So it’s finally happened. I got to the river, and not only were the conditions excellent, they were expected to get better for my fishing the next day.
I was a guest of Ben Stirk, to fish the Midland Fly Fishers’ water. We weren’t expecting to be able to fish after the terrible weather over last week. We had been hoping to fish the Dee, but at around 4ft and not really dropping it was not an option.
With Midland Fly Fishers also having fishing on the Wye at least we had an alternative. The gauge was hidden by dark brown water on Thursday, but by Friday morning it was down to nearly 2’6. Fishable at least. It was with limited excitement I dragged myself out of bed at 4.30 on Saturday morning, but what a day it turned out to be.
The water had cleared nicely by the time we reached the river, but was still running high.
Ben had had a great day earlier in the season at that height, and it would do for me. On went a long sink tip with a heavy red and yellow pot belly pig tube fly. I only had size 12 double hooks in my bag, so that’s what I used. It looked small but I figured it should hold if I was lucky enough to make contact.
We approached the Glangwye pool, a beautiful piece of fly water, to find it was already being fished. Once there, we decided to get on and fish it anyway.
Ben put me in first right at the top of the pool, and then waded in himself once I was clear. Gradually we caught up with the other fisher. This is a deep wading pool, and being tall I was able to handle the high water fairly well. I’d seen a fish jump just about where I was now fishing. The fly came round, and not 5 yards from the other fisher, a salmon took.
I got back onto the bank, and played the fish. It was a deep diving fight, and by the time we’d seen the head and tail we knew it would be big. There was a lot of head banging going on, and I was getting quite nervous about the small hook.
By the time I saw the fish, my heart was in my mouth. A big, tartan Wye lump of a cock fish that must have been approaching 20lbs, with a tiny double wedged half way along his kype.
The net was a little small. Mr Stirk, on ghillie duty, bumped him first time round but made no mistake next go. Trying to net a decent fish for a friend is nearly as nerve racking as hooking one yourself.
Although coloured, he was a terrific condition fish, with hard muscle and thick shoulders. On closer inspection, he had a couple of sea lice on him. This indicates a fish has been in the river less than 48 hours, as after that time, the lice die and fall off. This fish was really unusual having coloured up in the Severn estuary and run over 50 miles to Glangwye in the last two days.
Next pool we moved to was the Grange. Again it was being fished, but Stirky knew of a little bit of fishing at the head of the pool, not much more than a dozen or so casts. It is just before a long shallow glide, and running fish clearly hang around on the edge of it before deciding to run on.
My guide and ghillie wandered off for a natter, but 3 minutes later I was shouting for the net.
A really energetic take, and a smaller fish was on the end. This fish ran hard and fast, and after a thrilling five or ten minutes was in the net. The hook – now changed for a bigger double – dropped straight out of the inside of the kype.
Stirky started fishing the pool in the hope of finding another running fish. Just as he was making the last couple of casts, I started fishing at the top of the pool and a red looking fish took my fly literally at his feet. One good run, and he shook the hook loose.
It was beginning to look like I was making fun of Mr. Stirk. I forced him to fish ahead on the main part of the pool, whilst I took a well earned rest. I let him get half way down, and then got in the river.
As I moved further down the pool, I noticed a substantial submerged concrete jetty. The water just off the point looked undeniably fishy. I wanted the fly to pass just off the end of it, and there was just enough water to pull the line over neatly.
It wasn’t at the end of the obstruction, but just behind it, that I felt a pluck at the fly followed by a good run. The fish stayed on, with the high bank behind me allowing a commanding position to keep the line away from the abrasive concrete.
Another strong fight and another beautiful condition cock fish. It was almost the same, if slightly bigger than the first one. Again he was loosely hooked half way along the kype.
The rest of the day finished without bothering the scorers, poor old Stirky still needing a fish.
We rounded the evening off with a celebratory pint and curry in Hay on Wye and were stabled very adequately by David Davies in the Firs B&B.
Back on the river full of healthy fry up for 9am, we were at Glangwye to start with again and the water height and conditions couldn’t have been more perfect.
Fish were moving and again Ben went through first. We’d both had a take half way down, but nothing came of it. Reaching what typically was the end of the pool in usual water conditions, we fished on, spurred by the sight of fish breaching.
It was during a conversation about the two swans on the far bank that I landed my fly directly in between them, and just as the current moved the line a fish took. I am sure the swan must have felt the commotion under its feet – in any case the salmon turned tail and ran sharply.
This fish was fairly well rested, and gave a powerful fight. She was a 14lb hen, and returned to the water strongly.
We revisited the Grange, and desperately hoping to find a fish for Stirky, we fished on to into the evening and pouring rain. Heâ€™s an excellent fisher, far more experienced than me, and I have to say I felt for him. At about 4.45 on the Sunday he lost a fish with a couple of shakes of its head, and by a bit after 5 he just couldnâ€™t find one that would stay on.
On the long journey home, we reflected on the end of the salmon season for us both; one frustrated and one exuberant. But when all said and done, weâ€™d had 4 fish each for the season, from 2 trips. One canâ€™t really ask for more than that.
As a foot note, there was a little cold comfort for Ben. The Future Mrs Church called us on our way home, and declared him the winner as he had caught the only keepable fish; a 1lb brown trout.