As fishermen's tales go, it was perhaps the tallest of them all, even by Welsh standards, the one about a Cardiganshire angler taking a former President of the United States out in a boat for a spot of fly-fishing. But it was true.
Jimmy Carter, a keen fisherman, was on holiday in west Wales in 1986 when he happened to hear about the prowess of a Tregaron teacher with rod and line and asked to meet him. The two men got on so well that a friendship was struck up between them and they spent whole afternoons in each other's company.
Carter returned to Cardiganshire on several subsequent occasions. It is not known how many trout they caught in the chilly waters of Llyn Clywedog and the many streams that feed into it in the uplands of mid-Wales. But the President was delighted with his visits, praising the people he met and the natural beauty of the area. "I've visited more than a hundred countries," he told a local reporter, "but none as beautiful as Wales."
Morgan took it all in his stride, never swanking about his famous friend and always loth to tell journalists what the two anglers had talked about as they tied their flies and cast their lines. Years later he wrote about the encounter with his customary sang-froid in his autobiography, Byd Moc (Moc's World, 2013).
Although he had travelled widely to take part in angling competitions and bring home trophies from countries around the world, Morgan John Morgan was very much a man of his own square mile. He was born in 1919 at Doldre, a small community near Tregaron, where almost every man was an angler. He was barely able to walk when he was given his own tackle, and grew up in a community where fishing was the common pursuit.
He trained as a teacher and taught at primary schools in the county, latterly as a headmaster in Lampeter. It is said that he would nip out of school during the mid-day break and go down to the Teifi to cast a few flies. He began every season fishing at Pont Llanio on the very first day of the season. There was something joyous in his zeal for the riparian pastime and its rituals.
Coming close to Izaak Walton's ideal of "the compleat angler", he was well-read in the literature of angling and published several books about aspects of the sport. He was also a regular columnist with the Western Mail, his last piece appearing the day after his death. "The best fishing is to be found in print and angling has the best literature of all sports," he wrote with typical panache. Seeing him gently return a fine fish to the water from which he had just hauled it reminded me of the consummate countryman Mr Crabtree sharing his river lore with young Peter in the strip cartoon of the old Daily Mirror.
I met Morgan once in the green room of a television studio where we chatted about coch-y-bonddu, the name of a popular fly which is thought to be derived from the Welsh. He was always eager to share his expertise with those who sought it and was a regular broadcaster in both Welsh and English.
One of his great legacies to fishing was in promoting the sport among young people as secretary of the Welsh Salmon and Trout Angling Association. As the group's secretary he introduced competitions among the home nations for under-16s, women and the disabled.
In a 2012 documentary for the Fieldsports Channel he spoke of how he enjoyed the solitude of the river bank where, he said, he felt alone but never lonely. "The sport of fishing has the tranquillity of spirit which many are seeking," he wrote, paraphrasing Walton.
His passion was passed down to his son Hywel, who is a fishing instructor and a World and European Casting champion, and to his grand daughters who are also expert anglers.
Morgan (Moc) John Morgan, angler and writer: born near Tregaron, Cardiganshire 1919; married firstly Meirion (deceased; one daughter, one son), secondly Julia; died Aberystwyth, Ceredigion 25 May 2015.Reuse content