Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Little Blackhall & Inchmarlo - River Dee

I had a days fishing on the River Dee at Little Blackhall and Inchmarlo yesterday thanks to ghillie, Martin Robson. The river is currently quite low at the moment and was it sitting around 9" on the gauge. It did however, rise a few inches throughout the day and also took on a bit of colour too. Due to the low water, tactics for the day consisted of mainly small flies and Sunray Shadows. My set up for the day was my 13ft a Hardy Uniqua, a floating AFS shooting head with a 6ft Rio 1.5ips tip.
One of my favourite views on Deeside. Looking towards the Inchmarlo hut from the Roe Pot.
Looking downstream from outside the hut.
I arrived at the beat and was greeted by the beat's new ghillie, Martin Robson. This was the first time I had met Martin so it was good to get acquainted over a cup of coffee before fishing. Fellow rod Ken Rothwell arrived soon after and as we were the only two rods fishing we each had half the beat to fish. I was to start in the Roe Pot and Ken headed off upstream to fish the Mill and the Fawn pools. 

Fishing down the top of the Roe Pot. As you can see the sun was splitting the stones!

Further down the Roe Pot. I had two small brown trout in here which took a Sunray Shadow.
I always enjoy fishing the Roe Pot and because of the low water conditions we were experiencing Martin suggested concentrating our efforts on the upper part of the pool. Fishing it down with a conventional fly the again stripping a Sunray Shadow. This is just what I did and after a fruitless run down with a small Crathie fly and changed over to a Sunray. I had a two trout using the Sunray and both were around the 1lb mark but I couldn't temp any salmon so Martin suggested I head upstream to have a go in the Fawn before lunch.

Fishing down the Inchmarlo side of the river just before lunch.
Looking downstream from Sandy Bay and Otter Stone.
Looking upstream from the Fawn. A lovely stretch of river.
After an extended lunch in which Martin, Ken and I exchanged stories of fishing outing past and future it was back fishing the beat we were on today. By now the air temperature was around 20C and really balmy. Not ideal for salmon fishing in low water conditions but we gave it a good go regardless.

Not the ideal air temperature for low water salmon fishing during the afternoon.
Looking upstream from the Fawn before fishing Seatie's and Laird's
Looking upstream into the Fawn.
Fishing down Seaties. I did see a nice fish show in here as I worked my way down the pool but I couldn't tempt it.
The afternoon was wearing on and Martin returned to say that Ken managed to winkle out a nice 3lb sea trout from the Roe Pot. He suggested that I move down stream to have a cast in Laird's as there is often fish rest in there after pushing up through the fast water below. Again, it was fish it through with a small fly first and then back down with the Sunray. I gave it a good half hour in here covering the most likely lie in the pool but there was nothing doing.

Fishing down Laird's with a small Silver Stoat.
Away to have my second run down the pool with a Sunray Shadow this time.
Although conditions on the day were far from ideal, it was good to meet Martin for the first time. He is a very knowledgeable ghillie and tried his best to put us in the most likely spots to try and get a fish. Inchmarlo is a beat that has always been pretty kind to me in terms of catching salmon but it wasn't to be this time around.  Still, it was a pleasure to fish this fantastic beat again and I will look forward to my next visit whenever that may be.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Mackenzie DTX Demo Day

Along with my uncle Stuart, we organised a Scott Mackenzie DTX Demo Day here in Aberdeenshire. The event was held in the Aberdeen and District Angling Association HQ on the banks of the River Dee. Scott, who is a 3 times World Spey Casting Champion explained his Spey casting techniques to the crowd and he was assisted on the day by Ben Dixon, who is one of his Pro Team members. For more info about Scott's fantastic range of rods and lines visit his website. Mackenzieflyfishing.com

The poster we made up to advertise the day.
A few people starting to appear in the morning. Apart from a strong wind, the weather was fine until we started the casting demos! Typical.
There was a decent enough turn out despite the poor weather conditions. We had high winds and rain for a large part of the event but it was good to see that people still made the effort to come along and try out rods and lines or to see the Fly Tiers in action.
ADAA members Benny and Dave kindly volunteered to cook the bacon and sausages and serve the teas and coffees. We couldn't have done it without them. Thank you gents, it was much appreciated.
A crowd gather round to watch the first casting demo by Scott Mackenzie and Ben Dixon.
Scott explains the basics of Spey Casting to the audience.
Ben Dixon takes over to demonstrate a few of the different Spey casts.
There was also Fly Tying Demos from Ross McDonald and Sean Stanton. They are two of the best fly tiers around, not just locally, but nationally. Their patterns such as the Park Shrimp (Ross) and Franc N Snaelda (Sean) account for hundreds of Atlantic Salmon every year. When the rain started pouring down it was good to come inside and see these guys in action. Check out their websites McDonald Salmon Flies and Franc N Snaelda

Sean and Ross ready to show off their fly tying.
Park Shrimp creator, Ross McDonanld.
A fantastic box of flies donated by Sean Stanton as the first prize in our raffle. A really nice gesture and it was very much appreciated by the ADAA. One lucky lad when home with these beauties and I'm sure he will catch numerous salmon with them.
There was also the River Dee beer, Thunder and Lightning displayed by The Deeside Drink Emporium of which a percentage of the profits from this very tasty beer go to the River Dee Trust. So drinking beer has never so beneficial! Check out their Facebook page for more details. Deeside Drinks Emporium Facebook Page

The Thunder and Lightning Beer which is available to buy from the Deeside Drinks Emporium in Banchory.
All in all it was a good day but you can do all the planning and organising you want but the only thing that you can't control is the weather. We were just unfortunate that it turned against us the day before the event with strong winds whipping up which made casting fly lines very tricky. Still, it is always good to attend these events and it raised over £180 pound which is going towards buying equipment for the Junior Angler Events which the ADAA host several times a year.

Lastly, I would just like to thank everyone who gave up their time to come along to the event. A big thank you to Scott Mackenzie for agreeing to do the event in the first place. Also to Ben Dixon for helping him out. A huge thank you to Benny and Dave who did a marvelous job keeping everyone in tea, coffee and rolls throughout the day. Thanks to Sean Stanton and Ross McDonald for showing all us amateur fly tiers just how it's done. These guys make it look so easy. And a final thanks to Deeside Drink Emporium for showcasing the Thunder and Lightning beer. Keep a look out for future events on the ADAA Facebook page.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Dalmarnock - River Tay

I had booked a day on the River Tay at Dalmarnock  earlier this week and with the amount of fish getting caught from the river just now, I was really looking forward to it. The water was sitting at 3ft 7in on the beat gauge and was clearing and dropping away nicely after a spate earlier in the week. Tactics for the day were both fly and spinner due to the size of the river and water height but I tried the fly on my first run down the pools. I had my 15ft Mackenzie Shooting Head rod set up with a 10/11 Float/Intermediate shooting head and a 10ft 2.6ips tip. Flies were anything between #7 doubles and 1" tubes. Spinners for the day would be spoons, Flying Cs and rapala type lures.

The Dalmarnock Fishing Hut.
After a two hour drive I arrived at the beat hut around 8.15am and was greeted by the beat ghillie, Colin Mcfayden. A steady trickle of rods arrived within the next half hour and after the introductions we all sat down to a cup of coffee before hitting the river just before 9am. As I had never fished the beat before, Colin took half an hour to show me the pools I'd be fishing and where best to concentrate my efforts to give me the best chance of hooking up with a fish. He suggested trying the fly first and follow on down the pools again using the spinner. As the Tay is such a large river I was happy to get his advice and I made my way down to my first pool.

Inch Stream. The pool where I started my day off.
I was drawn to fish the lower half of the beat in the morning starting in the Inch Stream first of all. The Inch Stream was a fast flowing pool at this height and Colin pointed out the hotspots which, like most pools that have overhead cables, was right below them. I decided to give a #7 Kitchen Sink first run down the pool and follow that up with a silver Toby. Neither method tempted any fish so I made my way down to the next pool.

Sowerby. A nice streamy run for fishing the fly.
The pool below Inch Stream was called Sowerby. Colin had pointed out the likely area to concentrate earlier on in the morning so I went in at the top of the pool and made sure my fly covered the lie just off a big stone which was only a few feet off the bank. I fished over the lie several times without a touch and I carried on down the pool but only with the same result. I made my way back to the neck of the pool to fish it down with the spinner but again, I couldn't temp any salmon so it was on to the next pool.

Fishing down the Rams Horn in the pouring rain.
Fishing the lie under the A9 road bridge.
Rams Horn was next up and this was a lovely pool but due to the water height Colin suggested that the spinner would be my best bet as the fish run up the far bank. I changed over to a Toby and worked it down through the pool. By this time there was a huge hatch of flies coming off and there were trout and parr bubbling the whole length of the pool, despite the heavy rain. Sadly though, there was no sign of any salmon so it was off downstream a bit further to have a run through Oak Tree.

A field of Bluebells overlooking the Oak Tree Pool.
Fishing down the Oak Tree pool.
Looking up towards the bridge from mid way down the Oak Tree Pool.
The Oak Tree pool was another nice bit of water for fly fishing so I got the fly rod out and this time thought I'd try a big Sunray Shadow just to try something different as I was the third rod to fish down the pool. I fished it all the way down without moving a fish but I did see a good fish head and tail just out from the whin bushes about two thirds the way down the pool. This gave a bit of encouragement so I fished right down the bank to cover where it showed. Unfortunately, my efforts were not rewarded so it was back to the hut to dry off and have a spot of lunch.

Lunch time was a good laugh with plenty stories exchanged of this season's catches as well as tales of fish from previous seasons. All the fellow rods were nice guys and I was made to feel very welcome by all with Colin providing coffee on demand. Being salmon anglers, we will always have something in common and it's easy to talk to like-minded people about something we are passionate about. The next topic of conversation soon turned to where to fish in the afternoon so it was time to set off to have a go at the Dalmarnock Bank Pool at the top of the beat.

First run down the Dalmarnock Bank Pool with the fly.
Looking downstream near the tail of the Dalmarnock Bank Pool.
I was to start at the neck of the pool and the two other rods were spaced out below me. As the pool is very wide and very long, there was more than enough room for us all. Again, I opted to fish down the pool with the fly first of all and then follow on down with the spinner. It took me well over an hour to fish down the pool with the fly but sadly, I couldn't find a salmon willing to take my offerings so it was back up to the neck of the pool for a go with the spinner.

Fishing the Blair Spoon in the Dalmarnock Bank Pool.
Looking upstream in the Dalmarnock Bank Pool.
I lost my fish just out from the point of the submerged croy (mid picture) after having it on for several minutes.
Colin had suggested a black Flying C would be ideal in these conditions so I took his advice and rigged one up. I made my way down the pool but I got snagged on a big rock up near the neck of the pool. I just couldn't free it and my line eventually snapped. I tackled up again but this time decided to put on a Blair Spoon. I was given this spoon several years ago by a polish gentleman who was fishing the River Don whilst on holiday in Scotland. It is great for high, fast flowing water and I have had a good few fish using it in such conditions so I thought it would be ideal for today. I cast as far as I could and fished it round like a minnow with my rod held high and letting the spoon work in the current. I got about half way down the pool and made a long cast across the stream, wound in the slack line and held the rod high as per usual. No sooner had my spoon started to flutter in the current, it was hammered by a good, solid fish! It pulled quite hard initially but then it decided to cross the river from the far bank right over to opposite where I was standing to just above a submerged croy. All the while, I had the fish in control and thought surely it couldn't come off now. I shouted for help and John who was fishing above me ran to get my net which was up near the car park at the top of the pool. John was just making his way down the bank when the fish decided to thrash about on the surface and do a few acrobatic jumps. In doing so, it somehow manged to spit out my spinner and it was off! I couldn't believe my luck as I thought it was nearly ready to be landed but it seems the fish had other ideas. I had it on for a good few minutes and had done the hard work in playing it but it obviously didn't want to get it's photo taken and have it posted all over this blog! It was a bar of silver and probably in the region of 8-10lbs and it looked fresh as paint. That's now five fish in a row that I have lost recently and I am really cursing my luck at the moment. Hopefully it will change soon and as long as my fly or spinner is in the water, I'm sure I get my season up and running sooner rather than later. I fished down the rest of the pool and from top to bottom again without another offer and decided to call it a day around 7pm.

I really enjoyed my trip down to fish the "Mighty Tay" again. The river sure lives up to it's name as the sheer size and volume of water than flows down her is incredible. I seems I was fortunate to hook a Tay salmon yesterday as none of the other rods had an offer all day but it's just a pity it came off. Colin the ghillie was really helpful and his advice was greatly received and proved invaluable given the size of the pools in which you are fishing. Pointing out lies and hotspots maximises his angler's chances as getting fishing in the book because at the end of the day, that is what we are all there to try and do. Maybe next time I'll get one on the bank. I now have a score to settle with Dalmarnock and I will return to try and even this up with Salmo Salar in the near future.