Where is Ellerdine Lakes?
Ellerdine Lakes, as the name suggests lies in the rural village of Ellerdine, a few miles from the picturesque village of Hodnet in the Shropshire countryside.
Its location means it draws fly fishers from the midlands, Wales, and Cheshire, but its reputation as one of the best still water fly fisheries in the country means that people from across the UK travel for the top quality fishing on offer here.
How many lakes does it have?
There are four main lakes: Meadow (the largest lake and the one you'll drive past as you enter), Cranymoor (located behind the lodge), Lakemoor (to the left of the lodge) and Marsh (to the far right of the lodge).
However, there's also a small lake specifically dedicated to young fly fishers - and from which grown ups are banned.
There are probably about five acres of lakes in all, but the layout and trees dotted around the fishery make it feel much bigger. You could explore them all during a day trip, but it's still big enough not to be boring and big enough to give you a bit of solitude if you want it.
Is it any good?
Trout Fisherman rated Ellerdine Lakes as one of the Top 20 fly fishing venues in the UK in 2015, and it's been in their Top 100 for a few years. Total Fly Fishing also awarded it a major prize recently.
It's got a very good reputation within the fly fishing community and it draws anglers from all over the country - often including big name anglers. We frequently see England and Wales International fly fishers here and we've even bumped into Charles Jardine in the lodge.
Does it get busy?
It can get a bit busy at times, and that's probably the one drawback with Ellerdine (for anglers, that is). When the fishing is really good there can sometimes be 30-35 anglers fishing here. Though maybe 10-20 is typical for a weekend. Boxing Day 2015 saw 70 anglers fish the lakes. Generally it's not an issue, though.
Although it can fill up a bit, there's plenty of space, and there are four (or five, if you're under 14) lakes to spread out across. So although there might be lots of people around it rarely becomes an issue finding somewhere to fish. There's usually no need to book, unless you want to fish on Boxing Day, perhaps.
What's the lodge like?
Ellerdine's lodge is superb - without doubt the best I've seen at any fly fishery. It's only a couple of years old, so still looks like new.
There's a lovely veranda outside with plenty of seats where you can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and chat to the friendly locals to find out what flies and techniques are working.
Inside there are loads of places to sit, some comfy armchairs where you can warm yourself by the wood burning stove when it's cold, stacks of fly fishing magazines to read.
There's an urn so you can make yourself a free cup of tea or coffee, there's a great little kitchen so you can have a cooked breakfast or lunch and there's a brilliant little tackle shop, which sells everything from rods, to clothing and flies.
The staff are friendly and are all extremely competent fly fishers themselves (to International level) so you know you'll get excellent advice to put you in the best chance of catching fish.
How's the food?
We can highly recommend the sausage sandwiches and the full English looks delicious. There's always a regular flow of people having breakfast and lunch cooked at the lodge and they even do a Christmas dinner for one of the local fishing clubs.
Hot food is available up until 3pm every day and they prefer it if you book your meal upon arrival so they can bring down your food from the farm. There's an urn where you can make yourself a free cup of tea or coffee to warm up, too. There's frequently free cake on offer too!
Is it open all year?
No, unlike many other fisheries which remain open during the hot summer period, Ellerdine shuts down. It doesn't fish well when the weather is hot and it gives the staff plenty of time to maintain the lakes without disturbing anglers.
This year it closed down for a couple of months between mid July and early September, during which time weed was removed, lakes deepened and banks reinforced, new paths put in and some new stock ponds dug out to hold specimen rainbow and brown trout to grow on.
Can you fish during winter?
Meadow, Lakemoor and Cranymoor all have aerators installed which keep areas of the lakes ice free, so there's usually enough room to fish. In exceptionally cold weather, you might find parts of the lakes inaccessible due to ice. However, that's no different to most other lakes and at least Ellerdine's aerators mean you'll be able to fish somewhere. It's only really an issue if the lakes are particularly busy, though.
What are the water conditions like?
The local soil means that the water at Ellerdine isn't crystal clear. There's usually a bit of colour in all of the lakes, however, that doesn't impact the ability of the trout to feed well. You can still see the fish in many places, so it doesn't affect fishing too much.
Are other fish present?
Like many fly fisheries, there are also some coarse fish present in the lakes. We catch perch on almost every trip (often because George intentionally tries to catch them) and there are also some nice roach in the lakes, which often take small dry flies. We've also spotted the odd carp.
Besides very good stocks of extremely high quality rainbow and brown trout, there are also some cracking tiger trout and recently some Arctic charr. From time to time, some very nice resident browns are caught, especially during the winter months.
How hard is the fishing?
We're novices with only a few years' fly fishing experience but we generally catch a few fish on most visits, but there are times when we have blanked.
Other more competent anglers frequently catch double digit quantities of fish here, so it's possibly to catch plenty if you're more proficient than we are.
If you're a beginner, it's worth mentioning it to the staff when you arrive. They'll often come out and lend you a hand and try to help you catch a fish.
Rod averages vary according to the time of the year and the weather conditions, but you can check Ellerdine's Facebook page for recent reports, which get posted almost every day.
Do the fish fight hard?
Oh, yes! It's not a great idea to fish here with light tippet. You will certainly be broken off. Even the smaller trout here are 2-3 lb and they seem to fight like trout several times heavier.
I'd say 6 lb tippet ought to be the minimum, heavier if you want to remove the risk of being snapped off entirely. Double figure fish are caught every day here and we've seen several fish banked up to around 18 or 19 pounds, so fishing with heavier tippet is a sensible precaution.
Is Ellerdine good for children?
Ellerdine has a great attitude towards getting children into fly fishing - the owner's children are all very competent fishers and one is on the England Youth Fly Fishing Team. Not only do children fish here for free with a paying adult, they can also fish for a fiver if you're not fishing (and accompany them).
The staff are very encouraging to children, which is brilliant for keeping their interest up when the fish aren't biting for them.
Early in 2015 they opened up an old stock pond and turned it into a lake dedicated to junior anglers. The smaller, younger, more naive fish in here were just what George needed to boost his confidence at catching and playing trout.
He's definitely had plenty of practice, getting into double figures on numerous visits, and topping the leaderboard in the catch returns book a few times - which really made his day.
He even managed to find a big old brown trout in the children's lake during one visit, which the staff didn't even know to be present in the lake.
What's the quality of the fish like?
I've been very impressed with the quality of Ellerdine's fish. Almost without exception they're in great shape, with great fins, lovely colours and a good shape.
The average size of fish here is probably 2-3 lb I reckon. Very rarely might you catch one smaller than that, and there are also plenty of 4-6 pound fish too, and more double figure fish than you're likely to see at most venues.
I've smashed my previous personal bests numerous times over the season I've been fishing at Ellerdine, with lots of fish around double figures, and several larger fish tipping the scales at a few pounds over.
There's at least one double figure fish caught almost every time I visit, and sometimes there are several, so if you want to catch a double figure trout it's one of the best places to go to increase your chances.
What gear will I need to fish Ellerdine?
Rod wise you'll want a five or six weight, though a four weight might suffice for dries in summer if it has the backbone to handle a bigger fish. Bring some strong leader and tippet - or buy some in the shop - as you'll need it!
The water is not especially deep, so a floating line will put you onto the fish all year round, though some of the regulars who fish lures frequently will often use a midge tip line or a slow intermediate.
A decent landing net is a must. There's a strong chance of catching a large trout here and you may struggle to get it into a standard trout landing net, so bring something larger and sturdier if you can.
It's bank fishing only and you shouldn't wade as the banks are slippery and slope off quickly into deeper water. Walking boots or wellingtons are a good idea, especially in winter, as the banks can sometimes get rather muddy.
If you're fishing with a child, they must wear glasses and a hat for safety reasons.
Are there any known hot spots?
Fish can be caught pretty much anywhere at Ellerdine, but each of the lakes has a few pegs where your chances of catching fish are often higher than in others.
Meadow Lake is the biggest lake and sits immediately in front of the lodge. The most popular and productive spots on this lake tend to be the pegs closest to the lodge. Sit outside the lodge with a cup of tea for 15 minutes and you'll invariably see someone hook up here.
When the prevailing wind is blowing the waves against the far side of Meadow (furthest from the track) the trout follow the food into the margins. Fishing close into the bank on this side can be very effective.
Lakemoor's hotspot is at the bottom end of the lake, closest to the lodge. There's a bed of reeds here where trout feed and you can cast to them from either side of the lake. Lures, buzzers, egg flies and pretty much anything can work well here.
On Cranymoor it tends to be the bottom bank, facing the childrens' pool, which fishes best. The corners can be excellent and there are generally fish around the island. Lures can work very well when fished along the margins, too.
Marsh Lake is the least fished of Ellerdine's lakes. My favourite spot on here are the corner by the top of the row of conifers, where trout often hug the bank and take lures fished deep and parallel to the bank.
The main bay at the very far end of Marsh can also fish very well, especially when it's windy, as can the area around the reeds.
What flies work well at Ellerdine?
It varies a bit according to the season and the weather, but there are a number of classic flies that work really well at Ellerdine at certain times.
Top flies here are: Cormorants, buzzers, Yellow dancers, the Ellerdine Enigma, black leeches, orange egg flies, orange blobs, Diawl Bachs and Blue flash damsels. Put one of these on, at pretty much any time of the year, and you should catch a fish.
If you're not sure what to use, check the catch returns book when you arrive (it's located on the table on the left hand side when you enter the lodge) and see what was working the day before, or ask Paul or Edward when you buy your ticket. They'll be able to advise you on what flies to pick, and can equip you with any missing from your fly box.
Is it hard to find?
No, if you put the postcode in your sat nav it should guide you to Ellerdine Hall Farm. Once you're there, slowly follow the road through until you see the sign at the top of the dirt track.
Follow the track for a half a mile or so and you'll drive alongside the lakes. The track can be a bit bumpy, so don't go too quickly. There's plenty of parking in front of the lodge and to the sides.
Where do I get my tickets?
Once you've arrived, go into the lodge and turn left to enter the tackle shop. You can buy your tickets in here before you start fishing. If you want a hot breakfast or sandwich (highly recommended) it's best to book it when you arrive.
What are the natives like?
We've met some lovely people at Ellerdine - staff and anglers alike. It's a very friendly fishery and the regulars are always happy to chat, share advice and give some pointers to help you improve your catch rate. They're really encouraging to young anglers, too.
Is it expensive?
No, far from it, which is probably one of the reasons why it's so popular. Not only is it really well stocked, well run and managed by very friendly and helpful staff, they also charge very reasonable prices.
A full day sporting ticket for catch and release fly fishing costs £17 and there's no time limit, so you can fish from 8am until closing time without needing to keep an eye on your watch.
A six hour two fish ticket costs £20, a three fish eight hour ticket costs £26, while a four fish full day kill ticket costs £30. Children under 15 can fish for free with a paying adult, or for a fiver if they're accompanied by a non-angler.
It's an enjoyable place to fish, with really friendly staff and regulars and is great value for money, so we keep going back, again and again. I can't recommend Ellerdine highly enough.
Ellerdine Lakes in Shropshire is one of the UK's best small stillwater trout fisheries and stocks really high quality brown, rainbow and tiger trout. It's brilliant for beginners, intermediates and big fish hunters and is the ideal venue for children to get their first taste of fly fishing.