Andrew flitcroft explores two famous beats on the improving river wye.
SINCE 2003, SALMON catches on the River Wye have increased. The river, once the most prolific in England and Wales and famed for its huge fish, remains a shadow of its former self, but following its crash in the latter part of the 20th Century there have been signs of recovery, with spring and early-summer runs bucking national trends. The capture of 118 fish in June 2013 and 94 fish in May last year on the Wyesham beat, and 86 fish on Bigsweir in June 2015, are compelling. When you consider that the average weight of salmon last season was 11½ lb and a good proportion were more than 20 lb, with a few Wye giants of old sprinkled about, you have to sit up and take notice.
For the past few years I have followed the river’s improving fortunes and decided last May that T&S (James Beeson and I) should pay a visit to see what the fuss was all about. We had booked the Rectory beat on the middle river and parked on a grass verge upstream of Boughrood bridge. Rectory doesn’t have a gillie but joining us was the next best thing: Simon Evans is not only the new chief executive of the Wye & Usk Foundation but also a fanatical salmon-fisher. We were to fish Rock, Simon’s favourite pool on the whole river. A sub-plot was the fact that James, despite previous efforts in the West Country, had yet to land a salmon.
We fiddled around in the boot, like typical newcomers to a river, waiting for someone in the know to share their wisdom. “I’m going to put on a floater and a fast tip,” said Simon. Decision made – we were off.
The Rectory is stunning. It has all the rocks, streams, gullies and ledges you would associate with a classic salmon river; its high wooded banks, fresh with new growth, envelop you in a world of acute wellbeing. The river had had a small, grubby rise three days before and was carrying a clay stain brought down from the upper Ithon tributary, a sediment that was highlighted by the spring sunshine. Simon put me in first at Rock and I worked the stream from its neck to the feature from which the pool takes its name. It’s not a long cast to the rock, which diverts bobbling water around its near side. After an accurate chuck, I heard Simon say under his breath, “That’s it. That’s the spot.” If I could manufacture a resting spot for a springer, I would copy the rock and the water in its lee. Alas, nothing happened, not even in The Tail of The Rock, where the pool widens and deepens before the smooth bridge flat that’s known more for its trout and grayling. Further down the beat, we tried Mill Stream, Neck of Rectory, Rectory and at the bottom of the beat, Upper Glangwye. Apart from a few shad that pounced on flies that were fished faster or pulled slowly on the hang in Rectory, our efforts were ignored.
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