September 2021

After suffering one of the driest Summer salmon seasons across Scotland for many many years we were all looking forwards to salvaging what was left of the 2021 Season and we were not disappointed.

Following all of the run up preparations, fly tying and general buzz and jokes the day finally arrived when we headed north, cars laden with gear, provisions and beverages.

All six of us had been studying the weather forecasts for days previously and one thing at least we were agreed upon was that rain was due mid week thankfully.

The six rods were ‘democratically’ divided into two teams, the “A Team” which included myself of course and the “B” team in order to ensure that we were well distributed across the 8 miles of water and of course to provide some ‘friendly’ competition.

Kevin working his way down the pool

Day one saw the “A Team” on the upper reaches where the initial small pools were formed within a series of gorges. The river was very low meaning that fishing may well be restricted to those pools that had sufficient holding water however with 8 miles and 35 named pools we figured that even in low water we should be able to find some good holding pools.

I had barely reached the bank or got setup when my friend Kevin was already tightening into his first fish! A bonny wee grilse of around 4lbs, a good omen of things to come.

The following video provides a taste of the week and its results

Video summary of a tremendous week

During these first couple of days there were fish landed, lost and risen in decent numbers even with the water conditions that prevailed. I paused frequently, for many reasons but often to just take in the absolutely stunning scenery and landscape that we found ourselves in, it was truly breathtaking. Other pauses on my part were more related to the exertioon of walking distances of 8-10 miles that we were covering in each of the 10-11hr fishing days and my utter lack of fitness. Given that we were fishing the whole week I decided to adopt a Marathon rather than a Sprint approach so frequent coffee and smoke breaks were in play for me.

On the Wednesday the much anticipated and very welcome rains thankfully began with an overnight deluge on Tuesday evening resulting in a good rise on the gauges. In fact for most of the morning the river was continuing to rise which afforded us time to explore some the dramatic falls at the head of the system before reaching for rods.

The fishing had been good the last few days but what a difference some fresh water made. With fish now stirred up and on the move then we were soon in amongst them with some great fish and sport for each rod, especially the “A Team” of course, amidst this wild beautiful place.

Ariel antics!

Lunch at the hut each day allowed tales of catches, fish won and lost and general rivalry to be exchanged. Bacon or sausage rolls and Angus’s steaming hot cuppa soup were particularly welcome!

The fresh water continued to provide some great action despite the noticeably short lived increase in water height which dropped surprisingly quickly during the next few days.

Evenings back at the lodge were very convivial where despite the physical tiredness the competition and rivalry concerning fishing rolled over to include the cooking as we each took a turn to produce a culinary masterpiece. Contrary to expectations there were certainly a few beers, malts and glasses of wine consumed following dinner. However it was not the sessions or ‘carnage’ that you might expect with six guys gone fishing, perhaps physical exhaustion also affected my mates and it was not just myself! So sleep was not an issue for any of us aside from the excruciating cramp I was awoken to on the first night which was only matched by the volume of snoring the following night coming from the next door room (Malcolm’s room).

This wonderful wee river continued to produce fish during the last few days even with the water having dropped back again. Each evening we had taken account and note of fish caught and lost each day and the sheer number and range of fish we were catching had begun to dawn on everyone as the tally kept growing.

Even with two days fishing remaining I had already surpassed by far my own expectations in terms of fish landed and was already heading for my best salmon week ever despite the fact that my catches are seldom ‘prolific’!

Despite of course bringing a vast armoury of rods and equipment the only rods I actually used were my 14′ 9wt Loop Cross SX (used only on the day when waters had risen significantly), a Sage X Switch rod made a brief appearance but by far the most used rod was the 10′ 7wt Sage X single hander which proved to be the most useful rod teamed with a Rio Trout Spey or Rio Camo Intermediate and short sink tips.

Interestingly 75% of my fish were taken on the same fly, a Phatogorva Brass Conehead Tube that I had tied a week earlier using a plastic price tag retainer to make the eyes as I did not have the black plastic needed. So the other 300-400 hundred flies remained in the box.

My most successful fly of the week – Phatogorva Brass Conehead

By the end of the week the place and the fishing had continued to deliver in terms of fish and sheer beauty. Our tally had now reached impressive numbers with the Keeper indicating that we had certainly had good week in terms of exceeding previous records. The “A Team’ had certainly led the way with Malcom contributing a ‘significant’ number of fish landed to the total fish caught over the week.

Fishing aside this was a truly enjoyable and memorable week for me for so many reasons. Given the really poor salmon season this year it was great to ‘recover’ some of the season with some unbelievable catches of fish across the week and the group with fish ranging in size from 4lb to 17lb. Yes these were coloured fish but strong and beautiful nevertheless. The surroundings alone cannot be understated where we had the majority of the river entirely to ourselves. Finally the company, craic and fellowship was simply brilliant. Thank you guys for a great week!

Whilst memories have been forged forever in my mind I am already looking forward to returning next year.