Sunday, 22 January 2017

Lower Kinnaird - River Tay

We had our annual January gathering at the Lower Kinnaird beat of the River Tay on Saturday. This is when me and a group of good pals from various parts of Scotland meet up and blow away the winter cobwebs and attempt to catch an elusive January springer. The river was sitting at 2ft on the gauge and the weather was cold but otherwise it was a perfect early spring day for being out fishing.

Group photo. L/R - Alan, Me, Martin (ghillie), Kenny, Andy, Bill, Charlie and Craig
I was to travel down to Tayside with fellow Donsiders, Bill and Charlie. After rising at 5.00am to pick up Charlie and meet Bill we set off for the Tay just after 6am. The drive down to Tayside took much longer than normal due to persistent thick fog which made driving difficult but we arrived at the beat hut just before 8.30am. After the meet and greet in the fishing hut over a cup of coffee and a bacon roll it was time to get down to business and work out where we were to start fishing for the day.
Kenny and Alan enjoy a bacon roll and coffee before starting the day.

The well equipped fishing hut at Lower Kinnaird.
I was to fish the Guay Pool with Charlie and Andy drove us round and showed us the water. I opted to start with the fly as did Charlie. I tackled up with my 15ft Mackenzie DTX shooting head rod with a Guideline PT Scandi F/H/S1 shooting head line and a 10ft 5.6ips versi tip.. Fly of choice was a 2" Black and Yellow conehead tube. I was to start about half way down the pool with Charlie 50 yards below me. I waded out to just above my knees as instructed and began lengthening line out. After only my third cast I lifted into a fish. The initial take was quite subtle and I applied a bit of pressure once the fish began to pull some line off the reel. I set the hook and carefully began to make my way back to the bank. No sooner had I started moving into the bank the fish was off. I didn't see the fish so there was no way of knowing what it was but it was best not to think about it too much and I was back fishing again immediately. Charlie and I fished the whole pool several time with both fly and spinner but neither of us had any luck so it was up to the Ash Tree pool to meet the rest of the guys and have a bite to eat.
Andy points out the likely spots of the Guay Pool to Charlie.
A very large carcass of a salmon lies on the bank of the Guay Pool. Would have easily top the scales at 20lb plus.
Fishing down the Guay Pool shortly after loosing a fish.
On arrival to the Ash Tree pool the guys were standing round a wee fire willing the soup pot to start boiling. It was soon hot enough to serve and we sat down to some of Kenny's home made Ham Hock soup and bread. The hot soup went down a treat and after discussing the morning's proceedings we were allocated our pools for the afternoon session and set off for another crack at catching a January Tay springer.
Looking upstream to where the River Tummel meets the River tay.

Looking across the Junction pool. The big coloured fish was splashing about just up from the seat on the bank.

Fishing down the Junction Pool. Would love to fish it in April/May time.
Martin, the ghille drove Charlie and I round to fish the Junction Pool. The Junction Pool is where the River Tummel meets the Tay. The Tummel itself is a very productive river and we could fish the lower pools of the river if we so wished. Charlie went in a the top of the pool this time and I went in half way down. I changed lines over to an I/S2/S3 shooting head as this pool held a good bit of depth and was much faster flowing that Guay. Almost as soon as I waded out into the pool a big coloured fish jumped out of the water. This was obviously an old fish but it was easily 25lb. Charlie and I fished through the pool without a touch and apart from the older fish we didn't see anything moving despite how "fishy" the pool looked. Just as we were making our way back to the top of the pool Martin arrived to take us back to the hut as it was nearly 4.30pm. Time doesn't half fly when you are fishing!
A 2.5" Willie Gunn tube flutters in the icy cold River Tay
We arrived back at the hut and met up with the other guys. Nobody had any luck but Bill and Alan were still to return. We sat in the hut with a cup of coffee discussing the day we'd had when Bill drew up outside the hut and announced he'd landed a cracking fish of around 9lb from the Guay Pool. this was great news and we we all delighted for Bill as it was his and the beat's first fish of the season. \it was also Bill's first ever January fish he'd caught in all the years he had been fishing. Kenny presented Bill with a bottle of Fettercairn single malt whisky for catching the first fish and we all congratulated him on getting his fish. It really was the perfect end to a great day on the river in the company of good friends. Here's to the next time we all meet up which will be late March, again on the River Tay.
What we are all after. Bill's 9lb January salmon from the Guay Pool at 3.30pm. 
With the customary blowing off the cobwebs cast on the River Tay now over, my attention turns to the opening of my local river, the Dee. It opens again for salmon fishing on the 1st February and I really can't wait to get out for a cast there again. My first outing is at Park on opening day with good pals. Fingers crossed I can get off to good start like I did last season. Another opening day springer would do me just fine. Camera will be at the ready if I do!

River Tay Opening Day 2017

Thanks to a kind invitation from Tony and Philip Black I found myself fishing on the fantastic Murthly 2 beat of the River Tay on it's opening day which is January 16th. The river was sitting at 4ft 6in on the beat gauge but was running clear considering the rise the night before. Regardless of the river height it was just good to be out on the river banks again after the long winter months.
John Fyfe fishing down through Willie's.
The evening before the trip was spent sorting out all my fishing gear in anticipation of fishing the Tay on Opening Day. I had never fished the River Tay on Opening Day before and couldn't wait to get there. I set off at 6.30am to get through the Aberdeen traffic and I arrived at the gates to Murthly Castle at 8.30am where I was greeted by Philip Black and fellow Aberdonian, John Fife. I followed on behind John and Philip along the castle road down to the hut where toasted in the new season with a wee dram of whisky. After a good chat about how excited we were for the new season and how we fared in 2016 it was time to set the rods up and get out on the water.

The entrance to the long driveway which leads up to the fishing.
My first cast of 2017.
Philip showed us the pools on the beat and where to concentrate our efforts and I was to start of in the Meetings Pool. This was a lovely bit of water even though the levels were on the high side. The water an along the side of the an island where it met the flow coming down the far side of it. This created a lovely seam through the centre of the river and it was in this area where Philip pointed out as a good spot to pick up a fish. I firstly fished through the pool with a 30g Toby Salmo but I didn't temp anything. I had another quick run down the pool with my fly rod and a 2" Willie Gunn but again to no avail.
Looking out to the Meeting's pool. Can be a very productive pool.
The next pool down was Willie's. This was another nice looking stretch of water and I opted to begin in here with the fly. John was fishing the tail just in front of me and landed a wee kelt just as I was starting. About half way down the pool a kelt had a go at my fly but it didn't take properly. It was good to know the fly was fishing attractively though. By the time I fished out the pool it was lunch time so it was off back to the hut or a bite to eat.

Fishing the fly on the Tay. I had a good offer from a fish just of the point of the corner, It didn't stick unfortunately.

One of the well equipped fishing huts at Murthly 2.
After lunch we didn't do much fishing to be honest as we spent most of time chatting and catching up after the winter. Having said that, I did have a run through the pools again and despite my best efforts with the fly rod and Salmo I couldn't temp anything. At this time of year though, fish are few and far between but it was great to be out on the water again.
Fishing a Salmo down through the Meetings Pool.
I find myself heading back down to Tayside this weekend for another go so we shall see what happens there, but again, it's more of a social gathering than a proper fishing trip. Any fish caught will be a bonus.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Scale Sample Results

Every season I try to collect a few scale samples from salmon I catch and these scales are kindly read for me by River Don bailiff, Martin Webster. Last season I managed to get scales from three fresh run salmon which I caught during the summer months. All three fish were 10lb or above and the scales read as follows:

Fish No.1:

14lb Salmon from the River Spey at Tulchan C
This 14lb hen salmon was caught on the 25th June 2016 from the Tulchan C beat of the River Spey. The scale reading from the fish pictured above shows 2 sea winters growth and some growth last year. It spent 2 winters in the river as a juvenile before smolting to sea. The scale reading confirmed this was a summer salmon. I for one am glad this beauty made it back to the river as it was my first ever River Spey salmon.

Fish No.2

A cracking 10lb River Spey salmon also from Tulchan C 
This 10lb salmon was caught from the Tulchan C beat on the same day as the 14lb salmon above and was as fresh as they come. The scale sample read it was a 2 sea winter fish and it also sent 2 years in the river as a juvenile before smolting to sea. The scale reading confirmed this was a summer salmon.

Fish No.3

10lb summer salmon from the Rver Dee.
The final scale reading was taken from a fish caught at the Ballogie beat of the River Dee on 5th July 2016. It was roughly 10lbs in weight and was very fresh. The scale confirmed it was a 2 sea winter summer salmon which spent 2 years in the river as a juvenile before smolting to sea. 

It's always really interesting getting the information back from the scale readings. Hopefully I'll catch a few more salmon this season and get the scale readings done again. Big thank you to River Don bailiff, Martin Webster for taking the time to read them for me and providing such detailed feedback. It's much appreciated. 

Sunday, 8 January 2017

New Season Approaching

Firstly, I would like to wish everyone a happy new year and I hope the fishing gods will be smiling on us all in 2017. Secondly, and more importantly, the new salmon fishing season in Scotland is almost upon us again! Rivers in the North of Scotland such as the Naver, Helmsdale and Thurso open their doors on the 11th of January and the River Tay follows soon after on the 15th. My local rivers the Dee and Don open on the 1st of February and the 11th of February respectively.
A fine opening day springer from park on the River Dee in 2016. It turned out the be the largest fish caught on opening day.
The River Oykel. One of the finest salmon rivers in Scotland.
I really can't wait for the season to start. It has been a long, but mild winter but I was really hoping for a bit of a cold snap just to bring back to some sort of normality for the salmon after the far from normal warm and wet Decembers of the last few years. Hopefully it will cool down in the early months of the year though and a bit of snow and frost wouldn't go a miss just to cool the river temperatures and slow down any of these early running fish.

A still from my GoPro of a lively 14lber from the Ballogie beat of the River Dee.
My first outing of the season is nearing ever closer where I'm on the River Tay just one week from now. The customary tying of flies and tidying out the the tackle boxes has been done and the online chats and messages are in full swing. As the anticipation grows, the days seem to get longer and run up to that first fishing trip of the year feels like it takes forever! I'm looking forward to sharing my fishing experiences with you again. Tight Lines to anyone lucky enough to be out on the river in the coming weeks.
A selection of salmon tubes for the early Spring. From left to right- (L) and (C) Gold Willie Gunn (R) Black & Yellow.

An annual necessity. Lines all cleaned and reels serviced ready for the new season.