Monday, 23 April 2012

22/04/2012 - North Esk

Time - 2015 - 2045
Weather - Fair, 6-7 degress
Water - +16cm
Where - Polton bank
Method - Mepp
Total - 0

A short evening session to try and loosen my dodgy back had quite the opposite effect. However the water was in lovely spinning nick though with my first lapse in concentration producing the first tap. I'd say it was a minimum o f8 inch, maybe a wee bit into double figures. A short while later in the same pool between the bridge & the weir I connected with about a 6 incher for 2-3 secs before we parted company.

I had a short try at the next 2 or 3 pools on the left bank but had to leave before dark as stiffness set in.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

12/04/2012 - North Esk

Time - 1800 - 1930
Weather - Chilly
Water - Peaty & up
Where - Serpy weir up to Roman Bridge
Method - Mepp
Total - 0

Water levels had dropped below just too high and I fancied my chances. I tried further upstream than the previous night but the results were the same, one tap, no fish. Managed to fish as far up as the old (and soon to be falling down) Roman Bridge.

11/04/2012 - North Esk

Time - Evening
Weather - Chilly
Water - Up
Where - Telfords - Corner Pool
Method - Mepp
Total - 0

The first downpours of the season pumped the river levels up so I took a short punt on the Esk but without success. The only tap occurred above Telfords (7 inch or so) and despite nice but probably too high conditions elsewhere, nothing showed. My guess is the water temp is still too low, but it is still intriguing where the fish go, because in similar conditions in a month or two's time it will be fishalicious.

10/04/2012 - Humbie Quarry

Time - 1500 - 1900
Where - Main accessible mark
Water - Normal
Weather - Had been raining and windy elsewhere but fine
Methods - Dead bait, maggots/swim feeder, perch lure & worm under a float
Total - 0

A second visit to Humbie and a longer and more concerted effort produced just as many fish as the first visit, a resounding and absolute zero. No signs of fish and no bites or interest. It still looks fishy enough though. Once one fish falls, more will surely follow. Another time...

Thursday, 5 April 2012

04/04/2012 - Loch Lochy

Looking down the loch to the south
Time - 1300-1400
Where - Bay 1 mile south of Laggan Locks
Water - Low, clear
Weather - Cloudy, fresh
Method - Weighted maggots on the bottom & size 3 mepp on wire trace
Total - 0

Initially I intended having a try in the bay at the head of the Loch, but on inspection was probably a bit shallow so I decided to move down the shore to seek somewhere a bit better. Stopping at a layby about a mile down I decided to chuck out some weighted maggots on one rod whilst having a spin either side. I put the maggots out in the bay where a small stream enters and baited up a bit. I built a rod rest of rocks up and the rod was precariously balanced on top in the form of a primitive bite alarm so that if I got any interest at all the rod would fall onto the ground and alert me. Alack there was to be no action on the maggots.
View to the western shore

In the meantime I fished with a mepp no 3/blue spots around the bay and headland in a northerly direction before returning to the maggot rod and fishing south of it for a bit. Nothing was tempted.

The water was exceedingly clear so visibility wasn't a problem for the fish which weren't in the mood. I did spot the surface being broken a handful of times at about the extent of casting distance but not from anything of any obviously large size.

03/04/2012 - River Garry (Ness)

Time - 0915-2000
Weather - Everything
Water - Good, clear enough, peat tinge
Where - Various
Method - Mepp & Flying C
Total - 1

During a short break in Fort Augustus I was delighted to be able to secure a rod on the Garry at Invergarry and put myself in serious danger of catching a brute. The full weekly let is 6 rods over a 6 day week costing £1869 at this time of year. If the river hasn't been let weekly, individual day tickets are available at £40. To my delight I discovered I was the only rod on the day and had the entire river to myself.
On the Bothy wall

Inscription below (above) outlined fish
The Garry has been severely altered from it's former self since the implementation of hydroelectricity and the creation of the dam at Loch Garry. Apparently a 'Garry fish' averaged above 20lb and had their own unique deep profile. It is also predominantly a springer river with the main run of fish from the beginning of the season through to April/May. The dam now lets out a compensatory amount of water every Thursday.

View from the Bothy door
In the week prior to my visit we'd been treated to record high temperatures across the country. En route low water levels were noticeable, for instance the River Coe in Glencoe wasn't far short of being just pebbles with hardly any flow. Also as we passed Loch Lochy the level was noticeably down and this was the case in most places. However, with the lack of water generally being a bad thing for Salmon fishing, and Scottish fish largely being later in the season runners, the Garry is a bit of an exception. First of all the standard salmon river may accept its fish straight from the sea. To reach the Garry fish must enter from the sea in Inverness, run up the River Ness, into Loch Ness and along it's 20-odd mile length before heading up the River Oich into Loch Oich and finally to the estuary where the Garry enters Loch Oich before heading up the Garry itself. So despite conditions not really being conducive to good fishing in the run up to my visit, I could be reasonably optimistic that the river would be in decent shape due to early running fish and the compensatory outflows keeping fish interested.

Looking upstream from the Bothy
I picked up the keys to the gate & bothy the evening beforehand and the river keeper informed me the last fish out was an 18lber on Saturday evening at the estuary which would probably be my best chance of a fish. This stretch is essentially a straight, deepish, fastish flowing straight run that joins Loch Oich where fish are known to congregate before running the river. The river changes character as you go upstream from longer slower pools into more of a rocky woodland tumble as you travel the 3 1/2 miles or so to the dam at Loch Garry.

Journeying up on Monday the weather was fine if not a bit chilly, but the forecast issued a snow warning from midday Monday until Tuesday 0600 but as the day progressed this morphed into a forecast for snow all day Tuesday. Just before bed time on Monday it began to snow.

On Tuesday morning I awoke to a decent covering of snow and wasn't sure how things would be at the river. A refund would be available if I couldn't fish. But the snow had stopped and the sun broke through and there was a bit of a melt on as we travelled down.

I began fishing at the estuary about 9.15 with a weighted red Flying C (permit allows 8am-8pm). The bank here is well kept and fishable along its entire length ending with three small jetty's right at the estuary. Despite giving it a right good thrash I didn't provoke any interest. There were a few bumps, but I'm pretty sure they were all just rocks on the bottom, I'd been told the fish would be low down. The water was flowing at a decent level and was pretty clear, but there was enough of a peaty tinge to make the waters look dark and deep.

By the time I fished to the lower jetty an impending snow storm was visible sweeping down Loch Oich and a hasty retreat was beaten into the bothy. This being my first experience of a bothy whilst fishing I can only report I was impressed. Just 15 feet or so from the river itself with two windows overlooking the water, it is ideally located. It has a heater, running water, a kettle and enough basic cooking facilities and utensils to make and eat a sufficient meal. Whilst the snow drove sideways outside, my cup of coffee helped put some heat back into me.

I had another go once it cleared before deciding to move upstream a couple of hundred yards or so to the hydro outflow which looked very promising. After covering the pool I tried right in the corner at the outflow, a slacker piece of water and connected with a very thin but nicely coloured kelt. Unfortunately I'd left my net at home, however I estimate the fish was no more than 3lb and didn't put up too much of a fight. I couldn't unhook it in the water but was able to lift it out quite easily. As you can see on the photo it also had a bit of damage to the top section of it's tail. It measured 22 inches and I quickly put it back to hopefully recover and repeat it's life cycle to come back bigger and stronger in a couple of years time.

It was now after 1pm and not wanting to bore the wife any further, we headed back up into town to pick up some lunch. My intention was to head upstream (sans wife) in the afternoon and return to the Rivermouth for an hour or two in the evening depending on what happened upstream (the Saturday evening 18lber was at the front of my thoughts). Most of the ground level snow had cleared by now although there was still plenty on the hills. When we got back to the digs the snow had completely cleared leaving just a snowman next to the drive that someone had made that morning. The day was characterised by the weather flipping between lovely clear sunny spells, now and again accompanied by a stiff chilly wind and then a stern snow shower, before returning to beautiful sunshine again. Twice there were also hail showers in amongst the 10 or so snow events.

The Big Crooked Pool
The afternoon session began at the upper limit of the river in The Falls Pool directly under the dam. Man-made additions aside, this is one of those really deep swirly rocky pools that always look so enticing. However warning signs loomed large warning that the dam can expunge large amounts of water at any time. Although I was happy to have a quick dip, it was difficult to really enjoy proceedings with the prospect of instant death always present. There is also the problem of what would happen if a fish at or above the top level of my experience/abilities decided to give me a fight. So I began to fish down through the Otter Pool and Little Crooked Pool which had their fair share of depth and possibilities, but were also on the straight of the river offering the prospect of safe egress should the water level rise unexpectedly.
Snowy reel

Not knowing the river it was always difficult to effectively locate and/or fish the most probable spots. I continued down until the first big bend known as the Big Crooked Pool which looked sensational. Despite this I couldn't tempt anything to show and when the snow began yet again (see the adjacent pic of the snow on my reel on the way back to the car) I made for the car to take some shelter and move downstream to the next stretch.

After the Rivermouth I'd been advised the next most likely spot to hold fish would be the Dog Pool and it was to here I headed next. The top of the beat was much more my kind of fishing with a bit of clambering up and down banks involved and a wilder stretch of river a little off the beaten track.
Looking downstream into the Dog Pool

The Dog Pool was an outstanding looking pool benefitting from a shallowish wide run into the head of the pool with a large back eddy on the outside of the bend (the right bank where I was fishing) before turning the corner and flowing down into the Shot Pool and beyond.
The Dog Pool

Looking upstream from The Dog Pool
On my second or third cast as my Flying C neared the end of it's retrieve it was assaulted by what I expect was a brown trout around a foot in length. Whilst not what I was after, I'm never going to turn down a fish in a place like this and although it didn't hook, it provided an encouraging boost and I continued to fish the pool with some expectation. There were also half a dozen or so rises, all I suspect from trout no bigger than the one I'd had a brush with, but once again I couldn't locate or entice any Salmon. I switched to a size 3 mepp as I fished back up the pool hoping to move down and cover the possibility of a trout as well, but had no joy before switching back to the Flying C.

The photo I took looking upstream shows a view of a mountain range in the distance. The whole time I fished it was bright sunshine but I could also see a snowstorm raging over the top of the furthest away mountain top. Eventually, downstream and round the corner I could see another snowstorm working its way up the river and I had to make for the car once again before the worst took hold. By now it was time to head back down for the last hour or two at the bothy.

Left view into Loch Oich during evening session
The evening mellowed once again into strong sunlight with blue skies. The snow lying on the far bank of Loch Oich almost visibly melted as the sun moved along the face of the shore and the moon was clearly visible in the clear blue sky. It might not have done too much to raise the temperature but it provided a stunning backdrop to my final fishless session. A final cup of coffee in front of the heater in the Bothy ended what was a splendid day of angling. I will endeavour to get back at the earliest opportunity.
Middle view into Loch Oich during evening session

Right view into Loch Oich during evening session