Caught by the River

Wye Time

7th September 2010

A couple of weeks ago, after a wet & muddy Green Man festival, I took up the offer from my friends Carl & Danny to spend some time with them (along with Jenny & Ruby May) at their holiday cottage in nearby Herefordshire. As Danny and I drove over the Black Mountains on Sunday afternoon, having both had a good festival despite the conditions (not great when you are playing records outdoors between 1 & 4am, especially when 90% of your box is Northern Soul), we listened to Angelo Badalamenti’s ‘Straight Story’ soundtrack and talked about the weekends best bits. It was then that I confessed my pleasure with the rainfall. The odds on me catching a fish had just gotten stronger.

The Green Man festival is held every August in Glanusk Park beside the river Usk near to Crickhowell, Powys. This was my first visit but many of my friends have been plus several of my bands have played and the word is always good – “beautiful location, cool people, great music, happy times….and did I say it was beside a river?”
So, along with my records and my sleeping bag and a copy of ‘Matterhorn’, a brick of a book by Karl Marlantes that I was reading, I packed rods and bits and more bits and apologised and I hoped that I wasn’t being too much of a pain, but my friends know me well, they are used to me, and they are polite people, and somehow we got everything into the car.

As I mentioned earlier, the cottage was in Herefordshire, so with our backs to the Usk we headed to the Wye, and to where we were staying, eight or so miles from Hay. I’d prefaced the trip with a call to the Wye & Usk Foundation, with the purpose of getting local knowledge of where to find fish and some advice on how to catch them. “Come in September”, I was told. Ah. Not an option, I replied. “Then you’d better pray for rain”.

This really wasn’t possible – neither the coming in September part or the likelihood of me praying – I was bound by the dates of the festival and that was it. So, I bought tickets to fish the middle section of the river at a place called Whitney Court, pretty close to where we were staying, and just hoped for the best.

The rain had certainly made a difference – apparently only the week before the bailiff had been putting up fences to keep the cows from crossing over – there was a good flow and some colour on the water so I had slight reason for optimism even though I’d not seen the river before. Naturally, it wasn’t to be – not for me at least. At the end of the day I could count two dace, but Carl, in a classic case of beginners luck, discovered that a bite from a big chub is definitely recognisable from the slight bends and knocks caused by the flow of a big river, and after a bit of instruction in what to do next, he landed a beauty of around 4lb.

Sat at home in London today, word is that the Indian Summer is over and this week is gonna bring some serious rain. Someone just tweeted ‘Taxi to Heathrow’ but in a rare non-secular moment I think of my river-fisher brothers and say “hallelujah, what a great way to start September”. (JB)
inside the fisherman’s hut at Whitney Court.Danny on beat 2 at WhitneyCarl on beat 1Carl’s boot & rodLater in the day, just above Hay. We had a very good feeling here but sadly not enough time to give it a proper go.