Sunday 2nd December, 2018
Today we were back at Ellerdine Lakes for the annual Fur and Feather, a friendly fly fishing match which is always very well attended by the regular anglers at this popular fishery. There were 41 anglers fishing this year so the lakes were pretty crowded. We got started at the top of Cranymoor where we were both fishing a white and gold humongous on our floating lines to cover the fish feeding on and around the weed beds.
After a few casts, I managed to miss a couple of follows, then lose one which took the fly on the hang, where I failed to properly set the hook. George was working his way around the rear bank of the lake, which he had to himself. After missing a few pulls he moved around to the top of the lake and cast towards the island where a good trout took the fly. It fought well and took him a few minutes to get to the net, but it was a decent start - weighing 3lb 12oz.
Three more fish followed in quick succession on the other lakes for George, while I was struggling to get a bite, despite using the same flies. All of his fish had fallen to the humongous, with the other three being of average size at around two and half pounds each. By 11am he'd already bagged up and weighed in his four fish at the lodge, so we stopped for a cup of tea.
With the pressure off for George, and me not competing in the match anyway, we relaxed and tried a few different methods to see what would work elsewhere. Over on Marsh Lake, George managed to catch another two - this time using my rod, line and fly just to prove it was skill not equipment - while again I couldn't get a bite!
A wander over to Lakemoor saw him catch another couple of fish, again on the same flies. By this point, it was looking like I might blank and he was doing his best to try and help me out and see if he could pass on his technique. Whatever I tried, it just wasn't my day again. Eventually, I decided to try straight-lining a couple of buzzers with a blob on the point and after five minutes the line rocketed away at great speed! Never have I been so relieved to hook up! The fish was a cracking looker too and put up a great scrap, but it was the fact that it avoided the dreaded blank which made it so welcome!
Over on the little lake, George fished alongside his friend James where the two of them were pulling out fish after fish. He managed to pip James and take the junior trophy, coming in a respectable 11th overall and beating a lot of the seniors in the process. He also gets to have his name engraved on the shield displayed in Ellerdine's lodge!
Sunday 9th December, 2018
There are days when you set the alarm for 6.30am to head off on your fishing trip, and days when the weather outside sounds so unpleasant that you'd rather stay in bed. Today was one of those days. It was chucking it down when we left home, so we figured we'd go to Llandegla as there's a nice warm cafe to retreat to when conditions get too grim to stay outside. We caught up with our CADAC friends Chris Aldred, Paul Brown and Phil Ratcliffe in the car park and got straight down to the fishing.
As Llandegla isn't particularly deep, we'd both gone for floating lines. George was fishing his fly of the moment - a white humongous - while I was fishing the same, but with a small cormorant on the point. After just a few casts he was quickly into his first fish - a nice little rainbow, shortly followed by me catching my first fish.
They seemed to be down a few feet in the water today and were biting only when you retrieved very slowly, something George figured out before me, helping him take an early lead, with another rainbow being followed by a lovely little brown trout with stunning markings.
After a break for hot chocolate to help us warm up after the relentless freezing cold rain, we both caught more fish, with several rainbows for me - all good sized fish - being followed up by George catching a little tiger trout, giving him his second grand slam of the year.
After another break, we decided to switch tactics. George had changed to an orange snake fly, which was getting him lots of bites and follows, while I'd switched to a tan apache on the point and a pearly cormorant on the dropper. That did the trick for me, with a very good fish (which George estimated at around 7-9lb) taking the apache, shortly followed by a second fish taking the cormorant. Getting two good fish into the net proved a ridiculously challenging task. The bottom fish was heavy enough as it was without the added weight of the one on the dropper. As George scooped the net under the top fish, the big one sadly broke free.
The heavy rain had made the water from the top lake overflow into the lower one, so I thought I'd try drifting a fly through the current. After just a couple of seconds the line locked up into a very good fish. As it's enormous tail slapped the water I realised I wouldn't be able to net this one on my own, so called George over to assist. Five minutes of struggling later and a double figure rainbow was safely in the net. We borrowed the shop's scales to check its weight - 11 lb 8oz!
More fish followed that one, including another double (which this time I lost) and several of four or five pounds, which I didn't. It was a great day's fishing, despite the weather and a rare treat for me to actually beat George for once!
Monday 10th December, 2018
It's that time of year when you have to use all of your holiday allowance before it lapses, so I popped over to Wales again for a rare solo fishing session. Conditions weren't as grim as yesterday. It wasn't raining but the flat calm water made for slightly trickier fishing.
I tied up some apaches and nymphs last night so started off with these on the intermediate, but only had a couple of plucks in about twenty minutes so tried fishing static instead. That seemed to work. After leaving the fly completely still for a few seconds and then giving it a tiny twitch, it would often sink and a fish would be on.
I managed 10 fish in a few hours, including a nice three-pound brown and another smaller one, as well as a little blue trout. It's rare that I fish the indicator for long, but seeing as it was working so well, it actually made a pleasant change and the fishing was great fun, even if my usual fishing buddy was absent. He was quite pleased when I arrived home as his second Gold Troutmasters badge of 2018 had arrived in the post!
Sunday 16th December, 2018
The weather today was somewhat less cold, wet and blustery than yesterday when Storm Deidre had battered most of England and Wales. The temperature was a couple of degrees but it was sunny and there was no wind at all, making for some fairly tricky conditions for our visit to Tree Tops Fishery in North Wales.
The first half hour of fishing lures on floating and intermediate lines brought absolutely no interest whatsoever. We changed colours, depths, lines and patterns but couldn't get a bite, so I switched over to fishing static while George perserved by twiddling a tan apache and some cormorants on his intermediate. The static approach eventually worked for me, after I hooked and landed a fish of a couple of pounds on a worm pattern.
After a while, we figured out that the fish seemed to be occupying an area of one of the upper lakes and seemed to be holding by an inlet of water from the top lake. Casting to the area was really tricky as there was no bank behind to fish from and loads of trees all around. Eventually, I managed to flick the fly back out into the right area and the line shot away again. This felt a much better fish, so I let George fight it, seeing as he'd not caught. It put up an excellent scrap and headed into the depths a couple of times, making it hard for George to bring it back up. It was a cracking rainbow and weighed in a 5.5 pounds.
A couple more smaller rainbows followed to the same method, but the fishing definitely wasn't easy. The fish seemed to be down in the depths and not particularly interested in chasing flies. However, at least it wasn't raining and we'd caught a few nice ones between us.
Friday 21st December, 2018
With both George and I off school and work respectively, we figured we'd better go fishing, so headed over to Ellerdine Lakes in Shropshire. We arrived around 10.30am with the weather looking a bit breezy and overcast - good conditions for trouting.
I was using two rods - the Loop Cross with my Wychwood Rocket Distance floating line (which I've really started to love using) and my Loop Evotec with a Royal Wulff Triangle Taper clear intermediate. George was using his Loop Evotec with a Barrio Smallstream #5 line, with both of us fishing gold humungus on the point and cormorants on the droppers.
After about ten minutes of casting on the bottom of Meadow lake I hooked into a good rainbow which had taken the dropper. As it neared the bank it rather annoyingly shook out the hook and evaded capture and I struggled to get any other fish to take the fly. We wandered the banks of various lakes, trying a variety of methods, with the intermediate line and the cormorants generally getting the most bites.
After an hour or so we popped over to the little lake so George could have a crack and he was catching fish after fish. He just couldn't go wrong. Even though I couldn't fish there (as I'm 30 years too old) it was such fun that we stayed for a good hour, giving him enough time to catch ten fish by lunch time!
In the afternoon we tried Marsh - not a bite; Meadow - not a touch; Cranymoor - ditto, and Lakemoor. George persuaded two good fish in Lakemoor - both on the intermediate again - before we headed back over to the little lake for another bit of fun. It was superb. Although it was hard to land every fish, they were feeding ravenously and the fishing was frenetic.
Within another hour he'd had 20 fish, including three double-headers, two straight in a row. These proved really challenging to land. We tried tiring both fish out but one of them would always come free during the fight, due to the barbless hooks we were using. Seeing as I was still on zero - at least in part due to all the time spectating - we popped back over to Meadow for the final hour.
I eventually managed to hook a nice fish at distance after I managed to borrow my own rod back from George. It was a relief to have finally caught something and escaped a blank, even if it was looking somewhat unlikely that I could catch up with George. Just as the skies were darkening, we popped over to Lakemoor where George caught two more and I landed a final fish. A great end to a superb day!
December 23rd, 2018
The weather was atrocious for today's trip with fog and constant rain making it feel much colder than it really was. We turned up at Chirk Fishery at about 10am to find it closed so took a detour and headed over to Llandegla instead. There were half a dozen other fly fishers braving the elements too, so we slotted in where we could and got down to the fishing.
George had borrowed my intermediate, which turned out to be a sensible move as the fish seemed to be down deep today. He hooked and landed a good fish early on but it took me a good hour to get my first one netted. Without the intermediate I had to count my flies down for much longer, but did eventually find them near the bottom where I managed to get a few bites on my blobs and buzzers.
A move to the top end of the upper lake saw us find a little group of fish feeding in the inflowing water. George had now switched to a pink snake and landed another nice fish and lost a much bigger one. Then I borrowed his spot and the line and tied on a little orange snake. A long cast to the opposite bank and then a slow figure of eight led to a pull, then another, then the line went solid. It was a spectacular fighter, despite not being particularly huge. Next cast, another fish followed to the same method.
After we stopped for some hot refreshments in the cafe, we had a try on the bottom lake. George landed another good fish, while I had another run of luck, catching several one after the other, all on the orange snake again. Having gained a lead on George, I thought I'd better give him the rod and fly to see if he could catch a few more!
He lost one other fish but then they seemed to stop chasing, so we switched to fishing static instead. While the bites were few and far between, we did hook and land nearly every fish that took the flies, which made a pleasant change. By the end of the morning, I'd had nine to George's three. Despite the truly awful weather, it was a great way to spend the morning.
Thursday 27th December, 2018
We arrived at Ellerdine Lakes at 8.30 this morning to find the car park heaving with cars. I've never seen the place so busy. The conditions were not the best; it was mild at around 8.5°C but there was no wind and the lakes were flat calm, which generally makes the fishing very challenging. As we spotted a few fish rising on Meadow we tried fishing shipman's buzzers in the surface film, but apart from a swirl we didn't get any real interest.
Over on Cranymoor I spotted a nice perch in the weed lining the margins, so tried to catch it using my cormorant, which worked first time. After spotting a couple of trout in the reeds I thought I'd try the same trick with them. The first fish was far too wise and swam off when the fly started wiggling in front of him, but the second one was a bit easier to fool and sucked the fly up as it laid resting on the lake bed. However, it shook its head and the hook almost as soon as the line tightened.
We popped over to the little lake before breakfast to see if George could catch some fish and the action was nearly as good as on our previous visit. George was fishing a lure on the intermediate. A flick to the far bank and a countdown of five or ten would often result in the fly being taken on the drop, or just as he started the retrieve. He lost several decent 3-4 pound fish, and then managed to land a couple, so we went in for breakfast with me 3:1 behind.
After we'd been refreshed, we headed over to Marsh Lake, which was packed with fly fishers. We managed to find a couple of vacant adjacent spots on the far bay and chucked out our lines. George was trying the washing line method, while I'd put on a small orange unweighted snake fly and was twiddling it back on an intermediate line. Ten seconds after the first cast I was into a nice fish, which turned out to be a lovely little brown trout. I followed that up with a rainbow of 3-4 pounds, then lost a much better fish to a smash take which very nearly pulled the rod from my hands!
The fishing on the other lakes proved fairly tricky in the afternoon, with the flat calm conditions persisting, so we headed back to the little lake so George could enjoy some more prolific action over there. This lake is really fishing brilliantly at the moment and it was great to see three juniors making good use of it today. George used a variety of techniques and all of them seemed to work. The best results came from fishing a floating line with a humongous on the point and two blobs on the droppers. Pretty soon George was on double figures.
Trout after trout fell to the flies, as well as a swan mussel, which took a fancy to the humongous as it was twiddled past. The fishing peaked around 3pm, just as we were leaving, with George experiencing yet another double-header - his fifth this month! How on earth you're supposed to land two when fishing barbless hooks is beyond me, though... At least we managed to get the top fish in if the bottom one fell off.
Saturday 29th December, 2018
As I got some new leak-free waders for Christmas we thought we'd get back on the River Dee for a change from the stillwaters. The Pen-Y-Bont beat near The Grouse in Carrog was occupied by other anglers when we arrived, so we drove up the lane to the St. Davids beat, which were sharing with another CADAC angler - another George - who was trotting for grayling.
We were both using French nymphing tactics today, each fishing three flies - a heavily weighted tungsten bead peeping caddis jig, a pink nymph on the middle dropper and a little hare's ear bug on the top dropper. The river height was high at around 0.9m but was falling and the water was nice and clear. We spent the first hour bugging from the bank as the flow was too quick and the water too deep for us to wade safely. We tried hard but didn't get a bite for a couple of hours.
When the other anglers moved down the beat we moved into their spot by the old oak stump. We both tried wading in the shallower fast-running water which led to a couple of little plucks, but no fish. We stopped for a cup of tea and for George to try cooking and consuming his first ever Pot Noodle - surprisingly tasty, he said - and then moved to the deeper water.
The deeper slower water looked quite fishy and often holds grayling. We saw a nice trout leap a few feet from the water which also made us confident that we'd moved to a good spot. However, the fishing was very hard. Eventually, I did hook a fish which felt very good. However, it was just a very strong but fairly small grayling using the current to impersonate a much larger specimen. Still, it was nice to have caught something and visiting the river made a really nice change.
Sunday 30th December, 2018
With Mum, Granddad, brother and sister all walking the dog around Llandegla forest, we decided to go fishing instead, seeing as we were in the area! It was fairly mild again and overcast, so it looked quite promising, but the fish proved trickier than usual to tempt. As usual in the winter months, we both had two rods, one with a floater and one with an intermediate. However, twenty minutes of chucking various small cormorants, lures and hare's ears returned no bites for either of us.
Although a few people were catching the odd fish, it definitely felt harder than usual at Llandegla. I even resorted to indicator tactics and couldn't get a bite. George eventually managed to winkle out a nice little blue trout from the far side of House Pool, where he was straight-lining a couple of buzzers and a blob on the point as an attractor. For its size, the fight was phenonmenal and we were surprised to see it was sub-two-pounds when it surfaced!
On the top lake we fished into the head wind that was blowing ripple into the far shore. I managed a couple of pulls and one short-lived hook-up, but that was the extent of my success for the day. George was also finding things challenging, but did manage another fish, this time on a black minkie fished on his intermediate.
Monday 31st December, 2018
For our final trip of the year George's older brother Henry asked if I would take him to Ellerdine to fish without little brother George and have one of the lodge's famous breakfasts. He'd borrowed Mum's Guideline rod and reel and was fishing a floating line on the little lake with a pair of blobs beneath an indicator. Henry's far less experienced than George and doesn't share his level of concentration, so I wasn't expecting the session to last more than an hour or so, so had booked breakfast for 10.30am.
As it happens, the action was pretty good on the lake and he was getting plenty of bites on the blobs and learning a lot about the techniques to use when striking and the importance of maintaining tension to ensure the fish stays attached. After losing a succession of fish, we finally netted a lovely rainbow of a couple of pounds, with which he was delighted. A couple more fish followed by breakfast with Henry seeming to be having a great time and commenting how fast the time had gone.
After a spectacular breakfast in the lodge and a chat with Jayne, we got back to the fishing, this time switching to straight-lining instead. This led to far more bites and fish that the static approach and Henry got to learn about minimising slack and watching the line for movements. He found this method easier than the bung and hooked lots more fish, too. Before long he was on six fish and having a great time.
We ended the morning on eight fish, which was pretty good going for two and half hours. He had a splendid time. If you've got children, we can highly recommend Ellerdine. The little lake behind the lodge is great for youngsters (and out of bounds for adults) and the fishing is great. It's just the thing for teaching kids how to hook, play and land fish and hopefully it will encourage Henry to come on a few more trips with us next year.