During this year’s annual fishing holiday (yes, there was one!) we had an initial booster stage of additional attendees, one of which is no stranger to this blog. Smithers (for that is what we call him) bought his first proper tent whilst up in Scotland with us and has been hankering ever since to get his money’s worth out of it by getting out on a lads camping mission. As is always the case nowadays the shout went out onto a big WhatsApp group and took several weeks of brainstorming, furious diary checking and dirty pictures to defecate a plan out the other end. To our shock we had decided on Wales! What’s more, I had chosen the actual venue, a small llyn in North Wales that, according to my research had some nice wild brownies in it and was very picturesque due to it nestling at the foot of one of the Welsh 3000s. What’s more, there was aircraft wreckage from a Second World War crash site to take a look at (another fascination of mine). For me, the mission was also an opportunity to field test my new rucksack which I’d bought in Ambleside the previous weekend at phenomenal expense!
Myself and Smithers drove down with Tim (a new addition to the blog!) listening to Dire Straits and swapping our favourite recipes etc to spend Friday night at a cracking little campsite in Capel Curig which has a decent pub practically on its doorstep.
Tents up, we dived into the Bryn Tyrch Inn for a slap up meal and a few ales before retiring to our campsite to take pictures of Mars with Tim’s superzoom,
The morning was a flailing Catherine Wheel of admin. We had to get up, administer a brew, shower, drive into Betws-y-Coed for provisions then onto Llanrwst to find a butcher. Here we purchased a carrier bag full of burgers, sausages and bacon which then required a trip to Co-Op for a big bag of ice alongside further provisions. Then a slightly bizarre but tasty sit down bacon sarnie (brown bread cut into triangles with lettuce on the side) before back to the campsite where Stu had by now arrived to put tents down and pack our bags for the overnighter.
The final bit of admin was to drive to our starting point, buy fishing permits and find somewhere to park which wasn’t as easy as anticipated but finally we began our ascent up to our llyn around 12:30.
It was a slow, steady grind up a fairly steep hill made more difficult by the blazing sun, burgeoning packs and several kilos of meat and ice getting passed around between us. All the time I felt the pressure around my choice of destination – what if it turned out to be shit?! I was the first to crest and luckily my fears were instantly allayed as I clapped eyes on our home for the next 24 hours or so. Jackpot! The lake was small but crystal clear, with the occasional rising fish and was surround by steep rock walls and grassy slopes. Above us, birds of prey wheeled and dived to complete the picture of a natural idyll.
Once the tents were up we started having a bash at the brownies but after about half an hour of no offers I decided to wait until later when it wasn’t so bright. Instead I did some exploring of the surrounding area with an eye to finding the aircraft wreckage. I didn’t have my GPS on me but knew roughly where it was meant to be from a photograph taken at the site. Sure enough, when I lined up the same view I was at the location of some substantial undercarriage remains.
I wandered further up the slope behind to see if I could find anymore bits and pieces as the aircraft had apparently impacted much further up the mountainside. I found a couple more remains higher up but then I was somewhat distracted by a goodly amount of bilberries to consume and a growing desire to work out if I could exit the back corie wall onto the ridge. A half-hearted recce proved inconclusive and I returned to the llyn to do some more fishing. I don’t know what flies do the business on Welsh water but decided a Bob’s Bob Fly on the dropper with a decent sized Mallard and Claret on point could be worth a go. I sidled into the spot Stu had been casting from without any luck whilst relentlessly mocking every hat in my possession. It seems the Gods frown upon such behaviour as within a couple of casts I was into a fish, my first ever wild Welsh brown trout!
A few minutes later a fish rose in roughly the same area so I dropped my M& C just to the left and a good solid tug followed. <I’ve seen you at the back laughing, pack it in> which resulted in another, slightly smaller but no less stunning fish.
Another 3 fish followed, all to the M&C, a fly that had certainly earned a place in my fly box over the years – in fact it started earning its keep back in the mid 90s for me when it caught a lot of stocked rainbows at Swinsty!
Below is a video Tim took of Stu and Smithers which is quite a revelation, his steadycam gizmo has worked a treat!
With a few fish under my belt <look I’ve told you before, it’s a turn of phrase, I didn’t actually put them under my belt, > I was free to carry on exploring this time taking Tim and Smithers with me whilst Stu continued fishing. I returned to the area where the wreckage was and Tim proceeded to find an even bigger haul of bits to inspect Everything was put back as found in case you were wondering.
We pushed further up the hill (via more bilberries!) to see if there was anymore bits to be found but also have another look for a path up the back. There did seem to be one but it looked like it would be a grueller up scree and steep grass. We were nevertheless momentarily tempted to consider nashing up to the ridge before tea!
Tea was a mixed bag really. The disposable BBQs actually worked pretty well for once but the meat products we’d bought from the butchers weren’t as awesome as we though they would be – I actually wonder if that was because the meat was such good quality it was too lean and missing flavour from the fat. It was nevertheless most enjoyable to sit back and eat a burger or 3, washed down with a couple of lagers whilst soaking up our magnificent surroundings.
As the light faded we packed in any thoughts of carrying on fishing and unholstered our weapons of choice for the night. Whisky for myself, Stu and Tim whilst Smithers tucked into a bottle of gin. Meanwhile, across the other side of the coire two people had made a late pull up the valley and arrived just in time to put their tent up before it got dark. I cringed, those poor people coming all the way up here for a quiet evening wild camping only to discover 4 tents and the occasional cloud of red card banter drifting across the water towards them. Or maybe they grew weary of our relentless wonder at the meteors and satellites that occasionally appeared amongst backdrop of stars. However, and this is where the reference to middle aged comes from (along with the Dire Straits, the grey hairs, expanding waistlines and the fact that Tim brought such luxuries as a chair and a chopping board) at least we didn’t keep them up all night as we were all tucked up in bed by about 11:30. It’s a disgrace, an absolute disgrace! We couldn’t even stay up until midnight!
I awoke relatively early but had slept right through without needing to get up and fill my ‘apple juice’ bottle. Wow, I really must have been dehydrated yesterday! I knocked up a brew then when everyone was up proceeded to cook up a 16 rashers of bacon in several batches in my little aluminium frying pan. A good breakfast set me up nicely for the final goal of my Welsh weekend which was to get up the 3000 footer behind us and I was also able to coax Tim into joining me. We decided to do a full circular rather than going up the steep coire wall which worked out well as we got a nice little scramble under our belts early on.
Once we were up on the tops the views really opened up and it was clear we would have been fools to miss out on this little morning excursion.
After ‘bagging’ the top we descended back down to our campsite where thankfully we’d packed all our shit away before prior to setting off. I must point out that the detachable waist bag functionality of my new Fjäll Räven Kajka 75 L was a resounding bonus for this part of the weekend as it managed to accommodate a waterproof jacket, 1st aid kit, headtorch, can of pop and chocolate bar without me needing to take the rest of the pack with me on the hill-walk.
The descent back down into the valley was taken at a leisurely pace with frequent stops to admire the scenery. As well as catching my first Welsh brown trout over the weekend I also saw my first wild Welsh ponies. Mission accomplished as George W Bush would also say although he was in fact at the beginning of an 8 year counter-insurgency campaign that would cost the lives of tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers alike whereas we were merely coming to the close of an ace weekend in the hills. The comparisons are however clear for all to see.
My default setting for fishing in the hills is Scotland. Always with the Scotland. Gotta get up to the Highlands and fish a hill loch. This weekend has proved (again) that my outlook is far too blinkered, we had a superb weekend in North Wales – a place that is about 3 hours away from Leeds and in many ways just as stunning.