Head For The Hills – Fishing An Upland Lake For Wild Trout

Getting bored of visiting your stocked fishery for rainbows? Fishing been a bit slow with warm water temperatures and algae messing up your fly line? Fancy getting some fresh air and heading into the wilderness for a bit of peace and proper fishing solitude? Then head out to a hill lake – the United Kingdom has literally thousands of them! Ceri Thomas pays one a visit in the middle of June – read on to see what it’s all about.

Trekking up to a wild lake in the hills.

Trekking up to a wild lake in the hills.

Fishing an upland lake can be one of the best experiences in fly fishing, especially at this time of year, when the lowland stocked fisheries enter the ”dog days” of summer and sport really slows down as the water warms up. Upland lakes are found all over the UK, many of which are either completely natural in origin or created hundreds of years ago. In Wales they are called Llyn’s, Tarns in England and Loch’s in Scotland. The ones I prefer to target are generally the smaller lakes – from just a few acres to a hundred or so. If you want something a bit different from the norm, with truly wild and pretty fish to be found amongst magnificent surroundings.

Playing a wild trout on an upland lake.

Playing a wild trout on an upland lake.

These size lakes are just perfect to cover from the bank on foot in a day, and most highland lakes tend to be this size anyway. They are easy to find, just look at an ordnance survey map or on google earth at remote hilly areas of the UK, such as Snowdonia, the lake district, the Pennines, Bodmin moor, the fells of Cumbria, and the Scottish highlands. The cost of day tickets on such venues are never very high – £10 or less for most, and some are even free to fish.  A quick google search will help you find a likely looking lake, who controls the fishing and off you go…

Surveying a remote upland lake.

Surveying a remote upland lake.

Many of these lakes are well off the beaten track, so expect a brisk hill walk to reach them – but this is actually part of the fun; you get to admire stunning scenery and keep fit in the process. Your aquatic prize in many cases will have never seen an anglers hook before. The wild brown trout that inhabit these lakes are either completely natural or were originally stocked from neighboring wild waters by the Victorians or even medieval monks, such is their native heritage.

I recently fished a lovely Llyn in the Cambrian mountains of mid Wales with Chris Jones of Fishtec. Chris had contacted the owner who kindly granted us permission to fish. At just over an hour drive from our Brecon HQ we decided to fish on a June afternoon and fish into the evening – often the best time to catch wild trout.

Amazing what you can fit into an Airflo FlyDri bag!

Amazing what you can fit into an Airflo FlyDri bag!

You can fish a wild lake from the bank with a pair of breathable chest waders, or from a float tube depending on the fishery rules. Float tubing is one of my favourite fishing methods for wild trout; it allows you to approach them with stealth, and fish areas of the lake which are otherwise inaccessible. I had packed all of the fly fishing gear into an Airflo flyDri 60lt roll top bag, which also doubles as a rucksack; and managed to fit float tube, fins, wavehopper life jacket, fly vest, spare spools and wading jacket inside with room to spare for food and drink. This really is a fantastic product, and obviously made by a fly angler with so many thoughtfully designed features.

The fly rod of choice – an Airflo rocket.

The fly rod of choice – an Airflo rocket.

We arrived near our destination around 4.30 pm and shouldered the Fly dri rucksacks and set off for a mile walk over the verdant green hills, which were dotted with sheep, gorse and vivid rhododendron bushes. I had decided to bring my new Airflo rocket fly rod, in 9 foot #6/7 4 section configuration which is great for east transportation. Chris rigged up with a lighter option – a Streamtec 10′ 4/5 which is ideal for fishing smaller wets and dries. In either case we both decided to put on a floater, from the Airflo super-dri range. Sinking lines are very rarely needed on these sort of venues, the trout are almost always looking up for food. Non-stretch cores are absolutely essential for wild lake trouting, where the takes can be lightening fast and easy to miss.

Float tubing in bright conditions

Float tubing in bright conditions.

The conditions were poor to begin with at first, with bright sunshine and wind which makes for far from ideal  brown trout fishing. With nothing happening on the surface or any rises seen we walked the circumference of the lake first in search of fish; getting to know your water seriously improves you chances of catching, and a short reconnoiter is well worth doing. Making the odd cast from likely looking spots along the bank I was able to catch 3 nice browns despite the poor conditions, the best one being around 14 inches. These fish fell to my no.1 wild trout set up – a 20 foot leader which includes an intermediate polyleader, floating line, with a small woolly bugger on the point and a traditional style red tag wet on the dropper. As usual the smaller fish went for the wet, whilst the bigger fish nailed the point fly.

A lovely wild trout graces the net

A lovely wild trout graces the net.

Once we completed our lap of the lake the wind dropped somewhat, and several decent looking rises were sighted out off range off some weedbeds. Chris took to the float tube first, and latched into a couple of nice fish which unfortunately threw the hook, one looked quite large and tail walked the water to a foam!  I took over after an hour or so; the lake became much calmer as the evening progressed, with the odd fish popping up here and there. They seemed to be cruising quite fast under the top so landing the flies in their path at the right time and place was a challenge. However when presentation was just right they nailed it with a bang.. that’s beauty of the tube- you can follow the fish!

A bronze Wild brownie from the float tube.

A bronze Wild brownie from the float tube.

I managed to land half a dozen more, including two bronze beauties of around 16 inches, all carefully released to the water. The dark colouration of these fish was typical for a tannin stained water with lots of boggy marginal vegetation and weed beds. Chris also ended the evening with some nice fish off the bank, which had finally come close into the margins to look for food as the light faded. We left the lake for the hike back very happy anglers indeed- with a return trip in mind!

A nice wild fish - caught off the bank.

A nice wild fish – caught off the bank.

Recommended mountain llyn’s to fish in Wales:
Teifi pools- Book online with Wye and Usk foundation.
Aberystwyth angling association- http://www.aber-angling.co.uk
Welsh water’s Claerwen reservoir in the Elan valley, this includes numerous natural lakes in the ticket for just £8. http://www.elanvalley.org.uk
Cregennan Lakes- Snowdonia http://www.cregennan.co.uk/fishing.cfm

 

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Ceri Thomas

About Ceri Thomas

Ceri Thomas is the online marketing manager at Airflo and Fishtec. An accomplished fly-fisher and predator angler with over two decades of experience, he can be found casting lines across Wales and beyond. Ceri also lends his expertise to several publications including Fly Fishing & Fly Tying magazine, Fulling Mill blog, Today’s Flyfisher, Eat Sleep Fish and more. A member of Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association, he is active in the public discourse surrounding environmental conservation. You can keep up with his fishing adventures on his twitter account.