Fly fishing diary: August 2016

Llandegla Fishery, the St. Davids beat on the River Dee and a family holiday to Northumberland for a spot of fly fishing.

Fly fishing diary: August 2016
Picture copyright © Fly and Lure
Fly fishing diary: August 2016
Picture copyright © Fly and Lure
Fly fishing diary: August 2016
Estimated reading time 19 - 32 minutes

Sunday 7th August 2016

Sarah writes: Off to Llandegla Fishery, North Wales for another of Corwen and District Angling Club's fabulous junior days, run by coach Paul Ainsworth.

It was a warm day, with temperatures already reaching 20°C when we left Cheshire at 8am, but by the time we reached the fishery it had plummeted to a far less comfortable 16°C and the wind was starting to rise.

Sunny, cool and windy - not easy conditions.

Undeterred (fanatics Matt and George will fish in any weather, including gale force winds) we started tackling up, with Matt tying on a selection of George's red rascals (a cat's whisker variant) and the trusty chewing gum worms.

Then we joined Paul and Harry, who had emerged from the fishery cafe and were tackling up the club's rods. We tend to bring our own rods, but the club have a really good selection and can provide everything your child needs for their day if required.

George twiddles back one of his trusty red rascals along the margins.

The wind was getting really squally now and Paul said he would keep an eye on things, but if it got too bad we would have to call it a day for safety reasons.

Before we got down to the fishing he gave us a demonstration on how to fish in the wind, teaching us how to cock our wrists and cast from the left side. He then made us all have a go and once satisfied we had all got it (me included, although I was not fishing this week as I was on dog duty!) we set off to find a spot out of the wind.

George punching his flies out through the wind.

Henry and I set off for the top lake to see if it was less windy up there, as Henry was keen to put into practice his new distance casting skills, polished at the Game Fair with the BFCC last weekend.

We found what we thought initially was a sheltered spot with the wind behind us and Henry cast out the chewing gum worm. He decided to fish the margins, a really effective technique for a beginners when casting in the wind, as it doesn't require you to cast great distances, and one that has caught him fish before.

Matt tries a dry fly over the weed beds.

After a few casts, the wind direction changed and his fly was now getting blown back into the reeds and we had tangles of line and vegetation to contend with. Looking round the bottom lake it looked like a similar picture, with many of the junior anglers struggling in the windy conditions.

We decided to try the corner of the bottom lake opposite the cafe to see if that was more sheltered. We could see fish jumping out near the aerator, which was going full blast, so we decided to see if we could snare one of them.

Despite the wind, Henry got a good line out and stripped back fast, a technique George on the platform across the lake also seemed to be trying, but nothing. The wind seemed to be circling and suddenly it was in our faces again and Henry's line blew back and got firmly stuck in the weedy margins.

We eventually managed to tug it free and brought several waterlily leaves with it and a very brown slimy squirmy worm! Frustrated, Henry decided to take a break and went off to see the dog.

Lily seemed to be having more luck. She and Matt had also moved off the top lake and were fishing the corner of the bottom lake nearest the cafe. She was fishing a red rascal and Matt said her technique was to cast out and then daydream while the fly sat static. While this was obviously working at attracting the fish as, unlike the rest of us, she had several near misses, the daydreaming bit meant none were landed!

Lily teaches Matt her new technique for fishing the red rascal.

Even George, across the lake, who had been valiantly double hauling into a head wind, was beginning to get frustrated. We could see several fish right out in the centre of the lake just under the water surface. George had swopped to a dry fly and, more experienced than the other two, had been getting his fly right out to them, but they were totally ignoring everything he threw at them.

Harry, on the next peg, pointed out several large brown trout that were cruising along the edge bank, almost mocking us! George decided to change tactics, targeting the margins from a sitting down position, then when that didn't work he just had a sit down for a bit!

Tough fishing for George today...

After lunch, the wind was still as unpredictable and the fish were definitely not interested in feeding. In fact, Paul said they had been off the feed since Thursday. The club juniors were the only anglers left and nothing had been caught since 8am that morning!

It wasn't just the junior fly fishers who were feeling the pressure. Matt, who hadn't been fishing for three weeks, was getting really tetchy. He'd tried everything, as had Paul, looking at the frequency with which he was changing the juniors' flies over on the other side of the lake.

The aerators usually hold fish - not so today.

Harry was still watching the fish in the margins, when not kept busy untangling wind knots, and even George had retired to watch them with him. Lily had given up completely and was reading a book and across the lake, Paul's fly box had made another reappearance. It looked like even his trusty Corixa had drawn a blank!

Eventually me and the kids resorted to ice cream to keep the spirits up, resigned to the fact that we weren't going to get to go home until Matt had caught something!

A fish at last for Matt.

Finally, the trusty chewing gum worm came up trumps at last and Matt landed the first (and only) fish of the day for our party, a lovely rainbow of about 1.5lbs. George helped him to net and release it, first showing it to some of the other juniors who had wandered over for a look.

We called it a day and packed up our stuff, leaving Paul and Harry and a few valiant juniors still battling the squally wind.

Sunday 14th August, 2016

Today's trip to the St. David's beat on the River Dee in Carrog, North Wales, didn't get off to the best of starts. George opened up the gate to the field where you park and I drove in. Then, half way through a three point turn, with the car positioned with a hedge to the rear and a river cliff to the front, I got stuck...

After eventually freeing the car without getting it covered in mud, we got kitted up. George wanted to fish with dry flies and try out a bit of wading, so he got his waders out for their second airing of the year. They're still a bit on the big side, but it's warmer than wet-wading.

"You'll grow into them..."

To prevent me spending the whole day picking George's flies out of trees, we fished the open stretch halfway down the beat first. I tried a bit of French nymphing in the faster water, while George was casting his dry fly over the slacker water in the margins of the river.

With no bites or signs of fish rising for the first 20 or 30 minutes, we went further upstream to where the water was a few feet deeper. I was wading about waist deep, while George was fishing off the bank. He'd switched to a pink grayling bug beneath an indicator, while I was fishing one on the French nymph set up, with a couple of more natural looking nymphs on the droppers.

We started towards the top end of the beat where casting was easier for George.

For a frenetic 15 minutes, the fish were biting readily and I hooked and lost several nice fish. Eventually I managed to keep a nice big grayling on for a good couple of minutes so waded back to the bank and passed the rod to George so he could experience it. Sadly, it fell off as he took the rod, so we didn't get to take a picture.

A very brave mink joined us on the bank for several minutes.

While I was wading back towards the middle of the river, trying to catch a rising grayling, George shouted something from the bank. "Ferret!", he cried. However, it wasn't a ferret at all, but a very bold mink which had swum out of the river and onto the bank to check him out and see what he had in his bag of sandwiches.

While these things are an invasive predator, apparently quite common along parts of the Dee at Corwen, it was definitely a memorable experience and we were both amazed at how fearless it was. After the excitement of the inquisitive mink, George got back to some fishing, this time trying some French nymphing off the bank.

George tries a grayling bug from the bank.

Briefly he managed to hook something - another grayling we presume - right next to the undercut bank in some waist deep water. It shot away at speed and put a good bend in his rod, but then managed to wriggle free. Then I managed to hook another, this time a much bigger fish, which pulled tremendously in the current.

Keen to let George experience how hard the bigger grayling pull, I quickly waded back and passed him my rod. This time the fish stayed attached much longer, giving him a good minute or two to take in the experience, until of course it got the better of him. Cunning things these grayling...

The fish were rising at the bottom end of the beat as we left...

As we left St. Davids we wandered to the bottom end of the beat where there's a big salmon pool. It looks too deep to wade here and the trees would make casting difficult, but there were loads of fish moving - far more than at the top end, so perhaps we'll give it a try there next time. Though we went home fish-less, we'd both had some hook ups and it was a beautiful day to be out.

Sunday 21st August, 2016

Back at Llandegla Fishery in North Wales again for another junior fly fishing day with Corwen and District Angling Club. The weather forecast was for very windy and wet weather, so Sarah, Henry and Lily decided to stay at home and let George and I brave the elements. However, this was a shame as the forecast was somewhat pessimistic - it was dull and a bit breezy, but no way as bad as on our previous trip.

There was quite a good turnout of junior fly fishers today, with about half a dozen other youngsters as well as George trying to hone their skills and tempt a trout or two. The cooler, darker weather and the gentle breeze meant that the fish were cooperating far better than on our previous visit.

There were plenty of fish moving at the top of the lower pool.

As usual, we tried fishing the top end of the lower pool to start with. There always seem to be fish here around the weeds on the far side and also in the area around the inlet and flow from the aerator. I had three fish - almost one after the other - within the space of about 10 minutes. Two took natural looking crunchers fished on the droppers, while the other took the orange FNF Jelly Fritz blob on the point.

George helps net a rainbow which took Matt's cruncher.

All of the fish seemed to take the flies just as they drifted through the current towards the faster flow, or in the slacker water at the top of the pool. They seemed to be queuing up to grab the flies here, but the bites weren't strong and they weren't as easy to hook as they first seemed. I tried to get George and some of the other juniors in on the action, but although they had bites they failed to catch.

Picture copyright © Paul Ainsworth.

While the juniors were having something of a tough time I, for once, was finding the fishing relatively easy and by lunchtime I'd already had five or six fish. Next we tried fishing the upper lake and got a bit of casting practise in, but the fish here weren't feeding so much as the ones in the lower lake. George, and the other juniors were showing signs of getting a bit frustrated, especially after I caught number seven, so Paul and Harry led the whole lot of us up to the other pool.

George was quickly in the action on the top pool.

Not normally fished by fly fishers (the club had special permission from the owner) the upper lake is smaller and clearer than the other two and the trout up there haven't seen many flies, so they were extremely obliging. Pretty much all of the juniors - and most of the accompanying grown-ups and instructors (even Harry!) managed to catch a few good fish, which made a great end to the day and really cheered them up.

George took three in a row to his orange blob fished beneath an indicator, while my FNF Jelly Fritz Ellerdine Enigma tricked five nice fish including a couple of hard fighting and very pretty blue trout. Some spares we gave away to some of the other juniors also helped them catch their first fish too, which was great to see.

One of the many blue trout caught in the last hour of the session.

To top off the end to a great day of fishing, the juniors were presented with their Cast Awards which came as a result of their weeks of  excellent coaching by CADAC club coach Paul Ainsworth.

George picks up his Cast Awards from Harry. Picture copyright © Paul Ainsworth.

We went away with Cast Starter Awards to take home for Lily, Henry and Sarah while George managed two Awards - his Starter and his Level One. He's one step ahead of me. Paul said I was only good enough for my Starter Award!

Matt picks up his Starter Award... Picture copyright © Paul Ainsworth.

Wednesday August 31st, 2016

George and I were back at the beautiful Thrunton Long Crag Trout Fishery in Northumberland today for a spot of holiday fly fishing. We'd been lucky with the holiday weather as it had been warm and sunny all week, and we'd waited until today when the forecast said it would be cool, damp and windy which should have been rather better for fishing.

The view from Thrunton's magnificent lodge.

While it was particularly neither dull or that wet, it was definitely windy. In fact, upon arrival it was hard to stay on your feet. There were already several anglers fishing and a few juniors being coached when we arrived and they were all sensibly occupying the area with the wind behind them, so we had to slot in where we could.

Casting was quite hairy at times and despite being used to strong winds - we fish at Ellerdine Lakes which is often somewhat windswept - we were both struggling a little with the swirling wind and I even managed to have a near miss with George's ear and stick a fly in the top of his cap! Thankfully, it died down after a couple of hours and we found a part of the lake which was more sheltered and less strenuous to fish.

The upper lake was very windy indeed...

Although George fished Thrunton in the recent Junior Troutmasters Final, I'd not fished it before so he was giving me pointers on how to tackle it. The water is quite deep in places and very clear and you can watch the trout cruising in the weed beds above the steep drop off. However, despite being able to see a few fish moving around, we couldn't persuade many of them to take an interest in our flies.

Damsels, blobs, dries, natural looking pheasant tail nymphs and Corixa patterns, buzzers, zonkers, lead headed lures, we tried a whole array of patterns without success. Both of us managed to get a couple of fish to rise to our dries but after sinking them for us the wary trout swam off and failed to return. It was very, very tough...

Thrunton's former brickworks looks like modern art in this rural setting.

After a spot of lunch we moved around to the top of the upper lake where we found a small group of rainbows cruising around along the drop off and a couple of browns patrolling the margins. Although the rainbows outnumbered the browns, the browns seemed to be more active and more interested in our flies. We watched a couple of browns between two and three pounds follow the same route time after time, each time with us presenting them a different fly to see if we could pique their interest.

Eventually, one of the browns followed my fly but didn't seem interested enough to take it, even when the retrieve was sped up, so instead I stopped and let the fly - a pheasant tail nymph - drop to the bottom.

The brown stopped, looked down at the fly and sucked it up, twitching as it realised it was crunchier than usual and then shooting off at speed taking all of the line I'd stripped off. Lots of head shaking and screaming runs from side to side followed, before it eventually slipped the hook...

George tries to fool the browns cruising the margins.

Meanwhile, further along the bank, George was trying a similar trick on another cruising brown. He too was getting the odd follow from the fish but frustratingly couldn't persuade it to take his fly. Given that all of the rainbows seemed to be disinterested, I tied on a lead headed lure and cast it to the horizon and tried to see if I could persuade a fish to come up from the depths.

Letting it sink right down to the weed and then pulling the fly back at speed seemed to attract the attention of a couple of rainbows and eventually one followed all the way to the bank. Again, it failed to take the fly and, running out of room to retrieve any further, I tried the same trick and let the fly drop to the bottom. Seconds later, a lovely rainbow of a couple of pounds was pulling hard on the line.

After a spectacular fight George landed the fish for me, unhooked it and slipped it back, just in time for us to head back to the lodge to await collection by Sarah, Lily and Henry, who'd been exploring nearby Alnwick. We both had a great time at Thrunton and it's a lovely place to fish, so if you're in the Northumberland area it's highly recommended.

A rainbow eventually fell to Matt's lure.

And on the way back to our holiday cottage we just had to pop into the Hardy shop and Compleat Angler museum in Alnwick for a quick look round.

Henry outside the Hardy shop and museum in Alnwick.

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