Craig Bufton

About Craig Bufton

An avid fly fisher, Craig is a long standing member of Builth Wells’ Groe Park and Irfon Angling Club where he is webmaster and content editor of the club website. As well as writing for Fishtec, Craig also contributes to other angling publications including Eat Sleep Fish Magazine.

If it’s broke……….fix it!

When I got back into fishing, I was very lucky to have some knowledgeable people around me to give me a steer in the right direction.  The great fishing community on social media has only helped me to improve.

Helpfull advice will get you more fish on the bank.

Helpful advice from fellow anglers will get you more fish on the bank.

Early on, I was keen to learn and what worked best for me was asking questions.  Tactics; flies; rod setup; were all frequently asked to any and all fellow fishermen. In the main, I received positive and helpful responses.  There was however a few who were not interested in helping, the very same people of shun any advice you offer up.  One example was of a man who was catching at a local Stillwater when I nor nobody else was.  He went as far a removing his fly from his cast when having a lunch break so nobody could see what was being used! But as I said, this was the minority.

I’m now at a stage where I’m confident enough in my abilities and knowledge that I can offer some advice when asked.  It gives me a sense of satisfaction when I tell someone to try a tactic or use a certain fly and it pays off.

A rare still and warm day at Garnffrwd fishery

A rare still and warm day at Garnffrwd fishery.

I recently took a trip to my favorite small water fishery, Garnffrwd.  I managed to get there on a gorgeous day, which is unusual for me.  No rain, temperatures up and the sun was out and warm (the warmth of the sun was not realized until I got home and my partner laughed at my ‘panda eyes’ – always use a hat and sun cream guys!!!)

The fishery looked gorgeous as ever and I was the only person there.  It was early morning and the fish were already turning in the surface feeding on buzzers.  Having already set up my one rod with my Airflo Super-Dri line, G3 fluorocarbon and an Olive Damsel, I gave it a swim. After a short time, and many follows I hooked up into a decent rainbow which quickly graced my Airflo Streamtec Trout net.  Without much further action I took a walk around the lake and had a chat to a couple of other anglers who had arrived.  Jamie, the fishery owner, also came by for a chat and he advised that black flies fished in or just below the surface film were working best.  Lures were just not doing the business and a lighter setup with smaller flies was the way forward.

With Jamie’s advice fresh in my head (after all, its his fishery and will be Managing the Welsh bank team so surely only a fool wouldn’t take that advice?)   I tied on a Black suspender buzzer and cast out.  I quickly lifted into another good fish, which turned out to be the best of the day – just short of 4lbs.  Another fished soon followed before I moved around to the Dam.

The suspender buzzer working it's magic

The suspender buzzer working it’s magic.

So why ‘If it’s broke……….fix it!’  Well, having caught a few fish I could see across from me that the two chaps I was talking with were furiously stripping lures without any luck at all.  One was getting rather frustrated – “it worked the last time we were here” I heard in quip angrily to his mate.  Having taken another couple fish on the dam, I moved round to the island on the pegs next to the man I’ll call ‘Angry’.  This time after casting out an Olive suspender buzzer a few times, a good spirited Rainbow took my fly.  It fought well and left the water a couple of times right by where ‘Angry’ was fishing – I think it did that on purpose.  Soon after it succumbed and graced my Airflo Streamtec Trout net.

With lunch time upon me and my stomach making its feeling perfectly clear, I headed for a break.   As I walked past Angry I asked ‘how you getting on’.  ‘Rubbish’ he replied.  I offered one of my flies to him and he appeared grateful, I offered the same gratitude to his friend.  Watching as I sat for some food, ‘Angry’ was still pulling lures.  His mate had taken my and Jamie’s advice and had stripped down his setup and was casting out my buzzer.

I finished the day with 9 Rainbows (all safely returned to grace another anglers’ net), mainly on the buzzer but a couple late in the day I took on a small Black Hawthorn fly.  Back at my car tackling down, the two fellow anglers followed shortly after.  One was chuffed he had taken 2 fish on my buzzer, something that gave me immense satisfaction.  ‘Angry’ had nothing.  I asked what tactics he used and he said he puled lures all day.  I could have been wrong but I got the sense he wasn’t willing to take advice from someone much younger, that or he was just plain stubborn?

It’s a way of fishing where I have learnt the most, if I’m not catching, I try something different.  Going as far as completely changing my rod setup.  By doing this I have caught fish on days that looked lost and learnt how best to fish my local rivers.  I was often surprised with what the fish are willing to take during them slow days we all have.

Take my advice, or don’t – but if it’s broke, fix it.  You’ll often be surprised but the results.

Garnffrwd is a truly cracking fishery, I didn’t manage any Browns or Tigers on this trip but surely that’s just a reason to go back soon??  If you haven’t been, make the effort to go, you wont be disappointed – Garnffrwd Trout Fishery

Tight Lines and Wet Hands


A nice Garn rainbow going back

A nice Garn rainbow going back.

A Return To The River

Fishtec Blogger Craig Bufton returns after taking a major break from fishing and writing about his adventures.  Read on to find out how his long anticipated return to the river Wye went on an extremely rare dry winters day!

I’m sure we all at one time or another have had a break from fishing. For me, it was the birth of my son as well as moving house. It was probably the best part of eight months without so much as wetting a line.

Having finished off the last house project (for now…) the itch was certainly returning. I checked the weather reports and 18th Feb looked promising for a day on the Wye. As with all my fishing trips, it inevitably rained the days preceding my day out. Constant checks of the river levels showed only a slight rise in the river so I was on.

Only a slight rise in the level - Fishing is on!

Only a slight rise in the level – Fishing is on!

The morning started……annoyingly. I arrived, put on my waders and realised my reel was hanging in the back garden. I was straightening my Airflo Super Dri Elite line that had been sat spooled for nearly 12 months – amazing how well it straightened overnight! Having now moved out of town, it was 20 mins home and back and I could finally tackle up my Airflo Nantec rod with a ‘New Zealand Strike Indicator’, with a size 14 Red Tag Nymph. Additionally, I set up my 10ft Streamtec rod with a team of Czech nymphs.

It was a beautiful morning, cold and crisp although the sun was shining very brightly on the water. Now I had 2 options; Do I head upstream of Builth Bridge and fish the section of river I knew very well or downstream and explore some of the river I often avoid, for no real reason other than its further to walk. Given the river was pushing through pretty hard I opted for downstream where there were some shallower water and chance to fish off the bank.

River Wye below Builth Wells town bridge

River Wye below Builth Wells town bridge

I started Nymphing, an hour or two went by without so much of a nibble. By this time I had made my way down to Church Pool ( With some slack water off the main flow, I changed to my Airflo rod and plopped the PTN just in the food line. No sooner had it hit the slack water when the indicator dipped under. I enthusiastically struck, grayling? Trout? Salmon?………….Nope, twig fish! Second cast, this time an actual fish. A lovely little Grayling of about 7 inches, which was quickly followed by another. Despite my best efforts, that was it, so I made my way further downstream towards the fly run. The walk down takes you away from the river bank through woods where I took in some of the sights on offer.

I arrived at the fly run, which has been a good spot for me in the past. Unfortunately, the fish were not obliging. Coupled with the fact I managed to lose my snippers and Strike Indicator tool, my mood had faltered somewhat! Interesting however to see some of the lasting effects from the recent heavy storms.

The lasting effect of the winter storms - plain to see!

The lasting effect of the winter storms – plain to see!

I headed back up river and decided to finish the day just below Builth Bridge. I cast up and under the bridge to a spot that usually holds a good head of smaller fish such as Salmon Parr and Dace. My indicator shot under the water about 3 or 4 times to small fish before this beautiful little out of season brownie took my fly.

A nice brownie to end the day.

A nice brownie to end the day.

All in all, I had a reasonable day – It was just great to be back on the river, and I remembered what to do!. My next trip is already in the planning stage (this time a Stillwater I think).

I have also come to an agreement with Irfon River Leisure Park to fish their private beat on the Irfon. The Irfon just happens to be my favourite river and where I’ve caught my biggest Grayling to date of 2lb 2oz. The park is only five minutes from my house too so I intend on fishing a lot more this year and will keep you posted.

Tightlines, Craig.

Fly Fishing on the River Irfon

River Irfon

River Irfon

When I first started fishing, to me, the River Irfon was just a tributary to the Wye.  I never realised that it is one of the prettiest rivers you could hope to fish and full of good size fish including  Grayling, Brown Trout and Chub and also sees Salmon during their spawning runs.

During my earlier days I spoke with many anglers in my local club and also when fishing still waters down south Wales I was initially surprised to hear so many anglers stating it was their favorite river to fish.  Only when I really began to explore this great river I could see what all the fuss was about.

From its source at 540m on the upper slopes of Bryn Garw in the Cambrian Mountains, the Afon Irfon (Afon – Welsh for river) flows southwards past the foot of the Devil’s Staircase, along the Abergwesyn Valley through the scenic Camddwr Bleiddiad (Wolves’ Gorge) and into the Wolves Pool.  It then flows past the forest of Sessile Oaks to join the Afon Gwesyn at Abergwyesn where it passes beneath the Irfon Forest and the Nant Irfon National Nature Reserve towards Llanwrtyd Wells. Then it flows eastward through Llangammarch Wells, and Garth to join the River Wye at Builth Wells.  An overall length of approximately 28 miles.  The source of the river is also known as the Desert of Wales and the upper reaches of the river is listed as a SSSI.

During prolonged hot weather, the Irfon does suffer and run very low in places.  With the summer being as it was, the bottom reaches of the river hasn’t seen a great deal of fish but following a day or two heavy rains I decided to pay a visit to a stretch of the river my club (GPIAC) controls.  This section of river is above the Caer Beris Hotel estate.

I arrived at the Anglers car park around 9:30 and tackled up.  Having seen a couple of fish rise, I made the decision to start with a dry fly.  Given the width of the river in places and the dense vegetation surrounding, I opted for a relatively short set up.  My 4wt Streamtec, with a wf4 Super-Dri Elite, roughly 5ft of 6lb G3 to 4 ft 3lb G3 to a single Olive Klinkhammer.

Working my way up to the bend on the river, I took a couple of smaller browns however fully aware there are bigger fish lurking. With the wind biting cold and this section of the river under a lot of shade I made my way around the bend in the river where it was baked in sunshine and out of the winds path.

Without seeing anymore fish on the top, I tied on around 1ft of 3lb G3 to the bend of my hooked where I attached a size 16 PTN and fished the Duo up to the small rapids.  I had another 3 fish to the net on both Klink and PTN before reaching the glide above the rapids.  With my time running out, I was keen to fish a little further upstream where some overhanging trees coupled with some deep underwater channels was usually a good place to take a fish.

I stood watching as a fish was taking on the surface under trees.  Not an easy cast but got it right first time, my Klink shot under the water and after a short battle, a lovely grayling rose to the surface and was quickly released. Several casts later and a couple of lost fish, my Klink shot under again, this time I was into a good fish.  Having seen a glimpse it was a Grayling and with its big dorsal fin extended it took some shifting in the current and on light tackle, finally coming to the net was a ‘lady of the stream’ of over 2lb.

Heading back to car I reflected on what was a brilliant mornings fishing.  Easy to see why this is such a popular river and one which is top of my list too.

With a day ticket from my local club only £10 and various beats available through W&U Foundation it is also a very easy to access water that I advise you all to come and fish.

Lady of the Stream - Grayling

Lady of the Stream – Grayling

Low Rivers and High Spirits!


Now when it comes to fishing over the summer months, personally nothing can beat catching a large WBT on a dry fly.  However, of late, with the weather being so hot my clubs stretch of the River Wye (and Irfon for that matter) has been running very low meaning the WBT is in short supply!

Every year, the water from the Elan Valley Dam is released into the rivers.  This year it was very welcome.  Despite the amount of water being released, the river level only rose by a couple of centimeters.  The release water did have another effect however, dropping the water temperature by 3 degrees.

Because of the drop in temperature, we have seen a lot of fish moving into the shallower warmer waters of the Irfon – Bigger Chub mainly. Unfortunately, the water is so clear that these fish are very difficult to target with the fly as the fish spook very easily.  An afternoon with some luncheon meat may be in order.

This drop in the river temperature, the low water level and the bright sunshine has seen my hunt for WBT hit a bit of a lull – despite all my best efforts!

An afternoon on the Wye with my new Airflo Super-Dri Elite tried to put paid to the lack of Trout.  It was very hot but there was also a strong wind running up river.  I crossed the Wye to one of my favourite spots, ‘The Island’.  By crossing the river I was now able to fish with the wind blowing left to right, much easier given im right handed.

I started off fishing a light brown sedge, a fly that I’ve had luck with recently on the top. With

no luck and given how choppy the water had become I once again opted for my favourite method – the duo.

I tied an Olive CDC on a top dropper with a size 16 PTN with a gold bead on the point.  The PTN has caught me a lot of fish lately and is nearly always the fly I start with on the point of a Duo cast.

After a few casts towards some sporadic rises I had no luck.  Then, when fishing towards ‘The Steps’ my dry shot under the water.  The take was instantly registered given I was using my Super-Dri line, I must be honest and say it’s probably the best floating line I have ever used. There’s always speculation on buying a new fly line, but, i wouldn’t hesitate to get another one of these. Anyways,  I was into a fish, a small OOS Grayling quickly returned without any need for much revival.

Next cast I landed another small Grayling.  A couple of fish later and I bent into a better fish, in the clear water I could see the fish holding in the current with its gorgeous dorsal fin up making the fish feel even bigger than it was. I eventually netted the fish and took a quick picture before the fish bolted back into the deeper darker water not before soaking me with a very powerful tail flick on the surface.

I fished for 2 hours in to total and caught 8 Grayling.  The only WBT I saw was the one that jumped right in front of me, if I held my net out I probably could have caught it!

So recently, the fishing has been good despite the fact im not actually catching the species im targeting.  However, im not going to complain too much, I just love catching fish!


Is predation spoiling your fly fishing?

Everyone who every fishes will have a tale to tell about predation, whether they have caught a bird marked fish or saw a family of goosanders working a pool, taking their feed.  This year, more so than ever, this issue appears to be affecting where I fish, It’s never been so noticeable but until recently things have changed…

We see specimen fish coming out of the rivers down South fairly regularly, large brown trout up to 6lb in weight are caught every year, and the fish seems to be in tip top condition almost from the start of the season. My local waters however, have been strangely quiet.  The weather has had its part to play certainly; one problem we do have to put up with is the waters released from the ElanValley reservoirs.  With the heavy snow that lingered around, the melt waters have been running down the Wye for a significant period keeping the temperature of the water very cool and slowing the fishes usual ‘wake up’ cycle.

With the exceptionally fine weather start of the season and even more decent weather of late we’ve seen vast hatches of Olives, Mayflies and Sedges which leave you asking the question if the fish are actually there as no feeding activity can be seen in a haze of fly life, you’d expect the fly fishing to be immense!

The AC in Builth has stocked twice so far this year with Brown Trout.  On the second stocking, roughly 60 were stocked in the Irfon.  These 60 fish swam up stream, down stream and when two cheeky Goosanders landed on the water, they went round in circles and were easy prey.  In a couple of mins, easily 10 fish were no more.

Goosander watch

Goosander watch

The cormorants are also doing damage.  On our waters, a private syndicate lake and Llyngwyn lake there seems to be resident birds happy to take their fill.  The worse thing about it is they don’t appear to be bothered by humans.  A report earlier this year from Rhayader AC, an angler at Llyngwyn hooked a Rainbow but before he could net it the Corm has swooped down and taken the fish – after a 15 minute aerial battle the line finally gave and the bird flew off, fish and all!  Personally im fully behind the Angling Trust campaign Action on Cormorants – check

From what I can see, most deadly are the Otters.  A number of years ago, Pant Llyn Pool on the back road from Builth to Brecon was brimming with good size coarse fish.  An Otter was introduced over the hill and now the lake is all but empty.  This year, we have had reports of a family of Otters re-introduced to the River Wye locally.  Since their introduction, our newly redeveloped coarse fishery has been ravaged – 60 kill sights were found including that of a 9lb Carp.  There are very few good size trout coming out of the river and the recent arrival of the Shad for their yearly spawn has seen them heavily targeted.  The Shad had been seen in our waters for 3 days and at least 8 dead Shad were found on one of my fav fishing spots.  Stomachs ripped to expose the roe and then left – certain signs of otter predation.

On a lighter note,  I have been fishing a few times and the Aber pool has been performing constantly. The fish tend to be laying deep, holding close to the bottom due to the cool water and the majority of the fishes food still bound to the bottom. When the fishing’s like this, usually I opt for the french leader and a couple of heavy nymphs to trundle close to the bottom. But, with the odd fly coming off I setup with the Duo method with a silver bead head nymph a couple of feet below.  Strung together on 3lb g3 leader, the Duo method can be fished almost static in the slower sections and also fish the deeper sections well too.

After a couple of runs through the pool the Klinkhammer which suspended the nymph suddenly shot under the water and the Streamtec Nantec rod doubled over as I struck – a Shad.  After a lengthy battle and several hard runs, a shad of 2lb+ was gracing my Airflo scoop net. Arm wrenching!

However, as I was recently told better otter than mink as they are a natural species and things will settle down and even themselves up eventually – sooner rather than later I hope.

At least there are some small brownies left in the water!

At least there are some small brownies left in the water!

Fly Fishing at Llyn Gwyn

I decided to visit Llyngwyn, run by Rhayader AC. Llyngwyn is a place I hold fondly in my memory as a place I caught my first ever fish on the fly, some 18 years or so ago before the lure of football and Rugby left the fishing behind. Now back fishing at any given opportunity it was only natural I would get back there.

I went along with a friend, Tom who was keen to fish there too. We met early, around 8 and made the relatively short journey to Rhayader where we picked up our lunch and permit for the day before heading to the lake. On arrival, the wind was up and it was rather cold. There were a few anglers on the left bank towards the boathouse so decided to head around the opposite bank to an area of Lilly pads. A check of the catch return saw fish we generally taken on Cats and Montana’s.

Having climbed into my thermals that morning, by the time I put on my Simms freestone waders, Guideline jacket and Anglers Buff I was toasty. I tackled up 2 rods. A 6wt Flextec with an Airflo ridge intermediate line to pull the lures, I added 10ft 8lb G3 leader and a black Zonker. I also tackled up my 4/5wt Sreamtec Nantec rod with 15 ft 7lb G3, with an apps bloodworm on the point and two black buzzer imitations on the droppers. To be fished under a strike indicator.

Given that there were a few anglers on the boathouse bank, I struck up a pleasant conversion with two of them on how they were fishing and what was working for them and kindly asked if I could set up my fly fishing tackle between them.  With no objections I sorted my self out and cast out. Having fished various tactics and flies, lunchtime came and still no fish, I was worried another blank was on the cards! I stopped to feed and had a think about what to do next?

The weather was still bitter cold and I had a feeling the fish were holding a little deeper. I waded out over the shallow, around 15-20ft from the bank so I could get my flies over the drop off comfortably and hopefully bring them back through the patrolling fish. My first cast I let sink down 20 or seconds before a short, sharp, jagged retrieve – only five seconds in the retrieve the line locked up and my delayed reaction saw a fish the first missed fish of the day.

Next cast and a fish was on and to the net in seconds, a rainbow trout of around 2lb. Next cast and another 2lber. A few more fish were hooked but some aerial acrobatics saw more hook pulls than I care to share! Before the end of the day another two of similar size came to the net. Tom had 2 to the net, including this one of 2 1/2lb. All fish were taken on lures; the buzzers didn’t have much of a look in to be honest!

With the conditions getting colder we called it a day around 4pm. After completed the catch return and a quick look at what had been taken throughout the day it appeared tough all round, only one angler had more fish than me that day and there was a blank earlier and the previous day. Not that I’m one motivated by being better than everyone else buts it’s nice to get the reassurances your doing things right even after a break.



Fly Fishing on the Wye for Brown Trout

Having fished on Saturday for the first time in quite while (and with a little success) this past Sunday was meant with some excitement. It had been cold the past week but dry, which meant the rivers were at a good level and clear for this time of year.

Eager to put my new Streamtec Nantec fly rod through its paces I decided I would fish one of my favourite spots, hoping to pull out a couple of good fish.  The river Wye, a beautiful river which runs through the heart of Wales, and one of my all time favourite places to fish. The pool I intended to fish was just below the confluence of the Irfon and the Wye. With the weather being very cold, I layered up and slipped into my Simms Freestone Waders, and met up with my good friend Dan Graham for a few hours fishing.

Wye Irfon Confluence

With the trout season just kicking in and the cold weather still present, the usual sport on the dry fly didn’t seem so apparent. Armed with my 8ft 5# rod, I’d decided to fish the Duo whilst Dan opted for the Czech Nymphing setup for the faster water.

My set-up for the day was to be the Streamtec rod paired with an Airflo sixth sense floating line. Attached to this, a 5ft tapered leader with two addition lengths of 4ft & 3lb G3 fluorocarbon straight to the dry olive klinkhammer on a fixed dropper. Below I attached a silver bead red hot spot nymph. Recent conversations has brought to my attention the benefits of a sliding dropper knot. Something I will be learning and practising a lot. With the ability to vary the depth at which my nymph is fished, could well have landed me a couple of extra fish in some of the shallower water.

Having fished a few likely looking spots (excellent for dry flies when the fish are on the feed) I made my way up river until I was just below ‘Aber pool’. Aber pool is a keen spot for the Salmon boys and also the coarse anglers as the pool has an extremely deep run and holds a lot of big fish. Casting diagonal with a little up stream mend, I let the flies drift down past me and repeat along the length of the pool, covering all likely looking areas.

After wading and fishing my way along a very likely looking crease to no avail, I waded further into the river searching a small depression behind a large boulder. The klink suddenly dipped under the water and I had finally struck into a fish. The fish was very lively and fought extremely well considering it’s early season condition. I finally netted the gorgeous wild brownie, the first of many for the oncoming trout season I hope! Having unhooked the nymph from it’s scissors, Dan took a quick picture before I released the fish back to the water.

Wye Brown Trout - Fishtec Blog

You could tell that the fish had recently spawned as she was slim. However weighing in at one and a half pounds it was a lovely fish to start of the season. You can just imagine what weight she will get too after feasting on the early season files!

With Spring seemingly disappearing back into Winter, I along with nearly every river fly fisherman am looking forward to the mass hatches of Blue winged olives, Brook Duns and hopefully the odd March brown, that adorn our rivers during the day and the sometime spectacular hatch that we see in the evenings.

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