Thursday, 28 December 2017

Kitchen Sink Shrimps

Been busy tying up some flies in preparation for the coming season. This lot are destined for a fly box on Speyside. Hopefully the Spey salmon will find them irresistible. These have been tied on silver Partridge Patriot hooks in sizes 8s, 10s and 12s.

Will look forward to hearing how they get in during the season.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Season Highlights 2017

Another salmon fishing season has come and gone but as usual, it has been a full of memorable days spent on the river bank. In fact, is there a such a thing as a bad day spent fishing and enjoying the countryside? I'm not sure there is.
A cracking 20lb spring salmon being returned to the River Tay in March.
On a personal level, my season went pretty well considering the doom and gloom surrounding salmon fishing at the moment. I had a decent season catches wise for my efforts but what was really pleasing was the average weight of fish caught. Out of 20 salmon landed, the average weight was 10.1lbs. I can't wait to do it all again in 2018 but in the meantime, please enjoy reading about my season's run down and some of the highlights of 2017.

My season started off with an opening day outing on Tayside to fish at Murthly 2. This was quickly followed by another day on the Tay at Lower Kinnaird. My good pal, Bill Cook was in the right place at the right time to land a lovely January springer of around the 9lb on the fly.
Daniel with his first ever salmon. An Opening Day springer from the Dee.
The opening days of the River Dee salmon fishing season were spent on the Park beat with Philip Black and Sean McGarry. We didn't have to wait long for the first fish and once again, Park produce the biggest fish on opening day for the second year running with a 14lber from the Cellar Pool caught by Philip's son-in-law. It was his first ever salmon. Not a bad way to opening your account!!
Sean McGarry with his first of the season from Park.
Not to be outdone, I managed a cracker of around 10lb not long after Sean.
My first fish of the season came on the 3rd February from the Cellar Pool. It was a beauty of around 10lb and was taken on a 1 1/4" Monkey tube. I landed it shortly after Sean McGarry returned a belter of around 16lb from the same pool. Hopefully we have the same good fortune at Park when we return in 2018 for the opening days again.

My second fish of the season was caught during a flying visit to Ballogie on St.Valentine's Day where I was fortunate enough to land a nice springer around the 7lb mark from the famous Bridge Pool. It was taken on a Willie Gunn tube. I lost another not long after landing this fish. Not bad for just 1 hours fishing!
A nice springer from the Bulwarks at Ballogie in March
A fresh run 9 lber from Lower Inchbare at Ballogie.
My second fish from Lower Inchbare. A lovely 7lber which fell victum to a Monkey tube yet. 
March saw my annual three day trip to Desside to fish the Ballogie beat. I had a great trip this year and managed to land three lovely, fresh fish for my three days. The first came from the Bulwarks and this was followed by 2 springers the following day from Lower Inchbare. All three were take on a Monkey fly.

A fresh springer from the Boat Pool at Carlogie during a lunchtime cast in March. Monkey Fly did the damage again!
Probably one of my favourite photos I took this year. A Monkey Fly wedged in the scissors of a fresh run springer. 
My good run continued and I was lucky enough to land another fish during a short stint on the Dee again but this time at Carlogie. There was a good run of fish entered the Village and Boat pools as I arrived at the beat and within three or four cast I struck silver with a nice wee fish of around 6lb which was expertly netted by ghillie, Sean Stanton. Again, the Monkey did the damage.

A 20lb beauty from the River Tay at Stobhall. Copper Salmon did the business this time.
Probably the top highlight of my season was landing an absolute brute of a springer from the River Tay at Stobhall on the 24th March. It was hooked in Tam's Corner on a 30g Copper Salmon lure. It was weighed in the net at exactly 20lb and was covered in sea lice! What a feeling landing such pristine looking springer in March whilst in the company of legendary Tay ghillie, Bob Anderson.

Enjoying the luxury of the Tulchan C fishing hut.
Philip Black with a cracker from the Spey at Tulchan in April.
Like two peas in a pod. Philip's second of the afternoon at Tulchan. Both fish were approx. 17lbs!
Although I didn't land any fish during the month of April, a particular highlight of mine has to be our annual day on the River Spey at Tulchan. The Spey is a magical place any time of year but when the fish are the quality of the ones my pal Philip landed then it makes it all the more appealing. Looking forward to returning again in 2018 for hopefully more of the same.

A nice fish or around the 9lb mark from the Bend at Commonty in July.
I had to wait until 4th July for my next salmon to be banked after a spell of loosing a few fish prior to landing this one. A memorable loss was a fish hooked during the evening in June at Ballogie. It was well into the teens of pounds and after a hard, dogged scrap it manged to evade capture by taking my line round a rock and snapping the leader. Still, the fish pictured was more than welcome and it was also the first fish I had landed on Commonty for a while too. It weighed roughly 9lb and was caught using a small fly on light tackle. My pal Philip also landed a nice brace of fresh fish that day too.

A 12 lber from the Bulwarks at Ballogie. My first ever fish on a hitch tube. What a way to catch a salmon. Highly addictive!
Another stand out from my 2017 season was the experience of catching a salmon on the hitch fly. I was introduced to this exciting method by Sean Stanton during an evening on the Dee back in June. The takes are so visual and watching the fly skate across the surface only to then get engulfed by a salmon is a sight to behold. The fish pictured above was caught during a lunchtime cast in the bright sun but it couldn't resist the hitch tube. The hitch is certainly a method I will be using much more of in 2018.

A slab of a summer salmon estimated at 15lb caught by my good friend Charlie Robertson from Jock Rae at Carlogie in July.
Again, not a salmon caught by me but the image of this salmon is wedged in my mind. It was a perfect specimen of a summer salmon and was caught by my good friend, Charlie Robertson during a day on the Dee at Carlogie in July. It was landed from Jock Rae almost immediately after he had released a smaller fish minutes before.
My first River Don salmon of the season.
Not the biggest or prettiest fish I've ever caught but this was my first salmon of the season from the River Don. A lively grilse about 6lb taken in a peaty water from the Upper Wood pool at Manar. A small Cascade doing the business this time.
A.H.E Wood's rod room at Cairnton.
Fishing isn't always about catching fish and during the summer I made a visit to the famous Cairnton beat of the River Dee. Cairnton was made famous by A.H.E Wood as it is where he perfected the "greased line" method of fishing and also where he caught upwards of 3000 salmon to his own rod over the course of his tenancy there. A tour round his old rod room was a particular highlight of the day and it was fascinating to see his old flies and rods but especially the old catch records.

An 18lber from the Boat Pool at Carlogie after a good lift in water levles. 
My next memorable fish was an 18lber I caught from the Boat Pool at Carlogie in August. The water had went up the night before and was heavily peat stained. There was two fish landed in the morning and there seemed to be one or two on the move through out the day. Despite this, I didn't have a touch until after 6pm when I had a thumping take from a hefty fish just under the wires. It made some awesome runs and it certainly got a good tune out of my Hardy Cascapedia reel. It took a UV orange and black snaelda fished deep. Was a good way to sign off my day.
A 12lb cock salmon showing off his tartan coat.
A 15lber taken on a large Red Frances tube.
By the time September came round there was a distinct lack of fresh fish evident in all rivers. Having said that, the pools were stacked full of older fish but getting them to take was a complete different ball game. It was so frustrating knowing you were covering fish on every cast but nothing you presented to them made them want to take. I did manage to strike lucky a few time though and was fortunate enough to land a couple of beauties during a few hours visit to the Dee. One was conservatively estimated at 12lb and the other 15lb. Again, it wasn't really the quality of fish that was pleasing, it was more the size of them. Good sized fish seemed to be more abundant than the smaller grilse were.

A grilse from the ADAA water at Kemnay. 
Another particular highlight was finally landing a salmon from the Aberdeen and District Angling Association water on the River Don. I hadn't really spent much time on the club water this year but after a good rise in levels I ventured out for an hour or two and managed to tempt a grilse from the tail of the Dooker pool. It was also pleasing to land another Don salmon.

A cock fish around the 7lb mark on my first few casts of the morning  on the Dee.
A belter of around 18lb landed on my very next cast after returning the fish pictured above.
October is usually the most prolific month for me in terms of catches and this year was much and much the same as previous years. I had some good days on the river and a couple of fish in particular stand out. I was fishing the Dee at Ballogie and started my day off in the Top Gannets. I had only made about three casts when I landed an old cock fish of around 7lb. It was quickly released and I made my way out to the same spot to recast. My very next cast in the same lie produced another take but this time it felt like a much bigger fish. After a dogged scrap, a cracker of around 18lb was beached. Both fish were landed before 9.30am and both were taken on a Black Snaelda. Apart from a lost fish just before 5pm that was the lot for my day but it was good to sign off my Dee season with a couple of salmon.
A cracker of around the 18lb from the Chapel Pool at Manar. My last salmon for the 2017 River Don season. 
The last Saturday in October signals the end of the salmon fishing season for most of us who work during the week. At Manar, this day is always when the BBQ gets fired up and we celebrate another salmon fishing season coming to an end. I fished the beat from top to bottom that day as I wanted to make a short video showing off the beat and what the pools were like etc. I had fished the entire beat bar the Chapel Pool without a touch but the Chapel Pool is always a good bet to produce the goods. I was about half way down the pool when I had a thumping take! It took off like a rocket and it became apparent that this was a good sized fish. After a hard fight, I managed to beach the fish and, going by measurements and taking into account the large kype etc I estimated it to be in the region of 18lb. The fish was quickly returned and what better way to end my Don season than with an 18lber. Just like I signed off the Dee season.
Looking upstream to the old dyke at Morphie on the North Esk. 
My final highlight of the 2017 season was my first ever trip to fish the North Esk where I fished the Morphie beat. This beat is well known to many anglers due to the prolific catches it is capable of producing. Sadly, I could only lose a couple of fish that day but it was great to say that I have fished on such a hallowed stretch of water and to finally have fished the North Esk.

Returning a 10lber to the River Don in October.
The close season is time to tidy up the gear and refill the fly boxes ahead of the new season arriving again in spring. I have some good fishing planned again next year and have been busy at the vice tying up my favourite patterns in preparation for this. I'll look forward to sharing my stories for anyone who is interested in following my fishing season as it progresses. I'd just like to sign off this post by thanking all my pals who I share my days on the river with and to the ghillies who have helped make this another memorable season. Here's to more of the same in 2018! Tight lines. 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

River Dee Salmon Spawning

After a brief discussion about salmon redds on the Dee, my pal Paul Pritchard and I took a trip up river on Royal Deeside to see if we could spot some spawning salmon for ourselves. The wind was blowing quite hard on the day which made seeing into the water trickier than normal but we were pleasantly surprised at what our GoPro cameras picked up. The wind also limited the use of the drone for aerial filming but the underwater footage was far better than we could have hoped for and provided more than enough stunning images for Paul to use. 

Paul has a real talent for producing top quality films of his trips out on the rivers and during our day out we did a spot of filming and this is what Paul did with the footage. Enjoy!

*Please note that the cameras were placed in an empty redd and there was no disturbance of spawning salmon took place during filming of this clip*

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Video Of Manar Fishings

This is a short video I have put together of the last day of the salmon fishing season on the River Don at Manar. Still got a lot to learn in terms of editing but reasonably pleased with the outcome of this one despite the limited footage I had to work with. Hope you enjoy watching it. Feel free to let me know what you think by leaving a comment. Cheers

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Morphie - North Esk

My last outing of the 2017 salmon fishing season was on the famous Morphie beat of the North Esk. A bonus day off work due to the rescheduling of a meeting left me with a free to date go fishing. After a quick look around FishPal I stumbled across availability for Morphie. Not many salmon anglers in the UK haven't heard of the Morphie beat. It has been on my bucket list for years and as I had never even fished the Northie before, when the chance arose to take a day on it's hallowed pools, it was far too good an opportunity to miss.

I arrived at the beat and was met by my pal Colin who was going to be fishing with me for the day. The gauge was reading 1ft 2in and was running clear. Colin had some success the previous week at Morphie and he advised that tactics for the day would be to get the flies fishing deep. I opted to fish with my Guideline H/I/S1 shooting head for the morning. My fly of choice was a small black and yellow treble.
Fishing down the pool I think was called Elephant Rock or something along that lines.
A nice finnock (young sea trout) which hammered a #9 Tilbouries Shrimp.
We were drawn to fish the lower half of the beat in he morning from the left bank. Colin took us down to the parking area and rowed us over in the boat. After about a dozen casts with my chosen line I realised it was too heavy for the slower moving pools. Fishing it effectively proved to be challenging to say the least. Regardless of my line trouble, it was great to be able to say that I have fished the beat now and with the presence of plenty fish in the pools, I always felt there was a chance of something taking my fly. I fished down through all my allocated pools with only a small finnock about 1.5lb  to show for my efforts. Colin did however, manage to land a lovely fresh fish around the 5lb mark and he also lost another which was encouraging.
Looking upstream from below the Elephant Rock???
Looking across to the Morphie hut near to where I hooked my fish.
After lunch I decided to change lines and put on a Rio hover shooting head. This was ideal and I immediately felt much happier that it was fishing just as I wanted it to. In fact, it fished perfectly and almost immediately after lunch I had a good pull from a fish just below the dam from the left bank. It didn't stick unfortunately but it was a real boost that the new tactics were working, especially after struggling so badly during the morning session.
Looking upstream toward the breach in Morphie Dyke.
Looking upstream to the part of the pool where I had a good offer just after lunch. Sadly, it didn't stick.
I carried on down the pool with a renewed confidence and when I was just opposite the hut I had a good take from a fish. I firmly lifted into what felt like a decent salmon. I got the fish onto the reel and began to play the fish. Sadly, no sooner had it taken my fly, it threw the hook and was gone. This was a big disappointment but there were plenty more fish about and I had only fished the top 50 yards of the beat.
Looking upstream towards the Dyke from a bit further down the pool.
Looking downstream in the pool where I hooked my fish.
Looking upstream from the Pots toward the Morphie hut.
Unfortunately, this was to be the last chance I would get during my day at Morphie but there were 3 landed for the day, 2 of which were fresh which was a decent result. Just to fish the beat was good enough for me but it would have been nice if my fish stayed on and I could have got my name in the catch book on such a famous beat.
Looking upstream towards the Pots from the pool below.
Looking downstream in the same pool.
Hopefully I'll have another chance to do so in the future but if not, then at least I can say I've fished the beat. One thing is for sure, it certainly won't be my first and last go on the North Esk. What a lovely river it is and the fishing ain't half bad either!

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Manar - River Don

The last Saturday of the season always signals a good day's fishing at the delightful Manar beat of the River Don followed by the customary BBQ. This year was no different as my good pal, Charlie Robertson and I had one last cast in pursuit of a River Don salmon. It turned out to be a cracking day on the river.
A River Don salmon caught at Manar on Saturday.
An underwater photo of a Kitchen Sink Shrimp in action on the River Don,
We arrived at the beat in the morning around 9.00am and the gauge was reading 5". Not a bad height for the beat at all. The wind was blowing hard though and there were plenty leaves floating down river as a result. My set was a 14ft 9in Guideline AWM matched up with a 10/11 Guideline PT Scandi floating shooting head. Attached to this was a 10ft 3 inch per second Rio versi leader. My initial fly of choice was a #9 Kitchen Sink. A good choice for low light levels and a river full of leaves.
Charlie and I having a break from the wind at the Manar fishing hut,
The Stone Pool.
As I was planning to do a final Blog post of our day I decided to start at the top of the beat and work my way down from there taking photos etc as I went. I didn't actually bother heading all the way up to the Ree Pot, instead I opted to start in the Stone Pool. The Stone Pool is a lovely wee run at the neck followed by a nice, evenly paced middle before dropping down again into the pool below. I started up in the faster water and began to work my way down the pool. As I neared the middle section of the pool I was treated to a nice acrobatic leap from a small coloured grilse just about a rod length from the bank. I shortened my line and tried to cover the fish as best I could but it wasn't for tempting. It was good to see some activity early in the day though. I fished out the remainder of the pool without seeing anything else move so it was off down to the next pool.
Horseshoe Haugh
The next pool down is the Horseshoe Haugh. This is similar in characteristics and size to the Stone Pool and can be equally productive on it's day. The wind wasn't too ferocious at this stage and the pool was easily covered. Again, I started up in the faster water at the neck of the pool and worked my way down covering all the likely lies and holes. Unfortunately, I couldn't temp anything in here either so I left the pool to carry on downstream to fish the Long Pool.
The wee pot in between the Horseshoe Haugh and the Corner Pool.
The Long Pool is one of the larger pools on the beat and can be very good with a bit more water on the gauge. 5 inch was still a good height for the pool and things were immediately looking positive as a nice fish made it's presence known down near the tail. This was quickly followed by another two good fish and I was sure this was a run of salmon moving into the pool. As I fished my way down the pool I heard a splash above me. Itseemed that the fish were in fact running through the pool without stopping. This was unfortunate but it was a good sign as there might be a fish or two stopping for a rest in any of the other pools along the length of the beat. I fished out the pool without an offer and made my way downstream to the Corner Pool.
Looking upstream in the Long Pool.
The Corner Pool is an ideal resting spot for running fish and this is usually a good place to pick one up. The lies are over near the far bank but fish can be caught as they cross the stream to push through the fast water up in the neck of the pool. If there is one there, then generally you get it. It wasn't to be this time though and I fished through the pool with out a touch.
Looking upstream into the Corner Pool.
The neck of the Sheep Pool.
The Corner Pool flows into the Sheep Pool and this is where I was to fish next. The Sheep Pool is probably the most productive pool on the beat and will hold fish up in the neck for a majority of the season. It will also produce fish in all heights of water and is easily covered from the well manicured banks of Manar. Just I began fishing the pool there was good sized fish showed down near the tail. This got my concentration levels up a notch and I really made sure I was fishing the fly as best as I could. I was just about half way down the top part of the pool when I had a pull on the fly. I lifted into a fish and it immediately came to the surface. It showed itself to be a brown trout around the 1.5lb mark. Not what I had in mind, even more so when they are out of season but I quickly got the fish in and removed the hook. The fish swam away strongly to carry on with it's business.
Looking down the length of the Sheep Pool. 
The Sheep Pool is by far the longest pool on the beat but it can pretty much be split into two parts. The tail of the Sheep pool is another very productive bit of water. Again, it fishes well all season long and is another perfect stopping point for a hard running fish to take a breather. This is what makes it so appealing to both anglers and salmon. I started fishing the pool where the banks have been cut and worked my way down covering the boils and glides in between which are dotted around the pool. Sadly, I didn't have any luck in here so it was off down to my favorite pool on the beat; Upper Wood.
The Upper Wood Pool.
Looking upstream from mid way down the Upper Wood.
The Upper Wood is a cracking bit of water. It is not a big pool by any means but it's well worth the effort. The Don drops down through shallow, fast flowing water from the Sheep Pool above and this can be enough of a barrier to slow running fish up as the make their journey up river. There are a few prominent lies down the length of the pool and they are easy to spot to even novice anglers. It was from one of these lies that a 33lb April springer was caught a few years back. I worked my way through the pool covering all these lies and areas where I have had success before but yet again, the salmon remained elusive. Still, I always feel that I'm in with a shout when I fish this pool and it's never a chore fishing it.
Casting into the teeth of the wind on the Lower Wood pool.
Looking downstream in the Lower Wood.
The Lower Wood is next pool down. It's situated on a bend as the river twists it's way through the Don valley. It is slower moving for the most part compared to the Upper Wood but there are plenty of lies in this pool that will produce fish. I changed flies at this point just to vary things a bit so on went a #9 Red Cascade. The wind was by this time blowing hard and casting was proving to be very difficult. Regardless of the trouble I had getting the line out straight, I persevered and fished my way down the pool. Needless to say, I didn't fool anything into taking my offerings so my last chance saloon was in the famous Chapel Pool.
The Chapel Pool.
The Chapel Pool is probably the most popular pool on the beat. It might have something to do with it being one of the best holding pools on the river. It could even be because John Ashley Cooper mentions it in his book. Whatever, the reason, it's always a good idea to fish it through a couple of times just to make the long walk worth while! True to form, as soon as I set foot in the pool a good fish showed about 15 feet down from where I was standing up in the neck of the pool. It was as bright a fish as I have seen on the Don for a good number of weeks and I made sure I covered it from all angles. It didn't take my fly. The wind swirling down the pool at a great rate of knots didn't help my cause and I really felt like giving up. I'm not normally one for letting the conditions get the better of me so after a quick word with myself I decided to change from the lightweight double hooks and put on something from the opposite end of the scale. My thoughts were that something heavy might just to stop the wind from grabbing hold of the fly on my forward cast. I opened up my tube fly box and chose a nice, big Red Frances which was tied on a 19mm brass tube. Casting the heavier tube cut through the wind pretty well and I worked my way down through the pool again from the top.
A fine specimen of a salmon from the Chapel Pool.
I had fished through the likely spots at the neck of the pool without an offer so I continued down into the slower part of the pool which is sometimes known as the Waterings. I made a long cast at 45 degrees and began working the fly as soon as it hit the water. Just as the big, garish fly was coming away from the far bank, it was hammered by what was obviously a hefty fish. It pulled hard and due to a fault with my Hardy Cascapedia reel, it couldn't take any line off ! I fumbled about with the drag and eventually manged to free it. At this point the fish took off down the pool before sharply turning and running back upstream towards me again. I soon had the fish back onto a short line and after a few minutes of sharp, dogged runs I was able to beach the fish. It was a brute! I quickly unhooked the fish in the water and held it in the current to recover. It soon was ready to go back and with a big kick of it's tail, he was off. I estimated the fish to be in the region of 18-20lb but as I had no way of weighing it, I settled on 18lb. Regardless of size, it was a great way to sign off my 2017 River Don season. After releasing the fish I made my way back to the hut quite content with my day's fishing. It was now rime to enjoy the BBQ and a cold beer.

A still photo of my fish taken from my GoPro camera. Pity about the water on the lens!
The BBQ is always a highlight in the angling calendar at Manar but this year it there was only a depleted squad assembled to enjoy the cooking of beat owner, Ian Anderson. Charlie and I were joined by fellow Manar regular, Fred Hay and his wife as well as Charlie's wife, Liz. After a shandy and a burger it was time for me to head home. That was it for the 2017 season for us. It certainly wasn't a season many will be sad to see the back of on Donside that's for sure. I can't complain too much as I have been fortunate enough to land a fish or two for my efforts.

I'd just like to end this Blog post by taking a minute to thank Ian for allowing me to fish his beat. It's always appreciated and I'm very grateful for the opportunity to do so. I'll certainly look forward to returning next season. Roll on 2018!