Middle Earth Angling Guide

The Gwathló River System

Merrill stream

The Merrill (Riven) stream begins approximately 40 miles east of Rivendell (Imladris) in the foothills of Hithaeglir (Misty Mountains) and flows almost due west to meet the Bruinen about 10 miles above the Ford. The named tributaries of the Merrill include the following creeks: Willow, Eureka, Nugget, Cripple, Rocky, Muddy, Nymph, Birch, Oak, Moose, Shelf, Cloudburst, Crystal, Desperation, Badger, Cricket, Merlin, Wine, Applegate, Turnaround and Beaver. The Merrill valley was first settled by Elrond in 1697 Second Age during the War of Elves and Sauron. At this time the valley was uninhabited by intelligent beings except a community of Nymphs who resided along an upper tributary.

The eastern most source of the Merrill lies deep within a gorge in the Misty Mountains. The gorge is almost devoid of direct sunlight as its sheer walls are almost always in shadow and mist. The water is crisp, cold and has a slightly sweet taste. In the few places that do get some light junipers have anchored themselves into the rock, the harsh conditions shaping them into natural bonsai.

Merrill (c) 2002 Kent Krumvieda

Two miles after leaving the gorge the Merrill is joined by Willow Creek, the first of many tributaries. Willow Creek springs from a willow bog that runs north-northwest to the upper reaches of the Bruinen. The willow bog is virtually intraversable to all but rabbits and small mammals. During the Second Age a shallow lake existed here but has since silted up. Those attempting to travel through this area will find they sink up to their crotch in the seemingly bottomless bog.

Traveling to the west two miles and then two and a half miles Eureka and Nugget Creeks join the Merrill from the north. There is a small mining settlement of about two score elves near the juncture of the creeks and the Merrill. This mining community extracts and refines raw mithril from the creeks and the surrounding hills. About five miles down from the mining settlement the Merrill is joined by Cripple Creek from the south. Cripple Creek is named for the numerous natural snares and traps that line the valley. The traps are semi-sentient and carnivorous plants that are an effective defense against uninvited two and four legged animals. A mile further down stream the Merrill is joined by the Rocky Creek on the north.

Between Cripple Creek and Muddy Creek ten miles further to the west sheep and goats graze on the sweet grass growing on either side of the Merrill. By the time the Merrill has flowed another five miles to the west the stream is once again clear and in the space of a mile is joined by three more creeks, Birch and Oak Creek flow down from the north and Nymph creek flows down from the south.

Nymph creek is named for the Dryads, Leimoniads and Naiads that inhabit this valley. The Nymphs and the elves have a harmonious and symbiotic relationship each helping the other to protect and defend the entire Merrill valley. The Nymphs rarely show themselves and few besides the elves know of their existence.

The flow in the Merrill has increased from its rocky birth in the Misty Mountains and with the addition of the waters from Moose Creek to the north now scours the bedrock as it continues to flow to the west. The grass meadows between Nymph and Moose Creeks serve as the lower winter pastures. Below Moose Creek the Merrill tumbles and falls over a series of rocks and boulders until the waters from the Cloudburst Falls link with the Merrill.

The Cloudburst Falls, to the north of the Merrill, are over 600 feet tall, their mist saturate the land downwind with perpetual moisture. Steep cliffs begin at the Falls and proceed nearly ten miles to the west. Numerous birds of prey nest upon the almost sheer rock face. Less than a mile below where the Cloudburst joins the Merrill, Shelf Creek adds its flow.

Shelf Creek and its tributary Slippery Creek flow over boulders and rocks smoothed by thousands of years of water flowing over them. The constant moisture has resulted in a prodigious growth of mosses and algae in and around the creeks. Their presence and their associated decay make walking along or in the stream very dangerous. The valley terrain is broken and rugged making travel through the hillsides slow. Four miles below Shelf Creek, Crystal creek flows north to meet the Merrill and is named for the quartz rocks that line its bed.

Five miles below Crystal Creek is Desperation Valley and Desperation Creek. This long valley's floor is a bottomless bog filled with willows. The elves say only the desperate would ever travel here. Even the creek bed itself has a strange mud that seems to grab and hold beings foolish enough to travel this way. To the north of the valley is Desperation Draw. Desperation Draw is a steep tree clad ravine that has eons of downfall. There are places where trees lie upon one another to a height of 15 feet or more. Going around the deadfalls is meaningless as they are everywhere in the draw. Although cartographically Desperation Draw and Valley appear to be an entrance to the Merrill valley, it really isn't. At best, a traveler could make a mile an hour in this terrain and be completely exhausted in half a day.

The five miles from Desperation Creek to Elrond's house two other creeks, Badger and Cricket, join the Merrill from the north. A total of seven small lakes dot the valley floor between Elrond's House and Cloudburst. These lakes are used for irrigation, water supply and flood control. This stretch of the valley is has fields of barley, corn, wheat, rice, oats and numerous vegetable crops.

Imladris, Rivendell, Elrond's house is a mansion. Elrond's house sits upon a small hill about 100 feet above the river's edge. The structure is large, 200 feet on a side and three stories tall, with a central tower in the middle. The uppermost portion of the tower is used for the alarm bells. Immediately below the bell house in the tower is Imladris'mews housing dozens of trained hawks of various varieties. On the east and west is a veranda. The grounds are landscaped with beautiful gardens and walkways. Set off from the house are stables, and a smithy. Imladris, Last Homely House, the home of Elrond was a stronghold of the Elves in Eriador in Second and Third Age. In 1701 S.A., Sauron's forces besieged Imladris. Near the end of the Second Age Imladris was the site of the final preparations for the Battle of the Last Alliance. Finally, towards the end of the Third Age, Imladris was where the fate of the one Ring was decided.

Downstream of Elrond's house are vineyards and apple, pear and peach orchards, along with the remainder of the elven settlement. In general the residences are scattered along the tree line never more than one house to an acre. The buildings complement rather than contrast with their surroundings. A stone bridge spans the Merrill just east of Elrond's House at the start of a winding path that leads out of the vale of Rivendell to the Fords of Bruinen and the high moors. On either side of the path running for hundreds of yards are holly trees. The trees originally from Eregion have a lustrous dark green, undulating, spiny-margined leaf that is quite distinct from other hollies. In May the path is fragrant with the scent from their dull white flowers.

Around a bend downstream of the bridge is a small but efficient mill. The elves have successfully harnessed the power of the stream to help them grind their grain. A mile below Elrond's house Merlin Creek joins the Merrill from the south and another mile downstream Wine Creek joins the Merrill from the north. Merlin Creek is named for the many pigeon hawks in the area. A mile below Wine Creek, Applegate Creek flows south through the orchards and eventually adds its waters to the Merrill.

Between Applegate to the east and the Great Western Reservoir five miles to the west is Turnaround creek. Turnaround Creek is named for the permanent illusion encompassing the forest, which confuses unwanted visitors into leaving the valley. The valley floor between Applegate and the Reservoir is covered in hayfields, acres and acres of Timothy Hay. Above Turnaround Creek and below Applegate are three stud farms, two on the north side and one on the south side of the stream. These farms breed and raise the famous Lipizzan horses of which the elves are famous for. All the elven homesteads are cleverly constructed of native materials to blend with their surroundings.

The Great Western Reservoir is two miles long and a mile wide. The dam is of earthen construction, lined with rock on both the upstream and downstream embankments. The dam itself is almost 75 feet tall in the center of the channel. Near the bottom of the embankment is a bottom spillway mounted in a granite foundation. The upper end of the Reservoir is covered in beds of reeds and cattails. The Reservoir was constructed for defensive purposes, but in the last 1000 years has only been used once, when Elrond prevented the Nazgul from capturing Frodo.

Below the embankments the Merrill is between 50 to 100 feet in width, flowing and splashy over the valleys weathered bedrock. Numerous small waterfalls averaging from five to twenty feet give the appearance that the river is naturally terraced. The last major tributary of the Merrill is Beaver Creek three miles downstream of the Great Western Reservoir. From Beaver Creek the Merrill flows almost due south for about three miles where is turns to the south where it joins the Bruinen about 10 miles above the Ford.

With the exception of the orchards and willows virtually no trees line the Merrill valley floor. At the edges of the historic flood plain groves of oak, birch and beech begin. In general the valley floor is between one to two miles wide. As one continues up the mountains the oak and beech give way to forests of pine and spruce. Along the southern hills directly opposite Rivendell framing the carved stairs entering the valley are thousands of Eregion holly trees. The smaller flora, (shrubs, flowers, herbs, etc.) within the Merrill valley are quite varied and diverse. Over the years numerous medicinal properties of the native flora have been discovered and refined by Rivendell's healers.

The Merrill valley is rich in history. In addition to Elrond and the heirs of Isildur Rivendell has been the residence of Celebriand, daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn. In 109 T.A. Elrond married Celebriand and together they begat Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen. It was in some unidentified birch grove within the Merrill that Arwen first met Aragorn. Elrohir was married in Imladris and this union led to the birth of Poldar and Piosenna. In the Fourth Age Elladan and Elrohir jointly rule the Merrill valley.

Numerous animals make their home in the Merrill valley. Herds of deer and elk winter in the valley meadows and summer further up the slopes. Moose can be found year round in the lower forests of oak and birch and can be found feeding amongst the willows. Beavers, muskrat and mink make their homes along the banks of the Merrill. Migrating ducks, geese, snowy egrets and heron are also found in the valley depending on the season.

The upper reaches of the Merrill are practically devoid of fish. Between Nugget Creek and Wine Creek the Merrill is populated by Golden Trout, some of which grow to more than 16 inches. Below Wine Creek and above the dam the Merrill has a mix of Brown and Rainbow Trout. Below the Dam the primary fish is the rainbow. Because of it's flow rate the Merrill is open year-round for fishing, that is if you get permission.

Golden Trout tend to feed heavily on small aquatic insect larvae. So make sure you have a good supply of tiny subsurface flies, especially the midge and caddis fly imitation in sizes 16 to 22. When fishing the Merrill don't use any rode heavier than a 5 weight, with floating line or very short sink-tip and nine-foot tapered leader with a 6X or 7X tippet. Midges hatch year round, with the most important during the period between December and March. Mid June to Mid October is the Caddis hatch. From Mid July to September you can see Mayflies, Green Drake (Ephemerella grandis), Pale Morning Dun (Ephemerrella inermis & Ephemerella infrequens) hatch somewhere along the stream. The Blue-Winged Olive (Baetis) will hatch from March to May and from September to November.

When fishing below where the Wine enters the Merrill try to match what's on or in the water. Good dry patterns include: Green Drake #10-12, Pale Morning Dun #14-18, Red Quill #16-18, Blue Dun #14-18, Blue Winged Olive #18-22, Midges #22, numerous Caddis #14-18. During the Non-hatch Periods try the following: Midge Larva & Pheasant Tail #18-22, Prince & Buckskin Nymphs #14-18 and Western Coachman #14-18 are among the favorites.