Monday, 25 January 2016

Dalmarnock - River Tay

I spent Saturday on the Dalmarnock beat of the River Tay with my pal Paul Pritchard in pursuit of a prized January springer. The water was on the high side to the warm temperatures causing snow and the gauge was sitting around 7ft. Paul and I were to be fishing from the boat and because of the water heights we were restricted to harling as the boat would be have been impossible to anchor with the river at that height.

Getting the boat ready for a day harling with boatman, Lee Fisher.
Looking up towards the Dalmarnock hut from the boat.
We statred off in one of the Dalmarnock hot spots underneath the wires in the Inch Stream but with the water levels as they were, we were restricted to fishing the slower edges of the pool and despite Lee's best efforts we didn't connect with anything so we headed off down down stream for a go in Sowerby.
Ready for action. Lee positions the rods and the boat to harl under the wires.

Lee positions the boat on the opposite bank of Inch Stream.

Sowerby was another pool where we were restricted to the slower parts because the high water. With 7ft on the gauge the Tay really is a different animal and the force of the water was apparent when a logs or sticks floated by on their way down stream seemed to be travelling at a fair rate of knots. The fishing was hard going but Lee tried his best to get a rod bent but unfortunately the fish had other ideas so we carried on further down stream to try the top part of the Ram's Horn.
Harling the Sowerby pool in the morning.

A tree which has be decimated by the beevers. The tree will probably die as a result.
On our way down to the Ram's Horn we noticed a tree which had literally been eaten alive by beevers. The tree was showing large areas of bark missing as high as four to five feet off the bank. The Tayside beevers, in my opinion, are causing a lot of damage to the surrounding burns and stream and they can likely be linked to the recent floods in the town of Alyth where a small burn burst it's banks and flooded large parts of the area. The beever dams part of the stream causing the area above to flood and when large spates occur during winter then the water has to go somewhere which evidentally results in flooding. The banks of the main river are also littered with stripped branches of tree and as the beever has no natural predators in the country then their numbers are more then likely to increase and flooding in rural areas will become more and more common as a result.

Fishing down towards the Ram's Horn.
The Ram's Horn is situated on the inside of a large curve in the river and these areas are normally good holding spots in high water as the pace of the water slows a lot in comparison to the outside of the bend. We had a quick sweep with the boat before lunch but to no ovail and we headed back to the for lunch.

Jim, Paul and Lee pose for a photo in the Dalmarnock hut.

The Dalmarnock hut interior.

The fishing hut at Dalmarnock is very well equipped and the fire was more than handy as it was pretty cold in the boat during the morning. Colin kept everyone topped up with coffee and after a sandwich or two it was time to get going again. This time we were to try the pools below the bridge over the A9. Beech Tree and the Carrot Fields.

A rod on the Dunkeld House water into a kelt.
We arrived at the pool and got the rods set up aagin and ready for action. This part of the beat was much slower looking and more siuted to fishing in the high water. Sure enough and not long after starting again there was a fresh looking fish porpoised down the edge of the pool. This got the excitment levels up and Lee positioned the boat to cover the fish. We covered the lie for ten to fifteen minutes but the fish was either long gone or not interested in our offerings. The light was beginning to fade by this time but Lee wanted to try the area right at the bottom of the beat before calling it a day. We headed downstream and harled the area close into the Greenbank at the top of the Dunkeld House water. Try as we might we had no luck in here either but a rod fishing the fly on Dunkeld beat landed a kelt from the slack water inside the bend. We wound in the rods and headed back to the hut about 4pm.

Paul getting ready to pack up for the day.
It was good to be back at Dalmarnock again as I really enjoyed fishing it he last time I was there. Despite the fact hte water was big and coloured we enjoyed the day even though the fish were playing hard to get. I am going to return to Dalmarnock again later in the year and hopefully the water levels will be low just to give a better chance of connecting with a River Tay Salmon.

For more info on fishing at Dalmarnock have a look at their website by clicking on the link. It's well worth a visit.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

First Outing Of 2016 - Lower Kinnaird

I had my first salmon fishing outing of the 2016 season last Saturday on the Lower Kinnaird beat of the Mighty River Tay. January fishing is not for the faint hearted and the cold temperatures only attract the hardiest of anglers who are eager to blast of the cobwebs of the long close season. The chances of landing the coveted prize of a January springer are slim at best but it's the feeling of being out on the river again clinging onto that slimmest of chances than keep us coming back.

Tackling up after a wee Sloe gin to warm us up for the morning's fishing.
With the alarm sounding at 4.45am I was up and raring to go in anticipation of the first cast of 2016. My pal Bill and I traveled down together and we were to meet fellow Salmon Proboard Forum members, Kenny, Alan, Andy and Craig at the Ballinluig services just a 5 minute drive from the beat. After a good catch up over a bacon roll it was off down the beat.

Gearing up in freezing cold temperatures.
The water was sitting at around 3ft on the gauge but was running clear and was looking in great shape. Martin, the head ghillie paired us up and I was was to fish with Kenny where we were to start off in the Ash Tree pool then the Guay Pool after lunch. We headed off to the river and on arrival to the Ash Tree pool I realised just what a fine part of the Tay this was. It looked like fantastic fly water at this height and Martin assured us that it is even better with a couple of feet less on it.

Looking upstream from the banks of the Ash Tree pool to the snow covered hills beside Pitlochry.
Kenny and I fished down the Ash Tree pool having to contend with the rod rings freezing with every cast as well as ice freezing the reel solid. Despite this I did see a fish head and tail near the bottom part of the pool and not long after Kenny hooked into a fish. After a spirited fight in the faster water Martin tail out a well mended kelt which would have been a very good fish when fresh. this was to be the only action from either of us during the morning session and we headed off back to the hut around 1pm.

Kenny into a kelt in the Ash Tree pool.
Martin unhooks the fish in the water and it was released quickly without harm.
During the build up to our trip to Lower Kinnaird there had been numerous messages exchanged and lunch was high on the agenda. Kenny was bringing some famous steak pies from a baker he knew so I offered to bring the beans! It was all good craic and I think the lunch was built up more than the fishing. We sat down to a very welcome hot lunch in the well equipped hut and Kenny's pies, just like he said they would, went down a treat. There had been a few kelts caught during the morning with nothing fresh seen but at this time of year it's just a matter of searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. If the fly or lure is not in the water then you haven't got a chance so we were keen to get going again.

Tucking into pies and beans at lunch time.
After lunch Kenny and I were to fish another fantastic looking pool, Guay. This was more of the same in terms of fly water and looked every bit as fishy as Ash tree did. Kenny and I took turns in following each other down the pool and apart from a half hearted pull on my Black and Yellow tube around 3.30pm there was nothing to report so called it a day just after 4pm as the temperature and snow started falling rapidly.

Looking upstream in the Guay Pool.
Looking downstream in the same pool as above.
Back at the hut there was nothing else to report from anyone in our party as the freezing temperatures mus have put the fish off the take. We enjoyed a good laugh over a hot cup of coffee before saying our goodbyes and heading our separate ways again.

I always enjoy these Forum meets in January. It's a great way to get everyone together again after the long close season and with the home brewed Sloe and Damson gins ready for sampling too then it's well worth the effort. We all keep in contact through out the year and banter is always good but nothing beats meeting up in person to have a cast on some of the nicest rivers in Scotland. Looking forward to our next trip to Castle Forbes on the River Don in April. I stupidly dropped my camera in the river just before I finished up for the day so I'd just like to thank Alan, Kenny, Craig and Bill for kindly sending me and allowing me to use their photographs as somehow the memory card in my drowned camera was blank! Thank you gents, much appreciated.

For more information on fishing the River Tay at Lower Kinnaird have a look at the their website by clinking on the link.

Monday, 4 January 2016

New Year Begins With Severe Flooding

2016 has begun with unprecedented river levels on the both the River Dee and River Don. The River Dee peaked at nearly 17ft on the Park gauge and has recorded it's highest levels since 1937. Ballater has been worst effected with the caravan park, which is situated on the banks of the river pretty much wiped out by a raging torrent caused by heavy rain and snow melt.

Tonnes of shingle dumped by the river in a field at Aboyne some 100 yards away from the river bank.
Some more shingle dumped by the Dee near Aboyne.
Trees uprooted and strewn along the banks of the Dee near the Queen's residence at Balmoral Castle.
Many areas of the Dee, right up and down the length of the valley have been badly effected and will take a lot of man power and effort to restore back to some kind of normality. The historic 16th century Abergeldie Castle, which was once 25-30 metres away from the river bank is now in grave danger of being the next victim of Mother Nature's power. even if the castle survives, it's going to be difficult to restore the bank enough to make the foundations safe again. Some of the roads in the surrounding areas of Ballater have been swamped by the river and many parts of Braemar are in danger of getting cut off from the main roads out of the town. The power of water is immense yet there are still a few idiots who think they can drive in these flooded roads and put the lives of the rescue services at risk when they have to pull them from their cars which have been submerged.

The Aberdeen and District Angling Association HQ surrounded by water today.
The Manse Pool on the Lower Fintray beat of the River Don today flooded way out over the banks.
The River Don has also seen a dramatic rise in river levels these past few days and many of the flood plains along it's course are now full with numerous roads around the Kintore area now underwater. The Don is much slower moving than the Dee which has probably saved many of the houses along it's banks from flooding as the flood plains tend to bare the worst the Don's spates. Saying that, the Don runs through farmland for much of it's course and tends to silt up very quickly which could have an adverse effect on the river's fish populations.

Just a few dead juvenile fish found dead in a small area of the Dee at Park.
On the fishing side of things, it's not looking very good for the juvenile fish stocks on the rivers. Salmon have spent the winter cutting redds for their eggs and many of these will have been swept away or dredged out by trees and other forms of debris floating down river. Not only this, there will be thousands of 0-3 year old fish killed by the torrents and many are now lying strewn along the tide marks of the river. These fish are now no more than bird feed and this will have a major impact on returning salmon numbers in the next 10-12 years. On a more positive note, salmon catches are historically pretty good in the year after unusually large spates so there might just be a short period of optimism for the rivers

The Dee at near Aboyne. Note the erosion on the opposite bank.
The famous Waterside Pool on the Dee at Waterside and Ferrar. The hut has been swept away on the opposite bank and tonnes of shingle has been moved by the water.
After the flood. Looking upstream from the Mill Pool at Cambus O May. There should be a fishing on the bank mid picture but as you can see it was consumed by the force of the flood water.
Before the flood. The same place at Cambus O May take in September. As you can the hut is there in this picture.
The road leading upstream at the Cellar Pool on Park Estate has taken a beating by the water.
The Park South fishing hut overlooking the Castleton pool is no longer there. Another victim of the ferocious power of the Dee in flood.
I sincerely hope that these rivers and surrounding areas can recover quickly from devastation that these floods have caused. My heart goes out to all those affected by the flooding up and down the rivers as many homes, shops, holiday homes and other belongings worth £100,000s of pounds have been lost or destroyed.

As many rural jobs rely on the river, the knock on effects of such an event can have a catastrophic impact on people's livelihoods. With the salmon fishing season starting again on the 1st February it is going to take a while for the pools to settle and many famous lies and pools will have changed dramatically, many not for the better either.

The salmon is a born survivor though and will overcome the wrath of Mother Nature like it always has done and no doubt will come back as strong as ever.