Monday, 29 March 2010

Nae Fash.

Saturday 27th March. 09:00 - 18:45. Craigendinnie, river Dee. Mild and Sunny.

We thrashed the water to a foam again on Saturday - our last day on the river - but couldn't buy a bite.

Rob and I both fished the same left bank pool in silence for the last hour as the sunset on our week, pondering what might have been. By this late hour we were fishing with the shackles off: shoulders aching, grip fading on both hands and chapped skin on knuckles. I double spey casted off my left shoulder and Rob single speyed off his right. Both lines were flying out.

Above average effort with below average luck is my summary of the week.

I think we impressed the ghillie with our endurance and sheer perseverance. Not one morning did we greet him with anything less than a hearty smile and some self-deprecating line about our talent vacuum. We've seen fishers cave in by Wednesday and blame everything and everyone for their lack of success. The ghillie is usually in line for a pot shot. But that's salmon fishing for you nowadays - a lot of fishing and not many fish.

A weeks solid salmon fishing is a test of mental strength at the best of times unless you catch one early doors that is. In which case you fish like a millionaire for the rest of the week. Neither of us are millionaires however and it took a lot of effort for me to maintain the right frame of mind on the last day.

Can you remember the last time you fished for six days solid without a bite?

If I'm honest a three word phrase crept into my mind late Friday evening and dogged me on and off throughout Saturday. Unusually for me the phrase was completely free of expletives but at that moment carried more impact and weighed more heavily than a ton of bricks.

Waste of Money?:

Sunset on Tanar Mouth and our week.

The backing on the reel didn't see the light of day.

A disproportionate week on many levels.

The above photos are intended to counter the preceding sentiment.


ps Hope to see or read you on the bank soon Danny.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Into Extra Time We Go...

Friday 26th March, 09:00 - 18:15. Craigendinnie. Mild with only a spot of rain.

Picking up on Jeff's theme I am heading for a Royal Blank. Pretty fitting as most of the shops on Deeside are by royal appointment. I notice the local chippy where we intend to dine this evening is missing the crest above the door however. Would Ma'am like a saveloy to dip in her curry sauce?
Rob at least has had a run in with a rock which turned into a salmon but that seems so long ago now he's no longer drawing upon it for inspiration.

We both fished hard again today. Really hard. Apart from forty five minutes at lunch neither of us relented in the rhythm of the cast all day.

We are both exceptionally focused. If you'd have seen us arriving at the beat this morning you could have mistaken us for business men stepping out of the car to clinch some big business deal. Barely a word was spoken until the ghillie turned up and lightened our mood. Before this we operated efficiently, changing leaders, donning waders and waistcoats and preparing for another day of what is becoming our 'mission'.

Each morning we force ourselves to remember that our daily routine is: up at seven twenty, full English at eight, at the beat before nine and in the water just after. Fish or no fish I know next week we'd swap our alternative routine for this any day.

Today I resorted to Mongolian throat singing my way down one whole pool in a bid to persuade any salmonids in the area I was some shaman from the Altai mountains. It didn't work.

Next I sought to entertain them by reciting (as best I could) the 'Death Star Canteen' sketch - "Are you Mr Stephenson?". If you haven't seen it I suggest you look it up immediately on you tube. "You'll still need a tray". That didn't work either.

This morning was the first day we needed an alarm to wake us up. On previous mornings we've both woken before it had a chance to sound, eager with anticipation. My body is also starting to betray my brains aspirations. Most things ache, that's a given, but certain joints are rebelling against my work ethic.

Tomorrow we move into what we know as 'extra time'. A blank saving fish on a Saturday would be nice but it leaves little opportunity to celebrate it, especially with the long drive looming on Sunday.

You want to look at a couple of my holiday photos, huh, punk?:

Align Centre
What you looking at?

Fockey Jife from top to bottom.


Thursday, 25 March 2010

Tomorrow is Another Day

Thursday 25th March. Craigendinnie. 09:00 - 18:45. Wet (Dreach).

Once again Rob and I fished hard all day but remain fishless. Disregarding the hours I lost on Tuesday due to lack of ability we've now eight rod days under our belt and only one pull to show for it. Aaaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhhhh.

Fair enough the water's been up and down a bit which is not good news but fish have been coming out.

Believe me when I say we've questioned everything. Lines, flies, angle of cast, head wear, religious beliefs. I've changed my hat regularly. Today I sang my way down a whole pool in an attempt to feign disinterest in the fish.

I saw two running fish at close quarters today in the neck of Jockey fife (aka Fockey Jife). Nothing else I know makes the sound of a salmon tearing through the surface. It's like the sound of a roman candle fizzing rather than a splashy sound.

Casting is no longer a major issue for me and I'm happy I'm covering the water where they might be lying up, taking a rest from the tearing current.

We are now both in need of some reward for our efforts as the belief tank is running low. Our respected ghillie remains adamant we are doing nothing wrong and assured us he thought we might have found success by now.

Tomorrow is another day and I for one remain optimistic we are simply playing a game of roulette. Sooner or later we will have our red letter day.

Photos. Ayyyeeeeee:

Align CentreDreach the noo. (Pissing it down this afternoon)

The Pulpit on Lorne Pool

A message for all fishers in the pulpit - Dry Lines No Fish.

We find ourselves in the cloud.

Rain? What rain!


Wednesday, 24 March 2010

A Day of Two Halves

24th March, 09:20 - 18:45. Craigendinnie. Lower then upper. Light rain on and off.

First thing today I was put on lovely looking water which required single spey casting from the bank. I couldn't get a line out for love nor money and felt like I wasted the first two hours of fishing pulling grass off my hook and undoing tangles. Things came to a head when I ran out of swear words and had beaten myself into a snarling lashing foul-mooded fancy-dressed lanky fat f..........

I wound in and asked the ghillie if I could try another run down Brown's corner. This involved wading, which is where my casting seems to come together of late.

True to form once in the water the pieces of the casting puzzle took shape again and the line flew out. Now the problem was not finding new and interesting ways to swear but getting me out of the water to eat lunch. When you're thigh deep in burbling water and the fly is going out a metaphoric mile it's so good you don't want the pool to end. My whole outlook on the day had changed, and once I'd conceded that fishing from the bank was not my forte and I would avoid it at all costs the remainder of the day, my spirit soared.

Tightening a hook before going in. Note the wet legs.

By the way, today I was wearing bin liners beneath my leaky waders in a desperate attempt to keep the cold water out. They were breached within five minutes of entering the water. The good news however is that John Norris once again came good and the order I placed for replacement waders yesterday afternoon, arrived today. No more freezing wet feet tomorrow!! Woo Hoo!

We both fished hard (and well) right into dusk and despite seeing a fish in the head of Jockey Fife we are still fishless. Rob and I were 'hitting the far bank' at the end of the day and start tomorrow on a very productive area. I was buzzing when I climbed frozen and numb-footed out of the water this evening and I firmly believe if we keep up this effort it is only a matter of time.

What would you call these clouds Jeff!?


Tuesday, 23 March 2010

It's Getting Hard (fnar fnar)

23rd March, 09:10 - 18:30. Craigendinnie. Relatively mild; 11C. Cold water.

Today was hard for me. I fished hard and am aching all over as a result. I recognise I might present a caricature on here but it felt like I spent half of the day undoing tangles and removing grass from my hook. Casting from the bank is proving troublesome in terms of reliability and rhythm, whereas casting from within the water seems to take on an art of it's own. A few expert pointers from the ghilly has tuned things a little and I've let him know I welcome his 'nice cast' punditry but the 'that was shite' quips weren't helping much. They made us both laugh though.This post won't be verbose as rob and I have wiped the slate of a days fruitless efforts clean with beer, food and talk about things other than fishing.
My friend Jeff once said inland fishermen didn't know what bad weather was compared to sea anglers. Similarly, I say coarse fishermen don't know what a hard days fishing is compared to salmonists. For us coarse guys, the cast is a means of projecting our chosen terminal tackle to where you want it. Light carbon rods and fixed spool reels mean the cast plays only a small part in the total picture. In game fishing the terminal tackle is a fly which can't be projected directly and so requires an inordinate amount of swishing of line to get it out where you want it. It's harder than it sounds and when you lose your rhythm it can be hard to find it again. It's just another thing in fishing that can't be forced.

Rob made contact with a fish late on which we both originally thought was a 'rock salmon' (I was standing next to him chatting at the time). Unfortunately the contact was right on the dangle and so the resistance was mistaken for Scotland.

Have some photos:

Round the back of Jocky Fife pool.

Sunset looking up Lorne pool

This will get the other game anglers going....


Monday, 22 March 2010

Butt Slapper

22nd March, 09:15 - 18:00. Craigendinnie, river Dee.

It would be too easy for me to focus on the negatives from today: how I tossed away the first couple of hours apparently completely forgetting how to cast, how both feet of my waders sprang leaks within a minute of stepping into the water, or even just the absence of a fish on the bank when there were fish caught below us.

I want to focus on the positives however, and try convey to you the sheer exhilaration of simply fishing on this amazing river. Once my initial casting crisis was over I found the mechanics of casting became routine rather than occupying my entire attention. With casting relegated to a background process the fishing itself rose to the surface and occupied the foreground.

Butt slapper is my way of describing a good cast. When the fly line shoots out with good force the loose line hanging in the water by the reel is pulled taught and 'slaps' the blank of the butt section. On a really good cast the reel will click a little as line is pulled from it.

The water looked amazing and I thought something truly incredible was going to happen every time my line went out straight. The water hovered at around 2ft up for most of the day, rising an additional foot late afternoon once the sun came out and the mornings rain blew over.

The environment is clean and sandy under foot and the wading was cold but engaging. Tomorrow I intend to reappropriate a couple of carrier bags in order to try and keep my feet dry a little longer. I will look like a proper compo.

I saw my first Dee salmon this evening; it porpoised just off the main current at around six o'clock, coming completely clear of the water. Of course it was on the other side of the river to that which I was fishing at the time. Tomorrow we fish that side. :)

Here's some photos:

Lorne Pool midstream. Water's up to my thighs and burbling around my legs. Ace.

Just before I went into Lorne pool.

My car playing hide and seek.

Big grin. Yet to even set up.

We both have a good feeling about tomorrow. Let's hope the fish are in front of us because our 'A' game seems to be taking shape. To be honest it came as a bit of a surprise nothing occurred today but having talked over things this evening there are some tweaks we can make which will hopefully dangle the fly within range of a prize Dee springer.


Sunday, 21 March 2010

Ballater Bound

Sunday 21st March, 08:30 - 17:10. Coventry to Ballater.

The journey was good the car was fine. The roads were fast, apart from the numerous stretches of bloody roadworks and average speed cameras.

The scenery changed dramatically over the course of the day. Lowland turned into the lakes turned into hills which turned into highlands.

At Perth we joined the A93 right the way up to our destination. In my opinion the A93 must be clinging onto it's 'A' like an apple tree to it's apples in October. Twisting and turning the driving was engaging and fun.

At Glenshee we stopped to watch the skiers as the further North we travelled the more snow we saw. UK skiing is not something you see every day, especially not in the Midlands.

Until we approached the highest point in the Cairngorms the rivers were flowing in the direction from which we'd come. After the climb to Glenshee the river we saw started to flow with us in our direction of travel. The river we were tracking grew from toddler to tempestuous teen quickly in front of out eyes. As we passed through Braemar we realised the river we'd seen mature in front us was the Dee itself, which we would be fishing this week.

The Dee from Ballater Bridge

Once we'd arrived it was a Guinness in the bar after taking a good long look at the river from the bank and bridge.

Tomorrow is a big day. Much anticipation. The conditions look good and Monday is always a good day for Salmon. Here's hoping.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

It's Oh So Quiet......

Tuesday 16th March, 16:30 - 19:30. Ryton pool with Jeff Hatt. Mild 11C on arrival but with a chill in the S wind later on.

It's a period of transition at this time of year on more than one front. The weather is on the up but the countryside is lagging behind in following suit. Trees are still bare and the water is presumably warming slowly. The fishing season has transitioned from moving to stationary water but once again it's not yet a summer idyll, the bubbling and rolling has yet to start in earnest.

Signs of warming water were prevalent at Ryton pool as the breeze blew last years leaf detritus across the surface. I may have mentioned this phenomenon at Ryton before but as the water warms respiration on the lake bed creates tiny gas bubbles which collect under the remains of last autumns sunken leaf litter. The tipping point comes when the bubbles lift the detritus layer resting on the bottom to the surface where it either hangs or is blown across the lake to the windward corner.

I haven't moved my tackle into summer mode either and as I had a quiver rod already set up I worked around it. I soaked some pellets in water and added ground vitalin and planned to feeder fish from the point on the roadside across toward the island.

As it turned out my groundbait combination was the consistency of cement when in the feeder, not even emptying with a sharp tug after five minutes in the water after casting.
Smells gooooood but solid

I ended up just using it as a thin top and bottom plug and filling the middle of the cage feeder with dry pellet. I still had to give the rig a sharp tug after the cast to jettison the contents. Anyone thinking of building a nuclear bunker in the near future contact me for the recipe.

Jeff started on the sand bank

The fishing was slow and I had only a couple of twitches and a slow draw around dusk, neither of which I connected with.

I chuckled to myself as I shouted "I keell you" in a thick mexican accent whilst catapaulting pea sized stones at the group of tufts which started diving on my bait. It's been over six months since I shouted death threats at wildfowl in a thick south american accent and I'm amazed how much I've missed it. Don't worry all of the stones fell short of the birds but had the desired effect of driving them away. Better that than me hooking one.


Sunday, 14 March 2010

Game Plan

Next Sunday sees me make the eight hour drive North with my mate Rob to the Highlands and the middle Dee in search of a spring Salmon.

Weeks of intently studying Siberian weather forecasts, river levels on FishDee and catch reports from the beats will come to an end and I'll have a whole week in the open air.

The combination of a netbook with an apparently boundless capability for striking up an internet connection and my camera should allow me to keep anyone who wishes informed of our progress through the week.

On previous trips our basic agenda is; full English breakfast followed by fishing all day followed by beer all evening. This time I intend to try squeeze a blog update in to this already tight schedule!

The absence of a salmon on the bank means the fishing might get pretty tough come Weds / Thurs. Salmon fishing is active with a hundred plus casts being made each day with long rods and fly lines. Come the back end of the week things start to creak, especially the shoulders. Rod joints and reel seats are taped up with electrical tape to withstand the punishment of a days casting and to avoid a section of the rod working loose with expensive consequences. There's obviously no bait involved in fly fishing so it's a case of following the gillies instructions and trying to 'cover' as much of the recommended water as possible with the fly. The further you can cast the more water you will cover each run down.

I'm a novice salmon angler compared to Rob which means I swear more when my casts fall out of the sky like spaghetti rather than fully extending and turning over the full fly line. Rob's skill does mean I stand more chance of posting something other than an endless stream of scenery photos though.


Friday, 12 March 2010

Pete's PB Barbel

Tuesday 9th March, 14:00 - 19:00. Stratford Town Waters. Cold NE.

Danny, Jeff, Pete and I met up to fish Stratford on Tuesday just gone. The forecast looked promising and Danny and I shared high hopes for Bream on the day. As usual Jeff feigned interest in anything apart from decent Roach and Pete headed straight for the weirs where he set out his stall for Barbel.

Danny turned up in an eight wheel rig pulling a 40ft curtain sided trailor of of liquidised bread and hemp.

I was on the bank first and toiled with waggler and maggot for almost three hours with only one chublet to show for it. The same time last year I had fished an identical method and had no end of Roach to the float.

Danny had fashioned a feeder from an oil drum and was casting a regular line upstream of me straight from the back of his wagon. I joined in with two feeder rods about an hour before dusk hoping the bream would switch on.

Jeff, Danny and I fished three in a row, however Jeff's comparatively lighter frame was being blast frozen by the cold wind so he moved off downstream to try the more feature-filled water of the small weir.

At dusk Danny's rod made a shape that resulted in a good Roach.
Guess who didn't get to finish their cup of tea?

I had a second chublet on the feeder and a third which was on the end when I reeled in to call it a day.

Pete had had a Bream when I rang him for our hourly check-in and whilst on the phone said he'd just hooked another. We hung up and I asked him to let me know how big it was once he'd dealt with the fish.

About ten minutes later he rang back saying the bream had turned into a barbel during the fight and that it could be a double. I wound in and left my station to go and see the fish.

Turns out it was a new pb barbel for Pete of 13lbs 3oz.



The fish had a kink in it's back which when viewed from above made it distinctive.

Safely returned and with nothing else significant gracing the banks we four retired to the pub and


A Very Small Victory in Mechanics

Thursday 11th March, 16:30 - 20:00. Wasperton. 6C arrival, 3C departure, light NE.

I don’t think I need go on any more about the looming close season. Suffice to say I wouldn’t normally be fishing on a Thursday.
Despite previously using the lightest 1.75oz tip on my 11ft Barbel rod and scaling my terminal tackle right down I’ve still been missing a lot of flickering bites recently. Especially on maggot. These indications initially pull the tip round about a centimeter and then after a lightning quick rattle are gone. Usually the maggot comes back looking like one leg in pair of old wet tights.

I know a delicately shotted float might be the most forthright route to resolving what is causing the bites but, being me, I wanted to solve the problem within the context of the quiver tip. I don’t have a problem connecting with bites from larger fish, however I want my skill in feeder fishing to cover as broad a spectrum of quarry as possible. That way I can call upon it without prejudice whenever it might be required.
I recently bought a Shakespeare 10ft ‘wand’ which comes with four push-in tips and a very forgiving through action. I threaded the reel line through the rings with the lightest tip inserted. When I picked up the end of the 4lb line laying on the floor the weight of the line alone registered a ten degree bend on the tip. Super sensitive. The end of the quiver tip itself looks only about twice as thick as the line. The sensitivity and delicacy of this instrument can mean only one thing….…I’ll have trodden on or otherwise rendered it broken by Christmas.

Super Fine

With a christening on the cards I started with a half ounce bomb and single maggot on an 18 hook. Low and behold the first cast following the pouch full of maggots had the tip a-tremblin’. The pressure from the flow on the line wiped out the top third of the super fine tip leaving it pointing down at the lead. The bites however were amplified significantly through the remainder of the whisker thin glass. Enough for me to catch four very small dace over the next forty five minutes. I still missed my share of trembles though but now I understand why I'm missing them.


These fish are simply so small they don’t have enough weight for the hook to prick and take hold when they have the bait in their mouths. Without even the beginnings of a hook hold they are able to spit the hook as soon as they feel resistance. Seeing how the flow itself wiped out the most sensitive part of the quiver tip I believe I have established for myself the vanishing point in terms of size of fish you can hope catch with a tip on a river - the size of your forefinger. When a larger fish picks up the bait it’s weight against the point of the hook is enough for it to be pricked. Once the hook has taken this initial hold any further movements by the fish will show as a bounce or pull on the tip - a bite. Without flowing water I reckon the lightness in this tip will allow a fish to move perhaps four inches almost unhindered. I’m looking forward to seeing what those bites looks like.

As the sun set the rattles dried up and I switched from straight bomb to small ground bait feeder. I could sense a change of shift in sub-surface residents. I’d been dribbling in small balls of ground bait onto the line I was fishing.

The first dusk pull round was from a chub; 4lbs 12ozs.

4lb 12oz Chub

The second, third, fourth and fifth were from bream of a good average size. I wasn’t sure of the weight needed for a point in this years record weight challenge but reckoned I had about twenty pounds in the net. I ran out of ground bait after the fourth bream and had to continue on with a maggot feeder.

A Score of Bream (read on to geddit)

I held out for a sixth bream thinking that would clinch things for me but after pricking a fish soon after the fifth I just couldn’t conjure up another bite.

I weighed the five bream in at the end for 20lbs 10ozs and rang Pete to find out how I’d done challenge-wise. I’m sure I could hear the smile in his voice when he told me I needed 22lbs+. One more would have done it.

If only that chub were a bream!


addendum: What a turn around! Whilst uploading this post I took a look at our challenge spreadsheet. It turns out the weight of bream we are aiming for is 19lbs 10oz not 22lbs. A 22lb bream was caught in September 2009 but when I put the sheet together at Christmas using information on the Angling Trust website the record stated was (and still is) 19lbs 10oz. After a hasty ring around both Danny and Pete agree to awarding me the point so I splutter off the mark.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Six Ounces

Tuesday 2nd March, 16:00 - 19:00. Top meadow at Wasperton with Pete. 10C arrival 5C departure. Very light E breeze.

The clock is loudly counting down the river season and Pete and I are keen to see a Barbel on the bank before the spring hiatus.

On the back of the warm daytime temperatures and improving water conditions we headed to Wasperton with a single species agenda.

I had the honour of swim selection as technically Tuesday was my regular night and I had invited Pete to join me.

We both studied at the water - down substantially from Sunday but still with menacing pace and colour - and reckoned we could hold bottom with a cast into selected holes in the willows on the far side.

I think the clock is ticking on the near bank willow too...

I started with a feeder full of lovely groundbait into the willow hole only to see the whole lot swing rapidly out into the current. No feeder configuration within my ken could hold bottom over there.

I switched to a straight 3oz lead and still struggled to pin down, especially with meat on the hair. The flat sided hook bait was simply working in concert with the pull of the current.

I went up to 5oz of lead and found satisfaction in terms of a static bait but niggling doubts as to the likely presence of barbel. This uncertainty lasted maybe twenty minutes until I recalled the ridiculous pace I had caught fish from Arley on the Severn during the summer floods of 2007.

With this doubt wrestled into the mud we sat on our sloping bankside perches, chatted, and fished with our big baits and hopes. I also upped the lead to six ounces because after five minutes or so in the water the build up of debris on the line was tipping the balance and moving the bait again.

Pete plopped it on the spot until a tree grabbed hold at dusk calling an end on his session.

Neither of us had anything we could call a bite but it was always going to be a binary session. Unfortunately we just couldn't find the one amongst the zeros this evening.

This evening was like a glimpse through an open dressing room door to the bright lights of something exciting. It brought distant memories of summer sessions flooding back: tips in the air nodding gently. Dusk brought a ground frost and quickly reminded us of the date. This was only my second try for a Barbel this season and it's going to be hard when the curtain comes down in a fortnight.


Monday, 1 March 2010

Feel Good Inc.

Sunday 28th Feb, 14:30 - 17:00. Avon at Wasperton. 9C arrival 6C departure. Strong NW. High river.

This was an opportunist all out Barbel session compressed into a couple of hours on a river which was closer to being out of it's banks than in them.

I didn't expect great success with the fish in such extreme high water conditions. Neither did I expect the almost euphoric feelings associated with an entire session: in daylight, not being frozen half to death, remaining dry, and best of all intermittently feeling the warmth of a watery sun.

I plonked my tackle at the cow drink and walked the length of the top meadow. I identified three spots in which I thought a Barbel might reside - seeking refuge from the jogging-pace column of water in the centre of the river. I was looking for areas with good but steady speed out of the rip of the main flow and preferably behind an upstream obstruction which would be filtering out the sticks and other crap from the current.

Putting my tackle down appeared to indicate to the sheep in the field that I was a bringer of 'nice things', and the buggers baa'd to each other loudly. Blood curdling it wasn't. They flocked together and rumbled over to where I had set my gear down. To mitigate a broken rod I shouldered my quiver before undertaking my inspection of the stretch.

"...a good but steady pace out of the rip of the main flow, and preferably behind an upstream obstruction which would be filtering out the sticks and other crap from the current"

I fished flavoured meat on a hair to a 3oz lead. Free offerings felt futile in the flow.

Nothing resulted from the cow drink.

I moved upstream to opposite the willows and dropped in on the inside but nothing from here either.

I tried behind the hawthorn bush a little further upstream but again no bites from there.

In fact given the water conditions were pretty terrible and I blanked I'm struggling to see why I'm having such warm feelings for this brief session. I think it was because it felt like spring was in the air. Not an overpowering scent, just a whiff, but there nonetheless.


ps. Tonight I have heard a rumour of an enormous Barbel from LAA's water on the Avon. I'm not propagating it here as there's nothing backing it up but suffice to say it was not from the 'top meadow' at Wasperton and if true would certainly trouble the river record.