Welsh week, mate!

Article Video: Tal-y-Llyn Video: Test All pictures

Wales has a lot of good fishing to offer

By Martin Joergensen

The Usk - We should have fished it this day. Had I taken this picture the next day, I would have drowned, so much had the river gone up due to rain.
The Usk
Looking for sculpins - Paul rolling over rocks in the Usk in search for Sculpins.
Looking for sculpins
Bug hunter - Paul looking for creepy crawly things under the rocks in the Usk
Bug hunter
March Brown - The March Brown mayfly (Stenonema sp.) nymph on an Usk rock.
March Brown
Monday, mate
It's amazing how short and easy flying from Copenhagen to London is. We were scheduled to be in the air 1½ hours, but actually made it 15 minutes ahead of time.

My Welsh friend Paul Slaney was riding around the airport in his car, while I was scouting for him inside. A few calls on the cell phone and I knew that I had to move to the ground floor. We finally agreed on a spot and even though half the London police force were guarding every inch of (illegal, but convenient) parking space we managed a rendevouz and I was finally able to fight my way through the rain and shake hands with Paul.

We were quickly babbling happily in the car. We've been together quite a few times before, and there was enough to talk about. As we moved toward Wales Paul decided to take a detour and cross a chalkstream that he knew. The rain was a bit on and off now, and as we walked along the stream we spotted several large brown trout an grayling.
The water was - as it is in chalk streams - as clear as gin. This stream was shallow and wide and rich. Really rich. Tempting, but forbidden, fruit. As most of the good chalk streams the water is not available to the public, but held by private clubs, and well kept and protected.

Oak - Nice, fresh oak leaves on the bank of the Usk.

After having unloaded our stuff in Paul's house and said Hi to Paul's better half Bev, we decided to go scouting along the Usk, which runs quite close to where Paul lives. The weather was quite nice and sunny now, and perfect for sightseeing and getting an impression of the river, which we were planning on fishing later that week.
And we saw it all: perfect conditions, a few brownies spooked off, a large shoal of sea trout in a deep pool, the dipper and the whole beautiful scenery. We had rods in car but no reels, flies or anything else. We were to regret that deeply the next day.

Tuesday, mate
Paul served coffee on my bedside table and announced "I'll tell you the bad part when you're awake…". He didn't have to. One look out the window, and I could see it myself. The starry clear sky the we had seen in front of the Indian restaurant where we had our curries the night before had turned into a windy, cloudy, rainy morning.

We took our time, and while we were eating breakfast it started clearing up. We packed the car and left the house for a day of bank fishing on a reservoir.

After a beautiful car ride Paul bought licenses for the small lake and we rode up an exhaust-killing road to the top of the dam. The wind was harsh and cold but the weather was fairly nice.

Lake bend - Paul\'s rod bent by a stocked rainbow.
Lake bend
Lake brown - Paul Slaney with a beautiful brown trout from the small reservoir.
Lake brown
Kelly\'s kettle - The old Kelly\'s Kettle is boiling water for a cuppa.
Kelly's kettle
I started off with a streamer and Paul fished a team of a nymph and a buzzer. Soon he was into a beautiful brown and as soon as it was released I was equipped with the same rig.
Paul got a rainbow within five minutes and I hooked a rainbow, which took a leap or two and spit the hook.
Soon after I was into a better fish. It jumped too, but stuck on there.

The fishing was dead drifting in the wind following the foam lanes and fishing the flies close onto the bank.

The weather got worse, and after one more effort after a lunch consisting of cup noodles and coffee we decided to call it a day.

We packed up and headed for mutual friend Charles Picton's place.

We fished Charles' secret stocked lake, saw a couple of the big rainbows that roam there but the weather was terrible and real fishihng almost impossble and at no real joy.

All the spate rivers were brown and up a foot or two and the Irfon, which we had planned on fishing in Charles' neighborhood was absolutely blown out. Just as the Usk had been when we checked it out in the morning.

We spent time in Charles' and Liz' house with tea and talk and their dogs and cats with strange names such Bogroll, Mush and Squish.

For dinner we went to the local pub and had beef and kidney pudding. Chips on the side of course and good beer too. The desert was Crusted Rhubarb for most of us and double up of Spotted Dick to Paul - who finished the huge serving with a silly smile on his face.

Rain-bows! - That must be why they are called rain-bows, the fish that Charlie stocks in his secret lake. Notice the umbrella - standard equipment for fishing in Wales.
Charles\' den - Charles Picton in his office
Charles' den
Spotted Dick - Spotted Dick is the desert, not the person. The person is Paul Slaney obviously enjoying the double serving of this traditional British sweet.
Spotted Dick

Wednesday, mate
Bacon and eggs... - ...and sausages and fried tomatoes and toast. Charles\' English breakfast was a feast!
Bacon and eggs...
Need I mention it? It rained dogs and cats from the morning.
Charles cooked an impressing and delicious English breakfast, the whole treat: bacon, sausages, eggs, fried tomatoes and toast. I reclined the offer of baked beans, which is traditionally a part of this robust meal.

We talked and hung out in Charles' den looking at his flies and his gear. We also fooled around with Charles' site Taling-Bonefish and made some minor changes.

I wanted a C&R net in the US style, and after having called around to different shops, of which none could help us, Charles gave me his own trout net!
"Never use the bloody thing anyway!" as he put it. I could just tie a knot on the net bag to get a shallow net.

The local river Irfon was a foot or two higher than usual and brown as chocolate milk and "bloody unfishable" as I guess Charles would have expressed it.

We drove over the moor and saw several nice small streams and lakes. Paul shopped a sleeping bag, a bivvy and a therma-rest in a small army surplus shop. All meant for his Lapland trip this summer. Plus a pair of camouflage army trousers as he had worn them during his time in service.

We hit the butcher and green grocer and shopped for an English roast dinner. That turned out to be absolutely delicious!

Roast dinner - Paul\'s excellent roast dinner. It was as good as it looks - and then some.
Roast dinner
Boys having fun - Paul broke the lid off a couple of fly boxes and we had a ball groing through his collection of furs and feathers from all over the world.
Boys having fun

Afterwards we tied Diawl Bachs for the GFF article and I was taught how to rig for British stillwater fishing in preparation for the lake fishing later that week.

Thursday, sir
Paul brought me coffee on the bed as he had done most of the other mornings, and after a quick shower we were on the way to the Test.

The trip was smooth and easy and even brought us by a baker. Danish (they said) and a jam donut. A good start for the day!

A room with a view - The benches and table right in front of our fishing hut on the Test. Notice the amazing clearity of the water. Under the far bank by those green patches it\'s probably 2-3 feet deep.
A room with a view
Sign - We were on 3, the other guy was on 4... and we were not welcome!
Not that easy - It might seem very trimmed and easy, but trust me: spooky fish, clear, shallow water and more trees than it looks like can make it quite challenging to fish the Test.
Not that easy
Nicely kept - Typical beat on the Test: short grass, paths, bridges. All for your convenience, Sir!
Nicely kept

We located the access to our beat and the ajoining parking lot. Everything was very neatly kept and the grass was mowed for easy access with the car. We pulled on our waders, packed our stuff and walked the short distance to our fishing hut. The hut - aptly named Buckingham Palace - was a true mansion with cups and glasses, a stove, fresh water and the works - all within 20 yards of the stream. And nice table and benches in front with a full view to the stream just a few yards away.

Bamboo bending - Me and my cane rod are into a good Test brown trout.
Bamboo bending
A cuppa - Paul sipping a cup of coffee during our lunch break on the test.
A cuppa
Cane on the Test - My Partridge cane rod posing in its proper environment: by an English chalkstream.
Cane on the Test
Just beat it - Even though the beats were clearly marked, we did manage to cross into the next guy\'s beat a couple of times.
Just beat it
We saw a bunch of fish, but they were easily spooked. It took some time for me to get used to seeing fish before they saw me. There were few second chances. Deeper dwelling fish were not quite as easy to spook by casting, but could see you so much the better in the clear water.
The stretch was upstream fishing only, and we had great fun taking turns with spotting and casting.

We had one small shower and apart from that sunny weather with the odd cloud passing over. A close to perfect day.

At days end we could register at least 6 trout for me and 8 for Paul. Average size was really good - probably about 2 lbs or 1 kilo - not counting the little tiddlers, grayling mostly. We both had fish in the 3 lbs range and I saw one which I judge to be 5 lbs. or 2½-3 kilos. The fish spooked and swam off at my first cast, which was of course almost perfect... These fish were not easy.

Spot the Test trout on this video

I managed to get one one more fish before we decided to head home - a one pounder to draw down the average. Time to put the cane rod down and rig off.

We would sleep well that night.

Another one - Paul with yet another Test brown trout.
Another one
Trimmed - Paul into a fish from the trimmed banks of the Test. The trees are cut and the grass is mowed along the banks of this very beautiful river - just to make fishing easier.
Test brownie - This my my largest fish of the day on the Test
Test brownie
Test beauty - A real gem of a brown trout from the chalkstream the Test.
Test beauty
Closeup - A closer look at a Test brown trout.
Butterfish - Some of the Test brownies were really colorful and yellow.

Hooked - There were dozens of fish in this bend on the Test. We managed to spook most of them, but did get a couple to hand too.

Friday, mate
We were heading up north to fish a lake called Tal-y-Llyn - wild brownies only according to an article that Paul had read. Not quite the truth it would show.

I slept in. We were supposed to leave at 6:30, but it was more like 7:30 before we actually got going.

We rode for a couple of hours, and had breakfast at Little Chef. Greasy above average and not exactly good. We passed through Machynlleth and dropped by Paul Morgan's bookshop Coch-Y-Bondu. He wasn't in, but we left a message.

The hotel - Our hotel was beautifully located on the bank of Tal-y-Lynn.
The hotel
Not wild - They may not be wild (the trout), but they sure are beautiful (the trout).
Not wild
Tubing - Paul Morgan in the tub on Tal-y-Llyn.

Paul had mentioned the fly Harry Tom several times on the way, but also said that he only had two in his boxes. So we had to locate a flyshop and pick up some Harry Toms. In Machynlleth the only fishing tackle is available in the bike shop. They had no Harry Toms, but we bought a few other flies.

Boats - A classical scenery: boats and a stillwater.
Tangle - This Black Zulu would up in a mess of leader material after I had taken a few casts. Learning to master the long leaders takes a little time.
We could always get the Harry Toms in the hotel, Paul said, so we commenced up the valley and found the lake and the hotel called Tyn-y-Cornel.
The lake looked beautiful, and we met Tom in the reception. He recommended snail like patterns - and Harry Toms of course - and directed us to a boat. We declined checking in right away wanting to fish as soon as possible.

We rigged the rods and I learned something new again. A 20' leader with tags for two droppers. Tied on a Diawl Bach on the point, left the tags for the droppers and entered the boat. The motor took some convincing to start, but eventually we could ride the waves towards the place of wild browns.

We didn't have action right away - apart from my tangles with the incredibly long leader armed with three flies: The Little Devil, one of our two Harry Toms and a Black Zulu.

But some little fish managed to hook themselves onto our flies. Small ones, mind you, but fish anyway.

Paul had the day's largest fish within 15 minutes and I were catching smallies - about 15 centimetres or 7-8 inches at the most, and a sea trout smolt now and then. I had two doubles where I'd have fish on two flies at once. First set were small ones. The next set a larger one and a small one.

The wind blew stronger and we decided to take a break. We checked out the fly selection in the hotel tackle shop. The only empty compartment in the fly bos was... you guessed it: the Harry Tom's. We had one left now, and I was to guard it with my life.
We had a cream tea (another first for me) followed by a pint in the hotel while the wind blew over and Paul Morgan showed up just as we were heading back out again.

He fished the float tube while we drifted. I had my third double - this time two good fish. Paul had several really beautiful fish. As we drifted our way further away from the hotel, we slowly apporached the far end of the lake. That was when the engine decided not to start. Luckily I could send one Paul as a messenger, while the other Paul tried to hold the boat in place with the ores. Eventuellt we got picked up by the fisheries manager, and were towed back.

What I did - Relaxing in the boat on Tal-Y-Llyn. The double chin is not mine BTW!
What I did
What Paul did - When our motor stopped working, Paul grabbed the ores and tried to hold us from drifting even further away.
What Paul did

See a small video from Tal-Y-Llyn
We had dinner with Paul Morgan - steak, and a good one too - and Tom joined us for a talk about flies and fishing until midnight. Tom fished for sea trout in the ocean and was very interested in my native fishing in the same species. We exchanged flies and lies and had a few for the road.
He also told us that they stock 500 fish in the lake every month. So much for wild browns…
But the lake sure was beautiful!

Doublé - I had several double hook-ups on Tall-y-Lynn. These were the largest ones I caught - and two at a time!
Welsh lake - The bank of the beautiful Tall-y-lynn lake.
Welsh lake
Paul\'s trousers - \
Paul's trousers

Saturday, mate
We had breakfast in the hotel. Paul the full English, I had the continental. They were much the same... Paul's was fried mine was not.
Afterwards we watched the huge trout that were swimming close to the bank - in the non-fishing area of course.
When we turned around Simon was there! Good to see him again. He had come to fish the lake with us, but would in stead join us down to Paul's shop and up into the mountains to fish a couple of high mountain lakes.

We hung around a bit before we left. People were feeding them bread, and they'd come willingly to the surface for that. Tom fed them pellets. There were some monsters in that shoal. And only within the limit that marked the non-fishing erea. Wise fish!

Coch-y-Bonddu Books - Paul Morgan hiding (right) while we browse his book shelves filled with great litterature.
Coch-y-Bonddu Books
Welsh mountains - A typical Welsh landscape in typical Welsh weather.
Welsh mountains
The mad hatter - Paul Morgan\'s hat contains enough flies for a couple of months of fishing.
The mad hatter
Paul, Paul and Simon - The luch was a small bag of crispies for each eaten on the bank of the lake.
Paul, Paul and Simon
After a visit to Paul's wonderful shop - and a couple of bagfuls of books later - we picked up licenses and drove into the mountains.
Simon was the gatekeeper, and good at it.

Paul was using a pontoon boat and did well.
I tried allsorts, but a large streaking - almost popping - caddis did the trick. I had several fish in the half pound range miss the fly completely and go out of the water line rockets in the try. Almost half a dozen others stuck. Beautiful and genuinely wild fish. They weren't big, but it was fun.

We said goodbye to Paul after coffee - good coffee - and walnut cake.
We said goodbye to Simon after lunch - water with carrots in it (they called it soup) and a pork sandwich - and headed home.
We said hello to Bev who had made chilli for supper - and an extremely good chilli too.

In the evening we tied skinny flies and drank brandy. Really skinny flies. Actually some of them were so skinny that they were merely a hook with very little thread and herl on it.
Skinny flies sink faster says Paul. I have to believe him. He'd know. He has fished them for ages.

Sunday, mate
We slept in. The sun didn't shine, which would have been the only reason to get up early and try the Usk. As my flight was at 5 in the afternoon, we thought it best to leave at 1 from Paul's place.

Breakfast was bacon and eggs - my last chance to get it this time around. Before that was served I tied the remaining bunch of flies for my dozen of Skinny Darth Vader Nymphs that Paul had demanded me to tie. I'm a slow tier, so the dozen took me a while to finish.

After that we went shopping a bit in stead. Nothing big. Candy for the kids and marmelade for my darling wife.

We returned for a cuppa, talked flies a bit more, Paul tied a few and I filled a small box with the traditional Welsh flies to bring home… plus a huge pike fly to try on my home lakes.

The ride to London Heathrow was smooth and a lot quicker than expected. We said our short goodbyes. Parking in Heathrow is not for the faint of heart, so Paul was out of there as soon as.

My flight was on time, and soon I was off ground on the way back after a great week in Wales. Not the last great week in Wales I get... I hope...


Mountain lake - This desolated mointain lake held som nice wil brown trout
Mountain lake
Skating caddis - The mountain lake fish loved the fast, skating caddis on the windswept surface.
Skating caddis

User comments
From: hoppy · hopwood·at·seatrout1.freeserve.co.uk  Link
Submitted December 13th 2006

Excellent Article Martin, thoroughly enjoyed. I get up to Machyllynth quite often, fishing for sea trout & salmon in the Dyfi. I also enjoy the River Dysinni that runs from Tal-y-llyn, a lovely little river, similar to a chalk stream, with some lovely Sea Trout!

There is great Saltwater fishing in Towyn, 8 miles from Tal-y-llyn.


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