Originally posted 02 September 2006
Dave & I have been promising ourselves a day on the Monnow for a long time but work & family commitments have constantly conspired against us. Yesterday we finally managed to get our collective acts together & we met at the Bell Inn at Skenfrith. Dave had graciously left the choice of venue to me & I had a hankering to fish the Malt House beat; the problem being that I had no idea of what river conditions were like so I decided to wait and take a look at the river before making a decision.
Standing on the bridge by the pub I could see that the river was low, slow & clear but I reckoned that there was enough promise in the scene to provide for an interesting, if challenging day. I had Bill Price’s number with me so I decided to call to see if he could accommodate a couple of rods for the day at the Malt House – no mobile signal so I drove back towards Ross on Wye & parked in a lay-by to make the call. I got a nice clear ringing tone for a few seconds – then silence. I tried again – same result. Back in the village I tried from the call box but once again the call failed. It was then that I remembered seeing BT engineers digging up the road a little way out of the village. It’s good to talk!
I made enquiries in the pub & got directions to Bill’s place. I was drinking tea in the car park when Dave arrived in a fine example of British Leyland’s finest – a beautiful MG. Not at all like the suitably agricultural looking Discovery that I had previously seen him drive. After catching up on work & family stuff we drove of in search of the illusive Mr. Price. When we arrived at the farm there was no sign of life & no amount of knocking or hallooing could raise a response. Lesson learned – if you are going to fish Day Ticket waters, get your local knowledge in advance & make arrangements at least a day beforehand.
Dave kindly offered to take me up to a stretch that he fishes regularly; about a 10 minute drive away; on arrival I saw the now famous sign ‘This Bridge Is Moving’. Having read about the sign on The Fly Fishing Forum I was expecting a discrete, tasteful notice. Boy was I wrong! 4 inch high letters burned into planks barring the way leaves no room for misunderstanding & when I saw the bridge from water level I could see why the sign needs to be so brazen. The current has undermined the footings of the concrete central pillar & it is leaning at a very precarious angle. It won’t survive the winter.
Having stowed the beer amongst some submerged roots we headed off downstream, marking the fishy looking spots as we went. In places, the river was shockingly low & this, coupled with a bright blue cloudless sky did nothing to raise our expectations; however, there were a few shady, deeper runs that looked promising.
We fished turn and turn about. I had a PTN under a strike indicator & Dave was fishing a PTN under a CDC Caddis indicator fly. Whilst not much was rising & there was no surface activity Dave did get a few half-hearted offers to his indicator.
It was a pleasure to be able to free my arms and actually cast, rather than the short-range flicks I’m obliged to use on my own small river but, just as work expands to fill the time available to it, back casts extend to fill the free space behind you – plus 1 foot!
Eventually we approached a run of deeper water under some Sally & Hornbeam where there were a few intermittent, splashy rises. As I had had no action on the nymph I tied on a yellow klink over an olive nymph – a technique I have not seriously tried before. We were both rewarded with lightening fast rise after rise. It seemed that no matter how clumsy my presentation, the fish were determined to have sport with us [I recall the words ‘taking the p*ss’ being mentioned several times]. After one serious rise, which I should have taken but missed I heard ‘God save the Queen’ in my left ear & I knew I was striking too fast. Next cast brought another serious rise & I managed ‘God save the…’ before my excitement got the better of me & lifted into a lovely Grayling of about a pound and a half. For me, that is a spectacular fish.
I know that Dave took several fish but to be honest I wasn’t keeping count and I can’t remember who took what and when. For me, the day was all about being in spectacular scenery, doing the thing that I love, in exceptional company. Though I hate the word, I believe this is what they call the Craic – if it is then Dave is the master of it.
A little later my host had to leave but decided on ‘just one more cast’. Wouldn’t you know it; he bent into what was probably the best fish of the day. I caught a brief glimpse of it as it kited across the current, just sub surface a few feet away from me. Unfortunately, like a lot of fish that day, it hadn’t read the script and, after a few seconds it spat the fly leaving a dejected Dave to leave the scene on a low note.
I fished on for a while. As I was having trouble seeing the klink and on the basis that fish were probably taking fallen terrestrials I tied on the most ridiculous fly in my box – a size 10 Olive Hopper – and cast a little upstream from where Dave had lost his final Brownie. It drifted drag free towards some low overhanging Alder when it was literally mugged by a very hungry brown, coming head & shoulders out of the water, so vicious was the take. It came to hand after a short but spectacular fight, during which he became airborne, allowing me a spectacular view of this well muscled, beautifully coloured Monnow fish [is it just me or are brownies getting more acrobatic & less inclined to go deep?].
I wandered back towards the car, casting occasionally but not really caring. I was sated. I picked up the untouched beer, packed up & drove home, a happy man.