Spey Trophy Trout

largeFeeling energized after the previous evenings fishing’s and even though I had only managed to squeeze in 6 hours kip I was raring to hit the water and start throwing out casts but thankfully I managed to stifle my enthusiasm and sit and watch the water for wee while.   Difficult at 8.30 in the morning with bright blue skies above and the sun beginning to crest above the high tree covered ridge line and hills to the south east, the gnawing realisation that very shortly the brightness would shut the morning fishing window and put the fish down until the evening and restbite from the sun. I sat with wader clad legs and torso feeling like a boil in bag Scotsman as the air temperature climbed past 20 degrees Celsius, my legs hanging in the cooling waters of the famous River Spey offered some relief. And I know many readers will laugh at the notion of 20 degrees being too hot but trust me when you are used to the average temperatures of the frozen North beyond the wall 20 degrees is tropical, add the person sized condom like waders, it’s too hot for this Scotsman!

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This middle River Spey beat was fast becoming one of my favourite beats on the river, I had spent a week fishing it with clients a year earlier and had got my first taste of its quality trout and fantastic surroundings. A group of experienced salmon fishers who were looking to augment the salmon fishing with a little trout action and a better beat you couldn’t find, so when the invite had land in my inbox to join again this time as a fisher I jumped on the offer and the opportunity to spend some time chasing the fantastic trophy trout that this beat can produce,  this time without clients. When you think of great Scottish trout fly fishing the main rivers that come to mind are rivers like the Don, the Annan, Clyde and Deveron but this famous salmon river that many salmon fishers have on their bucket lists, produce some of the finest trout fishing I have experienced and the dry fly sport make it a fly fishers nirvana.

River Spey

Sitting watching the faintly peaty waters of the Spey spilling from the salmon pool above through the fast rocky turbulent pocket water,  both banks cloaked in birch in the first fresh flush of spring green and behind me pine trees gently swaying in the light wind, it’s a picture perfect location.  And with conditions to match it had me almost salivating, sitting expectantly; waiting to see what fish would show themselves.

For the past 24hrs a caddis hatch of Granom and black sedge almost biblical in proportions had been streaming in brown mist like clouds, the volume of biomass streaming from the surface of the river was almost beyond comprehension.  A hatch of such profusion would be expected to produce a rise of trout to rival it but strangely hardly a fish stirred, clearly most of the feeding was going on sub surface with the trout targeting the ascending pupa rather than the struggling emergers of caddis on the surface. I can only assume the brightness of the conditions was inducing this feeding behaviour but with the evening cool and gloom once the sun had sunk below the tree line, the feeding actively switched to the surface. There were however, exceptions under the blue skies; the hatch had phases of less intensity where it wained and these periods seemed to induce a change to surface feeding of the emerged caddis and that was my cue and opportunity, with the waning hatch the larger trout were drawn to surface taking pupa just below the surface producing the distinctive dorsal and tail rises.

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As the Hatch easied I spied a couple of nice fish taking sedge from the surface, never in an easy spot are they!  Tight to the far side of a fast deep seam two thirds of the way across the river it was going to be a tricky wade across a very bouldered 3ft deep section of fast water to get in to a position to cast, to complicate there was also a freshening downstream wind.  But if it was easy it wouldn’t be fun!

fishing a barbless size 14 CDC Elk hair on a 16ft 5x tapered leader and a 4 weight 9ft Hardy demon rod.

I begin my slow wade across to the seam, the awkward lie of the trout meant I had a short window to present the fly before the current would induce drag and effect the flies movement. I position myself about 2 rod lengths below and on the opposite side of the seam to the rising trout. I make my first cast but the wind is playing havoc with the leader, no hope of the perfect presentation. I quickly retrieve and decide to shorten the leader removing 4-5ft of tippet and cast back out covering the steady rising trout but not a twitch…. I cover it once, twice, three times but not a hint of wanting it!

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Another quick retrieve, standing waist deep in the cold Spey water tugging at my waders and legs, I stare at the fly…… blankly; the fly is right! But why no interest? The size! I go down to a size 16 – quick change, floatant and I mud the leader.

Anxiety building that the trout might stop rising, as I look up it sips again so it’s still mine for the catching.  A confident sip and with each rise it’s moving a bit of water,  suggesting it’s a good fish, hopefully about a couple of pounds. The fly lands 2ft upstream of the trout and just as the drag starts to act on the fly a brownie coloured nose pokes from the surface and my fly disappears……. I lift in to the fish, feel the weight and know in that moment as the rod tip bends over that its “fish on”! the trout realises its hooked and the next 15 minutes of give and take sport begins as this lump of a fish takes off like a run-away steam train straight downstream my 4wt Hardy’s tip bouncing as the trout fights and thrashes crossing from one side of the river to the other below me in the current. My wrist beginning to ache from the fight as I keep switching hands; this is a big fish, far bigger than expected, it dawns on me I won’t be able to net this one in the middle of the river I going to have to get it in the shallower slack water by the bank, which means I’ve got to wade back across this minefield like boulder strewn assault course of a river bed. The swearing begins, inching my way back to the bank fighting to stay upright against the current whilst playing this rather large and feisty trout that doesn’t seem to be tiring in the slightest! It’s not expending that much energy using the current to fight me – whose playing who?

 

 

 

 

Half way back to the bank and something makes me look down, just as my McLean’s weigh net sweeps past me? Somehow it’s come loose from my back and its lanyard? (more swearing) it lands a few feet in front of me wedged between two rocks.  You have to be kidding me! (more swearing) My wrists are killing me, I am struggling to stand up in the current and now my bloody £80.00 net has decided to swim with the fishes! “RIGHT that’s it!” (more swearing) I need the net to land this fish inching forward crouching, bending, stooping down I reach and stretch through the cold mountain water desperately trying to get my fingers to the sunken net whilst fighting and playing this trout (more swearing) my shirt is soaked and water begins pouring in to my waders very quickly solving my overheating problem and making me gasp as the cold water hits part of my body it shouldn’t! Just as I feel like all is lost I make fingertip contact with the net and somehow I get a hold of the frame “YES got it” I yell to myself and the blue sky above as I wrestle it from its watery grave and manage to clip it to my belt. Half drowned, sodden and aching I finally make it to the slacker water thankfully still playing my prize, the trout relinquishes its battle and slowly I work it to the net aware that I have this monster on a size 16 barbless hook.  It slips head first into the net and it’s a monster alright, a deep powerful Spey brownie 5.25lb in weight, a slab of Spey Gold. I breathe a sigh of relief and lean back against the bank just as Bill and Roddy the Ghillie arrive, right boys get a photo of this I am “****ing knackered.” Quick photos are taken for posterity  and the adrenaline begins to ease as I kneel in the water and slowly release this beautiful slab of Spey gold with a huge smile and total exhaustion (me, not the trout!).

 

 

 

 

Early season Trout

largeThe Early Trout season of 2018 can be best described as unique possible challenging and for the less eloquent bloody frustrating! March saw Scotland and the UK as a whole still gripped in winter with the “beast from the East” refusing to relinquish winters grip, repeatedly freezing temps and heavy snow pounded Scotland. As the trout season opened the  large snow accumulations in the head waters decided it was time melt and sent the river gauges rocketing, turning the rivers a chocolate brown and sending water temperatures plummeting to levels that made body parts shrink and seek shelter in ones throat accompanied by gasps of frozen shock.  It produced very short lived hatches if any at all and the trout went turgid, switching off from the feed and doing as little as possible to conserve energy.

I didn’t get my first proper days fishing in until 25 March, the hatch finally appearing late afternoon between 3.30 and 4.00pm.  A  short flurry of LDO’s and March Browns brought

img_1175-1a few fish to the dry fly but you had to be camped on the pools waiting otherwise blink and you would miss the days rise and so March and early April continued “frustrate and repeat” as the rivers went up and down with pulses of snow melt keeping the water temperature somewhere in the region of Baltic cold and the air temperature didn’t do much better.  The wind stubbornly coming from the east and north east the air temperature was never given the chance to climb, hatches where patchy as were the rises. To maximise fishing it was all about time on the water waiting and social media was alive with the howls of frustrated fishers, especially the go to Nymph fly fishers who seemed to be completely incapable of adapting to the different and changing conditions and unable to understand that due to the longer winter and colder water conditions trout wouldn’t be sitting in the same locations as 12 months earlier, but still they banged away with tungsten bemoaning the lack of fish!

The trout were to be found in the water that offered a more stable therma-cline, they weren’t needing to get in to the fast water yet as the cold water temps meant oxygen saturation was high enough in slower water that the trout could feed without expending unnecessary energy. The slower deeper river sections, for the dry fly fisher with patience, proved great fishing with some really nice fish falling to a well presented dry fly in early April.

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April felt more like February and as the month dragged by I had to spend hour after hour waiting for the hit and miss almost random hatches that the rivers produced through much of the month.  As a glamour of warm began to creep in to our chilled world the hatches were beginning to come earlier in the day but lacked “set your watch by them” frequency and regularity,  but with patience there were rewards to be had, but it meant knowing were decent fish like to lie given the conditions and waiting till they decided to show themselves, picking at the odd hatching upwings and even midges.

The first week of April saw one such lunchtime a cold wind from the North West, grey laden cloud with the occasional blue window above was producing a less than motivating atmosphere as I sat huddled against the bank on one of the River Deveron’s tributaries that I love to fish in early spring, the first green shoots beginning to struggle through the brown and dead looking banks of last year’s growth. I had been hunkered down watching a stretch of water  where I had spotted a decent looking trout a week earlier but had failed to entice to the fly, suddenly from tight to the opposite bank in relatively slow water in about 5 ft of depth a confident sip and a push of water gave away the location of the trout I was in search of, signalling the start of slow intermittent hatch of march browns and the occasional LDO.

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I creep to the banks edge attempting to keep my bulk out of sight above the bank, not an easy feat as its not so much ignoring the elephant in the room, more of a case of trying to hide it! I lay the cast about 6 feet upstream of where the fish had been rising in a foam line, 3 feet above the fishs’ last rise my size 14 CDC shuttle cock disappears in the softest of sips and I quickly lift into the fish………the water explodes and the joyous whoops quickly turns to mild panic as the trout runs straight for the bottom and upstream peeling line from the reel.  Talking to myself aloud “keep it on”, the pleasure of hooking a good fish soon disappears as desperation and panic to get what is clearly a good fish to the net sets in. Having run up stream in to fast thick water the trout turns and using the fast water races back towards me down the pool, the rod held up over my head as I franticly strip line trying to stay in contact with the fish and keep a semblance of pressure on the barbless hook, the fish still hadn’t showed itself yet other than a flash of gold in the peated waters as it raced past me towards the tail of the pool and the fast water that it was using to great effect.  Sitting in the fast thick water at the tail, this whiley bar of Aberdeenshire gold sat moving from seam to seam attempting to cast the hook in a 5 minute battle of wills to see whether the leader would give out before I had managed to tire the fish enough to get it to the net, but slowly I regained line and I worked it from its fast water bastion to the net. Adrenaline trembles and gasps of relief as the net enveloped and cradled this beautiful 2.6lb wild Deveron brownie.

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Smiling and recovering my composure I stroll up stream to see what else I can find, still a few March browns continue to float down on the current, but nothing seems to be showing any interest. From the pool above I hear the enticingly familiar sound of a feeding trout taking upwings from the surface and sure enough the familiar sight of a rolling trout confidently moving from side to side taking the march browns, I crawl and edge my way slowly along the water’s edge below the high bank trying to get into a position so I can make a presentation above the fish.  But it’s not an easy prospect given the position which is being compounded by the downstream wind but I get myself almost level with the rising trout, my back almost flat against the bank and I manage to make a cast which deposits the fly about 4 feet above the trout and almost immediately I begin to mutter and curse as the fly is being drawn in to an eddy and off the line of the rising trout.  You would be amazed at the swears I can string together as I mutter to myself recumbent against the bank, the fly drifts 2 feet wide of the trout but I daren’t lift off and cast again until it’s well past it for fear of spooking it but as this thought flashes through my mind I watch the trout rise, turn and sucks in my offered fly.  I lift as quick as I can and there at the end of the line is that joyous feeling a good sized trout on the line the rod tip bends over and it realises its hooked the battle to the net begins ‘FISH ON” I call to myself!  Two cracking bars of gold in 15mins with in 100ft of each other…… counting my chickens before they’ve hatched, as my hooked slab of gold proceeds to give me a very educational lesson in physics, acrobatics and hubris, going vertical like a Polaris missile and smashing back on to the rivers’ peaty surface in an explosion of white water more fitting of a tarpon, the barbless hook is dislodged and sent pinging back in my direction and as the river surface settles, the air turned blue as an expletive filled rant erupted from the bank as I berate myself……… my brief lesson in over confidence concludes is my day and make for the comfort of home a cupa and the wood burner.

Deveron Trout

As fly fishers we all have our favourite beat or stretch of water that we love for different reasons, its location, the size, quality and numbers of brown trout, the pools and the water or maybe just because that stretch of water has been particularly kind to us in the past. For me the River Isla is one of my favs and a couple of spots in particular on this tributary of the Deveron.  Few rivers offer a more isolated feel without actual isolation, the Isla has been particularly generous to me with quality trout and memorable days and it is only 10 minutes from the front door. However this season my affections are being competed for and I have strayed, not far but love has grown for a beat on the middle Deveron. And has been getting far more attention from me these early days of the trout season.

Those of you that follow Tuff flyfishing on social media;

https://m.facebook.com/TUFFflyfishing.co.uk

https://mobile.twitter.com/tuffflyfish15

may have noticed me adoringly tweeting and flooding the Facebook world with loving words as of late and may well already have guessed where is this new love of mine well………..its Bridge of Marnoch! Should I be whispering? Possibly! Trout bums familiar with the Deveron will know this beat well and I confess it’s a beat I had only fished a couple of times before this season and without great success.  But it’s 2017 and something clicked. 


Opening 2 two weeks before my home beats on the 15th of March, rather than the 1st of April meant it got its chance to seduce me and it really did work its magic.  Stretching for just over 2 miles on the middle Deveron this beat has a great choice of waters – streamy sections, pocket waters and deep glides with nice seams galore. 

More than enough to keep any fly fishing fanatic happy,  Nymphers and “normal” fly fishers alike. Winding downstream from the top of the beat which lies just above the Marnoch bridge that carries the Banff road over the Deveron heading northward, the beat meanders downstream with a fantastic mix of water; comprising ————named pools, these  two miles of river hold a surprisigly large number of 2lb+ trout.

 https://www.tuffflyfishing.co.uk

With the nature of the beat it is possible to find some shelter when the wind howls, as it often does and on those blue sky days there is shade to find. 

Blue skies above and a strengthening westerly wind I headed downstream seeking a little shelter, surveying the water for those first signs of the hatch but no hint.  I prefer to fish dries almost all the time which means life can be some what more challenging but there is some thing so visual, engaging and enthralling watching the fly on the surface, the anticipation, the hope waiting for the take, so I often spend a fair bit of time watching for that rise brought on by the hatch.

So far this year there has been good hatches of LDOs and short lived hatches of March browns  have been coming off the water during the magic window lunch time window, to the point you could actually set your watch by them between 11am and 2.30pm. I have my favourite spots and others theirs and I am sure this is the point where you expect me to spill the details on my spot… Afraid not folks! Where would the fun be in that, you just have to fish the beat and find your spot and the beautiful trout they hold.
I stroll almost to the bottom of the beat without much in the way of hatch or fish rising.  I turn and stroll back upstream and with that mother nature flickes a switch and Upwings begin struggling through the surface film and floating on the rivers surface like a flotilla of sailing boat before drying their wings and climbing skyward or becoming a trout snack.

Slowly the trout begin to sip and pop on the surface taking emergers as they break through the suface of the river and as the hatch continues, what seems like reckless abandument sets in amongst the trout.  They feed hard with splashy breaches of the surface taking both emergers and the duns on the surface, so I cast to my first fish.  It’s a reachy cast to the far side of a seam that runs down the middle of the river, this fish keeps rising and appears to be a reasonable size and I need good accuracy for this as the fishs’ positions will mean that as soon as the line hits water will quickly generate drag on the fly.

The wind drops and I pull off a good cast and almost instantly drag takes effect but in that same moment the trout takes and runs; “fish on”.  Fishing a 4wt rod it feels like a good fish but sometimes it can be deceptive, especially as it fights upstream so  I am fighting the current as much as the fish.  And trying not to put too much strain on the fine 7X leader 2.4lb breaking strain. The trout quickly tires and I 

bring it to the net, a 2lb, 21in slab of gold.
For Fishing on the middle Deveron

Contact Frank at Henderson country sports  

TEL; 01888 562428

http://www.fishingthedeveron.co.uk/

I dry off the Cdc quill emerger quickly, almost frantic to get the fly back on the water, quick dusting of frogs fanny I mud the line and look for my next target. The sounds of rising fish draws me downstream; in and on the near side of a seam in the mouth of the pool below there are several fish rising to Upwings drifting by.  One fish in particular draws my lustful gaze, intermittently rising right in the seam, I throw out a cast from a crouched position in the water right on the rivers edge and clearly having used up my quota of good casts for the day I over shoot an I have to let the fly drift downstream so as not to spook my target. As I go to lift off, the water erupts in a splashy take and I am convinced I am in to a monster.  Hand trembling and my heart racing as line streams from my reel I play the fish back and forth eventually bringing it to the net only to discover, somewhat bemused by the fight it had put up, a 12in, ¾ of a pound fiinock (young seatrout) – what a fight! I devoutly go through the tasks of preparing my fly and leader again and cover my target, in fact I cover it dozens of times changing fly three time as frustration sets in.  The whiley trout either rises infront of, next to or behind and never touches the fly…… I consider my options, pour over the flybox and select an old favourite; a Para Adams sz14 barbless.  A quick change and I cast holding my breath as it lands a foot from the fish and is carried down and over the fish and past it.  I can feel a tiraid of expletives building when splash – he’s taken it! “fish on.” He must have turned and taken the fly on his nose as it came downstream.  As he goes diving for the river and shelter in the broken bedrock I fight, trying to bring him to the surface concious of my light leader but luck is on my side for once and I get the 22in, 2.5lb beauty to the bank and the net quick selfie and he is back in to the depths of the river, until next time.

Sitting in the water with a contented smile on my face, I reflect that there certainly is an above average number of these lunkers on the Rivers Deveron and Don but for me its all about catching beautiful wild Scottish brownies, regardless of wheather they are 9in quarter pounders or 29in 7lb slabs.  For myself its about the privilege of being on beautiful stretches of water in stunning locations just catching trout. Maybe I am more of an explorer that a trophy hunter. So remember folks, it’s not about the size……..apparently, its all about the 1ertwqytyoiewrtqerfishing experience.

Help Get that Early season Success

These early days of the trout season are some of my favourite times of the entire season, I love the early days the feeling of rebirth after the grey winter months were the rivers and its banks felt so lifeless and stark. The first shoots of regeneration reach skywards and the air fills with the hum of the first bumble bees and skylarks song. Up-wings lifting from the water, as the occasional wild flowers dot the banks with yellows and whites beneath the purple haze cast by the broadleaf trees ripe with buds ready to burst open, flooding the grey world with bright fresh green bathed in the new warmth of spring sunshine. It lifts the soul, putting a skip in your step and a smile on even a grumpy bugger like myselfs’ face. 

For the dry fly fanatic this can be a season of success, plenty and simplicity where I know I can with confidence carry less flies an know with some certainty that it will also produce some of the larger trout that I will see for the year, but it does require patience 

3lb river Deveron brown trout

 

So how do you win during these early days of Spring and April;

·               Timing; Know when and what to fish

Start of the season its all about timing, you could fish from dawn till dusk but you could also beat your head against a brick wall, both have different outcomes but are equally as pointless. I have watched other fishers thrash the water and leave disheartened. You need to fish the window when the hatch is on, this tends to be a rather short 3 or 4 hour period over lunch from around 11am till 3pm, the warmest part of these spring days. So don’t be precious about a sit down meal at 1pm because that’s when the fishing is often getting good. Part of the real joy of the hatch at this time of year is the limited selection of what is likely to be hatching; Up-wings like LDOs (large dark olives), March Browns and occasional Brook duns. Grannom and Alders – members of the caddis family. We also see some stoneflies and midge and this limited number of species means fly selection becomes easier and its quicker to zone in on what the trout are feeding on. During these golden hours, regardless of whether you are fishing dries, nymphs or wets, the fish are far more likely to be switched on. I have seen it where arriving early on the river and not a fish is seen or taken till the hatch begins. Above or below the surface it truly is like a switch being thrown.

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Crippled March brown dun

·               What fly;

What is hatching? As I said before at this time of year certainly in Northern Scotland it is a select group of flies that we tend to see, but you must be aware there is always a regional variation in time of year and the species that will be hatching. In North East Scotland we are several weeks behind the South of England and invariably the magazines and social media chatter begins announcing what is likely to be hatching and people are catching on; “LDOs”, “Grannom have started”, “oh the first Iron blues”. But don’t assume that mean your stretch river 300 or 400 miles North is seeing these species hatching at that time, remember it is vitally important to see what is actually hatching! Don’t presume! It is also important to factor ineather, remember it’s one of our mainstays as conversation in Britain, this year it’s a key point in fact with a mild winter and warm March things are most certainly further on than usual and in some cases by as much as 2 weeks plus. So be prepared, as with everything in nature there is variation so you have to get out there and observe.

Maybe the name LDOs and March Browns are just gobble-d-gook to you or maybe you have heard them before and want to improve your knowledge of the invertebrates we find in our rivers and lochs! Well there is help at hand there are two great wee books, a couple of invaluable websites and a new App that every flyfisher should have to help them with identification of what is hatching and when through out the year and what imitations best suit.

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Particularly Matching the Hatch by Peter Lapsley for those new to flyfishing who need that little bit of help and confidence to choose the right fly to imitate the hatch. Its simple, easy to use and small enough to slip in the fishing vest or wader pocket. Above all use your eyes!  nothing beats getting out there and exploring the entomology of the river. What’s in the water, what’s in and on the surface not forgetting what is also on the bank and in the air above, better known as terrestrials. Turn over some stones in the river and actually see what invertebrate life is there it can sometimes be wonderous what you find.

I carry a small aqautics dip net and a wee Tupperware so I can rootle around under and among the stones of the riverbed. It produces a wealth of information that is incredibly insightful, helping inform my choices and adding to my knowledge of what species are present, every day fishing is a day learning.

 

 

App can be found here at the Riverfly partnership in both android and ios

By taking the time to do these searches I found that I became far choosier in my fly selection, more confident in my choices and I saw a distinct improvement in catches.

Never was a statement truer than “ imitation is the greatest form of flattery” I truly believe imitating naturally what is hatching will produce greater results.


·               Patience;

Take your time its not a race! What is the point in dashing from the car to the rivers edge jumping in and wading waist deep, chucking fluff or tungsten in every directing with the blind hope that a brownie will take? Explore! Walk and explore the stretch of river, too many fishers never fish more than 100 yards of the car park, laziness. Yes you will catch fish if you are lucky, but you may well be missing better fishing else where and half the fun of wild brown trout fishing is that sense of exploration, fishing the spot less fished.

Now breathe and take some time to just look and listen! Watch the water, look for foam lines; trout feed here. Just as the current has funneled and ”trapped” the foam in these lines so will it trap food items, hatching and spent fly life. Watch how the water moves and how it is likely to act upon your fly, leader and line. Above all, watch for rising fishing, thats what we are here for! Quite often a rising fish by its rising reveals whether it’s a tiddler or a bigger fish, maybe even that lunker of a lifetime. It’s not a foolproof clue and the best of us have been disappointed by the tiddler masquerading as a bigger brother, and equally surprised by what we assume is a modest brownie; but on sipping down the fly runs striping you to your backing, with a fight of your life on a 3wt rod and turns out to be a 7lb slab of gold.

Monster Trout 2

7lb Trout Dwarfing the reel, returned shortly afterward to be caught another day

So we watch the the water, there is a hatch starting and now the occasional trout blipping taking the hatching Up-wing or Grannom….deep breath and lets just wait a moment longer wait till the brownies are taking confidently and regularly, you can watch as the same fish repeatedly rises, taking flies from the surface. When they are feeding consistently and focused on feeding the chance of a good take is now increased. I rarely cast a line till the hatch is properly under way and the fish are rising with confidence, it makes targeting of fish easier and often proves more successful.

I could talk longer still about tackle choices, weight of rod and line and of course, diameter and length of leader and tippet but I try not to bore the reader completely to tears.

In fishing as in life, it is so often all about being in the right place at the right time! but we can shorten these odd with a little preparation;

  • Knowing what is likely to be hatching and when
  • Match the hatch, imitation is rewarded
  • Patience! Wait, watch, listen then cast
  • explore; keep moving
  • mud your leader to reduce its visibility

Quite often you will find a perfuse hatch happening and the accompanying rising trout on an isolated stretch of the river or the hatch restricted to a particular pool yet down or upstream there be no hint at all of a hatch happening so keep moving and you will reap the reward.

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2.5lb River Deveron Brown trout (taken Bridge of Marnoch beat on DHE)

After all we are fly fishers; not course fishers sitting on their backsides for hours on end. This early season really can be a time of plenty and good sized trout and after a long winter, casting a fly to a rising trout is truely magical.

 

2017 Trout Opening

Finally the wait is over! The Brown Trout season is open I could say its has been a long hard winter but it really hasn’t, dry and mild would be the best description. The rivers really haven’t seen much rain over the closed season certainly in Aberdeenshire and as the river opened on Wednesday the 15th many were at or only inches above summer levels, not great for the Salmon fisher but a bonus for the Brown Trout junkies dusting off the cobb webs after a long winters slumber. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t been out since the close of last season I had sated my thirst for fly fishing with a couple of trips to some to my favorite salmon beats on the Tay and Ness; a couple of shoulder knackering days chucking fluff for pike and even managed a day with the ladies (grayling) on the Tummel, but like a child on Christmas Eve ; trout season couldn’t arrive fast enough. I am ticket holder on the Deveron but my section of the river doesn’t open till the first of April so it was a quick phone call to 

Turriff tackle( http://www.fishingthedeveron.co.uk/

booking myself on a middle Deveron Beat for the 15th; Avochie (http://www.avochie.com) a great beat only a couple of miles down stream of Huntly. A fly only water popular with a hardcore of Aberdeenshires troutbums.


Famous for the heaviest UK fly caught salmon at 61lb in 1924 by Tiny Morrison, Avochie has 24 named pools including the Junction pool where the Isla, a river close to my own heart, meets the Deveron. The beat stretches for almost 2.5miles of which most is double bank fishing. Avochie is a classic salmon and sea trout beat; huts, well kept banks and defined pools, this fact seems to do little to discourage the brown trout which like the mix of deep pools and riffles and plenty of cover thanks to its boulder bed plus plentiful invertebrates that helps produce its hard fighting, slabs of gold, with some of considerable size. Opening week’s weather was even playing ball with mostly warm settled spring days and I had even heard tell of good Upwing hatches being seen already, most likely march browns and LDOs. Opening day was shaping up nicely.

The 15th opened to blue skies fringed with broken cloud and hardly a breath of wind, by 10am I was surveying the Junction pool, ready for the first cast of the 2017 season. No sooner had I laid the line on the water than a cold westerly wind began to blow bring a real chill to proceeding with it a building of cloud,


 I had set up two rods a 9”6’ 5wt for nymphs and wets, and a 9” 3wt for Dries ever hopeful of surface action. But within an hour I was a rod down. I still having difficulty understanding how it happened; as I climbed down a bank my size thirteen feet, myself and the 5wt found ourselves entangled lying at the rivers edge and my 4piece rod was now a 6piece rod, resulting in an eloquent tirade of expletive.  I was reduced to one rod, a 3wt and to add insult the westerly wind decided to strengthen. Only one option for it, find those shelter corners and lies, where the wind would allow a cast and its chill wasn’t killing any sign of the much hoped for hatch. Between 10am and the back of 2pm not a fish moved and not a touch had been had on nymph or spider, despair and frustration at my ineptitude was setting in. I slumped on the banks for a late lunch by a sheltered stretch of water on the Green Bank pool, the familiar early season rustiness and frustrations building.

My sulk and thoughts of home were broken by that magical sound of a supping fish! feeding on the surface, cat nip to a fisher. Scanning the water I pick out the joyous sight of upwings and the expanding rippling ring left by a feeding brownie, the odd March Brown hatching and drifting on the current appeared, drying itself on the surface film before clumsily climbing into the air or disappearing in a swirl as meal. 

Quick change of leader and fly and I have a single quill Cdc upwing as a point fly on an 7x (2.8lb) tippet waiting to tempt a feeding trout. Aiming for what I thought to be nice sized trout I cast about 10m upstream from where it was showing mid river letting the lazy current drift the fly over my target, an almost silent “sssup” a swirl and my size 14 fly disappears. 


Instinct took over, lifting into the fish the line tightens the rod tip doubles over…”FISH ON” it was smaller than I thought about a half pound it dives and runs, brilliant first fish of the season! But I should know better than assume, as quick as it was on it was off! I quickly retrieve with a couple of curses, take my time drying the fly off, re-mud the tippet and target another rising fish. Once again first cast, it takes it! “FISH ON” a better fish this time it takes off downstream the rod tip bouncing as the 3wt fights taking line I let it run and as I begin retrieving the line goes limp much like my my mood was going! I let rip a four-letter word barrage at myself. I slump back on the the bank and wait to see where the next fish rises but after half an hour; nothing has shown and not an upwing in sight I call it a day, I admit defeat and head for home!

I comfort myself with the knowledge that I have an entire season ahead of me, plenty of time! I assure myself it was nice to be out on the river blowing the Cobb webs off toasting the new season; 

Here’s to the season a head the heady summer evenings, the plentiful months of April and May as the trout feed hard, the early mornings of June and July, the caddis hatches of August and September. Here is to making the most of very moment on river and loch, here’s to the next adventure.

Brown Trout on a hidden Highland river

TUFF flyfishing.co.uk headed North Westwards to explore a great river in a hidden gem of a glen; West of Inverness lies a glen that most drive past on there way up Strathglass heading for Glen Affric, blink and you would miss the turning for the wee single track road that leads you westward up a glen that is in my biased opinion the far more beautiful sibling of the famous Affric. ​Much like the secret garden a gate greets all, keeping the wonders beyond hidden, vehicle access restricted on the private road to certain times and months which thankfully limits the car numbers and the obligatory coach tours that haunt so many glens like Affric. This secret highland glen is Glen Strathfarrar a glen they named twice it was so good.

 

Strathfarrar reaches westwards for over 30 miles almost touching the west coast its ramparts wild rugged Munros senetery like along its flanks and headwalls separating it from its neighbouring Straths and hiding this wild beautiful gem of a glen. However the 1950s saw its walls breached as Hydro electric brought dams and turbines across the highland, Strathfarrar was tamed somewhat as the waters of the River Farrar, Loch Monar and Beanachrain were held back and harvested to drive these turbines.

Though the Glen has had its circulatory system tapped its wild heart still beats strongly and this hidden gem feels as wild as it ever was, with its changing character that develops as you climb westwards from the rivers junction with the River Glass; Birch, Alder and Scots pine trees fill the lower glen a remnant of the ancient Wood of Caledonia, providing a magical wooded landscape that fills the lower 5 miles of the Strath hugging the River Farrar and on summers day makes me feels like I could happily stop time and loose myself here in my own personal middle earth.   

Winding westwards following the river upstream through its slabby gorges and tumbling riffles you emerge through a narrow road cutting above Beanacherain Dam where this glacially hewn glen opens before you; to loch, steep slopes of heather and glistening rocky outcrops of mica rich schist (sorry the former geologist in me getting over excited!) a patch work of moorland and native woodland draws you westward to Loch Monar at the head of the glen and the end of the single track road. An area depicted beautifully in a snap shot of what seems like a simpler time in the captivating book “The Isolation Shephard” written by Iain Thompson about a time before the hydro. 

Loch Monar and Dam looking North West towards the narrows of loch Monar

​If you hadn’t guessed by now I have a special attachment and love for StrathFarrar; or have I been too subtle? I was lucky enough to have been born and spent my early life growing up on the banks of Loch Beannacherain in the glen, sadly over the last 20 years I haven’t been able to return often enough. With autumn knocking on the door of summer and the end of the trout season beconing I made a journey home to fish the River Farrar! Well at least to fish the bottom 5 miles of the river below Beanacherain Dam.
 

Looking Eastward down the Cave pool below Beannacharan Dam


Culligran Estate has 5 miles of double bank fishing on the River Farrar extending from below Beannacharan Dam to just below the the Gate, divided into 3 beats aptly called Top, Middle and Bottom with over 30 named pools, all fly only. Almost all of them are within easy reach of the road and with the best parking spots cleverly mark by a little red numbered flag that’s  really makes finding the pool very simple, so no excuse for not finding the pool or a parking place. It’s popular so book in advance and I have to say It was a very warm welcome from both Frank and Juliet Spencer-Nairn the owners of the Culligran Estate who have a huge love and enthusiasm for the Glen and the quality fishing the River Farrar has to offer.

Website http://www.culligrancottages.co.uk/fishing/

Email info@culligranfishing.co.uk

The Farrar offers both quality salmon and Brown Trout fishing with April –Mid June offering the best Brown Trout fishing with many of the bigger Trout being taken during the early season and there is plenty to explore over the 5 mile beat. Although it’s a hydro river the Farrar retains many of the quality’s of a natural spate river with one huge advantage, a weekly freshet where by the dam is opened and closed gradually over a 48 period on a Thursday, Friday to put through a flush of water; its all in the name “Freshet”. This Flush of fresh water through the system is for the salmon fisher, aimed at livening up any fish and encouraging them to run.  As per usual among the fishing and science community opinions are divided about the effectiveness of “Freshets”. I think I’ll let sleeping dogs lie and leave the arguments to the salmon fisher, personally I think these runs of water are an advantage to the Trout fisher as much as the salmon fisher,  any Trout bum will know having had a fruitless or frustrating day during the warmer months and the rivers are on their bones; the fish quickly  feel pressured and switch off,  but the “freshets” help livened them up and more willing to feed/take a fly.  Anyone who has fished a highland spate river that is rising or in moderate. spate where it has risen slowly and the water is not turgid with silt can atest to some fantastic top quality sport.


  

I was was lucky enough to witness a small “Freshet” on this visit to the Farrar and the responding reaction from the fish was obvious, the trout began showing and feeding within a 6 inch rise of the river, the Salmon began running certainly on the pools I was fishing but the freshet lasted less than 2 hour. And the activity soon died off under the clear blue skies warm sunshine with temperatures in the high teens, normally these conditions are a cue to pack up and head home. But like a returning salmon I was on a mission to my river of origin and I wanted to make the most of this late summers day in a breathtaking location.​

During this “Freshet” the rapidly rising river caught me quite unaware, I was fishing a tricky pool to position yourself to cast caught between  deep water and over hanging trees, I only becoming aware that the river had risen as I came to exit the pool by the shingle I had walked on 30min earlier which was now submerged 6 inches under water. It was a Monday and a freshet wasn’t scheualed and that is where I made the school boy error! I had expected the status quo and in some circumstances that lapse could have proved deadly and reaffirmed how important it is to keep your wits about you, because it maybe a controlled river but things can and could go drastically wrong very quickly. A river can rise exceptionally quickly be it from the opening of a Dam or a flash flood induced by heavy rain fall a mile from your location.  Never under estimate a river – an example of this was brilliantly illustrated by a video post by Cawdor estates this summer shot on the River Findhorn (Avalible on the Cawdor Estates Facebook page) that saw a placid river turned into a raging torrent in 3 minutes, a terrifying demonstration of natures power.

 

I explored the river searching out pockets of shadow, normally this glorious late August is cursed by the fisher but having been savaged during the still overcast morning by a massed assault of midgies, the warmth of the late summer sun and its ability to deter these little blighters was most welcome; “blighters” was not the actual word I think my language was somewhat more colourful through gritted teeth as I furiously attempted to ignore them casting and focusing on my fishing. Evidently swearing like a trooper at them has little to no effect in stopping them or the irritation, they are in your nose, eyes, ears and they find every tiny chink in your clothing and repellent being able to drive you to distraction. I have developed quite an effective technique of being able to change my flies whilst jogging in circles because let me assure you if you stand still you will be lucky to survive becoming a buffet for a fog of Midgies!  

Exploring the Double Bend pool with some tricky casting

Discovering a large pool; J2Bostail above a fork in the river leading to some nice broken riffles and pocket waters that had the sought after shade and the catnip that every trout fisher craves, the occasional sound and sight of rising trout feeding on the surface. For the Farrar like any of these highland spate rivers I find size of fly is as important and sometimes more so than the actual pattern, looking to mimic naturals as closely as possible particularly for my dry fly choices so emergers, terrestrials and usually a good supply of PTNs and HRE nymphs for subsurface both weighted and unweight. Making sure to carry a good selection of sizes from 12 to 22/24 for all my flies, many fishers would also carry some Scottish Trads’ like Kate McLaren and butchers but I prefer to use North Country Spiders, I just find they fish more productively, but then that is purely a personal preference, and confidence in them producing. As I always say, a fisher that fishes a fly with confidence is more successful and fishes more effectively, that one who constantly questions their choices.

Looking upstream on Bobs Pool

The day so far had not been particularly productive having risen several trout to the fly they had failed to stick, so a change to a size 18 grey Para dun I use an awful lot when small up wing are hatching produced immediate results rising a couple of fish when fishing beneath the over growth where there was good flow of water along with the intising rings and sound of sipping trout beneth the fallen and over hanging trees. Presenting the fly up stream allowing the current to carry the fly under the over hangs and over the fish being sure the 1.8lb 2x tippet is well mudded and hidden avoid any drag, I imparted the occasional “tweak” to the fly (single point fly no dropper) and now my fortunes turned as a fierce wild StrathFarrar brownie sipped down my fly and this time with barbless hook help I had a beautiful very dark Farrar brownie of just under a pound to the net.

a long tricky wade at the top of the Ant pool above the Neaty Beach pool


A long wade over the next hour and a half produced 4 more reasonably sized trout and a feeling of being completely detached from the world, I could easily have been the only person alive; a feeling of total bliss. With the sun beginning to touch the hills above I made the long wade back to the road and the car with a real feeling of blissful satisfaction from a days fishing.  This hidden highland glen that still has a draw that only home has and I think I can in some way relate to the salmon and that draw that pulls them home to the burns and rivers they spent their early life in. StrathFarrar is a magical glen and it will see me far more often that’s a guarantee. And I will be back come next May hopefully to search for the bigger brownies.
 Experience quality Wild Brown Trout flyfishing with TUFF.flyfishing visit http://TUFFflyfishing.co.uk to explore your next fishing adventure and book now

On The Hunt for Harris Trout, fell in love with Harris Sea Trout

I never expected this article to be one of the hardest to write, this the fourth rewrite and it has got no easier! The problem is I just don’t feel like I can do the Island of Harris justice, certainly not without sounding gushing and clichéd…it really was that good a trip! To what is truly one of the most beautiful locations Scotland has to offer, look I’ve started with the gushing already! So maybe I should apologize now for the clichés and moments of gushing that are inevitable in trying to describe Harris, the welcome and the fishing.
Its almost 20 years since my last visit to these Islands of Scotland’s western frontier, I was but a chubby school boy with a tent, a good friend and a couple of fly rods. The trip had been great but we were beaten by glorious blue skies, sunshine and the worst sunburn I’ve ever had. The midges rose as the baking August sun set every night, so we turned tail and made for the ferry having only sipped from the over full glass of fine hill lochs and fishing that Harris has to offer, with literally hundreds of lochs most filled with hard fighting wild brown trout and many with sea-trout and the occasional salmon it a fly-fishers paradise.


I had always said that I would return to Harris but had lacked any real commitment ’til last summer when I discovered a tweet by Gail Tunnah who runs Finsbay Fishing’s. What sealed the deal was the January morning that the brochure for the fishing’s and their holiday cottages landed on the door mat, a cold January morning spent leafing through it dreaming of wild brownies, it had me hooked! It was all just a matter of finding the time so when the opportunity arose and ten days became free in my diary at the start of June I began planning an adventure and immediately Harris came to mind. Spending a few day pouring over maps and noting how accessible the lochs and fishing’s were, I had the hair brained notion that this adventure would be on foot. I am happy to admit that having once been a keen mountaineer I have softened with age and wisdom and enjoy the comforts of a nice hotel and clean bed after a day or nights fishing.  But I was feeling bold for this trip. Maybe it was a reniessounce, a reliving of younger days. Exploring on foot just seemed the best way to immerses myself in the plentiful and accessible fishing plus the public transport links on and to Harris really are very good, putting many on the mainland to shame. So I packed the rucksack with a lightweight one man tent, sleeping bag, stove and freeze dried meals, lightweight is ………well a figurative term because once you have packed every thing you need to survive for seven days without visiting a shop it weights alot more than you would imagine, nearly 14kg. The fly-fishing tackle the cherry on top.

With space and weight at a premium I opted to take only 1 rod and reel and a fairly lightweight set up

• Greys/Hardy 9’6 Streanflex Plus 5wt Rod

• Hardy LHR Reel & Spare spool

• Cortland Platinum Precision WTF Floating line

• Cortland Precision WTF 15’ Ghost tip

The 1st of June saw me heading westwards by bus from Aberdeenshire to Uig the ferry port in Northern Skye and the link to Tarbert on Harris. As we drew ever nearer Skye the clouds cleared and from horizon to horizon pale blue sky and warm early summer sunshine, little did I know then that this perfect beach weather was to follow me from the day I arrived on the island till the very hour I climbed on the ferry and sailed south for North Uist seven days later. The weather was almost identical to 20 years earlier, had I stumbled on a well-kept secret about Harris? That from May till September these Isles where bathed in Mediteraining sunshine? Alas apparently that’s not the case and by pure luck Mother Nature was playing a cruel joke on this hapless fisher.

Harris is one of the chain of Islands that make up the Western Isles, and are the first real land fall for the worst that the Northern Atlantic weather systems can throw. Really I shouldn’t complain I should shut up and make the most of the stunning weather but as an A-typical fly-fisher much like the stereotypical farmer; one is never happy with the weather.


I was heading for the Finsbay Fishings (http://finsbaycottages.co.uk) a group of over a 100 lochs divided into 3 areas, Stockinish; the northern group of lochs, Flodabay the middle group of lochs and Finsbay the southern group comprising of nearly 50 lochs. With boats on 20 of the 100 lochs and fantastic sea pools the fishing can be as diverse as you want from classic highland boat drifts to a day exploring hill loch on foot, some not much bigger than a bathtub but still containing wild brownies.  Some of the Finsbay fishings lochs have produced some real lunkers; brownies over 11lb and sea trout over 14lb. So you never know your first or your last cast may produce a beautifully marked hard fighting fish of a lifetime but aside from the monsters there are plenty of free rising hard fighting brownies that inhabit these lochs.

Over every rise and in every hollow there seemed to be a loch, it’s a smorgus board of choice, you could spend a life time exploring these lochs and still not fish them all. I began my adventure on the stockanish lochs. Having got the permits at the crack of dawn, I had my tent pitched by lunch time and was off with rod in hand exploring loch Creebhat and loch Glumradh Mor, managing to produce a couple of fish from shady nooks but I was fast discovery what was to be my nemesis for the duration of the trip. The bright warm sunshine putting paid to anything but morning and late evening fishing, which could be exploited by camping,  able to move from loch to loch and only have a short distance to stumble from sleeping bag to bank or boat. Every night as the sun set an hour or two of a rise would ensued, producing a few fish to the traditional highland wets.

I soon moved south loaded like a pack mule, walking the coast road I soaked in the stunning scenery that was putting on a real show in the beaming June sunshine, I was heading south for Finsbay, a group of 50 lochs and sea pools. Alistair Mackinnon the Ghillie found me slouched, parr boiled by the roadside south of foldaway and took pity on me offering me a lift and a quick tour of some of the lochs and sea pool, local knowledge truly is invaluable especially in trying conditions. Setting up camp in the ruins of an old fishing lodge; 2min walk from the sea pools and 5mins from the hill lochs this was to be home for the next  four days with views eastwards over Skye and the jagged teeth of the Cullin Ridge. I could have stayed there forever, perched on the rocks above Loch Fhionnsabaigh (Gaelic for Finsbay) the pale blue sky above and the shimmering Turquoise waters of the Minch below its hard to describe other than Stunning

Over dinner I sat watching the tide surge into the sea pools creping ever higher from one pool to the next and with it sea trout, topping and showing tantalizing splashes drawing you to the water like the sirens song. I set up a cast with just a single dropper about 6-7ft back from the point fly I opted for a classic sz12 teal and blue on point and a size 12 Claret Bumble on the dropper. As the tide peaked I began sending out casts landing the fly tight to the rocks across the pool, giving them to the count of 8 to sink and then a fairly fast retrieve. It produced instant results Bang! a 1.5lb sea trout takes me on a trip up and down the pool fighting me for every inch of line as I retrieve it to the net and then almost every second cast produces a take providing a very enjoyable hour of sport over the tide turning.

The finnock and sea trout hitting the flies hard and fighting like monsters, the sort of sport that you can often only dream of, double hook ups, loosing as many as you land in a frantic hour of mesmerizing fun. Nothing over 1.5lbs but that didn’t matter as they felt like monsters on the 5wt 9.6ft rod, almost pulling it from your hand and as the sun began kissing the hills to the West the action tailed off and I returned to my tent buzzing. I had landed more sea trout in that frenetic hour than I had seen in the previous four seasons.

I will admit I favour Brown Trout fishing over all other but Harris sea trout had hooked me and three of the next four days I spent on the hunt for Harris Sea Trout. The tides played ball with high tide arriving between 6 and 10 pm and allowing some great sport to while away my evenings producing; finnock, sea trout, slob trout and much to my surprise Pollock. A 1lb seat trout on the point fly and half pound Pollock on the dropper every cast a surprise.

I hadn’t forgotten about the bars of gold I had come in search of, venturing out in the mornings exploring the nearby lochs of Holmasaig, Dempster and Humabhat all of which lie on the same system as the sea pools of my first nights fun. Saturday morning I wasn’t feeling too optimistic, the the warm morning sun seemed already high in the sky as I stumbled over heather and peat hag before 7am making my way round the east bank of Dempster but the sound of fish freely rising around the reeds and margins greets me, a real surprise! The lochs where showing the effects of nearly a months warm and very dry weather and I was worrieed that in these kind of conditions the fish had become stressed with lower water levels and reduced oxygen levels, switching off from feeding and had disappeared into deeper waters. However it appears Harris trout are made of sterner stuff ; oblivious to the bright sunshine even with the clear lightly peated water giving little protection, they were feeding on the surface!

A dry fly fishers dream I opt for a light cast of about 2.4lbs and a single fly to reduce any drag. I throw on a fly I tie at size  16; Quill and elk hair midge on a light Grub hook which sits right in and through the surface film, mimicking the large midge that were occasionally hatching and the main attention of the rising trout. Making a long cast I let the wind drift the fly over the rising fish, a breathless wait willing a take soon rewarded with a strong splashy hit, striking as much out of instinct as a reaction in fright at the sudden splashy. A quick reaction imperative as these wild beauties discard the fly as quickly as they strike. An hour and a half of brilliant surface action, having to replace the fly several time as the vicious takes soon took their toll on the small flies, these the tattered reminants in the fly patch serve a a reminder of some fantastic sport.

I would have loved to fish from dawn till dusk but the glorius weather put paid to that, but when it did allow the sport was spectactular, exciting and varied. I honestly cannot express how much I enjoy my time on the island and the rugged beauty of Harris,  a landscape that can make you feel like the only person alive. The people are warm, friendly and welcoming. And of course the great fishing, Harris has it in bucket fulls! You could write and article about everyday and every loch each would be quite a different story.  I wanted to give you a taste, but the only way to truely experince it is to go!

I was genuinely sad the morning I packed up and headed for Leverburgh and on to North Uist, Harris has a lot more fishing  to offer and I guarantee it will not be another 20 years till I next wet a fly on Harris. I can’t thank Gail Tunnah who runs Finsbay, and Alistair Mackinnon the Ghillie enough for the friendly welcome and all the help, I hope to see you all again soon.

I strongely recommend that you plan a fishing trip soon to Harris the transport links are good, the people are welcoming, the fishing is world class. And I think that the sun is always shining………

Useful Links;

Ferry times and Bookings;  https://www.calmac.co.uk/

Finsbay
Fishings; http://www.finsbaycottages.co.uk/uk/

Buses times and Booking; http://www.citylink.co.uk/

Scotrail; https://www.scotrail.co.uk/

Harris bus timetable; http://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/travel/busservice/current/indexlh.asp

On the dry fly, down the River Don

September beginning to tick by and the seasons’ inevitable end looming, taunting the Trout fisher that very soon the fun will be over, much like the better half arriving to take you home from the pub. The night feeling far to young and the humour not having yet reach the gutter, that feeling of impending finality now lingers over the trout season too, a period of mourning soon to be upon me. One more for the road, before the better half drags me from the pub sulking, I needed a last few trout fixes. A couple of more days on a trout laden river or loch, and the Don offered a new adventure, with a chance for some excellent trout from its’ fertile waters. the Don rise high in the Cairngorm mountains, before it winds and meanders itself eastwards down Strathdon, weaving its way through the beautiful county of Aberdeenshire. Streaming past the Towns of Alford, Inverurie and the flanks of the iconic Bennachie. The Don’s pale tea coloured waters that often run as colourless as a chalk stream are so inviting, with the long ribbons of weed waving in the fertile waters. At this time of year the purple heather clad hills gives way to glens and the flatter lands of the East, that wear a patch work quilt of green and golden fields that make this county a true bread basket and larder. The Don’s waters run for 82 miles with 263 named pools from source to sea where it empties, only 2.5 miles along the course golden sands of Aberdeen beach, from where the famous Dee spills it peaty waters to North Sea.

Looking downstream toward the Elphinestone Road bridge on the on the Port cooker& Bridge stream pools

Having fished the MonyMusk and Kildrummy beats of the Don in the past, I rolled the dice and opted for the Inverurie Town water. This beat consists of 3 miles of Don water and about the same of the River Urie, a small but deep muddy bottomed river that meanders eastwards never far from the Inverness – Aberdeen railway line. The Urie rises near Insch and flows ever eastwards till its union with the famous Don just East of the ever-growing commuter town of Inverurie. But I wasn’t there to fish the Urie, the Don was my focus for this days fishings

Inverurie fishings

And the day couldn’t have started better. A cloud laden sky, thick with the haar that had rolled in the previous evening, a common occurrence only 14 miles from the Aberdeenshire coast and the North sea. Thankfully under this grey veil the air had kept some of its temperature and only a light wind blew from the West/North West, near perfect conditions a position that hadn’t presented itself many times this excuse of a summer.

image

Upstream, looking westwards on the Inverurie town water

As I trudged a across the Elphinstone road bridge rod in hand, the river stretched westwards below. fish after fish rose the rings and ripples growing outwards from the sip and disappearing on the greasy looking surface of the tea coloured water.

image

rings from rising fish on the Bridge stream pool

My appetite was well and truly wetted. I made down to the rivers edge and headed westwards upstream, away from Inverurie and the hum of the A96 traffic. I wanted to be away from the sight and sounds of the town before I rolled my first casts, on to this truly inviting stretch of water.

image

Managed by Aberdeenshire Council along with several other beats on the Don the fishing comes at a very reasonable price, for both county residents and non resident and it can all be done on the internet the night before (https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/communities-and-events/fishing/) Great for the early bird fishers like myself, the permit can be quickly printed off and taken with you on the day, no waiting for the tackle shops to open; the wonders of modern technology!

The Don at Inverurie is a mix of rocky riffles and streamy sections with deeper muddy bottomed slower glides that are in areas sheltered and shaded on at least one bank by large beautiful mature broadleaf trees that add a challenging aspect to casting. And contribute tremendously to the beauty of this great setting for a days fishing.  Due to the nature of these deep muddy pools wading can be tricky and access at this time of year through the dense summer growth of reeds, rushes and flag Iris requires care, and clearly its more the Salmon fisher that fishes this beat going by the access points and with an average 115 salmon a year. The trout are however plentiful and today rising fish are to be seen on every stretch as I headed up stream and some of the brownies making their presence known were exceptionally good fish, a pound plus and bigger. All this and more and only 20 mins walk from a main train line with a half hourly service from Aberdeen.

Looking East over the broken down old mill weir at the bottom of the Black Pot pool

I throw out the odd cast as I meandered up the winding river toward the top of the beat with little success, a few connects that I couldn’t keep stuck to the hook and a few turnaways as I cycled through a selection of favourite flies trying to match the plentiful fly life on the water, hoping to dial in on what these brownies were snacking on. Adding to my frustration, the warming sun was fast burning back the blanket of cloud and the little voice at the back of my head (doubt) was nagging that “ if you don’t get a fish now, with that sun you never will”.

Rowe head Pool, looking NorthWest upstream

Rowe head Pool, looking NorthWest upstream

I fruitlessly fished upstream past the old mill and it’s disused mill pool that sat in deep shade below the trees that tower on its southern bank. Hidden behind the wall of reed on my bank I could hear the repeated confident sip and splash of feeding fish, behind that a combine hungrily consumed the gold barley in the field that sits in the large meander of the Don here. The sun made the barley glow on this beautiful harvest day that normally I would have been relishing but I had the anxiety that at any moment the glorious sunshine would drive the trout from the surface and off the feed.

image

The Mill stream pool that produced so many nice fish, looking East down stream

But the very opposite seemed to be happening, if anything more fish appeared to be feeding in the deeper fast water towards the far bank rising on the break between bright sun shine and shade. This constant rising seemed to be a response to the prolific fly life that was fast filling the air, Claret spinners, large dark olives and a plethora of other fly life I couldn’t name.

Lunchtime fast approaching it felt more like an early springtime sunny day when the trout are feeding hard after the long winter. I instinctively reach for a spring time favourite of my own design, a Cdc emerger that rarely lets me down. I slipped into the muddy bottomed pool, feet sinking into the treacle like mud pulling at my boots as I slowly wade out to limit the disturbance, fish sipping all around me. I could see a decent sized fish repeatedly rise in a feed line picking off olives. I was going to have to roll cast – high above me where high voltage lines so I wanted to the line and rod tip to stay low. It was safe to cast but doubt airs caution with thousands of volts a 100m above my head but I was determined to get this fish. Keeping the tip low I roll out a line, thankfully with the wind behind the tappered leader coils out and the fly lands 3ft upstream from the fishs’ last rise. I track the fly as it ‘s carried on the current, nothing rises to the fly and I am sure its passed over the fish. I begin to draw the rod to roll the line back out but as the fly twitches on the surface I see a flash of gold in the tea coloured water through the polorisers, the water erupts, the line tightens and I am hooked up with a cracking River Don Brownie. The fish runs down stream taking a little line and turns in to the faster flow holding me dead in the water, neither of us give an inch but slowly I begin to retrieve line. I am wondering how big this brownie is or is it simply using the current against me. That’s what I love about wild river brown trout their strength and use of the waters power against the angler, which at that moment was producing a joyous fight. Eventually I bring the fish to the net and I am still pleasantly surprised by this pound beauty which fought like a lion.

Quickly returned I inch my way downstream, a muddy slick rising under my feet and creating a ribbon of coloured water thankfully clear of the rising fish. I roll another couple of casts straight out at right angles as I edge down stream but no takers then on my third cast it no sooner hits the surface than a its sipped from the surface and I am into another good fish.  This time it tears up stream and fights me hard as I wrestle it back towards me and it feels like another cracking fish.  And I wasn’t disappointed, my second pound wild brownie in 4 casts, which to be honest was a surprise after such a poor morning. With each fish I move further down the pool I am wading at just above waist height on the soft bed. I was not feeling completely comfortable as I rolled out another cast still weary of the overhead danger.image

And again within moments of the fly landing I was hooked up, not as good as the previous two but this feisty wee monster ran me ragged up and downstream through the thick fast water, it was great fun and to be honest I was more worried of parting my 2lb Rio tapered leader but with a breath of relief I scoop it from the water remove the barbless hook, release and watch it rocket off into the peaty waters with beautiful clarity. Feeling quite out of my depth now with my wading I decide to retreat from the water and have a bite to eat and savour the quality of the Dons fish.

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My appetite for food was quenched but not for Trout so I while my afternoon away in the glorious early autumn sunshine fishing my way downstream to Inverurie.  The hatch died away and with it the intensity of the rise but there there were still fish showing on the surface so I stick with dries and see another 6 fish to the net.  Sadly not as large as the first two but they are beautiful quality fat bodied, full fined and hard fighting.

My fishing companion for the day, now this chap really nows how to fish, looking West towards the old Mill pool

I really can’t recommend the council owned stretches of the Don enough, great price with good sized quality fish.  A statement that is true for the whole of the River Don I will soon be back on this stretch of the Don and come next season the other council stretches will doubtlessly see me in search of Don Brownies.