Wild Fishing on the Upper Cilieni stream
31 August 2020
The Cilieni is a northern remote tributary of the river Usk, while still in the district of Powys in Wales. It starts its short journey from up on the Epynt Range; it then snakes its way south and joins up with its sister stream, the Eithrim, which then flows into the Usk at Cwmwysg – Ganol, just above Sennybridge. In all, both streams are approx. 3.5 miles long.
Now, for those of you who, in their youth, were like me into motor rallying in the late 1960/1970s - the era of the Copper S, Imps, Cortina, and Escorts - you will remember that If you started a rally at Bengry’s Garage at Leominster or the Cattle Market in Hereford, it was inevitable during the night you would compete on a timed road section over the Epynt Range (known as a stage or a timed road section). While inspecting the O/S map no.160 to get to this fishing site, I find myself looking at one of these sections across Epynt called the “Deer’s Leap” stage; not the Wye and Usk advised route I have to say. Tirabad to Llywel, marked as a track, or in the 1967/1969-O/S sheet maps a white road, meant some tarmac, mud, gravel and grass in the middle. The road sign used to read “unsuitable for motor vehicles”, but now it’s all tarmac with a new surface, care of the MOD; very fast if you are rallying. So, over the cattle grid I go, seven miles to the next cattle grid. The mind is a strange object and I think, in my sub conscious, while progressing very carefully and concentrating not to hit any sheep, I can smell Castrol R (rally engine oil) and hear the whine of straight cut gears, the navigator shouting out the contours and bends, and then the smell of hot mud on the exhaust. Over the next cattle grid I go, “Hell where did that 7 miles go to!”, and my nostalgia trip down memory lane is over - wonderful times.
Back to the real world to go and find the correct route to the stream and go fishing on the Upper Cilieni. After all the rain in Wales lately, all the rivers are very high, so going high up on the Cilieni I was assuming after two days without rain it will have dropped down, which it had, to about on average of 2ft deep, except the gullies and pools where it was deeper.
Now, I am used to small stream wild fishing, but this was too wild for me, and far too overgrown - apart from climbing over fences sliding down the banks to the water on your backside. My idea was to wade up the stream slowly, but the bank vegetation was so thick and so tall. Then the canopy of bushes and tree branches came down and touched the water across the whole stream, bank to bank. There was no space to cast, so all I could do was climb out over the fence, walk up the field, and try again. Having done this six times, enough was enough. A young and agile person would enjoy it I am sure, but not me these days - not agile enough anymore - age comes to us all.
The stream, although peat coloured brown, was very clear, as when you stood in the field by the edge of the fence with your binoculars you could see fish swimming about. It helped being a nice sunny day. Just another point to note, on the route from the main road it’s so narrow I had both wing mirrors turned inwards.
I fished my 5ft 6in rod; 2.5lb tippet 24in long; and size 22 gold head; no fish caught as I probably spooked them getting down the banks and entering the water, and then the next problem was to climb out up a tall muddy bank covered in brambles and stinging nettles - painful.
You can obtain your day ticket from the Wye & Usk Foundation, where they supply all directions, beat maps and pool descriptions, for £10.00 per day - book online or by phone (01874 712074). It’s a straightforward route from Brecon, as shown on their map. If I may suggest for those of you who want to try it, a short rod is essential - my 5ft 6ins was max length needed - and you need to be fit and agile. Possibly being younger than me would help, as it really is mountain goat territory. With small fields you are for ever climbing over fences or locked gates, which they say are locked to stop the sheep rustlers.
On my way back across the barren moor on a damp humid evening, on route to my base I thought on the many options Wales has to offer us. Just in the Powys district you have the Wye, Cammarch, Irfon, Usk, Ithon, Dullas Brook, and some others, and then all the wild stream fishing. Our combined thanks must go to the Wye & Usk Foundation for their work on the Fishing Passport to give us these options.
As I turn into the carpark, switch off and go to get out, the first noise I hear is two Tawny Owls some distance apart having a conversation - then a couple of Bats zig zagging above the hedges collecting early evening flies. The bats live in the ruins of a barn in the opposite field. Turning to walk down the path I catch that smell of Epynt mud on my hot exhaust and smile, what a wonderful day. With wild fishing you have from time to time to take the bad days with the good, as it’s Wales at its very best, with a bit of nostalgia thrown in for luck. Now my Guinness awaits me.
Later at the end of September I will be back out on my favourite River Irfon, although another new beat for me on the Llanfechan Estate, and a report will follow.
Tight lines, till the next time and keep safe.
WFD, CFD, Grayling Society member
Kalimantan Adventure (1995-1999)
While most of us are stuck in Lockdown I thought they might like to read one of my Kalimantan working visits stories, and how this project started.
You may say what, where, or who is Kalimantan, so you need to take your mind back to our old school history lessons and reference books. Kalimantan was always a special ancient magical place of the East, steeped in dark myths and mystery of ferocious warriors, your imagination now running wild, a land teeming with strange creatures, huge mountains, deep ravines, huge wide rivers, and unimaginably large wet dense rain forests. The people of Kalimantan were called Dayaks. They were a bloodthirsty lot - mostly naked or only a loin cloth - and were feared as some of the world’s worst head-hunters, armed with a bow and arrow and poisoned darts, well into the 19th century.
Kalimantan is the Indonesian side of the Island of Borneo, which it shares with Malaysia and Brunei. Kalimantan is the largest part of the Island, at 655,000km². It is the 3rd biggest Island in the world, with 2 main airports and 3 seaports, and the rest is mainly a rain forest.
Now this story starts in a Bangkok bar with me having a catch-up meal with Tom, an old New Zealand friend who I have known for many years, and at the time was our agent for a product line selling in South East Asia. He has a Canadian contact who wants some heavy used 8 x 8 trucks, as he is involved in building a pulp mill project in Kalimantan. (Which was to become the famous Indonesian pulp mill owned and run by Kiani-Kertas).
At this time, I was working for a UK original specialized equipment manufacturer and was quite used to this part of the world and its workings, so after about 3 hours and a drink or two we agreed we would have a go at it. I won’t go into what we supplied, but any deal in this part of the world was always down to commissions, who can earn what from the top people to the bottom, and who can get the goods - never easy when they have to be used equipment. So to shorten this story, the main product they wanted was quantity 6 x Man fixed chassis trucks 8 x 8, diff locks on all axles, with a 100 ton imposed load 5th wheel fitted and a 20 ton telescopic crane behind the cab, manufactured by Atlas; also a 10 speed auto transmission with ratio change to cope with the terrain. They must be left hand drive with a boost turbo on 1st & 2nd low gears with hydraulic winches - both front and back with a roof escape hatch.
Most trading houses that had this request thought there was more chance that Pigs might fly and offered all types of similar equipment, although not what they asked for. But I knew a man who had six of these on the west coast of Scotland.
It came about that the Canadian had a working relationship with a trading house in the UK at Torquay. Now moving on 12months, I had offered my Man units to the Pulp Mill to its Jakarta HQ. Their MD contacts his Torquay friend to find if I have got the items offered, and to check us out, as in this trade it’s always cash up front, and in this case, it was many hundreds of thousands of pounds.
So, I was called down to Torquay to meet this man in his office, which was three rooms in his house and his wife ran the office. All he did was buy for the mill through the Canadian and take a healthy margin.
He said, “How do I convince them in Jakarta that you have these, or can get them, as nobody else round the world has any.”
I replied “Come with me and I’ll show you them. They are stored in a hanger on the North West coast of Scotland.”
To shorten the story again, he did not view them, but he took my word and checked us out, and 6 months later we had the revised order and payment in full. (Mega bucks)!
But as in Asia, the order we had received came with some very strict conditions. I myself had to attend the site at the end of every 3rd month for 12 months to check it all worked and make a list of what spares were required to order. If they needed an engine /transmission replaced, I had to bring engineers with me on my next visit to fit it, and then they would suddenly send an order for another piece equipment, which was required yesterday.
My first trip to the camp was - as you would expect - a challenge. I was dressed in a nice suit, briefcase, luggage case on wheels, and raincoat. So the journey was, London to Jakarta 14/15 hours, overnight in a five-star hotel in Jakarta, next day on an Airbus to Balikpapan 8 hours, then wait 2 hours at the airport for a flight to Samarinda, wait a further 2 hours, then get the boat - which is a 30ft glass fibre cruiser - for a further 3 hours up the river. The planes had become smaller and smaller. The last one had my window glued in and the plane flew about 30ft above the trees, and the boat was unbelievable. My other passengers were locals with pigs, goats and chickens, and the boat went very slowly, as on the front was a local boy with a search lamp warning the pilot when a tree floated down the river so that the boat would take collision action and alter direction. The river was so wide you could not see the banks on either side. The wood was large tree trunks - if one hit our boat and we would be all goners.
When I arrived at the camp it was mud everywhere. I was met off the boat and put my case in the pickup and went 2 km to my room. It gets better - no door lock and no bathroom - I went to bed fully dressed as I arrived and was woken at 5.00 am by the noise of people moving about. When I opened my door, I found that I was on ground level and it looked like a scene from a WWII Nazi concentration camp film. I thought “what had I ever done to deserve this?” There is one other door in my room, which when I opened it there is a line of 46 toilet and urinals - all open - no partitions and people going about their ablution without any concern, so I joined them. Although my various visits to rather rough/poor areas of the world I always had a good secure room at night, expect when I went to Port Sudan, but absolutely nothing prepared me for this experience.
My first visit was to the workshop to meet the engineering manager, who was a South African. He smelt of whisky and seemed drunk, but his number one was a fine guy called O-Jo, and he knew his job. He took me round, to see the canteen and other areas. I looked at all equipment, and he explained that one mechanic drained the gear box oil for a service, then went to lunch. Before he returned from lunch somebody took it out for a drive, and when it stopped, they left it with the gearbox smashed, so first item needed is a new transmission and so it went on.
Having now spent two days there, I was getting to grip with it all. The managers all had nice bungalows, very well laid out. They also had a golf course and a club house. The canteen was run very well, with fabulous food for Asians and Westerners. My next visit will be better if you forget the accommodation.
On my second visit I took three Engineers - two from Scotland, one in the Midlands. All went well - we changed the transmission, did a few jobs and the three days were soon gone. The midland guy said he would never come again; the Scottish Lads were ok.
I have had many other adventures in Kalimantan, but that’s for another day.
WFD, CGFD and grayling society member.
Fishing on the River Monnow
My first outing since January, due to lockdown, was on the 10th of July as I had received an invitation from Steve Negus of the Garway Fly Fishers Club in Kentchurch, Herefordshire, to be his guest on the River Monnow, to fish late afternoon and early evening. This is a first for me, to go fishing at this time of day.
The Monnow starts its 43-mile journey from its source in the Black Mountains below Hay on Wye, down through Herefordshire, England and Monmouthshire where, south of Monmouth, it feeds into the Wye. Some of its tributaries are well known to us, like the Dore, Olchon Brook, Escley Brook, Dulas Brook, and Honddu, which all hold a good stock of fish.
The Garway Club has an eight mile stretch of the Monnow extending approximately four miles each side of the Bridge Inn at Kentchurch. I fished the Waterloo Beat to the west of the Inn - easy access with a modern foot bridge to reach the field side - and the banks were both easy but some steep sections, although generally good and with gates between the fields.
The river on this beat is wide like fishing the Wye. I waded out into the middle and cast any direction. I fished about one mile of this beat, just a stony bed with a few rocks, natural weirs, and some deep holes with nice still water pools. On the far bank a rather deep gully ran the length of the beat with plenty of overhanging vegetation, where I caught most of my fish. My take for three hours fishing was four trout, the best 1.5lb, the others under a lb. You could see some large trout swimming by your feet while standing very still - the water was crystal clear.
There are many well-known Welsh fly dressers: Courtney-Williams, Harry Powell, John Henderson, Cannon Eagles, Barry Lloyd to name but a few. All have dressed flies for certain stretches of the Monnow, or its tributaries, and we follow along in their footsteps with our own creations, which I expect started as one of their originals.
My set up was a 7ft 6ins 3-4 weight rod with a 4-weight line, furled leader and 3lb tippet 7ft long. I am using for this season Stroft ARB Mono Tippet, which in these Welsh rivers that have a little colour, I feel cannot be seen. First, I tried my moth winged sedge and lost two fishes (I put it down to being rusty after a long layoff, or being too keen!), then changed to a yellow/red spider on a 2in dropper and eventually a conventional sedge pattern, which I stayed on to the finish.
Steve was on the same set up, but he started on sedges and switched to a yellow mayfly and was successful with three wild brown trout. When I left, he was going back for a late evening fish as he is only a 12-minute drive from his home; not like me with a 90-minute trip. Not having been out in the car since March, a 90-minute drive after a three-hour wading session felt like a journey to Scotland.
The wildlife was mainly yellow wagtails, wild duck and the odd kingfisher.
The afternoon and early evening fishing were very good - great to get back to the rivers after so long. I can fully recommend fishing the Monnow. It also has Grayling and Chub in its waters.
CFD, WFD, Grayling Society member.
13th July 2020
Wing Tying Tips for Sedge Flies
For those of you, through age and health related problems like me and are stuck in lockdown, I have allowed myself to be rationed to two hours a day at the fly bench.
I have always been fascinated by the Sedge flies, such as their different sizes and the variation of their antennae - always being so fragile and at the same time so flexible. I have always fished one on the top fly of a 2/3 fly cast set up, or as a single dry fly cast.
Since being mainly a river fisherman, I only fish the following sedges: Red, Cinnamon, Black, Brown or Yellow Sedge - and my own creation.
For many of us now showing age related problems, like the eyes not quite so sharp, and perhaps unsteady fingers or even the shakes, it can be very frustrating when you have just got the perfect wing and then a slight twitch and it’s all gone. So for some time now I have been looking for an alternative to homemade wings to use. I have always struggled with upright wings, even when I did the guild certificates with all those red spinners we had to do. I much prefer to tie any other fly.
So I did the unheard of, and purchased some imitation wings from The Silver Tip Fly Company in Montana a few years ago. This was a bit of a learning curve. It’s difficult to keep the wings upright, and even when coloured they never seemed anything like the originals, but spent Mayflies and Stone flies looked natural. I tried different paints, marker pens, and varnish but still they were not very good.
But now, 18months down the road, I think I can say I have now cracked it. I am using a UK producer Joseph Ludkins, (nowhere such a selection as the Montana Co., but much more original) and using my marker pens and ideas learnt from before, they are looking very life like and staying in a set position.
I like my Sedge fly to sit low on the water surface, so the body is CDC with a very fine wire rib, which is hidden in the CDC, and six turns of dayglow green on the butt. For the antennae I use paint brush bristles cut to size and a marker pen to change the colours; the hackle just three turns, and sometimes I trim the bottom of the hackle off flush with the body.
Now for Outside the box! My own creation.
To do a small Sedge 6/7mm, use olive dubbing, size 12 hook, pale thread, yellow butt, and gold rib. Tie in the wing Moth-style folded down, colour it light green, let it dry, and then add black blotches. Leave the under wing natural. Note, I always paint the wing before I tie them. Allow 24 hours for the colours to harden before tying on the hook. The wing should hang over the bend 2mm. Now tie a small amount of squirrel fur mix, natural and magenta, on top of the wing and overhang maximum 1 mm. Do a small head and tie off.
Just tie the squirrel fur like a hair wing. Antennae are an option - so is the hackle.
It looks very enticing I have done 26 in all different formations and colours. Still, I now must wait and see if they work on the river.
Wings are from Phil Harding, at Fly-Tying Boutique , 01535 657479
Data details on river Sedge, flies, Antennae length/Wing, and colour,
Red Sedge, 20-27mm, Body, green/grey, Wing Brown, Location slow streams, and rivers.
Cinnamon Sedge, 18-19mm, Body, Orange/Brown, Wing, Brownish, Location, Rivers.
Brown Sedge, 12-16mm, Body, Dark Brown, Wing, Dark brown/black, Location Rivers.
Black Sedge, 8-10mm Body, Black. Wing, Black/Grey, Location Stoney running shallows.
Yellow Sedge, 5-6mm, Body Pale Tan, Wing, Yellow/Tan. Location. Stoney shallow streams/rivers.
CFD, WFD, Grayling Society
They have several starting points along this section of river, all with parking spaces and only a short walk to the water edge. The water was fishable but high - and in places very fast water, too fast for me to stand in even with my stick.
One of their members during last week had taken a 3lb Grayling out at the coal yard beat and the river then was fishing well. The river access is good, and wading is safe on normal conditions as it has mostly a shale bed, although there are some deep holes along the way. The CAA have I expect some 2 miles plus of river bank.
For anybody wanting a weekend break, this small old country hotel, which dates to 1535, is a very good base as you can literally walk down to the river and you then have approximately 1½ miles of river bank in front of you in both directions.
The weather was for me very bleak, for my first time out in 2020. Maybe I should have stayed at home; heavy rain and strong winds did not help.
I fished my 10ft 6/7 weight Hardy, 6lb line 10ft tippet with one dropper, and lost 2 flies in the trees on the far bank! No, not my long cast - the wind took the line as I cast. I have to say I was very rusty as it was my first time out and 105 miles each way in heavy rain did not help. I went arse over tit twice, the last time coming to a stop 2ft from the water’s edge - not a pretty sight -fortunately only the sheep watching my spectacle performance.
On the wild life not much; three swans and a lot of sheep and a V-formation of geese high in the sky.
I caught 2 Grayling, both on size 14 Jig hooks, purple and red perils with small tungsten beads. I found the Jig hook fly very good on the point on these Welsh stony river beds, and they attract any bottom feeding fish; ideal for Grayling.
After 3½ hours I felt like a wet and muddy drowned rat, so I decided I would pack up, change into some dry clothes and return home before I did any more damage to myself. On the good side the worst is over; the season can only get better, I think.
On a serious point, in the summer months for a weekend break, with all the fishing you want - and you needn’t start the car till you go home - great food, so they tell me, great location. What more do you need?
To contact Maesmawr Hall Hotel for special weekend breaks, phone 01686 688255
I have all the beat maps, if anybody wants a copy of them.
Fishing on the Dee in North Wales
On the 7th of April I attended a Karl Humphries fishing day on the Dee at Bangor on Dee village - my first outing on the Dee this year having previously been cancelled due to flooding. We met at the Royal Oak in the village on the BODSAA (Bangor-on-Dee Salmon Anglers Association) waters, but as the water was coloured and quite high, Karl decided to move to near the Erbistock beat, which turned out to be a great decision.
A very attractive water - about a 2 mile beat with long meadows, easy walking, wader friendly stiles, low banks and gentle slopes down to the water’s edge, and a lunch bench and table half way along. The water was still moving quite quickly in fast current channels, but mainly on the far bank. Wading with a stick was quite safe as shale, sand, and small pebbles made up the river bed.
Only five members turned out, three from Worcester, the chairman of the Grayling Society from Stoke on Trent, and me. I expect the others were put off by the weather forecast of rain, but as often happens we never saw any. The morning progressed cold at first, but then blue sky and warm sunshine for the rest of the day. Swans, geese, mallard, teal, other wild duck, dipper and king fishers were the wild life on hand there, and as the sun came out the flies came off the water.
The water was a little challenging with fast flowing gullies, shallow stony areas, some inlands and deep pockets, but since most of it was approximately waist deep it was ideal for wading.
I fished a 10ft 3-4 weight rod, floating line and a 4lb leader with a 2-fly set up of size 14 weighted nymphs to get them down. After lunch I put a sedge grannom on the top dropper to act as a dry fly, as flies were now coming off the water, and I promptly caught a fabulous 13/14 inch Grayling on it which filled the net, and was released without coming out of the water.
My tally for the day was eight, one perch (now my third on the Dee with a fly) three trout, and four grayling.
Mark, one of the Worcester guys, had a small sea trout. Always nice to see these young fish on route.
A great day for us all, just a pity it’s so far away, and just to make my journey even longer I was rerouted off the motorway as a police incident on the M6 was in progress - 5.30 start and 19.30 home!
Andrew Ayres CFD, WFD, Grayling Society member.
SALMON FISHING IN NORWAY
At the beginning of August 2019, disillusioned by successive fishless trips to Scotland, a friend & I travelled to Norway to try our luck on the River Orkla at the renowned Aunan Lodge, about 2 hours’ drive south from Trondheim. We took direct flights from Gatwick with Norwegian Air – the only direct flights to Trondheim from the UK - then hired a car from Trondheim Airport.
Aunan Lodge is located amongst stunning scenery, right beside the river, and hosts up to 12 rods in comfortable accommodation with all (restaurant standard) meals provided. There are 4, well furnished, lodges, 2 with four bedrooms and 2 with two bedrooms, as well as a large converted barn (a former potato store!) serving as a lounge, bar and dining room.
The whole establishment is owned and managed by Vegard Heggem, a former professional footballer who played at right back for Liverpool from 1998 to 2003, until his career was cut short by
The salmon fishing comprises 5.5km of continuous river, almost all double bank, and includes 17 pools. Unlike other rivers in the region, the Orkla receives very cold compensation water from several hydro-electric schemes up river. This means that the river never falls below a good height for fishing and the water temperature remains low – unlike other rivers in the region, the Orkla never has to close because of high temperatures.
The fishing is divided into 3 beats, with a maximum of 4 rods per beat, with beats being rotated every 6 hours. We all, therefore, had the chance to fish each pool. There were 3 guides to assist us and to help land fish. Orkla salmon are hard fighting and can be quite large, and even when fishing with small flies we were advised not to have leaders of less than 20lb.
The fishermen were a very sociable group from various countries, including one who had travelled from Tokyo and another from Toronto.
There were good numbers of fish in the river, but as ever with salmon these days, catching one was a challenge. We were told beforehand that one or two for the week would be a good result, and this proved to be the case. Weather conditions didn’t make things any easier – we had mostly blue skies and sunshine and temperatures in the low 20’s. Nevertheless, I persevered and managed to land both my biggest ever salmon (20lb) an my biggest ever sea trout (8lb). The successful flies were a one inch red and black Waddington and a Red Francis. My salmon was almost the largest caught that week but was finally topped by a Dane who went out before breakfast on the day we were all leaving and landed one at 25lb.
ll in all, it was probably my most enjoyable fishing trip ever and I’m sure I will return.
I fish a section just outside the village of Cefn Gorwydd, which is 2 miles from Tirabad in the Mynydd Epynt valley and its source in the forest.
I approached some local land owners 3 years ago to see if I could use their stretch of the river to do some fly life monitoring and some fishing. Fortunately for me they all agreed for the small sum of four bottles of Scotch at Christmas, which I hand out to the local tenant farmers. I am entitled to fish both banks for 1 mile.
The stream bed is formed from slate, bed-rock, shale, large stones and clay - very slippery with deep gullies and some 6ft deep pools (as I found out twice in a soaking). It is a very challenging stretch of water and the results are not fantastic - small grayling and trout - but the company is, as always in these hidden valleys, breath-taking as Kingfisher, Dippers, Wagtails, wild duck, Heron, Red Kite and Buzzards are watching your every move from the water edge or the sky.
When I first set foot on this wild stream, a father of one of the farmers said it had not been fished for at least 45 years, and then only by poachers, so when I say it is wild and overgrown it is an understatement.
Small Stream fishing, in its nature, is challenging. It’s very easy to spook the fish, especially when the sunlight sends your shadow through the undergrowth onto the water, which is gin-clear. I have lost many, many flies in the bushes and overhung branches, so now I carry a folding saw in my kit to trim the vegetation and retrieve my hooks.
I fish a 5ft 6in 3 to 4 weight rod, dry line with a 2lb leader, 18in long and size 16 to 22 flies for the narrow sections, to try and side cast when wading. For the wider sections, where there is a deep pool I use a 9ft rod with a similar set up, but with a longer 36 inch leader. Flies I use early season are PT Nymphs, small gold head nymphs and Red Caddis, and as the season warms up F fly or small winged flies on 22 to 16 hooks probably the best.
The best trout I have caught to date is 12oz to 1LB, and grayling 15oz. I have fished this water for about 2/3 years and only now am getting to grips with it. As now I have retired with more time to go to this hidden valley, I will explore the rest of this water through the season and report my findings at the end of the year.
For those of you who are interested in the river fly life (Entomology to give its correct name), I monitor a small section of the stream where I fish. I send all my monthly findings to the River Fly Partnership (www.riverflies.org), who then collect all the data from approximately 300 people like me, who are doing the sampling throughout the UK, from which they can see how the rivers are performing. They can monitor any reduction in fly life and investigate, as this is possibly from pollution or field drainage run off.
We only record eight species, from the 100s there are and my samples for March were:
Cased caddis 8
Caseless caddis 12
BW Olive 24
Gammarus Shrimp 2
This may not seem a lot, but for a three minute kick sample this is good for this section of water - certainly the best this year to date.
CFD, WFD, Grayling Society member.
On the 3rd March I purchased, as I do, my day ticket, not for the Wye, but the Mega Bus – Cheltenham to London return,
where I attended the AGM and Lunch of the ATAA at the RAF Club in Piccadilly of second-generation members, of which I
am a life member. We found a few years ago that whilst the original ATA personnel are always welcome, age is the problem
and so with members’ numbers being reduced we decided it should open it up to the second generation of the original family.
This year was the first time there were no veterans. 39 attended - 1 from Canada and the rest from the UK - 28 actual members
with their guests and family.
For those of you who are not aware of the ATA I attach a few articles and notes to explain. Imagine, 20 years ago,
a Lady or Man standing on the side of the road with a set of red and white trade plates in the hands waiting for a lift,
as they had just delivered a new car to a dealer. Well, when WW2 started the ATA was set up by one man to deliver new
aeroplanes to fighter bases around the UK and overseas.
My own father joined the RAF in 1939, but during a routine medical in 1940 they found out he was colour blind, so he was retired.
He then joined the ATA in 1941 and became a 1st F/O, flying all types of aeroplanes from Tiger Moths to Lancaster bombers.
He was based at Prestwick, Radcliffe, Whitchurch and White Waltham and stayed on to the very end of the war. His records show he
was in the air for 3156 hours, delivered 865 new aeroplanes and flew 64 different makes of aeroplanes.
There are many stories I could tell, and a few good books written by actual pilots about their Life in the ATA. As all were written
in 1947/8 it is getting harder to find them.
Here are two stories and a newspaper article which gives you an insight to the operations of the ATA:
1. Imagine a Wellington bomber crew sitting outside their barracks clad in flying jacket and flying boots, waiting for the call
to action. Then they hear the familiar Rolls engine sound in the distance and out of the low cloud comes this huge aeroplane, slips
over the hedge, kisses the runway, taxis round and parks up. One of the watching crew says perfect landing. As they wait to see the
five-man crew come down the steps from the belly of the aeroplane they can’t believe their eyes, as two young girls climb down in shirt
sleeves. They walk across, putting their jackets on, and go to operations to hand in the delivery slip. 30 minutes later they come out,
get in a Tiger Moth and fly away, leaving the Bomber crew inspired.
2. When a Squadron Leader was visiting a fighter squadron on the East Coast to give them some pep talks on forthcoming actions,
a new Hurricane flew in, landed, taxied and parked up. Two minutes later the same again. After that the third and forth arrived - then the
fifth and sixth; by which time the Squadron Leader was off to congratulate his officers on their timed arrival, only to be told they not RA
but ATA pilots. He promptly went to speak with them only to take a step back as he was not expecting to see what he saw. Number
1 pilot was old enough to be his Grandfather, Number 2 only spoke broken English, Number 3, 4 & 5 were Ladies, and Number 6 - when
he went to shake his hand and congratulate him on a very efficient and timed arrival - only had one arm. That Squadron Leader was
asked on many occasions afterwards what he thought of the ATA, and he said it was a very well organised and professional organisation
and he had a lot of respect for what they do and have achieved.
ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) Introduction,
which made an enormous contribution to victory by taking over from service pilots the task of ferrying RAF and RN warplanes between factories,
maintenance units and front line squadrons. It employed both male and female pilots and ferried over 310,000 aircraft during the war.
The idea of using civilian pilots, who were not eligible for RAF services, as a kind of Territorial Army, was put forward in 1938 to do
mail runs, dispatches, medical supplies etc., but within 6 months the first recruits found themselves moving trainer aircraft, fighter, and even
bombers from factory stores and RAF airfields. From the first 28 pilots recruited in September 1939 the number rose to 650 in five years.
Credit must go to the Commandeering Officer, Gerard d’Erlanger, who was a private pilot and a director of the pre-war British Airways Ltd,
which merged with the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BAOC) in 1940. They had 14 ferry pools: Hamble, Southampton, Portsmouth, Lossiemouth,
Cosford, Prestwick, Radcliffe, White Waltham, and Whitchurch, to name a few.
The Castle Bromwich Factory, when at its height, was manufacturing 351 Spitfires a month (where has British Engineering gone I ask), which shows
the huge numbers of planes the ATA had to transfer, when considering the numbers of sites where aircraft were being manufactured during the war.
Pilots came from, Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand, Siam, Poland - many Girls from the USA, Balkans, Spain and France.
Towards the end of the war the ATA was much more than ferry pilots, as there were Flying Instructors, Ground crew Instructors, Crash rescue teams,
motor offices, Met teams, Medical teams -nurses, doctors and all admin staff.
I now leave you with an article I found in my father’s papers which I think sums the ATA up.
They dropped arms and food from unprotected planes
By News a Chronicle Reporter.
day with them.
With only a compass and a map they delivered medical supplies, blood plasma, mortar bombs, small arms and petrol in weather only men in their highly selected
and specially trained type could fly through alone.
Sometimes each man made two journeys a day, since Monday they have taken more than 153 plane loads and bought back Arnhem wounded and pilots who had
bailed out in the Rhine, but they have not had a single casualty.
“As long as birds can fly we will”, said F/O Edward Pyatt from Birmingham. I watched him peel of his Mae West and jacket to squeeze in head first
through the window of his plane which was so full of supplies he had no other way to get in.
Capt L Thornehill from Somerset had just returned with six English men and one American who bailed out in the Rhine. They had been hiding in the woods
for seven weeks, they had ragged slacks and jerseys and somehow manged to hike back to Brussels. The 30 lone flyers, the doctor said who helped pick them,
had to have a cool head and nerves of steel, a first-class memory, perfect coordination between mind and body, common sense and a temperament the exact
opposite to a fighter pilot.
Commodore Gerard d’Erlanger, HQ chief, told me the story of this fortnight-old operation, which was called Air Movement Flight.
At 4.00am on the day the Arnhem men were dropped he was asked to start it. At dawn 20 Ansons were ready. They had been gathered from all over the country,
serviced seats removed, and bodies painted black and white.
Many of the pilots had never flown over the continent before. They had been shown on a map a corridor to guide them, and their only instructions were to keep to it.
They received no help from the ground and had to dip below the clouds to find roads and railway lines to follow. Over the channel they had to
trust their dinghies and hope.
Ground staff worked through the night to keep the Ansons flying; it was classed as another successful operation by the ATA.
Unfortunately for my generation, our parents never spoke about their war service period, and we never asked, too busy with our own lives. Now as we get older
we all have so many questions and nobody to get the answers from, as they all will be in their late 90s or 100s or older - or gone to another life.
8 members met at the PDAC fishing hut on the banks of the river and opposite their private locked car park. We were then welcomed by their club secretary, who served us coffee/tea and biscuits, a very pleasant way to start the day after another 6.30 start.
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 in to the river Ogmore and the into the Ogmore estuary.
The PDAC water is a challenging stretch of water, 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, very overgrown vegetation, brambles, although there are plenty of wader protected stiles, steps cut in the bank, also some bank ropes to help you pull yourself up the banks. The river bed is a mixture of sand, stone, gravel, bed rock and mud. Along with a fast current in places some deep pools and narrow deep channels, a canopy of trees that make sure you use a short rod, and only roll cast or side flick casts. Salmon are also caught on this stretch of the river.
I fished with a 5ft 6ins rod 3weight, 4lbx 4ft leader on a dry line with size 16 black tungsten bead nymph all day and lost it on the last cast, a small lapse of concentration to a high cast. The others caught a mixture of 2 and 4 fish each. I caught 3 x 12/13ins Grayling, beautiful looking fish. A PDAC rule is only one fly and all hooks de barred.
So on a whole a good days fishing. The weather was dry but so cold with the wind chill it felt like artic weather although once in the water it was warmer.
For me it’s the first time I fished this water, and I am afraid with its steep banks and the general access to the water with so many stiles is too much like hard work for me, I will leave this location to the younger generation.
In saying that I can recommend the site, the PDAC looks after their water and facilities very well and the welcome we got is a credit to them.
PDAC = Pencoed & District Angling Club
87miles from Cheltenham and 10min drive from Junction 35 on the M4 to the carpark.
WFD, Cheltenham Fly Dressers, Grayling society member
2 Days Fishing on the Dee
23rd August - I joined area 6 (Grayling Society) with John Walker in charge, for a day fishing the Dee at Bangor on Dee, on the BODSAA Village and Ormond Beats, which are 2 miles long. Beat maps were supplied and well-marked. We all met, 13 of us, at the Royal Oak in Bangor on Dee as they allowed to use their car park - good food and snacks on hand.
The trip from Cheltenham is 2¼ hours, and while it started with heavy rain, by the time I was there it was warm and a blue sky.
Water was low, but still deep in places. Wading was good with a gravel bed most of the time and plenty of shallows as well. I fished the Church beat and under the bridge,
I fished 10ft rod 9ft leader and 1 x 4in dropper, gold head and a spider size 14, and caught 15 Grayling. Bangor on Dee is a pretty village, nice walks along the river for the non-fishing people and many dog walks.
The rain started at 3.30 so I packed up to return south - more traffic as you would expect.
This was the first time I have fished the Dee and enjoyed it. A nice wide river - you can stand in the middle and cast both sides of you and up or down, well worth the drive.
7 October - My second time to fish the Dee in 6 weeks. This time I joined area 7 (Grayling Society) with Barrie Davidson in charge, for a day on the Bryn-y-Pys beats, 2 miles of river winding through fields in a big arc, shallows some deep sections and not quite so easy to get to the water’s edge as the other site, but once you are in the gravel bed there are islands, fast currents feeding into the main river and plenty of reed beds and overhanging bushes on the far bank.
We met at the Cross Foxes Pub, 8 of us, and then split off to the beats. It was a very cold day, 1 degree and with the wind factor it felt like -6, and in fact I had to scrape the ice before I could start the trip.
I fished the same 10ft rod 11ft leader with a small gold head size 16, and a yellow spider size 16 from John Walker on the dropper. I changed flies a few times but the original size and pattern were the best. My count for the day was 17 Grayling and 2 brown trout. I may try size 18 next time, if I can tie them on!
I packed up and started for home at 3.30. The Dee is like the Wye, you can wade out into the middle and cast both sides. The current on the day was quite strong but with a stick quite safe. The reason for the long leader was that you could cast up the river and the current would keep the flies off the bottom and therefore stopped from getting caught and just let it carry along to the waiting fish. No flies lost, which is a first for me. A great day well worth the trip.
Andrew Ayres, WFD, CFD, Grayling Society.
Trout and Grayling Fishing on the Wye at Buith Wells
On 1 October I purchased a £10.00 day ticket with a map of 10 beats from Nibletts, the Ironmonger in Buith Wells, for the Groe Park and Irfon Angling Club for fishing their beats around Buith
Wells, all within ¾ mile of the town.
I chose the Pylon beat - number 1, fly only. As I parked up I noticed French and Dutch plated cars already on site. A short ½ mile walk to the river over a waders-friendly stile, then there is a choice of well-worn paths to get to the water’s edge. Along the way I passed a Dutch, Grayling fisherman fishing with the float (as marked on the map) and then 4 French fishermen on the fly spread out in the river.
A fabulous wide river to fish, quite a current in the deeper sections, very easy access and to wade although I used a stick just to be safe as it’s a gentle slope till you get ¾ way across then the water goes dark and it’s deep.
I fished 10ft rod, 10ft leader 1 x 4ins dropper, with a 14 gold head and 16 spider, best fish was a WBT of 1½ lb with beautiful markings. Great location and fishing,
I can thoroughly recommend this fishing for a day ticket, 73miles from Cheltenham, plenty of eating houses and coffee shops in the town also plenty of B & B’s if required,
Day Tickets are available from
Nibetts, High St,
The Park Hotel
Contis Newsagent, High St,
Caerberis Manor Hotel
All in Buith Wells and all cash £10.00 Tickets
They have a very active water bailiff, who I met on these waters, so make sure Licence and Tickets are all in order.
WFD, CFD, Grayling Society
Highland Fishing Trip – June 2018
This year’s trip was again split into two locations. The 1st to the 39,000 acre Altnaharra Estate in Sutherland and the 2nd to Whitebridge Locks in Invernesshire.
The Altnaharra Hotel was just the same as we have come to expect, same décor, good food, and the same people. The weather had been very dry for weeks and the Lochs were 1-1/2 meter
below the normal June level. On Loch Hope the boats were beached on the sand some 40 meters from the water’s edge, and boats were unable to be taken out on the Loch. It was the same situation
at Loyal, although people with their own boats were getting out onto the Loch, with some good size fish - 4lb being caught on daddy’s dry single fly, in the margins close to the islands.
I fished Loch Naver for 2 days. This was challenging because the wind and the rain were very strong. Then storm Robert hit the Highlands and fishing was stopped for 2 days until the wind reduced a little.
I fished a 3 fly set up on an 8lb line, with 2 x 3 inch droppers, a 10ft leader and a wide selection of fly’s - Kate McLaren, Black Pennel, Alexander, Red Zulu, and my own creation of a Donegal
Blue, and a Loch Ordie on size 12. The Donegal Blue took quite a few fish, with 9 landed between 10oz and 1lb and 7 returned.
There is something about bobbing about on a Loch when your only company is Walter the gillie, and a pair of Black Throated Divers (now given a floating island home by the RSPB on the top end of the Loch) about 30ft from the boat, an Osprey above us, and the chilling squawk of a Buzzard high up riding the thermals to break the silence. Breathtakingly wonderful.
Birds seen on the Lochs were Lapwing, Greenshank, Oystercatcher, Terns, Plovers, Red Kite, Osprey, Curlew, House Martin, Wild Duck, Buzzard, Osprey and Coot.
Walter the gillie, now approaching 60 years old, has never been further than Perth, 130 miles away. He lives in the same house he was born in, still cycles to work on his old sit up and beg bicycle; and he can dress Salmon and Trout in seconds. In many ways you can envoy his life style. This is so different to our lives down south. But consider what he may have missed out on along the way.
During my last visit I witnessed the Mad Max Images on the moor, with sawn off trees and upended tree roots. Now one year later, the moor is returning back to normal and nature is taking over; the grass is growing and covering the mess. Local gossip has it that it’s not going to be replanted, but will revert back to a peat bog. In this area they have the biggest peat bog in Europe.
On one of the wet no fishing days I was exploring an 11 mile long single track road down by Loch Hope. I stopped to look at a fishing site. When I returned to the car I discovered I had a flat battery. Fortunately, I just had enough signal to phone the RAC, being a member. A Scottish Lass answered in a cheery voice and said ‘where are you?’ When I explained she went very quiet, and said ‘press help on your sat nav and give me the details’. You learn something new every day even at 70! She then told me she would ring back in 30 minutes. About 10 minutes later she phoned to say a driver would be with me in the hour! In theory it sounded great! However, 1 hour 10 minutes later a recovery truck arrived in case it was terminal. Thankfully it wasn’t, and with jump leads the car started. The driver then phoned his boss 55 miles away, and asked him to order a new battery in stock 100 miles away. I followed the lorry back to his garage and waited for the battery. 3 hours later with my new battery I was driving back to our hotel. An excellent service in such a remote place. Congratulations to the RAC team. I shall not hesitate to renew my membership in future.
If anybody goes on the route between Lairg and Tongue there is a Highland Inn 8 miles out of Lairg called the Crask Inn. I can recommend a visit. I had passed it many times but
on this occasion I noticed it had been freshly white washed and had a sign - food served. Its last owner had bequeathed it to the church, and now when you call for a pint you will be served by
a man of cloth. It has homemade soup and cakes. They hold a service there twice a week. A peat fire roars away and any more than 6 people and it’s full. It can be found on the A836
single track road which was upgraded in 1819 and in more recent years laid with tarmac.
Hereford and Worcestershire members may have read in local papers about the 87 year old man who was cycling from Lands’ End to John O Groats. He became famous when he was unable to find a B & B, so he slept on a Morrison’s bench in Hereford. We were in the Inn one lunch time and a guy came in who had met him in Hereford and told us about him. To our surprise the next day the old man came in to the Crask Inn on his route to the north. An ex BA worker who was very interesting to have a conversation with. We left him asleep in the chair in front of the fire, and he must have stayed there overnight as on our way the next day we passed him cycling towards us .
Our next stop was the Whitebridge Lochs in Invernesshire. This was our second stay at the Whitebridge Hotel. It was not so good this time due to being in the middle of changing owners. Half the bill was from one owner and half from the new owners. The only good thing was when they were clearing out some drawers one day I was given 70 free fly’s.
The hotel was advertised as a 10 bedroom, old shooting lodge, public bar, 2-1/2acres of land, fishing rights on the river through their land, fishing rights on 3 lochs, together with a detached 4 year old house with 4 bedrooms. There was also a rebuilt kitchen in the hotel, and all existing furniture to be included in the sale price. This was advertised at offers around £625,000. A different world to prices in our area!
I used the same gillie as last year, Alex Sunderland. I fished Lochs Killin, Knockie, and Mhor.
I bank fished Loch Killin on my own as no boats were allowed. The only boats are for guests of the estate owners. I caught 4 fish from the margins much better than last year when I blanked.
On both Loch Knockie and Mhor the fishing was good. 22 fish caught up to 1lb, fly set- up was 2 droppers on 10 ft leader, same selection of fly’s but down to 14 & 16. For the first time I caught 2 trout on the same line when fishing 1 dropper, a Loch Ordie, and Donegal on the bob fly.
On Loch Knockie we were entertained for about 8 minutes by 2 osprey’s bombarding a Sea Eagle who had strayed into their territory. Brave birds as the sheer size of these birds and the wingspan of the eagle was awesome.
Loch Mhor was the last of the new lochs that I fished. It was formed when the waters of Loch Fammiline and Loch Garth were impounded to supply water to the Loch Ness Hydro power station. I fished this Loch for 6 hours and when I returned the boat to the landing stage the water level had risen 2ft. In a Loch 5 miles long x ¾ mile wide that is a huge volume of water to pump! At one point when fishing in the current, the 2.5hp motor boat could not go forwards but just turned back out of the current. A nice Loch with plenty of bays, with shallow and both rocky and sand beds.
As you may know, there is no means yet of storing electricity. But in the Highlands, there are a mass of tunnels moving water around from waterfalls, rivers etc., and they pump it up to Lochs and store the water there until they need the power. Then open the gates and it flows into the turbines, and you have power. A very interesting topic if you’re lucky enough to find a person who knows about it. Alex, the gillie, sits on the local council that selects which sites are to be used for both Lochs, dams, and tunnels. And where to site wind the turbines. For part of the 6 hours with him, I was educated on the Highland water movement, and how they divide up the income from the wind turbines when they have reached the required Kilo Watts. That’s another very interesting topic for another time.
Loch Mhor Fish
In general a good trip although the weather could have been better. Good fishing, 31 fish caught. One of our Cheltenham members, Lilla McGrory, was also fishing in the Highlands and we
met up for an evening meal and exchanged stories,
Till next year -Tightlines,
Andrew Ayres WFD, CFD, Grayling Society member.
Highland Fishing Trip 2017
This year’s trip was again split into two: the first at the 39,000 acre Altnaharra Estate in Sutherland; the second Whitebridge Hotel and Lochs in Inverness-shire. Both hotels were old
hunting lodges from years gone by.
Having completed 11 hours of a 12 hour journey, I turned off the Lairg road on to the 21miles of single track road across open wind swept moors, and it reminded me of a Mel Gibson film from the Mad Max Series. Where once stood beautiful tall green pine trees as far as the eye could see, now the land has been savaged/raped of those wonderful trees; and only the odd tree stands. It is a land of turned up earth, tree stumps, roots upturned and just left a mess. They cannot replant for 3 years due to the Canadian Beetle that caused the disease and it has to be left fallow for this length of time. We drove through the mist, the rain was endless and the car was being buffeted by the wind. As we rose over one of the many crests, in the road there was a stag standing motionless in front of us. We stopped the engine and switched lights off for a moment. It was a standoff. Nowhere else would you get this sight in the UK; and then it had gone. Lost in the mist to wander his moor.
There was so much water everywhere. Down every hill and gully crack, water cascades. The streams were raging foaming rivers where once water gently trickled over the stones; now there are thundering waterfalls. All the land looked so rich and green, unlike the normal barren colour you see in June.
As we arrived at the Hotel we were greeted with a welcome, ‘we are just about to light a coal/log fire in your bedroom’. I did say we were back in Victorian times!
My next job was to find Walter the Gillie and enquire the fishing situation. The salmon guys were not very happy since the water was too high to fish. It may be 2 or3 days if the rain stops. Since I shall be on the Lochs I am OK.
I am fishing Loch Meadie this year from a boat. Last year was from the bank. My choice is a 10ft rod, 4lb nylon, 3 flies using the Scottish dropper style, Stoats Tail, Blue-Zulu and Kate McLaren. I changed flies during the day to Alexandra, Loch Ordie and Red-Zulu. On average the fish caught were small 8 to 10oz and caught on all flies where ever positioned. The trout colours and markings were brilliant. Loch Meadie is one of the late Bruce Sanderson favourite fishing Lochs. It’s 4 miles long and ½ mile wide. As you arrive it looks a modest Loch, but once you get out of the mooring loch through the channel you see the extent of it. It’s a shallow loch with many bays, little Islands, fishing peninsulas and fishy shallow corners. I caught 15 and returned them all. It was wet and windy all day.
was fishing the main hotel’s Loch Naver, 7miles long and ¾ mile wide, and very deep in the middle. I fished it for 5 hours. Very wet and windy again! On one occasion during a
heavy storm when the boat was heading into the waves, I had to stop fishing and bail out! Scary! I used a 10ft rod, 8lb nylon, 3 flies: Invicita, Black Pennel and Clan Chief. Followed with Loch
Ordie, Alexandra and Butcher. I tried dapping with a 18ft rod and spinning as the only method to use when it’s too rough for the flies. I caught fish all day on all flies and all methods.
I also caught my first Sea Trout, too small at 14oz, so it was returned. The colours and markings were fantastic.
Another highlight of the day was during one of the many storms when Walter got my attention; 40ft away on our right were 2 Black Throated Divers watching us and not bothered by the engine on tick over. And above circling were 2 Osprey’s - a truly wonderful sight. We lost 8 fish mainly due to being too slow to retrieve, and landed 21 fish. Only those over 1lb weight were taken to the hotel to cook. It’s interesting that the colours and marking of these Trout do differ a lot.
Two good Fish
Walter explained the colour difference between the moor lochs and the deep glen lochs - Meadie and Naver. It was because of the depth and bed surface. The light brightly spotted
markings were always from the shallow gravel lochs.
Now back to base, all the Kit in the drying room, then for a Guinness, hot bath and dinner.
The next Location is the Whitebridge Lochs situated approx. 3 miles off the East side of Loch Ness. My base is The Whitebridge Hotel, built in 1890 as a shooting Lodge for the local
estates. Now under new owners of less than a year; so its early days! At least they still have the trout in glass cases, flies, and catch records.
There are several lochs in the area - Loch Knockie, Killin, and Ruthven. If you plan visiting, the Lesley Crawford book - Scotlands Classic Trout Waters is worth reading. Inverness-shire is a completely different land; rich green pasture in the valleys, Red Deer everywhere on the high ground, and they have only just started removing the trees.
Day 3 Fishing
I fished Loch Killin. A grim and deep forbidding Loch, with no boats, no wading as the sides are sheer since it is trapped deep in a valley. I tried many selected flys’ but could not raise a single fish. However, in the past good catches have been recorded, and a few char in the very deep section. The only boats allowed on this Loch are from the two estates which are at each end of the Loch. I lost my complete leader and fly’s in the afternoon so this was time to pack up and head back. As I climbed up the valley road, Ravens circled me and Red deer watched on.
Day 4 Fishing
I fished Loch Knockie for half a day with Alex the Gillie. Again, no bank fishing due to the undergrowth down to the Loch edge, overhanging trees and branches. Reeds and Lilly bed also
prevented wading. The Loch is only 30ft deep with a very rich insect life. Fishing from a boat is very good, with many nooks and bays, channels, islands, and shallows. I fished a 10ft
rod, 4lb line on 3 flies down size to 16 and 18, Dunkfield, March Brown and a Grouse and Claret; changing them many times to Spiders, Greenwells etc. I caught and landed on all flies although better
on size 16. From the East bay’s side, fish were rising when the wind dropped and the fish were taking insects off the trees as they fell into water. With an accurate cast and a quick
retrieve they were hooked. 18 Trout were landed (lost 4) with only 2 over 1lb kept; the rest were returned.
This was a dryer day although the most testing. But also the most challenging and rewarding of them all with ever changing conditions. All told, a very pleasant day.
Over dinner that evening I told Elaine to mark the calendar so as to book again in February 2018 since Altnaharra is closed for the Winter. I may try the Whitebridge Lochs again as there are at least 3 left to try!
On the whole a very good trip, with good Gillies, good hotels, good food, wine and company, despite very challenging weather – gales and rain, while the South were basking in a heat wave!
Caught and Landed 54; lost 12.
Lesson learnt - never fish the wild highland hill Lochs without a Gillie!
Total miles 1650
FDG, WFD, CFD and Grayling Society member.
Seven Days Fishing in the Scottish Highlands
8th – 19th June 2016
This year’s fishing trip was split into two locations: the first on the Highlands Estate of Altnaharra 39,000 acres in Sutherland; and the second at Loch Maree in Wester Ross.
The Highlands of Scotland are home to some of the most beautiful, rugged, wild, endless deep glens, and unspoilt country in Britain. My wife and I stayed at Altnaharra Hotel; it has a recorded winter temperature of -26 degrees and is stated to be the most remote hotel in the UK. The signal track road leading to the hotel is 21 miles long with passing places only, and grass growing in the middle of the track.
It’s an old fishing Inn dating back to the vintage years when Salmon were plentifully, and the waiting list at the Inn was two years for a room in the season! As you step in to the hotel you are transformed to a time of our grandfather’s era: with glass cases of sea trout, salmon, Woodcock, Snipe; with display boxes of vintage reels, rods, and every type of fly, even Megan Boyd fly’s. In the reading room there are leather bound catch records going back to 1945 and every type of Salmon fishing books’. Most of the books are signed by the author: from Leslie Crawford to Jeremy Paxton. The hotel service, food, and rooms were fantastic.
The Gillie (who I did not use) invited me into his ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ fishing shed. He was most generous with his knowledge and only wanted a chat and a pint in the bar!
The Hotel has fishing rights on the river Mudal and Loch Naver, but you are required to have a Gillie. However, there are also 3 other Lochs with a boat: on Stanga; Plantation; and Meadie. All within a distance of 5 miles where you can fish free. The single track roads can take ages to do the 5 mile journey, if (like us) you are constantly bewitched to keep stopping to watch the deer drinking in the river or the Snipe and Buzzards standing on one leg on the fence posts, and generally watching the world pass by.
I fished all 3 Lochs and the river Mudal, and caught WBT from all locations, approx. 6 to 8 inch in length, using fly’s red and blue Zulu, Alexandra, Chilton Clan and others, with a 10ft rod, 7/8 weight, 9ft leader of 6 lb, and with an 8 inch dropper.
During our stay the rivers were very short of water. It was only in the pools where the fish were lying low. The Lochs were also in need of topping up!
On loch Naver, a 9lb Salmon was taken with spinning from the boat. Visitors also use a fair selection of Tube flies on size 8 &10.
Our second stop was for 3 days on Loch Maree in Wester Ross.
Loch Maree in its time was probably the most prolific Salmon and Sea Trout Loch in Scotland with record catches year on year. Lock Maree Hotel (now mainly a B&B) used to be a magnet for fisherman with a waiting list to get a room like the one above.
Sadly, the estate over the years has changed with new owners of a younger generation and with less interest in fishing. However, the hotel charges £165.00 per day for a Gillie and a boat. Having spoken with two people who returned with a boat, their catches were only three fish. These were so small I would have put them back!
In the guest lounge/reading room there were no fishing memorabilia or books on fishing. Our room was nice with a good view of the Loch and mountains, but that’s all I can say. The hotel is crossed off of my ‘stay again list’.
During the trip with my wife Elaine we covered 1,560 miles. We used Premier Inns for overnight stops and every one was first class.
As you may be aware. I am always drawn to wild Scottish remote areas. For all those who feel the same, do try Altnaharra. You will not be disappointed.
One last note, if you decide to visit, take your head net and bug spray since the midges like the ‘Southerners’!
FDG, Grayling Society & Worcester fly Dressers Member
3 Days Fishing in South Uist June 2015
I suppose it all started when I read an article ‘While Sitting in a London Waiting Room’ by Leslie Crawford.
Imagine for a moment a remote Hebridean Island, so studded with quality game fishing waters that it is hard to find dry land. Then picture a superb mix of quality sized brownies lying in hundreds of lightly fished lochs, where more than two people are a crowd. Nearby, lies a sweeping coastline of silver sands and unpolluted aquamarine blue seas, fringed by green Machair lands covered in wild flowers of every type. Sleek backed otters and rare birds, like the Corncrake and the Diver, are your only companions. This is not an anglers fantasy Island but South Uist: the home to some of the best wild trout fishing in the whole of the UK.
South Uist lies off the West Coast of Scotland and is part of the Western Isles. It is approximately 12 miles long and 4 miles wide with 700 to 800 lochs; and only wild fish in them. It costs £8.00 per day to fish most of the lochs except a few owned by the hotels.
A Typical Loch
My journey from Cheltenham to the Oban ferry took 8 hours 30 minutes, with just two 15 minute stops at Keel and Crawford St-John. The ferry crossing to South Uist took 5 hours 50
minutes. This was followed by a 45 minute drive to the village Lochdar.
The ferry crossing is worth a mention since it took just over 2 hours to reach the open sea. Travellers should make sure to be on the open deck as the scenery is breath taking, with steep cliffs covered in sea birds, deserted rocky Islands, isolated lighthouses, and some stunning houses high up in the hills and on the water’s edge, as the ferry makes its way to the open sea.
My stay on South Uist was at the well known ‘Anglers Retreat’ owned by Billy and Marion Felton. Billy’s knowledge of the fishing on the Island was fantastic, and Marion’s cooking was as good as any 5 star Shangri-La Hotel. The hospitably all-round was fabulous. The other guests were an interesting mixture of people which made for long evening dinners and interesting chatter well into the night.
While on the Western Islands I was told there was always wind from the West. It certainly was the case during my stay; and it rained and blew the whole time. With Billy’s local knowledge I was advised where to fish for these conditions, and I chose to bank fish during this visit. However, I also learnt that the ‘boat guys’ were catching more, so next trip I will hire a boat for the day.
I fished a selection of lochs on wild moorland with some close to the road: Loch Druidibeag; Loch Chnoic Bhuidhe; Loch Chlachain; Loch an Eilein; Monkey Loch; Loch Olaidh an Ear; and a few others without names. All were shallow lochs and wading was safe in most places. Crystal clear waters made it very easy to spook the fish. I also lost many fish having hooked them. This was put down to my slow river type retrieve. The Hebridean retrieve is very fast and pulls are very quick with 2ft plus each pull. I will try that next time.
As regards flies, I tried all the recommended ones but found the most success was using my own creation of a black stoat’s tail, with a gold head and silver flash on both sides, on a size 12 single hook. Maybe this was because the conditions were so poor. I also used a 10ft 7/8 rod and a dry line with 9ft of 10lb tippet.
A Days Catch
For those of you who like fishing in wild places and doing battle with whatever nature can throw at you, then South Uist is certainly worth a visit. Apart from the excellent fishing
the floral and wild life is stunning.
On the last day I was told to fish an unnamed long narrow loch, sheltered and surrounded by hills. I was standing about 15ft out in the loch, looking at the line with a crystal clear mirror type finish on the water. I stood motionless because looking at me in the water was a red deer, and out the corner of my eye on the water’s edge was a Hebridean Wren bobbing about on a clump of heather, and behind him an otter strolling down the water’s edge. I tried to move slowly to get a better view and they were gone; with only a tell-tale ripple in the Loch where the otter had entered. Then the silence was broken by the cry of a Buzzard circling high in the sky and riding the thermals.
For a moment I could now fully understand Leslie Crawford’s opening article and I came back to earth thinking about my journey home the next day. I was certainly not looking forward to joining the dreaded M6, with nose to tail queues to reach the M5.
Total mileage 1265 miles.
Books I suggest you read before going:
Anglers Retreat by Matthew Crampton & DavidPeutherer
Fisher in the West by EddieYoung
70 Lochs of South Uist by Capt John Kennedy
OS Maps 22 & 31
FDG & Worcester fly Dressers Member.
If you have read my previous notes on my annual trip to Lough Corrib for the Mayfly you will have realised the importance of suitable weather. Well I struck lucky. Prior to my arrival it had been a story of sunshine, flat calm and no rain - very unusual for the West Coast of Ireland. The Lough was very low, apparently at it’s summer level and showing it’s “bones” - sun bleached rocks I had not seen before in over 25years of visiting in May.
The day I arrived it rained and the wind blew, a little too enthusiastically at times, but thankfully it remained windy for the duration of my stay. As ever it’s feast or famine and one days fishing was lost due to a storm. The sun shone a little too often but remarkably the Trout continued to feed but the combination of strong southerly’s and sunshine meant the Trout often missed the Flies.
Despite this I averaged 7 fish per day, unlike recent previous visits many were small fish although some 1 lb plus, and a 2 ½ lb came my way. However my boat partner had one over 4 lb which was hurriedly photographed in order to return it quickly. See below ( the net is 21 inches wide)
Best fish of the week was caught by Madeleine from Sweden fishing the Dap and on the first drift landed a magnificent 5 ¼ lb beauty.
She claimed that taking her miniature whippet (complete with fur lined waxed jacket) on the boat brought her luck! The Gillie was required to walk the dog between drifts but benefited hugely in Guiness and bragging rights.
DRY FLY FISHING THOUGHTS
A senior member of our Guild and ex England Team captain often says that its a poor days fishing if you don’t learn something. My lesson came initially from a remark from a Gillie as we discussed Dry Fly fishing prior to setting off for the day (I was not fishing in his boat) “use fluorocarbon” he shouted as he motored away.
I have always followed the advice that copolymer should be used for floating flies and struggled to find one that is reliable and robust enough for my liking and has the knot strength I feel
You ignore advice given by a Gillie at your periI. Accordingly I set up the 10 foot 5 weight with a 16 foot 7lb fluorocarbon leader with two Mayflies and found it floated without the aid of floatant. I have since tried 5 lb with Dries and it’s difficult to get it to sink! In fact I find it’s easier to get fluorocarbon to float than some copolymer to sink.
So now I can do away with multi spools of line of various types and just carry just 3 spools of my preferred fluorocarbon (standard Riverege) 9 lb for subsurface, 7 lb for surface and 5 lb for light line work. For the record I use a 4 turn tucked blood or a figure of 8 knot for hooks and a 2 turn water knot with half hitch for droppers.
Finally some thoughts about fly size. Mayfly are big flies and they are often represented by long shank size 10 or 8 hooks for patterns such as the Grey Wulff or variants and of course they catch fish. However the most successful by a long way during my recent visits to Corrib are small green Wulffs size 12. The photograph below shows a range of Wulffs from size 8, 10 and the green size 12 and as can be seen the difference in size is striking.
Why this should be so successful, I don’t know. The local fishermen have a number of theories, one being that if the Olives are hatching and being taken at the same time as the Mayflies the Trout may prefer a smaller fly. All I can say is that if the large Wulffs are refused the small one might just work.
Tight Lines John Lewis
FLY FISHING LOUGH CORRIB
18th-25 MAY 2016
FLY FISHING LOUGH CORRIB 18th - 25th MAY 2016
During my annual trip to lough Corrib in pursuit of it’s truly Wild Brown Trout, the Mayfly hatch did not really get going in the Corr na Mona area of the lough where I stay. The unusual weather over the winter with the water about 2 metres above summer level (that’s a lot of water for a 30 mile long body of water) and a cold snap in the spring threw everything out. So much so that it was extremely difficult to find hatching fly and rising fishing. In addition the wet fly was not producing as expected, so the local advice was to fish top of the water - Dry fly and Dapping - no hardship for me as these are my preferred methods.
The conditions during the week varied from very rough and almost unfishable to flat calm - so it was challenging!
Having built up my excuses for failure it wasn’t a bad week fishing wise, in fact I am told it was the best weeks fishing of the Mayfly season this year.
Day 1 was rough, very rough and while the fish were rising fairly freely to Dries they would not stick. I did manage 1 fish of about 2 3/4lb to a French Partridge fished Dry.
Day 2 again it was very, very rough with continuous rain. 2 fish came to the Dap the biggest between 3 ½ - 4 lb. This was my best fish of the week. Lost a very large fish (why is it we only loose big fish?) off the shallows.
Day 3 finally found some Mayfly - 13 fish biggest about 2 ½lb to Dries and Dap.
Day 4 weather still very rough moved to the South Lake and had 4 fish to 2 ¼lb on the Dapped natural.
Day 5 clear blue sky and a flat calm. No fish.
Day 6 the final day, a good wind but very few fly showing. 5 fish to the Dap.
It was a strange year, the Dry fly brought up a lot of fish but hooking into them proved to be well nigh impossible. The few that were hooked were mostly undersize (less than 13 inches). On the other hand fish that came to the Dap were bigger, of the 25 I caught only 3 measured less than 13 inches. It was definitely the year of the Dap - my total far exceeded anything caught upto that time.
Finally, I wonder if perhaps the fish were particularly line shy - preferring the artificial and the natural with no line laying on the water. Whatever the reason I enjoyed a fantastic weeks fishing and can’t wait until ne
Lough Corrib 2015
May 9th 2015 saw me heading off for my annual (23 years now) six-day trip to the Corrib for the Mayfly and the magnificent wild Brown Trout that inhabit the Lough. Corrib is a huge body of water about 30 miles long and at its maximum 11 miles wide, and is usually fished from a boat, driven by a Ghillie/Boatman, who are experts in boat handling and in putting their clients on fish. I fish at the top end of the Lough and a strong wind blowing up the Lough can result in wonderful 3-ft rolling waves, ideal for drifting, covering new water every second (drogues are not used on Corrib).
My hopes and expectations were tempered by years of experience - 2013 had produced only one perch and one good fish lost, whereas 2014 gifted me 44 magnificent trout topped by the fish of a lifetime, a stunning 7lb 4oz monster! I return all my fish. 2015 was different again, probably the worst week's weather I have experienced there.
Day 1 - very rough, 3 fish
Day 2 - we had a storm, no fishing
Day 3 - I blanked
Day 4 - bright sunshine, two fish
Day 5 - eureka, near perfect conditions, ten fish topped by a 22 1/2 inch beauty (4lb+). That's what keeps me going back!
Day 6 - another storm and I came off the water with just one fish.
It is interesting to note that days 4 and 5 were the only days when the wind stayed in the same direction (south westerly).
It's not only the fishing, the food is wonderful and O'Malley's pub in Corr na Mona serves the best pint of the black stuff in Ireland. There are the mates I have made and the pleasure of renewing those friendships each year, and the scenery takes your breath away. Wet fly, dry fly and dapping are all successful methods. These days, pulling wets holds no magic for me, and dapping and dry fly are the two methods I use. It may cost me fish on the few occasions they are not looking up, but I can live with that, and if I could only use one method on Lough Corrib it would be the dap.
Roll on 2016!
The New Zealand or Duo Method for Upstream River Fishing by MikePerrin
This uses a dry fly and a nymph fished in tandem, usually cast upstream in rivers. The method works well in stillwaters if you can resist the urge to retrieve. You need a buoyant dry fly that is easy to see, and which will support the nymph.
Orange is a good colour for the "indicator" fly. It is easily seen, and trout and grayling often go for an orange fly. Under trees, white shows up well. If the water is glazed with reflected light from the sky, or worse, white clouds, then a black dry fly is most easily seen.
Here is my dressing for the "orange indicator"
Hook. Size 10 or 12 lightweight
Tail. Hackle fibres, red game or ginger, generous bunch.
Body. Seal's fur, mixture of hot orange, yellow and red.
Rib. Please yourself. I use the tying thread. If the fly falls apart after a dozen fish, that's OK by me.
Hackle. Hot orange cock. Two hackles, the second wound through the first. Several turns. If this looks too garish, and it often does, then use ginger or red game for the second hackle.
It is usual to tie tippet link to the nymph onto the bend of the dry fly.
This is not always easy; especially with cold wet hands, arthritic fingers and bad eyesight. To help overcome the problem you can whip a loop of 12lb nylon onto the shank of the hook before dressing the fly. Then tie your tippet to the loop.
The length of tippet between dry fly and nymph will vary between 1x and 2x the depth of water (in rivers). Much depends on the speed of the river and the weight of the nymph.
When the dry dips under water - Strike! It will be a fish,---or the bottom. Many fish will see the dry fly, look at it, then take the nymph. Others will take the dry fly first time. If all the takes come to the dry fly you can take the nymph off. The presence of the nymph, because it is in deeper and slower water, delays the onset of drag on the dry fly.
In the face of a strong downstream wind, the presence of a weighted nymph on the point, say a beadhead, is a great help to cast the dry fly the required distance and straightening the leader.
Some people will tell you that the method is a form of cheating. They may be right. You decide!
Marlin Fishing if you are intersted follow the link belo
firstname.lastname@example.org or seak Big Game Fishing in Kenya (Mombasa)
FLIES WHICH WORKED LAST SEASON (2014)
Two new flies (well, new to me!) which worked well last season were:
1. Female winged Adams (dry, of course) - this fly differs from the standard Adams in having a pale green butt/tag just in front of the tail. It worked very well throughout the summer on the rivers.
2. Holy Grail black (photo on page 89 of the Sportfish catalogue under Nymphs) - this fly worked well on still waters fished under an indicator, or slow retrieve, again through the summer, but come autumn it failed. In the catalogues it is under tungsten beadhead, but it is only a small bead. I think I have found the right ribbing material for this fly, which is available from Sportfish, which is UNI-Mylar red/green no ZUM12RG. The fly was a saviour on many days!!
I found in the autumn at Springhill the fish got a bit lazy and standard or fast retrieve wasn't doing the business for me, so I found a method which I call the JERK method. You simply jerk the fly in small increments, and I mean small, just an inch or two at a time. Do not quicken up, but retrieve until the leader is at the rod tip and then slowly lift - sometimes you won't get any action until right at the end. The system does work better with long-tailed flies. You can also vary the retrieve by doing two or three jerks then letting the fly sink for a few seconds. Again, this method doesn't always work but when it does .....!!
A Winter Fishing Trip
Several members of the Guild visited Broadoak Fishery near Upton upon Severn in early January for a day out with lunch and a spot of fishing. Colin Harvey had invited anglers from far and wide including several internationals and the Welsh Champion twice over. WC2 for short. Also angling authors and fishery scientists.
The day was clement, overcast and calm.
Whilst most of us were still eating our hot bacon sandwiches (£2.50), Mr Crabtree landed his second fish. He was using a floating line, long leader and a damsel nymph with chain eyes. Most of us opted for slow sink lines and small lures.
Boobys, blobs and indicators are not allowed.
I spotted three large trout cruising in the margins as I got to the water’s edge. Before I could wet a line, Sandy Geyer, on my left, was into a two pounder. Mike Fry quickly followed with a much bigger rainbow which looked close to 4lb. Both fish had fallen to a Montana.
On the opposite side of the lake John Lewis landed a nice fish. Next to him, David Chatham was trying to get his special jerk retrieve to work. It didn’t.
Meanwhile, I was getting take after take to my Ace of Spades lure, and missing them all! Apparently this was happening to anglers all round the lake. Eventually I changed to a coral lure, speeded up the retrieve and hooked a beauty. A muscular fish which looked all of 4lb. The answer having been found: failed to work again. Meanwhile WC21 got a fish on a beadhead.
Mr Crabtree told me the lake supported a good population of sticklebacks, so I switched to a white lure. This worked well and produced the goods.
There was a mystery prize for the heaviest fish. Colin Harvey conducted the weigh in before lunch. Mike Fry’s fish was 3lb 9oz. Mine weighed 3lb 14 1/2oz . Austin ‘s 3lb 15oz. Roger from Devon was the winner with 3lb 15 ½ oz. The prize was an expensive tweed cap, so big, it fitted no-one, except Flamborough!
After a good lunch the strugglers went back to the lakeside. Others put their feet up by the log fire in the lodge and told tales, drank tea and ate cake until the close. At the end of the day all 16 anglers caught at least one fish each, and good fish too.
If you are looking for a spot of winter fly fishing, Broadoak is not too far away. The banks are well maintained, fish stocks are good and the lodge is comfortable.
The charge is £22 for 2 fish and 4 hours. They are closed on Mondays.
Broadoaktroutlakes.co.uk Telephone 01684 311499