With wild trout and grayling occasionally topping 3 lb the middle and Upper Wye fisheries are among the best river fisheries in Britain. The Wye upstream of Rhayader is acidified and fishing in the highest reaches is not so productive (although efforts to mitigate the acidification may change the situation); however, some of the upper tributaries, notably the Marteg, provide lively sport for smallish but truly wild brown trout.

The insect life of the Wye system is very diverse. Some 20 species of upwinged flies have been reported from the Wye, including the large dark olive, medium olive, small dark olive, late march brown, iron blue, blue-winged olive, mayfly, yellow may dun, purple dun, large brook dun and autumn dun. Parts of the Wye have particularly good hatches of olive uprights, a spring and early summer fly common on many Welsh rivers. Sedge flies are also abundant in the lower reaches. (Pat O’Reilly’s bestselling illustrated book Matching the Hatch covers all of these aspects.) In the headwaters, much of the river is acidic: look out for stoneflies, as they are a reasonable guide to which tributaries provide the best sport.

For Wye trout, Iron Blue, Grey Duster, Red Sedge and Kite’s Imperial are good general dry-fly patterns. GRHE and pheasant tail nymphs are useful standbys for ‘between hatch’ fishing. Popular grayling flies include Treacle Parkin and Red Tag, while for sub-surface fishing either shrimp patterns or Sawyer’s Killer Bug are usually successful. Barbless grayling flies are increasingly being used by anglers on the Wye, and small dry flies can be very effective in low water conditions on crisp winter afternoons; stonefly imitations are particularly useful at that time.

The grayling frequently top the two pound mark, so using a leader of less than 3 lb breaking strain is probably unwise – and hardly necessary in the swift-flowing autumn currents on the best grayling beats.

Sea trout are rarely reported from the Wye, although in part that may be because so few people fish for them.


The lower Wye is a big river and ideal for those who can manage sunk-line fishing with a double-hander, especially as the river fines down after a spate in spring and autumn. A floater or an intermediate will usually be fine for salmon fishing in summer.

Further up river, the pools are fairly deep and the riffles and glides fast, making it ideal summer flyfishing water. A double-hander is probably advisable if you are fishing from the bank; however, when fishing from one of the many croys or from a boat, a 91/2 ft. single-hander is fine provided it has enough backbone to cope with salmon in fastish water.

Tube flies are popular with Wye anglers, the advantage being that the same general pattern can be tied in a range of sizes and weights, from plastic tubes 1/2 inch (12 mm) long to 2 inch (50 mm) brass tubes for heavy-water. When fishing catch and release, which is now compulsory on the Wye, a single-hook fly is preferable.

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