Duncan's Pool

Introduction

Walking up river from Horseshoe Falls on the left bank the first pool you come to is Duncans Pool, which is a lovely pool for the fly angler that fishes well at all heights of water. From the left bank, it can be fished over its full length and this makes it probably one of the most regularly fished sections of Llangollen Maelor Angling water. Depending on the time of year and conditions it is possible to catch grayling, trout, sea trout and salmon which further adds to its attraction.

Below is a sketch of the topography of the pool showing its key features and where I fish typically catch fish at river height of 0.5m (Malney Hall gauge). Generally, during the day the fish lie closer to the deeper right bank in the shade of the overhanging trees. When tackling this pool I normally split it into three sections as shown the pictures above.

Trout and Grayling

Unsurprisingly, the distribution of trout and grayling within in this pool depends strongly on the river height (Manley Hall gauge).  At levels of 0.6m and below they are normally found in the fast oxygenated sections of the pool: below the riffle, around the drop-off section by the 2nd rock outcrop and in the tail during on summer evenings.  Above 0.6m the fish fall closer to the left bank and a good place is down river from opposite the 2nd rock outcrop because the back-eddy tends to disappear at higher flows – especially at 0.8m and above.

Fish can be caught using anyone of the three key fishing techniques (Czech nymphing, wet flies and dry fly) depending on the time of the year, river and weather conditions.

Oct to April

Largely my approach depends on water/air temperature.

On cold days Czech nymphs work well, particularly when there is little or no fly activity on the surface.

When flies are observed coming off the water dry fishing can yield good results.

However, I find wet flies, spiders and nymphs fished close to the usually out fish dries.

May to Sept

My approach is governed by the time of day and cloud cover.

Early morning wet flies, spiders & nymphing techniques work well followed by dry flies.

On bright sunny days, by mid-day onwards focus on searching the bottom of well oxygenated, shady runs with Czech nymphs.

In the evening dry flies and wet flies fished close to the surface usually pay dividends.

Everyone has their preferred fly patterns, the following are a selection of my work-horse flies which work more often than not (arranged left to right: point, middle dropper, top dropper).

A section of Czech nymphs that work well when the river is coloured are shown below:

Czech Nymphs

Left to Right: size 12, 4mm TB caddis; size 14, olive tungsten jig-back; size 14 PTN
Left to Right: size 14 olive tungsten jib-back (gold); 3mm TB dark red tag; size 14, March Brown nymph

Wet Flies & Spiders

Left to Right: - size 14 brown nymph; size 14, olive nymph; size 14, light olive
Left to Right: size 14 brown nymph; size 14, claret spider; size 14, March Brown spider

Salmon

Duncans Pool is reputed by other anglers to be a good place to catch salmon on the Llangollen beat and more often than not at least one fish is reported to have been caught there in most years. However, over the many years I have fished my record of catching salmon in Duncans Pool poor to-date.

My total to-date is two well mended kelts (ca.10-15lb) caught in April 2011 & March 2014.  The kelt caught in 2011 took a size 12 Silver Butcher in the tail of the pool, while fishing for trout from the right bank.  The second kelt was caught just after the 2nd rock outcrop while fishing from the left bank with a sinking line and a black and yellow 1” copper tube. The only other salmon I have connected with in Duncans was at the end of April (2016) when I had it on for all of 10 seconds before it threw tube.  This fish took the fly in the drop-off opposite the 1st rock outcrop.

From experience and talking to fellow anglers the sketch below highlights where best to find salmon within this pool.

12lb kelt from Duncans Pool March 2014

Talking to other anglers who have caught fish in Duncans on the fly it seems that the areas to focus you attention depend on the river height. The only exception to this would be when the water is very cold, just above freezing, and then I think it is best searching the slower and deeper part of the pool irrespective of the river height.

0.7m or less (Manley Hall gauge)

Focus your attention around the rock outcrops close to the shady right bank where the flow starts to slacken a little.

Particularly, the drop-off zone by the 2nd rock outcrop were the flow start to slacken.

On bright sunny days early morning and evenings offer the best chance.

During the summer months when the river is 0.5m or less your best chances are “first light” and “last light” in the well oxygenated areas.

Above 0.7m (Manley Hall gauge)

Fish are either pushed back into the slacker sections closer to the right bank or to the bottom of the deep sections.

Focus your attention where the submerged features (rocks or ledges) provide shelter from the main flow (see pool sketch).

Don’t forget to fish the tail because there are many submerged feature that provide sanctuary in high water.

The zone downstream of the 2nd rock outcrop is worth a try.

“What are the best fly patterns to use?”

This is a very good question and is one I have struggled with for many years of fishing the Welsh Dee.  There is likely to be an answer but I think you need to be catching significant numbers of salmon (30+) per year to end up with a statistically significant answer (that’s the scientist in me!).   Therefore, I have come to terms with using the following 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

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 reservoir trout rod.  My reasoning for aforementioned simple strategy to fly selection is because I think on the Dee the much more important question you should focus your attention on is locating the fish since the size of the annual run is not great.

“Where are the salmon likely to be lying?”

Then your attention should be focused on how best to cover the fish such that it will take your offering.  I have found they are either interested in taking or not and most of the salmon I have caught have been on the first run through the pool.  As such I now tend to fish the pool 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!!!

Sea Trout

Duncans Pool is one of the places on the Dee that I tend to catch at least one sea trout each year.  July and August are the best months to catch fish from dusk onwards.  On warm evenings you often hear some big fish jumping as the light fails. Most of the sea trout I have caught in Duncans have been from below the back eddy to the end of the tail of the pool while fishing the left bank.  When the river is at it summer level I also fish the tail from the right back on the rock ledge opposite the last tree but you have to be VERY CAREFUL because the ledge is very slippy – I have taken a ducking here a couple of times while trying to get back to the bank.

The flies that I have found successful tend to be the traditional sea trout patterns in sizes 14 to 8, for example: Black Pennell, Teal Blue & Silver, Silver Stoats, Mallard & Claret, Peter Ross, Silver Stoats, and Alexandra.

Left to right: Black Pennell, Teal Blue & Silver, and Mallard & Claret
Left to right; Peter Ross, Silver Stoats Tail, and Alexandra

Often my first approach, especially if you see/hear fish jumping, is to use a floating time with a 12ft tapper leader (9lbs tippet).  If this doesn’t produce any takes then I usually find switching to a slow sinking 5ft polyleader tipped with 10lb fluorocarbon and fishing through the pool produces the odd fish.  I have tried fishing with sinking lines and tube flies of varying size but this has never been successful for me in Duncan Pool – I usually just catch the bottom & weed!

I hope you find the above information useful and it helps you improve your success.  Even after many years of fishing I’m still learning; therefore if you have any advice or different experiences then it would be helpful if you would share the with me.

Directions and Parking

From Llangollen take the A5 to Crown then turn right onto the B5103 just after Berwyn Station, at the T-junction turn left and park in the River Dee car Park. 

Take the foot path to Llantysilio Parish Church at the Church car park follow the signs marking the way for anglers to access the river. Walk down the path to the river and then walk up river and over the style into to the next field. Duncan’s Pool is located about a further 300 metres up river.

[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.