Saturday, 15 December 2012

The Welsh Weather and Animal Rescue

So.....have I intrigued you with that heading?

I met this past weeks freezing temperatures with great anticipation.  The weather was cold, very cold but at the same time dry - something this part of Wales hadn't seen for a while.

Once again, I put plans in place to take Friday off work and try some Czech Nymphing.  Thursday night came and once again so did the rain.  It rained very very heavily and when I woke on Friday morning it was still raining.  A quick walk down the river confirmed my fears, the river was running very high, very faster and had already managed to drag the mud from the upper reaches of the Wye and from the Ithon!  I've certainly had enough of the rain, lets hope 2013 is kinder to us.

Another day spoilt???

When the rivers are out of condition, the next option is generally a stillwater.  Too late to travel to Garnffrwd or Llyngwyn so I thought I go for a drive up to my syndicate lake.  The lake has not seen much fishing over the past six months as we have had a tremendous amount of trouble with Cormorants.  However, having heard from my mate Lee (and Meg the dog) that the week before he had fished it and there were no signs of them pesky birds and even better he had taken a lovely little Wild Brownie on a Cats Whisker.

Wild Brownie - keep an eye on things Meg
Why have the Cormorants gone (not that were complaining)? Could it be that the cold weather has driven them into town? Don't know for sure, but having spoken to the lakes owner, I have been informed that he and his son have been up the regularly shooting the ducks.  Maybe this is what has driven them away - shoot on boys, shoot on!

The rain was still coming down fairly heavy as I made my way to the lake, so parked up on the gravel track and tackled up.   As always, it looked good up there.


One thing that caught my eye over in the shallows by the big tree where we've tied up our kayak was a Swan - who I have named Herbie.  He wasn't really doing anything and as I approached he didn't move on, something wasn't right.  As I got closer to the water I could see the problem, he was stuck in ice.

I managed to break some of the ice in the shallow margins and (continuing to break up some of the ice as I went) made my way out to him.  The closer I got, the more he hissed and flapped his wings.  How do you convince a Swan your there to help? Naturally I was weary! I broke up the ice and eventually broke enough for him to free his leg.  On the plus side, wasn't much chance of an attack, especially when you saw him slip sliding across the ice to his mate! Have you ever seen a Swan stuck in the ice? He didnt even say thank you the cheeky frigga!

Checking around the lake I could see the extent of the freeze - the whole lake was frozen solid, a good two and half centimetres thick!

The only part that wasn't frozen was above the dam!


Once again, a fishing trip without a fish but once again I didn't care.  I did my good deed for the day and managed to get a couple of nice pictures.  Sure beats working!

Herbie there in the background, free to roam

Until next time...

Thursday, 15 November 2012

It's Not All About Catching Fish You Know!

As a fisherman, one of the most infuriating questions I'm asked is:
What's the point in fishing if you don't catch any fish?

What follows is a cartoon style cut scene where I remove said offenders tongue and use it as dead bait before snapping back to reality and have to handle the matter in an adult way. It usually involves me getting up and making a cup of tea!

I digress. This blasphemy has got me thinking, or maybe reflecting is the appropriate term, on my fishing exploits.  This past Saturday was a prime example.

Before I start, I must say that I think Twitter is cursed.  All week we have fine weather, which leads my fellow Twitterati to start talking about how and where to fish over the weekend.  Only for it to pour down on Friday and ruin the rivers for the following day.  Lots of color, high, fast flowing water – known to non fishermen and my wife as excuses!

As was the case this past week.  I was chatting via Twitter to Daniel Popp (his blog is Small Stream Addicts and its very good) who had kindly tied me some excellent looking flies.  Said flies were to be my ammunition for fishing the River Wye on Saturday.  With Friday came the rain and within the first 2 hours the Wye had risen by 22cm and continued to do so.

Grayling Bugs, Fly Tying, Fly Fishing
Grayling Bugs tied by Dan

I woke early on Saturday morning, fed the kids and turned my attentions to the fishing.  Having checked the river levels I could see the Wye was up!  As this would be the only opportunity I would get over the weekend I decided to go anyway.
River Wye, Builth Wells. Looking downstream inbetween Builth Bridge and Llanelwydd Church
River Wye, Builth Wells

As I had envisaged the fishing being slow given the conditions, I thought I’d try a stretch of river I had not really fished before – The stretch from Builth Bridge, downstream to Church Pool.  I was greeted with a cool crisp morning, the mist was down and the sun was breaking through.  I started with a pool at the top of the run.  This pool starts just above Builth Bridge and a place I caught lots of fish on the dry fly over the summer.

River Wye Builth Wells Fly Fishing

River Wye, Builth Wells, Fly Fishing

Road Bridge, Builth Wells, Fly Fishing
Pool under Builth Bridge
I fished the tail of the pool just under the bridge with a team of nymphs.  No sooner had the flies hit the water were they back along side the bank or caught up in leave (so many leaves!!!).  Despite all my efforts to control the flies the current was just too strong.

I remember thinking as I made my way down the river how nice it was to finally get on the river after weeks of rain.  It occurred to me that I didn’t care I hadn’t caught and didn’t care the conditions were not great I was just happy to be out.  The scenery was gorgeous and my head was clear.

River Wye, Builth Wells, Fly Fishing
River Wye, Builth Wells

I spent the rest of the morning taking pictures of the scenery and anything that just looked nice.  I strolled down the river, fishing any likely looking spots and exploring the sections of the river I knew little about.  If nothing else, I have found some lovely spots and pools for my next outing.  
Llanelwydd Church, Builth Wells, Scenery, Fly Fishing
Llanelwydd Church
Woodland Walk, Llanelwydd, Builth Wells, Church Pool, Fly Fishing
Woodland Walk along side River Wye

I made my way through the woodland path to the final pool I was going to fish, where I eventually managed 3 gorgeous Grayling.  No PB's and no serious rod benders but that didn't matter one bit.
Grayling caught on Church Pool.  River Wye, Builth Wells
Best of the Grayling
Too often do I go out fishing and immediately head to a place on the river that I know ell and where I’ll catch fish.  If nothing else, this past Saturday has taught me to explore the water and try new things.  It has definitely given me a fresh approach to fishing my home water.  Next time you go out, try somewhere new – what have you got to lose?

To me it’s not just about catching fish but the whole fishing experience.  Maybe if you haven’t fished you won’t understand! This outlook reminded me of a video I recently watched.  Two brothers from Montana (Zack and Travis Broughton - Montana Wild) who take the fishing experience to a new level.  They venture out into the wilds (proper wilds) to camp and fish.  To them it’s not about catching a fish but about the journey they are on, exploring new places in search of some elusive wild trout.  Their videos are certainly worth a watch, this one in particular.

7 Miles Back - Montana Wild

Oh and to answer the question 'what is the point in fishing if you don’t catch fish' - Does it matter?  Not to me, besides, if you caught fish every time it would be called catching and not fishing!

Until next time…

Friday, 19 October 2012

The 2012 International Bank Fly Fishing Championships

October 2012 saw the Bank Championships come to Garnffrwd Fishery.  The championships is now in it's 3rd year and is growing from strength the strength.  This year was no exception and the quality of angling on display was incredible - easy to see why these boys are competing for their respective countries.

Match programme from the 2012 International Bank Fly Fishing Championships at Garnfrwydd fishery
Souvenir Match Programme
The teams arrived at the Diplomat Hotel, Llanelli on Sunday before 2 days of practice followed before the International on Wednesday 17th.  Tactics and fly choice were very secretive over the practice sessions in order to gain that all important advantage over the other home nations.

The International

As a good friend of mine, Lee Tatton was competing, I along with another friend Dan Graham (himself a capped Welsh International Angler) was asked to go down and control for the event.  Something I was very much looking forward to. I met with Dan around 6:30 and having stocked up on supplies we set off.  As I'd never controlled for an event I have to admit I was a little nervous but having talked it through with Dan on the journey down the nerves were soon replaced with eager anticipation.  We arrived at Garnffrwd in plenty of time for the Controllers Briefing, which was to take place at 8:15.

When we arrived at the car park, the teams were busy tackling up and preparing themselves for the event.  The mood was relaxed and we chatted away with the Welsh boys and some of the other controllers.  One of the other controllers was Chris Jones, himself desperately unlucky to miss out on the Welsh team.  Having won the Garnffrwd spring league and the Airflo bank masters he suffered a torrid time at the Welsh trials only landing one fish and missed out on the team - having been the most consistent angler this year it would have been great to see him fishing the international.

Making our way down to the venue, Garnffrwd greeted us in its usual immaculate self and even the weather was looking fine, despite some heavy winds.  We gathered for the parade before our Controllers Briefing.

All 4 home nations before the bank championships
The Home Nations before the International
Welsh International Bank Fly Fishing Team 2012
Welsh Team
We met for the Controllers Briefing where I was allocated peg 23 - one of the pegs on the dam.  As usual hot spot for fish and a place where I'd previously caught my fist (and only to date) Tiger Trout.  With the high winds blowing directly at us, casting would later prove troublesome on occasions.

Peg 23 - Garnfrwydd
My Peg for the International
What a coincidence that the first angler on my peg that morning was Lee! Despite a number of follows on a Damsel fly tied with blue rubber legs (a tactic that was working very well during practice), he unfortunately blanked, along with the next angler Michael Drinan from Ireland.  The next angler on my peg was Englishman Phil Dixon.  Having heard many things about Phil I was looking forward seeing him fish.  He didn’t disappoint, landing 2 very nice Rainbows of 44cm and 42cm respectively before missing a take on the last cast of his session.  The first caught tight up against the bank on a lure at the end of the retrieve. A couple of follows lead to nothing before a couple of flicks of the rod tip gave the fly enough movement to entice a take from the patrolling piscine.  The second caught on a rather usual (to me) technique, fishing a lightly weighted cats whisker fished under a strike indicator - a tactic, however, that worked well for the English boys all day.  Last on my peg that morning was Scotsman Steven Corsar, another extremely accomplished angler but once again we saw a blank.  Due to the quiet nature of my peg if found myself helping out on peg 22 where more fish were being taken.

Lee fishing in the International
Lee Fishing the International
At lunch we were all very well fed and watered at Christine Cafe.  Having caught up with a few of the anglers, and after that much needed toilet break, we headed out for the afternoon session.

The afternoon session began with Welshman Keith Cadogan, who once again saw a blank.  Irish angler Harry McAteer Jnr also blanked my rather uneventful peg.  Next up was Englishman Jim Tuck, once again 2 more fish were landed for the English team, both again caught under the cats whisker/strike indicator tactic - one that I will certainly try when I fish there next.  The fish were 40cm and 42cm, this time both gorgeous streamline Brownies.  Jim also missed a couple of takes, admitting to me that he was busy watching what one of his fellow countrymen was up to on the peg across from us and not concentrating on the strike indicator dipping under the surface in front of him!

Last up for the day was Scotsman Keith Andrews.  The winner of the Scottish National Stillwater Finals.  It was lovely to see someone other than the English boys hook up on my peg - only problem is that the fish popped the hook.  A wry smile and a chuckle from Keith followed by 'well, there we are then' ended the fishing action for the day.

The day finished at 3:55 and we headed back to the cafe for a chat with Jamie (the owner of the fishery), the anglers and fellow controllers.  Once everyone had packed away, the teams made their way back to the hotel and we headed home.

Throughout the day there was some fantastic angling on display despite the occasional very heavy wind.  I managed to pick up quite a few tips and genuinely feel the experience of being in the presence of these guys will help my fishing.  All the anglers were friendly and many ready for a laugh making the day much more enjoyable as a whole.

As always, Garnffrwd was an excellent place to fish and the work that has been done there is second to none.  One of the best fisheries in the UK (in my opinion), check it out

Team Results - Overall
1st   England - 76 Fish
2nd  Scotland - 51 Fish
3rd   Wales - 50 Fish
4th   Ireland - 41 Fish

Top Rods - Overall
1st   Terry Philips, England - 19 Fish
2nd  Dean Appleby, England - 17 Fish
3rd   Steven Corsar, Scotland - 13 Fish

Top Rod for Wales was Matthew Jones who finished 5th with 13 Fish.

Apologies for the quality but here are the final score sheets from the day: 
2012 International Bank Championships 2012 - Results
2012 International Bank Championships 2012 - Results

Having controlled the event, I'm looking forward to fishing Garnffrwd at the Colin Miller Memorial Cup but following the fishing display I witnessed (some of who will surely be competing), I will find it rather hard to finish in the top few.  However, this is fishing and not catching and whose to say I don’t get a good draw and the fish are turned on to what flies/tactics I use on the day.

Garnfrwydd Fishery
Until next time...

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Fly Fishing – The Rebirth

I'm happily married to a great wife and Dad to three great girls and a fully fledged Fly Fishing addict!

Over the summer of 2011, my wife had arranged a night out with her friend Nic, who were both steadily getting drunk at our place.  As I chatted with Nic, we spoke about her husband Lee, a friend of mine and a current Welsh International angler.  She spoke how Lee was trying to put a syndicate together for a private tenancy on a lake near Builth Wells.  After encouragement from Gem (my wife) and Nic, I rang Lee to find out what his plans were….the road to Fly Fishing addiction began.

After I had begged and borrowed a rod, reel, line and some flies from friends and family the next step was to fish.  A week or so after putting my name forward for the syndicate and to get back into the swing of things, Lee took me for an evenings fishing on the river Ithon, Llandrindod Wells.  After some simple tuition it all came flooding back to me, I was casting like I’d never been away.  The reward for fishing a size 16 Adams dry fly just above a small set of rapids were small Brownies (so small that a couple would skip along the surface of the water as soon as you struck into the rise!).  Their small size was no issue especially when compared to their immense beauty and those small fish made me yearn for more – a Fly Fishing addiction was setting in.

The remainder of the year consisted of buying new kit, fishing the river (although at the time I had no real clue of what I was doing).  We also spent time developing the lake we had acquired the tenancy on.  We were very lucky because although the lake had not been stocked or fished for nearly 20 years there were still Brownies present, one of around 3lb was caught soon after we started to fish.  With the landlords permission we removed some of the trees to ensure we could cast and erected pontoons in places we felt the trees were best served where they were.  Last job was to stock with Rainbows and we were set.

My Lake
My Lake

Following me re-introduction into Fly Fishing the first trip I took on my own was to our lake, soon after stocking.  Having checked out the water, there were few fish rising and no sign of a decent hatch.  With my limited fly box at the time I decided to go with the first thing that caught my eye, a red Wooly Bugger.  I cast out off the first pontoon and fished a fairly fast retrieve.  Feeling a few bites I carried on, before too long I had hooked up.  Once again I was almost over-come with excitement; it took me back to my very first fish caught on the boat with Uncle Ray 16 years or so earlier.  A Rainbow of nearly 2lb plus was the prize, which I safely returned to be caught once again.

My first rainbow trout at my private lake
RB from the lake - ignore the line!

The Fly Fishing rebirth was truly among us and to this day I’m sure I recall that fish was bigger than it was!

In 12 months I've come a long way.  From not knowing how to fish the various waters and weather conditions to pretty much know what I’m doing, be it still water or rivers, wind rain or shine – being a native to Mid Wales, knowing how to fish I the rain is very important!  I’m confident fishing dry flies, wet flies, buzzers and lures; fishing droppers and correct choice of rod, line and tippet.  But lets not get started on fly tying, a skill I have recently attempted to learn but yet to master!

From fishing with a worm and rod/reel set that came to less than a tenner up until my reintroduction and development into and accomplished (I hope) Fly Fisherman, my journey into fishing has been a long and drawn out one.  I have no regrets, if I had carried on fishing during my teens, who is to say that I would still be fishing now?

I urge everyone to try their hand at fishing no matter what type it is; my preference is simply with the fly.  I still get excited every time I hook a fish, although now with a little more restrain, a feeling I hope never goes away and one that people should feel before dismissing this as a pastime.  There is so much you can learn with Fly Fishing but at the same time you don’t need to know everything to be successful.

Until next time…

Saturday, 6 October 2012

The Beginning is the Most Important Part of the Work

So I decided to write a blog about my fishing experiences but where exactly do I start, what should I write about for my first post???  Having drawn inspiration from the Greek Philosopher Plato, I decided to tell my story from the beginning - where better to start and who better a person to draw inspiration from?

My first experience of fly fishing was with my Uncle Ray Chaplin, I was about 13 years old.  Back in them days I had silly hair and a pretty bad dress sense, some say things haven’t changed I’m only housing a few more greys.

Uncle Ray was a member of the Rhayader and Elan Valley Angling Association and had fished for Wales on many occasions.  He was one of the nicest, funniest people you could hope to meet.  He was a Navy Veteran and always had a story to tell, especially if you offered him a rum or a white wine and soda in later life.  Sadly, Uncle Ray passed away a few years back.

Having arranged a day to go fishing, a Saturday I recall, he picked me up and we headed to Llyngwyn - a lake that he fished regularly, often catching his limit and leaving a good size rainbow hanging on the front door for my Dad.  Llyngwyn is a 16 acre spring fed natural lake controlled by the Rhayader and Elan Valley Angling Association that is regularly stocked with Rainbows upwards of 2lb.  As you can imagine, I was very excited about the day ahead.

Llyngwyn Lake - Fly Fishing Venue
Llyngwyn Lake
When we arrived at the lake, the wind was up but the sky was clear – I remember it like it was yesterday!  Being a complete beginner, we fished the bank on the opposite side to the boat house, plenty of room for a casting lesson and very few places to get caught up behind although I think I found each and every place there was to be caught in and on.  However, before too long I was fishing and let loose on the unsuspecting Trout below – loved it.

The water that day was quiet; very few fishermen had caught anything that morning.  Uncle Ray had hooked up once but the fish, which he told me was a monster, came off!  The decision was made to take out one of the boats.  We made our way to a quiet bay, out of the wind, sheltered by the large trees situated along side the bank.  We cast out and fished some buzzers.

Things remained quiet, the BANG, my rod bent over and I was into my very first fish.  I got so excited I nearly dropped the rod.  A crash course in playing a fish soon followed and before too long the fish was in the net, a Rainbow of 1½lb.  I didn't stop talking about it for weeks.

Me with my first fish - a rainbow trout
Me with my first fish
I fished on occasions after that but as I didn't drive and my Dad didn't fish, my times were limited.  Soon the draw of football and rugby began to take over a sadly my fishing days came to an abrupt end…….

…..until now!

A chance conversation in the summer of 2011 (which I’ll tell you about in the next post) got me back on the water and this time there is an addiction that needs to be fed!  12 months of fishing and were doing good.  Now a member of the Groe Park and Irfon Angling Club (GPIAC), Webmaster for the GPIAC website and as part of a small syndicate holding a private tenancy of a 2½ acre lake near Builth Wells the fishing is frequent and on times breath taking.

I often wonder where I would be today (in fishing terms) had I carried on from where Uncle Ray had taught me so very well.  I also find myself thinking ‘would I be a better fisherman if he was here today?’ – Honestly, the answer is yes.

Me and Uncle Ray
Uncle Rays dinner by the looks of things
Until next time…