A visit to a fishery has never been on my bucket list, if you’ll excuse the pun; I am more of a city girl and, what’s more, I have a severe fish allergy. Having said that, live fishes are not my problem – just the cooked ones! I know there are many couples who have a non-fishing partner but, in our marriage, we are both non-fishing.
Undaunted, I recently accepted a kind invitation to visit Graiglwyd Springs Trout Fishery, which is part of the Graiglwyd Estate, set amid the stunning North Wales countryside close to Snowdonia. Located near Conwy and open throughout the year, it is a well-established Troutmaster fishery, and has gained a national reputation for excellence in fly-fishing.
Before I explain the many reasons why I am ‘hooked’ on this particular private estate, first, I will expand on the fishy bit, because while it is not my sport, for many it is. In fact, I am told some keen anglers travel across the globe to fish. Should I ever choose to become a stillwater trout fisher, I can now say that Graiglwyd is where I would head.
Recently, the Fishery was described by writer Peter Cockwell in Trout Fisherman Magazine as a “venue of the future.” Peter goes on to say: “It has convinced me that the future of smaller stillwater trout fisheries is exemplified by this trendsetter.” Not bad news for James and Debbie McAllister, who bought Graiglwyd Springs Estate only last year.
James kindly showed me around and I tried to learn as much as I could in a very short time. For instance, I now know that Euro nymphs, ginks, quill buzzers, dry flies and rainbows are not terms for goods available in Amsterdam’s red-light area – they are all fishing terms!
First, James suggested we walk up the hill to the two-and-a-half-acre lake, and what a scene to behold! This is the first fishery lake I have visited, and I doubt there are many fisheries both surrounded by rolling hills and featuring a view of the sea below. What a vista! On a clear day, the island of Anglesey can be seen, and it’s only a short drive down the A55 should it inspire a visit. The fish are easily seen in the huge ripples on the lake, but I know enough not to make a fuss. I doubt the trout fishermen, sitting patiently by the water’s edge, would have thanked me for it.
It was a cold February day when I visited, but neither the anglers nor the fish seemed deterred by the deep cold water. I am told many women come here to fish and encouragement for young anglers, too, is evident. For instance, take James Penwright – he comes to practice his skills as he is a new member of the England Junior Team, and has been sponsored by James and Debbie. James showed me the bases for two lodges that are soon to be built, which will be directly facing the lake and the amazing views beyond.
Looking upwards from the lake, two things caught my eye; a small holiday home park to the left of the lake, and a rather spectacular hill beyond… more about these later. I was eager to complete my learning of all things trout-related – well a few things, really, I know there is a lot more to it!
I had at least asked a fairly sensible question: “If some of the fish are caught and not unhooked – on the specified barbless hooks – how is the lake replenished?” With a nod, James took me back down the hill to the large rearing pond. This was the one I liked best, because I was allowed to feed the fish. It was exciting to see so many huge fish coming for their lunch – although I have never seen live trout before, even as a ‘trout virgin’ I could tell that some of them were going to earn their captors a trophy or two.
While Graiglwyd Springs is a Troutmasters water, to my mind it is so much more. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is an outdoor pursuits establishment in its own right.
First, the aspect is beautiful and there are gorgeous modern and spacious holiday cottages available to rent for four, six or eight people. The cottages overlook the Menai Straits and the Great Orme and, being on the edge of Snowdonia, I would say that the cottages are a perfect base to visit all the attractions that North Wales has to offer or, if you want to stay in, you can sit in your hot tub and just enjoy those stunning views.
If you are a mountain bike enthusiast, there are plenty of thrills to be had, or, if it’s the seaside charm you seek, then that is in abundance in Victorian Llandudno. There’s even award-winning zip wiring locally, or surfing, and Debbie and James are mines of information on what is available in the area.
Most people are aware that in Wales you are never far away from a castle or two, and of course historic Conway Castle is just a short drive from the Estate. However, if you want to explore a stone circle that predates the druids by a couple of thousand years (or possibly more), then look no further than the hill I had spied earlier, above Graiglwyd Lake. A short climb will take you back in time, possibly to the Neolithic period, and here you will find 30 stones that make an uneven circle.
There are many legends connected with the circle and, indeed, there are prehistoric trackways that run alongside. I am told that one legend has become quite a local tradition, as rumour has it laying a new-born baby on the ledge of the stone, called the Stone of Sacrifice, will ensure the child will have luck for life! For more up-to-date pursuits, I am told the aforementioned neighbouring caravan park’s clubhouse, to the left of the lake, welcomes visitors staying in Graiglwyd Springs.
The weather in North Wales can be as coquettish as the fish and, during my morning visit, the sun hid somewhere over the rolling hills of Snowdonia. But, by lunchtime, the countryside was bathed in golden light once more.
I told you there was something for everyone at Graiglwyd Springs Estate, and while I won’t be catching fish, I am certainly well and truly hooked on everything else on offer.
For more details visit graiglwydsprings.co.uk