Autumnal Beauty On The River Irfon
It still has the same effect. Staring at the ceiling, wide awake at 02:30, excitement in full swing because of a fishing trip the next day. I feel 10 years old again, as the next day holds a fishing trip with Dad.
A lack of sleep maybe, but at 06:30 I couldn’t have felt more awake as the car was packed and readied before beginning the hour journey north. Our venue for the day was to be the River Irfon near Mid Wales or, more specifically, one of the beats available via the Wye & Usk Foundation’s Booking Office. Almost at our destination and a wrong turn was made, resulting in a rather strange but comical exchange of directions with an older gent wearing only thin cotton pyjamas and his best wellies (it was freezing cold out). Soon after, we were greeted by the smiling faces of fellow Pro Instructor Justin and his father-in-law Steve and, after the usual banter and a bacon sarnie breakfast, the focus turned to fishing prep.
With a cloudless sky and air temperatures hovering at a crisp -2°C, every blade of grass or leaf for as far as the eye could see was covered in frost. This gave the place a jewelled effect, as every time a cold breeze would blow, the grass and leaves would twinkle and glitter in response. This was the first real day where it felt like the winter grayling season was upon us. Eventually, and with Dad, Justin, and Steve opting for a duo set-up consisting of a Klinkhamer and various personal favourite nymph, I opted for a short-line nymph rig consisting of two Czech nymphs for the droppers and a jig nymph on the point.
The Irfon, for any who’ve not fished her, is the little (but just as beautiful) sister of the awe-inspiring River Wye. An angler is instantly of the relationship when wading over their smooth, slab-like riverbeds; riverbeds that have been the watery downfall of many an angler (yours truly included). Studded felt wading boots are a must on these waters, and I’d even recommend a wading staff in winter should your confidence in deeper wading we lacking. Don’t spoil your day by getting wet or, worse still, your life by drowning.
After a pleasant walk along the river to warm the toes, we were at our starting point for the day, watching the undisturbed surface of a slightly high and slightly coloured River Irfon for any signs of movement; our breaths continuing to mist in front of us. While Dad, Justin, and Steve targeted the slower glides, I went in search for slightly faster, more broken water better suited to my nymphs, and it wasn’t long until the first grayling took interest. The Black-Flash jig tied on at the point was taken after just a few searching drifts, however, it sadly jumped the hook. I’ll put this loss down to too much excitement, what with it being my first fish of the day. Soon after, however, soft cheers were heard coming from downstream as Justin was into his second fish. A nice start to the day.
After a few hours the group had happily landed a good number of grayling and even a few trout who should, by now, be enjoying the attentions of their opposite sexes higher up in the catchment. Still, they were welcome, and were quickly released without handling. It’s nice to know our offerings were appreciated by both species of fish.
Lunchtime, and it was back to the cars for a sandwich and a hot coffee thanks to the stove I’d brought along (a regular and welcome companion on fishing trips these days, especially when I’m out for the day with clients), and we were soon forgetting the pain caused by too much time stood in too cold a water. With the blood pumping again, the banter started to flow once more, and talk turned to fly rods, flies, and every other aspect of the game.
The afternoon saw more fish to both dry and nymph alike, however, we had to work hard for them. Still, these days away aren’t about numbers, and although the ever-so-slightly-swollen Irfon gave up her secrets quietly, it was a day signalling the start of our new ‘Winter Grayling Season’. There’s just something special about fishing in the cold. Things seem quieter and less hurried, and the colder it gets, the less anglers you tend to see!