Tuesday 13 February 2024

A journey to the heart of fly-tying: BFFI 2024

My much-anticipated pilgrimage to the British Fly Fair International in Stafford entailed a 500-mile roundtrip from Airdrie and an overnight stay at my brother's place in Penrith on Saturday 10th February. My brother George and I embarked on the journey further south early the next morning, arriving at the Staffordshire showground by mid-morning. The fair was a spectacle to behold, with trade stands offering a tempting array of fly-tying materials, tackle, books and many other flyfishing and fly-tying related items. Unable to resist the allure, I indulged in some essential additions to my materials and book collection. After browsing among the fly-tying eye candy, it was a great delight to make my way to the famous fly-tyres row, where I reunited with friends and fellow fly-tyers from across Britain and Europe. Amidst the bustling atmosphere, conversations flowed freely, fuelled by a shared passion for the art of fly-tying. Throughout the day, I had the opportunity to witness various master tyers in action, each demonstration offering a valuable insight and inspiration, reaffirming my love for the craft of fly-tying. It was fantastic to meet up with fellow former Hillender, Iain Drummond on Fly-tyers row who assisted at my angling club fly-tying nights, where I first learned the art of fly-tying many years ago. It was also a great pleasure to meet Peter McCallum and see his wondeful display of Clyde Flies and also meet up with Ed Ford who I met at the Scottish Game Fair last year. Two excellent Scottish fly-tyers. I really enjoyed watching Welsh Fly-tyer Sean Thomas at the “Fly-tying in Focus” theatre. This was the first time that Sean’s work had come to my attention and I was impressed with his style of tying and passion for winged wets. I later met Sean on fly-tyers row and had a very interesting chat about the tying and fishing of Loch style wets etc. However, the main highlight for me was meeting Donald Stewart and his team from the Sharps & Gentles Fly-tying Club who promote and continue to uphold the traditions of the unique Clyde Style Flies and fishing. It was an added pleasure to witness first-hand the display of Bert Sharp’s Clyde flies which feature in his famous and very much sought after book “Lets Fish the Clyde.” As the day drew to a close, I left the BFFI with a sense of fulfilment and renewed inspiration for fly-tying. Although my all-round journey had been long, the memories forged and the connections made were worth every mile travelled. Reflecting on the experience, I couldn't help but feel grateful for events like the British Fly Fair International, which celebrate the artistry and history of fly-tying.

Wednesday 31 January 2024

Anticipating the New Trout Season

As January comes to a close, I can't help but feel the excitement building as the opening day of the trout season approaches. The anticipation is palpable, and I find myself eagerly awaiting news about my application to join a new fishing club for the upcoming season. In the meantime, my vice has been a busy companion, and I've meticulously crafted a box of small spiders and river flies. There's something satisfying about preparing for the season ahead, knowing that each tie holds the promise of a successful day on the water. My first fishing outing of 2024 took me to the Upper Clyde a couple of weeks ago in the pursuit of grayling. Although the Lady of the stream eluded me that day, the experience was invaluable. It felt great to be back on the river, reacquainting myself with its nuances and trying out my new fly line. After all, every day on the water, successful or not is something to be enjoyed. Looking forward, a trip to the BFFI at Stafford awaits me before the season kicks off. The prospect of meeting and chatting with fellow tyers, especially those I connected with at the Game Fair last year, adds another layer of excitement. Sharing stories, techniques, and tips with like-minded individuals is an integral part of the angling community's charm. As I eagerly await my Clyde permit, I'm left with the sweet anticipation of the adventures that lie ahead. Soon, I'll be back on the familiar waters of the Lochs and River I love, ready to immerse myself in the tranquility of nature and the thrill of the pursuit of trout. Before I go, heres a look of my recent vicework, a testament to the dedication and passion that fuels my love for fly fishing and fly tying. Stay tuned for more updates as the season unfolds, and tight lines to all fellow anglers gearing up for what will hopefully be another memorable year on the water for all of us.

Wednesday 20 December 2023

14 years of the Hillend Dabbler

Today marks the 14th anniversary of the Hillend Dabbler, a journey filled with angling memories  personal growth, and the joy of sharing my passion for fly fishing and flytying.
As I celebrate this milestone, it's only fitting to look back at the highlights of the fishing season.
Despite fishing less frequently at Hillend this year, a decision mentioned in previous reflections, the season brought its own set of remarkable experiences. The most notable among them was a weekend escapade to Caithness, a week immersed in the captivating landscapes of the Outer Hebrides, a day trip to Corrour, and several afternoons spent on the banks of the Upper Clyde. Each outing was a chapter in a larger narrative, contributing to another year of the Hillend Dabbler blog.
One standout moment was the privilege of participating in the Scottish Game Fair at Scone during the summer. 
Tying flies amidst some of the country's finest fly tyers was an honor, allowing me to share the vice and passion for the craft in a public setting. The experience was not only a delight but also a cherished memory, offering a glimpse into the camaraderie among fellow flytying enthusiasts. 
Amidst the bustling activity at the vice, another highlight was a visit to Megan Boyd's ruined house and fly-tying shed. The trip to Kintradwell, though tinged with expected sadness, provided a poignant reminder of the passage of time and the impermanence of cherished places. It was a reflective journey, honoring the legacy of a renowned figure in fly fishing. 
As the season unfolded, one couldn't help but feel a sense of closure as the decision to move on from Hillend loomed. The changing landscapes mirrored the transitions in my own angling pursuits, with a mixture of anticipation for new adventures and a touch of nostalgia for the familiar waters. I
In closing, I extend my thanks to those who take the time to read my Hillend Dabbler blog. The journey has been enriched by the memories created, the friendships forged, and the lessons learned along the way. 
As I share the latest fly pattern tied tonight, I raise a toast to many more years of the Hillend Dabbler, each promising new stories, experiences, and the enduring love for the art of fly fishing and flytying. Cheers!

Sunday 26 November 2023

A Highland Loch Style Wet

Ive been tying a loch style box for a Highlands and Islands box Ive been putting together. Here is an example of some of the patterns Ive been filling it with. Ive tied this pattern in various colurs and also with the incorporation of a cdc collar which will give the fly great movement when getting pulled back through the waves. However on this example Ive just used a soft lightolive hen hackle. I hope you like the video but please do excuse my rubbish patter. First video for a while and I hope to get some more publidhed in the near future!

Tuesday 14 November 2023

Chuck N Duck Fly Tying Materials

Was surprised and delighted that Chuck N Duck Flytying Materials contacted me recently to join their team as a flytying ambassador.
I'm very pleased to highlight and promote their materials as I particularly like and  use their electric seal dubbing range.
They have got some lovely blends in their range  and are a great alternative to original seal fur dubbing.
I've recently tied a few patterns using the UV Claret and mayfly yellow electric seal dubbing and I'm delighted with the results. The dubbing range comes in the much sought after colours and blends for many Irish and Scottish Loch/Lough style patterns and I look forward to experimenting with some more of their blends.
See below a few  examples of patterns really enjoy tying and fishing using the blends.
Thanks to Chuck N Duck Fly Tying Materials for taking me on board

Friday 6 October 2023


As the sun sets on the final day of the  trout season, I find myself reflecting on the experiences, joys, and changes that this fishing season has brought.
This season has been a mixed bag of adventures, from the tranquil landscapes of the Outer Hebrides and Caithness to my day trips in the rugged  Highlands and pleasurable  afternoons  on the River Clyde. However, when it came to my angling club's water at Hillend, a sense of disillusionment cast a shadow over my enthusiasm to fish there.
Hillend, just a ten-minute drive from home, has been my angling sanctuary for the past 30 years. I've had many memorable days and nights at Hillend with my friends and the many likeable club characters courtesy of my membership with the Airdrie and District Angling Club. This year, though, something felt different, something that made me question the direction the club is heading. The familiar excitement and eagerness to visit Hillend has waned with each passing month, and I might well have made my last ever cast on its water.
Considering giving up my membership is not a decision I take lightly. It's as if the season has marked the end of an era, signaling the need for a change in my angling journey. While change can be unsettling, it's an inevitable part of life. Just as seasons come and go, so do our interests and priorities. Perhaps it's time to explore, to join a new fishing club and  embrace fresh challenges and the experiences that lie ahead.
As I bid farewell to Hillend, I can't help but look forward to what the future holds. Winter, with its crisp air and cold waters, offers the perfect opportunity to seek out grayling along the upper Clyde. The prospect of pursuing this lady of the stream  fills me with anticipation, and I hope that the weather will be on my side.
Moreover, the upcoming fly-tying season promises to be a time of creativity and preparation. Tying flies is an art in itself, and as I sit at my fly-tying desk, I am reminded that angling is not just about catching fish but also about the craftsmanship and artistry that goes into every aspect of the sport.
In the weeks and months ahead, there is much to look forward to. The changing seasons bring new opportunities, and the optimism of what lies ahead is a source of inspiration. Though it's difficult to bid farewell to Hillend, I know that the journey of an angler is one filled with twists and turns, and the next chapter promises to be just as exciting, if not more so, than the last.

Tuesday 5 September 2023

It was so much more than fishing

Fishing in the remote wilderness of the Scottish Highlands is a privilege to experience. The stunning scenery that surrounds you as you cast your line into the  waters of the highland lochans and Lochs is truly awe-inspiring. It's a place where the natural world takes center stage, and the act of fishing becomes much more than just catching trout; it becomes a profound connection with nature.
On a recent fishing trip with my friends to a  remote part of the Scottish highlands, we were treated to a glorious day . We wandered out to a few lochans and a Loch, armed with a variety of flies such as sparse spider patterns, leggy kates, Ordies, and various other wets. While we did manage to catch numerous trout, the size of the fish was modest. I did however lose  a sizable trout, possibly around a pound in weight, right at my feet. My companion, on the other hand, had better luck on the same small lochan and fooled a very dark, peaty loch trout weighing in at about a pound. These moments of success were sweet but were just a small part of the overall experience.
What truly made the day remarkable was the environment that enveloped us. As I sat down to eat my lunch by the lochan , I couldn't help but reflect on the first time I visited this area with my late friend, Willie Hamilton. On that occasion, our goal was Munro bagging, and we were tackling the long  slopes of Ben Na Lap. While the grandeur of peaks like Ben Nevis and the arête connecting Carn Mor Dearg was hard to ignore, it was the unassuming Ben Na Lap that captured my attention.
This seemingly ordinary hill triggered a flood of cherished memories of the countless days Willie and I spent hillwalking all over Scotland. It was a reminder of the deep camaraderie that existed between us and the shared love for the great outdoors. Fishing in this remote wilderness wasn't just about catching trout; it was about connecting with nature in a way that brought back the essence of those earlier adventures with Willie.
In the midst of the wild, surrounded by stunning vistas and tranquil waters, fishing becomes a conduit to a deeper appreciation of the world around us. It's a reminder of the importance of preserving such pristine environments and cherishing the memories created in them. So, while some anglers may  measure their fishing trips in the size of their catch, the true value lies in the experiences, connections, and reflections that the remote Scottish Highlands offer. It's a privilege that reminds us of the richness of life beyond the fish we seek to catch.
please re-visit my blog  later as I will have more pics to share from this recent stravaig.

Thursday 24 August 2023

Hebridean Stravaig 2023 #South Uist & Benbecula

Embarking on my Hebridean Stravaig for a week of fishing to South Uist and Benbecula I was fueled by anticipation and a longing for the serene connection with nature that only angling can provide. Little did I know that this journey would be an intricate interplay of success, challenge, and camaraderie, all set against the backdrop of the unique Hebridean landscape.
The inaugural day of my expedition proved to be a harbinger of success. Bathed in the warmth of the sun's embrace and under a sky with very little cloud, the weather was probably more to the liking of a tourist rather than an angler. This picturesque canvas set the stage for an auspicious beginning, as I deftly outwitted a few unsuspecting trout. With a sense of accomplishment, I netted five of these elusive creatures. However, the following day unveiled the unpredictable nature of fishing.
Despite the improved fishing conditions, I found myself facing a tougher challenge on one of the estate lochs.The trout seemed more cautious, perhaps sensing the game afoot. I managed to land only a single trout, while a few others evaded my net by throwing the hook and some coming short .
The fickle nature of these trout reminded me that even amidst the most favorable circumstances, nature's whims can alter the course of any endeavor.
Saturday dawned with an unexpected twist. 
Our hopes of fishing at Groggary were dashed by the wind and rain, a reminder that nature's temperament is often beyond our control. Rather than let disappointment take hold, my companions and I chose to adapt. We spent the day engrossed in fly tying, a creative endeavor that allowed us to remain connected to the essence of fishing, even in the absence of direct engagement with the trout.
Sunday's success emerged against the odds. I feared  the curse of the Tattie-bogle , but undeterred, I braved the strong south wind along the Half Bottle Loch's east shore under the watchful eye of two Tattie - Bogles. As the rain stopped and the winds subsided, a newfound tranquility enveloped the scene. In this serene interlude, I managed to fool four trout, a testament to the delicate interplay of skill, patience, and the right choice of patterns — the Loch Ordie and Cock Robin.
The following day's plans for a boat trip on Loch Bornish were thwarted by the gale that swept through. Undeterred, we attempted a few casts from the shore before surrendering to the wind's unyielding force. Seeking refuge in the car, we returned to our accommodations. Here, surrounded by the dry comfort and the aroma of coffee and options of beer or spirits we returned to the art of fly tying, a pursuit that kept our spirits aloft despite the tempestuous conditions.
As the days progressed, the week's crescendo built towards  Tuesday, which brought both an end to the Hebridean fishing adventure and a sense of fulfillment. Regrettably, I was met with a blank day, a reminder that the balance between fortune and perseverance is tenuous. Yet, in a bittersweet twist, I found solace in assisting my companion, who managed to triumph where I fell short. His success exemplified the essence of camaraderie, reminding me that the joys of shared triumphs are often as profound as personal victories.
In retrospect, my Hebridean Stravaig encapsulated the essence of angling — a delightful blend of skill, patience, and adaptability. The scenic days spent on the Lochs were mirrored by the convivial evenings at the hostel, where hearty meals, drinks and animated conversations flowed as freely as the nearby streams. This journey reinforced the idea that fishing is not merely a pursuit of elusive creatures; it's a journey of self-discovery, camaraderie, and an unbreakable bond with the natural world.
Until the the next time, Slàn leibh Nunton!

Click the link below to see a sideshow of pics from the Stravaig.
Hebridean Stravaig

Monday 14 August 2023

Some Recent Vice Work

I'll keep this brief as Im currently sitting in my room which is in a bit of a mess with all sorts gear scattered all over the place. The reason for this is that in a couple of days time I will be travelling over to the Outer Hebrides on a fly fishing stravaig. However one of the great pleasures of preparing for a fishing trip is not only pouring over OS maps, books and guides and selecting possible lochs to fish, but flyting and chosing which flies and boxes to take too. Here is a few patterns I tied recently for the trip. Hopefuilly over the next week or so I will have some pics of trout to share and stories to tell. see you soon!

Friday 4 August 2023

Lady Caroline

Can't believe how lucky I was In the Davie McPhail monthly draw  last  Monday night, as I won a framed famous Spey Fly pattern: The Lady Caroline, tied by Davie McPhail himself.
I was so pleased and what a coincidence it was too as in the afternoon before the draw on Monday night I was listening to a podcast about the history of Spey Flies with John Shewey who is the the author of the magnificent book "Spey Flies.Their history and Construction!"
Then when I got home from work  I dug out the book from my shelves and read a couple of chapters about the famous Spey ghillie  and possible originator of the Lady Caroline pattern, Geordie Shanks. 
Unfortunately I was unable to watch the draw live in the evening as I was out for a few hours 
However it was a great  thrill to learn I had won when I watched it when I got home.
It was fate! 
There is always an array of fantastic prizes in Davie's monthly draw and it's well worth entering. I've now won on three occasions.
Click the link below to get a flavour of the draw.
This latest prize win will take pride of place in my tying room and will be something I will Treasurer! 

Saturday 29 July 2023

Not the 3lb ers I was after!

When I finished work on Friday my mate Scott picked me up and we were soon off down the M74 for an evening fishing on the River Clyde.
We arrived at our destination in less than an hour.
We got ready to fish the river at a leisurely pace as we were in no rush to start fishing.
We then walked up beyond the Midlock burn and followed the coarse of a Roman Road to the Bellstane pool where we sat and blethered for a bit before starting to fish our way back down the river.
The weather was a bit bright for our liking but there was a good heat in the air which we reckoned would be to our adavantage.
The walk back along the river towards Crawford was uneventful as we never saw or encountered any trout but we did see a number of crayfish claws among the stones.
I'd set up with a two fly cast of a magpie & silver on the dropper and a magpie & black on the point.
It wasn't until we passed by the footbridge and Camps burn that the trout took an interest
Oddly enough we never saw any trout rising but we did see a number of birds on a few occasions swooping down to pick up flies on what I believe was a  couple of brief hatches.
Although I missed a couple of trout just past the Camps burn I was really expecting to land some from there and in the wide bend of the Castle pool but nothing materialised until on the straight run past the castle towards the Camps road  bridge where I managed a couple of trout which were fooled by the magpie & silver on the dropper.
Not the 3lb ers I was after but lovely trout all the same.
It was getting grey dark when Scott managed to get his trout at the other side of the camps road bridge.
Soon after we called it quits. I couldnt believe that it was 10pm. The time just flew by on what was a lovely and very enjoyable night of fishing on the River Clyde.

A journey to the heart of fly-tying: BFFI 2024

My much-anticipated pilgrimage to the British Fly Fair International in Stafford entailed a 500-mile roundtrip from Airdrie and an overnight...