Braving Hail, Sleet & Snow for Welsh Dee Grayling in Autumn!

At the start of this week the brief dry spell ended with a deluge in the North West, pushing the level on the Welsh Dee skywards (ca. 1.5m @ Manley Hall) and flooding parts of Cumbria & Lancashire. It was Saturday before the Welsh Dee at Llangollen had dropped back to a level (1m @ Manley Hall) that merited fishing it. However, at this height there are a limited numbers places which are worth fly fishing, with the Broken Bridge Pool is one such place. I had not fished this pool since the beginning of September, so that was my choice for the day.

The weather forecast for the day was not great: a bitter northerly wind, heavy showers of hail, sleet & possibly snow, and a high of 3°C. Fortunately, I was in the nothing ventured nothing gained mood, so I donned my winter fishing gear and walked down to the Broken Bridge Pool. On my way down to the river there was a brief moment of autumnal sunshine, which was ideal to capture a few photos of the river before the weather turned nasty!

The river was still slightly coloured and, not surprising, there was no evidence of fly activity. Therefore, I decided to fish through the pool with a team of Czech nymphs (point: size 12 Hare’s Ear Caddis grub with a 4mm gold tungsten bead; middle dropper: size 12, pink squirmy; top dropper: size 16, gold shell-back Hare’s Ear nymph with a 2mm pink tungsten bead).

I started carefully fishing through the head of the pool making sure I covered the margins before moving out to mid-stream. Surprisingly, I had only made a few casts before I lifted into my first grayling (ca. 20cm) of the day, which had taken the caddis grub.  This was quickly followed by a slightly smaller grayling that had fallen for the pink squirmy. As I continued working my way systematically down river, at the point where the water deepened (the drop-off zone) my line stopped and I bent into a better grayling (ca. 30cm), which had taken the Hare’s Ear on the top dropper.

Considering the conditions the fishing had started off much better than was expected, which was great because I needed this to keep me plugging away through the frequent hail and sleet showers. Opposite the remnants of the broken bridge my line shot sideways and I tighten into strong fish that reveal itself as a brown trout when shot into the air. After a short struggle the trout, that had fallen for the pink squirmy, was safely netted and returned.

A couple of casts later I hooked into another nice grayling, which threw the hook while trying to net it. This was quickly followed by a second smaller brown trout that had taken the Hare’s Ear on the top dropper.

On working my way down the pool to the half way mark I caught a couple more smaller grayling on the pink squirmy.  However, on continuing down to the tail of the pool the fishing went dead and my feet turned numb with the cold; so I went for a short walk up the bank to warm them up a little.

After the walk and a snack I felt warm enough to fish through the pool again. This time the fast run into the pool didn’t produced any fish but as I approached the broken bridge the line stopped and I lifted into a nice grayling, which had taken the caddis grub.

A few cast later as the line came round to the dangle and the flies lifted off the bottom the line was ripped out of my hand by a violent take.  When I tightened into the fish it launched itself into the air several times before what looked and felt like a sea trout of about 1lb threw the hook.

Working my way half way down the pool produce two more grayling before things went dead and I my right hand was numb with cold.  At this point I headed back to the car for some food, a hot cup of tea and to hold my hands in front of the car heater until I could feel my right thumb again!

When my hands started to feel OK there was still about an hour of fishing left, so I drove up river to fish the pool directly above Horseshoe Fall, which is also another good place to fish in very high water. I worked through the tail of the pool with the Czech nymphs but only managed to catch one grayling on the pink squirmy, before the fishing was spoilt by the canoeing club launching 3 large rafts from the far bank.  This is the only problem with fishing the spot on the river during the day!

Overall, it had been a great day on the Welsh Dee with a total of 9 grayling and 2 brown trout in very poor weather conditions. Venturing out in the inclement weather this time certainly paid off, I now just needed to drive home with the heater on max and have a hot shower to thaw out.

If anyone else would like to contribute to future weekly reviews on how the Welsh Dee is fishing, please send me a quick note to with any photos by Sunday of each week and if appropriate I will add it to the weekly review. In addition, if you are planning to fish the Llangollen-Maelor Angling beats and you would like any help just drop me email and I will assist if I can.

Tight line until next time, Andrew (26/11/17)

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