Friday 3rd May, 2018
I took the day off today to head over to the River Dee in North Wales to get some peace and quiet, enjoy the countryside and try and catch a few fish. I was fishing the St. David's beat near Carrog which is a members-only stretch run by Corwen and District Angling Club and I had the place to myself. Apart from the sheep and their lambs, that is.
I'd brought a couple of rods with me: a Loop Evotec #4 rigged up with a Hends Camou french leader and a Loop Evotec #6 with a floating line to have a little crack at an early spring salmon. I thought I'd try for the salmon first and spent half an hour walking down the beat fishing as I went.
Turns out the #6 is under-gunned for chucking a salmon fly, and unsurprisingly, I didn't get a bite. I changed the leader to a 16' one of much lighter line and tied on a dry to see if I could get anything to come up. While I'd not seen a fish rise the whole time, the first cast with the dry resulted in a fish splashing at it and then swirling a second time, but flatly refusing to eat it.
At the very bottom of the beat, I fished the French leader technique with a perdigon nymph on the point and a Kieron Jenkins style FNF Chewing Gum caddis jig on the first dropper and a spider on the top. I had a few tiny plucks as I fished a crease of water near a faster stretch, and eventually caught my first fish - a 12oz grayling - as I fished the margin. The same technique slightly further along led to another, then another, then another! Though this time they were all small trout.
After the sun came out, things went quiet at the bottom of the beat, so I headed back upstream. There's a big boulder about thirty feet from the bank at St. David's and it always seems to hold fish, so I figured I'd try there first. Rather than wade in and risk spooking anything, I knelt down at the margin and lobbed in the nymphs. The first cast led to a little pull, the second produced another little trout, and the third a nice grayling!
The bites dried up near the boulder so I wandered down the bank. They weren't biting hard, but every few casts I'd get little plucks from small trout or grayling, and managed to winkle out a few more. None of them were taken more than 10 feet from the bank, proving that you don't need to wade out far or cast for miles to catch fish here - as long as you don't mind that they're only small...
The fishing got a bit tougher as it warmed up around lunch time. The odd fish was rising here or there, but it was tricky to get the fish to come up for a dry today. Nymphs, especially the perdigon, seemed to be the most popular item on the menu. I managed to get a few others out of various spots but they didn't seem to be biting as much as first thing. Although they were all on the small side, the peace and quiet - and not being in the office - was really welcome!
Final score: Matt 10
Saturday 4th May, 2018
After a really grim and prolonged winter, at least the May bank holiday has given us some good weather. Seeing as it was so nice, George and I popped over to the Rivers Alwen and Ceirw in Conwy for the morning for a spot of small stream trout fishing in what has to be one of the most stunning bits of river anywhere.
The fishing, as ever on these small rivers, was extremely challenging. The fish barely see an angler all year, so it's incredibly easy to spook them. I get the impression that they bolt for cover as soon as they see or hear you, so I guess it's unsurprising that the fishing is tricky. The overhanging trees also mean you need to be precise when casting, otherwise you'll lose your fly collection to the branches.
We walked the length of the beat, fishing at all the likely looking pools with a mixture of dries and nymphs. We saw a few fish rising and crept up on them to see if we could cast one without spooking it, but it wasn't easy to get near them. The best I managed was a rise to my dry fly, and the telltale twitch of a small fish attached. Sadly, we went home with a dry net, but not with dry clothes, as we both managed to slip and fall in! At least it meant the arduous walk back up the massive hill was a bit cooler, thanks to the water inside our waders...
Final score: Nil nil.
Sunday May 6th, 2018
We were up at six this morning for our third day of fly fishing over the bank holiday weekend. Today's venue, Llyn Brenig, was a 90 minute drive away but the lovely summery weather made it a great way to start the day. Sadly, clear blue skies and bright sunshine don't make for the best fly fishing conditions, but you can't have everything.
We started off fishing near the sailing club bays, where we often do well from the bank. George was fishing a small damsel on his floating line, while I was fishing a couple of diawl bachs on an 18' leader with a tequila blob on the point. We didn't see any signs of fish down here, and after 30 fruitless minutes, we decided to head over towards our other favourite area, the dam wall corner.
My straight-lined nymphs eventually went solid and I was into a hard-fighting Brenig rainbow. It had taken the blob on the point, rather than the nymph and was diving very deep, doing its best to try and get into the drogue trailing behind us. It's always incredible quite how hard reservoir trout fight. This one felt twice the size and I was genuinely surprised to see that it was only a couple of pounds when it hit the surface. Nonetheless, it was a cracking looking fish with well-mended fins and a really stocky profile, perhaps a sign that it's been feeding on the pellets from the nearby cages. Eventually, George managed to net it for us.
He followed mine up shortly after with another one for himself - much bigger than mine, of course! George's had also taken a tequila blob, though he'd opted to fish it six feet under an indicator instead of using a straight-lining technique. He was certainly able to spot more bits than me, as the indicator went under many more times than I detected any movement in my fly line.
The rest of the day proved really tough. It got hotter and hotter and we were feeling the effects, as were the fish, I think. Another fish eventually fell to the blob using the straight-lining technique, and I lost a very good fish in the dam wall corner again. However, I did land one final fish on a booby. We'd barely seen a rise all day, but the moment my booby landed on the top, a good fish smashed it from below! Weird, given that they'd been refusing natural looking dries all day.
After catching up for lunch with the wife and non-fishing children, who were taking grandad and the spaniel for some exercise, we gave it another bash before finally heading home, looking slightly more pink than when we'd arrived!
Final score: Matt 3, George 1.
Saturday 12th May, 2018
George and I were on the River Dee again today for Corwen and District Angling Club's annual single handed fly casting instruction day. We've been to every one since we joined a few years ago and always pick up some new tips and get to meet some of the Dee's most experienced fly fishers.
CADAC's members include a number of the country's best fly casting instructors and every year Chris Aldred, Paul Brown and Paul Ainsworth give up their time to provide tuition to members to help them improve their river casting, iron out their bad casting habits and get tips on catching more fish from the river.
Chris and the Pauls first got us practising our overhead casts and hauls, then moved on to roll casts, then roll cast pickups and finally a lesson in spey casting. George got some tips on preventing his wrist turning fault he's inherited from me, while George helped me improve my tracking and my forward haul. It's amazing what a couple of hours can do!
Once we were all knocked into shape, the flies started to hatch so we all got down to a bit of fishing. I'd seen a few grayling rise right next to me as I'd been casting in the shallows, so I tied on a small size 14 F fly and had a rise on the first cast. There seemed to be loads of fish around today. In about 20 casts, I had ten rises and two fish, before they all cleared off.
Further down the pool, I managed to hook and lose another fish to the French nymphing method, then caught a couple more using the same method in the shallows - one of which I managed to pass over to George just in time for him to land it. He too was getting plenty of interest in the F fly, even if he didn't catch. What with the weather being so good at the moment, I'd imagine we'll probably be back again soon!
Final score: Matt 4, George 0.
Saturday 19th May, 2018
George and I popped over to Carrog in North Wales this evening to fish our first ever evening hatch on the River Dee. It was a warm summery evening and the mayflies were out. There were so many of them that we could see them dancing over the road as we drove, and we splatted a lot of them against the glass. Bit difficult to tell what species they were from the splats, but some sort of Baetis we reckoned.
When we arrived at St. David's it was alive with flies. There were lots of mayfly spinners in the area, but oddly, no fish rising for them. The surface of the water was also alive with thousands of smaller flies just hovering above the rippes. Obviously, we were both fishing dries, so got started towards the top of the beat and then headed downstream.
As the light started to fade around 8.30pm, the fish started to look up and the rise started. They clearly aren't stupid (yet) and despite the abundance of flies, you still had to present the fly in a drag free drift and use mud on your leader to improve presentation. We were both using size 16 F flies and brushing them up with Frog's Fanny to keep them on top.
George took the first fish on the F fly near the boulder towards the top of the beat. It took the fly the instant it landed and put up a really good scrap. At about a pound, it was also George's new personal best and it went back quickly without being removed from the water.
I followed it up with a few more fish from the same area. Mine all took the fly immediately upstream of the boulder, where it looked like there was a little shoal of fish picking off the flies as they drifted downriver.
The fishing really picked up around 9.30, but as we'd cleverly left George's yellow glasses at home - and as he's not allowed to fish without protective eyewear - he was struggling a bit in his dark sunglasses, so we headed home before the light disappeared.
Final score: Matt 3, George 1.
Sunday 20th May, 2018
After getting back just before midnight, we were up at the crack of dawn to head off to Llandegla Trout Fishery in North Wales for another of Corwen and District Angling Club's excellent junior days. When we arrived at 9am, George's friend James had already had a four hour head start on us, having stayed the night at the fishery and started fishing at first light!
There was a good turnout of juniors again, including young Oli, who caught his first ever fish on the last session, as well as a few new faces whose parents or grandparents were club members. As ever at Llandegla, the sunny weather made the fishing much harder than usual. It's usually quite an easy fishery, so is great for juniors and beginners, but the sunshine really puts the fish down and makes them a lot harder to tempt. James got into them early on, fishing a pink snake on a Di3 line.
While there were periods when the trout were feeding from the top, especially on small black flies, they were mostly a few feet down, so blobs and chewing gum worms suspended beneath an indicator was the most productive method. While the boys went after the trout with their blobs and worms, I was messing around in the weed beds catching the rudd on a little F fly. I managed quite a few of them, including a few larger ones, which were really pretty fish.
While George and James nattered about fishing and went after the trout on both lakes using a variety of methods, I had a quick lesson in double handed casting with Paul (much harder than it looks!) and helped Oli while his dad was getting some double spey guidance. Oli and I first tried dries, but eventually switched to a blob and indicator method which brought fish number one.
While George and James were off fishing the other lake, Oli and I managed to catch several good trout. The first one came off - Oli was still getting to grips with keeping the line tight during the fight - but we made sure the second and third did not get away. He also lost several other fish, too, so has clearly got the touch! George had great fun showing him how to catch and cast, too.
Final score: Matt 7, George 1.
Monday 28th May, 2018
As it was a Bank Holiday and yesterday's planned trip to Ellerdine was postponed due to a thunderstorm, we decided to head over to Llyn Brenig to spend the day honing our loch style skills. We arrived around eight and were among only a handful of anglers fishing, which was a surprise given the weather. George treated himself to a couple of new Fulling Mill snake flies in the shop when he arrived, so we figured we'd better give them a try.
We headed over to the dam wall to start with and found lots of fish head-and-tailing at the surface, which is generally a sign they're on emerging buzzers. However, the first ten minutes of casting dries and buzzers led to zero interest. So we thought we'd give the new snake flies a quick test. George was fishing his black and yellow chain bead snake on a floater, while I was fishing a white snake booby on a Di3 Sixth Sense.
After missing a couple of pulls, I eventually hooked up into a really nice three pound fish with perfect fins, then quickly followed it up with another, which I let George pull in. A few drifts back over the same spot led to the odd pull, but no further fish, so we motored off to the sailing club bay. Thirty minutes here revealed we were probably fishing in the right place from the start, so we headed back and were quickly into the fish again.
As the sun came out and burnt off the morning mist, the fish went down deeper and deeper until eventually they'd only take if you slowly figure eighted a tiny boobie on the Di3 or fished buzzers and blobs on very long leaders. I was using a 16-18 foot leader today with a pale flesh pink blob on the point on a heavy hook and an epoxy buzzer on the dropper about 8 feet up. Cast it out, figure eight to stay in contact and every so often it would lock up and a fish would shoot off.
At one point, we managed two at once. One on the blob and one on the buzzer. Netting them both proved quite a challenge, but George was over the moon. By lunchtime, the fishing got much harder. Eventually, we got the method nailed, though. We'd motor up past the buoys 100-200m past the cages and then set up the drogue and drift back along the dam wall. On some drifts we were catching one or two fish and losing several more. It was excellent fun! We finished the day with 13 fish to the boat, which is a personal best for us at Brenig.
Final score: Matt 9, George 4.