Wednesday, 8 March 2017

3 Days On Ballogie - River Dee

I had my annual 3 day trip to the Ballogie beat of the River Dee last week in pursuit of the ultimate prize in salmon fishing; a fresh run springer. Water levels remained steady during my three days with levels reading 1ft 6in on the Potarch Bridge gauge. The only significant change in levels occurred on Saturday afternoon when the river rose to 2ft on the gauge just after lunch time due to the torrential rain which fell through out the day. River temperature rose slowly from 35f on Thursday to 37f on Saturday.
About to return a cracking springer of around 7lb back into the Dee.
I had the beat to myself on Thursday and this gave me scope to move around and fish all the best pools. I set up with my 15ft Mackenzie DTX shooting head rod and a H/I/S1 Guideline PT Scandi line. Flies consisted of the usual spring flies like a Willie Gunn, Black & Yellow or a Monkey.

Action was few and far between despite the near ideal conditions above and below water level and it seemed the fish had other ideas. I did however land a very large kelt in the afternoon which took a 1" Dee Monkey cone head. It fought very hard and if I had lost it mid fight I'd have sworn it was a good fish that got away. Unfortunately, the springers were not playing ball even though there were one or two that showed themselves during the day. Despite no springers being caught it was great to be back fishing at Ballogie again.
A cracking springer from the Bulwarks which was taken on a 1" Monkey cone head.
The next day I was joined by my good pal Philip Black. With there now being two of us covering the water, this gave us a great opportunity to fish the beat a bit more thoroughly in an attempt to find a so far elusive springer. My set up for the day was exactly the same as the day before except I changed my versi leader from a 5.6 inch per second to a 3.9. This seemed to do the trick as not long after starting I had a fish on lower most pool on the beat which was the Bulwarks. This turned out to be a well mended kelt but just like the one I caught yesterday, this one fought like a tiger! I quickly return the fish and retied my hook. I waded out to the same spot where I came out to land the fish and made my first cast. My 1" Dee Monkey was swinging round nicely when it was snaffled again by another fish. The fish didn't really do much to begin with and I played it as though it was just another kelt. After a short battle the fish jumped out the water to reveal lovely thick set flanks and that shiny chrome colour that fresh run fish carry. This was no kelt and my attention levels rose sharply! Not long after, the fish was ready to be landed and I had soon beached a cracking fish around the 6lb mark. It was quickly photographed as I was returning it and it was set on it's way to do what nature intended. A great start to my day but this turned out to be the only action any of us would have.
A beauty about 9lb or so ready to be returned. Again, taken on a 1" Dee Monkey tube.
Heavy rain poured over the Dee valley all Friday night and into Saturday as well. The ground was sodden and we were expecting a sharp rise in river levels. Fortunately for us that didn't happen and the river was still showing 1ft 6in as we arrived at the hut on Saturday morning. I kept the same set up that was successful for me the day before and I decide to fish the Lower Inchbare pool first as I never got round to doing it the day before. Sean Stanton, explained where all the good lies were and I made my way downstream eager to begin despite the torrential rain overhead. I had fished down the top part of the pool without a touch but as I neared the tail I had a thumping take out in mid stream. The fish pulled hard in the fast water and I scrambled about the rocky river bed trying to make my way into the bank to land it. The fish fought hard but after 10 minutes or so I managed to tail a belter of a fish which weighed around 9/10lbs. What a start to the day! I removed the hook form the fish and set her on her way after a quick photo on her return. My camera was drenched after that so I made my way over to my car to try and dry it out before starting to fish again as I did not want to have the chance of catching a large fish and not having my camera for evidence (sore point on social media at the moment) so I spent 20 minutes or so with the heated seats on full blast as well as the heaters. The camera was dry again and I went back into the river exactly where I came out to try and catch another fish. I waded out into the river again and began fishing down the pool. No sooner had I started when I had another good take from a lively fish. I immediately knew this was no kelt and made my way back to the bank to play the fish. After a cracking scrap which lasted 7 or 8 minutes I managed to beech the fish in between two stones. As soon as I beeched the fish, Sean appeared just in time to take a few photos of me with the fish. It was fresh as paint and weighed in the region of 7lb or so.

My second fish from Lower Inchbare on Saturday morning. A cracker of 7lb which also took a liking to a 1" Dee Monkey.
Catch and Release. (also see photo at top of page) 
Sean suggested I went back in again to try and get my hat trick. This I did and I couldn't believe it when my line went tight only a few cast after restarting again. This was another good scrap and the fish stayed deep through out. The fish took a lot of line which prompted Sean to run and get his net. The fish was just not for showing itself and stayed out in the current even though I tried to bully it in towards the bank. This continued for a good few minutes before I eventually got the fish up and ready for the net. Sean slid the net under the fish and we couldn't believe it when we noticed it was a kelt!! It wasn't even a well mended one either as it was still coloured. We quickly returned the fish and watched it swim off in astonishment that it put up such a fight for being a spent fish. By this time it was nearing lunch so we headed off back to the hut. It was still raining hard.
A fine early spring day on the Ballogie beat of the River Dee last week.
After lunch the rain was still falling but by this time the burns had started to fill and the river was colouring up and rising as a result. The gauge was now reading about 1ft 8in and I was due to fish the upper pools on the beat with Philip giving the Bulwarks a run through. I fished through the Top Gannet without a touch but the river was visible coloured by this time and I was ready to pack in. Sean arrived just as I was making my way down the pool and he suggested giving the Lower Gannet a go as the main flow runs down the far bank and the fish move close in to get out of the flow. I wasn't holding out much hope but I did have some excitement when a good fish took my fly about half way down the pool. This felt like a really good fish and it fought hard for a good ten minutes or so before I finally drew it into the bank for ghillie, Sean Stanton to tail. This fish didn't know when it was beaten and we were convinced it was a good springer but alas it turned out to be a 36" kelt! If I had lost it mid fight, we'd have sworn it was a big springer which got off. We couldn't believe just how hard fighting these kelts were! i fished out the remainder of the pool without a touch and we called it a day around 4.45pm more than satisfied with landing two springers for our day.

With that, it was the end of my trip. If someone told me I would catch three springers before I went I would have bitten their hand off! All the fish took exactly where Sean Stanton had said they would so without his expert knowledge who knows what might have happened. It was pleasing that the fish were all caught using the same fly fished off the same set up as well. It makes a huge difference not having to change tactics all the time in an attempt to find the correct formula so to speak. Interestingly enough, I didn't get an offer using any other set up.The conditions played a big part too and we couldn't have asked for better during our trip. If the same happens next season I will be delighted. There's a lot of fishing to be done before then though but I can't complain with way my season has started this year and long may it continue!

1 comment:

  1. Nice report Craig - few days like that will do me nicely next week....