Wild brown trout fishing among the rocks in Wales

June 21, 2013 at 11:54 pm

In one of my other lives as the owner of a classic MGB sports car, a long weekend had been booked by my club at a remote Bed and Breakfast on a farm in mid Wales, from where motoring tours were arranged. Not wishing to miss out on the chance to fish one of the wild streams in the area, I squeezed my brook  rod and a bag of bits into the small boot, before heading west on the 200 mile journey.

The farm had a small river along it’s border and with a couple of hours to spare on the last day, I went down the valley to investigate, rod in hand, wearing borrowed wellies.

This was a typical mountain stream, a complete contrast to the lazy south of  England chalk streams I usually fish these days, but I cut my fly fishing teeth on the streams of Devon, the Isle of Man, Wales and Scotland and I knew that any deep pocket, or pool would have small brown trout in residence. Walking up the valley bluebells were still in full bloom, testament to the hard Welsh winter this year.

The fun of these rivers is discovering the holding spots and wading up amongst the rocks, the best way to find them. Traditionally two flies are used, a buoyant “bob” fly as an indicator and a small down winged, wet fly on the point, fished downstream, but I opted for a small Hares Ear nymph fished upstream to start. With any new water, there is always that feeling of doubt, “are there fish here, or not?” I had just moved up to a run below a fall of water, when I got my answer. Flicked into the boil, the line drifted back, then shot forward as a bundle of energy made off with the nymph and came off seconds later. My appetite whetted, I tried again and missed another take. Another pool and a deep run with an eddy hard against the rocks.  The nymph bounced off  the bank, the nymph sank in the eddy, with the line going in the opposite direction, then moved upstream, a lift and a 7 inch trout was zooming among the rocks.

I’d picked my way upstream, in and out of the river for maybe a quarter of a mile before I saw THE pool. It was formed above a series of small waterfalls, the river forcing through two large rocks, scouring out a channel four feet deep and opening out to a pool twenty feet long, which was up to three feet deep in places. The surface was covered in clouds of small flies, while large crane flies bobbed up and down in a courtship dance. Small trout were splashing on the top and I changed flies to a tiny buoyant Klinkhammer, but could not get it onto the pool due to overhanging trees and a gusting wind blowing down the valley. After several position changes, I backtracked down the river to a stony beach, then made my way through the virgin undergrowth, up to one of the rocks at the head of the pool and made myself comfortable. From here I had a view down the pool and could see, against another rock, an eddy with a half pound trout sitting above it’s outlet. For this river, he was probably the king of the pool, occasionally rising in a swirl, to suck in flies trapped in the surface of the eddy.

Several attempts to land the Klinhammer within range of this fish failed miserably, the trees and wind adding to the complication, but now another problem raised it’s head. Without warning I was engulfed by a cloud of minute midges, swarming over my hands and face. I could feel them before I could see them, semi transparent dots, like oil clinging to my skin, which I wiped away with my hands. My hood was pulled over my cap and my sleeves over my wrists, but still they swarmed. I changed my fly to a heavy nymph to get down to the fish at the tail of the pool, but my concentration was going fast and my first take raised a trout to the surface to be lost. At this point I was spending more time thinking about the midges, than fishing, when the rod top rattled, bent over and I was playing a better trout, which took refuge beneath the rock I was sitting on. Bringing this beautiful wild trout through the foaming river to the net, made me briefly forget my agony and once unhooked and released, I had one thought, get out of there quick.

Once on the move again, the swarm was gone, but my hands were covered in red dots and once I returned to the farm, could see that my eyes were ringed with red. The farmer, who had lent me the boots, now held up a bottle of midge repellent with a knowing look that said “fancy going out fishing without putting on midge repellent” We do not get midges like it in southern England, my only other experience being when fishing a similar stream in Michigan, but they were full blown mosquitos and looked dangerous, not these micro blood suckers. The post script to this tale, is that five days after being bitten, my hands, arms and face are still covered in raised welts, which itched to the point of burning for days and resisted every remedy known to science.