Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Lower Crathes & West Durris - River Dee

A few weeks ago on the 5th September, I found myself fishing the fantastic Lower Crathes and West Durris beat on the River Dee. This is a beat I never tire of fishing and I was really looking forward to getting the chance to fish a fly through it's pools again. I was fishing with my pal Paul Pritchard, my uncle Stuart and Paul's mate Graham. The water was sitting around 2ft on the beat gauge and still carrying a bit of a peat stain to it. The beat had only been lightly fished during the week but they had managed to register a few in the book and we were confident that we would be covering plenty fish whilst fishing the pools. I kept the same set up from my day at Ballogie earlier in the week which was my 14ft 9in Guideline AWM rod, Intermediate line and 7ips tip. After a chat and a cup of coffee in the hut it was down to business.
A nice 15lb hen fish taken on a pink Franc N Snaelda.
On the day we were ghillied by Jordan Sinclair who is under ghillie to Robert Harper on the beat. I was to share the lower half of the beat for the morning with my uncle. I started off in the Greenbank whilst he was to fish the Kelpie.

The Greenbanks. A lovely pool with easy wading.
 The Greenbank is a fantastic looking pool and is fairly straight forward in terms of how to fish it. The run goes along the far bank so wading out and casting a long line to cover the area is essential although fish will take on the dangle along the length of the pool at this height of water. I fished down the pool with a Red Frances to begin with and fished it sink and draw style. Despite my best efforts the fish weren't interested so it was off downstream for a go in Bulwarks.

Looking downstream at the top of the Bulwarks. Park is the beat below.
Just about half way down the pool and covering the water under the wires. Under power cables always seems to be a good place to pick up a fish.
The last time I fished the beat I fished Bulwarks from the opposite bank. It was good to give it a cast from this bank and there were a few fish showing in the pool as I made my way down it. As inviting as it look though, I couldn't tempt one so it was off upstream to fish Kelpie.

My uncle Stuart fishing the Greenbank.
The top of the Kelpie Pool.
Mid way down the Kelpie. I had a good offer out from the big stone in the centre of the photo.
On my way upo to the Kelpie I stopped and spoke with my uncle who was fishing the Greenbank. He informed me of seeing numerous fish showing in the Kelpie so I couldn't wait to get my fly swinging through the pool. As I hadn't had an offer with the Red Frances I changed over to a trusty back end pattern, a Pink Franc N Snaelda. I have had pretty good success with this fly during September and October so I had confidence that it worked well. I made my way down the pool and just as was nearing the big stone about mid way down, I had a good offer. The fish was just slowly pulling at my fly as I worked it through the pool so I left it a second or two before lifting into it. As soon as I lifted the rod though the fish let go and the chance was gone. I thought I'd given the fish ample time to take but I guess not! I covered the spot for a few more minutes but the fish wasn't coming back for seconds so it was off to the hut for some lunch.

The main hut at Lower Crathes. (Photo taken back in April)
At lunch Paul was telling how he'd lost a fish in the Mill Pool on a Sunray Shadow. Apart from my offer in Kelpie, nobody else had had a touch.  As per usual in the fishing hut, we spoke of fishing, tactics and what to do next. Stuart and I were to fish the top half of the beat with me starting in the Mill and Stuart in the famous Bridge Pool. We were all eager to get going again and I opted to keep the same line on but just change my tip from a 7ips to a 4ips.

The Jetties on the Mill Pool. I hooked the fish mid stream near the top of the pool.
A chunky hen fish of around 15lbs taken on a Pink Franc N Snaelda in the Mill Pool.
The Mill Pool is a cracking pool and one of my favourite pools on the beat. I started up at the top of the pool with a short line and lengthening all the time before finally working my way through the pool. I fish the Snaelda sink and draw style and I had only fished about 20 yards or so of the pool when a fish started to pull back as I worked the fly. Again, it was just a soft take so I left it for what seemed an age before lifting into it. This time though, it was on and I felt the weight of a good fish. After tense and lengthy battle which involved several hard runs, I finally managed to get her over the net just below the first jetty. I quickly removed the hook and took a photo before releasing her back into the river. It was such a good feeling to see her swim off strongly. I fished on down the rest of the pool without a touch so it was off for a cast in Riddle's.

Looking upstream in Riddle's.
On arrival to Riddle's there was a good fish showed mid stream just below the broken water. This was encouraging so I made my way to the top of the pool and fished it down. Unfortunately, I couldn't temp any fish so it was off down to the Bridge Pool to finish off my afternoon.

Fishing down the famous Bridge Pool.
The Bridge Pool on Lower Crathes is one of the most famous pools on the river. It is famed for it's cathces and it produces fish from opening day until closing day. The pool was holding a few fish and several made themselves known as I worked my way down the pool. As I got near to the bridge, I had a good take which sadly didn't come to nothing so I went to change my fly in the hope it might take again but something different this time. As I opened my box of Snaeldas the lid flipped back and jerked the box out my hand. I quickly managed to catch it before it went swimming but several of my flies had fell into the water and were on their way out to sea before I could save them. All that time and effort in tying them up was wasted but at least I didn't buy them. Still, it was not good seeing seven or eight of my flies swimming down the Dee without being attached to a leader. Anyway, I couldn't temp the fish again and the rest of the pool proved fruitless. By this time it was around 5pm so it was back to the hut for a cup of coffee before deciding where to try in the evening.

I thought the Kelpie might be worth another cast so I made my way down to the pool and changed my fly to a Sunray Shadow but still on the Intermediate line. I started at the top of the pool and began casting a long line and stripping the fly fairly quickly across the pool. I must have been about half way down the pool when I had a thumping take on the fly. I lifted sharply into a lively fish and started to wind some of my running line back onto my reel whilst the fish turned and headed off downstream. I managed to get the fish onto the reel fairly quickly but a short while later the fish had spat the hook and was off. It wasn't a big fish but it looked fresh and would have been more than welcome. That turned out to be the last action for my day and I packed up around 7.30pm. I

It was a great day and I was delighted to have landed a good fish and had several other contacts as well as losing one. It's good to know you are doing something right and the confidence goes a long way in helping to land fish. I will look forward to my next outing and hopefully my good run will continue.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Ballogie - River Dee

I was grateful to Ballogie ghillie, Sean Stanton for the opportunity to fish the Ballogie beat of the  River Dee last week and as I had never fished the beat above Potarch Bridge before, I was really looking forward to it. I was to be sharing the beat with well known fly tier, Ross Macdonald. The water was sitting around 1ft 10in on the gauge and was carrying a peat stain from recent rain high in the catchment. Successful tactics recently involved fishing deep so Sean advised that it would be worth fishing this way to maximise the chances of getting a fish.

A cracking wee sea liced grilse taken on a Red Frances tube.
I decided to rig up two rods for the day to save changing lines so I set up my 15ft Mackenzie Shooting Head rod with a 10/11 Mackenzie Float/Intermediate shooting head, a 10ft 7ips tip and a Junction Shrimp Franc N Snaelda. My second rod was my 14ft 9in Guideline AWM. This was set up with a 10/11 Mackenzie Intermediate shooting head and a 10ft 5.6ips tip. My choice of fly on this set up was a 3/4" Red Frances.

Looking upstream towards Sands from Mid Hole with the Borrowston hut on the other bank.
Fishing down the Slips. The wading in here is treacherous and not for the faint hearted!
Sean took me up and showed me the pools I would be fishing during the morning session. These consisted of the Mid Hole, Slips and Flats. I started at the top end of the bottom beat and worked my way down through Mid Hole and the Slips. Sean had advised that the wading wasn't easy down the Slips and to take my time. He wasn't wrong! The peat stain in the water made things even more difficult as I could hardly see where I was stepping. Boulders the size of cars and plenty of them were not the easiest to navigate but I slowly fished down the pool. I was about half way down the pool when I felt a rumbling under my feet. I thought there had been a tremor or something but after speaking with Sean he informed me that this is where the Slips takes it's name as the rumbling is just the ground moving. There were several fish splashing around in both the pools but I just couldn't temp one so Sean took me downstream to show me the next pool.

Fishing down the Flats.
Looking downstream at the Flats.
The Flats was next on the agenda and Sean told me that this was his favourite pool on the beat. This gave me extra encouragement and I started off near the neck of the pool casting a long line to cover the lies on the far bank. I worked my way down the pool without a touch but with every cast I was just waiting for the line to tighten and a fish to take off back towards Potarch Bridge. I have driven past this pool hundreds of times on my travels up and down Deeside so it was good to finally say that I have fished it, albeit without catching anything. That took me up to lunch time so it was back up river to the hut for some lunch with Ross

The Ballogie hut which overlooks the Top Gannets pool.
Lunch time gave us both welcome respite from the howling gales which were sweeping down the river. It was proving really tough to get the line out properly and to get the fly fishing immediately. We sat and discussed tactic for the afternoon over a cup of coffee and a sandwich before making a few adjustments to our lines etc. I decided to give the intermediate line a swim in the afternoon and fish a Red Frances just that bit deeper. I was to fish the top half of the beat in the afternoon and was looking forward to giving it a go despite the wind.

Top Gannets. A cracking holding pool on the Dee and a very productive one too.
My 4lb sea liced Grilse ready to be returned.
Half way down Top Gannet after I had returned my fish.
Ross explained the best way to fish the Top Gannets just as Sean had told him earlier in the day. I was to start at the very top with a short line and fish down the seam mid river before going back to the top and fishing down with a long line to cover the other side. This is exactly what I did and my run down with the short line proved fruitless but after only 6 or 7 casts with the long line I had a thumping take and I lifted into a lively fish. After a couple of short and acrobatic runs I soon had the fish under control and I slid a lovley fresh grilse into my waiting net. I was delighted and the change of tactics seemed to make the difference. I quickly released the fish and continued down the pool without an offer so I made my to have a cast in the New Pool before I headed to the Sands.

Fishing down the New Pool.
The New Pool was another pool which I had seen for the road plenty times and I made my way into the top of the pool and began to fish it down. The wind was beginning to subside a little bit but was still blowing hard downstream which hampered casting. I fished down the pool without a touch so it was off down to have a go in the Sands.

Sands. Looking downstream with the famous Borrowston Greenbank Pool on the opposite bank. A stunning pool to fish a fly through despite the wind.
Quite a few fish were showing in here but tempting one was proving difficult.
The Sands is another famous pool on the Ballogie beat. It is set in a quiet and secluded part of the river and it hidden away from view of the road. The fish seem to like it here too and there were plenty showing to keep the enthusiasm up. I kept the same tactics as earlier and made my way down the pool expecting the line to tighten with every cast. Sadly it wasn't to be but I gave it a good go. Ross was still fishing the Slips so I headed of down for a chat before making my way back to the Top Gannet for a go before calling it a day.

Admiring the Sands Pool on the Ballogie beat of the River Dee. Its worth admiring many of the other pools on the beat too. Fantastic place to fish for Salmon at anytime of the  year.
I really enjoyed my day on the famous Ballogie beat of the River Dee. It was good to say I have finally fished above the Potarch Bridge and I was delighted to land a sea liced fish from the Top Gannet. I must thank Sean Stanton for giving me the opportunity to fish here. I have a 100% record at Ballogie with 3 fish from 2 visits so I have to be pleased with that! Hopefully it's not the last time I'll fish here but if it is, at least I've had the privilege to have done so.