Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Manar - River Don

The last Saturday of the season always signals a good day's fishing at the delightful Manar beat of the River Don followed by the customary BBQ. This year was no different as my good pal, Charlie Robertson and I had one last cast in pursuit of a River Don salmon. It turned out to be a cracking day on the river.
A River Don salmon caught at Manar on Saturday.
An underwater photo of a Kitchen Sink Shrimp in action on the River Don,
We arrived at the beat in the morning around 9.00am and the gauge was reading 5". Not a bad height for the beat at all. The wind was blowing hard though and there were plenty leaves floating down river as a result. My set was a 14ft 9in Guideline AWM matched up with a 10/11 Guideline PT Scandi floating shooting head. Attached to this was a 10ft 3 inch per second Rio versi leader. My initial fly of choice was a #9 Kitchen Sink. A good choice for low light levels and a river full of leaves.
Charlie and I having a break from the wind at the Manar fishing hut,
The Stone Pool.
As I was planning to do a final Blog post of our day I decided to start at the top of the beat and work my way down from there taking photos etc as I went. I didn't actually bother heading all the way up to the Ree Pot, instead I opted to start in the Stone Pool. The Stone Pool is a lovely wee run at the neck followed by a nice, evenly paced middle before dropping down again into the pool below. I started up in the faster water and began to work my way down the pool. As I neared the middle section of the pool I was treated to a nice acrobatic leap from a small coloured grilse just about a rod length from the bank. I shortened my line and tried to cover the fish as best I could but it wasn't for tempting. It was good to see some activity early in the day though. I fished out the remainder of the pool without seeing anything else move so it was off down to the next pool.
Horseshoe Haugh
The next pool down is the Horseshoe Haugh. This is similar in characteristics and size to the Stone Pool and can be equally productive on it's day. The wind wasn't too ferocious at this stage and the pool was easily covered. Again, I started up in the faster water at the neck of the pool and worked my way down covering all the likely lies and holes. Unfortunately, I couldn't temp anything in here either so I left the pool to carry on downstream to fish the Long Pool.
The wee pot in between the Horseshoe Haugh and the Corner Pool.
The Long Pool is one of the larger pools on the beat and can be very good with a bit more water on the gauge. 5 inch was still a good height for the pool and things were immediately looking positive as a nice fish made it's presence known down near the tail. This was quickly followed by another two good fish and I was sure this was a run of salmon moving into the pool. As I fished my way down the pool I heard a splash above me. Itseemed that the fish were in fact running through the pool without stopping. This was unfortunate but it was a good sign as there might be a fish or two stopping for a rest in any of the other pools along the length of the beat. I fished out the pool without an offer and made my way downstream to the Corner Pool.
Looking upstream in the Long Pool.
The Corner Pool is an ideal resting spot for running fish and this is usually a good place to pick one up. The lies are over near the far bank but fish can be caught as they cross the stream to push through the fast water up in the neck of the pool. If there is one there, then generally you get it. It wasn't to be this time though and I fished through the pool with out a touch.
Looking upstream into the Corner Pool.
The neck of the Sheep Pool.
The Corner Pool flows into the Sheep Pool and this is where I was to fish next. The Sheep Pool is probably the most productive pool on the beat and will hold fish up in the neck for a majority of the season. It will also produce fish in all heights of water and is easily covered from the well manicured banks of Manar. Just I began fishing the pool there was good sized fish showed down near the tail. This got my concentration levels up a notch and I really made sure I was fishing the fly as best as I could. I was just about half way down the top part of the pool when I had a pull on the fly. I lifted into a fish and it immediately came to the surface. It showed itself to be a brown trout around the 1.5lb mark. Not what I had in mind, even more so when they are out of season but I quickly got the fish in and removed the hook. The fish swam away strongly to carry on with it's business.
Looking down the length of the Sheep Pool. 
The Sheep Pool is by far the longest pool on the beat but it can pretty much be split into two parts. The tail of the Sheep pool is another very productive bit of water. Again, it fishes well all season long and is another perfect stopping point for a hard running fish to take a breather. This is what makes it so appealing to both anglers and salmon. I started fishing the pool where the banks have been cut and worked my way down covering the boils and glides in between which are dotted around the pool. Sadly, I didn't have any luck in here so it was off down to my favorite pool on the beat; Upper Wood.
The Upper Wood Pool.
Looking upstream from mid way down the Upper Wood.
The Upper Wood is a cracking bit of water. It is not a big pool by any means but it's well worth the effort. The Don drops down through shallow, fast flowing water from the Sheep Pool above and this can be enough of a barrier to slow running fish up as the make their journey up river. There are a few prominent lies down the length of the pool and they are easy to spot to even novice anglers. It was from one of these lies that a 33lb April springer was caught a few years back. I worked my way through the pool covering all these lies and areas where I have had success before but yet again, the salmon remained elusive. Still, I always feel that I'm in with a shout when I fish this pool and it's never a chore fishing it.
Casting into the teeth of the wind on the Lower Wood pool.
Looking downstream in the Lower Wood.
The Lower Wood is next pool down. It's situated on a bend as the river twists it's way through the Don valley. It is slower moving for the most part compared to the Upper Wood but there are plenty of lies in this pool that will produce fish. I changed flies at this point just to vary things a bit so on went a #9 Red Cascade. The wind was by this time blowing hard and casting was proving to be very difficult. Regardless of the trouble I had getting the line out straight, I persevered and fished my way down the pool. Needless to say, I didn't fool anything into taking my offerings so my last chance saloon was in the famous Chapel Pool.
The Chapel Pool.
The Chapel Pool is probably the most popular pool on the beat. It might have something to do with it being one of the best holding pools on the river. It could even be because John Ashley Cooper mentions it in his book. Whatever, the reason, it's always a good idea to fish it through a couple of times just to make the long walk worth while! True to form, as soon as I set foot in the pool a good fish showed about 15 feet down from where I was standing up in the neck of the pool. It was as bright a fish as I have seen on the Don for a good number of weeks and I made sure I covered it from all angles. It didn't take my fly. The wind swirling down the pool at a great rate of knots didn't help my cause and I really felt like giving up. I'm not normally one for letting the conditions get the better of me so after a quick word with myself I decided to change from the lightweight double hooks and put on something from the opposite end of the scale. My thoughts were that something heavy might just to stop the wind from grabbing hold of the fly on my forward cast. I opened up my tube fly box and chose a nice, big Red Frances which was tied on a 19mm brass tube. Casting the heavier tube cut through the wind pretty well and I worked my way down through the pool again from the top.
A fine specimen of a salmon from the Chapel Pool.
I had fished through the likely spots at the neck of the pool without an offer so I continued down into the slower part of the pool which is sometimes known as the Waterings. I made a long cast at 45 degrees and began working the fly as soon as it hit the water. Just as the big, garish fly was coming away from the far bank, it was hammered by what was obviously a hefty fish. It pulled hard and due to a fault with my Hardy Cascapedia reel, it couldn't take any line off ! I fumbled about with the drag and eventually manged to free it. At this point the fish took off down the pool before sharply turning and running back upstream towards me again. I soon had the fish back onto a short line and after a few minutes of sharp, dogged runs I was able to beach the fish. It was a brute! I quickly unhooked the fish in the water and held it in the current to recover. It soon was ready to go back and with a big kick of it's tail, he was off. I estimated the fish to be in the region of 18-20lb but as I had no way of weighing it, I settled on 18lb. Regardless of size, it was a great way to sign off my 2017 River Don season. After releasing the fish I made my way back to the hut quite content with my day's fishing. It was now rime to enjoy the BBQ and a cold beer.

A still photo of my fish taken from my GoPro camera. Pity about the water on the lens!
The BBQ is always a highlight in the angling calendar at Manar but this year it there was only a depleted squad assembled to enjoy the cooking of beat owner, Ian Anderson. Charlie and I were joined by fellow Manar regular, Fred Hay and his wife as well as Charlie's wife, Liz. After a shandy and a burger it was time for me to head home. That was it for the 2017 season for us. It certainly wasn't a season many will be sad to see the back of on Donside that's for sure. I can't complain too much as I have been fortunate enough to land a fish or two for my efforts.

I'd just like to end this Blog post by taking a minute to thank Ian for allowing me to fish his beat. It's always appreciated and I'm very grateful for the opportunity to do so. I'll certainly look forward to returning next season. Roll on 2018!

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