Monday, 30 May 2016

River Don Springers

The River Don has fished reasonably well recently and with decent water levels early in the month there were a few nice fish landed. I am grateful to River Don bailiff Martin Webster, Kildrummy Inn proprietor David Littlewood and Ralph Green for the photos. Hopefully the good fishing continues through out the summer months and the grilse make their appearance shortly. We could be done with a lift in levels just to freshen things up again but returning sea trout should be appearing about now to keep anglers interested and I for one will certainly be putting in the odd late night to try and land these hard fighting fish.

For more details on fishing the River Don check out the FishDon website.

A lovely fish from Kildrummy Water landed by Richard Bagshaw.
Ralph Green playing a springer just as the light begins to fade.
A prize well worth pursuing. Ralph Green with a beauty of around 12lb.
River Don bailiff Martin Webster's first fish of the season from Breda.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Murthly 1 - River Tay

I recently spent a day fishing on a delightful stretch of the River Tay at Murthly 1 thanks to Philip Black who invited me down. There were a good number of fish in the area prior to my arrival and I was looking forward to fishing some of the best fly water pools on the river with some good pals. I had high hopes of kick starting my season after a long run of very little to show for my time and effort.

My first pool of the day - The Bargie. A very famous pool where Miss Georgina Ballantine hooked her record 64lb salmon all those years ago.

I set off early and arrived at the beat around 8am where I was greeted by the ghille, Donald. We spoke of the good recent catches and he was telling me that there were plenty fishing in the pools the previous day but they were proving difficult to temp. Donald advised me that small flies and light sinking tips were were the order of the day so my set up consisted of my 14ft Hardy Demon, a 9/10 floating shooting head and a 10ft intermediate polyleader. Initially, my fly of choice was a #10 Kitchen Sink dressed on a Esmond Drury treble but this would change numerous time through out the day as it usually does!
A fly that does well on the Tay - the Ghillie. Designed by Tay ghillie, Tony Black from the neighboring Murthly 2 beat, this deadly pattern accounts for numerous fish where ever salmon swim.

The first pool I was to fish was the famous Bargie Pool. This the pool where the largest salmon ever caught on British water was hooked, albeit from the opposite bank on Glendelvine but it was still a thrill to fish a fly through such hallowed water. Donald suggested I start up the top of the pool in the fast water as they had seen a few fish in there the day before so this is exactly what I did. I fished down the pool as instructed and covered as much of the water as possible but I could only manage a half hearted offer which I think was probably a trout anyway. Philip Black followed me down from the opposite bank but there was nothing doing for him either although he had lost a nice fish on only his third cast of the morning up in the Garth pool which I will come to later. Philip suggested having a go through a wee run just above the Bargie so we headed off upstream to do just that.
Looking upstream towards the Bargie Stone, in which the pool takes its name from.
Looking across to Miss Georgina Ballantine's house which over looks the pool in which she made famous.
The wee run under the wires above the Bargie is a lovely run and it usually held a fish or two. It was just short casts required to cover the water and I worked my down trying to keep stealthy mindful of the fact that the best part of the pool was narrow close to the bank. Despite this, I worked through the pool with out an offer so it was back up to the hut for a bite to eat. On our way back to the hut we noticed Gerry, who was fishing Minister's Pool was bent into a good fish. The fish seemed very acrobatic but Gerry played it well and just as he was drawing it into the side ready to beach, the hooks pulled and the fish was free. Such as pity, as the hard work was done and it was fresh looking too.
Another view of the Murthly 1 hut.
The comfy interior of the hut at Murthly 1.
The early part of lunchtime was spent discussing the ones that got away over a dram and a sandwich but attentions soon turned to the afternoon. By this time the rain was hammering down so we sat it out and waited for the showers to pass. Donald and Philip were on top form and poor Gerry took the brunt of the stick for his lack of movement whilst fishing a pool. Donald even referring to him as a Oak tree which had taken root at one point! It was all taken in good spirit but at least Gerry had had some sport for his morning which couldn't be said for a few of us!
Paul fishing down the Garth in the afternoon. Cracking pool for fishing the fly.
Looking down stream in the Garth.
I was to begin the afternoon off in the Garth and was to fish with Paul. Paul drove me up to the pool and explained the tactics so it was on with the Sunray Shadow in an attempt to provoke a fish into taking. The Garth was a lovely stretch of water ideal for fly fishing and as Philip had lost a fish in here early on in the morning we were hopeful that there would be one or two sitting about. Paul let me fish through the pool first but despite how well the pool fished my efforts proved fruitless as did Paul's. Every cast you were just waiting for the line to tighten or a fish boil at the fly but it wasn't to be so we headed off down river to have a go in Minister's.
Fishing down through Minister's Pool. A big, long pool which fishes the fly  well from top to bottom.
The Minister's is a big, long pool but the water is superb for fish the fly in. I kept on the Surnay and began right up at the neck of the pool and began to work my way down the pool, casting as far as I could in an attempt to cover as much water as possibly. As I made my way down the pool there was a huge hatch of flies coming off the river and the place became alive with trout of all sizes. Some were well into the 3-4lb range and would have been fantastic sport on a wee #5 rod or something but we were here for the salmon and ploughed on down the pool. Just as I got opposite the hut I noticed a nice salmon head and tail below me so I covered the area above it several times but it wasn't for tempting and was probably long gone as well. This really is a long pool and my casting arm was beginning to tire with fishing the Sunray all afternoon but I persevered and finished the pool out. I didn't get even a rise from a salmon but I did get an offer from one of those greedy trout which were hammering into the flies but it was off just as quickly as it was on so it was back to the hut for a wee breather before deciding on the where to fish next.

Looking across to the Murthly 1 hut from Minister's.
Fishing down under the wires in Minister's. Loads of trout rising in this part of the pool.
Sitting down at the hut after going down the Minister's with the Sunray wasn't the best idea and I soon felt tiredness kicking in. The early start and the constant casting and stripping had caught up with me and I decided to pack up around 7pm and head off up the road.

I really enjoyed my day at Murthly 1 and I was grateful to Philip and Donald for asking me down to fish it. It really is good to say that I have fished the pools where Georgina Ballantine caught her famous 64lb salmon all those years ago and it certainly gets the mind wandering back to the old days, especially when you look across to see her old house which over looks the mighty Tay and the pool where she hooked her fish. The only thing missing for me was a fish on the bank but you can't have it all and sometimes that's just how fishing goes. I'll certainly be back again one day to have another go!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Castle Forbes - River Don

Every year I organise a meet with guys from a Salmon Fishing Forum I am involved with. We quiet often meet up during the fishing season and it's always good to catch up with the lads and have a cast on rivers we otherwise wouldn't fish. We have been coming to the River Don for three years now and apart form last year when we had very low water, we've always had a few fish on the bank for our day.

Group photo. L-R Ralph, Dave, Alan, Mel, Kenny, Bill, Paul and me.
On a run up to the day there was the usual banter and chat on line and as the day drew closer we realised we were going to be lucky with water conditions due to heavy rain earlier in the week. We arrived at the estate office about 8.15am and were greeted with 1ft 2in on the Bridge of Alford gauge which was ideal. The river was carrying a wee tinge of colour but we were confident that fish would still come to a fly in these conditions. We chatted for a while to discuss tactics for the day and draw beats. I tackled up with my 13ft Hardy Uniqua and matched this up with a Rio Scandi shooting head and fast sink tip. My fly of choice initially was a 3/4" Monkey.

Fishing down the Dam Pool with Paul Pritchard.
I was drawn to fish Beat 3 with Paul Pritchard and we were eager to get going. Paul hadn't had much luck fishing the Don in the past so I gave him first run down the Dam Pool. the pool was fishing nicely and as we got near the dam itself, expectation levels increased as i was positive there would be a fish or two present. Sure enough, as Paul neared the tail of the pool just opposite the Dam, he had a thumping take but sadly the fish didn't connect. It was really hard luck as it about pulled the rod out of his hand and how it never hooked itself is a mystery. Still, it was a good sign and I followed him down the rest of the pool but couldn't temp anything.
Fishing down the Craig Pot. 
Next pool up on our beat was the Craig Pot. This used to be one of the best holding pools on the entire river but  a few years ago an Archimedes Screw was installed at the neck of the pool and I just don't think it fishes the same now. This is just my opinion of course but I have spoken with a few Castle Forbes regulars who have the same thoughts as me. Anyway, Paul and I fished down the pool from the right bank but nothing was tempted so we continued our journey downstream to the next pool.
Looking upstream for the top of the Nursery Pool into the Craig Pot and Suspension Bridge
Looking downstream in the Nursery Pool.
Next pool down was the Nursery Pool. This is another lovely pool and another good pool which produces fish through out the year. It really is a lovely cast and is a delight to fish. Paul and I both fished through the pool and were expecting a salmon to grab the fly every cast but it wasn't to be. We just couldn't temp anything but we were both confident that we were covering fish.

Upper Deepstane from the right bank.
Bill's first fish of the day from Upper Deepstane expertly netted and photographed by Kenny Carr.
Upper Deepstane was the next pool on our morning beat and this, yet again is another good opportunity to pick up a fish. On arrival to the pool we received a text from Bill who managed to land a fresh run 8lber from the pool earlier on in the morning. At least we knew there were fish there and confidence is a big part in salmon fishing. Paul allowed me to go first through the pool and he followed me down. By this time I had changed to a Sunray Shadow just to try and provoke a fish into taking but i fished the length of the pool but didn't move anything. Paul, fishing conventionally down behind me had the same result.

Paul fishing down Middle Deepstane.
A lovely cast on Middle Deepstane at this height. 
Castle Forbes Estate kindly allowed us to have lunch in their estate office again this year and we are always very grateful for this. Paul's good lady Loreena provided lunch of homemade soup and sandwiches, cheese scones, rock cakes as well as crisps and beverages. It went down a treat and we were all stuffed after tucking into the spread she laid on. As per usual on any fishing trip, the topic of discussion over lunch always revolves around salmon and this was no different. We all put the salmon fishing world to rights before heading off to our chosen beats for the afternoon session.

Lower Auchreddachie. Another nice cast and a pool with good depth to hold fish.
As the river was sitting at a good height, the whole beat was fishable so Paul and I decided to head up to Beat 4. Lower Auchreddachie is a pool I am very fond of so we opted to have a run through there first before fishing any other part of the beat. There is nice depth to this pool on the far bank and I was fortunate enough to land a nice springer from here a couple of years ago. We both fished through the pool with out an offer but there were a few big brown trout showing as we made our way down. Just a pity I never had the #5 rod with me.
Fishing down the Bridge Pool in the afternoon.
Following Paul down the Bridge Pool.
The Bridge Pool is another good bit of water that would hold fish and we made sure we covered the whole pool from top to bottom. Again, as tempting as it looked we just couldn't get a salmon to take our offerings but a couple of brown trout were greedy enough to take my fly and Paul landed one too.

Bill Cooks' second fish of the day from the Dam pool.
On our way down to the lower part of the beat we came across Bill who was fishing the Dam pool and he informed us that he managed to winkle out another Don springer just minutes before we arrived. This was excellent news and spurred us on for a final push before calling it a day.

Paul keeping a low profile whilst fishing down the Middle Deepstane pool.
After fishing down the Bridge Pool without success Paul and I decide to head back down river to have a go in the Deepstane Pools from the North bank this time. As Mel and Dave were fishing the Upper Deepstane we began in the Middle Deepstane. All three Deepstane pools are classic middle to upper Don pools and are all capable of yielding fish on their day as Bill proved earlier. We were both optimistic that we would be covering fish and we made sure we covered the pool as best we could but like the rest of the day, our efforts went unrewarded.
Bill Cook pondering a fly change. Bill managed to land 2 springers for his day. fantastic fishing on the Don at anytime of the year but extra special during the Spring months.
Upper Deepstane from the left bank in the afternoon.
Time got the better of us after fishing the Upper Deepstane but Mel did see a nice fish head and tail in the pool before we fished it but it was long gone by the time we covered it. There was to be no further action for any of us in the early evening so we called it a day around 7pm and headed back to the cars to pack up.

It was another great Forum meet and all the rods had a good time and i was great to see the River Don giving up her bounty once again during the Spring. Spring fish on the Don are scarce and to get two in a day is good going and Bill was in the right place, at the right times to grass a couple of lovely fish. We will look forward to heading back there again next year and fingers crossed we get conditions like we had for our day this year.

Finally, I would just like to thank Sandra who works in the estate office for all her help in organising the day and to Lord and Lady Forbes for once again, providing us with the office to have our lunch in. It really is appreciated from not only myself, but from all the lads who come along to this day. It makes it all the more enjoyable and we will be back again soon for another crack at the Don springers.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Pitlochry Angling Club - River Tummel

Back in January I booked a days fishing for the 29th April on the Pitlochry Angling Club stretch of the River Tummel. The last week of April, first few weeks of May are usually prime times for the beat and I was eagerly looking forward to going. As I had never fished the River Tummel before it was all new to me. the water was dead low for the time of year and was hovering around the 1" mark on the gauge. Not really ideal to encourage fish to take but catches earlier on in the week were encouraging and I was looking forward to getting started.

My first glimpse of the fishings at Pitlochry AC from the Pitlochry bank.
Fishing the beat involved an early start for me and I set my alarm for 4.45am to give myself plenty time to get down and give the water a good going over as I had to leave at 3pm. The journey down was fine until I hit Stonehaven where the roads were covered in snow and slippery which made driving treacherous. This continued all the way to Forfar where the conditions thankfully improved and allowed driving at speeds of more than 30mph. Not ideal driving conditions when eager to get fishing!

Looking upstream towards the Loch Faskally Dam from the Marker Stone.
I arrived at the beat later than I had expected at around 7.45am and tackled up. My rod of choice for the day was my 13ft Hardy Uniqua and I matched this up with a 8/9 Rio Scandi Shooting head and a 10ft 4ips tip. My initial fly of choice was a 3/4" Monkey tube.
Looking downstream towards the bridge from the Pitlochry bank.
There were already a couple of rods fishing when I arrived so started off mid way down the top part of the beat. My first cast had no sooner hit the water and three or four fish showed right in front of me simultaneously. This gave me great confidence that I was fishing in the right place, at the right time for a change and I concentrated hard on how I was fishing. I fished all the way down the pool and into the Burnmouth covering where the fish were showing but I got the impression that the fish were not going far in the low water conditions and had probably seen numerous flies for the last few days. Tempting them was proving to be more difficult than I had imagined. Sadly, I didn't get an offer so I headed up to the top of the beat to work my way down from there.
Looking across to the Port-na-Craig restaurant. 
I was fishing with two local rods from the angling club called Kenny and Roger and they made me feel very welcome. They were keen to give me advice and point out lies etc and I was grateful for that. I know with being in an angling club myself that members are not always forthcoming with advice on how to fish the water. Fortunately this was not the case here and I was even offered a cup of coffee and a bar of chocolate while we stopped for a wee break mid morning. I would just like to thank them for making me feel very welcome and they are a credit to their club. Roger had said that he had never seen the water as low as this in the 37 years he had been a member so as usual I had arrived at the wrong time! Still, there were fish showing and fish had been caught and I was still hopeful I might connect with something.

Looking upstream from the footbridge half way down the beat.
At 12.00 noon anglers must change side and fish the opposite bank. I made my way round to the Port-na-Craig bank and stopped for a chat with the anglers coming off the water. One of them was fortunate enough to land a nice fish of around 8lb from the top of the beat so again, I was confident that another fish could be landed before I left. I was hoping that I would be that lucky angler!
fishing down the Bluestones at the top of the beat on the Port-na-Craig bank in the afternoon.
Looking down stream from the footbridge.
I took a walk up to the fish ladder at the dam for a look since I was in the area and check out the number of fish going through to Loch Faskally. I was informed by one of the locals than only a single fish had went through the counter in the last 24 hours so the fish in pools didn't seem to be going very far in the low water.

The viewing station at the salmon ladder up at the dam. There had been 297 fish through the counter so far when I visited.
Looking downstream from up at the dam.
Looking over toward the dam.
Since I had never fished the beat before I thought I'd start at the top of the beat and work my way down. The top part of the beat was called Bluestones and there had been a few fish showing in here earlier on in the day and I was looking forward to covering them from the opposite side. I changed flies over to a Sunray Shadow as I thought I could maybe provoke a fish into taking the fly in the low water conditions. I fished all the way down to the Greenbank with moving a fin which was surprising as I knew that I was covering plenty fish.
Looking upstream from the Summer Stones. 
Plenty fish showing in this area of the Greenbank but they just weren't for tempting.
 The river fished well form this bank but I just felt I covered the fish better off the opposite side at this height of water. The pool seem to be deeper over there but it was still a pleasure to fish. The Greenbank is a lovely cast with the fly but as time was running out I decided to give the last hour a cast with the spinner. I set up my spinning gear and tied on a Vision 110 but I fished the length of the pool down to the footbrige without an offer and it was then I had to call it a day. Fishing has to stop at 5pm anyway so I wasn't missing out on too much fishing time. I hadn't had an offer all day and with my very early start I was kind of glad to be heading home. Not before having a nice, cold 1/2 shandy in the bar though!
Looking downstream along the Greenbank form Port-na-Craig
Looking upstream towards the dam from the Port-na-craig.

Time for a half Shandy before hitting the road!
I really enjoyed my day on fishing the Pitlochry Angling Club water of the River Tummel. They are blessed with a fantastic stretch of water and it was be fantastic to cast a line through here when conditions are favourable. Unfortunately, as per usual, conditions were against me and I caught nothing but it was still good to fish here. The local members, Kenny and Roger were very helpful and the club should be proud to have their likes on their membership list. Hopefully I'll be back again next year to try again.