Last Saturday marked the final day of the 2018 salmon fishing season and I was fortunate enough to be invited along to fish Ballogie by ghillie, Sean Stanton. The river was dropping back nicely after a spate a few day prior to our arrival and was sitting at 2ft 6in on the Potarch gauge. The air temperature was around 2 Celsius as we tackled up at the Bridge Pool so we were hopeful of encountering a fish or two.
I set up two rods for my day. The first rod was my 12ft 6in LTS Explosive and this was matched up with a Rio Skagit line and a Intermediate/T11 mow tip with a 10mm Pink Franc N Snaelda tube on the business end. My second set up was my old, trusty 15ft Vision Catapult. Its a work horse of a rod and the sinking lines are ideally suited for it. Line of choice for this rod was a Guideline H/I/S1 with a 10ft 5.6ips tip and a 19mm Red Frances tube.
I was allocated to fish the lower part of the beat in the morning an this is a part of the river I know fairly well. Given the water height, I headed off down to the Bulwarks first of all as this can be a busy pool. It is also good in high water and thought it would be best to get first run down. The higher the water the more favourable it is for the Ballogie bank so I started off just opposite the first Bulwark and worked my way down the pool with my Vision Catapult set up. As the Bulwarks is a pool I have had much success in over the years I was confident that given the water conditions, there would a good chance of connecting with a fish or two. Maybe I was expecting too much as I fished the entire length of the pool without a touch or seeing a fish. That;s how it goes sometime though and never one for getting despondent, I strapped the rods back on the car and made my way up river to the Kelpie.
The Kelpie can be really productive at this time of year especially in a good water like we had on Saturday. Its a pool that I haven't had much luck in to be perfectly honest but having excellent water conditions like we did, I fished my way down the pool confident that there would be a chance of a fish. I covered the water as best I could and when I was about half way down the poo I began to trip in some line to recast. I pulled three or four coulis of line when something pulled back! I lifted into the fish and treid my best to keep up with it as it swan strongly upstream. Just as I got the line onto the reel, the fish jumped out the water and spat the hook. It looked like a good sized cock fish. Probably around the 12-14lb mark. Its always a bit of blow to lose a fish but undeterred, I checked the fly and carried on down the pool. I must have had around another dozen or so casts when I had another offer. I lifted into the fish and slowly worked my way back in towards the bank. The fish didn't put up much of an effort in the strong current so it was swiftly landed and return with minimal fuss. It was a hen fish around the 4lb mark. The remainder of the pool didn't produce anymore action so it was off upstream to have a run through Lower Inchbare.
You really are spoilt for choice at Ballogie in a high water. Lower Inchbare is another great pool with water on it. the river bed in this pool has plenty big boulders and a few in particular can be good lies for the fish to shelter in amongst. I fished the whole length of the pool with the same set up that worked in the Kelpie but despite covering the pool as best I could, there were no takers willing to snaffle the Red Frances.
The Strath was next up. This pool continues on from where Lower Inchbare tails off. It's a lovely looking bit of water and Philip Black and I tormented numerous kelts in here back in March. With the H/I/S1 and big tube, it was fishing round nicely but as with Lower Inchbare, there were no takers so I decided to head off up the the famous Bridge Pool for a quick run through before lunch.
The Bridge Pool is one of the most iconic pools on the entire river and conditions on our day suited it perfectly. The river was now sitting at 2ft 4in but the H/I/S1 was still needed just to get the fly down that bit quicker and to slow the swing down a bit. I fished the pool from head to tail without a touch but decided to give it a run through with my other set up. Unfortunately, I just didn't feel this line was getting down deep enough and I didn't have time to change again before lunch so I called time on the morning session and made my way up to the Carlogie Calm pool to meet the rest of the lads for lunch.
Sean kindly supplied lunch in the form of bacon and sausage sandwiches from the Kincardine post office and these were washed down with a welcome cup of coffee. It turned out that there had been a total of 3 salmon landed between Ballogie and Carlogie. A good start to the day but the fish didn't seem to be as responsive as we had hoped for given the conditions. However, after we had put the fishing world to rights in the hut, our attention was soon back on the task in hand so it was off to our allocated pools for the afternoon session.
I was to start in the Top Gannet. This is one of my favourite pools to fish and I couldn't wait to get another crack at it. I skipped down the bank like a wee lad on his way to the toy shop! The Top Gannet has been good to me over the years but I fished down the length of the pool without an offer or seeing a fish. I was making my way back to the hut which over looks the pool and just as I put my rod in the rack, I spotted four or five salmon show in the space of a few seconds mid way down the pool. This was all the encouragement I needed to grab my rod off the stand and quickly get to the bank to attempt to intercept on of them. The fish were a good bit over towards the Borrowston bank and a long cast was required to cover where they were spotted. I threw as long a line as I possible could and tried to the mend the line a few times to slow it down a bit. I just felt that it was too far out my reach to cover the fish properly and despite trying, the fish didn't want what I had on offer so it was off down to fish the Sands.
The Sands is another famous pool on the River Dee and it was almost a dead cert for a salmon once upon a time. I always enjoy fishing these famous pools and my mind is forever thinking of the old days when the rivers were awash with salmon. It must have been something else to swing a dressed fly through these pools when there was so many salmon around. Although there aren't so many salmon around these days, there is still an excellent chance of connecting with a fish here and this time felt no different. I changed approach in here and opted for a 10ft 7ips tip and a 2" Sunray Shadow tied on an aluminium tube. I worked my way down the pool varying the speed of retrieve every cast until one work. Sadly, the only fish that took a liking to my Sunray in the Sands were greedy little brown trout. This wasn't much of a gauge to base my retrieves on so I just had o keep plugging away until something worked on a salmon.
The next pool down is the Top Slips. Storm Frank has done a number on the banks of this pool and it isn't the easiest to navigate your way down the bank in the high water. As there is always a good chance of a fish, it's well worth the effort though. It was holding a few fish and I stuck to the Sunray Shadow tactics but unfortunately the fish had other ideas. As I neared the tail I did get a reaction from a cock fish but it just leapt out the water as my fly passed by its lie.
The Bottom Slip was next up and by the time I reached the pool it was close to 5pm. I covered as much water as I could and as effectively as I could with the Sunray but it was another fruitless attempt to hook a salmon. I decided to have one final cast in the pool and I managed to snag the bottom. My line was stuck fast and I struggled to free it from around a big submerged rock. In the end I had to pull as hard as I could and this snapped my versi leader at the nylon part and my fly and leader were subsequently gone with it. At this point I decide it was as good a time as any to end my Dee season for the year and wound the remaining line onto my reel and set off back to my car to meet up with Sean at the hut.
Well, that's the final account of what has been a pretty successful season for me on the River Dee despite the low water that plagued the catchment during the long, hot summer. It started off on Opening Day at Park on the 1st February and finished on the Final Day at Ballogie with some great days, with great people sandwiched in between. I can't wait to start it all over again in 2019. It's not completely over for me yet though. I can still enjoy a cast on the River Don until the end of the month and I am fishing the South Esk again on Saturday with good pals Philip Black and Bill Cook. Hopefully there will be some more success to write about before the season is completely over. I'll certainly look forward to trying.
|Kelpie Pool - Stunning Autumn colours on the River Dee at Ballogie.|
|Fishing down the Bulwarks at the beginning of the morning session.|
|The deadly Pink Franc N Snaelda tube.|
|The result - a coloured hen around 4lb.|
|The Kelpie Pool.|
|Looking upstream towards Potarch Bridge from Lower Inchbare.|
|Fishing down Lower Inchabare.|
|Looking down the Strath from the tail of Lower Inchbare.|
|Looking up the Strath towards Lower Inchbare.|
|The downstream view of the Bridge Pool from the lower Ballogie fishing hut.|
|The Top Gannet fishing hut at Ballogie.|
|Fishing down the Top Gannet after lunch.|
|Looking upstream from the top of the Sands Pool.|
|The hut on the Borrowston bank which over looks the Sands Pool.|
|Looking down the Top Slip at Ballogie.|
|Fishing the Bottom Slip under the wires.|
|Playing a fish in the Kelpie Pool at Ballogie.|