Productive Sewin rivers are few and far between, but local expert Lyn Davies reveals a relatively unknown river in South West Wales – the River Loughor (and it runs through Andy Petherick’s home town!)
Being an active Committee member of Pontarddulais and District Angling Association (P.A.A), over the years I have really become to appreciate how lucky us locals are. Within ten minutes, I can be stood by the banks of the Loughor, waiting patiently for the brownies to stop rising, and darkness to fall, knowing that if I catch a fish, there’s a good chance it’ll be 3lb plus – heaven!
On this occasion, I was fishing alone, but I prefer to fish in company. It’s always nice to share a conversation with a mate while you wait for darkness to fall. Also, it’s the comfort factor of knowing someone else is on the river – it helps me concentrate on the job in hand. The Loughor is a very lonely river – it’s not for the faint hearted. I’ve fished on nights that are so dark that you can’t even see your hand in front of you! On such nights, the slightest unusual noise or movement can make you feel very uncomfortable, and spoil a potentially productive session.
Communication is important not only for safety, but to provide live fishing reports throughout the night. Also, if you or your mate latch into a possible fish of a lifetime, having someone else ready with a net can save the day. With this in mind, our life has been made a whole lot easier since the introduction of mobile phones. Kept in a safe place (due to deep wading), a mobile has become a very handy piece of kit. Again, it offers that comfort factor, that if something untoward was to happen; you can speak to somebody instantly. Of late however, we have started to use ‘Walkie-Talkies’ because of some obvious advantages. Your handset again can be tucked away in a safe place, but you don’t have press any buttons to hear you mate talking to you. Also, they are free to use – unlike mobiles! On the down side, good handsets can be expensive, but it’s worthwhile investing in a reputable brand that offers sufficient clarity at a fair range.
Conditions were ideal. It was cloudy, still and warm with the chance of a shower – just how I like it. It was a Saturday night in August, and as I stood overlooking one of my favourite pools, I paused to think what most ‘normal’ thirty year olds would be doing. They would probably be out clubbing; chasing women and looking forward to a ‘Ruby Murry’ (curry), and staggering home in the early hours of the morning. It’s true, to catch Sea Trout regularly, you must be willing to put the time in – and believe you me, night fishing and romances do not work! In fact, I know a regular on the nearby River Towy, who will only consider a relationship during October to April. Now that’s what I call keen!
The golden rule of night fishing is to keep things simple. Short leaders, single flies and short, accurate casts are the order of the day. Other, larger rivers like the Towy require different tactics, but the Loughor is a small, overgrown and difficult river to fish. It can also be treacherous at times, with its high, unsafe corroding banks. As ever, I would advise you walk or better still, fish the water prior to a visit.
My preference for a night shift is my ever-faithful 10ft, 8wt Sage, accompanied with a Cortland XC large arbour reel. Large arbours have made life a whole lot easier for us night fishers. When a good Sewin takes, it’s inevitable that it’ll run for its life, turn around and sometimes run straight back towards you! With this in mind, a reliable, responsive reel is vital and today’s modern large arbours allow you to keep in contact with such lively fish.
I like my fly to fish quite deep in the water. With this in mind, I always fish with an Cortland Blue intermediate line – even in the lowest of water. I began to set-up by carefully threading my braided loop through the rod rings. Being honest, we have all started to cast and realised that something wasn’t quite right – yes, we’d missed a rod ring! At night, I count every ring I thread – I know my Sage has eleven. Time is of the essence at night, and you do not want to be messing around by the waters edge during the most productive period – that first hour of darkness.
When you are fishing a small, spate river you must be prepared to keep on the move, and therefore, you do not want to lug loads of kit around. Bear in mind, that on a good night, you could be carrying an additional weight of fish of over ten pounds!
The Loughor is full of wonderful ‘nooks’ and ‘crannies’, which provide ample opportunities for anglers to always fish fresh, un-fished water. It’s always more productive to cover as much different water as possible.
The same 6ft length of 10lb Maxima remained attached to my braided loop from the night before. I ran the leader through my fingers, checking for any wind knots or kinks and opened my fly box. I’ve tried all types of flies, all shapes and sizes, colours and weights for Sewin. For me, there is only one fly – a Tube Fly. Call me narrow minded, but over the years, I have gained such confidence in a small, simply dressed aluminium tube – that I rarely fish with anything else. Yes, like many fly fisherman, my fly box is stuffed full of various home made concoctions of fur and feather, but nine times out of ten, it’s the tube that goes on the end of my line.
Again, my Tube Fly dressing is simple. I don’t bother with a body material, the bare aluminium tube works fine – tinsel bodies and ribs only come undone after a few fish. I use a wing of dyed black squirrel tail along with an under hackle of dyed teal blue cock hackle fibres. Many Sewin flies include Jungle Cock eyes. I love the look on them, but I don’t think this expensive, delicate material is necessary. I will however, add a few strands of a flashy material over the top of the wing.
An aluminium tube lands with a little splash, which might attract a fish and of course it sinks quicker than most traditional single hook flies. On a small river, there is a small window of opportunity for a fish to see your fly and take it. Depth is crucial, and I believe a tube gets you to the fish with the minimum of fuss. Many locals’ fish with Muddler’s and other single hook flies, but it’s all about confidence, and Tubes do it for me. I also carry a Surface Lure in my box. As the late Falkus stated, the Surface Lure will only work on some rivers. Fortunately, it works on the Loughor, so it’s always worth a try.
I threaded my line through the small, half-inch tube and attached my size 10, Partridge Outpoint Treble via a Tucked Blood Knot. Tubes need some sort of rubber sleeve to hold the treble in place, and I prefer to use the ‘Shrink Wrap’ type material. This is the stuff that you put over a naked flame and it reduces in diameter, creating a stiff hollow tube to attach your treble. The material tends not to slip off the tube – unlike normal softer tubing. When is comes to trebles, I’m mega fussy, and I only use Partridge. My only criticism though, is that they don’t stay pin sharp for long. During an outing, it’s inevitable that you will catch the opposite bank or an overhanging tree – so keep an eye on them. Sea Trout can be notoriously difficult to hook, so don’t cut corners in this department.
That’s it, my set up is complete. The next 15mins or so was spent surveying the pool and becoming accustomed to the failing light conditions. Night fly fishermen are a rare breed – a lot of anglers are put off by the darkness – I love it. Limit the use of your torch and you will soon get used to it. It’s surprising how well you can actually see – even on the darkest of nights. I carry a small torch, but I must admit, I rarely use it – but it’s nice to know that you have one in an emergency. Most of many tangles are usually sorted by holding the bird’s nest up against the night sky. It was time to start.All my fishing at night is done whilst wading. Chest waders are essential; you need to be able to access the most difficult of spots to cover fish. Also, you don’t need to be worried about going over the top of your thigh waders, getting wet and spoiling a nights fishing. I personally don’t wear expensive waders. Barbed wire, submerged trees and rocks all destroy waders – a pair usually only last me a season, so I search for the cheapest models. Wading in the dark is a skill in itself – take nothing for granted, that submerged branch that you are balancing on will give way, so always feel for something solid under your feet. Practice makes perfect, move carefully and cautiously at all times – I’m never happy unless I’m up to my armpits in water!
I edged my way down to the tail of the pool. Heron like, inch-by-inch I clinically positioned my tube as close as possible to the opposite bank. Sewin will take as soon as the fly hits the water, so be prepared for action at all times. Within a few casts I received a sudden ‘bang’ out of the blue, my heart stopped – it was a small brownie. You will catch a lot of brown trout at night on the Loughor. If nothing else, they wake you up and increase your concentration level. After a lot of splashing and disturbance, I released the lively half-pounder and checked my tube. It’s essential that you check your fly at regular intervals. Following a fish or any sort of tangle with the opposite bank or underwater weed, make sure your fly is fishing correctly. Tube fly trebles tend to stick out at odd angles, so keep an eye on them. A spot check against the skyline every 10 minutes or so is advised.
By the way, the Loughor is well known for its resident otters, so don’t be too surprised if you see a large mammal, snorting, doing backstroke past you! From experience, an otters presence doesn’t put the fish down too much, having said that, I’d prefer not see one until I’ve fished through a hot spot!
I fished down through the tail of the pool, but all was quiet – they didn’t seem to want to know. I reeled in and left the river as quietly as I entered. Clambering up the bank, I crossed over a barbed wire fence and headed across a field to another pool, some 200yds up stream.
Usually, only one chance you’ll get at a particular fish, so the more new places you can cast a fly, the better. Always keep on the move, and don’t flog a place. If you’ve felt a fish, give it a few more casts and move on – you’d be better concentrating on that spot an hour or so later.
I knew the next pool held a good head of fish, it does so every year, but they always prove difficult to catch. A deep, slow moving back eddy is between you and fish, and with a high bank behind, it’s a difficult place to fish. Not many people fish it for this reason, but these are the places that hold fish. You should always give them a try – even if you do loose a fly! It’s not much of a price to pay for a cracking, fresh Sewin in the bag.
After some awkward casts, and some cursing, I found myself in a half decent position to cast a line.
Following a long cast under the overhanging trees on the opposite bank, my tube stopped mid flow – my prayers had been answered. I felt the weight of a nice fish, quite deep, just where I’d expected to see one. When a Sewin takes, it will usually come straight to the surface, roll about and splash like mad – this one was no exception. I’ve lost many fish at this point (especially in fast flows), when you try to hold the fish back in a panic. This is a mistake. You must remember to either drop the rod or give the fish line, to allow it to turn and perform its first run. Many Salmon anglers keep a loop of line, just for this reason. I dropped the rod; the fish found its bearings and shot off, presumably back to its lie, under the trees. At this point, you need to instantly consider your location in the water. Can you stay where you are to land the fish, or will it be easier and safer to try and move elsewhere?
I decided to walk slowly backwards out of the water, towards the clear shingle bank. My large arbour soaked up any loose line and I was soon in close contact with the fish. Always be ready for the unexpected. A Sewin will run 25yds in no time, in any direction, so check your drag. Make sure it’s not too tight or too loose, a fully loaded reel can easily tangle if the fish makes a mad dash for freedom.
I’ve fished for these fabulous fish since I was twelve years old (I’m now 32), and every fish I hook into still causes me to shake like a leaf. It’s the sheer ‘wildness’ of it all that makes this by far my favourite form of fly-fishing.
After a few mad close range runs, the fish was around my feet and ready to net. I had already released my net and positioned it between my legs, ready for the first opportunity to scoop the fish out of the water. A Sewin will splash and roll around in the shallow water towards the end of the fight, and this is when they will throw the hook. It’s vital that you intercept them early – you haven’t always got time to wait so see their silver bellies. I caught a glimpse of the whole fish and dragged it over my submerged net. Bingo! A stunning four-pounder filled my net as I struggled, walking backwards to a safe, flat area of shingle.
Laying the specimen out flat, I admired its beauty for a minute or so. These moments are truly magical. Time seems to stand still, as it sinks in that you’re finally been rewarded with such a prize. I had done it. Not only had I caught a cracking fish, more so, I had caught a fish in a place where I usually blank. This, to me, is the best part of it all. I now have confidence in another little stretch of the river, which will no doubt produce the goods for me another time. I’m a firm believer that if you put the time in, you will reap the rewards – especially with night fishing. Every night you go out, you pick up on new things. You mark a good fish; you notice fish behaviour and also get to know when it’s time to go home!
I slipped the fish into my bag and picked my rod off the shingle. The thought of work the next day had the better of me, and I was ready for the fifteen minute trek back to the car. I’d come out alone, been at one with nature and out-witted on of the shyest of fishes – the more Sewin I catch, the more respect I have for them.