Thursday, 23 October 2014

Upper River Don

As the water levels have been reasonably high these last few days, I decided to head to the Upper Don for a days fishing near Strathdon. A quick check of the river levels before I left the house indicated than Don was falling after some heavy rain and was sitting around 9" on the Culfork gauge.

I met beat owner John Riley at his house around 8.30am to pay for my fishing and to have a chat about the beat as I'd never fished it before. John and his wife were very welcoming and pointed out the most likely pools on the beat map provided and after a brief chat, I headed off to the river.

I tackled up with my 13ft Hardy Uniqua rod and a Airflo Quick Spey floating line with a 7ft intermediate polyleader attached on the end. I had tied up several Junction Shrimp Franc N Snaeldas earlier on in the week and because the water was heavily peat stained I opted for one of these as it would be ideal for the current river conditions.

I decided to start on the lower half of the beat and began my day in the New pool fishing off the North bank. With the water being the colour of a dark rum I couldn't see the bottom and was unsure if I could wade down the margins or not so I just fished it off the bank. It was not the easiest to fish from the bank but I didn't want to take any chances. Having said that, the pool fished the fly very well and I fished the pool all the way down to the bridge with only a small Brown trout about 1lb for my efforts.

Fishing down through the New Pool towards the bridge over the A944.
After fishing the New pool I drove upstream to fish the Rumblind Pot. This had a very fast run which came in at the neck of the pool but leveled out nicely the further down the pool you went. I fished this pool from the South bank. It was a really nice pool to fish which fished the fly very well at this height. Although I didn't see any sign of fish in here, I'm sure they were there. I just think the heavily peat stained water was maybe keeping them down. With this in mind, I changed my fly to a heavier version of the Junction Shrimp Franc N Snaelda for my run down through the next pool.

Rumblind Pot. Looked a very good pool at this height of water.
Looking upstream in the Rumblind Pot.
The next pool down was the Dr Pool. It had a nice glide which came in from the neck of the pool and flowed all the way down the north bank. Another likely looking pool but I felt it might just need a bit more water in it to fish better. I fished it all the way down regardless but didn't get a touch and it was on to the next pool which was called Deskry.

Looking upstream in the Dr Pool.
The Deskry Pool looked very fishy. The pool starts just above where the Deskry Water enters the Don. I saw a few fish splash in here not long after starting which gave me encouragement. I began right up on the fast water in the neck of the pool and began to fish it down. Not long after starting, I had an offer from a small fish which turned out to be another brown Trout about 1lb. It hammered my fly even with a mouth full of salmon parr. The head of the poor wee fish was sticking out of its mouth along with my fly. I quickly returned the fish and continued down the pool. As I crossed the burn and go nearer the tail there were a couple more fish showing but try as I might, I couldn't temp any of them. The water looked like it was clearing some of the peat stain by now which maybe got one or two fish excitable.

Looking downstream into Deskry.
The Desky Water which the pool takes it's name.
The tail of Deskry.
I carried on downstream to the next pool which was the Long Pool. This looked a lovely bit of water and I was sure there would be a fish or two in here. Again, I started up at the neck and worked my way down. I could have only had about a dozen casts when I had a good offer just as I was hand lining to re-cast. I lifted into a fish but no sooner was it on when it came off again. Still, at least I knew they were there and that there was interest in my fly. I cast again of the same lie a couple of times but couldn't temp the fish again.

Fishing down the Long Pool.
I continued on through the pool fishing the sink and draw style and not long after my first offer, I had a thumping take just as I was coming out of the current which went down the North bank. I lifted into a very dogged and acrobatic fish which stayed deep and over in the fast water. I played the fish hard and I was very pleased to see it safely in the net. I would strongly recommend the use of a net to anyone fishing at this time of year. It's best to keep these coloured fish in the water as much as possible when so near to spawning. Anyway, the hen fish was roughly about 5lb and I removed the hook and sent her on her way.

A hen fish about 5lbs taken in the Long Pool on a Junction Shrimp Franc N Snaelda.
I carried on down the pool using the same fly and fishing it the same way when, just as I approached the tail of the pool, I had another cracking take! This fish was bigger than the one just returned but was very strong and acrobatic, having jumped several times not long after being hooked. I managed to get the fish under some sort of control so I tightened up the drag on my reel just to try and stop any other runs. this seemed to do the trick and a few minutes later I managed to slip the net under a fish about 9lbs. This fish was heavily coloured so I quickly took the hook out and returned it as soon as I could taking this quick picture as she went back. Within the space of 30 minutes, I had had 3 offers and landed 2 fish and all from 1 run down the pool.

Returning my second fish from the Long Pool. A coloured hen about 9lb which also took the Junction Shrimp Franc N Snaelda.
The next pool down was the Corner Pool. Just a short pool but it looked like it might be a resting place for a fish coming up through the faster water below. I had a run through it but without a touch so I decided it was time for lunch.

Fishing the Corner Pool.
After lunch the wind really whipped up and this made casting very difficult at times, especially in the pools where you were fishing off high banks. I did head up to the top part of the beat but just had a look at the water. I decided to give the New Pool another go but as good as the pool was looking, it didn't produce an offer so I headed of back up to fish the Deskry and Long Pools again. Despite my best efforts and with a lot of slice casting just to get the line out, I didn't get another touch for the rest of the day. I headed off up to see John around 4pm to sign the catch return book before I headed home.

It's always good to fish a new bit of water and I really enjoyed my day on the Upper Don. I had only booked it the night before so to get two fish really was a bonus. It's just a pity the weather turned for the worse in the afternoon as the water was dropping nicely and the colour was getting better by the hour. I will certainly look forward to my next visit.

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