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.


  1. Fantastic piece, Glad you had such a wonderful time, our website has now changed to for anyone looking to book fishing, Colin is now the Owner/Ghillie on Dalmarnock.

    1. Thanks Colin. Appreciate that. All the best for 2016 and hopefully I'll make it down again for another crack at Dalmarnock next season.