Bill Carne recently popped along to the Western Cleddau to spend a few hours on the river-bank watching Rhian Taylor showing the finer points of fly fishing from this current Welsh Ladies international...

Chat to Rhian Taylor for a short while about fly fishing and you would bound to be impressed, not only about her skills as an angler but by the enthusiasm that she shows to others about her love of fly fishing.

Rhian, who lives in Letterston, was head teacher at Hayscastle Primary School until she retired and there is no doubt that the skills she acquired there are a great help to her as a coach with the Pembrokeshire Federation of Angling Coaches, or PFAC as it is more popularly known.

She is also no mean angler herself (she loves her fly fishing and tries to fish at least once a week) and at this moment deserves congratulations because she recently came third in the Welsh National Ladies’ Fly Fishing competition, held at Llyn Brenig, near Bala, but was the delighted recipient of the lovely trophy awarded to the lady who on the day catches the heaviest fish.

Rhian’s superb specimen was a beautiful rainbow trout which weighed in at 2lbs 12ozs and with a couple of smaller fish in her bag she finished third to earn selection for the 2015 Welsh ladies’ team chosen to represent their country in the Home Internationals to be fished at Grafham Water, near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire.

“I am delighted to earn Welsh selection for the third year in succession,” admitted Rhian, “and it is doubly nice because Sandie Bevan (Haverfordwest) was champion and we both hope that there will be a third Pembrokeshire angler in the squad of ten because Barbara Thorne ((Letterston) still has a chance of qualifying.”

Rhian started out in fly fishing in less than salubrious circumstances as she first tried her hand on a short stay at the Lake Hotel, in Builth Wells.

“I had the assistance of a ghillie (a word derived from Scotland where they looked after a section of a river like the Spey) but it was very windy and the river was almost in torrent,” Rhian told us, “and I lost an umbrella from the hotel as it floated down the river – and I actually hooked the ghillie’s hat!”

“Perhaps that was the final straw because he called a halt soon afterwards but I loved every moment and was well and truly hooked (no pun intended!)

“Then I fished with Harry Jackson at Cennarth Falls, followed by the Trout Fishery at Hayscastle, but still felt absolutely useless.”

When Rhian suffered from Breast Cancer it was Nica Pritchard who encouraged her to apply for a ‘Casting for Recovery’ retreat weekend because it encourages use of the arms that can aid recovery. Organisers Sue Hunter and Sue Shaw, both of whom had fished for England, had also suffered from breast cancer and it was around this time that Rhian was galvanised into going for a trial with the Welsh team for the Home Countries international.

“I was very nervous but still went,” Rhian told us, “and was delighted to be chosen to represent my country at Lough Carragh, in the Ring of Kerry, Ireland, in 2012.

“Although I had been chosen as 12th and final member of the Welsh team I came eighth in our rankings to show I had improved, which was very pleasing indeed.

“The following year I was again in the squad for the Home Internationals at Trawsfynydd and there wasn’t a fish in sight, as far as I was concerned.

“Nica and I were being trailed by cameras from a TV programme called ‘Pembrokeshire Lives’ and I totally blame them,” said Rhian with a chuckle!

But when she went as a reserve to Talyllyn she caught 11 brown trout, seven of which counted.

As well as her own angling, it is good to report that Rhian also enjoys her coaching after PFAC, whose secretary was Nica Pritchard, arranged for her and Barbara Thorne to go on a course and she is now a level One Coach at the Pembrokeshire Federation of Angling Coaches.

“I have done a few stints at the Angling Centre, Treffgarne, with special needs school children and taken schools to Wolfsdale Pit for some course fishing which the children loved, and also been involved in other Fish Week activities.”

Outside of her fly fishing, Rhian was a more than useful athlete in her younger days, playing hockey for school, West Wales and South Wales B. She also threw a discus so well that she represented Wales in a Home Countries’ schools’ international at Cwmbran. She still treasures her Welsh vest and track suit, with ‘Cymru’ on the back, and can fit into it.

Not content with that little lot, Rhian also competed for the county in the hurdles at the national Sports in Colwyn Bay, represented Pembrokeshire in the Welsh Schools Cross Country championships at Newtown a few times, and was a more than useful squash player at STP School, Allt yr Afon and college in Cyncoed when she was studying to be a teacher.

Ask Rhian about support and she would be quick to nominate husband Stuart.

“He’s been brilliant but I think he does worry about me being out in a boat if the weather isn’t so good.

“Then there’s Nica Pritchard, my team members for their support, encouragement and company to share when we go fishing, my friends in our community who have helped me with fund-raising events, and the members of the Pembrokeshire Federation of Angling Coaches.”

Rhian fishes at least once a week in the summer if she can, and wants to encourage other women to take part.

As well as the Western Cleddau, she likes to fish for brown trout at Rosebush, where the fish seem harder to catch.

“I also had a lovely lesson on the River Wye, learning how to Spey Cast, which is a more complicated figure-of-eight technique.

“My arms were aching with the 15 foot rod, as I saw the most beautiful kingfisher and I nearly fell in!”

“My husband Stuart now enjoys fly fishing at Builth Wells and there is absolutely nothing like standing quietly in the river on a lovely frosty morning.”

Chat to Rhian Taylor for a short while and it is easy to see her infectious enthusiasm for fly fishing. We did just that and are considering a series of lessons ourselves with Rhian and the Pembrokeshire Federation of Angling Coaches!