Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Orton - River Spey

My first trip to Speyside of 2018 saw me fishing on the Orton beat which is situated around 8 miles for the sea near Fochabers. River levels for our day were sitting at 2ft on the beat gauge and this was falling away nicely after a rise earlier on in the week due to melting snow. The beat had recorded it's first fish of the season on the Monday prior to our arrival and hopes were high. The water temps were still very cold and we were hoping that this cold water would slow a few running fish down as the made their way up river.
Looking upstream from the til of Lower Cairnty.
Charlie and I arrived at the beat around 8.30am to be greeted by ghillie, Richard Hold. We had a chat about tactics etc as we put on our waders so after taking Richard's advice, I opted for a I/S1/S2 shooting head with a 4ips versi leader. My initial fly of choice was a 1 1/2" gold body Willie Gunn tube with a red cone.

I started my day of fishing the Suicide Run.
After a brief introduction to the fellow anglers it was time for the draw. I was to be fishing the Suicide Run first then up to fish the Willows. Once that was fished through I was to have a cast in Upper Cairnty after that. Charlie was to start in the Lower Cairnty and continue down in to Arns.

Looking upstream from the Willows.
Suicide Run is just a small corner of a pool but you can see why a fish would stop in the quite bay for a rest before pushing on through the Willows and House Pool above. Kevin, the head ghillie had advised me to fish with a bit of stealth in the pool as the fish tend to be easily spook if you walk along the high bank above. This is what I did and despite my best efforts to fish the poll with minimal fuss, I didn't connect with anything but it was fishing really nicely with my current set up.

Fishing down through the Willows.
Looking upstream from the tail of Willows.
After a short walk upstream, the next pool I was to fish was called The Willows. The Willows is a fast flowing pool with the current predominately running down the south bank. My set up was ideal for this pool as it required getting the fly down through the stream quickly before being swept away by the strong current. I carefully fished my way down the pool trying to keep the fly as slow and deep as I could but the fish, if any there, were not interested in my offerings so I headed off down for another run through Suicide Run. This proved to be fruitless but you were just waiting for the line to tighten after every cast.

Looking upstream into Cooperee from Upper Cairnty.
Fishing down Upper Cairnty shortly before landing a well mended kelt.
The Upper Cairnty, as the name suggest, is the top part of a large pool which is probably around 400 yards long. With the river running the height it was, there was a good chance a fish or two might be holding in here. With Richard's advice fresh in my mind, I waded out into the pool and began fishing my way down. I continued to use the same set up as before as the pool was fairly deep in places. I got to about half way down the pool when I had a subtle take of my fly. I lifted into a spirited little kelt which was very well mended. Sadly, it wasn't the springer we were looking for but at least it gave a bit more confidence in what I was doing. Unfortunately, That was it for me during the morning session so it was back to the hut for a much needed heat up and some lunch.

Fishing the Upper Cairnty.
After lunch I was to start where I had finished so I made my way back down to the Cairnty Pool. The lower half of the pool was to be fished off the bank and I fished my way down stream. There were a few more kelts starting to show themselves but my heavier set up was proving to be too heavy for this section of the pool. I changed lines over to a F/H/I and a lighter 3ips tip. This seemed to be fishing much better and my fly boxes breathed a sigh of relief as one after another, I lost a fly to the bottom of the Spey. The howling wind and snow were not making casting any easier though and it was a real struggle at times just to get the line out straight. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't temp anything to take my fly so I headed off down to the Arns for a quick run through before having another go in Cairnty.

The Arns. Charlie had a well mended kelt from this cracking wee pool before lunch.
The Arns is another faster flowing pool on the beat and the little bay half way down looked like another spot where a fish might rest up. Charlie managed to winkle a kelt of it during the morning session so there were definitely something lying in it. By this time the cold snap had sucked the life out my phone battery and I never got a picture of the pool on the day but the photo below is one a took a few years back on a previous visit. There was nothing to report from fishing the pool for me anyway.

Having another run through Lower Cairnty.
I decide to give the Cairnty another go just before calling it a day so I switched back to the I/S1/S2 set up but opted for a 2" Black and Yellow tube with a silver cone. Almost immediately after restarting the poll I had a good take and lifted into what felt like a strong fish. It began taking a few yards of line off the reel and for a brief minute or two Charlie and I thought it might have been a fresh fish. Unfortunately though, it was just another very well mended kelt. It would have certainly been a good fish when fresh but not what we were after. It was quickly returned and I began fishing the pool down again. Several casts later I felt my fly snag the river bed and try as I might, i just couldn't free it. After a bit of gentle persuasion, I managed to free the line but the river bed had claimed yet another one of my flies! This was the ideal time to call it a day so I would the line back on the reel and headed off back to the hut.

The tail of Lower Cairnty basking in a brief period of sunshine.
It was great to be back at Orton after not managing the past 2 years due to being slow off the mark when booking rods. The Cairnty Pool is a cracker and you can see why it would produce lots of fish on it's day. Hopefully one day ion the not too distant future I will return again for another crack at landing a Spey springer. Tight lines!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

No Fishing! Beaten By The Weather

My annual three day trip to fish the River Dee at Ballogie was scuppered last week as the cold front brought in by the "Beast from the East" took it's toll. The river was full of grue (ice floes) and some areas of the Dee were completely frozen over. I had really hoped my Blog post from my trip to Ballogie this year would have been full of nice photos of fresh run, spring salmon but instead, it's just photos of snow and ice!
A stunning wintry scene at Potarch Bridge. Not what we wanted for our fishing though!
It wasn't just anglers on Deeside who suffered though. Large parts of the country ground to a complete stand still after the deep blanket of snow covered most of the UK. As I write this, the snow is still falling in the higher parts of the Dee valley and it looks as though there could be more frozen conditions coming to hinder anglers booked to fish the upper beats. 
The ice along the margins was around 6" thick in places!
Daytime temperatures in the Ballogie area of -8c with wind chill bringing that temperature down even further made travelling very difficult. The roads were impassible to all but the best 4x4 vehicles or tractors as snow drifts blowing off the fields reached some 6 or 7 feet high in places. Fishing was not going to happen anytime soon for us and we just had to sit tight hoping to 
Looking upstream from the Burn of Angels towards Potarch Bridge.
The tail of the Bridge Pool at Ballogie full of ice.
Friday did bring a slight improvement to the weather but the grue in the river wasn't going to shift anytime soon as temperatures struggled to get above -2c. Not sure what the water temperatures were but i'd be very surprised if the were any higher 31/32f at most. Access to our cottage was proving very difficult and after several failed attempts to drive along the access road, we gave up. The sobering thought of being stuck out in the middle of nowhere during the blizzards was enough to convince us to cut our losses and head for home. 
Looking downstream into Floating Bank at Ballogie. 
Looking upstream from the banks of the Dee at Kincardine.
I spent most of the day on Saturday gazing at the screen of my laptop as I sat watching the frozen River Dee flow past on the Potarch webcam. My thoughts soon turned to the success of the previous year's fishing before the realisation finally set in that it would be another year before we are back there again. There is a lot of fishing to be had between now and then though and I have plenty other days on the river to look forward to. Here's hoping the snow and ice has disappeared by then!
The Kincardine Boat Pool.
The fishing hut at Kincardine O'Neil looking across the Boat Pool.
Despite the disappointment of losing our fishing due to the bad weather, I can't really complain with conditions we have had these past 7 or 8 years. The chance of grue is just part and parcel of booking early season fishing. I remember losing about 9 days fishing in 2010 due to the weather conditions so at least it hasn't been so several as then. If the catches for this year reflect the excellent runs of salmon we had in 2010, the last real bad winter then this is only a small price to pay. I'd happily lose my fishing to see good numbers of fish caught up and down the river. We'll soon find out if that will be the case. Tight lines!