Thursday, 21 August 2014

Bonefish of the Valleys - Part 1

Day 1 – Pant-Y-Llyn

After last year’s marvellous visit to mid Wales in search of the oldest strain of carp known, I vowed to return, so when Matt started making plans to arrange another trip this year I didn’t need asking twice. I love catching fish as much as the next guy, and when given the chance to get amongst such sought after and historically important fish it really is a no brainer. But when you start to realise just where these fish are found, among mountain ranges, high up above the clouds when sheep and buzzards vastly outnumber human presence, you begin to appreciate that a trip of this magnitude really is up there with the best angling experiences available. 

As with all good angling trips, the company is key. A group of traditional anglers descending upon a lake is always a delightful occasion, but a few days fishing such a remote wilderness with the added bonus of a couple of nights camping and socialising and you have the makings of a truly memorable outing. The plan was for us to meet in the afternoon of Friday at the campsite, kindly secured by Matt, and to split in to two groups, fishing Llyngwyn and Pant-Y-Llyn respectively over the weekend. 

Being the enthusiastic angler that I am, I saw an opportunity to wangle an extra day’s fishing. I wondered what it would be like to fish Pant-Y-Llyn alone, just me and the lake and the mountains; I bet that would be awesome. So after a little research I soon had the lake booked and plans were put in place to leave before sunrise on the Friday morning in order to get a full day’s angling among the clouds. With the car packed the evening before, I switched off the alarm clock and 3:45, got dressed and was chugging my way through empty streets just after 4am.

I was hoping, after a quick stop halfway for breakfast, to get to the lake around 8am, but the A34 being closed forced me to detour through Salisbury, Devises and up to the M4 at Swindon the long way, so half an hour was added to my journey. Greggs at Leigh Delamare provided me with coffee and a bacon roll and within minutes I was back in the car and making up the minutes. The big bridge over the Severn robbed me of yet another £6.40, but then provided me with that familiar picture postcard scenery for the remainder of the journey. 

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As I neared the lake, the landscape changed dramatically, hills and mountains came into view and became more real with every mile I drove. Eventually I arrived at the foot on the hill the lake was situated upon; I looked up and thought about leaving the car and walking the rest of the way. The golf is in no way shape or form an off road vehicle, especially as it has oversized wheels with rubber bands for tyres, but, me being me, getting to the lake as quickly as possible was far more important than to worry about getting stuck half way up, besides, I could call the AA after fishing!

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Luck was on my side, I exited the car at a point where I could see the lake. My trusty steed had managed to get all the way to the top. I patted her on the bonnet and told her to admire the view whilst I go off in search of dreams. Loaded with the bare minimum I trudged off down the hill towards the lake with so much going through my mind, where to fish being top of the list. As I approached the water’s edge I felt the cool breeze blowing down the lake from the dam, so first port of call was the north bank point. 

I sat for a while without setting up, it was just so nice to be back, and to have the place to myself. Sheep moved all around, red kites and buzzards were mobbed by crows and bees buzzed among the heather and gorse. I peered into the margins and was greeted with a myriad of marvellous minnows, all jostling for a spot among the sparse patches of densely overpopulated weed. A steady breeze was coming over my shoulder, so the first thing I did was to put out a few dog biscuits and watch them drift out across the bay. 

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Ripples close to the bank signalled there were fish in the area, and soon after the first of the dog biscuits started to be taken, swirls and boils appeared 20 or so yards out as the oily morsels were scoffed down. I set up the Mark IV, attached a Hardy Altex reel and with a size 6 hook tied to the end and a piece of Babybell wax moulded a few feet up I hooked two baits and made the first cast. Controlling the line proved slightly difficult; with the gentle breeze enough to blow a loop in the slack line making the hook-bait sail on a different course to that of the free offerings. Frequent mending of the line kept this to a minimum and as the wax sight bob skipped across the surface I struck into my first fish of the weekend. 

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From the resistance I could tell that this wasn’t the target species, but a superbly conditioned and highly spirited chub of around 2lbs was brought to the net, admired and released into the clear pebbly margin. After a further two chub the swim went quiet so I upped sticks and moved along to the northern shore where I had seen a few swirls of activity. A few casts later and one more chub was brought to shore. I was beginning to wonder where the wildies were, the chub were great but not exactly what I’d travelled 4 hours for. Once again I was on the move, this time to the rocky cliff face on the south bank, here I chilled, watched the lake and ate lunch. 

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After lunch I set up stall on the east bank, the wind was heading straight into the margins here so and was strengthening more and more as the day wore on. At first I set up a float but the wind blowing the line caused it to drag under, so a simple free-line set up was concocted, a size 6 hook and three swan shot a foot behind. I sat watching the line as it exited the tip ring and met the water with a 45 degree arc, which after twenty minutes straightened and the rod tip nodded. I struck and felt a good resistance, I thought his could be a wildie, but a really good chub somewhat over 3lbs was the culprit. 

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Whilst fishing I had been flicking out a few dog biscuits which eventually were washed up on the shore. I heard a slurping sound coming from my right, looked up and spotted that around ten yards down the bank there was a group of fish feasting on the baits that were just a few yards out. I wound in, removed the split shots and crept along with my hook baited with 2 mixers. I made a gentle cast and soon had a take, but I missed it. I half expected the fish to be chub, but as I watched a free mixer get swallowed down I spotted a mouth with barbules. 

Now very excited and shaking a little I fished on with renews enthusiasm, more free mixers went out and the group of ancient fish continued feeding. The next take I received I connected with, but after a run parallel with the bank at blistering pace the hook pulled and I reeled in the limp line feeling quite dejected. Soon after the swim went quiet, the surface activity ceased, but I half wondered if the fish might still be present, just deeper. I re-attached the split shots, hooked a chunk of luncheon meat and made a gentle cast 2 rod lengths out. Again I resumed watching the slack line and quite quickly it tightened, I struck, felt a resistance for a split second and all fell slack again. Upon reeling in I saw a scaled from a carp on the hook, it must have been a liner, but it told me that the carp were still there. The next cast went out and again the line tightened, only this time It was hooked fair and square and after a scrap that saw the fish towing me all around the swim , I landed my first wildie of the weekend. 

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These fish are the ‘Bonefish of the Valleys’, so fast, can change direction on a sixpence, don’t know when to give up; they really are the ultimate fighting coarse fish. The beautiful fish was a classic example and at around 3lbs was just what I’d travelled for. After a few quick snaps I retuned the fish a little way along the bank to my left, just in case there were more still there. The next couple of hours saw me catch 4 more wildies and another few chub. The fishing was unreal, the location amazing and I had it all to myself. 

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The action dried up around 7pm, the sun was beginning its decent into the mountains and I was eager to get to camp and pitch the tent before sunset. I was looking forward to meeting up with the rest of the guys, a BBQ was planned also and I was famished so a short trudge uphill and with the car loaded I made my way back down the track and onwards to the campsite. As I pulled into the field I was greeted by Paul, Matt, Lee, and Dave. Scott was down at the river chucking his fluff and the others were yet to arrive. 

It was a great evening of chit chat, banter, BBQ and star gazing. Sometime after midnight I turned in for the night, climbed into my sleeping bag and after a very long and busy day I was dreaming of lean, hard fighting carp within seconds…. 

To be continued....

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