How to fish Llyn Brenig from the bank

Llyn Brenig in North Wales is one of the UK's best known trout fisheries and can be fished from the bank, but it's huge size makes it a daunting prospect, especially for new fly fishers.

How to fish Llyn Brenig from the bank
© Fly and Lure
How to fish Llyn Brenig from the bank
Picture copyright © Fly and Lure
How to fish Llyn Brenig from the bank
Estimated reading time 15 - 24 minutes

Where is Llyn Brenig?

Llyn Brenig (pronounced "klin" in Welsh) is a massive reservoir which lies in the middle of the Denbigh Moors between the counties of Conwy and Denbighshire.

It's a fairly high altitude fishery, being 1200 feet above sea level, which means it can have a different climate from the rest of the country. Typically this means it's ruddy freezing and blowing a gale, even in the summer.

The Nant Glyn bank near Tower Bay.

Is Llyn Brenig a natural lake?

No, Brenig was built in the mid 1970s and is used as part of the River Dee regulation system. It manages the flow of the River Dee and keeps North Wales and North Western England supplied with drinking water throughout the year.

Just down the road from Brenig lies Alwen Reservoir, which is also a trout fishery. While Brenig is fly only, you can spin and worm fish for trout at Alwen and it's stuffed with small perch.

Brenig rainbows fight like demons.

How big is Brenig?

Llyn Brenig has an area of 920 acres and holds 60 million cubic metres of water. It's enormous and has a perimeter of nine miles and is the fourth biggest lake in Wales (after Llyn Tegid, Llyn Trawsfynydd and Lake Vrynwy).

What fish are present?

Llyn Brenig is best known for its rainbow trout, which are grown on in cages in the lakes and are renowned for being in great condition and fight extremely well for their size. However, there are also huge pike present.

It's such a good fly fishery that it's previously hosted the World championships and is regularly used as a destination for competition fly fishers from across the UK. You'll often find famous fly fishers here.

George fighting a feisty Brenig rainbow trout.

Is it a difficult water to fish?

Most large reservoirs tend to be on the challenging side to tackle and Brenig isn't really any different. Arguably, Llyn Brenig is probably easier to tackle by boat, but you can also fish it from the bank and the fish are often found fairly close in, so you'll commonly find the boat anglers not far away.

Llyn Brenig stages many international fly fishing competitions - this is the Airflo Llanilar Classic.

Where do I get tickets?

If you head for the Visitor's Centre and then walk down towards the water you'll find a Fishing Shop door at the bottom of the building. There's a small tackle shop in here and the staff will be able to sell you a fishing ticket and give you some helpful tips on where to try first. It's a huge place, so there's generally plenty of room to fish if you're prepared to travel a little.

It's a huge place, so there's generally plenty of room to fish if you're prepared to travel a little. However, some of the spots closest to the car parks often have a fairly high density of anglers. 

Tickets are available from the fishing shop at the bottom of the visitors' centre.

Can I tackle it on foot?

You can tackle Brenig on foot, but you will find it useful to have a car to get around with, otherwise, you'll be confined to the few miles of bank at the dam wall end of the reservoir.

You can walk over the dam wall to the other side if the wind is bad (and it generally is) but it's a good half hour trek, so you'll need to be fit and prepared to hike.

Parking is rarely far away from the water's edge.

How do I drive around Brenig?

There's a dirt track which goes around much of Brenig's perimeter, but you can't drive the whole way round. You can do this in a normal car, but it is very bumpy and potholed in places and you'll be better off in a 4x4, especially on the Nant Glyn side of Brenig, opposite the visitors' centre.

There are passing places at various spots, but it's relatively uncommon to see anyone other than fly fishers driving around the perimeter. You can park anywhere that's not blocking the road, but be careful not to get your car stuck in the grass, otherwise, it's a long walk to seek assistance!

The track is popular with mountain bikers, walkers and their children so for their safety (and your suspension's) do drive carefully.

There are lots of places to cover on both sides of the reservoir if you are feeling adventurous and don't mind a bit of a trek. You're unlikely to see many other people, so it's a good place to come if you fancy some solitude away from the crowds.

The area to the left of the visitor's centre is a good spot for pike.

Am I allowed to target the pike?

I believe you're only supposed to intentionally target Llyn Brenig's pike from the boat and with fly only. Every year they hold a Pike Week, which allows anglers to fish with lures over six inches (so they avoid the trout) and dead baits, and there's usually a twenty caught every season. You might also catch the odd pike from the bank, too. I've had them on the oddest of flies, even nymphs!

The pike present will sometimes take a fly.

What's it like near the dam wall?

It depends on the prevailing wind. Sometimes it's sheltered, but at other times you'll be facing a howling head wind. The water is deep fairly close in and the fish often come into the bay to feed, so it can be quite a good spot for bank anglers. The whole bank between the visitor's centre and the dam wall can be pretty good, and you'll often find a row of fly fishers here.

The dam wall is a popular spot.

How big are the trout?

The trout in Brenig typically average just under two pounds, but the average size of fish in the 2016 season was much bigger, with quite a few fish over three or four pounds, as well as some much bigger ones.

They tend to be in pristine condition in general, with great quality fins a good body shape and superb athleticism. I've lost count of the amount of times I've had my fly slammed by a fish which felt massive, only to be amazed to see a two pound fish leaping clear of the water.

The trout average around the two pound mark.

Will I need waders?

Yes, like most larger lakes and reservoirs, you will need a pair of waders to fish most of Llyn Brenig. There are some places where you can fish from the shore, but backcasting space can be limited and it's often easier to get in the water to give yourself a bit of extra room. The trout are generally a little way out from the bank, so you'll need to be able to cast a reasonable distance to reach the fish too.

You will need waders to fish most parts of Llyn Brenig.

How do you get to the far side?

You used to be able to drive past the visitor's centre, go along the lane beneath the dam wall and drive up through the village and into the woodland behind Tower Bay.

However, recently the gate has been locked and now the only way to reach the opposite side of Brenig in a car is to drive all the way down towards Nant Glyn at the bottom of the lake and then take the long dirt track all the way up the side.

Just beneath Tower Bay lies Hafod Lom.

The drive can be worth it, especially if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction. There is tons of bank space to fish along the side of the lake and it tends to be much quieter than the visitor's centre side. The Tower Bay end is good, as is the shore line between here and the woods at Hafod Lom.

You can also get to the other side of the reservoir by walking over the dam. It's a surprisingly long walk and will take you a good 10-15 minutes in waders.

Where can I get Llyn Brenig fishing reports?

Llyn Brenig fishing reports are available via weekly email from the Llyn Brenig ranger. When you get your ticket, you can provide your email address to receive reports on the fishing, which includes advice on the best areas to fish and the right flies to try.

The staff at the ranger's office are also very helpful and will be happy to give you any tips and advice you need, as will any other anglers you bump into.

A cocker spaniel makes a useful leg warmer after wading at Brenig.

Where can I check for weather reports?

The listing for Llyn Brenig here on the Fly and Lure site shows the current weather conditions and a forecast for the next week, which is based on the precise location of the lake. If you want to check the BBC Weather report you need to check the report for Cerrigydrudion.

Picture copyright © Fly and Lure.

What facilities are there?

There tons of free parking for fly fishers, as well as a small tackle shop, some toilets and a good cafe. However, you'll need to be able to remove your waders to get in the cafe and you're probably likely to be miles from the toilets once you're fishing - but they're there if you need them before the drive home at the end of the day.

What sort of rod should I use?

In calmer weather, a five weight rod is fine here, but when it's windier you'll be better off with a six or seven weight. Most of the fish are two pounds or so, but they fight like fish much bigger - you will be shocked at quite how hard they pull. As such, a sturdier rod can be handy for subduing them.

Rods between #5 and #8 are ideal for Brenig.

How far will I need to cast?

This depends on where you're fishing. There are some parts of the lake, such as the bays past the Sailing Club, and some spots on the opposite shore, where the water shelves off quickly and you can cover deep water with a single false cast.

However, elsewhere, the water is often shallower and you'll benefit from being able to cast a longer line. This means it's a slightly tougher location for novice fly fishers, because the fish can often be out of a beginner's casting range.

What sort of line should I use?

Again, this depends on the conditions. The fish are often quite high up in the water, or you'll be fishing fairly shallow water, so a floating line will be fine in most cases. The dry fly fishing at Brenig can be excellent between the summer and early autumn.

When it's hot, the fish sometimes move out further and go down deeper, and they can do the same in the winter. When that happens, you'll need a sinking line of some kind. A fast intermediate line is generally OK, but a proper sinking line, like a Di 3 or Di 5 is also very helpful for getting your flies to the right depth quickly.

A fast intermediate can often get you to fish holding in deeper water.

What techniques work well at Brenig

Over the past few seasons fishing at Brenig we've had most of our success using a range of techniques. These are the main ones that have worked well for us:

Most stillwater flies work well here.

The washing line
The washing line method consists of a buoyant point fly fished on the surface and one or two other nymphs or buzzers suspended on the droppers. The Brenig rainbows will often rise to take a fly off the top, even when nothing else is rising, and the buoyant fly keeps the nymphs in the zone. A booby or big CDC and deer hair sedge works well.

Boobies on sinking lines
Boobies are very popular at big reservoirs, like Brenig. They can be fished in several ways, but the most successful is usually to use a fast intermediate or sinking line with booby on the point (pale pink with yellow eyes or black and red work well here) and an optional cruncher or two on the droppers.

Cast the booby out and countdown to let the fly sink to your desired depth, then give it a sharp tug every second or two as you retrieve. With each pull, the booby will dive down and then slowly rise back up. The Brenig trout love this and you'll often get smash takes using the method. Fan cast and countdown to different depths to find the fish.

The single lure
A single lure on a floating or intermediate line is also deadly here, as it is at any stillwater trout fishery. Small olive flies and black and green patterns are often very effective. Fishing them couldn't be easier. Just cast out and twiddle the back in using a mixture of retrieves until you find what works.

Blobs work well in conjunction with buzzers and cormorants.

Straightlined buzzers and blobs
Buzzers and cormorants can be very effective at Brenig when fished with a brightly coloured blob on the point. We favour a tequila coloured blob, but orange and pale pink or biscuit also work very well. Just cast out as far as you can, straighten the line and then let the wind take your flies as you twiddle the line back with a slow figure of eight. Get ready to have your arm pulled out of its sockets.

You'll need waders to fish Brenig.

Are there any hotspots for bank anglers?

It's a massive lake and the fish are often spread out, so you can catch anywhere. However, sometimes it does appear that the fish farmers stocking Brenig have put a lot of fresh fish in a particular area, or all the new stock has followed the food or wind.

The dam wall
The dam wall is a short walk to the right of the visitors' centre and is one of the most popular spots with bank anglers. The water in the corner is fairly deep so the fish are often only 40 feet out. If it's occupied, anywhere along this bank can fish well and it's often sheltered from the wind.

The Sailing Club
The Sailing Club is a ten minute walk to the left of the visitors' centre. It's a wide shallow bay that can fish well in the summer months. The fish are often further out though, so you'll need to wade out towards the moored boats usually.

The bays
There are some bays below the Sailing Club that fish well from the bank. Wading is tricky in places as the stones are sometimes slippery and there are some steep spots, so do wade carefully. We've had some good sport off the top here in the summer months.

Tower Bay
If you walk over the dam wall (it takes about 20 minutes) you'll reach Tower Bay. There's good fishing all along this bank but the prevailing wind means it can sometimes be tricky to cast. The corner is often good, but the shallower shore can also be great, especially if you fish parallel to the shore line.

Hafod Lom
Hafod Lom is a wooded area on the Nant Glyn side of Brenig, just down from Tower Bay. At certain times of the year, beetles hatch from the overhanging pine trees and the trout go nuts for them. There's a rocky area here which I think used to be a quarry, so there's extremely deep water in places. Worth a try with a sinking line or with buzzers on a long leader to see what may be lying beneath.

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