining, closer to home, I still have eight Counties to net .

12.4   A Fisherman’s Journey around the World

On his website, Benoit Canon, who I will fish with on his home waters in the Dordogne, in May, describes me as a “friend, passionate fly fisherman and globetrotter”

The last bit sounds a little pretentious, I thought, and so I searched through my diaries to ascertain just ‘where in the World, I have been ? ’

And I decided that he may be right, or at least on the right tracks!

GB –

England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (everywhere!)

Europe –

France, Iceland, Italy (2x Regions), and Slovenia

N America –

Canada, and USA (5x States)

S America –

Argentina (2x Provinces)

Africa –

South Africa

Australasia –

New Zealand (both Islands)

The debate over the number of Continents there are, differs.

By most standards, there are seven – Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America.

In Europe and other parts of the world, many students are taught of six continents, where North and South America are combined to form a single continent of America. Thus, these six continents are – Africa, America, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, and Europe.

So…I have caught trout in four, and since wild browns are probably scarce in Antarctica, I have to get to Asia…to ‘max out’ on ‘the possible’!

So, and maybe more importantly, and in spite of the foregoing, where in the World would I like to fish?

And this is my ‘wish list’, and it is a modest one –

Spain (Galicia), Croatia, Austria, Sweden, Alaska (I know!), Morocco (the Atlas Mountains), and I would like to catch a ‘Salmon in the Yemen’

But, no Asia !?

12.3   Fish on ‘the fly’

Have you ever counted how many non-Salmonids you have caught on the fly?

Rob Hartley’s (see Staffordshire) catch is impressive. His count is eight coarse fish, six sea fish, four freshwater African fish [in addition to thirteen different salmonids, including three different char]

And all these, as he said in his note to me, are in addition to catching – “a bat, bullock, seagull, myself, and ermmm….”

This puts my list into perspective – Dace, Chub, Roach, Pike, Barbel and Bleak…oh!  and a delicate tern in Iceland, which was carefully returned.

What’s your count?

12.2     UK Fisherman

My friends at UK Fisherman have published a short article I wrote for them.

Please click on the title, above.

12.1    THIS IS IMPORTANT AND ALL ANGLERS SHOULD WATCH IT.

Congratulations to the ‘Waterfeature’ team, and to Paul Gaskell who fronts it.

11.7    NICK BRABNER

Late last Wednesday, whilst in Corsica I missed a call from Jimmy Devoy, but mid morning the next day, my phone went, and whilst not recognizing the number, I answered it to hear a Welsh voice say – “Hello, Tony, it’s Susan…I have Jimmy for you”.

And Jimmy revealed that Nick had passed away the evening before!

Just last year, at May Bank Holiday time, I was in the bar at Gliffaes sipping a quiet half after coming off the river, and feeling pleased with a couple of fish to my name, and a friendly tap on the shoulder, was followed by – “I heard you were here!” It was Nick, of course. And his welcoming smile and a “how was it, then?” led to yet another exchange on how his beat was fishing this year, as it would on every visit, for he respected and valued how much his regulars loved to return, and was always enthusiastic and interested and eager to share just what was going on, as he knew it, so that every visit would be better than the last one. He shared what he knew, and learned from what he heard.

His passion for the Usk was legendary. And nowhere can it still be observed than by watching his chatting to John Bailey in ‘On the Fly’ (episode 12) on the terrace at Gliffaes, overlooking his river.

His passing is noted, appropriately in the Daily Telegraph – “Nick, of Gliffaes….Adored husband, father, grandfather, father-in-law and friend….” to all of which, I can testify by observation over many years. And he was so much more and to so many in Powys. He was energy personified.How many men, into their seventies, still tennis-ed, sailed, gardened, fished, walked…and was interested enough, still to be involved in as much as Nick.?

Sadly, when my wife and I were at Gliffaes for a few nights in June, I did not see Nick. In a ridiculous mishap, when moving a generous gift of a large, specially engraved and embellished rock, lifted from the river and, being delivered as a birthday gift to a close friend, it toppled from its loader and crushed his foot. He was largely immobilized, and knowing him, frustratingly so. Generosity should not be treated thus. But I do wish I had been able to say, ‘hello’, now.

To Gliffaes addicts, the loss of Nick is a blow, but it can be nothing like what it is for Peta, Susie and James, and their daughters, who have our deepest sympathy.

Nick of Gliffaes’ memory will linger long…he was such a great guy..

11.6   April

There are rivers which open for fly fishing in March, but for most anglers the season starts on April 1st.

But  April is a frustrating month.

Water temperatures remain low, fly life is sparse, and with little weed cover, fish’ priority is security, so they are hiding in rooty margins, or in deep pockets under flowing waters where they cannot be easily seen, but where such food is available, mainly invertebrates, and will be swept into willing mouths by the stream. Energy levels are low and the fish after spawning, and with little food of substance are scrawny and lean, kelt-like.

Sight fishing is pointless, and for those fishers on chalk streams where the nymph is banned in the early season, casting is speculative. The hungry fish might be tempted by a klinkhamer emerger, so long as their memory reminds them that winged bugs will soon be on the menu.

The water has still to fine down and is slightly coloured, and you begin to wonder – “why did I bother” but then the sun comes out, and the warmer air produces a short hatch, and the water swirls as small fish enjoy an early lunch. Halfordians know that at the start of the  season, flies are small, and the parachute finish makes it easier to see them on the murky water, but even then it is difficult to see a #22 Adams, or Black Gnat.

Little cover means that downstream nymphing on small spate streams is likely to spook nervous fish, so the fishing is ‘upstream’ and this is not as easy a technique to master, but it is the more productive.

11.5   Synchronisation

My winter planning has borne fruit, and as we head into Spring, and with the weather  improving, I am excited because my records suggest that May and June, along with September, are likely to be the most productive months of the season.

I have taken pleasure in reading and researching, writing and corresponding, and I have the outline of a schedule which definitely will further my aims, and if successful, should get me to more than three quarters of my goal this year. I ended 2010 with 22 of England’s 46 counties already ‘netted’, and in April I have added three more, with East Sussex, Worcestershire and South Yorkshire.

In early May, I have planned an ‘Anglia Swoop’ and will spend four days in those flatlands.

In mid May, I return to Shropshire, where rains coming off the Cambrian mountains coloured up the waters in the Severn catchment when I was there in June last year, and I will fish again with David Thompson. We are targeting the Onny. And after that I will try to net Warwickshire, too.

At the end of May, there is a ‘Yorkshire Swoop’ with Paul Jennings, and also an opportunity to fish the hallowed waters of Walton’s and Cotton’s Lathkill, and a first try in Greater Manchester, for a potential eight new counties, and ten new rivers!

Sue and I have busy lives (mine, in addition to fishing) and we have regular ‘diary meetings’ to synchronise our calendars. Recently these have included phrases like “did you mention that trip to me…” and “of course, I did, don’t you remember our discussion over supper at X, or Y (restaurant) last week/month”.

[Memo to Sue – ‘Thank you, for indulging me, My Darling, and enjoy your holiday in Abu Dhabi with sister, Sarah !’]

11.4   Love

Moreno was unhappy about the bindings of some of the rings on my lovely rod.

Apparently, through the drying process, and due to odd qualities of a batch of varnish, an opaqueness had mysteriously appeared and on just a couple of the bindings, but he, a perfectionist, was not happy. He insisted that I send it to him in Italy for treatment in the close season.

My beautiful rod came back to me yesterday, prompting mine to him, and his to me..

” My Baby has come back to me….she is beautifully tanned and her skin tone is silky and lustrous.

In my hands she has a suppleness which excites me, and I cannot wait to take her down to a river’s edge, one sunny afternoon and play a little with her…

Love is a wonderful thing, n’est-ce pas?

Tony”

“…..You’ve got it perfectly right!!

Cheers

Moreno”

11.3   The Angling Press and its future

Do you, like me, prefer to feel and see, just how many pages there are left of what you are reading? You can’t do that with a Kindle…but Amazon report that sales of them are booming, and if you are a traveller, you see them everywhere, and curiously it is the older who seem to use them the most, but maybe that is because it is the older who read books more often than do the younger.

Anglers have many more sources of news and opinion than from just the Angling Times of the distant past.

The electronic age has enabled many Angling Clubs to establish their own communication tools http://www.salisburydistrictac.co.uk/forum/ which inform, but also provide a platform for sharing.

And, independent of clubs there are a number of sites offering the unaffiliated the same opportunity, and ‘right now!’

Here are some of the many –

http://www.fishing-forum.info/fly-fishing-forum/

http://www.anglersnet.co.uk/forums/forums.html

http://flyfishingjournal.net/

Some manufacturers have them –

http://www.orvisnews.com/FlyFishing.aspx

and, guess what, so do my favourite game fishing magazines –

http://www.gofishing.co.uk/HomePage2/fishingforums/Game-Forum/

http://www.flyfishing-and-flytying.co.uk/forums/

A subscriber, I look forward to the arrival of my two magazines of choice each month, and conveniently, they arrive two weeks apart, so there is always a relatively fresh read.

Is all the content of interest or relevant to me….of course not!

I don’t tie flies;

I enjoy reading respondents opinions about what matters;

River reports which are six weeks old do not really inform, and only excite those whose names are in print;

I  learn about new waters I can fish;

I get frustrated when new subscribers are offered an inducement which is not offered to loyalists;

I sometimes connect with placers in the classified section advertisers.

But I fear for their survival in the digital age.

Their circulation figures (source ABC), at 30005 (CY2010), and 13061 (CY2009), are respectable for specialist titles, but they are trending down, 6 % and 8%, which will alarm some.

Most of all though, I love the photography…the beauty of where we fish is an inspiration about which we must all, and always, be reminded, and the fact that in indulging in our passion, we are putting something into the rural economy.

Long Live…Trout & Salmon !!

Long Live…Fly Fishing & Fly Tying !!

11.2   Why are manufactured flies so large….why can I not easily buy # 22’s?

In mid Summer 2003 the Mair/Fraser annual trip took in a Tri-State visit to New England in the US. Our first port of call was the Farmington River in Connecticut, where we hooked up with local guide, Pat Torrey.

Pat was astonished by our size 14’s and 16’s. “Is that the smallest you have?” he enquired. Luckily we were still in the car park of the wonderful UpCountry Sportfishing http://www.farmingtonriver.com/ shop in West Hartford, where we were introduced by Pat, to the ‘micro caddis’….size 24!

This makes Pat a Halfordian, and Halford’s book, ‘Floating Flies and How to Dress Them’ received plenty of attention in books and articles in America when it was published in 1886. Maybe that’s ‘why’!

But…when you did you last look in a water butt in your garden, mid Summer?

If you had, then you will know that nymphs are one quarter of an inch long.  At least, most of them.

So why do shops insist in marketing stuff that is twice the size of the natural? (look at the latest Fishtec catalogue, Main Season 2011, page 95, and onward, to verify my concerns)

And dry flies…Mays excepted…they are all tiny.

Just scoop a couple of olive duns into your hand when next wading. And which dun precisely has a white plume emanating from its thorax, then?

Well the answer is obvious.

When I was 47 years of age, I began struggling to tease the leader through the eye of a fly, and a visit to my Optician produced this supercilious comment – “Mr Mair, the time has come….”, and most fly fishermen (it is still not truly a young man’s past time) are similarly (in)capacited by the ravages of anno domini, so we need a little help! And to hell with the imitative art.

But less so in the States. In America anglers are just as voracious fish catchers as anglers are in the rest of the world, and catching, is everywhere, sadly, still more important than the art associated with doing so, and the real benefit…just ‘being there’.

However, Americans fish much lighter than Europeans. Two weight rods are common….three and four weight, typical. UK fishermen are brought up in ‘put and take’ ponds, and reservoirs which are stocked with lunker rainbows requiring something rather sturdy, and they seem reluctant to abandon these fish for the smaller indigenous species, because they are more difficult to catch, I suppose. They don’t know what they are missing or may be they think they cannot afford to switch (how much is a day ticket at Rutland Water, anyway?)

I sense that anglers in America are more instinctive fishermen than we are, and, more adept at the imitative art than we are….I enjoy fishing with them, and always learn from them.

So…….please…..would Farlows and Orvis start stocking many more small flies….?

Because I am a Puritan.

(And…. I prefer the five day version to the one-day, too)

11.1  Urban trout

I hope you enjoy this short clip as much as I have – it is truly delightful, and must fill us with hope.

10.6  Fish and pain

This is a difficult topic on which to postulate with so little research available, although many do. A left brain man, I would be happy to accept that fish do feel pain if it could be proven. Unfortunately, it is equally impossible to prove they do not, paving the way for those uninterested in, or even anti, our pastime, to seek to undermine the pleasure of millions, and the conservationist motives of some.

What I do hold firm, is that unless we kill some of our catch, as superior beings to our prey (in this sense an ill-advised word, may be), we do risk allegations of harming, unnecessarily the well being of the inferior, even though, in his own environment ‘genus piscis’ is adapted far better than are we vertebrates to compete, from ours, in his.  A ‘natural advantage’ it seems to me, that gives him obvious strengths over us.

When Homo Sapiens feels pain, his preservation instinct kicks in, and, he may move toward, or away from its source depending on what he thinks it is, and how he could overcome it. A hook (on a line) in my flesh would hurt me and I think, or rather I know, that I could alleviate the discomfort from this by moving toward it. Fish don’t do that!

Senses and feelings

We know fish have senses. They have nostrils, and presumably a sense of smell (why would large mouth bass fishermen in the US, smear their lures in anise?); the nerves in the lateral line of a salmon inform he and she that water pressure from spate flows make it time to rush upstream to procreate; and I have spooked so many trout over the years, that I have to believe in the quality of their eye sight!

But do they have feelings? No, not of the emotional type (we cannot possibly go there), surely.

It is, however, entirely possible that fish experience an alternative to the human form of pain, for how else could our left brain define and describe their behaviours, when hooked. We tend to try to do so in human terms, but they are not human, and the only similarity is whether you consider their actions to be of ‘Fight’ form, or ‘Flight’ form.

I do not know the answer, but I sense the need is growing to understand it, because those who do not like what we enjoy, are marshalled against us with determination and cunning.

10.5   Our Counties

There are 46 Counties in England, and that excludes Middlesex and Huntingdon, so whatever happened to them?  And where, for that matter is Westmorland, now….and where did Avon come from, and go to? And, Cleveland?  And how come Lancashire was split into Greater this, Merseyside, and a bit of what was?

Origin…..whatever happened to our history?

If I had been born in Huntingdon, I would be outraged to be a Cantabrian!

At least most of the Shires survive.

I offer you the following from Wikipedia –

“Gerrymandering is said to occur when electoral boundaries are manipulated for political gain by using useful techniques and strategies to create partisan, incumbent-protected and neutral districts. The resulting district is known as a gerrymander; however, that word can also refer to the process.

Gerrymandering may be used to achieve desired electoral results for a particular party, or may be used to help or hinder a particular group of constituents, such as a political, racial, linguistic, religious or class group.”

I have no political point to make….I just don’t know how many counties we have in England!

So I will endeavour to catch in every one I know we once had!!!

10.4   The Fly debate/ concern

There are times when I know, and can, identify what is hatching….I am no expert and wish I knew more, but some flies are obvious even to my limited eye.

There are other times when fish are taking, say subsurface, and, for the life of me, I cannot see what is hatching.

Of course this is irritating, and so in these circumstances, I have to thank Kenneth Boström, the inventor of the Klinkhamer [one ‘m’], whose imagination I have to thank for enabling me and many others for catching dozens of fish in difficult circumstances.

All I (we) have to do is select size and body colour, and this is a problem, too….olive, orange, grey…which and why?

I am depressed by suggestions that fly life has deteriorated to the extent that fish can be fooled by imitations which fail to reflect the natural world, because the real thing based on centuries of our wonderful countryside  may be disappearing, and that Man’s activities are affecting the natural way of fly life, which may be ‘why’.

To this day, Fraser and I still talk about ‘that day’ in the late nineties, that we returned to our cars, parked in the Recreation Ground car park in Amesbury by the Avon, to find them camouflaged by May Fly…to see the roofs of our vehicles made nearly invisible (poetic licence!) by hundreds of flies was such a memorable and remarkable sight, matched only by the flotillas of duns seen earlier, sailing down the river, to the obvious delight of the golloping trout, which by their very number revealed just what a head of fish were in that beat. We have not seen such a display, since.

I admire the cause of The Riverfly Partnership and their supporters, and encourage those so dedicated to continue, and others, like me, to become involved.

….and Halford will be proud of us.

10.3   Small streams

Back in the nineties, Brian Easterbrook, who was tutoring and guiding me on my first visit to the Duchy waters of the West Dart below the Prince Hall Hotel near Postbridge, steered me towards a long rod for the wily little monsters on that stream, and conventional wisdom still dictates that the ideal rod for fishing small streams is one of eight feet or even longer. The reason given is that a long rod makes it easier to false (back) cast over the top of bankside reeds and bushes, and sometimes, over the edge of steep sided banks, too.

I am now less sure.

In recent months I have fished the diminutive River Worfe in Shropshire, the Ouse in West Sussex, and the Windrush in Oxfordshire, all of which require a stalker approach, which is less necessary than in a wider spate river, such as the Yorkshire’ Wharfe, or the Lancashire’ Ribble or Hodder.

You have to learn how to fish small streams, and stealth is the key factor.

Rob Hartley said something interesting when we were fishing the equally small, Churnet in Staffordshire, together – he said, trout in his river are “angler shy, but not tackle shy”, and for that reason I prefer to get into the river and approach rising trout as quietly, and ripple free, as I can, and short cast to them using a brook rod of 7ft 3ins, or so, and fishing with an outsize leader, of 14’ to 18’.

….and, when is a stream a stream, and a river a river, and a stream a river?!

10.2   The importance of the right fishing vehicle

We have two convertible cars and living in London they rarely, both, are being used.

“Why don’t we sell one” opined Sue, “and save some money, in the process”

So, whenever en route to wherever, I would mention “that’s a smart looking car”, or “great lines…” and always a 4×4 !

On the evening I announced that I had sold mine, Sue was curious when I added that I had bought a Volvo XC90 to replace the B-mer.

“Darling, whenever we have a weekend away, your clothes will not arrive scrunched from having been squashed in the trunk of our car, because in this, they can be hung up in the back”…..(great line, n’est-ce pas, Mon Brave?)

“Oh, so it’s not for your fishing tackle, then”….

Win-win in my book !

My car is called ‘Tonka Too’ after my first, nicknamed, Tonka Toy !

10.1 My favourite fishing hotels

Unlike many countries, many miles of our trout streams are relatively inaccessible. However we are blessed by a number of great hotels which do have beats, or at least access to them, and many also have additional attractions to encourage a weekend away for one’s spouse, too, even though mine would wish for more with a spa. Not much demand for them on the moors and dales and mountains, though!

You may know that Crickhowell is some twenty miles downstream of Brecon, and since you know I was schooled there in the 60’s, and since my parents would stay at Gliffaes on my ex-eats, then simple arithmetic will confirm I have been going there for rather along time.

In those days, it was an escape. In the pressured days of corporate striving it was the same. It was my bolt hole. Today it is pure pleasure. In the Brabner family for generations, and today run by James and Suzie, it is simply my #1. The fishing has to be learned, and even the experienced angler will benefit from the intimate knowledge of guide, Jimmy Devoy, but beware. He may be 70, but he flirts for Wales.

All of the hotel’s beats are special, but my favourites are the middle beat below the hotel, and Llandetti, a few miles upstream. The hotel’s upper beat is pretty good, too, but I have still to try the lower beat (made famous by John Bailey)

So, and with apologies to all my other ‘picks’, Gliffaes is my #1

My equal #2’s are – Peacock at Rowsley; The Inn at Whitewell; Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey; Peat Spade Inn, Longstock; The Bull, Fairford; Izaak Walton, Dovedale; Manor House, Castle Combe; Prince Hall, Postbridge; Mill End, Chagford; Arundell Arms, Lifton; ……and the Manoir de Malvoisine in Normandy, of which some more later this month.

Since delicious food, sumptuous wines, beautiful countryside and rising browns go together so well, I will be looking for, and hope to find some more great hotels to enjoy (with or without a spa!)

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4 thoughts on “‘Musings’”

  1. Dave Smith (Tigermoth) said:

    Enjoyed your musings Tony… but you really are guilty of neglect… treat yourself to a stay at The Bell, Skenfrith… and let me take you out on the River Monnow some time.

    • Thanks for your note, Dave…..I visited the Bell about six years ago, I think, and enjoyed a cracking evening on the hotel water at the end of the mayfly season…some six or seven fish, as I recall…and I record the water as one of my Welsh ‘captures’….Monmouthshire!
      But I will email you shortly….local knowledge is always the best, and I only fished about half a mile upstream of the Skenfrith bridge.
      Best
      Tony

  2. mike stemp said:

    I am very glad that we frequent the best hotels. The one in crickhowll , my late father in law had a country house with fishing on his own stretch of water. nicola and i stayed at the peacock for several years and took the the whole stretch of their water for a week.So your in good company.

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