Lyn Davies meets up with Welsh Youth Fly Fishing International, Gavin Perry for a night sea trout fishing on the River Towy.
The sea trout, or ‘sewin’ season was well and truly underway when I’d received a phone call from seventeen-year-old Gavin. He wanted me to accompany him on a night’s fishing on the tidal stretch of the River Towy at Abergwili, near Carmarthen, West Wales. Gavin had caught fish the previous night using some new patterns and was confident that we could produce a good feature for this magazine. Mmm… I’d heard that one before! As any sewin fisherman will tell you, these fish are probably the most unpredictable of all quarries and rarely come out to play for the camera. Nevertheless, I was keen to meet up with Gavin and check out this up-and-coming angler’s approach to night fishing.
What flies was he fishing? Does he use tubes, or singles? What size? Does he prefer trebles or doubles? What fly line? Gavin was in for a grilling from the nosiest sewin fanatic this side of the Severn Bridge!
We arranged to meet at 9pm at the Abergwili road bridge giving us time (and the light) to walk the stretch and take some photos. Like clockwork, a blue Fiesta soon pulled up next to me – it was our man, Gavin. Before he’d switched off his engine, he was passing me a chunk of foam with half a dozen ‘Mosaic’ sewin patterns he’d finished tying just minutes before. Heads still wet, these flies really looked the business. He’d tied a family of patterns using the popular Mosaic material, ranging from size ten singles through to quite large 1.5” tubes. As ever, black was the predominant colour, with a touch of flash. It was plain to see why he’d won the Welsh fly tier of the year competition for two years running – they were works of art, but would they do the business on a night shift?
As dusk sets in, loaded with gear, we make our way towards the river. Crossing a road bridge, Gavin explained that the river below us was the Gwili, a tributary of the lower Towy. The Gwili meets the Towy at the well-known ‘Confluence Pool’, a T-Junction approximately half a mile away – where we were heading. Following a rough track alongside the Gwili we were soon welcomed by the much wider, gracious looking Towy at the Confluence. It looked amazing and very ‘fishy’, with wonderful smooth glides and clean stone banks. Heading upstream, Gavin pointed out various known lies and hotspots that he’d discovered during his night fishing career. We were heading towards the head of the ‘Bryn Tywi’ beat, where he’d caught fish the previous night.
Spate river lies change every year and one of the secrets of any river fishing is knowing where the fish are lying. Gavin knew there was fish in this pool – he’d seen them following a daytime reconnaissance and caught a few, so we were hopeful of some action. Clambering over the last fence, we noticed a couple of anglers had beaten us to it and were already fishing – before dark. Undeterred, Gavin calmly began to tackle up making the most of the remaining light. Sat on the shingle we watch the angler’s fish through the pool. They were keeping their distance from where we were sat and I noticed an awkward overhanging tree just to our left was putting them off fishing through the pool. This played in Gavin’s favour, as it was the hotspot. “A simple roll cast gets you out of trouble there.”, he whispered.
Gavin had brought two rods allowing a quick change of tactics. The first was loaded with a low stretch WF7 Airflow Fast Glass. He explained, “I rate these lines for the sewin. The low stretch properties really makes for sensitive fishing and they help me keep in contact with my flies while fishing long lines. On the downside though, you do loose the odd fish because there’s simply no ‘give’ whatsoever”.
He reached for a spool of 12lb Airflow G3 flurocarbon, measured out a 10ft leader directly from his braided loop and attached a dropper 3ft up the leader using a Four-turn Water Knot. Many anglers dismiss droppers at night from fear of tangles and unwanted hook-ups while netting fish. Gavin, however, is a great believer in a two fly set-up. “You only get limited opportunities with these fish, so you need to maximise your chances. What was a follow to the point fly, could turn into a take on the dropper,” He explains. Gavin favours size 10 or 12 trebles for his tubes but some sewin anglers think that doubles offer better hooking qualities. I suppose it’s all down to confidence from personal experience.
Routing through his bag, he selects a couple of his Mosaic patterns – a size 10 Teal, Blue and Silver variant for the dropper along with a 1.5” Black Tube for the point. Number one rod was ready. It was then time for a cup of coffee – this man was in no rush to start fishing! “It’s important to wait until it goes as dark as it’s going to get”, he explained. Re-arranging his kit, he reached for rod number two – the Surface Lure setup. Against the skyline, he threaded a WF7 Cortland 444 floating line through the rod rings and attached a 6ft leader to his braided loop. He tied on one of his favourite Deer Hair Surface Lures that has a sprinkling of the Mosaic material tied through the wing.
All ready, Gavin checked the time and it’s close to 11 o’clock – it wasn’t getting any darker, so it was time to start. Having positioned his spare rod in a safe place, he quietly wandered off towards the water’s edge. Following a couple of neat little roll casts, Gavin was soon in the zone drawing his flies across the river using a slow figure-of-eight retrieve. Having past the awkward overhanging tree, he was now able to perform some easier overhead casts. With just the one false cast, he delicately places his flies as closely as possible to the opposite bank. Within minutes, as if to order, a small ‘shoalie’ was cartwheeling down the pool having viciously grabbed his tube fly. After an impressive fight, the fish was beached, photographed, and safely returned to fight another day.
Moving through the pool, Gavin concentrated on an area under some overhanging bushes – just where he knew there were Sewin lying. As he was about to lift off, another fish exploded on the surface – no doubt it had followed his tube and grabbed it right at the last moment. This clearly was a better fish – estimated between 3–4lb. After some impressive leaps, the fish remained deep before making some mad close-range runs – so typical of a sewin fight. A nervous Gavin played the fish off the reel and soon it was being carefully dragged over his waiting net. It was a stunning 4-pound sewin, and the Mosaic tube was already loose in the net! Well done that man – two fish within minutes, and all caught on camera! Was I dreaming?
Gavin continued to fish for another hour or so without success. He tried the Surface Lure but only one small fish splashed around its wake. It was now gone 1am and time to head back to the cars. It had been one of those nights where everything went to plan – very rare, especially when trying to do a magazine feature! Both fish Gavin caught were in pristine condition – bars of silver, fresh from the tide. Evidence that these lower, tidal stretches of the Towy are worth a try, even during summer low water conditions.