Thursday, 25 May 2017

Commonty - River Dee

I found myself on the River Dee again last Monday but this time I was fishing the Commonty beat. Commonty is let as part of the Ballogie Estate and boasts some of the most secluded fishing to be had anywhere on the middle river. The beat is 1.5 miles long and has 13 named pools with each capable of producing fish on any given day. The water was sitting at 6" on the Portach gauge when I arrived at 8.15am but had dropped back 4 or 5 inches after the heavy rain over the weekend.

Looking upstream towards the Suicide Pool.
I met the ghillie, Ian Fraser at the hut in the morning along with the other rod who was fishing the beat. Tactics were discussed and I opted to fish a full floating line off my 12ft 6in Guideline LPXe and a 12ft tapered leader and 6ft of 10lb nylon. My fly of choice to begin with was a #11 Editor.

Fishing down through Suicide. Plenty fresh fish running through the pool as I started. 
I was drawn to fish the top part of the beat in the morning and Ian suggested I started in the Suicide Pool. Suicide is aptly named due to the terrible wading but with the water being so low this made things much easier. It was actually an easy wade at this height and I fished down the pool without going for an unexpected swim. When I first started there were a good few fresh fish making themselves known in the pool. These were all good sized salmon in the 10-15lb range but there were a couple which dwarfed these ones. Especially one fish which lept out the water right in front of me. This brute of a cock fish was well into the high 20s of pounds and will make a Dee angler very happy somewhere if he decides to take their fly. Despite the fact there were numerous fish moving through the pool, they just weren't for stopping and within half an hour the activity settled down and it was just one or two resident fish which were splashing about. I didn't connect with anything except a few smolts so I made my way down to fish the Island Run.

Island Run. 
Looking upstream from the bottom of the Island Run.
The Island Run is a low water pool which runs out of the tail of the Otter Trap/Boat Pool. It's a well oxygenated stretch of water and a fine resting spot for any salmon running up through the white water between here and the Garden Pool below. I fished down the length of the pool with only a brown trout and several smolts to show for my efforts but it was fishing very well and had produced a fine fish of 12lb the week before.

Fishing down the Otter Trap.
After fishing the Island Run I made my way back upstream to fish the Otter Trap. The Otter Trap is another faster flowing run which peters out towards the tail of the pool. There had been a few resident fish in here prior to the water going up but they were keeping themselves down. I fished through the pool covering all the likely lies without a touch so I made my way to the bank and upstream to have another run through Suicide before lunch.

Looking down the Otter Trap from the bank at the Suicide.
I waded out to start fishing down Suicide again and immediately there was a hefty, older looking fish which jumped just down from where I was standing. This would have been another good fish in the 20lb+ bracket. I covered its lie numerous times with a small Red Frances but it wasn't for taking. The small red fly must have been stirring it up as the fish showed about four times as I passed over the top of it with my fly. I fished down the rest of the pool without an offer but pleased to see numerous fish. This kept the enthusiasm and concentration levels high as I made my way back to the hut for lunch.

The Commonty fishing hut. This is a new hut after the last one was swept away in the floods last year.
A victim of the Saprolegnia fungus. A fairly fresh looking fish around the 9/10lb mark. Note the damage on the tail wrist and under the belly of the fish. Quite possibly this infection has taken hold due to scale damage caused by tightly gripping the fish for a photo? 
There has been a new hut built on the Commonty beat recently and this is now over looking the Otter Trap pool rather than the Garden Pool where the old hut was located. I sat outside on the porch to eat my sandwich with my eyes fixed on the pool out in front of me. There were a few fish moving through the pool as we sat eating our lunch and we were eager to get cracking again.

Fishing down the Loop. Quite a few fish were showing in this pool as I fished it. Nothing took my offerings though.
The Bend. A lovely cast at all heights of water. 
After lunch I was to fish the lower half of the beat starting in the Loop and the Bend. These are two of my favourite pools on the beat and they always have a fish or two showing in them. Today was no different and as I made way out to the pool, a fish showed right in front of me and was quickly followed by another some twenty yards below me. I changed my fly to a #14 Editor and covered the pool as best I could. I tried a fast retrieve, a slow retrieve, a figure of eight retrieve and even stripping the fly. Nothing worked and the fish remained unfazed by my tactics so I headed off upstream to fish the Blue Chair.

Looking across to Woodend House from the bank at Blue Chair.

Looking upstream from the tail of the Blue Chair.
The Blue Chair is a cracking wee pool with a nice streamy run right through the middle of it. This looked the ideal place for a fish to lie in the low water conditions we are currently on Deeside. I carefully worked my way down the pool covering all the areas Ian suggested but again, the fish were not for tempting so it was off to the next pool.

Chestnut. A small run between the Garden Pool and Blue Chair.
Ian had mentioned a wee pool called Chestnut. This was a small run above Blue Chair and was only about a dozen casts or so but it produced a good few fish several years ago in similar conditions. Unfortunately for me, it wasn't giving up its bounty easily this time so I headed off up to the Garden Pool.

The Garden Pool. A cracking cast at all height and holds fish through out the season. 
The Garden Pool is one of the most productive pools on the beat. It has a nice, deep glide at the neck which holds fish through out the season and the tail can also be productive when there is a bit more water pushing through it. I waded out at the neck of the pool just above the lies and quietly worked my way over them trying hard not to spook any fish which might be present. My stealthy efforts were in vain as I fished out the pool without an offer. By the time I had finished the pool it was almost 5pm and I reluctantly decided to call it a day. I just didn't have the time to hang around until dusk which would have probably been the best time to fish with the low water conditions and bright sun above.

Looking upstream from the neck of the Island Run into the Boat and Otter Trap. 
Commonty is a beat I really enjoy fishing. It has something for everyone and it's location is ideal for escaping the noise of the busy North Deeside road. The pools are all easily covered and if the water is big, fishing is mainly off the bank. Ian Fraser, the ghillie knows his beat inside out and does his utmost to put you onto a fish. For more info on fishing the beat follow the links below.

FishDee - Commonty

Ballogie Estate

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Middle Blackhall - River Dee

Last Saturday I was fishing on the Middle Blackhall beat of the River Dee with good pals Bill Cook and Philip Black. We were due to fish the Tay but after a last minute change of plan due to unforeseen circumstances, we decided on fishing the Dee instead. This was a new beat for me as I had never fished here before. The river levels have been very low recently and the rain forecast prior to our day unfortunately never materialised and levels were sitting at around 4" on the Woodend gauge. Given the conditions, my set up for the day consisted of a 12ft 6in Guideline LPXe #8/9 with a floating Rio Scandi shooting head and a long tapered leader with 6ft of 10lb nylon.

 As the water was so low we arranged an early start with the ghillie. We arrived at the hut around 7am and had a good chat in the car park as we tackled up. Bill then produced a nice bottle of single malt from his recent travels to Arran which accompanied our discussion nicely. After a small dram we made our way to the hut where we were greeted by head ghille, Brian Brogan. We chatted away with Brian for a while and were allocated our pools for the morning session. We must have enjoyed the craic as before we knew it, it was 9am. So much for our early start then!

Invercannie Pool. A lovely cast up at the neck in the low water.

At the tail of the Invercannie pool. Not a bad view from that house!
I was to start in the Invercannie pool first of all. Brian pointed out all the areas to concentrate on and it wasn't long before a fish made it's presence known. I tied on a #14 Silver Stoat's Tail and worked my way down the pool. Using such small flies made them a free offering for the countless amount of smolts present. Every cast and it was getting nibbled by these young salmon. It was great to see such vast numbers of smolts in the pools. Hopefully this bodes well for future stocks. I fished down the pool with just a brown trout and a dozen smolts for my my efforts so it was off upstream to fish the Rock Heads.

Fishing down the Rock Head pool.
The Rock Heads was a short pool but an ideal resting point given the fast water below. The fish have to negotiate a steep incline from the pools below whilst battling the fast flowing white water so it's easy to see why this pool would be productive. I covered the whole pool from top to bottom but again, just a few greedy smolts took my offerings so it was off back down to Invercannie for a second run through.

Looking upstream from mid way down the Invercannie Pool.
My second run through Invercannie produced the same results as my first run. Philip joined me as I fished out the remainder of the pool but there seemed to be a few more active fish this time round. Possibly due to the heavy rain which was emptying from the clouds above us. Maybe the salmon could sense a wee lift in water coming? Or maybe I'm just over thinking it? Who knows but there weren't for taking my fly anyway so we headed off back to the hut for lunch.

The Middle Blackhall Fishing Hut.
The Middle Blackhall hut is a cosy timber clad granite building and is quite comfortable inside. The good sized wood burner roared away nicely but more to dry our soaked gear than to warm us up. There was nothing to report from either Philip or Bill but we all commented on the number of juvenile fish about. It really was a sight to see so many feeding hard as they prepared for their epic journey. Hopefully a good number of these youngsters will return in the next year or two as adults and give us anglers a chance to catch them.

Fishing down through Kelpie and into Canary.
Looking upstream towards Canary from Rock Heads.
Bill's 7lber from Invercannie just after lunch. This fell to a #12 Editor.
After lunch I was to fish Sandy Bay and Canary pools. There had been a nice, clean fish lost in here the previous day so I was raring to go even though Bill had fished it during the morning session. These pools were a couple of nice fast runs and exactly where you would expect to pick up a running fish given the low water conditions. I changed fly to a small #12 Executioner and fished my way down the pools. Not long after starting, my phone went and Bill had just landed a nice clean fish of around 7lb from Invercannie. this was good to hear and kept the concentration level high. Despite my best efforts in the pouring rain, nothing wanted my fly except one or two juvenile fish again so I headed of further upstream to fish Glisters.

Looking upstream towards Glister in the heavy rain. 
Fishing down through Glisters. 
Glisters is quite a narrow pool at the neck as the river flows through the bedrock banks on either side before widening out into a nice streamy glide. Like most of the pools on the beat, this was holding a lot of juvenile fish. In fact, the slower parts of this pool were literally bubbling with them! There were numerous amounts of them airborne at any given time as they feasted on the abundance of flies obviously on the water. I fished down the neck of the pool without a touch so decide to head further upstream to fish the Cairnton Pool.

Looking across to Cairnton House from the Middle Blackhall bank of the Cairnton Pool.
The Cairnton Pool is a lovley stretch of water which is overlooked by the big house on the Cairnton bank. I made my way down to the water and a good, clean fish showed just below where I started which spurred me on a bit. I opted to try a bigger fly to eliminate the chances of hooking the smolts so I tied on a #11 Crathie. With the low water conditions, this pool only required a very short cast to cover the run which flowed through the middle of the pool. This is where the fish seemed to be lying and I covered them as stealthy as I possibly could. There were a couple of older fish which showed half way down and these could have been  disturbed by the presence of running fish. Neither the old stuff or the fresh fish wanted to take my fly and I fished out the pool without a touch just as Bill arrived to say he was heading off. By this time it was 4pm so I decided to head back down to the Invercannie for another go.

My third run through the Invercannie Pool.
My third run through the Invercannie was a fruitless one but a few more fish showed as I fished down the pool. It certainly seemed to be holding a few salmon but tempting one, for me anyway, was proving to be a difficult task. I fished out the pool without a touch but by this time the rain had finally stopped and the sun was splitting the sky again.
Cairnton & Middle Blackhall ghillie, Brian Brogan makes his way over in the boat followed by his two labs.
I made my way back to the hut at 5pm to meet Brian as he was shutting up for the weekend. We had a good chat and I listened on intently as Brian relaid stories of his days ghilling on the River Tay at Islamouth. Brian's tales of large fish and huge bags of salmon had me imagining what it must have been like in those days. It must have been amazing to see the rivers stuffed full of fish, and some very large specimen fish at that! Hopefully one day salmon numbers will again be at that level and I hope to be on the river when they are!

Looking down the Cairnton Pool just after 5pm when the sun finally made an appearance!
Brian suggested having another go in the Cairnton pool as his rods on the Cairnton bank had seen a few fresh fish moving in it earlier on. This is what I did and I headed off upstream. I started at the top of the pool and worked my way through it covering all the lies where I saw fish when I fished the pool earlier in the afternoon. Nothing was showing this time around and I fished out the pool without a touch and decided to call it a day just before 7pm.

Looking upstream from the bank of the Cairnton Pool.
I really enjoyed my day on Middle Blackhall despite the low water. The beat is set away from the major roads and is very secluded given anglers a peaceful setting to cast a fly. It also has to be one of the best kept beats on the river as both banks are maintained to almost bowling green like standards! There was also the added bonus of having pools with plenty fish showing through out the day. This kept us occupied and it was good that Bill managed to winkle one out. It was also good to see a part of the River Dee that I had never seen before. I will certainly be back and I already have a day booked on the opposite bank at Cairnton in July which I'm really looking forward to. For more info on the beats or to book a day click on the links below.

FishDee - Cairnton and Middle Blackhall beats

Monday, 1 May 2017

Castle Forbes - River Don

I annually organise a day on the Castle Forbes beat of the River Don. This is well attended by 9 keen salmon anglers from the Salmon ProBoard Forum and various other forms of social media. This year we couldn't have asked for better conditions with the water dropping nicely after a 2ft spate earlier in the week. As we arrived on the beat the water was sitting at 1ft 1in. Over head conditions were promising with plenty cloud cover and just a slight breeze. There had been fresh fish caught down stream earlier in the week so to say we we keen to get started was an understatement!

The customary group photo. L/R: Charlie, Kenny, Mel, Bill, Me, Kevin, Sean and Callum. Photo taken by Alan.
After the meet and greet in the estate office car park, it was off to our allocated beats. I was to fish beat 1 and I couldn't wait to get going. My rod of choice was my 12ft 6in Guideline LPXe matched with a floating Scandi shooting head. Fly of choice was a 3/4in Monkey on an aluminium tube.
Looking downstream in Upper Deep Stane.
I decided to head to the Upper Deepstane pool first and fish down from there. The Deepstane pools are good holding pools and often produce fish throughout the season. The water was in great condition and it fished the fly perfectly as I covered the boils and glides down the pool. Disappointingly though, nothing took a liking to my offerings but not long after starting I had a text message from Kevin to say he had lost a good fish estimated to be in the high teens of pounds. Despite the fact he had lost it, this was encouraging news as we knew there were fish in the beat.

Middle Deepstane.
The next pool down was the Middle Deepstane pool. This was another cracking bit of water and it also fished really well at this height of water but I suspected it fished better from the opposite bank at this height as all the depth ran directly down the left bank. I almost always prefer to fish from the shallow water into the deeper stuff. Again despite trying all the likely parts of the pool I couldn't find a salmon willing to take my fly so it was off down to the Lower Deepstane.

Lower Deepstane.
Lower Deepstane has been kind to us during our previous visits to Castle Forbes and I was hopeful that there might be a fish or two resting in here. The inside of a bend is always a good shout when the water is high as the fish tend to move into the quieter water. Every cast in this pool was made with thoughts of expectancy but sadly, nothing came of them. I actually went back and covered the pool again with a Cascade double just in case I missed one. It really did look and fish that good. My second run through didn't produce anything either so myself and Callum headed up to the top of Beat 1 to fish the Boat Pool.

Bridge Pool
I left Callum to fish down the Boat Pool and I headed up stream a bit further to fish the Bridge Pool and was to follow him down through the Boat. The Bridge Pool is actually on Beat 2 but nobody was fishing beat 2 so I wasn't "poaching" anyone's water. I fished on down the Bridge Pool without a touch.

Boat Pool. Kevin lost his big fish in here.
Kevin lost his fish in the Boat Pool after struggling to get it landed due to a tree on the bank. Kevin had no option but to pass his rod round the tree which resulted in the fish getting away. There is nothing worse than losing a good fish through no fault of your own. I followed Callum down through the pool without a touch and we headed back to the Craig Pot car park to meet the rest of the lads.
Looking upstream the the Dam Pool from the left bank.
During lunch we discovered that Bill had lost a fish in the Island Pool. Bill is a very good angler and has a knack of finding a fish or two. This time was no different. The fish was played well but was lost right under the rod tip as Charlie waited with the net. A very unfortunate scenario but losing fish is just one of those things that comes part and parcel with fishing. Still, it was good to know that the fish that were running were willing takers of the fly and we all headed off to our pools raring to go again and with a renewed confidence.

Fishing down the Island Pool after lunch. Bill lost his fish right at the tail of the pool.
After lunch, I took Sean up to the upper pools of the beat to let him see the water as he had not fish Castle Forbes before. We stated at the top of Beat 4 and worked our way down. The pools on Beat 4 are a bit more open to the elements than the pools on Beat 1. A wind had whipped up and made casting difficult at times. Sean and I fished down through the Island Pool and Upper Auchreddachie without a touch so I went further downstream to have a cast in one of my favourite pools on the beat - Lower Auchreddachie.

Fishing down the tail of Upper Auchreddachie and into Lower Auchreddachie. 
A stunning River Don Brown Trout. Pity it was caught on salmon tackle and not my trout rod.
I have fond memories of Lower Auchreddachie as I was fortunate enough to land a nice springer from the pool a few years back. It is always a pool I look forward to fishing and this time was no different. I stuck to using the 3/4in Monkey and made my first cast in the pool. I just started pulling the running line in when the fly was engulfed by a fish. It immediately came up to the surface and showed itself to be a lovely brown trout. I played it hard and quickly had the fish on the bank as not to disturb the rest of the pool. It was a cracker of around 3lb so I took a quick photo and returned the fish to the water. I fished on through the remainder of the pool without another offer so we made our way back to the lower beats for a cast in the Dam Pool.

Fishing down the Dam Pool. I had another good trout about 1 1/2lb at the tail of the pool.
The Dam Pool is another nice holding pool, this time on Beat 3. The fish have to negotiate the hard water below and then get over the dam itself before meeting calmer water. This slow moving pool is the ideal stopping point for a running fish and Bill managed to catch one from here last year. There was no sign of any salmon present as we fished down the pool but there was a good hatch of flies coming off and numerous brown trout were making themselves known. I reached the tail of the pool and started stripping in my Monkey fly when one of these hungry trout grabbed my fly. It was a nice fish around the 1 1/2lb mark which put up a spirited fight for it's size. It was swiftly returned and I finished the rest of the pool without another touch.

Bill Cook having a final throw in the Craig Pot.
By the time we arrived back at the Craig Pot car park it was just after 4pm. There had been no other contact made with a salmon by any of the other rods during the afternoon session. This was really surprising as the water was as near perfect as you would want for this beat at this time of year. This rise in water had obviously drawn some fish into the river but as there was no real numbers present before the rise, there wasn't many fish to move up from the beats below. I'm sure there will be salmon moving through now because as I write (1st May), the river levels remain in good shape so I'll look forward to hearing of good catches this week.

Fishing down the Craig Pot on Beat 3 shortly before calling it a day.
It was good to be back at Castle Forbes again. We really couldn't have asked for better conditions. If someone had offered me 1ft 1in on the gauge after a 2ft spate at the beginning of the week then I would have bit their hand off! It was just a pity that those two fish didn't stick as it would have made it a great day again. Still, it's better to have hooked and lost that not hooked at all. It was also encouraging to know that there are fish running the Don, especially after what can only be described as two of the worst salmon fishing seasons the river has seen in recent times. I really hope the Don bounces back soon as it is far too nice a river not to have anglers out enjoying what is has to offer. I for one will be out on it's banks plenty more times in the coming months trying to land a salmon or two and I'm sure there will be plenty other doing likewise.