Welsh international angler Kieron Jenkins visits Cwm Hedd Lakes, where he finds some quality resident fish right under his feet…
Flies For Cwm Hedd
Fulling Mill Bung and Weighted Blob
Sometimes when you say “small-water fishing” many anglers automatically assume a puddle filled with recently stocked trout and an armada of local anglers taking up the best spots to catch their limit quickly. However, small waters have a lot more than this to offer, in particular the challenge of catching wise old resident fish that have seen it all.
Cwm Hedd Lakes in South Wales is one water where there are plenty of such trout, and I set out in search out some of the resident feeding fish that this water has to offer.
Cwm Hedd has a growing reputation and is quickly becoming one of the best small-water fisheries in Wales. It’s a seven-acre spring-fed fishery nestled on the outskirts of Newport, which lends itself to the experienced angler looking to tempt some of the educated residents, as well as the novice angler after some fun on the stocked fish.
After a long, dry summer and high water temperatures, many small waters tend to go off and the fish sulk into the deeper areas of the lake. But after lengthy cool spells throughout the winter the water cools and the fish become more active as spring arrives. The fish now move into the shallow water to feed on buzzers, damsels, corixa and shrimps, as well as the abundance of roach fry at this venue.
Matt and young Callum Russell (a father and son team!) and I turn up to find an almost flat-calm lake with half-a-dozen anglers dotted on the inside bank near the lodge, so we decided to tackle up in front of the lodge to discuss tactics. I set up a floating line, a 5ft floating Poly Leader and a length of 6lb fluorocarbon with two size 12 Crunchers and a brown Wrapped Minkie pattern on the point.
The floating line is ideal for fishing the shallow water, ensuring the fly stays above the bottom and maximising your fishing time. I wandered across to the far side of the lake, known as the Wading Area, to try my luck.
As I walk past the first three platforms, I spook two fish that were extremely close in. I stop and let the water settle, and begin to peel a few yards of line from the reel. Many anglers tend to forget that trout do actually feed close to the bank and whack a line out into the horizon, spooking anything that may have been in close.
Matt Russell selects the flies for tempting the resident fish at Cwm Hedd
I roll cast the line from the ground and once I have a short line out I retrieve quickly, trying to force water through the Minkie so it falls through the water column faster. I instantly get a bow wave behind the fly with a fish following it right into the bank. Lifting off I drop the now wet Minkie back to the water and a feisty rainbow comes out of the margins and takes just a few inches below the surface. Sure enough, a resident fish of around 2lb comes into the net.
Avoid the temptation to cast a long line to start with - the better fish are likely to be the margins first.
I fish the area for another 20 minutes or so without a take, with sporadic fish rising just outside casting range playing hard to get. Much of the walkway around the lake is higher than the fishing platforms and with many of the fish at this end of the lake being in the water for quite some time they have become wary and easily spooked by wandering anglers.
I reel in and move off, making my way towards where Matt and Callum were fishing.
Fishing The Drop-Offs
Matt, who is just a few platforms ahead of me, is fishing close to the bank over a drop-off into around 10 feet of water. Both stocked and resident trout like to patrol structures. Fishing close to the margins, weed beds and drop-offs can produce some exciting sport.
As I get nearer he strikes, unfortunately missing the take and we settle down for a chat. Before I could even put my kit down he strikes again, this time hooking the fish and swiftly bringing it to the net.
Young Callum Russell with a beautiful resident brown from the margins.
He’s fishing a Sunburst Blob under an indicator at around five feet in depth. He tells me that he started at about eight feet, but after missing two takes pretty early on as the Blob was falling through the water he shortened his tippet to around half the length and was quickly rewarded with a fighting-fit rainbow.
We sit and talk and within 10 minutes he nets another two fish, again taking once the Blob settled at the 5ft mark.
Try The Difficult Pegs
With Matt explaining that the fish were deeper over this side of the lake and the conditions still almost flat calm, I too set up the bung, fishing an orange Squirmy Worm at five feet. Earlier in the morning, we saw fish getting caught from the point of the island, so I decided to head to the far side of it when the anglers have moved off.
I settle on a peg that is quite difficult to fish; the trees are close to the right and quite thick behind, making for a hard back cast – the ideal place for fish to hold up when they’re getting pressured.
Flicking the fly from the rod and roll casting just 10 or so feet out, the bung hardly has time to settle before it goes skating across the surface!
A beautiful, fully finned rainbow that looks to have been in the lake quite some time is soon in my net. A couple of casts later the bung dips; I pause and wait, then it disappears, this time right along the tree line, and another old fish gracefully slips into the net.
As I slip the fish back into the water, Matt appears as his sport has dried up. I allow him to jump onto the platform while I sort out a tangle and describe how difficult it is to cast with the surrounding obstacles, as he expertly puts the fly into the tree behind!
Quickly rectifying himself he lands his fly in the prime position, not too far from where I’d caught the previous fish. It isn’t long before he too is rewarded with a resident of his own, a beautiful fully finned rainbow around 17 inches in length! It goes to show that persevering in an area that is ‘hard’ and adapting to the situation can pay off.
A Personal Best
As the morning grows old the grey cloud disappears, leaving a beautiful sunny day. The temperature has risen slightly and a few fish are starting to rise, so Callum and I venture back to the Wading Area hoping for some action.
We tread gently and move slowly close to the reed bed and spot a good brown trout right in close to the bank. Callum is itching to cast but I persuade him to sit and wait, to watch its movements. Not a lot happens, the fish glided about close in unaware of our presence, so Callum decides to cast, dropping a weighted Sunburst Blob about three feet away from where the fish has settled.
He twitches the rod, making the fly lift from the bottom, and this grabs the fish’s attention. It darts over and engulfs the fly literally under the rod tip – Callum strikes and the fish is on!
Keeping the tension, he holds the fish hard and expertly nets it by himself. For a 12-year-old, he can fish! The fish is quickly photographed and released, a brown of near-enough 4lb in weight and a personal best for Callum!
The fishing at Cwm Hedd has been incredible over the last few months, with rainbows and browns between 4lb and 7lb regularly getting caught over the winter, including a beautiful grown-on fish of 6lb 5oz for me. So, now’s the time to get out on those small waters and target the resident fish that lurk in the margins.
Kieron’s Bung Setup
I know many anglers don’t like fishing the bung, but it goes without saying that it’s probably one of the most effective methods on small waters – and reservoirs for that matter – especially when fishing buzzers.
For quite some time I’ve had trouble getting the bung ‘right’ on the leader, though. I have mainly been using Fish Pimp indicators, which slide onto the tippet, but after time they tend to slip and the silicone insert perishes with use.
During the past few months, I’ve been using a 5ft Airflo Polyleader with a tippet ring attached to the end and a dropper of three inches of 5lb copolymer and a Fulling Mill Foam Bung, with the tippet/fly tied directly to the ring too. The short dropper ensures you’re in direct contact when you get takes and the Polyleader makes for good turnover, even at distance.
Small waters are prone to pressure from anglers, which can often lead to the fish going off or becoming very finicky. I tend to fish as light as possible, usually 5lb or 6lb, depending on the rules of the fishery.
Cwm Hedd operates a strict barbless-only policy – due to being a catch and release water – with a minimum of 6lb tippet so as not to get broken off by the big fish that inhabit the lake.
Cwm Hedd Lakes
Croesheolydd Farm, Bassaleg, Newport, Gwent NP10 8RW