Fishtec HQ has the good fortune to be in the vicinity of some of the best small river fishing in Wales, if not the UK. Based in Brecon, mid Wales, we’re very close to the bountiful fishing offered by the Wye and Usk foundation. Ceri Thomas, our online marketing manager, naturally had to sample the wild stream fishing right on our doorstep. Read on to see how his 2015 season went!
Since its inception the Wye & Usk people have opened up some wonderful small stream fishing. Originally this was under the passport voucher scheme, where you had to block purchase your tickets and post the appropriate number into a voucher box on the water’s edge.
The old voucher system could be a bit of a pain – the vouchers were a nuisance to fill in, and they often got wet or ripped up. You’d often find you’d run out of vouchers, or have unused ones at the year’s end. Even finding the voucher box was a little bit of a chore, sometimes.
For the 2015 season this fishing became available at a fixed price season ticket under the new ”wild streams” system, simplifying things enormously, and making accessing the streams so much easier and hassle free!
Each beat can be pre-paid and exclusively reserved online from as little as £10, or you can purchase an annual pass for the whole scheme at just £80 (for a single angler) or £120 to cover two rods – very handy if you fish with a buddy.
At the last count there were over 65 wild stream beats available – a huge variety of challenging wild trout and grayling fishing. As a ‘go anywhere’ season ticket, it’s incredible value for such a large catchment area of both England and Wales.
Once you have purchased your pass, two laminated cards are posted to you. One to keep in your wallet, the other to display on your car dashboard. You are also emailed a password to use on their website – simply log on to discover which beats are free to fish for the day, download the beat map, and enjoy!
I work in the Fishtec office, just outside Brecon, which means I’m in the dead centre of the Wye and Usk passport stream region. These smaller streams are often ideal for a few hours fishing, and this fits in perfectly with my usual habit of fishing one or two evenings a week directly after work through most of the season.
To start off with, I sampled the river Tarell that runs right next to the Fishtec warehouse. It’s a small river, which flows off the Brecon Beacons into the Usk. The Tarell has a nice variety of deep rocky pools and pocket water, which make this a very fishy beat, although wading has to be done with care. Fish spotting with polarized sunglasses on lunch breaks revealed a healthy head of fish. However, due to the very low flows we had this spring and summer, getting near these spooky fish was problematic!
A few of us in the Fishtec office/warehouse did try our luck over a few early spring lunch breaks to land a fish – the lunchtime challenge – and we were successful in this, though no monsters came to hand. The typical size is shown in the image below. There are however larger fish to over a pound to be found in this mountain river. The high number of salmon parr in each pool and heavy spring time fly hatches were a very encouraging sight on this stretch.
The Llynfi dulais stream, which flows into the Wye, was only 10 minutes away from Fishtec at Talgarth. Lowland in character, this brook is another hidden gem, full of nice little meanders, in-stream cover and deep undercut banks. Some unseasonably warm April evenings allowed us to wet a line after work, with plenty of moderately sized wild browns coming to hand in the 8 to 11 inch size range.
This stream does however hold fish well over a pound, which come out of hiding during mayfly time, and at dusk during the summer months. A mayfly spinner pattern fished into dark can be lethal from late May into June. Sadly this year the water level on the llynfi was the lowest I had ever seen it, despite some rain it never seemed to come up and flush through like other streams in the area. Often the best time to target a wild stream is after a good spate – the day after is usually the prime time to hit the water. Very handy if the bigger rivers are still in flood!
Nearby, in the remote upper Usk valley, there are several beautiful upland rivers that feed into the headwaters of the Usk. The Senni and Crai rivers flow in some of the most peaceful valleys in Wales, seemingly miles from civilisation.
These rivers can hold surprisingly large trout, which always become more evident as the season progresses. When things warm up they either come out of hiding in the very deepest holes, or make their way up from downstream. In the early season these waters were still very cold and fishing was tough. So, for best results, wait until the leaves appear on the trees.
Another interesting Usk tributary I visited was the Gwyrne, near Crickhowell. Going up into this isolated valley is like entering the land time forgot. The stream itself shows much promise with dark shadows lurking in some very deep pools. Even though only a few small fish came to the fly on my visit, I have earmarked this beat for a return next season.
In the upper Wye valley, the river Edw comes through one of the most quaint valleys I have ever fished. Rocky and literally stuffed full of fish and insect life, this wild stream is up there with the best of them for pure sport. If you do want to sample true wild stream fishing I recommend this one – and you have four beats of varying character to choose from!
Moving onto the Welsh border country I was able to discover the joys of fishing the upper Monnow tributaries. The Dore, Honddu, Dulais and many more beautiful streams await you in this region. Some like the Dore hold very healthy populations of grayling, allowing this river to stay open beyond September 30th.
The Dore really is a delightful English border brook with some very surprisingly deep pools, some of which hold decent shoals of grayling. It’s cramped under the tree canopy, so be prepared to swear a lot when you inevitably hook a few branches – but get the cast in just the right spot and you will be rewarded!
The nearby river Honddu is just over the border in Wales, but has a totally different feel in a steeper sided, shaded valley. It holds an incredible density of wild trout, including some whoppers well over two pounds, which I managed to hook (and lose!) on this lilliputian stream.
Fish from 9 to 12 inches are quite plentiful here, as on all the neighbouring streams. I spooked far more than I caught, but over several visits I was rewarded with some first class late summer dry fly fishing, despite desperately low water levels. In spring, once we have fly hatches and a good flow of water, these beats will be my number one priority for a visit!
Unfortunately 2015 ended with a total washout. Frustratingly, I wasn’t able to continue fishing for grayling on the Irfon and Ithon beats as planned. These, plus the Arrow, Lugg and Forest of Dean beats will all be on my shortlist for a visit next season.
The fishing on offer is so extensive that you really need to spend a few years getting to know them all – but if you are in need of a helping hand, take a read of each beats online catch reports, or email the guys at the Wye & Usk.
After a season what did I learn?
- Leave your long fly rod at home. A 7’6 foot 3/4 weight is ideal, although in some places a 6 footer would have been better!
- Be prepared to snag up on lots of undergrowth. If you are not getting the odd snag up, then you are probably not casting to the right places. When hooking a tree for the 10th time, try and stay calm. Just breathe deeply and accept that it’s all part of the fun!
- Wait until at least May before trying the highest upland rivers.
- Visit each beat more than once. When you know all of the nooks and crannies where the fish lie, the return visit is often much more productive!
- Cover lots of water – these fish spook easily, so don’t dwell too long in one spot. The first cast or two usually gets a take, provided the fish are there.
- Move with stealth – a careless footfall in low water will ruin your chances.
- Try and work through the beat twice through in one session if possible- on the second run just fish the best spots.
For more small stream tips, click here: https://blog.fishtec.co.uk/top-5-tips-for-small-stream-fly-fishing-success
For more information on fishing the wild streams, visit the Wye & Usk foundation’s excellent website.
Tightlines for 2016!