Welcome to Cheltenham & Gloucester Fly Dressers Guild. We meet at the Hucclecote Community Centre GL3 3RT on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays every month at 8pm.
Have we got you interested? Then drop in and visit us! We'll look forward to seeing you.
The forthcoming programme is:
A red-letter day and other reflections
They say every dog has his day but for me, when it comes to fishing, those days are rare indeed; I am more fishing Chihuahua than fishing Rottweiler. A few Tuesdays ago, on the Monnow my luck changed for an all too brief period of time.
I was fishing in the company of Steve Cole who, as well as being an excellent fisherman and fly tyer, is a thoughtful and generous fishing companion. I am indebted to Mike, an esteemed member of this branch of the Guild, for introducing me to Steve. The last time I took Steve to fish on my "home" water close to Grosmont, he effortlessly out-fished me. I was expecting no less of a drubbing for our more recent meeting which was to take place further downstream in the delightfully quiet valley that lies just over the hill from Skenfrith. This time, against all sensible expectations, I caught 12 fish to his 7 but the day will live longer in my memory because of the heft of one of those fish. How I came to catch that fish and its smaller companions has, like pretty much every event in life, a journey attached to it.
In the early 1990s, I joined the ranks of a large international law firm. There I met a lawyer who was not only both professionally talented and diligent but who was also clearly obsessive about fly fishing. To save his blushes, I will call him "John" (which is a remarkable coincidence as that also happens to be his real name). When we first met, John was a member of the Salisbury & District club and spent his weekends staying in B & B's and guesthouses in and around Salisbury and Wilton. At that time, I was very definitely not a fisherman and, like most of us who worked with John, found the seriousness of his passion to be more than a little odd. We eventually lost touch when I moved to another firm and then later left London altogether to work in Birmingham. When I re-met John many years later, I had just started to fly fish. By that time, John's career had taken off in the way most of us would have predicted; whilst still a member of SADAC, he had joined an historic and exclusive club on the Wylye and exchanged his rented rooms for a delightful cottage in an equally lovely village located near the River Nadder, west of Wilton.
Many friends have helped me on my fishing journey. In the same way that two (Philip and William) have helped me to become a semi-competent salmon fisher, I will always be indebted to John for the way he nurtured my interest in fly fishing for river trout. He regularly asked me to stay in the cottage and fish the Wylye as his guest. To begin with, this proved as productive (and humiliating) as asking someone who can barely kick a football to turn out for England against Brazil at Wembley stadium. In those early days, when no brown trout would even inspect my unworthy offerings, I was eternally grateful to the odd grayling which would take pity on me. As a result, whist many trout purists sneer at the grayling, they will always have a special place in my affections. On those visits, I learned much from John; the need to wade as stealthily as possible, the need to use long leaders for spooky fish and his thoughts on fly choice (about which, more below). Just watching him going about his work methodically, like a large lethal heron, was an education in itself. I came to love the Wylye and it remains the chalk stream I would choose above all others.
Although I love the Wylye, the Avon, as it flows gently south and crystal clear through Wiltshire, runs it a close second but for very different reasons. I was born in Salisbury and lived there until I went nervously to university aged 18. My father liked nothing more than spending warm spring and summer evenings in the beer gardens of various local pubs and only many years later did I notice a common theme; the proximity of running water. He loved a particular pub in the Woodford valley where, as a boy, I would stand next to him on a bridge over the river as he pointed out the stealthy trout. Those fish etched themselves more deeply in my subconscious that I could have realised as a child. I was fascinated by how those nearly invisible creatures were the masters of their environment, hovering virtually stationary above the pale gravel until, with the merest flick of their tails, they would account for some hapless insect above or below the polished surface of the water.
As I grew taller, I found that I could reach an old fishing rod hung high on a few nails driven into the wall of our garage. I was fascinated by the impossibly long and whippy rod which was a lovely milky pale green colour which I now know to have been fibreglass. Attached to it was a reel and on that reel was a strange line that crumbled and snapped as I played with it; silk lines are made neither to withstand damp filled neglect nor the uncaring hands of a child. Only many years later, after my father had died, did my mother explain to me that he was a keen fly fisherman whist stationed in Europe but felt that river fishing in Wiltshire was too exclusive and expensive on a retired army sergeant's pension. I played happily with his rod and reel as a child but now, as an aging fisherman, I find the thought of him hanging those things up never to be used again unbearably poignant. In the same way that I wish I could now own the black, left-hand drive Mercedes that he bought in 1960, allegedly fresh off the production line, I wish I still had that rod and reel. All were scrapped. What was not lost is the interest in nature, and, in particular rivers, that he kindled within me.
All of which takes us back to my recent day on the Monnow and "that fish". Like so many of us who fish, I spend too much time fretting about which fly to tie on. I lose trust too quickly in the chosen fly and I spend far too long looking at catalogues and websites in the hope that some Holy Grail of the fly world will appear to me in a mystical and revelatory fashion. John takes a far more sensible, simple and effective approach to fly choice. If fishing dries, he turns to comparaduns or Davy's sedges. On the rare occasions that trout won't play and he needs a nymph, it will be a PTN, a Copper John or, in recent years, the alluringly purple Duracell. But when the Mayflies hatch, dance in the trees and die on the river's surface to float away like so many thousand tiny Ladies of Shalott, there is one fly, and one only for John; the French Partridge. John creates his own for the Wylye; a drabber version of the shop sold flies. I have a few of his but they are now impossibly trout eaten specimens, so for the Monnow I tied on one which I had purchased during a "work trip" to London. Ignoring a splashy riser under an over-hanging bush, partly because I suspected it would be small and partly because it would have needed a cast far exceeding anything I could muster, I focused on a confident "sippy" rise a couple of feet below. Unusually, my first cast was pretty much spot on and I tweaked the landed fly a couple of times to give it some life. The French Partridge disappeared almost immediately and after what seemed like an eternity, I netted a very angry, powerfully built wild brown trout of nineteen and a half inches; a big fish for the Monnow and comfortably the largest I have caught on that river. Another debt owed to John.
In the days since, I have occasionally felt in danger of feeling rather smug. When I do, I hear the voice of an old friend whose favourite saying is "even a broken clock is right twice a day". I may be a broken clock but, for now, I'm a happy one.
Fishing the River Irfon “Melyn-Cildu” Beat – 18 March 2022
The River Irfon, especially the upper Irfon, is renowned for its quality Grayling fishing, along with its wrap around stunning scenery.
This beat Melyn-Cildu, is well off the beaten track and lies between the Cammarch Hotel higher beat and the Colonel Beat. Access is off the single-track road between Llangammarch Wells and Llanwrtyd Wells, with the Sennybridge Training Artillery range on one side of the valley and the beginning of the Irfon Forest hills on the other side. The peace is only broken by the Artillery shells going off, which you get used to very quickly.
I was joined by Tony Mitchell. I think he is now getting used to off-route locations and appears to be enjoying them. The beat is only a short walk from the car park, across the railway line and through the field to the river - easy access. The water level was normal and was gin clear with a steady current. In certain places, like most of the Irfon, the bedrock slabs were very slippery, in fact suicidal without a wading stick, but the rest was a mixture of sand, gravel and stones. The beat is a mixture of single and double bank fishing; in all about a mile of flats, gutters, fast runs and deep pools and has a fishing limit of only 3 rods a day.
Tony went left and I went right clad with a beat map and arranged to meet back for lunch three hours on. Well, I waded, I bank fished, hid in the bushes, sat on the bank and watched the water. No sign of any movement on the water or in it at all, and even with the sun out nothing coming off the water.
I fished my 7ft rod 4lb line, tried nymphs, gold head, sedges and dry flies. Point and one dropper was my set up on 7ft of tippet.
Back at lunch Tony had the same story, although he was missing some flies, as his side of the beat was far more overgrown with trees and vegetation.
After lunch we swopped sides and tried again, this time two hours then back to the car. For me I only lasted one hour - completely knackered and we each had to drive home. For the last hour I sat on the grass and watched the Red Kite display, which was absolutely fantastic.
Tony walked back crossed the line, just after which the train went by. He was exhausted as well and said the beats are like chalk and cheese; one is open space and the other well overgrown and wild. He had sat and watched the water and agreed no movement - maybe the otters had them!
We concluded great day, great location, easy access; pity about the fish.
I may have to go and fish the Elan Valley reservoirs to get rid of the blank day syndrome before I come back here.
Last month they were catching 3lb Graylings, on this same beat.
This beat is controlled through the Wye and Usk Passport on 01874 712074
Andrew Ayres WFD, C&GFD and Grayling Society
Grayling Fishing Area 4 day, 1st of 2022
13th January at 5.00 am the alarm goes off, I look outside, the car is like an Ice cube and the temp is -3, so by the time the car is warmed up and the windows are scraped it’s 5.50. Time to set off for Builth-Wells, the 1st Grayling Day of the year for me.
I had been watching the Llanstephen river level camera for a few days and could see the levels dropping, but on the last view it had risen so I realised it could be a challenging day.
On the route through the Golden Valley and up to Hay on Wye it was showing -4°C and very slippery. As dawn breaks over the mountains, light begins to show the glistening frost on the hedges and bare tree branches - and in the background I have Rachmaninov playing Rhapsody on the Theme of Paganini - what a wonderful way to start the day.
We all meet up at Gregg’s car park In Builth to sign up and pick our beats. It was good to see new members and faces. Duncan the river bailiff was on hand to explain the new water and where the fish might be. The Groe Park and Irfon Angling Club, whose water we are fishing, had added a new stretch to their beats on the Irfon.
As it turned out the members who were trotting, I believe had the best results of the day, getting 6, 7, 8 fish each ranging from a 4lb chub and many 1lb grayling on the new Irfon beat. Around the Wye bridge pillars, grayling and some out of season trout were hooked. I fished the Pylon beat on the fly, but only one small fish for me.
The water was very high and extremely fast flowing, however, in the margins out of the fast current you could fish safely if you had a wadding stick. I fished a 10ft, 7/8w, rod 4lb leader with 4mm beaded nymph, and also tried the duo method with 2 similar flies.
For £8.00 a day ticket, with such a wide choice of waters and beats, this has to be one of the best values for a day fishing around.
For some time now in the winter months I struggle with grip on the banks with my wadding boots on, even with studs in, so this time I used my old Wellington boot waders, with soles like an old Town & Country tyre tread and I added 4 studs in the heel to dig in if required. The outcome was a great success - much more sure-footed - so maybe it’s not so much old age as having the right footwear!
So I believe a great day was had by all, my thanks to Geoff Bevan for organising it in these difficult times.
Worcester fly dressers, Cheltenham fly dresser, Grayling Society member.
Grayling Fishing on the Ty-Mawr Beat
4 October 2021
Ty- Mawr is set in stunning beautiful country, deep in a valley surrounded by wild mountains covered with lush shades of green trees. As you turn off the main road stop at the top of the farm lane, take your time to study the view of the river below you. In the distance you can see the end of the beat right hand side (Hendre Farm bridge end), as the river twists through a series of tight bends and covered vegetation areas. To the left hand side you can see for ¾ of its twisted route through open fields and the boundary of a small spinney. (Binoculars’ would be handy).
This beat is some 2miles from the start of the Wye at Plynlimon, high up in the Cambrian Mountains, where it starts its 134 miles to the Seven Estuary at Chepstow. As you drive down the mile and half lane to the cattle grid to park up, the river is 100yds in front of you.
The last time I fished this beat was October 2020, when it poured with rain the whole time - torrential rain - after several hours I returned to the car and went home. Today the sky is blue; it’s warm, although showers are due in from the west later today.
Today I was joined by Tony Mitchell, a member of WFD and C&G Fly Dressers: his first time fishing the Northern Wye.
This beat is approx. one and half miles - both banks are available to fish. Where we park by the cattle grid is near the middle of the beat, so Tony went down and I went up the river, then to meet back at the cars for lunch in 3hours time and then swop beats. Neither of us made it to the beat ends in the time given.
Although it had rained heavily for days before we arrived, the river was not flooded but the channels were full, and the current was very strong and extremely powerful. The edge channels were 6/7ft deep, the pools even deeper, so to fish this beat without a wading stick is suicidal. In these conditions the water is gin clear, but be very careful of the dark black water. Do not try and enter this as it will be very deep.
You will have to cross this river many times - it’s the character of how the current creates the channels in the winter floods and moves all the stones round. Now whether you go up or down the stream always cross were you can see the bottom, even if it’s a longer route. Both Tony and I had a few moments in the current where we were saved by our sticks, otherwise we would have had a soaking.
I fished this beat last in October 2020 and blanked then and unfortunately, we both did the same today. We were fishing 7/8ft, #3, rods, used gold and red beaded nymphs, standard nymphs, spiders, bushy sedge, long/short leaders, 2 and 3 droppers, also no droppers. I only had one take all day and even then I wasn’t even sure it was a fish.
As I said before, the water was very fast, as noticed when a sedge was on the top dropper, going so fast the other flies did not get down to the bed of the river where the Grayling should be feeding. Even bushy heavy weight nymphs were tried. The only stiller quiet water I could find was under fallen trees, with large boulders and small inlets where you had slower water, but even there the under current was too strong to get the flies down.
The only fish I saw caught was by a Heron. I sat on the bank and watched him for 20 minutes as he stood on the edge of the river. He then took off and flew towards me, went and stood on a feeder stream and promptly caught a small fish.
I lost 5 flies, 1 complete leader and flies. Tony lost 3 flies.
Wild life was wild duck, herons, wren, wagtail, meadow pipit, buzzards, and red kites.
On the fishing, I am not an expert but I think the current was just too strong to get the flies down. I expect if we could have got the flies down in the deep pools or gully, we may have had a different result; but a great day, good company, fabulous weather for this part of Wales, and wonderful setting. It’s not all about catching fish, but one would be nice.
Till the next time, maybe a ball bearing on a 4ft leader and troll the fly down the gulley (desperation tactics)!!
Tickets from the Wye & Usk Foundation for £11.00 phone 01874 712074 ref, Ty-Mawr
WFD, C&GFD and Grayling Society member.
Fishing the Ewenny River on an Area 4 Grayling Day, 25 September 2021
My first Grayling fishing day out since lockdown 18 months ago, so all kitted up readyto go. The last time I fished this PDAC water I did say it was too hard work climbing up and down the banks, and I would leave it to the younger generation, but while talking to a Grayling member at the last symposium I discovered the further down the river you went to the Moors beat, the easier it was to wade - and the banks are not so steep - so I thought I would try it again.
The River Ewenny rises off the moor, north of Bridgend and then winds its way down through villages, woods, under a motorway, across moorland where it feeds into the River Ogmore and on to the estuary, There is now a good head of Grayling there. Fishing in the river Ogmore, the Grayling appear to come down the Ewenny and stay in the Ogmore; obviously a better source of food there.
The PDAC water is a challenging stretch of water, although low levels due to all the dry weather, but ranging from very narrow in places - 6ft to 30ft, and winds its way through fields. Along the way you have bridges, fords, a weir with a salmon run built in, steep banks with very overgrown vegetation and brambles, although there are plenty of wader protected stiles, steps cut in the bank, and some bank ropes to help you pull yourself up the banks. The riverbed is a mixture of sand, stone, gravel, bed rock, and mud. Along with a fast current in places with some very deep pools and narrow deep channels, a canopy of trees that make sure you use a short rod- only roll cast or side flick casts can be used. Salmon are also caught on this stretch of the river.
This time I fished the Moors beat about 1mile from the car park, by road and a different car park, then a short walk across the field to the concrete cattle ford. At this point you can go left or right, wading up or down the river, plenty of pools, rocks stony channels to catch waiting fish, or as in my case in early afternoon, stand against the bank as the sun rays shine from behind you on the opposite bank and half the river surface, you see the grayling swim by or come out from under the far bank stones. As the water is gin clear, stalking the fish is the term used. Here I used my up winged olive and watched it taken by one inquisitive Grayling as it floated down stream.
I fished with a 5ft 6ins 3 weight rod, 2lb x 4ft leader on a dry line with size 16 up winged olive, a black bead nymph and a daddy most of the day. I caught 3 x 7/8ins grayling, beautiful young looking fish. A PDAC rule is all removed barbed flies, but now you can fish a dropper, (one wet & one dry).
A great day although somewhat tiring, me being out of practice, and always watching the stones and being careful not to lose flies in the overhanging vegetation.
Another Area 4 day organised by Geoff Bevan, and as always PDAC were on hand when we arrived, to supply, coffee, tea, and biscuits and collect the fees. An extra nice touch by PDAC to finish the day was that we were given a complimentary free day fishing as a group or by ourselves in the future.
The PDAC look after this water, banks, stiles, and water approaches very well and it’s a credit to them.
PDAC = Pencoed & District Angling Club.
87 miles from Cheltenham to J.35 on the M4 and a 10min drive to the PDAC car park.
WFD, Cheltenham Fly Dressers, Grayling Society member.
Lilla McGrory (11th January 1946 - 19th January 2021)
Mark Davis - Lilla's nephew - has kindly provided a copy of the eulogy he gave at Lilla's funeral and agreed to allow us to include it on our web site.
It was Rose, her sister, that first referred to Lilla as my mad aunt. I think I was surprised at the time, even though amongst my earliest memories of her is her stopping on the motorway to pick up roadkill, but she was definitely special.
Lilla was born in a Cheltenham nursing home on January 11th 1946, the 4th and youngest child to Joy and William Davis. Rose, the eldest, followed by Judy, my father Patrick, and then the Elizabeth Joy Davis. With nanny in tow, the family moved the following year to Malta, then back to Camberley, and then to Hamburg in Germany, benefits of her father’s military service. In German she began her education with a governess, her mother being unimpressed with the local British schools. This changed when her father was posted back to the UK in 1953, Lilla attending a number of schools as the family moved round the UK, before ending up in the Gloucester Technical College with the family at Well Close. She went on to Edinburgh University where she did an arts degree majoring in economics and history. It was during this time that her lifelong friendship with Marian started as they shared some cheap digs awaiting destruction. Marian recalled Lilla setting to installing a bath in their rooms, demonstrating her ever practical streak by putting the bath on bricks to help the water drain, but also getting the one-way stick-on privacy glass the wrong way round on the window, much to the surprise of the medical college opposite.
After University, she moved with Marian to Hong Kong, following her brother, where she found a job as personal secretary for an executive who allowed them use of his grand house and servants, before he was sacked for financial irregularities. She then found another PA job, despite having informed them not to expect her to be in work before 10am, as she would be useless. She also got a cat, who she affectionally called Pest, and when visiting her brother, she would put him in a string bag tied to her waist as she rode a motorcycle across to the New Territories in shorts and t-shirt.
At the time, Lilla was still in correspondence with her long-term boyfriend James from Edinburgh, and finally agreed to marry him. She bought herself an engagement and wedding ring, packed up her belongings, and flew to join him in Lagos, Nigeria. Married within weeks of her arrival she finished the hem of her dress on route to the ceremony. With James they moved across Nigeria, to Beirut and Pakistan before finally moving back to the UK, with Lilla returning to Well Close and James working in London. She spent time looking after her parents before their death, and took up fishing, a passion that continued the rest of her life. In 1986 James moved back to Well Close and they set about converting the Coach House into the home it is now, and where she remained. James spent more and more time away from the Coach House, before they eventually ended the marriage, and Lilla settled into her life here. In 2016 she was diagnosed with Leukemia, and surprised the doctors by bouncing back seemingly unchanged, however it eventually caught up with her, and she died in January surrounded by family, at home and with her cat on her lap.
Stories. Lilla always sought to enjoy life, and over many years she built a wonderful routine of work and hobbies, building on her practical bias, and strong common sense. She worked with local parish councils, and the Lady Downe charity, but never too early in the morning. She enjoyed singing in choirs, working in the countryside and local history. She was an excellent and innovative cook, as anyone who has had the delight of attending one of her meals can attest to. I remember as a boy asking her the recipe for a flan, she had done instead of the birthday cake she had been asked to make, and being looked at in surprise, the response being - well it depends on what’s in the larder. Her larder was always fantastically stocked with interesting treats.
There were many constants in Lilla’s life that brought her pleasure. She loved cats and has had at least one for all the time I have known her. She has also loved pugs, not always the best trained or behaved, but as she said you cannot look at a pug and not smile. Lilla taking the pugs on shoots while beating is something she will be remembered for for a long time. In the garden she kept chickens, grew vegetables, and hunted crows. She loved fishing and was a keen member of the local fly-tying guild. She might be pleased that they have decided to name a trophy in her memory. The church was another constant, and she make lots of friends singing and ringing bells in Cranham and Brimpsfield.
While Lilla may not have had her own children, for many years she was a wonderful stand in parent for my sister and I, with our parents abroad and us at boarding school. She not only supported us with the boring stuff, but she encouraged and helped us, and always made the effort to make life interesting. My sister and I have loved having her in our children’s lives. However, it was not just to see what interesting food she might try and feed them, or her sharing of her wonderful knowledge of the English countryside, it was her character that we really wanted them to appreciate. It was her independence and strength that set her apart. She was always happy to pitch in and was absolutely dependable to friend and family. Lilla was not one for grand gestures, she lived a simple life, but her positive attitude, intelligence and humour blazed brightly for all to see. If she was indeed mad, as her sister fondly said, it was the best possible sort. She was to many a local legend, and for those of us with the privilege of knowing her well I take some comfort in the fact that she chose the manner of her passing, remaining independent to the end. She will be missed.
SALMON FISHING IN NORWAY
New article by David Wilson in Members articles
BIG FISH COMPETITION
WINNER Dave Orritt with a cracking 2 3/4 lbs rainbow and beautifully engraved fly box presented by fishery owner Ken Townsend of Stanford Pool Fishery at Newent. Many thanks to Ken for a splendid event and letting us have our competition there.
WHERE TO GO FISHING 2021
You can buy day tickets for
- Bull Hotel (Fairford) from the hotel – River Coln
- Burford Angling Club from Orvis – River Windrush
- Williamstrip Estate from D&J Sports, Cirencester – River Coln
- Lechlade & Bushyleaze – Small stillwater,Tuition & rod hire available
- Woolaston Court (near Lydney) – Small stillwater
- Chew Valley Lake (Chew Stoke, near Bristol) – Reservoir
- Blagdon Lake (Blagdon), near Bristol) - Reservoir
- Barrow Tanks (Barrow Gurney, near Bristol) - Reservoir
- Farmoor (Eynsham/Botley, near Oxford) – Reservoir
- Draycote Water (Dunchurch, near Rugby) – Reservoir.
- Witcombe Estate,Witcombe, gloucester Tel 01452 863591
The Fishing Museum Online
Have you ever visited The Fishing Museum Online? It covers fly, coarse and salt water fishing and includes sections on fishing tackle and a library.
The library comprises pdfs of books important in the history of fishing, which may be downloaded at no cost. It includes titles such as Pritt’s “Yorkshire Trout Flies”, Halford’s “Floating Flies and How to Dress Them” and “Ogden on Fly Tying”. The reason why you do not have to pay for these downloads is that the copyright has lapsed because of the years that have passed since their publication, and some dedicated folk have been willing to spend time scanning them. The pdf format might not be as satisfying as the beautiful leather-bound reprints that are produced from time to time, but if you are thinking of buying a copy why not check whether it would be of interest before spending your money? The site contains a link to Medlar Press via its “Shop” where you may purchase some of the titles.
This site is well worth visiting for anyone with an interest in fishing. You can reach it by following the link below.