Monday, 25 April 2011

Upper Severn River, Caersws

Last weekend I took a trip out to Caersws, a small town in Mid Wales on the banks of the upper Severn. It has a train stop on a direct line from Birmingham and offers convenient access to the river. For anyone who hasn’t visited the area, the landscape of Mid Wales is a transition from the flat English countryside to the imposing mountains of Snowdonia. It is a land of rich green rolling hills and wide valleys broken by pockets of yellow blossoming gorse and woodland. In spring it is a bewitching place. The pastures are alive with sheep and bleating newborn lambs, and the gorse with bumblebees and small birds.

The single platform Caersws Train Station 
The day couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be sunny or cloudy. In the end, it was mostly cloudy and I figured that was probably for the best. The river was low and I hoped the cloud cover would embolden the trout.

I had fished the river before, in May 2009 and have fond memories of catching my first river trout on that day. This time I wanted to explore a different section of the river so I walked up about a mile from the road bridge and came to a long, flat glide, the kind of water that brings a halt to your walk and says “you’ve walked far enough, this is where you start fishing.” Another angler, the only other person I saw all day after leaving the town behind, was ‘downstream’ fishing the fast water flowing out of the pool. We had a brief chat, mostly about a 2½lb grayling he had caught a little way upstream the week before, until a fish started to rise in the tail of the pool ahead of us. The stranger turned around, gave me a slightly sympathetic look that said “I was here first” and cast a few times at the still rising fish. Unfortunately, three casts later, bow waves moving rapidly away in the opposite direction signalled how well his offering had been received by the spooked fish. That was it for him he said, he was just fishing the morning, and he moved on downstream leaving the long pool ahead to me. I sat down and watched the pool whilst I ate a late breakfast. Within a little while, a fish started to rise in the same place, energetic rises, to what looked like grannom sedge. I tied on an elk hair grannom pattern and within a few casts I connected with a fat trout that leaped a foot out the water once hooked and, for its efforts, successfully managed to dislodge the fly. Not a bad start to the day I thought.

I tied a pheasant tail nymph to the hook shank New Zealand style and moved up the pool, trying a few speculative casts here and there, always conscious of a rising fish some way up the pool. I guess I’m not as patient at fishing as I could be and eventually I just waded up river as quickly and silently as possible to get into casting range of the visibly feeding fish. I had cast a few times up stream without any interest when, to my surprise, a fish rose a little behind me and to my right, just 3 metres away. A quick flick of the fly and up came the fish and sipped in the fly. Being a bit rusty I struck far too soon (something I would do many more times that day). Another quick flick of the fly and I had the fish second time round, a grayling of about 1½lbs. It had wounds on one of its flanks, no doubt thanks to the predatory attentions of a cormorant and it slipped out of my hands and darted away into the depths before I could get my camera out to snap a photo.

A few times while walking upstream I got the fright of my life when a pheasant or two would erupt in panicked flight from the grass just ahead of me. Not that I’m into hunting, but I can now appreciate just what quick reflexes must be required to shoot one on the wing. It was a good day to admire the river’s birdlife.  I was accompanied all day by the birdsong of the smaller varieties and there were swan, ducks and geese aplenty.  

I lost what felt like a really good fish on the dry fly a little way up river, but made up for it later by catching a grayling a little under the 1lb mark on an Adams Klinkhammer. It put up a feisty fight for its size and I took some pleasure in catching it. I had earlier cast different pattern after pattern at a number of fish feeding at the head of a pool – for a little over an hour – only for everything to be ignored. I’m coming to realise just how selective fish can be in the UK and I have since purchased a pocket book guide on “matching the hatch.” Well, I gave up at first and walked away, deciding there were plenty of other fish to catch upstream (it transpired there were in fact none). A few hours later when walking back past the same pool the fish were still there, rising away, and I couldn’t decide whether to waste my time with another cast or to throw a large boulder into the pool to spoil the fish’s fun too. The Adams Klinkhammer won by a whisker and much to my surprise within two casts the grayling obliged. This one agreed to stay and pose for a photo before being returned. 

No trout on this my first trip of the season, but a good relaxing day out in Wales nonetheless. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Learning the Art of Fly Tying

Right, I will volunteer this information up front. I am no fly tyer. So please be gentle.

I want to improve my tying this year. Fly tying must surely add a whole extra dimension to fly fishing which I am currently missing out on. I don’t quite feel like the kid not invited to the party but on the few occasions I have knocked together a handful of the garishly coloured feathers from my starter kit, I have felt a sense of creative achievement I suspect will only get better when fish start taking a partial view to them, enough to have a nibble. It will also mean getting full value from my magazine subscriptions, rather than skipping through the fly tying pages.

So with this goal in mind I hauled down from the attic my starter kit which I had purchased some years ago (rediscovered after a recent move). Its contents include little in the way of natural colours. Some of the items look more suited to making Christmas decorations than flies. It’s clear I will need to purchase new materials to progress.

The following comprise my first efforts of the year, using perhaps the most un-fish-frightening materials I possess:

Any bets on their fish catching ability? Any tips welcomed too.