Wales: Learning to fish in The Valleys

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My 11-year-old daughter acquired a love of fishing on a recent trip to the Cwmcarn Forest in South Wales.

My 11-year-old daughter acquired a love of fishing on a recent trip to the Cwmcarn Forest in the South Wales Valleys.

 

Drive through a housing estate in the Cwmcarn Valley, and you suddenly enter a magical forested area. Once a colliery, the Cwmcarn Forest has reinvented itself as an outdoor adventure playground that offers extreme mountain biking, fishing, walking and glamping in pod-like wood cabins. There’s something for just about everyone, including a STUNNING drive through the forest, with 7 magical stops.

As a YUPPIE (remember those?) my holidays were more about ME and all the fabulous things I could get up to (the main ingredients involving a sunny climate, swimming pool and a fruity drink). Now that there are children involved, I find our holidays are about THEM and the new things they can learn and experience.

The manmade lake in the Cwmcarn Forest is stocked with 6 different species of fish, including perch.

The manmade lake in the Cwmcarn Forest is stocked with 6 different species of fish, including perch.

 

Wales is the perfect place for new adventures, and Visit Wales kindly sent the Modern Family for a weekend of learning experiences in the Valleys. Keen to get our three daughters fishing, the Cwmcarn Forest is an excellent venue for an introduction to the sport. The manmade lake is stocked with perch, trench and Gwrachen Ddu (that’s bream in Welsh) and the local angling club meets on Saturday mornings from 10 – noon in March through October. £3 will get you a camping chair, fishing rod, maggots, catapult (for showering maggots near your line) and all the pointers you need to get started.

We showed up on a clear, bright morning wearing purple Hunter wellies and were immediately greeted by Chris, the angling club secretary.

Goood mooor – ning! Chris welcomed us in a sing-song south Wales accent. Where are ya from? And he just slightly rolled his r.

My youngest looked at me, I could tell she was having a hard time understanding Chris. I him understood perfectly and instantly liked this grandfatherly figure.

You want me to what? These red and white maggots were used as bait to attract our fish.

You want me to do what? These red and white maggots were used as bait to attract our fish.

 

Right. Who wants to learn how to fish?

Chris scooped a plastic dish into a bucket of red and white maggots and handed it to us. We just stared at the squirming larvae. I panicked slightly as I figured Chris would use me as an example.

Hold out your hands. I noticed hubby slink back to the car, most likely to get his newspaper.

Cwome on! Mam, you go first.

Reactively, I immediately held out my hand and Chris placed a few squirming maggots in my palm.

They won’t hurt ya!

I tried not to make a face. Then my 11-year-old daughter enthusiastically put out her hand.

They’re just like cute little rolly pollys Mum! (that would soon be flies, but I didn’t say that, as it might put my two younger girls off).

Maggots anyone?

Maggots anyone?

 

Chris is point to the weight, which helps with casting and in the water. The longer clear float, with the fluorescent orange tip, is what foliates at the top of the water. When the float goes under water - you have a bite!

Chris is pointing to the weight, which helps stabilise the line when you cast. The longer clear float, with the fluorescent orange tip, is what “floats” at the top of the water. When the float goes under water – you have a bite!

 

Chris’ 13-year-old grandson showed us our spot on the banks of the manmade lake. We got a foldable camp chair, fishing rod, rod holder (so you can relax in the chair and put your rod down), net, and catapult.

My oldest was the first to cast. Her line cracked as she whipped it across her shoulders. Her line cascaded over the lake, and landed a good 25 feet away. Not bad for a first cast.

That one’s a natural! Chris whooped.

After a few more instructions from Chris, we all sat on our chairs. Then the morning was full of baiting, casting, and using the catapult to shower maggots into the lake near our line, in hopes of attracting fish to our area.

The fishing club meets on Saturdays March - October. £3 will get you a rod, rod holder, chair, bait and all the pointers you need to get started.

The Cwmcarn fishing club meets on Saturday mornings in March – October. £3 will get you a rod, rod holder, chair, bait and all the pointers you need to get started.

 

Of course it was inevitable that we tangled our lines.

Chris! I sheepishly called him over, holding my youngest daughter’s rod with a reel that wouldn’t turn.

What yur trying to tell me is yur in a right mess.

I smiled.

Major tangle in 3! Chris yelled over to his daughter Jane, who came over to help untangle.

It was obvious Chris has done this before with city folk.

A big thanks to Chris and Cwmcarn Forest for teaching us how to fish!

Our oldest didn’t reel in any fish, but she got five bites and was brimming from ear to ear.

Here’s Chris showing my youngest how to cast a line.

 

 

Here’s my oldest showing off her newly learned skill of baiting using maggots

 

Here’s my middle child, showing us how to use a catapult.

 

 learning to fish in cwmcarn forest - restingMy 11-year-old’s perspective:

This week I went fishing for the first time. I thought it would be boring, but I was wrong, as it turned out to be a really enjoyable experience.

First I learned about maggots in fishing. It was recommended to put 3 maggots on the hook, but luckily I did not have to put them on straight away as they were already on for me.

Next I learnt how to cast a line. First you have to pull the line back, then pull the releaser the other way and then slowly pull the rod back (over your shoulders) and push it forward as hard as you can!

You know when you have a fish when the float goes under water. Once it has gone under water you should reel it in very carefully. I got five bites, but the fish swam away when I was reeling them in.

Unfortunately when I reeled it in the maggots were gone – which meant I needed to put them back on. You do this my taking the bum (the head is the darker pointy bit) and stick it on the hook.

Overall I had a great day and want to go fishing again!

 

IF YOU GO:

Cwmcarn Forest Visitor Centre Cwmcarn Forest web site Knowledgeable staff happily share their tips on the best things to do in their gorgeous forest in the heart of the Valleys. There’s a gift shop, Ravens Cafe, toddler play area and showers and toilets too. Pick up some wild bird seed for 50p to take on the Cwmcarn Forest Drive.

Ravens Cafe your.caerphilly.gov.uk In the visitor centre. Hearty dishes like faggots, peas and chips, plus sandwiches, energy drinks and other snacks. If it’s nice, eat outside on picnic tables and bird watch. Local pleasure seekers and mud-spreckled mountain bikers mix in this basic, but busy cafe.

Cwmcarn Angling Association your.caerphilly.gov.uk  From  10 – noon during March – October you can learn how to fish in the gorgeous Cwmcarn Forest. Formerly the Cwmcarn collier, the manmade lake is now stocked with perch, trench and Gwrachen Ddu (that’s bream in Welsh). Just show up and you can borrow fishing rods, tackle, chair, maggots, catapult (for showering maggots near your line). The knowledge and friendly fishing association will show you how it’s done. £3 per person.

Cwmcarn Forest Driveyour.caerphilly.gov.uk Go deep into the Cwmcarn Forest on this 7-mile forest drive takes you through STUNNING scenery. There are 7 magical stops, all with car parks and some have barbecues and toilet facilities. Don’t miss Giant’s Court, a natural amphitheater lined with soft green moss and majestic trees and Windy Ridge, which has sweeping views arose the Cwmcarn Valley. £5. Closed in inclement weather.

Mountain Bikingyour.caerphilly.gov.uk Ex-coal mines make excellent extreme biking trails, which is why Wales attracts so many sports enthusiasts. Not for the light-hearted or inexperienced, you can get instruction at Cwmcarn Forest for 10 – 16 years-olds. If your teen is especially sporty, go for it!

Cwmcarn Forest Campsite your.caerphilly.gov.uk This well-equipped camping areas sits at the foot of the Forest Drive and is near the lake. There are 3 wooden camping pods, for the glampers amongst you.

 

After fishing, take the Cwmcarn Forest Drive, a 7 mile drive through sweeping scenery. This is the top of Windy Ridge, where you have stunning views over the valley.

After fishing, take the Cwmcarn Forest Drive, a 7 mile drive through sweeping scenery. This is the top of Windy Ridge, where you have stunning views over the valley.

 

Don't miss the first stop on the Cwmcarn Forest Drive. "Giants Court" is a magical green moss forest  floor, with characters from Welsh legends book The Mabingion.

Don’t miss the first stop on the Cwmcarn Forest Drive. “Giant’s Court” is a magical green moss forest floor, with characters from Welsh legends book The Mabingion.

 

Ex-coal mines make excellent extreme biking trails, which is why Wales attracts so many sports enthusiasts.

Ex-coal mines make excellent extreme biking trails, which is why Wales attracts so many sports enthusiasts.

 

Note: Our activities were provided by Visit Wales for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own and my family’s.

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13 Comments

  1. 07/05/2014 / 13:27

    she is doing really well.
    I never fished, but it would be interesting to try.

  2. 20/03/2014 / 09:07

    *shudders* I think I might struggle with the maggots, but I suspect my son and hubby would have an absolute blast doing this. It’s terrible – it’s only since I’ve left the UK that I’ve really realised how many beautiful parts of it there are that I never visited. Looks like you had a wonderful time – lots more fun than any yuppie holiday, right?! x

  3. 18/03/2014 / 07:50

    We’ve been thinking about doing more trips in the UK. Haven’t been to Wales since I was a child – forgotten how beautiful it is.
    I’ve often wondered about fishing – always looks so relaxing, as if you could sit back with your thoughts. There’s obviously a lot more than this but fascinating to see how you all got on.

  4. 17/03/2014 / 17:56

    Such stunning stills Susanna and fab that your daughter discovered that something she (and most of us) would assume was boring was quite wonderful! Loved this post!

  5. jenniferhowze156
    17/03/2014 / 10:13

    This looks really fun. You might have even changed my mind about maggots. Hmm….nah….

  6. 16/03/2014 / 20:50

    This looks like so much fun. I’ve never been fishing but this has made me think i’d like to try it with my kids.

    • 17/03/2014 / 06:42

      We had not tried it before, and to be honest I wasn’t really looking forward to it. I thought it would be a lot of sitting around and waiting. There is some waiting, but it’s enjoyable, and there is lot of baiting, casting, reeling in too. x

  7. 16/03/2014 / 10:06

    Not sure about the maggots, but glad you had a lovely time. Terrific to do something new

    • 17/03/2014 / 06:41

      I can’t seem to convince anyone about the maggots •scratches head*

  8. 15/03/2014 / 08:45

    I had many a family holiday in Wales as a kid.My dad is a keen fisherman so we would fish most weekends even camping at night.I have to say your daughters seem more enthused than I ever was.

    • 15/03/2014 / 18:38

      Was it the maggots that put you off? 😀

  9. 15/03/2014 / 08:14

    This looks idyllic (well except for the maggots!). I love any excuse to be near water so will have to try fishing when the girls are older. Not now though – they would end up falling in the water.

    • 15/03/2014 / 18:39

      Yes wait a wee bit longer. But then they’ll love it.