Piscatorial Quagswagging

...the diary of a specialist angler in around the Warwickshire Avon and its tributaries.

Monday 2 November 2015

River Wye – Symonds Yat

Erwarton cottage within Symonds Yat West was the destination for a weekends fishing with a good mate of mine Simon ‘Feed the Worm’ Champion. It had a separate river-front garden a stones throw away from the cottage (10m) which had its own canoe launch / fishing spot direct on to the river. We didn’t have much planned just a bit of a chill out away from the energy draining whippersnappers and hopefully he would get to land his first river barbel to see what all the fuss is about. The Wye had been clear of late but a smidgen of rain during the week I was hoping there was a tinge of colour to it.

If you haven’t been to Symonds Yat it is right in the centre of an area of outstanding natural beauty. One of the country’s most unique river landscapes, the river and the land either side of it – forest, farmland, gorges, cliffs and rock faces, pretty villages and border towns. It’s centrally positioned on the river between the towns of Monmouth and Ross, and one of the most beautiful stretches of river in Britain…?

Near Erwarton, the cliffs rise up to Yat Rock, site of one of the most iconic views in the Wye Valley. Here, Peregrine Falcons breed between May and July. The trail named after these birds, The Peregrine Path, runs along the route of the old Ross-on-Wye to Monmouth railway. At the nearby 'King Arthur's cave' on the Great Doward, there have been many important archaeological discoveries including the remains of a hyena family, Sabre-toothed tigers and even a mammoth. I’d visited this area with the family and ate at the Saracens head a few times, but sadly never wet a line.

You bored yet..? , anyway back to the fishing…..

From looking at the photos the canoe launch was long concrete steps so prior to the weekend to make sure at least we could support a rod or two I’d cobbled together some Heath Robinson esk bankstick holders which were made from left over oak sleepers from the garden and some cheapo stage stands off Ebay. To hedge my bets my tackle for the long weekend consisted of a barbel, trotting, feeder and a lure rod. I’d never fished the Wye before but there are perch, pike and maybe even Salmon present so I was hoping I’d pick up a predator or two as well as one of the famous Wye barbs.

The barbel set-up was my trusty 1.75lb TC l rod and I’d fish a large feeder running style with Sonubaits spicy meaty method mix blanketing some of their spicy sausage halibut pellets. A Gardner size 8 Talon Tip Hook and Gardner trickster hooklength that I won in a competition finished the business end. Bait on the hair was a pungent spicy boilie or pellet with an accompanying paste wrap. A scent trail that would surely be difficult for a barbel to resist, well that’s what I was hoping anyway.

Maggot, lobworms and garlic spam were also in my armory and would be used from time to time through the weekend; I’m sure there were good dace and roach to be had and maybe even a shy barbel. I know the Wye is also famous for its Pike and I had planned to bring the associated gear but sharing a car there would be far too much stuff so a small stiff lure rod and a handful of lures and spinner would have to do.

Friday was a non-starter so having got there at 4.00ish and checked out where we would be fishing, the Ye Old Ferrie Inn (YOFI) was the second port of call to talk tactics for the rest of the weekend,it was ideal, staggering distance back to the cottage, various ales on tap and a proper fire. The 'peg' we would be fishing was far better than I thought so the make shift sleeper rod stands we not needed, a long rod rest went in just past the concrete steps no problem.

After a quick deliberation over a nice steak in the pub, we planned to fish Saturday all-day and in to dark and then Sunday similar but a pit-stop slap up Sunday lunch over the other side of the river at the Saracens Head and then return to fish in to dark and beyond again. The Rugby World cup final was on the Saturday afternoon but as England didn't even qualify for the final rounds we'd listen too it instead,it was prime Barbel feeding time after all and we were here mainly for the fishing.

Monday morning could well have been a right off, it was hangover dependent. If the fishing was poor on the Saturday we had a few options to go at but first port of call in the morning after a full English was fishing from the canoe launch that accompanied the cottage, it was what we paid for after all. We’d brought a load of junk food for this trip, beer, pasties, pies, sausages, crisps, Bovril and plenty of brass monkey warming alcoholic drink, one of them the infamous Godfather (3 measures of Whisky and 1 measure of Amaretto Di Sarronno).

We’d not starve or feel cold, put it that way….

Now Simon is a freak of nature I’m sure he is harboring a tapeworm of gargantuan proportions, he has arms like knots in cotton and legs to match however his appetite is something of English folklore and legends. He’s fifty next year and probably weighs the same as it did when he was 15. I only have to have a mere sniff of a KFC or a Burger King and it will be with me for life, and yet the Champion has been known to have a whole bargain bucket to his self without any obvious adverse effects. I’m sure his genes could be used by those looking in to society’s obesity problems. I’ve always thought he was a fat bloke waiting to happen…..

.…I’m still waiting.

When we got to the river I couldn't believe how clear it was, I'd have expected a little colour if I'm honest, I should have bought the proper Pike gear. Another couple of issues too, the water was cold because of the recent Welsh rain and despite not colouring the river it was bring down a load of weed and debris and I knew the fishing would be difficult, it was also predicted to have clear skies for doesn't help when your Barbel fishing....

Anyway in the morning at 7.00am I put out a Barbel rod and fished the maggot feeder, and found that the river really is full of fish, it was a bit a chuck with half decent dace (6oz), small chub, gudgeon and bleak desperate to get at the maggots, a feeder wasn't really needed it was chock full.

The first half decent fish was taken broadside by a Pike which was hugging bottom, when it saw me it let go but then it had another snatch when It nearing the margins, Simon got soaked. The Chub was returned but had a lucky escape and had the war wounds to proudly show off.

Simon was holding out for the bigger fish and was trotting a lump of meat and also fished a small pellet or boilie. The results were disappointing but not ideal conditions at all. Around 4.30pm with the light starting to fade I caught a small bleak, removed the Barbel hooklink and made up a strong flourocarbon leader and a used a strong size 6 hook. Within 10 minutes to so the live bait was getting interest and sure enough the rod tip registered a bite and a half decent fish was on. After a reasonable fight and an audience over at the pub and the canoe hire firm, a nice fat Pike was banked.

You can see why the Wye has some big Pike, the amount of food they have to eat is obscene.

It weighed 9lb 1oz and was a stunningly marked fish. Simon did the honours. I've only just started to target Pike, they have always been a caught when I've been targeting another species. I'm starting to get the bug now.

Heading in to dusk and still mild we both planned to fish a couple of hours in to dark and try for a Barbel...

Not even a bite, no Chub either, all very weird...We retired to YOFI where another group of anglers were also struggling, not Barbel between 8 rods and only a handful of mediocre Chub..

I had considered a move but we decided to stick it out.

Sunday was a strange one, the water had risen a few inches over night and the Wye valley was covered in a thick layer of mist. After getting bored with the maggot feeder I kept a few live baits to try and tempt a Pike again. The debris had also cleared so I tried the lure rod too switching between a large 6" jointed Rapala, a spinner bait, a Mepps and also a few softbaits.

Not a touch on either lure or bleak...

Around 9am a huge diesel type slick appeared and it lasted for nearly two hours until it eventually cleared. For lunch we got the hand ferry over to the Saracens Head and had a roast beef dinner a nice bottle of wine and a load of cheese, all very sophisticated.

All boarding on 'Broke back Mountain' if you're my mate Deano, then again he hasn't kids and the need for batteries to be recharged once in a while.

Upon returning I went all out Pike hunting as the bleak were being scattered in waves within the margins and mid river, but sadly all I could tempt was a small Jack. I'm surprised the Perch or decent Chub didn't feature either, the conditions looked perfect.

Come dusk when the canoes had all buggered off I'd switched to the Barbel set-up this time my fail safe a big lump of Garlic spam, Simon fished a pellet and paste wrap...

.....Not even a rattle or a nudge

At 8.00pm we packed up and retired to the YOFI and bumped in to the same group of anglers again, the same story as us, not fishing well at all.We had a good time though, nice and chilled and probably >20 hours of fishing, good wine and food and we are already planning the next trip. I'd book the cottage again if I came back here, just maybe a month or 6 weeks earlier. It's old and draughty, and I like my comfort these days.

Oh and apparently, Simon has put on a few pound, get that man another Beer, well done to New Zealand too, sounded a good match and thanks to the peregrine falcons they put on a good show for us.By the way, anyone tell me anything about big the red and white house behind the Saracens Head ?


  1. Hard luck with the barbel Mick. I know someone who has had a 12lber from Symonds Yat. Only had 2 when I fished the river for weekend, although my dad had 6. Have always fancied the Severn for having my arm pulled off. Nice pike though.

    1. Apparently a 16 lb'er came out a few days earlier from the same spot as we fished as one of the residents of the neighboring cottages photographed it. Considering the Wye record is 14lb, not sure myself.

      Just wasn't the right conditions for us, but that's fishing for you. Really was surprised we didn't have any decent Chub though. If I do go back I think it would be all out for Pike and try a few different spots.

  2. Great report and great photos, takes me back. I grew up a stones throw from the Wye, learnt to fish (and swim) in it. And King Arthur's cave was my playground as a kid. Not the best conditions but a lovely Wye pike. Not sure about a 16lb barbel though - a 10 pounder is a big fish - though I've seen a few 30lb pike over the years and I'll be back to catch one later this season... Hopefully...

    1. Probably a double figure fish that was caught and the no scales story.

      I just couldn't believe the quantity of bait fish for the Pike to feed on, cast anywhere with a couple of maggots and within seconds a fish would devour it. I'll bring make maggots next time as they were sucked to a casing faster you could blink. I've only just started fishing properly for Pike although for this session it was make do with what we had around us as I fancy trying for them on the Wye properly. A lovely area that's for sure and reasonable property prices too.

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  4. A number of anglers (including some well known names) have struggled on the Wye recently it seems. That's fishing I guess. I'm hoping to post my Wye report later, and yes, I struggled with the barbel too!

    Glad you enjoyed it and there seems to be a piker emerging in you after all. I got the bug about 6 years ago and it totally transformed my winter fishing into something hugely enjoyable.

    1. I'm sure it's because I feel comfortable handling and unhooking them (a recent thing). They pull well too which helps.

      My first dabble with the Wye and can understand why it's held in such great regard.

  5. Should have popped around for a pint Mick ;-0

    1. Indeed I should have :), I see you avoided the river the weekend, there was certainly plenty of debris being washed down, not ideal.

  6. Nice blog, Mick. It's been a struggle on the Wye for the last few weeks with it being so low. Lovely pike, a decent reward.

    1. I'm certainly planning to come back, a lovely river that I can get to in around an hour, not sure why I haven't fished it before.

  7. I was born at Erwarton in 1965 to Ron Williams the best ever guillie to have fished at Symonds Yat. Only down side was sometimes coming home from school and finding a bucket of squirming eels In the kitchen. No prizes for questing what was for tea that night

  8. I was born at Erwarton in 1965 to Ron Williams the best ever guillie to have fished at Symonds Yat. Only down side was sometimes coming home from school and finding a bucket of squirming eels In the kitchen. No prizes for questing what was for tea that night

    1. Thanks for the reply Cheryl great location you were very lucky to live there, I bet it was great growing up there as a kid, did you ever remember any flooding ?


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