Friday 3rd May 2013
Lots of snow; long-tailed ducks and white-tailed sea-eagles; magnificent scenery; locals
collecting gulls eggs from remote shores; daylight all night; fierce
wolf-fish and good company: fishing the fantastic fjords had its ups and downs. Unfortunately we were rather early, so no feeding frenzies, no coalfish or herring, and most of the fish were still spawning over 100 metres down. We still caught a variety of Arctic fish (from 100 metres down) and had lots of fun - then on our penultimate day in overcast and breezy conditions we caught some better cod, then a smallish halibut, then Tim hooked and brought to the boat a monster halibut. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) it was galvanised by the prick of the gaff, writhed and dived, and smashed everything. Still, it proved that we weren't wasting our time and we sallied forth in great anticipation for our last day - which proved bright and calm and totally unproductive, despite us even trying to fish as deep as 250 metres!
Now a mad rush to check book proofs and load the van ready for the Falconry Fair this weekend. See you there!
Tuesday 23rd April 2013
Taking books to Munich wasn't a great success - except, of course, for the beer, the food and the company. But for books - no. Lots of happy punters browsed my stock before asking whether I had the same books in German, then going off empty-handed. Almost 2000 miles of driving and little to see en route except the occasional hare and roe deer, a few storks and some black kites.
Website and database problems are still not solved and this is now slowing down our book cataloguing seriously. Nevertheless Luke and Matthew are adding good stuff every day.
I will return to winter tomorrow when I fly to Alta to try to catch a world record dab. A by-catch of halibut would be welcome, but I'm setting my sights low for a start.
Monday 8th April 2013
I have been neglecting this - sorry! No sport and cold, cold weather, so not much to write about. I took advantage of the never-ending winter to do something about our garden hedge. The house is five hundred years old and the hedge looks as though it has been there at least that long, with thick gnarled trunks and spiky antlers on top - useless to keep stock out. At last I realised that the only answer was to coppice the lot, cutting it down to ground-level, and replanting the gaps. I've added two new species to the existing twelve - field maple and hornbeam - and gone a long way towards solving next winter's wood problem. We've got a great view now, but it's pretty draughty.
The Danish Fly Festival was fun, but too cold for sea-trout fishing. This week I'm off to the EWF at Munich - not staying at Fawlty Towers this time, but on site at the monastery at Furstenfeld where there will be no reason not to indulge myself with pints (or litres) of the local produce.
Wednesday 6th March 2013
Well, my van passed its MOT test, and the grayling cooperated nicely. Since then things have gone downhill with my book database misbehaving and the likelihood of having to renew the book database as well as rebuilding this website. What fun!
I found relief reading the catalogue for the forthcoming Mullocks sale. I'll have to leave a bid for the Skues item that I haven't seen before - Nymph Fishing for Short Stream Trout. I won't be there myself - with any luck I'll be chucking a fly at Baltic sea-trout.
Before that I'm off to the West Country to try to sell books in a cattle shed.
Friday 1st March 2013
February fill-dyke, eh? Not this year, thank goodness. Two or three weeks without rain means that we can step outside without wellington boots - at last. I have used the opportunity to move the chickens to some fresh clean grass, and to lose two of my three boats, thus reclaiming the paved area where will be able to eat outside all through the coming glorious summer. I have to take the van to Newtown for its M.O.T. today, so I might just take along a grayling rod, just in case. (Leaving instructions for the gardener about which areas of the garden she is to dig first).
Thursday 7th February 2013
The shooting season wasn't out of the ordinary - shooting or picking up once or twice a week, and plenty of game to deal with. I managed a few flights on the estuary but only once had a nice mixed bag of teal, wigeon and mallard. Rough shooting suffered a bit this year, and wasn't helped by the fact that both I and Jess were lame for the last couple of weeks of January, and had to pick our days carefully. It's not quite over, though - coastal fowling goes on for another couple of weeks so, given hard weather, I'll be out again next week. In the meantime I'm busy loading van and trailer with books on guns and shooting ready for the big Shooting Show at Stoneleigh this weekend.
Monday 14th January 2013
One tragedy of 2012 was the loss of my wonderful row of
celery - killed by frost while I was baking in Africa. I had bought the plants
in Holland - or was it France? - after one of the flyfairs in the spring. Fed
daily from a brew of chicken manure, the plants were luxuriant; destined to
season soups and casseroles throughout the winter - or so I thought. So we are
having to buy celeriac and celery instead. I have just eaten a roast woodcock
with celeriac mash that almost made up for my loss. It was wonderful!
January is my shooting month and I have kept the larder pretty full; Jess has lost all her excess weight, but unfortunately I can't say the same for myself! I spent this afternoon on the estuary, reminding myself what hard work it is, trudging for miles in ankle-deep mud. Lots of birds about; teal, wigeon, mallards and canadas, but I failed to make the most of my few opportunities and came home empty-handed.
Tuesday 18th December 2012
Back from the desert! Storms in Angola had put the Kunene in a raging flood, so I couldn't do much with my five-weight and nymphs. Total bag was one silver labeo - a mini-mahseer. My aim had been to drive along the Kunene from Ruacana to to Epupa Falls and I managed this, though I wouldn't recommend the hundred miles in first gear, alternating between bone-shaking rocky hills and rather worrying river crossings. No game there - just occasional Himba with their goats and cattle.
Game aplenty in Etosha, of course, including lots of rhino, both black and white. The western deserts are stunning and, heart in mouth, I returned to drive the Ugab River, once again meeting the desert elephants. Finally I had a look at the peak of the pupping at the Cape Cross seal colony on the cold Atlantic coast. Next day a wheel bearing went and I was rescued just in time for my plane. If that had happened at Epupa I would certainly still be there.
Home to find my staff inundated with orders for books but I'm afraid I must leave them to it - I'm picking-up at Llynlloed today.
Thursday 8th November 2012
Ben and I had our first rough shoot of the season this week - earlier than usual and the leaves on the trees made it harder to get onto the few birds we saw. We finished up with two fine cock pheasants, which pleased farmer Tom, who always enjoys a bird.
Don't bother trying to phone me between now and the end of the year. Today I'm off to Galway for the Flyfair, next weekend I have a few days of sport (including the delayed first shoot at Llanbrynmair) but have also got to get to Redditch to the tackle fair, then straight off to Belgium for their Fly Happening, then Namibia to hunt for nembwe on the Kunene River, and then it will be Christmas!
Catalogues will be mailed this weekend so my staff will have something to occupy them while I'm off enjoying myself.
Tuesday 30th October 2012
Now the catalogue is out of the way I'm taking more advantage of chances of sport. I tried a surface plug among the rocks one afternoon; no bass but there were bunches of wigeon buzzing about, even landing on the beach. I guess they were Russian tourists - I should get out one morning and give them a real welcome. On Saturday, with the river levels falling, the three musketeers headed east for grayling. We each caught a two-pounder - well, my two-pounder was probably closer to a pound and a half, but you know what I mean - plus a few smaller fish. A very nice reminder of how good the border rivers can be.
Yesterday was my only Bardsey trip of the year. The long trip out was quite bumpy but the big swell gradually settled down and we caught plenty of bass on artificials.
Wednesday 24th October 2012
Sunday's grayling fishing on the upper Wye was delightful: a proper Autumn day for a change. I caught a few on bugs in the morning, then one or two on dry flies when it warmed up. Another angler, fishing really heavy bugs, caught lots, including some good ones. Yesterday I had an early start, sailing out of Liverpool Marina at 7am. Fished hard but couldn't find a Mersey cod, so had to make do with a dozen fat dabs and a sackful of whiting. Today I got my catalogue off to the printer, but I've still got a week of office work to catch up.
Thursday 18th October 2012
October is usually a busy month for the hunter-gatherer. Not so this year - the lousy weather combined with the local trauma of the missing child have combined to keep us away from the river and the woods. We tried an odd excursion to the lakes but it wasn't much fun in the cold and mist, and the few fish we caught were plump with eggs. Yesterday saw the end of the season, both for salmon and the lakes, so now it's the gun and the grayling rod. Oh - and maybe a bit of sea fishing.
Tonight has seen some frantic plucking going on. The Reverend Dick arrived with some beautiful Welsummers - three pullets and a cockerel - so my fine young mongrel cockerels had to go. Slim youths, the heaviest was just short of five pounds, but they looked pretty good once their feathers were off - they'll make three excellent dinners.
Tomorrow sees the delayed start to the season at Llynlloedd - there are lots of birds and the forecast is good - so we're hoping for a great day. As soon as we finish I'll be off to Llandrindod Wells for the annual Grayling society bash; flogging books on Saturday and grayling fishing on the Wye on Sunday, with intervals of feasting and the odd glass or two.
Thursday 4th October 2012
The tragedy of a missing child supercedes any thought of visiting the river for any purpose as frivolous as fishing. The search is being carried out by the professional agencies and volunteers are not wanted at present. So that leaves me to continue preparing for the launch of The Forgotten Flies Of Roger Woolley at the Burton-on-Trent Fly Fair on Sunday.
Saturday 29th September 2012
I hate salmon fishing. I think.
We had a huge flood on Wednesday. On Thursday I spent all morning on the river, spinning. I touched nothing until I was about to leave, then I hooked, and subsequently lost, a big salmon.
Yesterday it was still big water, but clear. I left the shop at 4.15, cast a fly at 4.30, hooked a salmon at 4.35, and landed it at 4.55. Less than ten pounds but in a strong flow on a single-handed rod it was quite a handful!
Today I should be working on a new catalogue, but it is such a big job that it is very easy to keep on putting it off until tomorrow. Tomorrow is Sunday - no fishing on the Dyfi, and rain is forecast. Perhaps I'll start tomorrow.
Wednesday 19th September 2012
It was great to finish the outdoor game fair season on a high note. The weather was perfect for the Midland Game Fair, the ground was firm, and country folk from far and wide came for a day out.
Today I should have been out on the reef with Charlie, but the wind of the past few days has built up a bit of a sea, so our trip was cancelled. Instead I'll pick up Duncan and Luke and we'll have a day on the lake.
I'm not finished with shows, though; tomorrow I'll be packing for the Pike Angler's Club conference in Harrogate.
Thursday 6th September 2012
The nights are drawing in. On Monday I tried, unsuccessfully, for a bass in the dusk, then locked my keys in the car and had to watch while the tide came halfway up the wheels before I escaped. Last night I spent the last half hour on the river - it was quiet and very cold so I was surprised when my fly was grabbed by a lovely fresh two-pounder that took in Llyn Bwtri just on dark.
A nice gentle sporting day today, starting by delivering Roger Woolley flies to Ludlow Bookbinders for the de luxe copies of the forthcoming book. On the way back I stopped for ceps and chantarelles in Ceri Forest before meeting Duncan in Newtown and catching some Severn grayling on dry flies. This evening was a Dyfi & Mawddach Wildfowler's meeting where we agreed to merge with the Dysynni club, then came home with a bootful of woodpigeons that Pete had shot in Shropshire today. Now there is some serious cooking to be done!
I've just seen photo's of Weston Park taken earlier this week, and all is looking great for the Midland Game Fair.
Wednesday 29th August 2012
Back from the Fens. Okay - it does occasionally rain in Quy - and when it does it buckets down! Despite a terrific storm on Saturday the ground stayed firm and we had a good day on Sunday. Luke and I had fun with the pike and perch, and sold (and bought) a few books.
Once again we came home to a flood in the river and an evening spinning. I found sewin everywhere as well as the odd bigger sea-trout, now getting rather tarnished; I even had a small dark grilse on a Toby. My ego was flattened slightly when I was joined by a fellow angler who then caught two salmon in successive casts, both much more beautiful than mine!
In this morning's post arrived my Hardy Smuggler flyrod, beautifully and inexpensively repaired repaired by Chris Ward of Hooked On angling. A super job!
Loading up tomorrow for the Falconry Weekend at Newent.
Wednesday 22nd August 2012
A short dirty flood on Saturday morning prompted me to dig out my spinning rod. There were too many leaves in the water to fish the plug, but a simple spoon fished okay and I had a few sewin before hitting my first salmon of the season, a fresh nine-pounder. Of course I had not bothered taking a landing net and hooked it off a high bank with nowhere nearby to beach it. I managed to hand-tail it at about my sixth attempt - a very unlucky salmon!
Fired with enthusiasm, I was out with the flyrod before work on Monday and Tuesday mornings. but the water had dropped and nothing stirred.
Off to the Fens tomorrow - it never rains in Quy!
Thursday 16th August 2012
Should have been bassing off Bardsey today, but too bloody breezy. Never mind, I got a good morning's work done, then had a couple of hours on the river having lots of fun catching small sea-liced sewin. We had another good day with Charlie last week, catching plenty of bream and mackerel ( and a huge cod for Luke!) and I had one short evening session on the estuary catching a nice garfish, a small bass and a few more mackerel. Our only trip to the hills, on Sunday evening, found the lake calm and the fish difficult. A tremendously concentrated rise started at dusk in one small area of the lake, probably to buzzers. Duncan and I had a couple each which we returned, then, when it was quite dark, I hooked a better fish on a big dry sedge. I decided to keep this one and to find out what they had been feeding on, so I landed it, killed it and opened it up. Its stomach was crammed full so I opened it carefully in the light of my small torch, expecting to solve the mystery. The answer - a three-inch mouse, half digested. Lovely!
Sunday 5th August 2012
I'm not still sulking about all the cancelled fairs. Actually I had kept most of July and August free for fishing, but didn't want to bore you too much with the details. I've been to the river pretty often - usually just for an hour at dusk - and have reverted to the five-weight rod that I use for almost all of my trout fishing. The bigger sea-trout seem to have moved upriver, but there has been a good run of smaller sewin the past few days. Some of them are very small but there are enough two-pounders to make it interesting on the small rod. I popped out yesterday afternoon, finding a couple of shoals in broken water and catching half a dozen and keeping just one before I took shelter from a shower that turned into an hour-long thunder storm. A mile from my van, and dressed in shirtsleeves, it wasn't long before the torrential rain had soaked every part of my clothing down to my socks. I tried ignoring the rain but a thunderclap right overhead frightened me back under the tree which only seemed to concentrate the rain into spouts pouring into the top of my waders.
The only wetting my boats are getting is on the inside as they fill with rainwater. I did, however, manage to get out on a highly successful bream trip with Charlie Bartlett from Aberdyfi - and we are going again tomorrow!
Friday 13th July 2012
The CLA Game Fair has been cancelled! That means our three biggest shows of the
summer - the CLA, the Falconry Fair and the Scottish Game Fair have all
been cancelled - plus the Welsh and Irish fairs almost washed out. I'm
going to have plenty of time for fishing but that won't feed the kids.
Well, perhaps it will.
You'll just have to buy more books!
Last night I thought I'd drown my sorrows in salt water and try for a bass or mullet. Found a strong cold wind blowing in my face and no fish - unless you count the lesser weever that swallowed my expensive Serbian grayling bug. Don't think I'll bother now until it is warm enough to wet-wade. Probably next February.
I've spent this morning at the computer - think I'll abandon it this afternoon and go and try for a sea-trout.
Later... That was a good move! The river was running fresh but dead clear - just right for floating line and small flies. I had three up to four pounds and swapped the biggest for a haunch of roe venison on the way home!
Wednesday 11th July 2012
What a year! The Irish Game Fair went ahead despite rotten weather - and, of course, many people chose to stay at home. The ground was good, though, so Luke and I did get out for an evening on the Six Mile Water on Friday; the river was quite lively and we caught plenty of small trout on wet flies. We had time to kill on Monday, so with the river in flood we investigated Craigmore fishery near Randalstown. It is a man-made lake, spring-fed with crystal-clear water, and full of educated trout. Largely catch and release, many of the trout are pretty wise - you watch them stroll over, glance at our pathetic imitations, and carry on their way. We did educate a few more of them, though; Luke by going down to size 22 dry flies, and me by frightening them into grabbing the biggest and ugliest flies I could find.
Now we have heard that the Falconry Fair, already rescheduled from earlier in the year, has been cancelled. Instead I'll be going along to Mullock's Auction at Ludlow where they are auctioning the tackle collection of Mark Ross, author of The Glory Days of the Giant Scarborough Tunny, who sadly took his own life earlier this year. I had bought the last of his stock so I'll take a few copies along to sell.
Thursday 5th July 2012
The consolation for a cancelled Scottish Game Fair was four days at home and plenty of sea-trout in the river. I've managed three or four short sessions and caught fish every time, either on fly or the spoon. I'd better stop boring you with numbers and weights, but they have averaged over three pounds, with the best being a five-pounder yesterday afternoon. Several have carried net-marks and the smallest sewin looked as though it might have escaped the osprey.
This morning we leave for the Irish ferry and Shanes Castle where, despite all the recent rain, I am told that the ground is fine. Can't see us getting off-site in the evenings but we have trout-fishing planned for Monday.
Sunday 1st July 2012
A pretty disastrous weekend. We drove to Scone with enough stock for both the Scottish and Irish Game Fairs. It rained throughout the first day, Friday, at at 10pm the organisers announced that the fair was cancelled. Rather than hang around Scotland in the rain for a week I changed my ferry booking, packed everything up yesterday and drove home, arriving at midnight.
The high point of the weekend was spending the dusk on Thursday evening on Richard Hunter's wee loch where I caught two three-pound-plus fish: an overwintered rainbow and a beautiful wild brownie. Low point (the first of several) was arriving back at the waterlogged site an hour later and reversing into my neighbour's van.
Monday 25th June 2012
Just back from the BFFI where we sold lots of books and had lots of fun and some nice food with Sven-Olov and Lena. Only one day more before Luke and I leave for Scone and the Scottish Game Fair - I've somehow got to lose a trailer-full of flyfishing literature (it's been done before!) - and start afresh with a wagonload of deer-stalking and grouse shooting books. We then migrate to Northern Ireland for the Game Fair at Shanes Castle.
As I was emptying the trailer this afternoon a young ferret appeared. He spent the afternoon with me before I took him back to the nearby travellers' campsite where he was immediately claimed by a little boy who ran off carrying it (the ferret) by its head. Poor little chap. The ferret.
This was third weekend of floods in a row, and the third Monday morning that I've been able to escape to the river for an hour and come home with a fish. This morning I hit six sea-trout before one stayed on. The last and best eventually came to the net; a solid silver four-pounder.
Wednesday 20th June 2012
The Welsh Game Fair was close to being a wash-out; driving rain and wind throughout the day meant that I never opened my stand on Saturday. Sunday was brighter and saved the weekend. On Monday I once again crept out for an hour for a sea-trout on the falling flood. The river had cleared but I still hooked four fish on my smallest Toby; two threw the hook but I brought two of them home, three pounds and two.
Yesterday I joined a trip out of Pwllheli for black bream. Maybe all the fresh water has had an affect; not a bream or a mackerel was to be found. In desperation I started filleting dogfish. Then, at the end of the day, we flagged down a passing fishing boat and bought lobsters and spider crabs. I had arranged a family dinner last night, confident of mackerel. As it turned out I only caught one all day, so we had that as sashimi together with sea-trout gravlax, calamari (unused bait!) and a couple of lobsters - so we didn't go hungry after all.
Wednesday 13th June 2012 part two!
Didn't I always say what wonderful people police officers
are? No? Well I will from now on.
My trailer and books have had a very interesting holiday to a traveller's site in the West Midlands. The books were unloaded, fortunately somewhere dry, while their temporary owners wondered what on earth they could do with them. Meanwhile the trailer seems to have been busy, collecting two different registration numbers chalked on the back and acquiring a new flooring of diesel and broken glass.
When it was pointed out that the books were so valuable that anyone stealing them would be likely to incur a prison sentence the surprised and kind travelling man jumped in his van and travelled all the way to Aberystwyth to deliver my trailer and books to the Police Station there. The books have had rather a battering but seem very glad to be home!
Wednesday 13th June 2012
A busy week in Machynlleth - we made the national news several days running with serious floods and threats of dams breaking. Fortunately the books, and our feet, remained relatively dry, and the waters have receded for the time being. On Saturday evening we ventured to the Llanbrynmair lakes, where it was quite cool and the levels were very high, but we had good sport with fish of around a pound. The big Gwyddior trout didn't show; nor did the giant sedges. I think both need more settled weather.
On the way we were treated to the sight of a male spar mobbing a female goshawk.
As the floods receded I managed an hour on the river before work on Monday morning. A sea-liced three-pounder in the net put a smile on my face!
Today I'll be loading up for the Welsh Game Fair which will be at a new location - the show ground in Carmarthen.
Saturday 9th June 2012
Little news on the book & trailer thefts. We did spot the vehicle on a closed-circuit TV camera; it was a grey Transit van and just took five minutes (early on Monday evening) to get in and out, towing my trailer.
A customer just pointed out that other people are listing some of my books on Abebooks more cheaply than me (he was thinking about the stolen books). A quick search for the book in question, Plu Stiniog, showed ten other supposed-booksellers listing it. Actually not one of the listers actually has any stock! They are all listing from the ISBN agency's lists of books in print, then try to source the book if they get an order. As the publisher I control the supply (apart from thefts!) so I know who actually has stock, and by restricting the trade price I try to ensure that no-one offers it too cheaply. If you compare my listings with other sellers on ABE you can see who actually has books because real booksellers include a thorough description. These other listers are just stealing the basic information. Some actually say that the book is in stock - an absolute lie!
Wednesday 6th June 2012
Over the weekend bandits stealing old steel shelving from my warehouse also took a trailer full of books. The stock from the Dutch Fly Fair had been stored there, ready for the BFFI. I can't imagine what a West Midlands scrap dealer is going to do with half a ton of fly-tying books, even if they include some of our beautiful leather editions. Reckon they'll just get dumped in the rain somewhere. However, on the outside chance that anyone out there gets offered some cheap fishing books…
Sunday 3rd June 2012
A day of gardening yesterday - I got everything planted before a night of rain which will give them a good start. Now I can leave the assistant gardener to do the weeding while I try to sell some books.
A wrecking trip out of Caernarfon on Wednesday was all the pollack fishing that I need, or want, for this year; a weekly meal of fish and chips is now assured.
Two short evenings at the hill lakes were not quite so productive. At Gwyddior I caught lots of small fish, which is very unusual. Luke played the heron, stalking monsters in the shallows, spectacularly hooking and being smashed by two of them. A nightjar flitted past in the dusk but the hoped-for sedge hatch never materialised. The second evening, at the shepherd's pool, wasn't easy but did provide enough of the sweetest pink-fleshed trout for a fine breakfast. I still don't understand how this apparently acid environment supports calcium-dependant pea cockles and daphnia, and some (but only some) of the trout feed heavily on these, outgrowing their fellows in size and taste.
Sunday 27th May 2012
Of course it wasn't a 2½ weight rod. It was 8' 2½" long. Knew I'd seen 2½ somewhere.
Holland was a delight as usual; with so many old friends all staying at the same hotel it is the most sociable of the flyfishing fairs. Unfortunately fears for the Euro, or the opportunity for a four-day fishing trip over the Ascension Day holiday, kept the punters away. Shopping is not nearly as fruitful as in France, but I did a detour to Edam to sample the real old Edam cheese - not the plastic supermarket stuff we get here.
Perhaps someone can tell me why the Dutch can still sell you a plateful of smoked eel for ten Euros (and the Spanish an omelette full of elvers) while British anglers are forbidden from killing eels. I don't want to kill 'em - they have massive problems - but isn't that Europe-wide?
Back home, I went on the first boat-trip of the season, a short trip out of Rhyl where the sea-bed is paved with baby dabs and whiting. Just brought a fry of fry home for tea, with a gurnard for a soup.
This has been a welcome weekend at home, in tropical heat, gardening at dawn and dusk, with an unaccustomed siesta in between.
Tuesday 15th May 2012
On a quiet Sunday afternoon I took Duncan to a stream that I'd had my eye on for years. Cascading off moorlands, it looked great for a dry fly so I took the lightest rod I had, a little Hardy Smuggler that I bought at auction years ago and had hardly ever used. Whether it was the cold north wind or an episode of sheep-dip, the stream failed to live up to its promise so we decided leave it until a summer evening and try elsewhere. Dunc knew of a mountain lake not far away - just a 400 yard walk from the car, he said. Ha! After the about a mile of 45 degree climbing the path levelled out to reveal a beautiful small lake set under a cliff. Despite me struggling a little with the 2½-weight rod in a howling gale, we caught a few fat yellow trout. The evening was made for me as a pair of merlins made a prolonged attack on a peregrine on the cliff above me. They mobbed him for half an hour, stooping repeatedly, before all three flew off, occasionally grappling in the air. Thrilled with the spectacle, and just after catching three trout in three casts, I jumped across a crevasse, crashed through the layer of moss that looked like a firm landing-place, and smashed my little Smuggler across a rock. Ah well, it was time to go home, anyway.
The van is loaded to the gunwales with flyfishing books for the Dutch Fly Fair this weekend. There won't be time for fishing but there will be time to catch up with lots of old friends, and maybe share a glass or two.
Thursday 3rd May 2012
Apparently England is largely underwater and, in consequence, the Falconry Fair has been cancelled. A further consequence is that I have booked even more sessions at the Machynlleth Comedy Festival. Owen and Sara, Richard and Sharon have all appeared for the weekend - suddenly every night is a party.
Last evening we made our first visit of the season to the Llanbrynmair lakes, where we were greeted by a bevy of cuckoos (well, four anyway), two of which were courting or fighting in the nearby spruce tops. Swallows over the water confirmed our hopes and we found fish moving all over the lake. Unfortunately in the slight easterly it was flat calm and a rise that looked promising was actually quite a struggle. I coaxed three before the temperature dropped and we retreated to the lowlands.
Monday 30th April 2012
Home to cold unfriendly weather after ten days of driving across Europe. The Fly Fair in Munich was pleasant and crowded, though unfortunately the nice Bavarians had little interest in reading English angling literature. Luckily I had a few bargains that they couldn't resist so I was able to pay my bill at Fawlty Towers. I avoided the relatively uninteresting scenery of northern France and the traffic jams of Stuttgart by making the return trip by a more southerly route via Austria and Switzerland and the empty motorways through the heart of France. It was great to stop en route and spend a little time with Bethan and Dewi, and we had a few memorable French dinners. Back in Wales temperatures have dropped and, in any case, I'll have little time for sport before heading off to Northamptonshire for the Falconry Fair.
Monday 16th April 2012
After balmy March, frosty April has been a bit of a shock - especially to my tomato plants, one or two of which are looking a little frayed around the edges. Only one sporting excursion recently, when I was summoned by the OFFAs to Lake Vyrnwy. Somewhere in between breakfast, lunch and tea I managed a little fishing. Nothing moved in the margins so I switched to a sinking line, in search of a stockie for my tea. However, even at depth all I caught were native brownies.
Tomorrow I start out on a three-day drive to Munich with a vanful of flyfishing books. By the time I get back the bass will be on the beaches and sewin in the river - perhaps.
Sunday 1st April 2012
Had just one jaunt in this week of gorgeous weather, taking Luke to look at the hill lakes of Ardudwy. Llyn Tecwyn Uchaf tested the four-wheel-drive capabilities of the Honda, and we stopped to watch rudd and, maybe carp, topping in Tecwyn Isaf. That'll be worth a look later in the year. Then we learned of the beginning of the petrol crisis when we were refused fuel in Harlech. Luckily it wasn't too far to nip over the toll bridge to Penrhyndaudraeth and top up, having a look at the beautiful estuary, Traeth Bach, en route. Back to Llyn Bodlyn, one of my favourite places, where we found bright sunshine, flat calm, gin-clear water and fish dimpling the surface all over the lake. Bodlyn holds the southernmost population of Arctic charr in Britain, but I have not heard of any being caught for over thirty years so I am always looking out for signs of their presence. I'm pretty sure that these dimpling fish, moving around in shoals (and refusing to look at any fly!) must have been charr. The odd trout moved, and we saw shoals of minnows, which I had not previously seen there, but nothing would move to a fly and I was skunked once again. (but I would rather be skunked by wild trout or charr in Bodlyn than stockies in Clywedog, any day). Luke and I bought season permits so we'll have to go back soon; I need to convince him that it can fish well so we'll wait for a soft westerly breeze and the start of the sedges.
Saturday 25th March 2012
On Thursday afternoon I escaped to Llyn Clywedog for a couple of hours, tempted by tales of good fishing. With little time to prepare I just took a light rod and floating line and nymphs; a serious mistake as I never saw or touched a fish. It seems that trout are being caught on static boobies but that's not for me so I came home fishless. Nice to be by the water again, but I think I'll leave the stockies alone and wait until the real trout start feeding.
Yesterday I collected my new FFCL edition of Romilly Fedden's Golden Days from the binders (it looks really good), then had a couple of hours at the angling auction at Ludlow. Although I went without any intention to buy, I still came home with a car full of books.
Now the sun is shining and it really is time to dig the garden.
Wednesday 21st March 2012
Barcelona could do with a gamekeeper and a few Larsen traps; even the Botanic Gardens were devoid of wildlife except for magpies, feral cats and feral pigeons. I had a look at the mullet, but left them for the fish restaurants of Barcelonetta; spoots and deep-fried sea-anemones had to be sampled. So - home with a suitcase full of olives and salted pig's feet.
Today we have yet another forty-foot shipping container being delivered - that makes four. Hopefully it will quickly swallow up a dozen or so of our recent pallets of bargain books and make room for a serious attempt at sorting out hundreds of boxes of second-hand fishing books.
Tuesday 13th March 2012
Back from Somerset bearing very little money but with two point-of-lay pullets as a Mother's Day present for Ceri. As usual I got the wrong weekend. Anyway, she won't get a present next weekend 'cos she (and I) will be in Barcelona celebrating Wales winning the Grand Slam. I haven't yet told her that I'll be taking along my mullet-fishing tackle.
Not great for selling books, but the game fairs are an opportunity to keep in touch with friends, customers and authors - most of whom berate me for not filling this diary with sport. I do my best!
Monday 5th March 2012
Only in February can I go a whole month without sport. Instead I've been buying up stocks of books at a tremendous rate - we must have had about ten pallets in last week, and a similar amount to come next week. I hoped that I would have sold a few of them at the Shooting Show but it wasn't to be; visitors were single-mindedly looking for guns. Off to the West Country Game Fair this weekend, where I hope that tastes will be a little more catholic.
Ceri just called me out to hear the clamour of a tree full of starlings. Not especially a sign of Spring, but the warm sunshine is - this week I'll get busy sowing seeds.
Sunday 5th February 2012
We had great sunny cold weather for the last few days of shooting. On Tuesday Ben and I had a lovely day walking the hills for two pheasants, a rabbit and a woodcock, and on Wednesday half a dozen of us swept the coverts at Llanbrynmair for a brace apiece.
Miserable wet weather followed, but without the snow that's falling in the east. I've been organising game fairs for the year. First two shooting shows: the British Shooting Show and the Westcountry Game Fair, then the series of three international flyfishing fairs, then the usual big summer shows. I'm doing my best to leave some nice long breaks between them to chase the bass and the sea-trout.
Thursday 26th January 2012
Last weekend Ceri came with me to London for a bookfair. Trudging the
streets is a lot harder work than walking the hills. Apart from several
good meals, we spent an afternoon at the Natural History Museum and a
morning at the British Museum. You can't say that I don't know how to
give a girl a good time!
Friday was the last day for the guns at Llynlloedd, a splendid day as usual with a nice mixed bag. One of Fenwick's twelve-pound vultures foolishly flew down the line to a barrage from the guns. It landed, running, in the wood and I risked making Jess hard-mouthed for ever by sending her after it. She retrieved it, despite its great wings flapping in her face. A fine turkey stag; I carried it, Jess retrieved it, and three of the guns had fired at it, so it was decided to raffle it, and one of the beaters went home with a splendid Christmas dinner.
Tomorrow is beater's day - an early start called for and no prisoners to be taken! Then - as I've only just realised - there are only a very few days of shooting left, so don't come looking for me next week.
Tuesday 17th January 2012
January is usually all wildfowl and woodcocks. This year, after a post-Christmas walkabout, I collapsed with flu and and am only now recovering. So, a big part of the season has been lost. I picked up at Llynlloedd on Friday, but even that knocked me about so I guess I'll have to take it easy for the rest of the season. The idea of climbing into full battle gear in order to crawl around the saltings doesn't appeal yet - give me a few days, though.
Wednesday 21st December 2011
Nature's harvest has been limited over the past few weeks: a few horse mushrooms in November and some soggy wood blewitts and a feral Christmas tree in December, while occasional visits to Tom's have provided plenty of pheasants. A couple of hours there yesterday turned up a couple of cock pheasants for Ben, while I snapped our first woodcock of the season: all in such good condition that they were quickly claimed by the taxidermist.
We fed the Coch-y-Bonddu staff on Monday night - smoked wild goose breast, then baked whole bass and cod. That'll teach them to work for such a predatory employer.
Two of our projects arrived just in time for Christmas, Roger Smith's Flyfishing The Welsh Borderlands, and John Martin's Where Kingfishers Play.
Today we fetch Bethan and Dewi from Manchester Airport, and Owen arrives from Cambridge. More feasting!
Monday 5th December 2011
Tomorrow should have been another Mersey cod-bash but the miserable
wintry weather has put paid to that. Just as well really, as the orders
are piling in, and new books arrive from the printer daily. Sport has
continued but I didn't want to bore you with a succession of duck
flights and rough shoots; suffice to say that we have never been so
well-stocked with game. Tom's pheasants are now big and fat, and usually
shot at sufficient range to ensure that they are good clean birds for
plucking and roasting. Mind you, the fattest of the last haul had a crop
like a cricket-ball, consisting entirely of big juicy leatherjackets.
If Tom knew that he'd be encouraging the pheasants and chasing me off!
Our new printing of Roger Upton's Falconry Principles and Practice came in today, and we have been busy sending out our limited edition two-volume sets of Hardie's Ferox and Char in the Lochs of Scotland. Lots of interesting new books for Christmas!
Wednesday 9th November 2011
November is another great month for sport. Had a great day picking-up in shirtsleeves at Llynlloed on Friday - pheasant, partridge and duck with yet another wild turkey for ex-boss John Elfed. Then straight up to Westmorland for the Grayling Society do. On Sunday morning I braved the frost to cast a line on the Eden. Despite the cold I hooked a nice grayling of about a pound-and-a-half, then a few half-pounders. It started to warm up around noon, a few flies started to come off, then it was time for me to head south. I'm certain that the afternoon would have been fantastic, but I had to get home so that I could get up to Pwllheli for some more bass fishing on Monday! Caught a few nice bass at first, then as the tide slackened we had to hunt around, eventually finding some pollack and coalies in the sound. Great practice for the trip I have booked for Thursday!
Catalogues arrived from the printers today, and I spent the last twelve hours doing a last proof-reading of our new book on Flyfishing the Welsh Borderlands. It's a good job the nights are long at this time of year.
The garden is going to sleep, so we've been letting the hens out to scratch around the vegetable patch in the afternoons. A few nights ago, busy feeding guests with a fine goose, I forgot to lock them up and a fox found me out. The two Welsummers were getting on a bit, so it proved quite timely. I'll leave it until early Spring before looking for new stock.
Sunday 30th October 2011
Just a few more hours on the catalogue, then I can get it off to the printers. Today's job is to reduce the size of my mailing list by 50%.
Two major escapes this week. On Thursday Luke joined me in a Bardsey bassing expedition out of Pwllheli. It was pretty rough going through the sound, but settled down once we were on the banks, and we caught bass on artificials throughout the day. About half of them were returned but we still came home with a fine bag of fish.
Yesterday the first shoot at Llanbrynmair was very mixed. Two drives were devoid of birds and not a shot was fired. The famous High Drive produced a few; I had three nice birds there. Then at Pandy we found all of the birds on one area - hundreds of them - and gave the guns a fine drive across the river.
I took both labs. Copper, who I thought was slowing down a couple of seasons ago, worked like a two-year-old. The threatened rain never really got going, and we had a great day. I felt pretty tired but got a shock when I sat down in an armchair about 10pm and got serious cramp in both thighs simultaneously. I spent half an hour lying on the floor crying and swearing before it eased off!
Not a great deal to report on in the woods. I saw the first two woodcock of the year, plenty of sloes (I'll have to go back for some of them), and virtually no mushrooms at all. Why has it been such a poor year for fungi? It seems to have been mild and damp enough, but I have had no good hauls yet.
Sunday 23rd October 2011
On Friday I joined an expedition to fish for cod in the River Mersey. Fishing in a strong tide, just off the city centre, we caught codling up to six or seven pounds and thornbacks up to ten pounds, as well as heaps of whiting and dabs. It was a long day, and a long drive, but very successful. The fish were all full of food - crabs and small fish; the murky Mersey must be a lot cleaner than it looks - if we could only see it, the bottom must be a mass of fish and crustaceans.
Last night I used my apple tree prunings to smoke a batch of whiting. Lovely!
Today, after an hour or two at the computer, I was going mushrooming but got carried away with the pruning saw, and was still at it at dusk.
Monday 17th October 2011
Last day of the trout and salmon seasons, though I might have one more session to try to catch broodstock for the hatchery.
On Saturday I once again spent the dusk up to my middle on the reef, this time throwing a fly. Conditions were wonderful but all I caught were a couple of baby pollack. The seals came to visit as the tide started to flow, then I moved to the rivermouth and carried on for an hour into the dark. That's the thing about bass fishing - even if all the conditions are perfect, you won't catch 'em if they ain't there.
Before I fished I gathered a bucketful of mussels so I didn't come home empty-handed.
Saturday 14th October 2001
We got out to Bardsey at the end of the last bad weather; it was a bit of a struggle but I had a couple of bass and a nice coalfish.
A super sporting day yesterday - picking up with Jess in the morning, then floating plugs at Tonfanau in the evening. Not much sign of bass but Luke had a schoolie in the dusk. A lovely day today (despite Wales' unfortunate defeat) so I'll leave the catalogue and try the rivermouth at dusk again.
Tuesday 11th October 2011
Flat out (well - almost) on my new catalogue, with little time for sport. However last Friday Jess and I stretched our muscles gathering the slain for the toffs at Llynlloedd. Jess worked admirably as usual and we were rewarded with a portion of the spoils; partridge, pheasant and duck.
I've kept clear of the river, stuck at the computer in between the Pike Conference in Kettering, a visit to Yorkshire, and the Flyfishing Fair at Burton; none particularly profitable but all pleasant enough.
In the morning, despite the wind in the eaves, I am due to sail to Bardsey in search of bass. So this evening I will abandon the computer and get to work on bass rigs and sustenance for the morrow.
Wednesday 28th September 2011
A glorious week is promised but I don't have a lot of time. I did nip out with the dinghy yesterday, but despite a beautiful afternoon there was a big swell on the coast - too much for me to launch off the beach - so I couldn't get to the reef. I came back to Aberdyfi and drifted down and across the bar but never saw a bass. Outside the bar I tried for mackerel, but all I caught were lots of tiny whiting. I just kept the three biggest for my supper.
Back at Aberdyfi in the dusk I found a flat tyre on the van so I finished the day spending an hour struggling to get the van jacked up high enough to change the wheel.
Thursday 22nd September 2011
Despite a wet and windy night in Machynlleth it was flat-calm in Pwllheli and the trip went ahead. Two hours out it was a little rougher, but not enough to stop us having a great day's fishing. Despite being a complete novice at this kind of fishing, I had a nice cod on our first drift, and carried on with decent fish on every drift, culminating with a fifteen pound pollack. We were fishing at great depth - three times deeper than anywhere in Cardigan Bay - and it was pretty hard work, but good fun and I finished up with a fine bag of fish. I was fishing with a Sluggo rubber eel (with which I have signally failed to catch bass) and after two cod I caught pollack all day. In retrospect, I wonder if I had fished with a smaller (or shorter) lure, I might have increased the proportion of cod in the bag.
Owen is coming tonight so I've stayed home and set up the smoker for a mixed bag of trout, sea-trout and pollack.
Monday 19th September 2011
Back from the Midland Game Fair late last night. Despite lots of rain at home, Shropshire just had sun and showers - ideal game fair weather. This afternoon I snuck out after work to take advantage of the falling flood.I had three sea-trout in less than an hour, but they are now out-of-season on the Dyfi and are getting rather dark. I had the welcome company of an otter; the first I have seen for a while. He seemed to be beating up the submerged grass at the side of the river and catching and eating minnows.
Tomorrow I'm booked on a wrecking trip out of Pwllheli. I'm assured that it is still on, despite the howling wind and rain I can hear outside, so I've spent the evening making up rigs and sorting out the heaviest gear that I could find.
Wednesday 14th September 2011
What a pleasant place Frampton is, with a beautiful village green with lakes and ponds, a nice pub, apples and walnuts to scrump, the canal and the Severn estuary close by. We escaped the worst of the weather and Luke and I spent an afternoon in pursuit of predators in the canal. Unfortunately the zander are pretty thin on the ground (or in the water) so all we suffered were brief encounters with pike and small perch. As usual the blame is put on the Poles.
The fair was pleasant too, but a lot of work and expense for one day, and not particularly remunerative.
Bardsey was, of course, cancelled due to extreme gales, but we do have an alternative date in October.
Today I'll be loading the vehicles for the Midland Game Fair; last of our big outdoor fairs - and it's not raining!
Wednesday 7th September 2011
Well, I'd been hoping for rain, and now it's come with a vengeance. Let's hope it stops for an hour or two at the weekend for me to sell a few books at Frampton Country Fair.
Yesterday the river was bank-high and red, and it wasn't until this afternoon that I thought it had dropped enough to have a go. I nipped out of the shop at 3.30 and was back by 4.30 with a silver seven-pound salmon. Very pleased with myself, I braved a soaking this evening and caught its twin. The first was on a plug and the second on a spoon.
So I've done better today than I've done in some decades!
Lots of terns over the river - something I've never noticed before and presumably a sign of storms at sea. Then, on the news tonight I saw that hundreds of shearwaters are being rescued in South Wales. It must be rough out there!
Doesn't bode well for our Bardsey trip on Tuesday.
Friday 2nd September 2011
The Fenland Country Fair was pretty sleepy, too; enlivened only by excursions to the Quy Water where we lured plenty of small pike, a few nice perch, and an odd chub or two. Encounters with old friends were rather dampened by reminders of mortality, with several reports of death and illness by friends, young and old.
Back in the hills, we continue to feast our visitors, leaving little time for sport. Yesterday we toured Snowdonia, visiting old and not-so-old fishermen, in search of flies contemporary with William Roberts who wrote about fishing in the Ogwen Valley in the 1890s. I gleaned valuable information - and a few flies - from the kind fly-tyers of the North - and got my two small outboards serviced in Porthmadog while I was about it.
Saturday 21st August 2011
Bala Country Fair was fun; a little sleepy for business, but great for meeting old friends - some very old! The Dee was running high so Luke and I struggled with the grayling, catching mainly small trout.
I've had two nights on the Dyfi this week, but both were cool and misty: as soon as the moon came up and the temperature dropped it was plain that I might as well be at home in bed.
One evening I went prospecting well-down in the tidal reaches, fishing small flies in the broken water. All I caught were Gallichan's yellowfins; nice little chaps who should return next year as sewin. It was as good as a holiday, fishing into the sunset with an osprey and flights of teal overhead, and at first snipe, then later, bats and mosquitos darting about.
Where are the otters this year? Last year I met with them, singles and families, every time I went out. This year I have spent more time on the river, but have not seen one.
Bethan and Dewi have appeared from France, occasioning feasting, of course. Last evening we ascended to Caeheulon, bearing this year's biggest sea-trout cooling in the fish-kettle, and half of the next biggest as slabs of gravlax. We have a fine Canada goose for today; I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it, yet, but it's looking like an unseasonal roast dinner.
Thursday 11th August 2011
Luke and I headed back to the estuary but found only mullet. Later in the week we had an evening up at the lakes. Duncan and I headed further, up to Coch Hwyad, so we missed Luke hammering the Gwyddior fish during the evening rise. I just winkled out one big-headed pound-and-a-halfer prospecting in three inches of water. Much harder work than during the monster sedge hatches of June, but still spectacular fishing.
I was going to Bala a day early to sort out the game fair stock, but was dissuaded by the weather forecast. So, I got a good day's work done - and had an hour on the river before dinner. I lost a couple of lumps, kept a two-pounder, and returned a few sewin. Still playing with different lures; I had a couple on a cheap one-inch simple copper spoon; lovely!
We're packing grayling rods to take with us to the North Wales Country Fair tomorrow, but the evenings are drawing in so it might be a struggle to decide between fishing and fish & chips.
Thursday 4th August 2011
Fair-lag turned to flu and put paid to the inclination to fish for almost a week. Then the venerable Burnett joined me for a night on the Dyfi and I made a miraculous recovery. Beyond a sewin for his breakfast we struggled, but still sat it out until almost 4am. Yesterday I punted down the estuary after tea. I hit bass immediately but left them after half a dozen 'cos I'd gone there to look for mackerel. Outside the bar it was cold and choppy, so I didn't persevere for long. I trolled back up to Aberdyfi, but the bass must have pushed further up the estuary with the tide.
Tuesday 26th July 2011
Well - I sold my ton-and-a-half of books. The weather and the punters were kind to us and we all had a jolly weekend, enlivened by the presence of Mole Pledger who was working on a painting on our stand. We launched "While My Float's Still Cocked," and sold lots of copies.
I'm suffering from fair-lag today, but also conscious that the forecast is set fair and that the river must have fined down to a good level for night fishing. And that the sea should be flat calm tomorrow morning. I can't really do both, and go to work. Think I'll potter in the garden while I ponder on it.
Tuesday 19th July 2011
Vyrnwy was as hard as I expected in the bright sunshine. I winkled out half a dozen wild brownies including one of well over a pound. However I had the entertaining company of the oldest of the old fff..fellows, so enjoyed my day.
Since then I've been busy packing books. I sent off three pallets to Blenheim today, so now I have to sell a ton-and-a-half of books before I can come home.
We had a huge flood in the river yesterday and today, on one of my busiest days in the year, I knew it would be fining down. Anyway, I snuck off at 5pm and had a few casts above the tide. In an hour I had hits from a dozen fish, none of which stayed on, then I lost a shiny two-pounder at the net, then returned a couple of sewin, then as I was about to leave I caught three fish in three casts, one of them about three pounds. So my hour turned into almost three.
I've enjoyed spinning this year; there is lots of scope for experiment. Tonight I had nothing on larger and brighter spoons or plugs. Then as soon as put on a small ABU minnow-spoon, with some added weight to get it out and down, I started hitting fish.
Thursday 14th July 2001
I had a few more sea-trout on Saturday, including some nice little sea-liced sewin.
My new waders arrived on Tuesday so I've been putting them to good use. It's been a typical week of saltwater flyfishing. On Monday evening the river mouth was full of bass and you-know-who had a tremendous haul on the fly, including some of around four pounds. I, of course, was at home having an early night. On Tuesday night I joined the picket-line at the river mouth. There were shoals of mullet as far as the eye could see, but no bass. I outlived the picket-line and stuck it out until after midnight. Last night I returned with Luke and no fish of any kind were to be seen - or caught.
Today, in blazing sunshine, I have an appointment with a bacon sandwich at the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel in about an hour, followed by two hours fishing, a large lunch, and another two hours fishing. I won't take it too seriously.
Then I must get busy preparing for the CLA.
Saturday 9th July 2011
Well, Thursday's boat-trip was blown off, and the river was brown and unfishable. I went out after dinner and it had cleared enough to try the new lures I'd bought at Scone. I've tried and failed to add a picture of the Scone spoon that I used. It caught me half a dozen good sea-trout in an hour before I changed to a pretty little limited edition Rapala (also cheap from Scone) which was immediately eaten by a five-pounder. Even having put the smaller fish back, I still came home with four between three and five pounds.I've done worse some entire seasons!
All of my waders leak, so I've ordered more, to be here after the weekend. Last night I braved wet feet in my thigh-waders for an unfruitful hour with the fly.
Last night we had such torrential rain that I've spent the morning dealing with the aftermath. Later I'll put my wet waders back on and return to the river.
Tuesday 6th July 2011
I'm just home from a successful trip to the Northern Ireland and Scottish Game Fairs with the Taxidermist. Only a little sport - I foiled the tackle-grabbing rocks at Isle of Whithorn by float-fishing a strip of mackerel, though I had to catch a mackerel first. Then had lots of fun as smallish pollack, coalfish and mackerel fought over the bait. In Perth I rowed the ancient Archivist around a beautiful small loch, catching several of his very nice trout.
I made use of the trip, apart from selling loads of books to the canny Scots, to deliver a few de luxe Kelsons, and to renew old friendships. Last call was on the not-so-ancient Mr Grayling, who claims that he wants to retire. I helped him on his way by relieving him of a few more boxes of books. We probably arrived home carrying slightly more weight than when we left.
Heavy rain this morning, but will it be enough for me to give a trial to the great assortment of plugs and spoons that I bought with my Scone takings? I'm booked on a boat-trip out of Aberystwyth tomorrow, but the forecast is rough. No matter, river, lake or sea - I'll be out somewhere tomorrow!
Thursday 22nd June 2011
A frantic week - mainly because I've been trying to go fishing every evening, as well as loading up for the Irish and Scottish Game Fairs. On Monday we braved torrential rain in the hills to catch a few trout on sedges. The resultant flood has enabled me to catch some of the nicest sea-trout I've had in a while - three three-pounders on Tuesday and a silver four-pounder last night. Off now for the overnight ferry from Liverpool.
Sunday 19th June 2011
Monday 13th June 2011
The cool damp weather hasn't been damp enough to lift the
water levels. So, despite my neighbour, Richard Noel, catching a sixteen-pound
sea-trout on Monday night, I haven't felt inspired to spend much time on the
Instead I've concentrated on book ideas. One, which I've confirmed this week, is to include one of Paul Cook's hand-made (and signed) fishing floats in a mount in the front of the de luxe version of "Mole" Pledger's forthcoming book, While My Float's Still Cocked. Here's a mock-up of what it will look like. I think it will work beautifully.
Terry Griffiths has finished placing Marvin's flies in the mounts for the de luxe Essential Kelson. I haven't seen them yet, but apparently they look stunning.
It's great being a creative director. I just sit here having ideas and the real artists plug away and produce masterpieces.
Busy loading up for the BFFI this weekend - the binders are promising copies for Friday - so fingers crossed!
Monday 6th June 2011
I did get away on Friday afternoon, taking the small inflateable down the river at low tide. It's the time for spider-crabs and I spent a fruitless half-hour trying to snare one with a plug wound tight to the end-ring of my rod. Neither fish nor fowl moved as I trolled lures and flies around the reefs all evening; then around 9pm I tried a drift across the river mouth casting a fly loch-style ahead of the boat. I picked up a four-pounder immediately, then several follows and a smaller fish, then, at 10 o'clock when I should have catching the last of the tide to get back up the river, I hooked another good one. I had intended trying for mullet at high water, but they were not there in numbers, so I motored home, very pleased with myself.
The barbel fishers bought a few books. I'd have preferred them to have bought more, but at least I got home in time to cut the first of the season's cucumbers to eat with Danish sea-trout gravlax and spicy pheasant breasts. I don't know why I don't just stay at home.
Friday 3rd June 2011
The fish have been getting their revenge the past few days. A couple of short blank sessions on the river, then I hooked two very good sea-trout in successive casts; big solid fish, fresh off the tide. Both of them threw the hooks after being played to the net.
A pleasant afternoon in Machynlleth led to a visit to the lakes where thick cloud obscured all and a cold wind suppressed any hatches. The lads picked up one or two, but despite fishing on into the dark, the big sedges never materialised. There's always something to see on the way back. Last time, a suicidal rabbit ran under the car, en route for a pie. This time, three young badgers playing in the lane slowed us down.
Last evening was warm and there was a big tide topping at 9pm. A good day for bass; the Dysynni would have been full of mullet; I almost went to night-fish for sea-trout; the sedge would certainly be on the lake. After a day of bookwork and gardening; in the end I went to bed.
A glorious day today, and another good tide. If I can get loaded up for the Barbel Society show at the weekend I'll go somewhere tonight. But where?
Saturday 28th May 2011
Busy with books all day, I have been sneaking out for an hour most evenings. Consequently we are subsisting on an invalid's diet of trout, half-grown rabbits and salad from the garden.
The drought has broken and I'm starting to hear of the odd sea-trout in the river. During a couple of dusk excursions all I've caught have been smolts, sometimes one every cast.
A more productive dusk was spent at Gwyddior last Sunday. Despite a cold rough day (no trout, just perch, in Coch-hwyad) we picked up a few in Gwyddior, including another margin tadpoler. Then, in the dusk, there was a good rise to big sedges in the mare's tail beds. In another week's time the growth would have made it impossible, but we were just about able to cast our big muddlers among the stems, provoking slashing rises and lots of excitement. Here is Duncan's photo of one of Luke's trout.
Sunday 8th May 2011
I culled four more Caeheulon rabbits one evening this week, and had a short excursion to the sea-shore. The tides were not so extreme, so I couldn't get right out onto the best rocks. However, the sea was clear and I don't think the fish were close inshore anyway. I was consoled with mussels and winkles, and a close view of several pairs of porpoises.
This week's firsts: first radishes of the year from the cold-frame, first swifts of the year in the town, first winkle and gurnard pie, and my first stillwater chub.
Yesterday YFFA met at a secret chub pool in the wilds of Mongomeryshire. On the YF's last visit the fish were on the top, taking dry flies. This time they wouldn't look up at all. We caught plenty, but had to fish deep for them. I found them in pockets and suspect that they are gathering together for spawning. My fish were all small - up to one pound - but very fit and clean, fighting hard. The lads had a few bigger ones - up to about two and a half. Luke, who had left most of his tackle at home, used my saltwater rod, already rigged with a bass fly, and caught the most chub. That should tell us something.
In the evening we went up to Gwyddior where it was pretty cold and windy. I was lucky enough to find a classic margin feeder. Seeing a disturbance near the edge, on a very shallow shore, and casting from ten yards back from the water, I dropped the fly about a yard out. The trout that immediately grabbed the fly must have swum on its side to get into the three-inch deep shallows; it couldn't really run and fight because it had no depth of water at all. It weighed one and three quarter pounds and at the spot it took the fly the bottom was black with tadpoles. I had another a little smaller on a muddler; that one was taking sedges in a bed of mare's tail.
So - I managed to get two days fishing into one. I'm knackered today - I think a little gentle gardening and proof-reading is in order.
Monday 25th April 2011
Glorious weather and small tides have kept me at the computer and in the garden. Last week we had an infestation of baby rats around the hen-run. On their first excursions they are both adventurous and silly, so over a few days six or seven of them succumbed to traps. I have failed miserable with the garden gun. My cartridges are No. 6 shot and there can't be many pellets in the tiny case - I suppose it is a bit like trying to shoot snipe with BBs.
Romeo, the handsome cockerel we were given a year or so ago (given away because he was so aggressive) finally met his match when he rushed at me through the open door, raking me with his long spurs. I picked him up and he took a piece out of my hand with his beak. I looked at Mrs Morgan, who gave the thumbs-down, so we're eating tough chicken this week.
To balance that, I'm frying a couple of baby bunnies together with the last of the leeks at lunchtime. My mother complained about the rabbits, so on a visit the other evening I took the air-rifle and popped out and bagged a couple. There are enough there to keep me busy all summer.
I've threatened to go out with the rod this evening, but where? A small tide is not much good for bass, while the bright sun doesn't promise well for the lakes. We'll see...
Saturday 23rd April
I managed one return trip to the rocks for bass, this time taking Luke along so we were able to take a big shrimp net and ensure a supply of bait. Surprisingly, both of us caught dogfish that must have hunted out the bait in mid-water. Luke had a schoolie and both of us lost bass: I even moved a couple of good fish with a surface lure.
On Thursday we braved the sun to pay a first visit to the Llanbrynmair lakes. No spectacular results but we caught a few fish in both lakes and I had a couple to bring home. A good start to the season.
Monday 18th April 2011
Well, it will take me a month to catch up after my sojourn abroad. And that is just the gardening - never mind the bills.
My first escape was last Thursday when I met up with the Old Effs at Lake Vyrnwy. Despite a flat calm we caught a few small brownies in the margins, but had to find a pod of stockies before we put any fish in the boat. Nice to come home with some trout, though. Anthony, the Vyrnwy boss, organised a lunch-time barbecue, and a very pleasant time was had.
Other notable events of the day were a fly-past by an osprey (from the Dyfi?) and the journey from home to Vyrnwy via Bwlch y Groes which always makes me itch to fish the cascading moorland streams below the road.
This afternoon I managed to catch the big tide, finding a few prawns in the rocks, and then floatfishing for the hour or so that I was able to stay out on the furthest platforms. Fishing two little prawns back-to-back, I quickly caught and returned a schoolie, and then was rewarded with a second bass, this one big enough to keep. My baits just about lasted until I was pushed off by the tide. We have more big tides over the next couple of days, and the weather is perfect, so... sorry about the bills.
Saturday 2nd April 2011
Yesterday we travelled even further south to visit publisher Ken Smith;
vineyards, black kites, cuckoos cuckooing, glimpses of red deer and
sanglier, and even lusher fields; it felt like Summer.
(Not many hirundines, though. I just saw one group of swallows passing over. I'm still fretting about that lonely martin flying over the Baltic. I hope he turned South again; there was no food for him there).
In the centre of the city of Cognac I found a dead kingfisher, complete with speared minnow, that must have flown into a shop window.
Today we head into Brittany to look for food and more angling publishers. The salmon season opened yesterday, so we may struggle to find the latter.
Monday 28th March 2011
The Kolding Fly Festival was marvellous, as always. So many of my customers there are also my friends that it could not be anything else.
Today I drove a thousand kilometres into the Spring. Thirteen hours - from Kolding in Denmark to Arras in France - maybe 600 miles, fuelled by old tapes of Dylan Thomas poetry and Terry Pratchett. From green-tinged brown fields in Denmark to lush grass and trees in full leaf in France, via a thousand roe deer, factory chimneys and windmills in Germany.
I'm in love with France again - where else can you drive off a motorway at 8pm, into the nearest village, find a country hotel, and be eating lobster and veal by 8.30? I had a bottle of Macon Villages white with the first courses, but had to try the local red with the cheese, so this entry may be a little disjointed; and I know the cheese won't help me sleep.
Friday 25th March 2011
What a difference local knowledge makes! On Wednesday morning, after updating this diary on a computer at the public library, I visited my friend, Peter, at Go Fishing in Haderslev. He said that fishing on the open coast had been poor because of an algal bloom which coloured the water, but that in sheltered bays and fjords there were fish to be caught. Following his directions I went to a small sheltered bay where I found about ten spin-fishermen - and they were catching sea-trout! Most were small and were being returned, but I saw a couple of nice fish of 3 or 4 pounds, as well a rainbow and a few thin kelts. The bay faced directly into the strong south-westerly wind, and there was little room to get in with a flyrod. Late in the afternoon I squeezed in on one arm of the bay and eventually a fish moved in front of me. I covered it with a large olive zonker and it took immediately; a pretty little sea-trout, close to a pound but well-undersized for here. That one was followed by a couple more, then a bigger, rather thin, fish; all were returned.
I was back there early on Thursday morning, and was surprised to find the water much lower, and no fish. I did find some compensation in seeing a beautiful mature sea-eagle at reasonably close range; initially being mobbed by gulls and crows, then sitting a tree about a hundred yards away. I had not expected so great a tidal variation in the Baltic, and it was pretty obvious that the fish had moved out with the tide. That being the case, then it seemed likely that they would move back in with the making tide, spreading out over the shallows, and if that was the case (and bearing in mind the large dark fly I had caught on yesterday) they would probably be feeding on rag-worm. I should have worked it out sooner, but the cold weather up until a day or so ago had made me think that it was far too early for the "rag-worm hatch." However, this shallow sheltered lagoon was obviously warming up enough.
Back to Haderslev for breakfast and emails, then I returned early in the afternoon, finding one of the points of the bay unoccupied. Newly confident, I put my largest rag-worm pattern on the point and a zonker on the dropper. First cast - two fish on at once; one of 50cm and one a bit smaller. Throughout the afternoon, as the tide rose, I moved, hooked and released fish. I later spoke to a flyfisher from Germany, who had been on the bank opposite me and had not caught at all, and he reckoned he had seen me catch fifteen sea-trout.
I packed up around 5pm, drove to a quiet shore where I found a flat rock on which to fillet my largest fish. Before I left home I had mixed salt, sugar and dill, ready for just such an occasion. The fillets filled my container with just room for a couple of flat rocks to weigh down the sea-trout gravlax. (And, as I write this, I remember that I have a half-bottle of brandy in the van for just such an occasion. I'll add a little of that later).
Yesterday, for the first time, I noticed that the brown fields have taken on a tinge of green. It must be Spring because every farmer in Denmark is out spreading the fields with a long winter's accumulation of pig slurry. I'm sure that if the wind was in the East, we would smell it in Wales.
So, no more fishing. I'm back in a hotel in Kolding, ready to set up my stand for the Fly Festival tomorrow.
Wednesday 23rd March 2011
Leaving Randers, I did a quick tour of the west coast. Still too soon for the big bird migrations, all I found were loads of geese. The herring run has started at Hvide Sande, and a few hardy locals were pulling a few out, half of them tail-first. After much consideration, I decided to leave them to it. I don't have a stove with me, and I'm too idle to clean and brine a bucketful. So, I contented myself with buying some local smoked herring and making sandwiches.
Back to the east coast and sunny windy weather. I prospected for sea-trout all day, but all I got was a sunburnt nose - from trying to sleep in the lee of a sand-dune.
As I waded ashore at dusk, my feet absolutely freezing, an early lone sand martin flew over.
Saturday 19th March 2011
The word "sea-trout" in "sea-trout saga" became slightly less tenuous on Thursday afternoon when I hooked one for about five seconds in a small tidal Zealand river. Then yesterday I had two sessions on the coast of Fyn - at Fynshoved in the north and Torø in the east; both beautiful places to explore and fish, but the weather is cold and I saw no sea-trout.
Today I head for Randers to see if my old friends Sarath and Ann Marie Seneratne can still come up with a Sri Lankan curry to ward off the Scandinavian cold.
Thursday 17th March 2011
Monday 14th March 2011
I don't want to talk about the four days of my life spent in an exhibition centre in Stockholm; I really should know better.
Thursday 3rd March 2011
Coch-y-Bonddu 2011 Scandinavian Sea-Trout Saga. After a few weeks of sitting behind a computer, I'm about to escape to the North, loading up my longship (sorry - Transit van) with fishing books in a return bout against the Vikings. I probably won't be doing a lot of raping and pillaging, but I may give an occasional sea-trout a slight surprise.
From Thursday 10th March I will be found at the Swedish Flyfishing Fair - part of the huge Wilderness Fair in Stockholm. It is a four-day fair so by the following week I will be ready from some fresh air. It will almost certainly be too fresh in Sweden, so I will trundle south, through throngs of moose (or elk!) and packs of capercailzie, back to Denmark. There I will reacquaint myself with Baltic sea-trout, and maybe cod and herring. We'll see.
The Danish Fly Festival is over the weekend, 26-27th March, after which I will once again point the van south and just keep going until I reach Bethan's house near Nantes. I hope to meet all three of the famous flyfishing publishers of Brittany, as well as sampling their wine and seafood. Failing to catch even more zander in the canal might be a let down after the excitements of the North, however April will be imminent so I might find a rising trout.
Last time I went to Denmark I slept in the van in order to be on the water at five a.m.; a tactic that proved successful. This is a month earlier in the year, so I am hoping to stay in luxury and may even have access to the Internet. If so, I'll be able to keep you up-to-date with the latest instalment of the Coch-y-Bonddu 2011 Scandinavian Sea-Trout Saga.
Thursday 24th February 2011
No sport in February; I wasn't even tempted to the foreshore. Plenty at work to keep me occupied. Last week I put together a collection of two hundred falconry books for a library in the desert. All of our new books are on course so I've been busy chasing authors and proof-reading. And I continue to be offered books in great quantity, both new and antiquarian; so many that I just had another (my third) forty-foot shipping container delivered. Today we fill it up.
Sunday 30th January 2011
We've had a few days of brilliant shooting weather and I've had my share of days out - picking up and rough shooting.
Yesterday I achieved an ambition while Ben and I were shooting on the beater's day at Llynlloedd. The shoot is the home of a small flock of wild turkeys which seldom fly over the guns, and which I, as a picker-up, hardly ever see. On the White Stones drive I was in a good position and had shot three good high pheasants when a single huge turkey crossed to my left. Trying to give it a lot of lead, I sent it crashing into a tree. Moments later the whole flock flew over Ben, to my right, and he dropped a right-and-left of turkey hens. Copper retrieved one of Ben's hens, but struggled to lift my cock bird. No wonder; when I got it home it weighed sixteen pounds. That was the high-point of a super day.
And let anyone who's ever eaten a supermarket turkey challenge me over that! Those wild woodland birds are very far removed from even free-range farmed turkeys. Roosting high in the tree on an exposed hillside and foraging far and wide, they are as close to their American ancestors as can be. We will celebrate his death with a feast.
Now another death. Later in the afternoon Ceri found Midge dead in her run. The thirteen-year-old lurcher had been feeling her age for a day or two so it was a relief that she died quietly and without a period of incapacitation.
Still two days of shooting to come before we hang up our guns and get stuck down to some work.
Thursday 20th January 2011
I had schemed to drive around Zambia this month, looking for African pike and shoebilled storks. Unfortunately a combination of high prices (South African summer holidays) and
very wet roads caused me to postpone my plans.
Little wildfowling this year, at least in part because what used to be an opportunity to escape everyday cares to the peace of the foreshore has become so hemmed in by difficulties and regulations that it is no longer the relaxation that it was. In particular, a especially malignant landowner has deliberately made it his business to deprive wildfowlers of the two main points of access to the estuary. These paths, used by me for forty years, and by other fowlers back into antiquity have been chained and barred, and in one case, sold as a bird reserve. This has been done by someone who hosts a shoot and no doubt thinks of himself as a sporting farmer. Sporting? No.
Jess, the rising star in the world of picking-up, came into season early in January, and will be out of action through the busiest shooting period of the year. Copper has come to my rescue, denying her years, and proving that experience is more valuable than enthusiasm.
I am starting to see the minor faults that made Jess, despite her outward style and prowess, unlikely to make the highest ranks of field trial retrievers. She is not fond of steep banks (cliffs, they call them in England), and this has delayed one or two retrieves. She failed on a woodcock in terribly thick brambles on the steep face of a bank; before Copper, who knew that the bird was there, wiped her eye.
Jess may also, whisper it, be a little hard-mouthed. No problem with gamebirds, but the only live rabbit that I've sent her for had to be levered out of her mouth with a beater's stick. Despite her condition, we have been able to take Jess on our walks in the hills, where we are safe from predatory and amorous dogs- except for Tom's corgis who are too short.
We have not quite found an embarrassment of birds, but there are certainly as many as we want to carry after walking a mile or two. And as many as I want to pluck. I feathered four last night in anticipation of roast dinners, but the majority I continue to dismember for pies and casseroles.
Saturday 1st January 2011
December was pretty devoid of sport. I missed a cod-fishing trip to the Mersey because of snow, then several days' shooting. The mad seasonal rush then took over and I have spent the last two weeks dealing with those impatient members of the Internet society who order books by pushing a button and expect their books to drop through their letterbox next morning. I usually like and get on with my customers, having a great deal in common with many of them (that's you!), but we have been sorely tested by some of them this Christmas.
Today was our first day out for a while. I took both dogs, but kept Copper at heel to give her an easier day. I found my January form and dropped most of the birds that came my way. All set for a month of sport!
Sunday 12th December 2010
I left snow-bound Britain to take flyfishing books to a snowy Belgium. Amid warnings not to travel I sailed along empty roads to Dover - so empty that I have had a speeding fine for sailing a little too fast on the normally choked M25. Little coveys of partridge stood out against the snow along the flatlands north of Calais. The Fly Happening was as enjoyable as ever, meeting lots of old friends, selling a few books and eating far too much.
In over thirty years in the Dyfi valley I have never seen so much ice on the rivers; lots of stretches were completely frozen over. My mother was unable to get out for two weeks as her road was iced over. However, the thaw came quickly as we were shooting at Llynlloedd on Friday and the ice has now almost gone.
Two consecutive days sport - picking up on Friday and shooting yesterday - led to a collapse into an armchair in front of the fire each evening and necessitating early mornings to catch up on paperwork.
My new lab, Jess, has been doing well. Yesterday I took Copper along as well. She worked hard and well all day, but couldn't get out of the car at the end of the day. Age and experience led her to make a couple of good retrieves on birds that Jess had run past. Luckily Jess was looking the other way when Copper ran-in every time she saw a bird coming down. Jess is dead steady and will sit there as birds fall all around her.
The shop is at the peak of its Christmas rush so it's probably best if I keep out of the way!
Sunday 28th November 2010
We're getting some spectacular weather and spectacular sport. On Wednesday Ben and I had a trek around the hills with the dogs. It was a lovely day and we finished earlier than anticipated because we had shot all we could carry. That was a first!
On Friday I was picking-up in Llynlloedd in a blizzard. Again the day was cut short - this time because we had so much snow that the vehicles couldn't get up the hills.
Then yesterday I had my first day of the season at Llanbrynmair.There were lots of birds, although not many of them came my way. Bright sun and deep snow made it a day to remember.
Saturday 20th November 2010
Had a spectacular crossing from Liverpool to Dublin in a storm force eleven, taking five hours longer than usual, but otherwise uneventfully. The Galway anglers must have been listening to the news about financial crises, so didn't buy quite as many books as I had hoped; just enough to pay for the Guinness. Nonetheless it was a very pleasant weekend and we'll probably give it a try again next year.
No sport until yesterday, when the sun shone and Jess and I went picking up at Llynlloedd. One of the highlights of the day was when my old boss and fishing companion, John Elfed Jones, shot one of the shoot's wild turkeys. Julian's handsome melanistic pheasants flew well and high, testing the guns who dropped just enough of them to keep Jess busy. She was called on to try a long unsighted retrieve on a partridge which had pitched in two fields away. Fortunately the bird had been marked accurately and I was able to work Jess onto it without delay, making us look very professional.
To Redditch today to mix with the vintage dealers of vintage fishing tackle. As the dealers themselves become more antique they seem more amenable to parting with those special bits and pieces that they have been hoarding for donkey's years.
Monday 8th November 2010
On sunny November days I'd always imagined the hordes of whiting and codling out in the bay, so yesterday I gave it a try from the little inflatable, launching off the beach. Unfortunately the reality wasn't so good. I had a few small whiting and lots of dogfish. One bull huss was too big to get in the boat and eventually straightened the hook. A second rather smaller one wasn't so lucky. Generally it was much quieter than during the Summer so I was happy enough to surf ashore early in the afternoon.
I'll miss the first shoot this weekend when I'll be socialising (& maybe selling a book or two) in Galway.
Tuesday 26th October 2010
At the Grayling Society bash last weekend I was allocated to fish in Dovedale on Sunday. The Dove was beautiful but I hadn't allowed for the sight-seers. There were hundreds of them, and so close that I had to watch my backcast the whole time. It was a bit like flyfishing in the penguin pool at the zoo on a Bank Holiday. Despite that I winkled out a couple of grayling, and saw a few much larger and better educated ones.
Bethan, Dewi and Owen are with us for a few days, so there will be feasting until I have to leave for the BFFI.
Monday 18th October 2010
Just back from a quick dash around South Africa in the rain. Showers in the Kruger didn't stop us getting great views of three different leopards. Storms in Swaziland and low cloud and cold rain in the Drakensberg saved the yellowfish and river trout. I did bash a few stockie rainbows from a farm dam before breakfast one morning, before fleeing across the Orange Free State looking fruitlessly for sunshine. We had an hour or two of sunshine on the Dolphin Coast where the sporting Thornycrofts set me adrift on a paddle-ski to flyfish for black bass on a dam. I hooked two (for me) huge bass, both of which jumped and threw the hook, and a big catfish or barbel that failed to acknowledge that he had been hooked and just swam off until the fly pulled out. Highlights, apart from wonderful African hospitality and some memorable meals, were a beautiful female leopard eating an impala on a branch just over our heads, two kills in the Kruger (a ground hornbill taking a skink and a Crocodile River crocodile catching a kurper), a Lion sands woodland dormouse and a honey badger in the 'Berg.
Home to find Wales basking in warm sunshine!
Saturday 2nd October 2010
For such a busy week I have done remarkably well in stealing a few hours for sport.
I caught the tail of a small spate on Wednesday afternoon. Leaving work at 5.30 I found the river quite lively. In the hour or so that I had, I lost a small grilse, then landed a very pretty seven pound salmon. The salmon came from a run that felt so fishy that I fished it through three times. Neither the toby or the plug felt as though they were fishing attractively, maybe because of all the leaves in the water. Then I put on a tarnished old Droppen spoon that felt just right, and second cast the salmon took it. She was trailing a foot or so of fishing line where she had previously broken a worm-fisher.
Yesterday's partridge shooting coincided with the worst weather of the week. All were drenched, especially the birds, but Jess had a few retrieves and we made the most of it. Talking to Glen the keeper I learned that he had lost a (twelve pound!) salmon around 1pm on Wednesday, when it ran through some rocks in Llyn Morgan. I was able to describe the line and hook from my (seven pound!) fish and identify it as the one that he lost five hours earlier and about half a mile downstream.
Wednesday 29th September 2010
I have abandoned sport for a few days as I clear the decks for my departure for South Africa where I will be delivering copies of "Nigel & Corona" and "Fowler's Moon" to the Thornycroft family. I collected the leather-bound copies yesterday and they look brilliant
Lots of interesting things going on in this busy week, including the imminent delivery of "Plu Stiniog." I hope that "Tales of a London Poacher" and my catalogue are both going to the printer before I leave.
Sport has been confined to the garden. The garden-gun accounted for a rat in the hen-run a couple of days ago, then yesterday morning I spotted, horror of horrors, a rabbit in the garden. After running around the house like crazy, looking for air-rifle pellets, I gave up and went for the twelve-bore. I bowled him over just as he was running for the hedge. A job well done and one that has put me in the good books of the head gardener. She'll be putting him into a pie, together with a bacon hock, today.
When Julian came into the shop desperate for a picker-up for his partridge day on Friday, I said that I absolutely could not afford the time this week. A few hours later I was out there searching for him. Of course I can afford the time to give Jess her first real day's work. Bugger the catalogue!
Wednesday 22nd September 2010
The Midland was a success. That is the last outdoor show out of the way. Lots of indoor ones to follow: Pike Conference this weekend, then Grayling AGM, British Flyfair, Irish Flyfair, Belgian Flyfair and Redditch Tackle Fair.
To celebrate I nipped out for an hour on Monday evening to experiment fishing a lure on a dropper with a heavy weight to keep it down. First cast with a long slim Toby spoon I caught a seven pounder. So that merits further trials.
Yesterday afternoon I spotted a window in the weather, coinciding with high water at dusk - ideal for me to launch and land with the small inflatable. I had a pleasant afternoon spinning and trolling around the reef, failing to find any bass or mackerel at all. Coming back up the river on the tide I was surrounded by hundreds of mullet; so many that I stopped to watch them. Then, of course, I had a cast with the only rod to hand, which was already rigged with a spoon. First cast I hooked a fish. Bass, I thought. But no, as I got it to the boat I saw it was a three-pound mullet hooked fairly in the mouth. Then it threw the hook. An aberration; mullet are very good at breaking rules.
Thursday 16th September 2010
A huge flood early in the week is just fining down now. This morning I should have been loading the van for the Midland Game Fair but I nipped off to the river for an hour and caught that grilse that I've been chasing. Only about four pounds, and not the bar of silver that I've been dreaming about, but still a bonny fish. And a salmon!
It took a heavy silver Canadian Wiggler plug as I combed the depths of Murphy's Hole. Next cast I lost the plug, so perhaps that's my lot for this year.
Ceri and I took stock to Weston yesterday. The ground is good and dry and all is set for a good show. We came home with a bag full of mushrooms so we're already in profit. Or we would have been if I hadn't got a parking ticket while having dinner in the Loch Fyne restaurant in Shrewsbury on the way home.
Sunday 10th September 2010
Last Sunday Ben and I braved a strong southerly wind and had a wet crawl up to the reef. Unfortunately tides were still small and we struggled for mackerel. I had a few small bass on the troll under Cae Du, keeping just one of them.
Thursday was the long-anticipated trip to Bardsey. The weather defied the forecast and we had a beautiful day for the long scenic run from Caernarfon. I found that I was completely under-gunned for the method needed to catch bass there. A pound of lead was necessary to present a live sandeel right on the bottom in seventy feet of water and a strong tide. I didn't have the tackle for that, and it took me most of the day to work out a way of getting the bait where I wanted it. I did get there in the end, catching bass on each of the last three drifts of the day. The fat three-pounders didn't put up much of a fight with about a hundred yards of line out, but I was pretty pleased with them.
Yesterday was a dirty flood in the river so I was out first thing this morning looking for a salmon. I went all through my boxes of plugs, spoons, spinners and minnows, catching sewin on all of them but never a touch from a big silver one.
Saturday 4th September 2010
Dust from the mouldy old books bought on shortness of breath and then flu - which didn't help my weekend in the Fens. Fortunately the Flatlanders were kind to me and bought plenty of books. I had one short session on the river there, throwing small jigs for perch. Apart from a follow from what looked like a huge perch, all I caught were some pike from the shallow water among the cabbages. One about five or six pounds almost came home for the barbecue but was such a pretty fish that I slipped him back.
Still not feeling too energetic, I have failed to take advantage of a week of favourable winds on the coast. Last evening I struggled down to Aberdyfi with the small inflatable on the roof of the Volvo. That worked fine and the five-horse motor sped me down, across the lumpy bar, and out to the outer buoy. Unfortunately it was such a small tide that I couldn't find mackerel or bass anywhere. So no supper!
Friday 27th August 2010
A wet August has kept levels up in the river. I've had a few sessions, finding lots of small sewin of a pound or less; I think the bigger fish have all pushed up into the hills by now. There ought to be a salmon or two about, but I haven't seen any.
I've spent the last week clearing a houseful of mouldy old books. Unfortunately the owners were opposed to all of my interests so there was not a single sporting book in the place. It is still great fun going through an extensive library that has barely been touched for fifty years.
Today we are off to the East, taking my new edition of Fowler's Moon to show to the mouchers, fowlers and gypsies of the Fens.
Sunday 15th August 2010
OFFA met at the Talybont lakes on Thursday. Most of the OFs stayed at Llyn Conach so I headed off to Penrheiadr on my own. A cold north wind on a very warm lake was not conducive to success and all I caught were three perch. After sandwiches with the OFs I went to Llyn Nant-y-Cagal where it was still difficult but I started picking up a few little trout. Then it warmed up a little and I saw a sedge or two; then lost three surprisingly good trout, one after the other on sedgy patterns - a Dunkeld on the point and a small muddler on the top dropper.
The north wind veered just enough into the East for me to venture out in my bigger inflatable on Saturday. Outside the bar was pretty lumpy so I had to creep slowly up to the reef, where a wall of white water put paid to my ideas of bass fishing. Instead I anchored just short of the reef and caught some very nice bream until high water slack when everything stopped. I wasn't really enjoying sitting at anchor being thrown all over the place, so we drifted back past Tywyn catching plenty of good-sized mackerel and a few small gurnard. Back at the Aberdyfi Bar we anchored again but all I caught were half a dozen greater weevers; big ones all well over a pound. Minus head and poisonous dorsal spines, they were still big enough to make a good meal. A remarkably easy landing at Aberdyfi at low water rounded off a hassle-free and successful day.
Well, almost. I still had a couple of hours of cleaning, filleting and cooking, plus making a crock full of gravad mackerel, and brining a pile for smoking today.
Lots of gannets staying at Caeheulon this weekend so all came for a feeding frenzy at lunch-time today.
Saturday 7th August 2010
I should have been bass fishing in May and June because the weather has hardly been fit for it since. These wet and windy conditions are better for the river. I stayed out until one a.m. one night and surprised myself with an equally surprised three-pounder, then yesterday I went out in a gale, just catching a solitary sewin. So, nothing spectacular but at least I'm catching something every time, and there is always something interesting to see. A few sewin were jumping at the top of the Bridge Flats yesterday afternoon. Then, as I fished up towards them, a cormorant appeared, diving among them. You might imagine him chasing the sewin around the pool, but he surfaced with a flounder. Lots of kingfishers around but no otters this time.
I give Jess a work-out some time every day, giving me an excuse to search for mushrooms and bilberries. The trouble with ceps (and mackerel, and mushrooms) is that it is feast or famine. At least ceps are easy to preserve. Unfortunately I'm also busy working so we just eat 'em.
Sunday 1st August 2010
Well, I got really wet on Friday night. At first I hooked sea trout smolts at every cast - thirty or forty of them I should think. A good sign for the future, although I was surprised to catch so many this late in the year. I usually see lots in the Spring. Once the light went, and I was thoroughly soaked, the smolts went off and I started catching small sewin - or finnock - or herling. I had half a dozen or so and kept the best two, packing up about eleven pm. Never touched anything bigger, but then I only took a floating line so I never dredged the pools. Every one of the sewin took a black seal's fur gold-head on the dropper - must get more of them!
To Llandeilo today, to collect a new dog, an already trained lab bitch called Jess. It's a shame to miss all the puppy stuff, but time is short and, if all goes well, I'll have two dogs working this season. This evening all three dogs are in the run together, wondering what is going on.
On our way home we found masses of brilliant ceps. I'm going to have to spend time out with Jess, so I'll make sure I take my mushroom basket.
Friday 30th July 2010
The Game Fair was great as usual. Loads to see, loads of customers to talk to, lots of bacon sandwiches and beer, several jolly author-signings, a few new books to pick up (including Robert Bucknell's new Foxing book), two nice collections of antiquarian books collected, and we all got home safe with a pocketful of money to bank. Our site at Ragley was, as I had anticipated, superb.
After a couple of days unloading and recuperating I tried an hour on the river on Wednesday afternoon. Trout and parr continually splashed at the little muddler on the dropper, but a satisfyingly fat two-pounder took the slim stoat's tail on the point so I was happy enough - again!
Yesterday afternoon Dewi had to go fishing so we headed for the estuary. Arrived at Ynyslas just in time to watch the bomb disposal squad blowing up an (until then) unexploded bomb. Found just a few tiny shrimps among the baby turbots, then went home with parasol mushrooms and samphire for tea.
Tonight it is really wet. Friday is "members only" so the river will be quiet. I think I'll brave the rain and give it a try into the dusk.
Sunday 18th July 2010
Well - despite being busy preparing for the Game Fair I have managed to wet a line every other day. On Sunday it was just a quick evening session, trying my small inflateable with my little 2hp engine. It proved adequate, but not fast enough to catch up with the gannets that were dive-bombing a mile or so out.
On Tuesday and Thursday I was summoned by the OFs, first to Aberystwyth where we found a few bream and plenty of mackerel, then to Lake Vyrnwy. Despite a wet and windy forecast, it proved to be a splendid and very civilised day, starting at 10am with bacon sandwiches, breaking at one for a long and sociable lunch, then sleeping it off in the boat for the afternoon. No, that's not true. I was wide awake and winkled out fish throughout the day; half a dozen rainbows, a handful of wild brownies and a solitary chub. The lake fished just as I remembered from last time I was there, almost thirty years ago! I fished a short, short line, flicking it against the stones on the rocky shore, and the fish took the small natural muddler on the top dropper every time.
Back home over the high and misty Bwlch y Groes, the mountain rivulets were gushing and I had hopes of sea-trout for the morrow.
Friday saw a brown, dirty spate so it was Saturday morning before I ventured out. I caught the fining flood perfectly and, spinning an artificial minnow, hit sea-trout almost immediately. In an hour I hooked six; three came off, I returned two and I kept one of just over three pounds. Then I was joined by a family of otters who played and gambolled upstream towards me until they were pretty much around my feet. It was either two families or one large one, because two of them cleared off downriver, while three remained close to me for an hour, working upstream with me as I headed back to the car. What a morning!
Today it's pouring again (fishing Monday?) but I'm off to Ragley to deliver the first installment of stock to my stand at the CLA.
Thursday 8th July 2010
Home from the hills, still laden with books. We did sell some cheap stuff but the better books were taken for a thousand-mile ride and are safely home again. Let's hope that they find kind owners when we take them to our splendid stand at the CLA Game Fair at Ragley. After years of enduring my complaints the CLA management have at last seen sense, and have designed the whole Game Fair centred around my stand. It was really the obvious solution - like a spider's web with Coch-y-Bonddu Books at the centre and the rows, gunmaker's, fisherman's, etc., all radiating out.
Ben and I had great weather for our excursion and ventured as far north as bonny Peterhead in search of the £1000 mackerel. It provided a fillet apiece and made the whole trip worthwhile.
Apart from preparing for the CLA - which is going to involve buying a new vehicle - there is some urgency for me to edit our translation of Plu Stiniog - Trout Flies for North Wales. It is a sad state of affairs when I can't go fishing because I have got to spend my time writing about it.
Tuesday 22nd June 2010
Glorious summer and I could be full-time in the garden; planting, potting, watering and harvesting. Of course, we can't actually see the garden for the flotilla of redundant boats.
I have just managed one sun-baked expedition to Clywedog where Mr B of Ludlow thrashed me with his cane rod and silk line.
The Welsh Game Fair was fine; sociable and we sold a few books. We're off later in the week to Northern Ireland and then on to the Scottish Game Fair at Scone, so there'll be no more news until July. Then I'm going to catch some bass!
Friday 11th June 2010
No mackerel in Aberystwyth. Or, at least, not enough for smoking, pickling, sushi-ing and barbecuing. Just enough for bait to catch a few black bream. Actually it was a very nice day with a wide range of species of fish to keep us entertained- from octopus and spider crab to bull huss and codling. Expecting mackerel, I had invited my mother to tea. Luckily I was rescued by a nice fat codling.
Last evening I ventured onto the moors after a trout. A useful point fly for the hill lakes is a small red-tagged stick-fly. On this occasion every trout took the point fly well below the surface, ignoring the juicy palmers on the droppers; so much so that I put another red tag on the top dropper. I had no idea why until I got home and cleaned my fish; all were full of daphnia. So, that bright spot of red must be the trigger. I would have bet on a palmer working, imitating sedges or moths, so my choice of point fly was a stroke of luck that paid off.
Saturday 5th June 2010
That bloody rib! It didn't bother me until I got to Holland but then deteriorated severely. Luckily I drove home before the worst of it, but it is quite a nuisance now, curtailing my sleep and my fishing.
Holland was lots of fun. The fair was at a lovely new riverside site and the company was as convivial as ever. No fishing but watched lots of hares, waders, waterfowl and a few roe deer. I saw a feeding frenzy of cormorants that was worthy of an Okavango barbel-run; let's hope it was bream they were chasing. I wonder if the underwater predators were as active below the surface as the birds were above?
I've missed the best of the sedge on the hill lakes, and great weather and tides for bass and black bream. But I do have another OFFA trip scheduled for Tuesday, out of Aberystwyth with Dave Taylor, so I'm determined to be rested and cured by then.
In the meantime I am using my enforced inactivity to produce a second edition of the 2010 catalogue, and doing some editing of our autumn titles. And supervising Ceri doing the vegetable garden. If I'm not fit to go fishing, I'm certainly not fit to plant leeks!
Today I've been entertained by a fledging family of mistle thrushes in the ivy tree beside my greenhouse, all now too big for the nest, but still sitting around waiting to be fed. The parents bring a beakful of insects, then top them up with ivy-berries from around their nest-site.
Tuesday 25th May 2010
I resisted the lakes but succumbed to the sea, joining the OF's on a boat trip from Rhyl yesterday. The heat-weave abated and we donned all our spare clothes as we bumped our way out of the rivermouth. Out amongst the wind-farms we were busy all day hauling in gurnards, dabs and whitings, mostly too small to keep but a few better ones, and some lovely big mackerel.
As I leaned over the rail at the end of the day I felt a rib crack! Or at least click. I don't suppose it's serious but will be an inconvenience today as I run up and down stairs with boxes of books for Holland.
Friday 21st May 2010
Summer is here and there are not enough hours to do everything. My beans are in and tomatoes and cucumbers are mostly in position. We are eating nothing but salads. But I have to produce a new catalogue, and to prepare for the Dutch Flyfishing Fair next week. With this warm weather the sedge will be on the lakes. Can I resist the temptation?
Today I have to make space for four pallets of books from America. The greater quantity are copies of Fred Buller's Giant Salmon book. I'm very pleased to have them.
Tuesday 19th May 2010
Up early yesterday and took the rubber duck for a troll around the reef. I couldn't find the bass, although I know they are around. The couple of small pollack I caught on the troll served as bait when I anchored on the bream grounds. No bream (or mackerel) but I was pestered by a big tope that tried to grab a sea-scorpion as I was lifting it from the water, then took the next small fish that I hooked and made my reel sing. I returned one more small codling before heading back up the river.
So, nothing in the bag but still a reasonably successful maiden voyage.
I needed a siesta before returning to work!
Monday 17th May 2010
Further meetings last week led to good progress being made on Plu Eryri, Plu 'Stiniog, Nigel and Corona and Fowler's Moon. I managed to tie one in with Porthmadog and came home with my new small inflatable.
I put it all together this evening and piled the lot into the back of the van. It fitted perfectly! So tomorrow morning I'll christen it (her?) on the estuary and try her with my two different outboards. Might even take a rod.
Tuesday 11th May 2010
Skunked again. A successful meeting on "Plu Eryri", then, as Porthmadog is postponed I thought I'd try three new lakes in Ardudwy. When I got to the first, Llyn y Fedw, the north wind blew cold, the rain lashed down, and I saw nothing. It would have been foolish to continue to the other lakes so I gave up. As I left, the cloud lifted to reveal the most magnificent view, with Portmeirion and Porthmadog below, then Criccieth and the whole of the Lleyn Peninsular.
As a consolation I went down to Llanbedr and found Cook's Dam or Llyn Cwm Nantcol.What a contrast! A dam across a steep wooded valley forms a small dark, tree-girt, pool. Nowhere to cast a fly, it is used as an any-method stocked fishery for the village. Interesting; but not for me.
Sunday 9th May 2010
Clywedog skunked me! I was led astray by the odd rising fish, and the sight of a World Champion fishfisher drifting ahead of me and pulling them in like mackerel. I should have gone back to my car for a heavier rod and sinking line rather than keeping on trying to cover rises. One of the OFs caught a monster - a brownie of eight pounds - fishing deep near the cages.
Think I might go back this week and fish seriously.
Meetings in North Wales tomorrow- though I might put a rod in the car. And I hope to be distracted by a visit to the boatyard in Porthmadog.
Thursday 6th May 2010
I tried for an April bass last week but the weather was rough and miserable. First cast from the rocks and I got a wave over my head and was soaked despite waders and waterproofs. So I went home and ate my bait. Well, prawns aren't so bad.
The Falconers' Fair at the weekend was low-key. The severe drop in temperature didn't help.
Today I have to answer the call to OFFA again, this time not so far away; boats are booked at Llyn Clywedog.
Tuesday 27th April 2010
The Old Fart's Fishing Association met at Llyn Cwm Dulyn. It was very windy - which I didn't mind, and the bottom was lousy for wading - which I did mind. I caught a few troutlings and had a pleasant sociable morning with the OF's. Then, seeing the afternoon free, I dashed down to Llanbedr to buy my permit and drove up to Llyn Bodlyn. Bright and windy there, with no fish moving, but I had four lovely trout of six ounces apiece. Still plenty of time so I climbed the hill to Llyn Dulyn (another Dulyn) fishing up the stream as I went. I caught a few from the stream but very small. Dulyn was dour on my last visit over twenty years ago, and it wasn't much different this time. Half way around the lake was a comfortable rock to sit on, so I rested a while and let my flies sink, resulting in one six-inch trout. Not the half-pounders that Gallichan and Ward promised me. Ravens and a lizard were my company. Perhaps I'll go back in September.
Monday 26th April 2010
Yesterday I celebrated the end of the sunny spell by making my first visit to the hill lakes. It was pretty cold and nothing moved on the surface, despite a hatch of olives on Coch Hwyad. Coch Hwyad was very low, reducing the fishable area by about half and concentrating the fish so that every cast produced a perch. Keeping my flies close to the surface I had three trout- good enough considering the conditions.
I tried an hour on Gwyddior late in the afternoon. No fly-life there, but by letting a goldhead sink down over the drop-off I winkled out two Gwyddior trout, weighing three pounds the brace.
To North Wales tomorrow for a very important OFFA meeting. I will report back.
Sunday April 18th 2010
I'd wouldn't last five minutes sitting in a bivvy. I tried an early prospect for prawns and bass on Thursday. There were prawns aplenty so I tried one under a float for a bass. Ten minutes was enough to persuade me that the bass weren't there yet, so I went chasing more prawns.
Earlier in the week I made my annual visit to Llyn Clywedog. A cool breeze with bright sunshine didn't help much, but I caught a couple of trouts. I lost two others because the flies that have lived in my cap for the past ten years must be starting to rust beneath their dressings. Luke-from-the-shop came along and caught his first rainbow trout. Swallows and sand martins were hawking fruitlessly - there were no insects and no fish moved.
To London this morning to the International Book Fair.
Wednesday 24th March 2010
No sport in March, so I've immersed myself in bibliography. Extending Hampton's work to include the important coarse fishing books of the 1960s has taken all my spare time.
I walked around the garden with my new garden-gun yesterday, but still no excuse to try it out. I haven't seen a rat for months, the squirrels have all been run over, and the magpies sit, out of range, at the top of the bare poplar tree across the road, where they can watch the comings and goings of the blackbirds and collared doves, marking their nest-sites.
Off to the east today - delivering Ceri to the airport for Nantes before turning northward to visit authors and booksellers.
Monday 1st March 2010
March! Almost time for trout fishing.
I had one more flight before the season finished. I never fired a shot this time - it is different every time you go to the estuary.
A big, big tide today so I thought I'd pop down there again, this time for mussels for dinner. I was disappointed- no infuriated- to find a gang of about twenty people working with rakes, nets and quad bikes, clearing the Aberdyfi mussel beds. There's nothing I can do about it, so I found a small rocky headland further up river and collected a few. I wouldn't mind a bit if these were locals but I didn't recognise any of them and they left the beds bare.
I was in Newark for the Shooting Show at the weekend. Luckily I realised how close I was to the Gorkha Square Nepalese restaurant at Grantham and raided it for wonderful scallops and flaming Lamb Ran. The shooters didn't pay much attention to my books. We'll have to see whether the flyfishers are any better next week. At least I'll have an excuse to try something else from the Gorkha menu.
This morning I decided that I need to sell more books so I called the organisers of The West Country Game Fair and offered my services. So, straight after the Spring Flyfair I'll be off to Somerset.
Saturday 13th February 2010
I had two very different flights on the estuary this week. On Tuesday I was out on the sands an hour before dusk. High water was at dusk but it was a really small tide so I knew that I wouldn't have to move. We seldom see grey geese on the Dyfi, but they were everywhere on Tuesday. A small group of greylags passed me within range almost immediately, then two packs of whitefronts appeared high in the southern sky, whiffling down to land not far from where I was lying. Later, a huge skein of geese, possibly pinkfeet - it is unusual to see any of the others in such numbers - passed over the estuary from south to north without stopping. We do not shoot grey geese here so all passed unsaluted. However, throughout all this groups of Canadas were moving about, flying low despite the bright still afternoon. Then, when it was pretty dark, a lot of Canadas flighted all around me. They sounded close in the clear conditions, but none came right over my head and I walked off the marsh empty-handed.
Last night was a bigger tide, topping at 7.30 - just about when I would be coming off, so to be on the safe side I wore my heavy chest-waders. The weather was still calm and frosty so I was hoping that the teal would have moved off the hill lakes, and down to the saltwater. I went early enough to walk half the length of the bog, crossing the channels at right-angles to get a chance at jumping birds hidden below the high banks. The teal were there, all together in a huge flock on the Afon Ddu. An easy stalk before they jumped resulted in three in the bag. Walking a big circle in an area riddled with small channels resulted in three wigeon and a mallard drake before I settled down with a bar of chocolate around five o'clock to await the flight. As always, that last hour, sitting facing the settling sun and Aberdyfi across the water, is glorious and it doesn't really matter if nothing comes. There is always something going on to hold my attention. Well, last night it wasn't ducks or geese, so I sat watching the tide race in until it reached my feet and I had to move.
Sunday 7th February 2010
Modesty prevents me from describing the last two days at the birds in Llanbrynmair. I will just say that I contributed considerably to both days' bags, and now everyone refers to me as "Poacher Morgan."
Yesterday was spent with the chainsaw rather than the gun, and in shirt-sleeves. It was great to be out in the sun and I was able to give my pyromaniac tendencies full rein, but the aches and pains were considerably greater than those following a day's shooting.
The forecast promises the possibility of a foreshore duck so I'm not desk-bound yet.
Thursday 28th January 2010
Yesterday afternoon was probably our last chance at Tom's birds. I got stuck in a fierce thicket of clear-felled spruces, head-high in brambles, where all the woodcocks in the county seemed to have gathered. I came out of the other end with four 'cock and a pheasant, but must have seen or heard twenty or thirty more woodcock getting up. Copper did wonderfully well in the impenetrable cover; flushing some and fighting the brambles to find the few that I killed. Ben and I finished the day with five woodcock and five cock pheasants and I spent the evening (after my pheasant suet pudding) with Ceri digging thorns out of my head.
Sunday 24th January 2010
The last two Saturdays in Llanbrynmair I've had lots of sport. Now that we are spending less time standing on pegs and more walking the boundaries and dogging-in odd bits of rough we are getting more opportunities for an odd shot at a snipe or a woodcock. Even when I have stood on a peg the birds seem to have headed straight for me and I've even been hitting a few of them. My companions are vying to stand next to me. Except for the taxidermist who is in deep disgrace for murdering Emyr's Reeves pheasant.
Yesterday was a great day to be out. There was thick cloud or fog in the valleys but I was able to walk the high ground in the sunshine, often out of sight of the guns standing in the chilly mist below. We brought to bag a few of those wily birds that had been sneaking off up the hills. Later in the day we lost the sun and I stood in a Gothic dusk on the last drive as woodcock flitted about the tops of the trees, but never offering a safe shot.
Ben and I visited Tom on Thursday. The worst of the snow had gone and the birds had returned. We had to hunt every one, but finished up with a fine bag - half a dozen pheasants, a couple of woodcock and a rabbit.
Wednesday 20th January 2010
I revisited the estuary on Monday in calm mild conditions. I was lucky to jump a drake mallard off a creek because nothing moved at flight-time. The geese came after dark so I could hear them but see nothing. Sound carries so clearly on a still night that the few birds I heard were probably far away. I wasted an hour by stupidly missing my way and heading the wrong way along the railway for half a mile or so, before realising that I was going in the wrong direction. Never done that before! It shows how easy a stranger could get into trouble. Perhaps I should carry my GPS. For the odd occasion when it is foggy, or as in this case, pitch dark, it could prove really useful.
Thursday 14th January 2010
As temperatures rose my 4x4 decided to start working again so we ventured over the Montgomeryshire hills to see Tom. The world was much whiter there and we trudged around for an hour or two in lots of snow. The snow covering had driven away the birds but it made rabbits more visible. I put one rabbit in the bag, and an old cock pheasant, and spared a couple of hares, before sliding off home.
BASC don't seem to have a clue what to do when the weather gets hard. We had several days when they asked for restraint, then they asked the local wildfowling club not to issue permits despite saying that the ban was still voluntary. All responsible fowlers show restraint, and anyway there is a legal ban after prolonged hard weather, but BASC are so nervous that, as soon as we get some proper fowling weather they start to interfere. It would be much better if they acted firmly based on actual conditions, leaving us alone until a ban becomes necessary. Welsh estuaries have a mild climate and lots of food, and birds seldom lose condition. The teal and wigeon that I shot last week were fat, as were the two canada geese that I have been given. I dressed one last night - weighing ten pounds and full of fat. The other weighs thirteen pounds and may be a candidate for a curry.
Sunday 10th January 2010
I tried the estuary again next evening- a mile or so further upstream. This time there was lots going on, especially at flight-time. I saw and heard a lot of geese - greys and canadas, and mallards, but most stayed out of range. Even so I came home with half a dozen teal and a wigeon.
Extreme cold stopped the new 4x4 starting at the end of the week, so the ducks were left in peace. On Saturday we had a beautiful day in Llanbrynmair, the trees laden with snow and woodcock flitting everywhere. There were far fewer pheasants than a few weeks ago but a very worthwhile day. The frozen rivers were spectacular.
Wednesday 6th January 2010
Driving home from Shrewsbury at 5am on the morning that Dad died, the Range Rover overheated and expired. I'm not sure whether it is worth a new engine so, while I think about it, I've bought a cheap Ford Explorer. Already, in this hard weather, it is proving worthwhile as a four wheel drive.
I didn't feel well last week so I missed a spectacular snowy day at Llanbrynmair with the High Drive showing its best birds ever, and lots of woodcock.
Yesterday I ventured onto the estuary in the afternoon. Someone was having some sport further upstream but little moved where I was. Then, about 5.30 someone started a firework display on Ynyslas, only half a mile away! The sky was lit up and it sounded like the Somme. I heard the roar of a host of wigeon clearing off, but saw nothing.
Thursday 23rd December 2009
I'm back! Actually, I haven't been anywhere. Lousy weather, a busy time in the shop, and my father's final illness all conspired to keep me desk-bound and with little thought for sport.
On the good side, we seem to have managed to send out all your Christmas books with few delays or problems. I managed a couple of very wet days in Llanbrynmair early in the month, bringing a few pheasants home. The current weather, despite almost disrupting Dad's funeral, and making it pretty hard for my staff to get to work, should have pushed some woodcock in, and, if I'm quick, I might get to the estuary before the hill lakes thaw and the duck all disappear again.
Thursday 19th November 2009
I missed our first shoot day in Llanbrynmair as I was at the Flyfair. The day turned out so rotten that they abandoned it half-way through and arranged an extra day last Saturday. That day, too, was pretty miserable but there were a lot of birds about. We chivvied them around a bit, teaching them to fly. There were quite a few woodcock in the thick stuff but they just flicked deeper into the woods and none were shot.
I had planned a foray for shellfish yesterday but a huge flood closed most of the roads in and out of Machynlleth. The builders chose a good week to work on my chimneys. Hywel, sitting on the roof, turned to speak to me and his hat took off - up and away and still going as far as we know! I expect he'll put it on the bill.
We have excavated both fireplaces and now have two inglenooks and a brace of new woodstoves to warm them. I've got wood for this winter but I'd better get cracking on next year's supplies.
Tuesday 10th November 2009
Still dealing with the aftermath of the Flyfair at the weekend. We had a terrific time! The de luxe Masterclasses were delivered by the binders as promised. The binding with the stonefly nymphs inset were stunning! We sold a number at the show - so many that we now have only one copy left of the edition of twenty "signature flies". All of our new books did very well, but Mike Harding's new book on North Country Flies did brilliantly. Mike was on my stand all weekend and did not let a punter past without buying a copy. We sold out on Saturday, but, thanks to Andrew the painter, managed to have the rest of our stock delivered for Sunday. Oliver and Malcolm entertained their groupies and signed books and it was a delight to be joined by Roger Fogg on Saturday, and to be able to introduce him to some of his many readers. Harding and Lou tried to drink me under the table on Saturday night but I think that I was last man standing. Actually I was last to bed in the hotel, spending half the night reminiscing with Gwilym Hughes who has just published a book of his angling memoirs - The Angle of the Cast. (Look for it here in the next day or two). Gwilym is a professional on the Welsh Dee, an ex-bailiff and policeman. I worked on the River Board with his father, Guto Bach, so we had much to talk about.
Back here yesterday, I took delivery of my new editions of The Rabbitskin Cap and I Walked By Night. As I had hoped, they look wonderful. I am really pleased with them. Our new catalogues have arrived at their destinations so don't bother trying to phone me.
Wednesday 4th November 2009
With Ceri to Winchester last weekend to the Grayling Society Symposium. En route I picked up new Flyfisher's Classic Library editions of Ollie's Masterclass, Stewart and Carter Platts' Grayling Fishing from the binders. On Sunday, when we were to fish, the weather broke. I had a lovely hour on the Itchen in a howling gale and pouring rain. Not typical chalkstream fishing but I did winkle out a couple of grayling from a deep hole before heading home soaked to the skin. Now I'm busy packing books for the BFFI at the weekend. The de luxe editions of Masterclass are due from the binders on Friday afternoon - just to keep me on my toes.
Saturday 24th October 2009
Low water on a big tide a day or two ago came at dusk so I had a go from the shore. Despite lovely weather inland, there was still a heavy swell running, colouring the surf. I tried a few casts with big surface plugs on the causeway and at the mouth of the river. No sign of bass, but a great way to end the day. I'm tempted to do more of it - perhaps go back to whiting fishing on frosty winter nights. We'll see.
Duncan had been chasing me to go grayling fishing, so yesterday mid-morning we nipped off to the Dee at Llandderfel. I hadn't fished there since I used to shoot at Bodwenni, probably twenty years ago. We fished a beautiful stretch as clouds of leaves fell and covered the water. Dunc persevered with dries and only tempted tiddlers, while I shortlined nymphs and picked up a few better fish. I creeled a couple, close to a pound apiece, so if its dry at lunchtime I'll have them in the smoker.
Thursday 15th October 2009
A couple more brief sessions on the river, but levels are still dropping so it looks as though my season has finished. Yesterday, as the stress of imminent books and catalogue built up, I dropped everything and headed for the sea. We launched off the beach and found a few mackerel near the reef. Then, armed with bait, we drifted for an hour off Tywyn, catching dabs and whiting. While we were out a heavy swell built so we had some fun landing- but that is nothing unusual.
Good stuff arriving from the printers every day. My new paperbound edition of Stewart's Practical Angler is in and looks terrific. Nick Fenwick's translation of an old Welsh book about Machynlleth has arrived; we launch it on Saturday evening at the William Condry literary festival in the town. Today I have seen dummies of our new spiral-bound edition of Oliver Edwards' Flytyer's Masterclass, and again it looks brilliant. We seem set to launch a whole range of new books at the British Fly Fair in November. Touch wood!
Monday 12th October 2009
I've been tied to the computer from pre-dawn to post-dusk all week, trying to get a catalogue produced. On Saturday I gave up mid-afternoon and went for a look at the river. Every good run had an angler on it, so I went to the Bridge Flats, the most public spot on the river. Despite dog-walkers and kids throwing stones, as I fished down the run I was accompanied by an otter on the opposite bank, who kept on popping out of the roots for a look at me. I fished until dusk, when I was so cold that I could hardly get out of the river. One small sea-trout and the sight of a few salmon turning were my reward.
Wednesday 7th October 2009
My reader tells me that Wylie is weally Wylye. That looks better.
My Devon host kindly offered me a guest permit on the Wylye, so I rushed eastwards, arriving mid-afternoon to find a cold blustery downstream wind. I'd fished in sandals on the Test, so I thought that Wellington boots would be fine. Anyway, I crept along the margins throwing a tiny damp CDC fly ahead of me, and landed a couple of nice brownies and a grayling before darkness fell and we retired to the Swan.
This afternoon I crept (more creeping!) out of the shop and down to the river. Yesterday's filth had gone, leaving it clear but still full of leaves. Sea-trout are now out-of-season here, so of course I caught a couple of fresh sewin as well as seeing a much larger one jump and throw the hooks. No salmon, but it does look as though we'll have reasonable water to end the season, so I'll persevere.
Tuesday 6th October 2009
Back at the computer after a week of wandering. Publishing meetings on the beautiful River Test are a great idea. Mrs Morgan soaked up the sun outside the magnificent fishing hut while I largely avoided the portly rainbows by fishing tiny dries for grayling. I had some fun when a giant brown ate one of my grayling, but he eventually let go. We travelled west to Cornwall where I saw more salmon and sea-trout than I've seen for ages, many of them visible from the kitchen window of Nick's magnificent mill-house. We filled the Range Rover to the roof with sets of bird books from several elderly and retiring authors, visited Flyfisher's Cath on yet another riverbank, and lunched on crab sandwiches most days. On our last day we returned to the chalkstreams for an afternoon on the delightful River Wylie. We stayed with good friends throughout our trip and had a lovely time.
Tonight I had a look at the river after work. It was full of leaves, many of them still attached to trees. Ten minutes and a soaking were all I needed to drive me home.
Sunday September 27th 2009
Great weather for the Midland Game Fair ensured an easy end to the outdoor game fair season. However weather and tides have not been so cooperative for fishing. I did get into the estuary for an afternoon when it was far too rough to go close to the bar. I fished little ragworms in the South Swash, losing the only decent bass that I hooked, then catching loads of little ones. I was hoping for flatties but they wouldn't play.
Away this week to the deep south of England, then the even deeper south-west of Cornwall. A day on the Test is on the cards. I'll have to sort out my posh wellies.
Monday 14th September 2009
Summer at last! I had a couple of short sessions on the Dyfi early in the week, as the water fined down, just catching one small sewin. It looks as though the pulses of fish have raced through on the continual high water.
Then I took the dinghy down the estuary one evening. I inched across a very choppy bar, to no avail. There were no mackerel to be found. Back inside the bar at dusk I found plenty of small bass but nothing big enough to take home.
Small tides are always unproductive but I was loath to waste such perfect weather, so despite the lack of a companion (or assistant) I took the new inflatable off the beach on Saturday. Boat and engine performed splendidly but the fish didn't really play. I finished up with a small mixed bag of mackerel, pollack, gurnard and a dab. Struggling to trailer the boat alone I snapped off the trailer-winch, so I can't use that until I have fixed or replaced it.
Next morning I had promised Ben a trip. We compromised by launching the small dinghy on the reef, hoping for bass. Such a small tide was no good for bass and all we caught on the reef were a couple of small pollack. Using pollack for bait we added a few bream to the bag before heading off to haul the boat back up the river.
No mackerel anywhere. Can the bay just have too much fresh water, keeping them out?
Now I must do some work- preparing for the Midland Game Fair next weekend.
Sunday 6th September 2009
I spent most of the day working on the books that I've promised to publish by November. Late in the afternoon I escaped to the gorges of the Twymyn. A persistent sea-trout followed my lure three times, twice at a Mepps and once at a Toby; each time I ran out of water in the narrow pool. That encouraged me to keep at it, and eventually I found one that held on. Came home with a three-pound sea-trout and a bagful of apples and Slippery Jacks plus a few ceps.
Saturday 5th September 2009
After a big flood yesterday, I was on the river
first thing this morning. Caught a small (one pound) sewin, moved a salmon on a
skating Rapala, lost a decent fish, and had a seal come and look at me. Then my
mobile rang; apparently I had promised to meet someone in the shop at 9am.
Having left my car at Dyfi Bridge and fished downriver for a couple of miles, I
had to hide my rod and net, and walk back to the town in chest
Everyone is complaining about the seals, but I don't have a problem with them. I've caught bass within a few feet of them on the shore. Mind you, in Skye I've had them pinch pollack that I've been playing.
Later- After my visitor left I went back for another hour on the river. I hooked a good salmon that chewed my lure for five minutes before spitting it out all with the trebles all bent. I'd put smaller hooks on it at some time but obviously was not anticipating a fifteen pound salmon. Fishing isn't supposed to be so depressing.
Friday 4th September 2009
Had a first of September teal for dinner, probably the first ever, following a kind invitation to flight a mountain pond on opening night. Swallows, bats and a hovering barn owl entertained me while invisible teal zipped about. Wild old Copper kept racing off, then redeemed herself by finding the up the only bird down.
Just had one early-morning session on the Quy Water. Nothing on a plug, then half a dozen pikelets and a couple of nice perch when I tried a small jig. A hobby overhead was a treat, and as usual there was game all around. Fenland folk flocked to the fair, even if most of them went home early to buy books on eBay.
Sunday 23rd August 2009
All quiet here. Feeding the grandson is taking all my time; all small game- shrimps and prawns, bilberries, a few chanterelles and ceps. It hasn't been fit to chase mackerel and the river has been quiet. I did try a worm in the gorges of the Twymyn one afternoon, but all I caught were trouts.
I got excited about a 4m inflatable with engine and trailer on eBay last weekend, and was astounded when it fetched more than the price of a new outfit. That spurred me into buying much the same thing, second-hand, from Aberdyfi for less than half the price. So, now I am the owner of a blow-up boat with a twenty-horse motor on the back. If this weather ever settles down I will be using it to chase the gannets and the bass. Oh, for an Indian Summer!
Sunday 8th August 2009
Had a couple of lovely sessions on the river this week- mild evenings with a good pull on the water. Unfortunately the sea trout have gone - away to the hills - and the salmon are few and widely spread. A trip over the bar in the dinghy was equally fruitless - one mackerel and some baby whiting resulted.
The French contingent joined us on an attack on Borth's shellfish yesterday. I took my full arsenal of shrimping and prawn nets and we made great inroads on the stocks of Cardigan Bay. However, dinner last night and soup today has emptied the pantry so we'll have to start again.
Monday 3rd August 2009
Summoned to control woodpigeons on Herefordshire pea-fields yesterday. I had a pleasant day sitting in a hedge, having a shot every five minutes or so. I was shooting in a tee-shirt and taking the odd awkward shot over my head so I finished up with a black and blue shoulder. Anyway, three of us shot thirty-odd each. All went well until I went back to the car and found two MOD policemen snooping around it. We wasted two hours while they summoned the local police then checked each of our shotgun certificates, checked the vehicles out and confirmed with the landowner that we were OK. That'll teach us not to go shooting within a stones throw of the SAS Barracks!
Thursday 30th July 2009
That's the game fairs out of the way for a week or two. Belvoir was fine - perhaps not quite as busy as previously but we did plenty of business and the weather held for us. On Sunday evening we popped out for food and happened on the splendid Gorkha Square Nepalese restaurant in Grantham where we were served with wonderful food, beautifully presented. What good luck!
This afternoon I took to the river in heavy clear water. I haven't caught a salmon for years, yet I lost two good ones today- one of them a big beautiful blue and silver monster that thrashed on the surface, giving me a good look, before running downstream under a bush. I was fishing the minnow down and across, like a fly, and both took on the dangle. So that's how to catch salmon! Came home with one small sewin- most of the sea trout have fled upstream on the floods, and to escape the packs of seals which are said to be living in the Middle Reaches.
Thursday 16th July 2009
Busy between fairs so I'm having to close my eyes to the fresh water in the river. Yesterday evening would have been OK but I was summoned to work on the pheasant pens in Llanbrynmair. Off to Ludlow this morning to meet with designer, photographer and binder to make the last tweaks to Oliver Edwards' Flytyer's Masterclass. I hope that will go to the printers tomorrow.
I'm already collecting stock for the CLA Game Fair. This year we have a terrific location between Fisherman's Row and the toilets, and close to the main ring and to Gunmaker's Row. There will be less bookseller's there than in the past, so I'll be taking plenty of good books!
Tuesday 7th July 2009
Great weather made our trip to Ireland and Scotland quite comfortable. Back home to restock with falconry books for the International Falconry Festival this weekend.
Little sport while away. We tried, with limited success, for mackerel at Torr Head in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Whithorn in Galloway. I waded a mile-long flat on Lough Neagh, filled with the waving tails of spawning bream. After foul-hooking fish on each of my first three casts I left them to it.
It's been wetter here and the garden is unrecognisable. Publishing stuff is busy: my paperback edition of Brook & River Trouting has arrived from the printer and looks great. John Humphreys' review of Three in Norway in Shooting Times has led to a welcome surge in sales. Unfortunately the printers are saying that a reprint will be both slower and more expensive than they had previously promised.
Wednesday 24th June 2009
I'm into my short season of game fairs- off tomorrow morning to Shanes Castle in Antrim, then a short hop to Galloway and Wigtown en route for the Scottish Fair at Scone Palace. In pre-Internet days I used to buy a lot of books on this trip. This time I'll probably just go fishing.
Lots of gardening but little sport this past week, until last night when I realised that there was useful tide for the Dysynni. It was a lovely evening but the little boat couldn't catch up with the gannets so we had to make do with enough mackerel for supper, just one of them on the flyrod.
Reports of seatrout piling into the rivers will have to be ignored until the floods of August.
Wednesday 17th June 2009
An extraordinary evening on the great red sedge on Tuesday. On the way up I saw a goshawk stoop down the side of the hill and strike its quarry in the way of a peregrine. I didn't see the victim, a brown bundle of feathers, a thrush or a lark, until it was tumbling down into the gloom of the spruce plantation below. The gos, together with two passing crows dived in after it.
As I waited for the rise I was entertained by a few trout that were patrolling the extreme shallows where minnows were spawning. I could see them coming a long way off, but were pretty spooky in six inches of water, and I only managed a couple of follows and a take. I caught a couple on sedge pupae around 9.45 before the sedges really started moving at 10pm. Then I changed to two dry sedges, a lot smaller than those I tried last week. That made all the difference and the trout took them boldly. A gentle breeze kept the midges at bay and gave a nice ripple-edge where the trout were ambushing the skating sedges, an easy cast from the shore. I took four fish on the sedges, all the same size. One pound twelve ounces apiece. I never carry a net, always beaching my fish. The last one was hooked on the dropper and was a yard or two from the edge when the point-fly caught on a stone. I reached down and freed the fly, the trout gave a last surge and neatly pulled the hook into my thumb.
Embedded up to the bend in what the doctor later called gristle, in the quick at the side of my right thumbnail. I spent half an hour worrying at it by the lakeside, then drove home and spent another hour with needles, razor blades and knives before I decided that I needed an anaesthetic and drove to Aberystwyth, over twenty miles away. The doctors there would not believe me when I told them that the best way would just be to yank it out. They insisted on an hour of injections and cutting away with scalpels. Home at 4am to a beautiful dawn.
Friday 12th June 2009
Tuesday evening was a good one for the garden. First I shot a rat, then a rabbit and then sold Ruby. She never even got her bottom wet last year, so I was glad to see her disappear down the road. I might use the few pence that I got for her towards buying a small fast inflatable. Not until after the Game Fair, though.
Last night I went looking for the great red sedge. I foolishly persevered with the biggest dry muddler that I could find. I rose about twenty fish - great slashes in the dusk - but missed almost all of them.
Thursday 4th June 2009
New Hampshire continued damp and fishy. We caught a few nice brookies from the fast water below dams on the Contoocook. When they refused my nice little nymphs I threw a dead canary at them and they ate that.
I was meat-hunting on my last day, and brought home a nice mess of crappies and bluegills. I missed or lost the only bass that rose to my poppers.
Back home, I tried Llanbrynmair yesterday evening. Warm - almost hot - water, coupled with a cold East wind proved difficult until, as usual at this time of year, the light faded and the sedges appeared. Then, in half an hour of frantic action I landed four fish including one of just over two pounds.
I need twice as many hours in the day from now on. The garden is only half dug and the greenhouses take an hour a day. It is light until ten o'clock so I have no excuse to sit down. The sea-trout are in the river, the sedges and coch-y-bonddu are on the lakes, the bass are in the estuary, and I've just run out of catalogues so I am going to have to produce a new one over the weekend. Think I'll restrict my fishing to an hour either side of dusk, and do the gardening first thing in the morning.
Oh, I forgot. The builders have returned and are replacing doors and windows, and rendering the outside of the house. I'm keeping out of their way!
Thursday 28th May 2009
Paddling a canoe around in the rain catching bluegills and crappies. Yesterday we visited the American Museum of Flyfishing and bought some monster deerhair bass bugs so tomorrow I will be specimen hunting. Still no moose.
Tuesday 26th May 2009
I've escaped the cold Spring to tropical New Hampshire. Last evening I was fishing in a trout stream that felt as warm as a bath. I think that the trout were waiting for dark before doing much, but I did catch a little brownie in the dusk and a few chubs and a baby smallmouth earlier. Earlier in the day we joined the sunbathers on Plum Island and prospected for places to fish for striped bass.
Monday 18th May 2009
Still too cold for the hill lakes. On Friday DB accompanied me on an exploration of the Ardudwy lakes. Llyn Tecwyn Uchaf yielded nothing so we moved to scenic Bodlyn. Unfortunately the cloud never lifted so David never saw much more than the length of his fly-line. We heard a couple of distant splashes but saw neither trout nor the rugged mountain that overshadows the lake.
Also on Friday we took delivery of the first copies of our new Flyfisher's Classic Library edition of Edmonds & Lee's Brook and River Trouting. They look really good and I am immensly pleased to have made such a great book available.
The Dyfi is brown at the moment but the cold rain doesn't encourage me to prospect for an early sea-trout.
Wednesday 13th May 2009
May is when I was going to go fishing, but the cold East wind has kept me at the computer apart from book-buying sprees. Donald Downs' books went to auction on Saturday and I came home with a van-full of souvenirs of that great character.
The closest I've been to fish was canal-dipping for snails and tadpoles for my green-house pond. The resident shoal of minnows and a lonely goldfish were being engulfed by algae and weed so I've introduced a few grazers. An albino grass-carp and a handful of giant pond snails and a few ramshorns have cleared the algae and are working on the weed. I hope that the frog and toad tadpoles will populate the greenhouse with insectivores and slug-eaters.
Wednesday 6th May 2009
Last Tuesday I mounted a pre-dawn raid on the bass rocks but without success. It looks as though the colour of the water has a big affect on float-fishing (and flyfishing) for bass.
Since then I've been preoccupied with the Falconry Fair. The first day was successful with good sales of the new Imprint Accipiter II. The second day was wet and miserable, as was I, having foolishly sampled a glass of dodgy cider in the beer-tent the previous evening.
I fished a team of flies down a windy flat just above the tide on the Dyfi last night. The river was cold and lifeless - I'll let things warm up before I try again.
Monday April 27th 2009
Found the prawns back in force on Saturday. They kept me so occupied that the tide was well on the turn before I realised that the bass were there too. Another angler had several but I only managed one small bass before the tide pushed me off the rocks. I did miss a lot of bites, most of which resulted in a headless prawn. I was using huge prawns and I guess that if I'd used smaller ones I would have hooked more fish, but that they would have been small. I tried again on Sunday but the wind had veered South and the water was coloured - no bass but enough prawns for tea.
Saturday April 25th 2009
Inspired by my Danish flounder and hoping for an early bass, I ventured a paddle in the South Swash yesterday afternoon. Nothing to report except a big flattie trodden on and shoals of sand-eels. I really ought to devise a way of catching them before the summer. Maybe I can buy a fine-mesh cast-net when I'm in the US next month.
Back at the shop, I opened my Falconer's Magazine and realised that I was advertising the new Falconry Books UK website, but that it was not yet live! I quickly chased Nigel and we made the site available. It will be a day or two before it is completed but at least it is visible and working.
Thursday 23rd April 2009
Thursday 23rd April 2009. Back from the Danish sea-trout El Dorado! Actually all the action was between 6.00 and 6.15 each morning- then I did book stuff and watched birds. There were some sea-trout about and I also fluked a flounder. The sea- and marsh-birds were spectacular and made the pre-dawn starts well worthwhile. After the (jolly and successful) Flyfair I headed north to drink beer with old friends Sarath and Anne Marie Seneratne, then had a delightful last day exploring the West Coast. In a series of happy and accidental discoveries I found an excellent antiquarian bookshop, roadside flocks of barnacle geese and golden plover, and then stumbled on the herring run at the mouth of the fjord at Torsminde. After an hour of studying the herring fishers I managed to nip into the only place in the harbour where I could find room to roll out a fly on a sinking line, so was able to add salted herring to my brimming tub of gravad sea-trout. The weather was glorious and I would have been happy to stop for another week! At Hvide Sande just down the coast they were also hauling out herring and were preparing for a Herring Festival this weekend. Let's hope that the next Danish Flyfair coincides with the herring run.
Sunday 12th April 2009
How nice not to be at a game fair for Easter weekend! I'm cleaning the greenhouse, potting on plants, getting the mower out- all the things normal people do.
The Range Rover let me down yesterday. I took it for an MOT test before going to Denmark, and a leaking oil cooler was discovered- too late to get a new one before Wednesday's ferry. I've changed my booking so that I can take the van. It may have done me a good turn really 'cos I can drive to the shore each evening and fish for sea-trout before sleeping in the van. Click here for a nice green blog.
Wednesday 8th April
Travelling down the Wye valley to pick up a fishing collection from Chepstow, I saw one lone swallow over the Usk and the first bluebells and apple blossom along the lower Wye. Lunched in a walled garden in a Herefordshire vineyard then collected yet more FFCL books from the binder.
We have so many good falconry books these days, many of them unique to us, that I am launching a new website and am busy working on a new falconry book catalogue - all before the Falconry Fair at the beginning of May. So, I'm saving my casting-arm until I get to Denmark next week.
Friday 3rd April 2009
The big, big tide wasn't quite as big, big as I had hoped it would be. I guess I should have been there in February. The only spoots I saw were too fast for me and I came home with an empty bucket. I chanced upon a netsman with a small haul of turbots plus a couple of bass and mullet- inspiration for the coming season.
Yesterday I also came home with an empty bucket. Following in William Roberts' footsteps, Dunc and I took a look at Dyffryn Ogwen- too high and cold for trout fishing yet- nothing to be seen but goats and orange-plumaged hikers. So, we descended to sea-level and had a cast on Llyn Coron, another lake on Roberts's list. Too cold here, too, but fun to fish somewhere so different, with a sandy bottom and swan mussels, snails and hog-lice. Wildfowl abounded and I enjoyed watching shovelers and grey geese, neither of which I see at home. It's a good job I took Duncan 'cos he hooked a fish briefly, and he saw two seatrout jump. My only contribution was to find a wind-dried dead perch of about a pound. I noted the lack of piscivorous birds- no cormorants, divers or grebes, herons or egrets- and guess that means that what fish there are here are pretty big. The lone local that we came across- not fishing, of course- said that we were a month too early and should return when the hawthorn fly is on the water. So that's what we'll do.
Sunday March 29th 2009
What a lovely day! There was a hard frost and everywhere is white, but it's going to be bright and warm. This is the time of year that I carry trays of tomato plants into the greenhouse in the day and back to the house at night. Maybe after today they can stay out.
Big, big tides today. I collected a bucket of huge clean mussels yesterday so we feasted last night. The clocks have changed to I might get time this afternoon to try for spoots.
I've got another bucketful of mussels to cook before lunch. Then, should we have Friday's venison stew tonight, or cook the mallard I got out of the freezer yesterday, or make a soup with the mussels? Too much food!
Busy this week making more office-space for the Flyfisher's Classic Library, shifting mountains of books and increasing the range of the office computer network. Despite threatening to buy less books, I have bought a vast quantity of remainders this week including Buckland and Oglesby's Guide to Salmon Flies and Fly Casting with Lefty Kreh, both of which will be popular at less than half-price.
Monday 23rd March 2009
The West Country Game Fair was busy, but hardly enough to cover the very high cost. The pubs and restaurants were a disaster, too, so perhaps I'll stay at home next year.
Llyn Clywedog opened on Wednesday. Although I used to take a season permit there, I had not fished there at all for over ten years. On Thursday the sunshine forced me outside so I headed over the mountain. I dredged a few holes with lead-heads, catching one and losing several fish, before heading off on a long hike along one of the less-frequented arms of the lake. Lots of otter signs there, and flocks of mallard and teal and noisy geese. When the sun dropped I found moving fish in a small bay. A small pheasant-tail on the point and a #14 black cruncher on the top dropper pulled a fish every cast. Bright stockies provided good sport for March and fodder for the smoker for a Mother's Day barbecue.
Monday, 9th March 2009
I started this diary on my website in September 2003. This week my sneaky colleague Matthew Kirk took advantage of my absence, while visiting the bookbinders, to convert my occasional notes into a blog. (Click here to see the pretty illustrated version). I'm not sure what the difference is, or whether it really matters.
Little sport this early in March, but we can all feel the sap rising and it won't be many weeks before we cast a fly.
I've been tinkering with William Roberts' Llawlyfr Y Pysgotwr, a Welsh booklet of trout fly patterns for North Wales rivers and lakes, written in 1899. I intend publishing a bilingual version of it later this year- Flies for Snowdonia - Plu Eryri. Reading about Llyn Idwal and Ogwen was getting me excited so I took it off to Aberystwyth this morning to show it to Uncle Moc. He got quite excited too, and offered to write an introduction for it.
I have to load up for the West Country Game Fair this week so will not have any more time for sport, publishing or blogging.
Sunday 22nd February.
Home from the banks of the Loire where I feasted on lamprey. Menus there also still include eel dishes; are eels not in decline in Europe?
The lamprey was the big migratory sea lamprey and it tasted about as one might expect. After a tureen of fish soup, then a bowl of lamprey stew, I was about fished out, and looked enviously at my neighbour's wood-grilled sausages.
Just a week until the Spring Flyfair. This year they are simultaneously holding a Shooting Show, but I am sticking to my view of it as a fly-tying event and will just take fishing books. If you want anything else bringing along, just ask.
Saturday 14th February.
Sport is at an end for a week or two. Sowed salad stuff in the cold-frames and tomatoes in the house this afternoon. Tomorrow we're off to Nantes for a few days.
Thursday 5th February.
I am obviously an expert at finding Giant Canada geese. The BTO website gives the weight range for a male Canada as 7lb to 11lb. The two that I shot this evening weighed just over eleven pounds and just over fourteen pounds. The BTO site also says "they are reputedly amongst the most inedible of birds".
I had hardly started walking onto the estuary when what looked like the whole Dyfi population headed straight for me. I dropped to my knees in six inches of water and they came right over my head giving me a chance for an easy right and left. Leaving my geese in the grass I went down to the main channel to wait for the duck-flight that never materialised. Then I spent half an hour in the dark searching for my geese! In the end I had to send Copper to look for them.
This morning I had boasted to Ben that there was no problem using shot birds as decoys, as I did on Tuesday, because Copper would never bother to pick up birds that she had already retrieved earlier. Luckily she proved me wrong tonight and retrieved both geese a second time.
Wednesday 4th February
The real fowling weather didn't last long. I got out on the snowy night and found the estuary full of life. I sat out on the sands until after seven, listening to all the commotion but unable to see a thing, hoping that the moon, waxing gibbous, would give me some light. There were lots of wigeon about, whistling and splashing all around me, but most were invisible. Four wigeon in the bag and I walked off the marsh surrounded by the squawking of wildfowl pushed off the hills by the snow.
I tried again last night, but the hard weather, and most of the ducks, had gone. Seven wigeon for four shots was pretty good considering there wasn't really a flight. A stalk at a pack and then three singles were all I saw.
No geese came near either night. I shan't go again unless we get another good spell of frost.
Copper has had a great season considering that I thought she was slowing down last year. She worked well on the pheasants and rough shooting but excelled on the estuary; creeping behind me when stalking, sitting quietly when flighting, then off like a rocket gathering the slain and the runners after a shot. Experience counts when trying to gather a winged diving duck in a fast-running creek or far out on the river.
Saturday 31st January
My bones are aching after the last long day at pheasants. There were still enough birds to give us the runaround all day. Now the forecast is for hard weather so I might not have finished shooting yet. I can feel the pull of the foreshore again!
The posh driven day was spectacular. We drove above the mist to shoot the highest drives in bright sunshine. There were hordes of birds of the highest calibre, and on one drive, the stunning "seven-twenty", up against a 700 foot waterfall, my barrels got as hot as they have ever been.
Next evening three of us flighted a hilltop pond for a brace of mallard each. I'm not sure which day was the more memorable.
Tuesday 27th January
Shooting on alternate days gives the dog, and my hips and knees, a rest. Nothing spectacular; the woodcock thinned out after the thaw, and the ducks disappeared from the estuary, but the pheasants have stayed around and the syndicate shoots have been excellent. Last Saturday I missed two woodcock but put every pheasant that I fired at in the bag- eight or ten birds towards a total bag of sixty. Tomorrow, with some trepidation, I'm joining the big guns on a posh driven shoot at the Brigands Inn. They will be high birds and lots of them. Let's hope no-one is watching!
Friday 9th January 2009.
The hard weather seems to be coming to an end, but has provided some excellent sport. I spent the first day of 2009 on the estuary, struggling to carry off a great bag of wigeon and teal plus a Canada goose. I made a couple more visits later in the week, sitting into the dark amongst ice-floes and surrounded by the calls of mallards, wigeon and geese. The mallard must have been frozen off the inland ponds and made a welcome addition to the bag. One night a pack of wigeon tried to land on top of us, mistaking the silhouettes of our heads (Copper's and mine) for ducks. The next night a short-eared owl kept swooping low over us. Midge was with us, curled up in a ball on top of the creek-edge, so perhaps she was the bait.
Inland there have been plenty of woodcock and pheasants around and we've had a couple of lovely days in the hills.
The game pie (Fallow venison, hare, rabbit, squirrel and woodpigeon) was a great success, and the gamebirds have been in great condition so I've been plucking and dressing every night.
Walking the hills, or the bog, every day (carrying heavy bags of game!) has led to a deterioration in various of my joints. I'm fine all day, but crippled at night. So, it looks as though I'm going to give it a rest for two or three days in the hope that I recover sufficiently to enjoy some serious sport for the last couple of weeks of the season.
Wednesday 31st December.
At last the rains have gone. After a week of frost we can walk the hills dry-shod in search of game. Yesterday Ben and I wore ourselves out for four pheasants, a woodcock and a pigeon. And a squirrel which will be the excuse for a game pie.
This evening I sat in the dusk by the river and was surprised by a cock pheasant flying past, up to the woods to roost. He never made it. Woodcock flitted about but none came close, and the duck never flighted. I'll start the New Year on the estuary before dawn. If I wake up.
Monday 21st December
The daily pheasant cull has been curtailed by the arrival of the French contingent. Looks as though we have to feast on Christmas Eve as well as Christmas Day. No oysters so I'll have to dig into the permafrost to see if we've got a trout or two.
Monday 15th December
That's the worst of the Christmas rush out of the way. Time for me to poke my head outside and see what is happening in the world. On Saturday I dusted off the gun, and the dogs, and had a mouch about with Uncle Emyr. Not much came my way, but we did finish up with a couple of pheasants, a woodcock and a mallard.
Yesterday I filled the van with seaweed for the garden, and filled a bucket with fat mussels, while being entertained by the whistling of a pack of wigeon in the Leri mouth, opposite.
Friday 5th December.
Of course the rain did follow me. Roads in Moremi were impassible so I dumped the car in Maun and hopped around the Delta by plane. Not much fishing but I followed wild dogs and lions on the Kwando River. Then, chickening out of miles of soft sand in the Kalahari, I headed west until I hit soft sand at Walvis Bay on the cold Atlantic. Finally, I spent a day fishing in a dam near Windhoek, catching beautiful wild carp on dry flies and, casting to tilapia, hooked a brute of a catfish that took so long to land that I got the backs of my knees sunburned.
Thursday 13th November
I'm trying not to mention the weather. Where have I been? Well not fishing or shooting, anyway. Our first day's pheasant shooting clashed with the always excellent British Flyfair and our next day's pheasant shooting will clash with me getting off a plane in a South-West African desert. In between I've been busy selling books and having some fun with publishing. Our first Flyfisher's Classic Library edition, Three In Norway, is at the printers right now, and the second edition of Hampton's Angling Bibliography, sixty years in the making, was delivered this afternoon.
Tomorrow I spend the day on the train with a case full of books- the only time I ever get to read! An overnight flight then before heading west from Windhoek to attempt a round-trip taking in the Okavango Delta, Chobe and the upper Zambezi. Two weeks to do it in and I'm hoping the rain does not follow me. If it does I might just turn off into the Kalahari and drink beer.
Wednesday 29th October
I've been using the rotton weather to produce and mail my catalogue, and to start to lick the Flyfisher's Classic Library into shape. Even mushrooming has been quiet and in the garden I'm preparing for winter. Tomatoes are almost at an end, but I have found something to extend their season and will record it here as a reminder to myself for next year. I bought a couple of plants of a variety called Cherry Fox, and later struck a couple of cuttings from their sideshoots. None of the plants suffered from the blackening or dying off that overtakes my main crops of Shirley and Gardener's Delight with the onset of winter. They made long vines and are still green and growing with healthy trusses of fruit. Let's hope I can find some next year.
Tuesday 14th October
What Indian Summer? If it comes now it will be too late for the mackerel, and maybe for the bass. I've used the lousy weather to get on with my catalogue so there is now a chance that you will receive one before Christmas. On Sunday afternoon the wind dropped for long enough for me to mouch down the estuary in the dinghy, but there were no signs of bass. Maybe still too much fresh water in the river? I finished up with a handful of little whiting from just outside the bar.
On days when it has been dry enough I've had a few late girolles and the first of the winter chanterelles.
All my friends to seem to be catching salmon. I suppose I can't complain about not catching them if I don't fish for them.
Tuesday 30th September
No zander. I had a mouch along the Severn as I passed through on Friday, slipped on the bank and strained my knee, and failed to catch any minnows for zander-bait. Anyway, by the time I'd spent a day buying and selling pike books I'd had enough.
Went shrimping on Sunday and found whitebait and bass. By the time I returned with a rod a westerly gale made the rocks unreachable. Rotten weather now- time to work on my catalogue.
Thursday 25th September
I took Jon and Philip to the Llanbrynmair lakes on Tuesday evening. The cold easterly made Coch Hwyad dour but we found a bit of a rise in the lee on Gwyddior in the dusk and Philip took a big-headed two-and-a-half-pounder. Just a bit bigger than the biggest that I have ever caught there!
Next day the wind was still wrong; the Ardudwy lakes would all have been flat calm. Eventually we plumped for Nant-y-moch where we caught a few trout before searching fairly fruitlessly for fungi. A capful of hedgehogs and a couple of boletes were just about enough to fry up with the trout. I'll be less rash with my promises in future!
I did spot a lot of oyster mushrooms halfway up a beech tree, but they'll have to wait until I can borrow the warehouse ladder after the P.A.C. Conference. They pikeys meet in zander country; I won't have time in the daylight but I might try to poach one after dark. Small fish for bait might be a problem- can I use my prawn-net in the canal?
Tuesday 23rd September
Fantastic weather and crowds at the Midland brought the outdoor game fair season to an end.
I have friends coming to fish today, so I prospected the estuary in the dinghy last night. The north-easterly breeze was a cold wind once I got outside the bar, and on such a small slack tide I failed to find any fish apart from lesser weevers. So, we won't be going there. There are plenty of bass around, but they are feeding on whitebait out on the reef at the moment. Looks as though, despite the bright sunshine and easterly wind, we might be trout fishing.
Tuesday 16th September
Last week family stuff took us to the Marches where we found drifts of chanterelles, but few ceps. We usually find lots there a little later in the season but we saw so many old and rotten specimens that there must have been a good flush as early as August.
Inspired, I pinched an hour one afternoon and checked a favourite plantation, finding enough hedgehogs and chanterelles for a good feed.
Ceri and I spent the weekend in London, looking for food, books and culture. We managed to combine all three in visits to Borough Market, the Globe Theatre, innumerable food stalls on the South Bank, and several bookfairs. A Chesapeake Bay soft-shell crab sandwich in a gay pub in Soho impressed me. Actually, all of the food impressed me.
What were we doing in a gay pub in Soho? Well we were just walking the streets reading menus and that was the one that drew us in.
Off to Weston tomorrow to inspect our pitch for the Midland Game Fair this weekend.
Some time in early September
The savage jackdaw is taking chunks out of my ankles while the girls eat breakfast with their feet tucked up under them. We are despairing of summer; I'm considering towing Ruby down to the tip and leaving her there; and I've booked a hire/camper/4x4 in Namibia so that I can dry myself out in November.
The river is running bank-high; too high for me to flyfish with my puny tackle. I've spent a few short sessions fishing with various plugs and minnows (I can't bring myself to say spin-fishing), but after an hour of continuously hurling a lure my shoulders tell me to stop. Fortunately, after only twenty-four hours, the pain abates.
Chatsworth Country Fair is a day out for hordes of townies. I was quite glad when a rainstorm sent them all home and, for the first time ever, I closed the stand early and drove home in the daylight.
Some time at the end of August.
Just back from the Fens and about to leave for Derbyshire. Quy Water produced a few small pike and perch and a bagful of mushrooms, and the Fenfolk rallied around as usual, buying bagsful of Tales of the Old Molecatchers and How to Smoke your Hedgehog. Let's hope that summer starts after Chatsworth.
Friday 15th August
Lowther was as good as expected- two days in a sea of mud and the third day cancelled.
Back home to find sea trout in the river; small ones but lots of them. I get it wrong almost every day; if I take the flyrod I find the river brown and rising, when I took my spinning rod I had sewin darting at my swivels all the time.
Yesterday morning I went out prepared to flyfish but had to abort and go to work instead. I'm going to try again this morning.
Yesterday evening I took Jim to Llyn Bodlyn. I intended to bypass Bodlyn and head up to Llyn Dulyn, farther up the mountain. However, there was a good hatch of sedges that I couldn't ignore, and plenty of little trout were rising. Jim, who had never caught a trout on the fly before, caught two on a nymph and slow sinking line. Fishing a team of flies on a floater, I rose a few but only landed one. Yann came with us but had to make do with wet feet and midges. As a consolation we watched peregrines and a barn owl, then I raced back and caught the Red Lion in Dinas just before last orders.
The year is getting more and more frantic. I'm buying books at an undiminished rate; selling them pretty fast, too; trying to fit in in all the family stuff, and going fishing twice a day, as well as dashing around the country to game fairs. Think I'll give up sleeping.
Wednesday 6th August
Nipping out in the evenings for an hour on the river, I seem to be catching a sewin each time, but all small. Last night, as soon as I started wading down the middle of Cerrig Cochion, an otter porpoised upstream towards me. He posed close to me for the camera that I wasn't carrying, then carried on past. I'm not seeing any fish moving and it seems to me that the sea trout are pretty thinly spread. I was going out tonight but right now it is hammering down. Serious rain. Lowther tomorrow. I remember that red mud.
Sunday 3rd August
I'm still here but with little to report. The CLA came and went. We stayed dry, but it was too hot for people to carry bags full of books. Ruby has had an overhaul and is awaiting a gap in the game fair schedule and an improvement in the weather before getting her bottom wet. I took Jon on the Dyfi one day but, despite lovely fly water, we failed to find sea trout. There are a few around but they are not at all widespread.
This afternoon I should be building shelters for pheasant poults.
Monday 21st July
French friends, Laurent and his family, have been camping in Corris for two weeks of almost incessant rain. Hopes of boating for bass, or even mooching for shrimps and prawns, have been washed away. Now they are heading back to France, the sun is shining, and we are packing the vehicles for our wagon-train to Blenheim.
Two evenings I braved the rain for three sewin and a basketful of mountain trout.
Wednesday July 9th
Got home from Scotland to find that all my nectarines have fallen and Ceri has scoffed them all. I spotted a few ospreys, bought good books from Mr Leakey in Inverness, and spent several pleasant sociable evenings sheltering from the rain.
Fished a minnow down the Bwtri Run at dusk last night. The water was lower and clearer than I expected; just one sewin in the bag and one lost. Plenty of rain today bodes well for the river.
Sunday June 29th
An injured hand has cost me two days fishing and possibly a sea trout or two. It improved enough for me to accompany Mr B to the hills this morning. Cloud and rain dogged us and only a few very small fish came to hand. Then, mid-afternoon, the cloud lifted and a few olives started coming off. I finished with four fish from Coch Hwyad averaging close to a pound- the best I've caught from there for a year or two. My trout, together with my creelful of small perch, filled the smoker tonight.
Packing for Scotland tomorrow so no more news for a week or so.
Thursday June 26th
We travelled home from Ireland via Birmingham to pick up my new (old) Range Rover. Last night was grey and stormy so I headed for Ardudwy after dinner. I got to Llyn Bodlyn about 9pm, wreathed in cloud. Initially I only rose tiny trout but as the light faded more and more fish grabbed the little muddler-minnow on the point. By dusk they were fighting over the flies and I had caught enough for a fry-up. The walk back around the lake in the dark was interesting and it was after midnight before I got home to clean my fish.
Wednesday June 25th
Just back from Northern Ireland and a stormy wet game fair. Ben and I returned to Carrick-a-Rede after ten years to find National Trust car-parks and coachloads of tourists. The rock-fishing was just as good as it used to be and we had a spectacular couple of hours. As I was reeling in a full-house of three small coalfish a big pollack twice tried to grab them at the surface. Changing to a rubber shad I hooked and eventually landed two of the biggest pollack that I've ever caught from the shore. Then changing to bait I caught a wonderfully colourful wrasse. On leaving we discovered that the NT had locked the iron gate in the wall at the top of the cliff at the end of the rope bridge. After half an hour of cursing and calculating I robbed a hand-rail rope and, safely roped-up, we effected an escape worthy of Zorro.
Wednesday June 11th
Took Yann down the estuary in the small dinghy last night. We both lost garfish on the troll, then I drifted on the making tide and caught a few small bass on fly. We witnessed a shipwreck when the only other boat out, a local fisherman with three other anglers on board, who was fishing the white water on the bar, bumped bottom, shipped a wave over the side and filled with water. I couldn't help much in my tiny boat but stood by until the lifeboat took the the four of them off to Aberdyfi, leaving their boat. Then I chugged home upriver in a flat calm.
Sunday June 8th.
We have a houseful of visitors for my father's eightieth birthday party. All are now abed while I'm pot-watching the second of four huge spider-crabs, which will never come to the boil while I watch.
I met the editor and The Doctor at the Brenig on Friday. We each caught a couple of nice stockies, while I lost fish, one after the other, all day. I was interested and depressed by my experiences in the evening when I fished down the bank towards a group of three anglers. All three rods were on the ground but periodically a fish would leap out of the water in front of them. At this, one of them would rush to his rod, strike like a cod-basher, and reel in a three-pound trout. One of them caught five in the hour or so that I was there, while I missed a couple of rises and caught one fish on a small muddler. This, then, I assume, is fishing the booby. I hate to sound elitist but this certainly was not flyfishing and I found it slightly depressing.
Tuesday June 3rd
Took a day off on Friday and accompanied Mr Burnett to the hills. Llanbrynmair was said to be crowded so we headed for Talybont and Llyn Penrhaeadr. The road has deteriorated on the twenty-five years since my last visit, but we only got seriously stuck once; nothing that a pile of rocks and a jack couldn't sort out. It was a little too calm but but a lovely rise to olives was going on when we arrived. I caught a good half-pounder immediately but the trout were very selective and we didn't catch the basketful that I expected. Half a dozen troutlings each, then we left for a tour of the other Talybont lakes; New Pool, Nant-y-cagl, Dwfn and Conach.
Last night I made my first visit of the year to Llanbrynmair. It was a wet, misty, night with lousy visibility. I had not anticipated the midges, but they obviously knew that I was coming. It was after 10pm that the sedges appeared and the midges slackened their efforts slightly. First a small trout, them two good Coch Hwyad fish of a pound and a half each grabbed my big palmered sedge. It was all over by 10.30.
To avoid disturbing the farm late at night I took a previously untravelled route off the moorland. It wasn't such a good idea on such a foggy night and I had a hair-raising half-hour before eventually reaching a tarred road about five miles from where I expected to emerge.
Tuesday May 27th
A week ago today found me adrift on Grafham Water. A rash promise in January led to a three-day visit to the inland seas of the East Midlands. It took me a day and a half to work out how to catch rainbow trout cruising through swarms of daphnia twenty feet below the surface. I watched the experts and eventually managed to present my epoxy buzzers stationary at great depth. So, the first day I blanked and the second day I caught eight fish up to six pounds. On the third day we decamped to Rutland Water where similar tactics, but in shallower water, accounted for some beautiful fish including a couple of four-pounders, a seven pound pike and a nice perch.
On Thursday night I left my companions and drove through the night to Kent, then by ferry to Ostend and via the traffic-jams of Antwerpen to Breda where the Dutch Flyfair had been resurrected. It had been six years since the last Dutch fair in Zwolle so it was great to meet all of my old friends. Much beer was drunk and we had several memorable international dinners.
Somehow I managed to come home with a bagful of flies and yet another travel rod. I popped out this evening around nine o'clock to try a line on the new rod. I hadn't fished the little reservoir for about ten years; surrounded by forestry, it is always sheltered and glassy, and its small wild trout hard to deceive. First flick under the nearest bush with one of Marc Petitjean's wiggly nymphs and I hooked a trout that immediately weeded me and I was lucky to land. Then the midges descended, or ascended, in great force and I had given up by ten o'clock. Eleven ounces, he weighed, including the inevitable newt.
Tuesday May 13th
I picked a bucketful of good peeler crabs about a week ago. I gave them a good try on the middle estuary, but without success, and a session in the Leri produced a baby bass at every cast.
Last night I took the small dinghy to the estuary to finish the crabs off. I ignored the gulls working far upstream - the bass are safe there anyway - and headed down to the bar. It was too choppy to anchor the little boat on the drop-off so I sat just inside the mouth. I straightaway foul-hooked a large sandeel on a Toby lure, so the crabs had a reprieve. Despite fishing for an hour into the dusk with the sandeel for bait, no bass materialised; just one big dogfish that had me fooled for a while. A few gannets were working and prospects look good.
Sunday April 27th
The website crisis was overcome but leaves an aftermath. It will be some time before I can access this diary page.
It is almost May and the bass are piling into the estuary and the lakes are calling. My greenhouse and much of the garden is planted so I am thinking about fishing.
Tuesday April 22nd
Hackers have been attacking my website over the weekend. I have Naughtymutt, Zetnet, and my friend, Deri, working flat-out to sort it out, and to protect me, and you, from internet nasties. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours behind a rotovator, tilling the garden. This afternoon I escaped from website trauma to spend a couple of hours behind my new big shrimp net. It proved too large for working around the rocks- I would have caught more prawns with the smaller net. Nevertheless I finished up with a fine haul of shrimps, prawns and odds and ends. Today's by-catch were flounders, small mullet and a couple of nice soft crabs. Time for bass-fishing!
Saturday April 19th
Rushed back from Belgium to pick up a collection of shooting books from Brighton, arriving in the middle of the night. Then one day at home before we headed for Ellesmere to hand over the manuscript of the revised Hampton Bibliography to the third beard of the Three Beards Press. On Saturday we travelled up to Ardudwy to collect books. While there I bought a season permit to fish the hill lakes that Gallichan frequented, so I'll have to go back. I used that as an excuse to drive up to the lovely Llyn Bodlyn. Not quite so lovely today in the cold east wind.
Bodlyn has the most southerly population of char in Britain. I had not heard of any being caught since the days of out-of-season poaching with maggots, over thirty years ago. A recent survey has discovered that they are still there, despite global warming. Where can I get some maggots?
I picked Ken up from Heathrow en route for Ghent and Hunting Belgium. Last night we joined Bruno and other Flemish friends for their informal fly-tying get-together and a splendid meal. Today was very quiet, with almost as many VAT inspectors as customers. Hunting stands from all over Europe have brought together a great array of taxidermy and art, guns and clothing; most of it pretty exotic to me. Wild boar and roe deer are the main quarry here, pursued with a wide range of hairy and noisy dogs.
Tuesday April 9th
The Brittany shore, despite the hoards of foragers, was productive. We found plenty of good oysters and I christened my new 1.2 metre shrimping net. It's a bit early for shrimps but I caught a few. The by-catch is always interesting, but especially so here on a foreign shore; little spidery spider-crabs, a few other crabs new to me, and baby mullet. The bigger oysters were good raw but we had plenty left over to make a big pan of seafood stew with the shrimps, limpets, whelksand winkles.
Friday April 4th
Arctic conditions at Kelmarsh were pretty miserable. Three inches of snow on the first morning kept sensible punters at home. Fortunately we were not camping but staying in the very comfortable Bull's Head at nearby Arthingworth. Last night we had a three-hour Fruits de Mer on the banks of the Loire; and that was just the first course. Ha. This French keyboard is denying me an exlamation mark. That will kurb my enthusiasm- until I find it. Today - peche à pied. Why is there no English word for working the shore for mussels and wild oysters, shrimps and prawns?
Sunday 9th March
Little sport in February. Once the visitors left I had to dash off to Devon to buy the Flyfisher's Classic Library. I made two trips with van and trailer while my staff were making space for the FFCL stock. Now we have a dedicated FFCL room above the shop and another at the warehouse. More important, we have acquired a respected publishing firm with all the opportunities that offers.
I'm also well into the season of fairs; Spring Fly Fair last week and the West Country Game Fair next week, so little time to devote to FFCL plans.
Wednesday 13th February
Dewi Morgan Lucas brought all of his French family to Machynlleth for his christening and five days of feasting. I didn't have a fatted calf but managed a decent sea-trout, a fat bass, a Canada goose and plenty of game. The weather has allowed drinks and barbecuing outside in the sunshine, making life reasonably easy. This is the last night for most of the French contingent so we are off to a restaurant for a grand finale.
Tuesday 5th February
I've deliberately spared you the gory details of the last week of January. Copper and I were out on five of the last seven days. She is about the same age, in dog-years, as I am in human years. We both got stiffer and lamer as the days progressed; fine during the day but seizing up in the evening. We saw good sport with lots of walked-up pheasants, a few rabbits and at least one woodcock each day. One evening we waited by a flooded field and I shot a fine mallard while Copper coursed, and very nearly caught, a fox. Least pleasant event of the week was coming across a fallow buck with a horribly injured jaw, presumably the result of a road accident, and having to finish him off. Thank goodness I had a gun with me to do the job efficiently and humanely.
I've got a month before starting shows and eight staff to keep occupied. Four of us are doing little but catalogue old books, but the piles do not seem to diminish.
Sunday 20th January
Yesterday I had to act the gent when invited to shoot by a neighbour, about as close to home as I could be, within a rifle-shot of the shop. I didn't find myself under the turkeys when they broke out, but I did hit almost every pheasant that came my way, and then finished the day with a fine woodcock. It was followed two or three seconds later by another but by then I had broken my gun to reload and missed my chance at a right-and-left. The pheasants were all melanistics, and made a fine sight. The hospitality of my host and the fine company made it a splendid day.
Today we braved the floods - or rather avoided the floods by driving over the hills - to meet up with old fishing friends for a dinner near Welshpool.
Wednesday 16th January
A few of us had a lovely walk around the hills bordering the shoot in Llanbrynmair. I had a chance at a right-and-left at a white stoat and a woodcock, but I left the ermine to be sure of the woodcock. Came home with a brace each each of woodcocks and pheasants, and a fat winter rabbit.
Saturday 12th January
Still picking up birds at Llanbrynmair, the bag helped by a few snipe and woodcock. At the only drive at which I stood at a peg, I was entertained by long-tailed tits and a pair of lesser spotted woodpeckers. Altough we have the large woodpeckers on the feeders at home, I can't remember the last time I saw the small ones. I suppose they spend most of their time high in the trees and are less noticeable.
Friday 11th January
Managed a double session on the estuary - last night and this morning. I'm not getting much at flight-time - maybe because my eyes are not as good as they were. Two wigeon were enough last night, then I had a mallard and a teal this morning. I stayed out through the big tide but the rafts of geese and wigeon stayed well out on the water and little moved apart from snipe, curlews, and a water-rail pushed out of the rushes by the rising water which crept around my feet before hiding in the stones of the railway embankment. The dawn was full of the chatter of mallards and wigeon out on the fields, but there they stayed. Both of today's duck involved long hunts and a lot of swimming for Copper before they could be retrieved. Good experience for Copper, reinforced by her eventual success with both birds.
Saturday 5th January
Worked the outlying woods and found lots of woodcock. On one drive I saw dozens but few presented safe shots. Nevertheless I had a chance at two, which I shot. I also dropped a few spectacularly high pheasants to make a memorable day.