Lyn Davies meets up with Welsh Youth Fly Fishing International, Gavin Perry for a night on the River Towy.
The 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 nights 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 they rarely come out to play for the camera. Nevertheless, I was keen to meet up with Gavin and check out this ‘rising star’s’ approach to catching this enigmatic fish.
Now if anyone is catching sewin, then I want to know how they’re doing it. What flies was he fishing? Does he use tubes or singles? If so, what size? Does he prefer trebles or doubles? What 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 for us to have the time (and light) to walk the stretch and for me to take some pictures. 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 hot off the press. 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 11/2” tubes. As ever, black was the predominant colour as with many sewin patterns. It was plain to see why he’d won the Welsh fly tier of the year competition for two years running – they were certainly very pretty and well tied but would they do the business on a night shift?
Loaded with gear, we make our way towards the river. Crossing a road bridge, Gavin explained that the river below us was actually the Gwili, a tributary of the lower Towy. This tributary meets the Towy at the well-known ‘Confluence Pool’, a T-Junction affair approximately half a mile away – just where we were heading. Following a rough track alongside the pintsized Gwili, we were soon welcomed by the much wider, gracious looking Towy at the Confluence. It provided me with an instant reminder as to why the Towy one of the most famous sea trout rives in the country. It just looked so inviting and ‘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 – just where he’d experienced some action the previous night.
Spate river lies change every year and one of the secrets of sewin 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 by this, Gavin calmly began to tackle up making the most of the remaining light. Sat on the shingle, we watched the angler’s fish through the pool. They were keeping their distance from where we were sat – an awkward overhanging tree just to our left was putting them off. The obstacle made for difficult fishing but this played in Gavin’s favour, as this was the hotspot. “A simple roll cast gets you out of trouble there.” he whispered.
Gavin had brought along two rods allowing a quick change of tactics. The first was loaded with a WF7 Airflow Fast Glass, low stretch line. 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 4ft 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 explained. Gavin favours size 10 or 12 trebles for his tubes – but many Sewin fisherman reckon that doubles offer better hooking qualities. I suppose it’s all down to personal experience and confidence.
Routing through his bag, he selected a couple of Mosaic patterns – a size 10 Teal, Blue and Silver variant for the dropper along with a 11/2” Black Tube for the point. Number one rod was ready. It was then time for a cup of coffee from his flask – 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 rings and attached a 6ft leader to his braided loop. The setup was complete as he tied on one of his favourite Deer Hair Surface Lures that included a sprinkling of the Mosaic material.
All ready, Gavin checked the time. It was close to 11 o’clock and it wasn’t getting any darker – 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 deep concentration, 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. Just the one false cast was all that was needed each time to delicately place his flies as closely as possible to the opposite bank. Within minutes, as if to order, a small ‘Shoalie’ was cartwheeling itself down the pool having viciously grabbed his tube fly. After a great little fight, the fish was beached and safely returned to fight another day.
Moving through the pool, he 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 however was a better fish – estimated between 3–4lb. After some wild leaps, it kept itself deep before making some mad close range runs – so typical of a Sewin fight. A nervous Gavin carefully played the fish off the reel – wishing it to stay on. Soon it was being beached and a cracking 4-pounder was flapping amongst the gravel having thrown his Mosaic tube! Well done that man. It was all too good to be true. Two fish within minutes and all caught on camera! Was I dreaming?
Gavin continued to fish for another hour or so with no more success. He tried the Surface Lure, but only one small fish splashed around its wake. It was 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 night fishing for Sewin. All the fish I saw on the night were in pristine condition – bars of silver, fresh from the tide. Evidence that these lower, tidal stretches of the Towy can still fish well, even during summer low water conditions.
Fair play to Gavin, he came up trumps under the pressure of the camera – just as he said he would. His Mosaic patterns certainly did the trick and yes, I’ve already stolen a couple from his fly box! I wonder how well they’ll do on my local River Loughor? Mmm…
Abergwili Angling Association Fact file
Fishing includes: 1 mile of prime Sewin fishing on the tidal River Towy, Abergwili.
Two miles of the lowermost River Gwili and a further beat at Bronwydd. Also 2 miles on the River Cothi (which includes the famous Rocks Pool).
Membership Enquiries: Mr. Enfys Howells 01267 235556 (Secretary)
Season ticket: £65.00
Day ticket: £15.00