Sunday 9th October, 2016
After a rare weekend off the fly fishing last week due to heavy rain in Wales increasing the level of the Dee to a rather un-wadable 0.81m, it was nice to be back out on the water this weekend. Today we were over in North Wales to fish the final Corwen and District Angling Club junior fly fishing day of the year at Llandegla Fishery.
At last, the weather finally felt a little autumnal and although the sun was shining, there was a little bit of ripple and the weather was feeling nice and cool, which will hopefully mean the trout starting feeding a bit more readily than of late.
Instructor Paul Ainsworth gave us some "flies" to try this week, though if you think squirmy wormies are on the boundary of acceptability, these will almost certainly breach it. They're small rubber wasp grub imitations and apparently, they slay! Given that these days are really about getting the juniors catching, we thought we'd better see if they really worked.
Of course, the only appropriate method to fish such an abomination is beneath an indicator, so that was what George tried first. It seemed to do the trick, with a couple of missed bites in the first 10 minutes, then a proper hook up. It was a good fish of a couple of pounds, neatly hooked in the scissors, and it went back quickly without being lifted from the water.
I also hooked up to another nice fish using the same method, but once it had been proven I switched back to something less controversial - an Ellerdine Enigma. George fished on with the grub for a while longer and while it worked, he didn't seem to catch many more fish than anyone else, so maybe it's not a miracle fly.
A move to the upper lake saw George into another fish on the same method, while I caught a couple on the Enigma with a slow figure eight retrieve.
However, despite the cooler weather, the fish weren't biting that readily, the sun seeming to put them in a shy mood and keeping them from feeding hard.
George had figured out it was going to be tough fishing. So while Paul, Harry and I enjoyed a sit down and a cup of coffee, George went after the roach with his klinkhamer at the top of the pool. It only took him a couple of minutes to hook up, too.
There were big shoals of fry up here with lots of smaller trout, including some colourful browns, in the shallows taking the odd fish. However, despite the abundant food on offer the trout weren't really having it.
Some of the others in the club were getting follows on their lures, but the fish were largely quite finicky. One of the older juniors, a Welsh international fly fisher, was catching well over half a dozen fish from the lower lake. So they were there, if you knew how to winkle them out.
If you live near North Wales and want to get your kids into fly fishing we'd highly recommend joining CADAC. The junior days they run throughout the year are available free to members, which in itself is amazing, but they're also expertly run by really friendly and highly qualified instructors. Paul and Harry have taught our three children a huge amount and they've all improved greatly during the year.
It was great to watch the juniors progressing. Some had barely fly fished before, progressed from simple roll casts to basic overhead casts in a matter of months and they all caught fish on pretty much every trip. Ours can't wait for the sessions to start again next spring.
Saturday 15th October, 2016
George wasn't feeling well today so I was given permission to go off on my own for a few hours, so opted for a relaxing trip to Ellerdine Lakes - and the chance to have a full English breakfast and some peace and quiet.
The conditions weren't that pleasant, as it was wet and windy, but it hadn't put off the anglers - there were about 30 of us braving the elements.
As the weather since reopening has been warm, the fishing still hasn't really taken off and it's on the challenging side. What we need are some gale force winds, driving rain and some proper winter weather to get the trout going.
I started off fishing an FNF Jelly Fritz Ellerdine Enigma along the margins of Meadow Lake but after trying a couple of different spots, it looked as it nothing was biting, so I moved to Cranymoor. Nothing was biting in the usual places here either, but a move to the top of Lakemoor got me my first fish which took the Enigma on the hang.
I spent most of the rest of the morning on Marsh Lake, fishing a combination of cormorants in a team and the Enigma. The fish were extremely shy biters today, with the bites all register as line or leader movement long before the pull was felt.
With lots of concentration I managed to end the morning with four fish, which I was quite happy with given the difficult conditions.
Sunday 16th October, 2016
George was back to his usual self today, so we popped back to Ellerdine so he could get in some practice for next week's Greys England Juniors competition. Apparently most of the fish the previous day had been taken at bottom end of Meadow, but despite having a try there, we couldn't get a bite.
Conditions were as tough as yesterday and we spent most of the time moving from spot to spot trying to find feeding fish. The top spot for us appeared to be the bottom end of Lakemoor. I was fishing an Ellerdine Enigma on a #6 intermediate line and hooked and nearly landed two fish in a row, before eventually netting the third.
While George, fishing an unweighted Enigma on a floater on the opposite bank was getting lots of plucks and also had a couple of hook ups. Eventually, the difficulty of the fishing caused him to give up on the trout and we wandered over to the children's pool so he could fly fish for the rudd instead.
As usual, it didn't take him long to start catching on the dries. His black deer's hair sedge was only on the surface for a few seconds before the rudd were queuing up to either swirl it under or take it straight off the top. Three nice fish came quickly to the bank, but he also lost one which was very big - in fact, we thought it was a trout when it started shooting off at speed.
It was a nice relaxing autumn day to be out, even if the fishing was really tough. Give it another month and some really grim weather and hopefully the fishing will be on form!
Saturday 22nd October, 2016
We were over in Llangollen today, a bit further up the River Dee than usual, getting some lessons in Czech Nymphing from Phil Ratcliffe of the Game Angling Instructors' Association (GAIA).
There was a good turn out, with about 40-50 other fly fishing and fly casting geeks, many of whom were GAIA instructors and had been on the river the previous day getting their qualifications.
Before things got started, George and I got some tips and advice from Nigel Welburn of Corwen and District Angling Club, who gave some pointers on improving our set ups and fly choices and explained where he'd expect to find the grayling.
He very kindly took away George's rod and re-rigged his set up to include a new inline indicator and a better suited selection of grayling jigs and bugs, then gave him some coaching on where to stand and how to lead the flies through the water. George picked it up pretty quick and seemed to be having a great time.
The impromptu lesson was followed by some kick sampling and a quick look at some of the prey items the grayling would currently be scoffing upon, and then Phil got going with his lesson on nymphing.
Phil gave some good tips on French leaders that we're definitely going to follow. He makes his own up from 6m tapered leaders used for carp fishing and then attaches Rio indicator tippet inline just above the main leader and droppers.
Then, once the lesson was over, Phil showed us all how it was done technique-wise and sent us all off to catch some grayling.
We fished the lower end of the beat with George fishing slightly upstream of me. The tips seemed to work, as we both had several pulls, but the fish proved a bit tricky to hook.
Unfortunately, the session was cut shorter than we'd originally planned, as George stumbled on a rock and plunged into the water! As anyone who's fallen into the water while wearing waders will know, once you've gone in, it's often rather challenging to stand up again.
Thankfully, his life jacket went off in an instant and he popped straight back up and didn't even get his head wet.
Freezing cold water did trickle down his waders though, and he was quickly shaking with cold, so we tipped the water out and trudged back to the car to strip him down and head home for some warmth... He was fine after thawing out in the car.
Sunday 23rd October, 2016
We were back at Ellerdine Lakes in Shropshire today for the Greys Junior Bank National qualifying heat. The car park was heaving because the England Youth Fly Fishing Team were also having their Captain's Day, so the place was buzzing with junior fly fishers.
After a quick chat with Charles Jardine, we got George tackled up. He'd opted for two rods today. His trusty Wychwood Truefly SLA 4# with a floating line, orange blob, buzzer and an indicator, and his Shakespeare Agility 6# with floating line and his favourite Red Rascal cat's whisker pattern.
Despite Meadow Lake being very well stocked with some excellent fish, most of the juniors were finding it tough to tempt the fish. It seemed that the first two pegs saw barely a fish caught among the dozen or so who were fishing. Eventually, George's indicator shot under and he was in.
Whatever had taken his fly certainly wasn't messing around. A huge swirl was created and his rod bent over hard. As George put on the side strain we got a glimpse of the flank and, if it wasn't a double, it certainly wasn't far off!
It shot away at speed, taking all of the line George had on the floor, but then the drag jammed on the reel. George panicked and the line went ping and snapped. He was gutted. He'd lost a similarly big fish in exactly the same spot in the same qualifying heat the previous year, too!
Lots of changes were made. The buzzers were swopped for cormorants, the Red Rascal was switched for an Ellerdine Enigma and the blob changed colour every few casts. The fish just weren't biting for George.
After lunch, George's drawn pegs were all on the windy bank of the lake, so he had a couple of hours of casting his flies into a strong headwind and retrieving them from the overhanging trees. Anglers either side of him meant that he couldn't use his usual technique of fishing the long margins of Meadow Lake, but eventually he did hook and land a fish at close range on an orange and yellow blob.
Then, on his last peg a fish took his fly the split second before the end buzzer sounded. It stayed on for a second but then shook the hook free. It could have put him in third place. Oh, well. One fish wasn't too bad, even if it could easily have been three nice ones if luck had been on his side.
Back at the lodge, we found that the two favourites from the England team - the supremely talented Harry Upton and Alex Morris - had smashed it, with Alex taking the winning spot this year and Harry in second. It was also great to see another small junior, James, taking the third place spot with two fish!
All the juniors seemed to have had an excellent time and Greys, the Angling Trust and Ellerdine all made it a great day for the youngsters.
Sunday 30th October, 2016
Another trip to Ellerdine Lakes this week - winter's barely started and we're already back into the old routine. It was a lovely autumnal day with some bright sunshine and not a lot of wind, so not exactly good conditions for fly fishing, but it was nice to be outside.
As it gets colder, cormorants and diawl bachs become a popular choice at Ellerdine, often fished on droppers behind an orange blob. Both of us started off this way and had several tentative plucks at our flies.
George was also getting the odd pull on his red rascal as he fished the margins of the lakes, but all of the bites today were extremely gentle and you had to be concentrating hard and have quick reactions to get a hook up from them.
Just before breakfast I saw a sudden sideways movement in the butt section of my slowly sinking leader, so quickly lifted the rod and the fish was on before I'd even felt the bite. For a second or two I thought I might have hooked something big, as the surprise sent it on a powerful run. It took at distance and quickly had all of my line and was being played off the drag.
I was quite surprised to see that it was only a couple of pounds, as it fought like it was twice that size. It's amazing how athletic these Ellerdine rainbows can be during the colder months! Once in the net, it turned out that it had taken the blob on the point as it was dropping through the depths, rather than the cormorant as I'd expected.
After a hot breakfast in the lodge we trudged over to the children's pool so George could get out his dry flies and fish for the rudd and roach, which were still taking insects off the top, despite the cold weather.
After a few small ones, he managed to hook into a much bigger specimen. For a moment or two he was convinced it was a small trout, but it turned out to be a really beautiful rudd and one of the biggest he's caught at Ellerdine to date.
The giant rudd was so big it needed to be netted and required two hands to hold it. George was very pleased with it. Amazing what you can catch on a dry fly at the end of October on a a cold autumnal day. It was followed up by several more, and countless others which fell off, but none matched the size of the monster.
Back on the other lakes we had a final crack at the trout before heading home after lunch. The fishing, as is often the case, got trickier around lunch time, but I did manage to pull out one more. It was another very powerful rainbow, and again it fell to the orange blob. Hedging our bets and fishing cormorants with the blob seemed to have paid off.