Sunday November 12th, 2017
No fishing for us last week, as I spent the end of last month in hospital, so we were both keen to get back out on the bank this weekend, with George under orders to make sure I was taking it easy.
However, the weather forecast was atrocious, so the planned expedition to Llyn Brenig was cancelled in favour of a trip to Ellerdine Lakes, where we could seek shelter by the wood burner in the lodge if conditions became too unpleasant.
We arrived just after eight to find Meadow and Marsh lakes packed with top fly fishers fishing the Angling Trust Bank Nationals. It was about 3°C, chucking it down with really cold rain and blowing a gale.
George was using a new Barrio Mallard #5 line on his Loop Evotec today to see if he preferred its action over the GT125 he usually uses, while I started off with a Barrio Midge Tip #6 on my Evotec, and we were sharing the #6 Orvis Helios with an Airflo Sixth Sense Di3 line and an #8 Evotec with a Barrio Predator line.
Clearly, most other fly fishers had stayed away due to the weather, so we had most of Cranymoor and Lakemoor to ourselves. George was fishing a blue flash damsel along the margins and could see a few fish moving and got a few pulls.
I was straight-lining buzzers on the Midge Tip in near the reeds. The wind was blowing down the lake so I cast the flies across and let the wind take them round. Nearly every cast resulted in a pull, but my reactions must have slowed down, as it took me about five misses until I eventually hooked up.
The rainbow that took my fly was clearly a clever one, as after swimming up the lake and taking all of my loose line, it decided to swim straight back at me, causing the line to go slack and the hook to slip free. After losing another fish shortly after on a white apache on the midge tip line, we popped over to the little lake to give it a blast before stopping for breakfast.
George gave the midge tip a try and fished his blue flash damsel from one side to the other. The fish in here were trickier to tempt than usual, perhaps because the sun had come out, but he eventually hooked a spritely fish which went like a rocket. Like the others in the lake at the moment, it was in impeccable condition with a great body shape and super fins, so he was very pleased.
After breakfast we tried the top end of Lakemoor. The wind had blown into the top corner and we could see a few fish moving - including some salmon! I switched over to the #8 for a while to have a proper play on the Barrio Predator lines I'd tested on the canal pike the previous day. The line was awesome and coped superbly with the wind, and eventually I hooked up to a good fish at distance. Although only a few pounds, it put up a splendid fight, especially given the size of the rod.
Back on the little lake, George was in again, this time practising his roly poly retrieve on the #8. We stayed there for quite some time, as we'd seen a few salmon and George was keen to try and catch one. The Di3 line also worked well on here and on Cranymoor, where I hooked up three times and lost them all!
We ended a tough day on four fish between us, but we'd had plenty of bites and seen a few fish moving, so it wasn't as tough as it could have been, and it was nice to be on the bank again.
Final score: Matt 1, George 3.
Sunday 19th November, 2017
For the first time in months, the river level on the Welsh Dee was low enough to make it safe for me to take George out for a spot of nymphing for grayling. We arrived at the Chain Pool beat just before nine, but it was occupied by another fly fisher, so we moved upriver to St. Davids instead.
We'd tackled up three rods. George's #5 Loop Evotec was rigged up with a squirmy wormy beneath an indicator, I was using a #5 Evotec with a Barrio Smallstream line and trio of spiders and we were sharing a #4 Evotec with three pink nymphs set up French nymph style.
The fishing was tough and we couldn't find where the grayling were hiding. I fished a number of likely looking runs and had a couple of little taps, but nothing solid. However, George did find the minnows in the margins and managed to catch one on the squirmy, putting him in the lead!
Further upriver towards the Pen-Y-Bont winter grayling beat, we tried fishing the deeper water in the margins, but again had no luck. We bumped into a friendly fly fisher from Llangollen Maelor who was practising for the forthcoming Hanak European Grayling Festival.
He shared some helpful tips (and some mints, which went down well with George) and suggested we try swinging spiders into the margins on the current, so we moved back downriver to follow his advice.
George tried swinging his flies across the river, instead of using the indicator and squirmy approach. He was casting across the river, letting the flies swing round and then twiddling them back upriver before casting again. After a few casts I heard a little shout from downriver and found a very excited George with his first ever grayling.
Although not the biggest fish in the world, George was seriously chuffed to catch not one fish on the river but two. The method seemed to be a good one, as he was getting a lot more bites than I was, suggesting the fish were probably not in the faster, deeper water in which I was fishing.
After stopping for a nice cup of tea and something to eat, we headed downriver and saw a couple of big salmon leaping clear of the water. We found a nice stretch of calmer water at the edge of a faster section where George could fish safely from the bank, and I could wade and cover several different bits of water.
For quite a while, I kept at it with the pink nymphs on the #4 Evotec, with little more than a couple of gentle pulls from grayling. Until I took a couple of steps further upriver, lengthened the leader and lobbed the flies into the faster water. Almost instantly, the line went solid and a nice fish was on.
At first, I thought it was a grayling of a pound or so, but then it suddenly started to get heavier and heavier and it was clear this was something much, much bigger. I thought it might be a massive grayling, until I saw a huge pointed tail break the surface. It was a salmon, and a pretty good sized one!
At that point, I am not sure who was more excited - me or George - but I then started to wonder how on earth I was going to land this thing on the #4 when I was using 4lb Barrio Troutcast Tippet! The Loop Evotec rod held up incredibly well. It was bent double but did an excellent job of cushioning the light tippet, and after five minutes or so, I managed to get the fish upstream of George and he netted the fish. Or, it's head anyway, as it was about three feet long!
We kept it in water in the margins to ensure it wasn't too bothered by the ordeal and could return to the important task of making baby salmon. We were intending to take a quick snap before letting it go, but while I was turning on the camera, it clearly got all of its energy back and leapt out of the net and shot up the river at about 100 mph!
George was really annoyed that we'd not managed to get a snap, but we both found it quite funny, and at least we'd looked after the fish well so any disturbance to it will hopefully have been minimal. It was certainly a day we'll both remember forever, though! And, on the plus side, George said that although he'd caught two fish to my one, the salmon meant I should win on points.
Final score: George 2, Matt 1
Sunday 26th November, 2017
It's a good job there's a cosy lodge and a warm fire at Ellerdine Lakes. After a week of unsettled cold and windy weather, the temperature had dropped to an icy 3°C. Conditions for trout fishing looked like they'd be really tough, as the wind had dropped and the sun was coming out - apart from the occasional shower of sleety rain.
We tackled up with three rods today. George was using his #5 Loop Evotec with a Barrio Mallard floating line; I was using a #6 Loop Evotec rod with a Barrio Midge Tip, and we were sharing an #8 Evotec with a Barrio Predator intermediate head, of which George has grown rather fond.
The first fish came very soon after we got started. I flicked my white apache fly out onto the water surface and started stripping the line off the reel to make my cast and it was snaffled off the top by a lovely brownie. I've had plenty of fish on the first cast before, but not many before I've actually got the line off the reel.
There were a few fish moving at the top of Meadow, which is a known hotspot at Ellerdine, and a few casts later I hooked another one but a poor hook set saw it wriggle free half way through the fight. The other fish proved tougher to entice and after half an hour in the sleet, George was suffering from frozen fingertips so we popped inside for an early cup of tea and a warm by the fire.
Once George had thawed out, we popped over to the little lake to see what was biting. There are some great quality rainbows in here being grown on for the winter as well as a few salmon, but none of them seemed interested in the flies today. George tried all the usual favourites and couldn't persuade anything to bite.
Over on Cranymoor we tried working the margins with lures. I stuck at it with the apache on the intermediate, and tried a pink and white cat's whisker, and a black and green leech, but got no interest from anything. After half an hour of chucking lures, I tried buzzers and blobs but nothing worked.
George was working through his box of flies trying to figure out what they wanted today. He'd already tried buzzers, blobs, his trusty red rascal, diawl bachs and various lures, but hadn't had a touch. As a last resort, he decided to pick a bizarre looking creation - a wiggle tail blob with a bright yellow bead head.
The wiggle tail fly certainly had an amazing action. The tail is made from chamois leather and is cut into a curl tail shape and coloured bright yellow. The slightest twiddle on the retrieve gets the tail pulsating and it looks really enticing. I'd eat it, if I were a trout.
Clearly, the trout also thought it looked good, as he was into the first fish after just a couple of casts. It was a lovely rainbow trout with great colours and spots and it fought really well, even on the #8!
Several more trout succumbed to the action of George's wiggle tail. The fish seemed to be a few feet down, probably due to the combination of the temperature and the bright sunshine, so the trick was to cast out, countdown to 20 and then slowly twiddle the fly back with a figure of eight retrueve.
Several fish at a time were queuing up to smash the fly at times. We could see them swim in from the side, and go for the fly only to miss it - perhaps deliberately - resulting in a big boil on the surface. After an hour on the pool, George had taken five good trout.
Over on the other lakes, everyone else was finding it very tough. I had a few quick fishes on Lakemoor, Meadow and Marsh but didn't get a single bite and saw few bent rods. It was one of those days when the fish were very fickle.
Even fishing static flies, like buzzers, blobs and nymphs - which can often be deadly in such conditions - resulted in absolutely no interest from the trout. I was finding it very tough going. In the end, I figured if it was this tough, we may as well just go back to the little lake so at least George could catch.Fly and Lure / YouTube.
George tied on a pink squirmy wormy under the indicator to see if he could get any more action. However, despite moving up and down the lake, trying the margins and under the trees, nothing seemed interested. Eventually, a switch to a jerky retrieve resulted in a bite.
We saw the indicator flutter but not go under. Then seconds later, a trout rose up and swallowed the bung! Thankfully, it had also taken the squirmy, but had swallowed it so gently that the bite barely registered. After a couple of minutes of zooming up and down the lake, number six was in the net.
Final score: Matt 1, George 6