Category Archives: Friends

Weeeeeed!

During Saturday’s excursion with Justin & Neil I noticed a few patches of Himalayan Balsam just coming into flower – it won’t be long now until they start to spread their evil seeds.  Each plant will produce around 2500 explosive seeds that will rapidly colonise previously unaffected ground – growing to over 2 meters tall and out-competing the native plants, spelling doom & disaster for the dependent wildlife and leaving acres of bare earth after the first frosts which will end up on the spawning gravels after the first spate of the winter.  We hand-pulled several hundred plants, making sure to break them below the first node to prevent them re-sprouting.

I spoke to a passer-by who poured scorn on our efforts, deeming the effort to be like that of sisyphus rolling his rock to the top of the mountain, only to see it roll back down again and I guess, many would agree.

Charfield Angling Association has, this year, started an ambitious program to control, if not eradicate this invasive, non-native pest after seeing the fantastic progress made by the Monnow Rivers Association’s ‘Going Native’ project which aims to rid an entire catchment of Himalayan Balsam, Japanese Knotweed, Giant Hogweed and American Mink.  So far this year they have treated an astonishing 48kms of the catchment and this will soon be followed up by working parties hand-pulling anything that was missed by the spraying teams.  If anyone has any doubts that total eradication can be achieved I would strongly suggest that they contact the MRA here – I’m sure they will be pleased to offer advise and encouragement.


And the winner is!

Justin.

As the winner of the ‘Day on the Little River Avon’ lot in the Monnow Rivers Association auction he got to spend a day in the dubious company of Neil and I.

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Many fish caught.  Much Balsam pulled; and I was reminded of what a lovely little river this is.


Wet Weekend

Neil has some great ideas.  On Thursday I had a message saying he was taking the van down to the Monnow to camp for the weekend.  He’s taking Ollie & Shane [splendid fellows both], and that I was welcome to join them if I wish.  I had no hesitation in accepting.

It’s 10:30, Friday morning.  My van is packed.  I’m sitting in my conservatory trying to hear the TV [Paul Young – Hooked on Fishing, Golden Piranha in Argentina] over the noise of the rain bouncing off the roof.  The gutters are over-flowing, the bottom of the garden is starting to flood and there has just been an almighty clap of thunder.

If the weather on the Brecon Beacons is anything like it is here we’ll be more likely to catch Piranha than trout this weekend.


There and back again

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.

Bongo and Awning - Braan

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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.

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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.

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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.


Heading North

It started out as a half-assed plan, hatched during a closed season beer & bullshit evening with Neil [he of the jammy bugger smile].  Far too much bullshit and way too much beer, in fact, so much beer that I had to be reminded that a plan had bee hatched at all!

This was a very long time ago – a couple of seasons at least.  Since then we have been holding regular Strategy Planning Meetings in the same pub where the hatching first happened, with the result that asolutely nothing has been planned.  More bullshit, more beer.

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Caption Competition

Taken on the opening evening of the Monnow Social 2007 – Anyone want to hazard a guess at what this sagacious looking lot are saying?

Only a few days until we have to do it all over again 🙂


Progress

I received this picture from Bob this morning.  I’m amazed at how quickly this project is progressing.


New Boo!

There’s a little bit of alchemy going on in Michigan.  Bob is busy turning grass stalks into objects of beauty and soul.

The blank in the centre is a Cattenach 6632 taper that has a Trans-Atlantic journey ahead of it.  Mine.  Mine  Mine!!!


Passing the time

Here I am again. Middle of the night and I’m baby-sitting a database migration – 70 gigabytes of ones and zeros moving silently from Frankfurt to Hamburg. I’ve done all I can; now I have to watch and wait, just in case there’s a problem – when this is done and the Germans have got their very organised act together I’ll have one less thing to worry about. It’ll be theirs – no more come-backs, no more call-outs. Just one more step on the way to working myself out of a job. I usually have a side-kick to chat to when I do this sort of thing but the powers that be have decided that he’ll be needed in the morning to rectify any mistakes I make tonight. Hmm – I’ve been doing this kinda stuff every week for the last 10 years and if there are any mistakes they won’t be mine.

The forums are full of the same old, same old questions and the blogs are fairly static. Gareth reminds me that there are 11 days, 21 hours, 55 minutes and 21 seconds until the opening of the Trout season on the River Taff – thanks Gareth; that really helps at a time like this 🙂 and I see that Warren has stopped posting on Water Lines for some mysterious reason – shame, that was shaping up to be a very enjoyable and educational read. I wonder if I could persuade him to contribute here?….

Masochism dictates that I read over some of my old posts and I’m appalled at some of my typos and grammatical errors so I spend a while mending my mistakes and try to remember the true spirit of the experience that lead me to write them in the first place – then I stumble across The Cruelty of Chronos which brings a tear to this crusty, cynical old eye and I truely remember what fishing is all about.

I wander out on to the patio for a smoke and I see the fog, clinging, freezing to the branches of the old Crab-Apple. I’m struck by the silence and reminded that my recent hopes of an early end to winter are mis-placed and the glory days of May are way down the road in an uncertain future. I remember soft nights like this in far from happy times in far away places when fear was an unexpected noise and relief was the realisation that nature had wandered closer than is good for any creature of the night; and I remember the glorious Hebridean nights in the company of friends and Sherry Spinners and taking a wild Brownie on the dry at midnight on Cuckoo Loch.

It’s 03:15 and I’m bored – much more bored than you are, reading this – and my state of the art software tells me there are 2 hours and 51 endless minutes before I can even contemplate going to bed so, I’ll leave you knowing that this post is almost as pointless as my work here tonight.

See you on the dole queue [apologies Tom]


Queue jumping

This is what happens when a certain someone attempts to by-pass the selection process for the Monnow Social…

I presume that I can by-pass this unseemly scramble for places and that my honorary gold invitation is en route. The Royal Suite at Alltyrynys also needs to be reserved in case I do decide to bestow on you the privilege of my presence. The rest of you serfs can wallow in the mud of your pikey camp.

And the reply from Dave….

Well now, it so happens that I received the following letter from the manager of the Alltyrynys Hotel this very morning:

“Dear Mr Smith
Many thanks for your recent enquiry as to the availability of The Royal Suite for your friends proposed fishing trip in May. I am happy to confirm that the suite is indeed available for the full duration of the desired period and that it will be our complete pleasure to once again host your friend; his diverse tastes and unusual appetites provide a challenge that all our staff look forward to with relish.

My staff and I have given due consideration to the list of ‘little details’ that your friend wishes us to attend to, and whilst they are as diverse as ever, we will be doing our level best to meet them fully, legislation permitting. Whilst most can be met without fuss, there are one or two areas in which we need further guidance.

  1. We were all truly sorry to hear of your friend’s recent sight troubles, but this has given us considerably more scope in the task of selecting his ‘Special’ Chamberpot Maids. These girls make up with fitness and enthusiasm what they perhaps lack in physical appearance; although as you point out, he will not notice the difference in age and complexion.
  2. In a similar vein to the above, we have had limited success in meeting his requirements for – and I quote – “Well furred companion”. I am afraid that it is now the common practise amongst ladies of Eastern European extraction to shave themselves thoroughly, except of course for that little inch or three between the eyebrows – though I believe some Welshmen grow up finding this attractive on account of their mothers.
  3. With regard to the extra fittings and fixtures in the bedroom. The local carpenter has examined the sketches your friend kindly sent to us but informs me that such alterations would not only be unsuitable for an antique four poster bed, but would also contravene animal welfare legislation.
  4. On the plus side, on hearing of your friends visit, and his special needs, the well known company Stannah have offered the use of one of their portable applicances for the duration of his stay. There is no fee attached this service, merely a hopeful request that your friend’s golden countenance will grace the pages of their catalogue in future years.
  5. Finally, we at The Alltyrynys appreciate the need for discretion, and given the nature of your friend’s previous exploits during his stays in this area, we certainly appreciate the need for anonymity on his part. However we find this year’s choice of nom de guerre, Mr Ivor Fatcock to be neither amusing nor intelligent. Having spoken with Truda and Olga, whom your friend will remember well no doubt, they have suggested that he provides a “somewhat less ironic” pseudonym.

As ever we seek to cater for all needs, and if any of the above should cause anxiety or disappointment to your friend, then I can recommend a thoroughly good campsite at Longtown, where I understand a group of highly personable young men will be staying. Should you or your friend need furhter clarification of arrangements, then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best Regards
Sir James Tolerance-Stretcher
Manager
The Alltyrynnys Hotel


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