Saturday August 3rd 2019
Fly fishing legend John Horsey kindly allowed George to fish some of the Anglers World Fly Fishing Championships he organises for a bit of extra-tough practice against some of the UK's top seniors. So, today we travelled for two hours to Draycote Water in Warwickshire.
George was paired with boat partner Gerallt Hughes, who is on the Welsh fly fishing team and is massively experienced. This was to be his longest match to date at eight hours and he was up against 43 seniors, many of whom were internationals.
Conditions at Draycote weren't the best, unfortunately, which made for a challenging day of fishing for everyone. While they were fishing, and I was walking laps of the lake, nobody really seemed to be pulling out that many fish and the fishing appeared very challenging. When Gerallt and George came back to the harbour at 6pm Gerallt had caught two fish - both after 3.30pm - but George had sadly recorded nil pois.
The rod average was around 2.5, and George was among a small group of seniors who also came back fishless, with many just catching one or two, so the low score wasn't so surprising on such a tricky day. We're back tomorrow for another event, this time with rules dictating the use of floating fly lines only.
As ever at Draycote, we had a lovely day. Gerallt did a great job looking after George, Tom in the shop gave some really helpful advice and encouragement to George, and John Horsey passed on some of his expert knowledge on fishing great guidance on fishing dry flies. It was a really enjoyable day for us both.
Sunday August 4th, 2019
Conditions for George's second day competing at Draycote looked slightly better, with overcast skies and a touch more wind than yesterday. Today's boat partner was Bob Fitzpatrick, an England international who has honed his skills on Stocks Reservoir in rural Lancashire under the tutelage of Ben Dobson.
Today there were 38 anglers fishing - 37 of whom were seniors - so the lake was packed with fishing boats. Prior to the match, George picked up some helpful tips from the fellow competitors and Draycote staff, as well as a handful of free flies from yesterday's winner, Sean Porter, and Lee Henfrey in the shop, which was very kind of everyone.
You could tell Bob and George had hatched a plan from the moment the boats set off, as while every other boat headed to the top of the reservoir, they held back, waited for everyone to go and then snuck off to fish alongside the dam wall. This was also handy for me, as it meant I could perch upon the wall while spectating.
Conditions still looked tough though, with anglers using all their skills to winkle out just a few fish. Towards the end of the match, a thunderstorm brewing nearby led to fishery manager Ifor Jones heading out with the safety boat and horn to round everybody up before the thunder and lightning arrived. Fortunately, everyone got back safely and even stayed fairly dry before the heavens opened.
The match was won by Leigh Pond, who'd caught an incredible 10 fish. George had managed to catch three - including two three-and-a-half-pounders - while boat partner Bob had two. Those three bigger fish were enough to put George in 15th place out of the 38, which was very respectable. Amazingly, that was also enough to put him into the finals!
The only snag was, we're on holiday for the finals so unfortunately can't attend, so we quickly handed back George's finals invite so someone else could go instead. Much to our amazement, Draycote manager Ifor Jones very kindly gave us a free weekend of fishing in exchange, which was really generous.
We had a superb weekend. The competition was superbly organised. John Horsey and the team at Draycote were brilliant and very encouraging and supportive of George, so he's raring to go for next year. He absolutely loved the experience and it was great to see the seniors so pleased to have a junior competing. Many thanks to John, Draycote's staff and George's boat partners, Bob and Gerallt for a memorable weekend.
Sunday 11th August 2019
We'd planned to fish Llyn Brenig yesterday but 50mph winds and torrential rain put paid to that. When we arrived there mid-morning today, all of the boats were in use due to a big competition, so we fished from the bank instead. We headed down to the bays past the sailing club and could see a few fish rising as soon as we reached the shore.
I'd rigged up a couple of rods - a six weight with an intermediate and an Ellerdine enigma and a six weight with a couple of small dries. I tried the enigma first and hooked a fish first cast, but it was so strong it snapped me off. With fish rising all over the place I switched over to the dries instead. Within five minutes I'd had several rises and a couple of hook-ups, but I couldn't get any of them to stay attached.
The fish were in extremely close. In fact, I've never seen the trout at Brenig in such shallow water. Some of them were literally only a foot or two from the water's edge. We walked along the shore casting to a few of them and didn't even have any fly line on the water they were that close in!
After a while, the fish seemed to go down and everything went quiet, so we switched over to the intermediate lines and tried some boobies, which are generally a reliable pattern at Brenig. I had a few hits to mine just as it was sinking, with George also experiencing the same further along the shore. However, a change of direction saw the booby being confidently slurped off the top by what seemed to be quite a big fish.
It fought really well and went on some long runs, due to the lack of deep water to dive into. After a good five minute scrap, we managed to slide the net under it and were both surprised by the size. It was a solid five pounds, maybe a tad more. It was in superb shape and went back strongly after a short breather.
Shortly afterwards, I was snapped off by another big fish and then landed a second one of around 3-4 pounds, also with pin-sharp fins. Unfortunately, George didn't manage to land any of his today, but he still seemed to have a great time. The solitude of Brenig and reservoir bank fishing made a really pleasant change.
Friday August 16th, 2019
After a seven hour journey, including one broken down car that I somehow managed to "fix" myself, we arrived at our home for the week on the bank - literally - of the River Tummel near Pitlochry.
Mrs Fly and Lure had picked the spot well, as it was just a stone's throw from the river and a short drive from Loch Tummel, Dunalastair Loch and Loch Rannoch - all of which are stuffed with trout, pike and even ferox.
While the rest of the family went off to the supermarket to fetch supplies I thought I'd see what the fishing was like. George, Henry and I walked through the stunning woodland and made a path through the bracken to reach the water. Much of the river up here is broken by waterfalls, but there are short fishable stretches and some deeper pools - though they're hard to fish with a fly rod.
A short walk from the house and I found a few rising fish. A small Griffiths' gnat was tied on and just a couple of casts later and the first fish - a little salmon parr - was on. I managed to catch another before the midges drove me away but I'll have another try tomorrow when smothered in repellant!
Monday August 19th, 2019
George and I popped out to the River Tummel at the bottom of our garden to see if we could find any rising trout. The fish were very easily spooked but we did manage to find a few that were rising freely. I managed to hook one and lose it, only to land another fish shortly after.
The midges were really active today. Despite a generous smothering of Smidge midge repellant, they were still becoming a real irritation. George had resorted to pulling his Buff up over his head to keep them away, but he still went indoors with all of his exposed skin covered in their characteristic red bite marks.
While George was struggling with the midges, I decided to have a try for the pike instead. I'd brought an eight weight Loop rod with me and was using it with a Barrio Predator fly line and a bright pink pike fly, which I thought might stand out well. A few casts later and I hooked a fish. While it was only a little one, it was a promising sign that there were some pike in the area as well as the trout.
Tuesday 20th August, 2019
George and I went off hiking up the River Tummel today to see if we could find any fish holding spots. Armed with a five weight trout rod and an eight weight pike rod, we managed to find a great pool hidden on the other side of some very tall bracken.
The water here was deep and slow-moving and we figured it might be a good spot to try for another pike. George picked one of the pike flies I'd tied before the trip - a sort of beige and white thing with some flashes of red tinsel. After a dozen casts to the overhanging trees revealed no fish, I handed the rod to George.
Almost immediately a pike took his fly and the line locked-up, much to his surprise, and a feisty little pike gave a good account of itself. It's been a long time since I've seen George quite so excited to catch a fish. He was absolutely over the moon. While it's not his first pike on the fly, it was the first he's caught after deliberately targeting them.
After lunch, Henry and I walked a bit further up the Tummel and found another amazing pool. Here, a series of waterfalls were upstream leading to a huge, wide pool that looked very fishy.
Sadly, after lots of trying, we returned home fishless. However, we did see a good salmon leaping on the far side of the pool, so we know it holds fish, even if they're not the ones we're after.
After we'd finished dinner, George and I popped back out to the River Tummel to see if we could get another pike on the fly. We walked back up the river to the head of the large pool we'd fished earlier in the day. There were a few browns rising and we had a spectacular view of the river in the setting sun.
It only took about ten casts until George was into his first fish of the night. It absolutely slammed the fly and shot into the current leading us to wonder whether it might be a salmon. We were very surprised to see what was just a relatively small pike, for it fought like a fish many times larger.
As it got darker, we walked back downstream to another spot at the bottom of the pool so we could give the upper part of the pool a bit of a rest. Despite chucking the flies into all of the likely looking spots we didn't get a touch here, so headed back up to the head of the pool.
Just as we got there, we saw a huge fish - a large double figure pike - leap from the water about 80 feet in front of us. The smaller pink pike fly we'd been using came off and on went a massive 25cm orange fire tiger fly that Niklas Bauer tied for me.
After five minutes of chucking it and twitching it back, everything locked up again and another pike was on. Sadly, it wasn't the big one we'd been after but it was welcome nonetheless.
Friday 23rd August, 2019
While the day did not get off to a good start, with the fishmobile making its journey back to Cheshire on the back of an AA truck due to a dodgy immobiliser sensor, we did return home to a lovely surprise.
As George wasn't able to attend the finals of the Anglers World Holidays Fly Fishing Championships, England international fly fisher Martin Introna kindly sent him a big parcel full of flies. There were some great patterns in there, including some fantastic looking buzzers and some we'd not seen before. What a lovely gesture!
Sunday 25th August, 2019
With the bank holiday weekend weather looking very hot, we headed back to Llyn Brenig in North Wales to spend the day bobbing around in a boat. We arrived just after eight, as we figured the fishing would deteriorate as it warmed up. As we drove down the road to the car park we could already see rising fish right along the dam wall.
We both started off fishing dries. I was using three today, which I'd tied the day before - a popper hopper on the point, a big red in the middle and an elk hair sedge on the top dropper as a sighter. George was using a single popper hopper from his new selection of flies.
We were both getting plenty of rises to our flies. Despite me using three spaced six feet apart, George's single fly still proved much more attractive to the fish and he'd hooked three to my one in the first half-hour. When I did eventually catch one, it was at least quite a chunky fish. It had taken the sighter fly on the top dropper and weighed in at just over four pounds.
Shortly after, George hooked into another fish which put up an incredible fight, going on several high speed runs around the boat. It too was quite a lump for a Brenig fish - probably pushing five pounds.
As the day went on, the fish went down as the sun shone brighter and the fishing got much harder. George managed to catch several on snake boobies and other patterns, while I stuck at it with the natural stuff, catching a couple more.
When things went quiet, we turned to bigger flies and different methods to see if we could entice anything to take. I nicked one of George's massive pink snake flies and cast it out on an intermediate. A couple of tugs to make it sink and then bob back up was it that was required to get a big trout to smash it from below.
After heading for the bottom of the reservoir and doing its best to snap my rod in half, the big trout somehow managed to snap the line. As the weather got hotter and hotter, we decided to call it a day, but managed several fish each, which wasn't too bad in such challenging conditions.