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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|The customary group photo. L/R: Charlie, Kenny, Mel, Bill, Me, Kevin, Sean and Callum. Photo taken by Alan.|
|Looking downstream in Upper Deep Stane.|
|Boat Pool. Kevin lost his big fish in here.|
|Looking upstream the the Dam Pool from the left bank.|
|Fishing down the Island Pool after lunch. Bill lost his fish right at the tail of the pool.|
|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.|
|Fishing down the Dam Pool. I had another good trout about 1 1/2lb at the tail of the pool.|
|Bill Cook having a final throw in the Craig Pot.|
|Fishing down the Craig Pot on Beat 3 shortly before calling it a day.|