<Don’t forget to scroll down and check out the comments on this page for much more up to date information>
I’ve left an older ‘review’ of Walton at the bottom of the page for posterity but since the images have vanished I decided to use a more recent visit (2015) as the up to date info for Walton
Ever since Stu splashed out on some pike fly-fishing gear he’s been desperate to go use it. To be fair, I was itching for some pike fly fishing action as well so when he suggested a return to Walton Hall I was well up for it. The presence of pike has actually been the biggest selling point of this venue for me, a fact which probably brings on an attack of the vapours for dedicated trout anglers. Time to open your mind, dude. Look at this mean little bugger I caught back in 2008 at Walton Hall. Pike are awesome! How can you not enjoy catching that?! On the fly!
Stu’s enthusiasm for an early start did not quite materialise into reality but we were on the road in the Vectra of Truth (his purpose-bought fishing vehicle) for about 08:30 which is still good for us. It always feels weird to be heading to Wakefield to go fishing, I’m so used to heading up to N.Yorks/Lakes/Scotland or at a pinch to the Midlands. Upon arrival we called into the fishing hut and got a warm welcome with plenty of info about the best areas to fish. We were honest about our intentions to have a bash at the pike with the fly and explained that we had unhooking mats, tools, traces etc so it was agreed we were ok to do so. Ring ahead if you are wanting to fly fish for pike because remember this is primarily a trout fishing venue.
Because the lake was really busy we ended up taking the wheely-boat out albeit with the obvious understanding we’d bring it straight back if it was needed by a less-able angler. It took us a while to actually get out fishing, in fact I swear it took us nearly 45 minutes to tackle up but I did at least manage to speak to a fellow angler in the car park who recognised me from the website. Good to hear that the stuff I bang up comes in useful sometimes 🙂
Our first session was in front of the sunken boat where we were advised there was a deep channel. The water clarity was outstanding (especially with my polaroids on) and I could see plenty of fish chasing my huge pearly-silver pike lure but they all seemed to be trout. However a couple of times something bigger slunk in to have a look and I’m sure they were pike. The first offer came to Stu when his pike fly got snagged in an overhead phone line (!) then dropped into the water with a splash. A small jack grabbed hold before letting go again.
More trout follows..err..followed.. then another pike swam around inspecting our pike flies before sauntering off in disgust. We upped anchor and fished tight into the sunken boat – too tight in fact as I managed to hook a submerged plank! That corner was now ruined so we left there entirely and went over to the South East bay. We were however waylaid by a spectacular rise of trout in the middle of the lake, an opportunity too good to miss so out came the trout rods. I had a size 12 ish buzzer with orange goose biot cheeks and peacock herl thorax on the point and a red buzzer on dropper. Not a touch to the red but the one on point started doing the business. During a brief session I had several fish, most of them browns whereas Stu had all rainbows. One of Stu’s fish was a brute of about 4 1/2 – 5lbs which fought like stink
I eventually managed to drag us away from the still-feeding trout and onto the original plan, to fish the bay for pike. We anchored up and began hoying out pike flies. Shortly after I began seeing pike in the water. They weren’t double figure monsters but nor were they jacks, they were big enough to get me excited. With my Dame Edna shades I could see everything and began dropping my flies in front of them. I mean right in front of them, to the point of being nervous of foul-hooking but they would not take. My God it was exciting though! I tried and tried and tried but got zero interest. Of note, towards the end of the session I watched 3 pike get into a stern-chase which did make me wonder if they were still in spawning mode, and there I had a great new excuse for why I hadn’t caught a pike!
We came back out of the bay and onto the main lake again to have a bash at the trout which were still rising all over the place. A few more were caught, I had another couple of browns and some rainbows while Stu still caught only rainbows. Strange!
We headed back to ‘sunken-boat-swim and had another session after the pike but nothing was doing. The pike simply wouldn’t play ball. The most entertaining event was Stu realising he’d knocked his vaping nicotine crack-pipe into the lake. He literally tore the boat to shreds looking for it and was nearly crying with rage. It was funny for quite some time but then he started to get dark and wanted to throw my bag in the water which wasn’t funny.
What was needed was some fish catching therapy so we went back out onto the main lake and had a last session after the trout. I was really enjoying buzzer fishing, some of the takes were incredible with the line being wrenched out of my hands. It was a much needed reminder of how effective the technique is because I’ve got into a frame of mind where I struggle to find the patience to fish this way. This was classic buzzer fishing though where you let the line swing round in a fairly gentle breeze into fish cruising upwind and need a steady retrieve to keep up with the slack. Static buzzer fishing in a dead calm is something else and requires immense patience or ketamine, or maybe both. I’m not quite sure I’m ready for static buzzers again. Mind you I’m off to Carsington this weekend and I reckon it will be the method. Anyway towards the end of this session something nailed my by-now raggedy ass buzzer. It went on a spectacular run. All my slack line was taken up and bang we were onto the reel. It even took line off the reel. It took all my line off the reel. Onto the backing! Yeaah I’m liking that. But wait. It’s taking all my backing and I can’t stop it. Fuuuck this has never happened to me before, I’m gonna run out of backing! This was the most spectacular fish I’ve ever hooked in over 20 years of fishing. It slowed, then surfaced – ooh that looks big. Ping. It’s off. Ugh. Uuugh! Reel in, try not to cry. Move on.
If only I’d filmed it! I have subsequently bought a Go-Pro knock-off that I can wear on my bonce for future fishing expeditions – that’s how much it affected me! Half an hour later Stu hooked a nice fish and I filmed it on my phone but it didn’t fill the void. Still a good fight though.
We were still catching fish when the manager eventually waved a white flag (!) at us which I cleverly guessed was a subtle hint for us to pack it in and return to base!
What a cracking day’s fishing. This is the first time I’ve really seen the trout fishing light up at Walton Hall and it was brilliant. The fish fought like mad and that beast I hooked really was the one that got away. I thoroughly recommend you give it a go here, especially whilst it’s still fairly early season. You can find more info on Walton Hall here http://www.flyonlyonline.co.uk/waltonhalltroutfishery.html
Much older write-up below!
Our first visit to Walton Hall many years ago was not necessarily a happy one. Regular visitors to this website (are there any?!) may have read my previous review which was not overly positive about this fishery – someone certainly read it because we received an email from a Walton Hall regular who had a bone to pick with us. It seemed Walton Hall was under new ownership and the comments/findings in our review were no longer relevant and were unnecessarily putting people off paying it a visit, and he urged us to go back and see what it’s like now.
A quick chat with the new owner quickly revealed that one of our major gripes – opening hours – was no longer an issue and anglers can now enjoy a full session right through into late evening/dusk. This is of particular interest to myself and Stu as neither of us are what you’d call ‘early starters’. So, with renewed vigour we arrived at Walton Hall and wandered into the ticket office with caps in hand to meet the new owner face to face. He was very keen to make it clear that under his management Walton Hall was a different place and that once we’d spent a day there we’d be able to write a more favourable review. Yours truly was however finding it hard to listen intently as thoughts of pike on the fly were clouding my ability to concentrate. The lake has been cleared of a lot of its jack pike but we were assured that some still remained and I wanted to devote most of the day to targeting them.
Heading out onto the lake another dramatic difference to the ‘new, improved Walton Hall’ became obvious – very little weed, despite it being well into May! Last time we were here the place was thick with it and made fishing very difficult. Great efforts have been put into eradicating this problem and it’s made a big difference. Stu tackled up a typical trout outfit whilst I put up my Guideline LPX #9 weight rod with a clear intermediate and a gigantic beast of a fly that vaguely resembled a perch. Conditions were looking much more promising than last time we came to Walton, it was pleasantly warm but with a nice breeze and there were plenty of clouds above us. We motored over to the furthest corner (the far end of which is cordoned off as home for the recently removed pike if I remember correctly – sadly you can’t fish it!!) and whilst Stu delicately fished his buzzers and dry-flies I gurned and grunted whilst double-hauling my monstrous creation out into likely looking pike-holding spots in front of reeds, under overhanging branches etc etc.
It was a fruitless session for us both so we moved back out into the mouth of the bay to try different water. Stu had a couple of plucks on his pearly bibio but nothing solid, and I had no reward for my efforts whatsoever. Time to move again. I reeled in but crunched my fly into a submerged log….which proceeded to zoom off ! I received a secretly pleasurable friction burn as the fly-line was stripped off my screaming reel. Pike!!!! Some seriously hard runs followed, as I struggled to keep it under control despite the undoubted backbone of my 9 weight rod. With barely concealed glee I finally managed to slip my net under a muscular pike of around 6 or 7lb. Not big by anyone’s standards but bigger than my only other fly-caught pike which topped the scales at a mighty pound and a half! A quick photo and then down to the business of unhooking the fish, which proved difficult due to the unorthodox fashion in which it had managed to impale itself (I wasn’t happy about it, and neither was he. Couple of paracetamol and you’ll be fine mate, honest!) Thank God it was a single hook!
Following a celebratory coffee and smoke, we headed into the main part of the lake to both settle into some trout fishing – after all Walton Hall is a trout fishery. I put up a 10ft #7 rod with a floating line and spent an hour or so trying various dries but managed nothing other than a half-hearted swirl from a rainbow. Stu however was fairing better and in quick succession landed 2 nice rainbows, both just under the 2lb mark. They had been enticed by his Diawl Bach…a fly which is one of his firm favourites and yet has only caught a handful of fish for me over the years, despite giving it countless outings on my cast. The action dried up for Stu and ..well, stayed dry for me so we upped anchor and headed out to fish in front of the hotel, paying absolutely no attention to the buxom brunette in her late twenties wearing a white skirt who’d sloped away from the wedding party to sit at the water’s edge. No, definitely not.
A nearby angler kindly pointed out a couple of features known to be good pike holding areas so I took the opportunity to wind out the 9 weight again and began dropping my fly just in front of some wooden staging. Made sense to me, smaller fish would no doubt hang around these features, and where you find prey fish you find predators. 5 minutes later my theory seemed to have been validated as I hooped into a thick piece of muscle and once again listened to the delightful tune of my Koma’s falsetto protestations (oh come on, it makes a change from simply saying screaming reel). This pike was making straight out fast runs reminiscent of a rainbow trout and when it finally jumped clear it turned out to be just that…a rainbow trout with a big appetite! When finally netted it turned out to be pushing 4lb and had suffered no ill affects from having a big pike fly in its mouth. I returned my unexpected capture from whence it came and began to think it would now be nice to catch a perch to give me some kind of treble, especially as Walton Hall holds some big examples. I didn’t as it happened, but I’ll be back, you hear me, you stripy little blighters?! Anyway, I digress.
We didn’t hit any more fish in that spot so I eventually motored out to the middle again to try our luck there for the last session. Stu managed to hook and lose what felt like a good rainbow whilst I missed several takes to a ginger hopper but nothing came to the net so we decided to call it a day seeing as light was beginning to fade. Stu took the helm to motor us back in as I pinged out a pike fly and retrieved it back (so, you know, I wasn’t technically trolling) with very little anticipation. I was consequently pleasantly surprised when an admittedly tiny jack hit my fly and fought well above its weight before finally succumbing.
Our host was very interested to hear how we’d got on during our return visit to Walton and was genuinely pleased that we’d had a good day out on his lake. I came away with a much more positive impression of this fishery and would gladly recommend anyone give it a try. I would also like to thank ‘Nick’ who got in touch gave us the heads up on how things have changed for the better at Walton Hall.
Walton Hall Trout Fishery
Waterton Park Hotel
One 26 acre lake with a depth of around 3ft – 10ft, set in the grounds of Waterton Park Hotel, near Wakefield
Lodge with toilets in the adjacent hotel