Sunday, September 2nd, 2018
Fresh back from our fishing holiday in the Cotswolds, we were ushered out for a final day on the bank before we returned to work and school. Seeing as George was keen to collect his cat from its own holiday at the local cattery, we were only staying out a few hours, so popped over to one of our local venues over the border in Wales - Llandegla Fishery.
George was clearly expecting today to be a better day for targeting coarse fish on the fly rather than trout, as he'd brought his little 6' #3 rod as well as his usual 9' #5. He started by the weed beds on House Pool and was into his first fish in a matter of minutes after it took an olive organza diawl bach. I thought the #3 might be a bit under-gunned on a two-pound trout, but it coped with the fish rather well, the soft blank cushioning its lunges and allowing George to get it to the net no slower than with his usual #5.
The water at Llandegla was clearer than usual today, probably due to the recent lack of rain which can sometimes make the water a bit peaty. This meant that we saw a few fish following and even taking and rejecting the flies. I had a couple of fish take interest in my yellow blob which I was fishing with a pair of buzzers, but after getting a couple of rejections I quit and headed for the Top Pool.
My technique of straight-lining seemed to do the trick on the top lake, with the line twitching momentarily indicating that something had taken my fly. A quick strike set the hook and a very fast moving fish commenced battle. After a few minutes, we got a glimpse of a lovely blue trout, which I eventually managed to get to the net after a great scrap on the #6. Meanwhile, George had switched over to dries on the bottom lake and was into another rainbow.
Nothing was rising, so I'm not sure how he did it. Maybe his scaled down approach, light tippet and tiny flies were what was needed to bring the fish up to the surface to feed. Whatever he was doing, it was obviously working, with a couple of near misses following fish number two - as well as a bonus rudd.
A couple more fish followed for me on the top lake. It wasn't easy and the bites were few and far between, but the delicate straight-lining approach was working for me, with all the bite detection coming from closely watching the line for movement. My third fish was a really beautiful rainbow, maybe two or three pounds in weight, with spectacular markings.
George ended the day with a lovely little brown taken on a Griffith's gnat. It was on the skinny side, but had splendid markings and is going to look gorgeous when it fattens up. We finished on three trout a piece, which was good going given the weather conditions and high-ish water temperatures. However, as George had also taken the bonus rudd on the fly, he also took the winner's prize today!
Final score: Matt 3, George 4.
Sunday, September 9th, 2018
We were back at Draycote Water in Warwickshire bright and early for the England Youth Fly Fishing Nationals, in which George was competing for the first time. It's his first experience in fishing a loch style competition and, at 10, he's officially too young to get onto the team so he was really just there for the experience. However, he was fishing it like he wanted to win!
The event saw about 21 youngsters, ranging from George aged 10, right up to 17 year-olds already holding England caps competing against each other for the National Champion prize, and one of a limited number of vacant places on the England Youth Fly Fishing team. As we gathered around, it dawned on him just how much younger he was than some of the fellow competitors. George's comments of "He's taller than you Dad!" and "That boy has a beard!" put it into context, given that he still goes to primary school...
As the match started, the entrants picked a number from a hat and were paired off randomly with another competitor. George was placed with Dan Leake (about five years older and big brother of England team member Jake Leake) and a very friendly boatman called Paul. After dragging all of his kit to the boat they got set up, gathered in the harbour and then set off as the horn blew. All of the boats headed to the top end of Draycote, near Rainbow Corner, where George had caught several the previous day. It was very difficult to see what was going on at such a long distance away, so I did a little 4.5-mile lap of the lake before stopping for breakfast!
At lunch, he came back in reporting that he'd had a lot of action on a foam daddy stripped across the surface. Despite losing a few, he finished on 1 fish at 42cm and shared the tip with Dan to help him catch a fish too.
When they came back in at 5 pm, much to the boatman's amusement we heard that Dan and George had each caught fish of 43cm. Even more bizarrely, George and friend James Penwright had caught fish of equal sizes in both the morning and afternoon heats, leading some to suggest that they'd caught the same two fish!
George ranked really well overall, even beating some of the current England team. We're not sure what happened with his scoring, as his second fish shrank by 1cm during the counting process, leading to him moving down the ranks two places and his friend James getting onto the team with fish of identical sizes, but George missing out on potentially qualifying by the missing 1cm. He was gutted.
He definitely got lucky with the boatmen, though. Given that he's rather shy I was a bit worried that he may not have spoken much, but when I chatted to his boatman Paul, it transpired that George appeared to have spent the entire match sharing fishing stories with him and had a great time! Despite the disappointment, he's raring to go for the next one.
Sunday, September 16th, 2018
Ellerdine Lakes re-opened last a couple of weeks ago but we'd been away and couldn't visit, so were keen to go back to what has been our main venue since we got into fly fishing. The lakes were looking wonderful, though the hot summer weather had really made the weed grow. The staff have been hard at work pulling it out by the truckload, but there's more than usual. On the plus side, this does mean the water is very clear for Ellerdine and there will be tons of invert life in the lakes over the winter months.
We struggled a bit at first. We were fishing a variety of patterns from buzzers, cormorants and blobs to small nymphs and damsels. However, although we were getting the odd hook-up, we were losing the fish to the weed every single time. It's still early season and Ellerdine really fishes best in the grim months of winter, usually when it's chucking with rain and blowing a gale, however, it was definitely not easy fishing today.
Eventually, we managed to find some fish at the top of Lakemoor where there was a considerable area of open water that was free of weed. George had popped back into the shop to buy a little black snake fly and was getting lots of interest from rainbows and browns which would bow wave after the fly, but none of them were hitting it hard enough to get hooked. I spotted a fish rising and tied on a foam post Klinkhammer, which was taken after four or five casts. While it wasn't a huge fish, it fought well and increased our confidence a bit.
A move to the very top bay of Lakemoor revealed more feeding fish in the open water. George's snake was getting lots of follows, though the hookups were all short-lived. I'd switched to a small olive nomad which had several follows, but like George I couldn't hook them as they were merely nipping at the tail rather than slamming the fly and engulfing it. Eventually, I did manage to hook a good fish. It bow waved after the fly from a good 70-80 feet out and then hit the fly at the very last second.
It turned out to be a chunky fish. A tiger weighing in at around five pounds. The fight wasn't spectacular, but the fish was welcome and was in great condition. It's not going to be long until the weather cools down and turns nasty, so the fishing at Ellerdine should pick up dramatically then.
Sunday 23rd September 2018
We were due to be fishing with Corwen and District Angling Club at Llandegla today but 40mph winds were forecast and the session was cancelled. With more recent forecasts looking far less windy, we thought we'd pop out for the morning and try somewhere new, so headed over to Treetops Fishery in Flintshire.
This relatively unknown fishery is quite well hidden on the top of a hill and has some spectacular views and eight - yes, eight - small lakes. They're man-made, but have been there for so long that they look very natural and they're surrounded by natural trees and stuffed with flies and other invertebrates. After a quick look around, we started on the second lake from the top, with George hooking his first fish within just a few minutes.
The action was pretty much non-stop all morning on the top two lakes. The fish clearly don't see that many flies as the fishing was fairly easy, providing you used something relatively drab. We were using olive nymphs and Dawson's olives and had periods where we were catching a fish nearly every cast. As ever, we lost a few but had netted four in the first half hour.
The rain and wind were coming and going, with sunny spells putting the fish down and the onset of the squally weather bringing them back up and putting them on the feed. It was quite exciting fishing! The clear water meant that we could also see the fish chasing and eating the fly, but they were often hitting at range and were a little tricky to hook.
The winning method of the day was to fish a floating line with an 18-foot leader with a Dawson's olive on the point. A long cast and a quick retrieve would generally see a bow wave and fish hitting the fly from behind at speed, but you needed lightning fast reactions to hook every one. By the time the stormy weather arrived, we'd managed to eat lunch and catch over twenty fish, so it was a much better option than staying indoors!
Final score: Matt 11, George 10.
Sunday, September 30th, 2018
We were back at Llandegla in North Wales today for another one of Corwen and District Angling Club's excellent junior days. Club instructor, Paul Ainsworth, came bearing two amazingly generous gifts for George in the shape of a stunning box of grayling bugs and a promotion from pupil to Assistant Instructor - complete with the required badge. George seemed very chuffed with this accomplishment. "Does this mean I'm allowed to shout at people now?", he asked!
George was fishing with two rods today - the little #3 in case the rudd were feeding and the usual #6 Loop. After a few casts with a little damsel on the #3 resulting in several follows, he eventually hooked into a fish of a couple of pounds, which put up an excellent scrap on the light gear. Eventually, he brought it to the net, though not before it had made a bit for freedom by bolting to the weed beds.
The rest of the morning was a leisurely one, with not a lot of effort put in. The short bursts of fishing activity were interspersed with a bit of target practice on the grass, a few casting lessons from Paul to help stop George's wrist twist and get him to "slow it down and take the power out", and more work on getting me to improve my forward haul. We're both getting better.
I think I probably only spent about an hour fishing over the course of the whole day, and instead used it as an opportunity to chat with Paul and Harry and get some guidance on improving my casting. In the gaps in between I did manage to hook and lose a few, including a short lived hook up with a massive 22lb rainbow the fishery had stocked a few days before. It inhaled my FAB in the margin and then bow waved off before making the line go ping - the buoyant fly floating up to the surface moments later...
George managed to get his Level 5 in the Angling Trust CAST Awards and made it halfway through Level 6, having completed Level 4 earlier in the year. As part of the Level 6 training, he had to critique someone's fly casting, identify their casting faults and explain how to fix them. Given that he fishes with me, he's had a bit of practice there. Thankfully, the random fly fisher selected from the lake didn't get to hear the list of five casting faults George spotted, but at least he got a free lesson from Paul and went away with a better cast.