Wednesday, 30 May 2012

River Dee At Lower Blackhall

I was very grateful for the invitation to fish as a guest on the Lower Blackhall beat of the River Dee today. I was fishing with the legendary Dee ghillie and fly tyer Colin Simpson and local Dee stalwart Eddie Allan. I have always wanted to fish here and was delighted to do so today. It always looks so fishy when I pass over the bridge at Banchory and today was no different. The water temperature was 57f and it was running crystal clear. The height was about 1ft 1in.

I met Eddie at the hut at 6.30am. He already had the fire going and the kettle boiled. We had a good chin-wag over a cup of coffee and discussed tactics for the day ahead. As I had never fished the beat before, Eddie was kind enough to show me the pools and said it would fish better with a few more inches on the gauge but he also said there is a good chance at this height too. We walked up the golf course side and Eddie suggested I started in Bohore and fish all the way down to the Bridge Pool. Eddie started up in the Whinney Brae and followed me down river. We both fished down the pools with nothing to show but parr and a few Brown Trout. Although I never had any joy with the salmon, the pools were a joy to cast a line on. Just before lunch Colin though it be a good idea if I fished Brown's Pool from the Blackhall bank. Another lovely pool but again nothing to show but parr and Brownies.

During lunch in the very cosy hut, I was in awe listening to a couple of the River Dee's biggest characters reflecting on the good old days and what could be used to catch fish. What these guys don't know about salmon fishing is not worth knowing. Colin was telling us how an old ghillie once even used an orange peel with a hook through it to catch a salmon! I can't even do it with a bloody fly! He was also telling stories of his fly tying apprenticeship in Brora aged 11, with the world famous fly tyer Megan Boyd . That man has led one fascinating life and I could listen to his stories all day. For a change, it was a shame lunch was over but there was plenty more fishing to be done before home time.

After a 2 hour lunch break I headed back over to the golf course side to fish from the top of the beat back down to the bridge. Eddie started in Parky's and I started in Sheep Dip. My friend Charlie had a cracking 12lb March Springer 2 years ago from this pool. I fished it from top to bottom with only a handful of parr taking an interest in my fly. No matter what size or type of fly, they would hammer it. This pool was also full of golf balls sliced into the river from the course above. I wish I picked them all out as I could have had a good 2 dozen or so! Next pool down was Drakes but again same scenario with the parr. Shame really as it was not doing them any good. Most were lightly hooked  though and came un-done without handling them. I carried on downstream fishing through Whinney Brae, Bohore, Holly Bush, Sandy Haven and the Bridge Pool to no avail. I only seen two salmon all day and the odd sea-trout later on in the evening.

Eddie and I retired to the hut about 6.30pm  to reflect on our days efforts. Nothing stopping in any of the pools and we heard reports of fish caught with long tail sea lice way up river. The fish must be on a mission at the moment. The Upper beats have had a great day today with some beats recording 7s and 8s for their day.

Here are some pictures from my day on a fantastic beat and one I hope to return to again some day. Colin Simpson the ghillie is worth going along for alone.

An upstream look at Lower Blackhall from the Banchory Bridge.
The Fishing Hut with a very warming wood burner.
Bohore Pool from the golf course side. Lovely cast and easy to wade although a long line was essential to cover the lie which were under the far bank.
Holly Bush and Sandy Haven from the Blackhall side. Banchory Bridge in the background.

Sheep Dip. Cracking wee pool. Charlie had a sparkling 12lber here one March. Brown's is the next pool after the jetty. Fished from the other bank though. Big boulders cause nice glassy glides where fish will rest. Good taking spots in the colder water of early Spring.

Fishing through the Bridge Pool. Another delightful pool to fish. Seen a few sea trout in here during the early evening.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Charlie Strikes Silver Again At Manar!

I was out today with Charlie Robertson for another go at Manar on the River Don. We arrived at the beat about 7.30am and already the sun was out and the temperature was rising fast. Not ideal, but we didn't let that stop us as you never know when a Salmon might grab your fly. This we would find out later! The beat gauge was reading 10" which is near perfect for the beat so we were optimistic about our chances.

There was a couple of pools to fish before then sun got to them about 10.30am, one of the was the Chapel Pool and the other was the Corner Pool. The latter was where we started our day. We both fished the pool with different tactics. I opted for my RioUnispey floating line with a 6ft intermediate tip attached. On the business end was a #10 Silver Stoat's Tail. Charlie was using his Mackenzie DTX G2 Spey line with a 10ft slow sink tip. His fly was a size 8 Munro Killer. We both fished through the pool without a touch so we headed down stream to the Chapel pool. The pool was very shaded and we thought it would be our best chance of picking up a fish. Well, it never happened but we were encouraged by the sight of 3 fish showing in the pool below. We headed back to the hut for a drink of cold juice and a break from the baking sun. It was only 10.30am!

After our wee refreshment break Charlie and I headed up to the Stone Pool and the Horseshoe Haugh. Charlie gave me the choice of where to start and I chose the Stone Pool as I never usually fish it. Charlie went in the Horseshoe Haugh just above a big boulder at the neck of the pool and I made my way upstream. I just arrived at my pool and I heard Charlie shouting. He was into a fish! I ran down to arrive just in time to net a sparkling 6lb beauty which hammered his #8 Munro Killer. Just goes to show there is no rule of thumb when fishing for salmon. The bright and warm conditions didn't put this fish off. Not sea liced, but not in more than a couple of days. The fish was heavily marked along it's flank and was still red raw. Possibly an encounter with a seal from the ever growing population which patrol the river mouth. These beasts in my opinion, are needing to be controlled as their numbers have increased rapidly in the last few years. Anyway that's another matter. After a few pictures the fish swam off stongly back to it's lie. I fished through the Stone Pool without a touch and then through the Horseshoe with the same result.

After lunch we fished the beat from top to bottom but apart from raising a salmon twice to my Sunray Shadow in the Long Pool, that was it for our day. Not bad considering the so called bad angling conditions. My wait for a springer goes on but I'm fishing the Dee at Lower Blackhall on Tuesday so hopefully it will be my time then. That will be my last chance this Spring!

Here are some pictures from our day today.

Another belter for the scrap book and the rogues gallery in the Manar hut.

Damage on the flanks of the fish. Possibly caused by a seal.

Slipping the fish back. The quality of the Don fish this year is fantastic.

Off we go. Another Don fish returned to continue it's journey.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A Springer From Manar Tonight

Just like buses, two springers come along in quick succession!

My friend and fishing buddy Charlie Robertson had a few hours on the Manar beat of the River Don after his work today. About 9pm he landed this 8lb sea-liced fish on a Sunray Shadow from the Sheep Pool. He informed me that the fish hammered the fly on the surface and it put up a cracking fight! The fish was returned (All Don fish must be returned before 1st June) and swam off strongly to continue it's journey. Good to see the Don is starting to produce fish in good numbers at last. About time! Here are the pictures sent to me this evening.

Well Done Charlie!

Fresh from the tide! 8lb bar of silver taken on a Sunray Shadow.
Returning the fish back to the river.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The First Springer Of The Season!

On Wednesday I had arranged to buy a day ticket on the Manar beat of the River Don with my friend Charlie Robertson. Charlie is a regular rod on this beat and fishes there almost every week. Manar is one of, if not THE premier Spring beats on the middle Don.

Every year, for minimal angling effort, it produces more than it's fair share of these wonderful early running River Don salmon. It's only occasionally fished by day rods but there are a very dedicated group of anglers who spend many hours of their own time maintaining the banks and paths etc. Numerous benches and rod rests have been dotted along the banks to help make fishing Manar a pleasant experience. The cosy fishing hut, with it's stove is ideal for the cold early spring but if the weather is fair, the picnic bench and BBQ come in very handy.

On Friday the river rose about 8 inches due to heavy rain in the catchment. After a quick check of FishDon and the River Don Webcam we were happy to see the river running quite clear and dropping.We arrived at the beat about 8.30am and the Manar gauge read 1ft 9in. The water clarity was good so we tackled up with floating lines and sink tips. I opted for a Rio Unispey with a 10ft fast tip and a #7 Willie Gunn Flamethrower. Charlie went for a Mackenzie DTX G2 with a 10ft fast tip but with a 3/4" Silver Ally Shrimp tied on a copper tube.

We headed up to the Sheep pool to begin our days fishing. We fished all the way down past the hut to the tail which used to produce a good few fish without a touch. Charlie suggested we headed down to the Chapel pool. This is a delightful wee pool and holds fish before they decide to tackle the fast streamy water. Since we were passing I decided to have a cast in the Lower Wood on my way down and Charlie headed to the Chapel. After 15 minutes or so I heard Charlie shouting. He was into a fish! I wound in and took off on a 400m dash down river to see Charlie's rod bent into a strong fish. I got the net ready and after a very nervous 5/10 minutes, a pristine fish around 12lbs was netted. It was Charlie's first of the season and a very welcome one at that. This was one of his latest ever seasons to get off the mark. The fish just have not been there this year for some reason or other. Once the photographs were taken and scales samples done the fish was returned and swam off like it had never been caught!

Charlie kindly let me have a cast in the Chapel and we noticed a fish showing down in the tail of the pool. A few minutes later a fish showed opposite me so I quickly tied on a Sunray Shadow and cast square over where the fish showed. Nothing on my first few casts but I slowed down my retrieve and as the fly was coming onto the dangle there was a big splash. A fish went for my fly. I kept on stripping in the Sunray and the same fish went to grab my fly again! Both times it missed and it seemed to really want it but it didn't connect. I covered the lie several times more but not a flicker! The excitement was over.

We were encouraged by the opposite bank landing a couple of fish not long after Charlie landed his, so there must have been a good run of fish came through the pools. We headed up to the top part of the beat and fished the Stone Pool and the Long Pool. The Long Pool was fishing great in this height of water and Charlie had a brief encounter with a fish about half way down the pool as his Ally Shrimp came onto the dangle. No luck but at least the fish have finally arrived on Donside and not before time!

The rest of our day proved to be fruitless and about 7pm we packed up and headed home to see the Champions League final. At least Charlie got his season off and running but I'm still trying in vain to land a springer this year. Next weekend will be my last chance so heres hoping! Some pictures from Manar and Charlie's long awaited springer.

Lower Wood pool looking downstream. Lovely looking pool and there is a couple of good lies down near the tail which can hold fish all season long.
Fish On! Charlie bent into a strong River Don springer in the Chapel Pool.

First of the season safely in the net.

Worth the wait! A 12lb bar of silver poses for a picture before heading on it's journey again.
Fishing a Sunray in the Chapel. Shortly after a fish rose to my fly twice in quick succession. Both times it missed.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Rio UniSpey 10/11 Review

During the Deveron Fishing Festival I was fishing the Eden beat which was hosted by GuideFlyFishing. Their representatives were Willie Banks and Jim Fearn. After lunch that day I spent a couple of hours with them just casting some lines. Jim Fearn had a Vision GT4 Catapult set up with a 64ft Rio UniSpey line. He gave me a cast with it as I have a Vision GT4 Catapult and I was very impressed. So impressed I bought the line this week! I managed to get a good deal from an add on the Salmon Fishing Forum classified section. The line arrived yesterday and I spooled it up onto my Hardy Swift MKII. All I needed to do now was go fishing.

Today I tried out the line. It took me an hour or two to get the hang of it but once I discovered the optimum loading point of the line it flew out like a rocket! I spent all day casting with it and getting used to the longer head. The line is White in colour with a 15ft Black loading point. The overall line length is 130ft and has a weight of 750gr(64gm). It has has a long front taper and when I attached a 5ft fast sinking tip it made it even better. The line gripped the surface of the water a bit better and help load the rod. I tried all sink rates of tips and weighted flies. It turned over them all with ease. To me, it's just like a 64ft shooting head without the hastle of having loops of running line strewn over the banks or knotting up in your forward stroke.

Overall impression is this is a fantastic casting line. The black coloured loading point of the line helps to find where it loads your rod to maximise casting potential. I'm glad I have this line in my armoury and it will be very useful on bigger river such as the Dee and Spey where a longer cast can make all the difference.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

River Spey At Brae Water Beat 3

Earlier this year, my friend Charlie Robertson and I booked a days fishing on the Brae Water Beat 3. That day was yesterday. The river was in very good condition after last weeks spates and was running crystal clear. Weather forecasts for our day suggested it would be cold and sometimes wet. Well it was spot on. We experienced all four seasons yesterday! The temperature hovered around 4C all day and we endured some torrential rain at times. Coupled with some sleety showers it was bitterly cold.

We arrived at the Gordon Arms Hotel in Fochabers to meet the Ghillies. We introduced ourselves to our Ghillie Ian Tennant. Ian is a great laugh and we had some good craic whilst we waited for the other rods to arrive. We were told some of the catches made by the weeks fishers and our appetite was well and truly whetted! There has been some fantastic catches lately and we were full of anticipation.

We set off down to the hut and began tackling up for the morning session. Ian suggested that a floating line and slow sink tip would be ideal. My set up was my Monteith line with the intermediate tip and a slow sink polyleader attached. I tied on a #7 Cascade and Charlie opted for a 1" Monkey tube fly.

Ian showed us to the Lord March pool. He reminisced on how this used to be an amazing pool and the bumper catches it produced every year until a spate completely changed it during the 90s. It still looked very fishy to us and we couldn't wait to get going. I started at the top of the pool above the boat and Charlie started a few yards above the seat on the bank half way down the pool. We did see a few fish showing early on in here but most of the them were on the far bank out of our casting reach. Ian told us the fish come up through the fast water and rest nearer our bank and we should concentrate on this area. He also received a phone call from one of his ghillies downstream and a rod just landed a spanking 22.5lb fish! He also had an 8lber minutes later. We both flogged away on Lord March until lunch time in hope that we would encounter some of the fish coming in but without any success. This is a beautiful pool to fish and the surroundings are just stunning. For me, the Spey is nothing but a pleasure to cast a fly on. Outstanding fly fishing.

After having lunch in the very cosy hut we set off down stream to a pool called Altdearg. This was another quality looking pool. The very picturesque red cliffs on the far bank just add to the magic of the place. Once again, Ian's 32 years experience of his beat showed as he pointed out every possible taking lie where we would most likely encounter a fish. This time Charlie started at the top of the pool and I went in half way down opposite the cliff armed with a Sunray Shadow. Just opposite the diamond shaped stone on the far bank there was a thump! Something grabbed my Sunray but it didn't hook and unfortunately that was that. I covered it a few more times but nothing moved. We both fished down the pool without an offer but we did see an Ospray flying above us which was a nice sight. Ian told us there is 3 pairs in the area between Fochabers and Spey Bay.

During the afternoon some torrential rain seen us back in the motor to sit it out. The rain didn't last long so we were soon out the car and back in the river. We fished on to about 5pm and we said our fairwells to Ian who was a great help for the whole day. He suggested one of us nip up and fish the tail of the Otter's Cave pool so I followed him up and he showed me the hotspots and where to cast my fly to have it fishing perfectly. I headed down to the pool and Ian headed home. I fished through the pool twice without a touch but I did see a good fish show opposite the beat hut on the far bank. After I'd finished I made my way back down to Altdearg. I fished down through the pool a few more times as did Charlie but it just was not to be. We left the beat at 8pm shattered. We are already planning returning in the near future. No fish again but our luck must change one day. Soon hopefully! Here are some pictures from our day.
My good friend Charlie Robertson and I posing for a photo on the Brae Water Beat 3.

Looking upstream towards the red cliffs on the Lord March pool. The Lower Ewe pool is above here. Charlie fished it but I didn't get round to it. Pity as Ian told us it had been fishing very well.

Looking upstream as Charlie fishes the Lord March pool.
Looking downstream to the Otter's Cave pool from the tail of Lord March pool.
Looking upstream from Beat 3 hut. This is the Otter's Cave pool. Ian takes rods over to the other bank by boat. Looks a cracking pool but we never fished it from the other bank. I did fish it just before we left from outside the hut.
Looking downstream from the hut to the tail of Otter's Cave and neck of Altdearg.
Altdearg Pool from the seat half way down the pool. This pool is a joy to fish. An Osprey was seen flying overhead in this pool. Magical sight. Hope he had better luck than we did.
An upstream view of the Altdearg pool. This is where some of the Turus a' Bhradian was filmed for the second series with well known Spey Ghillie Ian Gordon.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Deveron Festival Day 3 - Dunlugas

My final day of the 3 days free fishing on the river Deveron saw me drawn to fish Dunlugas. On the Monday I had fished opposite on Mountblairy so I had a fair idea what to expect.

I arrived at the beat just after 9am and headed down to the hut. The water was down a wee bit from yesterday and a lot of the colour was out of it too which was good. There was a good rise of trout just in front of the hut so I decided to tackle up with my 10' 6" single hander and try a bit of dry fly fishing. I attached a tiny black Klinkhammer to my cast and within a few minutes I hooked a small trout about 10" long. It has been a long time since I cast my single hander so I was chuffed to get a fish not long after starting. That was it though as my dodgy casting spooked quite a few fish and they stopped rising. Think I stick to my double hander!

On Monday whilst fishing at Mountblairy I never fished the bottom half of the beat as it was a good walk from the car park but today, on the opposite bank, I got to fish the lower stretch. There are some cracking pools down this end and good for fishing the fly. I set up my 15ft Vision Catapult and spooled up my Monteith line with the intermediate 10ft tip. On the business end I opted for a #9 Cascade. I worked my way down the pool without seeing or touching anything but it was a nice pool to swim a fly in. 

The next pool down was opposite the bottom hut. All the flow came round the bend down my side of the river and just off of the curent is where you might expect to find fish lying before making their way through the faster water above. As it was quite deep here I attached the fast sinking tip to my line and decided to give a 1" copper GBWG (Gold Bodied Willie Gunn) a soaking. I fished from the hut all the way down to the next bend without a touch. Never seen a fin move in here either.

The bottom pool which came off the outside of the bend on my bank was another nice streamy looking pool which again had a bit of depth to it. This pool is just above where Tiny Morison caught her famous British record fly caught Salmon. I went for a Sunray Shadow and tried to stir up any fish in the pool. Well it didn't work. Not even a flicker at it. I continued all the way down to the end of the beat with the same result.

At lunch time I headed back to the top hut as there was a nice fish landed there yesterday. I gave it a run through with the Sunray but no joy. As I was fishing down one of the other rods asked if I would help him get his car out a ditch. We took the rope for the life belt out of the hut and went up where his van was. We managed to pull his van free but he was very lucky as there was a wee burn running inches behind where he managed to stop. He was very appreciative and went back up the top of the beat to try and winkle out an elusive springer. Since the old saying goes "one good turn deserves another" I give it one last go it the corner pool just above the Mest where Tony landed a nice Sea Trout on Monday from Mountblairy. I tied on a good old Ally Shrimp and worked my way down the pool but to no avail. My good deed was not rewarded with a Deveron Salmon anyway.

It has been a pleasure fishing these beats and would recommend it for anyone wanting to give it a go next year. Although I never seen a salmon for the 3 days, plenty have been caught this week. I'm sure more will follow for the remainder of the week too.

Finally, I would like to thank and congratulate The Deveron Trust and Frank from Turriff Tackle for his organising of this event. Frank has worked tirelessly to make it the success it has been. Every morning he is in the Turriff AA hut greeting all anglers and giving directions to their alloted beats. You would really struggle to find many of them without his help. So Frank, Thank you very much for a great 3 days fishing. See you next year hopefully.

Here are some pictures of the Dunlugas beat.

Heading down to the Dunlugas beat in the morning. Nice view from the top of the hill.
This pool is called Canada from the other bank but not suee if it has a name from the Dunlugas side. This is where a springer was landed yesterday. I had a wee trout from here on a dry fly. This pool was stuffed with Brownies.
Looking upstream from the pool beside the bottom hut. Nice bit of water. Also quite deep at the neck of the pool.
Downstream view of the same pool. Nice flow comes off the croy. A few trout rising in the back eddy created behind the croy.
Looking downstream to the bottom of the beat. The well maintained banks make it a pleasure to fish. Again, another nice pool to fish.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Deveron Festival Day 2 - Eden

Day 2 of the Deveron Fishing Festival saw me allocated to fish the Eden beat. It's situated about 4 miles upstream of the mouth of the river at Banff . The day was hosted by Willie Banks and Jim Fearn of Vision.

I arrived at the beat around 9am and the water gauge was reading 2' 9". It steadily dropped away all day but it was carrying a lot of sediment which made the water clarity quite poor. There was also a lot of thick fog around but the sun soon burnt it off to produce a cracking day albeit with a nasty wind sometimes.

After introductions and a look around the most beautiful fishing hut I've ever seen, I set off upstream to fish the middle part of the beat. With the water being high and coloured chances would be quite slim but I plugged away. I didn't see or touch anything. I fished all the way down the bottom of the beat with the same result.

At lunch time I was speaking to Gordon the ghillie and was picking his brain about where to fish. I decided to start at the top of the beat and work my way down back to the hut. Again didn't see any fish moving but I did land a wee Brown Trout about 8". Not really what I was after. I fished all the way down some beautiful looking pools back to the hut but same results - nothing seen and nothing touched. By this tme the water had dropped about 6" but was still coloured.

I spent a large part of the afternoon talking and trying out lines etc with Jim Fearn and Willie Banks. I have learnt a lot from these guys and I was trying out the new Unispey line which is almost like a longer bellied shooting head. Nice line to cast.

Here are some pictures from today. I managed to get my face sunburnt today but Im left with white eyes where my shades have been! My face is scorched!
The fishing hut on the Eden beat. Beautiful!
A picture of the dining area. There is about 14 chairs altogether but thought I would show the fire and tv in the picture.
Didn't get any of the pool names today but this is the pool at the top of the beat. Lovely piece of water and the fish are all over to the Eden bank here at this height.
Another nice pool. The ghillie said that most fish are to be caught from the middle over to the far side.
The pool running along side the fishing hut. Fish run up the far bank to cut the corner just out of shot. There was a fish seen in here during the afternoon. I also witnessed an otter swimming downstream here.
The bottom pool of the beat from this bank. The beat is fished from both banks and it continues on for another 300 yards or so below the hut in the picture.

An upstream view of the same pool. All the flow is along the far bank down most of this pool but there is one or two croys that maybe hold fish in the slacker water. Not at this height though.
If anyone knows the pool names please leave a comment and I'll update the captions.Many Thanks.