Sunday 1st April, 2018
Now that George is ten, and England Youth Fly Fishing have lowered their entry age by a few years, he is hoping to fish the England Youth Qualifiers at Draycote Water later this year. However, international competition fly fishing is "Loch Style" and done from a drifting boat, but neither of us has fished from a boat, so we didn't really know where to start.
Ellerdine Lakes' Edward Upton recommended that we get in touch with Draycote's Guiding and Tuition Manager, Tom Bird, so he could teach George the basics on the very same water where the qualifiers are to be held. After booking a session at the British Fly Fair International we were out of the house and in the car by 6:45 this morning for a two-hour drive to Draycote Water in Warwickshire.
Tom is an England international fly fisher and a lovely chap. He knows this 600-acre water like the back of his hand and even visits on his days off, he's that obsessed with the place. To get started, Tom tied on a 16' leader of 12lb fluorocarbon to George's #6 Airflo Sixth Sense Di3 line, which he was fishing on my Orvis Helios rod. He tied on two small boobies - a sunburst orange blob pattern on the top dropper and a small white cat's whisker style booby on the point. There was an eight foot gap between the line, the dropper and the point fly.
These were both small as boobies go, so they would fit within the International rules gauge George will need to use when he's competing. After getting the rod set up, he showed George how the motor worked and then headed over towards the Corn Field area. He set up a drift near some willow trees not far from the shore. Then showed us how to set up the drogue to slow the drift of the boat and explained to George what path the flies would follow on the retrieve.
Tom showed him a neat technique for getting the sunken boobies back to the surface at the end of the hang, which involved a couple of vigorous roll casts before starting the haul. It didn't take too long for him to hook-up to a fantastic rainbow, which had taken the cat booby on the point. Like the ones he's caught at Llyn Brenig, these reservoir rainbows are brutal fighters and it took quite a while to get the fish to the net.
He was delighted with the catch and followed it up with another one shortly after - this time on the top dropper. After things went quiet, with only a few missed pulls between drifts, Tom suggested we head over to Toft. This gave George a chance to have a go at operating the boat himself. Amazingly, we didn't crash! We fished from the anchor for a while to avoid annoying the other boats in the area.
This time he was fishing a floating line with a small white lure on the point and one of Rob Denson's scruffy diawl bachs on the top dropper about 6-8 feet up the leader. The line twitched early on the first cast, seemingly as a fish swirled at the fly. Then the line shot away again a few feet later in the retrieve. This one had taken the diawl bach on-the-drop and was not very happy about coming to the net. The fighting qualities of the Draycote rainbows was very impressive. George thought they were even tougher than those of Brenig, which are known to fight like demons.
Two other fish followed from the same spot - one to the diawl bach and one to the point fly again. Given that this was all in the space of half an hour, and few other anglers had caught, Tom had done a great job of putting him among the fish with the right method. At lunch time we headed back over to the jetty to drop off Tom and head back out on our own for a bit more practice for an hour or so.
Operating the boat on our own turned out to be not nearly as daunting as we envisaged and George had a great time on the boat. We managed to find a good group of fish starting to feed on some hatching buzzers, alongside the dam wall, but unfortunately we couldn't persuade any of them to take our dries. Back at Toft, I managed to miss a fish on the-hang as it tried to take my fly as I was lifting off to re-cast, but then our time ran out and we had to head home for tea.
If you're looking to learn more about Loch Style fishing, or want to learn the best spots and methods for Draycote, we can definitely recommend Tom. He was a pleasure to spend time with and was great with George. We had a day we'll remember forever. We're planning some other trips there later in the year once the buzzers start to hatch a bit more readily.
Final score: George 6.
Saturday April 7th, 2018
The weather for today's Greys Junior Bank Nationals at Ellerdine Lakes was on the damp side, to say the least. George was competing against about a dozen of the UK's very best young fly fishers and there was some serious talent present - including many exceptional casters and anglers, many of whom already fish for their country.
Things got off to a relatively slow start, with no fish for the first twenty minutes. It definitely wasn't an easy start for the youngsters. After losing his first fish while straightlining buzzers on the margins of Meadow Lake, George eventually hooked his first fish and the first fish of the match.
Things started to pick up a little from the second and third pegs, with England team members Alex Jaffrey and Oscar Hill catching a few on lures. George was switching methods every five minutes or so - favouring a lure on the intermediate when the buzzers weren't hatching and straight-lined buzzers and a tequila blob when they were. This was working in a way. He was hooking lots of fish, but they refused to stay attached. Eventually he did bring a second to the net.
Fourteen year-old Harrison Douds from Northumberland was fishing very well from the start, catching a very good rainbow of 6-8 pounds a couple of hours into the match, followed by another not long after. For a junior of his age not on the England team, he was extremely talented and a really competent distance caster too.
Just before the lunch break George finally managed to bring a third one to the net, after hooking and losing three on the same peg! This one had gone for the buzzers again with the straight-lining technique proving a really effective one for George - at least in terms of bites.
Hooking the fish at distance was proving a challenge, and getting the fish to stay attached for the duration of the fight was an even bigger one. However, he was pleased to be in the third place spot by the lunch break.
The afternoon session got tougher for George. Several of the others had switched to fishing chamois worms and similar patterns under indicators and were quickly catching up or over-taking him. Elias, who fished alongside us, caught several fish on this method as did George's friend James.
Eventually, George figured out what they were up to and switched from the buzzers and blob approach to using an eggstasy worm beneath his indicator. This led to plenty of hook ups, but frustratingly, he was still struggling to keep the fish attached. Number four did eventually come to the net, but he was losing fish after fish and getting very disheartened.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the lake, Oscar and Alex were smashing it, Elias was catching consistently on the chamois in the margins and Harrison had caught several on buzzers. While he knew he was out of the running for the top three, he did still keep trying his best, but you could tell he was disappointed. Poor Will Upton had experienced a similar run of bad luck, hooking plenty - including a nice salmon - but struggling to keep the fish attached.
George finished a respectable fifth overall. The top four had all fished brilliantly. Harrison took the fourth place spot, Elias took third, Alex took second and Oscar took first, but the placings at the top were extremely close, with all of the anglers catching the same number of fish, with everything coming down to who caught on the most pegs and who caught latest in the match.
The kids had such a good time that many of them continued to fish with each other for fun after the match ended. George fished alongside Harrison for a while and shared advice. We also got to watch him catch his first salmon, which is an experience he'll likely remember for a long time. Check out our Facebook page for the video.
Monday April 9th, 2018
A nice five o'clock start today for our first trip to Ladybower Reservoir in rural Derbyshire. It's a good 90 minute drive from us so we set off around six to arrive for opening time. The drive over the Snake Pass is very picturesque and there was still some snow around due to the high altitude up there. It was hovering around zero when we arrived too.
After getting set up, we motored over the bank opposite the jetty to do a few drifts along the bank. I was fishing a #6/7 Airflo Sixth Sense sinking line, with a 16 foot leader and an FNF Fire Prawn FAB on the dropper with a small candy booby on the point. While George was using a #5 Barrio Mallard floating line with a red dognobbler on the point, as recommended at the lodge when we arrived.
Several drifts returned zero bites, so we headed over to the rocky shoreline near the arched bridge. George cracked it here, with his jerky strip retrieve getting bite after bite as they nipped at the tail of the fly. He was soon into his first fish. It wasn't a huge fish - under a pound - but it was in great shape and fought quite well for its size.
A bit further along the bank and he was in again with the same fly and the same technique. I then started rummaging through the fly boxes to see if I could find something similar. I'm not sure if it was the lead head of the fly that meant it was at the right depth, or the colour, or just the jigging action that heavily weighted flies have, but it worked well for him. I tried to copy the method, but it didn't work for me.
After things went quiet, we did one really long drift along the opposite bank, casting towards the wooded shoreline and using a range of flies and techniques - from buzzers and blobs, to pulled lures on sinkers and intermediates. Eventually, I got in on the action too, after another rainbow hammered my orange lure on the hang.
By lunchtime the weather was glorious. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and it didn't feel anywhere near as cold. However, the fishing was definitely much harder. Several drifts over new areas failed to get us any more fish - though George did get some pulls.
Just before we left, George suggested we try the bay on the other side of the arched bridge, so we motored under and found a very fishy looking bay. A couple of fish moved as we arrived and we both had a pull on the first cast. Again, it was the red lure they seemed to want. The buzzers, blobs and dries we tried all got ignored, but as soon as the red dog nobbler went into the bay George had bites.
We had a great morning at Ladybower and Geoff at the fishery office was very friendly. We'll definitely heading back over there again when it warms up. Looks like it could be great fun when they're on the dries!
Final score: Matt 1, George 2.
Saturday 14th April, 2018
We were back in Wales this weekend for a fishing trip with George's friend James. He's a regular at his local venue, Tan-Y-Mynydd, so we met up with him and his mum to get a lesson in how it's done.
George and James were having an excellent time, mainly pulling lures on each of Tan-Y-Mynydd's six or seven small lakes. There were quite a few fish moving, but the bright sunshine and spring-like weather had made the fishing a little bit challenging.
George was first to catch, after a lovely little rainbow took his green and gold Apps bloodworm. For a fish of only a pound and a bit it put up a good account of itself and he needed a hand from James to help net it, as it made run after run towards the weeds.
With so many fish rising, I'd gone with the natural fly approach. I started off fishing the washing line with a couple of small pheasant herl buzzers on the droppers and a klink on the point. I had one hook-up on the buzzers, but all the klink got was refusals.
In the end, I lengthened my leader to about 18', dropped the breaking strain to 5lb, gave it a coating of Fulling Mill Mud, and tied on a size 16 F Fly. That did the trick. I quickly caught two in a row and missed several others, so the boys tried a similar approach.
The rises were a bit sporadic, so George and James mainly stuck at it with their lures and stalking of the margins. Eventually, James caught his first fish and did so in style - with a stunning three pound tiger trout coming to the net after a solid five minute fight.
We finished the day with five fish for me, mainly to dries, and four to the boys. It was boys versus me today, but as tiger trout are worth two points, so I am told, this means they beat me. Must try harder next time...
Final score: Matt 5, George 2, James 2.
Sunday 15th April, 2018
We got kicked out of the house for a few hours today so George's brother and sister could do their homework in peace, so popped over to nearby Westlow Mere to see if we could catch a few. It was pretty windy today, with a strong gusty wind blowing from the shallows to the deeps, and after struggling to cast into a horrible wrong-shoulder sidewind on the banks of the top end, George suggested we try the shallows instead.
George's choice was a good one, as not only was it far less windy down here, but there were also quite a few fish rising. One very skillful regular was catching a lot of fish on buzzers, nymphs and elkhair caddis. However, the fish in front of us were too far out to reach. I was fishing a washing line with a CDC point fly and two buzzers on the droppers, while George was fishing a green and gold Apps bloodworm and a buzzer on the dropper.
George was first to catch, after a very powerful fish took his buzzer at distance. It was clearly not one of the smaller stockies, and it gave him a hell of a scrap on his five weight. After well over five minutes of powering off on really fast runs, he finally got it to the net. The weigh net scales showed around four pounds and it had perfect fins, indicating that it had probably been in the lake for quite a while.
As I was fishing just along from George, the fish were even further out for me and I wasn't getting much action, so decided to switch methods and change the buoyant point fly for a tequila blob instead. After a long cast, I pulled the line straight and then let the flies sink for a minute. All it took was one short pull to get the flies moving back up in the water and everything went solid!
Like George's, my fish was also a good-sized overwintered rainbow with great fins. Westlow Mere's fish are generally in very good shape in the winter months, but these were as pristine as any reservoir rainbow you'll ever see. It was something of a shame that they had to be clonked as part of Westlow's compulsory kill ticket policy. At least they'll make good eating, though.
We both managed another hook up each, but the lighter tippet we were using proved no match for George's second fish and it snapped him off, while mine unfortunately made off with a braided loop and the leader attached! Hopefully, it will shake off the barbless hook attached.
Final score: Matt 1, George 1.
Sunday 22nd April, 2018
The weather suddenly turned rather summery this week, with the hottest April temperatures recorded for about fifty years. However, although we'd had temperatures in the twenties for a few days, it was somewhat colder and wetter for this morning's trip to Chirk Trout Fishery!
Although there were some signs of small insects hatching, the trout were proving to be extremely difficult to tempt. I started off with a 16' leader and three lightweight natural buzzers, while George was fishing a blue flash damsel on his little Shakespeare Agility #3. I couldn't get a bite, but George did manage to get a few follows, including one from a lovely brook trout!
We spent the morning going through our fly boxes trying a wide range of flies to see if we could tempt them. Even scaling down to really natural looking flies on fine tippet didn't help, nor did throwing colourful flies at them. We've haven't had fishing this tough for a while.
Eventually, the wind changed and we decided to try some tan apache lures. The ones I tie have a black bead and a dubbed tan marabou body, so do look very natural and their movement underwater would certainly appeal to me, if I were a trout. Switching worked, with George catching a nice little rainbow, which leapt back out of the net, and then me hooking up and losing one shortly after.
As the swirly wind changed direction again, the fish turned off, so we turned our attention to the plentiful perch in the margins. Czech nymphing for them with flies placed on the bottom and then wiggled enticingly did the trick!
Final score: Matt 1, George 1.
Sunday 29th April, 2018
It was the first of Corwen and District Angling Club's junior fly fishing days today and the turnout was excellent with over a dozen juniors attending, including a couple new to the sport hoping to catch their first fish - as well as those competing at international level and those on their way. A couple of George's junior troutmasters friends also joined the club, too.
The weather was very cold and the prevailing wind had blown the water and food down one end of the lake, and the temperature there was probably more to fishes' liking, so they'd shoaled up and were holding in a deep pool. The deep pegs on the lower lake therefore seemed to be teeming with fish and those who fished there caught fish after fish, but elsewhere on the lakes it was much harder to hook up, and the fish were less abundant.
We started on natural patterns like Corixa and buzzers and has some tiny bites, but it was hard going away from the shoal. I managed one on a Corixa fished near the weed bed, while the second took a tungsten-headed Ellerdine Enigma fished as deep as I could manage on the floating line. George had struggled all day, but finally managed his first fish - a lovely brown - on a yellow blob fished under an indicator.
Final score: Matt 3, George 1.