BBC presenter Will takes us deep into in the Welsh countryside, on a journey through the lakes and reservoirs that wowed him, during the filming of his latest series, Go Fish...
My new BBC series Go Fish was always going to be about so much more than just catching big fish. Being still by the water’s edge feels like proper escapism. Whether you are there with a rod or not: water time is never wasted.
Fishing allows us to tap into ancient instincts and the sport is a great form of meditation and natural therapy in itself.
In Wales, we are not only blessed with great fish, but we have some truly beautiful places to angle for them.
There is a cruel irony that the pike, one of our most ancient and revered predatory fish, thrives on the same sort of neglect that the Welsh Valleys have endured since the end of heavy industry.
Originally built in the Victorian-era to provide safe drinking water for industrial workers, Ponsticill is the last of a string of mighty reservoirs that stretch out from the feet of the Pen Y Fan mountain range.
At the dam end you can’t fail to miss the enormous plughole that forms the bell-mouth spillway, but harder to spot is the Taf Fechan village. It was hastily submerged deep under the water in the rapid pursuit of economic ambition.
Rumour has it you can still see the tip of the chapel’s spire in times of extreme drought, and fantasy has it you can occasionally hear the chapel’s bell, too. Today, the pike fishing is at least as spectacular as the surroundings.
With the pit wheels and iron workings long since abandoned it is just you, your rods, the fir trees, and the immense water for company.
You can almost fool yourself into thinking you are lost in backcountry Alaska, and not, in actuality, just a couple of miles from Merthyr Tydfil’s town centre.
Many are familiar with Caerphilly Castle. It's an icon of South Wales.
Its leaning tower and medieval fortifications dominate the town and its tourist brochures, but few outside of a small angling fraternity would know that its elaborate water defences also house some of the finest carp in the country.
In Go Fish, I break my personal best from the deep moat underneath the granite castle walls. It is a stunning golden carp, with a thick interlocking scale armoury that would have been the envy of many a castle knight.
“My little earthly paradise,” purred the famed Welsh fly-angler and raconteur Moc Morgan, of this wonderfully remote collection of highland pools that form the source of Mid Wales’ River Teifi.
In Go Fish, I was lucky to receive tuition from Moc’s son, Hywel, himself a fantastic angler and proud advocate of wild trout angling.
Non-anglers can enjoy the solitude of a long walk through the moorland that surround the pools, but for Hywel and I, it was all about willing a wily brown trout onto our dry flies. A positive induction into the seductive artistry of fishing mountain lakes.
This 100m deep, nutrient-rich trench sits some 50 miles off the coast of Pembrokeshire. Undeniably, it is an absolute superhighway for marine mega-fauna.
I've spotted spouting minke whale just off our prow, enormous pods of leaping dolphin, well into the 100s, and even shoals of blue fin tuna, colliding with great bait balls of fish.
There are undoubtedly a whole series of massive obstacles facing our seas today. With climate change, plastic pollution, and over fishing all taking their toll, the health of the Celtic Deep, as well as the incredible blue sharks we caught, tagged and recorded, felt like a real cause for optimism.
As winter ground forward, we received a tip-off about a giant pike lurking somewhere within a village duck pond in the Rhondda valleys. I was sworn to secrecy over the exact location of the pond, but the pursuit of that fabled fish would quickly become something of an obsession.
Spending my days on the concrete sides of that pond, I was surprised to find my own 'earthly paradise'. Being somewhere as familiar as a village duck pond, but forced to properly focus, taught me the real value of finding beauty in the smallest details: like the way the silver fish would shoal and scatter at sunset, or how a family of goosanders hunted the lake in a perfect grid formation, or how the smallest of the pond’s pike would move into the shallow water at the exact same time every single day.
At the Secret Pond, I learnt that some of our greatest treasures sit right underneath our noses. I eventually became completely attuned with the natural pace of the place and, when my float did slip away late one evening, I also found the exact point where fantasy and reality really do meet.
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