Blog, news and reviews from Snowdonia Fly Fishing Guides
The hawthorn fly (Bibio marci), heather fly (Bibio pomonae) and black gnat (Bibio johannis) Hatches of these terrestrial flies are fairly common here, though short lived. The first to appear in the spring in the hawthorn, or St Mark's, fly. Some years the hatches can be spectacular but seem to have diminished over the last few years.
Next up is the heather fly that usually put in an appearance, but in smaller numbers, in the middle of summer. They are just as ungainly in flight as the hawthorn fly, but are usually a little smaller and have strikingly red thighs.
Black gnats can be seen in spring, summer and autumn sometimes in impressive numbers and locally I see the biggest hatches in late September and October.
They are all an important food source for trout and grayling as they are often blown onto the water, singly or sometimes in pairs, joined in mating.
It's always a pleasure to take our friends from America out. Reid and Dylan were great company and good anglers, successfully catching several spotties and grayling. I wish them well for the rest of their holiday and a safe journey back to the U.S.
This time last year we were in the middle of a heat wave with temperatures over 15 degrees Celsius warmer than today. Whilst we've not had much rain the last few weeks and the rivers has been at summer lows, storms over the weekend lifted them significantly.. They are still high but just fishable and with plenty of fresh water and food the fish have become decidedly lively.
The images below are of a male and female large Stonefly (Plecoptera microcephala). They are very easy to tell apart as the male has tiny wings, so small he is incapable of flight, where as the female has much longer wings and has to go in search of a mate. The nymphal stage is shown in a previous post.
I bought size 18 jig hooks as I wanted to tie some small bead headed patterns. Well that didn't work out as planned!
How difficult could it be to have uniform hook sizing? For the life of me I don't know why manufacturers make it so difficult. There is no convention other the smaller the number the bigger the hook but even that is only true until size 1 after which the rules change and a 1/0 is smaller than a 2/0 which is smaller than a 3/0 etc.
To make matters worse different brands have different sizes for the same hook number. So a size 14 or 16 from company X will be different to company Y. Some manufacturers don't even seem to have a sizing convention for their own hooks. the picture below shows hooks of the same brand but different models. Confused? You're not alone.
The BL154 size 14 is clearly bigger than the size 16, that's good, but the size 18's with a different code are bigger than the size 16, that's bonkers!
When will hook suppliers come up with a sensible sizing formula for all hooks? Answer, probably never.
Bugs are the pulse of this planet, without them we would all perish very quickly, they are cleaners, pollinators and a food source for other creatures.
As I've mentioned previously insects are under great threat and we should make greater efforts to protect them. On land it's evident that they are not as prolific as they once were, but underwater they are out of sight and largely out of mind. Our aquatic invertebrates are being decimated by pollution from agriculture, industry and sewage treatment plants with a chemical cocktail that not only kills them and their eggs but also destroys the habitat they depend upon.
This cute little critter is a heptageniidae (or flat bodied stone clinger) that will mature in to a beautiful up-winged fly (mayfly). It spends most of its life clinging to the underneath of a stone in the river and cannot survive if there is too much silt or algae on the gravels that form the riverbed. They were once common on a part of the river I often fish but over the last 5 or 6 years they have become much more scarce. At the same time a dairy farm expanded its operation and is spreading large amounts of slurry onto the fields bounding the river. The nutrients and chemicals from the slurry finds it's way into the water and creates algae on the once clean gravels and fine suspended sediments that drift in the river, all of which is detrimental to aquatic life.
This little bug was carefully returned to it's watery home and I hope it gets the chance to mature, breed and sustain the fragile population that's trying desperately to survive in a man-made hostile environment.
Another satisfied customer
My client for the last couple of days had his first experience of fishing the Dee, something he's wanted to do for a long time, and it didn't disappoint.
The water levels are very low at the moment, lower even that during last years long hot summer and the river in places is on it's bones.. Finding the fish in this thin, poorly oxygenated water is challenging but thankfully I succeeded in getting him on to fish that were willing to take a well presented fly.
Thursday was a warm bright sunny day and the fishing was tough but there were a few willing to take a small nymph.
Friday was cooler and overcast and the fish were willingly taking subsurface flies and plenty rising to a dry.
Being prepared to keep moving to find the fish and recommending different tactics to catch them is all part of the job and it's very satisfying when it all comes together and clients go away happy.
The river Dee
Fishing in gin clear water to rising fish, it really doesn't get any better.
I've fished in many countries for grayling including Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia but question why I went all that way and spent a bucket of money when some of the best grayling fishing in stunning countryside is on my doorstep.
Grayling Society skills day
A skills day I recently organised for Grayling Society members saw a pretty good turnout with almost 40 people attending. Members were able to learn a number of different casting skills and fishing techniques including tenkara, trotting, nymphing dry fly and wet fly fishing.
Images courtesy of Rob Hartley
I had the pleasure to guide Vince this morning, he's over from America visiting family and wanted a morning on the river.
It started off cold and windy and it didn't get any better, a bitter cold upstream wind kept the fish low. It was a slow start but as the sun made an appearance things improved. Vince had never caught a grayling before so was pleased to add a couple to his catch catalogue, but his pièce de résistance was a G&T, a grayling and trout caught at the same time. The spotty took the spider on the dropper and a grayling grabbed the bead headed nymph on the point. Needless to say Vince was more than a little pleased with this result.
Well done Vince.
It's the grayling closed season at the moment and no responsible anglers will be targetting them deliberately. But the Dee is a river famed for its grayling and catching them whilst fishing for brown trout is almost inevitable as they share many of the same habitats and food sources.
Today the weather was even worse than yesterday with very heavy snow for a time that turned to sleet late morning and finally stopped by mid afternoon. The fishing was really tough and I only managed to catch a couple of grayling, and missed a couple of other fish. The guys I was with faired little better and between three of us we only caught 10 fish.
River Dee 'spottie'
On Monday I was walking the dogs up on the moors in a tee shirt. Two days later it was -3c and I was brushing an inch of snow from the car before setting off for a day on the river with my mate Karl. The weather added an hour to the journey and we tackled up in driving sleet and a biting cold north easterly. The first hour was pretty depressing, cold, wet and no fish! Towards lunchtime the temperature and my spirits lifted slightly as I started catching a few. I felt sure this lovely little wild brownie was a sewin when I hooked it as it spent more time in the air than in the water and putting a lovely bend in my fibreglass rod.
The day ended with very weak watery sun, but it was enough to see a hatch and catch a couple on a dry fly. So a very enjoyable, if cold day, with my final tally being 14 fish caught and safely released and of course a few that got away.
Well the weather here is still dreadful, but not unusual for this time of year. It has been raining heavily, really heavily, for several days and blowing a gale. I was supposed to be on the river tomorrow but there's no chance of that now, it's best fished when the gauge is showing a height of around 300mm, it's still fishable at 450mm but downright hairy at 600mm. The gauge is currently showing 2330mm and still rising.
The mountains have water cascading down them in waterfalls and the moors are saturated with floodwater turning tracks into temporary rivers. Even the dogs are reluctant to go out in it.
So it's back to the vice to tie some more flies, well what else is there to do!
In my last post I said I was using up stocks of wild bird feathers and wouldn't use them again once my current stock is gone. Well rummaging through my boxes of materials I think I've got enough to last me for this lifetime and the next :0(
I've been using a golden plover skin today an old friend gave me as his eyesight is failing and hands are not as steady as they once were.
Below are a few of the spiders I've tied today on size 12 or 14 hooks.
Well the rivers are too high and fast to fish and the lake trout season doesn't start until next week. So to kill a bit of time I've been at the vice tying spiders. Not that I need any more, I've tied dozens of them over the winter.
Most wild birds are seeing dramatic declines in their numbers so I'm using up stocks of wild bird capes and instead will only use farmed birds in future. The top two pictures are various spider patterns but I've used a Chevron Hackles, Sunburst, hen cape for the hackle on all of them.
The bottom two have a golden plover hackle, available from Cookshill, and a Krystal Flash rib over a grey dubbing body.
I hope to take them for a swim at the weekend.
A well know fly fishing guide and instructor John can often be found fishing or guiding on the Welsh Dee or passing his knowledge to others at game fairs and country shows.
Guided fly fishing trips on rivers, streams and upland lakes in Snowdonia. and surrounding areas of North Wales.
Fishing for summer & winter grayling and wild brown trout.in the spectacular, tranquil countryside that is Snowdonia National Park.
Fly fishing and casting lessons for beginners. Casting fault analysis, single handed spey, slack line and presentation casting tuition for more experienced fly fishers.
Develop your watercraft skills on freestone rivers and upland lakes.