Saturday 11th September, 2021
George and I were over at Draycote Water in Warwickshire this weekend for the England Youth Fly Fishing Nationals. What with the Internationals in Ireland being postponed in 2020 and 2021 due to Coronavirus, there would be no team selection process this year, with George's team from 2019 carrying over. At least some of the pressure was off for the competitors.
Conditions for the practice day were not bad. It was moderately sunny, but there was plenty of ripple and a nice breeze to give us some good drifts and avoid a difficult flat calm. That said, we did find the fishing very challenging - as did most people we later found.
We tried a variety of places but eventually found the fish around A and B buoys towards the top end of the lake near Rainbow Corner. Numerous consecutive drifts saw us find fish within 40-50 feet of the buoy and then vanish, so we assumed they were hanging around some sort of food-rich underwater feature.
We struggled to catch many fish, with most other anglers facing a similar predicament, but at least we found them and had figured out what they were most interested in. Most of ours came in the top foot of water to patterns fished on a washing line, so the midge tip was the line of the day.
Sadly, a mishap with the midge tip line and the propeller led to the special line getting chopped to bits, so that put George in a sticky position for the match tomorrow... We ended up with two fish each, which suggested the Nationals were going to be hard work for the youngsters fishing.
Sunday 12th September 2021
On the morning of the Nationals, the weather had changed a bit from the previous day. It was sunny, flat, and there was barely a breeze, so things were looking very challenging.
George had opted for a floating line - in the absence of his preferred midge tip - and was fishing a yellow FAB on the point, an orange daddy on the top dropper, and a nymph on the middle dropper.
At the last minute, several very kind parents and boatmen (thank you Mike Slack, Rob Edmunds, and Sam) kindly loaned George reels and spare midge tip lines, which boosted his spirits at the last moment.
When the anglers returned at lunchtime, I was very surprised to hear that George was leading with five fish! He seemed delighted with this - and equally surprised.
He revealed that he'd opted for the same flies as earlier, but had switched out the midge tip for a 12-foot sink tip line, as he thought the sun had pushed the fish a bit deeper. It obviously did the trick, as he outfished some extremely talented and experienced anglers, most of who had caught just one or two, if any.
Based on our rough estimations, we think he may have needed just a fish or two to win the Nationals since you need to do well in both the morning heat and the afternoon heat. Sadly, he didn't do so well in the afternoon and managed to blank, while others changed methods and caught up.
Nonetheless, he did really well and had a great time - catching five fish in very challenging conditions, with many blanks and single fish among the results at the end of the match. Unfortunately, the Angling Trust has still not announced the full results, so we don't know his exact placing, but we think he came in around fourth or fifth.
I spent an enjoyable day with top competition angler Rob Edmunds, whose son Albert took the second-place spot, also with five fish. Alexander Jaffrey, who is currently on fire (following some excellent results in senior competitions), took the first place spot with five fish; while George's boat partner, Isaac Slack took the third-place position with three fish.
Sunday 19th September 2021
George and I were back at Ellerdine Lakes in Shropshire today for the first time since reopening after the summer break to meet up with friends Roy and Philippe. While the weather was pleasant for us, it was pretty poor for trout fishing, making for a challenging day.
We started on Marsh and leapfrogged each other along the bank trying to find any feeding trout. At the top corner I found a big shoal of rudd fry being smashed by predators, so started fishing a humungus into the splashes. A few casts later and I caught my first fish - a perch!
While the splashes and commotion suggested big predators, all I could catch were tiny perch. Though I did hook and lose a chunkier fish. Over on the little lake, George and Philippe were getting plenty of pulls from smaller fish, but were also struggling to catch.
Only Philippe was able to get into the fish today, with a lovely rudd taking his blob fished below an indicator. Both Roy and I connected briefly with trout on Cranymoor, but like other anglers, we struggled to tempt the trout due to the warm and sunny weather. Roll on winter...