Saturday 4th August 2018
George and I travelled over to Graiglwyd Springs Trout Fishery in Conwy today to meet up with his friend James, where the two of them were getting some coaching from former world champion and England Youth Fly Fishing Team Manager Craig Barr.
After a quick briefing, and a chat to find out what the participants wanted to get out of the coaching session, everyone went up to the lake and got down to some fishing while Craig and assistant, fellow competition angler Phil Burgess gave some advice on casting.
George and I were fishing near the aerator in the far corner of the lake and found a few fishing feeding in the better-oxygenated water. He got into the first fish early on after it took his damsel on a Di3. Despite the warm weather, the fish gave him a great scrap and was several pounds in weight.
I started off fishing damsels and was getting a few follows but no fish. The trout in the margins were looking a bit hot and bothered, but the ones further out did seem to be chasing first thing. After a while, I eventually landed a good fish on the damsel, but it was hard work. As the sun came out and the temperature increased the fishing got much, much harder.
We switched methods throughout the day, changing from damsels and small nymphs, to buzzers and blobs fished deep to FABs on sinking lines. We both managed a few fish each, but despite the clear abundance of fish in the lake, they were certainly not easy to pull out due to the hot weather.
Despite the conditions, we all had a great time and George picked up some great tips from both Craig and Phil and we're sure these will help further improve his skills on future days.
Graiglwyd Springs was sold earlier this year and is now under new ownership. The new owners are really friendly and welcoming and keen to maintain the reputation and improve upon it, and it's great to see them putting on events like this, which drew people from across Wales and the northeast of England. If you're in the area it's well worth a visit!
Sunday, 12th August 2018
With the heatwave over, we thought we'd pop over to Westlow Mere in Cheshire to see if the water had cooled down enough to get the trout back on the feed. The temperature was just below 20°C, but that's a lot cooler than of late. However, the fish in Westlow really weren't looking in good shape and unfortunately the fishery really wasn't on form.
With the water in the margins still feeling very warm, the resident trout were either skulking around in the shallows looking unhappy or far out in the deeps. I was using two rods - the Loop Cross SX #6 with a Royal Wulff Monoclear clear intermediate and a Loop Evotec #6 with a Wychwood Deck Zone Di7. George was using a #5 Loop Evotec with an Airflo Di3 and his new toy - a Loop Evotec #6 with a Barrio Midge Tip line.
I tried a number of different methods, from lures and nymphs pulled at various speeds, to FABs popped up from the bottom in the deeper water. However, apart from a single follow, I didn't get any interest all day. George was doing better than me, with his two-tone bead-head Eggstasy blob getting over a dozen follows and bites - but no fish.
I eventually gave up on the trout and targeted some big tench I'd spotted in the margins. One of them did slurp up my squirmy wormy, but had rejected the fly before I could strike! Interestingly, we weren't the only ones to have blanked - out of the half a dozen anglers we'd spoken to, all had failed to catch... Roll on winter.
Final score: Nil nil.
Sunday August 19th, 2018
We were back on the River Dee today for one of Corwen and District Angling Club's junior coaching days. Committee member Dylan Roberts was standing in for grayling specialist and Hanak Team member Gary Hedges, who'd been taken ill, and was providing a grayling masterclass to the juniors.
Having had a lesson from Dylan in the past, I can say first hand that he really knows this technique well and managed to quickly get me among the fish and improve my confidence on fishing what can be quite a daunting river for the new fly fisher. He did a great job explaining the basics of this effective technique to the juniors.
Dylan explained that this is a fly-line less technique in which a long tapered leader is used and whereby flies are lobbed upstream using the weight of the heavy flies, rather than cast in the conventional manner. We were using three weighted jig flies, with the heaviest on the point. These were all roughly size 12 and were fitted with tungsten beads of about 2mm, so they sink quite quickly, even in the faster water.
A brightly coloured beaded indicator was tied to the end of the tapered leader, with a 90cm gap from the indicator to the first dropper, then a 45cm gap to the next dropper and a 50-60cm gap to the point fly. The rod was a fancy Maxia nymphing rod which was in 11' 4# format to give you the ability to cover a wide area, while the reel was a fairly heavy aluminium Guideline one to lever the rod upwards and help balance the long rod and minimise arm ache.
By lobbing the flies upstream and then guiding them along at the same speed as the current, they drift very naturally and the bites soon follow. Dylan explained that any movement or stops in the indicator should be met with a quick but very small twitch of the rod, rather than a hard trout set, as that was usually enough to hook the fish. He also gave us a handy tip about wrapping the leader around your finger tip to help detect bites when the sunlight or current causes the indicator to disappear from view.
Dylan also gave George a quick lesson in wading more safely in the fast currents of the Dee. George was standing with his feet too close together which was making him unstable and easier for the flow to knock him off his feet, so Dylan showed him how much harder it would be for him to topple if he stood with his feet further apart. This demonstration also gave him the opportunity to rugby tackle Dylan. You definitely can't knock over a Dylan when he's standing with his feet apart!
George has been French nymphing before so knew some of the basics already but this lesson gave him an opportunity to really polish up his technique and his lob, and learn how to tackle today's nasty gusting wind. He was soon getting lots of little pulls throughout the stretch, and the new wading tips meant he didn't need to be fished out himself.
Eventually, the first fish came. It was taken on one of the perdigon nymphs on Dylan's cast and put up a nice scrap for George in the flow. With Dylan and I both landing only small fish, George also took the prize for the best fish of the day too.
Final score: 1:1
Monday 27th August, 2018
George and I were over at Draycote Water in Warwickshire today for a boat session. The conditions were looking good for fishing - it was grey, cloudy, cool and there was a stiff breeze, making the lake quite choppy in places. Draycote guide Tom Bird gave us some helpful tips when we arrived and kindly lent us his drogue, which came in handy in slowing down our drifts in the howling wind.
Cleverly, I'd forgotten to bring my new rod so while George had an outfit with a sinking line and one with a floater, I only had a single rod, so was switching lines all day. We figured the sinking lines might come in handy, as although the overnight temperature dropped to 8°C, the water was still 18°C and felt very warm. However, the fish did actually seem to be quite high up in the water.
George was first into the fish. He managed a few bites within minutes of arrivin, with the first fish following about five minutes later. It fought really well, given the water temperature, and seemed intent on trying to snap the tip off George's rod by going under the boat. Eventually, he managed to coax it out and slide the net under it, before releasing it after a quick snap.
After George caught his fish and a couple more drifts through the same area revealed no further fish, I got the chance to take the helm and headed over to the windy side on Biggin Bay. It was very choppy here and without the drogue we'd have been drifting all over the place. Even with the drogue it was tough going. We saw a few fish topping and tried targeting them with a variety of flies but nothing was taking.
As the day went on it just got tougher and tougher. Thankfully, we weren't the only ones struggling. Most of the other boats did seem to be finding the fishing just as tricky (something Tom confirmed back at the lodge). We just did the usual trick of trying every method, line and fly we had until we found something that worked.
Eventually, after a few swirls to my midas dry fly, I eventually had a smash take right off the top on a FAB. Like George's fish, it was a dirty fighter and did what it could to evade the net. After what felt like several minutes of gaining and losing line at speed, we eventually slipped the net under the fish and let it go.
As the wind picked up in the afternoon the conditions got much harder. George set up a number of drifts along various banks and shoals and used the drogue to steer us along the wind lanes, but sadly we couldn't connect with any more fish. By 3pm we figured we'd better head home for tea, so called it a day.
We're back on Draycote tomorrow, so hopefully the fishing will be a bit easier.
Final score: Matt 1, George 1.
Tuesday 28th August, 2018
George's older brother Henry decided upon arrival at Draycote today that he'd like to fish too. However, we'd not come prepared for this and only brought hats and glasses for two. Very kindly once again, Tom Bird offered us a load of stuff to use for the day - including a couple of boat seats and a pair of glasses for Henry. The hat, though, would take some beating for it wasn't just any old hat - but an England Cap!
George's older brother isn't a massive fishing fan, but did fancy the idea of bobbing around in a boat for the day, especially given that it involved the opportunity to be captain and drive the craft himself. Amazingly, he got us out from the jetty and to our chosen spot in Biggin Bay without any incidents or arguments.
Like yesterday, we found the fishing tough going. There were very few signs of fish on top, apart from the odd fish leaping, and we tried a range of methods without much luck. Various drifts in several parts of the lake failed to return any fish, or even a bite, and we went back to meet Mrs Fly&Lure and daughter Lily with no fish at lunchtime.
For the afternoon session, we decided to try the bottom end of the lake, towards Cornfield and Toft. Again, it was tough going down here. George did have a couple of fish swirl at his fly - a small pink zonker - just as he was lifting off, but nothing apart from that. A switch to buzzers fished very deep brought me a short-lived hookup, but I clearly hadn't set the hook very well, as it came off in just a couple of seconds.
Just as we were heading back in for the day, we figured we try one last drift. A switch to a different line and a change of fly brought me a fish on the first cast. My word, did it put up a good fight! It put a serious bend in the rod and saw me submerging the whole thing to try and get it back out from below us without snapping off the tip.
Just as it was time for the last cast of the day, I managed to score a second fish to the same method. Again, it was a seriously brutal fight, going deep and then running horizontally at speed, this time causing me to need to flip the rod over my head as the fish shot around the stern! It's a shame we didn't crack the winning method and drift a bit earlier, but it was a good way to end the day. It was also a massive relief not to have lost Tom's cap!
Final score: Matt 2, George 1.
Wednesday 29th August, 2018
A mammoth two-hour journey preceeded today's trip to Eyebrook Reservoir near Rutland, where we were heading in the hope of a spot of top-of-the-water action. The Eyebrook staff were very welcoming and the conditions were looking good. It was overcast, about 15°C and quite windy.
We headed over to the far bank opposite the tower and set up with a daddy on the point and a pair of lightweight skinny buzzers on the droppers. After a few minutes, the fish started to rise all around us. However, you had to look carefully for the rise patterns, as they were feeding mainly subsurface, their dorsal fins breaking the surface the only telltale sign of their presence.
After losing the first two fish - on the point fly and one on a buzzer, I eventually landed my first fish. It gave a blistering fight and went on a couple of good runs and tried to lap the boat before I could net it. Moments later, after switching to a single ginked-up daddy, George hit into a fish seconds after it hit the surface. It shows what can happen when you change your fly!
For the next hour or so, we both enjoyed some great sport, with many fish coming up for the dries off the top or as we tugged them below the surface to gather the fishes' attention. George caught his by drying out the fly with Fulling Mill High Glide and then giving it a rub with Dry Sauce to keep it afloat. The combination worked well and kept his flies on top the whole time.
Then, however, the sun came out and the fish vanished almost as quickly as they'd arrived... A number of drifts through the same area failed to reveal any more fish and the anglers around us all had straight rods too. After a few trips to various parts of the reservoir - including the opportunity to watch an osprey catch a trout right in front of us - we headed back to dry land for lunch.
With the sun out, things got harder and harder. We tried various methods for an hour or two with no sign of any fish, so decided to pack up and head home. As you'd expect, just as soon as we'd disassembled the rods and tied up the boat, it appeared that the fish came back on the feed and we could see them topping once again! That will teach us...
Final score: Matt 3, George 2.
Friday 31st August, 2018
For the final day of our Cotswolds fishing holiday we popped back over to Draycote Water, seeing as it was relatively close to where we were staying for the week. Upon arrival at the jetty George spotted some familiar faces - the Upton family from our regular fishery Ellerdine Lakes, who had brought young Will over for the day for some practice for next week's England Youth National.
After catching up with the Upton's, we set off in a somewhat wiggly path across the lake, as George was at the helm again. As before, we'd brought a couple of rods each, one with a floating line and one with a sinking line - a Di3 for George and a Di7 for me. The plan was to move around looking for fish and to try a range of techniques to see what worked.
However, there were few signs of fish on the top today. The bright sunshine appeared to have put them down, but our sunken line tactics failed to bring any bites either. We tried all the likely looking spots across the lake and failed to see any signs of fish for quite some time, as well as no bent rods on the other boats too.
George managed to get several pulls and some short-lived fights with a few trout, which were taking a range of flies. Weirdly, I was using the same lines, methods, retrieves and techniques and couldn't get a bite. Funny how that happens, but clearly luck wasn't on my side today. Whatever the cause, the fishing was definitely challenging, with some of the regulars we spoke to also reporting blanks or single fish catches.
Just as we were beginning to sense impending defeat, George's casting practice was interrupted by his buzzers being grabbed almost as soon as they landed. A very strong but not particularly large trout did the usual Draycote trick of trying to get beneath the boat and caused George to need to submerge the tip to bully it back out. Eventually it surfaced and he scooped the net beneath it, leaving me the only one defeated.
Final score: Matt 0, George 1.