Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Tulchan C - River Spey

On Saturday, I found myself on the majestic Tulchan C beat of the River Spey. I was kindly invited along by my pal Paul Pritchard along with a few of his other pals for a day's fishing. On the build up to the day I was like a child waiting for Christmas such was the thought of fishing on a beat like this during one of their prime months of the season. I've never been so excited to have a day's fishing before in my life and I hardly slept a wink the night before!
A cracking, fresh run River Spey salmon about 10lb.
I set off early on the morning of fishing as I was picking Paul up from his hotel in Aviemore. I arrived in Aviemore just before 8am and we set off down to the beat full of anticipation of what lay ahead. The topic of conversation rarely strayed far from salmon fishing and I actually had that feeling of butterflies in my stomach you get when you're nervous but excited at the same time. We got to the beat around 8.30am and were met by the ghillie, Lawrence de Rosa. We were advised on what tactics had been successful during the week but the water had risen slightly over night and had taken on a slight peat stain. I opted for my 14ft Hardy Demon rod and matched it up with a 9/10 Mackenzie floating shooting head. I attached a 10ft intermediate polyleader to this and tied on roughly 4ft of 12lb clear maxima. My fly of choice for to begin with was a #9 Kitchen Sink.
Looking down the Bridge Pool from bridge.
Looking upstream towards the bridge in the Bridge Pool.
Lawrence showed me up to the Bridge Pool for starters and explained all the areas to concentrate on as I worked my way through the pool. I waded out slightly just above the bridge as instructed and worked my way down the pool covering the seam which was coming off the bridge parapet. As I got to the other side of the parapet there was a couple of good fish showed near the tail of the pool. They were both decent sized fish and this raised my excitement levels even higher than there already were. I made sure I was covering the water as best I could and concentrated hard on getting my fly working through the lies. I was about half way down the pool and I made an upstream mend on my fly as it was starting to swing round just after casting. The fly was just above where the fish had shown earlier and about half way round, my line went tight and I lifted into a really strong fish. The fish tore yards of line off my Hardy Cascapedia reel and it was screaming, just how I imagined it would! The fish made a couple of attempts to leave the pool but thankfully on both occasions it thought better of it and came back into the main part. A really dogged fight ensured for a good five minutes or so before it started to give up some of the line it had taken off my reel. All my running line was off my reel at one point. These strong runs coupled with the fast flowing water had the fish tiring a bit and I managed to draw it into the side where Lawrence waited with the net. I thought it was ready and lifted it's head up to be netted but the fish had other ideas! It took off across the pool in one last bid for freedom. I soon had it under control again though and this time I managed to guide it safely into the waiting net.

Lawrence removing my #9 Kitchen Sink fly from the scissors of a cracking 14lb salmon out of the Bridge Pool.
Well worth the wait! My first ever River Spey salmon.
A #9 Kitchen Sink tied in a flamethrower style did the business. This is dressed on a silver Salar double.
My first River Spey salmon was finally landed! Lawrence quickly removed the #9 Kitchen Sink fly from the scissors of the fish. We estimated it to be in the region of 14lb. I held it up for a quick photograph before slipping him back into the river. It was still only 9.40am. The pressure was off and I could really enjoy the rest of the day whatever happened.

Looking upstream from Upper Tulchan Pool towards the Bridge Pool.
Fishing down the Upper Tulchan Pool. had another offer in here which didn't stick unfortunately. 
The next pool I was to fish was Upper Tulchan. Lawrence explained the pool to me before heading off to tend to the other rods so I made my way across the bridge and down to the pool. The pool had a good flow going through the middle of the river but there was a slacker bit of water near the tail and this was a good spot to pick up fish. I worked my way down the pool using the same set up as before and about half way down I had a good pull on my fly. Unfortunately it didn't stick but I knew my set up was working well in this pool too. I fished down the remainder of the pool hoping to temp another fish but it wasn't to be so I headed back over to have a run through the Bridge Pool again before coming back for another crack here later on.

Fishing down the Bridge Pool for a second time.
I made my way down to fish the Bridge Pool again hoping for a repeat performance from earlier on. There were a couple of fish showing as I fished my way down the pool but they weren't for tempting this time so I headed back across the bridge to fish the Upper Tulchan again.

Fishing down Upper Tulchan for a second time.  I lost a nice fish due to a mishap with my running line!
I decide to start right up at the neck of Upper Tulchan this time and fish the whole length of the pool to cover as much of it as I could. I had not long started when a nice wee fish showed opposite me. I covered it a few times but to no avail so carried on down the pool. I was just about half way down the pool and began hand lining my running line in ready to re-cast. Just as I was about to lift my rod, I had a good solid take and lifted into a decent fish. It quickly turned and began to take line. My running line was dumped on the grass bank and as the fish took off at a fair rate of knots, the line became tangled around my reel handle. I frantically tried to untangle it but with the fish pulling hard I just couldn't loosen the tension. This made the fish jump and a bright salmon around the 7lb mark made it's presence known. It tried to run again but I still couldn't get the line freed. This again, made it leap out of the water but only this time, it managed to spit the hook. I was really annoyed with myself as I usually coil 4-5 loops of line round each finger as I pull the running line in. This time however, I just dumped it on the grass out of laziness. In hindsight, it cost me the opportunity to land another salmon but I certainly won't be making that mistake again! I fished on down the rest of the pool felling very frustrated with myself but I couldn't temp another salmon to take my offerings so it was back to the hut for lunch.

The hut on Tulchan C beat. Not bad!
Back at the hut we chatted about the morning's fishing and there had been four landed. this was a good score given the heavy peat stain in the water and we were all looking forward to the afternoon session. Paul had also organised lunch for us all and there was a lovely spread of cooked meats, potatoes, salads and bread which was provide by Tulchan Lodge. This went down a treat and we were all raring to go in the afternoon.

Fishing down the delightful Upper Bog Pool. Lovely cast.
I was allocated Upper Bog for the afternoon. The had been nice fish from this pool during the morning so I was confident there were salmon present. On arrival to the pool there were a good number of fish showing down near the tail. Their presence really got me eager to get in and start. Lawrence showed me the taking spots and where to concentrate my efforts so I waded out to the to spot where he had shown me and began fishing down through the pool. I fished it down without a touch but there were a few fish about to keep my spirits up so I went back up to the neck of the pool to try again.
Looking upstream from the bank of  Upper Bog to where I landed my second fish of the day.
Looking down Upper Bog towards the tail of the pool.
My second run down was hampered by a wind knot in my leader so waded back to the bank and changed my leader over. As I was sitting on the bench there was a flotilla of kayaks made their way down through the pool so I decided to sit and wait for a while to let the pool settle again before restarting. As I was sitting it out, I thought this was a good as time as any to change my fly so I opted to tie on a Willie Gunn Flamethrower but kept it to a #9. I made my way back up to the neck of the pool and waded out above the stone where I had been instructed to start earlier on. Not long after restarting the pool I had a good, solid draw on the line and I lifted into a strong fish. The fish made some really energetic runs across the current but as I waist deep in fast water, I had to carefully navigate my way down past the bank side trees and onto the grass bank. This proved quite difficult as the fish kept trying to run upstream of where I had just waded down from. I managed to get the fish turned and by this time it was holding in the current opposite me. My floating line was drowned and the fish was tearing yards of line off my reel. My line had become stuck on a rock and I was weary of pulling too hard in case I lost another fish. I pulled the line as hard as I dared and somehow the fish freed itself and headed off down stream taking my line with it. Much to my delight!

This time a Willie Gunn Flamethrower did the trick. Again tied on a #9 Salar double.
I soon got myself back up onto the grass bank and began playing the fish from dry land. There was a net lying twenty yards away on the bench and each time I tried to get downstream to get the net for landing the fish, it ran up stream. Eventually, I gave up on the idea of trying to get the net and decide to beach the fish just above the boat which was situated in little cove at the end of the tree lined bank. The fish was now ready to be landed and I drew it into the side and managed to get my hand on it's tail. It was a spit fresh salmon around the 10lb mark. Just like buses, you wait ages for one to come along and two arrive at once! After a quick photograph it was released safely to continue it's journey up the River Spey. It was now about 4.10pm and I fished out the remainder of the pool but I couldn't temp another fish to take my fly. I wasn't really fussed to be quite honest as I was more than happy with total for the day and I headed off back to the hut to pack up at 5pm.
My second fish of the day. A "Bar of Silver" about 10lb.
There had been no further salmon landed in the afternoon for the other rods but there was a nice sea trout caught from the Tulchan Pool and another few pulls and offers which didn't stick. A total of five salmon and sea trout for the day was a good return given the rise in water overnight and Lawrence was happy with his weeks' total as well. We all chatted for a while before going our separate ways.

I was absolutely thrilled to be fishing at Tulchan during their prime time of the season and I will always be grateful to Paul for inviting me along. It was a fantastic gesture and one I will always be thankful for. I certainly won't forget the day in a hurry. So Paul if you read this, thank you very much. Hopefully one day I'll be able to return the favour.

The River Spey.
I'm now very proud to have caught my first River Spey salmon and to get it from such a famous part of the river was fantastic. To also catch it on a fly of my own creation made it all the sweeter and  in my opinion, it doesn't get much better than that. Tight Lines!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Kildrummy - River Don

Thanks to beat owner David Littlewood, I had a day's fishing on the River Don at Kildrummy on Saturday. This cracking 4 rod beat offers 3 miles of double bank and 1 mile of single bank fishing on a very scenic area of Donside. There had been quite a large and dirty spate earlier on in the week with water levels reaching around 8ft on the gauges but Saturday the water had dropped to about 1ft 2in on the Bridge Of Alford gauge and had taken on more of a heavy peat stain rather than a dirty colour. Conditions were as good to perfect as I could have hoped for and I just needed the salmon to play their part.

The upper Don isn't a big river and most of the pools are short but well defined and easily covered with a short rod. My rod of choice was my 11ft 8/9 switch rod and a Guideline Ultra Compact floating shooting head.  Despite the river levels most of the pools are not overly deep so I opted for a 6ft 2.6ips polyleader and a Cascade dressed on a #10 Esmond Drury treble.

The award winning, Kildrummy Inn. Can highly recommend it for a lovely meal or short stay if in the area.
I arrived at the Kildrummy Inn at 8.30am to collect my ticket for fishing and a beat map. The beat map is very easy to follow and all the pools and parking areas are clearly marked. I headed down to the hut which overlooks the Crooked Pot pool to tackle up and plan my day from there. I was to be fishing with two other day rods but with the water a good height, there was more than enough water to keeps us occupied all day.

I decide to give the upper pools on the right bank a cast first so I made my way up to the top of the beat to fish the Burn End pool. At this height of water the pool was looking like a good stopping point for a running salmon with it's fast neck and slower glides towards the tail. I started at the top of the pool as I always do and worked my way down covering all the water. There was a strong upstream wind which made casting a little tricky with the small switch set up but I persevered. I fished down the length of the pool without an offer so it was off down to the next one.

The next pool down was Upper Clochter. This was another good looking pool given the good water height and again you could imagine salmon resting in here after running the faster water below. The fast flowing neck eased off into a deepish run which has slack water on the far side of it. This is where I concentrated my efforts and just about half way down the pool I had a good offer which didn't stick unfortunately. The fish actually came at the fly twice in succession but neither time did it take the hook properly which made me think it was a trout. Whatever it was, it was not for taking again and I fished out the rest of the pool without a touch.

Lower Clochter was next and this was a narrow pool in comparison with it's upper part and I kept myself off the skyline as I approached the water to try not to spook any fish which could have been lying in the pool. With the faster water hugging the far bank it was quite easy to read and I covered the water along the edges of the fast rush, just where you'd expect to pick up fish but if any fish were present, they weren't for taking my offerings.
Looking downstream at the top of the Crooked Pot.
Fishing over the likely lies near the neck of the Crooked Pot.
The next pool down was the pool outside the hut which is named the Crooked Pot. This is a cracking wee pool and huts are not built on bad bits of water. There is a nice wee run which comes off near the neck of the pool and I made sure I covered this part of the pool before it spread out and slowed down a bit around half way down. I was expecting something to be lying in here given it's depth and I covered the pool from bank to bank along it's length. Sadly, and much to my disappointment, I didn't get an offer in this pool but from top to bottom at this height of water, I was sure I was covering fish so I strapped the rods onto my car and headed of upstream to the upper part of the beat.

Looking upstream mid way down Bulwarks.
Looking downstream from the same point.
On my last visit to Kilrummy back in May 2014 I found the Bulwarks pool to be a real gem. It really looks as though would hold fish as it has quite a bit of depth to it. A tell tale give away that this is a nice pool was that the fishings on the opposite side of the river had strimmed the bank. There is a strong rush of water cascades through the centre of the river here and over of steep bedrock and rock ledges before slowing and leveling out further down. The pool requires fishing of a high bank at this height of water and this made it simple to cover using an over head cast. I decided to try something a bit heavier in here and tied on a wee brass Monkey tube. This sank quicker than a small double and allowed me to cut down through the fast water given the fish more chance to see my offerings. Despite the change of tactics I couldn't temp anything so I headed off down stream to fish Joiner's.

Fishing down Joiner's
Joiner's pool is the next pool down below the Bulwarks and was looking good with the current water levels. I started off at the neck of the pool which involved just a wee, short cast and allowed my brass Monkey tube fly to drift through the fast water. The rest of the pool shallowed up the nearer you got to the tail but the deeper run along the far bank looked fishy. I fished the length of the pool with a touch but I am sure I was also covering fish in here as there was a good depth and flow to the pool for the majority of it.By this time it was time for lunch so I headed off back to the hut for a bite to eat.

An old picture of the hut I took in 2014. The hut today is now green but it gives an idea of what it's like.
Kildrummy is one of a few beats on the Don that can boast having a comfortable fishing hut on it's banks. This is very handy and I met up with fellow rod, Robert there who was fishing the Crooked Pot outside the hut as I arrived. I spoke with him as he fished down the pool stripping a small monkey and about half way down the pool he had a strong pull on his fly but sadly the fish didn't stick and it wasn't interested in coming to the fly a second time. Still, it was encouraging and this spurred us on for the remainder of the day.

Fellow rod, Robert had a brief encounter with a fish in here just before lunch.
After lunch, the sun was beginning to warm up and the cloud cover was disappearing fast so I decided to give the Crooked Pot a quick run through since Robert managed to get a bit of action. I changed back to a smaller fly and opted to try a #10 Ghillie. Despite my best efforts and covering the likely areas, I couldn't temp that fish from earlier or any other fish to take my fly so it was off further down stream to the Willows.
Looking downstreamin Willows.
Fishing down near the tail of Willow's. The next pool down is the Brux Pot which i didn't fish.
The Willows is another good looking pool on Kildrummy and there is plenty depth and flow here to harbour fish. This pool looked as likely as anywhere on the beat to pick up a fish. I started out at the neck of the pool and covered the deeper part of the pool on the opposite bank where the water kind of forms a small back eddy where the bridge crossed the small burn which enters the pool half way down. This is where i expected the fish to be lying and so it was back on with the heavier fly for here. I stripped the small Monkey through the pool and varying the speeds of my retrieve but there were no takers. I did move a very small trout down at the tail but I would have said the length of the fly was about the same as the trout!

Fishing down the Bridge Pool.
The first pool I tried below the bridge was the Bridge pool itself. With the bright sun now beating down on the water it was showing almost every stone under the water despite the peat stain. This wasn't ideal for this pool as there wasn't much depth to it but I gave it a quick run through but alas I couldn't temp any fish to take my offerings.

About to have a run through Dukestone Dykes.
Fishing my way down Dukestone Dykes.
The next pool down was Dukestone Dykes. This looked more promising and there is a lovely flow down the far bank here. This pool fished the fly perfectly at this height and I was just waiting for a pull after every cast down it's entire length but try s I might, there was nothing keen on coming to my fly so it was off down to the next pool.

Fishing the lie under the overhanging trees on the far bank was required in this stretch of water.
The next pool/run wasn't named on the map but it was really just a short glide coming off the far bank which was shaded by the over hanging trees. This looked an ideal spot for a fish to lie given the bright conditions and I carefully covered the water as quietly and as delicately as I could. Again, there was no fish willing to take my fly and I moved on down stream to the next likely looking pool.

The neck of Knowhead Pool. A large pool by upper Don standards.
Mid way down Knowhead where I tormented several trout with a Collie.
The Knowhead pool was next up and this is a large pool for the Upper Don. This pool also has a nice depth to it and a lovely even flow down it's length once you are past the faster water up at the neck. I decide to give a Collie Dog a try in here as it was a much wider pool than most. I varied the speed of my retrieve and I quickly moved several decent sized trout on my first few casts. This spurred me on and my concentration levels were raised a notch or two again. About half way down the pool I managed to gt one of these trout to stick and I soon landed a small but perfectly form brown trout about 9" long. Not a monster but a welcome bend in the rod. I fished on down the remainder of the pool without moving anything else but the presence of an otter didn't help matters but it was great to watch it going about it's business. Hopefully had better luck than I was having!
Looking upstream on the bottom pool of Kildrummy, The Muckle Saugh.
Fishing down Muckle Saugh. A lovely cast at this height.
Despite the fact i didn't land any salmon I really enjoyed my day back on the Kildrummy Water. Given the water conditions I had on the day, I couldn't have asked for better to be honest. It was just unfortunate that the salmon hadn't read my script. Kildrummy is a beat I will fish again and I will look forward to that day. Hopefully I can strike it lucky with similar water levels that I got for my day next time round. David Littlewood has a nice beat on his hands here and it boasts some of the best brown trout fishing on the river. Well worth perusing if that's your chosen quarry. There is plenty good fishing to be had by the 4 rods whether it's salmon or trout you're after and it is very reasonable priced. Day tickets are readily available from the Kildrummy Inn. As well as co owner of the Kildrummy Inn, David is also the head chef and has won several awards for his culinary skills. His business partner, Nigel Hake has also picked up a few awards for his role as Front of House at the Inn and I can highly recommend a meal there if in the area.

It's been a while since I managed to get a salmon on the bank but hopefully there will be plenty to write about in the remaining months of the season. Thanks for reading and Tight Lines!

Monday, 13 June 2016

Tilbouries - River Dee

I had a day on the Tilbouries beat of the River Dee last Saturday and with the low water conditions and bright sunshine forecast, I wasn't holding out much hope for any success. I arrived at the beat around 8.30am to find the water levels sitting at 11" on the Park gauge. Tactics for the day would involve light tackle and small flies. My set up for the day was my 13ft Hardy Uniqua, 8/9 Rio Scandi floating shooting head and a 10ft intermediate polyleader with 8ft of 12lb clear maxima. My fly of choice was a #12 Arndilly Fancy dressed on a Loop double. After a coffee and a chat with Daniel Wright, the ghillie it was off down to fish the Tilbouries Run.
Looking down the Tilbouries Run about 9am.
A nice wee sea trout on my 5th cast of the morning. Taken on a #12 Arndilly Fancy.
Daniel and his rods had a good day in the Tilbouries Run the previous day where they landed three salmon and lost another as well as a sea trout. With the water levels low, the Run was as good a place to start as any. Not long after starting a couple of good, clean salmon made their presence known as did a good sea trout. Confidence immediately rose and no sooner had I started I lifted into a strong wee sea trout. Daniel soon had it in the net for me and it was quickly released to carry on it's journey. By this time we were all confident that we might just be in for a decent day of it.

Fishing down the Tilbouries Run.
Looking upstream to the shingle bar which runs the length of the Tilbouries Run.
By 11am the sun was high in the sky and the good cloud cover we had earlier on in the morning had now burnt off and there wasn't a cloud to be seen. Temperatures were rising quickly and the fish seemed to go down as we didn't see another splash. Daniel suggested we had another go in the Tilbouries Run but I was desperate for the toilet so I let Daniel fish whilst I watered the grass. As luck would have it, Whilst I was removing my waders to empty my bladder I had a shout from Daniel who was bent into a good fish! I couldn't believe it!! That's the last time I go for a pee and let the ghillie fish! I quickly got my waders fastened and grabbed the net and made my way down the bank to help Daniel out. The fish made some unstoppable runs but we eventually had it turned and I slid the net under a cracking fish of around 12lb. On closer inspection, the fish was covered in long tail sea lice and was clearly straight out the sea. Who says you can't catch salmon in low water and bright conditions. This salmon clearly hadn't read the books.
Looking downstream from the top of the Tilbouries Run
Here I am posing with a lovely 12lber covered in sea lice which was caught by ghillie, Daniel from the Tilbouries Run in the bright sunshine.
Lunch time was spent going over the morning's fishing. With the bright sun now beaming directly down onto all the pools there was no hurry to get back on the water. As I was only able to fish until 5pm I ventured out again just after the usual 2pm start time.
The well equipped fishing hut at Tilbouries.
The cosy interior of the Tilbouries hut.
Looking upstream from the front of the hut to the tail of the Island and into Cairnton.
I decided to give the Island Stream a run through after lunch just on the off chance any fish we spotted during the morning were running. The water was really low in this pool and you could see almost every stone on the river bed. I even sat and watched a greedy trout steadily rise to take flies off the surface. I quickly went through the pool before heading back down stream but unsurprisingly, I didn't get an offer.

Fishing down the Island. A couple of sea trout showing the in faster water here.
Looking upstream near the tail of the Island.
On my way down to the hut I spotted a nice sea trout rise in the Cairnton pool. I quickly made my way over to where it showed and on my first cast I hooked the fish. It was a lively fish and and it soon threw the hook which was disappointing. Still, it was good to get another bend in the rod especially given the conditions.
Looking downstream towards the Cairnton pool from the tail of the Island.

An old photo I had of the Cairnton Pool from July 2012 as I didn't take any pictures of the pool last week.
Tilbouries is home to one of the longest pools on the Dee named the Lawson Pool. The pool requires a bit of wading from the Tilbouries bank but it's easy to fish and can hold a lot of fish through out the season, especially during the cold, early months of the season and the back end. I didn't put a fly through it his time as we felt we would have had more chance getting a fish fishing the streamy runs glides in the pools below.

The mighty Lawson Pool. Again an old photo from July 2012 but it's just to show the size of the pool and give an idea of why it can be so productive.
Daniel and I fished through the Tilbouries Run and Alfred's Pot a couple of times during the afternoon but it was more in hope than expectation as the overhead conditions were bordering on tropical and coupled with low water the fish were taking shelter and not interested in any of our offerings. It was nice to meet Dee ghillies, Brian from Cairnton and Glen from Borrowston who had popped down to Tilbouries to speak with Daniel. I had not met either of them before and it was good to have a chat with them and to find out what has been happening on their beats further upstream. It was also good to hear stories of some nice fish being caught and pools holding fish. Long may it continue and fingers crossed the River Dee can have a good summer and finish the season on a high come the back end runs in September and October.

The beat has been very lightly fished in recent years and the catches don't really reflect the beat's potential. I'm sure if more rod took the chance of a day here then the numbers in the book would be much higher. It's reasonably priced and days at Tilbouries are available starting from £30 in the spring rising to £80 later on in the season. Days can be booked through the FishDee website or by contacting Daniel via their Facebook page - Tilbouries Fishing