The Meadows

Introduction

The Meadow is a great stretch of the River Dee for fly fishing; even at river heights up to 1m (Corwen gauge) when most other sections of the river are virtually unfishable. I tend to fish this pool more in winter and early spring for grayling and during the salmon season when the river is in spate. Depending on the time of the year it fishes well for grayling, trout, sea trout and salmon. In fact, my best days salmon fishing was on this pool in 2013 when I landed 4 salmon in 3hrs on the fly.

Access to The Meadows is via the lower car park of Llangollen golf club (see map). To reach the river you must cross Caregan Brook and then follow it down through the golf course, giving way to the golfer as you cross the fairways (see brown path marked on the map).  The first pool you reach on the river is Abergregan and walking up river for there the next pool you reach is The Meadows (marked in red on the map).  Please note that you must follow the club rules on access and car parking, which may have changed since this was written.

Trout and Grayling

The Meadow can produce fish over its full length and is a beautiful stretch of fly water for trout and grayling. Fish distribution through this pool depends strongly on the river height and water clarity.  At levels of up to 0.6m (Corwen gauge), they are normally found in the deep run from the mid-river to under the trees on the far bank.  At levels above 0.6m the fish lie closer to the right bank and at levels of 1m can be found close to the right bank, particularly when the river is carrying colour. Over the years, I have found this pool generally produces fish and when the conditions are right it is not uncommon to land 10++ fish.

Oct to April

Generally, I tend to fish The Meadows more from October to April because on average the river is above 0.6m (Corwen gauge) and this pool is a good place to fish the fly to heights of about 1m.  Under these conditions I fish from point B to the tail because the flow is slacker.

My approach is strongly influenced by the time of the year and visible signs of surface fly activity.  During these colder months, there is little fly activity until late morning. Therefore, I usually start by searching the river bed with a team of Czech nymphs; with nymph choice primary depending on water clarity. In coloured water, I select nymphs with a bright spot (gold head, orange-tag, etc) in sizes 14 and larger.  Whereas, in clear water the nymphs the 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: size 16, 2mm TB black nymph; size 10, 4mm TB Hare's Ear caddis grub; size 16, 2mm TB Hare's Ear nymph

If working down through the pool the Czech nymphs doesn’t produce any results or my catch rate fades, then I switch to a team of wet flies or spiders.  A reduction in catch rate is usually because the fish have begun to take flies in the surface layers, which can often happen around lunch time due to a surface temperature rise.  If it is not clear which flies are hatching, I usually start with my workhorse team of wet flies.  Then, after 15 – 20 minutes if I haven’t had any takes, I start switching to different patterns until success comes.

Flies left to right: Peasant Tail Nymph, Black Hopper, March Brown Spider

The dry fly is an alternative approach to wets, especially when targeting a rising fish. Flow across The Meadows changes gradually, so it is reasonably easy to obtain drag free presentation; making it a good place for the beginner to practice dry fly fishing.  I find that the double dry technique often works well for grayling; i.e. a large, sight dry fly (size 12 or 10) coupled with a small point pattern (size 16 to 20).  Select a point fly that is easy to see in the particular lighting conditions you are faced with.  Whereas, selection of the point should be based on hatch; if this is difficult to determine start with a general patterns. For example, a Griffith’s Gnat; then if this doesn’t work switch to a different colour fly until you find one that works.

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

May to September

As summer approaches, the river is more often closer to its summer level (0.5m Corwen gauge) interspersed with the occasional spate. During this period a more flexible fishing approach, based on a combination of weather conditions and river height, is required to gain success.

Generally, as things warm up and the river level drops 0.5m the best fishing is at first light to 12am and then 6pm to dusk.  Under these conditions, I normally start fishing early morning from the fast run (point A) all the way to the tail with a team wet flies or spiders. On my first run through I stay as close to the right bank as possible and cast a long line towards the far bank.

“This approach can occasionally pick a bonus sea-trout, especially at first light on the first run through the pool during July and August.”

If the wet flies yield success, then work through the pool again by wading as close to mid-steam as possible to search the far bank thoroughly with the flies.  When the wets don’t produce any results, I will change tack and go through the pool with a team of Czech nymphs, which usually picks up a few fish in the deep run opposite point B; especially when the morning advances.

On bright sunny days, by 11am the fish have generally moved into shaded sections of the pool, which are difficult to cover from the right bank.  At this point it is best to move on to another pool that is covered by overhanging trees (e.g.  Sycamore run) or my preference, go for a long pub lunch followed by an afternoon nap to get ready for an evening session.

If it’s a dull, overcast day then good fishing can extend into to the afternoon but even on these days the fishing slows considerably between 1 to 4pm – making this a good time for a break before resuming the challenge in the evening.

2lb Grayling caught on PTN – Feb 2016

After a bright sunny day the pool can come alive as dusk approaches, especially on warm evenings in the summer.  When this happens, my approach is to start with the dry fly and concentrate of rising fish until the light fades completely.  Then switch to a team of wet flies (size 16 to 12) on at least 6lb leader because the size of the fish you catch increase significantly: large grayling and brown trout 2lb+, sea trout and occasionally grisle.  Make sure you fish all the way into the tail of the pool which can yield some very good grayling at dusk.

Technique Round-up:

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.

Salmon

The Meadow is a fantastic pool to fish with the salmon fly, especially when the river level is between 0.6m to 1m, with 0.7 to 0.9M being my preferred level (Corwen gauge).

“The Meadows produces salmon most years, even when the run is poor”.

If you are new to salmon fly fishing, it is also a great place to practice spey casting etc.  If I was asked to pick my top three pools for salmon fly fishing on the Llangollen-Maelor water, this one make the list; especially, when fish are running after a spate. To-date, The Meadows, has given me

“My best RED LETTER DAY – 4 salmon on the fly in 3hrs”.

From my experience and talking to fellow anglers I have made the following sketches, which show typical salmon lies at river levels of 0.7 to 1m (Corwen gauge).  Depending on the river level I normally start fishing with the fly at point A (0.7m or less) or point B (greater than 0.7m).  So far, all my salmon in this pool have been caught in September and October on a floating line with and without a 7ft medium sinking polyleader.  In addition, I lost a nice fish in April when the river level was just above 1m on a sinking line.

5lb Salmon caught Oct 2012
9lb Salmon caught Oct 2012

From my experience and talking to fellow anglers I have made the following sketches, which show typical salmon lies at river levels of 0.7 to 1m (Corwen gauge).  Depending on the river level I normally start fishing with the fly at point A (0.7m or less) or point B (greater than 0.7m).  So far, all my salmon in this pool have been caught in September and October on a floating line with and without a 7ft medium sinking polyleader.  In addition, I lost a nice fish in April when the river level was just above 1m on a sinking line.

With regards fly selection I have come to terms with using the following simple strategy. When the river is up and coloured I use a large (size 10 and bigger), brightly coloured fly (e.g. Cascade, Park shrimp etc).  Whereas, when it is clear a small (size 10 double & smaller), drab coloured fly (e.g. Stoats tail, Blue Charm, dark shrimp patterns etc.) generally works best.

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.

“Where are the salmon likely to be lying?”

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!!!

In the last few years, during the summer months I now prefer flies dressed on single hooks (size 6 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.  Thus, 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 targeting sea trout.

Sea Trout

The Meadow is one of the pools I usually catch sea trout on dull overcast days when the river is running off after a spate, from mid-August to the end of the season in October.  They tend to lie close to the far bank under the overhanging vegetation and are tempted with small wet flies (e.g. Peter Ross, Black Pennell etc. in sizes 10 to 14). Normally, I find a floating line with a slow sinking polyleader tipped with 5-6lb fluorocarbon works well during the day.  Cast the flies squarely across the river and let them swing round in the current while pull a foot of line in after every couple of meters of drift in the current – what out because takes are often violent and occasionally you hook something unexpected i.e. grilse!!!!

Brace of Sea Trout caught Aug 2012

Surprisingly I have never fish this pool after dark, which is something I plan to rectify next season, because it should be a good place to get larger sea trout at least to a few lbs. The river bed is reasonable level and I find it a reasonable wade compared to many other pools on the Dee (however, you still need to exercise a lot of care especially at night).  Watch out for a 2017 update to this section.

Directions and Parking

From Llangollen take the A5 to Wrexham and turn left into Llangollen Golf course and drive down to the bottom car park, following the signs for the anglers car park.

To reach the river you must cross Caregan Brook, follow it down through the golf course, giving way to the golfer as you cross the fairways. The first pool you reach on the river is Abergregan and walking up river for there The Meadow is the next pool. N.B. you must follow the club rules on access and car parking.

[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.