Friday, 28 December 2018

My Salmon Fishing Highlights 2018

2018 proved to be another difficult year for the Atlantic Salmon. Catches were sporadic on most rivers up and down the country with runs of fish only really appearing when the river catchments got got some much needed rain. Unfortunately, the rivers I fish, like everywhere else really, were devoid of water for most of the season due to the driest summer for many years. Despite the testing conditions I fared not to badly considering and I finished up with a very reasonable total for my time spent on the rivers.
My fresh run November salmon from the River Tweed.
Angling effort from a personal point of view was less than in previous years but the times I did venture out I was lucky enough to catch fish more often than not. There were also a couple of firsts for me this season when I was lucky enough to catch my first salmon on the North Esk and River Tweed. The Tweed fish being a particular highlight as it tipped the scales at 20lb.
Another fish etched in my memory this year was my dad's first salmon for two years from the River Don. By no means the biggest or cleanest fish in the river but a more welcome one you would struggle to beat. I'm not sure who was more thrilled to see it come to hand either! Especially after he lost one only 3 casts before.
My dad about to release his first Don salmon for 2 years.
I shall begin at the start of the season and work my way through and give an account of each particular fish and why it has made the highlight reel.
Bill Cook into a kelt on the Tay back in January. One of my favourite photos I have ever taken.
The first outing of the season is always one we look forward to and despite our chance being very slim, it's great to meet up with fishing pals again after a long winter. Lower Kinnard is a lovely beat and it is good to be able to break out the big rods and heavy lines again and blast off the cobwebs in good company.
Joe Sinclair with a 19lber from Park in early February.
Opening Day on the River Dee is a special occasion in the angling calendar and I am fortunate enough to have the first few days on fantastic Park North beat which is located on the lower part of the river. We have manged to land a few fish these past couple of seasons for our day but nothing like the fish above that Joe Sinclair landed. A specimen of an early springer which tipped the scales at 19lb. Hopefully there will be a repeat next season for us.
The first salmon of the season ready to be returned. 
The first salon of the season is always a special one and this one was no different. Caught from the River Dee in March in a big water, this fish put up a memorable fight and I had to call Ian Fraser the ghillie away from his lunch to help me land it! It weighed in the net at 13lb of solid muscle and it put those muscles to good use as it about ripped the rod from my hand when it hammered a chartreuse Monkey in the Pitslug Pool, Carlogie.
Meeting up with good friends on the River Spey at Tulchan in April.
A day that is always a highlight in my salmon fishing calendar is when a group of us all head North to fish the River Spey at Tulchan C Beat in April. A rapidly rising river put paid to any chance of a salmon this year but despite the lack of action this is always a great day and this year was no different. We are looking forward to going back again in 2019.
Fishing the River Dee at Balmoral in June. I was so delighted to be there I even took a selfie!
Again, another day where the fish were playing hard to get but fishing the Dee at Balmoral Estate in June is right up there with my highlights of 2018. I did mange to hook a fish but sadly, it spat the hook but it was great to have been fortunate enough to fish on such hallowed water.
An 11lber taken on a Hitch tube from Commonty in June.
A fish that sticks in my mind from this year is a fresh 11lber from Commonty back in June. The water was dead low but I managed to tempt this one with a Hitch tube. I had previous rose a few fish using a fast stripped Sunray and decided to changed things and see if I could hook one. A few casts later, this one inhaled my fly and took off like a steam train!
Not the biggest fish but a welcome reward for perseverance. 
In early July I had day on the River Dee at Carlogie. The river was on it's bones and the day time temperatures were in the high 20s most days. I decided to head over to Deeside and fish for the sea trout instead. After starting around midnight, I hadn't even had a sniff of a fish so I headed back to my car for a few hours sleep. I awoke around 4am and changed tactics to try and catch a salmon. I was fishing the Mill Pool when an old fish jumped out the water in the fast rush in the neck. I thought there may be a fresh fish stirring them up so I waded out and flicked a tiny Executioner of where the fish rose. First cast and a fresh grilse grabbed my fly. It was fresh as paint. A welcome reward for perseverance and staying up all night.
Fishing the North Esk for the first time.
Another highlight with doesn't involve catching anything was fishing the North Esk for the first time. I was invited down by Alan Mowat and I was warned about catching "Loups Disease" as you can see the fish and you get so obsessed by trying to get a reaction from them it has been given it's own name! Well, I caught "Loups Disease" full on!! It was such an exciting way to fish but at the same time equally frustrating.
The first salmon of the trip on Monday morning.
A fish caught in a torrential downpour in the Lucky Hole.

Ade Warburton with a nice fish from Alan's Pool.

A quick photo before sending it on it's way.
Sunray Shadow strikes again!
Philip Black about to return another salmon.
Probably my most memorable time of the season came at the end of July. I take a few days at Carlogie with good pals, Ade Warburton and Philip Black and for the last few years, Philip and I have been unlucky with the river conditions with the rods at the tail of the week getting a lift in water in time for their fishing. This year was different and we had a timely lift on the Sunday before we arrived. The river was up to 1ft 2in on the gauge from zero. This lift in water had the desired effect and on day one we landed 8 and 2 sea trout. Carlogie was the top beat in Scotland that day. The following day, we had similar score again with the fish continuing to come to the fly as the water dropped away. I have listed quite a few photos above as there were too many good fish not to include!
A fresh grilse from the Dee in "hopeless" conditions.
I enjoy fishing whenever I get the chance, even if the conditions are against me. I landed the fish above whilst grabbing a few hours fishing one afternoon in July when the sun was baking hot in a cloudless sky and the river was as low as it had been all year. It took me completely by surprise when it hit my fly but it was proof that you have to be in it to win it even when things don't seems to be in your favour.
A change in tactics proved decisive.
Certainly not the biggest I caught this season but another fish that was caught when things looked against us. This wee grilse was taken on the Lower Crathes beat of the River Dee in August and after flogging the water all morning without a touch ghille, Jordie Sinclair suggested trying a bigger fly like a Red Frances tube. I didn't need a second invitation as the Red Frances is one of my favourite flies and within 3 casts of changing tactics the fish took.
A salmon from the South Esk.
My second salmon of the day from the same pool.
I had a day on the South Esk with Bill Cook and Kenny Carr in late September and it was great to fish the river again after I hadn't cast a line on there for a few years. Bill and Kenny gave me the honour of having first cast in the Sawmill Dam pool and it wasn't long before I managed to land a salmon. Conditions were difficult to say the least but in the afternoon I was fortunate enough to tempt another fish from the same pool with this one being a particular highlight as Bill cook witnessed the fish coming out it's lie and grabbing my fly as he stood on the high bank above the pool.
Not the biggest or prettiest but my first ever salmon from the North Esk.
I was back on the North Esk in late September with my dad and Alan Mowat along with Davie Munro who was writing an article for Chasing Silver magazine. The water was low and clear but there were a few fish around. I hadn't had any luck and just at last knockings I decided to give the spinner a go and I looked on as this wee grilse came from nowhere and hammered my lure as it swung round past it's lie. It was ably tailed by my dad and quickly returned.
A salmon from the River Don.
A cracking 5lb sea trout from the Don.
I had a bit of flexi time to use at work so I decided to head out early and have a cast on the River Don before work. This proved to be a good decision as I was fortunate enough to land a nice 9lb salmon and a beauty of a sea trout estimated at 5lb all before 7.30am! Then I had to get back to reality and head into the office for some proper work!
My dad hasn't really done that much fishing in the past few years due to dog commitments but I try to encourage him to head out whenever I am going to the Don for a cast. Towards the end of October, my dad still hadn't broken his duck so I convinced him to join me on the Don as there were a few fish around. He is not one for fishing the fly for salmon too often but when I tied on a deadly wee Red Ally's for him I had high hopes he would see some action. Sure enough, with only a few minutes of starting he lifted into a strong fish. It pulled him about the pool for a it but he had it under control and just as he was looking to draw it over to me, the hook pulled and the fish was off! I think I was more gutted that he was as he had a quick look of the fly and waded out int o the pool again. Within only a couple of casts he lifted into another fish. This time there was no bad luck and I tailed a small, coloured grilse around the 4lb mark. I was delighted to see him break his duck and even more so on the fly when he may not have even gave that method a try had he been on his own. Hopefully his next one won't take quite as long to land!
My first ever River Tweed salmon! Not a bad way to start.
A better photo of the same fish as it is ready for returning.
 In mid November, I received a last minute invite to fish the River Tweed. The Tweed is a long way from where I live and I resisted at first but it didn't really take much persuasion to decide to bite the bullet and go. I booked the day off work and set off from Kelso at 4.30am on a Monday morning. I was accompanied by Philip Black and John Fyfe and conditions were tough to say the least. Strong winds and lack of salmon were quickly turning my thoughts elsewhere but I never give in early unless I have to and I'm glad I stuck it out as late in the afternoon; just after I changed over to a big Willie Gunn tube, my line started tearing off my reel and I lifted into what felt like a very good fish. It was not keen to show itself and it kept diving deep and using the depth of the pool and the current to it's advantage. I held on tight whilst all the while praying it stayed on. After a dogged battle which lasted 20 minutes or so, the ghille slid the net under the fish and we caught a glimpse of it for the first time. It was fresh as paint. After a quick weigh and photograph the fish was sent on it's way again. What a way to open my account on the River Tweed with a fresh fish of 20lb! Will be a struggle to better that I would imagine but it it certainly made the long drive worthwhile. It's also drive I'll have no hesitation in making again in future.
Philip Black with his Malloch Trophy winning salmon.
This highlight only snuck in after it was revealed last week that my pal Philip Black was awarded the Malloch Trophy for this stunning springer he caught form the River Teith back in March. Incidentally, this was landed 10 minutes after I opened my account for the season at Carlogie. This brute of a fish was estimated to be in the region of 28lb. What makes this a particular highlight for me? It was caught on a fly I had tied! I tie quite a few flies for Philip and it's great to see them getting him plenty fish. This salmon was taken on a Monkey type fly with a blue, yellow and silver colour combo. It was obviously too good to turn down for this specimen of a fish!

The New Year is almost upon us and my fishing journey will begin again soon. On the 19th January to be precise. I'm hoping it is another successful year for me personally and that the salmon runs will begin to return to what we know they should be. I have some exciting fishing planned and I will continue to update my Blog throughout the season to document my year for anyone who is interested.

I hope to see some of you on the river banks somewhere in 2019. Tight Lines!

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Malloch Trophy 2018

It's not everyday you get a call from one of your pals to say he has won the Malloch Trophy with a fish that was caught on a fly you tied up for him. That's just what happened to me last week when Philip Black called me up to say he was the official winner of the prestigious Malloch Trophy with a stunning fish he landed from the Lanrick Estate on the River Teith back in March.
Philip Black and his Malloch Trophy winning salmon from the River Teith.
I remember that day he caught the fish well as I was fishing the Dee at Carlogie and I had just got off the phone from him to let him know I had just returned a nice fish around the 13lb mark. Not to be outdone, Philip returned my call soon after to say he had just landed a large fish which broke his rod in the process of drawing it into the bank! He didn't put a weight on it; he never does but he said it was a very big fish and I could tell by the excitement in his voice that it was a special fish. The fish took a Monkey type fly of blue, yellow and silver colours which Philip named the Craig Fleming Special after landing his prized fish.
The smile says it all!
Well done again Philip and it was a pleasure to know that one of my creations had the privilege of fooling the salmon that won the Malloch Trophy! Look out for the full story in next month's Trout & Salmon magazine. I am currently in the process of tying some more creations for Philip so lets hope for a repeat performance next year.