Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The Winter Wye

Hay is an interesting town if you are the booky type, but I'm not especially. However it has a number of other redeeming features that commend it to an angler staying at a hotel in town, especially if that hotel just happens to back onto the steep wooded cliff that tumbles down to the waters of the Wye.

The ravishing beauty of the Wye

We'd got there by late afternoon but it was already too dark to fish an unknown stretch of water, and it was very cold, with a crisp white frost gathering on the rooftops and windscreens of cars. After lumping our gear into the hotel room we wandered out to town, for a spot of evening dining. The sky was clear and dark, even in the centre of town, due to Hay's unusually small complement of streetlamps.

'Hay on Wye is the worlds biggest centre for old books in the whole wide world' Says Judy, as we walk through the narrow backlanes.

Why? I ask her

'Because it just is' She says

'Hey?' says I

'Because!' She exclaims.


'Aargh!! because' she growls!

Hey? Say I

'You bugger!' She laughs as she jabs me in the ribs. 'thats the third time you've got me with that, so you better watch out mister!'

Why? Says I


Next morning, after a hearty breakfast, I wanted to go out to the hotel garden to dig some worms from the vegetable patch and asked the hoteliers for permission to do this, which they freely granted. The ground was a crust of frost hardened soil but the worms were there for the taking. A found a few good lobs down deep, all of which were comatose, and popped them in my worm tub. I donned my cold weather clothing, slung my gear, and went out to fish the Wye for whatever was biting.

Tinto House

There was a swim at the very top of the town stretch that looked interesting. The current appeared swift and smooth, but the margins were rocky and I thought this might turn out to be a problem. In practice the swim was all but unfishable, its current so powerful that the rod amplified the whine of the line and began singing a strange plaintive tune, and the lead would invariably be swept into a rocky snag. I had bites on pellet and bread, nothing on worm, and after half an hour and a couple of retackles, I moved along downstream to a stretch of slower and shallower, but more turbulent water.

All fishery signs should be so

I put some bait into the head of the swim, cast out about three rod lengths, let the current pull the lead around and under the dangling icicles of an overhanging tree branch, and sat back to wait. The current, though turbulent, was averaging out nicely and the rod top was relatively still. Bites were frequent, easy to see, but not ever coming to anything, just plucks that never became fully developed. However, I liked the swim enough to persevere for the rest of the afternoon alternating worm (I was hoping for a grayling) and the usual bread and pellet for the chub. I even downsized the hook to a twelve and tried flake for roach, but to no avail. By evening, I was suffering just a little too much from frozen toes and fingers and decided that enough was enough. I vowed to return to the same swim early next morning to catch what I hoped would be a feeding spell, at first light.

Second swim

I got down to the swim before light and put in a good feed of mashed bread and pellets to get the chub going. The bread was boiling around in the turbulence but I thought that enough would get caught up in the backflows to fall in the right place. I lost my end tackle first cast, on some underwater snag, retackled with some difficulty by the light of my trusty Zippo burning on my knee, and cast again. After ten minutes the rod tip snatched and bent around hard and I was into my first Wye fish which proved to be a feisty chub of two pounds or so. Next cast, a little more feed into the head, and another chub, this time a little bigger was in the net. The third cast produced a powerful pull on the tip and another chub of over three pounds, which fought for every inch of line, graced my net.

I fed the swim a little more and sat back to await fish number four. However, this cast produced no bites of any kind and it seemed the chub had vanished. I retrieved a complete bait, the bread untouched. I cast again, but met with the same response. The dawn was over, and now it was first light. It seemed the brief feeding spell I had anticipated, was over. It had lasted just half an hour.

It did occur to me that the bait stream may have been swept well downstream by now in such turbulence, and that the chub had followed it. However, I had an appointment with a hotel breakfast at 9:30 and that seemed just too good a prospect to miss out on, so I did not move swim. I fished out the remaining half hour without a pluck, then packed up well satisfied with three fish in three casts, in such freezing weather, that I had expected very little, or indeed, nothing at all.

Return of the Victorious

I reinterred my unused worms in the soil from whence they had came. I really don't think they woke up in the whole time they graced my bait box. They certainly didn't wake any interest in the fish.

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