Fly Fishing at King Arthur’s Table
In the latest instalment of his ‘Fishing in Europe’ series Laurent Guillermin is, in fact, in the UK and is enchanted by the fly fishing available in Wales.
To the west of Great Britain lies Wales, an enchanted country where the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the round table remains intact to this very day. In this principality there are more than 400 castles and manors and countless small streams and rivers where fly fishing reigns and whilst driving across the land some kind of magic emerges from the landscape – it is as if time has no control over this beautiful country.
Wales has three National Parks (including the National Park Pembrokeshire Coast, the only coastal National Park in the United Kingdom), five areas with the label of ‘exceptionally scenic area’ and only 3 million people, with about two thirds of them living in the South.
Many artists, poets and painters have been inspired by the country and on the slopes of Snowdon, in the northwest of the country, it is said that King Arthur sleeps a magical sleep in a cave surrounded by all of his knights waiting for the clock to summon them back when a time of need is at hand.
Upon our arrival at Caer Beris Manor we were greeted by the master of the house, Peter Smith, and his wife Katharine, who spend a couple of years restoring and maintaining this magnificent mansion that was once the home of Lord Swansea. Converted into a 3-star hotel, the mansion has become, through their efforts, a Mecca of fly-fishing in the British Isles.
Forty minutes later, with my friends Christian, Jean-François and Jacques, we were on the banks of the River Irfon – a river that describes a horseshoe around the mansion. Centuries ago, when the construction of fortifications on the site started, this natural barrier protected the home of Lord Swansea.
Some good trout were rising and my brown parachute did the job perfectly with five native brownies in perfect shape caught in half an hour! It was a good start in awesome surroundings before it was time to return to our comfortable rooms for a little well-deserved night's sleep.
The lady of the stream
The area where we stopped the car on the following day was very beautiful and was dotted with large boulders that attracted me straight away. The water did seem a little high but when the sun put in an appearance it filled me with confidence.
At the end of my second drift came a good rise on my fly! The fish went down and struggled with all of its might into the main stream; it was a beautiful 45cm ‘lady of the stream’ as grayling are nicknamed by the British and it seemed that the river woke up as the sun heated the tea-coloured water and we went on to take a good number of grayling along with some nice brown trout on both dry fly and nymph.
Over the following days we fished some of the best courses on the Wye including the Gromain and the fabulous Rectory beat. If you fish Wales do try to be at the water's edge around 9am and you will see a lot of flies, especially when there is no wind and the sky is grey. Believe me it’s everything you need to succeed.
During the week I saw mayflies and olives hatching in front of me in numbers, and in these conditions my ‘cup of tea’ is to fish a long leader with a thin tippet to fish dry and nymph. But I also gave black and white streamers a try and I caught several big trout, including a pretty good one of 55cm! If you are on the river at the right time you will also be surprised by some shad attacks but take precautions with this fish because it must be released with the greatest care as the species is protected.
Bear in mind that the River Wye used to be considered one of the best rivers for salmon fishing in the United Kingdom, outside of Scotland. The Wye was particularly famous for its large ‘spring’ salmon that had spent three or more years at sea before returning to spawn. Nowadays the catch rates are good thanks to the program of restoring habitats established by the Wye and Usk Foundation who have done a remarkable job in recent years.
My fishing tackle for Wales:
Airflo Streamtec Nantec rod 9’ line 4/5, Orvis Helios 9’line 5, Allen XA 9’line 5.
Field&Fish reel 5/7, Airflo Vlite reel 5/7, Allen trout 2, Orvis Hydros reel.
Airflo DRI lines, Elite, Xceed, Mend.
Airflo Sightfree Extreme fluorocarbon.
Flies selection from www.easyfly.com
If you want to fish Wales please contact me at email@example.com
Laurent Guillermin is a French reporter and photographer. Laurent’s images and articles have appeared in a great number of fishing magazines in France and Europe. He’s also well-known in the small fly tying “world” and has commercial patterns tied by Easy Fly. He has traveled all over the world as a reporter and is considered as an expert fly fisher for trout, grayling, pike, carp, sea bass, bonefish and permit. “Every time you go out fishing you can have a different experience. That’s what it’s all about!”
You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org
Articles by the same author
- Fly Fishing in Europe - Isn’t it Good, Norwegian Wood
- Fly Fishing at King Arthur’s Table
- Fly Fishing in Europe - Shad: The Silver Arrows of Avignon
- Fly Fishing in Europe - The Pursuit of Big Trophy Brown Trout
- Fly Fishing in Europe - Winter French Nymphing
- Fly Fishing in Europe - Asp; The Poor Man's Tarpon
- Fly Fishing in Europe - Large Moving Flies for Pike
- Fly Fishing in Europe - The Golden Trout of 'Le Martinet'
- Fly Fishing in Europe - Italian Trout on the Tanaro
- Fly Fishing Europe - Rutland Water: UK Mecca for Fly Fishers