Paul's Diary

  • Tuesday 17th January 2017 - All work and no play...

    My real loves of wildfowling, rough shooting, duck and pigeon flighting, hunting snipe and woodcock, rabbiting are all getting harder to find - and harder to make time for. If it were not for the pre-arranged days of the local syndicate (and, in the summer, pre-booked fishing trips) then I would hardly escape the clutches of work, and particularly publishing. The publishing does, of course, have great rewards. It is a privilege to be able to channel the creativity of others (and to a lesser extent, of myself) and to produce something of lasting value. Much of the past couple of months has been spent on three authoritative works on classic salmon flies, all destined to meet their public at the BFFI early in February. The largest of these is Martin Lanigan O'Keefe's monumental catalogue of Farlows Salmon Flies, which will surely become the standard reference book for collectors of antique flies.

    Ernest Crosfield Ernest Crosfield

    Salmon Flies of James Harper Salmon Flies of James Harper

    Farlows Salmon Flies Farlows Salmon Flies











    Colin Innes is carving a niche for himself as the historian of Scottish fishing tackle dealers, and particularly of the salmon flies of the north-east. His first volume in the Angling Monographs series, The Lost Salmon Flies of Balmoral, sold out in a few months. Two further monographs are both due to be launched at the BFFI - The Salmon Flies of James Harper, and another on the salmon flies and fishing methods of influential salmon angler, Ernest Crosfield.
    Two of the three books are at the printer, and the third is now out of my hands, so perhaps I can now apply myself to sport. Unlike last year, almost all of our shooting days have been fine and dry. Birds are plentiful thanks to the hard work of our gamekeepers, and I have managed to keep the larder full. Rico managed to split a pad, hunting woodcock in clear-fell, a couple of weeks ago. These things always happen as we approach the end of the season and would really like to be out every day. Anyway, I rested him for a week, and then bandaged him up to go out last Saturday. That was successful so we are on course for a day's picking up on Friday and another day in Llanbrynmair on Saturday. And Duncan keeps reminding me that the rivers are in good order for grayling fishing - tomorrow?



  • Friday 4th November 2016 - books and sport - as usual

    The grayling weekend went well and our new book, Steve Skuce's Grayling Flies, was very well received. On Sunday I fished the Wilton Water on the Wylie, and caught some nice grayling, and on Monday I had a short session in tropical sunshine with our friend Jan Grimstone on the Test, catching some small grayling and having fun spotting some big trout and carp (!) in the clear water.
    By Tuesday the temperature had dropped ten degrees. I spent two hours up to my waist in Cardigan Bay - by the time I waded ashore I was numb with cold. Came home with two mackerel (my first, I think, in November) and a bagful of parasol mushrooms.
    Today we will be busy numbering and mailing the latest two volumes in our Angling Monographs series, Salmon and Science by Dr Derek Mills and Understanding Fish Vision by Prof Lawrence Threadgold.
    Tomorrow I will take my very fat labrador, Rico, out of hibernation when we go for our first day at the pheasants!

    Salmon and Science Salmon and Science

    Grayling Flies by Steve Skuce Grayling Flies by Steve Skuce

    Understanding Fish Vision Understanding Fish Vision

  • Saturday 22nd October 2016 - Not more mackerel!

    aberdyfi-mackerel Mackerel and whitebait from Aberdyfi quay

    I was unduly pessimistic about the tomatoes. Some plants were stricken by blight in August but most of them survived and continued to crop, though they are coming to an end now.
    Once the inshore water cleared, and the sea flattened with a steady east wind, the baitfish and mackerel moved into the beaches and the whole of Cardigan Bay had an unprecedented harvest. I only managed one short evening, but very quickly collected a bucketful of mackerel, sprats, whitebait, and even a couple of smelts. After catching a lot of mackerel very quickly on feathers, I changed to a floating plug. This was great fun in the clear water as whole shoals of fish could be seen following the lure, throwing themselves out of the water, until eventually, on almost every cast, one took hold.

    Aberystwyth sprats Aberystwyth sprats

    I have been away at shows most weekends, and this continues right up to the end of November. Penrith Flyfest and Uttoxter Flyfair have just gone, and Galway and the Belgian Fly Happening are to come. Next weekend will be fun - Steve Skuce's new book, Grayling Flies, is due to be delivered directly from the printers to the Winchester venue of the Grayling Society annual conference. If all goes well I will be able to celebrate with a day's chalkstream grayling fishing on the Sunday.
    I sent my catalogue to the printers yesterday, and the wind is back in the east so, in between shows, I might even try for a bass.


    The staff fishing trip was a great success - there were plenty of mackerel and bream so everyone had fish to take home. Since then I have been busy working on publishing projects and my catalogue so I have not been out very much. The inshore fishing has been quiet with 2016-10-06-18-21-24turbid water conditions, and the usual flocks of birds, indicating the presence of baitfish, have not been present. However we have settled into a period of easterlies so a couple of days ago I took advantage of a flat sea to go for a cast at dusk. Despite the absence of birds there were fish about and I caught a few joey mackerel and a couple of reasonable bass, including a nice one to take home - my first of the year. It's a good job I took two bags - I filled one with horse mushrooms and parasol mushrooms on the way to the shore, and the other with the bass and a mackerel. Supper was assured!

  • Thursday 1st September 2016 - Harvest time

    No sport of note during this busy time. The sea-trout season is almost at an end and the river is full of very small sewin (or finnock, or herling). I had an hour at dusk a couple of days ago, catching a few, but more interested in the seven flocks of Canada geese that went over well within gunshot. Perhaps that's where I should be this evening.
    I have very mixed feelings about the Game Fair. I was stricken by a bug and spent the entire time feeling rotten and watching while my admirable staff did all the work. Our stand in the fishing area, isolated from the rest of the fair, was a waste of time. There was a reasonable footfall at the shooting stand, but I've already talked to the organisers about next year and they are demanding more for stand rent that we took this year, so the 2016 Game Fair might well have been our last.
    Luke and I have just returned from the Irish Game Fair in Birr - a very different kettle of fishing books. We were flat-out all weekend, mostly selling inexpensive books, but it felt good to be busy, and to travel home without the van being overweight!
    August is tomato time - actually it is a very short season; we usually have plenty in time for the Game Fair at the end of July, and now, at the end of August, the main crops are already coming to an end. It's been a poor summer and my later plants were afflicted by blight, so I'm not sure how I can extend the season in future. I grew about a dozen varieties this year, but two were outstanding for taste - Black Opal and White Rabbit. I won't bother with some of the others next year - just those two, plus Shirley and Gardener's Delight.
    We've had several sea-fishing trips cancelled because of the weather, just managing one wrecking trip and one for bream. Almost no mackerel yet, but I hope to rectify that this morning as my staff and I leave for a half-day mackerel and bream trip in a few minutes...

    Spot the white rabbit. Spot the white rabbit.

  • Monday 25th July 2016 - Goshawks & Game Fairs

    Came home yesterday to find this gos sitting on one of my silkie hens. Somehow she had squeezed through a small gap in the roof of the pen. I may regret letting her go - this morning she was jumping all over Jack's cage and didn't fly off until I chased her. No hens outside now - they're all terrified. I guess we now know what happened to the doves.
    No fishing - we've been busy preparing for the Game Fair in Ragley, and entertaining Bethan and Dewi who are visiting from France. Today Ken arrives from the US, I collect the hire-van from Aberystwyth, and I can start loading up for the fair.

    Goshawk kills silkie hen Goshawk kills silkie hen

  • Saturday 16th July 2016 - sea-trout time

    On my way home from Scone I picked up a collection of angling books that included a seven-weight Sage flyrod. We've had heavy water this week so I tried it out on the river on Wednesday afternoon; as I sat on a high bank to tie on a fly, then flicked my flies out, preparatory to standing up and casting, a sea-trout took under the rod tip. No landing net so I hand-tailed it 100 yards downstream. So the rod caught a sea-trout before I'd even cast it! An hour later this nice five-pounder grabbed the #14 copper spider on the dropper. Again off a high bank and I had to tail it 80 yards below. Must start carrying a net! I found the rod pretty stiff, but it cast my WF8 line brilliantly and will be getting a lot of work on the river.
    There are not nearly as many sea-trout around as there were last year, but there are pockets of them spread through the river. We've had a lot of rain this week and I've managed a fish or two most days - largest over ten pounds, and several fat four- and five-pounders. It is still raining, so it looks as though I'll be able to enjoy another week of good water before we go off to the Game Fair at Ragley.

    July sea-trout July sea-trout

  • Tuesday 28th June 2016 - Game Fairs, politics & turbot

    The drought is over! Over the last two weekends I have attended the Welsh and Northern Ireland game fairs, and both suffered from poor attendance and bad weather. Tomorrow morning I'm off to the Scottish Game Fair at Scone Palace, and the weather forecast is pretty grim again. (Incidentally I've just heard that the Welsh Government have appointed a UKIP MP as chair of the climate change committee. UKIP deny the existence of man-influenced climate change. Great choice.) Sea-trout must be running now, but I'm not going to have a chance to chase them until I return from Scone.
    Last weekend wasn't improved by the news of the referendum result. I've never mentioned politics here, but just for the record I regard Coch-y-Bonddu Books as internationalist, and in particular European (as well as Welsh), and I applaud the conservation and social measures achieved through European cooperation in recent years. I was shocked by the result.

    Cornish Arms turbot Cornish Arms turbot

    The three doves are now two. We've had one or two visiting racing pigeons, so whether the lonely spinster went off with one of them, or whether the sparrowhawk took her, I don't know.
    The proposed UK Game Fair at Stoneleigh has been cancelled, and an arrangement has been made with the organisers of the Ragley fair to take their trade stands and honour tickets bought for Stoneleigh. It all sounds dodgy to me, but no surprise there. At any rate, the Ragley Game Fair should now be well-attended, with plenty of good trade stands. If it is not a great deal better than the last one at Harewood (organised by the same people) then it will probably be the last. We will be making a big effort, with two stands, one on Gamekeeper's Row and one in the Fisherman's Village, and are have a number of book launches on our stands.
    Highlight of the Welsh Game Fair was supper at the Cornish Arms in Burry Port. After a plateful of crispy cockles I ordered a whole turbot, and this is what I got... It would have fed the Morgans for a week.

  • Monday 6th June 2016 - Flaming June

    Thunderstorms at the Dutch Flyfair, floods in Paris, but drought and hot sun here in Machynlleth. The doves seemed settled so I removed the net after just a week. They promptly headed south at a great height and I thought they were gone for good. After being away all day they returned in the evening and have hardly left the garden since. It's a shame I got three - there is always an odd one out!
    I made my first trip to Llyn Gwyddior last night, thinking the sedges might be on after such a hot day. The rise usually occurs about 10.30pm, but not last night. I think the prevailing westerlies usually blow the big caddis flies from the horsetail beds along the lake, but the easterly last night blew them ashore instead. Despite that I managed one nice trout of just over two pounds.
    Breakfasted this morning on the first strawberries of the year from the greenhouse. Everything is growing like crazy right now - lettuce three times a day!

    Free-range doves at Coedcae Free-range doves at Coedcae

    Two's company... Two's company...

  • Thursday 26th May 2016 - Off to Holland.

    Little fishing - I've been busy attending shows, trying to sell books, and, of course, gardening. I've had a couple of evenings in the hills, but have not ventured out for a sea-trout yet.
    Mr and Mrs Morgan attended the Smallholder's Festival at Builth Wells last Saturday. It was lots of fun to act as punters for a change. So much so that, despite taking a pocketful of money, by the time we left we couldn't even afford an ice-cream. Here is our favourite buy - bought Saturday, erected Monday, stocked on Tuesday. The net is temporary until the birds are hefted to the Coedcae garden.
    This morning I have a long drive ahead of me - heading for Dover en route for the Dutch Fly fair.

    Coedcae dovecote Coedcae dovecote

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