Dee Farm

Introduction

Dee Farm is the longest pools on the Upper beat, where throughout the years I have caught many grayling, brown trout, sea trout and the occasional salmon. In addition to its charm, it can be fished successfully at a wide range of river levels from of 0.5m to 0.9m (Corwen gauge). Furthermore, for anglers who are not keen on wading it can be fished successfully from the bank in a few places.

Access to Dee Farm is via the top car park as shown on the following map (Google Maps screen shot – grid reference: 52.988851, -3.215379).  To reach the river walk up the lane 100m from the car park until you reach the style, just before the farm, then follow the edge of the field on your left down to the river (brown line marked on the map).  Then walk up through four fields to reach Dee farm which is marked in red.

Trout and Grayling

I have had some very good catches of grayling and trout from Dee Farm; especially when the river has dropped below 0.65m (Corwen gauge) after a spate. At higher levels wading becomes difficult in most parts of the pool and you are restricted to fishing from the bank, which it relatively easy. To explain the approaches I use to fish Dee Farm it is best to split this pool into five sections; as shown in the sketch.

Section A – The Riffle

When the river is below 0.6m (Corwen gauge) and running relatively clear, this riffle section often yields a few fish throughout the year. Any of main fly fishing techniques will yield results in this section of the pool. I tend to have most success using either Czech nymphs or wet flies because controlling dry-fly-line drag in in the riffle is hard work.

I usually start fishing from the bank just below the stone wall, point 1, with a team of wet flies or spiders and work my way down the bank to point 2; covering any fish that are lying in the zone to mid-river. Usually by casting the flies upstream at a 45 degree angle and letting them drift down through the current, mending the line upstream regularly to slow the swing round in the fast current. Quite often the takes come almost immediately after an upstream mend.

Left to Right: March Brown Spider, Iron Blue nymph, Black Hopper
3lb wild brown trout, that fell for a Black Hopper just as the light started to fail – June 2014

Once that zone has been covered I will go back to point 1, wade out about 3 metre and then cover the water to the far side of the bank. Making sure to focus on the areas where the current is slightly slower due to large submerged boulders and ledges, because fish are normally caught in those areas. If the flow is not too strong, I normally fish my way down under the tree lined section to point 3 but extreme care is needed because this is a very difficult wade.

I also use the above approach when tackling this pool with Czech nymphs. Nymphs that work best tend to be small (size 16 – 20) drab coloured patterns teamed with a heavy nymph, which is there to get them down to the river bed quickly.

Left to Right: 4mm TB Brown nymph, 3mm TB Pheasant Tail nymph, 1.5mm TB brown nymph
Left to Right: Fire-orange nymph (4mm TB & 2x 3mm orange TB), PTN (gold TB jig-back), 1.5mm TB brown nymph

However, with the dry fly I usually start at point 2 and work my way up through the pool, targeting all the pockets of slightly slacker water, all the way up to the rough water at the top of the riffle.

Section B – Drop-off Zone

Moving down river you reach the drop-off zone of Dee Farm. This section typically holds some of the larger trout and grayling but they are no easy to catch because they tend to lie on the far side of the main flow close to the far bank. The following sketch show where I normally find the best fish.

For anglers who don’t wish to wade, this is a good place to fish this pool with the dry fly from the bank. To have the best success here it is essential to approach the pool with stealth from a downstream position because of the high, open bank. Normally I start at point 2, keeping a low profile, searching out close to the bank with a short line and progressively working through the water to the far bank. Try and avoid casting immediately to rising fish that are close to the far bank because searching the near bank with the dry fly can pick up additional fish. Fish all water to point 1, making sure drop-off zone is searched fully.

Left - size 18 Griffith Gnat; Right - size 12 Cream tag, Elk Hair Caddis

If you want to search the water column closer to the bottom with nymphs in this section of Dee Farm I would recommend trying the “Klink & Dink” method, working upstream from point 2 using the same approach taken with the dry fly.

The Klink & Dink (known also as New Zealand or Duo style) is the method of fishing a weighted nymph suspended from a buoyant dry fly such as a klinkhamer or attractor fly. It is a very successful method for catching trout and grayling throughout the year and is my go-to method in conditions when stealth is required. This technique can be used in most types of water, from shallow & fast through to deep & slow. It is important to fish the flies drag-free drift, casting up and across the river or directly upstream in the feeding lanes.

The Klink & Dink (known also as New Zealand or Duo style)

My standard set-up involves tying a length of 4lb fluorocarbon to either the hook bend or a nylon loop at the butt of the klinkhamer and the nymph to the other end. The beauty of this method is that there are two chances of catching; by attracting rising fish with the dry fly or those feeding on the bottom or taking nymphs in the water column. In addition, if fish are feeding on nymphs closer to the surface they can be targeted by simply shortening the dropper.  Below is a typical klinkhamer and nymph combinations that I use on the Welsh Dee.

Left to Right: size 16, 1.5mm tungsten bead brown nymph; size 10, olive nymph (copper tungsten jig back); size 14, foam-post Klinkhamer Olive imitation

When the run is deep and I want to fish a small (size 16 or less) nymph close to the bottom, I will adjust the standard setup by tying a 12” length of 4lb fluorocarbon to the bend of the heavy nymph and a tie the small nymph to the other end. The heavy nymph drags the small one down to the fishing zone quickly, which is free to move in the current more naturally. This can make the difference in picking up the larger fish.

Fishing a team of wet flies or spiders is and alternative approach to the aforementioned, which can yield results especially when the fish are taking ascending nymphs just under the surface. With this approach I normally start at point 1 casing across to the far band and allowing the flies to drift down stream and swing round slowly by the occasional upstream mend. Search the pool thoroughly because fish can be found throughout but more often closer to the far bank. When sea trout are in the river this approach can also lead to a bonus sea trout especially as evening approaches.

Section C – The Long Run

The Long run starts at the end of the drop-off zone where the main flow is pushed over towards the far bank. At heights of less than 0.65m the fish tend to in the 3 metre zone from the far bank, particularly when the water is clear.

I would normally approach this section of the pool from a downstream position, keeping as low a profile as possible, as not to spook any fish. Often the best methods are either the Klink & Dink when there is little evidence surface fly activity or the dry fly if you wish to target rising fish. Fish can be found through the full length of this sections, so it is best to search it fully starting close to bank and work your way across to the main flow. Over the years I have found that at normal river levels my best catches have come from early evening to nightfall. In August and September I have had the few sea trout take the dry fly and even had a couple of salmon on for a few minutes until being snapped.

When the river is below 0.6m I have done some deep wading in this section and fished the wet fly and spiders across and downstream.  I find this is approach is best done from a couple of hours before sunset onwards, and can yield good grayling and trout when the dry fly has failed.

At higher river levels 0.7m, many of the trout and grayling seek shelter from the current in this section of the pool.  Under these conditions, it is best focus your attention on this section of the river using the Klink and Dink method. If that doesn’t produce any results then try a team of wet flies on a sink-tip fished down and across; when the water is carrying a little colour I use a 6lb fluorocarbon tippet in the summer months because there is a good chance of hooking a sea trout, especially on an overcast days or as evening approaches.

Left to Right: size 10 Peter Ross, size 12 Butcher variant, size 10 Alexandra

Section D – The Tail

For this article I have defined the tail of Dee Farm to start just above the fence (position 1) and finish at position 3, in the following sketch. I find the distribution of fish depend strongly on the height of the river. At levels up to 0.6m (Corwen gauge) fish tend to be on the far side of the two submerged rocks and close to the far bank as you move towards the end of the tail. When the level exceeds 0.7m, trout and grayling have typically have moved up river into the long run where the water current is slacker.

I have a couple of preferred approached to fishing the tail depending on the conditions I’m faced with. When fish are feeding in the V of the tail, I approach them from a downstream position by wading up from the riffle below using either the dry fly for rising fish or the Klink and Dink method when no rises have been seen. Normally, I use a tapered leader that is at least 12ft in length because this area of the tail is shallow and the fish are easily spooked. At summer levels, I continue to wade up river to point 2, keeping close to the bank, while searching for fish with the dry fly; casting is not easy here because of the overhanging bankside trees and vegetation.

Normally, I fish the section above point 2 with a team of wet flies or spiders by starting at point 1 and working my way downstream. Often trout and grayling are caught on the far side submerged rocks. To fish the zone close to the far bank I find it necessary to carefully wade out about 15ft and then work my way down to just above the fence but I only do this when the river is close to its summer level 0.5m (Cowen gauge). If fish are rising picking out the fish with the dry fly is also worth a try.  When the rising fish are close to the far bank it is worth running the dry fly through the water directly in front of you – it is surprising how many times that this yields fish not making their presence felt.

During the day in the height of summer, especially when the sky is bright cloudless, Dee Farm often looks completely void of fish. When the conditions are like that you need to come back at sunset and you will have a very different view!

Technique Round-up:

Oct to April

Largely my approach depends on water/air temperature and river level.

When there is little or no fly activity I typically start with the Klink and Dink method.

Once flies are observed coming off the water I usually switch to the dry fishing; if the flies are small I use the double dry approach

In the riffle section wet flies, spiders and nymphs can yield good results.

May to Sept

I find my approach is increasingly governed by the time of day and cloud cover.

Early morning, focus on the head and tail of the pool using the Klink & Dink method.

On bright sunny days I just fish the riffle at the head with either Klink & Dink, spiders or nymphs.

In the evening, as the light fails, the middle sections of the pool can yield good fish to the dry flies and wets fished close to the surface.

Salmon

Dee Farm is probably one of the best holding pools for salmon on the Upper Beat because the main flow is sheltered by tree-lined, steep far bank. Furthermore, in high water the slacker water is found in sections xxx to xxx of the pool are close to the right bank, which can be easily fished with the fly from the bank. As yet, I have not manged to catch a salmon on the fly in this pool, so the following advice is based on conversations with fellow angle who have had more luck here.  I have lost a couple of fish that took the spinner in high coloured water.

March to May:

At the start of the season, when it’s still cold, the best approach is to fish a sinking line slowly through the deeper sections of the pool starting just above the drop-off zone (section B) all the way to the tail.  Fish tend to resting in the sheltered sections.  At the start of May, as things warm up, tackling the faster sections of the pool with a floating line tipped with a sinking polyleader becomes a better approach.

For fly selection I use this simple strategy:

In coloured water a size 10 or higher brightly coloured fly (e.g. Cascade, Park shrimp etc);

Cascade

In clear water use size 10 or smaller drab coloured fly (e.g. Stoats tail, Blue Charm, etc)

Stoats Tail

Rather than spending time agonising over which fly to use, I have found it is more important to focus your attention on locating where the salmon are lying and how best to cover them such that they take you’re offering.

In addition, I’m of the opinion that salmon are either interested in taking or not because the majority of salmon I have caught on the Welsh Dee have been on the first run through the pool. As such, I now tend to fish pools quickly and then move on to the next one with the aim of covering as much of the river as possible.  A side benefit of this strategy is that you get plenty of exercise, which keeps you fit!!!

June to August

In recent years there seems to have been better runs of fish between May and July; probably late spring fish intent on quickly pushing up river. I have started to focus my attention on riffle sections when the river has been at its summer level for a week or so and is followed by a small spate; because salmon have to spend a little time navigating their way up into the next pool. The riffle at the head of Dee Farm is one such place where I will slowly work my way through to the to the drop-off zone. The tail is another place I tend to focus on in the mornings, especially the holes behind the two large submerged boulders.

In the last few years, during the summer months I now prefer flies dressed on single hooks from size 6 down to 10 fished on a 10ft 6# reservoir trout rod. My reasoning being that during the summer there are not many salmon in the Welsh Dee and I don’t like carrying extra gear when my focus is on trout and grayling for most of the day. This approach means I only have to carry an extra small fly box containing a few small salmon flies; allowing me the opportunity to run through likely lies during the last hour before sunset, which is probably the best time to tempt a salmon. In addition, it keeps me occupied until nightfall and my final switch to target sea trout.

As summer progresses, I generally only fish for salmon during the last hour before sunset using a 10ft reservoir rod sporting a small salmon fly (Stoats Tail) or a team of sea trout flies. This save carrying the salmon rod when the probability of a salmon is very low. Last year I had a salmon smash a size 10 silver sedge while fishing for grayling in the evening – it duly broke the 3lb leader.

September to October

Most people fish with a floating line and either a tapered leader or a sinking polyleader, focusing their attention on the head and tail of the pool when the river is below 0.7m. At higher levels concentrate on the body of the pool, which you will have to share with the lure anglers.

Sea Trout

In the last couple of year I have started to fish Dee Farm at night for sea trout and had some good results. The following sketch shows were I have caught sea trout to-date.

Low numbers of sea trout are enter the river from mid-May / June, they tend to be the large fish which are notoriously difficult to catch; I’m still trying to hook one of these beasts that can be close to double figures in size. Usually, the main run of smaller fish (1 to 3lb mark) starts in July and peaks in August and when you locate them you can get several fish in an evening.

During the peak of the season, when the river is at it summer level (<0.55m Corwen gauge) I find the best approach is to start fishing in the riffle as the light starts to fail. I usually start with a team of small wet flies (size 14 to 12) on 3lb tapered copolymer leader; e.g. Butcher, Black Hopper, March Brown Spider, Teal Blue & Silver, Black Pennell, Mallard & Claret etc. Cast the flies squarely across river, with the aim of getting as close to the overhanging trees on the far bank as possible, and allowing then to drift round in the current. As you move down and the current slows add motion to the flies by side flicks of the rod-tip; often takes come immediately afterward.

Once darkness has approached, I increase the breaking strain of the tapered leader (8 – 10lbs) and move to larger flies (size 10 to 8 singles).  Then I move down to fish through the rest of the pool to the tail. Hopefully, this produces a fish or too but if it doesn’t then I switch to either:

A surface lure when the night-time temperature is above ca. 18°C;

Left to right: Silver Stoats Tail (size 10 tandom), Deer Hair Bombers (size 8)

A small tube fly (25mm or less) on a 10lb fluorocarbon leader when the temperature is less than 18°C.

Left to right: Jumbo Muddlers (size 8), black and blue tube flies.

I usually, find that this works if there are any interested fish in the pool.  Therefore, if the above doesn’t then move on to another pool.

On dull overcast days, when the river is running off and nearly clear after a summer spate (0.7m and lower Corwen gauge), it is worth searching through the shady sections of the pool with a team of small (size 12 – 10) wet flies/lures (e.g. Silver Butcher, Black Cormorant, Peter Ross etc.); on a floating line tipped with an intermediate polyleader and 5ft of 6lb fluorocarbon. Cast the flies squarely across river, with the aim of getting as close to the overhanging trees on the far bank as possible, and then strip them back with short pulls – takes are violent so be prepared to let them take some line otherwise you will be broken. This technique worth trying from section B of Dee Farm to the end of the tail.

Flies they fell for – Silver Cormorant, Black Cormorant, Silver March Brown (size 12)
1lb sea trout caught during the day, stripping wet flies on a sink-tip – July 2016

Directions and Parking

From Llangollen take the A5 to Crown then just after the junction with the B5103 by Berwyn Station take the next right and follow the lane for about 1mile. At the end you will see the top car park on your left.

To reach the river walk up the lane 100m from the car park until you reach the style, just before the farm, then follow the edge of the field on your left down to the river (brown line marked on the map).  Then walk up through four fields to reach Dee farm.

[Disclaimer – like most outdoor sports, fishing is not without its hazards. Therefore, you MUST do your own RISK ASSESSMENT before starting to fish; especially if you decide to wade and/or fish at night. In addition, you must follow the club rules when fishing this water.]

Welsh Dee Fishing Information Source & Blog for the Welsh Dee

This website is primarily dedicated to fly fishing for grayling, trout & salmon. It provides helpful & interesting information on fishing the Welsh Dee, augmented with photographs and videos.  In addition, I will be writing about the techniques, tactics, and flies that prove successful on the various beats & pools throughout the year.