Saturday 3rd September 2016
George's granddad is lucky enough to live in a house on the banks of the beautiful upper River Aire in North Yorkshire and he owns the fishing rights to a small stretch fished by nobody apart from George and I.
For the past couple of years we've had some lovely wild brown trout out of this piece of river and, as we were spending the day in the Dales, we thought we ought to see if we could winkle out a fish or two.
There are only browns in this stretch - no grayling - and as they see so few people they're extremely easy to spook so very careful wading is required.
Our first attempt to creep up on a fish failed the first time due to some dodgy wading, but after standing still for a few minutes and then creeping slowly upstream we got within casting distance of a rising fish and managed to plonk a fly just to the side of him. It took the fly but I struck too soon and that spooked the fish, so we tried again at dusk.
Just as it was getting dark and the bats were coming out to eat the hatching flies, we quietly made it up to the pool in which the fish lie and tried our luck. Nothing was rising so we tried a worm pattern. It didn't take long to get a solid pull and a small brown of about 12oz was attached. I passed the rod to George to fight but unfortunately it fell off.
Thankfully another fish obliged and this time it was well hooked, shooting upstream at speed and heading in towards some tree roots. George did a great job of fighting it on very light tackle and eventually landed a lovely wild brown of about a pound. Not bad given that the river is about 15' wide.
Sunday 4th September, 2016
George and I were back at Llandegla Trout Fishery in Denbighshire, North Wales, on Sunday for another junior fly fishing day with Corwen and District Angling Club's coach Paul Ainsworth and Harry Carr.
The weather was on the breezy side so Lily and Henry had stayed at home with mum and only two other juniors were fishing besides George, so they all had plenty of room to explore the banks in search of fish.
Summer fly fishing isn't the easiest and it was another of those frustrating days when the fish seemed more reluctant than usual to take a fly. Eventually, one of the juniors realised that today, instead of the usual pulled lures, the trout wanted it very small and natural but twiddled back at low speed.
A switch to a tiny (for me) brown hare's ear nymph around size 14 resulted in the first fish - a rainbow of a couple of pounds, and then a switch to a couple of tiny size 16 pheasant tail buzzers with Antron breathers led to a couple more fish. Then things went quiet.
George managed to catch one nice rainbow on a buzzer, which he's hoping will earn him a place in Llandegla's Junior Troutmasters fish off next year, while I finished with about four fish, so it was tougher than usual.
At the end of the session both George and I managed to get a bit of extra casting tuition from Paul. We both had our casts fettled by Paul and his advice put a good few metres on George's casts and saw him throwing various types of pointy loop almost to order!
Saturday 10th September, 2016
My birthday today and the first weekend following Ellerdine Lakes' reopening this week, so no surprises for guessing where we headed. Edward and the team had been busy during the summer shutdown.
Not only had the usual weed clearing taken place, but new paths had been installed, the margins had also been deepened significantly and some reeds had been removed to open up some new fishing spots to try.
After catching up with Paul in the lodge, we got cracking on Meadow lake - me with an FNF Jelly Fritz Ellerdine Enigma and George with his usual Red Rascal. George had a couple of early chances at a fish not a foot from the bank, but missed them both.
Testing to see what depth the fish were at, I did a countdown with my lure and watched the line, which shot forward indicating it had been taken on-the-drop as I reached 25. Not a huge fish for Ellerdine at a couple of pounds, but definitely a strong fighter and in the usual pristine condition.
For the rest of the morning we moved from lake to lake trying various flies, but although we did get little plucks pretty much everywhere we went, the fish weren't feeding that confidently and it was therefore very easy to miss them. Most people were struggling like us.
A wander over to Marsh and a chat with one of the other returning regulars revealed that Eddie Guest was (as usual) racking up the numbers and had taken a dozen on black and green buzzers fished a foot below the surface. We tried the same thing for an hour, missed one bite and then changed back to lures...
George had a crack at the fish in the children's pool every half an hour or so. The trout in here were proving just as tricky, so he'd already given up and moved his attentions to catching the carp we could hear in the reeds. While he failed to catch those, he did get two hard fighting roach.
To end the day we went back to Marsh to fish the reed beds by the bridge. This is generally a good spot and the removal of one of the reed beds meant it was now much easier to fish than before. I tried a number of lures and buzzers with no luck, so George and I decided to sit down and fish indicators to have a rest.
After a couple of minutes my static biscuit blob was taken by an extremely powerful fish. It stayed deep and pulled hard and for a moment I thought I might have hooked a double, but a glimpse of it revealed it was only a few pounds. However, despite the weight the fight was truly spectacular.
Quite possibly the strongest trout I have ever hooked. It took all the line I'd stripped off, then some off the reel, then decided to swim back towards me. There was no way I could maintain tension by stripping the line, so my only option was to run backwards to stay in contact. It was extremely fast and seemed intent on getting under the bridge - and nearly did.
Thankfully, George prevented it from doing so by netting it from the surface by standing on the bridge about 10m back from where I was standing.
A great day, even if the fishing was tough. Roll on the freezing cold, wet weather that makes Ellerdine fish really well!
Sunday 18th September, 2016
Only enough time for a half day fish today so we opted for another trip to Ellerdine Lakes. It was a beautiful foggy, still start to the day but the sun was shining brightly and the word in the lodge was that we'd be in for a tough day.
We started on Cranymoor and Lakemoor with George fishing one lake and me on the other, only a few metres behind. He'd gone for a yellow egg fly beneath an indicator, while I was seeing whether there were any fish in the margins interested in taking my Ellerdine Enigma. There weren't, so we wandered over to the children's pool.
The plentiful roach and rudd in here were showing themselves, but there were no signs of any trout, so I'm guessing that Ed netted it when the lakes re-opened.
George wasn't bothered and was casting his size 18 Grey Duster to anything moving on the surface, eventually taking a couple of small rudd.
Over breakfast outside the lodge we chatted to another regular who'd had some success with a black Montana nymph in the shade of the trees on Marsh lake, so after devouring the sausage and bacon sandwiches cooked for us, we tried our luck.
We saw a couple of fish moving, but they didn't seem to be in the mood for our flies, so we took a walk over to Cranymoor.
By now, the sun was blazing and it was very warm. A beautiful day, but about as tough as can be for trout fishing, and unseasonably warm for what is nearly October.
We were both starting to realise we probably wouldn't catch a trout today, so decided to switch to buzzers beneath an indicator, cast them out and sit down on the bench together and have a chat.
Just as we were packing up, I started reeling in the line and immediately hooked up to a fish, which must have thought the buzzer it was watching was going to get away! A few minutes later, a few pounds of feisty rainbow trout was safely in the net!
We spent much of the afternoon back on the children's pool where the rudd and roach were now sunning themselves and taking Caenis off the top. While they were proving harder than usual to take, George was having fish going after them with his dry flies, so he still had great fun.
Sunday 24th September, 2016
We only had time for a short session today, so we popped over to Carrog in Denbighshire to fish CADAC's St. Davids beat to see if we could get George his first grayling. To avoid getting the car stuck in the field again we parked at the bottom of the beat and fished our way downstream.
George started off with a small pink squirmy wormy and was fishing off the bank to start with to avoid spooking any fish lurking in the deep water at the margins. I got straight down to the French nymphing, with a heavy Czech nymph on the bottom, a slimline nymph on the middle dropper and a small black beetle on the top dropper.
There were few fish biting at the top end, so we took a stroll further down. Apart from a few small pulls, I was having no luck and George had nearly given up, so we moved to the very bottom end where there's a stretch of water where the wading is much easier.
The fish here seemed to be much more interested, with the French nymphing resulting in lots of pulls in the faster water towards the opposite bank. Given that the Corwen depth gauge was reading around 60cm, the strength of the water in the middle of the Dee was surprisingly strong and I could easily have been knocked off my feet. Sensibly, George was wearing a life jacket and only fishing in the slow moving margins.
After missing countless small pulls as the nymphs dropped into the deeper water at the bottom of a pool, I did eventually hook up. However, despite the firm tap, it was only a small fish, but it turned out to be my first salmon!
I'd somehow imagined the experience of catching my first salmon to be an exhilarating fight that would end in a photo opportunity, but as it was only about 15cm long the fish was over in seconds and we slipped it back quickly to grow into a whopper.
George was now fishing a dry fly, a pink Klinkhamer in the margins, and he too was getting the odd pull here and there, presumably from small grayling. However, eventually, after getting his fly stuck in the overhanging trees one too many times, he opted to give up and do his bit for the club by pulling up some Himalayan Balsam instead.
This invasive plant is becoming very widespread along parts of the Dee and it chokes out other plants and dies back in winter to leave a muddy bank that is prone to erosion. The mud gets in the water and makes it unfavourable for trout, salmon and grayling too, so the club are encouraging all members to pull some up each time they're out.