Monday, 10 September 2012

Fishing The River Usk Pt2

After packing and re packing my kit we finally left London for the first part of the trip, we were to stop off in Cardiff (the capital of Wales) to spend the night with old friends. Cardiff is an amazing city that's still in the grips of a massive regeneration program where the bay has been reinvented as a leisure destination, sadly that means the usual chain restaurants, but the setting is nice.

Somehow on the way home from the pizza and beers I acquired a Sombrero.

The next morning we set off proper, driving up into the hills of Brecon. The countryside offered it's usual delights, roadkill, people who thought leaving the car's hand (aka parking) brake on would be prudent, people who thought if they got there quick enough they'd be up for a prize, and farmers who just like to shower the road with shit because they can.

For our first night we camped in the garden of  Pen Pont  a very nice country house that has evolved over the last 350 odd years with each generation adding wings, annexes, and remodelling to suit their needs. You can stay in the house which looks lovely, we were on a more restricted budget so it was camping for us. For those of you with an interest in traditional architecture you can find a very good history of the house and the family HERE

How's that for Bushcraft?

By the time we'd got there, set up the camp and sorted out our gear we'd long missed the morning rise by about six hours. So we started with the time-tested tactic of enthusiastically thrashing the surface of the water. Within moments we'd both seen fish jump, near-ish to our flies, buoyed by these early 'near-wins' enthusiasm turned to over exuberance as it so often does. Sigh.

Unable to find the other old approach shoe that I'd earmarked as a temporary 'wading boots' I'd chosen a pair of Neoprene stalking wellies as my footwear, if I'd set out to provide The Lighthouse Keeper with a high comedy moment as I slipped from rock to rock before plunging into the depths they would have been the perfect choice. Not my intention, but he seemed well-pleased with the outcome.

Now shivering slightly in the dying light I wasn't going to let a soaking dampen my spirits or dull my enthusiasm so I paused to tie on a new fly and watch TLK casting, I was just admiring the fluid motion of his back cast when I was stung on the back of the head, as my hand instinctively rose to the afflicted area, a sudden searing pain was accompanied by the amusing sight of TLK suddenly stumbling forward into water deeper than the height of his 'waist waders'. The forward motion of his cast had been suddenly interrupted by the line snagging and then snapping causing him to lose his balance. By this time my hand had reached the back of my head, where I found his fly neatly embedded, its broken tippet hanging down my back.

With the score for the afternoon at:
Soakings 1.5
Fly strikes on other anglers: 1 [direct hit]
Fish hooked 1
Fish brought to the net 0

We called it a day, heading for the relative safety of the campfire.

More Soon

Eden Binoculars Review

'I don't know how many guides I've met who dressed in rags, lived on wallpaper paste and government cheese but who owned a pair of $2000 binoculars" David Petzal

There is a much held view that expensive glass, for your hands or atop a rifle, is a waste of money. That 'OK' and 'quite good' are all you need. I wasn't convinced. I used to do a spot of stalking with a chap who had a couple of pairs of mid-range binos, his pair were rubbish and the 'client' or 'sport's' pair even worse. Then last summer in the Kingdom of Fife, my pal Andy had fifteen year old Swarovski's that were a revelation to me, binos as they are on TV! You can see right into the trees! 

I've looked and looked; on eBay - they'll set you back the thick end of £500 and a new pair is £1,600+. The Zeiss and Leica alternatives aren't much cheaper. Zeiss now do an entry level range from £650, very nice, but they just dont have the bomb-proof feel that Andy's had after fifteen years of very rough treatment, guiding and keepering in all weathers. 

"Clients are too fussed about their rifles, you've got to see the animal first, with these I've guided clients to animals they couldn't even see through their Tasco scope on their custom rifle" Andy Richardson

I went to the camera store and took a look through the £150 glass. Pointless. Once you've seen through glass brightly it'd be like setting fire to the cash without the fun or Youtube hits. So there I was sitting at home, with piles of junk recovered from lofts and basements across london, hopefully cataloguing it all in preparation for a big sell-off to finance the glass, when and email came through from a chap in the knife business. 'Would I like to take a look at the glass he's now selling?'
He tells me 'Eden have teamed up with a manufacturer to bring out glass to a bird watcher's standard's of colour reproduction at a web sales only price point. '  
My first thought was, 'give them a once over and then sell them to add to the money for proper glass'. He seemed confident in the product 'write anything you like about them, or dont write about them, your choice'. 

That was three months ago. 

I've used them in every condition I can, across valleys, through hedgerows, in English woodland, in the dark recesses of the Welsh tree farms, and scanning the sides of tower blocks. Then I've been into every binocular stockist who would let me do comparison tests [and been chucked out of one that wouldn't], while I'm not saying they are exactly as good as the top-flight Austrian glass, they are very very close. I'd have them over the entry level Zeiss's which are more than twice the price. I've given them to photographers and cameramen to test: they talked gobbledygook about colour saturation and edge definition - I didn't really understand - but they seemed delighted.  If you are, as I was, about to suck-it-down and buy some posh glass, have a look at these first. You wont be the only person shocked to see how far Chinese glass has come on in recent years. 

Now, does anyone want to buy a pair of unused Campagnolo brakes from the 80's? A collection of comix? For you madam a fire surround? Sir! Perhaps a ......

More soon
PS For more thoughts about glass from a blogger who actually spends time afield Hodgeman knows