Sunday 10th July, 2022
After spending last weekend at Grafham Water, where George was training for the forthcoming Youth Fly Fishing Internationals, it was nice to be back out in the mountains. This week we headed over to Snowdonia to fish Llyn Idwal and Llyn Bochlwyd.
The weather conditions were far from ideal - it was due to be hot, sunny, and still. However, they'd have been terrible conditions wherever we'd gone, and at least we'd have an adventure and try a new venue. We started the climb up to the lakes just before 8:00 am and were fishing on Idwal within just 20 minutes. The walk was surprisingly easy.
As we arrived at Idwal it was cloaked in cloud and the midges were out, making it rather unpleasant. The sun quickly burnt away the mist and the midges receded a little, but not entirely. With the lake still and no sign of any fish moving, except those outside casting range, we set off to Bochlwyd.
The climb to Bochlwyd is much harder. We had to make several stops and I honestly found it quite tough on the legs - and the lungs. It probably took us about 45 minutes to reach the top, but it was pretty tiring as the weather had really warmed up. Bochlwyd, like Idwal, was breathtaking, making the climb well worth it.
The water in both lakes was crystal clear and the margins are boulder-strewn and rocky, so wading isn't possible or safe. We hopped from rock to rock casting as we went, fishing a mixture of tiny dries, bushy dries, traditional wets, and beaded hare's ear nymphs. Fish were rising, but they were wisely doing so much further out than we could cast.
After trying a few spots we found a deeper area so I put on some wets and a bead-headed nymph and let them sink. After a lengthy countdown, I noticed the line twitch and struck into a small wild brown. It was a very pretty yellow fish with black, brown, and red spots. Quite a stunner, though it wriggled off before I had a chance to capture it on camera. A few other small fish fell to the same fly - all no more than 15cm long.
The hot, sunny weather made the fishing very hard, as we'd expected, but we did manage a couple of others. Not big fish (most mountain lakes only contain small trout), but all very pretty wild fish. Next time, we'll head up when the weather is a bit cooler and windier. We're sure it would fish much better when the weather is less tropical.
25th to 27th July 2022
After a two-year delay due to covid, George and his England teammates finally got their chance to represent their country at the International Youth Fly Fishing Championships at Lough Lene, Ireland. Led by manager Craig Barr and coach Tim Joyce, the boys were split up into pairs and given zones of the lake to cover over the next two days in an attempt to find the fish and the flies that would catch them.
The fishing was far from easy. Lough Lene is a beautiful limestone water rich in fly life, but was seemingly relatively low in trout numbers. (Apparently, it's well stocked but was just not fishing well at the moment due to the recent heat.) Catches from both parents and team members on all teams were low and the fish proved very difficult to catch. I fished the margins of the lake with some of the other dads and saw lots of insect life, but few fish. I had a few rises to my dries, but they were few and far between. We were fishing more to pass the time and enjoy the surroundings than with the expectation of actually catching.
"The fishing was tough. Apparently, it's well stocked but was just not fishing well at the moment due to the recent heat."
On the first day, George was paired with top young talent Jack Blakey, under the supervision of very friendly and immensely knowledgable local boatman Eugene. I don't think I've ever heard George be so enthusiastic about a boatman. Eugene is apparently superbly skillful and knows Lene like the back of his hand.
Only two anglers caught fish on the first day, with the extremely impressive Albert Coales coming out on top followed by George, who'd found some fish at the top of the lake interested in his sparkler booby pattern.
The second day saw a change in the weather conditions, with a big drop in the wind speed and the fish looking up and dries taking more fish. George was with multi-capped Vice Captain Corey Russell fishing in a different part of the lake and had an enjoyable but challenging day. George came out on top on the second day with two fish falling again to his sparkler booby.
He got lots of praise from Tim and Craig and his fellow teammates for his efforts, which lifted his spirits and confidence, and saw his fly codenamed "George's fly" so teammates could let each other know what they were using without letting it slip to rival teams. Tim kindly stayed up late to knock up 28 of them to share with the rest of the team for the match the following day, giving them the confidence that they knew where the fish were and what fly was likely to work.
Tensions were high on match day, not least because of the seemingly constant rule changes being introduced minutes before the start of the match. These were unsettling and confusing to the young anglers, which was perhaps the aim. Nonetheless, stress aside, it was a very proud moment for the boys and their parents to watch them set off.
For the match, George was sharing a boat with Welsh Vice Caption Gwyddon Griffiths, who is a fellow member of Corwen District Angling Club, and with whom George fished when he was much younger. Things got very tense as the boats came back in and Tim and Craig helped the boys out of the beach-launched boats and onto the shore, totting up the totals of fish caught.
Sadly, it proved another exceptionally tough day. The rod average for the competition was just 0.66 fish per angler. Seven Irish anglers caught fish, followed by six English, five Welsh, and three Scottish. Every team had lots of blanks, even from very experienced anglers, showing just how hard conditions were on the day. Across the four teams, 62.5% of anglers blanked.
"According to what we were told after the match, seven Irish, six English, five Welsh, and three Scottish anglers managed to catch fish."
However, after two good days, George sadly failed to catch - losing a large rainbow that went under the boat and leaped on the other side. Thankfully others on the team had caught well, with half of the fish falling to George's fly. They did so well in such difficult circumstances, and everyone was very pleased with the team's performance.
Nobody had any idea of the placings, though we expected Ireland to be well ahead (knowing that one of them had a massive six fish) and the local advantage of it being their lake and their boatmen. When the results were eventually announced (following a lengthy and heated debate over alleged rule breaches) Scotland came in last with three fish, Wales took bronze with 9 fish, England took silver with 11, and Ireland took gold with 14. The team was not expecting to win and was delighted to see Ireland take the gold. The Irish team fished spectacularly well in very tough conditions.
"The Irish team fished spectacularly well in very tough conditions."
We really weren't expecting to beat Ireland on their own water, so were overwhelmed with the silver and it really lifted everyone's spirits. The boys all worked tremendously hard and put in a superb team effort. Tim and Craig were both awesome in encouraging the boys and helping them get a game plan together, as was Captain Jake Leake, who made sure to go round and check on everyone and give them a boost. Jake even gave George a special mention in his Captain's speech at the evening ceremony, which was a lovely gesture.
We're really grateful to Craig and Tim for their help in sorting everything out, in what was, behind the scenes, an incredibly difficult few days for them. Also to Michelle whose organisational skills helped resolve a number of pressing matters, and to Jake in helping his team stay calm and focused and go home with a medal and an experience they'll never forget. It was a fantastic experience and George is really looking forward to competing again in Wales in 2023.
Results were provided by Denis Goulding of the Irish team. Ireland came first with 7 anglers catching 14 fish for 930 points, and 7 blanking; England came second with 6 anglers catching 11 fish for 721 points, and 8 blanking, Wales came third with 5 anglers catching 9 fish for 584 points and 11 blanks; Scotland came fourth with 3 anglers catching 3 fish for 199 points, with 11 blanks.
Eanna O'Leary caught an impressive six fish and won the prize for best basket, best overall trout, best Irish basket, and best Irish trout. Jake Leake won best English basket and best English trout. Gwyddon Griffiths won best Welsh basket, with Aaron Jones winning best Welsh trout, while Joshua Brown won both the best Scottish basket and best Scottish trout.
|Jim Kelly (Captain)||0||0||0||0|
|David King (Vice Captain)||2||89cm||129||89cm|
|Jake Leake (Captain)||2||96cm||136||50cm|
|Corey Russell (Vice Captain)||2||94cm||134||49cm|
|Morgan Jones (Captain)||2||91cm||131||46cm|
|Gwyddon Griffiths (Vice Captain)||3||132cm||192||47cm|
|Connor Wales (Captain)||0||0||0||0|
|Joshua Brown (Vice Captain)||1||47.8cm||68||47.8cm|