Sunday, 22 May 2011

The River Lugg, Wales

This trout had an azure blue sheen to its gill cover and some of its red spots had faint blue haloes
I had a great day out yesterday, fishing the Pilleth beat on the River Lugg. It’s as far upstream this little river one can go on the Wye & Usk Foundation’s “roving voucher scheme” and offers 1½ miles double bank fishing against a backdrop of the hills of the Radnor forest. The river is small and intimate, flanked by tall, shady trees and meanders gently, rather than with any force, through farmland and forest.

As I learn more about river fishing I'm beginning to realise that I quite like small stream fishing. I enjoy the extra effort that’s required in stealthily deceiving canny, wild fish that inhabit little slips of clear water, and thinking through the cast before it’s made. “If I can get my back cast in that tiny gap between those two branches and flick it into the current underneath that low hanging branch...”  More regularly than not this is followed by an expletive and a lost fly, but it is extremely rewarding when it works. It was a perfect opportunity to properly test my 6’ 2wt rod, used only for the second time. I enjoyed its ability to delicately present a fly. It has a much slower action than my 5wt and, whilst strange at first, I quickly got used to the slower, more relaxed, rhythmical style required to cast it.

The weather was wholly changeable. One second the valley would be bathed in sunlight, the next in cloud. Generally, as the day wore on the weather worsened and we experienced light drizzle. The strong blustery down river wind, however, was a constant and it made casting light lines a challenge.

We started fishing just after 11.30am and my second cast with a size 16 black klinkhammer induced a rise and brought a 9” trout to hand, a great way to start the day. Almost simultaneously my fishing partner, Laszlo, had a trout on the dry fly in the next pool up. A little later on mayflies in different shapes and sizes started to hatch, none more eye-catching than the large Ephemera danica (closest match in my new pocket book guide), which sent the trout into a spin. In one pool I watched a little trout, probably no more than 5”, doing its best to gobble up hapless mayflies, although I noticed in its splashy efforts it seemed to miss more mayflies than it ate.

Laszlo's size 10 fly which accounted for several fish

This was my first experience of trout rising to mayflies of this size. I had nothing quite so large in my fly box but Laszlo came to the rescue with his large size 10 patterns. Before yesterday, I wouldn’t have given such a large fly much hope for little fish in a little stream. It went against every instinct of mine, but then, I hadn’t counted on the size of these mayflies! The trout ignored my other, smaller, dries but locked on to the large mayflies with much enthusiasm.

In all, I caught and released eight trout between 6 and 11” and lost a fair few too. The best of them came out from under a fallen tree in a flash to swallow the mayfly as it drifted past in fast, riffle water, before darting back under the branches in alarm. It took some side strain to extricate and its power surprised me. Once released it shot off like a streak of lightning back under the submerged tree.

This little trout seemed to have more red spots than black

The only dampener on the day was slicing my waders open on a barbed wire fence. I spent the afternoon with one wet leg sploshing around in a bit of cold water.

If you’re interested in history the river flows very near to the site of the Battle of Bryn Glas, a resounding Welsh victory in 1402 over a larger English Army. Any good tale of battle is not without treachery and it is said contingents of Welsh archers in the English force defected and fired arrows into the rear of the advancing English army. Interestingly, the leader of the Welsh rebels, Owain Glynd┼Ár, was the last native Welshman to hold the title Prince of Wales. William Shakespeare wrote of the battle in Henry IV, Part 1:

“A post from Wales loaden with heavy news;
Whose worst was, that the noble Mortimer,
Leading the men of Herefordshire to fight
Against the irregular and wild Glendower,
Was by the rude hands of that Welshman taken,
A thousand of his people butchered”


  1. Great article, great story, love the history - a bonus extra!

    AMAZING coloured trout, blue on the fish, wahl, I'm in love, get me to Wales, that is the kind of never before seen sight that makes me sure that I'll still be "flyfishing the world" and exploring new waters when I'm an old Angler.
    Keep up the good casting, good fishing and great writing!

    Good work man.

  2. Hi Nick, thanks very much, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Make sure to visit Wales with a fly rod some day, you will love it!

  3. My pleasure.

    And indeed, I have a couple of good UK friends who live in and around Bristol, so I have an encouragement to come over that way some time, and hopefully a free place to stay with them!

    And from there it's just across the Bristol Channel (River?) to be in fishing in Wales!

    How far from there was this river, that is to say, which is the closest big town that I can find on a map - next to this "Roving Beat" Ticket area that you speak of located please?

    Cheers man