Last week I had an evening's fishing on the Burn water of the River North Esk in the company of Alan Mowat. Alan is an old friend from my days on the Salmon Fishing Forums and I've known him now for a few years now. We have fished together numerous times at various outings etc but never on his local river. We had discussed doing this for a number of years and we finally got round to it last week.
The beat is located slap bang in the middle of a deep gorge not far from the village of Edzell. I have visited this location plenty times just to watch the salmon from the high banks as they make their way up river to negotiate "The Loups" which is a water fall situated mid way along the beat. From the Loups, the North Esk then flows through the narrow gorge before widening out further down stream on it's way to finally emptying near Montrose. Having the agility of a mountain goat is essential for this beat as the fishing is not for the faint hearted in places! Staring into a deep gorge from high above takes a bit of getting accustomed to.
On arrival to the beat, the water levels were sitting at around -3 on the Edzell gauge. Not really ideal but it proved to make the fishing all that more exciting which I'll go into later. Alan pointed out that we finally had some cloud cover and rain over the hills but the clouds were almost "pressing down" on the hill tops which Alan said puts the fish off the take. I took his word for it and we set off down the gorge to walk the beat prior to starting.
Alan and I walked the length of the gorge and he pointed out the various pools and lies as we went. We could see a few fishing milling about in some pools but they were easily seen due to the white fungal growths on them. Thankfully, this fungal growth hasn't been as bad as it had in previous years but it still seemed to be effecting one or two fish. Having said that, there were also a few fresher looking fish hanging around which was encouraging. Alan suggested starting at the top part of the beat and working my way down covering the hot spots as I went and that's what we did.
The names of all the pools on the beat escape me but the first pool I fished was not far above the Loups. At this current height, the pool was no more than a few cast as the fish are easily spooked. I covered the water as best I could with my 12ft 6in LTS Explosive and full floating line. The wee size 15 Executioner was my fly of choice to begin with. I didn't get an offer in here so me moved on to the next pool down which was a below the falls.
This pool looked the part in the current water conditions and we could see one or two fish lurking in the deep rocky ledges taking shelter in the low water. Covering them effectively was proving to be difficult but I tried several methods but nothing would get even a slight reaction for either fish.
Alan and I covered the rest of the pools on the beat without a touch but I was intrigued with being able to fish high above the salmon and to gauge their reaction as the fly fluttered by them. Alan soon let me know that was was commonly know as "Loups Disease" and I had it bad! I covered the fish with almost every fly in my box without so much as a sniff. The fish seemed to flash their flanks at them as the swam past as if to try and scare them off. Some fish even looked as though they were slashing their tails at the flies. It was amazing to see and the time seemed to fly in.
The arrival of a few fresh looking grilse seemed to stir up the residents in the pool and we could clearly observe the fish entering the tail of the pool. The residents began to get a bit move agitated and we thought this might have made one attack my fly out of frustration.
There is a video on YouTube were some Icelandic anglers had an underwater camera in a pool and they watched the reaction of fish to their flies as the attempted to catch them. This was much and much the same just without their success! However, the Icelandic anglers switched to a Red Frances and it worked almost immediately. I did the same and cast out a small 1/2" tube which sunk deeper than my dressed doubles did previously. My fly entered the lie where the salmon were holed up and one fresh grilse came up and grabbed the fly. I never felt a thing but could see it all unfold in front of my eyes. I lifted the rod in an attempt to hook the fish but it let go no sooner than it took it. Almost with that, my chance had gone.
Alan had a go after me efforts and he also had a fish grab his lure. Again, it didn't stick but unlike me, Alan has managed to cure his "Loups Disease" and showed a bit more resilience than me and gave up soon after. I couldn't do that. It was just so fascinating to see the fish and their reactions to a fly.
Despite knowing the fish weren't in the mood, I carried on for at least another hour fishing over the same fish as "Loups Disease" had me firmly in it's grasp. Although one or two did seem to be aware of my fly's presence, most of the fish never moved a muscle. It really makes you wonder just how many times a fish will move to a fly, lure or bait but not actually take it. Must be hundreds.
At 9.00pm I finally gave in and we called it a day. We walked back to the cars and I was honestly like an excited little school kid who was allowed into the sweet shop. It was such a thrill fishing in this way and I would love to do it again with just a bit more water on the gauge. That might just make all the difference in turning those stubborn residents into aggressive tackers. Hopefully it won't be too long until I get me next "fix".
|Fishing on the North Esk last week.|
|Looking down the river from high above the water. Such a cracking vantage point for fish spotting.|
|Looking upstream to where the river enters the narrow gorge section of the beat.|
|Looking downstream from the same spot.|
|Looking downstream as I was about to begin fishing for the evening.|
|A fresh looking grilse which for whatever reason has died.|
|Trying to make a stealthy approach as I fished down a small pool above the falls.|
|Looking upstream from the falls. Still fish moving upstream despite the river levels.|
|Covering a few fish from high above the pool. It really is fascinating to see their reaction to the fly or usually, lack of it!|
|Spot the salmon?|
|You can see the fish but my fly was covering a couple of double figure salmon here. No luck with them though.|
|Looking downstream from the high vantage point on the gorge. We stood watching several fresh looking fish enter the pool here.|
|Same pool but closer to the tail.|
|The next pool down. Really can't think of their names unfortunately!|
|Looking upstream in the pool where I contracted "Loups Disease".|
|Looking down to the tail as we watched a few grilse enter the pool.|
|Looking upstream round the back of the high gorge which towers over the pool.|
|Another picture of the fish still sitting ion the same spot.|