I’ll remember 2019 as a year that I feel I grew as an angler, made some incredible memories and got the ball rolling in a direction I want to continue.
It’s funny how I started this blog as an avid lure angler, I still adore this, however it really is fly fishing that captures my enthusiasm nowadays. Even the Bass fishing I grew up fixated by now consists of back casting into the wind and pulling flies at various depths and speeds, something I really never imagined would be the case!
I spent far too much time pursing Sea Trout at night for the tally of fish I ended with, however when the Sea Trout and Fly come together at night the moments are magical enough to warrant the effort. There is also something incredible captivating about the challenge of fishing for a specific fish at night with optimism knowing you just need to come across the fish before the aim is achieved. It seemed the end of June saw good numbers of small Sea Trout between 1 to 2 1/2lb, which can only bode well for the future and I pray that this means this coming season brings sees them returning larger and in similar quantities.
Without a doubt though what I will really remember 2019 for will be the Salmon Fishing.
It was a tough season once again here in Wales. Low water hindered potential throughout May and it wasn’t until mid June that we saw Salmon begin to enter the rivers here in South Wales. It seemed these Fish had been eagerly waiting and were very quick to run with fish seeming to have run completely through the lower reaches of the rivers within a day. Angling pressure showed that what few Salmon entered were in fact caught all on one small spate. On my home river the Tawe, the modest 4 fish that were hooked until August were all in one morning, all fresh fish that were caught within 3 hours of eachother progressively higher up the river. This again supported my theory that we are seeing a change in salmon runs becoming earlier with the bulk of the fish entering end of May to June, as these were the only fresh fish I saw caught the entire season, there was also reports of a 20lber in April…bringing thought that prehaps we’d see better returns with more early season effort. I was equally surprised to see fresh Salmon appearing to push up the lower reaches of the Towy in low water, seemingly keen fish that had entered earlier than traditionally. It does worry me that these fish will be spending longer in the river in consistently warmer, drier summers.
I was fortunate to have a space on a trip Salmon Fishing on Trondheim’s Stjordal, we were due to fish Hembre Gård for the week along with a couple other beats that our host James had secured, however…just two days before leaving it came to our attention that the neighbouring Gaula had been closed for all fishing and it wouldn’t be long before we were closed for fishing too. It ended up being closed for C&R and as a group we decided that to fish catch and kill wouldn’t be desirable, especially when law dictated that all females from 1st August be released, not being able to choose if we hook male or female fish we deemed it unsporting to do and with the kindness of Aksel we postponed the trip to the same week next year. For a trip I had been looking forward to all year and having booked the time off work, it left no option but to go away and bite the bulet and set off on a exploratory trip up north to the Mosjøen region and fish some newly reopened rivers after 40 years of closure plauged by Gyrodactylus Salaris. We travelled North in the hope of cooler temperatures, however on the long journey, not once did the thermometer drop below 29°c. This was not what we expected. Nevertheless, once temperatures dropped we were fortunate to be rewarded for our perserverance and experienced some great technical low water fishing that I will never forget! This trip warrants a write up itself, and will follow soon!
August was a strange month, it seemed there were Sea Trout present on the nights I ventured out, however they were tricky to tempt and perseverance paired with adaptability was key to success. I distinctly remember one night where, having heard fish jump as darkness fell and taking the traditional approach of starting with small flies on floating line. Covering known hot spots and where we had heard the fish jump. Nothing was tempted. Myself and my companion Sam had each tried different sized flies and altered the speed each time. We swapped over to wake flies, each in different sizes and quickly had interest, each moving two fish each with one whacking the lure with it tail where the streamy water at the start of the pool proceeded to smooth out. We swapped positions and each covered the areas where we had moved fish. Each of us had interest on the surface with Sea Trout bow waking chasing the lures just visable in the darkness. These fish couldnt even be tempted by the largest flies swung deep. It was an eletrifying experience, paired with an undue amount of frustration. Nevertherless, its moments like this that keep us coming back for more when targetting anadromous fish.
The Salmon improved in September, its true as anglers we must be careful what we wish for and it seemed that the prayers from anglers for rain throughout the season were all answered in one month. It was a month of consistent high water with very limited opportunity to get out as a the river dropped before rapidly rising again! However, when the conditions were right the takes and losses came. My companion Sam was blessed to land his first Tawe Salmon on the fly on a solo mission. A moment I was gutted to not experience, although absolutely elated that he had gone out on a hunch and all the effort was rewarded in a lovely Hen fish of 8lb.
This gave me the much needed inspiration to preserver through my frustration that for all my effort on the Tawe that season I was yet to be rewarded with a Salmon. Eventually on a gorgeous sunny afternoon, as the sun flickered on the surface of the whiskey stained water of the falling spate as my fly danced in the current, I felt the electrifying signal down the line that could be none other than the King of fish in all its pre-spawning glory. A few quick photos, ensuring the fish never left the water and it swam off strong.
I was fortunate to secure a few days on Wales’ once infamous, yet still awe-inspiring, gorgeous River Towy. It was high water conditions and I knew that things on the fly would be tough, however with fish being seen moving through the lower stretches , confidence was high and on my first of three days fishing, within all of 6 casts I felt the fly line tighten and the little loop of line in my hand soon disappeared as a magically elusive Autumn Salmon took line off the reel. I was made up, there is nothing that can come close in all my fishing experience that comes close to a Salmon fly. It truely is the most satisfying experiences when it comes together. Reduced close to tears of happiness after a strong release I sat at the bench next to the glorious pool the fish had come from, reflected on how lucky I was, absorbing every bit of the moment, with the sad reality the krept into my mind that it pottentially wouldnt be long before Salmon like this in Wales is a thing of the past if some intervention to the decline is not done!
In October I travelled to Montana to attend the Sweetwater Travel Guide School. A phenomenal week with plenty learnt and a huge amount of experience gained! Again, this warrants a blog post in itself, and I really hope that I can make my mark on the world of guiding soon, an industry that I know will be challenging to get into yet I don’t doubt my determination and enthusiasm.
I was lucky to finish the year with a final bit of Bass fishing on the fly when conditions allowed, along with some grayling fishing on the renouned Hampshire Avon. This allowed for some great experimenting with the french leader and nymphs, a style of fishing we dont get to do enough of locally. However, as usual for me once October arrives Surfing tends to take over and I save the enthusiasm for when the surf dies away, then you will find me at my local reservoir Eglwys Nunydd and a new favourite stillwater – Pant Y Bedw.