On my fly fishing ‘bucket list’ before departing the UK for Spain was one new river for me, the River Otter, and one old faithful, the River Bray. I had driven past the River Otter countless times during my fly fishing adventures in & around Dartmoor but had never cast a line or dangled a fly for a brownie. It looked so damn enticing from the A30 whizzing past Honiton that I put it on the ‘must thrash’ list…
Just like most of the UK waters, someone (company, hotel, syndicate, person) owns the fishing rights and in this case it is the Deer Park Country Hotel. They charge not an unreasonable about of £30 for a day on the river but there are a few problems or hassles. First off, the river is in need of some TLC – there are quite a few deep pools that make wading up stream impossible so you absolutely need to get out & walk, but the banks are steep and mobbed with serious thickets of nettles, thistles & brambles. Second, there is no kind of beat management – it is just a ‘first come, first cast’ kind of deal which given that they technically have 3 miles of river might not be a problem on a given day but would help to manage the resource better so all interested fishing parties have a good day.
That said, I enjoyed a gorgeous weather day and also managed to hook a few trout…using some of my own newly tied nymphs which was a great reward for the day.
My next destination on this final Devon fishing trip was the River Bray which has become one of my favourites of the Westcountry Angling Passport Scheme which is one of the best (besides the Wye/Usk Foundation) things in British fly fishing. I cannot praise it enough in terms of the fishing opportunities at an affordable price that it has opened up to the average fisher person like me. Get on to it folks and use it or lose it!
The water on the River Bray comes as close as you can get to a chalk stream in this part of the country – and at more than 2km of water you have a decent day of fishing for all of £15…and I have never been disappointed as it seems to hold a good stock of fish where a normal day for me would be 15-20 netted and more than twice that hooked & lost. And the canopy has been pretty well copiced so casting is free & easy.
I was a late discoverer of Wales, for some odd reason I had this idea in my head that it was so far away & difficult to get to. Then I started to hear about the Wye/Usk Foundation & went on to order their fishing booklet which peaked my interest a bit more. Then my partner & I decided to do a week’s trip up into Wales to do some winter walks and I was amazed that from our home in Somerset we could be in Wales in less than 1.5 hours! Well that clinched the idea to fish Wales – wish that the idea had smacked me across the face a wee bit sooner!
Post an extensive read of the Wye/Usk Foundation booklet & online perusal of the beats, I came up with a plan & booked myself into the most friendly & hospitable of sites in Wales that you will ever find – Trericket Mill Veggie B&B. Alistair & Nicky are hosts supreme providing all the mod cons a camper could ask for in a stunningly beautiful setting. Besides the great camping space, they run a warm & cosy B&B and also rent out self catering cabins.
Post my arrival @ Trericket Mill, Alistair suggested a quick & easy wander down to have a peek at the River Wye…which I made a bee line for to watch the sun set & catch the masses of swallows having a feast on the hatching bugs…
I know the Wye/Usk Foundation’s 230 miles of water in Wales is a superb fishery without a doubt, but it was just not to be for me on this trip. My first day of river exploration began with the Upper River Irfon which is a tributary to the Wye and came highly recommended from a fishing guide mate in Devon.
The water was STUNNING – and the thought kept going through my head when I come across water this clear & clean – why are there NO FISH? It just cannot be that an environment this pristine cannot be attractive to fish…but in 5 or so hours of wading & casting & sitting & watching – nada. I started to get the feeling that like many new waters & areas, you had to build up or have access to local knowledge about the when’s, where’s & how’s to catch fish. I went through a similar learning curve when I moved to New Zealand many years ago.
I fished 2 other rivers on this trip but I have decided not to write about them or show any pictures as they were not the best foot forward for the Wye/Usk Foundation waters. Though I did catch fish, it was not under the circumstances I would say made for a pleasurable day (jungle canopy, herds of sheep in the river, a section that looked more like a rubbish tip than a river).
My last water of the trip was in the Rive Usk at Penpont, which without a doubt was superb water…just not for me to catch some trout. I fished for about 2-3 hours before I even managed to site and/or scare a decent sized fish. Spotted a good 3 pounder but he was about 6 inches from the bank in about the same depth of water so I just had a good watch. I was using the same gear I had used on the rivers the previous day when I hooked about a dozen fish so I was not sure why that was failing here.
I would really like to give Wales another go – and I hope I get the chance before we return to New Zealand…