I recently took part in a podcast hosted by Ceri Jones. This new show is called ‘Casting with Ceri Jones’. It’s a brilliant fly fishing podcast that I’ve really enjoyed listening to, so it was an honour to be invited up to Ceri’s studio in Porth.
On the podcast I mostly talk about fly fishing remote Welsh lakes, pike on the fly rod and Fishing In Wales, plus quite a few fishing stories. I really enjoyed recording the podcast and I hope you enjoy listening to it. Hit the link below to check it out!!
This is a project I have been working on intensively during the lock down. The site features everything you need to know about fishing in Wales – where, when and how to do it. Plus some brilliant articles and videos that will be released over the next few weeks and months.
In my last blog post in March, I talked about a perfect start to the season and ended with a prediction of a good season to come. Famous last words!! Covid-19 struck a few days later and Wales entered full lock-down, with angling completely off the cards.
After what seemed like an eternity without fishing (to keep sane I explored the local woods and purchased a mountain bike!) things finally changed in Wales around a month ago (mid May) fishing was permitted, but on a ‘local basis only’ with no driving to fish. You could walk or cycle to a venue.
Of course this wasn’t the news most anglers in Wales had been waiting for, but in my case I am lucky enough to live just half a mile away from my local stretch of river, only a 15 minutes walk.
Upon news of my local angling clubs re-opening, I was on the river pretty darn quickly! That first evening back was glorious, a pleasantly warm late afternoon faded into the perfect evening, still, without a breath of wind.
As the light diminished blue winged olive spinners carpeted the water, and at last knockings fish sipped them steadily in a smooth glide. Five lovely wild brown trout came to the net that night, silvery, strong fish, almost like sewin in appearance (as they often are on this part of the river) each one extremely welcome after such a long break. The simple enjoyment of wading in a cool, flowing river whilst rhythmically flicking dry flies at rising fish was something i’d really missed – it was great to be back!
From there on in, I was back on the water as often as I could – almost obsessively I must say, making up for lost time. An hour or two early in the morning, or a couple last thing, fitting a fishing fix into the day whenever possible. It was hot and the river low, the driest May on record. So keeping to these hours made for better fishing. I stayed very local and initially walked everywhere.
The fishing ‘regulations’ changed in Wales somewhat over the next few days and weeks – you could drive, but only very short distances. This opened up some more local river territory, and in another update we were told 5 miles ‘ as a rule of thumb’ was the limit for outdoor activity, which is still in place now (25/06/2020)
Although the productive early spring trout fishing had been lost, I still manged to catch the tail end of the brook dun hatch, which is one of my favourite upwing species. There were also yellow may duns aplenty, and the aforementioned blue winged olives, which hatched in numbers that I hadn’t seen for many years.
After more than a full month back on the water, I’d have to say I am now fully acquainted with the five miles of my local stretch, having walked or fished almost every single yard of it. The fishing has been challenging, in part due to the low water and very warm, bright weather, but there have been some memorable outings, with some great fish taken on streamers twitched through deep pools, or on dry flies fished at dusk or on rare, cloudy days.
I also had some great sport fishing for carp on the fly on a local lake, just 2 miles away as the crow flies. A former trout fishery, it holds an abundant head of carp (mostly commons) and is now open for day tickets.
I’ve fished it a few times, always on the hottest, blue-sky days days when the river was far too warm for trout – perfect conditions for catching sunbathing carp. I’ve done well on the fly, feeding dog biscuits on the top and then picking them off using deer hair ‘imitations’. The best fish, a lower double, gave me a tremendous fight on a 7 weight, a proper reel screamer.
So what was a perfect start to the season and became a disaster, has swung around again. It’s turning to out to be a good season after all – a fantastic one in fact, with much more to come. And sometimes, the grass isn’t always greener. I’ve grown to really appreciate, and be grateful of, the great fishing available on my own doorstep.
You know spring is on the way when the trout river season finally arrives – and thankfully here in Wales it comes early, March the 3rd in fact – one of the earliest starts in the UK for river trouting.
For me, it’s a magical day and I always try and hit the water on the opener if possible, although it doesn’t always go to plan! 2017 went well, with plenty of fish caught on the upper Taff, but in 2018 I recall we had a foot of snow on the bank, which melted and made things very tough. Last year, I was faced by a rising river and torrential rain, but thankfully I did catch a fantastic trout from the river Usk.
This year, due to the recent biblical flooding and resulting high water I couldn’t get out on the 3rd, but I did manage my first outing just 3 days later. I chose a local stretch of the river Taff, on the Merthyr AA club water where the river tends to drop down to a fishable height after just a few days. The big questions were – what was the river going to be like after the record floods? And would the fish still be there?
My first spot was in a semi urban location, just outside Merthyr Tydfil. The sun was shining as I threaded up the rod on the bank – sunshine being very welcome after weeks of torrential rain. The river appeared to be in fine fettle, everything looked good. As I carefully waded into position, the waft of sizzling bacon from a nearby catering van assailed my nostrils, just as I made those first magical casts of the season into the clear, but strong flow of the pool. It was great to be out again, simply going through the rhythmic motions of casting and enjoying the outdoors in the cold, crisp morning air.
Nothing happened in that spot, so I jumped upstream in to the town section, which despite its urban surrounds holds some of the best trout in the river. It was here that the devastation of the floods was really apparent – whole pools had been filled in with cobbles, rocks the size of cars had been moved, islands had vanished, and bankside vegetation had been completely scoured away. It was like fishing a completely new river.
As I took it all in two anglers in waders appeared, fishing their way up the pool. As they approached, I recognised them. It is always great to share the first day with a fishing buddy – and here were two of them, local anglers Dan Popp and Rhys Morgan. We fished our way together upriver, taking turns to cast into likely spots and reflecting on the changes to the pools and the season ahead. Finally, we saw sign of life – olives hatching and a rising trout, which despite our best efforts we didn’t catch.
Not long afterwards, my dry fly dipped under and I lifted the rod – a trout had taken the heavy nymph suspended beneath, a good one, which after a fair scrap filled the net at 19 inches. A bit storm battered, she went back fine. A fantastic fish to start the season with.
We went our separate ways from there on – but my day wasn’t done. One of the best things about fishing in Wales are the sheer abundance of rivers, often in close proximity. A 20 minute drive and I was somewhere completely different, a small river called the Sirhowy, which like the Taff has a post-industrial past, but now flows clear and abounds with moderately sized wild trout.
I was greeted by the sight of a flotilla of March browns drifting down the first pool – then on cue a trout rose. A few casts later the first fish came to hand, a feisty fellow of about 9 inches. This was followed by several more cracking looking fish up to 12 inches, with plenty of others bumped and lost. Clearly the floods hadn’t impacted much here, other than to shift around a fair amount of gravel. It was a great way to finish the afternoon off, working my way up the small stream dropping a weighted nymph into various inviting looking pools.
To finish my weekend, I headed out to the Taff again the next day, just before the rugby (enough said on that!) For me this is the beauty of fly fishing – it is a great method for short, mobile sessions, simply grab the rod, slip a fly box in the pocket and head to the river for an hour or two.
It always pays to visit the river around lunch time early in the season, when the day begins to really warm up. This is when olives and march browns are most likely to be hatching, which gives you a chance to fish a dry fly, or simply spot where a fish may be holding. This was the case today, where in one deep pool a singular rise gave away the position of what looked like a good fish. A dozen casts later and the dry fly dipped under – a fish had taken the trailing nymph. It pulled and battled hard in the strong flow and after a few hairy moments, finally came to the net.
I must admit, I did a fist pump and let out a yell in celebration – It was another fantastic specimen, 20 inches long with unbelievably vivid colouration. A truly wild fish, of the quality the Taff has now become famous for. They were still here, survivors of the worst floods in living memory. What a perfect start – the magic of early season river trouting had begun. It’s going to be a good season, I can tell.
A version of this post recently featured on the Angling Trust’s ‘Lines On The Water Blog’ – check it out here.
You probably wouldn’t think bass fishing would be any good in late November would you? Neither did I.
However, it turns out November can be an excellent month for bassing in Wales, due to the water temperature off our coasts remaining high.
I’d been tipped off to this by my good pal Alan Parfitt, who as well as being an avid wild trout fisher is also a seasoned bass angler. We’d been meaning to give autumn bassing a go for a while, but thanks to the persistent dreadful weather of late it simply hadn’t happened.
Remarkably, yesterday (24th November) a brief window in the weather allowed us to venture west to Pembroke, the bass mecca of Wales, where Alan’s good friend Vaughan Thomas (who happens to be a saltwater fishing guide) would assist us in finding the prize – November Welsh bass.
We met Vaughan and his son Ollie on a cliff top somewhere in the Pembrokeshire coast national park (I wont disclose exact location for obvious reason!) It was a dull dark morning, yet thanks to the imposing Welsh coastal scenery we still had quite a backdrop to the fishing.
Local knowledge is essential if you want to consistently catch bass, and with Alan and Vaughan’s many years of combined experience I felt confident that we would run into some fish today – if they were still there.
Guided by Vaughan we descended to the fishing area – where we would lure fish initially and then bait fish as the tide came in. I wont go into the exact tactical details, as hopefully this will be covered in an upcoming video for the new Fishing in Wales website.
Thanks to Vaughan’s knowledge and tips, we were soon off the mark, with bass falling to lures and then bait. It seemed the bass were still about – and in good numbers! We all experienced action, with the ‘top rod’ being Ollie, who caught a succession of fabulous bass, each one perfectly conditioned and bright as a button. Most of these fish were around 4lb, a great average size.
A few of the pictures from the day can be found below – captured by Alan’s great skills with the camera.
Vaughan’s talents as a fishing guide were plain to see – he is a natural when it comes to imparting his vast angling expertise. In fact after a few years off the guiding scene, Vaughan has recently set up a new website offering his services. So if you do fancy a guided day for Pembroke bass in good hands, i’d recommend you give him a shout. You are sure to learn a great deal about bass and most importantly have a truly enjoyable day out.
A few years ago, whilst on a family holiday I experienced some unusual freshwater fly fishing on the sub-tropical island of Madeira…..
With the prospect of a two week cruise holiday to the Canary islands, Portugal and Madeira with absolutely no fishing, I started to research our stop-off destinations for fishing opportunities – just in case there was a slim chance of wetting a line! Madeira was our first landing place, and looked the most likely option.
When you think of Madeira you automatically think of big game fish – wahoo, tuna, sailfish that sort of stuff. Although a pure adrenaline rush if you actually hook a fish, for me this sort of fishing can be a bit tedious, time consuming and expensive in reality; so to my surprise when I googled ‘fishing in Madeira’ I discovered that the island also has rivers containing trout.
Digging deeper I found a guided fishing service located in Funchal, just outside the port where I would disembark. ‘Mad Trout Maderia’ was the name of the outfitter, and after a quick Facebook message I found they offered very reasonable rates for guided trips to the best streams, including pick up and drop off back to the port – just perfect for a quick holiday fishing fix.
The day came and we docked at the port of Funchal. A quick bus ride into the town center, and I was met by Joao Mata, one of the Mad Trout guides. Joao was easily identifiable in a columbia shirt, cap and polarized glasses. After a quick meet and greet, Joao ushered me into an unlikely looking vehicle for a fishing guide – a smart car.
We began our journey through the steep and winding streets of Funchal, until we passed through the city and onto the roads the encircle the island. The views as we drove were spectacular; the islands interior soared green and steep thousands of meter’s above us. Some of the roads on our contorted route went through extremely long tunnels dug through the mountains, and others on ledges high above the crashing sea. Glimpses of rocky rivers came and went as we drove. Joao explained we were heading to the north side of the island, which was the steeper side and more exposed to the prevailing moist Atlantic winds.
As our journey progressed we talked about the history of trout fishing on the Island. Joao explained they were introduced it the 1950’s, and rainbows and browns were initially stocked. The browns pretty much vanished and didn’t thrive, but the rainbows went on to flourish.
Although it should be technically impossible, the rainbows manage to spawn in some streams and are now reproducing naturally. This may be because the center of the island is high enough to get some snow in winter, and the water filters in and under volcanic rock so the many streams are cold enough to support salmonid fish above 200 meter altitude.
Most of the streams in Maderia now hold rainbow trout; they are able to spread due to the extensive network of Levadas – man-made water channels designed to carry water from excess rainfall in the interior to the agricultural fields that extend all around the island.
Some streams are still kept stocked from a fish farm on the Island to provide some ‘trophy’ fishing, but the vast majority are wild.
There were plenty of nice looking rivers to be seen on our route, however Joao explained not all are easily fishable – apparently many are so steep and rocky that getting into the ravines can be very tricky, and you may find only a few yards of fishable water before a rock the size of a house completely blocks your path. So today we were heading to a prolific stream with decent access called the ”Ribeira do Seixal” at the north east corner of the Island.
Our final ascent took us into a steep ravine, with a recent landslip on the flank of the mountain side at the parking spot. Far above us green clad forest slopes rose into the clouds. The temperature this high up was surprisingly cool, with a stiff wind coming off the sea, funneling up the gorge. Thankfully it was at my back!
We reached the stream – it was fairly small, very rocky with gin clear water which took on a pure blue colour from the rock, and absolutely beautiful. Deep plunge pools and pocket water were the order of the day.
I had brought along two rods with me, a 10 foot 3/4 and 7’6 3/4 Airflo streamtec so I rigged up with the long rod and proceeded to tie on a jig nymph on a french leader with a 2.5mm bead. After a few fish-less pools I tied on a much heavier bug on a 5mm on a 12 jig hook, and the results were almost instant. In fact the first strike resulted in a palm size fish flying up and out of the water!
We hopped and scrambled our way up the ravine. It was strenuous stuff, and certainly not the sort of fishing if you are unsure on your feet. There was no need for waders as wading would have been near impossible anyway on the slippery boulders. At one point we scaled an old dam and skirted a Lavada. As we went trout after trout came to hand – most were only a few inches with the best being perhaps 8 -9 in length. All were truly stunning miniature gem-like fish, with an incredible variance in colour – some were almost black, others bright, with all shades in between.
I must have had a dozen or so on the french leader, with many more missed and spooked, when I hit a snag and lost the leader end and indicator. This was the perfect time to switch rod to the 7’6 3/4, with Airflo Super-dri Xceed 3 Weight line. Joao had suggested a big dry, as it was his favourite method and the most fun.
So, despite the complete lack of fly or rises I tied on a big klinkhammer. The results were instantaneous – from the word go the fish wanted the dry, and launched themselves from all manner of deep turbulent holes to get it, often in kamakazie attacks at the last minute, or even in groups. Many were missed and lost, but it was great sport and the much softer rod was much more fun.
As we worked our way up most likely looking pools held fish. The scenery was stunning, and the location was as unique and remote as anything I have yet fished in my angling career.
After around 4 hours I began to tire – the rock hopping was taking its toll! We worked our way back downstream, fishing the choice spots where we had spooked fish earlier. In the end I was creeping behind rocks and dropping the fly on a downstream drift into pocket – and the ravenous fish obliged. I had long lost count of the fish numbers by then, so I asked Joao ”How many do you think?” His reply – ”Forty plus .. Just like the line!”
We were done for the day, and began our descent from the mountains. Joao insisted we stop at a ‘poncha’ bar for a quick drink on the way back to warm us up – poncha being the true locals drink made with local sugar cane rum, honey, sugar, lemon rind and with orange juice. True to it’s name it did pack a punch!
Madeira is certainly something different, and the streams are well worth fishing if you find yourself on the island. I can heartily recommend services of Mad Trout Madeira – thanks Joao and the Mad trout team for a great day.
A write up of summer holiday fishing in Co. Wexford, August 2016. Conveniently, our holiday cottage was very close to a good Irish trout stream!
It was that time of year again for a family holiday. My destination this summer was the Republic of Ireland, a thatched cottage near Ballyedmond in rural County Wexford to be precise. Naturally I had to scope out the fishing opportunities in the area.
I began researching the region online. It turned out County Wexford has no Loughs or stillwater’s of any note, so the options would have to be river angling. As it happens it looked like we were practically on the banks of a tributary of the Ounavarragh (or Owenavorragh) river, an 18 mile long trout, salmon and sea trout fishery flowing through verdant Irish country side. There was scant information available online about this river, but I did manage to locate a blog style website for the local fishing club, detailing where to get permits.
Next thing was to ensure the trout fishing river gear was organised and packed. A tip for doing this is to create a ‘favourites’ fly box and really strip down your tackle. I managed to compact everything into a TF Gear F8 chest pack. My chosen rod was a 7’6 #3/4 weight Streamtec rod, in 4 sections so easily stowable.
Once in Ireland (after the obligatory first pint of Guinness!) The mission to find a permit began. The ice cream parlor was closed, I went to the wrong Jewellers store, but eventually the right place was located, only to find the usual mild confusion when requesting a ticket. All was sorted when Pascal, the proprietor at Whitmores Jewellers emerged at the counter. A lovely chap, he gave me a few tips on where to head. For just 25 Euro for the week I was all set.
Unfortunately you don’t get a map with your ticket, so it was a case of working it out yourself by doing a bit of driving about and looking over bridges for likely spots – all part of the fun.
After enjoying a nice family day out, I was set to hit the river for the first time, snatching a few hours in the late afternoon on quite a warm day. The spot I found was near where we were staying on the upper reaches of the river. It wasn’t really a river here, more a brook to be fair. Slow to moderate flow, weedbeds and nice undercut banks all looked very fishy.
Ducking under a bridge, I spotted a riser on the first bend which came to hand on a dry ant pattern. A small jewel like fish, pretty as a picture. Working upriver, overhead trees and undergrowth made for challenging fishing, but it’s what I am used to on the Wye and Usk streams at home. A few more beautiful little trout came to hand – mainly on dries and the duo, even streamers worked in some very slow still segments.
What stuck me immediately was the sheer quantity of fish – each and every pool was literally swarming with them. Now this isn’t usually a problem (quite the opposite for most places!) but in this case I have to say there are almost too many fish in this river! This created an issue, because as soon as I moved into a new pool numerous ‘sentries’ at the tail end bolted upriver, altering every fish in the area. Once this happened, the small gin clear pools were literally churned up with dozens of stampeding spooked brownies; many were small 6 – 8 inch fish but with a few bigger ones thrown into the mix. Most of my fish therefore came to longer range casts than normal for a small stream.
Next outing I tried a few miles further down river. Here the river was a little bigger, with nice meadow pools going into a wooded section above a bridge. The issue remained with the sheer numbers of small spooky fish, making it tough. Still, I winkled out quite a few; beauties each one – small but perfectly formed. The duo method worked best, casting into any pool head or crease, closer to the bank the better. Some of the sections were deepish slow water with little flow making the duo hard to fish. A solution was to pitch a streamer upriver, into the edges on a longer line. A sink and draw retrieve got me plenty of hits, and lured a few better fish from under bankside cover.
As holiday time is precious, particularly with the weather being exceptionally good I took to visiting the Owenavorragh early mornings, for just a few hours before breakfast. 6.30 am starts are worth it – stunning sunrises, misty banks and jewel like trout were the reward. I also observed a large shoal of sea trout in one crystal clear pool, quite a sight.
My favourite part of the fishing (and the holiday overall) was taking my two girls aged 5 and 7 fishing on the small tributary just a minutes walk down the road from our cottage. This was just a tiny brook, but with one big pool which was teeming with trout. Fishing one at a time, part of the adventure was us clambering down to the water, wading ankle deep under a bridge and then creeping up on the trout through thick undergrowth.
I attached a Fulling Mill mini pimp indicator to the leader with a small nymph and instructed the girls to watch it – any movement and we would strike! As it happened, we had over a dozen fine Irish trout from that spot, plus spotted an eel and other stream-life. The girls were thrilled to go fishing and we carefully returned all fish to the water after taking a look at them – hopefully giving them the angling bug for life. I’m proud to say It was their highlight of the holiday as well as mine.
The River Owenavorragh isn’t a ‘big fish’ river, but it is one of the prettiest I have ever fished, with wild trout to match. A lovely location and well worth wetting a line in if you are in that part of Ireland.
I recently enjoyed a cracking late season day roaming the banks of Craig Goch reservoir, Elan valley, with my good mate Alan Parfitt of the Gwent Angling Society.
The Elan dams really are a beautiful part of Wales to fish for wild trout, especially in autumn. We walked and fished our way around the whole of Craig Goch – a total of 7.5 miles!
The fish were quite spread out and not really in the mood, but we did capture plenty of pretty browns to about a pound in weight. We probably spent more time walking than fishing though, but it was worth it – a breathtaking place to enjoy a few hours with the fly rod.
Alan worked his magic with the camera once again – the pictures below are just a sample. The best are being saved for a new ‘Fishing In Wales‘ website and possibly a magazine feature.