FlyFishingWales with Kim Tribe
Using a local guide can give you a headstart when fishing unfamiliar waters or can aso act as a coach when trying new techniques. Kim Tribe of FlyFishingWales describes one memorable trip from 2009.
“Fly fisherman without gear looking for a guide in Wales”
That is how the story began. Jari from Finland contacted me saying he was coming over on a family holiday in the summer of 2009 and would be staying at the Gliffaes Hotel and could I guide him for the day supplying him with all the equipment?(not a worry) . He had already booked his accommodation but this would not have been a problem as I have an extensive knowledge of fishing accommodation in Wales in close proximity to the best stretches.
I have found a guiding assignment (water specific coaching) works best after talking with the customer finding out the type of fly fishing they are used to and what they like and what they want from the day. Plans can be hatched beforehand, beats can be provisionally booked, but the best decision is always made on the day. There are a multitude of factors to take into consideration; wading accessibility and prevailing water heights being the most important, and it’s always advisable to have a contingency plan and that is where a guide with local knowledge is essential.
So after checking on water heights the night before and the availability of fishing beats, and again checking the river height and clarity on the river Usk before meeting up I was off to rendezvous with Jari at the Gliffaes.
Jari met me at the hotel entrance with his family who were taking the car for the day to go off exploring and I made a few suggestions. It was then down to the business of the fishing for the day and the type of fishing he was used to and would like to experience. The word “rapids” was mentioned and having guided a party of Orvis tackle dealers from Finland before I knew the type of water he meant. (Fast pocket water). Knowing the Gliffaes stretch possessed just such water I suggest we look at that, being there on our doorstep. Sadly we found out from reception it was already booked so it was onto (Plan B) the Glan Usk Estate beat just downstream, again we met with a “fully booked”!
Wye and Usk Foundation
So (Plan C) was initiated! A quick phone call to Alison at the Wye and Usk Foundation booking office to pay for a day permit for the beat which I had already checked was available and a environment agency rod licence, a short journey and we were in business.
I kitted up a couple of rods (Orvis Zero G 8’6” 4wt middle tip) with a dry and two nymphs (trio style) and a Orvis T3 9ft 4wt mid flex with heavier nymphs for the deeper faster water - my take on Czech nymphing. Both of these styles were new to Jari so I showed him the rigs and I demonstrated how I fished each of them; the first at the back of the first pool explaining the advantages they held for the type of water we would be covering passing the rod back to Jari when we came nearer the better looking water. Explaining that he would need to cast a long line to allow the lighter nymphs attached to the dry time to sink to the trout’s feeding zone and by throwing some mends into the line this would allow the nymphs to get down to the fish and still present correctly without drag. (In other words balancing the weight of the nymphs to the depth and velocity of current - not an easy task!)
Setting the hook
The first half-dozen casts and the flies had accounted for a couple of takes which when he struck failed to stick. By this point the flies where well downstream of his position and at that point any conventional strikes were just pulling the flies out of the trout’s mouth, so I showed him a little trick that had worked for me in the past. Leaving a small bow in the line down stream and then keeping the rod tip close to the water and sweeping the rod up stream to take in the slack .
What you are effectively doing is using the resistance of the water caused by the small bow of line which is downstream of the fly to generate the directional pull on the fly from behind and thus setting into the trout’s mouth rather than being pulled out of it.
Trouble with this method is it only works on pools where the current is at the same velocity and then you still have to be conscious of even the minute amount of drag the bow in the line will cause, any drag equates to no takes, so it’s a fine line you tread (line control is critical).
This method accounted for the first two trout from the belly of the first pool. Now these wild browns, well they certainly are not happy when you hook into them, go off like a bullet and change direction in the blink of an eye - completely different to a stillwater rainbow and you really need to have your wits about you as they try every trick in the book (coming straight at you, turning, jumping, changing direction in an instant.) They don’t get to the size they are without learning a trick or two in the process and when you are fishing barbless hooks on light gear there are some heart stopping moments.
So when this happened to Jari with the first fish and he dropped the rod and pointed at it and it speed off my heart sank. Knowing how easy it is to pull out or even snap the leader, it was into automatic pilot and I started giving liberal doses of advice - “rod up let it do the work”, “always have some tension on fish and keep the slack out of the line unless it jumps and then dip the rod”, “strip the line in smoothly through your fingers keeping in touch and if it turns and swims away give it line smoothly again under tension and look to change the angle of pressure”. I started thinking to myself shut up Kim he may not even understand what you’re saying as he’s Finnish - as a guide you start to relax a bit only when you customer has landed a fish or two and the more relaxed everyone is the better and the fish seem to respond and they did ! (I think they can sense tension down the line )
So it was up to the head of the pool to demonstrate some Czech Nymphing with the other rod setup, which turned into a quick lesson from me in hooking and releasing a nice trout as it leapt two feet into the air shaking its head as it went and out came the heavy nymph in the process. “That’s the way you practice catch and release at distance,” and we both laughed.
Now it was Jari’s turn to have a lob, not a cast, at the fish as this method bares no resemblance to any normal casting style and I have found it easier to teach complete beginners who have never picked up a fly rod in their life before. I have been fishing these close range nymphing techniques since the beginning of the nineties after watching the Czechs and Polish team compete at the FIPS-Mouche World Fly Fishing Championships held in North Wales in 1990 on the river Dee. This was where they outscored the other countries that where not familiar with these styles of fishing and I believe I would be one of the longest serving practitioners of this style therefore in the UK.
We were now fishing at rods length into bubbling white water at the head of the pool which dropped sharply into deeper water. Too deep to effectively present the nymphs at short range and which then turned at a right angles. Jari was searching the run methodically and concentrating intently on the bite indicator which I had explained was necessary in the white water. In the meantime I was concentrating on where he was casting and how he was controlling the line as well as keeping one eye on the indicator and coaching him initially through each drift. He must have been sick at the sound of my voice, I certainly was, but I find it helps greatly with teaching rod and line control. Working his way from the inner-seam the indicator stabbed under just as the nymphs past over the drop-off - a classic place for a fish to lie. Fast conveyor belt of water passing just overhead, another nice River Usk wild brown trout took of at a rate of knots testing Jari reactions and mine when it came to netting it for a photo and it was released to test another skill (no lunch break for us when it was going so well).
New Zealand Style with extra nymph (Trio Style)
Now it was on to the next pool or part of pool as the river split, changing in character which dictated a change of style reverting to emerger and the 2 lighter nymphs. (I have heard it called trio style) Now this section accounted for 6 small fish mostly salmon Parr and all on the nymphs - now back to the main stream and the next pool and time to incorporate a further tactic. This next section needed an approach more akin to the style I fish in New Zealand where a lot of the time you need to keep throwing mends into your line to control the drift and as we approached a large rock which threw out a nice seam the indicator stabbed away very violently and Jari lifted in!
Out of the water came the largest fish of the day, a beauty of over 3.25 lbs! Now a fin perfect wild brown in top condition takes some holding onto with a four weight rod in fast water and this one had a mind to head downstream out of the pool. I found myself shouting to Jari to put on as much side strain as he dare while I made a dash for the back of the pool to intercept it. My disturbing the water and Jari’s side-pressure made it change direction and after a tough scrap we had it in the net. It was time to sit down and light up a cigarette (if either of us smoked which we didn’t) and just gather our thoughts.
I find this works better in shallow fast and pocket water with nymphs or dries where you need to fish up in front of you far enough away not to spook the fish but close enough that you can retain maximum control on the line buy lifting the rod. I found it very useful to incorporate a style/type of cast where you extend your arm completely straight and slightly forward of the vertical and just snap your wrist (don’t know if there is a name for this style of cast as I haven’t seen it mentioned in any casting manuals but I could be wrong), it was just born out of necessity. This then fires out the fly and leader and does not allow much line if any to alight on the water affording you greater control of the fly
The fifth Trout came to this method from shallow fast water directly in front of Jari only seconds after his nymph had hit the water. He was in just as he started to raise the rod. This fish gave a good account of itself and on estimating the weight would have gone 2.5 lbs or slightly more. Not long after Jari missed one that came to the emerger. Striking too fast as by now he was used to striking instantaneously if the emerger moved which is what you need to do so it’s like a reflex action. However, when a bigger fish come to a dry/emerger it is invariably too fast but that can’t be helped and its better getting into the habit of striking quickly and connecting with more fish that take the nymph and missing the odd fish that come to the dry. The sixth and final good trout again came to the point nymph sparely tied on a size 18 hook.
It was by this time mid afternoon so we headed back to the truck for a late lunch of sandwiches and cup of tea by the side of the river. We watched as a kingfisher skimmed along the water and marvelled at the sport we had encountered in under a 100 meters of fishing.
I suggested that we venture off for the last couple of hours and fish the opposite end of the beat but Jari turned to me and simply said “that’s enough excitement for one day”!
Six of the best wild brown trout from Wales
On arriving back at the Gliffaes hotel Jari invited me into the bar for a drink and as we where sitting drinking our cold bears, Jari pointed to the plaques and photos on the wall of trout. I explained that these were details of exceptional catches made by guests that had stayed at the hotel over the last half a century and that exceptional bags of fish had been recorded. Jari asked the bar maid if he could have a closer look at the plaques and after examining them turned to me and said “the six fish we have had to day are a better bag than any six trout listed here!”
Now I knew we had had an exceptional day of individual big fish and days of considerably more in numbers, but when it came to the average size of the wild river brown trout (as they ranged in sizes from 13.5 to 19.5 inches to the fork of the tail most being nearer 19.5 mark caught one after another over less than 100 meters of river) I estimate the six fish weight would have gone over the 12lbs mark. I just didn’t know how good this was so I ran it past the farther of Welsh angling and secretary of the Welsh Salmon and Trout Association - Mr Moc Morgan O.B.E. and asked him. His answer - “best bag of six wild river brown trout I have heard of was 8 possibly 9lbs”.
Here is short testimonial I received soon after translated from Finish to English (thank you Jari for your kind words.)
“When I planned my trip to Wales I accidentally founded Kim Tribes web pages and I realised that I could travel without all my stuff. I have fly fished occasionally for 20-years so I thought I would not need a guide, they are for beginners. After a while with Kim I realised that I was fishing with a person who has much to give for everyone. It was first quite new to fish with a person who gives advice and comments all the time. One Finnish commercial here says "so good that you can’t say" which suits well the day with Kim. In four hours we got 6 big trout, biggest 49,5cm. This was much more than we both thought we would get before the day started.”
If you are in or heading to Wales and would like to fish with Kim then you can contact him by the following methods;-