I'd decided to make a trip to the River Wye after I'd read some of the reports on the Wye Usk Foundation site. At up to £20 a shot it's not a cheap day ticket, but for a one off experience it had to be worth a go. Brian was up for it, so we planned a 2 day trip, with the second day being a more leisurely approach nearer to Hereford.
Day 1 was on the Lower Ballingham beat which is between Ross-On-Wye and Hereford. The stretch is just outside the village of Hoarwithy, tucked away amongst some stunning scenery. The approach to the fishery took us up the valley and once we got sight of the river with mist rolling along it, the anticipation started to rise.
We parked up at the end of a disused railway line and reality kicked in. We we basically at the same level as the old bridge and although the river was maybe 20 feet in front of us, it was about 50 foot below us! Having brought everything bar the kitchen sink, we now realised we had to lug it down a long flight of steep steps.
As we had the luxury of Brian's transit van we had chucked in a wheelbarrow to make transporting the gear a bit easier - not banking on 50 steps of course! We carried the barrow down and went back for the rest of the gear. To be honest it probably did us good because it was very cold first thing and the ground had a fair old white covering. The exercise warmed us up and the sight of steam rising off Brian's head was quite amusing!
Having done some homework, we knew that it wasn't going to be easy finding swims that were easily accessible. A walk two meadows upstream found just 2 pegs, so we came back to the old bridge where there was a double peg. It looked shallow though and there were a couple of dozen swans camped across the river rooting around for food, which was likely to make like difficult.
We wandered downstream and found one peg which looked fishable for two with a bit of creative gardening. We decided to give this one a go as it was in an area where the river looked a shade deeper, albeit there were no obvious features. The plan was to give it about 4 hours and if it wasn't producing we'd hop in the van and try the extreme downstream section about 3/4 of a mile away.
I kicked off with a pellet approach, using an open end feeder loaded with hemp / halibut crush / crumb mix. I admit to being clueless with pellets and I've never used them. However, the reports suggested that pellets were the way to go, so I tied up some hair rigs and bought a job lot of halibut and crab pellets.
I didn't have to wait too long for the first bite. The tip flew round, but I quickly realised my mistake. I was using a baitrunner reel and I'd got the settings wrong. The reel was in free spool mode and when I grabbed for the rod, in the excitement I didn't enagage the reel and created a mighty bird's nest on the reel with the freshly loaded line. I had to reel the fish in by pulling the line in by hand, which is not much fun when your attached to a Barbel. I won the battle though and was on the scoreboard with a fish of 4lb 13oz.
The next few hours was just a procession of Barbel. Here's a few of them, starting with the pick of the bunch which was the 4th fish of the day and weighed 8lb 10oz:
This one was 6lb 13oz:
At this point I'd started to do some serious maths and began to realise that I might just break the magical ton for the first time - I was in the high 80s. Frustratingly Brian was on a blank, sitting just 15 feet upstream from me and using the same tactics.
I pressed on with the maggots and picked up a Chub, then a Barbel and I was now just 4lb 2oz short of a ton. One more lunge on the rod tip as we entered the final hour, resulted in a 4lb 12oz Barbel and I'd done something I never imagined possible. 100lb 10oz of fish from a low, clear river, following an overnight frost. Wow!
I admit to slightly switching off at that point, but there was still a mission to be accomplished - a Barbel for Brian. He manfully stuck it out and went for crab pellet or bust and it paid off. He hooked into a Barbel and I think I played every moment of it with him. He guided it in carefully and it weighed in at 4lb 8oz. Relief all round because time was running out.
It's something we will definitely do again next year. I can thoroughly recommend the Wye Usk Foundation to anyone. There are cheaper options around, but the package gives you a good degree of exclusivity (depending on choice of venue), which just makes the day feel so much more special.
For the record, the full scorecard was:
Sean - 16 Barbel (4-13, 5-2, 3-7, 8-10, 6-12, 6-2, 5-12, 6-13, 6-12, 5-0, 7-10, 5-5, 4-11, 5-4, 4-15, 4-12); 3 Chub (3-9, 3-6, 1-15)
Brian - 3 Barbel (4-8, 3-7, 4-9); 1 Chub (2-2)
A report from day 2 on a different stretch will follow tomorrow (the pub is beckoning me now!). As a taster though, a fair summary would be utter shite! Definitely a case of after the lord mayor's show - but that's fishing I guess.