Saturday, October 6th, 2018
George and I were up at 5am today ready for the near two-hour drive to Draycote Water in Warwickshire, where we met England International Nick Dunn for a boat session. It's fair to say that Nick has a fair bit of experience when it comes to fly fishing - 46 years' of it in fact, plus six England caps, three gold medals, three silvers and a gold England captaincy!
The weather was not the best for us but looked quite good for the fishing. There was a strong breeze and no sunshine to put the fish down, but the constant, driving rain made it quite unpleasant for us. The temperature had also dropped a bit and was hovering around 7C when we set off towards Toft and by the time we arrived, we were soaked and already starting to get cold hands.
Nick showed us some new techniques for setting up our drift and showed us how to use the drogue with much greater precision than before. George was fishing two flies - a brown foam daddy on the point and a sparsely-tied sedgehog hopper on the dropper. The sedgehog was primarily there as a sighter for the daddy, which sits in the surface film a bit deeper and couldn't be seen, especially in the heavy rain. We did several drifts along some wind lanes to see if George could bring up any fish to his dries, but there was little sign of fish for us or any of the others out practising for the Senior Troutmasters Final on Monday.
After a few drifts, George did eventually get one to chase his pulled daddy at the end of the cast but it decided not to take the fly as it stopped moving when it neared the boat. Eventually, I did catch a fish, though it was somewhat accidental! Although conditions looked favourable, the fish just weren't on it today, so we headed back into the cafe for a hot drink and some cake. We were so wet when we arrived that Nick managed to pour almost a glassful of water out of his fly box!
In the afternoon, we headed up towards the tower and quickly managed to find the fish. They were holding in an area of flat water off the back of the aerators and were quite high in the water. George caught a great fish of several pounds using a washing line method and it put up a tremendous fight. Every drift through the area led to either a fish or a lost fish, with Nick bringing a great fish of 3.5-4 pound to the net on the second drift, which even managed to do a lap of the boat on the way in.
George was catching best here, with the biscuit fab Nick gave him proving the killer fly. At one point he hooked two fish at once, with the second fish snapping off the top dropper but leaving the lower fish still connected. I'm not sure how he'd have handled two fish with such power all of the way to the net!
The final fish of the day proved the best scrapper of all. All of the fish we had in the area were very good sized fish, over three pounds, but the one George lost at the end was much bigger - a good four or five, I reckon. It leapt from the water numerous times during the fight, covering great distances, but the hook eventually slipped and it came off...
Weather aside, we had a great day and learned loads from Nick. If you want to learn a bit more about fly fishing you can hire Nick's services through his guiding business Fanatical Fly Fishing. He really knows what he's doing and we picked up loads of useful advice to hopefully help us improve our skills and success on future boat trips.
Sunday, October 14th, 2018
We'd planned to go to Llyn Brenig today but Storm Callum had absolutely battered Wales and the conditions weren't looking so good for a spot so high up in the exposed Welsh hills. Instead, we got up at a leisurely pace and popped over to Treetops Fishery in Llanfynydd again.
Just like last time, we had the whole place - all eight lakes - just to ourselves. Given that it's shut during the week and only open on weekends, it's safe to say the fish don't see a lot of flies. However, today the fishing was a bit more challenging than last time, so we had to work a lot harder to get bites. George was using a Loop #5 with a Barrio GT90 line and a damsel on a 16' leader, while I was fishing a #6 Loop Cross SX with an Orvis Bank Shot line and an 18' leader with three damsels.
George did get some interest within the first few casts on the top lake, but he couldn't get the fish to stick. I had a fish bow wave after the flies, but they just weren't biting with the confidence (or stupidity) we'd experienced on our previous trip. On the next lake down the hill, George hooked his first fish after his damsel was slammed by a good fish as he perfectly presented his fly just beneath the overhanging trees.
The damsels eventually got me a fish too, when a long cast to the middle of the lake and a 20-second countdown led to a twitch in the line which indicated a fish had picked up one of the damsels. My fish sped off to the opposite side of the lake, quickly putting it onto the reel which made it tricky to keep up with.
The rest of the morning proved trickier. We tried a range of methods, from straight lined buzzers and nymphs to the washing line and tiny dries, but most of the bites came to damsels and larger patterns that were being pulled. George managed a few hookups on his orange snake, while I nabbed my final fish on a puddle bug fished below an indicator, just after everything seemed to go quiet.
Saturday 20th October, 2018
George and I headed over to Flintshire today to try a new fishery to us, Wal Goch in Nannerch, where we met up with some friends we'd met at previous Junior Troutmasters Finals - Matthew (13) and his uncle Stuart.
Matthew has fished Wal Goch quite a lot over the years and said that today's conditions weren't that great, with the water level several feet lower than usual and the water very clear. We started off on the bottom end of the lake but, apart from one follow for Matthew, we didn't see any fish. Given that you could see the lake bed all the way across, we figured we were fishing in the wrong place.
Upon relocating to the top end of the lake, where the wind was blowing, we found the fish. It only took a few cats before all of us were getting interest in a variety of different flies, as long as they were pulled quickly a foot or so below the surface. As the water was so clear, it was great fun to watch the fish lock onto the fly and then chase it back to the shore, but it was harder to get them to actually bite.
Eventually, Matthew hooked and landed a lovely trout after a fly change to something pink (I think) turned the follows into more positive takes. It put up an excellent scrap and went back unharmed after a quick photo.
We were all getting the odd follow and nip, but the fish weren't really taking the flies confidently and would often stop following as they neared the bank. A fly change would often get them chasing again, with anything from blue flash damsels, red rascals, yellow dancers and tan Apaches attracting their attention. Finally, I managed to hook one on a puddle bug I was twitching back after I persuaded the following trout to take it by letting the fly drop, which George fought for me.
By lunchtime the fish had gone off the feed, so we headed home, but we had a great morning and the fishing turned out to be much better than the conditions suggested it would be and the company was great.
Sunday 22nd October 2018
Something of a sad day today, for it was the last Corwen and District Angling Club junior coaching day of the year. Apart from when George has been away competing, we've been to every one for the past few years and coach Paul Ainsworth has taught him loads. He absolutely loves these weekends.
Conditions were looking OK, fishing wise, with a cloudy grey sky keeping the sun away. George and I spent the first half hour fishing nymphs and damsels, but apart from a couple of quick snatches we didn't get much interest and both changed over to straight lining buzzers and blobs. I was using two lightweight buzzers on the droppers and an FNF Jelly Fritz blob in atomic yellow on the point, while George had gone for something nearly identical. Within five minutes, I lost two fish and hooked and landed two, first a rainbow, then a lovely brownie.
On the top lake, we quickly found the fish again. We were making long 70-80' casts to the opposite side and fishing the bank upon which the wind was blowing. Leaving the flies static about 10' from the opposite bank was all that was needed. After a few minutes, the line would twitch to indicate that a fish had taken the fly. The hard bit was hooking them at long range, as you really had to lift hard and strike quickly to take up the inevitable slack.
The long-range buzzer and blob approach worked well for a good hour or so, resulting in four or five fish - including two three pound blues. These fought exceptionally well for their size and were incredibly athletic, giving me a real struggle to get them up to the net.
As is always the case, the fishing got tougher after lunch. George was trying his luck on the opposite bank by fishing a snake fly in conjunction with a pair of diawl bachs. An odd combination, if you asked me, but it seemed to work. After a series of follows, George eventually hooked a fish after dibbling the diawl bachs, resulting in a very feisty tiger trout!
George also picked up his Level 6 Angling Trust CAST Award today after two years of training from Paul. Paul's been a great help in teaching George (and me) how to fly fish and fly cast better and it's great to see that some of it has sunk in!
Paul's formally retiring from his junior coaching duties next year, with Gary Hedges and myself taking the helm once we're both qualified. Until then, Paul will be passing on his coaching skills to us and showing us how it's done! If you've got juniors who want free coaching, why not bring them along when the sessions start again next spring?
Saturday 28th October 2018
Pitsford Water has been fishing really well in recent weeks and some fantastic brown trout have been captured, so when Nick Dunn offered to show us around the reservoir with the hope of catching one, we jumped at the chance. Pitsford's in rural Northamptonshire, so it's a two-hour plus drive from Cheshire, but we still managed to arrive comfortably just after eight and were on the water by nine.
Although it was a beautiful autumnal morning, the temperature had fallen suddenly overnight and there had been a heavy frost, leaving the boat seats frozen with drops of rain. As we motored off through the tunnel under the causeway which separates the two sides of the reservoir, we could see the other end was looking quite fishy. We set up our first drifts halfway up the lake over a weed bed about 30-40m from the shore, with both of us fishing a humungous on an intermediate line, but it wasn't until we moved up to the sailing club bays that we found the fish, with me hooking into a brown of 2-3 pounds fairly soon after starting.
The wind was changing direction quite often, so we were motoring back in towards the shallows and drifting over the weed beds until the water got too deep and then repeating the process. We'd now switched to sinking lines - George on a Di3 and me on a Di5 - and were changing between humungous and small minkie patterns. The fish weren't biting often, but when they did they generally took the fly very confidently, so we didn't lose too many of them. After a few drifts, George hooked a lovely rainbow, which put up an excellent fight.
While I was busy taking a picture of George's bending rod, my line shot off too, with my static humungous being taken by something I was struggling to stop. As it got nearer the boat we figured out why. It was a chunky three-pound trout, but the hook had gone into the fish's back making it a challenge to turn and tire. After a frenetic battle, Nick scooped the net under the fish for me.
The technique was working well. Nearly every time we quietly motored into the bank and then drifted back out over the weed beds we'd generally get a pull. Most of the banks along the shore upon which the sailing club sits led to some action, with another lovely brown taking the fly by late morning.
A drift along the dam wall also led to some solid pulls, this time on a perch coloured version of the Los Roques minnow that Nick had lent me. I managed to miss the first couple of fish, as did George but did eventually catch a rainbow on the pattern at the very end of the drift. By now, the wind was picking up and, what with an air temperature of 3 degrees and the rain starting to set in, we were starting to feel the cold! We decided to move over to a more sheltered spot to try another technique and try and escape the cold for a while.
After watching some killer shrimps in the margins, George opted for a lesson from Nick in how to fish this pattern. He used a couple of hare's ear shrimps tied on size 10-12 Kamasan B175 hooks and fished them washing line style, with a sunburst FAB on the point. A long cast then lengthy slow pulls were the winning method, with several fish taking unsuccessful grabs at the flies, before the line eventually went solid as we drifted over an area where we could see some fry topping. Much to our surprise, the fish wasn't the brownie we'd thought it was, but a pike of 4-5 pounds, and George's first ever one on the fly. Amazingly, it had taken a hare's ear shrimp.
As the day drew on, the weather got worse and worse, with the rain and cold really setting in, making us all very uncomfortable. By now, we were struggling to feel our fingers which was making fishing and casting harder and harder. I've lost count of the amount of times I whacked Nick and George in the head or back with my fly, which I will partly blame on the cold! (Plus my inability to cast a shooting head in a straight line while sitting side saddle. Sorry, Nick!)
Despite the weather, we had a terrific day and caught some stunning fish. If you've not fished Pitsford before and want a guide to show you around, check out Nick Dunn at Fanatical Fly Fishing. He knew exactly where to go and what to try and taught us everything we need to know to get back out on this water again.