Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Flies For The Back End

I've been busy at the vice recently tying up flies for the arrival of the back end to the salmon season. As we are once again suffering from a severe lack of rain and low water conditions I have tied most of my flies on doubles and trebles. I have also tied several small tubes as well for the deeper pools but with no significant rain forecast, I've concentrated my efforts on the smaller, lighter flies. Red is a favourite colour amongst anglers for back end fly patterns and my selection is no different.

Here are a few I've tied which will hopefully help me get a few more fish in the book before the season is out.

Red Flamethrower tied on a #9 Silver Partridge Salar double. Invented by Duncan Egan, this fly is very good during the back end and I have had several fish using this pattern.
Red Pot Bellied Pig tied on a #8 Silver Esmond Drury treble. Just an all red variation of the popular Pot bellied Pig series of flies. Was the "go to" fly a few years back and is still very popular.
Red Marauder Shrimp tied on a #9 Silver Partridge Salar double. I created this fly last year and I caught my biggest fish of 2013 (18lb cock fish) with it on the last Saturday in October.
Red Francis tied on a #8 Fulling Mill double. Not a lot more can be said about just how good this fly preforms. Not just during the Autumn, but all year round. Is a must have for any fly box.
Red Ally Shrimp with a sliver body tied on #8 Fulling Mill Magni double. A red variation of the classic Ally's Shrimp. I know some anglers who use nothing else for the back end and do very well
Calvin's Shrimp tied on a #8 Partridge Patriot double. Invented by Ross MacDonald, this fly does extremely well during the back end. It has all the colours synonymous with salmon fishing in the Autumn is a proven killer.
Kitchen Sink Shrimp tied on a #9 Silver Partridge Salar double. I did very well during the back end last year with this pattern in similar conditions to what we have this year. A good fly for when the leaves are coming down the river and when the fish have seen the usual patterns for this time of year.
Munro Killer tied on a #7 Gold partridge Salar double. I have tied this pattern with a red head just to be different. If the water remains clear or just slightly peaty, this classic fly pattern will do the trick. Still as popular as ever and a regular in the catch returns book.

Garry Dog tied on a #8 Esmond Drury treble. I really like the colour combo on this pattern. Some prefer it with a long wing but I think it looks great as it is. Suits being dressed on a treble too.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Ballogie - River Dee

Back in March I was fortunate enough to get a rod on the famous Ballogie beat on the River Dee. I was to fish the lower part of the beat which is from Potarch Bridge down stream to the march with Commonty. As I have never fished Ballogie before, I was very excited by the prospect.

I arrived at the hut around 8.30am and was met by ghillies Sean and Ian. The water was still a bit on the low side and was reading about 7" on the bridge gauge but hearing that there was plenty fish in the pools was all the encouragement I needed. After a discussion on tactics and flies, I tackled up with my 13fy Hardy Uniqua, AFS floating shooting head with a 6ft 1.5ips tip attached. Sean advised that nearly all the fish last week were taken on a Red Francis so that was the fly I opted for too.

The beat gauge on Potarch Bridge reading about 7".
The hut on the lower Ballogie beat which overlooks the Bridge Pool.
Ian took me down to the bottom half of the beat and showed the the likely spots and where to concentrate my efforts. I decided to start my day off in the Lower Inchbare pool which Ian had suggested would be a good bet to pick up a fish. I made my into the river and worked my way down the pool. I had fished down about 20 yards or so and I got a subtle take on my fly. I initially thought it to be a trout and tried to get it in as quickly as I could but as the fish got nearer, I noticed it was a small grilse. It took off downstream as I attempted to land it but I soon had it back under control and drew it into my waiting net. I couldn't have asked for a better start. Sean's size 10 Red Francis did the trick and his flies can be bought from his website francnsnaelda.com. They come highly recommended if you didn't know about them already. I didn't get another touch through the rest of the pool but there were several fish showing.

Lower Inchbare. Still a bit misty when I started this morning but it soon burnt off.
Looking upstream from the hut at Lower Inchbare.
A fresh grilse taken on a size 10 Red Francis from Lower Inchbare not long after starting.
The next pool down was Priest's Hole. Sean had said this pool used to produce fish many years ago but it's mostly overlooked these days. Since I might never be back again, I thought I'd might as well give it a go. This pool has some obvious lies where you might pick up a fish or two but sadly, not for me today. I fished the rest pool without a touch and carried on downstream to fish the Corner Pool.

Priest's Hole. Tricky wading but more due to slippery rocks than anything. A few fish were showing in here but I couldn't tempt any.
 Carrying on downstream the next pool is the Corner Pool. I started just above the trees on the bank and gradually lengthened line  every cast until I was covering a couple of good looking lies. I could have only had about 7 or 8 cast when the line went tight and I lifted into a lively fish. This fish had a good bit of weight to it and made several cracking runs off the reel. After several minutes, I got the net off my back and attempted to land the fish. As the wading was tricky, I decided to try to land the fish where I was standing. The fish made it's way upstream and I managed to get it's head up and draw it towards the net. Trying to pull the fish into the net was the easy part. Lifting the net was proving to be a lot more difficult. With the net soaking wet and the current sweeping it downstream, I couldn't lift the net to get the fish landed and when the fish got out, it darted off into the main flow of the river again. This happened 3 times and I was extremely lucky to land the fish but managed to get my net positioned below the fish and scoop it out that way. I made my over to the bank to remove the hook but it had came out in the net! I got it just in time. I estimated the fish to be around the 15lb mark and it also took the size 10 Red Francis. I fished down the remainder of the pool without a touch and head off to fish the Kelpie.

Corner Pool. Never seen a splash in here but landed a fish.
Safely in the net at the 4th attempt. As you can see if you click on the photo, the fly has came out in the net! Probably been in about 2 weeks.
A quick photo before release. Went back no problem.
After landed my second fish, I made my way down to fish Kelpie. There were plenty fish splashing about in the run at the top of the pool and I had decent pull about 30 yards down from the big rock but it didn't hook up. I fished on through the rest of the pool and all the way down into the Jetties but didn't get another offer so I headed off back to the hut for some lunch.

Kelpie. Plenty fish showing in here and I had an offer not long after starting which didn't stick.
Looking upstream in Kelpie. I had the offer about 10 yards down from the big rock.
Jetties. One or two fish showing in here but couldn't tempt any.

After a good chat over lunch to fellow rod Peter and his wife, I headed down to fish the Burn of Angels and Upper Inchbare pools. Apart from the odd splash in Upper Inchbare. I didn't see or connect with anything else. Both these pools fished very well and you were expecting that pull every cast but not this time.

Burn of Angels. A lovely cast but nothing showing in here today.
Looking upstream toward Potarch Bridge.
Upper Inchbare. A few fish showed just at the tail but none took any interest in my offerings.
I headed up to fish the famous Bridge pool about 4pm and started on the big rocks above the bridge. I worked my way through the pool with the Red Francis without any interest so I changes over to a heavy Monkey tied on a tungsten tube and started again. A fresh fish showed just off the boil about half way down which was encouraging but apart from a follow as I strip my fly in, I had no joy in this pool. Still, it was a pleasure to fish it and at least I can say I have fished it now.

Bridge Pool. Cracking pool in the Spring months. Often produces a fish on Opening Day.
Looking upstream in the Bridge Pool at Potarch Bridge.
Fishing down the Bridge Pool. A very iconic location of Royal Deeside.
I left the beat around 6pm after having another run through Lower Inchbare and Kelpie. I didn't get an offer but was more than happy with how my day went. It was great to finally get to fish on Ballogie. It's been a long wait since I booked it back in March and to get 2 fish was the icing on the cake.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Finavon Castle - South Esk

It rained heavily all day on the Friday before we arrived to fish the Finavon Castle Water which gave Kenny, Bill, Davie and I some extra encouragement for our day on the River South Esk. We planned an early start and I set my alarm for 4am so we could meet at the beat for 5.30am. We arrived just before 5.30 and made our way down to the hut on the Castle Beat. The water was sitting around the 9" mark and was running clear which signaled that the water had not risen as much as we'd anticipated. Still, we were all confident that there would be fish running.

The Castle Beat Hut at 5.30am.
The interior of the hut with wooden fish on the wall as a reminder of good catches of days past.
It was still dark when we arrived at the hut so we lit up a few candles in the hut and contrary to popular opinion, Kenny produced a bottle of 25 year old GlenFarclas so we had a wee dram as we waited to get going. I tackled up with my 13ft Hardy Uniqua, Floating line and 10ft intermediate tip. My fly of choice to begin with was a 1/2" Silver Ally. Kenny and I were to fish the Milton Beat in the morning whilst Bill and Davie were to fish the Castle Beat.

Kenny and I decided to start at the top of the beat and work our way down. The first pool we were to fish was the Bridge Pool. I started at the croy and Kenny went above and started just below the bridge itself. Just as I entered the water a fish showed just next to a boil which the handy beat guide suggests you will pick up a fish. I covered it several times but nothing doing. That was the only fish we saw in the pool so we made our way down to the next pool which was Tyndals.

Looking upstream at dawn in the Bridge Pool.
Fishing down the Bridge Pool. A fish shown just as I started in the boil about half way down but it wasn't hanging about.

Tyndal's is one of the most productive pools on the beat and looking through the catch book, it produces fish all season long. It is fished from the North bank so a wade across the river just above the pool is needed to fish the pool. Bill and Davie had fished this pool whilst we fished the Bridge and said they had seen several fish, mostly coloured showing up near the neck of the pool. Kenny and I fished down through the pool, covering the likely spots but to no avail. Kenny did however see a fish show on his way down but we couldn't temp anything. 
Tyndals Pool. A nice easy wade all the way down and the depth is over on the opposite bank right down the pool. Most of the fish seen were just off the current towards the North bank.

The next pool down was Willows but at this height of water it looked really shallow and when the sun was out, you could see every stone so we decided to leave it for later and see if we got some cloud cover. We headed off down to fish Volcano and Lower Boat pools. Both were clearly defined pool with fast water at the neck which tapered off as the pool widened out. This time, the deeper parts of the pool were on  the North side and they were to be fished from the South bank. As tasty as these pools looked, neither Kenny or myself touched anything in either of them. By this time, the sun was high ain the cloudless sky and conditions were starting to go against us. Kenny headed back to the hut for a cup of tea and I headed back up to have another crack in the Bridge Pool. Sadly, I didn't see or touch anything on my second run down so I headed back to the hut around 11.30am to join Bill, Davie and Kenny for an early lunch.

Looking downstream from the footbridge towards the Red Brae Pool on my way over to fish the Castle Beat.
Looking upstream from the Bridge into the Castle Stream.
After lunch, Kenny and I were to fish the Castle beat and Bill and Davie were to fish the Milton beat. The first pool on the Castle beat is the Castle Stream so I started off in the whilst Kenny headed down to the Red Brae pool below. The water looked a bit on the low side for the Castle Stream but I fished down it regardless just to give it a go.
Castle Stream. There are groins either side at the neck of the pool which gives it a nice flow down the far bank.
I carried on down stream to fish the Kirkinn pool which is really just the tail of Red Brae. There is a nice looking run down the far side which fishes the fly quite well but I didn't get an offer in here and carried on down to the next pool. I had a quick run down through Pheasantry on my way down to fish Nine Maidens

Kirkinn. Looks like an excellent summer sea trout pool.
The hut overlooking Pheasantry which is named David's Tree House Hut. As you can see, it's built around an large tree.
Next pool down was Nine Maidens. This pool had a good bit of depth to it and looked like it could hold a fish or two up near the neck. I concentrated on this area and slowly made my way down the pool but as much as it looked a likely place for a fish, I didn't get an offer so it was onto the next pool.

Kenny Carr sitting on the croy at the neck of Nine Maidens deciding what fly to try next.

 The bottom pool on the beat was called Beaches. It was a long pool in comparison to the others on the Castle beat and also looked like it would give a good chance of a fish. Kenny and I both fished our way down to right under the Viaduct without an offer so we decided to head back upstream to have another go in Red Brae.

The Viaduct at the tail of Beaches. Below the bridge is the Haugh's Pool on the Finavon Bogardo beat.
As I never fished Red Brae on my way down I was eager to give it a go and on arrival we were met by regular River Esks fisher Alan Mowat who was taking with Bill and Davie. Bill said he had seen a fish show up thear the neck of Red Brae so I went up to give it cast. I changed to a Sunray Shadow and worked it through the pool but I didn't get so much as a boil from a trout. It was a very fishy looking pool and one, which I 'm sure, given better conditions would produce plenty fish. Just a pity the sun was water and overhead conditions were not in our favor today.

We all headed back to the Milton Beat hut for a cup of coffee and a farewell dram before heading home. We had a good chat in the hut about all thing fishing and it was good to catch up with Alan again who we fished with on the River Don back in April. We said our goodbyes and left for the journey back up the A90 around 5.30pm.

I really enjoyed fishing this cracking part of the South Esk. We were lucky that there were 4 rods fishing in our party which gave us a bit more pools to fish given the lowish water. We all agreed that it was a good day and with a few more inches of water, we could have had some decent sport. The overnight rain, although heavy, didn't come to much but as it has rained all day today (Sunday 7th) I'm sure there will be fish caught this week if the water goes up. I will look forward to seeing the catches and what these beats can produce.

Left to Right - Kenny, Bill, myself and Davie pose for a picture before heading home.
For more info please visit the very informative Finavon Castle Fishings website.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

More Sea Liced Salmon For Bill Cook

It's been a good week so far on the River Don for my friend and prolific angler, Bill Cook. Firstly, landing a sea liced Grilse on Saturday but on Monday evening he ran into a pod of fresh run grilse and landed 3 out of 4 he hooked. Prior to that he landed a coloured cock fish in the pool above a few minutes earlier. All were taken on a small Cascade with 9" on the gauge. Not bad for an hours fishing!

Bill's 2nd fish of the day. A sea liced Grilse about 6lbs.
Fish No.3 Another sea liced Grilse about 6lb.
Fish No.4 Like peas in a pod! Sea liced Grilse also around 6lb.
Sea lice on the back of the fish. Must be running hard at the moment.
 On Wednesday evening, Bill was at it again when he landed a cracking fresh run hen Salmon of around 11lbs. He caught it using a fly of his own fly called the Highland Park Shrimp. Good going considering the water has dropped back to around 6" since Sunday.

Bill's 11lb sea liced Salmon from yesterday. Perfect condition and covered in sea lice.
Pictures courtesy of Bill Cook.