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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