Sunday, 27 April 2014

Breda And Castle Forbes - River Don

During the close season, along with friend and fellow River Don angler, Bill Cook, we decided to host a couple of days fishing on the Don for members of The Salmon Fishing Forum. Since the Don is local to both of us, we thought it would be a good to show just why we enjoy fishing there so much and also to let others see what it was like.

The water on the Don has been very low for the last few weeks and we really needed some rain to get the levels up to encourage fish to move upstream. The week before we were due to fish rain had been forecast but it never materialised and we were left with the prospect of the river being very low with little chance of anything other than trout to catch. Or so we thought.


On Friday I met up with Bill, Kenny and Brian as we had booked a day fishing on the Breda beat near Alford prior to the main meet at Castle Forbes on the Saturday. Breda can be really productive given good levels of water but when we arrived, the river level was sitting around 4 inches at most. Not ideal for salmon fishing so we spent most of the morning sipping whiskey and chatting about all things fishing! We did have a token effort for salmon before lunch but it was clear it was going to be tough to find a pool that would hold any salmon at this height of water so in the afternoon we decided to target really what the Don is famous for, the wild brown trout.

Apart from a few small trout between 8-10oz no bigger fish were landed until expert trout fisher, Brian spotted a group of larger specimen fish readily taking flies off the surface. he made a few casts with an emerger type dry fly and was soon bent into one of the fish. At first he thought it was just an average sized trout but several seconds after hooking it, the fish woke up and tore off downstream taking Brian right into the backing! The fish left the pool and down the weir into the pool below. Whilst leaving the pool, Brian's line became snagged on a rock so he and Bill waded out to try and free it. The fish was still on and soon the line was free. No longer was the line free when the fish parted company with the fly and was lost. Bill had seen the fish going over the falls and estimated it around the 4lb mark. Fish like this are what the Don is famed for. It was not to be on this occasion for Brian but  hopefully something he will remember about his trip to Breda and the River Don.

We didn't really fish much after that so we headed off to the hotel for a few beers and some supper, raring to go for Castle Forbes the following day.

Here a few pictures from Breda on Friday.

Fishing down Smith's Brae. As you can from the picture, the water is very low.
Kenny Carr having a cast in The Rock before lunch.
Looking upstream in Beech Avenue.
A wee 10oz Brown Trout from Ghillie's Run which took a #14 Klinkhammer.
Looking downstream from the bench in Laird's Pool.


Yesterday was the main day for our River Don meet with Mel, Brian, Alan and Andy joining Bill, Kenny, Brian and myself to fish the Castle Forbes Water. Heavy overnight rain lifted the river an inch or two and added a bit of colour to the flow as well. Levels were sitting around 5in on the gauge but was to rise slowly and colour up all day.

We all met at the estate office around 8.30am. It was good to finally put faces to some of the names. Two lads had to call of late due to work commitments so we would have 4 rods above Keig Bridge and 4 below. We all had a good natter for a while then it was down to business. I was allocated the top half of the beat in the morning along with Kenny, Andy and Brian. After a wee dram in the car park we headed off to our allocated pools. I tackle up with my 13ft Hardy Uniqua, floating line and due to the coloured water, my fly of choice was a #8 Kinermony Killer.

I was to start in No Name Pool and work my way downstream taking in Upper and Lower Auchreddachie, Peir, and Phillips. I fished No Name Pool without a touch and headed off down to Upper Auchreddachie. Just as I got to the bend, I was taking a photo when I had a thumping take on my fly. Unfortunately, the photo was taken just a split second before the fish broke the surface. After a very dogged fight, Brian expertly tailed the fish for me which we estimated to be around 8lbs. I fished the rest of the morning without another offer but I was delighted to get a fish. As we made our way back to the estate office for lunch, it was pleasing to hear that Bill had landed a nice fish also around the 8lb mark. 2 fish for the morning was a great result considering the water conditions.

After lunch we were to fish the lower beats. This consisted of pools such as Dam, Craig Pot, Nursery, the 3 Deepstane pools and Upper and Lower Rake. I started in the Nursery Pool which was a lovely looking pool. Just about 3pm, Bill gave out a shout to signal he was into a fish down in Middle Deepstane. As I was on the opposite bank, I couldn't help him but made my down just to get a few pictures of the action. Brian had also heard Bill's shout and made his way down too. Fortunately, he was on Bill's bank and arrived just in time to tail a cracking fish of around 12lbs for him. Our total for the day was now 3 fish which was a great achievement in the low, dirty water. By about 4pm the wind picked up and the fog was rolling in from the hills which made it quite cold so we decided to call it a day and headed back to car park to talk over the weekend.

The feedback for the guys who attended the meet was all good. Those who had not fished the Don before were very impressed with what it had to offer, not only for salmon but the wild brown trout too. I also really enjoyed myself and to get a fish was a very welcome bonus. It has been one of the most successful forum meets in regards to fish caught and to achieve that on a low river which coloured up and rose all day was all the more pleasing. I wonder how we would have faired with 1ft on the gauge and dropping after a rise? Who knows. During this weekend, I have met some great, like minded people and look forward to meeting them all again at the next outing. Tight Lines.

Here are some pictures from our day at Castle Forbes.

Team Photo .> Me, Alan, Brian, Mel, Kenny, Andy and Bill. The other Brian is not in the photo
No Name Pool. Looks like it would maybe hold a fish or two later on in the year.
Upper Auchreddachie. Just as I was taking this photo was when the fish took!
A cracking springer from the Don about the 8lb mark.
Andy fishing Phillips pool.
Looking upstream from Nursery into the Craig Pot which is below the suspension bridge.
Looking downstream in the Nursery Pool. Nice bit of water for the fly.
Almost there. Bill playing his second fish of the day in Middle Deepstane and Brian on hand to tail the fish for him.
Bill's fish unhooked and ready to be returned.
Lower Deepstane pool from the right bank.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Sunray Shadow

It's getting to that time of year again when I fish the Sunray Shadow quite a lot, especially when the pool looks quiet and nothing is showing. I normally just use the standard plastic tube with a white under wing and long black hair for the main wing. This time though, I have decided to mix it up a little and tie several different varieties using coloured tubes and different colours of underwing.
The Sunray Shadow flies ready for action on the Dee and Don.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

3 Days On The Spey - Brae Water

Brae Water Beat 5

Charlie and I started our trip on the Spey at Brae Water Beat 5 with ghillie, Blair Banks. The water was sitting around 1ft 6in on the Boat o' Brig gauge. I tackle up with my Scott Mackenzie Float/Intermediate shooting head with a 6ft 3.9ips tip. My fly of choice was a small Monkey.

Charlie and I were drawn to fish the top part of the beat in the morning. I was to start in the Intake Pool and Charlie started in the Grilse Pool. The Intake pool was fishing really nicely and I was about half way down the pool, when I felt a fish grab at the fly and it was closely followed by another knock and then finally a thumping take! The fish immediately stripped yards of line off my reel and headed back towards Fochabers. After a cracking scrap lasting several minutes, I managed to beach a lovely sea trout about 2lb. After fishing through the remainder of the Intake without another touch, I headed down to fish the Grilse Pool.

Just not long after starting Blair and I noticed several fish heading and tailing up and down the length of the pool. This was a good run of fish making their way upstream but neither Charlie or I managed to connect with one.

The afternoon saw us fishing the Dipple Pool from the right bank. This looked a cracking pool, especially up at the neck. We fished it all afternoon without seeing a fish but I had a good pull at the tail about 4.30pm. Unfortunately, it didn't connect and it turned out to be the last action of the day for us. The Osprey fared a bit better when it caught a sea trout from the tail of the pool. Amazing to see it diving and coming up with a fish. There was however, 2 fish landed up in the Grilse Pool by anglers during the afternoon. A lovely 7lb salmon covered in long tail sea lice and another slightly older fish of the same weight.

Here are some pictures from our day on Beat 5.

Intake Pool looking downstream.
A Sea Trout from the Intake Pool taken on a small Monkey tube.
Grilse Pool. Nothing touched in here for me but 2 fish came off the pool in the afternoon.
Looking upstream in the Grilse Pool.
Charlie and I fishing the Dipple from the right bank in the afternoon.
The beat hut on the right and the ghillie's hut on the left.
Brae Water Beat 3

Friday saw us fishing beat 3 with ghillie Ian Tennant. The water was is good nick and sitting around 1ft  6in on the Boat o' Brig gauge. Ian suggested that a heavier set up would be better today so I went for my Scott Mackenzie Intermediate shooting head with a 10ft 5.6ips tip and a 2" Willie Gunn.

Charlie and I were to fish the Aultderg Pool in the morning. This is one of my favourite pools on any river that I have fished and we were keen to get going. We both fished down the pool twice each without a touch or seeing any fish move but every time the fly swung round, you were just waiting for the line to tighten.

After lunch we were to fish the Lower Ewe and Lord March Pools. Charlie headed of up to fish the Lower Ewe whilst I went in at the top of the Lord March. There was a massive hatch of March Browns coming off and the trout were rising everywhere you looked. I fished down the pool without a touch from a salmon so I put up the wee rod and had a go for the trout. I tied on a dry fly which was the closest resemblance to a March Brown that I had and I had about 8 offers and landed a couple of sea trout kelts. Since I realised that most of the fish were sea trout kelts, I put the rod away and went back after a salmon. Unfortunately, we both finished the day without a touch or without seeing a fish move. The pools were all in really good shape and were a pleasure to fish.

Here are a few pictures from Beat 3.

Aultderg. Fantastic fly water with scenery to match.
Looking upstream in Aultderg with the red cliffs in the background.
Looking downstream in Aultderg.
Lord March. Another lovely bit of water.
Lower Ewe looking upstream towards Beat 2.
Fishing down the Lower Ewe.
The fishing hut on Beat 3.
Brae Water Beat 4

Our final day on Speyside was to be spent fishing Beat 4 with ghillie, David Buley. The wind had really picked up and it made casting tricky at times. The water was dropping slowly and was sitting a 1ft 2in on the Boat o' Brig gauge.

It was back to the float/intermediate shooting head and a 6ft 3.9ips tip for today and I opted to give a Black & Yellow tube a good swim through the pools. Charlie and I were to start in the Cruive Pool. This was a cracking looking pool and David pointed out all the likely place we might encounter a fish. I started half way down the pool and Charlie started at the neck. We both fished down the pool twice, casting as well as we could between gusts of wind. Neither of us touched a fish and we headed back to the hut for lunch.

After lunch, David took Charlie and I over the river to fish the Pipe Pool. Here the Spey narrows considerably and is easily covered off the shingle bank. The wooded area opposite sheltered the pool and gave us a bit of respite from the wind. I changed fly to a heavier Franc N Snaelda just to get down a bit quicker in the fast stream. Just as I got to the tail of the pool whilst working the Snaelda back and forth, something pulled back. Not the salmon I was after but a greedy little brown about 3/4lb. That was the only action I had in the pool but like so many other pools on the Brae Water, you are just waiting for the line to tighten every cast.

Here are a few pictures from Beat 4.

Sign above the door of the ghillie's hut.
Fishing down the Cruive Pool.
A downstream view of the Cruive Pool from the bank.
Fishing the neck Cruive Pool.
The Pipe Pool. A lovely cast and a pleasure to fish. Cracking pool.
Looking upstream into the Pipe Pool.
Looking downstream from the bank at the tail of the Pipe Pool.
The fishing hut on Beat 4.
The quest for an elusive Spey Springer continues but we had a really enjoyable 3 days on the Brae Water. All the ghillies were first class. Friendly and very knowledgeable lads who went out their way to help and keep the enthusiasm going during some tough conditions. The other rods fishing with us for the 3 days were all good craic too which makes fishing a lot more enjoyable. We look forward to our next visit to the Brae Water beats in the near future.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

ADAA Junior Day On The Dee

The Aberdeen and District Angling Association hosted a Junior Members day on the River Dee at Altries and Lower Drum today. The weather was kind to us today with just a slight breeze and good, overcast conditions. The water was in really good ply and was sitting around 1ft 10in on the gauge.

Seven junior members came along to learn spey casting with AAPGAI instructor Ben Dixon and also to learn the basics of fishing with spinners. Each junior in attendance was paired up with an adult member who was on hand to assist with their casting and to generally give advice when required.

Unfortunately, and not for the want of trying, nothing was caught this year but everyone went away happy at the end of the day and hopefully, a lot more confident about the way they go about their fishing.

A thank you must go to renowned, local fly tier, Philip Glendinning who kindly donated a bag of flies for each junior who attended today. I'm sure they will get well used judging by the good feedback we got from the kids who all said they would like to get out and try to catch a salmon. The ADAA would also like to thank an oil company (who would like to remain anonymous) for generously paying for the lunch laid on for all who attended today, it was very much appreciated. Finally, a big thanks to the beat and it's ghillie, Kevin Fleming for allowing us to have the day there and to all the volunteers who gave up their time to help out today.

It is always good getting the younger kids involved in fishing and to see some of them become competent casters having never tried it before is even more pleasing. Hopefully the seeds are sown and we see them all on the river bank in the very near future.

Here are a few pictures from today.

The ADAA Land Rover and the beat's fishing hut.
Alistair had never cast a double handed fly rod before today but was a really quick learner and his casting was very good by the end of the day, even into the wind. Well done Alistair.
17 year old Sean Rennie fishing the fly in the Hut Pool. Sean is an excellent caster and is a very keen angler already.
Looking downstream in the Hut Pool. Was bubbling with trout this afternoon when the March Browns were hatching.
Ghillie, Keviin Fleming rows us back over to the hut to begin packing up..
Some of the lads show off their packets of flies kindly donated by Philip Glendinning.
Discussing the day and handing out the last of the sweets!
Posing for a group picture after another successful ADAA Junior Outing. Looking forward to the next one.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Lower Crathes & West Durris - River Dee

I was extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to fish the famous Lower Crathes and West Durris beat on the River Dee last Saturday. Although catches had been slow in recent weeks, I was still excited like a kid at Christmas to be fishing these hallowed waters.

The main fishing hut on the Crathes bank.
I arrived at the beat to be greeted by underghillie, Jordan Sinclair. He informed me that the water height on the beat was sitting at 2ft and the water temperature was around the 37f mark. I was to fish the lower part of the beat from Crathes bridge down. My set up for the day was my Scott Mackenzie Float/Intermediate Shooting Head with a 6ft 2.6 inch per second tip. My fly of choice was a Monkey tied on an aluminum Yuri Shumakov tube.
A salmon weather vain on the roof of the fishing hut.
As was to fishing the bottom half of the beat which lies below Crathes Bridge, I was to start my day off in the Greenbamks Pool. Jordan pointed out the main areas to concentrate on and went off to get one of the other rods started in the Bulwarks pool. I waded out from the Crathes bank and began to cast as far over to the far bank as I could as that's where the fish were likely to be. About 10 minutes after starting, I had a solid take and lifted into a lively fish. The fish made a few surging runs and showed it's flanks whilst trying to turn on the surface. I walked backward onto the shingle bank and attempted to beach the fish. A few minutes later I managed to get the fish onto the bank. If had lost the fish, I would have be sure it was a Springer as it was full of life and put up a great scrap however, once landed it was clear to see that the fish was a kelt. It was a very well mended kelt and I'm sure it would have no trouble getting back to sea. I fished through the Greenbaks without another offer so Jordan suggested that I go upstream to the next pool.

Fishing the Greenbanks pool from the Crathes bank.
Looking upstream from the Greenbanks.
A few hundred yards upstream is the Kelpie Pool. The Kelpie has lovely glide coming off from the tail of the pool above to create a cracking stream to fish the fly in. The main current is down the Crathes bank but Jordan informed me that fish can be had from mid stream to right in towards the bank. Although the pool looked very "fishy", I didn't see or touch anything so I headed across the river to fish the Bulwarks pool from the Durris bank.

Kelpie from the Crathes bank.
Looking upstream halfway down the Kelpie.
The Bulwarks pool is the bottom pool on the beat and the next pool up from Park which is the beat below. The pool has a nice even flow to it and fishes well from both banks. Jordan was on hand to point out all the hot spots and so I waded out to give it a go. I fished all the way down until I was under the electric cables without seeing or touching a fish but again, it looked so promising.

Fishing the Bulwarks pool from the Durris bank.
Looking upstream in the Bulwarks.
My next pool to fish was the Lower Bridge Pool so I crossed over the river again and made my way up the track to the top of the pool. I have driven over the Crathes Bridge many times and always look down into the river wishing I could cast a line here so to get the chance today was special. I changed over to a fly created by my friend Charlie called the SS (Sunray Shadow) Assassin just to see if I could provoke a reaction from a fish. Jordan explained that as long a cast as possible was necessary as the fish ran up the Durris bank. I started at the top of the pool just below the bridge and began fishing my way down the pool slowly stripping the sunray across the stream as I went. About halfway down the pool, there was a swirl at the fly but whatever kind of fish it was, it missed it. That turned out to be the only offer I had in the pool.

Lower Bridge Pool.
Looking upstream from midway down the Lower Bridge Pool.
Head ghillie, Robbie Harper suggested I try above the bridge for a while before dark so I headed off up to fish the Lady's Pool(?). The pool has several jetties which make it easy to cover the water and also to get out just that little it further. Fantastic water to cast a fly on but no fish took any interest in what I was offering them so I headed off downstream.

Lady's Pool(?) or Jetties Pool. Cracking pool to fish a fly through.
The next pool I was to fish was the famous Bridge Pool. The biggest fish from the Dee last year was taken out of this pool in April 2013 but it has a reputation for some great catches all season long. It was just about dark when I fished the pool but I made sure I gave it a good going over before leaving. Cracking pool to fish and I was waiting in anticipation of the line going tight on every cast. Sadly not this time but an absolute pleasure to fish.

Looking upstream in the Bridge Pool.
My first time on Lower Crathes and West Durris was a great experience. Although no springers were landed on the day, it was a dream to fish such a famous stretch of the Dee and I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to do so.
Here are some pictures from my day.