Thursday, 18 April 2013

New Season's Greetings - More River Usk, April 2013

There was much excitement on my part as I knew weeks ago that two guests would be coming to fish the Usk and, as I counted down, the Met Office App on my phone was under regular scrutiny. As described in my previous entry, it rained heavily on Wednesday afternoon, and for most of the night, so when I awoke to find that the river level had barely risen, it felt like Christmas morning.

Llanover, Llanover Estate - Thursday 11th April
At 9.30am, Pete and I met river keeper (Tim) at Llanover Church Hall and, after a brief tour of the top of the beat, we were fishing. There was the occasional oncer rising to midges, but we agreed that nymphing would be the most effective method until the anticipated large dark olive (LDO) hatch.

As on the previous weekend, the fishing was slow for the first hour but I managed to briefly connect with two very slow, deep takes. A move to a fast run, that deepened into a backwater on the far side, produced another slow offer and the first fish, a fat 14 incher. It fell to a size 12, 3.5mm nickel bead, HE jig that I loosely copied from Terry Bromwell. I was relieved to land the fish early in the day as I hadn't previously fished with Pete and was keen to show what the river had to offer (and that I wasn’t a numpty).
This is a serious business

I cast again into the same spot and hooked and landed another, slightly smaller fish. In this type of run I suspected that the fish may be lined up, perhaps with larger fish in front, and so called Pete over. I looked on appreciatively as, on his third or fourth cast, a large fish slowly took his PTN fished on the dropper. The river’s gift to Pete measured 17 inches and kicked very hard back into its lie, before we had the chance of a good photograph. No matter, Pete had caught his largest Usk trout, as denoted by our wide grins.
 Pete's fish being netted

Later in the day there was a good hatch of LDOs and the fish responded accordingly. We had a few hours of dry fly action that Pete compared to a mayfly hatch on a chalk stream. Pete is great company and a skilled angler who exudes contagious enthusiasm, not that it was needed today. Over the session (much of which Pete spent taking photographs) we returned approximately 17 fish between us with over half falling to LDO dun imitations.

Trying to look effective

Covering a fish
On the way home, I stopped at The Clytha Arms to meet my friend James, who had helped arrange our session on the exclusive beat. I have to admit that I was tempted to buy him a half.

For Pete's version of events see Issue 17, Eat, Sleep, Fish.

Bakers, Gwent AnglingSociety – Sunday 14th April
Morgan arrived at 5.00pm on the following wet Saturday. I had been tying flies since after breakfast and was looking forward to trying them the following day. But, before we could go fishing we needed to catch up and, as such, were sinking our first pints of HPA in the Black Bear by 7.00pm. My long-suffering wife had ‘volunteered’ to drive and a couple of pints later we went into Usk for a meal, and a few more.

The next day, it was with two expensive hangovers that we found ourselves on the river. It had rained for much of the night, with long spells forecast for the rest of the day. If Morgan hadn't visited I probably wouldn't have fished the rising river. As he is a fisherman whose skills and attitude I learn from and, over the course of a day regales many humourous anecdotes, I was keen to stay out for as long as possible.    
By 12.00 the water was high and colouring slightly, and Morgan had been snapped by a salmon that thrashed around furiously on the surface after breaking off his nymph. Had the occasional fish not started to rise to sparse flurries of LDOs and (possibly) the occasional March Brown, we would have left.
We walked the banks looking for rising fish but, as the river had become treacherous, none were within reach. When we finally found one that was, it looked like a very good fish. Morgan was changing his set up and so, ever the gentleman, I cast a horizontal slack line with a split thread CDC quill dun on the end.
The fish rose and I tightened with the sound of Morgan’s, ‘Good fish!’ ringing in my ears. I was using a meaty #4-5 weight, but this trout wouldn't be bullied and it was three or four minutes before I slid the net beneath the 19 inch beauty. After a very quick snap on Morgan’s phone it was off like a rocket (under the near bank in the spate conditions).
Dry fly fishing in the rain
We found no more rising fish within reach and left by 3.30pm. Later I noted that the gauge had been at 1.2m, a level which I would normally deem too high for salmon fishing.

Mixed blessings
As I write this, I am on the train travelling back from a meeting on Anglesey. This morning, on the outward journey, I passed over the bottom of the Llanover beat at the same time we were tackling up exactly a week ago. What a difference a week makes!

I have a day off tomorrow and, conditions allowing, will fish the Usk at the Mardy Beat, MTAA with Dan Popp. I’ve not seen Dan yet this season and am looking forward to catching up.
It also looks likely that we shall be completing on our first house tomorrow. This house is less than half a mile from the Usk, but requires a fair bit of work (and on a tight budget) – a mixed blessing indeed.


Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Starting Again - Early Season River Usk 2013

As many of you will have noticed, weather conditions for the first few weeks of the season were far from ideal. Snow melt, freezing temperatures and an easterly blast ensured a slow start on the Usk.

The view from the river last Saturday

On the first Friday in April things (including the trout) were looking up and I used my dinner hour to walk the dog down the river in Usk town (a beat five minutes from where we live). The beat is available as a day ticket water for £15 from the legendary Sweet's Tackle Shop. If Jean isn't there she asks that you post the money through the door in an envelope!

When I arrived a 1.30pm, the LDO hatch had already commenced in earnest and on a sheltered part of the beat, I spotted a lone angler tackling up. As I stood above him on the path, I noticed many dimpled rises on the near side of the main flow. The fisherman quickly threaded his rod, tied on his fly and (as my heart sank) proceeded to wade through the middle of the surface feeding trout!
I returned home excited as the forecast for the next day was good and I was confident of some dry fly action.
By 1.00pm the air had warmed and there were good numbers of fish taking LDO duns and emergers. I had already caught two on nymphs but by then was targeting surface feeders with a 10ft #4 rod and a quill dun pattern (with 3 CDC plumes tied backwards, see my last entry). My blood was up as I was within sight of five feeding fish rising at less than one minute intervals.

At a guess, a fish tight to the opposite bank looked to be the largest of them and was taking duns with barely a ripple. I first targeted the smaller fish downstream and picked off three, landing two (including the 16 inch fish below) and losing one.
The largest fish of the day (landed)
I then moved slightly upstream and cast to the large fish. Three attempts and nothing. On the third, and to rub it in, the fish rose just after my fly had passed. My arm twitched and I was glad I didn't strike and spook my target.
It was time for a change. I attached a more delicate split thread CDC quill dun (see my last entry) to my 15 foot tapered leader and as I looked up, the fish rose again. I waited 30 seconds or so and, when the wind had abated, cast as intended. The fish rose, I tightened, and the water erupted.
What followed involved a sudden long run, a reel overwind, the mother of all snags and a steady stream of loud and sustained swearing. I conservatively estimate the fish was over 18 inches - another one to haunt me.

A few more were caught but, by 15.00, the hatch had abated and I went back to fishing the nymph. For an hour I fished fruitlessly, until two canoeists came down river.
I am not instinctively a busy body or someone that likes to spoil the fun of others, but they shouldn't have been there, and these were low water conditions, so I decided to take a few pictures of them to send to MTAA and GAS. One canoeist in particular did not take kindly to this -I later learned that a fellow angler up river had made them get out and carry the canoes around him, and so they were already ratty by the time they reached me- cue more swearing.
'You can't take my ****ing photo!'

It was colder than the previous day and I needed to find a sheltered spot. I couldn't and so was surprised when, from 12.30 the fish started showing and I caught four fish between 10 and 12 inches on a jingler. I then decided to experiment with different patterns. 
In the following 90 minutes I hooked fish using a parachute emerger, two kinds of CDC quill dun, a quill CDC emerger and a flash back HE nymph fished downstream. When I covered fish feeding hard with the correct presentation I received a positive response, providing further evidence presentation is more important than pattern.
Baker's brown trout, suprisingly plump for the time of year
Next sessions
As I write it is raining steadily. While the river would certainly benefit from a slug of water, I am due to be fishing Llanover with Pete tomorrow and then Baker's with Morgan on Sunday, both are travelling to fish here and these sessions are under threat.  
Tim, the river keeper at Llanover, assures me that, 'At this time of year the fish like a good bit of colour'. Who am I to argue with experience and local knowledge? I'll be out tomorrow.