Fol­low the wind

Mike Thrus­sell uses a proven the­ory when tack­ling a stillwater for the first time

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents -

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

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