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. 

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