Saturday, 6 August 2022

Sheena & Jacko

Early on Friday morning my mate and I travelled north to the Highlands and arrived at the upper reaches of the River Spey even before the birds began their dawn chorus!
We had booked a boat on Spey Dam which sits above the source of many a fine malt, for the first time in a couple of years due to the awful pandemic and it was fantastic to see Jacko and Sheena again after such a long  time.
After a stretch of the legs and a rest we bailed out the boat, affixed the engine and battery, loaded our gear, strung our rods, then off we went out onto the Loch with Jacko, Sheena was out if commission and in need of maintenance.
It was a bit bright but there was plenty clouds around that would give us much needed intermittent  cloud cover. As we headed off to the west end of the Loch. There was a gentle westerly breeze blowing down the Loch which was ideal for our first few drifts.
We had two successful drifts  from the west end down the back of the Island where we had two trout each with many more missed and lost.
Then we had another two drifts in front of the island with the same results. A claret Dabbler and leggy claret bumble did the trick for me on those first four drifts. Scott was on the bibio and Ordies.
Around midday the sun was quite intense so we decided to go ashore for a break and have lunch.
Feeling refreshed we went back out on the Loch, however the wind had picked up considerably and we now had less clouds and more sunshine!
We made a few troutless drifts so I changed my flies and we changed the locations of our drifts which resulted in just one further trout for me which was fooled by a Loch Ordie while Scott got another two trout.
The wind was quite strong now which didnt suit our boat as it is quite narrow and was getting rocked back and forth  by the frequent swells that were hitting us side on. I felt a bit uneasy to say the least so we decided to head back ashore
However our electric engine wasnt coping very well in the brisk wind and it seemed like an age getting  back to the shore.
Relieved to be back on terra firma we decided to take a break and wait and see if the wind would calm down. However the wind just got stronger so we decided to tie up the boat and call it a day!
We then just sat around for a while chatting about days gone by and future days to come. We agreed that we had a fairly decent day with eleven fish for the boat, 6 for Scott and 5 for me with quite a few missed and lost too.
On the long drive back home we also came to the conclusion that perhaps it was now time that Sheena and Jacko retire and that the Badenoch Anging Association replace both with a couple of more sturdy vessels as this old couple certainly are not suited to strong winds.

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Over the hill @ 60

On Monday morning the 1st of August I was four days into my 60s and sitting at home after a fantastic few days away celebrating becoming a sexagenarian.
I was now in possession of a bus pass, some new fishing gear, a new android tablet and a fitbit.
I still had one free day before returning to the mundane routine of the working week.
I thought of making a bus pass road trip to some far off place somewhere north but decided I'd take the car and try out my new waders and wading boots and go fishing locally instead.
With Hillend Loch pretty much unfishable due to the continuing critical low water levels, I decided to head over the hill to the Lily Loch as there are no such problems up there.
So off I went knowing I'd be clocking up plenty steps on my new birthday present gadget.
The walk up to the Lily wasn't too bad but I was a little uncomfortable in the new wading boots.
After visiting the club hut and having a chat with the bailiff I made my way along the south shore up to just beyond the broken wooden jetty where I noticed a Grebe sitting in its  nest with its family.
Not wanting to disturb the Grebes I stayed clear of the nest and sat on the nearby bankside iron seat stringing my 5# weight Snowbee Diamond 2 rod with a floating line and attached my two flies to a12 ft leader of 6lb clear maxima.
On this occassion I placed a Clan Chief Cormorant on the point and a black Zulu on the dropper.
I was soon casting into the margins after which I entered the water and began working my flies out into the main body of the loch and gradually waded my way down the Loch parallel to the South shore. My intention was to fish all the way down to the footbridge
About halfway down the shore I was into the first fish of the day however after a few brief tugs and dives the fish was frustratingly off and as expected it was away with my full leader and flies. It looked like a decent sized trout (the ones you lose always do) as it made several leaps clear of the water trying to dislodge my fly.
I must learn to check and tie my knots more securely.
It's bad enough when a trout swims off with your full leader and flies but what frustrates me more is not knowing which fly it actually took a fancy to.
At least I knew I probably had the right flies on, so I quickly  made up a new leader and tied on the same patterns.
I slowly made my way along down the south shore and soon had another offer but again the splashy rise didnt stick.
I soon reached the bridge, got out the water and sat on a bench watching a flotilla of Canadian Geese cruise about the Loch while I sat drinking a coffee and enjoyed a well earned rest.
I was pleased to note that my new waders and boots were working as intended all be it I reckoned the boots need more breaking in.
Feeling refreshed I walked back up along the shore to my starting point and noticed the Grebes were no longer in the nest, perhaps mum and dad were away teaching the young ones how to fish for food!
As before I was soon in the water and making my way down towards the bridge parallel with the south shore.
Feeling enthusiastic and hopeful I really enjoyed casting and wading my way down the Loch.
There was as fair old westerly breeze blowing down the Loch creating a nice wave which was ideal for pulling my flies through.
All of a sudden there was an almighty splash a second or two after my leader landed on the water, and I was into another trout.
As expected this fish was fooled by the black Zulu.
Despite its greatest efforts this trout wasnt coming off, as this time I was in control, I let it run when it needed to, and applied pressure when I needed to.
It was a great joy to land a nice plump Lily Loch  rainbow trout in my net.
I briefly considered returning the fish but decided I would dispatch it  to give my wee Belle a culinary treat.
My Cat ate well that night!
I didnt continue fishing after that as I was delighted with my capture and considered my work done for the day!
I clambered my way ashore and sat on the bank enjoying the tranquility of the moment and making the most of that feeling of fulfilment that we fly fishermen know so well after fooling a fish.
So with a great feeling of satisfaction, I broke down my rod, packed away my reel, flies, leader and trout into my bag and headed off down the loch to make my way back over the hill. 
However just as I was passing the sluice at the east end of the Loch I met a local chap from a nearby village who anyone who fishes the Lily Loch and Hillend Loch will be familiar with ! Hes up there every day of the year walking round the Lochs and local back roads no matter the weather.
Hes a bit of an enigma and eccentric to say the least.
If I'm being kind, I'd say hes a couple of nymphs short of a full fly box!
Usually he blanks me when I say hello but on this occassion he was up for a chat and really keen to tell me one of his ridiculously imaginative stories that hes so well known for.
Incredibly he told me the Loch was in danger from a disease that a bunch of kids from a sanatorium in England brought up on their boots and infected the Loch.  He then went on to infom me that the Loch's built in alarm system was alerted to the danger and as such activated and opened up the tanks that are built into the bottom of the Loch which then lowered the water level and brought the fish down into them for their safety. Aparently most Lochs in Sotland have these tanks. I swear that's what he told me! 
He wanted to talk some more but I said I was in a hurry and off I went back over the hill.
I dont think Ive ever laughed so  much in all my life as I made my back to my car.
I thought to myself well at least the next time I blank at the Lily or elswhere for that matter,  I'll know the exact real reason why the trout never showed up!!

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

The Clan Chief Cormorant

The Clan Chief trout fly as many may know is a modern day traditional bumble style wet fly of great repute for the Lochs of the Outer Hebrides first devised by Captain John Kennedy of South Uist.
Over the years this fly has become one of my favourite patterns and I've always got a few of them tucked away in my box.
Being an enthusiastic flytyer I'm always tinkering with patterns, more out of curiosity, fun and interest than anything else because why should I try changing a fly pattern that has such a great reputation? I suppose its just what flytyers do and what inspires us to keep developing.
Recently I was tying a few cormorants which I have a great fondness for and have used  to great effect over the years mainly on the local club lochs. However I've been thinking these patterns could be just as effective for the wild brown trout of the Highlands and Islands too.
Whilst looking through my materials box for marabou to tie some for a forthcoming fishing trip I came across a two tone black and red rabbit zonker strip which I forgot I had and that was when the idea suddenly came into my head of combining the Cormorant and Clan Chief together.
So far the Clan Chief Cormorant has worked well on a local Loch as well as a commercial fishery!
However I'm really looking forward to pulling hese patterns next month  on the lochs of the Clan Chief's spiritual home Island of South Uist.
I recently had some feedback
regarding these patterns from someone on the Island who thought it was an interesting idea and mentioned that he would show them to Ian Kennedy a Ghillie on  South Uist and the son of John Kennedy  the creator of the original Clan Chief to see what he thinks about it. I'd imagine the word Sacrilege might come to the fore!

The dressing is as follows!
Size 10 kamasan B175 hook
Fire Orange Unin8/0
Yellow Glo-Brite floss tail.
Black seals fur sub dubbed body
Silver wire rib
Two tone rabbit hair wing

Tuesday, 5 July 2022

Saving my Fishing Season

This season so far fo me has been a disappointment as I've only managed one day trip away and my enthusiasm to fish Hillend is currently as low as it has ever been due to the current state of the Loch.
However there is hope that my season could yet be saved as I was contacted recently regarding a trip to the Outer Hebrides in late August. I'm currently waiting on that being confirmed.
I'm also hoping to get a  couple of day trips sorted before this month is out too with a  couple of friends.
Heres hoping that all will come to fruition.
As ever Ive been busy at the vice.
It really does help with the disappointment of my lack of fishing.
Heres a few examples of my recent vicework! 
Top fly is a very useful Clan Chief variation. Second from top is a fly based on a Harold Howorth pattern with an element of a claret bumble in the mix.The next two are famous Caitbness patterns, The Dirty Weeker and the Watten Warrior.The bottom flee is just a generic loch style wet with a partridge  head hackle which gives the fly great movement.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

The Decline of Hillend Loch

For the last few years Airdrie & District Angling Club has had many problems to deal with, which I was pleased to see resolved.
However putting aside all the legal aspects,  politics and administration of the Club I'm not entirely sure that our Club is heading in the right direction.
There are a few reasons for the decline of a once vibrant Hillend Loch and its renowned free rising fish.
No trout can thrive in the Loch in its present condition.
Over a number of years the decreasing and fluctuating water levels has certainly impacted on the eco-system of the Loch.
However some people at the club do not appear to be concerned about the critical state the Loch is in at present.
Incredibly the Club continue to heavilly stock trout into the shallow filthy Loch which at present looks like an abandoned industrial wasteland on a weekly basis with no consideration for the welfare of the fish.
No doubt as we head into the warmest and driest months of the year the situation is only going to get worse.
Several areas of the Loch are now unfishable such as the Big Moss, The Wee Moss and the Narrows which are undoubtedly down right dangerous too due to the silt and mud etc that is now exposed. Other areas such as the North Shore and the back of the woods are affected too and as such fishing areas are reduced and limited.
The water levels were at a very worrying level even before the trout season started this year.
The reason given for the low levels was that Scottish Canals who lease the Loch to our Club were carrying out Dam repairs and they had to release water from the Loch to enable them to do so.
We were informed that these repairs would conclude at the end of March.
The Club issued a statement in May informing the members there was still minor repairs ongoing but the good news was that no further water was required to be released however as I type this the water level is still decreasing.
We are now almost into July and  nothing has been resolved.
I can only assume that the club are in regular dialogue with Scottish Canals and must be well aware of the knock on effects and damage the repairs are causing to the habitat and angling possibilities at Hillend this season and beyond.
June has always traditionally been the best time of the year for flyfishing at Hillend however I cannot bring myself to fish in such attrocious conditions.
I just haven't got the enthusiasm to walk around the Loch in its present state.
Never has the old angling cliche, "Theres more to fishing than catching fish" rang so true.
Another very disappointing aspect of the current situation is that people who should know better are insulting the intelligence of club members with condescending comments and remarks on the official club social media page regarding members genuine concerns about the current situation.
Ive been a member at Hillend for the best part of 30 years, I'm no expert however it doesnt take a genius to work out that the spawning burns and gravel beds for the few, if any, indigenous trout that still exist are impacted by low levels as well as the life cycle of the aquatic insects that Inhabit the Loch. Collectively this is all detrimental to the longterm sustainability of Angling at Hillend.
I'm now at a stage where I'm seriously thinking of giving up my membership and moving onto pastures new.
Contrary to the view of some at Hillend I believe there is something not quite right at my club just now and  I just cant put my finger on it! 

Friday, 3 June 2022

A day in Perthshire

My friend Tom aka The Clarkston Tangler and I travelled up to Perthshire to fish a quaint wee Loch set among some beautiful scenery in the Grounds of Drummond Castle.
The Loch has three boats available all of which were in use today!
It was quite dull to start with as we set off up the Loch, however as the morning progresed it got steadily brighter and by the afternoon the sun was splitting the skies!
By the time the bright sunshine ended our days fishing we had 6 trout to the boat, a mix of rainbows and broonies however a good number of troot were  lost too.
Silver Invicta was the most successful fly of the day but muddlers were the great attractors as there was always a bit of interest to them when they were pulled through the top of the water.
Tom was absolutely delighted when one of his captures was fooled by a pattern he tied the night previous. Tom has only recently started flytying so was understandably thrilled when a troot took a fancy to his orange bumble! 
It was absolutely fantastic to get away on my first proper fishing trip of the season. Something I was very much needing to do and something I hope to do again in a couple of weeks time.


Friday, 13 May 2022

Fly Boxes

Recently I noticed that I required  another fly box as I've been tying most days and starting to build up a good number of flies that need to be orgznised, arranged and stored.
Look at any online angling outlets, stores and magazines and you will soon realise that the choice of fly boxes these days is bewildering.
I have noticed that the
most popular contemporary fly boxes apoear to be the clear plastic transparent style which I do admit look fantastic and are great for browsing your fly patterns without opening your box especially on the Loch shore or riverbank on a cold, wet and windy day.
In my opinion they have a few disadvantages though. They are too fragile and can be easily cracked or broken and after a period of time get scratched and become opaque.
For a number of reasons I'm no fan either of the old fashioned  alluminium clip boxes, wallets, plastic ripple foam lined boxes, fur patches, wooden multisided boxes and clear plastic compartment boxes.
Therefore I decided to choose once again,  another of my favourite boxes "The Fox Box" I dont think there is a more suitable and better style on the market. I now have around sixteen of these boxes, I know its absolutely ridiculous to have such an amount of boxes and flies however I'm sure most will understand.
These boxes are perfect for my needs, Firstly they hold 136 flies in non moisture absorbing moulded slots which secures the flies firmly in place. That's more flies than you will probably ever need in a couple of seasons,  so I do question my logic in carrying around three or four of them in my fishing bag.
They are the perfect size for putting in a pocket, double sided with a perfect depth to avoid crushing, ideal spacing between the flies, they are light, sturdy and robust, come in a range of colours which makes identification very easy and they are very reasonably priced too!
Only trouble I have with them is that I have too many and the choice of which ones to take with me on a fishing trip is tough, however that's another subect for another day! 
I'd be interested to hear what fly boxes you all use and which are your favourites? Please do leave a comment.