Thursday, 31 December 2009

My last fly of the decade

Tied my last fly of the year/decade this Hogmanay night and in the process completed the filling of my latest fly box. My intention was to fill a box with flies that would cover all circumstances for wild brown trout fishing in the highlands. I'm not sure if I can be brave enough to trek into the hills with one flee box. I will just have to be strong willed and realize that I will have more than enough patterns to cover all situations. I know that makes sense but I'm sure you can sympathise with me when I know for certain when it comes to the crunch I will tell myself that I had better take another box or two just in case.

Monday, 28 December 2009

The Clan Chief

I have been at the tying bench tonight tying up a few Clan Chiefs. This fly is a favourite of mine. It is a modern day traditional fly created by an Orcadian man,John Kennedy. it was originally designed by him for migratory fish. It also has a good reputation on the mainland for brown trout. Its creator was clearly inspired by the Kingsmill - Moore bumble patterns. This version I have tied tonight is a little bit over dressed as it was originally intended to be tied sparsely. I will let the trout decide.

Isle of Lewis

Last summer I went on my first ever fishing trip to the Isle of Lewis. Here is a slide show and a concise acccont of our splashing about in the Lochs over there.

I finally managed to achieve what I have long been yearning to do – visit the Island of Lewis for the purpose of revelling in the delightful fishing locations the Island has to offer.
My three friends, Peter, Tam, Scott and I arrived in Stornoway on Thursday the 6th of August in delightful weather. The plan for the next four days was a spot of sea fishing, on day one. Loch Bruaich Bheibheat for troot on day two. Day three on Loch an Fhir Mhaiol for troot and the chance of sea troot and salmon. Finally on day four Peter and I fished a Loch that I have been informed not to reveal. Tam and Scott went sea fishing again.
Thursday 6th August.
Once we had settled into our very nice but cramped bunkhouse accommodation at Laxdale Holiday Park, we assembled our sea fishing gear and set off for the coast near Calbost. In the rush of excitement to get there as soon as we could I forgot to lift my camera but Scott had his so we did manage a couple of pics. I am a pretty much a novice when it comes to the sea fishing lark so I had to be tutored on how to fish the deep water from what I considered to be a precarious rocky outcrop. Tam and Scott had fished this mark before and caught a considerable amount of Pollock so hopes were high of a repeat. I was instructed to fish an assortment of jelly worm and other various rubbery lures in all colours of the rainbow. My three friends were soon into Pollock. I was struggling to get any sort of bite in the strong wind. I couldn’t understand why I was getting nowt while everyone else was catching Pollock from a 1 ½ up to 4lb. Scott took some time out to assist me. Apparently I wasn’t letting the line hit the bottom and therefore not working the lure up through the water properly. I eventually managed a couple of Pollock and a Macky. Collectively a fair few Pollock were landed. Most were put back but some were kept for the table.
A very enjoyable half-day was concluded by a rather scenic journey back to Laxdale where after a scrub up we relaxed with a Chinese take away and a couple of drinks then anticipated our next fishing trip by blethering and pouring over the map of our next intended troot fishing location.
Friday 7th August.
We were up bright and early for one of Scott’s famous Thunderfart breakfasts [Coatbrig style] which set us up for the day. It wasn’t the healthiest of options but insured that we didn’t need much to eat until the evening.
This time I made sure my camera was the first thing I packed as we would be passing the renowned Grimersta system on our journey and was keen to get a couple of pics.
Tam had organized the fishing for the day through a friend of a friend on Loch Bruaich Bheibheat. The walk in proved to be a tad rougher than we expected. We tramped through bog and ditch for 5 ½ km passing a couple of lochs along the way that looked rather tempting but our sights were set on Bheibheat. After a couple of hours we reached the loch and the boat, Scott and Tam very kindly bailed out the boat and invited Peter and I to go afloat first as they fancied bank fishing first. As we set out on the loch I was appointed rower. This turned out to be a mistake because in my eagerness to get fishing I forgot to secure the rowlocks. So when I lifted the paddle to adjust it I clumsily raised the rowlock too and dropped the damn thing into the loch. We were not in deep water but couldn’t find the blasted thing.
It was a bit of a disappointment to say the least as we had been informed of all the likely spots to try on the loch. All was not lost though as everyone had a thoroughly enjoyable day bank fishing for numerous lovely troot in a wondrous Hebridean wilderness setting. It was four happy but weary sweaty fishermen who eventually negotiated the sodden moor back to the car. Not much was said on the return journey back to Laxdale, as we were absolutely shattered. After a shower and a bite to eat it was off to bed for all four of us as we were on a mission.
Saturday 8th August
After yet another Coatbrig style breakfast we were bursting a gut to get out on our next fishing sortie. On this Occasion the fishing was arranged once again through a friend of a friend on a Scaliscro Estate Loch. This time the estate had a arranged for an outboard motor to be available. All we had to do was walk for a mere 15 minutes down to the loch and the Bald Headed boat. The catch was that we had to take the outboard back to the estate. We were advised on where to fish so we were not disappointed.
As I mentioned earlier there was actually a chance that we might encounter Sea trout and salmon on this loch, we were not disappointed, as Peter was first to come across migrating troot. Tam also came across the silvery troot. Scott and I had to content ourselves with the abundant broon troot.
Most of my fish were caught while afloat on the loch. On various traditional flies. To be honest there was not one fly better than any other. I speak for all four of us when I say Clan Chief, Bibio, Mallard and Claret, Black Zulu and my dabbler patterns were all successful. Much to our surprise we happened to come across a couple of anglers belonging to the Stornoway angling club on a boat. Apparently they did quite well too. The pattern that was most successful for them was a Black Muddler.
It was getting on 8’ O clock when we decided to pack up. I offered to carry the outboard back some of the way but Tam relieved me of that task as he said he would do it. I think he probably regrets my offer as he was actually not very well on the Saturday night. A mixture of dehydration and over exertion ensured Tam was off early to bed while the rest of us enjoyed a fair few wee drams and a rather enjoyable bottle of red.
Sunday 9th August
We awoke on the Sabbath refreshed and ready to travel to the West coast. Not sure if locals mind visitors angling on a Sunday we tried to be discreet and keep a low profile. Once again Tam arranged everything for us. Peter and I were directed to a loch where no one would see us. Scott dropped us off and within seconds we were over the hill and out of sight. Tam and Scott had arranged for a small boat at Bhaltos to take them out to sea the arrangement was that they would help with pulling in lobster pots. As it happened their Bhaltos contact could not get the engine started. The very friendly local took them back to his house for a bite to eat and tea. Then directed them to a mark where they fished from the shore for the rest of the day. Pollock Gurnard, Dabs and mackerel werer all landed.
Peter and I had a wonderful day in glorious surroundings and caught many fish in a variety of sizes Most were released but some were kept for the table. We were informed that our loch had been the sight of an experiment. Apparently the loch had been stocked a few years ago with young sea trout that had been raised in cages elsewhere. We were told, as there was no outlet burn of any significance they obviously couldn’t get to sea and therefore would take on brown trout characteristics. You can make your own mind up from the pics.
Unfortunately there is no boat on this loch. It would have been wonderful if there were. We had to content ourselves by wondering along the shore. Again no particular fly outshone any other. I just tied on whatever traditional fly caught my eye in my box. The fish didn’t appear to be that fussy either.
At around six thirty we reluctantly made our last casts on the loch, packed up and headed up over the hill to the road where we took in the beautiful view of sand and sea and waited on our friends return.
The journey back to Laxdale was a sad one, as we knew that our Lewis fishing adventure was over.. For a year at least.
The next day as we left Stornoway I gazed back at the Island with great fondness and felt really privileged to have experienced its beauty. A number of hours later I was back in Airdrie all I was left with were a few fish and happy memories. I’ll be back.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Hillend Loch Today

Had a wee look up at Hillend Loch today. It is very wintery looking indeed. The conditions today were quite apt for the sport of curling which in days gone by used to take place here I believe.

Loch Ericht

After visiting wintery Hillend today it reminded me of a fishing trip to Loch Ericht early last year. Here is an account of the trip I wrote once I had thawed out.

My first serious fishing trip of the season got underway at 4am last Sunday morning. Our destination was to be the north end of Loch Ericht near Dalwhinnie. We wanted to be there for first light so hence the very early rise and journey up the A9.
The trip up was uneventful until we got to the roadworks at Balinluig as by the time we reached there the countryside had taken on a rather winery feel as the hills and fields had a light dusting of snow. Onward we drove but as we got further north the weather was really starting to get serious. The snow was falling and it was lying really deep, the road ahead just got treacherous and at times very dangerous. By the time we reached the Drummochter pass we were right in the middle of a blizzard. It got to the stage where we couldn’t see four feet in front of us and it was becoming difficult to distinguish where the actual road was. Those snow poles on the verge of the A9 do really come in handy when the weather is as bad as it was last week.
Eventually we crawled into Dalwhinnie to be met by the snowploughs assembling to take on the elements that lay in waiting for them on the A9.
We parked up by the dam at the Ericht and then contemplated what to do next. Were we actually going to do any fishing? Well we had made the effort to get there and we weren’t going to make it a wasted journey, but then again the reality of the conditions outside the car would have to be taken into consideration. After an hour of contemplation it was decided that we would brave the elements and get ourselves as quickly as we could down to the boathouse on the northeast shore.
My mate Tam assured us that the weather was to get better as the day went on as we marched through the wind and snow to the boathouse.
My intention for the day was to fly fish My the loch so I only packed my fly fishing gear but as you can imagine the conditions were not apt for fly fishing a huge Highland loch. It was just as well my companions were bait fishing and had a couple of spare rods. I tackled up in the boathouse and before I did anything else I got the frying pan on for our breakfast and left the others to go outside and start fishing.
I had just finished cooking the fist batch of sausage and black pudding when Scott bust in the door to tell me of the first fish of the day. A nice 1lb brown trout.
It was just as well we had set up camp in the boathouse as I was freezing and not feeling well at all. I felt as if I had the flu coming on. The four of us fished all day and the result was 20 fish between us Scott had 8, Tam had 6, I had a brace and Nick caught 4. All the fish were caught on either worm or maggot.
I spent quite a considerable time in the hut huddled in the corner as I really did catch the flu as well as a couple of fish. When I did venture outside I managed to get some nice pics of the wonderful scenery that was all around us.
As promised by Tam the weather did clear for most of the day but as we made our way back to the car at the end of the day it came back with a vengeance just to insure that we got thoroughly cold and wet for the two hour journey home.
It has taken me a week to write this wee report as I am only now beginning to get over the effects of the flu. Never mind the best of the season is still to come and I maybe will get back up the Ericht in the summer and do a bit of fly-fishing, as there were one or two likely wee bays I fancy casting my flies into.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Loch Lundarva

With all this snow and loafing about the house, my thoughts have been turning to fishing trips past. This account of an outing in Lochaber from a couple of years ago helps build up my enthusiasm for the forthcoming 2010 season.

Last Saturday morning me and my two friends Alex and Jim traveled north through four seasons in one morning up to the witch’s lair. This had nothing to do with Black Magic you understand, as the destination we were heading for, Loch Lundarva is reputed to be the lair of McBeth’s witches. There was no sign of sorcery or broomsticks as we made our way along snaking single track road from Fort William to Lundarva farm that has more ups and downs than Airdrie FC’s recent season. In fact we got a friendly welcome from the farmer and his wife who we met in the farmyard and purchased our permits from.
They directed us to the parking area and the boat moorings beyond the farm and wished us luck.
We arrived at the Loch which is set in a cauldron of hills with a fine view of Ben Nevis which appeared to have a light dusting of snow. The weather wasn’t too bad but as we were setting up black clouds were rolling in and it was just a matter of time before we would get soaked and soaked we did but after quarter of an hour or so the rain passed and the weather was kind for the rest of the day.
We started of fishing from the bank and I was soon into a couple of fish that to be honest were not all that big.
We decided that we would take turns in the boat as three in a boat can often lead to tangles and a lot of swearing so Alex and I were first to venture out on the HMS Lundavra.. We rowed up to the weedy west end of the loch and drifted down past the wee island all the way down to the east end. Most of our fish were caught around the tree clad island and close into the shore. We never had much success in the open water so we tried to stay around the island where the fish were plentiful
I wished I brought along my electric outboard motor, as it was hard work rowing up and down the loch. I was pleased to catch some of my trout on the Clan Chief as this was the first time I had ever caught anything on that fly other successful flies were the Connamarra Black, brown palmers, Kates and butchers.
We all caught around ten fish each the biggest being around the half-pound mark.
Lundavra is a pleasant loch and is well worth a visit if you are ever in the area. I have visited Fort William many many times but this was the first time I had traveled up the single-track road to Lundarva. The view of Ben Nevis as one drives up the road is quite spectacular. I have climbed the Ben four times, once via the arĂȘte and three times by the path. After seeing the Ben yesterday I think it’s time I re-acquainted my self with it.
Just as we were leaving Lundavra the opportunity of procuring a couple of capes for the purpose of fly tying arose but I don’t think the farmer would have been best pleased if one of his hens had disappeared.

The Blether

As the current weather situation here in Scotland has put to bed any notion of a grayling outing to a river. I thought I would share a wee story about my fishing friend Colin, who sadly , is no longer with us.

He’s not a boaster, my fishing friend, Colin. He might take a freshly caught trout down the pub and lay it out for display, but he’s not one to go on about it. Later in the evening, he’s happy to let the conversation change to subjects other than the circumstances of his catch, things such as the height of the water, it’s colour the fly he used, how many he lost and how many wee pulls he got. Alex the maggot drowner, calls Colin a fishing bore but I’ve always defended him. Its generosity in it’s self to share a precious angling moment with others. They don’t have to be anglers themselves, but of course as in all things, you do have to exercise some discretion. I’m not too sure about the hour and a half Colin spent telling the Owl and Trout arm wrestling team about the time he caught a half pounder from the Calder behind Caldervale School. It’s not that he makes these stories up; he has caught a half pounder from behind the school. He’s what you might call an enthusiast, if you’re being kind. And telling fishy stories has led to some job opportunities. While in Johnny’s angling shop one day, blethering about the latest trip he had to the Clyde, The rep who was present at the time said that anyone who could go on like that about a dead grayling could have a great future in double glazing sales. It’s inaccurate and unfair to say that Colin is dull, he can be truly dramatic, while acting out one of his captures, like the time he gave us a demonstration of the time he hooked and lost a huge brown trout at Hillend and in the process broke the leg of a bar room table It was so vivid you could almost imagine a huge big trout thrashing around there amid the beer and broken glass. I think that having a natural angling storyteller in a loch side pub is a real asset. Big Val the barmaid knows this, you can tell, if you look at her she sometimes seems embarrassed – I suppose it’s because Colin is being used as an unpaid entertainer for the brewery. A lot of people wonder what it takes to be a good storyteller like Colin, having listened more than most, I’ve come to realise that the best fishing tale is the one that really places you in the water Rod in hand, you see it’s not just about telling how big the fish was. There is nothing better than an evening in the pub after a good day fishing and swapping fishy tales but as the night goes on and quite a lot of pints are consumed the stories get more and more unbelievable. Sometimes I wonder if people who miss the end of a yarn, phone Colin later on, to see if he eventually did land the salmon with the two-pound leader. Of course they’d be wasting the price of a call. They could always go back to the Owl and Trout the next night and hear Colin tell the whole tale again from start to finish

Friday, 25 December 2009

Recommended Reading

May I bring to your attention two excellent books for your reading pleasure.

I recently purchased Mike Harding's guide to North Country Flies at the British fly tying fair at Stoke. I was lucky enough to get Mike to sign a copy for me.
Mike Harding, broadcaster, comedian and experienced fly fisherman, has written a guide to tying one of the most well-loved and beguiling traditions of fly, the Northern country Spider.
These designs of fly, conceived around Bolton Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales, are renowned for being both simple to tie and excellent for catching fish. They are characterised by using brightly coloured silk threads and bird feathers.
Mike Harding examines 140 classic Spider flies and explains how to tie them using step by step photographs. He also describes the history of the North Country tradition.
This book is a must have for any lover of fishing and fly tying the spider style patterns. I know I have made good use of this book with my recently tied spiders which I intend to use more often this season.

The second book I can thoroughly recommend is Bruce Sandison's Rivers and Lochs of Scotland. This book provides a comprehensive coverage of all one needs to know to arrange fishing in any region of Scotland. This new and revised edition describes more than 5,000 freshwater fishing locations complete with access details, flies and tactics and where to obtain permission to fish.
A fantastic resource to use in conjunction with Ordnance survey maps to plan future fishing trips and holidays. I have already got plans made for the coming season using this quite brilliant book.

Merry Christmas

Festive merriment to one and all. Imagine my surprise this morning when I did not recieve one single Christmas pressie involving my favourite pastime, angling. It's not as if the red suited gentleman was not aware of my wishes as I did inform him of my wishes by way of a letter. I would like to share this letter with you and warn everyone never to trust a man with a beard.

Well its that time of year again when every fisherman has got to turn his thoughts to the very serious matter of what he wants for Christmas .Its not as easy as it first appears because the choice of game fishing accessories is quite bewildering these days. Difficult the choice may be, I’m sure that by way of this page, Val, oops, sorry I mean Santa will take the hint and get me what I want for Christmas. Now then there are various things I could be doing with, for a start I could do with a new pair of waders, The neopranes I have at the moment let in water like the lily burn rushing into the rizzer in full flow, Yes I really could be doing with a new pair of waders. A new floating fly line, I could always do with some top of the range fly lines. Living on a financial knife-edge means that I am always putting economy before efficiency, so what better time of year could you ask for some hi- tech gear? You see that is the beauty of Christmas you don’t have to pay. This being the case I think I will ask for a Sage four-piece travel rod with matching reel. I must say, that I have been a very good angler this year Santa so if you could kindly get me a season ticket for an exclusive beat on the Tweed or Tay I’m not bothered which river you choose, it would be really be appreciated, you see I already have a ticket for Hillend Loch so it would be beneficial to me if I could broaden my horizons and put my fishing skills to the test on some of the more challenging waters that there are to offer. Oh and as a little extra add-on could you guarantee me that I could catch at least one fish on each trip I make as it does really get embarrassing coming home empty handed time after time and having to make up excuses, such as, the water was too low or the water was too high or that the wind was that strong that I couldn’t get my line out far enough to reach the fish. Could you also make sure that when I’m fishing I’m always within sight of my friends so that they can see me when I connect with a fish. For a joy shared on a riverbank is a pleasure doubled I would also like it not to be raining every time I go on a fishing trip, you see this beautiful country of mine has a climate problem - its always bloody raining, In the last few years, my fly fishing travels have taken me to some truly awe inspiring locations bit it is always the same scenario, lovely all the way on the journey until I almost reach my destination, you guessed it down comes the mist down pours the rain or if its at the start of the season an easterly gale might come thundering in and just for good measure bring along the snow for company. Like I already said we have a very serious climatic problem and I can think of only one solution “ we need a roof “ I’m getting a bit flippant now I know that’s impossible, even for you Santa, I’d be happy if you could just stop it from raining every once in a while. This is Christmas the time for goodwill to all men and all that stuff. It’s not a lot to ask for, is it? Santa? I don’t suppose I’m the only applicant but I’ve been extremely good this year and after all it is Christmas

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Hillend Loch

Hillend Loch is a 350-acre loch lying halfway between Airdrie and Armadale. It was constructed in 1799 to supplement the Forth and Clyde canal system. The average depth of the loch is 8 feet, but the depth does drop to around 14 feet in the narrows between the Whitehill wood and the Braco wood. Feeding is rich in the loch and apart from the shoals of fry which abound here the underwater fodder includes snails, shrimps, nymphs of varying species, corixae and caddis. Above the surface the angling season will see hatches of hawthorn flies, chironomids, buzzers, daddies and sedges. There is plenty of space to fish around the loch no matter whether your preference is to wade and explore the little bays and weed beds along the shoreline or take a boat and float along some of the favoured drifts. The loch fishes well all over its expanse though I would recommend the bank angling at the following areas, The big moss, the wee moss, the braco burn area, the boathouse bay, the point of the woods, Lowe’s bay, the mound and the entire length of the north shore. If you preference were to fish from a boat, I would recommend the drift from the Shields burn to the Spiers Island or the reverse. Other top drifts are from the island to the dam wall in an east wind, if the wind is coming in a southerly direction try drifting from the point of the white hill woods to the Shields burn, another area to give a go is the Eastercroft bay by the lily burn. It is also possible to contact fish right out in the middle of the loch so it pays to move around and try various drifts. By far and away, the most productive area of the loch is in the huge bay at the back of the woods so that is well worth considering if you choose to go afloat. The best months to fish Hillend are May and June, as by this time the loch will have warmed up and the insect life will be at its peak. June, in particular can be quite a spectacular month as this is when the " big Sedge “, makes its appearance at the loch. The hatches of these caddis flies in the ever-lengthening summer nights are quite prolific and last for the whole month of June, and in my opinion this is the most exciting and most enjoyable time to fish the loch. Floating lines and traditional patterns are my choice of tactics to fish for the free rising trout at Hillend. Airdrie and District angling club have implemented a progressive stocking policy that ensures that the loch is stocked on a weekly basis during the fishing season. The loch is stocked with rainbow trout and blue back trout and on occasions stocked with brown trout. Hillend has also got a good head of natural brown trout, which have been known to grow to quite a considerable size. The browns come in varying colours, some have plump yellow bellies and others are long, lean and have silver bodies, depending on which area of the loch they come from and how long they have been in the water for. The average weight of the Hillend trout is around the 2lb mark but fish of over 3lb are not uncommon. Recommended flies for success at Hillend are as follows, In March black flies are best particularly the black spider, black pennel and of course lures such as ace of spades and the black fritz especially if it’s a cold start to the season. Into April and flies with a teal wing normally work well and its also worth tying on black buzzer patterns. Into May, June and July now and sedge copies dominate along with muddlers and brown bushy palmers such as the soldier palmer. August sees the cinnamon and gold, red tag and wickhams fancy as the top attractors. September patterns include bloody butchers and bibios. As the season comes to a close, the days get shorter and the temperatures drop so it is well worth using the patterns we used at the start of the season.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Hillend Loch Slide Show

Tying Flies

For the last two or three weeks I have being doing quite a bit of tying. I have been steadily filling up my favourite style of fly box. Its called a fox box. It holds over a hundred flies and is a perfect size for fitting into a fishing jacket pocket. One side of my box is filled with North Country spiders which I intend to use a lot more next season. The other side is filling up nicely with traditional style flies such as zulus , Kates, dabblers and palmers etc etc.

Hot off the vice

As I am just starting out om my blogging career and attempting to build up my content I thought I would get underway by showing my latest flies to come from my vice. As time goes by I will be adding more and more patterns. Comment on them if you wish

You've got to start somewhere

Hi Folks I have just created this blog. Bare with me as I am a complete newcomer to Blogging. The main reason for creating this blog was that I needed somewhere to share my Fly fishing and flytying articles and photos. I am a memeber of Airdrie and District Angling Club. I fish Hillend Loch but like to fish up North in the Scottish Highlands when I can. During the winter I don't do much fishing. I concentrate on my other passion Flytying.To get the blog off and running I will try to fill these pages with pics and accounts of trips gone by as well as current ramblings and pics and of course examples of my time spent at my tying bench.