Monday May 1st, 2017
The whole family were out with us today. They'd be forgiven for not knowing it was summer at Llyn Brenig in Denbighshire, North Wales, though. It was windy and really, really chilly. After twenty minutes of wading in the windswept waters both George and I were bitterly cold and our fingers were numb.
For the first hour, we battled a raging head wind and fished a mixture of lures on intermediate lines and buzzers and blobs on floaters without a touch. Then, the wind suddenly dropped, giving us a chance to change gear and tactics slightly.
First, I managed to get a fish to rise for an F fly, but missed it, then I eventually hooked up to a nice trout on a blue flash damsel fished very slowly on the floater. Given that it was only a couple of pounds, it put up an impressive fight that left me with arm ache. Brenig trout really do seem to fight exceptionally hard and their fins are always in top condition.
After stopping for some lunch and a mug of hot chocolate cooked up on the Jet Boil, we got back to the fishing, feeling much warmer than when we stopped. This time trying the point the left-hand side of the visitor's centre.
The water here is shallower and there's a rock and gravel bottom that slopes away slowly, making it possible to wade out a little further. You do need to wade a bit here, as the high rushes in the grassland that meets the shore makes backcasting a real pain.
The wind at the point was less fierce than it was by the dam wall, so casting was easier and we spotted a few fish swirling at the surface. George was suffering from the cold, so had resorted to fishing a blob beneath an indicator and wasn't getting much luck, while I was trying anything and everything to see if I could get a pull.
A switch to a beige apache fly led to the first fish from this spot. Like the one taken by the dam wall, it had fallen for a fly fished on a floater and left to sink for a few seconds and then slowly twiddled back with a figure eight retrieve. Again, it fought seriously hard for a two-pound fish. It was a master at avoiding the net and my arm was actually aching so much I had to swap arms midway through the battle!
After losing the lucky fly to the tall grasses behind, I had to switch to the closest thing I had left in the box, which was a small brown nymph on a size 10 hook. After a long cast straight out in front of me and a very slow retrieve, it was hit by something. However, whereas trout usually run when they hit the fly, this stopped still and then shook its head from side to side. Clearly, it wasn't a trout.
After a few minutes of powerful fighting, and even a little tail walking, a lovely dark brown pike was in the net. The little brown nymph was a surprisingly long way inside its mouth, which made unhooking it with trout forceps slightly challenging. After George had taken a quick picture of its teeth and then missed the opportunity to take a snap of me holding it, it had leapt back and swum off.
Final score: Matt 3 (2 trout, 1 pike), George 0.
Saturday, May 6th, 2017
George went to play at his friend's farm today and granddad took the other two children out, so after mowing the lawns and washing the wife's filthy car, I was given permission to do a spot of solo fishing. As Meadow Fishery in Mickle Trafford is only 15 minutes away, I figured that was my best bet, so went there for a short three-hour session.
Given that there are three lakes and there were only three of us fishing there was certainly plenty of room. I started on the bottom lake and worked my way around trying a few casts with a lure from most of the pegs and then moving on. I barely saw a fish here, so headed to the middle lake, which tends to fish well most of the time.
The water, as usual at Meadow, was crystal clear but I couldn't see any fish or signs of movement in most of the spots I tried - apart from an eel which swam past and some courting sticklebacks in the margins.
Eventually, I stumbled across a few fish moving and cast over them and spooked about a dozen. Clearly, they were shoaled up and I was right on top of them. The brown marabou Apache lure I've been favouring recently resulted in one fish, then two others, all within the space of about 15 minutes!
Eventually, the fish got wise or moved away, and it took me another hour to realise that I wasn't going to catch again, so I headed further round the lake. This seemed to work as I had another hookup but lost it. After that, it became much harder and nothing really seemed to be interested in my flies, and I spent a while changing depths, patterns, retrieves and spots but had no further luck.
In the final half hour of the session, I tried the top bank which lies alongside the upper pool and found the shoal again. They seemed to be feeding on emergers as I could see them top-and-tailing with their dorsals breaking the surface as they took food just below. However, my attempts to fool them with emerger patterns and a washing line set up proved fruitless, so I headed home.
Sunday, May 7th, 2017
The weather was warm, sunny and beautiful in Llandegla, North Wales today for the second Corwen and District Angling Club junior day of the year. You'd think it would bring the young anglers out, but George had the coaches - Paul and Harry - all to himself today.
He started off on the bottom lake fishing a tequila blob under an indicator and had a pull in the first 15 minutes. Meanwhile, I was using the brown apache fly again and hooked a nice rainbow by the weed beds, followed by another, moments later. This triggered shouts across the lakes and accusations that I was fishing some kind of monstrosity!
The warmer and sunnier it got, the deeper the fish went and the harder it became to coax them to take a fly. Paul was fishing the Klink and Dink technique on the bottom lake and hooked a lovely brown, which put up an excellent account of itself. It took the Dink part of his set up, so we figured we'd try the same technique and see if we could catch using it.
I missed a couple of chances as fish came up for the Dink, but after twenty minutes it looked like they were relatively uninterested, so I switched back to the lure. This led to fish number three - this time a blue trout of about three pounds - but then the fish just turned off. For a couple of hours, we barely had a bite, so George turned his attention to the rudd and received some lovely Griffith's Gnats from Paul to tempt them with.
As the swirling wind was making casting a bit tricky, we decided to have a sit-down and fish the indicators for a while and see if these chamois worm things work. While they didn't lead to a huge amount of action, we both had a couple of pulls and eventually, George hooked into a nice three-pound rainbow, so they definitely work!
Final score: Matt 3, George 1 (plus some rudd)
Saturday, May 13th, 2017
Today George and I were fishing in a Cancer Research charity match at Westlow Mere in Congleton, Cheshire. The event, which has been running for a few years, is put on by Coppenhall Fly Fishers, which puts on stillwater fly fishing matches every month each year.
Unfortunately, heavy traffic and then a sat nav which tried to re-route us through the middle of nowhere, meant we arrived half an hour later than anticipated and everyone else was already fishing by the time we reached the bank! Fortunately, we'd pre-booked and the club had saved us a peg, conveniently located at the bottom of the path, so we were quickly in action.
Westlow Mere's car parks were packed with cars and there were 50 pegs with fly fishers from all over the place, including several England internationals at junior and senior levels.
In our first peg, we managed to spot a few nice rainbows cruising around and I managed to get a follow from one, but no action. George had the same luck, despite the two anglers to our right catching a fish a piece. We also got to see some very big tench sifting through the sandy substrate.
On the next pegs, further along "The Deeps", it proved that our floating lines probably weren't the best choice. An angler a couple along from us was fishing a fast sinking Di 7 line and roly-polying his white leech back to the shore quickly. He managed three or four fish in a peg or two.
It looked like the anglers all around the lake were pushing the fish out further and deeper, so if you could wade out a bit and put a long sinking line out, you could get among the fish. By lunchtime, we'd still not even had a pull. It was really tough going.
After a great lunch and a chat with some friends from Ellerdine Lakes and Corwen and District Angling Club, we headed back to our afternoon pegs, which were based on the far side of the deeps, followed by the shallows, ending on the point.
Our bad luck continued on these pegs, with neither of us able to get a touch, despite changing methods and fishing as far out and as deep as we could. At least the weather and company was lovely though, and we were having fun trying, even if we were both getting a bit frustrated by the trickiness of the fishing.
We'd not really fished the shallow end of Westlow that much before, but we could see that there were lots of fish moving in this area, with a few of them rising for the lake olives which were hatching off in dribs and drabs in the warm afternoon sun.
Chris, the friendly fly fisher next to us, managed a couple on Shipman's Buzzers, so I tried an F fly. I had a refusal, which is better than nothing, but the fish still evaded both of us.
Our final peg was back in the deeps. An angler further round the corner from us managed a couple of rainbows, again on a sinking line, but we had no bites - until the last two minutes.
When I'd virtually given up on all hope of getting a pull, my damsel was grabbed on the hang but managed to come off. So, when the final horn went, we had to hand in a blank score card. Oh, well. Disappointing, but still a nice day out.
It was nice to see it won by an Ellerdine regular too - England Youth Team member Alex Morris, who went home with a rod and lots of other bits and pieces. He later shared his tips with George and I and said that static FABs on a Di 3 sinking line gave him most of his fish.
Cast out, let the line sink, leave the FABs static and then give the line a tug once every minute or so. The fish apparently take the fly just after you move it. It definitely worked, as Alex had nine fish to the method!
We didn't go home empty-handed though. Even with a blank scorecard, George managed to win a lovely Veniard's Cock Cape to tie some new flies with, as well as a new Scierra cap, and two donations from other prize winners - including a handful of snake flies and a two-hour fly casting lesson with none other than GAIA instructor Paul Ainsworth!
Final score: Double blank...
Sunday, May 14th, 2017
George's older brother, Henry, asked if he could go out for a little fish this afternoon, so the two of us picked up some of our light lure rods and wandered down to the local canal for a half hour of spinning for perch.
Henry used to lure fish when he was very small, but doesn't really have the passion for fishing that George does, so it's rare that he asks. We had a nice walk for a mile or so up the canal and found a few perchy looking spots to try.
Henry was using a little two-inch crankbait on his Abu Vendetta spinning rod and, seeing as he's not used a fixed spool for some time, remembered how to cast without too many problems. I was fishing a little Mepps spinner and some tiny paddletail shads on my ultra light rod.
Unfortunately, neither of us had a bite, but we did only fish for a short time due to Henry's short attention span! That said, it was a lovely way to spend the afternoon and enjoy the sunshine.
Saturday, 20th May, 2017
In the past few years since we moved from the Yorkshire Dales to rural Cheshire and first found Ellerdine Lakes, I don't think we've gone more than a few weeks between visits when it's been open. However, what with club days and competitions it's been a couple of months since we last visited, so today's trip felt like going home.
The lakes looked as lovely as ever and there were so many big fish making their presence known. We started on Lakemoor, with me on the brown apache fly that I'm favouring at the moment, and George trying out a pink egg fly he bought from Paul in the shop when we arrived.
After missing a couple of pulls on the hang and George missing a bob of the indicator, I was into the first fish after about 15 minutes. It pulled like a train, given that it was only a few pounds.
After trying the margins of the other lakes and getting the odd yank on the line, but no fish, we decided to try the children's pool before stopping for breakfast and to escape the rain. Fellow Junior Troutmasters competitor Archie was also fishing the pool and had caught a couple of nice rainbows so was helpfully sharing tips with George on what was working. While George managed to drop a couple of nice trout, the rudd didn't get away and seemed to like the egg fly.
After being fortified by the usual excellent breakfast we tried the top end of Lakemoor again. There were several fish moving around here, including some really big ones, but after both hooking up we figured we'd spooked the fish so moved over to Cranymoor to rest the spot before returning later.
On Cranymoor I managed to hook a cracking rainbow of about four pounds while stripping back the apache at great speed after casting parallel to the bank. It was a pristine specimen with stunning finnage and it fought brilliantly.
A lap of Cranymoor later we returned to Lakemoor to have another crack at the fish in the corner. While I was concentrating on my fishing, George shouted across the lake that he was into a big fish. Like most of the big ones at Ellerdine, it was initially staying out of view, with only the odd massive boil on the surface an indication that it was something more unusual.
The big rainbow gave George the run around for a good five minutes before we got it anywhere near the net, but eventually we managed to scoop it up, let it recover and then take a very quick snap before returning it. George was delighted - the scales said it was between six and seven pounds, so quite a decent fish. It spooked some even bigger ones on the way in, too!
After a cup of tea to calm his nerves, George opted to try the far corner of Cranymoor. While I was working the margins with my lure again, George stuck at it with the egg fly and, again, the silence and birdsong was disrupted by a shout of "aaaghhh, Dad!". I turned to see George hooked up and all of the line on the floor shooting out of the rings.
In seconds all of the loose line had gone, and his entire 125 foot fly line (a Barrio GT 125 competition line) was pulled off the reel at great speed, despite a surprisingly tight drag. The size of the bow-wave this thing created was immense, and I've no doubt that it was a really good double! Unfortunately, it managed to get from the margins to the gap between Cranymoor's islands in barely any time at all, where it then managed to slip the hook.
While I was a bit gutted for George, he said he was relieved as it was "too big" for him to handle! Coincidentally, it's not the first time he's lost a really big fish in exactly the same spot... Maybe one day he'll finally catch the big one there.
Losses and rain showers aside, we had a superb day and caught some stunning and hard fighting fish. Hopefully, the gap between our next trips won't be so long.
Final score: George 3, Matt 2.
Sunday, 21st May, 2017
Henry once again asked to go out fishing so we planned a trip to the Rivers Alwen and Ceirw in deepest Conwy. Amazingly, he was up before I was and raring to go and we'd arrived in the car park at The Goat Inn by nine.
Unfortunately, we found the directions to the beat somewhat confusing and spent a whole hour walking up and down the main road looking for the white building with the gate we were supposed to follow for access through its field to the river. It wasn't until we were about to try another beat that Henry suggested we walk out of the top of the car park and up the lane when we finally found the gate!
There's a steep hill to navigate down to the river but it's absolutely stunning. It's very overgrown with trees and vegetation, so really does feel like wild fishing and casting is not exactly easy. We fished the Ceirw first, trying a few different tactics in each pool before heading down to the junction of the Alwen.
We saw a few fish rising but couldn't get close enough to them or find enough casting space to get a fly anywhere near. At the junction, we spotted another fish rising freely in the deeper water at the head of the pool, but it was too wary and wise to go near our flies.
The bottom of the Alwen is particularly lovely and we found another couple of fish rising here. The rocks are like butter and there are patches of soft mud, so you need to be very careful when walking through the river.
I made the mistake of wading in the top of the junction and slipped down the bank of the pool. Only an overhanging branch prevented me from going under, which Henry found much more amusing than I did!
Fortunately, both of us managed to stay dry. As Henry's attention span was starting to wane after an hour or two of fishing, we decided to head back, but we'll definitely be trying this lovely stretch again.
Tuesday, 23rd May, 2017
I had a rare day off work today, so popped over to Chirk in between the school runs to get some peace and quiet and enjoy the beautiful summery weather. There was only myself and one other angler fishing when I arrived, and he left after an hour so I had the place to myself.
There were flies everywhere. I've never seen so many caddis flies - they were actually getting quite irritating walking all over my arms, neck and face. The trout were rising freely for them, but it was surprisingly hard to get them to take an artificial fly. My caddis imitations were ignored, probably because they were too pale, and my F flies didn't work, but a black deer hair caddis did! Well, once anyway.
When the sun got higher and hotter the fish stopped rising and I switched over to the brown Apache. I guess it's a fairly decent imitation for a damselfly and there were a few around, and both the trout and perch seemed to like it. I landed about half a dozen trout between a pound and four pounds, and several perch, all on the same fly.
They wanted it fairly slow today. I was using a Hardy Zephrus #5 weight with a Snowbee XS floating line, so used a version of the Apache with a black tungsten bead to help get it down a bit deeper and give it some jigging action.
It proved a good tactic and it was great fun watching the fish chasing and mouthing the fly. Spending a day in the sun in such beautiful surroundings definitely beats going to work.
Saturday, 27th May, 2017
Due to a change of plans, George and I ended up with a few spare hours, so what better way to fill it with a quick bit of fly fishing. After my reports of the session at Chirk Trout Fishery on Tuesday, George opted to try there, and we arrived just after 11.
I was testing out a new Barrio Smallstream fly line (it's brilliant) on my Hardy Zephrus #5, while George was borrowing my little Orvis Superfine Touch #4. I picked the usual tan brown apache fly, while George picked a brightly coloured orange blob.
The conditions weren't great. It was windy and squally and the trout didn't appear to be feeding like they had been on Tuesday's trip. My first fish ended up snapping me off, so I scaled up the tippet and tried again, but with no luck.
Meanwhile, George was having fun in shallow margins trying to fool the perch there. I had a try and managed to catch a few, and even had a take from an eel of all things! We counted about twenty of them relaxing in the shallows, but although inquisitive enough to take a look at the fly, none of the others decided to attack and they were very easily spooked.
We both managed several brief hook-ups to trout, but they eluded us during the session. All was not lost though, for we did have great fun catching the perch instead and Chirk is always a fun place to fish.
Monday, 29th May, 2017
George requested a trip to the Rivers Alwen and Ceirw today to see if he could catch where big brother Henry had failed. We arrived mid-morning with the valley shrouded in dense fog, parked at The Goat Inn and trekked over the hill and down the valley to see if we could find any rising fish.
This time we skipped out most of the Ceirw, which was looking very shallow indeed, despite the previous night's rain, and headed on to the Alwen to explore more of the beat Henry and I didn't cover the last time.
It really is an absolutely stunning piece of river, set in beautiful woodland. You're a long way from roads, traffic and people and all you can hear is the river and the sheep, which are on the inquisitive side. It's the perfect place to come for peace and quiet.
Casting is tricky and you obviously can't fish the entire length, but there are plenty of fishable spots and we stopped and fished at every place we could to see if we could find any trout. It didn't actually take that long. The trick was definitely to be stealthy as it's really easy to spook them.
We quietly crept up to the pools, stayed low so the fish didn't spot us and then gently cast into the running water and let the current drift everything through, keeping drag as low as possible. We hooked up to a pretty little brownie in the first twenty minutes!
The same technique got us a number of hook-ups further upriver, but we managed to lose them all as the fish cunningly took us into snags or around the rocks. However, it helped us hone our skills and I'm sure we learnt a few things that will help us catch more on future trips.