How to fish the St. David's beat on the River Dee

The St. David's beat on the Welsh Dee is owned by Corwen and District Angling Club and lies on one of Europe's finest grayling rivers. There are few better places to spend a day on the river.

How to fish the St. David's beat on the River Dee
© Fly and Lure
How to fish the St. David's beat on the River Dee
Picture copyright © Fly and Lure
How to fish the St. David's beat on the River Dee
Estimated reading time 15 - 25 minutes

Where is the St. David's beat?

The St. David's beat of the River Dee lies about half a mile downstream of the village of Carrog in rural Denbighshire, North Wales.

It's in a very quiet rural location, but the Llangollen steam railway runs parallel to the river, so the only thing likely to disturb the peace and tranquility of your fishing is the sound of a passing steam train.

 There are few nicer places to fish anywhere in Wales.

Where do I get tickets?

This stretch is only open to members of Corwen and District Angling Club (CADAC) and day tickets are not available for this particular beat.

The club is arguably the best in the UK and offers year-round game fishing on the Welsh Dee and its tributaries. Joining CADAC gives you access to this beat and about 16 miles of prime fishing water, which makes it superb value for money.

St. David's is a really picturesque spot.

Are day tickets available anywhere on the Dee?

The St. David's beat is reserved for CADAC members and their guests and day tickets aren't available. However, there are day ticket stretches on some of CADAC's other beats.

The Crogen 1, 2 and 3 beats can be fished for £20 per day. Tickets can be purchased from Corwen Manor Angling in the nearby village of Corwen.

You need to be a member to fish St. David's but you can get day tickets on the Crogen beats.

What is the river like here?

St. David's is a long beat and includes a good variety of water. There's a mixture of glides, riffles and faster, broken water at the upstream end to slow deep pools for salmon and sea trout at the downstream end.

Water depths obviously vary with the river height, which can go up quickly and reach high levels after heavy rain, but even when water levels are low (under 65cm on the Corwen gauge) you'll be able to find deeper water where fish can be lying.

Much of the upstream section consists of riffles and broken water.

What can I expect to catch at St. David's?

The St. David's beat is most popular with grayling anglers, but you can also fish here for brown trout, sea trout and salmon. Of all the fish found here, it's probably the grayling which are most prolific, you'll probably catch more grayling here than anything else.

While there are lots of small grayling here, there are also some bigger ones. My best is only an average fish of about a pound, but I'm reliably informed that there's a spot here which regularly reveals much bigger specimen sized fish.

The grayling fishing here is as good as it gets.

Are many salmon caught on this beat?

Apparently, quite a few salmon do get caught at St. David's. In the early winter months, we've fished here and seen several big salmon leaping here. I hooked and landed a 15 pound cock fish accidentally while grayling fishing recently!

There are deeper pools towards the downstream end of St. David's that can't easily be fished with a fly rod and it's definitely around here that the fish seem to congregate. Their splashes sound like boulders being thrown into the water.

Dad caught a salmon this big!

How good is the grayling fishing?

The grayling fishing is second to none. The River Dee in Wales is regarded as one of the best grayling rivers in Europe. It has hosted the Hanak European Grayling Festival for several years and hundreds of Europe's top river fly fishers come here to target the plentiful and often large grayling. In the last Festival, anglers landed over 1500 grayling from the Dee!

There are some nice grayling in this stretch.

Are there many trout in this beat?

There are quite a few smaller and medium sized browns here, but they're significantly outnumbered by the plentiful grayling. The beat is also a popular one with sea trout anglers, though we've never caught anything over a pound yet. Sea trout anglers are allowed to fish here until 3am.

The browns here are outnumbered by grayling.

How safe is the wading at St. David's?

The Welsh Dee is notorious in the fly fishing community for being a challenging and potentially dangerous river to wade. There are lots of big rocks cunningly placed to make you trip over them, the currents can be strong, there are big holes that can appear from nowhere and the rocks often feel like they've been coated in grease.

Thankfully, the St. David's beat is one of the easier stretches to wade, but you still need to be very careful in places. I have not found it yet, but I am told there is a massive hole in one area of this beat into which you can fall if you're not careful. The river bed can also change following periods of heavy rain, so do take care.

Wear good wading boots fitted with plenty of wading boot studs to give you a firmer grip, use a wading staff, and consider wearing a life jacket. If in doubt, stay in the shallower water and avoid the faster currents which can easily knock you off your feet.

Wearing a life jacket is sensible on the Welsh Dee.

How do I get there?

This is a fairly easy beat to find, even if you're not local. If you drive to the village of Carrog you'll eventually come to a big stone bridge which crosses the Dee and you'll see The Grouse Inn opposite. Simply turn right up the single track lane and keep driving for a quarter of a mile or so until you find a small layby at the side of the road. This is the upper limit.

To get to the lower limit parking, keep driving up the lane until you pass the building called St. David's and follow the road around. You'll eventually come to a corner with a gate on the right hand side. Get out, open the gate, drive into the field and park, then shut the gate.

Top tips on how to find St. David's.

Where can I park?

There are two parking places on the St. David's beat. The first one is in a layby on the road side as you head up the single-track lane from Carrog downstream towards the lower end of the beat. There's room here for a couple of cars and you don't need a four wheel drive, so it tends to be our preferred spot.

At the lower end of the beat, there's parking in the field and there's room for quite a few cars. I'd recommend only parking in here in the summer months when the ground is hard, as we've got stuck before. You'll probably be fine in an SUV though.

Oops! Try not to get stuck in the field, like me... It's quite hard to get out.

Where does the beat start and end?

The upper limit of the beat is adjacent to the parking spaces roughly in line with the fence. You'll see a CADAC sign here indicating the end of the beat and the start of a beat owned by another fly fishing club - Pen Y Bont.

The lower limit is quite a long way downstream and is again marked by a CADAC sign on one of the trees. The lower end of the beat can really only be fished by salmon or grayling anglers who are spinning or worming, as there's very little room to cast due to the surrounding trees. However, there is an open area at the end of the trees.

You're only allowed to fish from the left hand bank looking downstream and should avoid wading towards the other side to avoid encroaching on Pen Y Bont's water.

The red line marks the St. David's beat.

How do I find the beat?

If you're parking at the upper limit, just climb over the stile and you'll find yourself on the river. If you're at the lower limit parking, walk upstream, open the gate and head upriver through the field of sheep until you find somewhere to fish. If you're fishing for salmon or sea trout, the deeper pools can be found towards the bottom end of the beat.

Wading is tricky at the top of the beat due to the rocky river bed.

How can I tell if the river will be fishable before I set off?

If you use Twitter, you can follow the Corwen river level gauge by following a bot called @riverlevel_0899. This bot checks the river level periodically and posts a Tweet showing a graph of the recent river levels. It's really handy and saves a wasted journey if it's been dry at home but wet in Carrog.

Follow @riverlevel_0899 to get updates on the river level in Corwen.

What river level should I be aiming for?

A level of about 70cm on the Corwen river level gauge is generally fairly safe on this stretch. Any higher and I'd be inclined to the from the margins or even the bank. The good thing about St. David's is that there's an area where you can fish safely, even when the water level is a bit high.

When can I fish this stretch of the Welsh Dee?

The beat is open for fishing all year round, but there are specific season rules to which you need to adhere. You can fish for brown trout on fly-only between March 3rd and September 30th. You can fish for grayling between June 16th and March 4th.

If you're targeting grayling, you have to fish with fly only between June 16th and October 17th, but between October 18th and March 3rd, you're also allowed to trot for them using worms.

Sea trout can be fished for between March 20th and June 16th using fly only, but you're allowed to target them on spinners and worms as well between June 16th and September 30th when the season ends.

The salmon season is from March 3rd to October 17th. It's fly only between March 3rd and May 31st, but you can also spin for salmon between June 1st and June 15th, and you can use fly, worm or spinner between June 16th and September 30th. The salmon season ends on October 17th, and you can fish with fly, spinner or bait between the end of September and the end of the season.

St. David's fishes well all year round.

Can I trot for grayling on this section?

Yes, you can trot for grayling here with worm, but not maggots, between October 18th and March 2nd. You're only allowed to fish worms that are trotted and you need to use hooks smaller than size 12 and line no heavier than 6lb.

There are often good grayling in the margins at St. David's.

What is the fishing like at the upper limit?

The upper limit of the St. David's beat lies next to the Pen Y Bont beat and consists of faster riffles and broken water. The bottom here is rocky and wading can be a bit tricky, but there are often some nice grayling hanging around in the seams and near the rocks. It's often a good spot to fish dries and you'll often see fish rising here in the summer months.

The upper limit of the beat can be great for fishing dries in the summer.

What techniques are best for grayling?

Following a couple of fantastic lessons from other club members, we've been using a mixture of dry fly, swinging spiders and French nymphing here and all of them have been very successful.

We're far from experts at river fishing, but most of our fish have been caught using these methods. George has also had plenty of bites by fishing squirmy wormies beneath an indicator!

There are plenty of little grayling here.

Is there room for many anglers at St. David's?

Yes, this is a spacious beat with plenty of room. We always give other anglers as much room as possible, and it's rare to see more than one other angler here, but it comfortably accommodates many more. The beat is often used for CADAC's excellent tuition days when there's often a dozen people fishing.

The St. David's beat is used for CADAC's annual casting instruction days.

Where should I start?

Most people tend to gravitate towards the middle of the beat. If you walk through the field you'll find an open area halfway along with a steep bank and the rootball of an old tree. There's a lovely mixture of easily fished water all around you from here.

The area by the big tree stump is a good spot for swinging spiders for grayling.

Immediately opposite there's a run of faster water, there's a deeper section downstream, as well as a quieter backwater where fish often congregate and there's a deeper undercut back just upstream. The people in the know often wade upstream and then fish back across towards the undercut bank.

Towards the middle there's some faster water where smaller grayling are often found.

Are CADAC members allowed to fish upstream of St. David's?

Yes, the Pen Y Bont beat is owned by another club, but CADAC has an arrangement whereby members can fish it during the winter grayling months from October 18th to March 2nd. It's strictly a fly only stretch, but gives you lots of additional water to cover and access to the opposite bank in places.

The Pen Y Bont beat offers extra winter grayling fishing.

Where is the Pen Y Bont winter grayling beat?

The Pen Y Bont winter grayling beat is massive. It goes from the very downstream end of the St. David's beat on the opposite bank, all the way up to Carrog bridge. It's marked by the red line on the map below.

The red line shows the extra water you can fish during the winter months.

When fishing the Pen Y Bont beat you have to go down to Carrog bridge and remove one of the pegs to indicate that you're fishing the river. You can find some step by step instructions to follow on the CADAC site.

How do I join Corwen and District Angling Club?

Joining CADAC was one of the best decisions we've ever made in fly fishing. Everyone at the club is really friendly and helpful and we've made some good friends in the couple of years that we've been members.

CADAC provides access to about 16 miles of the Welsh Dee, as well as bits of the Rivers Ceirw and Alen and it's in talks to get access to the Ceiriog too. It also puts on some great events, including excellent casting instruction days and lessons on river fishing techniques from top experts.

The annual membership fee of £90 per year is a bargain, given that you can fish all day every day on some of the best river in Europe.

CADAC is one of the UK's best clubs.

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