It’s taken a while to get around to posting the pictures from a recent Monnow trip, the location is beautiful, the company was great – the catering from my buddy Vince was perfect camping fodder and the evening meal at The Crown was well above pub standards; there was no problem with the Butty Bach, we drank a few quite effortlessly … but … unfortunately, the timing of our visit was tragic, or perhaps more positively described as comically timed.
We only had an afternoon on the Friday and a whole day on the Saturday to look forward to but it just happened to coincide exactly with a nasty little storm front coming through the Black Mountains. We travelled on the Friday morning, passing across the New Severn Bridge along the M48 and then up from Newport, arriving just about lunch time to set up camp.
Vince soon had some lunch sorted and once we had paid for the stay we wasted little time in getting out fishing for the afternoon – there was a little indecision over which location to head for with the first signs of drizzle threatening but we settled on a trek to the Half Moon beat, which we managed to negotiate reasonably rapidly. Sod’s law dictates that it started raining properly just as we got in the river and it didn’t stop for a long time after that. We ignored the rain as best we could but gradually got wet inside our waterproofs; I lost my Polaroids at some point (sat redundant on the top of my cap) and Vince managed to tear his waders on a barbed wire fence. My Guidelines had starting leaking slightly and generally even the best of kit just couldn’t cope with the levels of moisture around us – there’s not much point having breathables if it’s simply too humid to remove moisture as it’s got nowhere to go – our equipment just acted like a wet suit.
The tricky conditions meant we were prospecting to begin with via the duo and taking it in turns to fumble and not get a rhythm, so we decided to split up and try our luck alone. I soon realised that the trout would rise to the dry on occasions but they were fast and wily, so I abandoned the dropper and started using some recently tied Elk Hair Caddis flies (as the step by step in the recent Fly Dressing Guild magazine) but spotting this mottled dry in dark and dingy conditions was difficult and I missed far too many. To remedy this I switched to a high vis Mini-Klink; a small fly with a sharp upturned point, I like to tie them on a #18 emerger hook, almost like a buzzer but hanging under a bushy hackle and adorned with a good sized post to help the angler spot it. It can be safely described as a caricature of a fly, rather than an imitation and definitely not one for historians or purists, this philosophy is of course fine in it’s place but I wasn’t in the mood for purism. The dappled balmy sunlight we’d expected didn’t comply with the late summer stereotype of our dreams, so I wasn’t in the mood to get all nostalgic and just wanted to outwit a few fish. This fly did exactly that and I managed to catch a few to keep the pride in tact, even if there were no Monnow monsters.
Despite all my moaning I should explain that we did manage to make the best of it though; a warm shower at the camp-site realigned the senses and once we were dry and changed into civvies, a sociable night was had in the pub, chatting with locals and farmers, some of whom owned some of the roving beats. The Butty Bach Pie held up the standard as the solid version of the liquid variant and I can recommend it highly … we almost ended up staying too long but managed to bolt for the door around midnight when it was left ajar (… well perhaps it was more of a fast wobble than a dash though). The tents had held up fine and we made it through the storm with a good night’s sleep.
Waking at a reasonable hour the next morning we were treated to better skies and a dry freshness in the air, which appeared hopeful … but upon inspection the river passing the camp-site was unfortunately looking like Willy Wonka had tampered with it. This put us in a quandary, all the locals we grilled about the weather the night before were adamant that things were going to get worse on the Saturday, so going against our usual never say die attitude, not fancying putting on wet wading kit again for further punishment, we put our wise heads on for a change and headed for home.
Not the greatest of outcomes, we had hoped for better on this trip but it was fun anyway; the Monnow Social was rained off earlier in the year and so were a few other planned visits … the 2012 season has been described as ‘the bidet year’ by some of the local fly-fisher folk and that pretty much says it all … we’ll just have to sigh and say ‘that’s fishing’, whilst hopefully looking forward to improved conditions next year. Looking on the bright side, all the wet weather has most likely been good for the rivers and fish so we shouldn’t complain too much.
Tight lines, Splash
I had the pleasure of meeting Tony Mair today, an amiable fellow and inspiring explorative type; a man who exudes enthusiasm as soon as you meet him … unfortunately I couldn’t fish with him today but the river is best tackled on your own, so this was not such a bad thing.
Tony had made a most generous winning bid for a day on the Little River Avon in the Wild Trout Trust’s annual auction several months ago and was due to visit earlier in the year but unfortunately had to postpone due to bad weather and high water.
The need to reorganise his visit had niggled away at the back of my mind for some time; I was a little concerned as he was running out of trout season and I hadn’t heard from him for a while, so when he e-mailed me a short while ago to arrange a late season slot I was pleased he had made contact and eager to ensure he had a good visit. We managed to get the paperwork and permissions in order (to cover club records and insurances etc.) and arranged to meet for a quick chat over breakfast in Tortworth Estate Farm Shop Cafe; it didn’t take long to cover parking, access and safety issues whilst prodding at an OS map and then we were out on the road.
I pointed him at a few likely spots in a very hasty two car convoy tour, waving my arm out of the car window in a random way … this was probably just about enough to get orientated but as Tony is an experienced fellow now, with all his travelling, the impromptu disorganised dash around, following a man who was simply winging it, didn’t really matter. I left him near the access to Cascades on the old A38 road bridge with a glint in his eye and the freedom to roam our lovely local river with none of the hindrances that usually apply with guest tickets. The management group and Berkeley Estate had agreed to make him a full member for the day to allow him more scope and assist with this part of his challenge. Tony is working his way around every county, aiming to catch a trout in each one and hasn’t got many left to do, so I was keen to see him do well (his blog can be seen here: http://afishermansjourney.com/about/ ).
Our little river can be fickle at times, some days it just doesn’t play ball, I do hope it worked out OK? … I await to hear how it went and wish Tony the best of luck for this visit and for the completion of his quest!
Tight Lines, Splash
PS – please see update comments below.