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Exploring the Middle Endrick

23rd October 2020

Met up this afternoon with experienced angler Kevin McCormick this afternoon who kindly agreed to meet show me some more stretches of the Endrick.

Kevin not only showed me some more of the beautiful middle Endrick he only produced a lovely Endrick Salmon in the process!! Thank you Kevin yet again for so readily sharing your knowledge and experience, so much appreciated.

Kevin with a lovely Endrick Autumn Salmon

Another first – Cardrona on the River Tweed

Tuesday 6th October 2020

With the end of the season fast approaching I jumped at the chance to fish yet another new water for me. My good friend Stuart very kindly had invited me to join him on the famous Cardrona beat on The Tweed and I couldn’t wait to explore this great beat and to squeeze in yet another new water before the end of the Season.

Having done as much asking and reading as possible I arrived slightly later than agreed eager to see the water and get setup. Whilst online information available from SEPA gauges is a modern bonus and extremely helpful I have found that this online resource is only useful once you can relate the height information to ‘normal’ or to a particular area of the river. After the massive downpour and rise in height to 6’3″ on Sunday 3rd Oct. the river had settled to a height of 2’4″ when I arrived. This sounded ideal and added to our optimism about the day.

After setting up we set off to firstly explore the beat upstream of the MacDonald Hotel just to firstly see the conditions and to familiarise ourself with the various eight pools.

Exploring the right bank we were immediately aware of the height of the water and the challenge that we later faced in finding which pools we could actually safely wade. My casting is at best ‘intermittent’ and deteriorates markedly when forced to cast from the bank. Undeterred and eager to get a line out we fished from just below the road bridge downwards finding some good areas where we could get into. We fished hard working our way downstream accompanied by a chilly downstream wind seeing the odd fish turn or splash, usually behind us. A resident fish in a pool named “The Dirtpot” of all things which has a large outflow pipe of a burn from beneath the road above persistently reminded us it was there but seemed totally disinterested in any offering that we presented.

VIDEO

By lunchtime we had explored most of the beat and retreated to a nearby cafe “Nashy’s” for coffee a roll and a strategy meeting. The cafe unfortunately was closed but offered a welcome seat were we could break into the packed lunch.

Before starting off again Stuart had fetched his single hander in order to try to improve casting options to those areas proving tricky to get a line out. I had been musing during lunch that given the height of water then my favourite orange and gold 7cm rapala would have been a handy alternative but this was not an option given that spinning was not permitted after the 14th September.

The river slowly dropped during the afternoon to around 2′ making things slightly better. With the wind dropping and an increase in the temperature then this seem to point towards more favourable conditions with trout increasingly starting to rise below us. We fished the accessible pools and stretches all the way downstream once more.

Following yet another change of fly to a gold bodied Willie Gun 3/4″ copper tube I fished down a pool called “Lower Nutwood” trying to cast to the tree lined far bank. I had started to see increasing numbers of fish showing as I worked my way down and was admittedly distracted admiring the amazing Autumn colours when I had the first decent tug of the day just as the fly began to swing around. Buoyed of course by this first real sign of interest, aside from wee trout, I carefully and steadily turned my full attention to fishing the pool as well as possible. Alas no further pulls and starting to weary I decided to retire to the bank and the bench to await Stuart who was fishing below me and had since disappeared around the bend.

Admiring the spectacular scenery and the birds of prey soaring high above the hills opposite I decided to call it a day. Upon his return Stuart fished a few pools as we made our way back upstream and we both agreed that it had been a ‘challenging’ but very enjoyable day despite the lack of interest by our prey. It had indeed been a very good day I thought as I wearily struggled to remove waders and pack up the gear. According to the wonders of GPS my watch should that I had walked a distance of 14.4km which was a surprise but a good one.

As anglers we are a hard lot to please and never fail to find one thing or another that impacted my (our) ability to land fish. High water or not this is a beautiful beat and one definitely worth visiting again. Thank you Stuart for your company, experience and advice.

Loch Lomond Fly Fishing Competition

19th September 2020

This my second participation in the Loch Lomond Fly Fishing Competition and it has proven to be a challenge for me in the past with the previous year being extremely tough with bright sunshine, flat calm and cloudless skies. The forecast for this year’s event looked worryingly similar.

With entry fee and lottery tickets purchased I was off heading out of the river with all of the usual excitement and trepidation. My good friend and fishing pal Michael and I headed up the river at the same time. Having done some research and kindly been given some deeply secret tips on drifts and locations I headed up the western shore towards the Luss area first. My biggest concern was and had been the weather with forecasts of bright hot sun and little wind.

Fished hard all morning up at Luss area in really bright sunshine and virtually calm conditions before heading to Inchlonaig for a bit of lunch and regroup. The loch was bussing with please boats, kayaks and craft of all kinds.

Revitalised and having set the world to right we decided to give the north shore of Inchlonaig a try as there seemed to be a bit of a wind on this side at least.

With little in the way of interest and only a couple of fish sighted we decided to head down and try our luck along the shoreline of Inchfad. The drift looked much more promising down at here at Inchfad however once more we failed to raise any interest.

Having given it all we had we decided to head in to the ‘weigh-in’ on Inchmurrin. The winner Paul with a fine bag of three sea trout of around 3-4lb was duly awarded a well deserved cup and some fine prizes. After congratulating the well deserved prize winner and some chin wagging we headed for the river and home.

A really good day despite the challenging conditions and the distinct lack of fish in my own boat! Plenty of time to rethink and plan for next years event.

Images courtesy of Michael King (BIPP)

The scenic River Tummel in Autumn

Saturday 5th September 2020

The first Saturday in September found myself and my good friend Michael on the beautiful River Tummel at Moulinearn.¬† This was a day original booked for earlier in the year during April but unfortunately was a victim of the V+Covid-19 restrictions. Neither myself or Michael had fished the Tummel this late in the season and didn’t quite know what to expect. Upon arrival just after eight o’clock the first thing we discovered was just how low the river was as I quickly learned what 0.3 on the Pitlochry SEPA gauge meant in reality. The second thing we noticed was a solitary otter swimming in the top pool.

Determined not to let the low water conditions dent our enthusiasm we quickly set up noting the cold wind blowing downstream. After all despite the relatively low water there still seemed to be plenty of flow in this sizeable water.

Working our way downstream we carefully fished each run and pool without sight or contact with any fish. Meeting no other rods we appeared to have the beat to ourself with the only other encounter being several canoes and rafts suddenly and silently appearing behind us whilst wading.

By mid day the sun was now beating down and we were starting to feel the heat with neither of us having turned any fish. The only fish that I saw was a wee Grilse louping in the “Rock Pool” Fish or not the scenery and surroundings on this beat are simply breathtaking with huge pines on the far bank an abundance of wildlife and mountains in the distance as a backdrop.

We fished hard and despite success we eventually decided to call it a day around three o’clock agreeing that it had been a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing day.

I later learned from a friend that The Tummel is probably best known for its Spring run of fish which is why we have previously booked the river for April and it is also has a decent run during latter part of September when the bigger mature fish move up from the Tay. We will hopefully be able to return to our April booking next season.

A Memorable Day on the River Annan

Cleuchhead River Annan – Saturday 29th August 2020

When my good friend Kevin messaged me and asked if I was interested in joining him for a day on the Annan on Cleuchhead the following Saturday then there was nothing to think about.

Kevin and I had fished the Annan a few weeks earlier at Hoddom which was my first experience of the Annan and a great experience albeit we failed to connect with any silver. Kevin did as normal manage to produce some results in the form of several nice sea trout and brownies in contrast to my all too often blank session. The water at Hoddom on the day was high and coloured requiring the spinning or ‘cheating stick‘ to come out. I have to say that spinning for salmon is not my preferred method compared to the fly, perhaps it’s a confidence or comfort thing.

The day on Cleuchhead got off to a frantic start as I managed to sleep in and as the driver I had a mad scramble to get out of the house whilst trying to both waken up as well as check to ensure I had not forgotten anything. I was due to pick up Malcolm, Kevin’s Brother and his fishing friend Colin who were of course already waiting as I drew up to collect them. The abuse and ribbing continued all the way down the M74 with me then managing to overshoot the exit to Ecclefechan just to crown things off.

Upon finally arriving we excitedly setup and decided fishing pairs, the river was big and brown and once more the ‘cheating stick’ was considered order of the morning at least with fly possible after lunch.

Kevin, his Son Lewis and myself headed downstream with Kevin kindly and generously explaining the various pools, lies and sections of the beat as openly as always.

Watch video to see what happened next.

It was not long before the shouts of fish came as Kevin’s rod bent into a good fish which after racing and leaping around the pool turned into a lovely Salmon of around 9lb. A great start and I really hoped that I was not about to be ‘out-fished’ by both of the McCormicks yet again.

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Feeling that the vision lure I had on was not working for me even after only twenty minutes or so I then opted for a more familiar lure in the form of an orange and gold rapala (tay rigged). On the first, or second, cast suddenly I was into a decent fish which initially seemed intent in only going downstream or airborne once more. After Kevin deftly landed the fish on the slippery bank I promptly announced it was about 10-11lb only to be brought back to reality by Kevin shouting “no it’s 9lb”. Indeed landing fish was tricky given the steep overgrown bank and high water conditions any option to unhook fish within the net was simply too difficult.

During the next hour to my absolute delight I managed to hook two further beautiful fish around the 7-8lb mark both strong and reasonably fresh run. In fact after landing the second fish I began to dare¬† to think this could possibly be my lucky day and I might just might even manage to beat Kevin for the first time ever. At 2-1 this seemed a real prospect I mused and when I hooked a third fish then I was cock a hoot. For once the mobile phone traffic between Malcolm and ourselves was us calling them to report ‘another’ fish landed.

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Just before lunch Kevin shouted as he leaned into what looked like a decent double figured fish and after a real tussle a magnificent fish of at least 20lb was in my net. Unbelievable fish and fantastic morning with five salmon between the two of us and several fish dropped. To make things even better Malcolm had called to say that he had lost two fish but Colin had landed a fish of 18lb and also dropped two fish.

After lunch and rotating beats we headed upstream towards ‘Alice’ and ‘Jimmy’s” pools feeling buoyed by such an incredible morning. Despite continuing to fish hard it seemed to us that the fish had ‘gone off’ with little but a few trout and a couple more dropped fish to show for the afternoon. We learned later that Malcolm had gotten his tally started finally with three salmon of 15lb, 10lb and 3lb all fresh! Colin meantime had a major adrenaline rush when hooking a massive fish of 25lb which promptly emptied his reel of line in one huge run which sadly ended by being broken off before he could react…..woah.

Whilst we were packing up I could only keep repeating the same phrase ….”what a day!”. The Annan Bailiff’s had asked in the morning if we could send them some photos for their Facebook page, well we certainly can do so. ‘What a Day!” Cannot wait to go back, maybe get a fly line out next time. A day to remember in the coming Winter nights….even if it was with the “cheating stick!”

A huge thanks to Kevin, Malcolm, Lewis and Colin for freely sharing their knowledge, advice and company.

A couple of days venturing up “The Tap End”

Having spent most of my first seasons on Lomond fishing the “Bottom End” of the Loch, my fishing pal and myself decided we were ‘ready’ to explore the famous “Tap End”. From all accounts by seasoned Lomond anglers then by mid July the ‘Tap End” was likely to hold fish and this was evidenced by recent catch reports on the Loch.

So with the usual excitement, trepidation and boatloads of gear, tents, fuel and firewood we set of off.

I didn’t need to wait long for some excitement as I suddenly struck one of the rocks at Boturich hard. A teeth clenching moment as the boat mounted the submerged rock and ran the length of the keel before the engine ‘bounced’ beside me! I was glad that I had packed a set of dry clothes, including fresh underwear. That will teach me for getting over confident and fishing tighter each trip and for smirking critically at the cruiser I had witnessed aground on these same rocks only a week before!

As if this was not enough fun, almost immediately afterwards the inside rod let go signalling a fish. Breaking with protocol I lifted the inside rod to see what was on it only to see the gaping mouth of a largish Pike break the surface. Thankfully it managed to free itself without much further fuss and I was able to try to relax after the early scare.

The ‘magical’ Tap End

The “Tap End” is a ‘magical’ place and is entirely unlike the more gentle contours of the bottom end with its many islands and shallow bays. ‘Tap End’ bears more resemblance to a Scandinavian Fjord with it’s sheer mountain faces and deep drop offs into black depths. Fifteen yards from shore and you are fishing in fifty to eighty feet of water. With no roads, or noise on the eastern side and little in the way of other boats the ‘Tap End’ is an awesome unspoiled enchanting place.

An introduction to the beautiful North Esk

I was recently kindly invited to fish a private beat on the North Esk by my good friend and very experienced angler Alan at the end of July. Needing absolutely no persuasion I jumped at the chance to fish two days at the end of the week. The river had risen substantially earlier in the week and Alan and Stuart who is also a very experienced salmon fisher had landed some beautiful salmon, grilse and sea trout examples of which can be seen below.

Upon arrival and after a great walk through of each beat and the various pools I couldn’t wait to get a line out the next day and also give a new LOOP outfit purchased during lock down a first outing. However when Alan indicated that it would be a 4.00am start this rocked me somewhat – was he serious?

After a 4.00am start, as can be seen I did connect albeit briefly with one of the locals during first early shift but alas it didn’t stick after charging towards me. Hearing my curses and seeing my disappointment Alan did try to console me by saying that this running towards you trait was what they had been doing all week! One bonus was that the fish had taken one of my ‘fledgling’ gold bodied cascades that I had tied during the close season.

Unfortunately fish proved more difficult to tempt in the falling water despite each pool being absolutely full of fish. I have never that I can recall seen so many fish in a river but despite repeated efforts during early and evening sessions they did not appear to be tempted by various patterns or spinners. Alan did say that this was common when the river height had dropped to low levels. Upon reflection, as always, perhaps it may have been worth pulling a large sunray or hitch across their nose may have produced a reaction or even a big ugly muddler!

What a truly wonderful few days on this beautiful iconic river.

Thank you Alan and Stuart for your kind invitation, advice and tips so freely shared and I look forward to hopefully being able to fish this stunning water once more.

Loch Lomond 4th July 2020

Heavy skies, spectacular scenery as I head out of the river into the loch for a day on the water chasing that elusive silver. Fished up the eastern shoreline as far as just above Rowerdennan before turning and fishing down along the eastern and southern shores of Inchclonaig where only the pike were in residence it seemed. Returning homewards back across the bank and down past Ross Priory.

Reflecting on the day I came across a poor cabin cruiser being towed off the rocks at Boturich and decided that my day had been a good one after all.

Lomond Silver – June 19th & 20th 2020

My good friend and experienced angler Michael King and I had planned a long overdue two day trip on Lomond camping overnight in order to reach and fish “The Tap End‘. Having been talking about it for at least the past few seasons then plans were made, gear was readied and my own boat was now finally back in the water having been trapped in workshop for months as a result of Covid-19 lock down. As with many plans then these changed suddenly due to unexpected engine problems with my boat which was disappointing to put it mildly. To save the weekend trip Michael generously once more offered that we fish from his boat which saved the day.

Friday saw the boat loaded with all the camping gear, food, fishing gear and the kitchen sink and we duly headed out into the loch beneath heavy low grey clouds. Rain was forecast for later but I was just glad that the trip had been saved and we were off.

Fishing reports concerning the loch had been good during the last two weeks and consequently we were filled with even more than the normal anticipation of finding fish. Whilst the plan was to fish the upper reaches of the loch, known as “The Tap End” which neither of us had really explored, I was quietly hopeful that the “Endrick Bank” and Balmaha area may prove productive given recent catch reports.

With the loch levels way down compared to the start of the season we fished up the east shore past Boturich, Ross Priory and the usual bays carefully noting the now exposed jagged shoreline and rocks. Fishing as far into the corner of the “Endrick Bank” as we dared we turned and proceeded to cross the Bank trying to stay on the “shelf” between deeper water and avoiding the 1-2 foot shallows. Half way across the Bank the “inside poker” rod let go and we went into the now practiced drill of adjusting the engine speed and brining in the other rods quickly. There was little sign of panic since as I suspect that we probably both inwardly believed and expected that this was probably yet another pike or a wee sea trout since this had been our experience to date after two seasons on the loch. However complacency turned to pure excitement when Michael announced “it’s no a pike its a salmon!” as I stowed the last rod. The GoPro camera was on and recording before in an instant before I had put the last rod down and I turned to see the purple and silver flash as the fish which had launched itself at an orange and gold bellied Tomic. One that I had asked Tomic to copy from its Rapala competitor.

I cannot say how heartening it was to see the the flash of purple and silver after so many hours and trips. After a brief fiesty struggle in which the fish made some brief lunges and runs including a heart stopping moment in which I thought it was about to run under the boat Michael had it played out enough for me to slip the net beneath it!  Resisting the natural instinct to shake hands in current times we resorted to shouting “well done” and “finally”! Well done Michael as we looked at the fish and then grinned at each other. What we did not talk about was the fact that minutes before MIchael had one of the “poker” reels in bits trying to get the drag and retrieve mechanisms to work again. Yes and it was this same rod and reel that the fish had just been landed safely on!

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Michael and his first Lomond Salmon (10lb)

Still buzzing and adrenalin filled we resumed fishing working our way across the bank witnessing a large salmon jumping repeatedly as we approached Balmaha. I admit that I insisted that we cover the bank again at least once so we turned and retraced our course across the bank. No further contact however as we crossed and returned towards Balmaha and continued our journey north.

Given the forecast for rain later in the evening we decided to pull into Buccinch for lunch and to pitch the tents before heading back out. Mid afternoon saw us heading back out and once more heading up the eastern shore towards Rowerdennan. Turning around at Rowerdennan we headed back down towards Buccinch for food and sleep. They say that you should always “fish that last piece of water” or “be prepared for the unexpected” since as we a beat wearily and somewhat drenched approached Buccinch we were just about to start bringing in all the rods. Just as we were about to do so the same “poker rod” suddenly buckled as a decent fish swirled at the orange Tomic but failed to connect with it!  Certainly an eventful day with plenty to dream about. It seems were were not the only ones with a smug grin on our faces as we arrived at Buccinch, Another angler had held off going out again until seven o’clock had hooked and landed a fish of around 14lb not far from our camp.

Day two (Saturday) saw us packed up and on the water again before seven thirty heading once more northwards aiming to fish as far up as we could in the time available. Weather had improved and the loch was showing it’s absolute splendour with blue skies and gentle wind. We fished all the way up or just past Rowchois without seeing or connecting with anything. Around mid day we turned and starting fishing our way back down with no further action. Crossing the “Endrick Bank” the wind had started to increase blowing from the south as we headed for home feeling tired but contented if a little sunburned also.

Well done again Michael and thank you for sharing your knowledge, company and of course boat. After many attempts, trips and much effort of loading and loading gear and equipment on and off the boat it was finally good to break the duck and land some silver into the boat!