Guided trips on river and lake

Category: Fly fishing rivers

Fly fishing for trout in Wales –  A look back at 2023

What a season it’s been in Wales! Despite varying conditions, the river fishing in particular has been simply world class. From early season nymph fishing on small tributaries, to action packed dry fly fishing on balmy summer evenings, the Welsh rivers continue to produce outstanding brown trout fishing, with both prolific numbers of fish and to trophy size.

I am now taking guided bookings for next season, so if you are looking for a fly fishing guide, an instructional day, or to improve your overall fly fishing skills then please get in touch. I am the only fly fishing guide based in Cardiff and I cover South and Mid-Wales area. All tackle can be provided for an enjoyable and productive day on the water.

As we wait for the trout season to kick off again in March, the winter grayling fishing is excellent in South Wales and I can guide you through the colder months for these beautiful fish, whenever the weather allows.

Trout fishing in Wales has been superb for myself and clients throughout 2023, with fish up to an incredible 26 inches. No client left the water without catching any fish! I’ve put together of few of my favourite images from 2023 in the gallery below. I’m looking ahead to the new season with excitement already. Hope you can join me on the water.


Fly Fishing Welsh Rivers – Early Season Success

It’s been a great start on the Welsh rivers, despite the variable conditions this month.

Local knowledge is everything, so if you are looking for a fly fishing guide, an instructional day in Wales this season or to improve your fly fishing skills then please get in touch.

I started my season on the river Usk in cold and exceptionally low conditions, however I did manage my first 4 fish of the season on dry flies, including a 19 incher.

With the current unsettled spell the main rivers have been blown out since mid-March, however I have found some excellent nymph fishing on the smaller streams and tributaries that would otherwise be hopeless in low water conditions. Some of these can produce unexpected surprises as well as fantastic numbers of smaller fish!

A few images from my early season fly fishing in Wales March 2023:

river usk trout caught by a fly fishing guide

Fly Fishing PodCast – Casting with Ceri Jones

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!!

Ceri Thomas (left) with Ceri Jones in his studio.

Lock-down angling – Fishing where you live

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.

Fly Fishing Welsh Rivers – A magical early season start

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.

Urban angling on the Taff

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.

19 inch Taff trout

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.

The Sirhowy river – Gwent AS club water

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.

A stunning river Sirhowy wild brown trout

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.

A 20 inch wild brown trout from the Taff – a fantastic fish to start the season with!

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.

Fly Fishing For Trout In Madeira

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.

Port of Funchal – Madeira.

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.

Winding road to the interior

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.

Rainbows manage to reproduce naturally in Madeira.

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.

Joao Fishing the Ribeira do Seixal – A stream full of trout.

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!

The first fish – wild rainbow perfection.
Joao negotiating his way upstream.

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.

A very dark rainbow trout

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.

The klinkhammer was greedily devoured!

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.

Rock hopping in Maderia

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.

For details of Madeira fly fishing visit

Fly Fishing Ireland – River Fishing in County Wexford

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.

The Owenavorragh County Wexford.

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.

Rising Trout on the first bend.

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.

Small but perfectly formed – victim of the du0

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.

Meadow stretch of the Owenavorragh river.

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.

Streamers can be surprising effective on small rivers.

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.

Stunning Irish stream trout – worth getting up early for!

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.

Successful stream angling in Ireland.

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.

Wild brown trout gallery 2019

Thought I’d post a few brown trout images from my fishing adventures in Wales this year. The fishing was excellent on the rivers and llyns, especially early and late in the season.

Welsh rivers and lakes have really abundant stocks of wild fish – long may it continue! Looking forward to next spring already….

Urban Fly Fishing on the River Taff – Wild brown trout sport in the Valleys

Urban fishing is a new frontier – and where better than Wales where fly fishing on the post industrial rivers is simply phenomenal. Read on to find out more about fishing on the River Taff…..

Fly fishing the Taff (Image: Tim Hughes)

Like many South Wales Rivers the Taff used to run black with coal and industrial waste.  The stretch at Merthyr Tydfil was once one of the most polluted rivers in Europe, with numerous ironworks disgorging effluent continuously into the river; in later years this was followed by coal waste and industrial effluent, not to mention untreated sewage. Fish and invertebrate life was pretty much non-existent, hanging on only in the headwater streams.

Today things have radically changed, with the Taff being a productive game fishing river from source to mouth. Over time industry moved on, the mines shut and new regulations cleaned up the river. Trout are now widespread, with the middle and lower reaches also having Grayling that were introduced around 15 years ago; here you will find them in huge abundance along with some large trout and occasional salmon.

The upper river and some tributaries remain the preserve of trout only, and it is on the Merthyr Tydfil Angling club stretch that some of the best fishing can be found. The club has 14 miles of river, including two rural tributaries, the Taff Fechan and Taff Fawr that wind their way through the scenic wooded gorges of the Southern Brecon Beacons.

These rivers meet at Merthyr, forming the main Taff. From here to Quakers yard this part of the river regularly produces wild trout averaging well over a pound, with many specimens ranging up to 3lb or even more. It’s certainly one of the best trout rivers in Wales in terms of average size and quality of fish, but it wasn’t always this way, even in recent history.

For one thing, once the water quality improved when the mines and factories closed, the Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association carried out regular stockings of farmed brown trout – in fact in excess of 3000 table sized fish per year were stocked into a 10 mile stretch of club water. This resulted in the wild fish population being unable to compete for food, prime living space and spawning ground.

As well direct competition, the vast numbers of easily caught stockies also encouraged the ‘fish monger’ element and helped encourage poachers, who were indiscriminate as to what they took, year round, from the river. To top it off regular ‘catch and kill’ competitions were being held by the club on the river. So what chance did any wild fish have of growing to maturity, let alone specimen size?

10 years ago I lived half a mile from MTAA angling water, but had to drive down river to find good fishing.  The wild fish were small and stunted, seldom getting above 10 inches and the stockies were not much of a challenge or nice to look at. It was disappointing, because the upper Taff had so much potential as a river fishery.

Eventually, things changed. The stocking program was wound down for various reasons, firstly financial, then due to stock supply issues and then forced implementation of triploid stocking. After 2013’s 1600 fish, only a few hundred fish went in each year, and the program was finally discontinued last year. A radical change in the native trout population had been happening in the mean time. Wild trout begin to flourish and grow large, filling the void left by the stockies.  Specimen wild trout started appearing in the catches a few years ago and it has been improving steadily year on year.  In fact the upper Taff has now become a ‘trophy fishery’ with some of the best fishing in the region.

Per mile of water the upper Taff doesn’t have vast stocks of fish (like the nearby River Ebbw for example) however the balance is just right with a good mixture of small, large and specimen fish to be found. Almost every pool has a decent trout in it, and these fish can often be seen rising to abundant hatches of upwing flies. Wild fish of between 16 and 20 inches are commonplace, with larger to be found.

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Upper River Taff trout are a good average size

Last season for me was incredible, with numerous quality fish gracing my net in the same stretch of river that 10 years previously had produced poor fishing.  Many of them were captured on the dry fly. I wasn’t the only one, with local anglers consistently capturing wild trout to nearly 4lb, right until the end of the season. There are bigger fish to be sure, I have seen them.

On the subject of fish food, The Taff has some wonderful fly life. Starting in March there are strong hatches of large dark olives and March browns, followed by the brook dun, which is an abundant and long lasting hatch on the Taff. Stonefly, olive uprights, various caddis, yellow may and grannon also appear in the spring months. In the summer the upper Taff still has great hatches of blue winged olive, making for fantastic evening spinner sport.

Fly life on the Taff is great – check out the brook dun!

Thanks to its origins over a band of limestone the Taff has an alkaline PH of 8.3. So sub-surface the river stones literally crawl with shrimp, snails and nymphs of all kinds. There are also horse leeches, bull heads and shoals of minnows that provide yet more food for the fat, well conditioned trout.

Despite it’s urban catchment, ironically the water quality in the river is actually better than most rivers found deep in the Welsh countryside. Although there are acres of concrete, roads, houses and retail parks there are no farms spreading slurry, or sheep dip and agricultural waste being washed into the river. Yes, there are pollution problems, mainly fly tipping, untreated sewage and road oil, however these have a far lesser effect on river invertebrate and fish life than agricultural runoff.

The Fishing

The river is an engaging mix of urban and semi-rural fishing, with some of the biggest fish to be found slap bang in Merthyr Tydfil itself. I’ve always thought ‘town stretches’ produce a lot more fish because of the lack of predators such as cormorants and otters, as well as maybe being a thermal refuge over the cold winter months. They certainly throw up some of the best fishing opportunities; as long as you can handle the urban environment.

Urban fly fishing in Merthyr Tydfil (Image: Tim Hughes)

For more tranquil fishing, head down stream or fish upstream on the Taff Fechan. The stretch at Quakers yard through to Aberfan is quite rural, with plenty of decent fish to be found, if the urban environment is not your thing.

Today I have brought Airflo’s Tim Hughes with me, to sample some of the fishing and hopefully find one of the Taff ‘giants’ willing to rise to a dry fly. Tim mainly fishes on the Usk, where the trout are more plentiful but generally smaller in average size. The Taff trout in my opinion are better quality, and are perhaps a little more discerning, maybe due to the outrageous abundance of food available to them here, allowing them the luxury of being more selective. Tim hasn’t had a decent Taff trout in his fishing career, so I am hoping we can find a few willing to play ball.

For a true taste of ‘urban’ fly fishing I have taken Tim to the Merthyr town stretch. We are starting off at the back of a large retail complex, where there are some nice pools and runs, with the intention of working up into the town. We are here in mid May, a prime time. The fishing was slow last month, due to the awful snow and rain we were subjected to in March, and only now has the river properly woken up. As an upper Taff virgin, this is some tough but enjoyable bit of fishing for Tim to get into.

We walk our way down a narrow path and cut into the river. The bank side growth of thick brambles and Japanese knotweed is just starting grow up. Waders can easily get shredded here, so I’m wearing a set of the Airflo Super-Tuff, a great ‘industrial’ strength PVC bootfoot wader that almost functions as a suit of armour. Much of the wading here is tough, but these have studs built into them, which are essential for dealing with the rocky and often slippery bottom.

We work our way up, fishing nymphs in some likely runs and pools, avoiding the shopping trolleys, BMX bikes and even a wheelchair that has been thrown into the river. Everywhere we fish we find a mix of old industry and modern urban, including walls and stonework from the old iron working days, as well as graffiti on the bridges that span the river. It’s kind of cool.

It’s a cool and breezy morning and nothing is showing on the surface. After bumping a few fish we decide to move up into the town and wait it out for a hatch. En-route, we meet local angler Neil Ashman, who is fishing some nice pocket water with a French leader. Tim looses a good fish, which appears to have been a rainbow – they are present in the upper Taff in small numbers, escapees due to the reservoirs in the headwaters.

We reach a long flat pool and stand and watch the water for a while.  Brook duns begin to hatch, first a trickle and then in big numbers. Olives are in the mix too. The wind is very strong now, so it’s limiting the surface activity. Despite this we spot a few rises, so rig up with the dry fly gear.

Tim covers a rise and gets a take. The fish goes berserk in the shallow water, really putting up a good account of itself. Tim finally gets him in the net, a chunky golden fish of 2lb plus. About the average stamp of fish in this part of the river, a cracker anywhere. Another fish shows, and Tim covers the spot repeatedly while we watch. The fish comes up, and almost in slow motion takes the split wing CDC brook dun, then wallows angrily, breaking the leader like cotton in the process. How big was this one? 3 to 4lb maybe.

Tim into a fish in Merthyr Town center!!

We move up under a busy town bridge, picking up a couple of fish as we go. Casting tight to a concrete wall, where a brook enters the river through a culvert, I get a surprise take in a few inches of water to a jingler. It’s a nice pound plus fish, healthy and butter gold, that I play whilst buses rumble past. Our time is limited today, but It’s been a great couple of hours on the water, which I hope has given Tim the urban angling bug. We head off, and on the way back to the car spot some real heavyweights finning in some of the pools, some of them true giants.

The moral of the story is you don’t need to stock a river. Let nature take its course and things will come right. It’s certainly turned out well on the Taff – long may it continue.

Fishing on the upper Taff is controlled by Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association.

Contact: Tony Rees Email:

Day tickets are also available online via the Wye and Usk Foundation’s Fishing Passport website.

Article Words: Ceri Thomas Images: Tim Hughes

Article originally featured in Issue one of Today’s Fly Fisher Magazine.

Wild fish in the middle of town

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