Saturday 5th August, 2017
We managed to escape a trip to Ikea this afternoon and popped over to Meadow Fishery near Chester for a few hours instead. We were warned that it was fishing badly due to the hot weather, so we weren't expecting much action, if any, but it would certainly be better than Ikea.
It was sunny and fairly breezy but there were very few fish moving on all three of the lakes. The top lake showed no signs of movement, the middle one had a small shoal of rainbows hanging out off one of the islands, but another angler was covering them, so we headed for the bottom lake instead.
This is the biggest of Meadow's three lakes and apparently holds trout and coarse fish as well as trout. It's crystal clear, fairly weedy and doesn't look especially deep. We worked the margins of one side for an hour and didn't see a trout, so crept further round. As I cast onto the next spot I spotted an enormous fish - and I mean enormous. This thing was several feet long!
I called George over but the fish went down and we didn't spot it again for a few minutes, until it's fins poked clear of the water. It was a huge grass carp - well over 30lb! Moments later, it was joined by half a dozen more, all huge, 20-30lb fish. We tried chucking a range of flies at them, but they really weren't interested.
Further round the lake, we came across another big group of them, with about 10 15-25lb+ fish all hanging around by some trees. These ones seemed bolder and less spooky, but not remotely interested in our flies. Seeing as the trout weren't feeding it made for a memorable and impressive distraction.
We went home without as much as a pull, but it was still a good way to kill a few hours and it's not every day you get to see such amazing fish at close range. Maybe one day we'll manage to get one on the fly...
Sunday 6th August, 2017
Llyn Brenig was packed when we arrived at just before nine and we spotted several famous faces in the car park, including Gareth Jones from Airflo and Kevin Porteous from FNF Fly Fishing. Our trip coincided with the famous Llanilar Classic match, which had drawn competition fly fishers from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. All 48 boats were booked out and nearly a hundred anglers were competing.
While we were tackling up, Kevin kindly gave George a selection of Airflo freebies, including a new lucky hat to christen, which was very kind. As they prepared their boats for launch, we headed up towards the dam wall end of the lake to see what we could catch. George started off with an intermediate, as did I, but neither of us had a touch, so he tried an indicator and I tried the dries.
It was cold, wet and very windy (typical for Brenig in summer) so I was fishing a couple of CDC hoppers. A few casts later and I had a smash take off the top, but the fish snapped me after a few seconds. They're tremendously strong and I was fishing with tippet that was too fine. Five minutes later I had a fish swirl at the fly, then it eventually took it. But, again, it was short-lived and managed to shake free when going airborne.
As it was so cold, we decided a walk might be a good idea, so we headed down towards the marshy area below the visitor's centre. George tried various things to no avail, but my CDC hoppers were still managing to bring up the odd fish. Invariably, I'd fish the take as they were taking the flies at distance.
After lunch we headed down past the Sailing Club to try the sheltered area there and bumped into an angler we'd met at Graiglwyd a few weeks before, who was watching the Classic from his camper van with binoculars. In the sheltered water here there was the odd fish moving on the top. The CDC hoppers were again doing the business, with the odd swirl near the flies every dozen casts, and from time to time a take.
The first fish here managed to snap me off again on nine pound line. It was a fairly hefty fish - well over five pounds. The second one managed to fight dirty and took me into some weed beds, where the droppers snagged and the fish broke free. After two successive disasters and lots of splashing, we decided to head down the bank a little further, where we had a bit more action off the top.
George finally managed his first Brenig fish and it fought spectacularly well. We didn't see it for several minutes and he thought it was much bigger than it was. Brenig fish do seem to fight well above their weight. Eventually, we managed to get it into the net, take a quick snap and then let it swim off. A tough day, but great fun, despite the weather.
Sunday 13th August, 2017
Llandegla Trout Fishery in Wrexham was today's venue for another of Corwen and District Angling Club's excellent junior days. I started off with a couple of black CDC hoppers I'd tied during the week, while George was fishing this season's favourite - the tan apache. I was also testing a new toy - a lovely Loop Evotec #5.
Although the bottom lake was still with no sign of fish, presumably because it's warmer and lower in oxygen, there were a few fish rising on the upper lake. A couple of fish swirled at the hoppers, but I could persuade anything to take them, so I went subsurface with an apache.
This worked quite well. By mid-morning, I'd taken six nice rainbows from three pounds to just under five, and had well and truly christened the new Loop rod I had delivered during the week. George was somewhat unimpressed with the thrashing, so we both took a break so he could have a lesson in spey casting from Paul.
Given that all spey casting comes from the roll cast, it's vital to get this nailed. So George had a refresher on perfecting the roll cast, then a lesson on the jump roll and continuation casts or roll cast pickups. Before long, he was knocking out lovely roll casts, adding little hauls and getting good distances.
After lunch, we tried the other two lakes and followed Harry and two of the other juniors up to the back lake, as they'd been given special permission to fish there by owner Simon seeing as the conditions were challenging. It was good fun up here. George lost a fish early on, then I hooked and landed a couple, and then George finally got one to stay on.
Given that they were only a pound and half, they put up an excellent scrap on light gear! George's fish was hell-bent on taking him into an overhanging tree to break itself free, so he had a tremendous tussle with it but did eventually manage to get it to the net.
The other juniors managed to catch up here too - as did Harry - so everyone went home happy, even if the scores today were very much in Dad's favour!
Final score: Matt 8, George 1.
Saturday 19th August, 2017
Another early start today for a trip to "sunny" Llyn Brenig, where it was wet, cold and windy as usual upon our arrival just before nine.
We parked up in one of the laybys not far from the Sailing Club and worked our way along the bank, fishing a combination of small black or olive CDC hoppers, or tan apaches on our intermediates.
There was very little moving on the top, apart from the odd fish here or there, and this week we couldn't persuade anything to rise for a dry fly. The apache, however, did prove of interest and I hit into a very good fish in the first thirty minutes.
A slow twiddle with a figure eight retrieve was met with the mother of all smash takes, and the fish - a few pounds probably - shot off like a rocket, taking all of my spare line in a split second.
Then, it rocketed outwards from the bank, leaped from the water and snapped me off! I was somewhat disappointed to have lost it... Brenig rainbows are just ridiculously powerful and healthy fish.
Further along the bank, towards the bank immediately opposite the osprey nest, I saw a fish rise two or three times. It did come up for a dry but refused and left a telltale swirl, so I switched over to an apache and a couple of casts later, the fly was hit hard once again.
I'm not sure why, but when these fish hit your first instinct is to hold on, but as happened here (yet again) that just results in you getting snapped off or the fly pulling free. One day I'll figure out how to cope with these smash takes and actually land some.
George was trying lots of different techniques but was struggling to get the attention of any fish. He presented some dries very nicely; fished some buzzers at range beneath an indicator and tried all manner of nymphs and lures but no fish seemed to be interested.
We decided to stop for a bit of lunch and have a think to see if there was anything we could try to improve our chances. George suggested a move to the dam wall end, so we packed up the car and tried there for an hour.
Unfortunately, it was even tougher here. We didn't even see any fish moving, so we decided to walk back to the Sailing Club for a final try in the bay before heading home. When we arrived, we were feeling hopeful as we spotted a fish rising in the middle of the bay.
George tried to get it to come up for a dry and scaled right down to a size 18 Griffith's gnat, as we could see some tiny black flies hatching. Surprisingly, even this tactic didn't fool them and the fish stopped rising after a while.
I was having similar luck with my flies. No action whatsoever on the dries, nothing on the freelined buzzers, nothing to the diawl bachs, nothing to the apache. They just weren't having it. The midges, however, were biting, so we decided to knock it on the head for the day and head home fishless.
Final score: Matt 0, George 0.
Sunday 20th August, 2017
George was squabbling with his older brother today, so we got ushered out for a couple of hours so the rest of the family could enjoy some peace and quiet... Seeing as we've had a few recommendations recently, and given that it's virtually on our doorstep, we popped over to Cheshire Fishing in Tattenhall.
We've been a couple of times before but it's changed a bit since then. The large old tackle shop has closed down and there's an automatic barrier like the sort of thing you find in an NCP car park. It feels a bit weird and untrusting, but I'm guessing they've had a problem with people not paying.
The coarse lakes were busy, but there were only a couple of anglers fly fishing. Obviously, given that it's summer and this is a small stillwater, we were expecting the fish to be a little off their best and the fishing tough. Both were true. The trout really looked in rough shape on our visit. You can see why other small stillwaters, like Ellerdine, take the decision to have a summer break instead.
The two upper lakes were both very green and murky, so we focused our attentions on the clearer, lower lake. However, this was very heavily overgrown with hornwort, so I think we'd have struggled to land a trout if we'd hooked one. We didn't see any trout in here at all, just a couple of small carp and lots of rudd.
Instead, we therefore gave up on trying for a trout and just went after the rudd with dry flies instead! George is a master at this, and pretty soon he'd taken over a dozen fish up to half a pound, while I was still only on my second one - though mine were bigger! A tiny size 18-20 Griffith's gnat again proved the weapon of choice, and by the time we'd finished our brief two hour session he'd hit 20 fish!
Final score: George 20, Matt 5.
Saturday 26th August, 2017
We're up in the Highlands this week, not far from the famous River Spey, and have rented a lovely cottage conveniently located right beside a lochan, so we've got fly fishing on the doorstep. It's not a very big lochan, but it's clearly a decent trout habitat, for it holds some lovely wild trout which were rising as we arrived.
As everyone else was unpacking, George got out his three weight and tied on a dry fly. A fish came up from the dark water and smashed it on the first cast, but he missed it. Five minutes later, he managed to catch one. Not a huge fish - under a pound for sure - but surprisingly quick and clearly great fun on his tiny fly rod.
After George quit due to being eaten alive by the famous Scottish midges, I had a quick blast and managed to catch one myself. However, although the fish were rising, I'd had more than I could take a retired to the relatively midge-free cottage to enjoy a glass of wine.
Monday 28th August, 2017
No fishing today, but we did do a "little" recces to a stunning Highlands lake we fancied fishing later in the week. Loch An Eilean is on the Rothiemurchus Estate in Aviemore and offers fly fishing for wild brown trout and pike for £20 a day.
We walked there from Aviemore and then did a lap of the loch, covering nearly ten miles in total. There were a few walkers there, but not a fly fisher in sight, so it looks the ideal place to go if you fancy some solitude. The views were breathtaking!
The fly fishing instructor on the Rothiemurchus Estate shop told us that very few people fish the lake. When they do it tends to be bait fishers after the plentiful pike, and he was surprised we intended to go after them both with flies later in the week.
The walk back through the woods was similarly stunning and there was some great wildlife. We even stumbled across a small group of red squirrels and managed to get incredibly close to them.
Tuesday 29th August, 2017
Another fishing related walk today - and sore feet to prove it. We did a lap of Loch Morlich and then went up into the mountains to find the famous Green Loch, Lochan Uaine. It took us about an hour to reach the "top" of the mountain and our legs were feeling it by the time we reached the summit.
The first sight of Lochan Uaine was incredible though. It's very clear, but also very green and the scenery and rock scree around the loch is absolutely mindblowing. This was made all the more mindblowing by the fact that a not unattractive woman was taking a naked swim as we arrived! The boys didn't know where to look.
Apart from nudists, Lochan Uaine apparently also holds a head of wild Brook trout stocked in the 1800s. I'm pretty sure hardly anyone knows they're there and probably very few people have fished for them. I quite fancied having a go, but I'm not sure my legs are up to the climb twice in a week...
Wednesday 30th August, 2017
Over the past few days we've been getting the hang of these local lochan trout. First thing in the morning they're often on the top taking insects as they plop from the overhanging trees above. If you gently flick a dry fly at them and keep well back from the edge, you'll often get a take.
We've got into double figures several times, even when we've only really been fishing for twenty minutes here and there. Later in the day, they tend not to want to rise, but they do like - shock horror - an orange blob. I can't imagine they've seen many, but they definitely take them with gusto. You need to either just keep plopping them in and recasting, or fish them static, though. They're not chasers, at all.
Fish of week came to me today after a very big brown - around four pounds - took my CDC hopper. On the four weight this put up an awesome fight. It was intent in taking me into the weeds and getting it to the net was some battle.
It took half my line a couple of times and the only way I could stay in contact was to chase it on foot. It's amazing to think that such a tiny water could support such a big fish. Clearly, the insect life dropping into the lake - and all those Highland midges - keep the trout well fed.
Thursday 31st August, 2017
Today George and I fished the stunning Loch An Eilean, a beautiful highland loch on the Rothiemurchas Estate not far from Aviemore. It's probably the most picturesque place I've ever fished. The views are breathtaking.
We were hedging our bets today and taking the gear for both trout fly fishing and pike fly fishing. George was going after the native browns on his Shakespeare Agility and Barrio GT125 floating line, while I was using a pair of Loop Evotecs - a 6# with a floating line and an #8 with an intermediate.
We started on the side of the loch closest to the little island with the ruined castle and tried a few spots to see if we could find anywhere fishy or spot any signs of movement below the surface. We couldn't, and by the time we'd checked out all the likely spots, we'd done a five mile lap and were cooking in our waders and being devoured by midges.
After lunch, the weather took a turn for the worse and the rain set in. It rained, and it rained. For ages. We were absolutely sodden and getting seriously sick of the Highland midges intent on draining us of blood. They're the most irritating creatures around and we seemed to be itching for ages.
We didn't see a fish move all day, nor get a bite, but it was an adventure and we'll remember it forever - possibly because of the achy legs, damp clothes and midge bites rather than the fish, though. Arguably, we could have gone to a put-and-take fishery and caught a few, but it would have been silly not to have tried.