Follow the wind
Mike Thrussell uses a proven theory when tackling a stillwater for the first time
DUG initially in the early 1900s as an estate lake, Wal Goch Fishery is set in the beautiful steep-sided Nannerch valley in Flintshire, North Wales, a mix of farmland and woods. The lake is between three and four acres in size, has a wooded island and is surrounded by a mix of trees, open areas backing on to steep pasture, but with long stretches of lakeside reeds that provide the perfect habitat for trout and wildlife. It’s mostly shallow, being between three and six-feet, the shallowest areas being the western end. I’m also told it is high in insect life. I park the car a little before 9am, but already two other anglers are plying their trade and I see one rod already bent into a fish. The forecast is for a mostly sunny day, but with an increasing wind. Making my way down and eager to start, yet conscious this is a new water to me, I look along the westward bank initially just to see how the wind filters over the lake and for any concentrations of fish on the surface. The wind blows west to east and there’s nothing on the surface on the lake’s west side. I assume the fish are following the wind, pushing up into the narrower east end and it’s here I try first. My polarised sunglasses reveal deeper water on the north bank at the eastern end, so I fish on the south bank, casting back towards the opposite bank to cover that deeper water due to the bright conditions. This allows me to draw the fly back towards me up a shallowing incline, which is always a prime area for hungry trout to hunt. It’s a longish, but still comfortable cast. The remnants of past weed growth is easily seen and I anticipate fish will run the gaps between these clumps. I set up a 5wt rod with sink-tip line, given the bright sun and very clear water. This gets the fly that bit deeper and works it back up the shallowing incline. My leader is 12 feet in length consisting of eight feet of 8lb fluorocarbon, then a tippet ring and four feet of 6lb fluorocarbon. This provides good turnover in the swirling wind, and easy tippet change to suit the fish and the conditions, or add a dropper if need be. I grab a little wet mud from the
bankside and run leader and tippet through this to degrease it so it sinks immediately. When fishing waters for the first time, I stick to proven fly patterns. I opt for a size 12 Goldhead Damsel variant with a lively marabou tail. A couple of fish turn on the surface, so I’m fairly confident.
Cast across the wind
I cast out to the deep water in front of me, but with no interest so then cast across the wind. Speeding up the retrieve I feel that sudden tightening of the line and rod tip, setting the hook into a lively fish that bores straight for a weed clump. Applying pressure, I anticipate a leap into the air, but this fish stays in the water, making short runs, then sulking. It’s a hard-fighting fish around 2lb. Fishing to my left is local angler Paul Boulton, a Wal Goch regular from Nannerch. His rod bends into a fish and I cheekily walked over with the camera. He’s happy to oblige, eventually netting another prime Wal Goch trout, a little bigger than mine. He says it’s a consistent and well-run fishery, always with a warm welcome. It produces to a variety of tactics through the season with Black Buzzers very effective, especially in the deeper areas along the north bank. It’s a good dry fly water too, especially during summer and autumn evenings after 4pm when the sun edges down behind the trees. Even though it’s shallow overall, having both a floating line and slow intermediate covers most options if you’re new to the lake. He’d had fish to 5lb in the past but seen bigger caught. The wind picks up making the fish more casual and less interested, leading to frustrating plucks and pulls, but no hook-ups. Should I drop tippet diameter? Instead, I shorten the marabou with my fingers to avoid tail nips and soon hook a fish which I release as it’s the smallest so far. The fish though, have definitely gone off, so I move to get a feel for more of the lake. I take up station among reeds at the shallower west end. There’s a short back cast due to trees, but I get a decent line out. Third cast, I hook and lose a fish that bores to the bottom and spits the hook. It’s my only take and there are no fish showing on the surface. I head back to the eastern end, but this time fish the north bank directly into the deeper water.
Chop and change
The wind is quite strong and sideways now and fish are on the surface. I switch to a floating line and run a couple of nymphs across the wind to no avail. I chop and change with no reward, but then the wind drops and a few fish work the south bank where it shallows. Sticking with the floating line, I change to a size 16 Goldhead Black Nymph and drop this where the incline begins to rise on the opposite side. Half a dozen casts later the rod tip folds over as a decent fish eats the fly, feels the hook and bores off at speed to my right. It heads for very shallow water and it takes heavy side strain to turn the fish. This is a good scrap, and the rainbow uses all its efforts to shed the hook, but it eventually turns on its side and slides into the net. A fish over 2lb. Trout concentrate in a small area of water at this eastern end, plus there are three anglers all fairly close together now fishing much the same water. The fish see the same flies over and over, so I change mine regularly. Next up, a Goldhead Pearl White Warrior. It’s a tatty, well-used fly. A startling white new one might be too much in the clear water. This takes another rainbow as I work it back into deep water from the incline. I rest the water and have a sandwich. This ‘rest’ can also help bring fish back on if
“After a few seconds a savage take nearly rips the rod from my too casual grasp. It’s a powerful fish, moving first to the left, then right, well upwind.”
you’ve been constantly casting from the same static position. The wind picks up. I see two fish turn inside the eastern end of the bay tight to the shallow water. Changing to a small Goldhead Black Nymph I fire a long cast towards where I’d seen movement. I count down eight seconds, then slowly twitch the fly back, pause, and twitch it again. After a few seconds a savage take nearly rips the rod from my too casual grasp, and whatever’s on the end bores across the bay taking me into the backing. It’s a powerful fish, moving first to the left, then fully right well upwind of me, then all the way back again. It shows on the surface and looks a better fish. Once netted, it’s obviously around 3lb. Two other anglers still fish much the same water, so I walk back to the car, fetch a 4wt rod, and fish the last hour mid-way along the north bank. Returning to the same trimmed-back Damsel I started with, I cast towards the island where I see a decaying weedbed run vertically into deeper water. Plopping the Damsel along the edge of the weed I see the flash of a trout’s flank as it turns and intercepts the fly – another fish around 2lb. It felt good on the 4wt, and I made a mental note that when I return to Wal Goch to always have the 9ft 4wt with me, especially for the dry fly fishing and for the harder access areas. With the reeds to contend with in places, I’d also suggest you take a long-handled landing net to help reach the fish from the bank as there is no wading permitted. On the day, with bright sunshine and strong wind, it was not always easy fishing, but I found Wal Goch great fun, especially having to constantly adjust to the changing conditions and being rewarded with some hard-fighting fish. Wal Goch, hidden secretively in the Nannerch Valley, is typical of so many smaller fisheries, often only known to the locals and by word of mouth, but offering excellent sport amongst idyllic surroundings. It’s a well-stocked, friendly fishery that really appeals.
Expect fullyspotted, hardfighting rainbows.
Almost all the rainbows were at least 2lb, and chunky too.
Mike plays a Wal Goch rainbow hooked in front of a bed of reeds.
Black Nymph Goldhead Variant (dressed scruffy) Hook: Size 16 Hayabusa 31550 All Purpose Medium Head: 3mm gold bead Thread: Uni 8/0, black Tail: Small pinch of black hackle fibres Rib: Fine silver wire Body: Black Lite-Brite
Damsel Nymph Goldhead variant Hook: Size 12 Hayabusa 31550 All Purpose Medium Head: 3.5mm gold bead Thread: Uni 6/0, green Tail: Green marabou Rib: Fine silver wire Body: Green seal’s fur substitute Thorax: One turn of fine green chenille
Pearl White Warrior Goldhead variant Hook: Size 14 Hayabusa 31550 All Purpose Medium Head: 3.5mm gold bead Thread: Uni 6/0, white Tail: White marabou Body: Mike Martinek’s Sidelight Silver plus 2 coats of nail varnish