Friday 2 July 2021

River Wye - Whitney Court

I hate fishing blind especially somewhere like the mighty River Wye that I have only fished once before (Symonds Yat 6 years ago) but that is what me and a few others on this trip would be doing at Whitney Court. 

Now the River Wye is a natural border between England and Wales and is the mecca that calls anglers from far and wide to fish this picturesque winding waterway.

Once a bastion for only salmon fishermen in more recent times those who favour barbel have now also come to enjoy the delights of this quite magnificent river. 

The Whitney Estate where we would be whetting our lines can be fished via the the Fishing Passport is an online booking system run on a flexible, not-for-profit basis by the Wye & Usk Foundation. 

The Passport enables fisheries all over the UK to take day ticket, season ticket/club member and even private bookings. Now the private 1,000 acre Whitney Court Estate dates back to the 6th Century and is linked to St Cyndir, a contemporary of King Arthur.

In the early 13th Century, a new lordship was created for a knight, who took the name de Whitney and created a medieval castle within the Estate. 

It remained in the Whitney family until the Hope family purchased the Estate in 1897, and remain custodians to this day. The present Whitney Court was the third successor to the original castle, created in the Edwardian era by the Hope family as a revolutionary Neo-Jacobean manor, with one of the first private electricity systems in the UK.

A quick perusal it is 10k to rent out for 7 days in August if you fancy splashing out to the other 21 quests that would be staying there. I've checked under my sofas, the matrasses and raided the kids moneyboxes but sadly we won't be staying there next year, maybe next year, we will see. To be honest its not 'that' badly priced if you split it between the other couples there is 11 bedrooms after all. 

So with approximately 3 miles of mostly double bank fishing on one of the classic beats of the middle Wye, located a few miles downstream of Hay. The fishery is split into 6 sections and offers good salmon fishing, especially in the spring, with plenty of water to accommodate the fly angler and those choosing to spin.

Fly fishing for trout & grayling is also available apparently and as its running predominantly over gravel, wading is much easier at Whitney than the bedrock sections of the Wye above Hay. This part of the river also holds good stocks of coarse fish, especially barbel, chub and pike and that why we were here. 

Now luckily there is vehicular access to the bankside at several points and only a day before we found out we could fish basically anywhere we wanted to on the beat. To be honest I sort of had a plan in my head and that was to meet up at the secure car parking at the Old Court Stable Block to get access to beats 3,4,5 and 6 and then scope the water out and try a few spots and then take it as the day came.

I'd earmarked beat 2 right bank post a hot lunch and a cuppa which would mean a trip over the Whitney and Wye toll bridge before taking a hike from one of the access point along the riverbank . You know me I need a plan before I go fishing, its just what I do. All subject to change though, but I'd enough fishing time available I'm sure it would work itself out. 

There are WUF bylaw's to protect the salmon stocks I'd imagine, which meant worms, maggots, pupae or non-aquatic larvae could only be used between 15th September and 14th March (inclusive) and they specifically mention no fish roe or crayfish baits. Not an issue as I'd mainly be fishing pellet, meat and boilie for the chub and barbel but it would have been nice to fish maggots if no bites were forthcoming. 

A quick perusal over some posts on the internet, fishing here can be tough at times it seems but it was a day out in a lovely setting with the likeminded and I wouldn't be working stuck in-front of the CAD machine, mouse tapping and clicking away like a madman, what's not to like.... ?

....well the 70 mile 2 hour drive I suppose (according to Google maps), but I'd leave relatively early to to miss the traffic and hopefully make up some time despite the limited horses available under the Jimny's hood. The gear was sorted the evening before so I'd be ready to go once I'd arisen from my slumber. 

Luckily I completed the journey in an hour and a half as the roads were quiet. As soon as you leave Warwickshire though its like a land that time forgot, no mobile single, DAB yeah forget it. Some lovely winding roads though. Upon arrival at the secure parking Nic was already fishing somewhere and I bumped in to Gareth who had earmarked a pool swim he as going to try first.

With so much water to go at after a walk I decided to go with my head and leave the others and head up to beat two right bank, which would give me a decent amount of water to fish on ones lonesome.

So over the toll bridge park in the layby and lug all the tackle to set my stall out for the day. With 15 or 16 hour of available fishing time this is an unusual day for me when most sessions 3 to 4 hours. 

Its a decent walk with all the tackle but I was soon positioned on a stone bank that extended a good couple or three hundred yards with the pub just in the distance.

I liked the look of this area from a drone video and there had been barbel caught here in the past. Where was all the streamer weed though ? most of it looked dark and dead, if even it was streamer weed, I'm not sure. Still it was pacey and there were quite a few swims that had good depth. In-fact one swim was at least 6ft or so with a nice crease to fish to.

Gin clear though and after running some meat around, wading in to the water pinging some pellets and running a chunky float through apart from one definite take on rolling meat it was very quiet indeed.

You couldn't say that about the Salmon though, throughout the day they were very active and on quite a few occasions I saw them jump clear of the water where they would have easily been 20lb or over.
I also pre-baited a few swims and fished a pellet, boilie or a piece of meat over the top for not even a chub pull. Where were all the fish ?

Sort of kicks your confidence when you can see acres of clear water with only tiny bait fish milling around. So after a sausage and egg muffin concocted on the stove I had to at least get a bite.

It was cloudy to start with but then after the sun came out and the skies clear the fishing would get even tougher. Reports from the other anglers on the trip they were finding it though too. A small Barbel caught at the start of the day and a small Chub for Nic, one of those tough days. I had to be off just gone dusk and that's when things could change I'd imagine.

When the sun was strong I started to feed bits of bread down the river and after half an hour or so some chub had arrived in the swim.Only small ones mind you but at least they would hopefully save a blank. A quite wander down the bank to see them from above they looked a decent shoal and sure enough I caught 15 or so before the realised something was us. 

They are concentrated it two distinct areas so that helped I suppose. Its a tried and trusted method that has helped me out on a few occasions and I always have loaf of bread with me on these type of sessions.

The biggest probably not even a pound but at least it was something on this tough day. Before a homemade curry was warmed up and I'd tidy up and settle in for the evening in to dusk I went for another wander to see if I could spot any Barbel.

Who says fishing is for the lazy, 27k steps covered over the session where you had no choice but to be active. From the high banks I eventually spotted a small group of barbel chilling in the fast shallows

I got my rolling meat gear and managed to get in a good position to try and entice them to take a piece but run after run in front of their noggins they were just not interested whatsoever.

They would move out of the way and reconvene on the same spot holding station again. You can see how they are so strong fighters as the current would have been difficult to stand up in I'd imagine. Just down from here is the perfect rolling swim but again despite the meat going down really well feeling every bump through the line, nothing whatsoever.

The kingfisher was active all day and he was having a feast on the fry that this river was awash with. Throw a piece of meat or pellet in the water in an inch of water it was quite incredible really the biomass of tiny fish.

Nic who stopped off for a chat on route was saying a Salmon angler had hooked and lost a colossal Perch at the net earlier in the day and I can see why they grow big its chockfull of food.

I set myself a leaving time and as the sunset I packing everything up so I could leave quickly on the stroke of the countdown timer and get back to Stratford for a reasonable time knowing that I'd have the diary makers on to me first thing.

The swim I chose looked perfect for a bite as the area just off the crease had some cover and also some depth but with the sun going behind the trees there was know interest whatsoever. I had confidence in the new bait I'd been trying out though and sure enough with literally 5 minds left of my curfew a couple of chub pulls turned in to a proper bite and fish was on.

My heart sank when I released it was a splasher chub though, after all that effort for a mediocre return. Oh well you cannot win them all. 

So that was the the trip was done and it turned out Nic had a leech riddled 7 or 8 lb Barbel at last light and Gavin lost one at the net. Much like the Avon when its like this to be fair. One bite or bust, still I'll be back, this time though a little closer to home and in better conditions me thinks, ta to Nic from Avon Angling Uk for the invite.


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