2018 – The Fly Fishing Year We All Wish To Forget?
TFF Editor Andy Taylor spends New Years Eve Fly Fishing At Marton Heath Trout Pools in Cheshire reflecting on the ups and downs on the bank during 2018…
It’s been a long tradition of mine to wet a line on the last day of the year. It’s something I’ve done since I first started fly fishing over 30 years ago now. Back then as a teenager, I was lucky that I had my parent’s fishery to make those final casts of the year, before joining in with the New Years Eve festivities in Macclesfield. A few hours on the bank made the first few beers taste so much better. It also gave me chance to reflect on the years fishing and what I had learnt and achieved.
In recent years my New Years Eve cast has been on my local waters in and around Stafford; Seighford Lakes, Loynton Hall and Ellerdine Lakes were the venues. This year I decided to head home and wet a line at Marton Heath. 2018 has probably been my worst season as a fly angler. I’ve struggled to catch on most of the waters I’ve fished across England.
My year started with a few short trips to Carsington Water in the Peak District practising for, and then fishing, the England Qualifier. I caught a good mix of silver-tailed residents and chunky stockies on practice, with a nice brown from Brown Ale Bay too, but come match day the Fishing Gods weren’t on my side and at the end of the match I’d missed out on qualification. I decided to try again and entered the Blithfield qualifier in early June.
Over To Blithfield
June rolled in and so too the qualifier on Blithfield. Yet again I spent some short sessions practicing with my fishing pal Lyn Powell. We fished the afternoon/evening before the match and spent half the session searching both the North and South Lake in search of fish. At 7pm we were fishless. Shortly after fish started moving in and around the Sailing Club area and we caught steadily on dries and pulling two Blobs sub-surface, the latter catching quicker and this was to be my method on match day.
The draw was good for me and I shared a boat with one of my former teammates, Mike Lightfoot from the Prince Albert Angling Society team I fished for many years ago. He too had practiced the day before and we both agreed to start around the Sailing Club area. It proved to be the right decision with both of us qualifying for the National Final at Grafham Water in September. This proved to be my best day on the big waters in 2018; it was one of those red-letter days where we had takes, follows, fish, double hook-ups, we couldn’t go wrong. We had over 40 fish to the boat that day- superb top-of-the-water sport.
The Angling Trust Six-Man Team Competition
At the end of the month I headed to Eyebrook with the Pitsford Pirates to fish the new Angling Trust six-man team competition. This was an excellent competition. The format was superb and all those who entered enjoyed the two days afloat in some tough fishing conditions. It was good to see BT Sports cover this event capturing all that is good about competition fly fishing. The fishing was tough with the fish lying deep- those anglers who had the Booby Basher fly line were successful- those who didn’t struggled!
The Welsh Dee
The heat wave kicked in soon afterwards and that put paid to my stillwater fishing. I now moved to the Welsh Dee at Llangollen for some pleasure fishing before trying my hand at the final Rivers National Qualifier in early July. This was the first time I’d fished for the River Qualifier for three or four years and it was good to get back into the groove again. I didn’t qualify but it brought back the fascination and interest I had in river fishing again. I learnt so much on this day, catching good grayling in fast shallow water on big dry sedge patterns, tempting the ‘sippers’ from the glides on small CDC dries on fine leaders and bugging the shallow runs with olives to catch those wily grayling.
National Final At Grafham Water
September saw me head to Grafham Water to practice, and then fish, the England National. The fishing was tough- not surprising given the summer we had experienced. My three practice sessions (these were three full days out in the boat) resulted in scores of three, blank and three. First day of the match I shared a boat with fellow TFF contributor Nick Dunn we fished hard with Nick bringing one to the boat whilst I managed three. This put me in 35th after day one. Day two was even trickier and after a long day afloat in some windy conditions I managed just one fish and missed out on qualifying for England.
As autumn kicked in I returned to the Dee to fish the qualifiers for the 2019 National. This time I was more successful making the qualification placing’s in both qualifiers. Following this I tried my luck at the New Year Match at Elinor Trout Fishery organised by Iain Barr at the end of December. My luck was in, and with a good draw, I managed to catch nine trout from five pegs to win this competition and a cheque for £550!
New Years Eve At Marton Heath
So as I made my final casts of 2018 at Marton I reflected on the year I’d had. On the whole it was a tricky year but the latter months made up for the difficult season that 2018 had become. With the thermometer in my car reading 10 degrees Celsius it felt more like October rather than the last day of December.
I tackled up my 10ft 7-wt Wychwood RS with a floating line and 14ft leader with three flies, a Cormorant on the top dropper, a Pheasant Tail variant in the middle and my ever-reliable Cat variant on the point. After one hour searching the depths and different pegs on two of the lakes I was fishless. I moved to the top lake known as Woodside to see if I could tempt a final rainbow for 2018. A few fish showed here so I decided to take off the beaded Cat and put a lightweight Apps Worm on the point. My luck changed and in the last hour I managed nine great trout on the Apps and Pheasant Tail nymph fished fast, high in the water. It seemed I’d spent most of the short session fishing too deep and too slow.
It was a great way to finish the year. Our small waters offer some superb fishing now and all the way through to the early spring. Please support them, as 2018 for many fisheries was a terrible year.
So what will 2019 hold? For me I have the Bank National semi final to look forward to in March and the Rivers National Final on the Dee in July. In between I pray for a long cool spring where we get the chance to catch plenty of feeding trout on natural patterns, with fly hatches like we used to experience many years ago. Tight Lines to you all for 2019.
Andy is the Features Editor of Today’s FlyFisher.com following three years as Editor of Total FlyFisher. Andy is a multi-capped England International in both loch-style and bank disciplines. A qualified instructor and lecturer, Andy has a wealth of fishery management experience.