Paul's Diary

  • 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.

  • Tuesday 31st March 2015

    I should have been dabbling the duck-fly on Lough Corrib with Dennis Moss this morning. However, storms have put paid to that so I'll forget about Ireland until mayfly time. I might try a few of Rob Smith's spiders on the hill streams over Easter, but more likely I'll be tucked up in the warm in the greenhouse, potting-on tomato plants.
    I have returned to fly-tying after a break of many years, so I will certainly be checking my stocks of shrimp and ragworm patterns ready to tackle the Danish sea-trout next week. I'll be staying on the Baltic coast for several days after the Kolding Fly Festival, so have every chance of catching up with the elusive sea-trout (Any tips on where to go gratefully received!) Then to Holland, where I don't suppose I'll be fishing - just having a beer or two with lots of old friends.
    I will be 
    taking a very nice selection of flyfishing books (& a few lure books) to both shows, but if you want me to bring any particular titles, let me know as soon as possible.


  • Tuesday 3rd March 2015

    It's the first day of the trout season! Still cold though, so I doubt whether I'll do much about it for a day or two. Though I have been invited to the chub lake on Friday. We'll see.
    Wildfowling fizzled out without real hard weather, and me busy with shows. The BFFI was excellent - lots of books sold and lots of interaction with friends and customers. The Shooting Show the following weekend was awful. It was a week's work for two of us, with four nights away from home, only to be met with indifference. We won't bother going there again!
    For several years I've been threatening to buy a new van as the old one, fourteen years old, was getting rather decrepit. However, on investigation I found that there is at least sixteen weeks to wait if you want to order a new Transit. So, on Friday I headed up to North Wales and swapped the old one for a newer second-hand one with 100,000 less miles on the clock.

    Rob Smith and Paul collect the de luxe copies of The North Country Fly from the bookbinders. Rob Smith and Paul collect the de luxe copies of The North Country Fly from the bookbinders.

    Tomato seedlings (and a few others) are poking through in the propagator, and we're promised milder weather later in the week so I can get cracking in the greenhouse.

    It is twenty-five years since I tied many flies, but I'm inclined to try a few again. I've bought a nice second-hand vice from Charlie Rust and I'm set to have a tying session on Thursday night. I'll probably be chasing chickens round the garden on Thursday morning, plucking hackles!

    Yesterday I met up with the author, Rob Smith, and bookbinder, Paul Kidson, and got the de luxe copies of The North Country Fly signed - so later today we'll be sending out the first of those. First, though, I've been summoned to the hills to look for a troublesome fox!

  • Friday 30th January 2015 - A good bag!

    I managed to get away to the snowy hills this afternoon for a couple of hours. Rico and I ambushed a group of birds and quickly put several in the bag, but lost a strong runner that ran over our boundary and away - unsighted by Rico. Moving to the next valley I shot two woodcock from the same clump of gorse within a few seconds of each other. Both fell into a steep dingle where they tumbled many yards into the stream below. Rico, despite not having seen woodcock before, hunted both of them down to the water and retrieved them. With the light fading rapidly we returned to the scene of our earlier success and, leaving the gun in the car, hunted down the hedges for a quarter of a mile before Rico pulled out across a field into a clump of rushes and picked up the cock pheasant we had lost earlier. Very satisfying and great experience for the dog.

  • Sunday 25th January 2015 - Time is running out!

    The sore rib, and a bad dose of flu after Christmas, made a mess of the shooting season. It's only the past couple of weeks that we managed a few days without feeling exhausted. The syndicate shoot in Llanbrynmair has been consistently successful - not with big bags but with sufficient birds to give everyone a shot or two and a brace of birds to take home.
    It has taken me longer to get around to some proper fowling - the idea of trudging a mile or two through deep mud in heavy neoprene chest-waders has been quite a deterrent. I've managed an odd teal, but no wigeon - and time is running out.
    During those housebound mid-winter days I was busy working on Rob Smith's book on "The North Country Fly." It was a bit of a rush but I got it to the printers for their first day back after the New Year, and they got an advance copy of the finished book to me this week. It looks terrific - and we will have the stock here in time for the launch at the BFFI on 7th February. What a relief!

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