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Wye & Usk Weekend

August. Balmy summer evenings with trout eagerly rising to the evening hatch after a slothful day. With such idyllic visions five Wands took a break from dredging shopping trolleys and uprooting Himalayan Balsam and headed down the M4 for a weekend on the Wye and Usk passport scheme. At least the trout bit turned out to be right.

Trout before breakfast . . .


A tardy escapee from the big smoke, I pulled into camp late on Friday evening to discover Rich ‘Big Fish’ Baker (I’ll explain later) had played a blinder on the camping front. Our tents were but a stumble from the River Honddu and the fire was already smoking away. The Honddu proved a fantastic find. Several hundred metres of pools and pockets teeming with little brownies and abundant sedge hatch. With this right outside our tent flaps it was a case of trout before supper, trout before breakfast, trout whilst waiting for the Kelly kettle to boil. In fact, throughout the weekend asking “Where’s Adrian?” was generally the cue for him to amble back to the tents and modestly report having just had several brownies in the last five minutes.


‘Big Fish’ Baker. . .


Saturday morning saw us embark upon the Usk. John and Adrian headed to Fenni Fach while Rich made an early start on Penpont. I was still mid bacon roll when I received the call from him somewhere between bewilderment and euphoria. An undercut bank and overhanging branches had tempted him into unleashing his Double Bunny. In an almost made for TV moment, his streamer has bounced first cast off the far bank into the margins and been greedily swallowed by a 2lb+ brown. The first big fish of the day. Theo and I were swift to join him.


As the rain came, went, and came again ever heavier I followed my two fishing partners down the river being given something of a short-line nymphing master class as fish came to hand a steady rate. A few were barely bigger than the fly but this was clearly just the river keeping us interested before the main event. ‘Big Fish’ Baker was soon to cement his reputation with another clonker (there is a photo somewhere, honest!).


Probably the best burger van in the world . . .


Over on Fenni Fach John and Adrian were finding the going underfoot a little more treacherous in the conditions, but were soon to be rewarded with the spot of the day. As I was contemplating just how soggy a sausage roll has to be before I decline to eat it (directly proportional to the leakiness of my waders in case you were wondering), John was sampling the delights of a local burger van when he spotted a salmon. Either that burger van has a hell of a view or we now have an insight into salmon feeding that could revolutionise fly design.


The fly was about the only dry thing . . .


Throughout the day there had been a steady hatch of caddis and pale blue uprights but could we spot a rise? So when something at last broke the surface and Theo just happened to have a dry fly on he was practically hurled onto point. Several refusals later all looked lost but a crucially timed caddis-like twitch of the fly and a slashing rise had Theo beaming and Rich and yours truly going cock-a-hoop. Who says there’s no team spirit in fishing.

Then the rain truly set in, calling a premature halt to the fishing and pressing the camp fire (alight thanks to John’s wood drying skills) into kit drying mode. As we huddled under our shelter Priory Mill was treated to the sight of jackets and waistcoats steaming over the fire. For the other sight I can only claim John’s whisky and a very cold wet seat in my defence.

Sadly, the next day the rain had brought up and coloured the rivers. Despite Adrian and Rich catching (again before breakfast) in the coffee coloured and increasing remarkable Honddu we decided Pen Pont was a wash out. Although clothing was dampened, spirits were not and we settled on fishing the nearby Beacons reservoir. A “wilderness fishery containing only wild brown trout” it had a magnificent setting and fish enough for everyone to want to put off the drive home for just one more cast.

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