Early Saturday saw us loaded and northbound to our first stop, the Wild Trout Trust bash in Derbyshire. Some fascinating talks on stocking policies, gene pools and the Riverfly Project and a chance to catch up with some old friends was followed by a guided walk of the rivers Bradford and Lathkill. I think everyone was eager to get out on the river and get out of the most uncomfortable chairs a behind has ever had to endure 🙂
The river walk was designed to explain the habitat improvements made in order to support the decision to stop stocking in 2005 [?]. Whilst this was educational, what everyone was spellbound by were the profusion of wild browns and rainbows lazily finning and confidently taking the profusion of aquatic flies drifting over them. Simply mouth-watering.
After an overnight stay in the Peak District and an early morning northward dash, we set up camp about 10 yards from the River Braan.
The rest of the day was spent in reconnaissance, taking in the breath taking scenery and being totally blown away by the amount of fish-able water within easy travelling distance from our base, the sheer size of some causing comments like the one from the passenger seat as we drove over the Tay bridge in Pitlochry, ‘Feck me! It’s the English Channel!’
Having had our appetites well and truely whetted we were more than ready to fish on Monday. At the reccommendation of the guy in the tackle shop in Pitlochry, we headed for the Tummel, just below Coronation Bridge.
For all other purposes the weather was magnificent. Hot, cloudless blue skies, no wind. Needless to say, this was somewhat less than ideal for fishing a strange river. Very hard work but at least we caught fish and got rid of the yips. I hear that the World Fly Fishing Championships will be held on the same stretch of water later this week – I hope they have more joy than we did.
Fishing continued in the same vein under a mercilessly cloudless blue sky for the next few days. Plenty of fly life in the air but very little on the water and no consistent ‘risers’. Fishing into the darkness with very little success, frustration building, the decision was made to de-camp to the Upper Clyde.
We fared no better here, a few small fish caught, more lost, and the sight of a monsterous brownie hoovering up fry was our total return for a hard day fishing against the odds. Neil claims to have had a huge pike brush by his leg in a pool at the tail of a riffle but, by then I think the sun had got to him [or me] 🙂
The following morning we were racing south, heading for home waters. We stopped by the Annan for a couple of hours, just in case things were better there – they weren’t.
A bath, a decent meal and a very surprised wife set me up for the following day. I met Neil at Waterloo Bridge on the Monnow where, apparently things had been tough too but, shortly after I arrived it started to rain. Would this be what the river needed to freshen things up a bit? Absolutely!
We both took fish. Good, wild fish. And last knockings found me in a long shallow stretch with a decent run under some low over-hanging branches. There were rises so subtle as to be almost undetectable. I swear the surface remained unbroken while the trout were sucking down flies from a few inches down. Fly disappears, wait a few seconds and tighten – fish on!
I took four good fish out of that short section, the last being the fish of the day and possibly my fish of the season, a touch over 16 inches.
So we were back. Older certainly, wiser maybe, more appreciative of just how good the Monnow is – absolutely. Would I do it again? Yes. Would I do it with Neil again? In a heartbeat. I think it’s time for more beer & bullshit.