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Battling Brookies

Brook trout have the scientific name Salmo fontinalis, but are actually a member of the char family. “Fontinalis” is latin for “of a spring or fountain” which is a direct reference to the brook trout’s liking for clear, cold streams and lakes. They are a native of northeast America and Canada, but have been introduced extensively throughout the US, and also in to Europe, including the UK.

To keep myself thinking and trying new things, alongside my main overall species list, I like to run side lists. One I’ve been doing for some time is fly caught species, another is to complete all the trout types and variants. I needed a UK brook trout for all three lists, but research revealed that, though once popular as a stock fish, in recent times fewer and fewer venues seem to be stocking them.

Chirk Trout Fishery near Wrexham then, is an exception with an occasional stocking of brookies. This is a well run fishery in a beautiful valley setting, and with a good head of fish including hard fighting blue and rainbow trout. It’s a popular venue with two separate lakes. The lakes are stream fed and can be very clear, so it’s a proper fishery where you have to think about your fishing. It can be hard fishing at times, as all fisheries are, but then that’s how I and many others prefer it to be.

Chirk Fishery near Wrexham
Chirk Fishery near Wrexham

I’d made a couple of reconnaissance visits to Chirk to suss the lake out and get an idea of how it fished and the topography of the lake. Mike Jr came along with me last year and we enjoyed some good sport with some nice rainbows and blues taken on 5W rods, though I often drop to a 4W here to maximise sport.

Shaun, the fishery owner, kindly remembered my quest for species and that I needed a brook trout keeping me posted as to when he was likely to stock a few.

It was early September, and Mike Jr and I would meet up at the fishery for the 9.30am opening. Mike was delayed, but a chat with Sean suggested there had already been a couple of brookies caught in the previous couple of days since he’d stocked and I was in with a chance.

Tackling up I noticed that there were a few fish rising to surface fly, so set up a copolymer tippet with a small black palmer fly treated lightly with floatant. They wouldn’t even look at it. Changing to a variety of flies made no difference at all. I switched to a Fluorocarbon tippet, degreasing the last three feet, and added a size 16 black nymph. I got an instant take from a nice blue trout that took all the fly line out and a little backing, but scattered the rest of the fish in the vicinity when it repeatedly leapt.

Mike turned up, but to be honest the next few hours were tough with just a couple of pulls between us, before I added another blue. We had some lunch and discussed our lack of takes. Other anglers were getting the odd fish, mostly to Cats Whisker flies stripped fast. We were both intending to go to lighter tippets and small flies. Resuming fishing, I had a rainbow on a nymph fished across the stream water feed in. Mike then got his eye in and added three quick trout in mid afternoon. There were a few other trout occasionally caught by other anglers, but high light levels and clear water seemed to be keeping bites at a premium.

To get a brookie, I’d have to think different, so set up a rod with a clear intermediate line, lengthened the leader, dropped the tippet to just 3lbs, and went for a small goldhead fly incorporating green fritz and a black body. Brookies seem to like a little colour in a fly. I also chose to move down the lake to where the water was a little deeper. Through my polaroid’s, I could just see where a bank came up and chose to cast beyond this, then work the fly tight to the ground over, and then down, the side of the banks incline.

The sun was a little lower in the sky now, and with an overcast sky the light levels were dropping nicely as we approached early evening. On my first cast I missed a gentle pull when I was too slow to tighten the line. The second cast resulted in another hard fighting blue, followed by two rainbows. Obviously the fish were working the bank, so I’d found a good spot.

I hooked and lost another trout, and decided to move only 10-yards to my right allowing me to cast to the junction where I lost sight of the bank and where the water looked deepest. The first few casts I used to gauge the sink time of the fly to get it working right along the lake bed. The angler count had also dropped as it was getting late in the day, so the water was quieter now.

Three casts in to the darker water and I got a take that was much gentler. This was not a big fish, but it fought by hammering its head, then came up near the surface and made splashy short runs, then fought in the surface water twisting and turning with a high energy level. I had a feeling this was different, but just could not get a clear view of the fish to see what it was. For its size, it was powerful and charged off dragging the rod tip with it. It came back up on to the surface and I was now on my knees, keeping the rod high, working the fish closer to me and the outstretched net. It was only when the fish came over the brim of the net that I identified it as a brookie, and what a stunning looking fish too! In truth it wouldn’t have made a pound, but no matter, it was my 115th species and ticked off another notch on my fly caught and trout lists.

My first Brook Trout
My first Brook Trout

I carried on fishing, with my lad on the opposite bank and I watched him add three more trout to his tally and lose a couple more. I added another two rainbows, then lost another brookie that looked a little bigger right in front of me.

The brook trout completed a hatrick of new species, an undulate ray, catfish, and the brookie, all taken in a short 17-day period. To get three new species, all specifically targeted, and across three different fishing disciplines was a new experience for me and one I really enjoyed.

After a few pictures I returned the Brookie to grow a little bigger
After a few pictures I returned the Brookie to grow a little bigger

I have one more species in mind that might be possible this year, but already I’m planning for next year. With my count being already high, I’ll set my target to try and get two new species and see how I get on. But to be honest, even one new species a year will keep me on track.


Chirk Fishery, Chirk, Wrexham, LL14 5BL. Tel: 01691 772420.