Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Castle Forbes - River Don

Last year I organised a day on the Castle Forbes beat of the River Don. Despite the low water we managed to catch 3 fish for our day so I decided to book the same day for this year. There were some coincidental similarities from our day this year compared to last year. For example, the river was around the 4" mark, we got rain the night before, and we had 8 rods fishing. I'm not superstitious but I had a good feeling about the day because of this.

The River Don at Castle Forbes.
L to R. Charlie, Bill, Nicky, Andy, Kenny, Philip and Paul.

We arrived at the Castle Forbes about 8.15am and I introduced any unacquainted rods with each other. As we are all, what could be only be described as obsessive fishermen, it wasn't long before we all got chatting about the state of salmon stocks and tales from seasons past and present. Some rods had driven several hours to be there but these meets are always worth the travelling even if nothing is caught. As the river was very low and running crystal clear it was a case of using light rods and floating lines. I was using my 13ft rid and a floating AFS shooting head with a 5ft intermediate tip. Fly of choice was a #9 Kinermony Killer. Incidentally, the same set up and fly that did the business for me here last year.

Lower Bankhead on Beat 4.
An Osprey hovering over the Fir Tree Pool on Beat 4.
Looking upstream from the tail of Lower Auchreddachie. A cracking wee pool.
The Castle Forbes beat is roughly 4.5 miles double bank with a Keig Bridge crossing the Don about half way. We split ourselves into two groups with three rods above the bridge and five below for the morning session. Philip, Charlie and I were allocated the upper pools and as neither Philip or Charlie had fished the beat before it was down to me to point them in the right direction. Charlie opted for the  upper most pools of the beat and Philip and I started in the Upper Auchreddachie and Lower Auchreddachie respectively. The sun was high in the sky but a strong breeze had kicked up and this made casting difficult at times. Despite our best efforts and fishing the deeper and more likely spots, we couldn't temp a salmon but Philip did have a brief encounter with a good trout.

Fishing my way into the Broom pool.
Looking down Philips pool. A bit on the low side for in here but a few trout were rising.
Philip Black fishing the Sawmill Pool.
Looking upstream from Keig Bridge into the Bridge Pool.
Lord and Lady Forbes were kind enough to give us a room in the Estate office to have lunch in which was appreciated by all anglers. It was good to sit down together and chat, especially the guys who hadn't met before. I'm sure there have been some new friends made from this which is the whole point of these meets. Sadly, there were no fish caught up to lunch time by any of the rods unlike last year when we had two on the bank by this time. Nobody had seen any sign of a salmon either but this was understandable given the low water conditions. It's just the way it goes sometimes when booking fishing so far in advance.

The Hydro Scheme on the Craig Pot. Not sure it is doing the pool any good to be honest with the extra flow it creates.
Looking downstream from the Craig Pot with the old "shankin' brig" over the pool.
Charlie fishing down Lower Deepstane.
Looking upstream from the Lower Deepstane pool.
The angry goose which took offense at my fly line and chewed through it!
A few of the rods decided to call it a day after lunch but myself, Charlie, Philip and Bill stuck it out. We all opted to fish the lower part of the beat with our efforts concentrating on the Craig Pot, the three Deepstane pools and Phemie. Charlie and I fished the right bank whilst Philip and Bill fished opposite. We covered plenty water with several different approaches but we couldn't temp any salmon. I did nowhere have an encounter with an angry goose! I was fishing down the Nursery Pool when a goose came swimming upstream and took a dislike to my fly line. It grabbed the line in its beak and began to shake its head. I quickly pulled the line away but on closer inspection afterwards, the goose had chewed my line and almost cut it in two! I had only used it about four times and it was now in need of a serious repair. We made our way back to the car park at the Craig Pot for a chat before heading home. We left the beat about 5.30pm with the Sun still slitting the sky.

Donside's most famous landmark; Bennachie
It was great to meet everyone again on the Don. Just a pity the weather and fishing gods were against us this time but we all gave it a good go regardless and covered all the likely areas and pools. There was just a lack of water to encourage any fish to run up river as I firmly believe we would have caught salmon if the water was up a few more inches. Still, it was good to see the beat again and I will look forward to my next trip here and I will also look forward to meeting up the the lads again on another meet somewhere in the near future.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Brae Water - River Spey

I had 3 days fishing on the Brae Water beats of the River Spey last week with my pal Charlie. The water was on the high side for the lower beats the water temperature was hovering around the 48f mark. We were fishing Beat 5 on the Thursday, Beat 3 on the Friday and Beat 4 on the Saturday.

Beat 5

The Beat 5 fishing hut.
We arrived on Speyside full of the usual optimism before any trip away and we were greeded by the ghillies who we meet in the Gordon Arms Hotel car park on the morning on every day. We were introduced to the new beat 5 ghillie, The river was sitting at 1ft 7in on the gauge and was crystal clear. The sun was splitting the sky as well but despite conditions seemingly against us we fished hard. I did see a couple of fish through out the day, one in Lilley's and one in the Grilse Pool. One of the rods also had a good take in the Upper Dipple which didn't stick unfortunately.

The Dipple. Beautiful piece of water and
Lilley's. I saw a fish show in here down near the tail of the pool.
Bulwarks. The Fochabers Bridge in the backgorund.
Neither Charlie nor I had a touch for our efforts but we gave it our best shot. Despite the water being on the high side the pools fished very well and new beat ghillie, David, who has moved down from Beat 1 made sure we fished the likely lies and kept the encouragement going. I'm sure he will be an ample replacement for Blair Banks who has moved downstream to the Castle Water.

The Dipple pool from the opposite bank.
Looking upstream in the Grilse Pool. There was a fish showed in here just below the boat.
Looking upstream in the Upper Dipple. Another lovely cast.
Beat 5 is a cracking beat and has some fantastic pools. It was the first time I have had a cast in the Upper Dipple and I thoroughly enjoyed fishing it but I can't see past the Grilse Pool which is my favourite cast on the beat. I will look forward to fishing it on my next visit.

Beat 3

The view looking upstream into the Otter's Cave pool from the hut on Beat 3.
Our second day on the picturesque Brae Water was on Beat 3. Head Ghillie Ian Tennant is always good company and his enthusiasm for the Spey after 33 years in the job is infectious and he keeps your spirits high even on the quietest of days. This make the day much more enjoyable and it's always a pleasure chatting with him during the day.

Ian and Charlie pose for a photo with the red cliffs of the Lord March pool in the back ground.
Charlie and I on the Lord March pool.
The water height on our second day had risen about 2in from the day before due to snow melt and was now sitting at 1ft 9in on the gauge.The water temp was still around the 48f mark and we had the bright, cloudless skies to contend with for a majority of the day again. Charlie and I fished the lower half of the beat in the morning and this included the majestic Aultdearg Pool with the stunning red cliffs over looking the pool. Sadly it didn't produce any salmon but I managed to connect with one of the many sea trout kelts in the pool. They were feeding on the ample supply of upwinged flies that hatched every afternoon but one fish took a liking to a Sunray Shadow.

Aultdearg with the cliffs overlooking the pool just after starting about 9.30am.
Charlie and I fishing down Aultdearg around mid morning time. The cloud cover didn't stay for long!
The tail of Aultdearg basking in the sunshine.
 After a nice lunch and some good craic with fellow rods Iain and Rab it was off for a crack at the Lord March pool. Charlie and I bith had several ruins down the pool with out a touch and I had a run through the Lower Ewe with the same result. I did however have a cast with the dry fly for trout and managed to hook a few but I'm a bit out of practice with striking the trout and I managed to miss the lot of them!
Looking downstream in Otter's Cave from outside the fishing hut.
Fishing down the beautiful Lord March pool.
Looking upstream into Beat 2 from the Lower Ewe pool.
Beat 3 is another lovely bit of water which fishes the fly very well indeed. The Aultdearg pool as I have mentioned before is stunning and the scenery surrounding it makes it all the better. The red cliffs are a prominent feature on several beats on the lower Spey and it add to the character of the place. Sadly, again we didn't manage to winkle out a springer but I have blanked in much worse looking places!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Invery - River Dee

Thanks to a last minute shout, I was offered a days fishing on the Invery beat of the river Dee last Wednesday. Invery is a beat I always enjoy fishing and has some fantastic pools so I didn't take long to accept the invitation. The river was sitting around 2ft on the gauge and was is good shape with water temperature hovering around 46f. My set up for the day was a 15ft Mackenzie Shooting Head Rod, Intermediate shooting head and a 9ft tapered leader. Fly of choice was the Sunray Shadow.

The well maintained fishing hut at Invery.
Looking upstream at from the neck of the S Pool.
I arrived at the beat around 8.20am and met the ghillie Karl Revel at the hut along with fellow rod Craig. We were given the choice where to start and I opted to have a run through the S Pool first and then work my way down from the Signal and into Greenbanks. I started up at the neck of the pool and fished it down with a Red Frances to begin with but this didn't produce an offer so I had another run down with a Sunray Shadow this time. Again, it didn't attract a fish so I made my way up to the Signal to give it a go.

On my way up to Signal I stopped to chat with Craig who said he'd had hold of a fish on a Sunray Shadow which sadly threw the hook. This was encouraging so I was eager to get going. I started right at the top of the beat and began to work my way down, concentrating on the areas Karl had said were the most likely spots. There were one or two fish showing just down from the beginning of the wall but I covered them several times without a take. As well as the pool was fishing it proved to be a fruitless run through it so I made my way down stream a little to have a cast in the Greenbank.

Looking upstream from the Killing Hatch. A cracking pool.
Not long after starting in the Killing Hatch I spotted a fish show just downstream from me. I couldn't really see if it was a fresh fish or not but at least I knew where a fish was lying. I made my way down the pool with a Sunray Shadow and as I was level with the burn mouth my fly just stopped. I was stripping it slowly so I pulled on the line as normal and this seemed to wake the fish up! It made one or two short runs but I soon had it beached and it turned out to be a very well mended kelt. Not the springer I was after but at least I knew my tactics were working. I fished the rest of the pool and into Greenbanks without and offer so I headed off down stream to have a crack in the Jetties before lunch.

Looking upstream into the Greenbanks.
The Jetties as this height required a long cast to get into the likely areas so I stripped plenty line off my reel and fished my way down the pool. I saw a fish show just out in the streamy run so I covered it a few times but it didn't take. It showed a few minutes later and it appeared to be a kelt anyway but it's a good sign that kelts are in the pool just to help slow down the running springers.

The Jetties. You can see the concrete jetty where the pool takes it's name.
At lunch time my pal Paul appeared for a cast and after swapping stories and with fellow rods and Karl it was time to get going again. I was allocated the lower part of the beat along with Craig. Craig started in the Floating Bank and I started in Pantoch. We were to swap over mid session.

The Pantoch. There were several fish splashing about in here during the afternoon.
As I arrived at the Pantoch pool I spotted a fish show about mid river. This was followed by another soon after. It looked as though they were sea trout. Not like the kelt that have been around of late as these were short stocky looking fish. I fished through the pool first with a #7 Kitchen Sink and then second tIme down with a Sunray Shadow. Neither run through the pool produced anything so I made my way down to have a crack at the Floating Bank.

The hut on the lower beat over looking the Floating Bank.
Fishing down the Floating Bank. Probably my favourite pool on the beat.
The Floating Bank is up there as one of my favourite pools on the beat. It is a classic fly pool which fishes very well. There are usually a few fish lying in this pool and today was no different. As I made my way down the pool there were fish showing down it's whole length. They were howerver, what looked to be kelts and they didn't seem interested in what I had to offer. I fished the pool from top to bottom without a touch. Maybe the bright, sunny conditions were putting the fish off. I made my way back to the hut at 5pm to say goodbye to Karl and thank him for his advice. Karl suggested we fished on as the sun was now cooling down a bit. I decided to give it a few hours so I made my way back up to the Signal whilst Craig and Paul headed off downstream to fish the lower pools again.

An evening cast on the Dee at Invery.
The sun setting on another day fishing the Dee.
My evening didn't produce any offers unfortunately and I called it a day around 7pm. At least I got a bend in the rod from a kelt and there were a few other kelts caught through out the day also. Just a pity that springer didn't stick for Craig in the morning. That would have been a good start to the day for him. It's a fantastic beat and has plenty pools to keep you occupied all day long. Each has their own characteristics and charm and they all produce fish from opening day until the last day of the season. The ghillies, Karl and Jim are great lads too and are always eager to help the vising anglers giving advice when needed and to point out the likely spots where fish can be taken. I will hopefully be back one day for another cast on at Invery in the future.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Lower Crathes & West Durris - River Dee

On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to be invited to fish on the Lower Crathes/West Durris beat on the River Dee by my pal Paul Pritchard. I didn't need to be asked twice and I jumped at the chance to have a cast here again. This beat is the pinnacle of the fishing on the Dee and boasts some of the finest salmon pools on the entire river. The catches also speak for themselves too.

The beat hut at Lower Crathes/West Durris
I arrived at the beat shortly after 8.30am and met with Paul and ghillies Robert and Jordan. The water height was hovering around the 2ft mark but was on a slow rise with the water temperature sitting at just above 40f. After a cup of coffee and a dram with the fellow rods, Paul and I were allocated the top half of the beat during the morning session. This consisted of pools such as the Bridge, Riddell's, Mill and Balbridie. Paul started in the Mill and I started off in the Bridge Pool.

The famous Bridge Pool at Lower Crathes. plenty kelts and the odd springer showing in here.
The old hut on the Durris bank of the Bridge Pool.
Not long after starting in the Bridge Pool I noticed that there seemed to be a liarge number of kelts in the pool. The made themselves know up and down the length of the pool. There was the odd fresh fish showing in amongst them too but despite my best efforts I fished the pool without getting a touch. Paul and I were to swap pools and I was pleased to hear that Paul had some action in the Mill Pool using a Collie Dog. he landed a kelt and rose another.

Riddell's. A nice cast at this height.
Jordan was on hand to show me the water and suggested I have a quick run through Riddell's before trying the Mill. Riddell's is a short pool but can hold fish and it has already produce several this season. Unfortunately, I couldn't add to that tally and it was onward to the Mill Pool.

The Mill Pool. Cracking piece of water.
Lower down the Mill Poll at the Jetties.
The Mill Pool is another famous pool on the beat. It is a consistent performer and produces good numbers of fish all season long. There were, what seemed to be, a good number of kelts in here too. There were also two fresh fish caught in this pool the evening before by local rod Geoff Fisher who was fishing along side us on the day too. Despite covering all the likely spots I didn't get an offer so it was back to the hut for a spot of lunch before having a go on the lower beat in the afternoon.

Greenbank. There were a lot of kelts showing in here too as well as a few springers.
After some good craic in the hut over lunch it was back down to business and I was allocated the Greenbank first of all in the afternoon. The Greenbank in a lovely long pool and it was stuffed full of kelts on this occasion. I started up opposite the hut where Jordan suggested and began working my way down the pool. At this time, Paul was up in the Kelpie and he soon appeared with the news that he had lost a springer whcih had snagged up around a rock. Despite Robert and Jordan's best efforts, the couldn't free the line and the fish was gone along with Paul's fly. It's never nice losing a fish in this way and I know only too well the disappointment of this happening.The same happened to me at Kincardine a few seasons back when I lost a cracking fish in the Whin Bush pool on my first day. It would be my only touch until the Saturday so I had a long time to dwell on my loss. Anyway, I fished all the way down the Greenbank without a touch so I made my way up to have a cast in the Kelpie whilst Paul headed downstream to the Bulwarks.

Fishing down the Kelpie Pool where Paul sadly was broken by a good fish earlier.
Looking upstream in the Kelpie.
Kelpie is another nice pool and this was also holding a few kelts. Paul had hooked a springer earlier from here so I was confident that I would be covering fish. I changed over to an intermediate line just to get down a bit deeper as the water was rising. It was fishing very nicely but I worked my way down the pool without a touch so I headed back down to Greenbank for another go before 5pm. My second run down Greenbank produce only two very subtle knocks which I'm positive were from trout as there were good numbers feeding on a large hatch of March Browns. I made my way back to the hut to say good bye to the ghillies and thank them for the day.

Looking upstream from mid way down the Greenbank.
Whilst back at the hut there was some good news from Geoff as he had landed a nice fish from the Bridge Pool during the afternoon session. I was sure there were fresh fish in the pool earlier and he proved that by landing an 8lber. This was his 4th fish of the week which is a very impressive return considering the lack of fish about at the moment. Paul also had some good news as he managed a cracking seas trout of around 3lb from the Bulwarks pool. It was a good way to finish the day so I decided to stay on for a couple of hours to see if I could get myself a fish. I headed off to give the Greenbank another going over but sadly it proved fruitless and I left the beat around 7pm.

Despite not having much luck on the day, it was great to fish such a fantastic beat again. Head Ghillie Robert Harper and his underghille Jordan Sinclair make you feel very welcome and they know their beat intimately. They do their level best to advise and help you when they can and are a credit to their profession. I would love to say I will be back there again but the price for a day is way out of my league. Maybe one day I'll have another crack at catching a salmon from these wonderful pools on the River Dee. A big thank you to the ghillies and to Paul for allowing me to fish. It was much appreciated.