Fly-fishing, Grayling, River restoration, Taff, Trout, Trout in Dirty Places, Urban rivers, Writing

New life for the Taff

WUF Passport 2016

Quite apart from the constant hum of creativity that means we’re now getting to play with some of the finest, most sophisticated tackle ever deployed in search of elusive fish, I think it’s fair to say that two developments – no, movements – within the last 20 years have revolutionised the lives of most of Britain’s anglers.

One of these (as you might expect me to mention) has been the transformation of so many formerly-polluted city rivers into healthy, productive fisheries – often enough, a considerable triumph of local hope over experience.

The other has been the creation of angling passport schemes, run by rivers trusts like Westcountry Rivers Trust and the Wye & Usk Foundation. These don’t just incentivise landowners to take better care of their rivers – they also make it much easier for all of us to get onto the bankside without having to study OS maps, pacify farm dogs, and go knocking on lots of doors at inconvenient times of the day and night.

Urban and rural, these two movements mean that many of us can now go fishing remarkably close to our own front doors, turning our sport into an ordinary, pleasurable part of everyday life instead of an occasional, expensive badge of luxury.

So when my good pal Seth Johnson-Marshall, project manager at the Wye & Usk Foundation, called to ask if I’d care to contribute a feature about fishing the miraculously-restored upper Taff and Taf Fechan for the 2016 edition of their legendary Fishing Passport…

… two of my favourite good causes came swimming into alignment, and how could I possibly refuse?

Today, the Taf Fechan is back on sparkling form, and so is the main river (in the run-up to the Taff’s first international fishing tournaments, the amount of rubbish removed by volunteers from the Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association was amazing, including a full set of traffic lights complete with the cable connecting them!) 

Thanks to funding from Defra related to the European Water Framework Directive, the South East Wales Rivers Trust is steadily dealing with fish passage problems throughout the whole Taff catchment: grayling still can’t quite get over the weirs at Quakers Yard, but salmon have recently been seen spawning in the upper Taf Fawr for the first time in 200 years. 

Now, where the waters of the Taff once ran Bible black with coal dust from the collieries, you can stalk big wild trout that are also known to move up and down the full length of the river on their own mysterious travels. And whether you prefer matching the hatch with surprisingly tiny dry flies, or carefully dissecting current seams with weighted nymphs and indicator rigs, there’s room here for every technique. Yes, the Taff’s recovery is a true miracle of modern river mending, and I know where I’d like to spend much more of my own fishing time this season…

If that’s inspired you to try fishing the Taff or Taf Fechan this season (both featured in chapter 37 of Trout in Dirty Places) you can now buy day tickets direct through the Wye & Usk Foundation’s website.

And of course you can also ask Seth and his colleagues to send you a printed copy of the 2016 Fishing Passport… or click here to read the whole of my feature on the MTAA website.

WUF Passport 2016 - Taff 1

WUF Passport 2016 - Taff 2