The Sceirra Pairs Heat Llyn BrenigWayne Jones
This year’s Sceirra Pairs Final sees a return to the 900-acre Llyn Brenig in Denbighshire, North Wales, and the second to last qualifier before the final was held at the same venue Sunday 30/0820.
I hadn’t planned on entering the competition this year, but a mid-week call from The Fly Shop’s Wayne Jones explaining one angler was looking for a practise partner on the Saturday and a second angler was looking for a partner to compete with on the Sunday I soon found myself looking forward to a weekend adrift Llyn Brenig.
Having had a fishing hiatus for a couple of seasons, it had been a few years since I last fished Brenig, however during my late teens I practically lived there as I worked at the lake and spent most of my days off fishing there, so a return trip on the weekend had me wishing the midweek away.
This year has seen some unprecedented stock densities on some of our trout fishing reservoirs, with some fisheries having continued with their normal stocking schedules throughout lockdown. But Llyn Brenig quite possibly made the most unprecedented decision of all a couple of months ago – releasing some 40,000+ of its on-site reared Rainbow Trout from the cages, into the lake, with no further fresh stock to go in for the rest of the 2020 season.
Whilst filming The Heather Hatch with Wayne on Brenig a month ago I saw first-hand the fantastic quality of the hard fighting Rainbows that have gone in the lake, and with the water temperature having recovered from the recent heatwaves expectations for some good scraps were high.
My boat partner on Saturday was Rob Redman, an avid river angler that’s quickly making a name for himself chasing wild salmon and sea trout, and recently found the bug that is loch-style fishing. Arriving at the lake we were greeted with a cold and blustery North wind, not the best for dry fly fishing, but knowing it had been around 3 months since it had been last stocked, I decided to set-up with a 3 fly dry-fly cast: on the point a size 12 cdc shuttlecock, on the middle a size 12 fiery brown bits, and on the top dropper a brown foam daddy-long-legs. Rob also decided to set-up on the dries.
On a cold northerly wind, my first point of call would be up the Brenig Arm, but this area has been closed off to the public (including anglers) until further notice. Due to this, we made the decision to have 1 drift from the jetty through the moorings and then up the North End. The drift through the moorings didn’t produce a fish, so we braved the waves and headed up the North End, towards the top of the Bryn Maen bank, drifting down towards Barrow Island.
Halfway into our drift along Bryn Maen saw the first fish to the net, a 2lb trout which rolled over my middle dropper, the fiery brown bits. As we reached barrow island, a 2nd fish rolled over my middle dropper, as I struck I saw the fly come out of the water without a fish, but my line was tight, and during the fierce battle that followed I realised that I had struck the middle dropper out of the fish’s mouth, but foul-hooked it with my point fly! After 5 minutes of losing the battle against the foul hooked trout it, came off!
At the end of the long drift we met up with Mike Williams and Stuart Pickard who had a good morning by that point having had 10 fish somewhere along the west shore.
We then moved into the Ring of Stones, by which point Rob had changed to fishing two cormorants and a booby on an Airflo 12ft Fast Tip line. Fishing into the bay was quiet, but towards the end of the drift Robs line went tight, and after a solid scrap he landed a fully-finned Rainbow of around 1lb 3/4 courtesy of a black cormorant.
We then decided to try and get out of the wind somewhere along the west side of the lake and headed to water sports bay and I was back to my original fly cast, with the shuttlecock on the point. The bay wasn’t much shelter from the wind either, but we persisted to cover the bay without any action, until we got to Duck Island where I had 3 frustrating offers on my top dropper and point-fly but no fish converted!
Desperate to find somewhere calmer, we motored round behind Duck Island. It’s a shallow bay that often gets overlooked by boat anglers, but owing to fishing with Stephen Roberts he had shown me years ago how this shallow bay can hold feeding fish, and better still, some shelter!
Within 10 minutes I had landed 1 and lost a couple, and Rob lost one also, all of the fish picking out the fiery brown bits in the middle, ignoring the shuttlecock and the foam daddy. We’d seen enough there and decided to leave the feeding fish alone.
Lunchtime ashore the visitors centre to warm our skeletons, we met up with Llion Francis, my partner for the next day’s competition. He had fished the dam, cages and tower bay on pulling tactics throughout the morning, only to have 1 fish. It was evident the cold northerly was having a negative impact on the fishing, or rather, our ability to catch the fish!
Back out on the water for the afternoon saw myself and Rob fish the Quarry, Tower Bay and the Cages area on di-lines pulling large snakes and tube flies. Bar a couple of follows for Rob on a pink snake, we didn’t have a single fish for the rest of the day.
Back at the jetty it was evident that most had struggled, with many anglers agreeing that there wouldn’t be many bag-ups of 12 fish the following day.
That night I gave Wayne a call and let him know how all my fish (mostly lost fish!) ignored the shuttlecock and the Daddies, instead coming for the fiery brown bits. “In that case I know exactly the fly to try on the top dropper instead of the Daddy, I’m up at Brenig in the morning, so I’ll see you then” was his reply.
Sunday morning came and it was great to catch up in the cafe with some of the Brenig anglers I hadn’t seen in a few years. True to his word, Wayne arrived and gave me some flat back hoppers for me and my partner, Llion, to try on out top droppers.
It was still a cold northerly wind; however, it had dropped in strength and with bright sunshine.
Phil Dixon gave the 14 competing pairs the briefing before heading out. As always a hassle free briefing, seeing a safe setup on the jetty in regards to social distancing. The format for the day was 12 fish kill per pair, with added time-bonus for early bag-ups. Llion and myself decided to both fish dry flies, a size 12 fiery brown flat back hopper on the top dropper, size 12 fiery brown bits in the middle and a size 10 Big Brown on the point.
Llion and I decided to start off along the Green Bank and Tower Bay. The first 15 minutes saw nothing, but halfway along Tower Bay a fish rolled over the Flatback hopper and after the usual hard fight our first fish was in the bag. A couple of drifts further down the bank a fish rose for one of Llion’s fly which didn’t stay on the hook thanks to a thunder strike by Llion at which I was nearly in the water with laughter. We continued to fish the bay until 11:15, but with only 1 fish to the boat and not enough interest we agreed it was time to head for the bay behind Duck Island and see if the feeding fish were still there, with the plan being to see if we could land 4 fish or so there before it went quiet, to which we’d then head up towards the Bryn Maen.
There wasn’t another boat in the bay behind Duck Island, fantastic. But for the first 15 minutes the bay was dead. Luckily as it approached mid-day, the shallow bay showed the first signs of life and within a couple of casts after seeing the first fish rise, Llion had an offer on the dries, this time the strike was perfect and we had our 2nd fish in the bag.
What followed for the next 2 hours was a mixture of excitement, endless laughter between us, and some frustration towards the fish. Every drift in the bay for those 2 hours either produced a fish in our bag or a lost fish. Unfortunately, the amount of lost fished between us far exceeded the amount of fish in the bag (bad angling, or had the fish’s mouths hardened after being in the lake so long?). But by 2:30pm we had landed 5 fish a piece, and with how the bay had been fishing up to that point we were quite confident and happy that 2 more fish to the boat was soon achievable and that we would bag up with some time-bonus. Well, I’m eating humble pie as I write this. Having landed 10 fish between us and struck into twice that amount but lost them, it seemed that we had pricked the majority of the fish in the bay and it went silent!
3pm arrived, we were still on 10 fish. We ventured away from the bay (although not very far,) into maggot alley, but with a wind blowing in and another blowing out, it made presenting the dries impossible. Back in to the Duck Island bay we went, nothing. So, we headed into Water sports bay which was exposed to the cold wind. We spent 10 minutes there for nothing. We also saw Welsh International Richard Hooper in there (they were on 4 fish at the time), but no one was into any fish. So, back we went once more for the final 45 minutes into the shallow bay. During the last 45 minutes we only saw 2 fish rise, both were covered, both took the flies and were on the line, and both times the line went slack within seconds of being struck into.
It was time to head back to the jetty. At 2:30pm we felt like we had a real chance of bagging up, but now, as it was approaching 5pm all of our hopes had sunk. Coming around Sailing Club we could see boats already on the jetty, with the anglers already having packed all their gear away and sitting around the car park. Llion and I looked at each other and apologised for losing the fish we lost.
Arriving on the jetty we spoke to Richard Hooper who said we should have stayed in Water sports as moments after we left the fish began to rise and they went from 4 fish to 7 fish in the boat! Speaking to other anglers it was evident that the whole lake had been hard as nails in the cold northerly wind, with bags of 7 being the highest of those we had spoken to.
Wondering what time, the earliest bag-up had come in, we went to weigh our fish and asked Phil Dixon… there hadn’t been any bag-ups! Our 10 was the highest weigh-in so far.
Time for the results and our 10 fish had managed to take the top spot for the day, earning us a place in the final next month. It was a close call as 2nd place with 7 fish were less than 2lb behind our 10 fish in weight! Well done to Neil Thomas & Mal Capper on earning the 2nd qualifying spot for the final and commiserations to 3rd place on narrowly missing out.
Well done to Phil Dixon for another fantastically organised heat, and to all the sponsors for the prizes.