I was priviledged to spend Sunday with instruction from Gwilym Hughes and Steve James. Steve is the resident coach at Meadow fishery in Chester and Gwilym is his mentor. Venue selected was the junction beat of the Welsh Dee just above Corwen; premier league stuff. Pictured here is the view from the fishing hut.
I paired up with Steve Daley for the morning under Gwilym's guidence. Gwilym took us to the downstream end of the beat where it joins the Longreach beat of Corwen Anglers. The great advantage of pairing up on this type of water is that you can exploit a couple of different methods in order to establish what the fish want. Initially feeling was this would be a nymph day. I began fishing a nymph under the dry, infact two of Gwilyms infamous 'rats' under the dry. Steve fished the dry with Gwilym on his shoulder. First flick in with the nymphs and tow salmon parr, one to each nymph. Gwilym's instruction was to cover the water bank to bank by starting bankside and fan fishing the setup, slowly make your way directly across until I had fished out the crease on the far bank. Then make my way back at a slight angle upstream and repeat. So much for the nymph day, all I could attract were the parr:( Steve on the other hand was getting interest from one or two grayling on the dry. Gwilym sent Steve upsteam from me and decided we should both be fishing dry. Off went nymphing set up. Now pay attention time, this was Gwilym's suggested setup for dry fly fishing.
Don't fit a tapered leader, turn over is too good and drag is induced too quick. His suggested all round leader is made up of about 12 foot of 5lb flouro on which, attach 2-3 feet of c3lb flouro. This is important stuff as Gwilym appears to prefer an across and down approach to his dry fly or a downstream approach. Now, this parallel leader setup does collapse on the cast, but this is invaluable when fishing downstream.
Gwliym demonstrated reach casts and methods to collapse the cast to maximise drag free drifts when across and down etc. When you do cast across with this setup, because the leader collapses I noticed the fly generally hits the water softly a lot later than with a taper leader. But this includes a fair pile of leader also, which essentially has to 'unravel' a fair bit before any drag is induced.
While I was getting to grip with this, a slight breeze built up loosening and depositing a few leaves from the most vulnerable trees on the the far bank. In the patches where small pockets of leaves were falling fish began to rise, obviously stimulated by the potential of free picking falling within the leaves. A small movement downstream and I was casting amongst the rises. I pricked a couple of fish, so then just fished downstream to let them settle again, hoping to pick up any fish moving onto the strirred up offerings from my wading. Salmon parr pounced again!
Back across into the rises and I picked up a couple of small grayling. Now, another top tip from Gwilym. If what you think is a good cast and drift is ignored, then change you angle of approach, move your feet upstream, downstream, closer further away. Its the 'angle of the cast'. You know what, bingo it works. Once Gwilym is basically happy with your presentation he will keep on at you with 'move your feet', meaning change the angle of the cast. Gosh it works. I picked up a couple more grayling as Steve was called into the upstream end of the pocket rises. Steve hit a nice 40cm+ grayling, then Gwilym called 'one more fish each then lunch'. Steve struck into a gorgous brown knocking 11/2lbs, then I hit one similar which long range released itself right amongst the others. Fish put down, time for lunch. The most successful method of the morning was a small #20 parachute dry olive. It really pays to concentrate on the river, as this small rise was short and stimulated by a small patch of falling leaves.
After lunch, Steve D and I returned to the mornings stretch, as Gwilym was taking Ian and Ian to the Junction. Steve James was with us for this afternoons instruction. The rise we saw in the morning was now not as evident, although there were still sporadic rises where the suds touched the tree line. As much of our fishing was directly across and down, Steve James demonstrateed the snake roll to use as a change of direction cast for those moments when we were dowstreaming and perhaps wanted to cover a rise across. Whist practicing this, there was a fish rising adjacent to a dead tree. I covered this quickly and pricked the b****r on the #20 olive. Damn! Fished downstream again to let it settle. Steve J then offered me his rod, on the end of which was #16 cul de canon(Mk1) which he suggested may just get a better take. Now, Steve J uses a tapered leader for his river dry fly, so this was a good opportunity to quickly assess the merits of tapered against non tapered leader. I flicked Steve's setup across, quick arial reach mend upstream, and yes with the help of the tapered leader the fly was in position quickly. So, lets see how much drag free drift I get. While concentrating on the end of the flyline in relation to the fly in order to analyse, I lost sight of the brown CDC wing in the shade of the trees. I looked hard and couldn't see the fly, but saw the silouette of a large grayling head and tail sub surface in the general region of where I guessed the fly would be. No obvious take or break of the surface; sod it strike...and we're in. 40+cms of prime Dee grayling.
Steve J took his rod back, so I attached one of my own tied Cul de Canon's. Two more rises and 2 more 40cm grayling.
Never really had chance to compare the two leader setups, but I doubt whether I would fish with the tapered leader again, unless the wind dictated otherwise.
Have a read of Gwilym's book, the logic is far better explained in there