Salmon Fishing Report
No two Aprils ever seem to be alike and there were huge contrasts between this and last year’s very wet and cold month. The relatively dry spell ending the March deluge continued into early April before unleashing two modest spates at the end of the first week, thereafter dropping until some very wet weather upcountry pushed the river up suddenly and steeply in the last week. This spate dropped back quite quickly, allowing fishing to take place in the upper Wye. Usk and rivers to the west missed out on this boost as the bulk of the rain had fallen much further north.
The month was characterised by lots of sunshine with some warmer days but the wind came predominately from the (beastly!) east. Last year I commented that our PV readings were some of the lowest; this year very much higher reflecting the lack of clouds.
One excuse we don’t have is that a lot of days were lost: there was plenty of opportunity especially on the Wye at one end or the other!
So it’s disappointing to report that April catches were well below expectations: on the Wye 46 against an average of 92 and just the odd one from the Usk. We haven’t heard of any other salmon caught in Wales. There were highlights: 15th/16th recorded 11 fish as catches started to build with improving water conditions, but then catches dropped away with just ones and twos reported daily. Perhaps the only good news is that towards the end of the month, fish with long tailed sealice were reported showing that there were some newcomers. These were typically in the 10 – 11lbs class. Last year in April, Wye fish pressed on to the upper Wye giving some good fishing to the upper river; in 2017 the majority (80 %+) were caught below Hereford. This year the middle accounted for the (albeit modest) bulk.
Some ‘traditional’ springers did make their appearance topped by fish of 28lbs (Winforton) and 25lbs (Holme Lacy 4). Overall there were six over 20lbs and many in their late teens. More than usual were caught on fly while the main WMD was the FC, some with single hooks.
In the first “roll of honour” of the year, a special mention should go to Barri Paraskeva, owner of the Chainbridge fishery who caught the Usk’s first salmon of the 2019 season from his own beat on 3rd April, earning Barri the other bottle of Pol Roger champagne! Also, congratulations to Glynn Cawte who landed his first salmon on fly, a 211⁄2lb fish from Lower Carrots and Luggsmouth (Wye) on 13th April.
Discussing catches with trout fishers, it seems that despite terrific rises late March and early April, the easterly winds have put off rising fish and latterly, trout are proving harder to tempt. Similarly there have been more reports of fish lost than landed with familiar accounts of a few yards of line taken before ‘letting go’. While salmon numbers may be down, it does seem that those present are playing very hard to get.
There was a very good turnout for Salmon and Trout Conservation’s excellent annual presentations in Builth Wells on the 8th. Over the years I have noticed that the worse the fishing, the more people turn up at events like these.
So on to May, always a good month for salmon fishing and the prospect of some warmer weather too. Fish should be more spread over the catchments and new arrivals boost the lower beats when water levels drop back or head upstream if there are spates. We can only hope that the few 10 – 12lbs fish taken recently are the start of a bigger run in May. The fishing in Scotland has started to pick up in the last few days. Fingers crossed!
All the best from WUF.
The arrival of opening day, 3rd March brought with it a change in the weather from the dry and mild January and February. It was much needed rain at first but after nearly three weeks of it we could safely drop the 'much needed'. The upshot of this was apart from the opening days, there was a continuous rise in water levels down the Wye and Usk valleys. Thankfully from the 20th, levels started to subside and by 24th, the first catch since opening days was made, much to the relief of nearly everyone on the river. Essentially we had eight fishable days on the Wye accounting for 33 fish. The less welcome news is that the Usk has yet to produce a fish although there may have been a few more fishable days there.
Getting down to the detail: the Wye produced seven fish on opening day and another three followed quickly. Most notable amongst these was Nathan Jubb’s monster estimated at 31lbs from Coedithel, the lowest beat on the river. Three came from both Ross Anglers and Wyebank & Courtfield, one from Bigsweir and the Dean & Chapter. One has to look back a long way to find that many on opening day.
On the 24th, Whitney Court produced a fish in the mid-teens for Ralph Hanraads which he followed up with a 19lbs a few days later. Full details of all reported catches can be found here. Red Lion and Whitney Court both produced a 26lbs fish and generally the sizes were typical of the Wye 3 sea winter springer. Most fish were caught spinning but at least five were reported on fly.
The distribution of catches was much more typical of the Wye in early spring with Luggsmouth to Monmouth accounting for the majority (23) Glasbury to Luggsmouth (8) Monmouth to sea (2) and none from the upper river. The early days produced a number of well mended kelts but those were quickly away with the deluge. So one bottle of Pol Roger Champagne goes to Nathan for his 31lbs fish with the other still to be claimed on the Usk.
The ever running saga of byelaws continues as we await the inspectors report but there is no certainty over the status of the remaining netting and other instruments in the Severn estuary. It has be held that with all three rivers apparently having a satisfactory stock, some exploitation could be allowed. This is based on the tenet that as some fish are killed inadvertently by rod fishers and that number should be equalled by the netsmen. However it is now certain that the Usk does not come near its conservation target and last year wasn’t good on either of the other two rivers. The amount netsmen can take has not yet been determined: we shall continue to press the conservation case.
A recent litter pick on a mile of upper Wye salmon fishing shows that the river in Wales remains a useful conduit for unwanted farm plastics. 37 feed or fertiliser sacks, 7 plastic sheep lick containers and perhaps as many as over 1,000 pieces of black silage wrap were retained on the banks of this fishery. The amount that passed onwards and into our seas is truly frightening and should be a wakeup call to keep pressure on better compliance of farming activities.
Finally, what will April bring? With no further rain and the cold night/hot day scenario currently in force (early April) there will likely be a shift of expectation to the lower beats of both rivers. It’s difficult to predict weather at this time of year but we will need more rain to keep rivers attractive to incoming fish. A little warmth would be popular too....but not too much, remembering 2018!
Where to fish on the Wye is ultimately determined by flow. With rain in April we could see some movement to the upper Wye but the burning question is how many 2Sea winter fish (2014’s progeny) will there be?
All the best from WUF.
What's happened over the winter and what can we expect for the coming season? Following Storm Callum we have had, so far, a modest winter in respect of high flows and temperatures: not the winter warmth of 2015 nor the freezing cold of 2010 for comparison.
Redd counting was difficult with high flows from late November through December but generally where there was a preponderance of spawning, it was well up river. There was mixed news with WUF's 2018 electrofishing: It was good for the Wye but worrying for the Usk.
For most people who fished for salmon in the UK, 2018 was one of, if not the worst ever. The problem was mainly attributed to the dry and hot late spring and summer followed by another dry autumn. The preceding winter was wet enough and overall the rainfall appears to be at least average. It's just that none of fell when it was really needed during a roasting June and July. This year we have at least paid off the 'drought overdraft' and all our reservoirs are full. It may not be the case in England, however.
So what are the prospects for the coming season? Thankfully we can look away from 2018 to see what will happen this year as the fish coming back were born from the run of 2013 (the big springers) and 2014 (the 2 sea winter fish). '13 was a goodish year especially on the Wye which had a great run of large spring fish. 2014's run was OK and relatively wet but again, not when it was needed to avert one of the worst algal blooms. This kept the rod catch low. Electrofishing results that year were 'satisfactory' too so there is no reason to be pessimistic on that score. Grilse, which would have come mainly from 2015 spawning, are not common on the Wye but used to form a significant part of the run in the rest of Wales. There may not be many of them this year.
Early February snow has melted and rain is forecast, all of which is a good thing to happen before the season starts. Anyone looking for an early fish should focus on the Wye. It did quite well in April and May last year. March was simply too wet but it's seldom the same every year. Will the warm January have allowed fish to head up river or will February's cold hold them back lower down? If the weather allows us to fish, Sunday 3rd March will answer all those questions.
Those who are looking for season rods should visit the Fishing Passport website where current availability is here. Some beats are already full. Day rods are, of course, available too and the spring 2019 digital Passport brochure has now been published and can be found here.
October 2018 & Season Review
With just 17 potential fishing days for most Welsh rivers, October needed rain to move fish from estuaries or wherever they were during the drought and send them upriver, not just for fishermen of course....... Following the spate at the end of September, rivers dropped steadily and quite quickly - partly in response to the long dry summer and in part because subsequently, it wasn't all that wet!
That changed again on the 12th when Callum arrived and for many brought an end to the season's fishing. There was a lot of water around even on the last day.
One of Callum's blessings was that it washed away an old weir on the Clywedog (upper Wye tributary) - one where we were contemplating building a rather complicated and tricky fish pass. That won't be needed now: fish passage has been fully restored without a shilling being spent. Every cloud has a silver lining!
The Wye had fallen just enough for Glanwye to land the last fish of the season - a 7lbs for owner Christopher Morley but BC (before Callum!) what action there was took place below Monmouth. All but a few of those came from Wyesham, who landed 31 for the month ....from a total of 61. The other 22 came from from the section Luggsmouth to Monmouth (9), 2 Glasbury to Luggsmouth; 4 from the upper Wye and the balance (15) from other beats below Monmouth.
The Wye above Llanwrthwl and tributaries continued until 26th October but there were no reports to WUF of any fish landed. However, it would have been a surprise if more than the odd one had been caught as the season's conditions were well short of ideal for upstream migration at this stage.
A mention should go to John Harris who on the 10th October caught "the biggest fish of his life" from the Usk, an impressive cock fish estimated at 30lb from the Newbridge Fishery.
Picking over the bones of 2018 is never going to be easy: were there any high points? The Wye season started with rain and high water. Before the end of March, it had snowed for the third time that winter and although a few fish were caught - and good ones too - there weren't many fishable days. There was still a fair degree of optimism, especially as most of those landed appeared to be large springers.
It was April that promised so much. Again fairly wet, there appeared to be a good spread of big Wye spring fish throughout the river, topped by a 30lbs fish from Aramstone. 71 was a fair result considering the number of fishable days.
May - my favourite month on the Wye - produced an even bigger fish of 37lbs from Upper Bigsweir and with 170 for the month, although below average, we weren't prepared for Flaming June. The sun came out, stayed out and catches went steadily down with the drop in flow leading to the almost unthinkable: a blank July. Thankfully, Elan was able to supply a steady flow throughout the drought. In July this amounted to 75% of the total flow at the confluence with the Wye.
August started to pick up (28)after a bit of rain and September (100) might have given way to a better October but the year finished quietly with a total of 526, bringing our five year average down to 1043 on the catches recorded to date. It was worse on our other rivers. A drought will always affect smaller rivers to a greater extent and although west Wales did get more rain Tywi and Teifi struggled as did the Usk in southeast Wales. The Dee with its regulated flows did very little better.
We can feel a bit happier about the rain that has fallen since the season finished. It is essential that the ground rehydrates and the reservoirs fill up early enough to overtop before the fish spawn. As I write this is looking possible. Old 'uns like me recall that between 1975 and the dreaded 1976, there wasn't enough rain to ensure everywhere recharged and so the second hot year ('76) was doubly damaging. We can relax a bit about that potential problem and all we can ask is that this year's fish find the best spots to spawn to keep up stocks for 2023.
All the best from WUF.
2018 continues to attract superlatives: worst, least, most forgettable and so on. Could September redeem the
situation? As always salmon fishing is controlled by flows which in turn bring us back to what the weather
did. September started with promises of rain and initially a number of scattered showers brought a few small
rises to the river until late in the month (19th) we had a proper spate:
the sort that takes away all the accumulated debris, trees, rubbish and anything left casually on the bank! It gave the river a much needed clean and fishers' expectations were finally raised.
Some 96 salmon were reported from the Wye, a few from the Usk and the Tywi landed a mixture of salmon and late sea trout. There were some common features from all three rivers: generally, the majority of fish came from downstream beats; fish were mainly 2 sea winter and tended to be coloured. There were not many grilse. Curiously, the most common report was that fish were not showing.
Not seeing fish is often a sign that they are not present and many of the fishless reports made this point. However, the one beat on the Wye which was doing well - Wyesham - also reported that fish were not showing there, even when they were landing five or six and even eight fish in a day.
So looking at catches in detail, let's start for a change with the Tywi:
At Abercothi, 24 salmon were landed in the month, bringing the total for the year to 62. Other beats were also reporting salmon, caught along with the occasional pods of late sea trout. It has been wetter in the Tywi than the Usk, which despite a regulation boost has been at a low level all summer.The few fish we have heard about have come from the lower beats and tideway. The big spate seems to have made little difference.
On the Wye, if it weren't for Wyesham (48) and Bigsweir (21) catches would have been almost non-existent with the remainder spread between the Builth to Glasbury section (15), the Nyth bagging 5 and Luggsmouth to Monmouth (9). All the Wye fish were landed on fly as it is mandatory. There were some unusual features: after the flood the river became increasingly clear - like a chalk stream almost - and one salmon angler reported catching six grayling on a salmon fly. By month's end the Wye total stood at 460 for the year, just squeezing past the two worst years of the century: 2002 and 2003.
Of the memorable catches, on the first day of the month Jack Jefferson caught his first Wye salmon and first on fly, an 8lb fish from Wyesham. On the 28th, Barrie Abbott caught a 15lb fish at the Nyth on his 82nd birthday! Meanwhile, on the 30th, Colin Leach also had his first fly-caught salmon.
The prospects for the remainder of the year don't look any different from September in that the dry, cloudless skies are set to continue. Obviously a spate would help, as would a drop in temperature and please, the odd cloud too. Thank you all for persisting with reports even when there is not much to say!
All the best from WUF.
The hope for August was that a massive downpour and big spate would breathe some life into our hot and low rivers. This never happened save for a few small rises starting on the 12 th but none of them did much more than shuffle the pack. What did help was the start of some colder evenings which started to bring the water temperatures down. There have been some fish deaths this summer though surprisingly, none were reported to NRW. The change to shorter days and some clouds meant that August was only average in respect of daylight and temperature as recorded by the photovoltaic units here at Llanstephan.
On the Wye, following the blank July, it was a relief to report some salmon were caught: 32 in all and no great surprise that most of them (23) came from the lowest reach of the river. Wyesham was the most successful with 12, Bigsweir 9, Glanwye and Rectory 3, Upper Bigsweir 2, with single landings from Rocks, Nyth and Gromain. The largest was 18lbs from the Rectory landed by Joaquin Arias, a guide over from Argentina.
The most notable catch of August came from Byford on the middle Wye on the 29th, where Simon Gabbatiss had his first salmon, a 29.5 inch fish (estimated 9.5lb) caught on a Cascade.
Perhaps our greatest surprise was that August 2018 was not by any means the worst in recent decades with 2003, 2005 and 2006 all recording fewer fish caught (please see here), nor will 2018 be the worst year as catches now exceed the very dismal 2002...
Other rivers: a few fish have been taken off the Tywi including fish of 10 and 5lbs from the Passportbeat at Llangadog to Wayne Bateman. That's the only report we have outside the Wye.
So with just six weeks of the season left on the main river, what are the prospects for the rest of the season? First we have to pay off the drought deficit in respect of flows and that means we need RAIN! The river still needs a good wash out - the last rise showed just how much weed, wood and rubbish there is still to go. The daily trawls through the weather websites and gauges show just how patchy rainfall can be, even the next door parish can be wet while yours is dry!
All the best from WUF.
This has been a terrible year so far and the month of July has not provided much in the way of hope or remission from what has been a very hot and worrying extension to June. We recorded just over 1" of rain at Llanstephan and not surprisingly one of the best July's for photovoltaic electricity generation, only bettered by 2013.
There were no reported catches of salmon at all: possibly the first July that I can recall since 1976. We are sorry to report that there were accounts of fish mortalities, especially downstream of Monmouth. Temperatures were reported to have exceed 20C andthe river given over to swimming for as many dogs as people.
The Elan dams sent down the agreed regulation flow which helped to cool and maintain wetted surface area and additional water was released from Usk reservoir too. The outcome without these boosts would be have been fatal for fish. Predators would have also done a lot more damage without the extra water.
Looking at other parts of the UK, there have been areas less fortunate than ourselves while parts of Scotland and the North West have received some rain - enough to get fishing again in the Aberdeenshire Dee for example. For us it's back to the daily, even twice daily trawl through the weather forecasts. I have identified a pattern. About a week ahead, rain is predicted but it never seems to come and gets pushed further back. This I now call the "Rain Mirage". If you added up all the predicted rainfall, we would be looking a really wet catchment!
So what's the future? It will now take some rain to re-wet the catchments, fill the ponds, gullies and underground springs and give the rivers a good wash out, though most of the algae and slime has already left the upper Wye on the 10" rise at the end of the month. Ideally (weathermen if you are reading this) a few gentle but long periods of drizzle followed by several periods of more persistent rain would do the most good. Then a big storm, but not the other way round......and very soon please!
With apologies for such a dismal report.
All the best from WUF.
June can be the best month on Usk and Wye and often heralds the start of the run on Wales' later running rivers. However, as we all know, the amount of rainfall is the key to success. June 2018 will be remembered for little or no rainfall in some areas and massive thunderstorms in others. The month started with a small rise from the rain at the end of May. This was followed by a series of thunderstorms in the midlands and south Wales but nothing to speak of in mid and north Wales. On Wye, the regulation flow which came on during May was temporarily halted as levels rose at Redbrook from these local storms which put Monnow and Trothy up and very coloured. The upper Wye had just one episode when the Ithon suffered a downpour, turning the river an impenetrable grey.
At the time, the upper river had been just fishable and there was heavy spawning activity from sea lamprey, chub and shad. NRW managed to limit the damage by using the water bank reserved for fisheries to keep levels up enough and push the plug of coloured water through more rapidly.
After that, rainfall played no further part in any of our rivers.
Sun + heat + high levels of phosphate = algae. The dreaded green took over the Wye from about the middle of the month while on the Tywi, filamentous algae filled the main channel. By way of comparison, Usk escaped the worst of this adding emphasis to the effects of different farming regimens: Tywi: dairy; Upper Wye: poultry.
Last month's report included reports of how the Photovoltaic system recorded the sunniest May of recent years. No surprise then to learn that in June 2018, an increase of over 20% was recorded over the previous highest June reading at Llanstephan and no rainfall whatsoever.
As to catches: we have no knowledge of any fish caught, other than in the Wye. The monthly total of 83 (largest 18lbs from Wyesham) comprised largely (62) of fish landed below Monmouth. Fourteen were landed in the reach Luggsmouth to Monmouth, Four Luggsmouth to Glasbury and three from the upper river.
Cue then for tales of 1976: those old enough to remember the terrible drought of that year will be quick to recall that the damage started in 1975 - a very wet spring followed by a very hot and dry summer which was not redeemed with a wet autumn. The winter was both warm and dry. Not all the reservoirs recharged. The dry spring of '76 quickly turned hot and the effect from the combination of massive weed growth, heat and light was to remove all the oxygen, resulting in a terrible fish kill.
The Government of the day appointed a minister of drought and it immediately started to rain again, continuing thought the autumn, winter and spring of '77. Apparently, "lessons were learnt". We can only hope they will be remembered too.
July: Please don't go fishing for salmon. If you did hook one, it would die. Unless and until there is a massive amount of rain: perhaps as much as three weeks of it and a drop in temperatures, stay in the deckchair! Finally, should we be saving water now or wait and see what autumn brings?
All the best from WUF.
May can be the best and one of the most productive months of the season on the Wye (often only bettered by June) so with a full tank of water and signs that spring was arriving, everything was set for some great days on the river.
The month started with yet another spate which cleared quite quickly. Thereafter, levels fell throughout the month until the 25th when a small natural rise coincided with the flow from the Elan being increased. This happens when levels drop to a certain height at Redbrook, near Monmouth. There was a similar pattern on the Usk, Tywi and Teifi though without the regulation boost. The month ended with near summer levels.
Whereas April was generally lacking in sunny days, as evidenced from Photovoltaic readings here at Llanstephan, this was not the case in May. PV generation was the highest so far recorded, indicating it was a month with lots of light and sunshine. I hardly need to remind readers that sunshine and good fishing are seldom great bedfellows but there are additional problems in any river that has over-the-limit levels of phosphates. The huge algal growths in Tywi have already hit the news here but there were signs that the Wye was building up to a full algal bloom too.
|Builth to Glasbury||21||3|
|Glasbury to Luggsmouth||17||11|
|Luggsmouth to Monmouth||56||37|
To get down to catches: On the Wye, 159 fish have been reported to WUF for May bringing the total so far in 2018 to 238. While the catch has included an increasing number of small springers as the month progressed, the bulk of the catch has included 3 sea winter fish of 14lbs+ topped by a monster of 37lbs from Upper Bigsweir caught by John Stanard on the 15th. There were 13 over 20lbs, four of which were 25lbs + caught by Kenny Powell at Red Lion on the 12th, Michael Clapham at Lower Ballingham on the 16th, Alan Davies at Coedithel on the 23rd and Terry Ward at Winforton on the 29th.
The steady flows offered great opportunities for fly fishing and many anglers took advantage. This included Dave Roberts, who at The Carrots on the 29th caught his first salmon on the fly as did David Jones at Rebrook on the 16th. There was also a good spread throughout the river as with April, in marked contrast to 2017.
A special mention should also go in this month's report to Maurice Hudson who caught his 2,400th salmon with a fish from Cadora Backs on the 27th May.
There has been a very good run of shad throughout the Wye and judging by the spawning activity at Boughrood bridge, good numbers of sea lamprey too.
Elsewhere, we heard that while flows held up, Usk enjoyed a better spring than in recent years with sizes nearer those of the Wye. This tailed off as flows dropped back but fish were still being landed lower down the river. Chainbridge and Llanover reported fish caught during the month. The Twyi has produced just one salmon that we know about but as mentioned earlier, significant algal problems have taken over. Catches from the Dee have been "very occasional" so far.
So what's in store for June? May finished with a series of thunderstorms. The midlands and east Wales had a few heavy bursts with some very dirty water in lower Wye tributaries such as Trothy. Regular visitors will no doubt be quick to point out that this is always the case there. This year there was a lot more of it and it is taking a long time to go! Coloured rivers warm up much more quickly and the Wye is already at 66 F.
What June needs is rain from the west and ideally a week of it to flush out the algae, silt, colour and temperature that was holding down catches. At the time of writing, this is not on the immediate radar so it is difficult to be too optimistic, unless this changes. A flood such as we saw last year could transform the season. There were signs from Wyesham that fresh fish were arriving daily but angling had been curtailed by storm water. With catches regularly hampered by conditions, it's not clear either how many fish are in the river.
In summary, May was a below average month with fish spread widely throughout the catchment and at times, some difficult fishing conditions
So please leave the car windows open and everything out on the lawns: this can sometimes bring the rain! Keep an eye on the forecasts and gauges before setting out in June.
WUF Trustee Charlie Newington Bridges friends successfully finished his Marathon des Saumon on Saturday with friends Gerry Stentiford and Julian Sarsby. Starting on Monday last week, they ran 150 miles from the top of the catchment to the estuary to raise funds for the river. Charlie lost nearly a stone in weight. Phew! Details here.
Also, potentially good news from the high seas for a change: it appears a deal has been made to reduce both Greenland exploitation and in the Faroes. Details here.
All the best from WUF.
Following a wet March, there was hope that spring would finally arrive and our increasingly frustrated fishers could finally wet a line. The weather had other plans. River levels for the first half of the month, aided by a huge spate at the start and a continuous boost from the Elan dams overtopping put fishing out along the entire river for an entire fortnight. Eventually, April's first fish came on the 14th from Whitney Court and there followed, albeit with the occasional day lost here and there, a semblance of spring fishing as we know it on the Wye and to some extent, the Usk.
Throughout the month, snow was visible on the Black Mountains and Beacons. Cloud and impending rain dominated the month. At Llanstephan, some 3.5" of rain were recorded and with the lowest ever April generation from the PVs, there were some dark days!
Now to what was caught: The feature was the typical size of the 3 sea winter fish. Some over 20lbs, one over 30lbs but a substantial number in the 15lbs - 20lbs size and all very fresh. The two fishable weeks accounted for 62 in total but the contrast with last year is best demonstrated by looking at where they were caught:
|Builth to Glasbury||17||1|
|Glasbury to Luggsmouth||17||16|
|Luggsmouth to Monmouth||26||53|
........No surprises given the extreme difference in flows between the two years. In 2017, no days in April were lost to spates. Notable beats (4+ salmon) this April include: Nyth and Tyrcelyn 4; Gromain 4; Whitney Court 6; Lower Carrots and Luggsmouth 4; Ingeston 7; Ross AC 4. There were 22 fish over 20lbs (35%) topped by Aramstone's 30lbs. Eight were over 25lbs. Fly accounted for an appreciable number of the total fish caught but the FC was the most successful lure, especially for Mark Cox who caught his first ever salmon with one on the last day of April - a 20lb fish from Lower Carrots and Luggsmouth.
The Usk, which is fly only in the spring accounted for one fish reported to WUF but we suspect more than this were landed. No reports as yet from the other Welsh rivers now open (Teifi, Tywi and Dee).
May is often the most exciting month of the year aided with the arrival of small springers and summer fish but it is guided by the weather and rainfall as to where they will caught.....and it's the weather this season that has been the governing factor. It doesn't take much at this time of year to get the river up again and as I write at the month's end more rain looks inevitable. Be guided by the gauges but May should be the time to go fishing!
Finally, to let you know that the NRWs byelaws have been delayed until next year and make our usual plea not to lift salmon out of the water for anything more than a few seconds. Please see here for more information on correct C&R techniques.
Although many days were lost in March last year, who would have thought that so many more would be washed out in March 2018! Nonetheless, there is a big difference between this and last year. Now we start with a completely full tank. All the ground sources, wetlands, lakes, ponds, ditches are full and there is still (3rd April) some snow lying about. This year the levels will fall much more slowly whereas last year they fell rapidly and spring quickly became a drought.
Looking at the Erwood hydrograph, the spate on 10th/11th was boosted when the dams started to overtop and they have continued to do so through to April. There were two significant snow falls, the first to coincide with the start of the month, a second on the 18th and a scattering on the hills right at the month end.
That nine fish have been caught given the limited opportunity this month is very creditable, though we know a lot of fishers have left a rising brown water without wetting a line. The first was a 21lbs for Stacy McCarthy from Ingeston on the second day of the season. It was her first ever fish! On the 20th the Usk produced a 16lbs fly caught fish for Simon Jones at Llanover. This was followed on the 25th by a second from Ingeston at 14lbs and a 19lb fish from Ross AC. On the 27th there were two fish from the Carrots: 18lbs for Dave Roberts and 8lbs for Tom Lane as well as a fish from Whitney Toll Bridge. On the 28th, a second fish came from Llanover and the 29th produced two at Whitney: 16lbs for Stuart Smith on fly and 18lbs for Martin Bowler spinning. The final fish came from Holme Lacy 4 and weighed 20lbs, caught by Paul Humphrey on a SHFC. For the Wye, that's four for Glasbury to Luggsmouth and 5 from Luggsmouth to Monmouth.
That relatively short list of catches gives the opportunity to talk about other activities. WUF has finally got the go ahead for the somewhat bizarrely named Delivering the Nutrient Management Project. Chiefly a fish access project, this will enable us to build a much improved fish pass at Ballsgate on the middle Lugg and improve downstream migration for salmon smolts at several weirs in the Lugg and Arrow catchment. We we have also launched the first digital Passport brochure and, weather permitting, continue with the 20 or so other projects currently underway.
Our umbrella body, Afonydd Cymru, has lodged a complaint to the European Commission about Welsh Government's failure to implement measures demanded by the Water Framework Directive (WFD). This applies to the lack of concern about the massive proliferation of poultry units in Powys and their effects on the water quality of the Wye as well as serious problems of slurry pollution in West Wales. Details are on the Afonydd Cymru Website. The WFD is already part of UK law and will remain so after Brexit. What will change is that there may not be anybody to complain to and Afonydd Cymru wish to highlight that problem.
So what does April have in store for us? A glance at the weather forecast suggests yet more rain. In 2000, another cold and wet spring, it finally stopped about the middle of the month. Who knows how the fish will have spread themselves out but my guess is that if they entered the Wye they will be mainly found Glasbury to Luggsmouth. There are some great high water beats here. Sometimes really high cold water can delay moving out of the estuary so there may be a flourish when it drops(yes it will!) The Usk will now be joined by the Teifi and Tywi and any fish in these rivers can be expected just about anywhere in the system.
Our advice therefore is to keep an eye on gauges, the weather forecasts and as soon as it falls to fishing height, make sure you are there.
All the best from WUF
Last year at this time I wrote to say how worrying it was that there had been little or no rain in December, January and early February. In 2017 the Elan dams didn't overtop until the 22nd of February and the Usk reservoir didn't fill at all.
By contrast this year, the Elan dams have been overtopping since November 21st and included some huge 'peaks' including that on 22nd January. The extra water will have filled every spring, pond, ditch or bog ensuring that levels will hold up for rather longer during the early part of the year and respond quickly to any more rain or snow.
By contrast, the 2017 spring levels dropped quite quickly from the last spate of March and by the middle of May, the upper Wye was down to summer level. So far this year, apart from a few cold snaps, it's been warm enough to get fish moving. That is, if they were able to get into the river in the high flows. One was seen here at Llanstephan in a low water spell in the middle of January so if you do have a chance on the opening day, 3rd March, I should take it. Tywi, Teifi and others will, of course, have to wait until April.
This season's 2 Sea Winter springers will have been spawned by the run of 2013, while the bigger 3SWs were from 2012, both years had an encouraging run. However, it seems that catching a grilse is destined to be a rare event if last season is anything to go by. What would be great for Wye, Usk and Dee is to see a return to a spring run.
With the river Wye rising again today (12th February), it will take a long spell of cold, dry weather to bring the lower beats into fishing order so it looks as though the likely places will be above Hereford. The Glasbury to Luggsmouth reach has a lot of "spring" water and coupled with the rain so far should be a promising place to start. The Wye above Glasbury is also a possibility. Usk and Dee come into good fishing order a lot more quickly so an early fish could be found just about anywhere in the middle of lower beats.
The new Passport will be available very shortly. This is our first venture into digital magazines and we would value your opinion in the survey section.
Wishing you a very successful season from all at WUF.
October continued in much the same vein as September with a series of mini spates, none large enough to put the river out for any length of time and, unlike spates in wetter years, never curtailing fishing in the lower river for more than a day or so. The Lugg and Monnow never moved. The extra days that could be fished in the upper Wye and tributaries were marked with a more substantial spate on the 22nd effectively ending the year while the majority of rivers in Wales, including the main Wye and Usk, finished on the 17th.
The Wye started quietly in October but as the spate at the end of September started to drop, catches increased with 18 reported on the 4th. Then another small spate dampened things for a day or so only to pick up again a day or so later. Once again we had spates curtailing fishing on the upper beats but continuing on the middle and lower beats only for them to be hit by the same spate a day or so later, when the top was fishing once again. Each subsequent spate seemed to affect fishing less but settled conditions for the last few days of the season produced some big (double figure) catches for Rhosferig, Glanwye, Nyth and Tyrcelyn. The fish were mainly 2 sea winter (2SWs) summer fish interspersed with bigger 3SWs that had made themselves scarce earlier in the year. There are so many places to hide in the Wye!
Clearly the upper Wye (124 from Builth to Glasbury; plus c40 above Builth) was the place to be in October but both Wyesham and Bigsweir made up the best part of the catch downstream of Monmouth. Yet it was as disappointing in the middle river during October as it has been for most of the season.
With fly only being the permitted method, it was amazing how so many fish were caught after hurricane Ophelia, ably assisted by some good gusts throughout the month, dumped most of the leaves into the river. So with a total that will probably be over 275 when all reports are in, October 2017 was one of the best since 1996 and only bettered by 2016. Some seven fish over 20lbs were landed with the larger two at 28lbs (Gromain) and 27lbs (Glanwye).
2017's monthly "Rolls of Honour" had been a little threadbare until October. On the 6th Simon Daws caught his first Wye salmon, an impressive 19.5lb fish from the Nyth & Tyrcelyn's Turn Pool. Two days later Paddy Davidson, fishing the same beat, had his first Wye salmon - 15lbs from the Boat Pool. On the 12th Robin Stewart registered his second hat-trick of the season from Redbrook (14, 12 and 7lbs) and James Tustin caught his first ever salmon - a 9lb fish from Little Run at Upper Bigsweir. Three days later 15 year old William Beharrell had a 4lb cock fish from Spreadeagle, his first ever.
Finally, Robert Thompson caught his first three salmon (14lb, 12lb and 10lb) over the last two days of the season at Rhosferig. Other rivers in Wales - Usk and Tywi for example, who rely more on grilse at the latter end of the season - found catches fizzled out as the end came. By contrast, the lower Wye was seeing a number of small, clean silver fish in October as well as there being coloured grilse in the catch returns.
2017 Season Review
Following on from an encouraging 2016, how was the 2017 season overall? The short answer was disappointing in some respects, better in others. The problem, as ever, can be traced back to rainfall and weather. We had a very dry autumn in 2016 that barely replenished groundwater and reservoir supplies: this especially applied to Lugg and Arrow. A wet autumn and winter is also crucial to spread spawners throughout the catchment, thereby increasing survival levels and reducing risk from a catastrophe in one section.
In 2017 the first significant rain came in February when the Elan dams finally filled, overtopped and at last spread out the newly placed gravel much needed in this river downstream. However, the Usk was less fortunate and the Usk reservoir had not filled at this point. March was also wet, dramatically reducing the number of fishing days on the Wye which is perhaps the most likely Welsh river to get a spring fish. From there on, the taps were turned off and a dry April, May and early June followed. Spring fishing was largely confined to the reaches below Hay (on the Wye) but included some whoppers but upstream and on other rivers, fishermen took up trout fishing, gardening, DIY or, heaven forbid, even golf!
Dry, hot springs bring additional troubles in the form of algal blooms and the now all too familiar pattern of brown/green opacity in the river column. During this period the addition of filamentous algae soon dominated Wye, Tywi and many other Welsh rivers. This dry spell was eventually broken by a modest spate in the second week of June. Fish headed upstream and the upper Wye in particular produced a day or two of double figure catches. After that, dry weather persisted and in most rivers salmon fishing ground to a halt. Luckily on the Wye, work on the dams resulted in an increased flow from Elan and fish 'filtered' their way upriver, possibly to escape the continuing algal bloom which eventually ran its course, though taking much longer and apparent further upstream than ever.
However, by the end of July there were a few spates to give some encouragement, followed by a moderately wet August, September and October. Unusually none of these were of any quantity or duration but the extra Elan water boosted them into some meaningful rises.
The graph to the right shows Wye catches by season, which despite the slow spring and summer was only a few fish short of the 5 year average catch. The total for the year now stands, with a few more beats to reply, at 1,154. Considering the modest season rainfall of 23", this was better than we had any reason to expect. The other cause for optimism is the Wye's electrofishing results: better values following the slightly disappointing results in 2016 (from the 2015 spawning).
Wye catches by month:
The Usk was unaffected by the spring algal bloom that blighted the Wye and, after a slow spring, catches in May and June were encouraging and above average. A lull followed in July and Aug with a marked reduction in grilse, before catches picked up in, September and October. The season was thought better than recent years with a provisional estimate of declared catch of around 780. There was added interest in the juvenile monitoring after the wipe out of fry in 2015/16. The very dry autumn of 2016, and suspected nefarious activities meant numbers in the tributaries were on the low side, but have been compensated by the increases in the main stem. One feature of note was the large size of the fry, with 75% over 100mm in September. Many of these are likely to smolt next spring (as S1's) and will partially fill the 'hole' created by abnormal spawning conditions of 2015/16.
So, it's just under four months before the season starts again and I would like to put in a straw box in the boiler house until the end of February! Thank you for all your reports and comments. Many beats will already be working to get those paths and huts ready again for 2018. Please keep an eye out for new beats and season rods in our e-news and any unusual activity on the rivers or pollution which you can report using the following numbers: 0800 80 70 60 if in England; 0300 065 3000 if in Wales or use the Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water Emergency line for sewage incidents: 0800 085 3968.
All the best from WUF.
No matter who you asked about how well the Wye fished, the answer in September would be that it was a bit of a struggle and this applied to all sections of the river, but not quite all of the time. There were some purple patches.
By the 8th, despite a bit of a rise, it was quickly back to 12" at Llanstephan. By the 13th, there had been three more little rises in the upper river but they were more a nuisance lower down as they shifted the weed enough to hinder fishing but not to give the river a good clean and provide it with the flush required. The river was finally in spate at Erwood on the 14th but lower tributaries such as Lugg and Monnow remained steadfast at slightly below summer level.
These upper river spates were rich in colour; brown and grey to start with but giving way to a dark peat colour accompanied by rather more foam than we have been used to seeing. True, we all wanted more water and less heat in the river and September certainly delivered on that.
But what about catches? They came from most of the usual places:
Above Builth: 6 were landed at the Rocks bringing the total in that section to 12.
Below Builth: the 62 landed mainly came from Chapel House and Llanstephan with 5 each, Llangoed and Rectory both with 7, Spreadeagle 12 and Nyth and Tyrcelyn 17.
Below Glasbury: just 8 were landed in this section.
Below Luggsmouth: 45 in total with the Golden Mile landing 6, Ingeston 5 and Goodrich 13.
Below Monmouth: Of the 67 landed, Wyesham accounted for 29, Bigsweir 19 and Upper Bigsweir 10.
This gave us a total of 194 Wye salmon for the month to date and a total for the year of 889. What will surprise many anglers and beat owners is that it was the best September since the collapse at the turn of the century. It certainly surprised us! The month started with high water temperatures (62 degrees and low water but finished with high water and temperatures down to 52 degrees. Correspondingly, catches at the start of the month were made with small flies on floating lines and by the end, tube flies and sinkers were given a go.
In contrast to recent years when the trees in this part of the world have treated September as an extension of summer, by the end of month the leaves had started to turn and drop. The Wye valley is a special place to be during this time but leaves make for a problem for fishers, especially when the autumnal winds blow!
There were some monsters caught this month, including 35lbs for Joe Cobley from Wyesham; 30lbs for Alfie Pope from the Nyth and 27lbs for Ollie Williams from Glanwye. There were some notable days too. On the 21st Nigel Smith had his best ever morning's salmon fishing with fish of 9lb, 12lb and 14lb on three different flies from the Golden Mile. On the same day Oliver Burch, fly fishing instructor and author of the trout and grayling monthly report, had four from Goodrich Court - 3 at 32" and one at 38".
The Twyi had a good September as it often does with Edwinsford Estate (new Fishing Passport beat) landing 10, including a monster freshly run cock fish of 48" on the 25th for owner James Philipps (taking them to 26 for the year); 24 for Abercothi (95 total) and 33 for Golden Grove (total 66). The Usk had a good month too if Swan Meadow (8) and Chainbridge (10) are anything to go by, including a fish of 34lbs on fly from the former, believed to be the biggest ever caught there. Swan Meadow also had others on or over the 20lb mark in September.
I was very cautious in predicting what September would bring and no less so in October. The last week of September saw another dirty flood to run into October and my instinct would have been to prefer steady and less peaty water for the remaining 17+ days (the season extends to the 25th above Llanwrthwl Bridge and tributaries). As always, it's down to the weather and the rain prayer mat is already packed away for the rest of the season!
A plea to handle the fish carefully, whatever time of year it is. Coloured fish are relatively tough and water oxygen levels are higher at this time of year meaning they recover more quickly. But salmon should only ever be taken out of the water momentarily if a photo is required and, ideally, not lifted at all.
A final reminder of the Farlows big fish competition. If you catch or have caught a big fish on fly, please enter it here.
Good luck in October.
Looking back over a decade of Augusts on the Wye, there has been a huge variation between the best and the worst and, as you would expect, it's the amount rainfall that has made the difference between the most successful and the least. Take, for example, 2006 and 2007: 13 and 199 fish respectively; 2011 and 2012: 73 and 222; 2016 and 2015: 89 and 142. These paired years had similar runs but what a difference a flood or two (or four in 2012!) makes to the number caught. Nor is it essential that a big summer flood comes in August itself to benefit the month. In 2007, the massive Friday 13th July downpour that did for Tewkesbury took some time to go down and only a small amount to keep the river topped up. It may therefore be something of a surprise, given the modest rainfall, that August 2017 was above the 5 year average of 117, with 128 fish reported.
However, August 2017 differs from previous years in that the spread of catches is not of a pattern normally found either in dry or wet years: most of the fish (75) came from the reach below Monmouth - no surprises there - but the next most successful reach was the upper Wye above Glasbury (32) and if you add the rest of the fishing above Hereford, it totals 43.
A look at the Erwood hydrograph shows how the rain fell. How great would it have been to have had had one decent flood instead of a series of small, dirty rises? The extra water from Elan finished on the 3rd and reverted to the normal regulation flow which thereafter continued throughout the month.
The 'Big Hitters' of the month include Bigsweir 30, Wyesham 25, Rectory 16 and Upper Bigsweir 14. In other words, about 70% of the catch came from just four beats. The next contenders were Nyth and Tyrcelyn with just 5 and Llangoed and Lower Llanstephan with four! How curious is that? The four are all regularly fished and also happen to be the most productive four of the year but many other beats get fished regularly too. I expect it will be noted that the four are relatively free from the effects of canoeing in what essentially was a low water month. Do the canoes drive away the fishers or the fish? All just speculation of course...
There were some interesting days: on the 5th, Wyesham landed six fish on the back of the first rise. On the 31st, they landed an absolutely fresh silver grilse. One or two of these have popped up during the month but the majority are starting to colour-up. The biggest was a 28lbs fish for Robert Wheatcroft from the Bridge Pool, Rectory. A high percentage were taken on fly. Full details as ever here.
In this month's roll of honour a mention must go to Michael Paton, who after ten casts with a fly at Wyesham on Sunday 27th caught his first salmon (4lbs). It doesn't happen like that for most of us!
Other rivers: The Tywi has had a good August with over 40 taken at Abercothi and a 13 from Golden Grove. A fair sprinkling of grilse have been present in these catches. However, they were on the prayer mats for more rain at the month's end. Usk: Chainbridge added 6 more fish in the month but the rest remain a secret although they had opportunities...... There are concerns here about the poor grilse run, again.
So on to September and all eyes will be on the weather map again. There are promises of rain ahead and already we are seeing a drop in daytime temperatures. Again as in most of the reports this year, a big spate would transform all the rivers. No firm predictions from us yet and no doubt the forecasters too, but what a great time of year to get out there! Please remember that the Wye is fly only until the end of the season. Also, from the 16th of September, the Usk is fly and spin only.
Finally, may we remind you of the Farlows big fish competition? If you catch or have caught a big fish on fly, please enter it here.
If you've been following our monthly reports you will have detected a familiar thread: lack of rain. Depending on whether you live in mid Wales or not, this complaint may be read with a degree of incredulity, for very little fell here! July is definitely a month of feast or famine for salmon fishers whatever river they are on. A wet July moves fish around, brings more in and puts the fishing in order for catching. Wet Julys are generally cooler. By contrast, a more typical July month is hot, dry and opportunities for fishing much reduced.
The first 10 or 11 days of July were definitely the latter sort, as can be seen in the attached hydrograph from Erwood. Thereafter there was a small spate at regular intervals with two slightly larger ones on 21st and 29th neither of which significantly disturbed the Llanstephan gauge. Nothing too unusual about that but each of the spates came from well over an inch of rain which normally puts 4 - 5 feet on the river. This, coupled with a significant discharge from Elan dams, begs the question as to where our rainwater went and how lucky we are to have had this extra dam water during such a hot summer.
As ever, the Wye provides the more detailed information on catches and as expected they were very slow to begin with but improved following rises towards the end of the month: the last week producing the bulk of the 73 fish reported. Unusually, the upper Wye produced more than its normal share in the low water (27), while below Monmouth, 42 were recorded. Just 4 came from the Hereford to Monmouth section and none between Glasbury and Luggsmouth (Hereford). Fish were moving upstream throughout the month but going straight to the upper Wye
With just 552 fish recorded on the Wye so far, 2017 has been a disappointment but given the prevailing conditions, it could have been a lot worse and there is an inevitability about a hot and dry year every so often.
The largest July fish was landed by George Ottewell at Gromain: an estimated 28lbs. George is relatively new to fly fishing but has shown the benefit of practice making perfect with this, his first fish on fly!
Not much in the way of facts and figures from the other rivers but a consensus that despite the difficult conditions, Usk has had a reasonable run of fish. So, arriving back from Iceland in a deluge as well as leaving a week earlier in a deluge, have we finally filled some of the ponds, wetlands ditches and fields that would give us a spate if and when it finally rains in August? The forecasts suggest more rain is due and this will be key to the success of the rest of the season. All the rivers could do with a good clean out and by that I mean 4-5 ft on the Wye and the equivalent elsewhere. That could go some way to rescuing the year.
Here's hoping (again)!
June should be a significant month for catches on the Wye and Usk and, for other rivers in Wales with later running fish, it is often the start. So could June 2017 go some way to putting right the problems of May?
Last month ended with an algal bloom in the Tywi and Wye and no doubt elsewhere. The general cry for "more rain" echoed from the country's fishermen and no doubt, the water industry too. The drought continued into June, the algal blooms got more intense and it seemed as though we were looking at a rerun of the dreaded 1976. I appreciate that most readers will need to be well into their 50s to remember just how hot '76 was and the damage that the combination of heat and low rainfall did to the river (a huge fish kill was recorded in June that year).
Luckily, it started raining on the 5th and continued for several days - not massive amounts but on the Wye it was in combination with the regulation dam release. This, possibly along with conditions in estuaries and lower rivers, encouraged fish to move upriver. By the 11th, just 5 June fish had been recorded on the Wye; by the 18th, a week later, the total had risen to 105.
The Wye enjoyed the lion's share but Usk too had some good days, we understand. Monday 12th was a day to remember for the brothers Kerwin, Andrew and Phil. Fishing the previous day, they blanked in the high water but it had been dropping and clearing. The next day they landed 7 up to 16lbs from the Rock Pool at the Rectory. Another was caught in the Gravel Catch, giving a total of eight but the last two fish they hooked both fell off. The other two GLLR beats landed three giving a total for the day of eleven.
The next day a further eight were recorded and four the day after: in all, 26 for the week.
By the middle of that week the heat was back on full blast and the river dropped steadily. The catches spread lower down the river as it dropped as might be expected but the algal bloom struck again reducing opportunities in the normally favoured lower beats. On the 20th, the dams increased the amount of water they released (please see graph) by about double and although this dropped back after a few days the extra water resumed on the 23rd when, luckily, it coincided with a small natural spate.
Fish continued to push into the upper river with many beats catching surprisingly fresh fish in what was by then the lower end of their optimal fishing heights. The forecast predicted more rain before the end of the month. However, we waited......but it never came, at least not where it was needed. North and South Wales experienced a good downpour but mid Wales remained steadfastly dry! For a very short while, conditions improved below Monmouth as the algae cleared and Upper Bigsweir landed 7 only to find the local rain had swept a large amount of sediment into the river and bringing sport to an abrupt end for the month.
For the first time this season the majority of fish caught in a month came from the upper river, as shown below:
|Wye above Builth||5|
|Builth to Glasbury||73|
|Glasbury to Luggsmouth||23|
|Luggsmouth to Monmouth||22|
|Monmouth to sea||59|
Beat catches of note in June included Nyth and Tyrcelyn 14, Llangoed and Lower Llanstephan 9, Rectory 21, Wyesham 11, Upper Bigsweir 16 and Bigsweir 25.
Whitney Court produced both the largest fish and smallest fish of the month: 20lb to Brian Prestbury on the 13th and 2lb to Julian Lane on the 30th. A special mention should go to Paul Humphreys who caught his first ever salmon (10lb fresh fish) from Holme Lacy 4 on the 14th, his 71st birthday. Congratulations too to Matthew Day who caught his first Wye salmon on the 25th from Gromain (8lb) and followed it up with a 12lb hen fish on the 29th from the Rectory.
Other rivers: Tywi has landed a few fish and Usk too but without any reports it's difficult to add more than that. Visitors find the information on the Wye useful, as are the trout fishing reports from the Usk. This ensures spaces are filled and with it, more eyes and ears on the ground to report back. The prospects for July are that it's a sort of 'groundhog month', where we again find ourselves as at the end of May: not much in prospect as I write but it could all change with another spate. All the best from WUF.
See our "Salmon Catches Blog" for up-to-date news on fish caught.
All the best from WUF.
It wasn't supposed to happen as it did this May. The rain simply switched off for most of the month and following a dry spring and a particularly dry April, I suspected there would be problems, particularly if temperatures rose. We did have a small spate which peaked on the 18th at Erwood but that was all the rain of note. On the 10th the levels at Redbrook were low enough to trigger additional water from Elan which brought the levels up a few inches at Erwood a day or so later. The spate however pushed levels up just enough to switch it off again on the 19th but it dropped back quite rapidly and the dam release was once again switched on again on the 26th. I should add that the need for dam releases in May is rare.
The Usk was simply too low for most of the month and the Tywi was already in the grip of a severe eutrophication problem. Elsewhere in Wales, reports of fish kills and pollution appeared in the local news.
One of the best measures of sunshine is how much is generated by photovoltaic cells. Ours at Llanstephan generated 435 KWh which is about equal to the five year average, so it wasn't unduly hot or sunny, yet by the 16th there were signs of greening in the lower Wye and by the end of the month there was a massive algal bloom which brought salmon fishing to a complete standstill.
Quite apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, how was the theatre? Well, catches were steady if not exceptional at the beginning of the month with the Wye below Hereford the place to be but as levels fell away, the emphasis shifted towards the beats below Monmouth. The mid month 'spate' - just 2'5" at Llanstephan - did shift a few fish upstream with Brian Skinner landing a 12lbs fish from the Ferry at Gromain and losing one over the falls from the upper Heirag. Two followed from the Rectory and a couple from the Red Lion for Tim Hughes.
From then onwards, below Monmouth was the place to be with the bulk of fish taken from Coedithel, the tidal beat, Bigsweir, Upper Bigsweir Redbrook and Wyesham....until the algal bloom brought fishing to a sudden and untimely end. Catches by reach:
|Glasbury to Luggsmouth||10|
|Luggsmouth to Monmouth||38|
|Total||Year to date||295|
There were a few big fish: Aramstone had three over 20lbs the largest at 26lbs out of a total of 8 over 20lbs. At the other end of the scale, a 4lbs grilse was landed on 29th By Andrew Morton from the Red Lion water.
The 'first ever' salmon that we heard about included a 10lb fish for David Pugh on a single hook Flying C from Wyesham on the 6th May and on 23rd, a 12lb fresh fish to Julian Lane at Aramstone, caught one on an Usk Grub. Well done to the both of you!
So, overall for the Wye, despite really difficult conditions there was some sport for the lower river and there seemed to be a reasonable head of fish. A few fish were recorded from the Usk which was also in desperate need of water.
While algal blooms are not unknown this years was quite severe yet conditions were less predisposing compared to other years. It was evident as far upstream as Llanstephan, surely an indication of problems coming downstream from Wales. Elevated phosphate levels are the cause. There are limits imposed by the Habitats and Water Framework Directives. There are no deterioration clauses in both. Can it be coincident with the 100 or so poultry units recently established?
As you would expect, June needs some very serious rain to wash all this out. As I write the forecasts are suggesting more rain but all too often this peters out. Here's hoping!
All the best from WUF.
March ended rather as it started with a double rise in the rivers and with what seemed like typical spring weather. Little did we know what April had in store for us weatherwise! It wasn't until the 5th that the first fish of the month was reported - a fly caught 20lbs for Ian Thorpe from the Golden Mile and a second from the Red Lion water at 15lbs.
I have often wondered if salmon can predict what's coming next in the way of weather and flows. The feature of the next three weeks of April catches was the paucity of fish in the upper river. In fact, nothing was taken from the upper river when the water was at the ideal height at the beginning of the month and just a solitary fish came from this section (Lower Glanwye) during the remainder of the month. Safe to say that salmon were not surging upstream!
As the month progressed and water levels dropped, catches were made ever further downstream. While the levels dropped, so did temperatures with some severe frosts during the third week, possibly adding to the reluctance to progress too far upriver but at the same time doing some serious damage to Japanese Knotweed. Apart from a sprinkling on the 15th there was no measurable rainfall, taking the year's total to date to a worrying 9 1/2". Water levels at Redbrook held up sufficiently to defer a release from Elan.
While catches fell well short of last year's 171 for April, the total of 91 looked very unlikely until the last ten days which were boosted by the arrival of the first shoals of small springers, many with sea lice, interspersed with a few 3 sea winter specimens.
So, the facts: 1 for the reach above Glasbury; 13 for Glasbury to Luggsmouth; 52 Luggsmouth to Monmouth; 25 downstream Monmouth. The largest two fish were both 28lbs from Ingeston and Whitney, plus 5 others over 25lbs and 16 in total over 20lbs. Wyesham was the top scorer with 16, Ingeston 12, Wyebank and Courtfield 7, Bigsweir 6, Whitney 5 and Goodrich and Lower Carrots both with 4. A full account of Wye catches can be seen here, pages 2 - 4.
This month's roll of honour is brief! There's just one nominee, for a fish that was actually caught in March but reported late. Wayne Kuibida's 19lb 13oz salmon was his first ever, caught on a Flying C from the Hospital Stream in the centre of Hereford.
April witnessed the first shoal of smolts, on their way downstream at Wyesham. Going the other way, early shad and sea lamprey were seen, the latter mainly by otter which enjoy eating this Habitats Directive protected species.
We have heard of just a handful of fish landed from the Usk, which suffered more from the effects of low water. Nor have we had any reports from other rivers in Wales where the same lack of rain has dominated the season so far. 2017 should see 2 sea winter returnees from 2012 which in turn came from the 2007 migration. How coincidental is it that both these years had very low water in April?
Finally, our usual plea for careful handling of fish: the aim is shorten the time out of water or better still, unhook while still in the river and only use single hook Flying Cs. For May we would like some rain, then some more and even a bit more! Looking at forecasts has become a ritual in this household!
The problem with March was that it rained too often to allow more than a few days fishing. On the Wye, the season opened on the 3rd with high, coloured and unfishable water and it wasn't until the 12th that the first salmon was landed. Not surprisingly, the fish was taken well upriver, Richard Wothers being the lucky angler. The fly-caught fish was 41", weighed an estimated 26lbs and was taken from Adams catch, Spreadeagle. Over the next week a further eight fish were landed before yet another flood brought fishing to a temporary close.
Other catches included: an estimated 28lbs for Steve Dawes from Whitney on a Flying C; a 45" fish for 88 year old Ernest Coleman from Wyeside, Hay; 12lbs for Gordon Nutall at Ingeston; an estimated 35lbs from the Cow Pond at Winforton to Terry Ward on a cascade sink tip combo, something of a feat from one of the deepest pools on the Wye; 20lbs for Monty Bishop on Devon from Holme Lacy 4; 17lbs from the Nyth on fly and a second Ingeston fish of 20lbs for Duncan Read on fly.
Then came yet more rain which quickly put the rivers up. Meanwhile on the Usk, which comes into good fishing order much more quickly, the first fish came on the 24th from Llanover, a fly caught 13lbs fish for Simon Jones. By the 25th, parts of the Wye were just becoming fishable and Steve Dawes added a second fish at 32lbs on a spinner from Whitney Court, beat 1. There were no further reports from the Usk but fish trickled in on the Wye taking the month end total to 21. Full details, as always, can be found here.
What was encouraging was the size with more than half over 20lbs and three over 30lbs. Many were surprised to see that some of these fish were already colouring up and even getting a small kype. Some wondered if they were in fact kelts but when the arrival of these larger fish was a much more common event in the '60s and '70s they turned up as early as late December and early January so by March some changes in their condition would be expected. Hutton even recorded, by scale reading, that a silver springer was once caught in October.
So mixed messages from the month. The good news was that on the few days the river fished below Monmouth anglers were seeing fish and those that they caught were, in some cases, covered with long tailed sea lice. Although the average size and the number taken on fly was encouraging, the March catch itself was nonetheless a bit of a disappointment, even though many days were lost. We shall all be hoping that April brings some good news as, like March, it started with high water.
Finally, at the start of every season we ask all anglers to remember and follow good salmon catch and release practices, which can be found here.
If I had written this report a couple of weeks ago, I would expressing real concerns about how dry it had been for most of the winter and how worried we should be that some of our reservoirs were not yet full. Fast forward to the end of February and I find myself moaning in concert with everyone else how wet it has been! The Elan dams finally filled and overtopped on the 22nd February. However, we are not sure whether all the Usk reservoirs are full yet. Most of the rain came from north of the top of the Usk catchment, Aberystwyth as usual receiving more than its fair share.
So what's in store for 2017? The good news is that the bulk of fish expected to return this year will be from the adult run of 2012, a good year for the Wye and an ok one for the Usk. Those are the fish that spent two winters at sea and two in the river (2SWs). The Wye should be expecting some larger 3 sea winter fish (14 - 22lbs) which tend to arrive earliest. These will have come from the 2011 run which we already know from last year, produced a healthy run of 2SWs. While everyone else lamented a lack of grilse the Wye, which doesn't usually have many, produced quite a few and these will have come from the adult run in 2013.
If all that holds good then the Wye should look forward to the coming season with some optimism and you will already be thinking this is a very big hole you are digging for you to fall in later! Usk and elsewhere in Wales should be no worse than last year, so a measure of concern all round and extra care needed to ensure every fish goes back safely.
The other wild card is the weather: dry years don't help; a regular flood now and again offers everyone a chance; a wet year favours the upper river on the Wye and is a bonus for smaller rivers.
Farlows of Pall Mall, the parent company of Sportfish of Winforton have commissioned a trophy for the largest fly caught fish in England and Wales. The winner of the trophy will get a beautifully engraved bottle of sloe gin, which is quite the largest I have ever seen, presented by Foxdenton Estates! Conditions of entry are here and similar to the Malloch Trophy north of the border. It may be early to speculate for this year but a Wye angler would probably have won in 2016!
So there it is, the start of another season: how excited are we in WUF? Here's hoping that the floods abate for someone to catch the first fish soon (but please don't go dry on us for too long!)
All the best from WUF.
Headlines: A productive last month...... Again, generally low flows but cooler.... Fish spread across all catchments....Still waiting for rain!
The rain at the end of September shuffled fish around again. Another small spate arrived on the 1st October itself, raising the rivers a little but that was it, until the last day (17th) which again produced a small rise before dropping quickly back to low levels. Cooler nights brought a much needed drop in water and daytime air temperatures which was much needed to finish the season on a high. The Wye in particular became uncharacteristically clear - in fact very clear although the dark stain of the riverbed prevented too much inward observation while giving ample opportunity for those below to see out!
October 2016 was essentially a dry month with fish well spread out in all the rivers. Although the October catch is often a reflection of the rivers' total run, at the end of September, I was sceptical that even 100 fish would be caught on the Wye in the remaining 17 days. How wrong I was! Above Llanwrthwl Bridge, the season goes on for an additional nine days. This arose because historically, the whole river finished on the 25th October but as the river became more of an early running spring catch, the end of the season was changed initially to 30th September and in 1981 extended again, this time to the 17th October: more on this ahead.
Above Llanwrthwl and the tributaries, just three fish were reported: two from Dolgau and one above the Elan junction. So where did the other 279 come from? Only a further 10 came in the section downstream to Builth.
The majority (110) were landed, as might be expected, in the Builth to Glasbury section. Of these, the Nyth accounted for 30, Glanwye 10, Spreadeagle 18 and Gromain/ Llanstephan/ Rectory 21.
In the section below (Glasbury to Luggsmouth) Whitney Court was the leader with 13. Between Luggsmouth and Monmouth, catches of 3 and 9 were enjoyed at Sheepwash and Golden Mile, 12 at Ingeston, Ross Anglers 10 and Goodrich 11. Below Monmouth Wyesham continued well with 27, Upper Bigsweir 10 and Bigsweir 20.
All Wye fish were taken on the fly and in the main, safely returned. Generally, they were coloured with the very occasional one still showing a bit of silver. There appeared to be rather more grilse than the Wye normally hosts. Some of these were quite small, though not the emaciated specimens that are sometimes seen. Elsewhere, the Usk continued to catch fish but the main complaint was lack of water. Usk doesn't get the benefit of the wetter west of Wales as does Wye and Tywi, though even here (Tywi) they were short changed with rainfall at the end.
Thus finished the 2016 salmon season. Wye fishers experienced one of the best for a couple of decades. Usk catches were good too, despite poor (low) water conditions. By way of evidence, in both rivers catches at the very top were not as good as expected, migration being limited by low flows. Meanwhile, catches were fairly well spread out downstream.
The 2016 Salmon Season
The Wye enjoyed a continued resurgence of early running Spring Fish. March followed one of the wettest and warmest winters of all time and any hint of rain put the river up, reducing fishable days and confining fishing to beats above Hereford at times. Catches were a modest 46, not too bad for the number of fishable days. The rain stopped and a productive April followed. Three sea winter fish - weights over 14lbs - comprised over 80% of the catch and two fish estimated at 40lbs were landed in the monthly total of 170. The rain then all but stopped and May fished well with 333 landed, mainly below Monmouth. It seemed we were in for a dry summer.
However, June managed enough rainfall to start the movement of fish upriver and this continued through July. Both months produced well above average catches of 268 and 278 respectively. Summer finally arrived in August and lingered on through September. There were a few small 'lifts' but no proper spate in these months: catches reflected this at 140 and 139. (The October report precedes this). So a total of 1,665 is the total with just one or two beats still to report. All the facts and figures can be seen here.
No year is ever without controversy and one topic invariably arises in the autumn, particularly as catches continue to rise. When it was possible to kill and take home a fish, it was considered very bad form to keep coloured or unseasonable fish. They were almost inedible compared to the bright silver specimens of spring and summer. So the silver fish were lauded and the coloured ones often despised. Now that 100% catch and release is here on the Wye and maybe coming elsewhere, a different understanding must surely apply: Fresh silver fish have significantly lower survival rates following capture, especially if high water temperatures prevail, while coloured fish have almost 100% survival given reasonable handling.
WUF's view is that it is safe to fish for coloured and colouring fish during the legal season though we continue to have concerns for the safe release of summer fresh fish. The Wye's radio tracking programme showed this to be the case and in the days of catch up for hatcheries which took place after the season end, there was real proof that coloured fish survived being caught....whatever may happen next! So please, don't allow yourself to feel guilty about late season salmon fishing. If someone tries to persuade you otherwise, the evidence is on your side.
It was a season where a good numbers of beginners and newcomers to the Wye, caught their first, second, third and even more fish! Fly fishing became more the norm and accounted for the majority of fish on most beats. Experienced fishers were able to experiment with different patterns and styles of fly fishing.....you need more fish to test ideas and that was certainly the case in 2016.
With a disappointing year in Scotland it will be interesting to see how popular the Wye becomes next year. Driving up and down the M6 may also prove to be a deciding factor!
Roll on 3rd March!
Headlines: Pattern of small, dirty spates continue..... Steady but unspectacular catches...... unseasonably warm September....... 1,200th fish.... fly only until end of season (as usual)
The first spate came on 3rd September followed shortly by a second 3' flood on the 5th giving a rather peaty colour with quite a lot of foam, which gradually dissipated over the next few days. There was another rise in the last week of the month and one on the last day. Early September catches from the lower beats shifted with the rise in water to the upper river, but not before Oliver Burch had landed the 1,200th fish reported to WUF on the 2nd. The 26" grilse was taken from on a #10 Bann shrimp from Goodrich Court.
The river had settled by the 8th and some of the peaty stain washed out. During the second week, some 13 fish were reported, the majority of which came from the upper Wye but not exclusively. One of the features of the year is that catches have been made up and down the river with water heights and flows just tilting the balance in favour of one end or the other. This may seem unusual to long term Wye fishers who will have experienced a very different pattern of rainfall with large spates rendering the lower and middle river unfishable for long periods to the benefit of those above. Meanwhile, upper river fishers will remember much longer periods of inactivity during which the lower river enjoyed success! Rainfall (amount and distribution) and temperature are the key and in September this year (and much of 2016) we may be looking at a very different scenario in the longer term and perhaps not exactly what the climate predictions suggested.
Earlier newsletters have highlighted disappointed electrofishing results across Wales and Southwest England. Fortunately the Wye seems to have evaded the worst of this and sites well up river have recorded reasonable levels of fry while parr seem to have filled the main river downstream of Builth. Was the winter of 15/16 a sort of 'reverse 1976' with high temperatures and flows? In some rivers it may never have got cold enough for fish to spawn.
To get back to September, catches continued at a lowish level, ultimately giving a total monthly bag of 139. The spread across the reaches was;
|Builth > Glasbury||38|
|Glasbury > Luggsmouth||13|
|Luggsmouth > Monmouth||31|
|Downstream of Monmouth||53|
On the face of it, fishing was better in the lower half of the river, especially below Monmouth as would be expected from the low river flows and rainfall. Notable beat catches include:
Glanwye 6; Nyth and Tyrcelyn 8; Rectory 9; Spreadeagle 9; Whitney Court 6; Ingeston 6; Ross AA 7; Goodrich Court 8; Wyesham 16; Upper Bigsweir 12; Bigsweir 21. The largest was 22lbs from Wyesham and the following are included in September's roll of honour.....
On 16 September, Neil Cleghorn had his first salmon, a 9.5lb fish to on a Munro Killer. On 29th 12lb Constantin von der Heyden from South Africa caught his first Wye salmon from Gromain and Upper Llanstephan within 5 minutes of starting! Finally, on 30 September, Jordan Henderson caught his first Wye salmon, a 10lb hen fish also on Gromain and Lower Llanstephan.
With rainfall on the 30th threatening to raise levels for the 1st of October what of the last month of the salmon season? Ideally, we would like to see a huge spate and a drop in temperature, even if we miss a few days as a result. Our recommendation is to prepare in case of some high water and also if October turns out to be a simply cooler version of September. Sometimes the river clears with the cooling so bring tubes and the usual patterns in medium and small sizes. Where? Well the general direction of travel will be upstream so the upper Wye will be a key place to go but if levels drop back then the usual suspects such as Whitney, Golden Mile, Ross, Goodrich and the beats below Monmouth if dry.
As always, please handle fish carefully....no lifting out at all, please and sensible choices of hook sizes will ensure these late fish get to spawn successfully this year.
Headlines: A rather hot and sticky month....a spate on 22nd....extra release from Elan dams............more grilse appearing in catches......better than average numbers caught
Without a shedload of rain, August was always going to be a tricky month. The lower beats especially needed a good flush out. Hence we chose to give a modest prediction at the end of July, so what happened for salmon fishers in August?
The 1st started well with reports from Wyesham (3), Cadora Backs (2) and Ingeston (2) but hopes of successes in July quickly petered out in the hot and humid weather. It wasn't sunny all the time so we wondered how this August compared to the last few. Looking at Photovoltaic (PV) generation at Llanstephan, August threw up a sharp contrast with last year 370 units compared to 289 but was almost identical to 2013 and 2014. 2012, a very wet year was just 266 so August may be considered at least in sunny east Wales as having average hours of sunshine. Just over 2:5" of rain were recorded at Llanstephan during the month.
No surprise then that catches tailed off with just another 10 reported in the first week giving a total of 17, although there were some fish reported that week later. The second week recorded the fewest at 4 and this included a 2lbs grilse plus two sea trout of 3lbs. Mornings accounted for more fish than afternoons and evenings.
On the 16th, extra water was released from Elan so that changes and repairs could be carried out to the reservoir and this extra flow continued almost to the end of the month, before dropping slightly but still at an elevated level. Another 11 fish were reported that week but on early on the 22nd, a small spate - 3' on the Llanstephan gauge - set fish on the move and on the take. Over 50 fish were reported the next week with the last few days in the tail of the rise adding about another 12.
To everyone's delight, (well nearly everyone!) what looked to be a quiet month turned into one of the better Augusts: to date 138 in all were reported to WUF, pushing us nearer to a grand total of over 1,200 for the year so far.
Breaking down the catches by section:
|River Section||August||Total to the end Aug|
|Builth > Glasbury||48||232|
|Glasbury > Luggsmouth||9||119|
|Luggsmouth > Monmouth||19||315|
Successful beats (working downstream) this month include:
Above Builth: Llysdinam 8; Rhosferig 4.
Builth to Glasbury: Glanwye 10; Gromain and Upper Llanstephan 6; Llangoed and Lower Llanstephan 4; Rectory 6; Spreadeagle 12.
Glasbury to Luggsmouth: Caemawr 3; Whitney 2.
Luggsmouth to Monmouth: Ingeston 5; Ross AC 3; Goodrich Court 5.
Monmouth downstream: Wyesham 17; Cadora Backs 3; Upper Bigsweir 7; Bigsweir 24.
No first fish were reported in August but there were one or catches that deserve a mention. On the 13th Bill Baxter landed an 8lb salmon while he was trout fishing. The fish took his GRHE nymph and put up a terrific battle on his lighter gear. On the 26th Tom Tricks, aged 8, ably landed an 11lb fish at the Nyth - well done Tom! Finally, Wyesham's 200th fish of the season was caught on the 28th by Gordon Richards.
So what about September? As I write on the 1st, rain is promised and the forecast suggests enough to at least refresh the river but following this there appears to be another settled spell. So let's come off the fence and say if we do get a lift of water (by that I mean 3' on the gauge at Llanstephan), then there will be good fishing for the upper Wye, all Usk and Tywi followed by a reversion to "picking away" in the lower reaches. A second rise would be bliss but it's hard to see that far ahead, whatever the weather websites suggest.
It's fly only from September 1st on the Wye and fly and spinning only from 15th on the Usk and we of course ask you to return every fish at this time of year.
Headlines: Rain, but no large spates - fish pressing on upstream - summer catches already above average with another month to go - a great month for those fishing the fly - even better month than June
In our June report, we finished by saying we can't wait to report on July which seemed to be full of promise. So what happened after an encouraging but, at times, difficult June?
July can be a tricky month if we get "holiday makers'" weather. Ten years ago, the total July catch amounted to just 6 fish. However, we felt that conditions were good at the end of June with the ground already saturated and more rain to come. We were not disappointed!
With a 5' spate on 29th June, catches paused for a day on the 30th but omens were good when on the 1st Nick James and Robert Hicks took a fish each at Gromain. Both were on fly and in water that was both "too high and too coloured", confounding certain "expert" advice. Nine fish were landed from Ty Newydd, Gromain, Llangoed and Rectory the next day, again all on fly. The spate fell away quickly enough to allow fishing at Ingeston and as far downstream as Wyesham and upper Bigsweir during the week.
More rain brought the river up again in the second week and flows were augmented and steadied when the Elan dams started to overtop on the 10th . Again catches were well spread throughout the river and this was, no doubt, the reason for the month's success. The third week also enjoyed ideal and damp conditions as did the fourth week, but less so.
July's hall of fame included a 28lbs from Glanwye to Nick Howell on the 4th ; 25lbs to Peter Fraser from Nyth and Tyrcelyn on 7th and two 21lbs from the Rectory. On the 15th July James Manning caught his first ever salmon, an 11lb fish from Gromain while on the 19th Mike Timmis caught the 1,000 reported Wye fish of the season, 16lb from the Rectory. Joanna Fraser caught her first ever salmon on the 26th of July, a 12lb fish from the Nyth & Tyrcelyn, while on the next day Gordon Waters caught his first Wye salmon, an 8lb slightly coloured cock fish from the Dog Hole. Finally, a mention for Gary Bright, the Atlantic Salmon Trust auction winner who had a 21½lb fish from the Rectory on the 4th.
To summarise the month's catches:
Above Builth: 4 each for Lysdinam and Caerwnon and 3 for the Rocks. Perhaps not enough sustained flows to push volumes of fish that far yet. Total 11 for July and 24 for the year.
Builth to Glasbury: This section had its best month of the year with both Glanwye and Nyth/Tyrcelyn:
Abernant 2; Ty Newydd 4; Gromain and Lower Llanstephan 9; Llangoed and Lower Llanstephan 6; Rectory 24 and
Total 99 for the month, 181 for the year.
Glasbury to Luggsmouth: It's often the case that fresh fish don't reach this section in low water but press on through in high water. Principal catches include Whitney Court 5 Carrots 4, Lower Carrots and Luggsmouth 3, Caemawr 2. This section reported 22 taking them to 110 in total.
Luggsmouth to Monmouth: Ingeston was by far the leader with 18; Golden Mile and Sheepwash 12; Ross AA 5; Goodrich Court 6; Wyebank and Courtfield 3. The total on this section was 47. Bringing the total to date of 300.
Monmouth Downstream: Despite the high water, there were enough fishable days to land 84. These were shared between Wyesham 20, Redbrook 3, Cadora backs 9, Upper Bigsweir 13, Bigsweir 37 and Coedithel 2. This section has landed 471 to date.
Overall, 263 Wye fish were landed in July taking the season total at the end of the month to 1,070. It's not often that July catches exceed those of June (258) but as in the wet year of 2012, this was the case. The 263 was more than double the 5 year average.
Observers lower down the river noted that the river held on to its black peat stain and wondered if dam releases were responsible. We can say probably not. On the 10th , the dams overtopped and flows increased nearly fourfold. The water from the top of the dam is no more or less peaty than is typical of any upland stream. By contrast, streams that flow out of plantation forests, especially where clearance is or has recently taken place, are very peaty. The Irfon and parts of the upper Wye were the culprits...and yes there are better forest management systems than those currently being operated, especially in the commercial sector.
Reports from other rivers reports suggested that the Tywi enjoyed some improvement with their summer run with fish well dispersed by the high water. The Usk has been as secretive as ever but has seen an uplift in grilse numbers. This for a river that relies more heavily on its grilse run is good news.
In June we offered a very glowing prospect for July. I'm afraid that a look at the long range weather forecasts suggests minimal rain (but plenty for rivers further north) but you can't always rely on them. Without rain, fishing is often confined to the beats below Monmouth on the Wye. Tywi and Usk will also need rain to get fishing again. The good news is that there are fresh grilse arriving. Is that a sign of impending rain? Well, that's what we need and August seldom ever has too much! Otherwise, it's back to lawn mowing and catching up with all those tasks we didn't do in a great July because we went fishing!
Headlines: Weather dominated.... a good month despite interruptions from rain and sun...... spates finally lift fish to upper River....fresh fish still arriving.....prospects for July look exciting.
I left our report in May with the hope that a spate would give the river a wash through quite soon. There were several "dry runs" with small dirty rises that did no one any good but these were followed by two modest size rises, the first on the 20th and again on the 28th. Both of these moved fish to the upper river at long last. It's a source of considerable concern if fish are concentrated downstream in large numbers and those who remembered 1976 will recall the huge losses of beautiful springers that year. BBC's Countryfile did an interesting programme on just that subject - how the drought affected the whole country and especially the Wye (a link to view the programme on the BBC iplayer is at the end of the report).
Although our worst fears were not realised, there were a few days in June when the sun did beat down and the river responded with an algal bloom, noticeable as far upstream as Builth and possibly further up from there. Luckily, the rain put a stop to that and the oft cursed summer weather did its best to help.
Early June salmon catches continued as in May, predominately in the section below Monmouth with the odd one from upstream beats. On the 3rd the levels at Redbrook dropped to the threshold where the regulation release from Elan dams added to the dwindling river. However, it was apparent by the 8th that the algal bloom was underway. The only way to catch something was to get up early as Tim Risedale did on the 9th to take a 12lbs fish from Wyesham.
The second week saw catches lift following a small rise but, as expected, most came from below Monmouth with Ingeston perhaps the best upstream beat. By the middle of the month, the weather in mid Wales decided to join the rest of the country, having escaped significant rainfall up to then and after several attempts the river finally produced a proper spate on the 21st.
The fish must have seen it coming because from 17th onwards catches shifted to the upper River. Glanwye was the first beat to start what was a very welcome change to upper Wye fishers. On every day up to the end of the month (except the 30th when the Wye was in spate again) fish were taken above Glasbury. Gradually, the river cleared and once again fish were taken further downstream. By the 29th, it was business as usual below Monmouth with Wyesham landing 7 that day, mainly sea liced fish to 18lbs. By the 30th they were looking at several feet of muddy water.
So this is what the month's catches looked like for June (principal beats):
Upper Wye: Glanwye 10, Nyth and Tyrcelyn 5; Gromain 10; Llanstephan and Llangoed 5; Rectory 12; Spreadeagle 9;
Middle Wye: Upper Winforton 5; Caemawr 5; Ingeston 17;
Lower Wye: Wyesham 50; Upper Bigsweir 17; Bigsweir 50
By section: Above Builth 2; Builth to Glasbury: 58; Glasbury to Luggsmouth: 25; Luggsmouth to Monmouth 39; below Monmouth 129.
This month's honours board includes Paul Edwards who had his first ever salmon with a 12lb fish on the 10th June at Redbrook. Meanwhile, on the same day, Phillip Evans caught his first Atlantic salmon, a 10lb fish from Wyesham on fly. On the 11th June Harry Chatfield-Roberts caught his first salmon, an 8lb fish on fly, Glanwye, which he followed up with a 16lb salmon later that day. Any comparisons of Wye salmon to London buses should end there! Mark Willis and Robert Markland had their first Wye salmon with two low teens lbs fish from the Rectory while a little further upstream, Tim Springham was landing his first salmon ever, a 12.5lb fish on fly from Gromain. There are probably many more notable captures in June so our apologies to anyone who has been missed off.
So to summarise June, the month improved following rain and there was some excellent sport with some very good fly fishing, especially on the upper Wye. The Wye's total for the month was a respectable 251 (as of 6th July), 21% up on the 5-year average for June.
Usk: Despite the continued secrecy, rumours suggest that the Usk has enjoyed a better spring and early summer with a few grilse starting to feature in catches. There are signs too that salmon will be appearing in the Tywi very soon.
Prospects: Remembering that the last day of June was one of the season's few blank days (caused by the biggest spate since the spring), prospects for July look promising. Upper Wye fishers have also seen a few bright silver grilse and the lower river witnessed some larger sea liced fish. The summer weather looks like what only anglers can call good - we can't wait to report on July!
Stephen Marsh-Smith, Advisory Director, WUF
Please click here to see the Countryfile programme on the 1976 drought, including how the drought affected the river Wye.
Headlines: Over 300 for the month .... good numbers on fly .... high % sea-liced....Wyesham nearly 100 for May....... upper beats still waiting..... no significant spate...... first grilse caught..... over 540 for the Wye so far this year....Usk catching a few but it's a secret!
May would show whether the early promise on Wye would be sustained and it certainly was. Both rivers received a boost to water levels by several small and rather coloured freshets during the month. However, whereas the levels never dropped to the threshold that would trigger regulation flow releases on the Wye, the Usk received rather more of a boost as the rain tended to come from the south east, often covering the whole Usk catchment but only part of the Wye.
For Wye, the upshot of this was that there was never the flows that we associate with the movement of fish upstream of Hereford and to the upper Wye itself, where fishers would reasonably expect to find fish in May. True, a few were caught (10) but in comparison with the catches downstream, this was a disappointment for those who fish this end of the river....your correspondent included. But that's the roll of the dice and there was the joy of noting the catches downriver by way of compensation. Ultimately there will be, we hope, an upstream movement of rather more fish than usual. Glanwye (3) and the Nyth and Tyrcelyn (4) were the leaders for May.
Glasbury to Hereford landed 19; again another section landing below what might be expected for a typical May but, as explained above, entirely governed by low flows. Whitney Court topped the reach with 7, while Caemawr and Red Lion took three each.
Below Hereford, at last catches were sufficiently numerous such that mentioning every one caught would take quite some time. 91 came from this reach with Ingeston landing 21 followed by Wyebank and Courtfield 11, Goodrich Court and Lower Symonds Yat 10 apiece and Backney 5. Of course, below Monmouth was the place to be this month with 209 landed, the majority from Wyesham 94, Bigsweir 63 Upper Bigsweir 14, Cadora Backs 11 and Redbrook on 9.
Sizes of fish showed a gradual change from the first two weeks of May, which produced a good number of 'late teens' 3 sea winter fish interspersed with smaller 2 sea winters, typically 11-12lbs. The biggest was a whopper of 34lbs taken by George Adams from Wyesham on the 2nd. H Morshead had a 27lbs fish from Courtfield, Mike Prichard 25lbs from Ingeston, while both Nathan Jubb at Upper Bigsweir and Stan Turner at Aramstone had 20lbs fish. A high percentage of the Wye's May fish were also sea-liced.
Notable first salmon included an 11lb fish from Wyesham to Phillip Haubrock, a PhD student
studying invasive species as part of the Aquainvad-Ed project.
Phillip is studying at Florence University but comes from Germany. Other first fish included Adrian Batty's
salmon from Whitney Court on 16th (his second followed shortly afterwards!), an 11lb fish to Chris Howell at
Goodrich Court on the 17th, 10lbs for Laura MacLucas at Redbrook on the 21st (her second try at
salmon fishing!) and a 12lb fish for James Beeson on the 25th, again at Goodrich Court.
Congratulations to all of you and I hope it is the first salmon of many.
Another first was the capture of a 5lbs grilse on the 27th. The Wyesham ghillie, Joe Cobley, had seen several a few days before. I wonder if this hails the appearance of some grilse this year?
Perhaps the surprise of the month came to Jonathan Ryder at Ty-Newydd on the 27th where a 6lb salmon rose from the depths to take his Pheasant Tail nymph, suspended a foot below a Klinkhammer. Well done to Jonathan for landing the fish on his 3-weight trout rod!
The total for May was 330 bringing the seasons total to 545. Looking back, it's been a long time since any month has exceeded 300 fish. It was in May 1996. However, the total for Jan (the season started on 26th Jan back then) to end May that year totalled 448. It was followed by a very productive June and there is every reason to hope for something similar this year......but (I've come to realise how important buts can be!) a more ideal scenario would be a thorough wash through. A 4' spate at Erwood would get the silkweed and algae out and spread the fish out. That's what happened in June '96 and it would be great if it happened in '16 too. However, if it doesn't, the lower beats should continue to do well provided we don't get the other curse of salmon fishing: hot, cloudless skies and an algal bloom. The Usk and other Welsh rivers are also, if not more so, dependent on a spate.
So, thank you for all the prompt reports in May, especially from the Wye. I am pleased to say that the reporting system on the Usk seems to have improved this year and I hope we will receive enough timely reports to start a separate "Salmon Blog" for this river soon.
All the best from WUF.
March finished with a creditable 46 fish landed and a spate which curtailed successful fishing from the 27th. April started where March left off: the ground saturated and water temperatures hovering around 50 degrees (10 C). Then it got colder. There were days when light rain appeared as snow on the Beacons and Black Mountains. The westerly winds left us and we got a blast of the cold north. For some it was back on with the central heating!
Salmon catches were encouraging. On Wye, the first week produced fish mainly in the sections above Hereford - Whitney Court, Caemawr, the Rectory and Glanwye for example. As levels settled, beats further downstream added to the score. Ingeston, Wyebank and, very much to his surprise, Joe Cobley took a 15lbs fish from Wyesham with the gauge on 4'4"! Average weights were again what we would expect from the Wye at this time of year with more over 15lbs than below. The best was a beautifully conditioned 27lbs for Nathan Jubb at Caemawr on fly.
Catches continued in a similar vein in the second week until a rise all but halted fishing and at no time did temperatures threaten to improve. On the 13th, Jim Fisher took a fish at Newbridge-on-Wye, showing just how far upstream fish had travelled. 25lbs was the largest from the Red Lion water. Towards the end of the third week, catches improved further and yes, there were odd moments when you felt there might be a spring this year. I say moments because they didn't last for long!
The emphasis had continued to shift further downstream. The upper Wye catches were confined to the Rocks, Spreadeagle and Lower Llanstephan while on the middle river Carrots, Whitney, Aramstone and Ingeston all added to their scores. Big fish came from Red Lion and Ingeston that week, both 23lbs, while Spreadeagle had one of 25lbs and Lower Llanstephan one of 27lbs. All these were topped by a 30lbs fish for Don Macer-Wright on fly from Wyebank.
The fourth week picked up the baton and on the 22nd April, 19 fish were reported to the WUF blog, taken from Spreadeagle to Wyesham. With this came reports of some smaller fish arriving and from this point, a number of smaller 2 sea-winter fish started to appear on the catch records. It was in this week that a fish estimated to be of the order of 40lbs was taken from Wyeside and Lower Clifford by Octogenarian Ernie Coleman.
Catches continued in the last days of April taking the month's Wye total to 164 and 210 for the season so far - the best since 1992. There were some excellent weights and a much greater number taken on fly than is typical for the time of year. We heard of just two kelts both taken below Monmouth and suspect most left on the high waters earlier in the year.
We receive lots of requests for more information from the Usk but unfortunately, details are sketchy at best. However, the general feeling is that there has been a better early spring here too with fish taken throughout the beats below Abergavenny during the month, with some of the bigger fish caught being "Wye-sized".
These bigger fish are most likely to have come from the spawning of 2010, as did last year's two sea winter (2SW) fish. 2011 was a good spawning year and already we are seeing the return of that year's spawning in the 2SW spring fish so far. The prospects for May look encouraging on both rivers BUT we do need rain periodically to both wash out the algae, debris and weed growth as well as encourage new fish in and, crucially, get the next generation out. Smolts are much more vulnerable to predation on the way down in low water.
What we don't want on the Wye is hot, dry weather that would give rise to algal blooms such as we had in 2014. Contrary to that is a need for warmer water to control the potential of fungal infections and one or two poorly fish have made an appearance in the lower Wye and in the Usk in recent weeks. Warmer water appears to help recovery and prevent further infections. All that brings us to a request to handle fish very carefully. Please photograph them in the water and don't lift them out. Use a net with the least abrasive mesh and single hook spinners that allow a quicker release - all the more important as temperatures rise.
This month's special mentions (apart from Mr Coleman's enormous fish!) include Martin Lydon's 6.5lb salmon from Wyelea on the 22nd that was his 11th of that week! Also on the 22nd Jim Morison landed his first Wye fish, an 11lb springer on a yellow & black 1:5" tube. On the 25th, Robert Leather caught his first ever salmon - a 12lb sea-liced hen on a Devon Minnow from Weirend on the Ross Association water. On the 27th Ross James had a 25lb fish from Courtfield, his 3rd Wye salmon over 20lbs so far of the season. Finally, on the 28th April Dave Roberts landed a 9lb fish from the Carrots, taking his personal tally into double figures for the season.
March arrived like a rather wet and bedraggled lion. There was snow on the Black Mountains and many places held the scars of a very wet winter. On St David's Day (March 1st ), the prospect of an opening day (March 3rd ) fish looked possible but down came the rain and again on the 6th putting back the actual starting date on both rivers. By the 12th , the Wye had started to settle and the first fish was taken on the upper Wye from Llangoed Pool, Llanstephan. The fish was just over 47" with girth of 27" and took a deeply spun single hooked Flying C. It had been in the river for a few weeks. Those (self) appointed to tell the world it was or wasn't a particular weight or even whether it was clean fish have shown perhaps the less likeable side of the fraternity. Luckily, the vast majority are generous in understanding how difficult it is to secure a good photograph when fishing solo in a boat.
This was quickly followed by a brace from Aramstone and then five on the 16th including one of 25lbs from Holme Lacy 3 and another over 20lbs from Courtfield. The Usk got off the mark on the 17th with an 8lbs fish from the Isca water at Newbridge caught by Peter Austin and there have been a handful from beats downstream of Abergavenny, the largest at 38" (mid 20s) and all on fly. From that point up to the 27th , when once again rain stopped fishing, the Wye yielded a fish every single day and several fish on many days, with a peak of 7 on the 22nd . However, it's the size and quality for which the Wye is known and this year has been no exception. 21% have been over 20lbs but if you look at those over 15lbs, the proportion rises to an encouraging 79% for the month. So in writing this report today (30th March), a brief glance out of the window shows the Wye to be holding its height, aided by some additional water over toping the Elan dams and well above fishable level. A review of the Usk gauges shows a very steady rate of fall and this is where fishing is most likely to start again.
It's been an encouraging start on the Wye. Its detractors will say the month's catch has been below average (and inevitably point out that it was much better half a century ago) but we lost 14 days out of a possible 28 to high water and the March 5-year average will rise yet again. So March will exit still with snow on the Black Mountains, occasional frosts and plenty of water lying about in fields, ditches and ponds. April promises to be very interesting for spring salmon fishers. As always it's a question of being at the right place, at the right water height at the right time and that remains largely in the hands of the weathermen.
Finally, a special mention to 10-year old Henry Sayer who caught his first salmon from Ingestone on 20th March - well done Henry!
Passing the rivers to and from work, we have watched them gradually fall to ideal fishing levels following what we now know was the wettest winter yet recorded. There's no point in concealing the general levels of excitement in the office as the new season approaches. Reports from at least two lower Wye beats today (last day of February) are of salmon moving upstream and this will have proved too exciting for at least one WUF team member!
Both Usk and Upper Wye are now clear enough to see any changes that the prolonged high water has brought about. My brief inspection of Gromain, for example, has shown a lot of gravel has arrived and parked itself to the side of the Leaning Willow but mercifully not in the main channel itself. One or two of the larger rocks have shifted here and there too. Further downstream it is still a bit cloudy to be able to see if anything has changed.
So what can we expect this year? On the Wye there was good spawning numbers in 2011 despite there not being a great rod catch in the very low water of that year. Subsequent years' electrofishing showed improving juvenile distribution and in places, better densities. There is less evidence to form a view of prospects on the Usk but there are no reasons to be pessimistic. Another indicator is what is happening this year in the other early rivers: Tay, Tweed and Dee who accurately report their catches. Well...... Tay's catches are above expectation with a good spread of different age classes while Tweed took a while to get going but the last two weeks have produced up to 12 fish per day. I only wish Dee was doing as well. So, there are encouraging reports for February from Scotland.
On our opening day (Thursday 3rd March) it is possible that a fish could be caught just about anywhere on either river where favourable water heights prevail. The slight difficulty is the amount of rain scheduled to fall before the start. However, somewhere will surely be fishable and we look forward to reporting the lucky captor.
The Wye salmon reporting page now carries a lot more historical data. We hope to produce an Usk and other rivers page too if we can get enough support from fishery owners. Finally, thank you for all your reports and kind comments - please keep them coming and have a great season. Our one request: please follow all the advice on returning fish and using single hook Flying Cs.
Latest News: Rain on Tuesday morning is pushing both rivers back up. It may well be that our previously mentioned colleague will have to work on Thursday after all!
I spent much of the last two reports moaning about how dry it had been and how, at 18", we had been robbed of fishing opportunities in mid and south Wales as Tywi, Usk and Wye all finished the season without a proper spate in October. Well, needless to say, it did start raining after the season finished, although by early November not a lot of progress had been made in recharging reservoirs, ponds, underground springs or gravels. The rain continued, not that heavy at first but gradually getting heavier until finally, a downpour near the end of the month overtopped the dams and up went the levels to those we are more familiar with at this time of year.
Typically, Elan managed to do this two days before our river walk on the 29th , combining with Wye to give a high main stem. At that stage the majority of the tributaries were still on the low side when a good spate was still needed, so it was a challenge trying to find salmon spawning or ascending anywhere!
We also wanted to see what the revised Elan winter flow regimen looked like, but this was overtaken by 'H. Desmond' and its forerunner. The plan was to raise flows from the very modest compensation level (the amount discharged 365 days) set at 68ml/d in 1984 to 95ml/d from November 1st annually. Prior to the recent agreements, we have seen the Elan barely flowing during the spawning season only to rise suddenly when the dams overtop.
So, already at paragraph four and barely a mention of salmon! There was some early spawning in the main river at sites which normally suit early running fish such as Llanwrthwl Bridge. One of the sites we monitor regularly, the Sgithwen, has had a few fish spawning in it too with new ones arriving on the recent water but generally it has been impossible to find the river clear enough for any serious redd counting......and it's still raining. One worry was the number of otter kills during the low water period at the start of the month. It's a bit disheartening to see several fish dead with just a small part eaten and then washed away on the next flood.
A few late additions to the Wye catch took us past the 1,200 mark as well as taking the 5 year average past 1,000. Was this increase part of the normal variation from year to year or a genuine lift in stock numbers? This is how we see the evidence: following 2014 (a disappointing year for catches), many rivers have recovered to have a better year while others have found 2015 as bad or even worse than last. To date, we can see very, very few rivers that have increased their five year averages except the Wye (certain) and possibly Usk and Hampshire Avon too. That, of course, is partly a function of how good or bad 2010 was.
Secondly, there have been signs from juvenile data that Wye is now holding many more salmon. This year it had a great smolt run. The Usk is doing well where we have completed habitat restoration (e.g. Cynrig, Cilieni and Ysgir) but not universally - we will eventually catch up and complete other key streams too.
Thirdly, was the increased Wye catch as a result of more day tickets sold via the Passport? No, the number actually reduced. It is odd to say this but while most of our fishers and stakeholders acknowledge the Wye improvements for what they are: a genuine upturn in the salmon population; for some the news will always require comprehensive denial.
Finally, there are always worries that the high water will lead to the dreaded "redd washout." On the Wye there is very little main stem spawning below Hereford, if any at all, so there is little spawning at risk. The river carries way too much silt, so salmon have chosen to spawn upstream and in those tributaries not inundated with sediment. So far, I don't think the levels on either river have exceeded anything out of the ordinary and we are not even sure if the majority of the salmon have spawned yet anyway.
Over the last 10,000 or so years, Atlantic salmon (and trout too) have become extremely good at selecting sites that are safe for their offspring - I think Mr Darwin would approve! They also spread themselves out spatially as well as with their timing, so that the risk is minimised. There are lots of other issues to worry about (where does one start?!) but redd wash out would not be anywhere near the top of our list.
Season's Greetings from WUF.
The salmon season finished for nearly all rivers on the 17th of the month (the upper Wye above Llanwrthwl and tributaries has an extended season to 25th October). Unfortunately the promised rain fell somewhere else and so October's 17 days fishing were a bit like September's 30.
On the Wye most of the action was again below Monmouth but a small rise did liven up a few fish in many of the beats upriver. Throughout the entire time, the regulation discharge from the Elan dams remained on, enhancing the small natural spates. In the past, this discharge would have been switched off and the rises in levels this year were therefore enhanced instead of being annulled. It seems this was beneficial for the salmon, ensuring that some fish were in the upper river and giving the effect of a more normal year of rainfall. A gold star for Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water then and thanks to all the people involved with the Usk and Wye Abstraction Plan, especially WUF's consultant, John Lawson.
The details of the month are that October's total just squeaked ahead of September's (139) to 142, although there may be one or two more to add. The beats below Monmouth had 65 with Bigsweir again top dog. Interestingly, they reported three kelts too. Hereford to Monmouth reported 24 with 16 from the section above to Glasbury. Builth to Glasbury landed 31 including the month's best fish of 22lbs from the Rectory. Just four were caught above Builth. As with September, the fly only rule meant just that and pleasant fishing it was too: no difficult wading in the low water and of course no wet days to speak of: Grrr!
Overall the Wye landed total of 1,189 fish for the season (with possibly some late reports to come) and for the first time in about 20 years the 5 year average catch was above 1,000. There was a much more equitable spread of catches in the various sections, though the Monmouth down section triumphed thanks to the dry summer and autumn. Spring catches were up and unusually in a good year, May took more than June. Surprisingly, fishing effort appeared to be down: fewer day tickets were sold and we think that with modern communication and technology, this may be because fishers are better able to judge when and where to go. The season's largest fish was a springer of 35lbs taken from Bigsweir in March. Another at 31lbs was caught at Abernant in the August spate. 4:4% were over 20lbs.
On the Usk those who know the river have given us an idea of overall numbers based on a number of known individual beat catches. This guestimate puts the Usk catch between 750 and 800 - a respectable number in a dry year and uncannily accurate although prone to differ from licence returns! Typically, half the Usk's salmon catch comes in the last six weeks so 2015's autumn drought was not helpful, even though the catchment caught a little more water than the Wye. As expected, the bulk of the catch came from below Abergavenny down to the tideway. What would a good downpour have done?!
The Tywi also felt the effects of low water and their season went out without a back end lift. August produced some better fishing as it did rain a bit.
Finally, a special mention for regular Wye angler Steve Boswell who travelled the 200+ mile round trip to the river 17 times during the 2015 season and caught an impressive 17 salmon, mostly from the Llyn Em (Lower Glanwye beat).
I have almost forgotten what a wet September would be like. 2012 was great - fish were spread about the catchment and many had completed the majority of their journey up river. Fast forward to 2015 and the end of the month was bathed in what everyone, save those who fish for salmon, would call lovely warm sunshine! It's been a very dry year for Wye and Usk - just 18" of rain so far this year compared to 2014's total of 54", albeit falling at crucial times.
So on the face of it not much to get excited about this month, but well done all those who wielded a rod in perhaps less than ideal conditions.
Wye: Levels dropped away after the bank holiday downpour giving those at the top of the river the first shot. The first week produced about twenty fish spread between Caerwnon and Bigsweir. As the levels fell away, so did the catches but a small rise lifted hopes for the start of the third week and fish were taken again mainly in the middle and lower river. From then on there was very little rain to trouble flows: nonetheless fish were taken throughout the catchment.
The scoreboard leaders included Glanwye with 10 for the month. The Rectory, Garnons and Wyebank and Courtfield all had 5. Below Monmouth, Wyesham landed 12 with a great many lost. Upper Bigsweir also had 5 but the bulk were taken at Bigsweir who landed 47. Some of Upper Bigsweir's were absolutely fresh, silver fish (as were Bigsweir's) but they seemed to travel no further upstream.
Prize of the month was a fish of 23lbs Wye fish taken by Chris Morley from Glanwye. The same beat also had a fish of 20lbs, as did Moccas. Another notable capture was the 12lbs hen fish taken by Peter Horsburgh from the Rectory on the 25th which was the Wye's 1,000th reported salmon of the season.
So the total for the month to date was 138, one of the better Septembers in recent times and certainly a high score for such low flows. Not surprisingly, the Monmouth to sea reach did best with 70; Hereford to Monmouth 19; Glasbury to Hereford 14 Builth to Glasbury 33 and just 2 above Builth.
Usk: Many more fish have been reported to us than in the past from a greater number of fisheries. Clearly the Usk was doing well when the modest flows allowed. As on the Wye, the lower sections did the best with some creditable catches downstream of Abergavenny but especially below Usk. Hopefully next year we can get a core of fisheries to report catches to give Usk its own webpage.
Tywi: Again subject to low water. Golden Grove's total has moved on to 33 while Abercothi is up to 45. Both Usk and Tywi take the majority of their salmon in the last six weeks and they both need rain....NOW!
First ever salmon included an 8lb cock fish to George Hazel from the Newbridge fishery (R Usk) on the 14th September and on the 16th a 26" grilse to Mr J Hazell at Severn Sisters. The quote of the month came from John Harris when describing his 15lb cock fish from the Usk "as brown as my shoes and as ugly as me."
Whenever I mention that rain is expected (as I did last month), it tends to disappear. A huge storm mid-month did just this, taking a left turn just as it reached Wales. I promised I would try not to say anything about rain being on the way again as it tends to fall on those possibly less deserving and needy as well as those who probably don't want it at all! There's no escaping that we need a really good downpour especially as so many fish are so far downstream. Nonetheless, on the Wye there are opportunities for anglers, especially in the lower beats. On the Usk, Tywi and others water is needed so the usual routine of visiting the weather websites, gauges etc, applies and, of course, hoping....
All the best from WUF.
July left us with the hope, at least, of some more rain for August. It could have gone either way - wet or hot - and for three weeks we were teased with small storms that promised but didn't deliver. With the tanks running lower everywhere, rain was needed to provide some incentive for fish to move. The previous month's spate fell gradually over the first week and the small patches of rain at the end of the first week made little difference. Thereafter all the rivers reached their lowest point of the year with Redbrook gauge down to .26m by the 21st. What saved the month was the rain that fell over the next few days, the days after that... and the days after that! On the 23rd, Wye was over 4' at Llanstephan and Usk 3' at Glanusk.
Until then the Usk had all but stopped fishing and the 35 or so reported from the Wye looked likely to be the month's total. Then, with the raised levels, the Usk got underway first with fish landed in most of the usual places - mainly from Crickhowell right down to the tide - with many beats recording a big improvement over 2014.
The first post spate Wye fish came from Chapel House on the 26th. Thereafter, another 45 were landed to the report date, taking the total to a more respectable 80 and pushing the season's total to around 900. Earlier in the month, lower beats such as Upper Bigsweir were reporting some fresh grilse interspersed with the odd larger fish, such as the 20lbs taken by Nathan Jubb. Bigsweir continued to pick up fish totalling 24 for the month until the spate arrived. However, then it was the upper Wye's turn and the lion's share were landed at Rectory (5), Abernant (5), Nyth and Tyrcelyn (4) Gromain (4), Llangoed (3) with Glanwye and Rhosferig taking two apiece.
Nathan's 20lbs was finally overtaken by a 31lbs coloured fish from Abernant caught by Paul Henry on a Cascade. The monster clunked down his net scales which only went up to 28lbs but the hen fish easily fitted the EA's 'length' of 31lbs At the other end of the scale, silver grilse down to 31⁄2lb were landed below Monmouth.
August's "special mentions" are for Paul Scott who caught a 17lb salmon from The Rectory on the 31st August on his first ever salmon fishing trip and for Ben Woods, aged 11, who added to his season's tally with a salmon of 7lb and a 3lb grilse from Llysdinam on the 1st August.
September's prospects: rivers are dropping slowly with the prospect of more rain. This should keep fish moving and, for the Wye at least, ensure the fish and the fishing is well spread out. Usk and Tywi are approaching their best time and the Wye has both fish and water, so we are very hopeful for the last 6 weeks of the season. The gauges, weather forecast and the Booking Office will guide you....
Finally, the Wye is fly only from the 1st September to the end of the season while the Usk is fly and spinner from the 15th. Could we make our usual plea for single hooked FCs and doubles rather than trebles on flies and tube flies? And.... please could we have fewer "Grab and Grin" photos? Try not to lift fish out of the water at all.
July is often a tricky month on Wye and Usk. High temperatures, low rainfall and flows don't give much incentive for fish to move or migrate in from the estuary. Sometimes algal blooms make fishing impossible and on the Wye the ranunculus growth can be a mixed blessing: alternately increasing flows but breaking off and curtailing fishing when levels rise.
July 2015 had none of the blessings of proper spates but did get a couple of rises. Mercifully, we escaped a significant algal bloom. One of these rises just affected the Wye mid-month and another more of Wales at the month end, and very welcome they were too! Coupled with a number of quite dullish days, 2015 escaped serious heat and our rainfall gauge at Llanstephan showed just over 2". PV generation - a good measure of sunshine - for this month was 431, lower than June's 475 and well down from 2013's July of 535 (Kw/Hrs).
Looking back over past years' records (the Wye's), July has varied between just 6 (2006) and 204 fish (2012), the difference between extreme drought and high rainfall. So at 134 reported so far for the month, the catch on the Wye was very encouraging, given the absence of any proper spate. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the fish were caught below Monmouth. 110 were taken in this section. Bigsweir landed 66, Wyesham 20, Coedithel 9 with Upper Bigsweir, Redbrook and Cadora Backs landing the remaining fish on fly. Upriver, the end of month spate triggered catches at Glanwye (4) Rectory (4) Letton (2). Further downstream, Severn Sisters landed 5.
So the season's total for the Wye to the end of July was 810. What’s the news elsewhere? Usk has struggled with low water. Finally, it lifted towards the end of the month and Chainbridge had a 3 ion the 28th . Upper Llangybi also landed three and lost three but as the spate was short-lived, so was the fishing. There will have been catches elsewhere and we will report on those later.
Prospects: As usual, it's all down to rainfall and flows. August is invariably wetter than July and so the search of weather stations and gauges goes on! What the small rises in July have indicated is that there are fish ready to run on both Usk and Wye and that they are taking the fly well. The influx of some grilse is encouraging too so cancel that trip abroad.........just in case!
June was very much a month of two halves. The first half, aided by a lift in water levels on the 1st and, in the case of the Wye, by the timely operation of the new regulation flows, saw good movements of fish throughout the catchment. Catches continue in the time honoured fashion of top down as levels dropped. As expected the Wye led the way with nearly 200 fish by mid-month. However, as flows dropped away, action became confined to the lowest beats and around 60 were added in the latter weeks, including the first grilse of the year. Usk did well considering that the actual amount of rain was only just enough to entice fish into the system and upstream.
There were other encouraging features of the month: ideal conditions encouraged fly fishing and the proportion of fish caught this way seems to be increasing and both Wye and Usk seemed to suffer much less from discolouration. There is, of course, a danger of speaking too soon on this second point but so far, so good! As in May, there were days when fish were taken at the top and bottom of the river.
Drilling down into the Wye catches (where we have the best data) showed what fish were doing. The onset of rain at the end of May set fish moving. While the spate ended activity upriver, fishing continued downstream for a further day or two with Bigsweir (10), Wyesham (7), Coedithel Redbrook and Ingeston (2) all having a particularly good day on the 1st . Over the next few days the river cleared at the top and as the extra water hit the bottom beats, the position reversed with Lysdinam (3) Nyth (5) and Rectory (3) enjoying some action.
By the 8th , fish were reported from just about every section of the river. Fish caught at the bottom showed a high percentage of sea-licers while a few at the top had obviously been in the river a little longer and of course there were all points of freshness in between. By the 12th the majority were being taken below Hereford and especially below Monmouth. A small rise then brought fish on the take again with Nyth and Rectory adding to their score. After that fishing progressively gravitated to the beats below Monmouth again.
So the sectional counts for the month (season) were: Monmouth downstream: 156 (310); Luggsmouth to Monmouth 57 (174); Glasbury to Luggsmouth 17 (76); Builth to Glasbury 25 (89) and above Builth 12 (25) giving a monthly total of 267 (674), although there may be some late reports to add.
Quite a few first salmon were landed in June. On the 1st Tom Taylor caught his first, a 10lb fish from Coedithel, following it with an 11-pounder later in the day. On the 4th William Woods caught his first, a 12lb fish up at Newbridge. The next day John Chatfeild- Roberts caught a 9lb salmon at Glanwye with a long cast, his first after a long time trying! James Downes got himself off the mark on the 7th with a 12lb salmon from Lower Ballingham and on the same day Keith Jeffreys caught his first (10lb) from Coedithel, on his first salmon fishing trip! We then had to wait until the end of June for the next "first fish" when Justin Charles caught an 8 pounder from Goodrich Court. A mention too for the anonymous yet prodigious angler at the Nyth who managed five to fly on the 5th of June – 15lb, 12lb, 10lb & two 8 pounders.
So a good month, especially the first half. If only it had rained enough to give one more spate!
Prospects: At the time of writing there are heat wave warnings and the next week or so would seem to be in the grip of some weather from hell. Yes, holiday makers will love it but fish and fishers will be far from ecstatic. Such rain as is promised seems to evaporate before the appointed day arrives but we can still invoke the many forces of lightness to bring us some rain. Perhaps a concerted leaving of car windows open at night could do it!
If rain does come and it is of sufficient quantity, then fishing should start as soon as your section or beat is fishable. Summer spates fall away quickly and can be back to summer level in days rather than weeks. There may also be some more grilse to augment fish numbers. Some people we know never take the kit out of the car and that is the best way to be prepared for July!
April gave no clues as to the number of fish we might expect. Was it the weather or fish numbers that kept the month's catch to a modest 69? The cold, dry month ended with a small rise in levels, extending into May, just enough to dislodge some of the weed and algae but was followed a week later with a couple of feet of, well, surprisingly uncoloured water. Again on the 19th another small rise failed to halt fishing on either river and on the 31st (as I write) another small rise is on its way downstream. However, there's something altogether different planned for the 1st of June!
In the preceding months it didn't take long to run through details of the month's catches. We start with the Wye: it's a different story this May. Where they were caught depended initially on water height with the early month's spates encouraging fish to the upper river. The Rectory was one of the first stopping points and finished the month with 11. Later Nyth, Spreadeagle, Glanwye and Gromain all landed fish, including a 27lbs fly-caught fish for Richard Norman from Spreadeagle. This section accounted for 54 of May's total. Further upstream, fish had made their way as far as Craig Llyn, Llanwrthwl, a mile or so below where the Elan joins where a fish of 11lbs was taken. With catches also made at Llysdinam and the Rocks, this showed just how far fish had travelled - 11 came from this section above Builth. Generally, most of the fish were in the 8lbs - 10lbs class right across the beats and rivers we report on and a very good number were taken on fly. Interspersed with these were some of the weights more typical of those that spent three winters at sea (14lbs - 20lbs) with the odd one like Richard Norman's at Spreadeagle and the 26lbs fish taken by Ricky Reno at Garnons. Between Glasbury and Luggsmouth, some 38 fish were reported this month, the majority at Whitney and Winforton (7) but Carrots (6), Letton (5), Caemawr and Red Lion (both 4) brought the season's total for the section to 55. Downstream to Monmouth, 53 fish were landed bringing the season's total here to 110. Ingeston was the top beat with 14 but Golden Mile/ Sheepwash landed 10, Ross AA 5 and Severn Sisters 4. Needless to say, the majority of the fish were taken from below Monmouth (111 in all) with Wyesham top dog on 53 and Bigsweir on 27 for the month. The full catches spreadsheet can be seen here. With 267 reported in May to date, one would have to look back to 1996 to see a better total monthly catch. This brought the year's catch to 391.
That's got the stats out of the way! There are more good reasons to be encouraged, though. The typical May fish (8 - 10lbs) was most likely spawned from the run on 2010, one of poorest in recent times. I say most likely because a few will have come from 2011's run and even fewer from 2009, depending on how many years the juveniles stayed in the river. Most will have stayed two years but a few just one and even fewer three years. Probably more fish returned in 2010 than given credit by the rod catch but however it is viewed, there has been a significant multiplication of that year's run. Only 80 fish were caught by the end of May then compared to 391 this year. The whole year's total in 2010 was just 480.
Other reasons to be cheerful are that we are entering June with a lot of water "in the tank" i.e. the ground is wet and the reservoirs are fullish......and we were promised a good downpour over the 31st May / 1st June. That should give the Wye a whole month of good fishing with the fish now well spread out. On top of that, those who note the water level at the top of the river will have spotted that it hasn't dropped below 11" at Llanstephan. Recently, the level has been held up by additional flows from the reservoir. The top up begins when the gauge at Redbrook drops to just below 0:6m, all assuming there is above a certain reserve of water available.
Other Rivers: We started to get a few reports of fish from the Usk in the middle of the month and there has been quite a good spread of catches from above Crickhowell to the tide. It's too early to say whether the changes to the pumping regimen have made any difference, but those on the lower river feel it has helped a lot. It would be useful to get a better handle on the actual numbers caught for this reason alone.
Tywi: At the end of April the weed and slime build up was always going to make the first rise in water tricky for fishing, which it did. We hope it also made it difficult for the netsmen, especially the illegal nets who have had a good time in the low water (one of just a few rivers that start netting in March!). We have heard of two fish from Golden Grove and four from Abercothi, which is fair considering that June and more sea trout follow (please see Illtyd's sea trout report for details).
Finally, congratulations go to the following for catching their first ever salmon this month: Richard Dales (8lb, Tressack & Red Rails); Sean Gammons (13lb, Abernant) and Mike Bolt (12lb, Gromain). Our congratulations also to Mark Lloyd and Paul McGuire for their first Wye salmon and to Rufus Ulyet who had four in a day from Wyesham having not had a Wye fish since 1988!
The month started with a modest spate putting the river out of order until the 4th or 5th after which the first April fish were landed; one for Mick Wilkes of 20lbs at Builth and two from Ingeston (13lbs for Keith Cambriel on fly and another to Pete Webb on spinner). Would fish now be moving to the upper river or staying downstream? This was swiftly answered with a brace from Wyesham taken on the 7th in water normally considered far too high - a sure indication that fish were loath to travel and that, quite possibly, this would be the end of the rain and that low water would follow.
And so it proved to be. The wind went to the east, giving us cold nights with the occasional sharp frost and bright sunshine was the order of the day for the rest of April. Just how bright was brought home when the Photovoltaic reading for the month was taken here at Llanstephan: 430 KW /Hours compared to the last two years at 320. Not exactly ideal conditions for catching fish...and a bit of a disaster for my early potatoes!
Nonetheless, fish came steadily with the beats below Monmouth doing better as the water levels dropped. Working downstream, just one other fish came from the section above Glasbury; a fly caught fish from the Nyth for Alfie Pope. Downstream of Glasbury, seven fish came from Whitney, Preston, Red Lion, Carrots (3) and Lower Carrots and Luggsmouth.
Below Luggsmouth twenty five were taken, the majority from Ingeston (10) Goodrich Court (5) with Severn Sisters and Golden Mile/ Sheepwash both on 3. Below Monmouth thirty three were landed. Initially, Wyesham were taking the most but as levels dropped towards the months end, Cadora, Cadora Backs and Upper Bigsweir all enjoyed success with Bigsweir landing 14.
There were more 2SW (Sea Winter) fish in this month's catches but a 25lbs salmon for John Kenyon from Ingeston and a 24lbs fish for Julian Smith at Golden Mile, both on fly, topped the month's catches. Danny Price took one of 22lbs from the Red Lion and another at 22lbs was taken from Ingeston. This month's unusual catch went to Laurence Birkin, who on the same day landed a barbel of 8lbs, a chub of 4lbs, a trout and a salmon of 11½lbs, all on a well sunk tube at Backney.
The month's Wye catch of 67, plus the corrected March catch of 56 took the river's total to 123. This will show continued improvement of the five year monthly averages - March and April 2010 were just 11 and 35. However, with gloomy news north of the border and with very little news from other salmon rivers in Wales, I don't think I was alone in showing relief that April is over. The really good news is that there has been a very good run of smolts which should continue through May.
Now to May: quite a lot of rain is needed to keep fish on the move and, I'm sorry to say, give the rivers a good clear out. Tywi, Usk and Wye are showing rather too much evidence of raised phosphate levels. Heavy growths of silk weed and algae that have accumulated in the low water become detached with a raise in flows and that's what is promised with the first rain. It's impossible to fish with the stuff wrapping around every fly or spinner. After that it's a toss-up. Upper beats and those rivers with interceptory nets would like endless rain; those with fisheries further downstream would like one flood then back to (their) fishable levels. May is a key month on the Wye while Usk, Tywi, Teifi can start to expect a few salmon and, of course, some sea trout. Let's hope the weather was right for your fishing when we report in June.
The start of another season arrives quickly after winter and once again it's a great pleasure and privilege to be reporting on salmon and salmon catches ....... and all this before the first swallow has arrived! The season started 3rd March on both Wye and Usk at the tail end of a small spate. Although a few places on the upper Wye and some of the Usk were fishable on the opening day, the rivers were generally on the high side and cold with snow lying in the hills.
The first fish came from the Wye on the 5th : Jonathan Daniels took a 21½lbs fish from Ross AC water on a Devon minnow. By the end of the first week, about 12 Wye fish had been reported with a good proportion of high teens and twenties. The largest, a 25lbs fish from Garnons, went to Ricky Reno. The first Usk fish fell to a Waddington fished by Andrew Sheasby taken at Green Bank on the 9th. This was increased by a further four Usk fish by the time the month had ended. Both the first fish earn their captors a bottle of champagne.
The Wye's second week was a bit quieter with most fish caught in the Hereford to Ross area. The exception was a brace from Bigsweir. The third week picked up after a small rise and on the 17th , the first came from the upper Wye at Tyrcelyn, a 19lbs fish for Alfie Pope who followed this with one of 12lbs the next day. The prize that week was a 28lbs fly-caught fish by Tom Rigby, his second of the year from Ross AC water on a fly.
The last week of March ended early for salmon fishing. The upper river was finished with a small spate on Sunday 29th but Monday's rain truly brought the curtain down with a grey, then brown 5' rise. So the bulk of the month's catches came from the Ross area and the beats below Monmouth found the water heights and temperatures had encouraged fish to migrate upstream. However, Wyesham added two fish (22½ and 12lbs) and Bigsweir another six, topped with the fish of the month, an estimated 34lbs, before the brown water arrived and just as it was coming right!
So the encouraging news is the continued return of the three sea winter 'traditional' Wye fish. 22% of March's Wye salmon weighed in at over 20lbs, with 2 over 25lbs and one over 30lbs. The average weight was about 17lbs. The month's recorded tally was 55 and it was encouraging the see the fly given a go successfully too. Bigsweir and Ingeston were top dogs followed by Hereford and DistrictAC and Ross AC, both on 5. Paul Greenacre (10lbs), Andrew Brush (20lbs) and Tony Fenn (17lbs), who all took their first Wye salmon, were among quite a few happy fishers this month!
The Oxford Run on the Lower Carrots and Luggsmouth beat of the middle Wye in early spring,
one of the beats that got off the mark in March.
Looking north of the border, it's interesting to see that Tweed are on their 5 year average for March followed by the Tay at about 80%. Lagging behind rather worryingly was the Dee, perhaps as low as 40% of their March average. The Wye has actually raised the bar by about 10%. It's interesting to speculate on the overall UK run after last year's concerns but there's too much 'noise' to make any guesses yet.
The 2015 Passport will be with you just after Easter and with it there should be some great fishing opportunities.
April Prospects: we guarantee that April will start with a very full tank! The dams are overflowing and the rivers high. Tywi and Teifi start on the 1st and it will be interesting to see what arrives there. One difficulty with April is that it takes very little extra rain to send down another spate. That said, with more fish caught in the latter part of March, the Wye looks to be an exciting prospect perhaps with more action above Hereford and the upper river as well as the downstream beats. Usk and the other rivers will have their turn later but they are such lovely places to be in the spring and always offer a chance of an early fish. My fly rod is ready to go the moment the water drops! You know where to book fishing (here!).
All the best from all of us at WUF.
November proved to be a wet month but not exceptionally so. After the dry summer, the rainfall which registered 5" (13cms) at Llanstephan (a relatively dry part of Wales) produced the sort of flows to encourage salmon to progress well up the river systems. It also recharged the parts of certain catchments such as Lugg, Arrow and Pinsley, which are ground water fed, so that they were flowing strongly towards the end of the month.
High temperatures dominated the month despite a couple of frosts and it was felt this was the cause of a later than expected start to spawning. However, this is now underway with redds seen, for example, on the Elan, Sgithwen, Gwenlas and Arrow and of course the main Wye and Usk. Fish were recorded still ascending Brecon weir (though not always successfully) and good numbers were spawning at the Promenade. Otter kills are much in evidence off the main spawning areas, suggesting that many fish are not ready to spawn and are holding back in deeper water. It will be the end of December or later before we will know how successful spawning has been but recent water conditions have been very useful in distributing fish widely throughout the catchments.
Given the general agreement that marine survival was the cause of 2014's disappointing season, what does the future hold and what can be done to improve matters? Clearly, all forms of exploitation and other losses of both smolts and returning fish would ideally be minimised but that lies largely out with our control. What we can do is ensure that the maximum number of eggs laid in our rivers make to the wild smolt stage. Words are chosen carefully here because we do know that wild smolts are far more successful at returning than any hatchery fish, however reared. So, the best hope of any improvement that lies in putting right those in-river issues that still remain. For rivers in Wales this breaks down into maximising available habitat: restoring and improving fish access wherever possible. Barrier removals should be preferred over easements and passes as all passes present some kind of halt and large weirs create an unproductive dead zone upstream.
A salmon redd found on the Gwenlas, a tributary of the river Ithon.
Nursery and stream habitats should be restored and protected, cover increased and the balance between shade and light so arranged as to increase invertebrate production. Spawning gravels should be clean and free from sediment. Water quality is equally important: acid waters should be buffered and diffuse farm pollution arrested. Abstraction needs to be minimised and carefully regulated. Finally, our precious stock should be treated very carefully when caught.
All of the above are what the Foundation continues to manage throughout the 6,000Km2 of the Wye and Usk. Predators? They can be managed in lots of different ways: better flows at smolt emigration time; fewer barriers that hold spawning fish back in low flows to name just two.
Many, including ourselves at WUF, will have breathed a sigh of relief when the rod fishing season finished on the 17th (25th on the upper Wye). High water finally arrived just as the season ended on most rivers and the frustration of this late arrival neatly summed up the whole season. October continued along the same lines as September: the odd fish being caught here and there but no weight of numbers moving as yet.
As ever, we have very good catch data for the Wye and this showed a total 2014 catch (with most beat details already to hand) of 563 (66 in October). By section, this was made up of 51 above Builth plus 3 from the tributaries; 136 Builth to Glasbury; 68 Glasbury to Luggsmouth; 121 Luggsmouth to Monmouth and 184 Monmouth to the sea. The lowest section suffered the worst compared to their 5 year average while above Builth actually exceeded its 5 year average (full Wye details here). Estimates for the Usk suggest a total catch in the region of 350. Usk seldom does well with a dry summer and autumn but nonetheless, this year is well down. Tywi was a bit more fortunate with the autumn rain and the two best beats, Abercothi and Golden Grove reported catches of 85 and 42 respectively. These are closer to their 5 year average. It is easy to forget that these celebrated sea trout beats would be good autumn salmon beats in their own right even if there were no sea trout!
Judging by results across the UK, Norway and Iceland it has been a consistently poor year. Declines in stocks across such a wide area must surely be due to global changes in conditions. Notably, the grilse run seems to have been the greatest casualty while early large springers might even have performed better than in the recent past. Tay and Wye are two examples, both with March catches ahead of average. Is this an early sign of a shift back to early running fish? We know that over time cyclical changes took place but who knows over what time frame these events took place historically and if change is underway again?
Putting all that aside what we need right now are water conditions that allow the fish to spread out over the best parts of every catchment, steady flows between a series of moderate spates and enough rain to recharge reservoirs, ground sources and springs. If it's not asking too much, a cooler mid-winter and a progressively warming and wet spring. Go on....and next year some summer rain please, with no prolonged dry spells. On top of that, we should have the benefits of the changes to abstraction licences and spate boosts. All of that will really help!
All the best from WUF.
p.s. please do come along to our Autumn Riverwalk. It's a great chance to see the work being carried out on the rivers and, if we're lucky, spawning or migrating salmon.
Above and below: Autumn salmon from the Usk.
Salmon struggling to ascend Dayhouse weir on the Lugg last winter
September was a record month for rivers in the south and south east of Wales: it produced the lowest rainfall ever recorded. Following on from a series of dry months, it was no surprise to see gauges everywhere at their lowest for many years. Fishing effort has been very low and rewards scant. We know of fish taken on the Usk at Llangibby, Swan Meadow, Llanover and Chain Bridge while on the Wye, September catches have ranged from Glanwye (4), Nyth and Tyrcelyn (3), Eardisley (1), Wyesham (4), Redbrook (1), Cadora Backs (5), Cadora (3), Upper Bigsweir (1), to Bigsweir (28). Notable successes included on the 16th, eighty-nine year old former ghillie George Johnson hooking two fish in fifteen minutes at Cadora, losing the first before landing a clean 14 pounder. Also, Charles Tricks at the Nyth catching two salmon in two days on his trout rod, the second one at 20lbs.
Bigsweir's catch included one or two silver fish and many were taken as the tide receded. While a dismal total for a river the size of the Wye, we were pleasantly surprised that the total was as high as 52. The combination of continuous low water and little effort invariably results in low catches.
The NRW board have approved their hatchery policy which will see the focus of salmon management shift further towards a sustainable and holistic approach and away from artificial rearing. Fish currently held will be released and there will be no future catch ups. The subject has been well talked about with highly charged and polarised views on the subject. Our position is that the tagging and releasing of fish in both Wye and Usk have shown quite clearly that reared fish seldom return. Hatchery supporters tend to forget two important points: every fish taken for stripping is a net loss to wild production and that rearing never makes good that loss. This particularly applies when there is no surplus of fish as we have on most of our rivers today. Secondly, the catastrophic decline on the Wye was caused by specific issues such as barriers to migration, sheep dip poisoning, acid rain and habitat degradation -none of which would be rectified by stocking.
As in August, the dry weather and low flows provides an opportunity to complete our fish pass programme. Having finished several on the upper Wye we will be shifting our efforts to the English side of the Wye catchment. Work should start soon on a substantial pass at Dayhouse, Kingsland. This is the last significant barrier in the Lugg with no means of assisting salmon passage and although some fish get over in certain flows, many are left to spawn in the rather less productive lower river.
There is some rain forecast in early October and there may be a chance to wet a line in the remainder days of the season, especially in the Usk which clears first. For many reasons, let's hope it comes soon!
A late August coloured 11lb fish from Golden Grove on the Tywi. Photo: Jamie Harries.
August was another challenging month. The seriously low water of July ended when the Elan regulation flow switched on again but the only significant rise was the tail of hurricane Bertha which put 4' on the gauge at Llanstephan briefly on the 14th. Most of the water came down the Ithon. Further rises followed but only from parts of the catchment, sadly not from all at the same time. The month finished with a foot rise from the Irfon and main Wye. Looking back at the recent records, August has produced the greatest variation in catches of any month in recent years: from 222 in 2012 to just 13 (2006) and 19 (2003). Other good years were 2008 and 2007 (142 and 149 respectively) which were, like 2012, very wet. We didn't get that level of flow at all this year and the total monthly catch has languished at 49 as I write. This also applies to the Usk and Tywi where catches have also been spasmodic.
One of the 3 fish passes at the very top end of the Wye completed in August. These will allow salmon and trout access to the spawning grounds beneath Plumlumon itself.
Details from the Wye include: Llysdinam 6lbs and 12lbs; the latter for 10 year old Ben Woods, grandson of the eminent ecologist, Raymond. Glanwye - 7 fish to 13lbs; 9lbs from Abernant; Nyth and Tyrcelyn had 5 fish; Ty Newydd 2; Llanstephan 1 at 12lbs; Spreadeagle 3; Goodrich Court 1; Wyesham 10 to 15lbs; Cadora and Cadora Backs one apiece and Bigsweir 12. For comparison the catch to date is 70% of the 5 year average to end of August. If you think that's bad, then have some sympathy for the big rivers of Scotland - for the Tay this is 59%, Dee 44% and Tweed 43%.
As with last month, a large spate would let us see what is to come and is already in the rivers: they all need a good clear out. However, the low water has enabled us to finish the fish passes mentioned in last month's report. A WUF operations team of Haydn, Lee, Rich, Meyrick and Louis have been working hard in the Wye's headwaters over the past couple of weeks and salmon now have access to the rivers Cyff, Iago and the main Wye itself as far up as Plumlumon itself. This is where JA Hutton's 1932 report recorded spawning fish but where none have been found since the late 60's.
For September, it is fly only on the Wye while on the Usk, prawning, shrimping and worming cease on the 15th . Other rivers change in October so please remember to check the byelaws for whichever fishery you are visiting. As always, but more so this year, please put every salmon back as carefully as you can (mandatory on the Wye).
Grilse have started to show up in the catch returns
At last!! The Met Office's rainfall radar this morning showing something we haven't seen for some time.
Writing the salmon report seemed easy enough in March and April, even May and June. There was plenty to talk about but July is something of a problem. It’s been too hot, too low and very unattractive for both fishers and fish. The result is that there is not a lot to report. As always, the Wye has the most up to date catch information and unless there has been a late upsurge it looks as though 35 fish were landed in the month. All but one of these were caught below Monmouth (a single fish was taken at Wyebank) with Bigsweir taking over half the month’s catch, five for Wyesham and the rest spread between Cadora, Redbrook and Coedithel.
Grilse were starting to feature in a few catch reports (Andy Fenner had two from Cadora on the 22nd of July) and there may well be fish of this class waiting to enter the rivers. However, they will be loathed to do so while water temperatures are approaching 70 degrees F and there is no significant rain in the offing. There, that’s got all the gloomy stuff out of the way!
What every salmon fisher would like to see is several days of continuous, though not necessarily heavy rain. Enough to re-wet the ground and provide a surplus to swell the rivers. Two such floods would be ideal, one to clear the rivers of debris, weed etc and another to encourage the fish inwards. It can happen in August so our advice is simply enjoy the summer sun, visit the seaside, hills and mountains and forget about salmon for now but be ready when the rains come.
There are some advantages of the drier weather: WUF staff are able to get on with fencing, reveting (repairing) the many eroding banks, clearing obstructions and pressing on with our fish passage work without any hindrance from the weather. Every cloud.........
All the best from WUF.
p.s. The first significant rain for some time has arrived in the upper Wye and Usk catchments this morning and more heavy rain is forecast tomorrow (Sunday 2nd August). Having been so dry for so long, it might not be enough to cause a spate but it will be worth keeping an eye on the webcams.
Andy Fenner with his 30lb fish from Cadora on 2th June.
Algal blooms have affected the Wye in 2nd half of June.
End of June 2014
Looking back at our May report (149 Wye fish landed and a good excuse of the poor weather for it not being any more) we were expecting a ‘healthy’ June, which is normally the best month on the Wye. However, it wasn't anything like that. In a wet month, fish press on upriver and with high water for the first 12 days they did just that. Fish were caught well upstream at Lysdinam, The Rocks, Rhosferig and the Builth Town water. Further downstream, Glanwye added a further 7 taking their total to 16, the Nyth another 7 (to 24) and so the pattern repeated itself on most beats downstream. Bucking the trend, Caemawr did better in June than in May with 5 fish. Also below Hay, Letton another added another 4. Fly accounted for a large proportion of fish in these upper river beats.
As the levels dropped away, some of the lower beats started to see some sport, notably Sheepwash (3), Ingeston (7), Wyesham (7) and Bigsweir (12) and given the pattern of past years, it would have been reasonable to see a good many more from both the section below Hereford and downstream of Monmouth.
Back in May there were signs that all was not well with the Wye's water quality: floods were dirtier than expected, dropping to a much greener colour than normal. When the sun and low water finally arrived, we had the biggest algal bloom I can remember. In all but a few instances, this brought an end to salmon fishing (on the Wye) from the middle of the month. One notable exception was a 30lbs fish from Cadora. The lucky angler was Andy Fenner; a flying C the successful lure in the murky, green river.
Adjacent rivers were lucky enough to escape this problem but for Usk, Tywi, Teifi and others there was no escape from the hot low flows towards the end of the month. Abercothi and Golden Grove (Tywi) added 3 though most fishers there would be concentrating on night fishing for sea trout. The Usk had at least part of a month when catching a fish was likely. Llanover moved to 14 and Llangibbi to 21 by the end of the month, Swan Meadow 6 and Chain Bridge 5.
Adding to general concerns about this year's salmon run is that Scotland is not having a very good time either. 2014 is of course 5 years from 2009, the last poor year in the UK and it may be that low spawning numbers then has had a knock on effect. That year saw a number of extremely thin grilse and some very thin 2 Sea Winter fish (the majority of our returning fish) which would have had a much reduced egg carrying capacity. At least this is not in evidence now.
Looking to the future, there are some signs that a few grilse may be arriving, though the temperature will hold fish back in the estuary. There is hardly anyone in the Wye or Usk (but perhaps not the sea trout rivers) who is not hoping for a really big downpour to get rid of the accumulated silt and algae. Here's hoping!
Finally, June's Roll of Honour......
Congratulations to Georgie Morley for her first salmon, a 9lb hen from Glanwye on the 1st June and to Brent Purnell for his first too, a 10½ pounder from Trostre (Usk) on the 14th. Other notable captures included a 16lb salmon to an American trout angler nymph fishing at Cefnllysgwynne (Irfon) and a 5lb fish to 12-year old Eathan James at Ingestone. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, congratulations to 83-year old Gordon Clamp for his two fish (12lbs and 14lbs) from the Golden Mile!
One of two Wye fish caught on 15th May by Casper Bowes ay Llysdinam. Its heavily spotted gill plate indicates a possible repeat spawner.
Clean 8lb fish from the Monkswood beat on the Usk, caught on the 15th May.
A delighted Barry Warwick with his first ever salmon, a 15lb fish from Goodrich Court on the 20th.
May was a real challenge. Even upper river beats had more than enough water than necessary to keep them happy. There were two significant floods both of which recharged the reservoirs, extending the duration of each flood event. They weren’t clean spates either and a couple of small rises earlier in the month added quite a lot of colour. To give an idea of days lost, the Upper Wye lost 11 while the river below Monmouth probably more than 20 and even then, their fishable days at the beginning of May were only just so. For the Tywi, Usk and the rest of the Passport salmon rivers, it was also a case of more was less!
On the Wye, where we have better information, around 140 fish were logged. The smallest was just 3lbs and the best was a 25lbs fish from Luggsmouth but as usual, there were reports of big fish lost including one of 35lbs+ from the Rectory. However, the majority were in the 8 to 12lbs range. With all that rain (especially the second bout) the emphasis shifted well up river as the month progressed, even as far up as Dolgau, the beat just below the Elan confluence. I can’t recall the last time a May fish was recorded this far upstream. It was no surprise therefore to find that fish were also taken from beats between the Ithon (Newbridge) and Irfon (Builth). Downstream, the Builth Club water, Glanwye, Abernant, Nyth and Tyrcelyn, Gromain, Llanstephan and Llangoed, Rectory and Spreadeagle all caught fish, with fly accounting for the majority.
Catches were more dispersed downstream of Glasbury. Successful beats included: Caemawr; Whitney; Letton and Moccas, again with a good percentage on fly. Below Hereford, it was much earlier in the month that the catches were made with Sheepwash, Ingeston, Goodrich and Wyesham (amongst others) all scoring.
The Usk, which is fly only until the 31st May, has taken about 25 fish with Abergavenny Town water, Upper Llangibbi, Llanover and Monkswood Trostre all featuring. There has been little news from the Tywi at the time of writing other than reports of a 9lber from Abercothi on the 10th and a 21lbs fish from Llandeilo. May also produced quite a few first fish: Georgie Morley, 9lbs at Glanwye; Barry Warwick, 15lbs at Goodrich and Malcolm Horsfall, 8lbs at Chainbridge (Usk). Well done to all three! We hope no one has been missed anyone off the list. Also, two salmon were reported by a flyfisher on consecutive days (21lb & 15lb) upstream of Nantgaredig Bridge.
Prospects: June should be good. The tanks are full in respect of water and there is more rain expected....so there is no excuse for fish not to enter any of the rivers, unless heavily netted (there are no legal nets on Wye and Usk). High water should keep the fish moving upstream while a dry spell would be most welcome for fisheries downstream, especially below Monmouth on the Wye. Please remember that byelaws allow differing methods in June – please see here and please keep those reports coming.
The Wye & Usk Foundation, 2nd June 2014.
There were great expectations for April after a reasonable March (Wye) and a very much improved run in the same month in 2013. A number of small and quite dirty spates sustained anticipation, despite very few of them involving the main Wye above Newbridge. In fact, the rivers of the northern half of Wales are (end of April) really low, having missed the rain that fell in the west and south. The Tywi, Usk and other rivers in the southern half of Wales along with the Wye had the benefit of a few 'lifts' but the catches were below expectation.
Golden Grove on the Tywi was one of the bright spots, landing four fish (dwarfed by the many double figure sea trout landed!) in the middle of the month, all between 8 and 12lbs. They don't always get salmon this early so must be very pleased with the results so far with the earlier high flows helping to get fish past the nets and into the river. The Usk, secretive as ever, had a catch in single figures, so the April story centres on the Wye.
The Wye continued from the end of March producing fish in the 14 - 25lbs range, from Newbridge to Bigsweir. These fisheries are over 118 miles apart so the fish are well spread out. Flying Cs accounted for many but the fly was much more in operation and successful in the right conditions. The heaviest was a 25lbs + fish to David Harrington from Caradoc on the 15th. By far the best beat has been Ingeston with 18 by the end of April, hotly pursued by Wyesham (11) and Seven Sisters (9). April added another 46 fish after March's 65, leaving the combined total just 9 fish short of the 5 year average and this was made good by the 3rd of May.
So that's the results in this part of Wales. A look north of the border is useful to see how the overall UK spring run has fared: Tweed and Dee have experienced a poor April and the few fish caught have been tended to be confined to just a few beats. Tay has fared a bit better but all have had a worse April compared with last year as did the Tyne. Let's leave April behind and look forward to May, the prospect of some warmth (definitely not a feature of April!) and the arrival of the 2 sea winter fish. These were in evidence at the end of the month down at Monmouth but then more dirty water arrived curtailing their fishing activity.
Assuming flows drop away, beats below Hereford or Ross or the lower Usk should start to connect. Meanwhile, some upstream fisheries already have a modest stock to keep them interested. The key to where to fish is water levels: the forecasts suggest some rain but it is not possible to pin this down with any certainty as to just how much is expected and where. A wet May takes fish into the middle Usk, Tywi and upper Wye but drought can confine fishing to lower Usk or Wye below Monmouth.
Last year, there were serious concerns about the damage inflicted by Flying Cs. Using single hook versions of these lures has shown that spinning can take place with absolutely minimal damage to fish and it is very pleasing to see how many fisheries are adopting this as mandatory. There are other benefits - the single hook seldom catches weed, the bottom, trees or other debris yet seems to hang onto salmon extremely well.
We are very worried about the levels of algal growth in the main water column especially of the Wye. Is this a product of the extremely wet winter and early spring or a sign that phosphate levels are increasing?
Thanks to all who send us speedy and detailed reports of salmon caught. The information is posted as soon as possible on our Salmon Blog, which we hope is not only interesting to anglers but also useful in helping them make decisions on where to concentrate their efforts. Combined with our river gauges, up to date information can be accessed 24 hours a day. Unlike other sites that seem determined to paint fishing in as bad a light as possible, it gives key details of the catches (where, when, how, estimated size) but without any politics, soapbox ranting or questions over anglers’ integrity. Interestingly, some Wye anglers now prefer to give us their catch returns anonymously, understandably tired of having their honestly called into question by such sites.
Finally, the Environment Agency's annual report places the Wye as the third best salmon river in England and Wales, up from 14th in 2002 and 8th in 2008. The Tyne and Wear are the current leaders.
All the best for May!