Where is Westlow Mere?
Westlow Mere is based in rural Congleton in Cheshire on the site of a former sand quarry. In the many decades which have passed since it was flooded, it's become a beautiful natural looking lake which holds a good head of fish and has become a thriving trout fishery.
Unlike most stillwater fly fisheries, Westlow Mere is run by the local fly fishing club, Congleton and District Fly Fishers, who purchased the Mere from its owners in 1998. Club committee members run the water on a voluntary basis from the on-site lodge, which gives it a friendly non-commercial feel.
How big is it?
Westlow Mere is a good sized stillwater of about 18 acres, which means there's plenty of room to get away from other anglers if you want some peace and quiet. It also means you can move out of the way of the wind, if conditions are too blustery for your casting abilities.
What are conditions like?
Water here is crystal clear all year round and you can see down a good six feet or more. The Mere is divided into two distinct ends - the deeps and the shallows - which are separated by a small shallow area which is fenced off to provide a habitat for fish and wild fowl.
Is there plenty of bank space?
Yes, there's lots of room most of the way around Westlow Mere, but being a former sand quarry, the banks are steep in places and are now covered in trees and bushes. This means you'll need to steeple cast in most spots in order to prevent your flies being stolen by the undergrowth.
What fish are present?
There's a good head of stocked rainbow and brown trout, plus lots of coarse fish. We've seen some very big tench and rudd in here, too.
What gear will I need to fish at Westlow Mere?
In calmer weather, a four or five weight rod is fine for fishing dry flies here. If you're fishing bigger lures or using a sunken line, then you'll want a six or seven weight.
Will I need waders?
Waders aren't required, but you'll benefit from a pair of wellington boots. The banks are firm all the way round, so regular boots or shoes are fine most of the time, but having a pair of wellies means you can get further into the water to extend your backcasting space, which can be limited in places.
Can I fish from a boat as well as the bank?
Yes, there's a boat for hire at Westlow Mere, including a wheelie boat for anglers who are wheelchair bound. You'll need to book it one day in advance to ensure it's not taken by other anglers, though.
What techniques work well at Westlow?
It's a great water for dry fly fishing. There's plenty of natural fly life here and lots of overhanging trees, so you can generally catch fish off the top, even in colder weather.
In the deeps, the water goes down to a decent depth so you'll benefit from a fast sinking line, like a Di3 or Di5, to help you get down deeper. Lures pulled on a sinking line can be really effective, as can buoyant flies, such as FABs, popped off off the bottom in warmer weather.
One other killer technique here is to cast out a big lure, like a zonker, and leave it floating on the surface, and allow your intermediate or sinking line to slowly pull it under. The fish will often come up from the deeps below to smash it.
Are there any special rules here?
You're not allowed to fish with strike indicators at Westlow Mere, so if buzzers are your thing (and they work well here) you'll need to straight-line them or fish them on a washing line. Boobies are also not permitted.
What is the fish quality like?
The browns here have been present for a long time and are no longer stocked, so are always in superb shape. The rainbows are stocked regularly and consist of the usual "over-wintered" or "mended" fish, plus recently stocked ones.
They're of a good quality in general, but at times of the year they do sometimes carry quite a few Argulus fish lice. These have been a problem in recent years, but the club is now controlling stocking better and has a kill policy on all browns caught in the deeps, in an attempt to thin-out the fish population a bit.
Where do I get tickets?
You can buy tickets from the warehouse-like lodge upon your arrival. Since the fishery is keen to ensure the fish stocks get turned over, every ticket includes a compulsory kill element, so you'll need to take a priest and fish bag, even if you usually catch and release.
What are prices like?
Prices at Westlow Mere are very reasonable. It's just £20 a day for a two fish day ticket, with catch and release afterwards, or £25 if you want to take four fish. There are also discounts for senior citizens and juniors can fish for free. If you visit often, pick up a loyalty card to get a free session every ninth visit.
What facilities do they have?
There's a centrally heated lodge with tables and chairs where you can sit and chat with club members and other anglers and watch the telly. There's also a fridge, microwave and kettle where you can make yourself a free cup of tea or coffee.
Is it suitable for beginners or children?
Yes, Westlow Mere is a good place to get started fly fishing. The club members here are very helpful and friendly, and if you need any tips or advice, they'll offer it freely.
How do I find it?
Westlow Mere is off Giantswood Lane in Congleton, Cheshire. Follow the lane until you see the turning for the Mere, then follow the track for about a mile. The warehouse style building is the club lodge and you can park either inside or outside the gates.