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Crathes Castle on The Dee

22nd-23rd April 2022

This first trip to the the Dee and Crathes Castle beat had been in the calendar for almost two years since being forced to reschedule in 2021 due to Covid-19. My good friend Pat and I were therefore more than excited to fish this great looking beat on the beautiful Dee.

On the drive north I, or rather the sat nav, opted for the rural route into Banchory which took me through some stunning hills and countryside and the lovely wee village of Fettercairn. We had accommodation arranged right beside the river at The Banchory Lodge which didn’t disappoint.

Banchory Lodge Hotel

After a hearty Scottish breakfast we headed for the river at Crathes Castle already concerned at the lack of water but eager to get started. Upon arrival we were greeted by Graham the Ghillie at Crathes Castle who made us most welcome at the well appointed fishing lodge. Having allocated where we would each be fishing Graham then carefully provided Pat and I with detailed information concerning each pool, run and likely lies given the conditions which was much appreciated.

Video Summary

I started on the lower part of the beat carefully fishing down amongst the boulders and riffles of the “Crathes Trough” section. The bright blue skies and sunshine showcased the river in all its glory but combined with a chilly north east wind conditions were far from ideal.

We fished until lunchtime without success, neither moving nor seeing a fish aside from some small trout. After lunch and Pat road testing a new LOOP 7X 15ft rod (which I stayed well away from!) we headed to the top part of this truly beautiful beat.

Pat putting the Loop 7X 15′ rod through it’s paces

We fished this section hard, trying different flies, sizes and tippet depths to no avail however. Despite the lack of fish it was hard not to be impressed at the abundance of wildlife and the beautiful tranquil surroundings that I found myself in. I also got the chance to try my new Mackenzie 13ft FX-1 Graphene for the first time matched with a LOOP SDS Tactical Spey which performed really well when I got it right. One of the pools at the top of the beat – Panter? which had a deep drop off on the opposite bank just screamed fish. This was reinforced by the fact that a landing net was permanently installed on the far bank. Alas no takers unfortunately and once more no fish to be seen or moved. Back to the hotel to recharge and rethink at the bar.

Panter? On Upper part of beat

Given that we had one more day we decided to get on the river before the bright sunshine took over once more. So leaving the hotel at the ungodly time of 5.30am we were fishing just after 6.00am, starting this time at the top of the beat.

By lunchtime we had covered many, but not all of the pools and runs of the top of the beat without success. I did have a firm tug in the “Panter” pool on a Willie Gun conehead but aside from this then no action.

After lunch the sun was blazing and temperatures in the high teens and I opted to fish the interesting looking run above the ‘Boat Pool’ a fast wide glide running down into the deep ‘Boat Pool’ with some interesting streamy sections either side of the main flow. Having tried almost everything else I opted to give a sunray a swing through this section which was almost immediately hit by a small brown trout. In the hot afternoon I was joined by another fisher – a bird of prey which was scanning the water.

Run above/into The “Boat Pool”

Having fished steadily and carefully down this run I called it a day around four o’clock with no offers.

What a stunning beat and whilst obviously disappointed having only seen two fish over the two day then we both agreed that it had been a great couple of days in this lovely part of of the Country.

Dalmarnock on The Tay

2nd February, 2022

Undaunted by a blank first ever visit to the River Tay the previous week I was keen to try it once more if only to get out and cast a line. One of our group the previous week had landed a beautiful wee Springer of 8lb and I was keen to try and follow his example. After carefully trying to predict a weather ‘slot’ between the gales and heavy rain of the week I opted for the Wednesday which appeared to be more favourable. My good friend and passionate salmon angler Pat had agreed to join me for another day on the beautiful Dalmarnock beat.

The Stepp’s Pool

Car packed with both fly and spinning gear, although neither of us were particularly keen to spin, we headed off.

Upon arrival we were warmly greeted once more by Ghillie Colin McFadyen and his young colleague Andrew. We had the beat to ourselves and decided to fish the top end of the beat in the morning and the lower pools after lunch. After some of Colin’s most welcome coffee and ever helpful guidance and advice we headed to the top of the beat.

The upper part of Dalmarnock we both really like as it has some great fly water, easy wading and absolutely beautiful surroundings with the hills and forest to the East. The weather was decent with temperature around 8-9 deg c and dry overcast conditions. It was hard to fail to notice the extent of tree damage and felling on the bank by Beavers whose works (damage) appeared to have accelerated even since our last visit the week before.

Video

The previous week I had struggled to get a decent line out blaming this that and the other including the sinking shooting and heavy tip and fly followed by my poor casting ability which never was in the ‘great’ category.

Following this frustrating first day out of the new season then, in despair I had ditched the sinking shooting head and S5 tip, taken some casting tuition and armed myself with a new Carron 65′ intermediate line.

Not all of these ideas proved to be successful however as I really struggled with the new sunk Carron spey line in the morning thinking perhaps I had been too ambitious and changed too many ‘variables’ at the same time!

Using a mix of flies including Dee Monkeys, Gold Bodied Willie Guns, Haugur we fished the upper part of the beat at “Dalmarnock Bank Pool” before moving downstream to fish “The Stepp’s Pool” without either rods contacting anything.

By lunchtime back at the lodge we were certainly ready for a break, food, coffee and a recharge. Personally I was certainly in need of a rest having ‘struggled’ all morning to get to grips with the new Carron intermediate line with mixed success. In order to avoid further frustration and shoulder damage I decided to change setup and reverted to my old standby of the Rio Scandi Versitip line with the 15ft sink tips.

Fed and rested then after lunch we headed downstream stopping firstly to fish “Sowerby Pool“, which proved to be an interesting pool even if fishable section was short at current levels.

Sowerby

We then headed for the “Ram’s Horn Pool” above and the “Oak Tree Pool” below the road bridge with myself opting for the “Ram’s Horn Pool” above the bridge firstly. I really like this pool with its easy shingle wading and good flow.

I could see Pat below me just beyond the bridge as I carefully covered the water enjoying surroundings and the welcome ease of casting with the scandi setup.

Dalmarnock Beat courtesy of Dalmarnock Fishings

By around four fifteen with a distinct chill in the air and with light and energy fading we decided to call it a day and headed to the car.

Despite our best efforts we had not connected with anything neither Springer or Kelt but this had not dampened our enthusiasm as we agreed that it had been a good, enjoyable day and great to get out once more.

Thank you once more to Colin McFadyen for his warmest of welcomes and for sharing his knowledge and advice.

We will certainly be back for another day and hopefully some silver.

The beautiful River Lochy

July 12th-14th 2021

When my friend Pat invited Michael and myself to fish the infamous River Lochy last Summer then there was absolutely no hesitation whatsoever. This was a river that had existed on my wish list for years and one which I had longed to fish given its prodigious history and reputation.

Unabashed by the Summer drought and daily temperatures of 27-29 deg c we set about exploring this stunningly beautiful river changing beat each day.

On arrival we were greeted by a somewhat long walk over the boulders in order to reach the water’s edge which highlighted just how severe the Summer drought and its effects were. The heat at the height of the day was fierce to say the least and saw Pat at one stage ‘cooling off’ as he sat in the river in his waders

VIDEO

Unabashed by the conditions we fished each beat hard each day trying every trick in our armoury in order to entice a fish from very small doubles to sunrays and small hitches. Pat managed successive follows on a sunray with the fish veering away each time . I managed to raise a fish two or three times in the fast water at the tail of a pool on a small hitch fly but again fish refused to take!

The deeper pools certainly had fish showing but despite our best efforts they seemed to be completely disinterested in any effort to take a fly, almost a “oh I can’t be bothered in this heat”.

However the conditions or ‘finicky’ the fish were, to be fishing amidst the absolutely amazing scenery with the Nevis Mountain range as a backdrop was simply breathtaking and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip, company and craic.

Hindsight is as always wonderful and having thought about our trip then we all agreed that some very early morning starts and returns to the river in the evening would most likely have been more productive. Great thing hindsight!

This is definitely a river worth fishing and one that I would love another go at for sure.

Discovering The Hitch

North Esk 29th July 2021

With the water level falling rapidly and nothing else working on a hot muggy day I decided that I might give this “hitch fly” a swim.

After adding one “Micro Hitch Fly” the results were quick and violent! just a pity that I couldn’t hold onto what was clearly a big fish after it tore off downstream like a train!

Video clip

Yes in hindsight there are a few learning points here that ‘might’ have increased the odds in my favour but nevertheless a very exciting way to fish and one that I will be using again.

A couple of days on Loch Lomond

28th – 29th May 2021

Friday 28th May saw us leaving the Leven in convoy heading for two days on the loch. Struggling to able to contain their excitement were two eager young anglers Adam and Cameron and their Dad Michael in the other boat with Michael. Before leaving I was encouraged to ensure that I accepted a walkie talkie from the boys in order to share news of catch reports instantly between boats.

Young Cameron ‘showing the way” with a lovely Lomond Sea Trout

Flat calm conditions did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm with the calm only disturbed by the occasional clunk of the striker weight signalling a take. In my own case these takes proved to be no more than a small pike alas.

Young Cameron did however show the way on day one and put the ‘older’ anglers to shame by catching his first Lomond Sea Trout, a lovely wee fish of around 2lbs.

Following a night on Buccinch morning saw us back out on the water with renewed enthusiasm and heading north towards the Ross Isles. Fish remained elusive with conditions proving similarly difficult. With the need for sustenance a priority we met ashore at the Ross Isles for an outdoor ‘roll on sausage’ .

Fishing down the Loch without further reports then excitement of the day before and a late night had taken its toll and we decided to pull in the rods and head for home after lunchtime.

No salmon to report but none the less a very enjoyable couple of days on the ‘Big Loch’. The boys already asking when they can go again!

Loch Tay firsts

19th April 2021

My first and very memorable introduction to Loch Tay on Monday 19th April. As it happened it was a day of ‘triple’ firsts!

A kind invite by friend and experienced angler John Bell saw us loading the boat and slowly nosing down the river and into the Loch. As we made our way we caught sight of a beaver going about its business and evidence of their ‘woodworking skills’ were clear to see. Our spirits were high despite the decidedly cold conditions and little sign of the forecast light winds.

Entering the loch it was hard not to be impressed by the stunning beauty of the mountains and hills rising along the its banks.

Fishing the morning in all but flat calm conditions the only noteworthy interruptions were several nice brown trout, not our intended prey however.

Relying on John’s knowledge of the loch’s likely holding areas we fished on through lunch without stopping or fish aside from the occasional trout. Shortly after lunchtime a noticeable wind appeared which lifted our spirits and hopes.

Video

Video summary

As if in response to the change of conditions we were suddenly jolted into action when the striker weight on the inside rod clattered to the floor and the rod buckled. Based upon a prearranged ‘agreement’ I took the rod whilst John attended to the other two rods. My initial thought that the lure was hung up on the bottom was instantly dispelled as the rod bent and a lump of silver leaped clear of the water just off the shore! This was a strong fish which certainly made its presence known with some strong runs and leaps and its complete refusal to comply. I of course in an adrenaline fuelled state had this fish down as 20lbs. After some further runs and some scary thrashing below our feet and initial refusals to come near the net John skilfully and deftly netted the fish of around 15-16lbs (unweighed). An absolutely beautiful piece of silver with that stunning bluish purple hue. After a brief photo and a few minutes to recover, this beautiful fish bolted once more back into the depths.

With congratulations, hand shakes and me grinning from ear to ear we reset the rods and set off again circling once more over the same lie. Literally minutes later the ‘poker’ rod buckled and with roles reversed this time John lifted this rod as I attended to the others. Alas as John lifted into the fish the rod almost immediately went limp signalling a missed opportunity sadly.

We continued to fish in earnest for the remaining few hours with no further action aside from the occasional brownie. Heading back into the river I still had that smug grin and the feeling of appreciation having had such a great (first) day on the Tay, actually three firsts in one day – first Tay salmon and my first springer of the year and a PB salmon!

A huge thank you to John Bell for sharing his experience, knowledge and company.

I found out later that in our drawing of straws to decide who would have first rod chance that both straws were in fact the same length! John had graciously ensured that I would definitely get the first rod chance, thank you John for a truly memorable day of firsts.

Thank you also to Grant Tigwell at Loch Tay Fish ‘n’ Trips for your excellent boat hire and assistance – see link below http://www.lochtayfishntrips.co.uk/index.php

Kinkell Fishings – River Earn

Friday 30th April 2021

Undaunted by the lack of water and a very cold easterly wind five of us tackled up at Kinkell Fishings on Friday 30th April. My setup was the Loop SX 13’3″ 8wt paired with the Evotec G4 and a Loop Tactical SDS line and a range of tips. Some of our team opting immediately for the trout rod others like myself determined to persevere with some light salmon setups. Despite conditions being against us I could not help but be impressed by the absolute beauty of the surroundings and stretches of water in the heart of Strathearn. The beat comprises 32 named pools, providing an exceptional variety of fly water but at certain heights of water, spinning is allowed.

The beat is split into the Upper and Lower sections, with 16 pools on each. These are fished by 8 rods on a rotational basis with 4 rods on each beat. The Ghillie Sandy freely shared his 20 years of knowledge and experience of this beat at every chance and could not have been more helpful and at time appeared almost ‘apologetic’ for the low water conditions.

Having split into two ‘teams’ we fished the upper and lower beats respectfully before switching at lunchtime when experiences, stories and ‘moans’ were shared. I think that the overriding common comments were that this was a stunning beat and held many great pools and runs – if ONLY we had about 12-14″ more water!

Conditions throughout the day ranged from blazing sunshine to hailstones and a freezing north east wind and despite this we gave it everything. Some switched to trout setups at lunchtime with some success whilst die hards like myself persisted with the salmon gear plumbing the depths of any of the deeper pools with a range of flies. and tips to no avail. Some of the pools and runs on the far bank just screamed that they would produce a ‘tug’ despite the low water.

Packing up and admiring all of the flies, photos and malts in the fishing hut I could not help reflecting on the challenging but thoroughly enjoyable day I had experienced, noting that this was a beat that definitely warranted further visits when conditions improved. Thank you to Michael, Pat, Kevin, John and of course Sandy (Ghillie) for making this a fabulous day . “I’ll be back…”

A beautiful Autumnal day on Halleaths beat of the River Annan

7th November 2020

Needing little persuasion I gladly accepted a suggestion from my friend and experienced angler Pat for ‘one last’ outing for the Season. To be honest I had resigned myself to packing up the rods for the season. However I had not previously had the chance to explore this further part of the beautiful River Annan and what an absolutely stunning section of the River Annan.

Having had some really valuable and helpful tips regarding this beat from my friend Kevin I arrived full of anticipation. Pat having arrived before 8.00am was already visible upstream of the car park casting in the mist that still clung over the water.

We spent some considerable time, perhaps too much, working our way down from the corner above the car park carefully covering each section, some more than once. Fish were evident in abundance from the point I arrived and some very sizeable fish too. However with fish jumping behind, in front of us and over the line neither of us seemed to be able to tempt them despite our best efforts and various fly offerings.

Having regrouped at lunch time to compare Kevin’s notes and maps and agree tactics we set-off reinvigorated determined to seek out some of the pools and runs downstream from the big pool at the car park.

We fished below this main pool, a lovely big run which is deep on our (right) bank but shallow in the middle of the river entering at the first point where depth permitted. In hindsight this was perhaps not the smartest tactic as fish most likely were also lying close to our bank. However like gold prospectors we were blinded by the sight of yet more fish rising just off the far bank once more.

We fished this whole section steadily, enjoying the easy wading in the middle and the good flow. Despite our best efforts neither of us however managed to connect with or even rise any fish despite there clearly being fish around once more. Two other anglers passing us confirmed that they too were struggling to gain the interest of the fish. Undeterred we decided to check out the section below this straight. This long run we had just fished ends with a right bend and an enticing pool before it widens into an enormous pool and ox bow lake. Pat opted to fish down into this really big pool and I fancied the bend and pool below the straight that we had just fished. The choice of my 11ft 7wt Sage X Switch setup seemed to be well suited to this water.

As I fished this section I was treated once again to fish showing above and below me and even over the fly as it landed just off the far bank of this bend. Curses had long given way to wry smiles as I now began to accept the fact that despite the number of fish around they simply did not appear to be in ‘the mood’. With the light fading and the sight and sounds of a large flock of geese on the wing I decided to call it quits and go find Pat.

There certainly were a good number of fish in the pools that we had fished and we had only scratched the surface of the pools and sections of this beautiful beat. We had not even covered the additional pools downstream including ‘The Creamery’ etc.. but agreed that we had thoroughly enjoyed the day and this beautiful beat. Back at the car park we learned that neither of the other rods had yet managed to entice a fish which whilst surprising given the numbers of fish in the system was in some way ‘reassuring’ and not down to our skills, tactics luck or whatever.

We both agreed that we would love another day on this truly lovely wee section of the Annan.

“One Last Throw”

Friday 30th October 2020

It was a final chance on Friday at least on my own (Lomond) system to get out and wet a line since the weather forecast was brutal for the actual last day of the Season.

Driving to the Endrick then almost every car park or familiar parking areas were busy with cars, in fact I don’t recall ever seeing this lower and middle sections of the river so busy. Hardly surprising given the end of season approaching and forecast for Saturday.

After getting set up and a blether and a coffee at the car park, myself and fellow angler Colin headed for the water.

Given the recent rain and rising water I had swithered as to where to start, eventually opting for “Cowdenmill” and hopefully fishing downstream to “Kiltrochan“. An infamous and normally productive stretch but one until now that I had yet to fish.

I was also keen to “road test” a new line set up before the season ended in the form of a new “Trout Spey” line from Rio. This line with a 22ft head performed really well and proved easily capable of turning over a 6ft sink tip and heavy FITS TTT fly. Whether simply roll casting or spey cast it seemed ideally suited to this wee river where trees and branches behind and above always made any backhand cast a high risk if not impossible. All in all another great line from Rio and so much more enjoyable than having to work my normal Rio intermediate sinker for every cast.

Video “One Last Throw” 30th October 2020

Upon arriving at Cowdenmill I was pleased to see that the water looked great and reasonably clear without the debris and leaves I had feared. Fishing down the pool behind Colin we covered all of the likely areas noting the annoying obstacle of a tree stump that stubbornly remains right in the middle of the pool.

Working downstream we waded across (gingerly in my case) and fished a great looking section named the “Corner Pool“. Toward the tail of this pool I had noticed a decent fish splashing a couple of times and of course made several unsuccessful attempts to cover it.

Having almost reached the very tail of this pool I opted to take a smoke break and have seat. As I sat I watched this same fish as if in defiance continuing to show itself as if to say I’m still here. After finishing my cigarette and opting for a change of fly I walked a few yards back upstream determined to give this fish one last go. The fly had hardly hit the water when all went tight and I held my breath as the fish initially opted for the far bank then downstream towards a weir, fast water and eventually a bridge. Rightly or wrongly I tried to slow or prevent this run whereupon the heavy bend in rod suddenly disappeared as the fish and hook parted company! Cursing heavily (edited from the video) and retrieving my rod from the water below me I thought what an idiot why didn’t you simply let it run and deal with the fast water!

“The Corner Pool”

After meeting an chatting to a couple of anglers at the footbridge neither of whom had managed to land a fish yet I walked downstream to fish a stretch I had been keen to try – “Kiltrochan“.

Working down this narrow straight run I saw several fish rising, including what looked like the smallest well coloured wee grilse that I think I have seen and tight to the far bank which is not so far at all given the width of water here.

Wading down the edge trying to cast over my left shoulder so close to the bank was awkward but luckily no great distance needed. As I neared the bottom of this run there was a cold chill now in the wind as the sun was getting low I decided to call it a day for now and for the season on this beautiful stretch of the Endrick. A good day despite losing the only fish and roll on next season.

I learned later that my friend and seasoned Endrick angler Malcolm McCormick ‘collected’ that fish I lost in “The Corner Pool” as a wee ‘bonus’ to the 11lb fish he had caught earlier.

Until next season.

A Fun Day on Lomond

Saturday 17th October 2020

With the 2020 Season fast coming to an end the chances to get out on Lomond were rapidly reducing. My good friend Michael’s two young Grandsons Cameron and Adam both fanatical anglers already had been desperate to get out on the Loch with their Papa for weeks.

So with weather conditions on our side we set out from the river with the boys and their Father, also Michael, in Michaels boat. Full of chatter and excitement before leaving I was presented with a walkie talkie from Cameron who advised that we were to keep each other informed at all times of any fish caught. The other three walkie talkies went with Michael and the boys in his boat making sure I would be ‘fully kept up to date”.

Great to have anglers Cameron and Adam on board

The boat to boat comms started even before we had left the river and into the Loch with constant checks as to whether anything had been caught. Conditions were calm with little in the way of a wave but the day after all was really about the wee ones who were desperate to see a fish regardless of type!

Just above Boturich one of the pokers let go with a sudden if short lived take for when I lifted the rod there was a brief bend before all went slack followed immediately by a call on the radio from the boys in Michael’s boat ahead of me asking if I had a fish!

Lots of chatter and jokes all the way up the east shore and on crossing the Endrick Bank the inside rod with the orange tiger toby suddenly announced a take! After retrieving the other rods I lifted the inside rod and quickly realised it was a small pike of about 8lbs and commonly found in the shallow water on the Bank. After a short tussle the Pike tossed the orange tiger avoiding the need to bring it to the boat. Throughout this time the radio was noisy with chatter with Cameron and Adam excitedly wanting to know what was going on. I found out later and we laughed as apparently when they learned I had a fish on both of them announced that they were in the wrong boat and wanted to change boats and join me!

We fished North up to Milarochy Bay and the Black Rocks before heading across to Buccinch for lunch and a break and a catch up.

After the fire, lunch and some time collecting pine cones we were off again and Cameron and Adam now getting their wish and switching to my boat in the (false) belief that they may stand a better chance of seeing a fish in my boat.

As we headed South we passed one of the tour boats and the boys had everyone on board waving in return. Our peace was broken when their Dad came on the radio to announce that they had a fish on whereupon I had to tell them to sit down as a was worried that they were planning to literally jump ship! It turned out to be a false alarm in the way of a prank or joke on their Father’s part.

With no further action our next break was on the ‘spit of Inchmurrin’ for a respite and run around for the boys. Before leaving the boys were asked if they wanted to continue to fish down the Loch home or just to sail home and get home sooner. To our surprise they both announced that we should fish home.

Crossing over to cover Luss water outlet we then fished South without further events, realising that my boat was no luckier they had returned to their Papa’s boat.

Lifting the rods just above Duck Bay we headed for home with some fun in racing and sailing in tandem on the way.

Not the best days fishing by any means but a really enjoyable fun day for the boys and for the adults. Thank you Cameron and Adam for sharing your knowledge, experience and company.