Saturday January 6th, 2018
The weather was not particularly inviting for the first fly fishing trip of 2018, with a damp and icy wind keeping the temperature hovering around zero all day and chilling us to the bone. We arrived at Llandegla around 9am and had the whole place to ourselves - all day - so clearly most other fly fishers had been sensible and stayed in the warm.
However, we were thankful that we went, for the fishing today was truly excellent. The fish were on the feed all day and we were getting constant action and bites all day. We started off fishing with lures on our intermediate lines and both had pulls on nearly every cast. After hooking and losing a few each, we eventually started to catch and were on a few fish each by breakfast time.
After breakfast, we tried the top lake and moved from spot to spot seeing if we could find any feeding fish. George was using a red apache and took another nice fish in the corner, while I was borrowing his wiggle tail blob, which was working a treat, with several more fish from various places, as well as numerous pulls.
By lunchtime, the weather had worsened. It was getting very windy, very cold and very damp, so we were starting to feel uncomfortable. The fish had stopped chasing, so we switched over to the floating lines and started fishing static or with slow figure eight retrieves instead. This worked well.
George had another on a small nymph, while I was testing out a new worm pattern I'd made from Eggstasy. The eggstasy worm, as we called it, was like casting a wet sock and wouldn't sink without a shot to hold it down, but, blimey, did the trout like it! It was amazingly effective.
I was catching fish after fish on the pattern, soon it had taken a dozen fish, one of them a good five pounds in weight. We'll definitely be tying some more of these for future trips - this time with an underbody of lead wire I think. I reckon we'd have easily hit 30 fish had we stayed the whole day, but the weather was just too cold for George, so we headed back early.
We ended the day with 20 fish between us, which was a lovely way to start the year and ended our previous blanking streak in style!
Final score: Matt 16, George 4.
Saturday, January 13th, 2018
Given that this website lists more places to fly fish in the UK than any other site, you'd think we wouldn't be short of ideas for places to fish each weekend. However, sometimes it's very hard to choose. George made the decision today and opted to try a fishery new to us - Loynton Trout Fisheries in rural Staffordshire.
It's a beautiful place and we received a very warm welcome from the estate manager who offered us some tips on where to try and what methods to use and showed us around the lakes. We got started on the lower of Loynton's three lakes, with both of us fishing small lures on floating lines, as recommended. I hooked a fish within a few casts on a tan apache but lost it, while George also had a few plucks on his white zonker.
It was so cold and windy though, that after less than an hour we'd got so cold that our fingers had stopped working, so we resorted to putting on our gloves, tying on an indicator and fishing the bung method simply to allow our hands to warm up. After a few casts, my eggstasy worm got followed by a big fish just as I was lifting off to re-cast. It was stayed hooked momentarily, but it wriggled free and wasn't interested in coming back for more.
After a lap of the lake, we moved over to Black Dog Pool and fished into the wind. The water in here was fairly clear and it seemed shallower in the area in which we were fishing and there was nothing biting - apart from the cold wind. We moved along the bank and gave it a good bash for an hour before finally opting to have a break and resort to the cafe for a hot drink and some cake.
Once we'd warmed up, we got back to the fishing and found a couple of free spots on Black Dog Lake. The first few casts led to nothing, but after fishing the countdown method on every cast and eventually hitting 60, I sensed a small pluck on the line and moments later my blue flash damsel got smashed by a good fish at range.
It fought really well and was going into very deep water so it took a little while to get it in as it didn't want to come up to the surface. Eventually, George netted it for me and it was a lovely three pound rainbow in great condition.
In the corner of Black Dog Lake, George spotted some roach fry being chased to the surface by predators beneath. We watched as several rainbow and brown trout - some of them very double figure - were fry bashing, chasing the shoal along and then hitting them as they reached the surface. We both tried chucking lures at them, but they were clearly not stupid and could tell the difference between our flies and the shoals of roach.
George, therefore, decided to use a different approach. A fishy looking lure suspended beneath the indicator. After chucking it by the willow tree where the roach were being attacked, it was eventually taken by a trout! A nice rainbow gave him the runaround for a good five minutes, but he eventually banked it. Although it wasn't one of the doubles, it was a tad bigger than mine, which made his day!
Final score: Matt 1, George 1.
Sunday 14th January, 2018
A double fishing weekend to stop George and his brother beating each other up meant a day trip to Westlow Mere near Congleton, Cheshire. Although the wind wasn't as strong as yesterday's trip to Loynton, it certainly wasn't any warmer. The temperature was only a few degrees but the breeze made it feel sub-zero.
We were using four rods between us - two Loop Evotecs rigged up with floating lines, plus an Orvis Helios with an intermediate and George's Echo Distance Competition rod rigged up with a Sixth Sense Di3. We needn't have bothered with the floating lines, since the fish were firmly near the bottom. We tried a range of methods for the whole of the morning but couldn't get a pull as we were fishing above the fish.
At lunch time we bumped into former England Junior Alex Morris who gave George some helpful tips. He was fishing a pair of FABs on a Di3, casting it out, leaving it to sink fully for several minutes (Westlow is 30-40' deep at the top end) and then giving the line the occasional tug. He'd already taken four fish, so after we'd warmed up we went back to The Deeps to try it ou instead of pulling lures.
Within about 15 minutes, George shouted as the line shot out of his hands just after he'd tugged the previously stationary flies. A very powerful fish shot off at speed taking all of the free line and flashing its flanks at the surface, creating a huge boil. It looked a great fish but it decided to go deep and must have found a branch or something as George felt resistance and then the hooks pulled free.
Five minutes later, I was quizzing George about the technique he'd been using when he hooked the fish and as he was giving me a dramatic reenactment of the experience, including the sudden jerk which enticed the fish to bite, another fish took the fly to the same method! Clearly, this was a winning method on a cold and tough day.
While the second fish he hooked was only half the size of the first, it was a really strong fish and fought spectacularly so he was very pleased with it, given how tough the fishing was. It had taken an orange FAB.
Seeing as George was doing so well, I thought I'd give the technique a blast on the intermediate line. It took me ages to get the flies down to depth - a Di3 is a very good choice at Westlow - but eventually I managed to get a few plucks using the same method. On about the third or fourth cast, the line shot away and I was in too.
I thought mine was a much bigger fish than it was. Westlow's trout do fight incredibly well for their size, especially when it's this cold. After a five minute tussle, George netted the fish for me. It was a very solid fish with great fins and weighed in just over three pounds. If I'd not seen it, I'd have been convinced it was more like five, given its athletic prowesss.
Final score: Matt 1, George 1.
Sunday 21st January, 2018
Conditions for today's trip couldn't have been much more unpleasant. It was 1°C, windy and chucking it down with wet, slushy snow. Cleverly, we'd pick Ellerdine Lakes for today's session, so we could at least make a dash for the lodge to have a cup of tea by the fire if the weather got too grim.
The bites started coming straight away. The fish were high up in the water and keen to chase so we were fishing white lures on our floating lines. There were several good sized salmon leaping on the nearest side of Cranymoor, so we spent most of the morning trying to catch one of them. By about 10am we'd each had several hook ups and bow wave follows, but no fish.
After a thaw by the fire and a hot breakfast in the lodge we got back to it and were straight into fish. After losing a salmon of four or five pounds, I finally managed to land a fish. My first one took the white lure as I slowed the retrieve, then I lost a couple more using the same method. Poor George was suffering from the cold more than me, so had donned gloves stuffed with hand warmers and was fishing a blob beneath an indicator. He was being very unlucky. Hooking plenty, but losing them all after a minute or two.
A switch to the indicator for me led to fish number two from Cranymoor, then we switched to the windy side of Meadow Lake. This was a wise move! First cast and George hooked into a fantastic salmon. It pulled seriously hard, bent the Loop rod double and then powered off towards the reeds at breakneck speed. As it veered off, my line shot away and I hooked into a good fish at the same time. But just as mine was making its first run, George's salmon leapt clear of the water shook its head and threw the hook. Poor George was not happy.
My third one was a nice fish at around five pounds, and was quickly followed by a fourth fish to the same fly. However, despite only being lunch time, we'd by that point had about as much as we could take of the weather. The wind had picked up, the snow had turned to heavy rain and we were drenched and frozen, so we headed home to warm up. A shame as I reckon we'd have had several more each if we'd been able to stick it out.
Final score: Matt 4, George 0 (lost a salmon).
Sunday 28th January, 2018
We made the long journey from Cheshire to the edge of Snowdonia today along with George's fly fishing friend, and fellow Junior Troutmasters contender, James Penwright from St. Asaph in North Wales. Conditions at Graiglwyd Springs weren't great - it was mild at around 10°C but very, very windy. However, the fish were definitely on the feed.
George was the first to hook-up after a nice rainbow around the 4lb mark took his hot head damsel. Graiglwyd Springs trout fight extremely well so this one put up a spectacular fight and he needed a hand from James to get it in the net. As it's a deep fishery, with 30 feet of water just ten feet from the bank, the fish often swim down which puts quite a bend in the rod.
Following George's success, James and I decided to follow suit and each tied on damsels ourselves. This worked. Minutes later I had a good fish, then another a few minutes later. The water is deep at Graiglwyd so I was counting down to 20 before starting a figure of eight retrieve. I was getting bite after bite, but missed nearly all of them. Most of the fish were taking it only when the fly was twitched after being momentarily static.
The bites were coming thick and fast for George too and he took another fish shortly after mine. Again it put up an incredible fight for its four pound or so weight. Upon hooking his third, he passed the rod over to James so he could get in on the action too.
A switch to a small white lure brought me a couple more fish, so the boys both switched over to white lures, but the fish on their corner weren't so keen on white. A switch back to the damsel brought George his fourth fish. We thought this one might be over four pounds before we saw it as it was pulling extremely hard!
James was fishing alongside another angler who was getting a lot of success with buzzers, so he'd tied on an okey dokey buzzer with a white body and an orange head, which he was fishing by straight-lining rather than with an indicator. The tactic paid off and he landed a cracking fish around the four-pound mark.
With the wind picking up more and more, the boys had both switched over the indicators. While a couple of fish took the indicator itself, the bites to their buzzers and blobs weren't as plentiful as we thought they might be, so they both switched back to lures to end the session, with George taking a final fish.
We all had a great time and caught lots of trout, and George had really enjoyed fishing alongside someone as passionate about fly fishing as himself, who wasn't 30 years older!
Final score: Matt 5, George 4, James 4.