The Aberdeenshire River Dee opening for business again on the 1st of February with Alexander Armstrong dong the honours this year. This year was the first year for a long time that I have not attended the opening ceremony but I had a good excuse - I was fishing at Park!
Opening Day on any river is always full of anticipation but as the Dee is my "home" river, we were all really looking forward to fishing it again and trying to land another opening day springer like we did last year. River conditions were decent enough despite the unwanted rise in river levels the night before. The beat gauge was reading 38" and running clear. Tactics for the day were my 15ft Mackenzie DTX shooting head rod, a H/I/S1 shooting head and a 7ips versi leader. Fly of choice was the old Dee favourite, the Black and Yellow.
Around 10.00am Daniel Stephen hooked into a good fish in the Cellar Pool. At first it didn't do an awful lot but it was soon clear this was no kelt! After a good scrap, a cracking fish of around 14lb was guided into the waiting net. This was Daniel's first ever salmon! Not a bad way to opening your account. After a few photos the fish was returned to the river and it quickly transpired that this was the first fish off the river in 2017. Later that day it also turned out the be the largest. It certainly doesn't get much better than that! I think I was was equally pleased as it was caught using one of my flies which I had only tied up a few days before. The rest of the day only produced kelts for us all and I think the final tally was around 30 or so. There certainly seemed to be plenty kelts holding at Park this year which is encouraging. At least it give any spring fish entering the river some company if they decided to stop and rest in the area. Hopes were high for the remainder of the week.
February 2nd saw me fishing further up river at Carlogie thanks to an invite from ghillie, Sean Stanton. The river was in good ply and there were several kelts around to keep us on our toes. Tactics were the same as the previous day with the Black and Yellow accounting for the handful of kelts I landed. Sean did hook a good fish in Rossicks however but he lost it at his feet whilst attempting to beech it. That would have been the first off the beat in 2017 but sadly, it wasn't to be. It was a good sign that the fish were present in the area and I'm pleased to say that Carlogie have had 2 fresh fish landed since my day there on Thursday.
I was back to Park again on Friday 3rd February as this is day 1 of my usual days I take every year. The river was sitting at 31" on the gauge as I arrived in the morning but it soon rose rapidly around lunch time and it peaked at 62" by mid afternoon. The river was also carrying a lot of debris and the fishing was no use. Apart from a handful of kelts, the fishing was tough going due to the river conditions so the rods put away in the hut and substituted for whisky glasses!
As we arrived at the beat on Saturday morning, conditions looked good. The river had dropped back to a reasonable level and the colour had all but gone. The gauge was reading 31" again. Sean and I were allocated the lower part of the beat for the morning session with Sean starting in the Cellar and I fished the Durris Stream. I could only muster up a half hearted offer near the top of the Durris but as i was about three quarters the way down the pool I could hear a shout from Sean. I quickly wound in and ran off upstream to see Sean's line way out in the river with a good fish attached. Keith Cromar, the ghille, was soon on the scene too and he was ready with the net as Sean slid a bar of silver around 16lb into it. What a start to the morning!
I fished on out the rest of the Durris with only a brown trout to show for my efforts so I decided to go upriver and have a run down the Cellar before lunch. I started out in the tail of the House Pool and worked my way into the Cellar Pool itself. I briefly had hold of a fish at the tail of the House but by this time the river had risen to 38" on the gauge. I waded out as far as I dared at began launching a long line into the wind. I got about half way down the pool when I had a good take form a fish. This didn't feel like the usual head shaking kelt but again, like Daniel's fish, it didn't do much to begin with. The fish was almost up opposite of me when it suddenly took of across the pool. In doing so it tore all my line of the reel in one screaming run and I struggled keep it under control. It then came running back upstream and I managed to get all my line back on the reel. No sooner was it back on the reel, the fish took off again. In all, it did this 4 times before finally coming to Keith's waiting net. It was such a relief to see it into the net and it was a spanking fresh fish around the 10lb mark. A good old Dee Monkey tube did the business. There is nothing better than landing an early season springer and I happily retired to the hut to celebrate. During lunch, the river rose to over 56" and it put an end to the fishing again. Still, Sean and I were quite happy as we had achieved what we set out to do, catch a springer. Roll on the next one!
|First fish of the season ready to be returned. It's great seeing that first fish safely in the net.|
|Opening day team photo in the Park fishing hut.|
|Fishing down the Park Inn on Opening Day.|
|Looking upstream in Park Inn.|
|Daniel Stephen with his first ever salmon! The first and largest salmon off the river on Opening Day!|
|Fishing down the Castleton Pool in a big water.|
|Looking upstream in Castleton before the river became unfishable.|
|Playing a fresh run springer in the Cellar Pool at Park.|
|Sean McGarry with a cracking fish of around 16lb.|
|Me and my first salmon of 2017. 10lb of pure muscle!|