Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Bewl Water: Challenging Fishing

Back in 2005 I gave a bank fishing lesson to 3 friends from church at Bewl.  Recently one of them called Rowland, having had a look at my blog, called me and said could we fish Bewl together again.  How could I refuse such an appealing suggestion.  I didn't know what to expect, would I be teaching casting again or had Rowland progressed?  I suggested we should use a boat so we were mobile and we fixed a date.  Now the challenge of fixing a date well in advance is that you are at the mercies of the weather. Sadly on this Bank Holiday Monday my prayers for overcast skies and a slight breeze were completely swamped by other prayers for clear skies, brilliant sunshine and a strong breeze. See the picture above.

Anyway Rowland turned up all kitted out with the right gear (see picture above) and advised me how another friend had helped him overcome some shoulder problems by getting serious about fly fishing.  Down on the jetty Bewl's Rob Barden warned me that the fishing would be hard as the water was crystal clear and with the sun beating down the fish were deep.  He advised on techniques and suggested some locations to drift. So off we went at 09:00 with a strong breeze from the south. The map below shows where we fished.
Where                                          Results
  1. Canoe club corner                   I had a pull but 4 drifts later nothing
  2. Monty's to Ferry Point             Saw one fish jump
  3. Bewl Straight near FP             Saw one fish caught
  4. Off the oaks close to bank      Quiet
  5. Rosemary's Lane                    3 boats throwing metal, quiet
  6. Tinker's Marsh                        Very quiet (first time I have fished there)
  7. Enrance to Tinker's                Quiet but windy
  8. Polecat Wood                         Quiet but windy
  9. Corner of Bryants Wood         Quiet
  10. Below Bewl Cottages             Quiet but windy
  11. Top of Hook Straight              4 boats throwing metal, no action
  12. In front of Hook House           Saw a fish jump
  13. Back at Canoe Club               Rowland took a fish practically out of the bushes, Hurray!!!
So 10 hours on the water and only one fish to show for it.  Still I didn't feel bad about it Rowland had connected right at the end and in the recent International Competition quite a number of fishers had blanked.  We had tried almost everything in terms of lines (floaters, intermediates, di 3 and di 5) and in terms of flies, buzzers, minkies, boobys and even cats whiskers.
On the positive side, the boat and engine were good, the scenery wonderful and the weather, yes the weather was nice for the rest of the occupants of Southern England.
Well done Rowland!

Friday, 24 May 2013


Thanks to Janet Benny in the Fishing Lodge for this:-
Mixed fortunes this week with very clear water, changing wind directions and a fall in temperature. Although some anglers have found the fishing difficult, others have reported having plenty of good sport and catching up to 20 trout. The fish have moved slightly away from the margins, but the still cool water temperature has led them to stay in the shallower areas rather than in the deep water and trout are generally within the top 3 feet of the water.
Stocking resumed after a break for the Spring International with 1600 superb Bulldog rainbows of 2lbs plus and 437 home-reared 2 to 4lbs Bewl brownies, all stocked on Tuesday.
Best areas at the moment, for bank and boat, are on Bewl's North Shore. Canoe club corner, the shore in front of the playground, Bramble Point and further down Hook Straight have all produced fish. Successful flies have been Blobs, Boobies, Diawl Bach, Cormorant and Buzzers while Any Method angling has favoured spinners. Water temperature is 11degC and water level is 98.5%.
Bewl hosted the IFFA Spring Home International Match on Friday 17th May. Scotland were the winners with a total bag weight of 127lb 14oz. Rod average for the event topped 2.8 and full results can be seen on the Bewl website at
Also see my recent post "Fly Fishing Duel at Bewl".

Fly Fisherman has just seen this years FIRST Mayfly!!!

Wow, the season is late this year on the Wiltshire Avon.  Last year at this time we were desperately short of water, this year we are desperately short of sun and heat!  Having assisted my son in law with a little paint job I found myself walking towards the banks of the River Avon with condtions over cast and windy.  A fellow angler was walking away from the water and I could tell he was not a "happy bunny".  He said "I am wet and cold and the wind makes casting impossible, no fish are rising, take my advice and go home!"  I thanked him for his advice and agreed it did look unpleasant with grey clouds scudding across the sky.  However, when home is 110 miles away, and the river only 50 yards away you have to have a look.  I had timed it just right, the wind eased, a ray of sunlight hit the water and a fish rose with a splash.  Darn it I was hooked, so I legged it back to the motor and got kitted out ready for action.  Slowly the weather improved and so did my optimism!  The river was high but the water was clear and I could see fish clearly taking nymphs and only occasionally rising to take an emerger.  On the SADAC club waters at this time of the year it is strickly upstream dry fly only.  So I persevered with a selection of dries and emergers.  Why dry fly only I hear you asking?  Well one of the characteristics of English sportsmen (and women) is that we like to create obstacles to make things difficult for ourselves so that if we are finally successful there is an enhanced sense of achievement!  It does seem a bit daft to be fishing on the top when the quarry is dancing around on the bottom.
Well to cut to the chase, I saw my first mayflies (green drakes), hooked a couple of nice fish but they ejected the hook before I could bring them to hand (I say hand because I had forgotten my landing net)!  I need to re-read my post dated 30th Jan 13 which advocates using, and details my tackle list!
The weather improved and so did the number of rises.  I found I was responding to takes too quickly and pulling the fly out of mouths that were still open.  This is something I have to overcome every year.
Highlight was when someone crossing a bridge sprinkled the crumbs from their lunch box on the water, suddenly the water was alive with fish, one or two of which were probably 5lb plus!  A fellow angler cast a fly into the boiling water but the fish were intelligent enough to know the difference between wholemeal bread and fluff a la hook!
So the Mayfly have returned.  Sadly I will miss a lot of the Avon action this year as I have two days next week teaching reservoir fly fishing on the drift and then I am off to the States for 6 weeks!  Have rod, will travel, have blog, will post!  Promise!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Best Present I Have Ever Received!

A year ago I retired from working as a professional engineer at the age of 66.  I had started life as a student draughtsman at the age of 16.  I had thought I would be allowed to slip away quietly but my colleagues had other ideas.  They put on a farewell lunch for me and my wife, Rosalind and I were overwhelmed by their kindness.
As well as giving me a personalised card featuring some of my fishy moments whilst running the company’s fly fishing club, they presented me with two gifts.  The first gift was an ancient book on engineering (sourced from a second hand book shop by Darren Parker a former boss) which my director Norman Greville urged me to read so I could stay abreast of developments in the industry!
The second gift was the best present I have ever received (discounting things like children and grandchildren).  Having felt that the wrapped box weighed just over a kilo (2lb 4oz in Christian units) I had absolutely no idea what it could be.  However, I could see my boss Martin Bennett grinning from ear to ear so I knew it was something special!
On opening the package I found it was a working model (complete with driver) of an early classic car called an “Autostirling A1”. 

This model vehicle fuelled by methylated spirit uses something called the Stirling Cycle (heating and cooling of air) to provide the motive force.  The model is an engineering masterpiece.   Enough of the techy stuff,  to appreciate just how brilliant a present this is you have to see it working.  Please click on the video.
The present was sourced by my much respected engineering colleague, Arthur Portelli , who demonstrated its performance to everyone present by firing it up and running it up and down the lunch table!
Since then I have the regular pleasure of firing it up to demonstrate to grandchildren, family and friends the best present I have ever received!
Footnote:  The car was manufactured in Germany by a company called Boehm.
See   Just in case there is someone you would like to spoil!


Here are the official results of the competition. For my role in the excitment see my previous post!  The fishing was hard on the day due to a cold NE wind and the fact that most of the competitors had been flogging the water practising for several days!  Still the clever fishers produced!


BEWL WATER - 17th MAY 2013



Winner SCOTLAND 63 fish lbs 14.000 ozs

2nd Place England 42 fish 79 lbs 8.500 ozs

3rd Place Wales 32 fish 61 lbs ozs

4th Place Ireland 21 fish 42 lbs 3.500 ozs


GRAND TOTALS 158 fish 311lbs 5ozs


BEST BASKET Peter Auchterlonie SCOTLAND 9 fish 20 lbs 5.000 ozs

HEAVIEST TROUT Richard Hooper WALES 3 lbs 3.000 ozs

English best basket Roger Trustcott 8 fish 16 lbs 1.000 ozs

Irish best basket Francis McSharry 6 fish 13 lbs 8.500 ozs

Scottish best basket Peter Auchterlonie 9 fish 20 lbs 5.000 ozs

Welsh best basket Jason Heath 4 fish 9 lbs 2.500 ozs

OFFICIALS' TROPHY George Mackenzie 4 fish 8 lbs 8.000 ozs

Best Boatman - no 23 Steve Collins 14 fish 29 lbs 9.500 ozs



For the full details try the IFFA Official Results website:


Friday, 17 May 2013


I have just enjoyed a most interesting day at Bewl.  No, I was not fishing myself I was watching others fish In the International Fly Fishing Association Spring Match.  My role was that of "Boatman".  This involved sitting in the boat for eight hours between two competitors to assist with things like operating the drogue, netting and dispatching fish if asked, and making sure the participants played the game according to the rules.
The whole event was very serious and professional with teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. I was impressed to see it started with a parade behind a Ghurka Piper. Please watch the videos.

The fishers I had to support were Con Malone from Ireland and Paul Lee from England.
Con was a splendid fellow with a lovely sense of humour and an amazing selection of flies!

A few of Con's flies!

Paul was equally splendid and worked hard at positioning the boat and helping me to perform my role.  Paul had an amazing array of tackle.

Paul's collection of lines all clearly labelled!
At 10 o'clock the horn sounded and 28 outboard engines roared alive and 56 fishers were off.  Paul took us just south of Bramble Point and we drifted there for half an hour before he picked up two fish in quick succession.  When it went quiet we went to the far end of Hook straight.  There were fish showing there and the house martins were working the water.  Buzzers were ignored so Paul switched to little, very buoyant dries (secret specials) and picked up two more fish. They then tried the open water east of the cages and a drift towards The Nose to no avail.  Paul said Tinkers had fished well earlier in the week so we motored down there.  Lots of birds working the water but only a couple of fish showing so no action apart from a rather nice perch.  Then it was back up Bewl Straight with a short pause near the woods on the north side.  A couple of fish showed but they were not feeding.  The next thing we knew it was 17.30 and we had to start heading back to the jetty.
The cold north easterly wind had definitely put the fish off as several fishers had blanked.  I didn't stay to find out who had won, I was just too tired, but one England team member told me he had caught one whereas his boat companion had caught eleven!  That would have upset me!
So did I learn anything?  Yes I did and here is the list:-
  • A large long handled net helps get the fish in the boat quickly
  • Using 12lb leaders helps reduce the playing time
  • Caught fish need to go in a cold box with a couple of inches of water in it
  • I should have put my water proof fishing trousers on to keep my legs warmer
  • Paul recommends his Hardy 5000GLS reel
Would I have fished it differently?  Yes I think I would have done the following:-
  • As the water was so clear I think I would have used 8lb leaders
  • I would have fished buzzers more slowly and either as a washing line with a small booby on the point or the buzzers suspended under a dry or booby.
  • If the above failed I would have put a team of small lures on an intermediate and tried that.
  • If after 30 minutes a fish had not been caught or several seen I would have moved.
The competition organisers and the staff at Bewl need to be congratulated on a well- organised event, the fish should be reprimanded for not cooperating!
Possibly it was the sound of the pipes that put the fish off!


Monday, 13 May 2013

Free Narrow Boat Bonanza

I just happened to hear on the radio that there was going to be a Narrow Boat Festival over the May Bank Holiday weekend at Little Venice in the middle of London.  Remembering a wonderful family holiday in a narrow boat on the Kennet Avon Canal many years ago I decided that we just had to go and check it out.  Have "free travel pass" must travel!
Well what an amazing surprise was in store for us, there were hundreds of beautifully painted narrow boats and thousands of trendy, beautiful and eccentric people.

Having dined on German sausages and wandered around the canal paths and all the very interesting stalls we managed to secure some seats. There we could bask in the sunshine, watch boats and people parade by and listen to the jazz band performing on the island.  A free day out doesn't get much better than that!

Whilst sitting down we were joined by two lovely Australian ladies who I chatted with whilst Rosalind had a siesta!  Topics covered were how to blog more effectively and their positive impressions of our Church's advertising response to the Book of Mormon musical currently showing in London.
If you are near London next May watch out for this narrow boat event, if the weather is kind you will really enjoy it.

Friday, 10 May 2013

BEWL WATER FISHERY WEEKLY REPORT week ending: 9th May 2013

Riding the waves at Bewl and picking up fish high in the water. Eye protection off so you can see it is really me!
I didn't make it down to Bewl myself this week (I was on the chalk streams see earlier post), but I plan to go in the next few days, so in case you are planning that too here is the latest from Janet in the Fishing Lodge:-
"Bright, sunny weather and changes in the wind direction over the Bank Holiday weekend made the fishing harder for a day or two. The fish are moving up and down the water levels with the changing conditions. They are also starting to move away from the banks, therefore more are being caught in open water. Most anglers are using intermediate lines with various teams of flies. This week's rod average was a respectable 3.92. Best areas for boat fishing are still Rosemary Lane, Hook Straight and Chingley. Bank fishing has been best at Rosemary Lane, Ferry Point and Canoe Club Corner.
Successful flies haven't changed much either - Damsels, Cormorants, Buzzers, Cat's Whiskers, Blobs.
Any method anglers have caught mainly on small spinners.
The Anglian Water-Airflo Southern Heat took place at Bewl on Saturday 4th May. 42 anglers caught 210 trout giving a very good rod average of 5. Winners were the Soldier Palmers with 48 fish weighing 125lb 9.5oz, inc. time bonus.
Breakfast is now served everyday from 7.30 am in The Waterside Restaurant in the visitor centre.
Water Temperature is 11.7degC and water level 99%."
Final tip from me:  At Bewl right in the middle of the reservoir there is a floating weather station that produces data that the weathermen (and ladies) interprete to predict the future weather.  Anyone can access these predictions by going to:- and selecting Bewl Valley Sailing Club.  There you can get predicted wind speed and direction, gust speeds, temperatures, precipitation etc.  You can also look at a web cam.  I have always found the predictions pretty accurate and very helpful.
Here's wishing you "tight lines".

Fly Fishing the Wiltshire Chalk Streams with SADAC

Spring, weatherwise this year, has got off to a very slow start so I put off my first visit to the chalk streams until things started to warm up.  I managed two days this week.  On Tuesday I had a look at the Wiltshire Avon at Amesbury but as I could not see anything moving and the water (and there was plenty of it) was slightly coloured I decided to move to the Whylye.  The water was clearer and I saw the occasional rise, but I did not hook up. Another gent obviously more skillful than me managed two grayling and a small trout.  Highlight of the trip was meeting Jed Stone, the bailiff, (I hope I got his first name right) who came to check my credentials.  He spotted that I had not put my Environment Agency license number in my Members Year Book so we quickly remedied that.  The club has an excellent team of bailiffs who not only police the waters but give friendly and helpful advice. 
A well run club ensures the access is generally solid and safe. This step over below is state of the art!

Another way you can tell the club is well run is by the clear signage.

 The system of tally boards, that indicate who is fishing where, are excellent.

The tally board below is the main one outside the Club Office indicating the 22 beats on that stretch of the Avon. The club has so many waters that during the week I hardly ever see anyone else fishing.

The catch return books are all housed in neat wood boxes that are almost weather proof.  They detail who fished where and when and how they got on. Very helpful if you take time to study it!
The second day I decided to go and talk to the "Main Man", the club's General Manager, for advice on where to fish. Andreas Topintzis, based in the office affectionately known as "The Cart Shed", is always most helpful. He recommended a particular beat and then said "Watch out, another car has just pulled into the car park!" Just as I walked out to go to the Tally Board to take the recommended beat token the gent who had just driven up beat me to it. Andreas kindly stuck his head round the door and recommended another beat involving some wading. I was very happy with that as I wanted to try out my new thigh waders.
As soon as I got to the beat I could see why I think Andreas recommended it, not only were there fish about but I also had an upstream wind! Finding the beats is facilitated by appropriate signage.

One of the things that confused me for a while when I first started to fish the chalk streams was the mention of hatches. I first thought that was a reference to flies hatching. If you look at the following video clip you will see what the hatches really are. Put your sound on for the highly informative commentary by me (and the sound of the water)!

Anyway, I broke my chalk stream duck this season by catching the smallest brown trout I have ever caught followed by two more reasonably sized relations. Three others managed to slip the hook.

It is wonderful to be back on the chalk streams and I just need more practice!  If you are interested in putting your name down to join SADAC see the link on the page (top right).

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Simple Fly Fishing Magic in South Wales

My youngest daughter’s father-in-law, Mark, invited us to stay in the house he was refurbishing in South Wales.  How could I refuse?   I started planning a bit of serious fishing by contacting my friend Andrew, an ace sewin (sea trout) fisher.  Andrew thought we could get out one night during my stay. Serious sewin fly fishers only fish during the hours of darkness, the darker the better.  That is quite challenging!  Imagine casting a fly in complete darkness whilst standing on the bank or wading.  You jump out of your waders when a large sea trout jumps in the dark.  It sounds as if a cow has fallen off a bridge!
Sadly my pal Andrew was not able to get away so we did not have a sewin session, however, I visited some amazing places (see previous post) and was able to take a trip down a fishing memory lane that turned out to be very pleasant when I visited:-
This fishery is quite hard to find as it is on the north side of the B4287 between Neath and Pontrhydyfen.  However, it is well worth visiting as it is picturesque, with a wonderful view of Swansea Bay in the distance.  It generally has very clear water and is well stocked with hard fighting rainbow and blue trout.  When I ran my former company's fly fishing club I used to hold very successful events here.
The fishery manager is Dave Price and the cost of fishing is very reasonable. 

I was pleased to see that since my last visit, a couple of years ago, the windy, undulating track up to the fishery had been tarmacked and could now be regarded as a road. 
Also the privy (loo, or bathroom as my friends in the States call it) had been rebuilt (I bet the old one blew away, hopefully whilst vacant!).

When I arrived around 2pm it was overcast with a light breeze and I could see fish rising and one or two being caught.  I bought a 2 fish ticket from Dave in the caravan (used as a rest area and office) as I didn’t plan to be there long.
I thought I would definitely force myself only to use dry flies and catch off the top.  It didn’t work out like that.  By the time I had set up the sun was out and my dry sedge was ignored as the fish went down.  Occasionally, as a small cloud drifted across the sun a fish would rise and I would try to cover it but all to no avail.  I moved around a bit as most of the other anglers had “bagged up” and left but still no action.  Reluctantly I decided to fish sub surface and switched to a small grhe (gold ribbed hairs ear) fly.  I did a long cast to a fresh location and started a very slow figure of eight retrieve.  I then experienced that state of mind when you become completely at one with the environment.  You are so in tune that you know something is going to happen and when the line went tight, and I hooked up, I knew, that I knew it would happen!   Am I a fish mind reader?  I wish I was.  The fish was a strong one hooked at a distance so I had plenty of time to enjoy the tussle as I watched the bar of silver flashing back and forth.  Several jumps later and all 3lb of it was safely in the net.

When I had to leave I came away with my 2 fish, Dave generously giving me a large blue that another angler had left behind (I hope he does not want it back)!  The fishery rules are simple and clear.  Dave wants everyone to have good sport.

So my trip to Wales may not have been a fishing bonanza but an afternoon spent at Abernant was magic!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Exciting Expedition to South Wales

Castle Coch
Well when plans go astray brilliant things can still happen.  My wife and I were invited to stay with my daughter’s father-in-law Mark in the middle of South Wales.  I thought it was going to be a mainly fishing trip, however, brilliant things started to happen when Mark announced that he was taking time out from rebuilding his house to be our guide and show us his favourite places.  So on Monday afternoon we went to the pretty Penarth seafront and pier and then explored Cardiff Bay waterfront where we had dinner.  Tuesday morning saw us hiking down a lovely gorge to the sea at Monknash.  Then we hit a lunchtime organ recital at the impressive St Davids Hall, Cardiff (surprisingly I really enjoyed that). Then we went to Castle Coch an excellent place to visit and explore.
Wednesday morning saw us at Caerleon Roman Settlement (just north of Newport).  Here a wonderful Roman Baths has been brilliantly restored.  You can walk round a gallery above the pool and watch roman soldiers and their families swimming in the water.  This is all achieved by some of the best visual and oral effects I have ever experienced.  The water looks so realistic that you want to paddle and the sound of the splashing convinces you that it is real.  Entrance is free and it is a must place to visit together with the nearby Roman Museum and Amphitheatre.
The amazingly restored Roman Baths
Wednesday afternoon my wife and Mark went to the National Trust's Tredegar House and I sloped off to fish a favourite lake.  I will do my next post about that for the fishing enthusiasts.
Mark had another gem up his sleeve!  Thursday saw us at St Fagans the Welsh National History Museum.  This is a wonderful place where old historical buildings from all over Wales have been dismantled and rebuilt in the grounds of the beautiful St Fagans estate.
Beautiful grounds with St Fagans Castle on the hill to the right.
A pigsty built of dry stone
Kennixton Farmhouse
Workman's Institute (like all the other buildings) dismantled elsewhere and re-built here!
Inside the Blacksmith's workshop
The biggest magnolia tree I have seen!
Live video feed shows bats roosting (filmed using infra red light). Click on the arrow.
So for a £3.50 car parking fee at St Fagans you get a whole day to explore over 50 historic buildings all splendidly preserved, with authentic furnishings and informative Museum Assistants to answer questions, all in beatiful grounds.  You must try to visit.