Paul's Diary

  • Tuesday 25th August 2015 - Season of plenty

    We've had visitors for the past month, starting with Ken from New Hampshire, then Bethan and Dewi from France, and Owen and Sara from Cambridge, so I've done little serious fishing. Instead we've been busy dealing with the produce of the garden (and the woods, the fields and the sea-shore), and feasting every day,
    I did have a spectacular couple of hours on the shore last week. Birds were working just off a rocky reef so I waded up to my chest to get onto the rocks, finding myself in the middle of a feeding horde. Of course, my first cast hooked a shearwater, and by the time I had landed and released it the flocks had moved away. Then, for an hour I caught school bass on surface plugs. Almost every cast produced a follow from fish which I could see clearly from my stance high on the rocks. I returned them all except one - a fish of about 3lb that was almost as deep as it was long. (I discovered the reason later - it had eaten eight six-inch herrings). I had to stop because of the rising tide, and this time I couldn't touch the bottom so had to swim the few feet from the rocks to the sandy shallows. I managed to keep my phone and van keys dry, but realised later that I had left my wallet in my pocket!
    I returned at dawn a few days later with my inflatable in the back of the van. It was pouring with rain and I had almost decided not to launch the boat. Then I looked over the sea-wall and saw a horde of gannets crashing into the sea only a few hundred yards away. Of course they kept drifting ahead of me as my two-horse motor pushed me out to sea. The rain became torrential, but did little to flatten the waves, and I found myself in a turmoil of water and birds, with gannets and shearwaters, gulls and terns diving all around me, porpoises within a few yards. I could hardly see because the rain was so heavy, and they were all catching fish except me! I really expected to catch a load of mackerel, but caught none, probably because they were taking herrings and the mackerel were not present. I chased the birds up and down the bay for a couple of hours, catching just a small bass and a very large weever before giving them best and returning to shore drenched to the skin. Such opportunities are rare unless you live on the shore, so despite its lack of success, it was an experience I am unlikely to repeat very often.
    The river is full of sea-trout but I have done little to molest them. I've had just a few casts once or twice, at a spot I can fish just a few minutes from my desk, and had a couple of three-pounders - they are colouring up now, as the season progresses. Almost every cast produces a take from little ten-inch sewin - let's hope they all come back next year!
    To Liverpool today, to take Bethan and Dewi to the plane, then to Ireland for the game fair at Birr Castle. I haven't been there before - I just hope the ground will not have suffered from the week of rain that is forecast. If it does rain all week, perhaps there will be some salmon in the river when we return.

    Feeding frenzy at Borth Feeding frenzy at Borth

  • Sunday 16th August 2015 - Eating aliens.

    Chicken and garlic - Coedcae style. Chicken and garlic - Coedcae style.

    Plucked silkies Plucked silkies


    Chicken and garlic 2 - Coedcae style. Chicken and garlic 2 - Coedcae style.









    The last two silkie cockerels had to go. Despite their very strange appearance they made a delicious supper.
    Yesterday I thinned out the Christmas Dinners - the Hubbards that I bought as day-olds at the beginning of June. They have grown well - the biggest was 9.5lb - but I am not happy with them. They are lethargic, unintelligent and weak, genetically programmed to do little but eat. We will eat them, but I feel bad about it. They are the freaks, not the silkies. So, in future we just keep and eat old breeds and mongrels, even if they don't have huge breasts!

    Marion, Ken Callahan, Paul, Paul Hogan, Luke and Jane. Marion, Ken Callahan, Paul, Paul Hogan, Luke and Jane.

    Despite the efforts of the CLA to isolate Fisherman's Row, the Coch-y-Bonddu team had a great time at the Game Fair. The layout of the site was awful but we did have a food court nearby, so we didn't have to go far to stock up with olives and venison, cheese and cider. Although sales were not great - we hardly saw anyone from Gunmaker's Row - I did have one magnificent coup. Rifle-makers, Rigby & Co., had Jim Corbett's Rigby rifle on display. Hearing about this I took along my copy of Corbett's first book, Jungle Stories. Only 100 of these were produced by the Naini Tal village printer, for giving away to friends of the author. Probably only two or three copies survive, and I had a very high (five figure!) price on it. I sold it to a great Corbett fan, doubling our takings, and it is now on loan to the Rigby exhibition.

    Bethan and Dewi are spending August with us so I've spent little time on the river. I took a few low-water fish on nymphs before the Game Fair, but we are spending more time foraging than fishing. This afternoon there is a good prawning tide and an easterly breeze so we'll be off to the sea-side.



  • Saturday 25th July 2015 - not all work

    Luke with a fifteen-pound pollack Luke with a fifteen-pound pollack

    When Luke says we are busy preparing for the CLA Game Fair next weekend (see News Page), this is what he means! While the girls are busy packing books he is out enjoying himself. Oh - and I had to go along to take the pictures.  There's a lot of filleting, brining and smoking going on right now.

  • Monday 13th July 2015 - and hatching 'em.

    I've been busier selling chickens than books this week. I advertised my spare teenage silkies locally, and sold them all within twenty-four hours. The following day my two broodies hatched 18 out of 20 eggs, so I shared the chicks with a third broody, and sold a further two families of hens and chicks, just keeping a few for myself.

    Ireland was nice and busy. Once again the weather was kind, with just enough night-time rain to freshen the river a little and improve the fishing. Luke and I caught lots of trout, some nice roach, and a few dollaghan, including one proper one of three pounds or so. As I played it in the dusk I was treated to the sight of a long-eared owl hawking above the river.
    After the game fair we headed south to Lough Corrib where were entertained by our friends, Philip White and Dennis Moss. Post-mayfly is a difficult time on the lough, but Mr Moss ghillied us in a nice wave and put us onto a few fish, while Mr White took us out in a flat calm at 4am the next day and showed us great pods of fish munching down caenis. We couldn't catch 'em, though.

    It's a season for mustelids. In my last entry I mentioned seeing four otters together, and then a stoat swimming the river; one evening this week I went for a walk and saw a family of five mink on the river-bank; and my friends in Ireland had been suffering from strawberry scrumpers - when they spotted the culprit it was a pine marten!

    Back home on the lakes, I think we've missed the coch-y-bonddu fall, but caught a few nice fish during the very brief evening rise to big sedges. It's a busy time for night-fishing on the river, so I usually keep out of the way. There are quite a few visiting anglers at this time of year, so the big pools of the lower river get rather crowded. I've had a couple of short sessions into the dark and caught a three-pounder and a handful of small sewin, but I haven't got serious about it yet. A couple of nights ago I rose a few fish on big salmon dry flies, so I'm hoping to tie (or scrounge) a few big mice and give them a swim. Right now, however, it is pouring with rain and the river is rising fast. It'll be too dirty to fish today, but who knows what tomorrow will bring?

  • Wednesday 17th June 2015 - setting eggs

    I'm only writing this as a reminder - this evening I've set twenty silkie eggs under a couple of broodies, so now I might remember when they are due to hatch. I've already hatched a couple of broods so it looks as though I'm going to have to find homes for some of them pretty soon - or eat 'em. They're scrawny little chaps with black skin - when they are plucked they look like the creatures that live inside daleks. Someone's got to do it, though.
    The surviving Hubbards are real brawlers, less than three weeks old and nearly as big as their foster-mother. Providing the foxes leave us alone, Christmas lunch will either be one fat Hubbard or half a dozen skinny black silkies!
    Conditions are getting very good for night fishing for sea-trout, but after I have dozed off after dinner it is much easier to put it off until tomorrow. Life hasn't been entirely fishless, though. We had a lovely sunny day out with Charlie Bartlett last week. I'm always apprehensive about the first trip of the season, but the gannets were diving and the mackerel were in. There were plenty of tope and huss for those who wanted to catch them, while the rest of us accumulated a nice bag of black bream, mackerel, and a few weevers and gurnards.
    I had set the smoker up in anticipation of mackerel, and then, to make full use of it, I took a couple of fillets of sea-trout out of the freezer. Although firm, it was quite pale-fleshed, so I added the chilli marinade from a bowl of beetroot to their brine. I smoked them for 24 hours, rather than my usual 48, and as they had already firmed up nicely I left it at that. They looked terrific and tasted even better - lightly-smoked rosy sea-trout!
    Luke and I tried the caddis hatch at Llanbrynmair on Saturday night. The cloud descended on us and it was pretty cold and miserable, but we caught a few small fish during the evening before a brief hectic spell as the bigger trout moved in on the scuttling sedges in the dusk. I was using a huge muddler - really a salmon dry-fly - and was very surprised to lose three good fish after playing each of them for a while. The fourth one stayed on and proved to be another Gwyddior beauty at just over two pounds.
    I've got the dinghy and outboard serviced and ready to go, but this weekend we are off to the Welsh Game Fair, and the following one we will be in Northern Ireland for the Irish Fair, so I'll be lucky to get out for bass for a while. We may just have a cast or two while we're across the water, though. I'll tell you about it on our return.

  • Tuesday 9th June 2015 - even more fishing

    I've managed to maintain my regime of mixing office work, gardening and fishing. We had another good flood on the river last week. I didn't go out at the height of the flood, but those who did caught some great fish on worm - including a number of double-figure sea-trout. I went spinning next morning and started badly by losing a very big sea-trout at the net. I saw a fourteen-pounder caught that day and it was pretty-much identical. Never mind - at least I wasn't tempted to knock it on the head. I went on to catch a seven-pounder and a couple of smaller fish, so I can't complain. The smoker has been busy!
    I had half a day with the fly a couple of days later, but couldn't find the fish at all. High point was a stoat swimming past me, heading for the sand martin colony on the other bank.
    I tried again last night after dark. As I locked the car I could hear splashing and pictured shoals of sea-trout. Then, as I crossed the river and fished into the neck of the pool the splashing got louder and was accompanied by chattering and squeaking - the pool was occupied by a whole herd of otters! No point in fishing, I stood and watched and listened for a while before shining my small flashlight on them. Four pairs of eyes were reflected, three in the river and one on the bank. I guess there were more than four there, and they quickly ignored me and carried on chasing each other up the bank and sliding back down into the water.I left the pool to the otters and walked upstream half a mile, fishing several pools, but the cold North wind had discouraged the sea-trout and eventually it discouraged me too, and I went home to bed.

    We haven't done much trout fishing. On the stormiest evening I trekked up to a lake in the hills where the brownies jumped all over my olive bumbles. Most of them missed the fly, but enough took hold to give us a fry-up the next day.

    Rico guarding the flocks Rico guarding the flocks

    Llanbrynmair shoot - workers at rest Llanbrynmair shoot - workers at rest









    Rico is getting fat, staying at home guarding the hens. The chicks play all around him as he dozes in the garden. Let's hope he remembers what a pheasant is. I did spend a day last week working on a splendid new release pen on the shoot, so we are promised some sport next season.  Fifty yards by seventy of regenerating cover on the edge of an old oak wood - plenty of sunshine and shade - it's a pheasant poult's paradise!

    The garden is getting full, although still only supplying salads and strawberries so far. My flocks are flourishing, with several families of chicks sunbathing on the grass and pecking around the vegetables each day. As an experiment I bought some day-old Hubbards - table birds - and put them with a silkie hen. At one week old one of them drowned itself in a bowl of water - it felt as dense and heavy as a bag of sugar. I hope the rest will survive their genetic propensity for heart attacks and broken legs long enough to make us a Christmas dinner or two.

  • Tuesday 19th May 2015 - another fishy week & the decline of the Game Fair

    At the risk of boring you all, I'm going to add a picture of the fish I caught this morning - it was so beautiful! And a couple of pounds heavier than the previous one!

    Dyfi sea-trout - 9lb 8oz Dyfi sea-trout - 9lb 8oz

    I think I am starting to get the balance right: one hour at the office, one hour on the river, and one hour in the garden. Then lunch - then start again.

    Actually the fish were the winners last week. Luke and I took a day off on Wednesday and had a look at the Talybont lakes. The wind dropped away to a very light easterly and the lakes were almost flat calm. Fish were rising to something invisible on Llyn Penrhaeadr and Conach, and were almost impossible to catch. Luke's single fly approach fooled a handful, but I was completely skunked!

    I've just been looking at my diary for the coming weeks. Unfortunately we will not be having a stand at the Scottish Game Fair this year. Sales continue to fall as costs rise, and the fair organisers, while bemoaning the deterioration of Fisherman's Row, refuse to make any allowances for high quality trade stands, many of whom travel hundreds of miles to be there. So, most of the serious angling trade stands have, like ourselves, reluctantly decided that we can't afford to subsidise them any more. We will be at the CLA Game Fair this year, but it is very likely to be for the last time. Apparently organisations like the Salmon & Trout Association and the National Gamekeepers Association will not be there because of the cost of taking a stand. The short-sighted CLA, in excluding these important countryside organisations, are excluding the very people who made the event a success in the past (many of them my customers!), causing further decline in my business, and hastening their own inevitable demise.

    Incidentally, the first year that I did a number of game fairs was 1991, so this is my 25th year of them. The first Falconry Fair was that year, and we have attended every one since. This year our takings were exactly the same as they were in 1991!

    Later that day...
    I'm not going to keep on adding pictures of fish as I catch them, but I'd better finish the story. I went out for an hour after dinner and caught these two - another nine and a seven.

    Sea-trout - nine and seven pounds. Sea-trout - nine and seven pounds.

  • Tuesday 12th May 2015 - A fishy week

    Things are looking up! There are sea-trout in the river, John-the-Rock is catching bass and the hill lakes are waking up. No more proper sea-trout, but I did catch a fish of a pound and a half that shouldn't have been in the river at this time of year. The solution was in its belly - it was full of food - leatherjackets and all kinds of terrestrial grubs that had come down with the flood. A fresh sewin would not have been feeding at all, so this was a silver slob or estuary trout.
    Next afternoon I popped up to Llanbrynmair to pay for my season-ticket and have a look at the lakes. Nothing had been caught at Llyn Gwyddior so far this season, so I almost didn't bother. Good job I did, though. The fish weren't at the surface, but they were taking well just below and I had four good trout, including an eighteen-incher - the biggest I've ever caught there. I caught a few tiddlers as well, so these big fellows haven't eaten them all.

    A brace of Gwyddior trout - 2lb 6oz & 1lb 10oz A brace of Gwyddior trout - 2lb 6oz & 1lb 10oz

    Now, where will I fish tomorrow?

  • Saturday 9th May 2015 - A May sea-trout - again!

    I dropped on a nice sea-trout this afternoon - my earliest yet,  though looking back through this diary I find that last year I caught one exactly the same weight just four days later. Seven-and-a-half pounds and fresh off the tide, it ran about seventy yards downriver before I could turn it.

    fresh-run 7.5 lb Dyfi sea-trout fresh-run 7.5 lb Dyfi sea-trout

    sea-louse sea-louse

    Cuckoos were a-cuckooing, kingfishers and sand-martins busy at their excavations, mallards and canada geese everywhere and I picked a bagful of ramsons leaves to make a sauce for the sea-trout.


  • Tuesday 28th April 2015 - Cool Spring

    My new van took me to Scandinavia and back without mishap. The Danish Fly Festival was terrific as usual - good company, good food and good book sales and purchases. Everyone told me how good the sea-trout fishing has been this year so I was keenly anticipating a few days on the water after the show. Unfortunately the weather changed as the show finished and cold winds drove the sea-trout offshore, and I probably had the worst three days of the Spring for my fishing.
    Abandoning the shore, I drove back through Germany to the Netherlands (where, of course, the sun was shining), and to the Pike and Fly show at Dronten. It was pretty low-key but I sold enough books to make space for a trolley-full of olives, wine and cheese from the Calais supermarché.
    Before leaving home, immediately after Easter, I had prepared and sown the greenhouse beds, and planted much of the garden, as well as setting a couple of broody hens on clutches of eggs. On my return the beds were green with growing salad crops, and tomatoes and cucumbers were ready for planting - and this morning there is a hatch of silkie chicks to rehouse. The other setting, of Welsummers, has only produced one chick, so I've popped that one under the hen with the silkie chicks.

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