Mr Goldhead And The Grayling
Trout & Salmon|January 2018

Lawrence Catlow fishes the rapidly recovering River Irfon in Powys.

Lawrence Catlow

THE VALLEY OF the upper Irfon winds its way between steep-sided hills, some of them thickly cloaked in dark conifers, others bare-headed, dotted with the high and distant shapes of sheep moving almost imperceptibly along the slopes above the open oak woods below. It is a deep as well as a sinuous valley, which makes it seem a half secret and secluded place. It is green as well as deep, green and lush, with the different and complementary greens of the grass and bracken on the unwooded slopes, of the tall conifers and the round-topped oaks. Buzzards, kites and ravens float and call in the sky. It is all very atmospheric, all very beautiful and the river that twists and turns along the green floor of the valley is every bit as beautiful as its surroundings. It flows in the shade of alders, birches and willows, and the peat stain, which persists even in low water, shines with just a touch of gold. There are deep pools and long, streamy runs beneath the trees, there are cascading falls, there are narrow channels where the river runs smooth and dark between confining slabs of grey rock. It is all very beautiful, and yet the Irfon has not always been just as full of life, of food for fish and fish for fishers, as its own and its valley’s beauty might suggest. About 50 years ago the head of the catchment was smothered with mile upon mile of forestry, which, predictably enough, has tried its best over the years to poison the river with the invisible pollution of acid rain. I have been told that the Irfon almost died.

I first fished the river six or seven years ago with a party of friends; it was not dead but it was very clearly in poor health. A few parr were caught, a few troutlings and, although none came to net, there were rumours of a few grayling here and there. It seemed a river still struggling to support life, but one that had been pulled back from the brink. The watershed bogs and some of the higher tributaries had been heavily limed, the whole river had been declared catch-and-release; they were blocking the ditches in the plantations and reducing that blanket cover of fir and pine and spruce. The Wye and Usk Foundation were doing all they could to improve the situation. Very slowly the Irfon was being nursed back to something like its former vitality.

Two years ago one of us caught a grayling, last year I caught one not far short of the pound, as well as two or three decent trout and lots of small ones and plenty of parr. This summer there were just two of us fishing at the start of the week. On our first morning we headed for the river, from our cottage at Cwm Irfon Lodge, through a windless Welsh mist of drizzle and low cloud. The Welsh midges were putting on a performance that would have made their more famous Scottish cousins jealous and I had, of course, left my repellent behind. Anyway, I endured the assault of the Welsh midges and fished my way slowly upstream. The water was in good order, neither too low nor too high and flowing with a touch of that lovely golden stain, but sport was nevertheless slow. I caught a few parr and was pleased to catch them. I was even more pleased to catch one or two small trout and a monster a whole 12 inches long.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM TROUT & SALMONView All

Mr Goldhead And The Grayling

Lawrence Catlow fishes the rapidly recovering River Irfon in Powys.

9 mins read
Trout & Salmon
January 2018

Moody Beasts

Stan Headley searches for the elusive sea-trout of Loch Ailsh in the northwest Highlands.

8 mins read
Trout & Salmon
January 2018

Alone On The River

Cliff Hatton encounters a mighty Wye salmon.

6 mins read
Trout & Salmon
January 2018

Hop To It

Richard Donkin has a no-nonsense approach to tackle and amphibians.

4 mins read
Trout & Salmon
January 2018

River Blackwater

THE BLACKWATER rises in the boglands of County Kerry, and although the peaty tinge it carries gives rise to its name it also flows through limestone and that helps it to support a diverse range of fly-life which provides plenty of sustenance for salmon parr and trout. The river is one of Ireland’s most productive salmon fisheries, along with the River Moy.

1 min read
Trout & Salmon
November 2017

Hampshire Avon

THERE CAN be few places in fishing more famous than the Royalty Fishery on the Hampshire Avon, even Mr Crabtree has fished its illustrious waters. Two seasons ago an enormous salmon of 40lb was caught in the spring at the Royalty and big salmon are regularly caught in the early months of the season.

1 min read
Trout & Salmon
November 2017

A Grand Plan

Giles Catchpole makes some surprising New Year’s resolutions

4 mins read
Trout & Salmon
February 2018

Eoin Fairgrieve's Casting School Part 13: Shooting Lines

Discover how to hit the far bank and avoid tangles

2 mins read
Trout & Salmon
February 2018

Bridging The Gap

Troubled by the middle-dropper position? Stan Headley recommends a stunning pattern for loch salmon and sea-trout, dressed in a clever way

5 mins read
Trout & Salmon
February 2018

Mixed Lives

James Beeson goes west on a quest for some early-season dry-fly action on the famous River Usk.

7 mins read
Trout & Salmon
March 2017
RELATED STORIES

NFC EAST ROUNDUP

NFC EAST ROUNDUP

3 mins read
The Giant Insider
June/July 2021

What happened to the receivers?

Calling the Washington Football Team’s passing game a work in progress is an understatement.

5 mins read
Warpath
November 2020

5 Players to watch

Dwayne Haskins

5 mins read
Warpath
September 2020

‘You knew he was going to be really good'

For more on Buffalo’s top pick, Bills Digest recently caught up with Iowa defensive line coach Kelvin Bell. Bell helped groom A.J. Epenesa to become one of the most productive defensive ends in the country by the end of Epenesa’s time with the Hawkeyes.

10 mins read
Bills Digest
June-July 2020

KELVIN: YOU BET WE LOVED STRICTLY WIN

Soap star's pals cashed in from dance success

1 min read
Daily Record
January 09, 2023

KELVIN: YOU BET WE LOVED STRICTLY WIN

Surprise victory leaves family & friends quids in

1 min read
Daily Mirror UK
January 09, 2023

Harness of white balance the power

Use Camera Raw and Lightroom’s tools to add temperature shifts and fix casts

3 mins read
Digital Camera UK
January 2023

BRAVE NECO PRAISED FOR PLAYING ON

NECO WILLIAMS has been hailed for his \"bravery\" having starred for Wales less than 24 hours after his the death of his grandfather.

1 min read
Daily Star
November 24, 2022

Athena Cultural Crusader Glasgow's magnificent temple to the Arts

A THENA recently had the good fortune to travel through Glasgow on her way to the Highlands. The city was bustling with life and bathed in sunshine. It was also overwhelmed with rubbish, a consequence of the bin strike, with great ziggurats of boxes, cups and bags stacked up on every street corner.

2 mins read
Country Life UK
September 14, 2022

Happy Hair Day

Need help with taming the frizz? Thinking of changing your colour? EL staff and readers put four top salons to the test to help you achieve the tresses of your dreams.

5 mins read
EL Singapore
July 2022