Sunday February 3rd, 2019
The weather has been subzero for most of the week so our choices of venues that wouldn't be frozen were somewhat limited. Llandegla and Graiglwyd were both closed due to ice and snow and Tree Tops and Loynton both have no aerators, so that left Ellerdine Lakes - which not has aerators on some lakes, but also a lodge, a roaring fire and hot food and drink. When we arrived it was minus 5°C, and half of the lakes were still frozen solid. Apparently, when fishery owner Ed Upton arrived first thing, it was minus 10°C and he'd obviously had the rowing boat out clearing some spaces for anglers.
There was an England match on at the lakes today, so Meadow and Marsh were both in use, which left Cranymoor and Lakemoor. There were about six or seven pleasure anglers fishing, which left just enough room for a spot each. Not ideal, but better than not going fishing at all! We got started on Lakemoor and were fishing along the left hand side of the lake, near the reed bed.
With bright sunshine, no wind and very low temperatures, the fishing was definitely not easy. I'd gone for an intermediate to start with and was fishing a small lure, while George was fishing a big white fluffy thing on his floater. He got a fantastic bow wave follow early on, which connected for a second or two and then shook free.
With the intermediate not working for me, I switched over to a floating line. I'd scaled down my tippet to 6lb fluorocarbon and was using smaller flies than usual - a pair of size 16 hare's ear nymphs on the droppers and a tiny pink blob on the point. After no touches on the figure of eight, I decided to try fishing them completely static and flicked a line alongside the reeds. A couple of seconds later, the indicator shot away and fish number one was on.
Within ten minutes or so, the same technique worked again, with the fish taking the nymph just 15' from the bank. This time, it was a much better fish - around the four pound mark - and it put up a decent fight in the cold water. Everyone around us seemed to have switched over to fishing static, but nobody was pulling out many fish and the conditions remained challenging all day.
An hour or so on Cranymoor failed to return any bites, nor a last crack at Lakemoor, so we headed home for some food and warmth at lunch. Not the easiest of days, but a beautiful winter's day and it was really lovely to be outside.
Sunday 9th February, 2019
Something of a change today. Rather than driving for an hour to go fishing, we decided to try a new club water located, rather conveniently, just five minutes from our house. While it does apparently hold the odd big wild brown trout, it's the perch and pike that we were after with our fly gear.
George was using a 9 weight pike fly rod with a Loop intermediate line and a Scierra Intermediate Pike Leader, while I was using my 8 weight Loop with a Barrio Predator intermediate tip line and the same polyleader. As we'd seen a big dead perch on the bank the previous day, we knew the water held some massive perch, so thought we'd target these specifically with some craft fur patterns tied on size 4-6 hooks.
We fished all along one bank of the water, seeking out any structure and fishing along the margins, but nothing seemed to be feeding. Maybe the cold weather and the sudden recent change in temperature had put them off the feed. Whatever the reason for our lack of success, given that it's only a few minutes up the road I'm sure we'll be trying again a lot and might one day get lucky!
Sunday 17th February, 2019
We were out of the door by 6.30am today and on the bank of the River Dee just before 8am. The weather was milder than of late with no frost and a forecast for wind and a spot of rain. The water at St. David's near Carrog was looking good when we got started in our usual spot near the top of the beat. I was French nymphing but George was trying a new technique - trotting with worms. It's the first time he's used bait for several years...
We fished the riffle and the slack area but didn't get any bites, so moved down towards the deeper water. After a while I hooked into a small brown trout, which gave a nice little scrap and then conveniently released itself just as I was bringing it to the net. While George didn't get any bites with his trotted worm, we did see a big grayling leap in the area he'd just fished, so we moved back up the beat to fish the water again.
We found a few fish towards the upper end of the beat. I had a couple of nice grayling, just under the pound mark, on my nymphs, shortly followed by an absolute lump as I borrowed George's trotting outfit while he was sipping a cup of tea. It was a huge fish and easily my biggest ever. It took the worm solidly just a few feet from the bank near some overhanging trees, then used its massive dorsal in the current to try and break free. The fight was incredible. I called over to George and passed him the rod so he could fight it, but the line must have gone slack and the clever grayling slipped the hook...
Thankfully, we had a couple of others from the same section within the next hour or so. They seemed to wise up eventually, though. The trick was to hook one, try to keep it away from the area and slip it back so you could try and get another, but we got the impression we were spooking them every time and it took another thirty minutes until we could get a bite from the same spot again, so we tried the mobile approach instead.
Moving up and down the bank and trotting in the slack water of the margins proved fairly effective, as did fishing the nymphs through the same water. We ended the day with about ten fish. The weather had been good, the rain stayed away and we'd hooked and lost a monster, so it wasn't a bad day really. We're looking forward to spring when we can try and catch a few on the dries!
Sunday 24th February 2019
We were out of the door by 6.30am today for an hour plus journey to Graiglwyd Springs, which is a stone's throw from Anglesey in North Wales, just on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park. After a cold and extremely foggy start, the sun started to shine around late morning, revealing a flat calm lake. The fishing proved really challenging as a result. We could see the fish moving and the odd angler had caught a fish, but everyone seemed to be struggling in the rather difficult conditions.
We tried lures on floating lines, lures on intermediates and sinking lines - twiddled, pulled and stripped. We tried buzzers, blobs, nymphs, indicators and even dries but failed to get more than a single pull each by lunch time. It was seriously hard going. George changed line more times than I can remember, as well as going through half his fly box and most of mine.
Eventually, after a bite to eat and discuss tactics, George figured out what they were feeding upon. He thought he'd watched some trout in the margins feeding upon baby frogs, but after a quick explanation about it being several months too early for baby frogs, we spotted hatching beetles being taken by the fish in the margins. They did actually look a bit frog like, diving down to the bottom and then bobbing back up. We even saw a few of them hatch and fly off, so both switched over to foam beetle and Corixa patterns on scaled down tippet. Oddly, this didn't work either...
We soon gave up with the beetles and Corixa and switched back to small lures. George soon had several good tugs in quick succession, followed by a hook-up. It took the fly at range and started heading for the middle but the slack line left got tangled on George's chest pack leaving no room for it to run and the hook bent straight. Judging by the massive bow wave, it was clearly a double. Thankfully, he did follow it up shortly afterwards with another fish, albeit somewhat smaller.
Even I managed to catch a fish to end the day, with a Dawson's olive fished on my intermediate resulting in a sharp tap, then a screaming run. It was a relief to have both caught in the end, but at least the weather was glorious. George even got a guided tour of the fish farm stock pond at the end so got to see some amazing fish at close range.