The Trout are coming!

March is beginning to slip on, and here in Aberdeenshire it’s becoming more and more evident that spring is growing impatient waiting in the wings. The days are lengthening, and on my recent foray to the River Deveron in search of my elusive Springer the snowdrops are now in full bloom and the tree-lined banks show fattening buds. Pregnant with tightly wrapped leafs waiting to burst forth given the right weather. The land seems to be starting to come to life once more, like those same fattening leaf buds, that in the months to come will shade some of my favourite spots on the Deveron. That same anticipation and nervous impatience visible on the River bank and outside my office window just now, is Spring waiting to be sprung. That excitement is also beginning to build up in me. Like a school boy unbuttoning his girlfriends bra for the first time, I am almost shaking with excitement. Anticipation so tangible I can taste it in my mouth! The Brown Trout season is about to open! And I know every devoted wild Brown Trouter out there is feeling the same.

I am an unashamed Trout Bum and although the Trout season opens most places in Scotland on March 15th my surging excitement will just have to remain corked, till April 1st for Trout on the Deveron. I adore fishing for those beautiful golden brown beauties,spotted with black and red. Often as whiley as the proverbial fox, with an infuriating ability to ignore a perfectly tied and presented fly that would drive you to insanity! But like any addict it makes you return in search of that brown trout fishing fix, time after time!

2lb Brownie taken on the Dry fly April 2013

2lb Brownie taken on the Dry fly April 2013

I am in a privilege position of living almost on the banks of the Deveron. And with the local Association ticket I am entitled to fish 3 great Rivers; The Deveron, The Isla and The Bogie. For what is almost peanuts cost wise I get to fish three quality and quite different rivers in character. Offering some extremely good Brown Trout and Sea Trout fishing. The Deveron holds a particularly special place in my heart. Famous for being a hidden gem of a river and of course, Tiny Morrison and the UKs largest fly caught Salmon at 61lb. It is also where 6 years ago we decided to buy a neglected old estate cottage and spent 18 months renovating, to create our current home. Situated on the hills looking South East over the Deveron Valley, and only 200m from the Deveron’s banks it was an easy decision to make. The Rivers proximity means on those much-anticipated and hopefully soon to return late spring and summers days, I love to slip down through the trees and on to some of the less well trodden Trout pools. And in the dappled sunshine under the over hanging broadleaf’s, I love nothing more than casting a dry-fly on a light 3wt rod. Searching for Trout on some of the beautiful shady glides and the more open tumbling boulder strown faster water sections that can produce a considerable amount of good-sized trout. And this is where I have to make a confession, I don’t eat Trout! Put off it for life as an undergrad working in hotels, I can’t even stomach the smell. But my loss is the trout’s gain, everything gets released except maybe 1 fish a year that I take for my endlessly patient fishing widow.

The Deveron, where I fish it, on the Huntly Burgh water the beat below the Aswanley beat. It is by no measure a large river 20-25ft/5-6m wide. A stoney rocky bottomed river, that rises on the Cabraich an upland area, about 10 miles from where I fish it. A river of large meanders constrained by Landscape, the Granite, and the Metamorphic geology.  A River I have not as of yet see freeze in the winter, even in minus 21c. Even though it is rising off peat laden hills, I have seen it run Gin clear regularly, only to rise 3 meters over night taking the colour of a Starbucks hot chocolate, minus the Marshmallows. Like any good spate river it is changeable, then there are the times when the depth gauge seems to show no upward movement, even after days of rain with every permit holder screaming for rain to bring up the water and the summer runs of Sea-Trout. But like any devoted lover you take the rough with the smooth!

Deveron Valley

I fish the Deveron almost everyday that will allow during the open season. And have spent many happy days on it.  I love the late spring days of May and the early summer ones of June when the river banks are roaring and surging into life and the trout are feed and fighting hard. Certainly in May you can fish almost all day from morning to late in the evening, as the light never seems to totally go from the sky, being this bit further North. The water and weather hasn’t got warm enough to put the fish off feeding during the middle of the day on these May days. And I can often disappear after breakfast and only quickly return for dinner and a cupa before seeing the day out on 1 of my many favourite pools.

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Looking down stream on the Deveron Early June 2013

And now for an apology! there are not as many pictures in this weeks blog, there’s a couple of reasons for this; I rarely take my camera or phone from my pocket during my Trout fores,  I’m too busy fishing and also i don’t want every one knowing my favourite spots, selfish I know! But I guess if you want to find them, you will just have to come with me!

It quite often takes a combination of factors to collide fortuitously and produce Trout fishing Nirvana. One day in particular on the Deveron comes to mind. Early July the morning before my little sisters Wedding. I am damned if I can remember their wedding anniversary, But I remember the day before fondly. The weather was just perfect, quite still and warm, the Glen was filled with mist, and almost not a breath of wind. 5am, already quite bright and the sun fast rising I threw on waders, a t-shirt, cap and polariser’s. I opted for a Hardy/Greys streamflex 9ft 3wt to allow longer casts, not to spook the fish in the light peaty water as I daintily stumble trough the pool, a ballerina I am not! The streamflex is a very reasonable priced, light rod that is just simply brilliant for River work, I have 8 or 9 of them at different weights and use them endlessly teamed with a Hardy flyweight reel and the Cortland Sylk line.

Almost running from the house, I am on the river by 20 past and set up a New Zealand style rig, a12ft 2lb frog hair leader, with a size 14 black klinkahammer, and from the bend of the Klinks Hook I tie a 12inch length of leader, with a size 16 GH hares ears nymph with a flash back. Then wait and watch, containing my urge to just chuck the fly out there and get fishing, the sun isn’t managing to break through the mist which is creating an eerie quite stillness, this is great news! The fish won’t be hiding from the glaring brightness, the mist so thick I couldn’t see the top end of the pool, or the next pool below the riffle. and the light that was seeping through was casting a beautiful neutral light. The quiet stillness was only being broken by the dawn chorus and the enticing sounds of sipping and toping fish all around me. Trout Nirvana!  I move to the tail of the pool and send my first cast out and up-stream at about 20 degree, reaching just into the tail of the pool, usually a great spot to find trout. The line begins to swing round and BANG! The Kink disappears and I am into my first fish, taken on the Nymph a lovely 9in brownie, I like to fish the fly about 20 degree across and up-stream from me and let it swing right round to about 30 degree below my position. a bit like the Clyde style technique. I am sure some are shaking their heads at this, but it has proved itself, time and again for me.

That was the first fish of over 45. The next 2 and a half hours and 3 pools flew past in a blur of pleasure, None of them were much bigger than that first fish and many were smaller but it was brilliant sport.  My face was beginning to hurt from smiling. I would rather have 2 hours of that wild Brown Trout sport blissfulness, than a days worth of over fed rainbow hooligan bashing. Greeted at the bottom of the last pool by a rather frustrated looking better half, anxious to head South for the wedding, my day drew to an end. Imagine the cheek of it spoiling a good days fishing for a Wedding! The next day as I recanted the tail of my day’s fishing to some of the Grooms Uncles and Cousins they openingly professed that it would have been a damned shame to spoil this fine day for………….. a Wedding! I Love my little sister but she should have considered a winter Wedding!

If you are looking for a hidden gem Aberdeenshire, try a couple of days on the Deveron and hopefully soon I can wet your appetite with more about the neglected treasure that is the Bogie

Change of Species is as good as a rest!

February drawing to a close and having spent the month exclusively fishing from river to river on the hunt for the elusive Spring Salmon. I now craved a change! I am a shameless trout bum at heart, I adore fly fishing for the whiley and gorgeous Brown Trout, that haunt our rivers and lochs. Unfortunately we have to live with what sometimes feels like a never-ending closed season in the UK. So diversification is key! That means either Grayling on the rivers, which we don’t have in Northern Scotland or Rainbows on the still waters. I can hear the scornful tuts and whispers! I know many scoff at Rainbow Trout fishing and i know why, many flyfishers see them as over fed, over stocked puddings. That have a suicidal drive to throw themselves on the first fly cast in their direction. Producing combat fishing venues! There are people as far as the eye can see, surrounded by duff castors, chucking huge chunks of glittery candy floss on the end of telephone poll like 8wt fly rods, ripping and splashing the line on and off the water, subtlety totally lacking. and there is some truth in these stereotypes. I know have fished venues like that and hated every minute of it.

But do not tar all Stillwaters with the same brush! Hark among the darkness there is light! There are some extremely good still waters around that keep a lower stocking density, don’t feed, and let the fishery grow that little bit wilder and natural not manicured like the 18th at Glen Eagles, with a good head of full finned resident rainbows that are feeding on naturals and coloured up to match the peatier waters we have up North. these gems of fisheries offers us a nice escape when or beloved brownies are on their winter hols! I am very lucky i live in Aberdeenshire a county I adopted as home 11years ago and I have grown to love all that it offers, great salmon rivers, intoxicating trout rivers and lochs, and from my location easy access to plenty more beyond. Living between Huntly and Dufftown. I have the opportunity to fish 1 of these under recognised gems. Only a miles walk from the house. This wee fishery of less than 8 acres, has been around since the late 70s and has gone through a few changes over time but offers everything I’ve mentioned; a more natural feel to the surroundings, a more natural head of trout feeding on the prolific fly, larva, shrimp and fry, this produces natural, more wild behaviour.  Wild trout they may not be, and certainly not native to our fair shores but they can still behave as they would in native US given the right conditions. As a result these Rainbows can prove all to gather quite tricky. A fishery like this offers a haven in the dark wint

View of cabin bay looking north of the Island

View of cabin bay looking North over the Island, Don Mackenzie Having a cast with an old split cain rod

er months! This winter trout haven is Artloch fishery (http://www.artlochfishery.co.uk) Located about 4.5 miles from Huntly just off the Huntly-Dufftown road, bounded on the loch’s north side by the River Deveron, to the east broadleaf and birch woodland and rolling hill farms on all sides produces really quite a charming venue. Owned and run by retired RAF officer Stuart Wright, it is also home to the famous Sharpes of Aberdeen. (http://www.sharpes.net) A wooden Cabin overlooks the loch with a wood burner normally going over the winter months, plenty of tea and coffee flows with the banter and chat. Who says men don’t gossip? Put a group of the local flyfishers that haunt the loch in the hut together, stand back and listen! Everything from what new fly they’ve tied to what the local milkman has been up to with Mrs Smith from down the road. But seriously it can be a treasure trove of information, tips and history on the local and even further afield fishings’. And as I’ve said, listening is as valuable sometimes as practice in learning about this addicting…I mean sport! Some of these guys have two lifetimes of experience and have forgotten more fish than some of us have ever caught.

Looking East thick cloud rolling  in, Strong SW winds, the mornings beautiful blue skys gone!

Looking East thick cloud rolling in, Strong SW winds

So let’s get back to the fishing! as I said, having spent February chasing Springers I needed a change! Arriving at Artloch around 9 am, the sun was gloriously shining, the way it only seems to in the winter in the crystal clear blue sky, unfortunately the wind was not being as kind as the sun with gusts blowing 35 MPH, but if you want to fish in Scotland in the winter, autumn and spring months you learn to fish in the wind! I tackled up in the cabin over a cup of tea and talking to the Sharpes guys mainly about my disastrous River Spey trip and the unavoidable humour mostly at my expense.

Regardless of whether I am fishing river, loch or stillwater I set up several rods. I opt for a Hardy/greys; Streamflex, 9ft, 4wt rod, the Hardy L.R.H lightweight classic reel with a Cortland precision platinum WF4 high float line (http://www.garryevans.co.uk) This rod is for dry-fly with a lighter leader 3 lb because there may always be an opportunity for fish from the surface, a truly enjoyable way to fish one of my real loves and mainstays for trout. to deal with the wind and to allow me to fish heavier flies at range I opt for the Hardy/greys XF2 9.6ft, 7wt, rod. Hardy Princess reel with the Cortland precision platinum WF7 floating line. Many fishers would opt for an intermediate of sinking line, I am not a huge fan of these on a small loch like this, and knowing the loch is at its deepest 12-14ft I would rather opt for a longer leader with a heavier fly like a tungsten beaded nymph or a flight fly of a similar ilk.  I am sure there are Rainbow bashers currently falling of their seats at the suggestion of using a floating line in the windy cold conditions! Please hear me out, I do it for several reasons. FIRSTLY; I have found it always generates more takes for me as I fish over a weedy vegetated loch bed like this one with a jerky, slow retrieve with intermittent dead stops the floating line even with a long leader causing the fly to lift and drop in the water column more naturalistic it also acts as a take indicator for both nymphs and should I change on to buzzers too. SECONDLY; I hate the cumbersome, weighty, tiring sinking lines, if I wanted to give my wrist cramp I can think of a far more pleasurable way. I set up the Streamfex with a nice black hopper it never seems to fail river or loch. On the XF2 I opt for a single tungsten beaded nymph size 12 kamasan B175 hook, with a fluorescent green body with black rabbit fur strip in total about 3cm/inch and a half long fly far bigger than I am used to but it seems to work at this time of year, on a 8 lb Rio leader.

Looking west up the Glen

Looking West up the Strath Deveron

In the sunshine there is a good bit of warmth, but there is still that howling wind which is a southerly blowing from the S / SW and not nearly as bitingly cold as the N/ NE we get blowing in off the North Sea. I choose to fish the more sheltered regions of the loch and of these I choose to fish the spots that aren’t much deeper than 7ft mainly because I’ve often found fish come into these zones for warmth in the sunshine, the shallower water warming quicker. The bay directly in front of the hut offers me all these. There is little movement on the surface so I opt for the heavier rod and nymph set up, to fish at depth, taking the lighter rod with me for quick change to on the surface given the option. I fire a long line out reaching out beyond the bay. Aiming for along the side of a hidden sand Bar below the surface, that extends out from the middle of the bay. I send out  almost all my line, only a single turn remains on the reel before I am in to my backing. Letting the fly sink which doesn’t take long, I give a couple of sort sharp tugs, and stop, then begin a slow figure of 8 retrieve. Instantly I feel pressure and watch my line tip disappear under water and curve away in an ark. YEUP,YEUP, FISH ON!……Damn it! no! fish off! as I Lift the rod tip in to the take and strike, i pull the fly from the fishs mouth. I recover composure and continue the mixed up retrieve slow,stop,jerky, slow fast retrieve. on this first retrieve  I get a couple more knocks before, I lift the fly off the water to cast off again. My 2nd cast streams out to hit the same mark again and within 6ft of line  being retrieved, BANG! FISH ON! And this time, the barbless hook takes hold and I land the 3 lb over wintered beauty. The next 3hours stream past with another 13 fish coming to the net with the best at 6.5 lb  even a Brownie of 1 lb making an appearance. Between landing these fish I have also lost another 10 fish, for reasons I just can’t seem to explain. By 1pm I was in need of replacing the now well and truly tattered fly it had died serving bravely. I needed attention too, sadly excitement and enjoyment can’t sustain me alone, so lunch was called, warm soup and a sandwich.

fish taken earlier in the year at Artloch, fell to a black hopper

fish taken earlier in the year at Artloch, fell to a black hopper

Over lunch the wind intensified and the cloud rolled in, and to be honest the sky looked like it was going to rain or worse sleet. Normally when fishing is as good as had been, its a short lunch but with the changing conditions outside i lingered by the wood burner. I pried myself from fireside and headed for the productive little bay of this morning, but the sun was now gone behind thick cloud and temperature had dropped. Regardless I tried the bay again, on my first cast I land a 2 lber and still getting a few knocks, but the ferocious activity of the morning has dropped off. I move off, fishing around the loch here and there choosing spots where the wind allows. I land another 3 fish, a few more tugs keep me going. Then the activity just seems to stall.  at 3.30pm  after a fruitless hour I decide to call it time! and head for the cabin and warmth, truly satisfied, my craving for trout fishing fulfilled, at a time of year that can produce really tricky fishing, on what can be a very fickle Stillwater. That’s what I love about these wee Gems of fisheries, you quite often have to bring Your A-game, and these venues can quite often favour the wild fish fisher. Mainly because they have a more diverse and subtle skill set. Don’t rule out the Rainbows!

Shambles on the Spey

I had hoped to regale you with a great story of this weeks Salmon fishing trip to the Craigellachie Beat, on the famous river Spey a beautiful section of the river, and better still it is only 20min from my front Door. The Craigellachie beat constitutes one of the lower middle sections of the river, with the beat stretching for over 4 Km/2.8miles and lies about 17miles from the Moray coast, Were the Spey empties its peaty waters in to the Moray firth at the aptly named spey bay.

Fishing once more with Mark a regular fishing buddy, we arrived at the main hut about 8.45am, nestled among some trees on the well groomed and maintained right hand bank of the river. Over looked from behind by the craigellichie hotel and sitting about a half mile above the old cast iron telford bridge that majestily arcs across the deep tea coloured pools of this world famous river. Above on the opposite bank beyond the trees sits the Macallan Distillary, hidden, but making it presents known with the familiar smell of sweet roasted barley mash. The whiskey ladened sent was being carried on a light wind, which thankfully was expected to stay light for the day. To the west above Ben Rhines,  wearing its bright white coat of snow much of which and fallen the previous day glowed under the glorious blue sky which wasn’t expected to last the day, as cloud was to roll in Bringing heavy rain and sleet. Ah the joys of spring fishing.

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Greeted by Dougie Ross our ghillie for the day,  we quickly tackle up slipping into something less comfortable; 3 layers of thermals, woollen jumper, fleece body suit and topped off with a pair of Waders, warm is the aim! With air temperature about 4 degrees and the water not that much better layers is a must. Clad head to toe in goretex and neoprene,  you can’t help feeling that you look like some kind of  PVC clad fetishist, auditioning for the next 50 Shades film. on top of this you throw on a goretex wading jacket, buff, neoprene gloves, a wooly hat and of course  life jacket. Thankfully then the Fishing can commence.Craigellachie

As the only Rods on the Beat to have arrived, we had the choice of pools and on the grilles advice we headed for the top of the beat and the first pools of the day. I elected to fish the Brown Isle the second pool on the beat. Slipping in to the chilled water at the neck of the pool, I wade out through the glassy water that stretches the length of the pools right/south bank wading to thigh depth and start sending lines out in to mid stream using a right hand double spey fishing a brass tube monkey, on a Rio scandi line with Hover sink 1 shooting head. and to be honest I never really enjoy fishing a sinking line be it for Salmon or Trout, but i wanted to get down to the fish. My fly was landing in the boiling water that extended from the mid stream across to the left/north bank and runs the length of the pool till it reaches the riffels and then transitions in to the Garden pool below. Occasional  large boulders litter Brown isle generating nice, eddies and greasy water, These I would pay more attention to as I reached them. Then on only my third cast my fly is greeted with a Knoock knock as it drifts across and down. My senses ping the knowledge fish are there wetting my appetite, almost as much as the lung fulls of warm homely shortbread are wetting my appetite, the warm sugary smell drifting on the breeze from the nearby walkers factory. I loose myself in my fishing cast after cast and slowly fish down through the pool with out another touch.

Looking east down stream on Brown isle pool

Looking east down stream on Brown isle pool

Not another touch was had through the pool, and as the pool draws to its end, the cloud began to roll in. And with the cloud, my day began to descend into a shambles! To be honest by the time the day drew to an end, shambles is as polite a word as I could use! No longer being able to feel my toes, I waddled from the pool feeling really quite frozen! In the fast obscuring sun I gained some warmth, and quickly I began trying to warm my ice like toes. The warm starts to return, the growing warmth brings  with it a surging throbbing pain, the Hot aches! An excruciating throbbing pain coursing from toes to shin. Agony! so Dressed like some sort of PVC clad fetishist I begin waddling as though on hot coals, stretching and swearing on the river bank like a deranged mad man, that has soiled himself! I frantically try to get warmth in to feet, whilst fighting the throbbing pain. I must have looked a site, I dearly hope no-one saw me!

Trying to regain my composure I waddle to the garden pool Where Mark is fishing, with Dougie watching. Having now returned empty-handed from attempting to find the missing guests. Mark is quickly shown a different cast to help deal with the high bank that you have to fish from on the Garden pool, and I return to the top of the pool and begin to start fishing again, employing the new learned technique. With the first cast begins the total collapse of my casting, I appear to have become a ham-fisted idiot, with every worsening cast my rage boils at myself. Now cursing and berating myself under my breath, streaming combinations of insults and swears that only real rage brings. Dougie spots my decent into chaos and comes to my aid, his patience and resolve to get me back on track was amazing but it seemed to be a lost cause, as we sort one part of my cast another part dissolved and with it embarrassment and rage fizzled away within me I think we spent an hour beat our heads against the brick…crumbling wall that my cast had descended in to. My right shoulder screamed in pain as did my back, and I am almost sure I could hear my pride in there aswell! I should have walked away and taken a break but I didn’t and really can’t thank Dougie enough for is endless help. Eventually broken dougie calls lunch! And my weary body and patience could get a rest.

The Upper slab pool looking down Stream to the lower slab pool and Mark with Dougie

The Upper slab pool looking down Stream to the lower slab pool and Mark with Doug

Following lunch we began fishing through the pool in front of the main hut, and alas the cast was still a shambles it creaked and fell apart with every second cast and Dougie battled on trying to help even trying me on a larger heavier rod in an attempt to slow me down. But the damage was done to body, confidence and focus, I trough in my hat and called it a day dragged myself from the river dejected by failure, rage and the kicking my pride had taken.

Pana Boat 'o' Fiddich Pool

Marks first casts on the final pool of the day Boat “o” Fiddich I chose to spectate for this Pool.

So from the Shambles what can I take? Casting should never be painful! clearly I was using my right shoulder to try to impart power into the cast, a trout habit that is utterly redundant in the spey cast, the over use of my shoulder inflamed old rugby injuries which now inflamed stopped me from moving and turning as I should have, and stiffened up. To compensate for this I seemed to speed up the whole cast which didn’t allow time for a D loop to form and I was in variably on almost every cast pulling my anchor point, these combined and stopped me loading the rod, which in turn ment I had to work harder and apply more power. A vicious circle! Listen to the ghillie! he is truly an invaluable source of knowledge and skills, A good ghillie like Dougie Ross is worth their weight in gold to the fly-fisher and don’t let your pride get the better of you listen to everything and learn! also listen to Ur body if your sore. stop, breath, slow it down and walk away for a minute the river will still be there in 10 minutes time and remember it’s not just about catching a fish drink in where you are Scotland is gorgeous and breath-taking so breath in the location as much as the fishing. Again thank you Dougie for your patience and resolve. I spent saturday on the River Deveron, 300 meters from my front door. No fly on my line but I went through the motions like a novice. Cast after cast sorting out the shamble, hearing and heeding Dougies advice, rebuilding my cast and confidence ready for my next adventure. Knowing that every time every time I go fishing I learn and importantly being open to learning is part of the fun for me.

Salmon on the River Ness

Wednesday 11th February 2015

Early start; up at 6am never a problem when it’s for early season Spring Salmon fishing. Even with the recent cold weather making my body think its anything but Spring, the sky Nearly cloudless slowly turning a pale blue with the rising sun, milder than its been a beautiful day lay ahead. Throwing on Plenty of thin layers and thermals to keep the cold out. Warm soup in the thermos. I headed for Huntly Train station, loaded down with kit to get the first train to Inverness. The hopes and expectations for what the day ahead would give took hold. bubbling away in me, It happens every time I go fishing, I revert to being an excited kid.

Mark a regular fishing sidekick, when he is onshore met me from the train.  We chatted excitedly about the day ahead, realising that it is 20 years to the month since I caught my first salmon. On the very River we were about to fish, caught on the association town water. The beat that comprises the lower section of the river before it meets the Moray Firth, and it was in conditions not dissimilar to today.  We negotiated the traffic and the roadworks that seem to clog Inverness, and before long we were heading South down the northside of the River Ness on the Drumnadrochact Road.  Heading for Dochdarroch and the locks at the head of the Caledonian canal, we were to meet Grant Sutherland our ghillie for the day at the wee hut nestled behind the old lock-keepers cottages.

Greeted by Grant and his furry companion Duke, we chatted about the season now a week old and the tactics for the day. The Rver running at 10in/250mm, we quickly changed in to our waders and life vests as Grant kindly set up our rods and reels. I opted to use my Sharpes Gordon4 13ft 9WT (www.sharpes.net) matched with the Rio Scandi AFS shooting head with a floating tip, 6ft leader with a copper tube; long tail monkey fly.

Packed lunches on our backs we crossed the canal lock gates and headed for the riverside hut, nestled in the trees on the top pool below the weir. We had the beat to our selfs, the only rods booked so we had Grants undivided attention. I headed out along the weir to the top of the first pool, quite an interesting wade.  On one side the black depths of the canal, the other the cobbled weir. The canals water flowing over the 200 year old weir at ankle depth, In some spots knee-deep where the water is channelled into streams. These streams meet the main River generating nice eddies and greasy water, with deeper pockets and gravel bars along the north bank below the weir.

Looking west back towards the Weir that divides the confluence of the River Ness and the Caledonian canal were the waters of the Loch Ness now enters the River Ness on its way to the sea

Looking West upstream towards the Weir that divides the confluence of the River Ness and the Caledonian canal were the waters of Loch Ness enters the River Ness on its way to the sea


looking down stream from the weir, were contact was made with the first fish

looking down stream from the weir, were contact was made with the first fish

I start fishing down the pool under Grants watchfull eye and guidance, fishing a fairly short line as the fish tend to run close to this North bank.   The long winter off season was showing its effects, as my casting can be best described as rusty. I’m sure the ghillie would have privately called it something far worse.  Making steady progress down the pool with little sign of any action, apart from from the occasional enticing splash from elsewhere on the pool as fish moved and jumped.   Approaching the confluence of one of the larger streams that surge over the weir in to the River, I notice a nice greasy section of water behind the chop of the surging in water. A perfect spot to target a waiting fish…. I cast out across the river careful to control the length of my line.  The fly fished down and across nicely. Insuring I get the fly were I want it I drew in a little line. But a few feet from where I want it the fly and line gets slowed up in a the competing currents, and is just not fishing as I’d wanted. Quickly I mend the line downstream which helped to fish the fly across my target but nothing.  Briefly My attention is lifted from my line to further downsteam and Mark fishing. Leaving the fly on the dangle, I quickly regain my focus and retrieve some line before I start lifting my rod tip; Knock, knock, bang! The line begins stripping through my fingers, fish on! Then stupidity kicked in and the trout fisherman in me came to the fore, I struck! like it was a brownie supping at a dry fly.  The Salmon now starting to run across the river and in my haste I wrenche the fly from the Salmon’s mouth! sending the fly whistling past my ear. Damn! Pulse racing and colourful language subsiding, a smile spreads across my face. The day is still young, there will be another chance….hopefully

Time for a coffee and a move, on to the next pool. In the hour spent fishing the first pool the river had risen 4.5in/110mm, a combination probably snow melt in the surrounding hills and input from the hydro.  We fished through the next pool with out much action, having to adopt a double Spey cast to cope with the growing down stream wind, which at times was bitingly cold, persueded us it was time for lunch.  Grant suggests we move to the lowest pool after lunch as it hasn’t been fished yet this season. He didn’t have to suggest it twice! The Tantalising over lunch show supplied by the Kelts jumping and splashed all through the pool in front of the hut spurred us on.

looking downstream  on the bottom pool of the Dochfour beat

looking downstream on the bottom pool of the Dochfour beat

The river seemed to be holding its height between 14-15in/250-275mm. I slipped in mid pool, and began putting out mid range casts. Fishing the fly round nicely producing better casts than earlier in the day, I felt quite confident in myself. Slowly fishing down the pool getting a couple of good knocks but not much else, I manage to suppress the urge to change my fly And continue fishing. A nice well presented cast, a quick mend up stream and the fly is fishing down and round nicely. It just felt right! And with that a sold take! The line runs though my fingers and I slowly lift into it. The rod doubles over, a quick run from a kelt too lacklustre to be a springer. I slowly bring a well coloured spawned cock fish to the net.  And with that its quickly released, A quick chat with Grant and I get back to flinging casts out. Within 2 casts I was back in to a fish, smaller this time but more of a fight,  the fish shows itself on the surface with a brief flash of silver in the afternoon sunshine, and my hopes surge for a springer. Gently playing the fish to the net, I am soon dashed on the springer. But it’s still a nice Hen Kelt.

Grant Sutherland the Ghillie removing the hook from the 8lb Hen Kelt

Grant Sutherland the Ghillie removing the hook from the 8lb Hen Kelt

With the day drawing to a close and the sun now low dropping behind the hills above loch Ness. A couple of more takers but nothing sticks, so we call it a day and head for the hut. The hut that we had started out from 7 hours earlier. A great day, in a beautiful location had been had. A lot of that enjoyment was Thanks to the excellent Ghillie Grant Sutherland.

If you get the opportunity to fish the Dochfour beats on the River Ness take it!  though the beat tends to fish better in the back half of the season its a beautiful venue and stretch of water year round.

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