Fly fishing diary: April 2016

Where we've been fly fishing and what we've caught this month. Plus two become five as the whole family venture forth.

Fly fishing diary: April 2016
© Paul Ainsworth
Fly fishing diary: April 2016
Picture copyright © Paul Ainsworth
Fly fishing diary: April 2016
Estimated reading time 18 - 29 minutes

Sunday April 3rd, 2016

Surprisingly pleasant weather today with winds below 10mph and the temperature over 12°C, so we thought we'd make the best of it and experience Llyn Brenig when it wasn't blowing a gale. We only had time for a half day on the bank, so arrived nice and early for a change so we could leave just after lunch.

As the prevailing wind was blowing from the Nant Glyn side towards the visitor centre we opted to try the beaches around Tower Bay. Rather than walking, as we usually do, we drove around this time which made things a bit more convenient. The track is a bit scary when you tackle it without a 4x4 though.

You can drive to Tower Bay, but finding the dirt track isn't easy the first time.

Last week when we fished at Brenig the fish were far out and down deep and it was tough to get a bite on anything other than an intermediate or sinker, and George only had a floater. To give him a better chance I bought him a cheap John Norris intermediate line and he fished this with a pink Jelly Fritz blob for most of the morning.

Today they wanted it near static.

I was the first to hook up - though doing so was somewhat unintentional. George had got a tangle so I cast out my flies, tucked the rod under my arm and left my intermediate line out at distance to sink.

It took me a second to realise that the booby had been taken and I could hear the drag spinning! It felt like a decent fish (the average size of fish in Brenig is high at the moment) and stayed attached for a minute or two before slipping the hook as it neared the net.

We made our way along the bank towards Nant Glyn from Tower Bay fishing every 15 or 20 metres and got the odd pull, but nothing solid. The fish weren't really biting hard at all today, though we did get a little nip or pluck in most spots we tried.

All of the bites came when the intermediate was cast out as far as possible and then left to sink for 30 seconds, indicating that the fish were holding deep. Boobies, especially pink or orange Jelly Fritz ones, seemed to get the most attention.

 We explored the Nant Glyn bank looking for suitable spots to fish.

We'd not fished the Nant Glyn bank that many times so had a wander along towards the forest where the water is very deep close in, but we couldn't find anywhere with enough space to cast, so wandered back for some elevenses.

George caught this male common toad in the margins looking for a mate.

As we had to head off at lunch time, we had a quick try in the top corner of Tower Bay where George briefly connected to a fish and I had a fish take a like to my booby a few times. Frustratingly I couldn't hook up properly.

Then in the last 10 minutes we tried just in front of the car and I had one a good fish on the first cast. Again it had gone for one of the Jelly Fritz boobies we'd been fishing and it fought really well for its two pound weight and was a really good looking fish with very pointed fins and lovely colours.

It was a beautiful day to be out fishing and with plenty of little bites to make things interesting, but hopefully the fish will be feeding more confidently and looking upwards when the weather warms up over the coming weeks, as the fishing wasn't easy.

Sunday April 10th, 2016

Back to Ellerdine Lakes in Shropshire today for a day of fun and relaxing while attempting to catch trout. Conditions weren't the greatest, as it was rather sunny and the wind direction was the opposite to usual, which tends to put the fish off the feed in my experience here.

Edward had stocked the children's pool during the week, so no prizes for guessing where George opted to fish first! His weapon of choice today was a pink FNF Jelly Fritz blob on the top dropper, with an FNF Jelly Fritz version of the Ellerdine Enigma on the point.

A few casts along the margins and we both watched the tip of the fly line shoot forwards as a feisty little rainbow took the blob on the dropper and went acrobatic. It put a nice bend on George's rod and a smile on his face.

It didn't take George long to catch his first fish.

A switch to a new chocolate brown squirmy wormy fished beneath an indicator got the second fish, but it wasn't what we were expecting - being a chunky little rudd, rather than a perch or trout. It put up a good fight for its size though.

This chunky little rudd took a brown squirmy wormy.

The same fly got plenty of pulls and several hook ups, which managed to leap free. Then trout number two was on. This one was a smaller fish, but no less pretty.

After losing another, George decided it was time to let me have a fish, as I'm 27 years over the age limit to fish the children's pool, so we popped over to Cranymoor so I could try and get a piece of the action.

George casts his flies towards the island on Cranymoor.

I was fishing an orange blob on the point and a pair of quill cormorants on the droppers, but didn't get a touch for 20 minutes so George persuaded me to go back to the childrens' pool to catch some more before breakfast!

I didn't take much persuading, as it's great fun watching them bite so readily in here. If anything watching someone else catch fish can be as exciting as catching them yourself.

"Can I borrow your rod dad? Can I keep using it all day?"

We spent the day strolling between Cranymoor, Lakemoor and Marsh for 10-20 minute sessions - with the rest of the time spent at the children's pool.

Conditions were tough and the fish weren't biting as readily as they usually are, so apart from the odd pull here or there, things were fairly quiet. Most people reported a similar picture, so at least we weren't alone.

Eventually I managed a fish on Marsh - a lovely four pounder which took an orange blob. It put up a great fight, coming close to the net and then shooting off at speed several times. Five minutes later I had a solid pull on three successive casts, then another hook up, but managed to do a long range release as it came to the net...

Given that I'd probably only fished for an hour or two all day - with most of our time spent on the children's pool with George - I was quite happy to come away with the one fish. He'd had a great time, especially as the four trout and one rudd meant he'd thrashed me on points!

Sunday April 17th, 2016

The whole family were out fly fishing today, something which rarely happens. Lily, Henry and George were attending Corwen and District Angling Club's first junior day of 2016 at Llandegla Fishery in Denbighshire, North Wales, so Matt and I took the opportunity to have a little fish while they were being tutored and turned into miniature professionals by coach Paul Ainsworth, ably assisted by membership secretary Harry Carr.

We arrived rather early for the 9.30am start, so while Paul was tackling up (the club provides all the equipment the juniors need for their session) we took refuge from the freezing wind in the fishery's cafe and fortified ourselves with bacon sandwiches and hot chocolate ready for the day ahead.

While George has fly fished every weekend with Matt since he was about six, Lily, Henry and I have only fly fished a few times. One major attraction for us in joining CADAC was their junior days, and today's did not disappoint.

Paul started with a safety briefing and then taught the children (and me) how to roll cast. He explained why this was a really important cast to master and also that as the fishery was very busy that day (they were holding their Troutmasters fish-off on the other fly fishing lake) it was the safest one to use. To the kids' amazement, Paul demonstrated exactly what an expert can achieve with a roll cast and then it was straight down to the fishing.

Picture copyright © Paul Ainsworth.

The fishing was a little tough at first and apparently the Llandegla trout weren't being as obliging as usual, but eventually Lily hooked up to a fish on an Apps bloodworm.

She did a great job of getting it into the net quickly and was delighted to have not only beaten veteran George but been the first of the day to catch!

Picture copyright © Paul Ainsworth. Lily with a lovely little rainbow caught on an Apps bloodworm.

I got Matt to change my fly for a buzzer with an indicator and I had a fish on within seconds of the fly hitting the water. This came as rather a shock, but I eventually managed to land it and was left with an ear to ear grin and a very sore arm! And a great sense of satisfaction that the girls were now in the lead!

Picture copyright © Fly and Lure.

To his relief, George was the next to catch, on a lovely little Corixa pattern, tied by Paul. Paul gave him some great tips while fighting the trout and then, as he has fished lots before, showed him how to fish with two flies.

Coach Paul Ainsworth gives George some tips on playing a trout.

Setting their usual sibling rivalry aside in their desperation to out fish their sister, George and Henry worked together to target a poor unsuspecting trout. And I had catch number two, this time on an orange blob. Much to Matt's disgust, I caught this on his rod while minding it while he went to the loo! I'm still at the stage where hysteria kicks in when I get a bite but fortunately Harry was standing by to calm me down and help me get it into the net!

Sarah puts some side-strain on fish number two, while Harry waits with the net.

Despite the wind rising after lunch, making casting tricky for the inexperienced among us, Lily and George both caught again, George a particularly feisty fish that didn't want to stay still while he had his photo taken. And Paul gave Henry lots of support and encouragement to help him catch his first trout.

Henry with a trout he helped Matt to land.

Sensing a humiliating defeat in the offing, Matt resorted to desperate tactics and unleashed his new secret weapon in the form of some worm flies he'd tied the day before made from FNF Chewing Gum. And boy does it work! The fish couldn't get enough, and watching from the opposite bank, I couldn't quite work out what was going on as he netted four fish in about 10 minutes!

We ended a very enjoyable day with Lily, George and I all on two fish, Henry on one he fought for Matt and Matt on five.

Paul is a very experienced angling coach who works regularly with school children and both he and Harry were absolutely brilliant with the kids. They pitched the session perfectly so the kids learned loads, had great fun and are all really looking forward to next month's junior day.

And on finding out that George ties his own flies, Paul also let him keep the Corixa he had caught on and gave us detailed instructions on how to tie it so we could have a go at tying a Corixa fly pattern at home! Can't wait for next month.

Picture copyright © Paul Ainsworth.

Sunday 24th April, 2016

Still buzzing with success from the CADAC junior day last weekend we decided to attempt another full family fishing trip, this time to George and Matt's favourite, Ellerdine Lakes in Shropshire.

It turned out that I was the only family member who hadn't been there before, as both Lily and George have accompanied Matt on trips and Henry reminded us that he and Granddad had come to Matt's rescue during the infamous key incident, when he managed to lock his keys in the car while setting up (something the Ellerdine regulars still rib him about!)

After tackling up, which with five rods to assemble took considerably longer than usual, we made our way to the Children's pool so the kids could put into practice some of the skills they had picked up from coach Paul Ainsworth last weekend.

Tackling up took longer than usual with five rods to get ready.

Keen for all the kids to catch again to keep them motivated, Matt had them fishing with his new secret weapon; FNF Chewing Gum worms, fished under indicators. George gave Lil a little tutorial and showed her his hot spots while Henry got straight down to fishing the margins on the opposite bank.

He remembered Paul's roll cast tuition and had a go at casting parallel to the bank then figure-of-eight retrieving his worm back along the margins. This proved to be a very successful technique and after a few missed bites he successfully landed the first catch of the day, a lovely little rainbow.

Much to his delight, Henry has the first catch of the day.

After breakfast, and a chance for George to give Henry a guided tour of the lodge, we headed off to Marsh so that Matt and I could have a go at fishing too. We stuck to the right bank, not necessarily the best fishing spot that day but the quietest, as we wanted somewhere we could all keep together but not disturb the other anglers. It was slow going, with few takes and after about half a hour, as the kids were beginning to get restless and the wind was rising, we retreated back to the Children's pool.

Henry got straight back to fishing the margins and within minutes had fish number two, expertly netted by George.

Fish number two for today's champion Henry.

His competitive spirit kicking in and keen to even things up a bit, George took himself off to the top of the Children's pool, changed his worm for one of his own trusty red rascal flies, and got down to some serious fishing.

This paid dividends, and eventually he had his first catch of the day, another perfect little rainbow that put up quite a fight. Lily was yet to catch, but had great fun helping him to net it and then, remembering what Paul Ainsworth had taught her at the junior day last weekend, she helped to revive it in the net before releasing it.

Lily practises her netting skills on George's trout.

A rather biting wind had started to blow across the fields and we were all beginning to get a bit cold by this point, so we retired to the lodge to defrost with coffee and hot chocolate.

It looked like a lot of the other anglers had had the same idea, so after a quick break, we took advantage of the quieter banks and took refuge from the wind at the top end of Cranymoor.

George was keen for me to catch something, so he changed my buzzer for one of his treasured red rascals, a cat's whisker variant he'd tied himself and usually has great success with here. Then he took me off to his favourite spot and gave me some of his top tips on how to fish his lure.

Matt, Lil and Henry were all persisting with the Chewing gum worms but we had no bites, although George and I saw a few fish rising and the man next to us caught a 3lb 9oz fish.

The kids were starting to get a bit restless again and Lil had resorted to a novel way of using the landing net to keep herself occupied, so we stopped for lunch before she caused a fight and retired back to the lodge.

Lil takes a break from fishing to play the poke your brother in the head with the landing net game.

Suitably refreshed, although not much food was consumed as most of the party were still full of Fishery Manager Paul's bacon and sausage sandwich breakfast, the kids decided we were going back to the Children's pool.

Lil was keen to catch, but despite some tuition and encouragement from George, who was really enjoying telling his older sister what to do for once, the fish eluded her this week. Still, both she and I spent some valuable time practising our casting skills during the day and both came away with more confidence in our abilities.

The weather had taken a rather unpleasant turn for the worse by now and it was raining the sort of nasty sideways rain that manages to get down your collar and cuffs to get you thoroughly soaked, so we decided to call it a day.

Typically, by the time we had finally managed to squash everything back into the car the sun had come out again. George and Henry went to fill in the catch return book and came back buzzing that they had held their own against the other anglers.

Some truly monster fish had been caught that weekend (regular Lorina had one of 14lb in the morning), but although they had eluded us we'd still had a great day.

So it was success for the juniors this week with Henry on two fish, George on one and the rest of us blanking.

P.S. If you are nearby, Ellerdine Lakes is well worth a visit if you want to fish with kids. The staff and locals are very welcoming of children and it was lovely to see that many of them seemed genuinely pleased to see George, a regular himself.

The Children's pool is a great idea as it allows you space for your kids to practise without you feeling stressed that splashy casting or chatting is ruining the fishing experience for the other anglers around you. Plus kids fish for free with a paying adult, a real bonus when you have three! Check our guide to fishing Ellerdine Lakes for some tips to get you catching.

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