Bertie Weal is a fly-fisherman inspired by his local landscape of the Brecon Beacons in Wales. His contribution to ‘Stories within Our Isles’ is an article discussing the art of fly-fishing, and his deep affection of being at one with nature whilst fishing along the riverbanks.
The Black Mountains lie to the east of the Brecon Beacons, edging the border between England and Wales, with valleys laid out north-west like the fingers of a hand. Rainwater gathers at the peaks, giving rise to an abundance of streams and tributaries to the rivers Wye and Usk. Each stream varies in character, but all provide fast flowing clean water, a perfect habitat for native wild Brown Trout and Grayling. These fish are seldom trophy sized, rarely over a pound in weight. A 3lb fish would be considered the fish of a lifetime. Their beauty is where the draw to catch them is rooted; their colorations vary from stream to stream, from dark charcoal greys through to sienna and butter gold. Peppered black spots are punctuated by striking red specks down the lateral line, their vivid colors juxtaposed against the shadowed stream.
I grew up in rural Leicestershire. I was introduced to fly-fishing at a very young age and the rest is history. I cut my teeth fishing the vast midlands reservoirs; the wild streams of wales seemed a world away. After studying and spending the last five years bouncing around UK cities, topped off with a brief stint in London, my partner Seren and I (Bertie) decided that city life just wasn’t for us. After falling in love with the Black Mountains we decided to finally move into a cottage in Abergavenny, a stone’s throw from the River Usk. We haven’t looked back since.
Fly-fishing is, in many ways an art. The craft comes in the searching and the study of the water, reading the currents for signs of life. It takes full immersion into the environment, and surroundings. This demands slowing down to a different tempo to every day life, a meditative rhythm. Move too fast and you will miss the subtle signs, or worse still, your presence will shatter the calm of the wildlife around you. Slowing to this pace allows you to experience nature as if you were not there at all. The electric flashes of Kingfishers and the playful rolls of otters become common sights. Attempting to present an artificial fly as naturally as possible, throwing delicately weighted loops that feather down takes practice. The stars seemingly have to align before the fly falls just right, twirls appetizingly in the current, before the rise, the acceptance. The prize is then admired before being released. To me, there are few moments more captivating than the feeling of life in your hands as your catch slips away, back to their lair amongst bubbling stones.
Summer evenings by a river have a magical energy. As the day cools, the insects hatch, triggering a bloom of life. The trout begin to rise, and the swallows dance in the air before giving way to the bats in the gloaming. Sometimes the fish play ball, perhaps more often they don’t, but I always head home feeling lucky.
Photographs & Words by Bertie Weal | @borderlandfly