Saturday 3rd December 2016
We figured that Ellerdine Lakes might be somewhat busy this weekend, with 50 plus fly fishers already booked in for its annual Fur and Feather competition, so we decided to go somewhere else for a bit of a change of scenery.
George fancied a trip to Chirk Fishery, which we visited last summer, but we had to make other plans as they'd shut for the weekend. I fancied a session on the River Dee for the grayling, but had picked the only weekend of the year when the beats were shut, as our club - Corwen and District Angling Club is hosting the Hanak European Grayling Festival.
We opted for Meadow Fishery in Mickle Trafford, near Chester. It's probably our closest fishery (just a 15 minute drive away), but it's not one we frequent as they're not quite so junior friendly as other fisheries in the area.
Our first trip there was a total disappointment as we were turned away because George was under their eight year age limit, and even now at nine he's only allowed to fish for three hours, so it's not really practical for us.
That said, the staff seemed welcoming and friendly and the setting is lovely. There are three mature lakes set in a rural spot with plenty of trees and hedges nearby, so there's an abundance of natural insect life for the fish. The water was crystal clear. A bit weedy in places, even in December, but still fishable.
We started on the middle of the three lakes and started off with a blob on the point and buzzers on our droppers. Due to the "no strike indicators" rule here we were straight-lining them, but it was flat calm and sunny so it was very simple to see any bites. Not that we got any.
A wander round to the other side and a switch to a blue flash damsel led to no further touches either. I figured that the fish might be down deeper than our floating lines allowed, so we decided to reel our lines in and go back to the car to swap to intermediate lines. As is often the case, stripping the fly back in at speed resulting in a follow and we both watched a good sized fish chase the lure in and then grab it as I paused.
It fought well on the reel, taking lots of line and it was a lovely solid fish in great condition, weighing in at about three or four pounds.
After switching lines, George too was getting in on the action, getting a couple of solid pulls on one retrieve then a fish that stay attached. His was a two or three pounder, but it slipped the hook just as he was bringing it to the net.
Despite changing flies and tactics and moving around a lot, we didn't get any more action and after a a couple of hours we were both frozen, so decided to call it a day and head home to warm up. It will be nice to go back to Meadow once the weather is a bit better.
Sunday 11th December 2016
We had a brilliant day of winter trout fishing at Ellerdine Lakes today. Given that the weather was cold and settled, it was comparatively quiet with only a dozen or so fly fishers on the banks, so we were able to make the most of the space and fish the margins.
After a lap of Cranymoor led to a number of follows and swirls to my FNF Fritz Ellerdine Enigma and George's Red Rascal, we wandered over to the children's pool where George caught his first trout on a yellow egg fly under the bung.
After a quick cup of tea and a warm by the fire, we headed to Lakemoor and found that there were lots of fish in the margins. Within minutes we'd both had a fish each - me a little brown and George a rainbow.
The trick today seemed to be to tread carefully, stay well back from the bank and cast gently towards fish lurking in the margins and then twitch the flies past slowly. More often than not, the fish would ignore the flies or be spooked by our casting, but every now and then you'd get a follow or a hook up.
We lost loads of fish over the course of the day, and had tons of follows from sub-two-pound brownies, but also hooked a few too. Two of them were literally stalked from the bank and we didn't even need to cast.
Final scores for the day were seven fish each: me on two browns, two rainbows and two blues, plus a perch; and George on three rainbows and four perch. A brilliant day of exciting fishing.
Saturday 17th December, 2016
Today was quite possibly one of the best day's fishing we've ever had at Ellerdine, or anywhere for that matter. It was one of those days where the fish were keen to chase, so the fishing was exciting from the start and we had tremendous fun.
George bought himself an orange snake fly in the shop when we arrived and fished it on a floater on the bottom of Lakemoor, with fish after fish hitting it in the surface layer or creating big bow waves all the way to the bank. By breakfast time, we'd already had a few trout each and we'd had follows, swirls or takes from dozens.
At mid morning, I swapped the Airflo 40+ floater for my favourite intermediate line and continued to fish the margins of Lakemoor and Cranymoor by pulling lures along them. Where we saw them, we also tried fishing Czech nymph style to fish just sitting or cruising by the reeds, and we mananged to take a couple this way. Another fly fisher who was visiting from Swansea took 13 fish using these tactics, which just proves you don't need to cast far (or at all) at Ellerdine.
After a spectacular breakfast in the lodge we headed over to the corner of Cranymoor, which is one of our favourite spots. George started towards the closest corner and I fished the margins. He had another trout at the top end, while I took one of a few pounds from the island. Then it went a bit quiet and my FNF Fritz Enigma stopped doing the business.
Seeing as George was getting some spectacular bow wave follows by roly-polying his orange snake along the time, I thought I'd try something similarly bright, so opted for a pink leech. I put out a long cast - nearly the full line - then started stripping it back. A fish took and it was pretty obvious that it wasn't a regular stockie.
It took me to the backing, headed towards the island and then went down deep, causing a big pile of weed to build up on the line. Fortunately it came from after a couple of minutes, and I started walking up and down the bank and backwards and forwards to stay in contact and help bring it to the bank for George to net for me. I'm not sure I'd have managed it on my own, for it put up a tremendous fight and my arms were aching by the end.
Only half a pound short of double figures, it was a cracking fish and it went back with enough energy to give both of us a soaking as it swam off. After a few casts we moved along to the corner and George hooked up again, closely followed by me, with not one but three browns in consecutive casts. These smaller two pound fish are feeding ravenously at the moment and hit the flies hard.
The fishing got tougher in the afternoon, so we headed for the children's pool to see if George could get into double figures. A pair of blobs on my intermediate line led to one fish, then another, then another, and then two at once! We were both shocked and the fight was quite frenetic, with both fish jumping simultaneously at one point. Unfortunately, their combined pulling in conjunction with George's led to both of them snapping off.
However, in the mother of all coincidences, George hooked up to two more the very next cast! This time they got close enough to net, but went nuts when they saw us. The one on the point fly (a tequila blob) slipped the hook, then the one on the dropper (a black blob) snapped off. Disappointing maybe, but very exciting nonetheless. Three more trout, and loads of misses, topped the day off.
Final score was George 12 (9 of which were trout) and me 10.
Sunday 18th December, 2016
Seeing as we'd had such a good time the previous day, we thought we'd pop back to Ellerdine to see if we could repeat the previous day's performance.
While the fish were still biting, it was definitely a tougher day than the Saturday. George bought himself a couple of fresh snake zonker lures in the shop and put them to use on the bottom of Lakemoor. Within about fifteen minutes, he was already three fish ahead of me and most of the other anglers!
In the end, he went back to the shop with his pocket money and bought me a couple of snakes as an early Christmas present. It only took one cast and I had my first fish on, quickly followed by two more. All you needed to do was cast out the snake, give it a quick tug to sink it slightly then the trout would smash it as you pulled it back. The quicker the retrieve, the harder the take. It was excellent fun!
Eventually, the trout got wise to our motives and we gave up and wandered the margins looking for fish. There were plenty about, but they were really not interested in anything we chucked at them, so we tried on the children's pool.
The snakes worked here too, but it was a team of three tequila blobs which really did the damage. George was getting a pull every cast and hooking plenty of fish. By the end of the day, he'd thrashed me 10:3!
Monday 19th December, 2016
A day off work and George still at school meant the rare opportunity for some solitude and a session on the River Dee in Carrog, Denbighshire. Rather than fishing the usual St. David's beat, I thought I'd try CADAC's new winter grayling beat immediately downstream of The Grouse. In summer, it's used by Pen-Y-Bont Angling Club, but CADAC members can fish it during the winter.
Today I was French nymphing with a team of flies I'd tied - a tungsten beaded pink squirmy wormy on the point, a perdigon nymph in the middle and a leaded funky shrimp on the top dropper. I started by the bridge and worked my way downstream and across a step at a time.
The water was pushing through quite hard and it was ruddy cold. Thankfully, the first fish - a tiny grayling - came within the first few casts, which gave me a little confidence that the fish were at least biting. The wading was a bit tough in place. The bottom here has areas of loose rocks, slippery weed beds, patches of bed rock and the odd deep hole.
I lost count of the amount of times I nearly went in, and admit to being a bit uneasy about going too much further due to the depth and power of the current. Just as I was started to get so cold I thought it may be wise to retire, I hooked my second fish. This turned out to be a lovely little brown trout, about ten inches long and with a beautiful dark pattern.
Saturday 31st December, 2016
It was a cold and foggy start for the final fishing trip of the year and the Ellerdine Lakes car park was already starting to fill up. I tried the usual trick of stalking the trout in the margins of Cranymoor using a combination of blobs and small weighted nymphs.
Surprisingly, it was the blobs which were preferred. Trying to dangle the fly in front of the trout always spooked them. However, providing you let the fly sink to the bottom and "deadstick" it, then twitch it slightly as a trout cruised over the top, they would invariably suck up the fly.
I'd hooked a few in the first ten minutes, but failed to keep them attached with so little line outside the tip. Meanwhile, George was fishing a pink snake along the top and getting hit after hit, so I switched tactics and had similar results, but no fish.
A move to the far end Meadow after breakfast revealed some better action. As it was so cold I thought I'd see if the fish had gone down deep, so I fished a beaded FNF Chewing Gum worm, put out a long cast and counted down to 30 to give it time to hit the deck, then did a really slow figure of eight to get the fly to trundle along the lake bed.
This worked. First a pull, then another, then a short-lived hook up. Then another hook up, then finally a fish. This was followed by two more for me using the same technique, plus another two George who'd copied the technique using a chamois worm.
We left just after lunch, but by then we'd had a few fish each and George had done his usual trick of catching loads of perch in the margins to allow him to beat me 7:3!