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;

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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.

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