Thursday, 19 December 2013

Please Sign - A Petition By Renowned Spey Ghillie And Guide Ian Gordon

Scottish Salmon - Too valuable an asset to rural communities to be killed by the hundred in nets.

Please take a few minutes to sign this petition to save the Spring Salmon from being netted right here in Scotland after a 14 year cessation.

Follow the link below and add your name to a very worthwhile cause.

Salmon Netting Petition By Ian Gordon

Thank you.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

My Salmon Fishing Highlights 2013

As the end of 2013 is fast approaching, I thought I would share some of the highlights from my fishing season. As well as my usual days on the Dee and Spey, one particular highlight for me was my first cast on the mighty River Tay. It was on the Newtyle beat near Dunkeld and apart from the Baltic conditions, I really enjoyed it. Below are my most memorable salmon fishing moments of 2013.

It took a while to get going for me this year but eventually on the 14th May, I landed my first fish from Horseshoe Haugh on the Manar beat of the River Don. It weighed 13lbs. My friend Charlie also had a cracking 13lber not long before me taken from the Sheep Pool. Both our fish took Charlie's deadly SS Assassin fly.

My 13lber from the Horseshoe Haugh at Manar.
Charlie with a cracking River Don Springer from the Sheep Pool.
My next fish was taken the following week when I took a trip to fish the South Esk on the Downie Park and Cortachy Castle beat. I had never fished the river before but really enjoyed myself and to get a spanking fresh 10lber was the icing on the cake. I am definitely heading back there in 2014 and looking forward to it already. The fish took a Dee Sheep tube and it also christened my new 13ft Hardy Uniqua rod.
10lb South Esk Springer. Beautiful river in beautiful surroundings.

As the dry summer wore on, the fish were only running in dribs and drabs but if you were in the right place at the right time, you would catch them. This happened to me one August morning whilst fishing the Don. I was not expecting much but was delighted to landed a sea liced grilse about 5lbs. Nothing special about a grilse you may ask, but to me it was very significant. It was the first fish I landed using a fly pattern designed by myself. My Dad named it the Kitchen Sink (KS) Shrimp because I had thrown everything else at the fish in the weeks before I landed this one! It's a name I like to be honest and two days later it claimed it's second fish. This time a slightly coloured hen about 10lbs from the same pool. (not pictured) See Blog post from August for picture.

A sea liced grilse from the Don. My first fish taken on a fly pattern I designed myself. The KS Shrimp was off the mark.
Another memorable moment was watching my Dad land a fish from exactly were I told him he would get one! Luck? Possibly, but you have to have an idea where the fish lie. He was actually on his way to fish one of his "Hot Spots" when I told him he couldn't walk by this lie without having a cast or two. Guess what happened? First cast and BANG! Straight into a fish. It turned out to be a beauty of about 7lb. Not long after my Dad returned his fish, I decided to have a go in the same spot and after only two or three casts I was also into a fish. My fish was slightly smaller but straight out the wrapper and weighed about 6lbs..

My Dad and his first fish of the season. It pays to listen to the Ghillie!

A fresh grilse from the same lie as my Dad's fish above.

September proved to be a difficult month on both the Dee and Don due to the continual low water. This should have been prime time on the Don but the runs just never came. I did however manage a few fish from the Dee. I finally broke my duck at Tilbouries with a coloured grilse about 3-4lbs from Alfred's Pot and I also got 2 grilse one morning from the lower Dee at Banchory Devenick. October however, would prove to be a good month for me. On the afternoon of the 2nd, I decide to fish the lower Dee during my lunch hour whilst at work. This turned out to be a good decision because during that time, I landed 3 grilse! All of which were take on a #11 KS Shrimp. The first was a slighly coloured fish about 3-4lb, the second was a freshish cock fish about 5lb but the pic of the bunch was a cracker straight from the sea about 6lb. It was dripping in long tail sea lice and has to be one of my best looking salmon that I've caught to date.

1st fish of my lunch break. A wee fish about 3-4lbs
Number 2. Slightly coloured cock fish about 5lb.
Pick of the bunch. A cracking sea liced River Dee October salmon.
The final fishing day of my season saw me back on the Manar beat of the River Don for their annual "Manar Shindig" which traditionally happens on the last Saturday of the season. The "Manar Shindig" basically consists of a BBQ, copious amount of alcohol and some salmon fishing thrown in for good measure! This season will certainly not go down in the history books as a good one by any means but for me, it was pretty successful considering the low water conditions which plagued most rivers throughout Scotland. Almost as I last resort I had a cast in the Ree Pot. I'm glad I did because after a good battle, I landed a beast of a cock fish. It was taken on another fly which I designed myself called the "Red Marauder Shrimp". I designed this fly for the Salmon Fishing Forum Tie of the Month competition but thought I would give it a swim. I'm glad I did because the fish hammered the wee #11 double as soon as it passed over it's lie. It measured 35 1/2" long and we estimated it 18lbs. The fish had a huge girth but unfortunately I didn't get that measurement so we will never know what it could have been. Either way it was a great fish to sign off my season with.

18lb cock fish taken on a small Red Marauder Shrimp.
Back he goes to continue his journey.
Well, that's my season highlights from this year. Hopefully next year will have many more and I will look forward to sharing my outings and catches.

Thank you to everyone who visits my blog and hopefully you all check in again in 2014.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Tight Lines
Craig Fleming

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Redd Counting With The River Dee Bailiffs

My uncle Stuart and I tagged along with River Dee bailiffs Mark and Diarmid whilst they were out doing their redd counting today. The plan was to survey the River Feugh but a sharp rise in water over night made it impossible so we headed to the Upper Dee near Braemar. Not a bad substitute in my opinion! Braemar has to be one of my favourite parts of Royal Deeside and just looking towards the snow covered hills and beyond, you would easily see why.

We stopped at one of several Victorian suspension bridges which span the Upper Dee and walked upstream to the first area to be surveyed. After a walking upstream for a while, we arrived at our designated pool at which Mark and Diarmid gave me crash course in spotting redds. The showed me what to look out for and explained about the types of flow and gravel the salmon like to use. We waded out into the river and there was a good number of redds cut in the pool and quite a few salmon milling about too. Most of the fish we were cock salmon because after the hen fish lay their eggs, they tend to head back downstream soon after leaving the cock fish to guard the redds and die. These dead fish provide easy picking for the otters and other animals at this time of year and it would be stupid to turn down the chance of a free meal. It was great to be out on the Dee watching salmon in their natural habitat doing what nature intended. When you fish for salmon, you don't really think about what happens after the season ends so for me, it was really interesting to watch and learn a thing or two about their behavior during this period.

Once we finished surveying the Braemar area, we headed off down river to spawning grounds near Aboyne. Pretty much as soon as we arrived, you could see the fish scurrying away as we approached.  The gravel, the flow and the cover all make this prime spawning habitat and it was full of redds. We walked a stretch of the stream, counting as we went and also looking out for any salmon about. Half way down ,we stood and watched as a big cock salmon lay almost motionless under the surface. It wasn't until we got closer that he took off. He would have been a beauty when he entered the river!

After a bite to eat, we headed down river to our final survey for the day near Drumoak. The water was slightly coloured here, probably due to the extra water coming down the Feugh which enters the Dee at Banchory. The higher water made it more difficult to see the redds but after a while of looking, we soon found plenty. There was no sign of any fish near the redds as they all must have moved on. The bailiffs thought this was quite early for them to do so considering fish were still spawning up around Braemar. Whilst surveying this area we also came across a few sea trout redds. These were harder to see than the salmon redds due to being smaller in size but Mark and Diarmid soon pointed out the characteristics of a sea trout redd how you tell them apart for a salmon's. Their locations were taken using GPS and we left the pool to count up the total. This signaled the end of a great day out with the bailiffs and it was good to see up close a small part of the excellent work they do on the river.

Considering the low water we had for most of summer and the back end, there were plenty redds about in most areas which was very encouraging. When you see salmon on their spawning grounds, which for most, is the final leg of an amazing journey, it brings it home just how much of a hardy creature they really are. We should do all we can to help protect them from the dangers and threats they face, many of which are brought about by mankind.

The River Dee Team do some great work regarding habitat improvements to many of the streams and burns that enter the main river. This in turn provides good spawning grounds for returning salmon which will eventually see a greater return of adult fishing in future years. To find out more about the River Dee Trust's work check out their website at

A Victorian Suspension Bridge across the Dee near Braemar.

Stunning view towards the hills.

Idea spawning habitat for salmon. We saw many redds and salmon in this area.

The clean gravel on the right behind a salmon redd. The bigger key stones to the left of the picture are where the eggs are laid.

A spawned out female salmon which had been taken by an otter. This was a good sized fish, maybe 12lbs or so.

Walking the river looking for redds near Drumoak.

More ideal spawning habitat which salmon and sea trout have taken full advantage of.

Tallying up at the end of the survey.

River Dee bailiffs Diarmid and Mark.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Salmon Tubes For Spring

As usual, just like every other year, I've probably started to re-stock my tube fly box a wee bit early. Guaranteed, come the December holidays and the long January nights, I'll have nothing left to tie! Still, I find Fly Tying as much of a hobby as Salmon fishing and when I'm not fishing, the next best alternative is to tie flies.

The only problem with tying your own flies is you tend to have far too many which is why last year I totally cleared out my boxes. It took a minute or two to decide on what to strip down and what to keep but eventually I settled for just 6 or 7 patterns. These were the flies I used most often and most importantly, the ones I had confidence in. I have stuck to the same patterns again this year and will tie them up in various weights and sizes to cover most likely of Spring conditions.

A few flies tied so far. These are probably the flies I use the most. Top left: Gold Body Willie Gunn, Top Right: Monkey, Bottom Left: Park Shrimp, Bottom Right: Calvin Shrimp x2 and KS Shrimp

Monday, 11 November 2013

The River Dee Trust Online Auction 2013

The River Dee Trust is currently running it's annual online auction to raise funds for education, tree planting and habitat improvements within the River Dee catchment area. Their website contains loads of excellent reading on things such as surveys and studies etc. It's well worth having look and you can see what your money goes towards if you fancy a bid on the auction.

The Auction has something for everyone so why not check out the catalogue and sign up to bid on your favourite item. You never know, you might just grab a bargain! Click on the link below the image for more information.

Good luck!

The River Dee Trust Auction 2013

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Breda - River Don

I booked a day through FishPal to fish the Breda beat of the River Don on Tuesday. The water height was sitting at around 5" on the gauge but the wind was howling and made fly fishing a bit challenging at times!

The beat had recorded some decent catches off the back of a rise in water last week and I was hopeful of getting a fish or two. But with the gale force winds, coupled with the water dropping away again, I left empty handed. There was a small, coloured cock fish landed first thing in the morning however, by the other rod fishing the beat. It was taken from Smith's Brae.

I fished the beat's most likely pools from top to bottom but Martin, the Don bailiff informed us that the best chance of a fish would be from the lower half of the beat as it fishes better in low water. The upper part of the beat has some nice pools which fished well including Whin Brae and the Tub but the fish were not playing ball on this occasion.

Breda is a beat I will look forward to returning to again in 2014 as I really enjoy fishing some of these short streamy pools which entice you into thinking that your line will tighten and be drawn away any minute!

Here are some pictures of the beat from Tuesday.

Rock Pool. I stared my day off in here. A cracking pool and there is a good spot below the summer house.

Saddler's Flats. A couple of fish showed at the tail of the pool just on the other side of the current.

Ghillie's Pool. Just a short wee stretch but fishes well. Lost a fish in here last year.

Smith's Brae. My favourite pool on the beat and seems to hold fish. Fishes well from top to tail.

The tail of Smith's Brae. A good lie off the big rock on the far bank.

Laird's. Good flow at the neck of the pool but didn't see anything showing here.

Flaskie. The upper most pool on the beat. A bit on the low side for here at 5" but fishes well in higher water.

Whin Brae. A good pool in all heights and a nice pool for swinging a fly through.

Tub. Looks a good holding pool and another pool ideal for the fly.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

18lb Salmon From Manar Today

As it was the last Saturday of the fishing season, I was kindly invited to fish the Manar beat of the River Don today. On this day each year the beat plays host to a celebration to mark the end of the salmon season. Plenty beer is to be had and there is enough meat cooked on the BBQ to feed an army! I always enjoy the good craic in the hut during the "Manar Shindig".

Charlie and I arrived at the beat around 8.30am and the beat gauge was reading 8" which was up an inch or two from the previous day. The water was a good colour and we were fairly confident there would be fish caught.

We fished all the likely pools in the morning along with a few other rods but apart from the odd fish showing the beat was very quiet. I decided to go the pool right at the top of the beat called the Ree Pot as it is only lightly fished due to the tree line bank. Not long after arriving at the pool there was a big fish showed in the fast run at the neck of the pool. Firstly, I covered it with a #10 Cascade but it showed no interest. I changed over to a #9 KS Shrimp and proceeded to cover the same lie but to no avail. As I was fishing down the pool, the big fish showed again in the same spot so I walked up through the trees and this time I went right up to the start of the run. I changed my fly again to a #11 Red Marauder Shrimp which is a fly I created a couple of weeks back for the Salmon Fishing Forum Tie of the Month competition. First cast and Bang! The fish took straight away. It immediately took off down stream and attempted to leave the pool. As I was underneath some trees and had nowhere to go, I just had to put the brakes on the fish. Doing this made the fish turn and it headed back up stream. The fish tried this same move several times whilst playing it but luckily it stayed in the pool. After a very dogged fight which lasted 15 minutes or so, I finally beeched the fish onto the reeds. I removed the fly from its mouth and found one of the hooks on my #11 Partridge Salar had snapped! I quickly measured the fish with nylon and took a few photographs. I gently lowered the coloured cock fish back in the river and it took off almost instantly. After all that, I needed a beer and headed up to the hut to meet Charlie. I finished my fishing for the day!

The rest of the day proved fruitless for all the rods fishing but as the beer started flowing and the burgers and sausages were devoured, this was soon forgotten. Today brings the curtain down on another season for most anglers on the Don and it's certainly not one that has set the heather on fire by any means. The Spring run was decent but as of the 1st June, it was like somebody flicked a switch and the fish stopped coming. This trend continued for most of the summer due to low water conditions until September when wee runs of fish crept up river. If you were in the right place at the right time, you caught them.

I have a couple of days left to fish as I'm on holiday but already looking forward to 2014.

Here are a few pictures from today.

Sheep Pool. A cracking pool and a very productive one at that.

Chapel Pool. The best pool on the beat catches wise and always holds a fish or two.

Upper Wood. My favourite pool on the beat. 

Looking upstream from the Upper Wood into the tail of the Sheep Pool.

Ree Pot. Where I landed my fish. Not the easiest pool to land a fish in.

A big coloured cock Salmon we estimated around 18lb after calculating it's measurements.

Back he goes to cause havoc on the redds but hopefully to pass on his genes to the next generation of salmon.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

A Good Day On The River Don Today

I was out on the River Don today with my Dad fishing the Aberdeen and District Angling Association water. My Dad and I managed to get a fish each and both of them came out of the same lie but two hours apart. We didn't see much evidence of fish in the pools but there was a very brief spell when a few fish were showing and this possibly stirred up resting fish.

The pools were very quiet considering the water rose mid week for the first time since May and I never seen a fin until around 11.00am. This is very unusual for the Don at this time of year but I did hear there was quite a decent run of fish went through on Friday which is encouraging. The water was carrying a wee tinge of colour but a nice peaty whiskey colour rather than dirty which I quite like.

My good friend Charlie Robertson also managed to get a fish today from the Manar beat of the Don. An 8lb cock fish gave him a good tussle before being landed. His fish took an Ally's Shrimp which is a great fly for peaty coloured water and a proven catcher of fish. Well done Charlie. Good to see Manar picking up a few fish again after the low water we've had all summer. The rain forecast will help this week too.

My Dad's first fish of the season. A nice fish around the 7lb mark.

Back she goes to continue her journey to the spawning grounds.

A quick picture for the scrap book. Here I am posing with a nice fresh fish about 6lb.

Safely returned to fight another day.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

3 Grilse From The Dee Today

I was out on the Aberdeen And District Angling Association beat of the Lower Dee at Garthdee this afternoon during my lunch hour and between 12noon and 1pm I landed 3 fish.

All three fish fell to a shrimp fly of my own tying which I have named the "Kitchen Sink Shrimp" as I only started using a few weeks ago when all else failed! It has now caught me 6 fish and as many lost in the last fortnight. It has all the colours of a back end fly and I shall continue to use it until the season ends and see how well it fairs.

The first fish was a slightly coloured Grilse around the 5lb mark. The second Grilse was also sporting a wee bit of colour and was around 4lbs. My third fish was the best of the bunch though and was a cracking fresh run Grilse about 6lbs, covered in long tailed sea lice. It was straight out the wrapper and I've never seen a fish with so much sea lice on it! A pure "Bar of Silver. "

I had never caught 3 salmon in a day before but to catch them all in the space of an hour was very pleasing. And to catch them all on a fly I designed myself made it even sweeter! All fish were released unharmed.

1. 5lb Grilse taken at the neck of the pool.

Ready for the off.

2. My second fish about 4lbs.

3. A cracking 6lb Grilse fresh off the tide.

Long tail sea lice cover the fish along it's back.

Lovely chrome colours and this one is off to the spawning grounds.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Tilbouries - River Dee

Back in January, I booked a days fishing at Tilbouries through the Aberdeen District Angling Association. September seemed miles away back then and I certainly never foreseen the lack of water we'd get this year. The beat is usually bouncing with both fresh and coloured fish at this time of year. I say usually, because due to the well documented and prolonged dry spell the East coast of Scotland has had to endure this year, most of the pools have very little in the way of fish holding in them.

As always, I arrived at the beat eager to get going and Willie Banks suggested I try the top end of the beat for a start and work my way down to the hut. I started off fishing the Island stream but apart from a handful of parr, I touched nothing so I headed off down to fish Alfred's Pot. One of the rods fishing the pool before me had a fish about 7lb which was encouraging so I tied on a wee #13 Black Francis and not long after starting I got a good pull. I have no idea why the fish never hooked itself as it nearly pulled the rod out of my hand! Again, apart from a few parr I landed nothing.

After lunch I fished down through the Island again with just parr and a brown trout for my efforts so I headed off back down to Alfred's Pot. I entered the pool at the neck and begun fishing, as you do, with a short line and gradually lengthening with every cast. After half a dozen or so casts, I had a good solid take and lifted into a fish. As I set the hook, the fish gave a couple of strong head shakes and this caused the hook hold to come loose and the fish was off. I decided then to change fly and put on a wee #13 Yellow Crathie. This fly has been doing very well further down river on the ADAA stretch of the Dee so I'd thought I'd give it a swim here too. About 20 yards down the pool from where I lost the fish, I cast out and I had another solid take just as the fly came hard into the bank. As the water is very deep on the Tilbouries side of the pool, the fish tend sit in the deeper water and are easily covered. I lifted into a strong wee fish and after a few minutes and several runs later, I drew the fish into the waiting net. Not a fresh fish but a fish none-the-less and a very welcome one. I returned the fish and the rod fishing above me was into a fish almost straight away. I wound in and went to assist the angler. After a good fight in the fast water I slid the net under a nice, reasonably fresh fish about 6lbs. I fished on down the pool without another touch and decided to call it a day about 6pm.

It's always nice to land a fish and considering the low water conditions,  3 salmon were landed today which is not a bad tally at all.

First pool of the day. Looking down the Island Stream.

Looking upstream from the tail of the Island.

Looking upstream from Alfred's Pot towards the Tilbouries Run.

Looking downstream in Alfred's Pot. Always holds fish in a medium/low water.

Looking upstream towards the hut from Larches. This pool is called Cairnton.

My wee 4lb Grilse from Alfred's Pot taken on a #13 Yellow Crathie.