Tag Archives: Angling

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.

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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

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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.

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!

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.

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

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 dareĀ  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.

The Junction Pool on the mighty River Tweed

The Junction Pool on the mighty River Tweed

An invite from friends and fellow accomplished anglers Kevin and Malcolm McCormick to have a day on the infamous ‘Junction Pool’ on the Tweed needed absolutely consideration before saying definitely yes! Kevin’s lad Lewis also joined us adding some youthful energy to the group. Renowned around the world the Junction Pool considered as the Holy Grail by anglers everywhere and the chance to spend a day fishing it was a huge chance not to be passed over.

Kevin and Malcolm are accomplished anglers well known for their detailed knowledge and success on local rivers such as the River Leven, Endrick and Fruin as well as the Earn.

Recent heavy downpours had helped raise the level and the previous day’s catch report was encouraging – 2 salmon and 22 sea trout!

Upon arrival the Ghillie Billy indicated that only one of the previous day’s fish were caught on the fly and that the river remained too ‘dirty’ for the fly. A little disappointed I started to build up the spinning rod looking at the new Loop Cross SX and Classic still in the car boot, perhaps later I would get the chance to give it a swing for the first time. Before going further I have to confess that I feel much more comfortable casting and controlling a fly than I do a spinner which I don’t often spend much time fishing.

Fishing with Malcolm we kitted up and set off to fish the lower part of the beat for the morning session. After a fairly quiet start, aside from me falling over almost immediately whilst wading saved only by sticking out my arm under the water! Malcolm was soon into some takes and and the first of several sea trout. One of which freed itself by running into the bank just before the net was lowered!

The legendary “Junction Pool” HJ1st July 2020

Malcolm then hooked and landed another sea trout of around 3-4lbs just below me as we fished down this stretch. It was then I started to notice the sheer energy and focus that Malcolm fished with. It was clearly noticeable to me just how much he was in ‘a zone’ casting upstream, across, downstream and working the lure, two paces then casting, changing lure and repeating the process. The sheer intensity with which he fished was apparent.

By mid morning Malcolm had already covered twice the water I had given my frequent ‘rest breaks’ and stiff shoulders and back. We broke for lunch with Malcolm having hooked and landed another nice sea trout and the realisation that I was being outfished!

Back at the fishing hut Kevin and Lewis had reported also landing a couple of nice sea trout and several missed opportunities.

After a welcome break for lunch of BBQ’d wild boar sausages and beef burgers we were now on the Junction Pool beat rowed across to the far bank. This is a magnificent stretch covering about 200m upstream and downstream of the confluence where the Teviot joins the Tweed. We had already spotted several decent looking salmon moving in the pool. With renewed energy and a change of lure I set about trying to even up the scores – even slightly. It wasn’t long however before I was netting another stunning sea trout for Malcolm, thoroughly deserved! Just as I slipped the fish over the net the phone rang from Kevin to excitedly share that he had just landed a 12lb salmon having lost a decent sea trout just before this.

Malcolm with yet another beautiful Sae Trout….well done!

Malcolm and I both commented on the stop start nature of the takes, even on separate parts of the beat. I fished on determined not to have a blank card and was rewarded with several good pulls but nothing that would stick. Meantime Malcolm had risen a very large sea trout twice from its lie but despite changing lures it refused to take. By now my rest breaks were becoming more frequent and I spent more and more time admiring the scenery and beautiful surroundings and realising just how out of shape I was.

A beautiful Tweed Sea Trout

Despite being out fished totally by these guys I had a great day, some great craic on one of the finest salmon pools around. By the end of the day “The Team” had one salmon (12lbs) and some six sea trout, none of which I could claim.

I did with some encouragement get the chance to swing the new Loop outfit at the end of the session sticking a big Gold Willie Gun on for a few casts from the near bank before we packed up. A nice feeling rod and setup and one which I will be swinging in earnest shortly in search of silver either locally or on another new water.

A huge thank you to Malcolm, Kevin and Lewis for a memorable day which will stick with me not only for the venue but for the company and also for the learning and tips obtained from these guys.