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.

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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.

 

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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

Chasing Spring Silver; on the Helmsdale and Thurso

Part 2 of 2 (Every Adventure has to start somewhere)

The journey north had been stunning in the gathering gloom and was a taste of the vistas and scenery that we were to experience over the next 2 days; it’s wild, remote sunning landscapes inspire, and in winter weather it is something to experience. Spending the night in Brora a wee town 10 miles south of the village of Helmsdale it was a quick jaunt North and on to this famous river. Having elected to fish the Association water which runs from the harbour 1.5mile upstream, in Spring this can be most likely to produce of all the beats on this 20mile river, famed for its once prolific Spring run like every river it has dropped off in recent years that is as much to do with the pressures on the species and the endless other factors threatening wild Atlantic Salmon than anything else, yet the Helmsdale still manages to consistently produce good numbers of fish.

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Tentative wading on the Helmsdale, sheets of sleet, rain and high wind, river high water and difficult wading, looking upstream east/north eastwards

Its location in stunning scenery, it’s history and influence on salmon fishing makes it all so worthy of a pilgrimage, just scanning a beat map or OS map of Strath Kildonan also known as Strath Ullie you can’t help but notice the origin of several famous flies alone that this river has contributed to the sport; the Kildonan Killer , yellow Torransh and of course the legendary Willie Gunn which some credit with having taken more fish than any other fly. There is also a sadder Scottish history associated with Helmsdale, the Strath and Sutherland as a whole but that is another story and I had ventured north to fish. The Helmsdale primary source is Loch Badanloch, 1 of 3 interconnected lochs Badanloch, Loch nan Clar and Rimsdale.  These lochs help to maintain water levels in drier times thanks to a Dam, so fishing is an option season long. Picking the day ticket up for  a very reasonable £25, generally it’s a first come first served basis but it always worth while to phone a head of time. The Helmsdale is unique in some respect as the waters above the Associations water are a collective of owners that work together in regards to the fishings, allowing their guests to to experience all the Helmsdale has to offer fishing different beat on different days. Similarly the opening week; 11th of January is free, all you have to do is register in advance and on each day of opening week you are alotted a beat for the day, personally I think this is a fantastic idea and allows anglers a taste of a river that might otherwise be out of reach. it also helps to get plenty of rods out in the hope of seeing the first salmon of the season, never a bad thing for a rivers’ reputation. Currently Association day tickets can be bought at the Helmsdale Tackle company shop in the centre of the village but sadly they are in the process of closing their retail shop to concentrate on online sales so where to get the tickets following the shops closure, I am unsure.

The Helmsdale tackle company does produce some of the finest flies on the market; beautifully hand tied, so with the permit I bought a few of their classic Willie Gunn copper tube that only 4 days earlier had scored Helmsdales first 2016 springer.

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Looking Downstream, East/south Eastwards across the Flat and Style pools

A mile by road up Strath Ullie brings you to the top of the Association beat, well sign posted next to a parking place a path leads down a flight of steps to the rivers left/north bank and the 2 most productive pools on the beat; the Flat and Style pools. The clear blue skies of earlier where now a distant pleasent memory, Mother Nature must have seen me tackling up and decided……well you can guess! Howling wind bringing with it sheets of heavy sleet and snow that looked like it was never going to stop, it was blowing 40mph from the Southeast/East straight in my face upstream. Hang it, I hadn’t travel 150miles not to fish! As I threw on my waders above the river Jen took pity on me and asked if I would like some company, someone to hold my net.  I was so grateful, as much as I love to flyfish there are times were I question my own sanity and just having someone there with you on the river bank when your fingers are blue numb and you are starting to believe your feet are lumps of ice can make the difference between fishing and sacking to off for the pub.

the Sharpes Gordon 2 13ft 9/10wt (http://www.sharpes.net/gordon-2 15ft 10WT salmon-rod-195-p.asp),

with an Orvis Large Arbor IV (http://www.orvis.co.uk/p/access-mid-arbor-fly-reels/3r44)

teamed with the Rio AFS Shooting head with hover1 sink tip (http://www.garryevans.co.uk)

I fished virtually this same set up on all 3 river how ever I did change the fly used, on the Ness the cone head monkey was the go to fly, but I was on new water on the Helmsdale and Thurso so opted for the tried and test Willie Gunn since only days earlier it had produced.


I tentatively waded into the style pool the very top pool on the Association water where the water was high with the snow, sleet melt and the colour of an over brewed cup of builders tea. I couldn’t see the bottom, just a peaty abyss it’s because these type of conditions, I always wear a life jacket and carry a wading staff. An unfamiliar river, its bottom and its nature is the quickest way to kill yourself, you go for a days fishing and end up fighting for your life, it may be cumbersome but it could save your life. It soon became apparent that wading just wasn’t going to be an option so I heaved myself from the water and got to laying my first cast and even with the 13ft rod it was easy to cover the whole water, but I have to say that I truly hate Spey casting from a bank and I recently discovered that when the cast was developed it was never supposed to be preformed with in 2 yards of the bank and I can understand why! at the back of my mind there is always a niggling worry that you catching the bank. I could have thrown in an upstream C cast but with the wind it was just easier to limit the time the line was in the air, casting at about 45 degrees across the river the line would land several feet upstream of me but I was determined to fish through the pools and at least give it ago.  The river was 18in plus up as I fished through the flat and style pools without a touch and in the two odd hours I had seen several cars with rods on them heading down the Glen and calling it a day.  A rather wet and cold Jen doing star jumps by the river sealed for me, we beat a retreat to a great wee café in the village to thaw out. The Helmsdale is such a truly iconic river it was great just to wet a fly on it, a cold and wet day on the river beats a day in the office. I made a promise to myself as we drew out of Helmsdale on to the A9 that I would be back. May is proving a productive month, so come warmer days in the months to come I will be back chasing silver on the Helmsdale.

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Snow storm coming in over the Beattrice oil platform, looking eastwards over the Moray Firth from Upper Latheron

Back on the A9 we had 50 miles left to Thurso and the final river on my northern adventure. It has been almost 10  years since I had ventured this far North on the East coast of Scotland, the West is a different story and is like a second home. I had forgotten how unique and stunning the landscapes of eastern Sutherland and Caithness are! As a recovering geologist the landscape is underlayen by some awesome mouth watering geology, a geology that paved many of the great cities of the world; London, Sydney and many more.  You can take the boy out of geology but not the geology out of the boy.

But I was here to fish and had left the rock hammer at home, I aimed to fish the lower section of the Thurso Beat 1 the Association water, but the first challenge was finding the shop to buy the permit. A small book shop little more than a broom cupboard the ticket was £40 for the day, which I felt was steep for a river that was not firing on cylinders of late and not a ghillie for help, from the outset I did not feel welcome. I was informed as a guest day ticket I could not fish below the graveyard in essence removing the lowest pools only.

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The Tail of the Salmon pool on the river Thurso

The river was beautiful nestled in channel below the rolling plateau like landscape that optimises the this stark beautiful part of Scotland. The river was running a couple of feet above normal, running fast and coloured much like the Helmsdale the previous day however the weather was more favourable, light wind and blue skies only occasionally broken by light snow showers as they drifted through. I chose to fish the well known Salmon pool above the weir, a long deep pool with lovely greasy water and boils which just looked as though it should hold fish, fishing from the West Bank wading was once again out of the question so I stuck to cast of 45-60ft aiming the copper tube Willie Gunn on the edge of the fast water that lay along the opposite bank and fished the fly round through the seam and the greasy water I fished slowly through the pool twice without a touch.

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Looking upStream south on the Thurso, Snow storm on the Horizon

I had enjoyed the 4.5 hours on this classic river but no success so with my frustration building, the sky darkening and heavier snow looming I opted to beat the retreat to the hotel and the Scotland vs Wales rugby, so from one passion to another. I alluded earlier to a less than welcoming reception to the day angler on this beat and I have to say it was only this beat that I fished so I cannot comment on the other higher beatsimage. Now I hate to be negative about the locations I fish or the sport in general but I was so disappointed to learn that I could have fished these tidal pools at the very mouth of the river, I was told otherwise and it sadly reflects how some Association waters are managed almost like private thiefdoms who would rather not see a visiting angler.  But I do have to say having spoken to the Chairman before we travelled he could not have been further from this, welcoming and very helpful but sadly this appears lacking in the other points of contact for the visiting angler who often pays more for a day than the members pay for a year. It is quickly forgotten that these visiting anglers are a valuable revenue stream for any Association water that allows the members to enjoy reasonably priced season tickets and river upkeep, is it so terrible a thing that a visiting angler catch the first fish or even just sample this beautiful river? because apart from the revenue, these fishers leave with a real appreciation of how lucky the locals are, a tinge of jealously that as a visitor it may only be that once a year that we get to sample the peaty waters.

 

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Looking down stream across the Salmon pool towards Thurso, beautiful conditions and a vast improvement on the previous day

The rugby concluded much like my previous two days fishings, without victory but I had loved every minute exploring a tiny bit of these fantastic classic Highland salmon Rivers. We headed South homewards on the homeward leg, a much needed rest and a chance on my local rivers, now that they were once again open for salmon; the Deveron, the Spey, the Dee and the Don.

Every Adventure has to start somewhere, 3 famous Salmon rivers 

PART 1 OF 2 PART

Every adventure has to start some where; this one began early last December with the arrival of a party invite tucked inside a Christmas card, no sooner had Jen sent the R.S.V.P. I was formulating an adventure; that would see us travel a 400 mile round trip and present me with the opportunity to fish 3 famous Scottish salmon rivers in 3 days and in the process experience the gamut of classic Scottish spring weather conditions. Before I go any further I feel the need to clarify the term Spring, it most certainly is not spring like here at the moment! simply by looking out the window you can tell its still the middle of the bloody winter! The term Spring gets banded about by salmon fishers simply because it’s the new season, misleading the uninitiated! I emphasise: it is no reflection of the weather and the five layers of clothing I wear below my waders can attest to that fact, spring is a distant dream or so it seems but as a sufferer of a incurable fly-fishing Addiction, the weather is a small discomfort to bear when in search of “Spring” run wild Scottish Atlantic salmon.

 

The party invitation set a ball rolling that would see me fish the River Ness, the Iconic river Helmsdale and the famous River Thurso, each river quite different in its own right regardless of the weather conditions or it water levels. The Thurso and The Helmsdale opitomise classic Scottish spring rivers, opening first for the season these rivers are world renowned and in some senses are a pilgrimage that every Scottish salmon fisher should make. I added the Ness to the list simply because it’s a true classic and its one of my favourite rivers in Scotland. I cut my teeth on the Ness, casting my first fly as a young boy, its where I caught my first trout on the fly and its the river that produced my first Salmon over 20 years ago. Mid February was the date  set and all I could do was cross my fingers and watch the skies, hoping mother nature would be kind. The 11th arrived with the usual pre-dawn start heading northward, apparently mother nature hadn’t got the memo! As we slipped on to the A96 a snowplough sped past clearing our route, thankfully only 4in of the white stuff had fallen but it was coming down hard and fast as we journeyed North and I was worried, having been washed out on the Tay at Dalmarnock 5 days earlier I had visions of white out all day, a rising river and frozen fingers. A feeling that didn’t leave me till I was waist deep in the peaty waters of the River 3 hours later.

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Looking upstream the coming storm, the upper beat hut with veiws of the Nettings pool and beyond the just visible waters spilling over the weir

The Dochfour beat is spit between syndicate rods and Day tickets that are only avalible from Fishpal(http//www.fishpal.com). 4 rods daily producing nearly 200 fish last year, Dochfour with both banks covers the top two miles of the Ness from the weir to the Ness Castle beat. This was my 2nd year on the beat with Grant Sutherland the head ghillie, the beat starts by the weir that divides the Ness from Telfords Caledonian canal, and a mile below Loch Ness and its monster, flanked on both sides by steep hills. These hills had now disappeared into the haze of sleet, snow and blanket of thick grey cloud, a stark charge from last time I fished the beat.  12 months earlier it had been blue skies and 12in lower, but regardless of the weather I was here to fish and once that first cast had rolled out the weather  was forgotten. Drowned out by the enjoyment and focus of the repeated casting, every cast carrying that hope of a fish as the fly lands in the boiling greasy, peated waters.

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looking Downstream from the Nettings Pool on the Ness the Trees white with snow

Starting on the Nettings pool in front of the upper beat hut, the sleet and snow continuing fall, I fished seeing little action with only the one briefest of knocks, repeatedly my attention was being drawn downstream to the Andrews pool below, the sound of jumping and topping fish breaking the air  like audio catnip to the salmon fisher. Tingling with anticipation from all the visible action I reached the tail of the Nettings and Grant moved me on to The Andrews pool, as I slip in to the water and waded out Grant tells me “if your going to see a fish it will be in this pool” I am like a kid with a sugar rush, composing myself and following Grants advice  I fish the current break 25+. Ft from the bank,, between the boiling surging fast water being generate by the croy and the glassy slacker water out from the bank. The first 200ft of the pool generated not a touch and with every step down the pool the activity below seems to intensify, the urge to run down and try and cover every fish was hard to resist. Steady head prevailed; reciting ‘good things comes to those who wait’.

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looking downstream eastwards over the croy towards the The Andrew pool and the island

Even from a distance  it was quite clear that a lot of the fish showing were kelts but where you find kelts you will often find a fresh fish, I was hoping that the next cast or every one after could produce me that 2016 springer. The north bank comes to a point and ends where the Ness widens and divides, where it drops and spills round a large wooded island. The south branch with the faster water follows the right hand bank and surges to right of the Island. The north or left branch forms a huge loch like pool of slow glassy, greasy eddies   3-4ft deep, these waters held back by a natural weir running diagonally upstream from the point of the island to the north bank.

Repeatedly fish topped downstream of me and I had to remind myself to breath! to keep my cast in check, cast repeat, cast repeat. Contact! Fish on! a lack lustre take and immediately I knew it was a kelt, none the less it offered some sport as I fought to bring it to the offered net, a Hen fish of about 5lb  turning back to silver as she nears the sea once more. A quick release and I watch her safely swim away, frantically I strip  line off the reel and roll out another cast, desperate to be back fishing. A distinct bounce to my step, always nice to see a fish, a couple of more knocks but nothing sticks and Grant suggests lunch.  As I lift my rod tip and begin to retrieve my line from on the dangle a faint knock and the gathered line strips from my fingers, a jolt of adrenaline and I lift my rod tip, FISH ON! It runs across the pool in front of me, porpoising as it turns downstream showing its self at a distance; its dark blue back and silver flank visible. Don’t ask me why but for what ever stupid reason I felt I should adjust the drag, still a little rattled from the unexpected take I fumble with the slack in attempt to allow it to run but under tension, fatal mistake! The fish turns and runs straight at me frantically I reel as it races up the pool, why oh why did I mess with the drag? Suddenly the rod tip recoils and lifts, the line goes slack……..it’s gone! A shower of expletive follow the vanishing Salmon, I retrieve the line and call it lunch. “That could have been a springer” hope in my voice, but Grants’ look said it all; you’ll never know! Buoyed by the mornings successes and un-dampened by the recent loss and with the sleet easing the odd ray of sunshine now hit the rivers tea like waters, as we walked back to the hut, a good morning had, high hopes for what the afternoon would bring.

Grant releasing a cock Kelt

Over lunch Grant suggests a return to the Andrews pool that had proved so productive in the morning,  with a clearing sky the temperatures had started to drop however the fish where not put off and were still active and before too long I bring another kelt to the net, losing 3 more over the afternoon, smiling from ear to ear we fish on till the back of four o clock.  For the final hour I fish quickly through the Burnmouth pool on the weir, sitting below this man made divide of river and canal, it is a surprisingly beautiful location the waters spilling over the weir in sheets and rivulets that boil and mix with the main river at the Burnmouth pool.  Behind me the sun was setting through the rising mists on the hills above Loch Ness adding to the magic and making it feel like a privilege to fish this beat. On this occasion I was to have the Beat to myself and monopolise the ghillies time too. No springer but it was a joy have put a bend in the rod a real smile on my face.

Last season was an great year on the Dochfour beat and the river can offer great fishing year round even in the dry weather when other beats struggle. It’s fairly obvious that the Ness and the Dochfour beat is a particular favourite of mine, you really should give it a go! It’s only in the last couple of years that rods have been made available, so jump on Fishpal and book it now! Grant and has spent 20+ years on this river, he has a genuine passion for the river and the quality of its fishing. If you want to Know more visit or keep up to date with the beat news and its catches on Facebook; @Dochfour Fishings.

Top of the Dochfour beat, Looking south west wards towars Loch Ness , the Weir that divides the caleonian canal an the River Ness

A very enjoyable days fishing concluded,  1 river down 2 to go so now a 2 hour journey northward, a quick change out of wet waders and we were off on the next stage of the adventure the evening sky clearing and the first hints of frost on grass, the dark navy blue of night descended and the first pin pricks of star light visible we followed the winding A9 northwards hugging the Moray Firth coast of Northern Scotland. The adventure was to continue; come morning I would be fishing the famous River Helmsdale, join me in my next article as I get to sample this famous river and the Thurso.

Salmon Season, Tay Time

2016 entered with a real bang, weather providing the fireworks as we all know but thankfully after the storm’s, some settled proper winter weather arrived. The rivers began to drop as did the temperatures and by mid January the Scottish rivers started opening for the Salmon season, finally a tonic for my cabin fever and the chance to wet a fly, a quick visit to Fishpal (http:/fishpal.com) a couple of clicks and I was booked on the Meikleour and Islamouth beats; 2 miles of the mighty Tay, boat or bank fishing.

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Meikleour Bridge, Look upstream to ward the bridge from the Castle pool

At the start of every season I get that same child-like excitement, the same buzz and I can guarantee that the night before my first trip of every season will be a restless one. An alpine start, up at the back of 5am I was remarkable fresh and chomping at the bit! Quickly filling the car with the excess of gear that you always seem to need at this time of year, loaded as though I was away for an Artic adventure not a day on the Tay. I manage to squeeze in a quick bacon roll and I was out of the traps for the start of my 2016 season. I might be dramatic but any keen fisher will tell you that the start of the season is like rebirth; exciting prospects await, new adventures new sights beautiful locations and of course that adrenaline inducing, endorphin racing, rod bending moments as a fish takes your offered fly.

Heading South pale blue began to seep skywards across the eastern horizon and the day was dawning with almost perfect conditions, hardly a breath of wind and the temperature only just a couple of points below freezing, with these conditions were set to last the day, bliss! But what would I now blame my generally terrible Spey cast on if not the wind…..I am sure I would find an excuse.

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Misty Perthshire hills, looking North upstream from the Birch bank towards the Tunnel pool and Tunnel stream

The broad rolling farm laden glens of Cooper Angus were shrouded in a veil of mist, drifting between the towering trees and distant hill, at times obscuring the horizon and reducing the world to monochrome. nearing Meikleour the damage of the New Year storms became more evident, debris meters above the river suspended in leafless trees with high water marks in places beyond sight of any River, testament to the volume and power of the waters. but thankfully the river was now at a good height and I was eager to wet a fly and sample the Tay.

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Monochrome Misty world,looking upstream towards the Tunnel Stream and March pool hidden in the mists

Greeted by Dan Wright and Callum McRoberts the Head Ghillie with a warm wood burner and a cup of tea, at the inviting Ferry cottage boat house; its hard to tell that only 4 months earlier it had gone up in smoke now sporting its new roof and fire place. I can imagine is a struggle to leave the cozy fire side on days less inviting than this. but I was desperate to be out on the water, a quick chat and the application of several more layers a pair of waders and a life jacket, I was ready to have my first taste of the famous Tay and its world renowned fishing’s.

The Beat

Fishing Map Pool

Beat Map (Copyright Meikleour estate)

The Meikleour & Islamouth beat sits on the junction of the River Isla and the Tay and is famous for the Junction and Castle pools, 2 of the 14 named pools on the 2 mile beat, which sit 7 miles downstream of Dunkeld and 10 mile above Perth. Nestled in the rolling rich fertile farmland that lines the lower Tay, it is a consistent beat producing nearly 200 fish a year, Meikleour has been with the same family for over 300 years. The current owners have a real passion for fishing themselves, which is reflected in the effort, detail, expense and love that is clearly been put into maintaining and developing the beats facilities. The same passion for the beat is clear as soon as you talk to Callum and is reflected in enthusiasm with which past guests Tweet and speak about the beat. What I hadn’t been prepared for was the beauty of this stretch of the Tay even on a misty Scottish winters day.

The River Tay winds its 118 miles from source to coast through a stunning seasonally changing pallet of colour that takes in some of the most Shortbread box perfect scenery Scotland has to offer, from its mountain and moorland highland Perthshire sources. The Tay flows south through deep once glacial glens now cloaked in conifer and broadleaf, these glens and hills resonate with the past battles and history of Scotland. And Meikleour is a snap shot of Perthshires’ heritage and alluring scenic beauty, its towering tree lined banks draws you along the mighty peaty waters of the Tay.

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Callum McRoberts; Head Ghillie taking us upstream for the mornings fishing

Starting my exploration of this famous beat we motored upstream under the picturesque old red sandstone Meikleour Bridge, Callum on the outboard of the Tay boat a fantastically stable and wide boat with a good keel that cuts through the surging and boiling mass of the Tays’ peaty waters. These boats are reminiscent of the famous Leven style boats comfortable and a pleasure to fish from, this one in particular freshly painted and clearly well cared for. I’ve never river fished from a boat before, simply because most Scottish river are too small to require one, It provides a unique perspective letting you appreciate the shear width of the Tay and the mass of water flowing through it.

Behind us as we motor through the aptly named house pool, the striking red stone of the Meikleour bridge beamed against the monochrome mist filled world, framed on both sides by the towering broadleaf’s and conifers that line the banks of the peaty highway. The towering leafless trees parting to a grassy slope leading from river upwards to the beautiful Meikleour House partially hidden in the slowly drifting mists.

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Meikleour House; hidden in the mists with its view over the house pool, Image looking upstream towards the Pump house croy and Boxbush pool

Callum anchored the boat alittle further upstream in the Boxbush pool and I cast my first fly of 2016.

the Sharpes Gordon 2 15ft 10/11wt (http://www.sharpes.net/gordon-2—15-0-10-salmon-rod-195-p.asp),

with an Orvis Large Arbor IV (http://www.orvis.co.uk/p/access-mid-arbor-fly-reels/3r44)

teamed with the Rio AFS Shooting head with hover1 sink tip (http://www.garryevans.co.uk)

and the classic early season fly a 1.5in copper tube Monkey (http://www.grahamsonline.co.uk/product/the-long-monkey-copper-tube-salmon-fly-with-jungle-cock).

I felt like I could have used a rod twice the length and still fallen short.

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TheUnemployableflyfisher fishing through the castle pool, Opposite the Junction pool and the mouth of the river Isla

The Tay is a river I have never really fished well certainly not the lower Tay, I have fished the head waters of the Tay; River and Loch Tummel as well as the River Garry for trout and grayling but never Salmon. So this trip was a whole new world of experiences, for several reasons; the shear scale of the Tay, it is several orders of scale larger than what I usually fish wider and deeper it presents you with a huge body of water that truthfully intimidates as you contemplate trying to cover the water with a fly. unless you have a champion class cast, which I most certainly do not have, but what I lack in distance and length I make up for with trying…or so I’ve been told.

This casting requirement relates nicely to the other reason this trip was a new world, the fishing techniques! As its says at the top of the page and in the very name I am a fly fisher so with the Tay at 3ft above summer levels the most productive methods are spinning and harling. I can hear the collective gasp and in truth the thought of using any technique other than the fly generally elicits derision at best and at worst a high pitched girlish scream of shock  from myself, but as the collective “they” say “When in Rome”. So after a hour of ham fistedly casting the fly and angrily muttering insults at myself, I relent to the wisdom of Callum and pick up a spinning rod, to fish through the remainder of the pool. Approaching the tail Callum cautioned; a take if we are to get one is most likely here. But not a touch, the activity of earlier with fish showing had vanished and the water was quiet and a distinct chill was now in the air. We move on downstream to experience a new technique, that is all together alien to me.

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Harling; Rod in the rest as we search of fish, at the Pump house croy

Harling; a method I believe originated on the Tay certainly the name did. Most loch fishers will know it as Trolling, 3 lines with lures and spoons set at different lengths to the side and rear of the boat, and slowly the boat is motored back and forth across the the pool occasionally holding position in the current and over known lies, it is apparently one of the most productive methods at certain river heights and time of year and a complete eye opener to me. As we explored pool after pool slowly dropping downstream the air was developing a real chill and with it we saw little movement on the surface and not a touch. The boat taking the load of the casting the chat flowed from fishing to farming and much more as the morning slipped away unnoticed enjoying the chat with Callum and the refreshing pleasure of being out on the river after a long closed season. Reaching the Castle pool and still not a touch, Callum called lunch and we went in search of the wood burner warmth.

A quick lunch of my homemade newly christened “lucky steak” pies, which I hoped would bring a fish come the afternoon session, opting to fly fish I waded the castle pool slowly moving downstream through the pool. With every step I relaxed and my cast improved but still not a touch. Callum was determined to find me fish, so we took to the boat once more crossing the river to the famous Junction which sits opposite the Castle pool. A cracking, fishy looking deep greasy watered pool where the waters of the Isla and Tay meet, boil and churn together. In higher water this pool produces fish consistently and within moments fish began to top and show, my spirits soared and hopes of a fish raced. I returned to the Spinning, casting to the greasy boils where the water meet a couple of quick jigs to sink the lure and then a slow retrieve to the boat, and with every cast comes anticipation of a Take. I send a cast out behind the boat and sink the lure with a couple of jerks of the reel a brief pause and I begin a slow retrieve, I can feel the the lure flutter and bite into the sur

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Kelt from the Junction Pool

ging water of the junction pool. My anticipation waning, when the faintest knock, and before I can acknowledge it I feel that familiar adrenaline inducing take, the whole reason we fish! “Fish On!” Waves of excitement and relief course through me as I play the fish back to the boat, but its quite evident I’ve got a Kelt on the end of the line, alas no springer. But you couldn’t tell from the smile on my face, it just very enjoyable putting a bend in the rod and seeing a fish coming to the boat, regardless of it being a springer or not. Three casts later and I am shouting “fish on” as we approach the tail of the pool, another kelt more coloured than the first has take my lure, but it sheds the hook within feet of the boat and is gone with a splash into the peat darkness. Moments later Callum too is into a fish and as quickly as its on its off. Its the last fish or touch we see for the day but At least we have had a fish and put a couple of bends in our rod.

Returning to the Boat house and its warmth at the end of the day I was already planning my next Visit to this Beat, No springer but thats Salmon fishing it is a privilage just to see fish and to fish on a beautiful, well kept beat like Meikleour I really can’t praise it high enough; brilliant setting, quality facilities, with a real passion for the sport and its future. I can truthfully say i have not enjoyed my time more in a boat on a cold day; Callum is great Company and an invaluble source of Knowledge about the beat, the lies and fishing in general. if you intend to experience the mighty Tay I have to say try a day or more on the Meikleour and Islamouth Beat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brown trout-Assynt Adventures

Assynt panaroma

Looking West over Coigach, on a blue sky day, Ben More Coigach on right, Stac Pollaidh visible behind Loch Lurgainn and Cul beag on the right.

My compass pointed farther North, so with a fantastic days fishing behind me in Torridon I headed for Assynt; it’s plentiful Lochs and hill lochs, its rugged landscape and wild brownies. Taking the winding coast road North through Gairloch, past Gruinard Bay; where so many WWII Atlantic and artic convoys sailed. Past Little Loch Broom and round and along Loch Broom meeting the main road from Inverness to Ullapool and the ferry to Lewis, but no ferry journey for me. My target is 40miles further North on a road that leads you through a breath taking scenery of rolling moorland and loch, with stepped near vertical mountains of Torridonian sandstone, that pierce the horizon like the fins and backs bones of prehistoric monsters, swimming through a rolling sea of heather and Lewisian gneiss. A scenic wonderland and a geologist’s wet dream!

The road hugs escarpments of Durness limestone and weaves along the shore of Loch Assynt till eventually closely following the River Inver you arrive at the fishing village of LochInver looking Westover the very North of the Isle of Lewis.

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looking South, over Loch Assent with Beinn Gharbh behind, Ardvreck castle on the left bank of the loch.

In the far distance and beyond the Atlantic, behind the village a panorama of epic quality sits waiting to be explored, this was to be my base camp for the next 3 days to reacquaint myself with the lochs, hills and brownies I have neglected somewhat over the last 5 years with the constraints of work and building a house.

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LochInver and East the hills of Assynt, from left to right Quinag, Canisp, Suilven, Cul More, Cul Beag and stac Pollaidh.

Quick stop to sort out boats and permits for the stay (http://www.assyntangling.co.uk) the prices are unbelievably reasonably well priced at about £10 day for a roving ticket that gives you access to a wonderland of over 400 lochs, my mouth salivates at the thought of it. i skipped back to the car giddy with excitement and with in moments I was winding my way up the narrow single track road from the village to Loch Druim Suaralain locally known as the Glen Loch. Parking with permission at Glencanisp lodge (http://www.glencanisp-lodge.co.uk) we made out on the Loch on its only boat a really nice Lomond, stable with a good keel and a total joy to row, that stopping me from pulling what little hair I have left out and swearing like a sailor. A crap unwieldy boat can truly frustrate beyond word and spoil an enjoyable day. The Glen Loch is situated in Glen Canisp, which runs between the ironically beautiful Corbett’s (A mountain of over 2500ft but below the magic 3000ft that defines them as the famous Munros) of Suliven and the sloping ramp of Canisp.

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thick cloud decending over Loch Druim Suardalain

The Glen Loch is fed by the small river of Abhainn Bad na h-Achlaise at the East end and from West end below a small wooden bridge the waters continue Westwards to Loch Culag, better know as the School Loch before a short river section empty’s the peaty waters in to the Loch Inver. A stunning location to fish; surrounded by the rolling Lewisian hills covered in heather and small areas of native woodland comprising Scots Pines and Silver Birch. The heather dotted with white bog cotton swaying in the strengthening Westerly wind. Cold thick cloud descended hiding the surrounding hills and tops producing an oppressive feel as the low cloud hung over us, light drizzle carried on the gusty wind. At times through the day the gusts blew 25mph, but undaunted I rowed in to the wind, and made for the small forested Islands that group around the North shore about half way down this half mile long Loch. Glen Loch offers large numbers of Brown Trout, and with its connection to the sea only a mile odd away, both Salmon and Sea Trout were to be found here and are known to take a well presented small trout fly on occasion, so I hoped to see a mixed bag of fish.

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looking West up glen Canisp, on one of the many drifts of the day.

Fishing these hill Lochs can be quite a challenge to the uninitiated as even though these Lochs are small, fish do not lurk everywhere! They hug the margins and the lochs edge, where they have access to shallower water, cover and an easier supply of feed; aquatics and terrestrials, fallen and blown from the surrounding land. In the deeper areas and middles of these Lochs they can be almost barren of fish or apparent life of any sort. to the uninitiated these challenges can often only produce only disappointment and it really can be advantageous to the new come to seek out all the advice they can to boost their chances of making a day amazing and i highly recommend local guide Stewart Yates (http://assyntflyfishing.com)

I aim for  small bays and the outlets and inlets of Rivers and Burns, making drifts along the edges of the islands and main loch-shore. I head for a small bay on the East side of the islands, it just looks fishy and I have learned to listen to my little internal monologue, when it tells me “fish there” and occasionally what fly to use. I listen and do as it tells me, the sub-conscience accessing the deep recesses of my long forgotten knowledge and dropping hints. Rowing in to the narrow mouth of the bay I send out my first cast on Assynt waters in two years, I opted for a similar 2 rod set up than I had in Torridon but decided on a Hardy/Greys streamflex 4WT teamed with the Hardy flyweight reel and Cortland Platinum floating WF floating line instead of the Hardy DT, mainly to allow me to deal better with the wind and allow me to punch casts in to a head wind should I need to. The 4WT was for dry flies. The second rod was old reliable, my 5WT streamflex plus, with the Hardy L.R.H lightweight (http://www.hardyfishing.com/en-gb/home/) with a Cortland camo 5ft ghost tip (http://www.cortlandline.com) just to allow me to put the flies down quicker and on retrieve to maintain a depth rather than pulling the cast to the surface with each strip of line. On this rod I had a team of wets and nymphs similar to Torridon. Gold head Nymph, a personal favorite, is flash back Hares ear I tie myself and has never let me down in the North on point. The 1st and 2nd droppers are a mix of flies usually highland traditional’s, the likes of a Kate McLaren, blue Zulu and Claret Bumble. I do love to use North Country spiders even though most people associate them with river fishing I have found them quite successful on the lochs.

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First cast of the day

My first cast kissed the surface of the water and presented my single dry fly a size 16 pale Olive Para Dun, and it immediately soliciting a take from a hard fighting 9inch wee brownie, small but beautifully formed. The wind was frustrating but could be over come and I continued on the dry, even though there was little surface action from the fish and there was little if any in the way of a noticeable hatch going on. I persevered as it seemed to be drawing fish to the surface with splashy miss takes and the occasional bomber take that confirmed another Assynt brownie was on the end of my line. image I fish a single dry more often than not simply because I believe it presents better, and when you have several dries on I find they can generate unnatural drag and movement, that I feel is a turn off for often weary fish. To be honest having more dries on I’ve found doesn’t generate more takes, often the opposite. The fishing slowed so I changed position and established a drift between two islands fishing the dry fly close to the bank and slowly retrieving it, this seemed to generate fish with in a few feet of the bank, the fish darting out from cover or depth to hammer the fly. Missing as many as hooked which was really quite frustrating. image The wind was driving me crazy! Some folk would argue that I already am, but the wind was trying its best to make sure I was! I had a drogue set mid boat and could have done with another in an attempt to maintain a slower steady drift but the wind kept gusting and I was luck to get 2 or 3 casts before I was having to row the boat back in to position and start a drift over. I spent the next couple of hours exploring the loch in search of shelter and fish, only finding a few. With my patience and my arms falling, I returned to the bay and the islands of the morning producing a few more fish.

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Bring a beautiful Assent Brownie to the Boat the Minnkin para dun visible hooked in its scissors

Thankfully there was a benefit to the wind we occasionally were offered a view down the Loch at Suliven and Canisp. However the summits never escaped their shroud of cloud.

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Suilven on an earlier visit taken from the banks of Cam loch looking West, snow patches still visible

Fishing in Scotland you have to be prepared and able to fish in windy conditions because wind and rain is something we get in bucket load particularly on the West coast but I really could have done with a 2nd fisher to share the rowing or maybe a bloody big anchor. I bemoan the weather! The weather is part of the challenge of the sport but 2015 is a unseasonably crap year, cold to the point where for the first time every we have had the wood burner on in mid June completely unheard of. Maybe its the fact that it is a particularly strong el Niño year in the pacific playing havoc with the jet stream meaning it is sitting South of its seasonal norm, resulting in low pressure after low pressure piling in from the Atlantic and pulling cool air in from the artic North. I saw 20 fish for the day, not a fish over 12inches, but all beautifully marked full fined and hard fighting. less and smaller fish than I had expected, I was also surprised that I did not see much fly life, terrestrial or aquatic life something that has always been quite a abundant and previous visits.   Maybe it was the cold summer or was I out of habit when it came to fishing these Assynt Lochs but I had a couple of more days to reverse my fortune.

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Loch Inver from the mouth of the River Inver looking West

I did however redeem the day when I decided to eat at the Caberfeidh (http://www.thecaberfeidh.co.uk) with great view of the mouth of the River Inver I had expect standard pub grub and was delighted with the exquisite local food we were presented with. What am awesome gem of an eatery recently bought over by the Michelin stared Alabannach Hotel (http://www.thealbannach.co.uk) the food was sublime local seafood and game. It made the miserable weather just vanish and as we sat there eating the sky cleared and the wind dropped. The West coast with blue sky’s and fine food is probably my favorite place on Earth.

Happiness is……Torridon Trout

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Looking East down loch Torridon, and the Glen, Liathach and beinn Eighe behind taken from the Applecross peninsula

Heading North West into the Highlands of Scotland with the ultimate destination being Torridon.  This a pilgrimage I make several times a year but to be honest that still is not often enough for my liking. Torridon is a Glen and sea loch on the North West coast, South of Gairloch and stretching South West from the head of the famous Loch Marie at Kinloch Ewe to the village of Torridon. Its white washed houses dwarfed on the giant alluvial fan that spills down from the buttresses and narrow, jagged ridge of Liathach to the huge Fjord of Loch Torridon. Stretching for miles westward with rugged mountains climbing steeply from waters edge to the clouds. No matter where you look stunningly captivating views catch you and you can lose yourself in for hours.

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Looking South East over loch Torridon, with Loch Damh visible behind

Beautiful and a true outdoor enthusiasts play ground, but I hadn’t come here to climb or mountain bike I had come in search of West coast gold, wild highland brownies. From the winding single track road that hugs the foot of the towering hills on the North side of the glen, Lochs come into view about half way between Torridon village and Kinloch Ewe. These are the Lochs of the Coulin estate (www.coulin.co.uk) Clair, Coulin and Bharranch. Clair and Coulin are joined by tempting looking wee river. These waters ultimately flow North East from Clair in the River Gharbhie for about 5 miles until its junction with the River Kinloch and north-westwards through Loch Marie till it finally meets the sea at Poolewe. A some what circuritise route considering the sea sit only 7 mile westward down Glen Torridon and I am sure it would have once flowed this way, if it hadn’t been for a twist of geological or glacial action that force these peat waters to take the long way to the coast. This distance does little to dissuade the once plentiful sea-trout and the still decent numbers of salmon that fight up-stream to reach the waters of the Coulin estate. I was on a search for their year round guests and having fished on the estate several times over the last couple of years I knew what hard fighting plentiful trout lay ahead for me if I could dial in with fly choice and location.

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Head of Loch Clair looking West, Liathachs ridge visible with broken cloud

Loch Clair was my aim, and having phoned Neil Morrison the head keeper and booking the only boat on the mile and a half long Loch I was like a kid on Christmas eve, excited and chattering at my long-suffering better half, as we head down the Glen from the brilliant Torridon Inn (www.thetorridon.com). Loch Clair sits in the mouth of a spur glen leading due South for Glen Torridon where mixed native woodland of scots pines and silver birch surround the Loch and give way to steep rolling heather that clings to the rugged stepped slops of Torridonian sandstone and quartzite from the Lochs western shore. Sgurr Dhubh looms in the mist, to the North Beinn Eighe menaces in the descending mist and cloud and to the North-West hidden from view waits the razor like ridge of Liathach. A careful drive down the bumpy private estate road we are met by Neil on the wooden bridge that spans the tempting Coulin River.  A quick chat is all we manage as the midges are wild in a cloud as thick as the mist hanging on the hills above us, the little buggers cloud round us and begin their banquet. Beating a retreat to the cars we make for the boat house, waders and lashings of Avon skin so soft, the only thing that seems to deter them then making for the boat at almost a sprint down the pontoon; throwing my kit in the boat like a bank robber fleeing a robbery I start the engine and head out onto the Loch and safety from the midge

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Loch Clair, looking East, sheets of rain carried in on the wind

Having fished the Loch before I knew my destination and I motored North to the head of the Loch which sits in an almost amphitheatre as the wooded banks on the West and South banks shelter you from the now gusty wind bring incessant rain that varied between light drizzle to fat drops of rain that poured down, drumming on the hood of my Gore-tex jacket.  I didn’t care, I love Torridon! Come rain or shine, bobbing there in the boat surrounded by the fortress like walls of the mountains and the sound of a calling birds and the distinctive coo-coo of a cuckoo drifting from the trees. Fish were rising all around the boat I was in heaven! Shelter from the guesting wind  in the Bay allowed me to target the rising fish on the dry, my favourite way to fish and I had tackled up with 2 rod a 9ft 3wt greys/hardy streamflex with a hardy flyweight reel and a hardy 3wt double tapered floating line and a 14ft tapered leader with a single fly. To provide options the other rod was a 9.6ft 5wt greys/hardy streamflex plus with a hardy ultra light reel with cortland platinum floating line, a 15ft leader with 2 droppers about 6ft between them. This second rod would allow me to go subsurface with tradition highland wets and nymph if the dries didn’t go so well.

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Liathach veiled in could and rain looming over the Head of the Loch

The head of the Loch has a nice bank of reeds along the North shore, pockets of weed dotted among deeper pots, offering a real varied habitat perfect for trout. Many would anchor but drifting allows more water to be covered, the key when boat fishing on the drift is to position the boat and have your Drogues set to allow the drift to carry the boat and you within casting range or even over those trout lies. But remember don’t row straight back over them! and expect the fish to still be there, quick to spook slow to return. Row out and around where you want to drift, otherwise the fish are spooked and you are wasting your time!

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Wild Torridon Brownie show its Beautiful markings and colours

Taking the boat to within inches of the bank I began a first drift of many for the day, almost immediately I was into a trout falling to a size 14 quill ,emerger- hopper with a Cdc wing, the fly retrieved in quick short bursts seem to enduce hard splashy takes as the fly came to a stop brilliantly visual and exciting fishing.   This continued for the next couple of hours, fish after fish coming to the net.  By no measure were they monsters, half pound to a pound at best but they hammered the fly and fought like fish three times their size, and that is why I love Highland Brownies, they offer a fantastic fight and sport that not many fish can match for their size. By fishing on light tackle the excitement and challenge is ever-present with every fish hooked. As quickly as the fish were taking the dry, the rise had died! After a fruitless drift I opt to go on to the heavier rod and the wet flies; a size 12 hares ear nymph on the point, a peacock and black, size 14 spider next and a Kate Maclaren, size 14 on the top dropper.

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Kate Maclaren waiting to be wetted, the traditionals always produce fish.

Casting out and letting the gold-headed nymph sink and carry the cast downwards in to the peaty dark water and beginning a slow jerky retrieve produced four fish in quick succession, three of which were on the peacock and black spider all from quite deep and a fit as a fiddle, one noticeably drawing the boat across the water, brilliant sport!

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Hard fighting brownie

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Bringing yet another Beautiful Torrid0n Brownie to the net

Again another change and the fish are back, splashy rises all around, a quick change back on the dry rod and I decide to target what looks like a better sized fish that was rising off some rock.  A well placed cast, a single draw of the line to straighten the leader and I am into a cracking fish of about a pound.  A few more fish fall to the dry but the day is drawing on, the wind is picking up, it’s still raining and one look at a half drown Jenni and I decide its time to call it a day.  Six hours of brilliant sport in a location that words just do not do justice to.

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Torridon Trout taking to the Air.

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West coast rain didn’t give up all day

I row out of the bay and in to the main loch, but before I start the engine I cast a long line out the back of the boat with a classic bloody butcher on point. I start the engine and begin trolling behind the boat we hadn’t moved any distance before the line was streaming from the reel and the rod was doubled over as I fought to bring the best fish of the day to the surface and ultimately to the net a beautiful one and half pound brown trout. Motyoring down the loch I was really quite contented with my day the 4 hour drive north had been totally worth it but it was time for a warm shower in the hotel and a hot cup of tea to toast the beauty of torridon its brilliant brown trout and the superb coulin estate

Where Monsters Lurk

For the most part the month of April produced good weather, even after the snowy start to the month, for two weeks we had on the whole bright glorious sunshine with little cloud and temperatures in the mid teens. Damn you Mother Nature! A fly fishers Nightmare we are often like vampires hiding from bright sunshine and I often wonder if sea Trout fishers actual are Vampires that hibernate, You only ever seem to encounter them on summers night in near darkness. But with bright sunshine a flyfishers  complaining is never done! Fishers complain about the weather almost as much as farmers. With farmers on both sides of our family my in-laws and brother in law, I am only too familiar with farmers near identical obsession with the weather, its either too dry, too wet, too windy and invariable far too bright!

Regardless of the weather I was going to wet a fly, with only 3 hours free before heading South to Edinburgh I was under firm instruction, that if I wasn’t back by 1.30pm I was being left behind. A tempting offer to be honest! So with time tight I headed for the Isla not the most accessible location, but the lure of big trout and the fact that few fishers ever fish this gem of a river, had me stalking up the bank searching for rising fish faster than you could say Abandonment! The Isla a tributary of the Deveron rises in the hills North of Dufftown and winds its way for about 20miles to it’s junction with the Deveron below the Avochie beat. A mostly muddy bottomed river, that can be surprisingly deep in places, and surrounded by open farm land and pasture with pockets of forestry and trees dotted along its length. The Isla flows North through Keith before it leisurely swings it’s way East, eventually meeting the larger Deveron and heading north once more before emptying in to the Moray firth at banff.

Taken a week later and conditions changed a lot

Taken a week later and conditions changed a lot but still in the cold pale duns hatching

This shocking, irritatingly good weather would not stop me seeing if I could tempt a few Isla Brownies to the fly. Above me an ocean of pale blue sky, without a cloud in sight provided a gloriously warm sun on my back, Brilliant for sun bathing not so great for fly fishing. A moderate SW-W warm wind blew from behind me and downstream having elected to access the river along the South bank, which at times made casting a little tricky depending on where I was fishing. There is something special about fishing in a t-shirt and waders, when only a month earlier I had been wrapped in 3 layers below my waders, with balaclava and gloves, during my early season search for a 2015 springer. Now basking in a t-shirt in spring sunshine and cursing it in equal measure, arriving on the river about 10am, I spent some time watching and searching for either rising fish or fly life. And I was pleasantly surprised on both fronts, the occasional march brown, LDO and other upright winged dun surfaced and rode the current downstream, only to be greeted by the occasional rising Trout greedily splashing as they snatched the duns from the surface. Bliss! Having aimed for dry fly fishing I was over joyed to see them feeding on the surface. Tackled up with my old favorite; a 9ft 4wt streamflex with a Hardy Featherweight reel loaded with 4wt WTF Cortland Silk floating line, set up with a 14ft tapered leader, 2.8lb tippet and a single point fly, a Cdc LDO emerger pattern I developed and tied myself. I prefer to fish a single dry fly, force of habit as much as anything but it reduces drag on the surface and in the overgrown banks of the Isla it reduces snags and tangles.

Changed conditions cloud with a cold wind and the river is very coloured up

Changed conditions cloud with a cold wind and the river is very coloured up

The rising fish seemed to be concentrated in the faster deeper water, hungrily taking flies in the greasy eddies and on the edge of the choppy water. Kneeling behind a clump of long brown grass, trying to keep my silhouette on the high bank as small as possible against the bright horizon. Not an easy proposition with my 6’2’’ frame! The Isla by no measure is a large river, from 20-30ft wide and smaller in places, so you will never be fishing a hugely long line so subtlety is a must. I send out a fairly short line upstream landing the size 14 Cdc mid current, bobbing down stream in the choppy water with out any visible drag. The water clearer than normal, reveals a flash of bright gold as a Trout darts up from depth and smashes my fly, taking the fly right on the edge of the greasy water, I lift firmly into the fish and its on! The first fish of the day, from the first cast, this is becoming habit of late.

nice 12oz Isla brownie

Nice 12oz Isla brownie taken on the surface from the 1st cast

A nice 12oz brown comes to the net good start considering the bright sunshine. I go through the laborious task of drying out the Cdc and reapplying Frogs fanny, a floatant to the feathers, and Mud to the first couple of feet of the leader. The next couple of hours flit by with several more fish coming to the fly but nothing spectacular during this time there is also a good hatch of March browns seeing dozens cover the surface and stream into the air with the responding increase in sips and splashes as the fish make the most of the self service buffet. It became a quite frustrating 30min with splashy take after splashy without a fish sticking to the hook, spending more time drying the bloody fly than casting it. Frustrated I speed up my progress upstream and quickly jump past a couple of pools, having the occasional cast with little success. Then I reach a beautiful stretch of water, gravelly bottomed with large rock between a shallow pool and a deeper pool, the rocks generating deep eddies and greasy water there is weed banks dotted here and there and with the clear water it could be mistaken for a southern chalk stream. Picking out the odd dun hatching on the pool above I watch them with keen interest drift down through the fast water and watch four fish rise, the first two fish look like a good size gently supping the flies from the surface and in the clear water I watch them turn beneath the surface and return to their stations. I watch this a couple of times and establish that in a 10ft length of water there are four fish all lying one behind another with at least two of them over a lb. I slip down the bank among the long grass and reeds lying flat against the bank I calmly change my tippet due to a couple of knots I’ve managed to stick in the line, furiously striking at taking fish that never stuck to the hook. Doing this calmly is not easy I just want to get the fly on the water, but I might as well pause breath and make sure its all at its best. I pick out a new dry Cdc emerger from the box and tie it to the tippet showing the patience and care of a surgeon. Brushing on the floatant and carefully Mudding the line, its not going to be an easy cast from the this position but its going to have to be a good one, the high bank heavily vegetated could go wrong fast, it felt like a life and death situation. I want one of those lb plus fish but one wrong or crappy cast and I could spook them and put them off the rise.Casting with my arms high in an attempt to clear the snags I opt for a double haul to guarantee distance, on the final movement bringing my road forward I tug the line and release and it streams out through my finger landing gently behind the bolder nearest the fish and my fly lands right were I want it. Perfect! Hold on – the line is hung up in the slower back eddie and my fly is coming round faster any moment the fly is about to start dragging and generating an eddie, bugger! As the fly moves in to greasy water a fish rises and sips swallow the size 14 Cdc, looks like a good fish, I strike! And it is a bloody good fish, it turns and breaches the surface then breaches again clearing the water completely, Bloody Nora it’s a salmon! I shout at myself, it turns and runs down the pool stripping line from my reel, turning again it runs back at me, the rod high above my head I furiously strip line in trying to stay in contact with this monster on a size 14 barbless hook…its not a salmon!

PB brown Trout taken on the river Isla, Dwarfing the landing net

PB brown Trout taken on the river Isla, Dwarfing the landing net

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

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

Now in the river knee-deep fighting this Lunker it passes me as it runs and I see it’s a beauty of a brownie! No time to enjoy the fight, the panic of making sure I land this fish of the season on 2.8lb tippet has over taken me. 10 minutes playing it, giving it line when it wanted but staying in firm contact with it, eventually it tired. My arms aching I manage to bring it to my net. A brook net. the net looked tiny next to this lunker!  Carefully this slab of gold slips and somehow squeezes in to the net. I immediately begin whooping like an Idiot, what a fish. Hooked nicely in the top lip I slip the hook free, a couple of snaps, I weigh him; 7lbs, and he’s back in the water.

On my knees waist deep in fast water I cradle my Isla gold allowing him to regain his strength, slipping my fingers from under my prize, he slowly swims off upstream only to turn and rocket like a torpedo down the pool and out of sight! What a privilege! A 7lb wild brownie from a small river. it was on the thin side as you can see, with fins like wings in perfect order. Thin from along winter and spawning, come the end of the season he could be 10lb+! A personal best for wild Scottish Brown Trout, 29.5 inches long 7lbs, best part was watching him swim off safe and well, a brief meeting that made my day, till next time. Trembling I pulled myself from the River and under a gloriously sunny blue sky I headed home with a rather smug smile on my face. so even in the wrong weather there are fish to be had!