IT'S THE WEEKEND: Your passport to Gwent's great fishing rivers

South Wales Argus: AT THE RIVER: Simon Evans, deputy Director of the Wye and Usk Foundation fishing. AT THE RIVER: Simon Evans, deputy Director of the Wye and Usk Foundation fishing.

FOR fishermen and women March is the beginning of the new fly fishing season. And the Wye and Usk rivers are the perfect place to unleash a line or two, as DAVID GRIFFITHS reports.

GWENT'S keen anglers are lucky in having not one, but two great fishing rivers: the Usk and the Wye.

Although salmon numbers in the Wye had been declining for years, with careful management they have started to improve and average salmon catches are up by 75 per cent over the last ten years.

The spring run used to regularly produce fish of 30 pounds and some of these fish are now returning, with a salmon weighing a whopping 37 pounds caught in the 2013 season.

Downstream of Monmouth, the river quickens, and this is where some of the best salmon spots on the Wye are found, especially at medium to low water levels.

As well as being one of the premier Welsh salmon rivers, the Usk is also touted as one of the best wild trout rivers in the UK. Indeed, the origin of the name Usk comes from a word meaning "abundant in fish" and from Abergavenny downstream is the best place to fish for salmon.

But it's not just Monmouthshire where fishing is booming.

With 500 members the Newport Angling Association is the largest angling club in Wales. Dennis Ballat is chairman of the Association and we asked him why he thinks people become anglers in the first place.

"Many people are taken fishing by their father or grandfather, and become keen fishers themselves," he said. "Recently we’ve been seeing a lot of people who are taking early retirement, are still active, and want to try a new hobby."

The club owns a mile and a half along both banks of the river Wye at Symond's Yat, and also owns two ponds in Newport.

One of the ponds was opened by Welsh rugby legend Gareth Edwards, himself a record-breaking angler, in 1981.

Membership of the association gives unlimited access to the club’s ponds and their stretch of the Wye, with membership for 16 to 60 year olds costing £50 for the first year, and £40 for subsequent years.

For people over 60 it costs £40 for the first year, and then £30, and for under 16s it costs £12.

Clive Vedmore, manager of Gerry Evans Fishing Tackle in Newport, thinks fishing is instinctual.

"People like being outside, and fishing appeals to the hunter-gatherer instinct in people," he said. "Kids in Newport are lucky, there are some good coarse fishing venues in Newport. They are well stocked and well supervised. They are very safe."

Mr Vedmore recommended the reservoir at Wentwood for trout fishing.

"It’s one of the prettiest fishing spots in Wales," he said.

Both the Wye and the Usk are renowned for their salmon and coarse fishing spots, many of which are detailed in a new book called "The Fishing Passport" published by the Wye and Usk Foundation.

Dai Watkins works at the Foundation and said they wanted to make things as easy as possible for fishers.

"Using our website you can see if a place is available," he said. "Once the booking has been confirmed we send an automated email with a map of the area, directions to car parking, and a full list of rules."

For all types of fishing, coarse or salmon, you will need a rod licence from the Environment Agency. These can be daily, weekly or yearly, and can be applied for on the Environment Agency’s website.

For further information contact The Wye and Usk Foundation on 01874 712074 or visit www.wyeuskfoundation.org

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