Early June seemed like a good time to take stock as we were now more than three months into the 2024 salmon season. Fresh salmon had been showing regularly in the lower river over the last few days, clearly making their way upstream. After a wet and difficult spring, the rods seemed to be making progress at last. In that sense there seemed to be reason for optimism, particularly given the quality of the fish. In terms of numbers however the total catch so far was around a half century, so there was a long way to go to reach even the 5 year average, not that the last 5 years have been particularly good. Still, even with the whole Wye still strangely dark and murky, the sight of big fish showing regularly in the lower river seemed like a reason to feel cheerful. We did catch fish during June but any rising feelings of optimism I felt were tempered slightly by the news that the Norwegian Environment Agency is currently considering closing most of their rivers at short notice. A warning message has already been sent out to their anglers. This is due to the assessed Norwegian salmon run this spring again being so reduced as to threaten species survival. We are not the only nation with concerns about our salmon.

Huntsham 10th June

Here’s a late report from the Usk’s Swan Meadow for 30th May, where David Ord took a salmon of 9.5 pounds on a Willie Gunn. Trout anglers were busy at the end of May. SM from Neath caught 7 from the MTAA water on the River Taff at Merthyr. PC from Bristol fished Ffynnon Llor and Llyn Ogwen of the Ogwen Valley AA and also caught 7 trout, including his “highest altitude fish,” or so he thought. That suggests an interesting theme for a competition: for example who has caught a trout from 2,000 feet or higher?

On Dinas CJ from Malvern lost a box of dry flies, mostly Klinkhammers, and would be grateful if anyone who finds it gets in touch with him via the Foundation. GC from Pontypridd found a “constant trickle of fly on the water” at Abercynrig on the Usk and took 16 trout on dry olive patterns. JR from Truro had 15 at Glan yr Afon and PH from Gloucester fished the Forest of Dean’s Bideford Brook and took 10 little trout on Grunters. MD from Surbiton took 7 trout on the “Klink and Dink” method at Ashford House.

No salmon were caught on this final day of May but some fresh bars of silver began to appear in the first week of June, although the mud stain was still apparent in the Wye. At Glanwye Simon Rodgers had his first salmon, a 15 pounds hen taken on a Cascade in the Duhonw Pool. On the 2nd Steve Brown had a 10 pounds fish with a salmo lure at Carrots. Wyesham recorded a fish of 12.5 pounds on the 3rd and Nathan Jubb had a 20 pounder at Upper Bigsweir.

George Ottewell caught a fresh fish of 13.5 pounds on a Red Francis at Llangoed and Llanstephan, closely followed by Brian Skinner with a 10 pounds fish from the Mill Pool at the Rectory. BG from Exeter while trout fishing at Cwmwysg Ganol had his day spoiled by wild campers, swimmers and even poachers. DW from Caernarfon had a better time at Penpont where he caught 9 trout. MR from Narbeth caught 16 trout at Abercynrig while JA from Rhayader caught 18 trout from the little Clywedog brook and 16 more the following day from the Edw at Cregrina. SP from Matlock had 8 trout to an impressive 16 inches at Monnow Valley and TR from Swansea recorded 10 hill trout from Llyn Egnant.

Cefn Rhosan Fawr - AR from Wisbech
Ashford House specimen - JP from Kidderminster

GB from Lancing who fished at Ashford House on 3rd June described some confusion about fishing rights caused when an angler on the opposite bank cast over towards him, at least if I understand the sequence of events correctly. I gather similar accusations from the rights holders on the other side have been levelled at WUF anglers. I haven’t fished Ashford House this year, but I usually find it a pretty quiet beat in very beautiful scenery. I don’t think I have ever come across another angler, either on my side or opposite. As several letters on this matter have already been copied to me for some reason, and on the general principle that disagreements with neighbours never turn out well, maybe I can take a moment to remind of some of the normal and customary “rules of the road” in these affairs. Some of these customs are enshrined in fishery law, some of it is practical common-sense, and a very big dose of it should involve courtesy between neighbours.

Any angler fishing a beat should make him or herself aware of where the boundaries above and below come, and whether some or all of the fishing is double bank or single bank. If the fishing is double bank, you may wade where you like within the upstream and downstream boundaries and cast where you like. If it is single bank only, as is the WUF marketed fishery at Ashford House, you may wade and cast no further than the half-way point. So says the law. In practice, amicable arrangements are often made between neighbours (I like to think of them as neighbours rather than “the opposition”) so that the river can be shared and to ensure conflict is avoided. This is particularly useful on smaller rivers. However, without a friendly bilateral agreement, you have no right to insist on anything. In any case, it would certainly be most discourteous to turn up and fish opposite somebody already fishing from the other bank. To remind again, the law states that you may wade and fish no further than the half way point on a single bank fishery.

Finally, it’s important to add that in a situation with two single bank fisheries opposite each other, provided that by-laws for angling set by national authorities are observed, each proprietor has the right to manage their fishery exactly as they would like without interference. This includes the right to decide on how many permits will be issued and whether their water is fished regularly, occasionally, or never. The law is quite clear on that.

Abercynrig - MR from Narberth
Ashford House - SJ from Crickhowell

Back to the reports. The weather was not being very kind to us again and a further period of cold winds from the north along with black clouds, squalls and showers ensued. Again on the 3rd TR from Builth Wells took 9 trout at Llandewi on the Ithon during a sparse mayfly hatch. JB from Horley seemed to have had fun below the bridge on the Dore’s overgrown Chanstone Court fishery: “classic combat fishing….wouldn’t have it any other way. Great day,” Deep in the jungle of alder and willow shoots, he caught 8 trout.

MR from Winchester caught 10 trout, the first with his own dressed flies, at Craig Llyn. MW from Wrexham fished at Cefni Reservoir for 3 browns and 2 rainbows. On the 5th MR from Winchester was out again, this time on the Monnow at Skenfrith where he found the water muddy, but nevertheless caught 8 trout on nymphs. PG from Broadstairs had 5 from Penpont with nymphs and dries while NG from Bampton took 8 trout at Buckland while prospecting with dries. AK from Leominster accounted for 10 trout to 16 inches, mostly with nymphs, from the Glanusk Ty Mawr / Canal and Rivers Trust water. JA from Rhayader’s latest report from the Edw at Hergest (8 trout caught) included some minatory words along with many exclamation marks: “The herd of cows are now loose in the field with a bull!!! Keep your wits about you folks…they cross the river where that old maroon swing bridge is…so have free access to both sides!!! Stay vigilant!!!” Well, I don’t know quite what to make of that. Maybe the owner should be reassuring the rest of us or JA that his cattle are safe?

Craig Llyn - JB from Tewkesbury
Buckland - NG from Bampton
Wyesham 7th June

MR from Winchester was out again on the 6th at Buckland. He described it as a bright day of broken cloud and caught 11 trout on nymphs. HJ from Bridgend caught 20 trout from Llyn Craigpistyll (Aberystwyth AA water). NR from Solihull was disappointed by the amount of growth blocking the Llynfi stream at Talgarth and he gave up an attempt to fish. RB from Bristol with a friend successfully challenged poachers trying to spin the Usk at Glanusk Ty Mawr / Canal and Rivers Trust. Thank you for that.

On the 7th MR from Winchester moved to the upper Wye at Dolgau, where he caught 5 trout on nymphs. MH from Swansea, a salmon member on GLLR, fished for trout at the Rectory and took 8 from the flats above the bridge. DW from Crickhowell reported a hen salmon of 16 pounds from the Usk below Abergavenny. AK from Churt had a 17 inch trout in a bag of 4 taken on an Adams from the Upper Tower beat, while GM from Hastings reported 9 trout from Old Clytha. Meanwhile in the North, GW from London caught 10 trout from the Raby Estate on the upper Tees.

CC from Swansea caught 6 trout from the Usk Reservoir. SW from London had no less than 22 Usk trout from Dan y Parc, using dries, nymphs and streamers. WB from Andover struggled to fish the little Clettwr in its steep gorge. I imagine the white marker posts marking the way down through the woods have long gone. AK from Churt fished Buckland on the evening of the 9th and had two 19 inch trout in a bag of 7, finding them in pocket water and the margin of the streams as darkness came on. GM from Shrewsbury fished the top of the Wye at Upper Clochfaen and caught 14 trout. WR from Cheltenham took 6 little trout on the Bideford Brook in the Forest of Dean on the 11th. Nathan Jubb had another big salmon from Upper Bigsweir, this time a fresh fish of 18 pounds.

Old Clytha - GM from Hastings

More concerns were raised about access to various beats and swims. NBN from Wincanton with a friend had a reconnaissance mission to Llyn Berwyn, where they raised some doubts about wading and requested accurate map references. You do need to wade at Berwyn, which is a productive and shallow lake – the two really go together. See more about Berwyn below. The What3Words reference app system is not perfect, but many like to use it, and the WUF are in the process of adding it to their extensive library of maps and directions.

AH from Minehead fished for salmon at Lower Symonds Yat and found the access points completely overgrown. Much of the bank is steep here, particularly at the bottom end, but there used to be yellow topped posts showing where the fishing points are. The growth this spring has been fast and very luxuriant. Maybe the owners could check and clear, or at least re-mark the access points? AT from Hereford found himself almost completely blocked by barbed wire from the upper part of the River Cammarch by the Trout Inn. This has been a problem for many years. Again, maybe the owners could improve access by removing fencing or providing stiles etc.

Meanwhile and despite that very slowly fading stain of colour, we began to see something like a rush of fresh three and two winter salmon into the lower Wye. Wyesham reported a 20 pounds fish on the fly on the 5th, three sea-liced fish of 11, 12 and 15 pounds taken spinning on the 6th, three more of 15.5, 10 and 10 pounds taken with the fly on the 7th, and a “12 pounds bar of silver” taken spinning on the 9th. On the same day there was a 13 pounds silver fish taken spinning at Huntsham by Richard Woodhouse on the 13th and one of 12 pounds for Freddie Duff-Gordon at up Glanwye. Wyesham reported two more sea-liced fish of 12 pounds on the 11th and another of 8 pounds taken with the fly on the 12th. This certainly seemed more like it! We had a modest total for the river now of around 65 fish. By now the upper river was low, but I watched several of the great silver fish still moving upstream on the lower river. Simon McLucas had one of 12 pounds from Redbrook, and the same day Wyesham, immediately upstream, recorded fish of 8 and 15 pounds on fly.

Aberedw - AA from Norwich
Arrow Titley - AB from Bodenham

Also on the 12th FM from Colchester was pleased to record a 19 inch brown trout caught on an Olive Nymph at Ashford House. Meanwhile NG from Bampton reported 8 trout from Buckland, nothing under a pound, and gave some detailed comments about what he believes is wrong with the Usk. JA from Rhayader caught 13 trout to 11 inches from the Ithon at Llandewi using a size 20 Iron Blue. Following on WB from Andover’s report earlier in the month, TR of Builth Wells successfully fished the Clettwr gorge, but was very unhappy with the directions provided which he felt to be creating a dangerous situation. Quite apart from the climb on slippery rocks, much of the time he could not tell where he was. To be frank about the Clettwr, this wildest of the wild streams is a tough climb and you really do need to be young and fit. I was quite proud of myself a few years ago when I made it to the top and walked back down the road, but now I am in my eighth decade, the idea of it seems less attractive or at least less wise. Health and safety is always a concern when it comes to field sports and especially climbing, but maybe anglers of my own age should give this adventure a miss. I am not sure how old TR is, but he raises a good point and maybe the WUF will find time to update the directions and markers?

MF from Coventry had some quite serious access complaints to make about the salmon fishing access at Cadora Backs, both for the car along the bank and down to the river. Maybe this beat has suffered by not being fished very regularly yet this year, perhaps combined with rapid growth this spring. James Tustin from Worcester opened the Goodrich Court account on the 14th with fresh fish of 12 and 13 pounds, from Corner Tree and The V. The weather on the 14th was truly horrible, with some of the heaviest showers I have ever seen, even in the tropics. Still, Nathan Jubb reported an 8 pounder from Upper Bigsweir. AJ from Stourport on Severn with a friend had 11 trout from the Monnow at Skenfrith, taken during the last hour of light. DJ from Halesowen at Court of Noke noticed a swimming mole, something he had certainly not seen before and nor have I. KG from Llangadog took 6 trout on the Usk Reservoir. Wyesham reported sea-liced fish of 12 and 7 pounds taken spinning on 15th and 16th June.

Serenity House Irfon
River Cammarch - AT from Hereford

16th June of course also marked the opening of the coarse fishing season and AG from Taunton with 4 friends kicked off with 9 barbel and 16 chub at Middle Hill Court, while MB from Swansea had 8 chub to 4.1 pounds at Lower Canon Bridge. TD from London recorded two carp from Trelough Pool, 15 pounds 2 ounces and 16 pounds 5 ounces. The second fish was still heavily in spawn, which I suppose is not so surprising considering the very late and cold spring. PT from Kingstone managed 4 trout at Chanstone Court, but pleaded for help about the access on this overgrown beat. I did believe this beat had been adopted by some-one for maintenance, but reports indicate that little has been done lately. By all means take some secateurs if you go there.  

On the 17th and briefly, a rise of nearly 2 feet went down the Wye, caused by showers in the head waters. AP from Blandford Forum nevertheless recorded 12 barbel and a chub from Middle Hill Court. Wyesham reported another sea-liced spring salmon of 12.5 pounds taken with the spinner. AA from Norwich had a very good day up at Aberedw, taking 20 trout with various methods. He had 18 more on the following day. JC from Stanford Le Hope with two friends had 47 chub and a barbel from Holme Lacey and Lechmere’s Ley. James Tustin was back at Goodrich again and took another salmon of 13 pounds at Dog Hole. Wyesham also had another fresh fish, 11 pounds and sea-liced, taken spinning during the morning, and then two more, 12 and 12.5 taken spinning during the afternoon.

The coarse fishers were now really getting stuck in. DH from Horsham with a friend had 12 barbel and 6 chub at Upper Hill Court. On the 19th MB from Swansea with a friend had 20 chub from the same beat. DT from new Milton caught 3 barbel to 9 pounds 4 ounces along with 5 chub from the Home Fishery and had high praise for the Inn on the Wye. RB from Bristol caught a barbel and 11 chub at Middle Ballingham and Fownhope No 8 while KT from Bath recorded a barbel and 20 chub from the same beat. JB from Birmingham who fished at the Creel for 13 chub was one of many who complained about difficult access, although he appreciated help on the telephone from the Foundation. JW from Birmingham thought that directions given for Foy Bridge needed updating: “White gate is no longer white.” GM from Lutterworth tried a light approach approach at Middle Ballingham and Fownhope No 8, trotting meat and bread under a float all day for 25 chub and a dace.  

Home Fishery - GA from Bristol
Upper Hill Court - TH from Monmouth
Home Fishery - TH from Monmouth

KM from Hereford had a good day on the Lugg at Lyepole, although no fish were rising and he fished nymphs all the way through for 9 trout and 6 grayling. AA from Norwich had 18 trout from the Edw at Hergest, again mostly on nymphs. The same approach was used by SR from Llangynidr, who caught 13 trout at Abernant. We had another of those wonderful comments from Merthyr Tydfil about reservoir fishing, as AM from Quaker’s Yard commented: “Do they stock it, rubbish up there.” This was after a blank day at Llwyn On and reflects the prevailing local view that “if you don’t catch, it can’t be your fault and the management must be to blame.” The Fishing Passport noted that Llwyn On is stocked fortnightly. I also took note of the fact that PG from Merthyr with a friend seemed to have no difficulty in catching 6 trout from Llwyn On the following day. In any case, I shall have to take careful steps when discussing this subject as we now have a son-in-law born and bred in Merthyr!

The heat was starting to build up now as the hottest days of the summer so far approached. I would have thought that, given the relatively high volumes of water still running in our rivers and streams, they would have been heat-proofed to some extent, but I turned out to be wrong on that point. Many coarse anglers were now booked on the rivers, particularly the middle Wye, and many had complaints about the level of bankside growth and general access. To be fair to these anglers, I would have thought that a pre-season strimming of the access to swims plus a little step cutting to counter the damage done by winter floods would be well worth the time of any fishery owner wishing to please the clients and maximise his income.

On the 20th KB from East London caught 22 chub at the Creel, where he described the access as “very dangerous.” He was on the Creel again the following day, when he caught 37 chub “averaging 3 pounds” and remarked: “I can now see the decline of the Wye.” To be fair to the poor old river, those words are a bit harsh from an angler who has just caught over 100 pounds of fish during his day. A day later KB remarked the WUF should review the prices at the Creel due to the bad access. Strictly speaking, the decision on ticket price is one for the owner, not the WUF. On this day he caught a trout, a barbel and 18 chub. CP from Brecon caught 14 chub at Whitney Court. Meanwhile JS from Hereford fished at Monnow Valley for a single trout and described the beat as “jungle fishing.” Again, to be fair, this is more or less what the beat description tells you, if not quite in such  blunt words: “…the banks are quite overgrown…access to the river can be difficult…especially in the summer months…”

Llandewi Ithon - JA from Rhayader

It is difficult to see how access to this one can be easily improved, given the steep banks and lack of footpaths. To summarise, this one is not for the faint-hearted. Next we come to KP from Newent, who after a break from river fishing for 15 years, chose Chanstone Court for his return. As described above, that one is pretty close to being a jungle and by its nature needs regular maintenance. Some stiles over the barbed wire fences would also be a great help. SL from Looe was spending some time in the Usk Valley and booked fishing over several days at Upper Tower. Unfortunately he seemed to spend a lot of time avoiding a rumbustious Devon bull, which took to tossing its head, bellowing and pawing the ground whenever he showed up. One night he crossed the Usk in near darkness rather than share a field with it. I sympathise; there always seem to be problems with boisterous cattle at Upper Tower. JA from Rhayader fished the Ithon at Llandewi for 17 trout and 2 grayling on dry flies, and the Edw at Cregrina for 14 trout. He came across some-one doing some trimming here, which was a welcome development. TR from Builth was another who fished at Llandewi for 15 trout on dries and spiders. BP from Pembridge was out with his Tenkara rod on the Clywedog and caught 14 trout. JS from Bristol who is a regular at Thomas Wood had complaints to make about damage to the access track. The WUF advised that repairs are under way, but the track should be restricted to 4WD vehicles for now. And LN from Andover had some really quite strong words about the directions for the Llanilar Angling Association’s beat on the River Ystwyth: “…thank you all for the fantastic nightmare!” He never did reach the river and went home instead. I don’t know the Ystwyth, which is a new beat on the Passport, but it consists of 12.5 miles of a small river running through wild country. I imagine it takes a bit of knowing, particularly if you are going to fish after dark for sea trout. It would be interesting to look at the map and directions.

Lyepole - BG from Stourbridge
Clywedog - AT from Hereford
Clywedog - JA from Rhayader

More problems: SW from London fished the Usk at Dan y Parc for 19 trout on nymphs and streamers and watched no less than 10 inflatable boats drifting through beat. They were of course trespassers. The general advice in this case is to hail them and tell them politely but firmly to leave the river, which is not navigable. They have the option of going to the canal. Sometimes this works, but usually they paddle on. The Foundation might appreciate a photograph, but in any case don’t put yourself at risk. KC from Blackwood caught 6 trout at Llwyn On, while AVR from Pencader caught 6 rainbows, 2 browns and 7 perch at the Usk Reservoir. SW from Merthyr had 5 brown trout and a sea trout from the Carmarthen Amateur Association’s water on the Towy. Regular AK from Churt struggled on Craig Llyn where he eventually took 4 trout on tiny dries and wondered why there were no grayling? I have been wondering that. SW from London took 17 trout on nymphs at Dinas, while SL from Looe, still avoiding his bull, took half a dozen trout during a period of frantic surface activity at dusk on Upper Tower. NA from Oundle with a friend had 70 chub, a barbel of 10 pounds 3 ounces and an eel at Fownhope No 5, while WW from Tredegar reported 29 chub from the Creel. While he was there, a disgruntled character pinned a note to his windscreen accusing him of fishing without a ticket – which was quite untrue. However RE from Cwmbran chose to float-fish in the shadow of Goodrich Castle on Middle Hill Court and caught 30 chub and a barbel, remarking: “Heaven on earth!” SB from Birmingham with two friends fished at Caradoc and reported 44 chub, 4 barbel, 3 eels and a dace. LM from Neston fished the fast water at Wyebank for 3 barbel and 9 chub. MW from Ross on Wye with two friends reported 87 chub, a dace and a barbel of 9 pounds 6 ounces from Holme Lacey 3 and Lechmere’s Ley. JA from Rhayader was back at Llandewi for 15 trout and MH from Swansea had 15 trout and 12 grayling on nymphs at Gromaine and Upper Llanstephan. AG from Taunton caught 6 barbel and 5 chub with the trotting rod at How Caple Court and had words of praise for efforts to create new swims.

On the 20th George Ottewell had reported what is by today’s standards a very special salmon. This was a silver hen estimated at 26 or 27 pounds, taken with a Black Francis at Llangoed and Lower Llanstephan. Fish were then still arriving at the bottom end; Upper Bigsweir reported a 10 pounder taken with a Flying C by Brenan Green on the 21st. Then came a long gap as the heat-wave built up and water temperatures steadily increased. There still seemed no respite from that colour in the river. On the morning of the 24th Wyesham reported fish of 12 and 15 pounds, respectively caught on the fly and by spinner. Then, on the same afternoon, the Foundation took a decision to close fishing for trout, salmon and pike on all the Passport beats below Ross; this was a measure to protect fish during catch and release and the restriction was to be reviewed on a daily basis. In the event this part of the river remained closed until the 28th, so the suspension was quite short. One suspects that in a situation where criticism about responsibility for a reduced salmon run is being bandied back and forth, the anglers need to be like Caesar’s wife, above suspicion. Dead salmon floating in the Wye after release would be a political disaster for angling interests.   

Otherwise, fishing was clearly suffering from the bright weather and now low water levels. JA from Rhayader fished the Clywedog again for 12 trout and determined that he would now wait for rain until revisiting. Water temperature was around 14 degrees. AH from Whitney fished at Middle Hill Court and reported 16 chub to 4.6 pounds.  JB from Tewkesbury and his father had a big trout in a bag of 6 taken at Craig Llyn on the evening of the 27th. Cloudy days followed and temperatures were a little cooler. On the 30th DP from Kidderminster reported a “great day on the river” at Lyepole where he caught 8 trout and 12 grayling on dries and nymphs. MB from Corby had 5 trout and 10 grayling from the Wye at Abernant, mostly on nymphs. JA from Rhayader fished the Ithon again at Llandewi, catching 11 trout from 7-11 inches on dry flies.   

While the heat was still on, David Burren and I visited the Upper Avon at Heale. Given the weather, the timing was hardly ideal, but in both our cases it was a matter of fitting in a day when we could. Arriving in Middle Woodford below the sweeping landscape of Salisbury Plain, we found the Avon bright and brimming full, on the brink of overflowing into the meadows. The hatches were open and the water running fast. The reasons for this bounty were two-fold: firstly the fact that the weed was due to be cut and tons of water crowfoot plugging the channels add inches to the level; secondly the amount of rain this last winter and spring had primed the aquifers to the extent that the chalk reservoirs would keep the river running high and probably cold for months to come. I suggested to keeper Peter Major that he had enough water to last him for the rest of the season, unlike we poor souls who have to rely on rain-fed rivers further west. But Peter was despondent, complaining that there was hardly any fly and no rising fish. The mayfly had been a great disappointment on all the chalk streams and here on the Avon the fish seemed to be tethered to the bottom of the river. This rather fits in with the article by Dr Cyril Bennett referred to in the February newsletter, which mentioned an alarming lack of invertebrates found during sampling upstream at Amesbury in 2022.

Avon brim full
Heale House
Avon weed cutting machine

Still, although nothing was rising I started with a dry fly as I always do, as did David. I picked a large mayfly imitation while he picked a little Pale Watery. There was no offer at all when I tried my fly in a favourite hatch pool. After a few minutes peering at a giant of a trout, more like a grilse, lying 5 feet down just above the suction of an open hatch (we tried him unsuccessfully with nymphs later), I went down to the plane trees in front of Heale House. You have to wade this stretch and it isn’t what it seems. The deep part is not the side beneath the great trees, although it is awkward to get in there, but the open side against the cropped grasses and rushes of a sheep pasture. Today with a big current coming down it was all quite difficult. Tree branches hang down everywhere so that you have to cast sideways and be very careful with the tip of the rod when playing a fish. I still had a Monnow Gosling on, reasoning there must at least be some memory of mayfly in any fish living hereabouts. When the pattern disappeared under the trees a few yards above me, I struck into what eventually turned out to be a 20 inch trout which rushed downstream to unspool most of the fly line before weeding itself. I made my way gingerly on tip toe through deep wading until I got below it, and then carefully felt the leader. The fish was still on alright; a couple of kicks and he was out and running again until finally I netted him in a corner by one of the giant tree trunks.

A little later and higher up the pool I foolishly looked away from the fly for a moment, and then turned back to see it had gone and the leader was steadily disappearing into a hole in the water. I tightened on that one to encounter a very different fish, which fought slow and deep, refusing to be budged from the bottom, at one point circling around me completely. It didn’t feel like a trout at all and I began to weigh up other possibilities, such as a foul-hooked chub. Eventually I lost patience and put on extra pressure to bring my opponent to the surface so that I could see it at least – which was a mistake, because the hook pinged out just as I got a look at the dorsal fin and tail of a very large grayling. The fly was lost in the branches above.

So the hot day went on. I changed to nymphs and ended with 5 good trout, a modest grayling and a salmon parr. David stuck with dry flies and I think he had more trout altogether. At the end of the day, Peter turned up with the crew of the weed-cutting boat on its trailer, ready for working in the morning. Unfortunately the trailer got bogged in a muddy dip in the river-saturated pasture and we left them all waiting for a tractor to rescue the situation. In fact they did start cutting that evening, so here is a video demonstrating how the modern chalk stream keeper mounted on his fearsome machine cuts ranunculus or water crowfoot weed. There are still some short stretches and odd corners which have to be done the old-fashioned way, wading in the river with a sharp two handed scythe, and very hard work it is too. I wish we could have some of those cuttings to replant the Wye.

Avon trout
Weed cutting boat for the Avon

Lyn Davies has been at it again, this time making a video about fishing Llyn Berwyn during May. This llyn which is surrounded by trees is known for its relatively sheltered nature compared to other high altitude lakes, and particularly famous for its dry fly fishing. The Berwyn fish seem to look up, more often than not. Here it is:

The very latest products of the tackle makers are usually far from the best buys and it’s worth waiting and watching the catalogues for deals. What about these three “last year’s” rods currently being offered by Glasgow Angling Centre: Greys GR70 Streamflex, 7 ft for a 3 weight brook rod: 140 pounds; Hardy Marksman 2, 9 ft for a 4 weight river rod: 225 pounds; Greys GR70 14ft for a 9 weight double-hander salmon rod: 150 pounds. We had a very steep increase in the price of fishing tackle since we came out of Covid; maybe there are signs that the inflation is reversing.

Afonydd Cymru’s latest “River of the Month” from Seth Johnson-Marshall is the Rhondda – see HERE for the link.                

Rhondda Fawr

A couple of months ago I was depressed to see that legislation was proposed meaning that in future adults would not even have the choice whether or not to smoke. There’s another freedom gone, I thought to myself. Now it seems that this bill is one of those to be put aside due to the pending election, so there will be some respite at least. You will appreciate that among my own generation, to begin with it was considered normal that almost all of our parents smoked. Offices, buses, trains, bars and restaurants were all full of cigarette smoke.  We smoked ourselves, most of us, by the time we were late teenagers. In my case it was cigarettes, then cigars and finally, as something like middle age approached, a pipe. And then, for reasons which I now forget exactly, I just stopped. It might have had something to do with a very bad tooth-ache which made the briar pipe rather painful to manage. Anyway, I just stopped. Looking back, I don’t think I was ever addicted, but smoking was certainly a pleasure. I had a girlfriend once who smoked Dobranie Black Russians with gold tips, which impressed me as very cool. I smoked strong French Gitanes from the blue packet at the same time, which to me seemed even cooler. What a pair! Later a contemplative evening walk around the lake with a cigar was an after-dinner delight, watching the big carp turn over in the last of the light. I found a pipe of aromatic tobacco while fishing on moorland streams kept the mosquitoes away.


Those who have recently stopped smoking tend to find the smell of tobacco smoke particularly strong, in fact quite repulsive if stale, and so perhaps once stopped, it is easy to stay stopped. And those who have recently given up the habit find it easy to be quite puritanical towards those who still have it. However, in my case after giving up I then spent 10 years working in the Balkans, where everybody smokes. A lot of the job involved making deals in – literally – smoke filled rooms, so for me ingesting smoke became almost a humanitarian duty. The sacrifices one makes on behalf of refugees and displaced people! Borislav, one of my interpreters who came from Belgrade, almost stuttered to a halt if he didn’t get to pull on a cigarette every half hour and sip a tiny cup of strong black Turkish coffee. I pretty much lost my sense of smell during those years.

The value of cigarettes and other “luxury goods” during the war years of blockade in Bosnia taught me a few things about how a supply and demand free economy works. This is why I am convinced that our proposed new legislation would have a criminalising effect by encouraging a larger black tobacco economy to take root here in Britain. (The USA tried banning alcohol once and we know now what the Volstead Act led to). The demand in Bosnia then was undeniable. People were selling each other individual cigarettes and even puffs at cigarettes. Tobacco had been grown for centuries in the warm climate of Herzegovina, but now it began in parts of upper Bosnia where it had never been seen before. Black markets sprang up everywhere and fortunes could be made in the time of scarcity, which is usually the case with wars. A market even in tobacco futures grew up.

When I first arrived in the east Bosnian enclave of Gorazde, it was possible to rent a freezing room above what had once been Kemal’s Restaurant, a building which now housed the UNHCR office and which overlooked the ice-fringed Drina and its bridge. The daily price for the room was one packet of Gauloise (to which Kemal was addicted) and which internationals traveling in and out could buy from the French PX in Sarajevo. The deal with Kemal included one meal a day, a dinner which was usually a malodorous stew made with pickled cabbage and some dubious kind of meat – rabbit, horse, or don’t ask.

There may not have been much tobacco or coffee inside the pocket, but certainly in some hands there was cash. When prices inside the enclave became very high, a “luxury goods convoy” would be organised. I believe UN Civil Affairs played some kind of role in this. A list of requested goods, mainly cigarettes, coffee and chocolate would be drawn up by the Muslim Government inside the enclave. This would be passed by Civil Affairs to the Serbs outside the pocket and there would be some to and froing about prices. The main player on the Serb side was said to be a nephew of Radovan Karadzic. When agreement on lists and prices had been reached, three loaded trucks with three Serb drivers would come from Pale to the entrance to Gorazde. With them would be a bank teller. They would drive beyond the last Serb checkpoint to a sort of shot-up bus shelter surrounded by destroyed buildings in no-man’s land, an agreed meeting point, where Civil Affairs would be waiting. Three Muslim drivers would come out from inside the pocket to join them, bringing with them a suitcase full of German Marks. The Muslim drivers would get into the trucks and drive them inside to the Government’s logistics centre, where the cigarettes, coffee etc would be checked. Meanwhile, back in no-man’s land, the bank teller would be counting his way through the notes in the suitcase. A quick check on the radio that all quantities were as arranged, and the Muslims would bring the trucks back. I don’t know if hands were actually shaken – probably they were - but after that everybody could go home. I think the international community’s view of the whole affair was that such contacts were to be encouraged on the basis that people who trade together are less likely to be killing each other. Slightly less, at least. Body exchanges were conducted on much the same system at that time.

On the other hand, once inside the pocket the luxury goods were marketed via five wholesalers, three of which were owned by the Government and one by Kemal. Some domestic Gorazde people still had reserves of cash, even for inflated prices. However, you can imagine the resentment to this kind of profiteering felt by the thousands of Muslim refugees from the Serb-occupied surrounding towns who were living on basic humanitarian aid, fighting on the front lines, and with their families crammed into stinking slums or sleeping on the street. They had no money to buy and this would have no advantage for them. I remember Brian of UN Civil Affairs, formerly a colonel in the Canadian armed forces, murmuring to me that he would not be totally surprised if one day Kemal was found floating in the river, tangled in the mooring wires of one of the home made electricity generating mills for which Gorazde was famous. 

As already mentioned, I gave up smoking many years ago, but my wife still smokes. She doesn’t like to bother people with it, so she doesn’t smoke in buildings or cars. Like her mother and grandmother before her, she just likes to begin and sometimes punctuate her day with a quiet cigarette and a coffee. She gets some of her best ideas during such contemplative intervals. Over the years I have watched her put up with being penalised with horrendous taxes and chased away, quite unnecessarily sometimes, from every kind of public space. My own view remains that I think adults, once informed, should be allowed to make their own choices about their own health and their own pleasures. For example I could choose to leave this computer now and briskly set off for a healthy walk. Or I could order a cheese burger from the takeaway or drink a glass of wine? My choice I think. My wife claims that she has lived in both a Communist dictatorship and a free Western democracy and she thinks she has now learned the difference:

“In a Communist dictatorship, you can’t criticise the Government. At least you would be very unwise to. But you can smoke wherever you like.                   

In a free Western democracy on the other hand, you can say whatever you like about the Government. Not that anybody will listen to you. But you can’t smoke anywhere!”

Tight lines!

Oliver Burch 

Wye Valley Fishing      

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