Friday, 30 October 2015

No Pressure - Spring 2015

Hiraeth - longing, yearning, nostalgia 

I miss the trout season already. Strangely, it’s not the eagerly anticipated dawn ‘til dusk sessions on new beats that I miss the most, but those stolen hours on the Usk by my house. I must be getting old. 

I feel the need to relate an entire season’s worth of thoughts and experiences but, for now, I'll restrict myself to the Spring and on this unseasonably warm October evening I hold high hopes that the fish overwinter as well as they did last year.

A fat Usk trout, March 2015

Spring low

Following the mild winter, the cold dry spell in March and April resulted in some of the lowest early season Usk levels on record. At the lowest point, I noted half a dozen dead trout and a dead salmon on the Bryn Derwen beat. I also observed a fish go belly up on the Eden, momentarily concluding it was the strangest rise form I’d ever seen! I suspect that these mortalities were a result of the harsh conditions, a combination of low levels and diffuse pollution. 

Dead salmon 


The grannom hatch proper commenced in early April and as one of the most eagerly anticipated periods on the Usk it attracts anglers from far and wide. This year was no different and ‘hatch chaser’ Paul Procter enjoyed a long weekend fishing the Bryn Derwen beat and Gwent Angling Society water.

Unfortunately (for me) I had to work on the Friday and had other obligations on the Saturday. It was a torturous test of will and commitment as a husband as I knew the grannom were hatching in force and had this confirmed by Paul over a pint or two each evening. At least someone was making the most of it.

I had pinned all my hopes on the Sunday as Paul, Dave Smith and I were due to fish Bryn Derwen. Sod’s law dictated that we awoke to a howling gale and, as I lay in bed listening to the windows rattling, I anticipated a difficult day ahead. Thankfully, my guests caught a few fish including Paul’s 19 inch adult grannom feeder. 

Paul's adult grannom feeder

A trip north

In the latter half of April Dave, Morgan and I ventured north. I had never fished the Rivers Eden and Ure and, despite a busy schedule, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do so with two good friends. We stayed in Hawes, fishing by day and consuming beer and whisky by night. The rivers were low and clear and the fishing was challenging, but a good number of fish were returned to grannom emergers and nymphs. 

Appleby  trout
Eden Grannom

As the grannom hatch occurs later up north, we coincided with the back end. Hatches were usually over by 10am and we took a few fish in the slower water on emergers and adults. However, most of the well-marked, beautifully coloured fish were taken on small UV backed quill nymphs.

UV backed quill nymphs

On the last day we were fortunate to be hosted by Matt Eastham on a superb Eden beat. We very much enjoyed the variations in the beat and the fantastic quality of the fish, and I can’t thank Matt enough for hosting the day. 

Well marked Eden trout
Matt with a lovely trout to the dry fly

The Monnow Social

Yet again, the Social lived up to expectations - both the company and the fishing. I took a bit of flack for staying in a B&B rather than camping, but it was well worth it. On the first day I fished with Neil on one of the Monnow beats above Pandy. The beat is lightly fished and this was reflected in the stamp of the trout. 

Neil on the bank of the Monnow
Monnow Trout - image courtesy of Neil Hotchin

On the Sunday I fished with Kris Kent on a private beat further down river. Kris concentrated on the few fish that were rising while I followed employing a more pragmatic approach... We caught no monsters, but returned many trout and grayling to around 15 inches. The middle section of the beat is special - braided and heavily wooded - and as I peered through the trees it seemed as though some channels were flowing in opposing directions. During another surreal moment Kris and I were confronted by a startled roe deer crossing the river within feet of us.

Woody debris

Thanks (again) to the hard work of Rob, Patrick, Neil M and others, this event was one of the highlights of my season and long may it continue. 

Pink holo DHEs - a great fly on the early season Monnow

No pressure

Experiences on the Monnow and Usk this year have yet again confirmed that the less pressure a beat receives, the more likely it is to produce large fish. Further evidence was gathered when I managed to gain access to a short unfished beat of the lower middle Usk.

The way down

The route to the river plunged fifty metres over a cliff-like bank and I trembled as I slid on my backside until I came upon an old rope buried in the leaf litter. Clearly the beat hadn’t always been unfished… 

Hot and sweaty after the ten minute scrambled descent, I realised the beat was only fishable along a twenty metre section. Slightly disappointed, I sat and watched the head of a fast run.

After a few minutes of observing hatching yellow may duns and noting no discernible rise forms, I elected to fish two size 16 light coloured jig nymphs on a french leader rig. On the first cast, as I deliberately lifted my flies through the water column, I pricked a large fish close to the surface that made a huge commotion. I cursed, but my concern proved to be misplaced as, over the next twenty minutes, the same spot yielded four fish of over 16 inches (including one of the biggest I landed all season). The mouths of all of these wild brown trout were coated with YMD emerging nymphs. I made the slightly more strenuous journey home in no doubt that I’d just made the ten most productive casts of my life.

Usk favourites

Usk YMD emerging nymph feeder

Tempus fugit

The older and busier I become, the faster time passes. I suppose the only advantage to this worrying trend is that next March will be upon me before I know it. 

The birth of my daughter has prompted me to re-evaluate and, after an honest discussion with Matt on the banks of the Eden (while my wife was at home caring for a teething infant), we concluded that being a time poor fishing enthusiast makes me a selfish bugger. As the weeks flash by, and with another season gone, I can probably live with this. 


  1. Great account of your season! You forgot about the MB hatches though!

    1. Cheers Nicholas. I only got as far as May though. I covered the MBs in the previous entry.