It was the night before my first ever major fly fishing competition, I was reading up and doing the last little bits of research of the fishery. One of the most impressive aspects of Ellerdine Lakes is how it is heavily involved on social media, and through a great website fly forum I was able to look through in depth catch records from over a year ago! These reports were top quality, in depth and with photos! It also featured images of the lakes being stocked. One of the many reasons why Ellerdine Lakes is at a different level of excellence compared to other still water fisheries. There was some banter on there as well with the other fisherman.
With my research done and also speaking with the owner and one of the regulars I had my tactics in mind, and my game plan was set for the following day. One last check through all my fly fishing tackle, rigs and flies I tried to get a few hours sleep but the butterflies and the excitement were doing there best to keep me up all night.
I managed to stay over in Wexham the night before so I only had an hours drive to the venue, leaving the house still in complete darkness I was greeted with a very cold and heavy frost. Today was not going to be as straight forward as I’d hoped.
After a very beautiful and scenic drive watching the sunrise over the Shropshire hills I arrived at the very impressive Ellerdine Lakes.
When you enter the fishery you drive right next to the first lake which is called Meadow, a beautiful lake with some great features. Driving by the lake it looked extremely cold, not a ripple, not a rise in site. Now the adrenaline was going all I could think about was getting on the bank and the cold wasn’t even in mind.
After setting up in the car park and chatting with the other anglers, my tactics were already in place. I had two set ups in my approach, a 9ft6in Sage XP #7 rod, this was equipped with a Lamson Litespeed reel, with a Airflo 40+ fly lines. My second rod set up, was a Wychwood Trufly 9ft6in #8 with a Vision Koma Cassette Reel, this had a Airflo 40+ Di3 line. I also had 4 other cassettes with Inter, Midge, Di5 & Di7 lines attached ready to chop and change depths with my second set up.
On the floating set up I had a team of three flies, on the first dropper I had a black crisp packet buzzer with orange goose biot cheeks, on the second dropper, I had a PTN cruncher with red thorax and on the point I had my home tied orange & white gold head.
On the sinking set up I had a team of three flies again on the first dropper I had a white and orange blob, on the middle dropper I had a PTN cruncher with red thorax and on the point I had the lethal fly, which is the cats whisker with red hot headed bead.
The lethal flies:
After setting up I made my way to the lodge where a lot of the anglers were signing in, it was the first time I had a chance to meet the fishery owner Ed, after a very warm welcome and a handshake I went into the lodge to sign in. I then met mr Iain Barr after registration and found out which pegs I would be fishing, I had a quick chat with Iain and was ready to go.
Now being an ex professional footballer, representing my country 21 times and playing at some incredible stadiums you would think that I could deal with let’s say ‘pre match nerves’ but for some reason standing in front of that lodge with the other 30 anglers my heart was pounding, and was the most nervous I had been in a long time. After a quick briefing and all the rules and regs, myself and the other anglers made our way to our first peg.
Each competitor would fish a designated peg for 30 minutes, the first fish in every peg would count as 2 points and anymore fish thereafter would be 1point. The overall winner would be the angler with the most points at the end. Pretty straightforward and in my opinion very fair. So the game plan was to catch at least 1 fish of each peg, that first fish would be vital.
My first peg was on Marsh lake, a beautiful lake with some great features and islands, I was positioned on an end peg pretty much on my own. I liked this, I felt that if any fish were spooked by the pressure of the other anglers they would seek refuge down in my swim. The whistle sounded, with an island and walkway to my right I cast my floating line set up firstly along the margins towards a tree close to the bank, first few casts and no response after about fifteen minutes of different retrieves and fan casting I let the fly fall, counting down to 30 seconds I then began my figure of eight with some sharp pulls then a solid take ripped the line out of my hands. After a fantastic fight I had a beautiful fully finned Ellerdine rainbow in my net. A stunning fish which took the orange and white goldhead. A quick lift of the net to show mr Andy Taylor to my right the fish was safely returned. A dream start as I knew nobody else had landed a fish yet. The whistle sounded so off to my next peg.
The banter was flying on the way round to the lake and we were all well aware that today would not be a straightforward days fishing. My next peg was on the impressive Meadow Lake, the lodge was behind me and I was facing the first island, I had a quick 2 minutes to check my tippet and flies and I was ready. The whistle sounded and the noise of fly lines whistling through the air rang through the cold Shropshire air. The sun was beeming down on meadow and I think it really made a difference as I could now feel my fingers, after a fruitless 10minutes on the floating set up I switched to the Di3 line, after a long cast towards the island I counted down for thirty seconds and started an almost static figure of eight retrieve, on all my casts I fish the hang, I lift the rod and flies slowly and hold them near the bank. Just as I was about to flick my line behind me to start my cast the line made a sharp twitch, I lifted and connected to what I thought was a submarine. After a fantastic scrap another Ellerdine rainbow slipped over my net of around the 5lb mark, I was delighted two fish on two pegs. Could I keep this going?
All my pegs were going to be on Meadow until the last peg of the day which was on Marsh, I was happy about this the frost was thawing out under the sun and fish were starting to rise on meadow.
My next peg was on the left hand side of Meadow facing the road into the fishery with a fantastic backdrop of hedges. I was still feeling the pressure and fishing next to the World Champion mr Ian Barr the whole competition certainly didn’t help my nerves but I wanted to prove I could go far. I found he was great guy giving me tips and chatting to me the whole way through, the banter was fantastic which made the day even more enjoyable.
I started my approach with the Di3 set up and after 5 minutes my line locked up it felt big and just as quickly as the fish was on I heard the dreaded twang and all went slack. I was devastated, I knew I didn’t have time to set up a new leader so I quickly switched to my floating set up and changed my point fly to the red head cats whisker. I counted them down to 40 seconds and started my retrieve. With about 5 minutes left in the peg I felt a tap, I carried on retrieving and felt another tap with only ten feet remaking of my fly line I began the hang lift then bang!! The water erupted and I was into another very angry Ellerdine Rainbow, this was to be the biggest of the day for me at 7lb a pristine, fully finned rainbow trout. After safely returning and a quick picture with Ian Barr the whistle went and I let out a big sigh of relief, three on three. Should of been four but I was praying that last fish wouldn’t haunt me.
My final peg before lunch was right next to a protruding pinnacle in the water, it looked a fantastic peg facing down towards the lodge, I was able to fish into my own bay. I felt really confident and before the whistle I had enough time to set up a new leader on my Di3 line as well. The whistle sounded and I began fishing I hit into a fish but couldn’t connect much to the amusement of Iain Barr who was dishing out the banter, I then re cast and after about 20 minutes everything went tight, a great battle and another stunning rainbow in the net. That fish took the red cruncher on the middle dropper which was a pleasant surprise. The final whistle of the morning went and all the anglers made there way to the lodge.
Once arriving at the lodge I am greeted with the smell of something incredible! Now up here in Liverpool I would of could this delicacy ‘Scouse’ but after a bit of stick from the other fisherman I was then informed the correct naming was hotpot. It was incredible, and really helped warm me up after the subzero temperatures, we were also treated to home made cakes free to all anglers. One of the many reasons why Ed & Jayne are renowned for the friendly hospitality! I was made to feel extremely welcome. After a quick chat with a few of the anglers I knew I was doing well, but I didn’t want to concentrate on that.
After lunch things became very difficult I moved from 2 pegs and had nothing not many fish were coming out after lunch, with the sun beginning to die down the temperature began to plummet again. It was extremely tough, on my second to last peg I managed another take on a black and green nomad but I couldn’t keep it on, as it was catch and release it was all barbless hooks. My confidence had taken a bit of a battering and I was starting to worry.
I moved onto my final peg on Marsh lake and the water was still very coloured, I was pegged next to mr Harry Upton, Ed the fishery owners son. He informed me that the lake had recently had maintenance work and after a few casts we both new we were going to struggle so ended up having a bit of casting practice, it was a pleasure fishing next to him as he clearly has a fantastic fishing brain and was totally fishing mad which is great!!
The final whistle went, I made my way to the lodge and handed my catch return ticket in, now it was time for the dreaded wait. I couldn’t believe I didn’t have a fish in the afternoon, I thought I had thrown all my hard work in the morning away. I packed my equipment up and waited with all the other anglers to hear the results. The results followed like this.
1st Chris Lowe-Sutton C’field
2nd Joan Russell-Hampshire
3rd Tom Bainbridge-Liverpool
4th Rod Goldthorpe-Stafford
5th Roger Woodhams-Herts
6th Dennis Drury-Oswestry
I was over the moon, I finished joint second with Joan Russell but because I didn’t land any fish in the afternoon It was third. Only 1 fish off toe top spot, (I knew that fish would haunt me haha) I was ecstatic my first competition and I had managed to qualify for the final at Elinor Fishery on the 28th April which will be shown on sky sports one.
I had one the best days fishing of my life and I have well and truly caught the competition bug, since the comp I have been asked to fish a few days with Iain Barrs team and look forward to the bank nationals with Team England as well, a very exciting 2013.
Without a doubt though the day would not have been so special without Ellerdine Lakes Fishery, it is renowned as Shropshire’s premier fishery and it lived up to that name for sure. The lakes and surroundings are emaculate and the fishery is kept to the highest standard I’ve experienced, the scenery and wildlife is also stunning which adds to the whole experience. The fishing itself was the best I have experienced with hard fighting rainbows and doubles being taken on the day. I know the lakes hold rainbows, browns and tigers all up to double figures, and that adds to the excitement knowing that the next pull on your line could be the fish of a lifetime. Also the hospitality I experienced that day I will never forget, Ed & Jayne were fantastic, extremely helpful and so friendly and did everything they could to make every angler welcome and to have a day to remember. It was the first time I have ever visited Ellerdine Lakes but it won’t be my last, I fell in love with the place, and even though its not exactly local for me, it is now going to be my regular fishery. I recommend to anybody who wants an all round fantastic fishing experience to visit the premier fishery which is Ellerdine Lakes.
Congratulations to all finalists, thank you to Mr Ian Barr for the fantastic event, a big thank you to mr Stu Smitham for flies and tips and a huge thank you to Ed & Jayne and all Ellerdine fishery staff for making it such a memorable day.
I cannot wait to get back to Ellerdine Lakes to catch the fish of a lifetime.