Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Balmoral - River Dee

It has been a while since my last post and the simple reason for this is that I just haven't had the time to go out fishing, never mind Blog about it. Things are slowly easing up though and I have managed to find myself on the river a few times in recent weeks. One of these outings was on the Upper River Dee at Balmoral.

Looking upstream to the "Auld Invercauld Bridge"
The Balmoral beat is part of Her Majesty The Queen's Balmoral Estate. Balmoral has always been up there on my "to do" list. Fishing in the footsteps of many of the Royal family and their visitors is something not to be sniffed at. At the beginning of June, I was fortunate enough to be invited along to have a day in the company of ghillie, David Fernie.

Balmoral Castle
I arrived at Balmoral around 8.45am and was greeted by David at the gates of the castle grounds. After the initial meet and greet I followed him up the track to a car park on the middle section of the beat. The water was on the low side and was reading no more than 4in on the Mar Lodge gauge but a wee rise earlier in the week had us hopeful of sport.

My 12ft 6in LTS Explosive with a #12 Editor.
As the sun was high and bright, there was no real rush to get started. David and I chatted away whilst I tackled up. Whilst setting up my 12ft 6in LTS Explosive, there was a Golden eagle hovering over head. It was great to see such an iconic bird in all its glory no more that a few hundred feet away. My line of choice was a full floating Mackenzie shooting head with a 9ft tapered leader and a the deadly Editor fly on the business end.

A old hut on the walk down to Queen's Pool.
The first pool I was to fish was called Queen's. The journey down to Queen's involved a nice walk through part of an ancient Caledonian Pine forest which was alive with all kinds of wildlife. It really is a special habitat and one which the Cairngorm National Park is famed for. On arrival to the pool, David pointed out the lies and areas to concentrate on and I began fishing down the pool trying hard not to wade too heavily and disturb the water. I fished down the pool without a touch and decided to change my fly over to a large Sunray Shadow and try again. I no sooner had switched to the Sunray when a nice fish followed it all the way into the bank without taking it.A short distance down the pool and the same thing happened again but this time with a slightly smaller fish. Again, it didn't grab the fly and turned away as soon as I went to re-cast. At least I knew there were one or two fish interested.

Queen's Pool.
Fishing down through Queen's.
After my run through Queen's it was off downstream to fish the next pool with was Punt. This was a lovely looking bit of water with the fast, streamy neck which flowed into a nice glide as the water slowed down. A nice fish showed just as I approached the pool and this spurred me on to concentrate that little bit harder as I went along. I covered the area it showed but it wasn't for tempting. I carried on down the remainder of the pool without an offer so it was on to the next pool which was called Nellie.

Looking across Punt on the middle section of Balmoral.
Just as I began to fish Nellie the rain started to fall quite heavily and there was a rumble of thunder in the air above. There was no real hiding place from the rain so I just stuck it out and continued fishing down the pool. It was actually cooling to have rain falling because up until then, the air temperature was around 20C. I thought that this clearing of the air might just switch the fish on but it wasn't happening in Nellie so I made my way back up stream to have a run through Queen's again before stopping for lunch.

Looking across Nellie.

The pool below Nellie. unfortunately, I cannot remember it's name.
I approached Queen's the same way I did first time round. I cast over the neck of the pool and began to work the Sunray through the current. Almost immediately a fish rose and tried to drown the Sunray as it swung over it's lie. This go the excitement levels up a good bit and I tried for several minutes to see if it would come for it again. Sadly, it wasn't for moving. I fished out the pool and headed back to the car for lunch.

Looking upstream toward Invercauld Bridge.
Looking downstream from Invercauld Bridge into the pools below.
After lunch, David showed me the upper part of the beat starting at the iconic "auld" Invercauld Bridge. There was a rod form the Crathie bank fishing the pool directly below the bridge so we headed off downstream a little to fish a "new" pool called Fernie's Fancy. This small pool was created after Storm Frank battered the Royal Deeside catchment back in 2015. I started at the top of the pool lengthening my cast each time before covering all the water. I got to about mid way down the pool when I had a thumping take on the Sunray. I lifted into, what felt like a nice fish but almost immediately it let go and came off! Not what I had in mind but at least I knew I was doing something right. I carried on down the pool and as I neared the tail a lovely fish around the 12/13lb mark made it's presence know by jumping straight out the water just a few feet from where I had hold of a fish earlier. Was it the one I hooked? Who knows, but it would have been nice to have landed that one.

This is the only photo I have which has Fernie's Fancy pool in it. Not really a lot to look at here!

Fishing down the tail of the pool below Invercauld Bridge
Not really one for selfies but thought I should get a photo of me and the old bridge.
After I had finished in Fernie's I headed up stream a little to fish the famous pool below the old bridge. This was a lovely cast and the pool had a bit more depth than some of the other ones I had fished. I continued with the Sunray and worked it across the stream down the length of the pool. This proved fruitless so I headed off down stream to have a cast in Suspension Bridge.

The Suspension Bridge which spans the River Dee near Balmoral.

Looking downstream from the bench at Suspension Bridge.
The Suspension Bridge is a pool I have seen on numerous occasions but never when fishing. It always looked so inviting staring down from the high bank into the water. It was a great feeling to be standing there and actually fishing it this time. The salmon were not for tempting in here unfortunately but I did managed to land a couple of lovely wee brown trout for my efforts. As I neared the tail of the pool, a rod on the Crathie bank appeared with the ghillie and began fishing a slower part of the fast flowing streams between Suspension Bridge and Garlum below. This got me thinking so I carried on fishing down the run and into where they were covering. It was only half a dozen casts at most but it must have been worth their effort so I thought I might as well try too. Despite trying to keep the fly in the run for long as possible, I just could really get much control on the fly from my bank an it was whipping out the glide at high speed. I wound in and headed down to another famous pool called Garlum.

Fishing down Garlum.
Garlum is a classic salmon pool with a lovely neck to it before it slows down into a nice deep channel which is ideal for fish to hold up in. Not long after starting up near the neck, a good fish showed mid way down the pool. It was slightly coloured looking but at least I knew there were fish there. As this pool was much deeper than some of the other pools I had fished, I decide to try a heavier fly and get down in front of them to see if I could annoy a salmon into taking my fly. I opted for a 3/4" Red Frances and fished it sink and draw style through the deep channel. This method has done well for me in the past but it didn't work on this occasion and I fished out the pool without a touch.

The walk down to McLaren's from the track.
Fishing down from the neck of McLaren's.
Working my way down McLaren's with the Crathie hut on the oppostie bank.
Next pool I was to try was McLaren's. This pool is opposite the Crathie main hut and can be quite busy. I was just approaching the pool when a Crathie rod appeared out the hut and beat me to it! To be fair, he didn't see me coming so I just had to wait my turn to fish my way down. I decide to head right up into the neck of the pool and work my way down from there. I immediately saw a fish show a few yards down stream and I upped my efforts as I fished my way downstream. I covered all the likely looking runs and glides dotted along the length of the pool but I counted tempt anything into taking my offerings. After chatting with the Crathie rod, it had been the a similar story with them for a majority of the week too. Still, it was good t be fishing a beat that has always been on my bucket list even if I wasn't catching anything.

Looking downstream from the high bank of the Brunuich Pool.
Before heading home, I stopped off for a look into the Brunuich Pool from the high bank to see if I could spot any fish lying in the pool. I spent a good twenty minutes or so walking along the length of the pool but I couldn't  spot anything. It must be some sight standing up there watching an angler covering the fish lying in the pool below. Hopefully one day I will return and be able to do just that.

A herd of Red Deer enjoying the peace and quiet of Balmoral Estate.
The ants have been busy building their nest in the forest.
 I thoroughly enjoyed my day on the majestic Balmoral beat of the River Dee. It is such a relaxing place with very little sound form the traffic on busy Deeside Road. The wildlife in the area is second to none and I was still beaming after seeing the Golden Eagle earlier on that morning. I left that evening around 7pm quite happy with my day even though I only landed a handful of small trout for my effort. To fish on such hallowed ground was good enough for me!


  1. Great stuff Craig - looks a stunning bit of water and a Golden Eagle as well! All the best pal, tight lines.

  2. Cheers Patrick. First time I have witnessed a golden eagle flying close enough to identify it. Some sight! Not long to go now until another stint on Deeside beacons. Will catch up with you soon pal.