Sunday 4th February, 2018
George had flu today and felt too ill to fish, so I headed off to Ellerdine Lakes for a rare solo fishing session, which always feels a bit strange. I bumped into my former colleague Peter Gathercole in the lodge on arrival, who was there shooting a feature for Trout Fisherman magazine with Russel Owen and Phil Dixon.
It had chucked it down the previous day so the water was cold, the fish were on the bottom and the banks were seriously muddy. I'd rigged up a pair of Loop Evotec fly rods - a #5 with a Barrio Mallard floating line, and a #6 with a Barrio SLXi intermediate line. I'd gone for a blob and a pair of cormorants on the floater (generally a safe bet at Ellerdine) and a tan apache on the intermediate.
Weirdly, there were very few fish moving today and everyone was struggling. The salmon were more active than the trout and I had a couple of follows early on, but no bites for ages. I managed to get my first pull on the hang just before stopping for breakfast, but I struck before the fish was properly hooked and it quickly came off.
After breakfast, I tried the margins of Meadow, the bay on Marsh and the edge of Cranymoor but not much was biting anywhere. The most action I got was another quick nip as I hung the flies on Cranymoor, plus a couple of bow wave follows as I was reeling in to move spots. Most people were finding the fishing hard and as the rain was starting to fall, I figured I may as well go home to the warm instead.
Final score: Blank...
Saturday 10th February, 2018
We travelled over to Staffordshire today for our annual pilgrimage to the British Fly Fair International. In case you've never been, this annual event includes three halls of fly tying and fly fishing stands from all of the top fly fishing gear suppliers, as well as a hall full of the world's top fly tyers. It's a great place to go and meet other likeminded people and everyone is always really friendly and helpful.
We caught up with our friends from Corwen and District Angling Club (CADAC) who always attract lots of attention and sign up lots of new members, and had a chat with Gareth Jones from Airflo, fly fishing guide Trevor Heyliger and Italian casting style guru Philip Bailey.
George managed to make his £10 pocket money go an extremely long way thanks to the generosity of Rich from SKB who gave him lots of freebies and he even picked up a free cockle hackle cape from Rodgers' Fishing Tackle! This could mean my own fly stash lasts me a little longer this year.
Following some advice from Ellerdine Lakes' Ed Upton, we also booked some time with Draycote ranger Tom Bird, who's going to show George and friend James Penwright how to handle a boat and fish loch style in preparation for their first opportunity to fish the England Youth Fly Fishing qualifiers later this year.
The BFFI is held around this time every year, so if you get the chance next year, it's definitely worth going along.
Sunday 11th February, 2018
Despite it being 1°C, windy and gloomy upon arrival at Ellerdine Lakes, we did get off to a flying start. George was testing one of the squirmy wormies he picked up at the Fly Fair yesterday, while I was fishing a red head damsel. I had the most gentle of plucks on the first cast and hooked a fish on the hang on the second, only for it to come off. But then George hooked into something rather spectacular!
His indicator dipped and he struck into very solid resistance. Clearly, this was no average stockie. In about two seconds flat, the fish had gone from a standstill to the island on Meadow, stripping all of George's lose line and making his drag whizz. At first, we thought it might be a salmon given its speed, but after a couple of minutes of it zooming from left to right, we eventually got a glimpse of the giant flank of a double figure rainbow.
It was fighting so hard that we figured it must have been foul hooked, however, as England's Paul Angell came over to watch, he confirmed it was hooked cleanly in the scissors. After an immense battle which left George shaking, I eventually managed to scoop the net under it. It was a stunning fish with an amazing pattern and perfect finnage. George wanted a quick snap of his new personal best, so we left it in the net while he wet his hands in the freezing water so as not to harm the fish.
We managed to get a quick snap, but George was too cold and too weak to lift it up properly. The scales pulled down to just over 10 pounds when we weighed it prior to release, so he was absolutely over the moon.
It was one of those days where he just couldn't go wrong. Upon returning to fishing after a warm by the fire, he managed to catch fish after fish. First from Cranymoor, then Meadow, then Cranymoor again. By lunchtime, he'd taken six decent fish all on a tiny pink and white dancer fly pattern - while I'd not had a touch!
After lunch, I tried switching to cormorants and eventually had a tiny pluck, then a hookup and eventually landed my first fish. George, meanwhile, was now heading for number 10. Whatever lake he fished, the fish seemed to eventually take his fly and he left with a big smile on his face and a story to tell.
Final score: Matt 1, George 10.
Saturday 24th February, 2018
We had a rare week off from fishing last weekend as George and I were both ill, but we were ushered out of the house today for a few hours so everyone else could have some peace and quiet. As we were only having a short trip, and it was sub-zero, George opted for Llandegla Trout Fishery, as there's a lovely cafe, a warm fire and a plentiful supply of hot chocolate and sausage sandwiches to keep you warm if needed.
We'd picked similar outfits today. Both of us going for a Barrio Mallard floating line, with George on a #5 Loop Evotec and me on the same rod in #6 form. We both started off on small blue flash damsels and were fishing the flies deep and slow as the temperature was a chilly -1°C.
Despite the cold, the fish were biting, but only very gently. I hooked up within the first few casts and landed a good three pound rainbow, but George was getting a lot more interest than me, hooking and losing four fish in the first thirty minutes, before finally landing one.
The technique today was to cast the flies to the opposite short, count them down to 10 to ensure they were near the bottom and then do the slowest retrieve possible. Often, you'd get either a tiny little pluck or you'd simply notice the line move. A short strip strike was usually enough to hook the fish, and by breakfast I'd had five and George was on three.
After we'd warmed up, we switched tactics and changed over to the indicator so we could drink our hot drinks a bit more easily. Clearly, static flies were also proving tempting today as my Eggstasy worm was devastating effective. I landed five fish in five casts on the fly before George came over to see what I was using a nicked the spare one from my box.
The change of fly worked for him too as we hooked and landed plenty of fish, all in superb condition and all very strong fighters in the cold water. By lunchtime we left with me on 11 and George on 7, so it had been a very successful morning.
Final score: Matt 11, George 7.