Salmon Fishing on the Wye & Usk

Salmon Fishing on the Wye & Usk

Every Shoal’s A Goal is a group of three part-time fishermen in their twenties. They met through a mutual love of fly fishing and all share a passion for catching fish, of any kind, from anywhere. We will post a series of articles about the adventures they have been on, as well as some techniques they have learnt along the way. Henry is 23, based in London and studies Medicine. Jed is 27, also living in London and working in Fintech. Tom is 25, lives on Jersey and works in finance.

First we hear from Jed…

Fishing is a very personal sport: the solitude and intimate nature of being alone on the river can be hard to accurately articulate, but to those that experience this regularly, the benefits are clear: a privileged view of the natural world and a calmed mind.

That said, the right company can elevate this experience to a ritualistic and social activity that is even harder to describe.

It’s April and I find myself to be the archetypal stereotype of a novice salmon fisherman in the UK. Having agreed to a week-long trip to the Wye catchment with Henry and Tom, I hold in my hand a borrowed rod, on the bank is a borrowed net and in the soles of my wading boots are some borrowed studs that I may not return. It’s been a challenging start to the season, with consistent sub-zero temperatures and heavy rainfall meaning that fish might be running but getting them to take anything seems a daunting task.

Day four takes us to Whitney Court; a varied beat available on the Fishing Passport that offers long streamy runs and slow, slack pools across a few miles of water. The river is wide and with two of us fly fishing and another slinging iron, we feel like we have our bases covered. I had one casting lesson with a double-hander before this trip and I am dutifully executing a Snap-T with all my might, with the heaviest sink tip available and some dirty great tube flies. It’s late morning, I’m wading as deep as I dare in a fast run and the fly is mid-swing when there’s contact, solid contact. I lift the rod and what initially feels like a fish fresh from the Irish Sea quickly turns into a welcome but anticlimactic 12oz. brown trout.

After a Pot Noodle and a debrief, we decide to try the water further downstream.

We split up and cover some ground. I’ve become a little disheartened swinging the fly over what feels like cold, empty water and I bump into Henry, who’s feeling very much the same with the spinner. We make our way to a run where the wading isn’t as challenging and the current allows for both of us to fish easily. I’m leading down the pool and commentating over every cast as delirium starts to set in. Henry questions if it’s fast enough for the fly here and I start stripping on the swing, promising that I’ll make five more casts and then move on.

The first is actually not bad, landing within 10 feet of where I want it and as it reaches the end of the swing, all hell breaks loose. There’s an eruption at the end of the line and something starts heads off downstream. Henry thinks I’m teasing him when I shout his name, until he sees the rod bending and throws his to the ground before racing over with the net. Having stopped the initial run it begins to bore downstream, effortlessly peeling line as Henry tells me to tighten the drag, which is already maxxed. I’ve never liked playing fish at long range, so we work our way down the bank to get level with it and reclaim some line, which triggers an upstream surge into shallower water. The fish being in shallow water gives us an advantage and we press it, me walking backwards as Henry wades into the mud, net in hand. Inadvertently he spreads a cloud of mud through the water, which means the fish can’t see him and “Henry One Scoop” lives up to his moniker. Elation.

I never told them this, but if either he or Tom hadn’t been there, I don’t think I would have landed it. And even if I had, would it have been as fun, or would anyone have believed me?

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