The morning dawned with mist still shrouding the mountains towering above the small Pyrenean town where my wife and I were staying for a few days of hiking and fishing. Walking through the narrow streets in search of croissants and strong coffee, we dodged large puddles, left by a violent thunderstorm that had woken us during the night. The town was slowly coming to life – the market traders were setting up their stalls in the square, the old men were gathering outside the bar-tabac to read their newspapers and enjoy their first cigarettes of the day, and thankfully the boulangerie was just opening.
Once fortified with caffeine and patisserie we continued our morning stroll. The sound of rushing water could be heard long before we reached the small footbridge crossing the river that flowed through the town centre. Transformed overnight by the deluge, the inviting, crystal clear waters we had admired the previous day were now an angry, grey torrent. However, higher up the valley, beyond the last villages before the Spanish border, I could imagine a mountain stream that would have been revitalised, rather than overwhelmed, by the rains, and its inhabitants reinvigorated after a long dry spell that summer.
Driving up the valley of La Neste in South West France, I was concerned to see the river high and coloured after recent rains. My wife and I were driving to northern Spain for a short break to celebrate my 40th birthday and, as part of the trip, I had booked two days of guided fishing on the renowned rivers of Aragon on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees. The season had closed in mid-September in France, but the Spanish season runs until the end of October, so this would be my last trout fishing trip of 2022 – I was praying the conditions would be more favourable on the southern side of the mountain range.
We crossed the border through the Aragnouet – Bielsa tunnel above Saint Lary. Emerging in Spain, the road descended along the valley of the RioBarossa through beautiful birch and pine forests. The Barossa was clearly in better shape than its French neighbours, running full of fresh water, but thankfully still clear with the brilliant turquoise hue that only glacial streams have.
Joining the valley of the larger Rio Cinca at Bielsa, we turned westward and cruised along towards Jaca. Drinking in the spectacular autumnal views, occasionally catching a glimpse of the magical Cinca in the canyon below, we were full of expectation of what the next few days would bring.
Following on from the previous week’s post, this is the second instalment of my look back at last summer’s trip to the Norwegian fjords.
The trip provided a number of angling ‘firsts’ for me starting with sea fish on the fly – a colourful wrasse from the shore, followed by a beautiful mackerel caught one blissful evening out on the boat.
A small spate river which, by chance, flowed into the fjord just a few miles down the road from our house would provide a few more new experiences over the course of the week.
The season for brown trout fishing on rivers in the UK typically ends this month or, in certain cases, some time in October. This year has flown by and I only managed to get out twice, both trips taking place on consecutive weekends back at the start of the season in April.
I got off to a flyer on the first trip, but then was brought back down to Earth with a bump on the second. But hey, that’s what’s great about fishing – just when you think you’ve got it mastered, nature twists and turns and puts you back in your place. There’s always more to learn.
In fly fishing circles, the grayling was for many years considered a nuisance fish. Falsely considered to prevent the more ‘noble’ brown trout colonising our rivers and streams, the species was even culled in certain parts of the UK. However, as angling attitudes have become more enlightened, increasingly grayling are viewed as a prize quarry. This is particularly so in the winter months when the trout are busy spawning and ‘the lady of the stream’ (as the grayling is affectionately known) is in peak condition.
My first attempt specifically targeting grayling in winter was on Lancashire’s river Hodder in 2016 (see Banter in Bowland). I hit the jackpot with two lovely fish gracing my net. Inspired by that success, I vowed to devote some more time to chasing this beautiful fish over the winter of 2017/18. Here’s a look back at how the season went.
The first fish I caught and ate myself was a brown trout. I was probably around seven and caught it with my Dad on a float-fished worm on the River Wharfe. Since then, I have eaten many and cooked them in numerous ways, but this is my current favourite recipe – very simple, but absolutely delicious.
As far as 30th birthdays go, mine was a bit of a non-event. I was in the middle of a big project at work and was at my desk first thing in the morning and did not get home until after midnight, so basically missed the entire day. Moreover, our daughter had been born only two months earlier so things at home were rather chaotic and any thought of birthday celebrations had understandably taken a back seat. However, I did get one great present from my wife and newly born daughter – two Richard Wheatley mahogany fly boxes with a lovely engraved message on them.
There are two types of freshwater fly-fisher in the UK: the one that hangs up his or her tackle in the autumn at the end of the traditional game fishing season and the other that ploughs on through the coldest months chasing grayling – the lady of the stream.
It is unlikely that you could read far in any literature on grayling fishing before coming across the name of a fly which is synonymous with this branch of the sport – The Red Tag. Numerous versions of The Red Tag have been resident in my fly box over the years, but only recently did I try using one for the first time.
Back in July my oldest friend was getting married at Mitton Hall in Lancashire. As I live and work in Moscow, I decided to make a long-weekend of the trip back to the U.K. and, amongst catching up with friends and family, sneak in a day’s fishing.