Sunday, 4th June, 2017
George and I were up at the crack of dawn this morning (well, 7am) for a trip to Ellerdine Lakes to test out his new Shakespeare Agility Rise #3 rod on some of the little trout in the children's pool.
It was unusually quiet today with only us, a couple of the regulars and four or five other anglers fishing, so at times we had entire lakes to ourselves. The conditions weren't amazing for trout - it was very sunny and on the warm side - but there were fish jumping. However, nothing really seemed to be on the feed, so I'm guessing the lakes have warmed up and the trout are starting to get a little less comfortable.
George's new #3 rod was christened with a nice rudd on Marsh Lake, which was followed by several others. I was trying various methods, from damsels, buzzers, cormorants, crunchers and blobs to various things fished on the washing line or under a bung. I couldn't get a touch all day. Summer really is the toughest time of the year for fly fishing on stillwaters...
George was having more luck, having missed a couple of fish to his indicator-fished egg fly on Cranymoor and missing a couple on the children's pool too. Nonetheless we had a fun time, despite not catching anything apart from the coarse fish.
Final score: Matt 1 (rudd), George 6 (rudd).
Sunday 11th June, 2017
Today was another of Corwen and District Angling Club's excellent junior fly fishing sessions. As usual, we were fishing at Llandegla Trout Fishery in rural Wrexham, but conditions were far from ideal. Winds were fairly strong when we arrived, which made casting difficult, but they really picked up in the afternoon.
George's aim today was to practice fishing with a sunken line so he's better prepared for the Junior Troutmasters Final next month, where the water will be deep and the fish are often hanging around near the bottom.
He was fishing a Snowbee XS floating fly line on his Echo Competition Distance rod, with a Di 6 sinking line on his Shakespeare Agility. I went for a Barrio Mallard WF floating line on the Loop, with a new intermediate shooting head line on the Helios.
I'd tied up some unweighted tan apache flies to fish on the intermediate and they were working well. I had a solid pull within the first few minutes of stripping and then had my first fish after about half an hour. It was a stunning brown trout, which fought tremendously.
George was fishing blobs on the sinking line, and suspending a blob beneath the bung on the floater, and was getting the odd touch here or there. After another very fast retrieve on the top lake, I hooked up again, this time to an even stronger fish. After a couple of minutes of thrashing about it speed it revealed itself at the net. It was my first tiger trout, and it was quite a looker!
On the lower lake, George's bung shot away and he was into a nice rainbow. Despite the warmer water, it too put up an excellent scrap and gave him the runaround for quite a while. After a short while, I had another trout on the apache, again while pulling it back at speed. George's static method was working too, though and he managed another to the static blob, proving that both methods work when it's blowing a gale.
We ended the day with a bit of casting practice with CADAC coach and GAIA instructor Paul Ainsworth. I got a quick lesson in casting a double handed fly rod, which was excellent fun, while George got some distance casting tips in preparation for next week's British Fly Casting Club competition.
He's got his eyes on a 25 yard badge, and was putting out a full line, or near enough under Paul's expert tutelage, so he's in with a chance next weekend!
Final score: Matt 5, George 2.
Saturday 17th June, 2017
George and I took our annual trip to Oswestry today for the event put on by the British Fly Casting Club. There was a good turn out of entrants, including some familiar faces - including Matt, one of the Ellerdine regulars and all the usual BFCC casting geeks.
As we're obviously not really competition fly casters, we'd just come along for fun, and to get some tips on improving our casting to try to improve on the distances we reached last year.
This year we got some great guidance from American instructor Sekhar Behadur, who spotted the faults in our tracking, haul length and stops. After a short while, we felt we were getting a bit better, though not reverting back to our bad habits will be a massive challenge. George was soaking up the information like a sponge, but I was finding it harder to get the technique nailed...
After a bit of further fine tuning from Paul Ainsworth against the tape measure, George was putting out an entire fly line and exceeding the 25 yard distance he needed to win a BFCC Distance Badge. When official adjudicator James Evans came around with the stopwatch, George managed it first time, then followed it up with a few other slightly longer ones, just to make sure!
In the afternoon we both competed (for fun) in the #5, #7 and ST27 events. Although I felt I'd cast really badly and forgotten everything I'd been taught in the morning, delivering some hideous casts, we did both manage to beat our results from last year. George recorded distances of 75'8" in the #5, while I did 88'10". In the 7# class, George hit 79'4", while I managed 97'5". George had even beaten a few of the grown-ups!
So many of the entrants were incredibly impressive to watch. We've seen James, Tracy and Steve from the club many times before and they're awesome casters, but hadn't seen member Matt Tonkin before. He was giving them a run for their money - with an awesome style and some incredible distances.
The ST27 class was somewhat trickier. In the ST27 class you're casting a 27g shooting head attached to monofilament backing, using a rod equivalent to a 10#. The trick, James told us, is to be able to carry the often lengthy head and keep it just outside the tip, so it doesn't clank against the guides when you haul, or hinge due to too much overhang.
The club rod proved too big for George to handle, so James kindly set him up with a shorter 27g shooting head and a lovely Sage 9' 10#. After a few practice casts he was managing to shoot the head. In the event he managed a respectable 83'5", while I did a personal best (but arguably not that impressive) 110'.
If you're into fly casting, want to meet like minded people or want to get some expert tuition, it's well worth going to one of the many BFCC events that take place around the UK. The people from the club and the instructors couldn't be more welcoming or helpful and you'll be sure to have a great day and learn loads.
Saturday 24th June, 2017
After a week and a half of very hot weather, the conditions on Friday finally cooled down a touch, but we were still expecting the trout to be finnicky and lethargic. George opted for a trip to Chirk today and we certainly guessed right about the challenging conditions.
There were a few fish leaping from the water every now and then, but nothing rising, nothing chasing and very few trout visible. After a few hours of trying a range of different techniques without a touch, we gave up and went after the perch on the fly instead.
This was still tough, but we had more success than with the trout. The top technique was to fish tiny grayling jigs and let them sink to the bottom, then twitch them along the substrate. Eventually, the inquisitive perch would come over and slurp up the fly.
The warm water conditions at the moment look like we're set for a tough couple of months of fishing, so perhaps our next trips need to be higher up where it's cooler, or back on the river, as the stillwaters are not in good form at the moment.
Sunday 2nd July, 2017
George and I were back at Llandegla Trout Fishery in Wales today for another of Corwen and District Angling Club's junior fly fishing days. Despite the lovely weather, the turnout was on the low side, with just George and one other junior, Ethan, fishing.
Not only had Ethan never fly fished before, he'd never been fishing at all, so instructor Paul Ainsworth gave him some tuition on safety, tackle and casting and he was up and running in no time. In fact, he was one of the first to catch!
George and I were being as competitive as ever. He was fishing various things under his indicator to get started, while I was using my trusty tan apache fly. I was the first to land a fish, but George had hooked and lost six by the time he netted the first one, so, despite the equal scores, he had his technique nailed today.
Eventually, I figured out what he was doing. He'd "borrowed" (which in George's terms means "to take and never give back") a little size 10 damsel nymph and was casting out as far as he could, letting it sink for 10 seconds and then twitching it back with a very jerky retrieve and lots of pauses.
The fish would hit the fly as it stopped moving, or as I found, as you hung the flies at the end of the cast. Before long, I was getting a pull every cast or two and had lost a couple and landed a couple more.
In the afternoon, as usual, things became rather more challenging. George was sticking at it with the little damsel, but I was having no more luck with the technique, so switched over to a heavily weighted white apache - the same one Ellerdine's Martin Cooper had given me at The Fly Fair in February.
A few long casts to the opposite bank and a quicker retrieve led to another fish, then a couple of near misses with the others. Most of them were chasing the fly in and then taking it on the hang as it paused and dropped back down through the depths.
We ended the day with eight fish between us - four nice rainbows for me, and three for George, plus a rudd. However, as George rules dictate that the rudd are worth five points to the trout's one, I'd taken something of a beating in the competition stakes...
Final score: Matt 4, George 4.