That was the hottest June on record apparently. We seem to be breaking a lot of records in recent years. On the last day of June rain had come to our valleys, but the few showers didn’t yet amount to much. Into July we went with some black clouds overhead, cooler temperatures and fresher winds, but the drought had not yet broken in any significant sense. Salmon fishing on the Wye below Hay remained closed; only the decision to reopen salmon fishing on the lower Usk provided some welcome news for us. We eventually restarted Wye salmon fishing on July 3rd.  

Meanwhile, River Wye coarse fishermen were having some wonderful days, far more than there is room here to record. TH from Highbridge went trotting at Wyebank, catching 13 barbel to 4 pounds and 56 chub to 5 pounds: “Brilliant day with no-stop action.” AG from Taunton had 8 barbel and 12 chub from Middle Hill Court. DO from London had 7 barbel to 9 pounds and 8 chub at Caradoc and RL from Woodbridge caught 6 barbel and 52 chub at Foy Bridge. Unfortunately there was a dead salmon on the weir and RL complained about antisocial canoeists playing loud music: “Why do canoe companies allow this?” Unfortunately, RL, there is very little that canoe companies don’t allow and, what’s more, they pay nothing for the privilege of access into the river. LS from Stevenage was also troubled by canoes while fishing Caradoc and the Creel: “…for the most part they were OK, but you do get the odd drunk.”  You certainly do. The other day with clients, we found a bunch of canoeists who had decided to stop for lunch on the pebble bank of the Dog Hole, Goodrich Court’s famous salmon fishing pool, and were amusing themselves by lobbing rocks into the fish lies. They moved on eventually after some words were exchanged, but their language was unpleasant to say the least. On a happier day, MD had three common carp from 10-12 pounds along with a large bream from Trelough Pool. CB from Stratford on Avon was very happy indeed to catch 20 chub at Strangford. RH from Manchester with a friend caught 40 chub at Fownhope 5 in a 6 hour session while SW from Bristol with a friend caught 6 barbel between 5 and 8 pounds plus 39 chub at Foy Bridge. All the fish were covered with freshwater lice, which they removed. I’m never sure if I should do that; is it possible to cause further injury or infection? 

Home Fishery - AA from Buntingford
Home Fishery - MK from Chorleywood
Sugwas Court barbel - LC from Cheltenham

Turning to game fishing, CH from Ewloe caught 7 rainbows and 1 brown trout at Cambrian AA’s Llyn Morwynion. EF from Smethwick reported 2 grayling from the Teme at Newnham Farm. I have seen this one, which is a new beat on a hop farm with tracks leading to the river. This part of the middle Teme is a mixed coarse and game fishery and in many ways it reminds me of Monnow Valley, the river here also being sunk below steep banks. There are ways to get down and if you don’t mind a bit of a scramble, you could have an interesting time. On the 2nd July the restriction on lower Wye salmon fishing was called off, water temperature having dropped at last. However, despite occasional showers and thunder storms, the water levels remained very low. I had imagined the restriction would end in a spectacular way with heavy rain and a good flood to flush out the river and push the warm water out to sea, but no such luck for a while.

RT from Peterlee reported 10 trout from the Strathmore Estate of the Tees, while MH from Taff’s Well had a 2 pounds sewin from the Rheidol. RB from Redditch had 4 trout and 22 grayling from Craig Llyn, GM from Shrewsbury 14 trout from the top of the Wye at Clochfaen and MH from Swansea 20 trout and 10 grayling from Gromaine and Upper Llanstephan. NW from Bromsgrove caught 18 trout and 6 grayling at Skenfrith, a good catch for that Monnow beat, but unfortunately was burned by handling a giant hogweed plant.

Bideford Brook - KL from Bristol

KL from Bristol fished the little Bideford Brook under the Forest of Dean and complained that it needed trimming. On the other hand he reported 28 trout from 6 -11 inches with dry fly and nymphs, so I assume that conditions weren’t so very difficult for him. This is one of my adopted streams and I see that I pruned it on 27th October last year after the season ended. In practice we find that a single annual pruning visit during the close season is usually enough for a wild stream and experience also shows that you should leave a lot more cover and woody debris than you cut away. A stream where anglers can cast everywhere might not have many trout left in it! However, KL in Bristol is quite local to the area and if he would like to volunteer to adopt one of the Forest of Dean streams and undertake winter pruning we would be pleased to hear from him.

Joe Alexander from Rhayader fished up at Llyn Bugeilyn where he caught 24 of those very special little mountain trout and put in a request that the beds of water lilies be trimmed by the owners. Are we sure about that; what would be involved and what would be achieved? And would they stay trimmed? Brandy bottle or Nuphar water lilies are the big wild kind we have in this country, their roots and stems are very tough, and certainly strong enough to break the tackle if you get your hooks caught in there! On the other hand, the Bugeilyn trout love to hang around the edge of the lilies which are a traditional hot spot in this ancient lake.

BP from Pembridge also had 15 trout from Bugeilyn on the 7th. Early in the morning a week later Joe Alexander was back at Bugeilyn and this time caught 29 trout to 13 inches. In his report he mentioned the brandy bottle lilies again and suggested the cutting should be done from a boat with a long sharp scythe to cut the stems before the flowers go to seed. It would be a massive amount of work in this remote location. The impression I have is that water lilies will colonise any water of the right depth and bottom quality, but go no further. The ones in my garden pond show no signs of spreading. Are there any aquatic horticulturalists out there who can advise us? Incidentally, I have another question about Bugeilyn: is there any chance we could be allowed to float tube there?

Boathouse at Llyn Bugeilyn - JA from Rhayader

One slightly unusual report came from CN from Bognor Regis who at Fenni Fach on the Usk found and released a bat which had taken an angler’s fly left broken off and hanging from a branch. Nobody wants to see a creature suffer in that way, but in the case of bats be very careful not to get bitten or you will find yourself facing some extremely unpleasant injections. CH from Dymock blanked on the Hindwell at Knill and was concerned about a blue grey tinge in the water. In my experience, a level of greyish tinge is quite normal in all the streams running out of the Radnor Forest including the Lugg and Arrow, and is due to the colour of the clay through which they run. TG from Ipswich had an unusual complaint about the Pandy beat of the Honddu, a major tributary of the Monnow, stating that it was only possible to access the mile of double bank fishing for a few yards either side of the footbridge. I can only assume this was an attempt to fish the stream dry shod from the bank; this never could be done and it is necessary to wade up the channel here as with most of our wild streams.   

CM from Keynsham had another early trip to Wyebank, caught 7 barbel and 18 chub, but had a close run-in with a Forest deer on the way home. JS from Aberdare had two good pike while fishing on a salmon ticket at Lower Symonds Yat. JL from Witney on the Home Fishery had 4 barbel to 10.5 pounds and 30 chub. AT from Basingstoke on the Creel reported 9 chub of which 3 were over 5 pounds. He also voiced a need for posts and ropes in the interests of safety as anglers go up and down steep banks. A simple rope round a tree leading down into the river is cheap and easy to organise and hugely useful. I can think of several Welsh sea trout pools where in the darkness finding the rope to climb out is a godsend. Big days for chub continued. SB from Birmingham caught 48 at Sugwas Court. AT from Basingstoke had 20 chub to 6 pounds 2 ounces at Lower Canon Bridge while three local lads, KW from Hereford with friends, put together a bag of 95 chub at Holme Lacy and Lechmere’s Ley using waggler float tactics. They congratulated river keeper Colin on the well-kept banks. SP from Chertsey caught 50 chub and 50 dace from Upper Breinton using a waggler float with corn and hemp. TH from Woodbridge with a friend fished at Caradoc and reported 11 barbel and 28 chub.

The Creel - NN from Winford
Upper Tower mayfly feeder - BG from Exeter
Craig Llyn - MF from Maidstone

Regular game fisher MH from Swansea caught 10 trout and 8 grayling by fishing spiders at Gromaine and Lower Llanstephan. He also noted a salmon which seemed to be in exactly the same place it was last week. That was now exactly the situation all up and down the river. I could say the same about Goodrich Court. We had received a run this spring, not a very numerous one, of largish salmon which spread into pools right up the river to above Builth. There they now sat trapped, slowly colouring up, waiting months on end for the river to rise again. Occasionally such potted residents will show in irritation or to shake a parasite, but it is truly difficult to persuade them to take. By the 12th we were still waiting for the passing showers to have a real effect on water levels. At the bottom end Wyesham reported a 12 pounder two sea winter fish, the first rod-caught salmon in a month, which took a Red Frances. Showers and thunder storms, some of them short but very heavy, occurred all over the region. There were some high winds too. However, so dry was the ground that for a while the rivers seemed quite unaffected and remained low. The 14th was a day of heavy rain and at last the levels began to rise, just by a few inches at first. DJ from Halesowen with a friend took 10 trout, 16 grayling and 2 chub from Abernant using nymphs and spiders. PS from Bristol with a friend caught 5 barbel and 47 chub at Middle Hill Court: “Weather bad, fishing great…faster water at bottom of beat was full of fish.”  Now there came a salmon to celebrate from the Usk; Llanover reported a 12 pounds hen fish on a small Cascade.

Dolgau - AK from Churt

On the 15th, by which time a gale was blowing along with the rain, we did have a noticeable rise. The top of the Usk came up about a foot due to rain on the Brecon Beacons while the upper Wye had a similar increase, mainly due to the Irfon tributary which was very briefly in full flood. However, these rises rippled down both rivers leaving low levels again behind them. This was not the kind of consistent top to bottom high water which would allow a fish to run up the whole river. While we had our rain at last, Southern Europe was experiencing a heatwave and our relatives in Bosnia complained of air temperature well up in the forties. From Portugal running east to Turkey wild fires were burning and the Foreign Office advised travellers to reconsider their continental holiday plans. Death Valley in California recorded over 50 degrees. Intermittent thunder storms here continued; hours of sunshine contrasted with brief periods of very heavy rain, slow driving for road travellers with the windscreen wipers working at double speed.

TE from Ledbury reported 13 chub on the fly from Abernant – no trout and no grayling. That is certainly an unusual result, but perfectly possible of course. LB from London took 4 trout and 13 grayling at Lyepole on the Lugg. RE from Cwmbran experienced access problems at Upper Breinton, roping himself to his van in order to scale the slippery bank. He caught 4 barbel and 40 chub, before spending a couple of hours finding one splendid Robert, a good Samaritan who pulled the van itself out of the mud with a tractor. Adventures with cars in slippery fields are best avoided to my way of thinking.

Wyesham on the lower Wye reported another salmon on the 17th, a fresh fish of 16 pounds on a Flying C. Further upstream, salmon fishers encouraged by the slight rise were frustrated. AK from Churt was salmon fishing up at Gromaine and Upper Llanstephan, saw coloured and water and the level rise from 18 inches to 2 feet, putting this down to a cloud burst upstream, but no salmon was seen this time. Over on the Usk, the day after the rise, Stuart Macoustra was fishing the tidal section at Newbridge. Apart from a 4 pound sea bass which would have been a culinary pleasure, he caught two cock salmon, one of 16 pounds and one of 12, taken on a Yellow Irish shrimp pattern.

Craig Llyn - GC from Pontypridd
Lyepole - CN from Keynsham
Llyn Coedty - OG from Caerdydd

GB from Lancing wondered whether canoeists had permission to pass down the Dinas beat of the Usk. GB, only if the water level at the WUF Brecon gauge had passed the red line…which on that day I do not believe it had. If they got out somewhere near the bypass concrete bridge, they may well have manhandled the canoe over a gate. On the other hand, they may have headed for the canal, where they have every right to be.

AW from Ledbury struggled with access across fields and overgrown stiles to Ashford House during a late evening session and wondered whether it would be possible to park by the bridge at the top end of the beat? That is an idea, and it’s certainly where the poachers park! Both rivers quietened again after the rather inadequate rains had ceased, but GM from Shrewsbury managed 11 trout from the top of the Wye at Lower Clochfaen. On the 19th Wyesham reported a salmon of 18 pounds, freshly arrived into the bottom of the river no doubt. NM from Christchurch (New Zealand I imagine) visited Dan y Parc and wrote: “The largest and most olives I have seen in my life of fly-fishing over the world. Many were several inches long on the body and cream-coloured.” I can only assume this was his first encounter with Ephemera Danica.

Floodlit agriculture by the Towy - Llandeilo Angling
Honddu Usk, CT from Cardiff
Llyn Bugeilyn - DY from Ludlow
Teifi Pools trout - JA from Rhayader

Now we had a solid day of really heavy rain which we all hoped would put the rivers in condition again. At first there was no news of salmon, as if we had been quite wrong to imagine they were queuing in the estuary ready to run. JR from Innsworth had 8 grayling from the Newnham Farm beat of the Teme, but complained about the access in the rain. Indeed during the wet days to follow, many anglers had problems with slippery banks and many a car had to be rescued. AM from Dorridge took 3 trout and 10 grayling from the Lugg at Lyepole but complained that with the cottage occupied there is “…little to go at in the bottom half.” That seems a little harsh. CT from Cardiff with a friend took advantage of slightly high and coloured water to fish some of the Usk tributaries and reported 20 trout on nymphs from the Honddu. Joe Alexander was at Llyn Bugeilyn again and caught 19 trout.

AB from Weston Super Mare with a friend accounted for 80 chub over 3 days fishing at Whitney Court. The rest of the time was apparently cheerfully spent in the recommended nearby Rhydspence Inn. AM from Bristol had 15 barbel and a chub from the Home Fishery – another potential car trap in wet weather by all accounts. On the 21st Wyesham had another fresh fish of 15 pounds caught on the fly, while John Harris who was fly fishing the bottom of the Usk at Newbridge had no less than 5 salmon in the day, weighing from 8 to 15 pounds. A 25 pounds coloured fish was taken at Upper Bigsweir on the following day. Heavy rain now led to a proper dirty flood which went down the Wye from the 23rd to the 24th. There was a lesser rise on the Usk. More rain on the afternoon and evening of the 26th started a second flood running down the Wye.

BG from Exeter fished at Upper Tower with mayfly coming off and caught 4 trout including an 18 inch fish. MH from Wolverhampton caught 4 barbel and 40 chub at How Caple Court, while 74 year old AR from Ebw Vale was pleased to catch 6 trout and a perch at Usk Reservoir, while his wife was happy to find only light work during her accustomed litter pick. FM Bristol with a friend encountered poachers at Middle Hill Court, but apparently took no action. JB from Crickhowell fished the Towy at Llandeilo for sewin, but was disturbed by floodlit agricultural activity in the middle of the night. I can well imagine that: during this showery weather farmers are getting in crops while they can. And of course they are unlikely to be aware that anglers are down in the river. One of my most disturbed sewin fishing nights was at Llangadog, with sportsmen careering around pastures on the back of a pickup truck, trying to lamp foxes and sending shots over my head. AP from Wirral reported signs of otters in the Dore at Chanstone Court, MS from Rhayader with a friend had 6 trout and 10 grayling at Craig Llyn, while Joe Alexander of Rhayader was up at Llyn Bugeilyn again, recording 37 trout.

AS from Cardiff had a couple of specimens, a chub of 6 pounds one ounce and a barbel of 10 pounds, in a bag of 6 taken on the Home Fishery. MS from Bridgewater with 3 friends had no less than 43 barbel and 65 chub at Middle Hill Court. AP from Wirral while fishing at Abbeydore was a little surprised by military activity just beyond the chain link fence, as rifle shots rang out and helicopters made low passes. It is indeed a strange contrast to encounter in this essentially bucolic scenery, but the ground beyond the stream belongs to the MoD and the chaps from Hereford have to practise somewhere. They even have a parked aeroplane and a train to play with. CE from Worcester had a large trout in a bag of 7 on nymphs from Cefn Rhosan Fawr. At last, on the 29th, we had a salmon reported from the Upper Wye. This was a fish of 12 pounds reported from Upper Glanwye. Otherwise, for those of us active and about on the river, it was surprising given the high water how few salmon were seen. Wyesham reported a 13 pounds fish with the fly on the 3st July.

Usk at Old Clytha - SE from Winkleigh

As I noted at the beginning, we live in record-breaking times. By the last week of July the garrigue of Mediterranean countries from Spain all the way across to Syria was burning. As usual, it was a little difficult to find out from the melodramatic news reports just how much was abnormal and presumably due to climate change and how much was due to journalistic catastrophizing about countries which regularly experience summer wild fires…and arson. A UN report suggesting that the Gulf Stream will break down over the next few years – the implication being a new ice age - seemed like the final straw. By contrast in Britain we were told that we were experiencing the coldest July in living memory, although it didn’t seem to prevent the growth of plants. July is always the time of peak summer growth, but everything this year seemed to be unusually verdant, whether this involved motorists missing signs and being unable to see round the corners of overgrown country lanes, or anglers struggling to push through ferns and brambles to reach the waterside. The Wild Streams are even wilder than usual this year. BS of Brecon put in a plea for a bit of strimming along the banks of Gromaine and Upper Llanstephan. This was in fact done, although not before the sandpipers had nested. I have a similar problem with a hedge along the side of our cottage in which pigeons nest and generally make a mess. The overgrown hedge obscures the view of the church spire, cuts light out from the garden and protrudes into the side access way, so that going out from our side door on a stormy day is rather like getting slapped in the face with a wet towel. Still the pigeons were enabled to finish their family affairs undisturbed before we trimmed.

Wyebank - NG from Bampton

This is the last Sunday of the month. I went shooting this morning and I’m now sitting under our garden porch, watching the rain fall, thinking about making dinner and wondering also how I am going to summarise July. Meanwhile, the tower captain in the medieval St Mary’s church next door seems to have rallied his ringing team for a full peal. There are 10 bells up there in the tower and it has been going on all afternoon. The jackdaws have accordingly disappeared for the moment. I’m not a “churchy” sort of person, far from it in the religious sense, but I do enjoy looking at English churches and rarely miss an opportunity to visit one when travelling. I’m also quite proud of our local church, which has a spire visible for many miles across the landscape. So what to write about July in summary? The weather was certainly strange. While the Mediterranean roasted, here it was more like autumn than high summer, particularly in the mornings. We have had our rain and the river has been in brief flood twice, although reports of salmon were rare. The coarse fishermen seemed to do very well as they have done all season.

On another of these dull, cool, rainy days of July, David Burren and I made another visit to the Wiltshire Avon at Heale. The river was brimming with clear water, very high and full of uncut green weed. Conditions looked good if we could deal with the weed, but almost nothing was hatching or rising on the lower part. David went to the upper waters, catching some grayling and trout on tiny dry flies. I managed one wild fish while prospecting in my favourite carrier hatch pool just by the car park. I watched this one come up once and turn back down, come up again and refuse, and finally take the size 14 Parachute Adams on the third pass. Downstream in deep water under the giant plane trees in front of the house there was a very occasional explosive rise from what looked like big trout. A few rather large sedge flies – I’m not sure what species – presumably left over from the previous evening seemed to be the cause of these noisy commotions at the surface. So I put on a large and hairy size 10 Deer Hair Emerger and this eventually provoked several attacks. A couple came off the hook, but I had a brace of quite exciting 2 pounders this way. There was also a grayling and a chub. I would have been happy with that on what I was already assigning as a difficult dry fly day, but during a late lunch here comes keeper Peter Major and his son Ben. Peter was carrying a handful of tiny nymphs he had found somewhere and poured them out onto the table. Even on a chalk stream dry fly paradise, I can take a hint when the keeper suggests you use a nymph. So for the last hour I cast size 18 and 20 Tungsten Bead PTN’s upstream, sight fishing on trout holding between the weed beds. David and I between us finished with some obscene number of trout caught during the day and my best trout on the nymphs, taken just before leaving, was well over 3 pounds. I had to walk it a long way downstream to avoid a wasp’s nest at the planned landing place. It’s amazing how a tiny hook will hold

Avon carrier
Avon grayling
Avon trout on the nymph

This month the deficiencies of the nation’s privatised water companies really came under national attention. Anglers have been complaining about the management of water and sewage for years, but the likely failure of one of the giants, Thames Water, which apparently now would like to see a huge cash injection of tax payer’s money to keep things humming along, or indeed avoid collapse, certainly attracted a great deal of criticism. The 3.5 million pounds fine for polluting the top of the Mole on the Surrey-Sussex border seemed to be the final insult and we learn that the CEO has already resigned. In the years since 1989 the company has increased charges to consumers by 50% over inflation, paid huge premiums and salaries to share-holders and executives, built no new reservoirs or major water treatment works, and regularly come under attention for polluting waterways. We now learn that there are four or five other water companies with finances and infrastructure in a similarly bad state. What has OFWAT been doing? Never mind the question of whether utilities privatisation 30 years ago was a good idea or not; what is to be done now is the decision to be made and who will pay for it? Billions are needed and I have no answers. As for the poor old Mole, that deep sunk, rather sullen but also intriguing stream where I caught some of my first modest roach and dace, one or two trout as well, it was never quite the same after Gatwick Airport was built across it. Both Surrey’s Mole and the Wey suffered badly from abstraction from about the middle of the 20th century as more and more housing estates were built, initially pushed outward by the green belt restriction, but eventually springing up almost everywhere. What was to be done; the population was increasing? So much for national planning.

I used to work in garages when I was a kid. One of the early jobs given to me by the Service Department was to run around the customers trying to collect outstanding accounts. These were the days when credit accounts were expected and usually granted to customers without too many questions by the likes of tailors, book makers, hotels and garages. It was thought to be necessary if you wanted a certain “class” of business. Also, somebody in Accounts had figured, not inaccurately as it turned out, that a polite young fellow in a jacket and tie turning up on the doorstep might have more luck than yet another reminder letter. This particular garage was a rather swish one with Rolls Royce and Jaguar franchises and incidentally I also sometimes had to deliver cars back to their owners. A run up the A3 to Kensington to deliver the Jamaica High Commissioner’s Austin Westminster usually resulted in a fiver tip, which not bad for the time. I met Sir Barnes Wallis when I delivered his Vanden Plas 1100 back to Effingham. Meanwhile the debt-collecting visits I made around St Georges Hill were not quite as bad as they sound. From the Old Money I used to collect the odd glass of sherry and usually, sooner or later if the customer had any decency, there would be a cheque. Even a retired bishop paid up eventually after wriggling like an eel for months. In the end he wrote me a little blank verse poem on the back of the cheque made out to the firm: When I remembered this account, I didn’t have the money. When I had the money, I didn’t remember the account. Anyway, here it is and God bless you.  Be it noted that these late paying cheques were very often Coutts cheques, a name which meant nothing to me at the time although I later realised there was a lesson to be learned. More of that later.

The New Money were different. This was the end of the sixties and JP Fallons, our coachworks, had painted John Lennon’s Rolls Royce Phantom in psychedelic colours. It seemed an awful crime at the time. Then there was the Rolls Royce which Keith Moon drove into a duck pond in Chertsey. (It was said to have been a swimming pool, but that is a myth. He did that later in the US and the car was a Lincoln Continental). Somewhere near Dorking I once collected an account from a young Hammer Films actor called Oliver Reed, which was certainly an experience.  The New Money were almost as late in making their payments as the Old Money, and then it was more likely to be in cash. But eventually, as they settled into the establishment, the New Money too were making their payments with Coutts cheques. “It’s a sort of family bank” someone explained to me. “For people who like a personal service.” Note that the cheque collecting visits I made almost never involved ordinary working people who had invariably paid up promptly on collecting their serviced car and would never have thought to ask for credit. The lesson I learned, and have never forgotten, is that the more money people have, the less careful they are about paying their debts on time. Give me the regular working man as a customer any day, because he expects to pay promptly and would be embarrassed to think he might be paying late.

Round about this time I remember that I was unexpectedly turned down by one of the UK’s major insurance companies which declined renewal of my own private car insurance policy and would not accept the new premium. I couldn’t imagine why as I had never made a claim. I think I had a Mini at the time. Eventually the agent (remember those fellows who used to visit you at home in the evening), under a bit of pressure admitted that the company concerned had a black list of occupations which they were not prepared to insure. The list included such gentle professions as night club owners, croupiers and book-makers. Why was I on it? Well, because I had filled in the simple words Motor Trade in the appropriate box describing my profession. Now this all happened long before George Cole established his famous Arthur Daley character in Minder, but it was clear what the insurers had in mind. “I’m sorry,” the agent said shrugging his shoulders rather helplessly. “There’s nothing I can do about it.”

There was certainly something I could do about it. I got up on my high horse and wrote a strong letter commenting on the venerable history of the motor trade in this country, the hundreds of thousands of people now employed in it, and the fact that we had a professional standards body, this being the Institute of the Motor Industry whose then patron was the Duke of Kent. I also suggested that those engaged in the insurance industry would be seriously inconvenienced if we of the motor industry refused to supply them with vehicles, service, parts or fuel. Well, somebody paid attention to the letter and I got my insurance policy reinstated by return of post. Of course, those were the days when even insurance companies provided some kind of personal service; it might well be different now.

All of these affairs had been forgotten by me long ago, but they came back to my mind this month as soon as I read about the duel between Coutts / Natwest and Nigel Farage. This was triggered when Farage had his business bank account summarily closed by the bank’s “Wealth Reputational Risk Committee” under what seem to be the most outrageous circumstances. Even Farage’s political enemies concede that in this case Coutts do not have a leg to stand on and that he is right to challenge their behaviour in the strongest possible terms. Commenters from the left to the right of the spectrum are appalled by the idea that people might now fear to express legally held opinions on any political or other subject of interest for fear of an internally appointed “morality committee” at their bank cancelling financial services. Every journalist in this country is writing about the bullying and freedom of speech implications of the Coutts decision affecting Farage and many others. I will add no more except to point out that the financial institutions of our capital should be very careful if they expect possible investors and depositors to continue to put money in London while being subjected to “moral rectitude” tests arbitrarily set by individual banks. Banks have been instructed by government to be vigilant in looking for illegal money laundering activity, but what Coutts has been doing is something very different. In point of fact, I don’t think there even was a duel between Coutts / Natwest and Nigel Farage; rather it was a case of no contest. Whoever at Coutts decided it would be possible to use an obviously politically biased opinion to try to attack such a skilled public relations operative as Farage must be insane. I imagine now they must be squirming as the subject access demands for internal documents flood in from dissatisfied former customers. The CEO of Natwest has already gone. So has the chairman. The future of the board which insisted on supporting her to the last moment must be in question; some more overpaid and woke heads may well roll at this bank, which was bailed out with tax payers’ money not so long ago. The BBC also has had some uncomfortable questions to answer. Frankly and rather ignobly, I admit to having enjoyed myself sitting back and watching it all.

Finally a thought from my son, who before he retired to concentrate on fishing and other good things, had a career in banking. My son’s suggestion to those Coutts customers who like old school banking and personal service, and would prefer to avoid the virtue-signalling morality and political tests which Coutts apparently like to apply these days, might like to try the Swedish Handelsbanken. They have branches throughout the UK, provide a personal service, aren’t particularly interested in their customers’ political opinions and can also doubtless be relied upon to keep the affairs of customers confidential. Incidentally, I still have trouble believing that I have a retired son; it makes me feel ancient.         

Oliver Burch 

Wye Valley Fishing   

Edw Hergest - JA from Rhayader

Please note that the views within this report are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Wye & Usk Foundation.