Thursday, 26 February 2015

Commonty - River Dee

I had my final February day on the River Dee yesterday with good pals Dr Ade Warburton and Dr Patrick Taylor. It's always great to catch up with these lads and we have a good laugh along the way. The water was sitting around the 1ft mark on the Woodend gauge and was still very cold. There were some icy parts of the river banks down in the slow, deeper pools. My set up for the day was my 15ft Mackenzie rod, float/intermediate shooting head and a 2.6ips tip. Fly of choice was a Monkey conehead tied  on a silver Shumakov tube.

The Garden Pool first thing in the morning.
It was very cold in the morning with the air temperature sitting at -2C so the morning consisted of a few drams in the hut and a long chat with Ian Fraser the ghillie and fellow rod Dean Armstrong. We put the world to rights before finally deciding to go and have a cast around 10.30am as the sun was now higher in the sky and the temperature was lifting. Patrick headed off to the top of the beat whilst Ade and I went downstream to fish the Loop, Bend and Points.

Yours truly casting in the Bend. Photo courtesy of Dean Armstrong.
Fishing down the Bend. Cracking pool.
Picture of concentration as I make my way down the pool. Photo courtesy of Dean Armstrong,
The Bend is a cracking pool and has a nice streamy flow which runs down the far bank before it evens out. This is also a decent holding pool and fish can be caught from the neck all the way down. I fished through the pool without an offer on this occasion so I carried on down into the Loop.

Looking up to the Bend from the Loop.
The Loop is another good bit of water and it requires wading to able yourself to fish the likely lies effectively. Ade fished this pool first and I followed him down but neither of us had any luck in here. I did see a small fish splash in the pool but it was either a sea trout kelt or a brown trout as it was not a very big fish.

Looking upstream from the Points into the Loop.
Ade fishing down through the Loop. Photo courtesy of Dean Armstrong.
We carried on fishing downstream and Ade and I both had a run through the Points. Despite having two pairs of thick woolen socks on, the cold water was starting to take it's toll so we headed off back to the hut to thaw out with a dram beside the fire. Patrick return to the hut shortly after to say he had landed a very large kelt in the Otter pool. At least is was a bit of action as we saw no salmon move down on the lower part of the beat.

The Chair looking across to Woodend House.
After an extended lunch I was to fish the upper pools of the beat. Ian explained the best parts of the pool to concentrate on so I made my way up to give them a go. I didn't bother with the aptly named Suicide Pool so I started my afternoon off in the Otter Trap. The wading in the Otter trap is not for the faint hearted as there are plenty large and slippery stones which will see you swimming with one wrong move. I waded out opposite the shelter and began casting into the streamy water running down the far third of the pool. Not long after starting I had an positive take on my Monkey fly as it swung out of the current. I lifted into a small but lively fish. After a minute or two I soon beached an un-spawned hen salmon of around 4lb. Not what I was after but at least I knew I was doing something right.

Looking up towards Suicide from the bank of Otter Trap. These croys will soon be removed as part of the Pearls in Peril Project which is set up to improve the habitat of the freshwater pearl mussel.
An action shot from playing the fish.
I don't normally take pictures of un-clean fish but I thought I'd share this one as some anglers often mistake these for spring fish at this time of year. The colour is more that of an autumn fish and the vent is protruding which are the tell tale signs of a late running hen fish (baggot). The male equivalent is a rawner. She probably won't spawn now and will reabsorb her eggs.

I made my way back into the pool and continued fishing it down and into the Boat Pool. This pool required quite a long cast at this height to cover the two lies which were a good way out into the river. Despite some strong gusty wind at times I was covering the water pretty well. Just as I reached the lies which Ian had pointed out, I had a good solid take from a fish. There was no head shaking this time and the fish made a couple of good runs. I was in two minds whether to make the tricky wade back to the bank as I hadn't seen the fish yet. It stayed deep and was reluctant to show itself and at this point, I thought it best to play the fish from the bank. I slowly made my way in and I played the fish for several minutes before I even got a glimpse of it. I still didn't know if it was a kelt or a springer but it was a big fish whatever it was. After a couple more decent runs and several more minutes later, I managed to get the fish ready for beaching and that's when I realised it was a very large kelt! I got it into the shallows and managed to tail the fish. I quickly removed the hook and sent it on it's way. If fresh, this fish would have been a good 20lb plus. I just wish it was fresh as it would have been the fish of a lifetime. Hopefully it's journey is a successful one and it makes it back to the Dee to spawn again in the future.

Looking down the Boat pool where I landed a huge kelt.
No springers were caught yesterday but despite this, it was a good day and it was great to catch up with Patrick and Ade. Ian the ghillie is always good craic too and we enjoyed swapping stories for most of the afternoon in the hut. Commonty is a lovely beat in a very secluded part of the Dee where peace and tranquility are almost guaranteed. I will very much look forward to returning again soon. Two springers were caught from the beat today, one by Ade and the other by Ian. The overnight lift in water levels must have done the trick. Well done gents! Thank you to Dean Armstrong for kindly sending me some cracking photos of which I've used on my Blog. Much appreciated.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Carlogie - River Dee

I had my annual three day trip to the Carlogie beat on the River Dee this past week. I always enjoy fishing at Carlogie but I never seem to get much luck in terms of river conditions when I arrive there. A spate due to melting snow lifted the river to almost 7ft on Thursday morning. It was carrying with it a lot of debris and sediment which is not ideal conditions for fly fishing but as the day wore on the river dropped quickly. Conditions were almost as good to perfect as you could have asked for the remainder of my trip and hopes were high.

Day 1

The Wednesday before I arrived was very mild for being February with temperatures into double figures for most areas of Aberdeenshire. This caused the snow on the higher ground to melt and it quickly filtered into the river and caused it to rise significantly. When I arrived at the Potarch Bridge on Thursday morning the river had risen to almost 7ft on the gauge and was loaded with trees, logs, rubbish and all sorts of debris. The water was heavily coloured too which turned out to be no use for fishing. 
Looking upstream at the Boat Pool on Thursday with almost 7ft on the gauge.
The morning consisted of a token effort down the Village pool and an extended lunch break. We did however get a cast in the afternoon as the river dropped very quickly and she was soon down to just above 5ft on the gauge. There were still a few branches etc coming down but the river had also cleared enough to fish the Village Pool with some confidence. Big flies and sinking lines were the order of the day and between the three rods there were several kelts landed. Not the springer we were chasing but given the high water, it was good to get a bend in the rod. Friday would hopefully see much better fly fishing conditions.

Ready for action in the Village Pool.
The stick in the picture was where the water mark was first thing in the morning. This photo was taken at 5pm showing a big drop in water levels. The water clarity had also improved a great deal.

Day 2

I arrived at the beat on Friday full of hope as the river had dropped to a very good height aided by a hard, overnight frost. The river was now running at 3ft on the gauge which brought almost all the pools at Carlogie into play. The water temperature had dropped too and any fish moving off the back of the high water might just be slowed up by that. I tackled up with an intermediate shooting head, 7ips tip and a 1.5" Monkey Fly tied on a brass tube. 

Looking upstream at Alan's Pool.
I was allocated to fish the top part of the beat in the morning which consisted of Alan's Pool, Long Haugh, Pitslug and Rossicks.Alan's Pool is the upper most pool on the beat and I made my way up there to start and work my way down stream. I fished Alan's without a touch and it was off to have a try in Long Haugh.

Fishing down through Long Haugh.
A lot of shingle had moved since I was last here back in August and big chunks of shingle have appeared in certain areas of the the pool and disappeared from others. It's still a fantastic bit of water and it's a pool I always enjoy fishing but sadly, I didn't get a touch in here so it was down to Pitslug.
The fishing hut at Pitslug.
Looking downstream from Pitslug. I landed a kelt in here.
Pitslug fishes really well with a bit of water on it and it was a good height for it today. I was half way down the pool when Sean Stanton, the ghillie appeared. No sooner had Sean arrived when I had a take from a fish. The tell tale head shakes signaled instantly that it was a kelt and it was quickly landed, unhooked and released. I fished through the rest of the pool without another offer so I made my way down to give Rossicks a go.

Rossicks. A cracking pool which is ideal for fly fishing.
Rossicks is a classic fly pool with a fast streamy neck with tapers off into a nice evenly paced pool. With the water height as it was, Sean said to start a bit further down the pool today and fish it until I was level with the Dess bridge on the opposite bank. With every cast I was expecting a take but it just didn't come. I had time for a quick run through the tail of the Mill pool before lunch so I set off downstream a bit further.
Looking upstream from the tail of the Mill Pool. Has to be one of my favourite parts of the River Dee here.
The Mill pool has to be one of my favourite pools on the whole of the River Dee. Not just because of the scenery and the secluded feeling you get from the place but also due to the fact it holds fish almost all year round. The neck of the pool was out at this height of water so I had to concentrate my efforts on the tail of the pool this time. It's an easy wade down the Mill pool and I fished it whilst all the time willing the line to tighten. Sadly it didn't happen so I wound in and headed off to the hut for lunch and a seat by the wood burner.

Decision time. Searching through the fly box for something that gives confidence.
The inside of the hut which looks out onto the Calm Pool.
After lunch I was to fish the Boat Pool and the Village Pool. There was a good number of kelts in these pools and it was just a case of casting as far as possible to get into the lies where spring fish sat rather than fishing into the slower parts of the pool where the kelts were holed up. Despite this, by the time I had got to the tail of the pool I had landed 7 kelts. All which took a liking to the Monkey fly and one even took it as I was stripping in the running line to re-cast.

Looking upstream into the Boat Pool.
The Village Pool. There were a good few kelts in here especially in the top part of the pool.
I headed off down river to have a go in Fraser's pool. This time last year I got a nice springer out of Fraser's when the water was around 2ft 11in on the gauge. With the water dropping away slowly most of the morning, the gauge was now reading about 2ft 8in so I knew there was a chance of getting something. There is a good push of water running through Fraser's and even at this height you still have to be very careful with your step otherwise you'd end up down in Ballogie before you knew it! Unfortunately, nothing doing this time down the pool and I made my way back up to the Village pool for one last go before calling it a night. As the temperature dropped this seemed to put the fish down and nobody had a so much as a touch after 4pm.

Fraser's Pool. Sadly, no repeat performance of last year.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Rothes & Aikenway - River Spey

Yesterday I found myself fishing on one of the most prestigious beats on the River Spey thanks to a very kind invite from Mel MacDonald to fish his rod. I was very excited to get the opportunity to cast a fly on some of the finest pools on the river and as a result it was a long night of broken sleep on Friday!

I arrived at the beat about 8.30am and was greeted by gillies Mike and Robbie. After a cup of coffee and a chat about the fishing Mike kindly set up my rod. On his advice, I opted for my Mackenzie Float/Intermediate shooting head with a 10ft slow sink tip. My fly of choice was a 1 1/2" Willie Gunn which I had tied the night before.

The fully equipped hut on the beat.
I was drawn to fish the Creechy pool first and work my way down to have a quick run through Jamieson's Cast before lunch. Mike drove me up to the pool and pointed out the areas in where I should concentrate my efforts. I started above the croy and worked my way day the pool. Every cast fished superbly and I was just waiting for the line to tighten. My first run down the pool proved fruit
Ess so Mile suggested getting down deeper so I changed over my slow sink tip to a 10ft 3.9ips tip and I changed my fly over to a Black & Yellow tube. I started just above the croy again and began working my way down the pool. Just as my fly was coming round above the boat I had a take and lifted into a fish. I quickly realised it was just a kelt and it was soon unhooked and released back into the river. The change of tactics had worked almost instantly. I fished out the rest of the pool without an other offer so I made my way down to have a run through Jamieson's Cast before stopping for lunch.
Creechy Pool. I started in here about 20 yards above the croy.
Fishing down through Creechy. I landed a well mended kelt in here just shortly after taking this picture.
Looking upstream in Creechy. An absolute joy to fish.
Looking downstream toward the tail of Creechy.
Jamieson's Cast was another nice bit of water. The water was slightly shallower on the left bank here so I needed to wade out a bit to cover the water effectively. As nice as the water looked I didn't get a touch and it was off to the hut for lunch.
Jamieson's Cast. A nice easy wade.
Fishing down trough Jamieson's Cast.
At lunch we were informed about a fish that had been caught in the Burnmouth by expert angler, Graham Ritchie. His 11lber came to the net about 10am. It was encouraging to hear of fish caught and it spurred us on for the afternoon. The hut is well equipped and was very comfortable but 2 o'clock was soon upon us and it time to get going again.

The interior of the main hut.
The "spare" hut over looking Jamieson's Cast.
Mike took me over the water in the boat to fish the Burnmouth Pool for the afternoon. After a brief chat about where and how to fish the pool I waded in above the boat and got going. I fished down the pool about 20 or 30 yards without a touch so Mike suggested me give the pool from the boat as it allows the fly to hang longer in the likely areas. Once in the boat I had only made about four or five casts when I had a good thump at the fly and I lifted into a fish. Apart from head shakes and the odd short run, the fish did very little and a kelt was soon in the net. It was swiftly released and we carried on working down the pool. All afternoon Mike was entertaining with stories of the old days and of memorable catches and the afternoon soon flew by. Apart from a few rugs at the fly nothing stuck and before we knew it, it was time to pack up.

Fishing Burnmouth first time down from the bank.
Looking upstream into Bluestone from Burnmouth with the hut in the distance.
My second run down Burnmouth but this time fishing from the boat.
Looking across Burnmouth from the left bank at finishing time.
There was nothing else caught in the afternoon session but it was good to see that the beat picked up a fish in the morning. I really enjoyed my day at Rothes and it was a pleasure to fish these pools. There is something special about the River Spey which in my opinion, sets it apart from any other river. Of all the beats on the river I have fished, I can truly say that I wasn't disappointed with any of them. I have several other dates booked this Spring but on different beats and I am looking forward to my next visit to Speyside on the 7th March.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

River Don Opening Day

The 11th of February signals the opening of the Salmon fishing season on the River Don here in Aberdeenshire. I ventured out for a cast to the Aberdeen and District Angling Association beat on the middle river at Kemnay with my pal Bill Cook.

A hard frost over night saw the river drop several inches which isn't really ideal for the Kemnay beat but it was still sitting about 11" on the gauge and carrying a little snow melt colour. My tactics for today were my 15ft Mackenzie rod, Hover/Sink1 shooting head and a 6ft 2.6ips versi leader. Flies varied from Gold Body Willie Gunns, Chartreuse Franc N Snaelda and Ice Maidens.

Looking downstream into the Dooker pool.
Fishing down the Dooker into the "hotspot".
I arrived at the beat about 8.30am and the ground was frozen solid by a hard over night frost. After a chat with Bill I made my way upstream to the neck of the Dooker pool. Bill had already landed 2 kelts and a sea trout kelt before I arrived so I was eager to get going. I stripped a few yards of running line off my reel and began with a short cast. As my fly swung round, I had a very subtle take. The fish seemed reluctant to move with the fly so I had to wait, what seemed like ages before setting the hook. I lifted into the fish and no sooner was it on, it was off. My very first cast of the 2015 Don season saw me hook a fish! Unfortunately, it wasn't on long but it was a promising start, even if it was just a kelt. As I fished down the pool into a well known lie, I had another take. This time the fish was well hooked and I soon released a well mended kelt. The rod rings were constantly freezing and this made cast tricky at times but I persevered and soon had another offer. This time it was only a trout and I managed a long range release which I was glad about as it saved me from re-casting all my line again. We both fished on down the pool without another offer so we headed downstream to have a cast in the Academy Pool.
Bill fishing the Academy Pool.
Looking downstream near the tail of the Academy Pool.
Looking upstream from half way down the Academy Pool.
The Academy Pool has given up its fair share of opening day fish in its time but sadly not this year. Bill and I both fished down through the pool without so much as a pull to show for our efforts. We were surprised as the pool is normally a holding place for kelts and with the water a good height for the pool, we just couldn't tempt any fish from it.
Fishing mid way down the Upper Chapel pool.
Looking upstream toward the neck of the Upper Chapel.
The next pool down was the Upper Chapel. Bill had some good sport in here last year with the grilse and, like the Dooker and Academy pools, it holds spring fish and offers every chance of connecting with one. Sadly, neither of us had any luck in here so we made our way back upstream to the upper most pool on the beat, the Bridge Pool.

Fishing down trough the Bridge Pool
Looking upstream towards Kemnay Bridge where the pool takes it's name.
The Bridge Pool is renowned as a kelt holding pool but where there's kelts, there's always the chance of a springer in amongst them. I started at the top of the pool and Bill went in half way down. I must have had about five or six offers in here but again, they were very subtle takes and not very aggressive at all. Apart from one brief on and off, neither of the offers stuck which was frustrating. Maybe the cold water made the kelts lethargic but they certainly didn't seem keen to take the fly with any force or turn away with it. After fishing down the pool without landing anything I decided to give the Dooker another run through before heading home.

My second run down the Dooker Pool.
Playing a kelt in the Dooker.
Kelt comes to the bank ready to be released.
On my second run down the Dooker I hadn't had an offer and I was just about ready to call it a day. I gave myself another half dozen casts and then that would be it. I made about five of those casts when I had a solid take. Again, not much aggression in it so I firmly lifted into it. there was no mistake this time and I soon had a very thin kelt ready for release. I managed to remove the hook without taking the fish out the water and with that, I packed up for the day.

Looking upstream at the tail of the Dooker.
Although we didn't get our opening day fish it was great just to be out on the River Don again. To see it in such good ply was pleasing, just a pity it didn't yield any fresh fish for us. So far, I've not heard of any springers off the Don yet but with these conditions I don't think it will be long before the first fish is landed.