As the dust settles after yet another very enjoyable and hard fought season with the Crown Fly Fishers and the 2005 season already looming, I will attempt to explain where it went mostly right and sometimes wrong.
There are 16 very good anglers all competing for top honours, some of which are exceptional. To beat the best the Club has to offer you really do need some degree of ability. The good news is that ability can be learned and picked up from one member to another and from external competitions. That's the beauty of this Club, everyone learns from each other. For my part I will describe my 2004 season with the Crown and if anybody picks up a single new thing than it has been very worthwhile. As for the luck, you'll just have to wait your turn I did!
Swanswater (Bank Venue) 13 March 2004
The season's opener was the Club's first shot at this small rainbow fishery in Stirlingshire. In a change to the usual format the fishery was not exclusive to the Crown Fly Fishers 16 members. I always view the first outing as a bit of a lottery and perhaps that's no bad thing. A full turn out is normally guaranteed and the chance of collecting all sixteen points is as good as anybody's. My own preparation for such a venue early in the season amounts to nothing more than making sure I have enough damsel nymphs to see out the day. I will more often than not be using a fast glass line with a lure on the point and a mini-lure or two as droppers and adopt a range of retrieves, usually starting with a fairly brisk twitchy figure of eight. This tactic normally picks out the fresh stockies but as the day wears on and the fish become more suspicious it sometimes pays to change to a painfully slow retrieve. And then there's the strip which should never be forgotten, as Tam Campbell demonstrated to good affect at Coyle Water the previous year. I always have a spare rod set up with floating line and buzzes attached. Buzzers of course is now a bit of a loose term as I often use okay dokeys or a team of pink nymphs (to winkle out the gay troot), best fished static under a float sorry sight indicator!
On this day though, it was a case of being on the hot spot or dour it oot with the rest of us. I wish I had stayed put beside Bobby Blackley who was up behind the island in the shallows. I started there but decided it was too shallow what a mistake. This was the place to be. Credit to Bobby though who plucked them out. The main basin was deid as a doornail generally although spawny Skeoch somehow managed to trick 5 trout onto his flies. Reliable Ron was the only other member to achieve the fishery limit. I managed three fish two on the lures and the first of the day on a black buzzer. On the plus side the average size of the fish were amazing; on the downside the number of anglers allowed to fish the one venue was verging on the ridiculous.
7 th Place 10 points. I was reasonably happy with this as it can so easily be 16 points or 1 point at a venue like this.
Safely in the net at Loch Awe
Loch Awe (Boat Venue) 24 April 2004
Got off to the worst possible start at outing number two arriving just in time to see the boats leaving the jetty to begin the day's fishing. My boat partner for the day, Bill Hunter kept his displeasure under wraps (for the time being). A quick change and the rods were chucked into the boat ready to be set up en-route. After I impatiently waited for Bill to complete the setting up of his other rod we set off for the islands at the top end of the Loch . I love Loch Awe, it's got that mystery about it. I've had reasonable success in the past and a blank, but the potential for a really good day keeps pulling you back every year. Remarkably the weather has always been pretty decent for our club outings to this venue; almost too calm at times but I'd better watch what I say! This day was the same as the blanket of light grey cloud never looked light threatening rain and the loch was a virtual flat calm. It looked as though it was going to be one of those chase the breeze days. That's fine when you're in a nice light boat with light oars, oh aye and there's Bill Hunter's piece which almost had the boat sailing below the water mark!
As a gesture of goodwill and the hope that I wouldn't be spanked for being late, I gave Bill first shot at the bank as the first drift began. Loch Awe, like many brown trout waters, is often a case of the closer to the shore the better. We were drifting at the outside edge of the group of islands to try and catch what little breeze was going about. First blood to Bill as a small trout cart wheeled out of the water. After a tense battle where Bill nearly put a bend in his rod (honestly) the fish was beaten. 6 inch fish are too small to keep so Bill let the little fish swim away for another day. It wasn't long before those terrible words are uttered by your partner, well that's the blank off Rab, aye for you maybe. I always want my boat partner to have a good day and do well, but it's no easy hearing those words nonetheless. Then it was two, and then three nil and that was only the first drift! Apart from Bill having the shore side something else was wrong. I had opted for the intermediate line whilst the old boy was on a Wetcell II. Before we turned around for the next drift I too was casting the famous dark green line.
Better things followed almost immediately as we started the second drift, this time with me in the hotseat. As I inched the line back in a slow figure of eight the line tightened, making me think it was the bottom initially until my Well-Bent rod started to bounce under the strain of a fighting brownie. A copper ribbed PTN proved too irresistible and we were off the mark. Another fish soon followed without reply from across the boat. This time the sunburst Kate did the trick. As the breeze began to strengthen we decided to head for the heart of the islands and have a drift or two here. This is where then fun really began as we both started to hit fish with increasing regularity. A good wave had developed and we were bouncing along nicely, pulling the flies at a fair old pace and hitting fish every drift. Bill was next to hook up. Dipping an oar in to keep us off the rocks and not paying any attention a trout grabbed his flies. Laughing like a drain and me cursing him as a spwany git, Bill was 4-2 up; in his mind as the net was prepared for the final act the trout had other ideas and did a final roll and aired the two fingers before falling off there is a God! To compound matters I managed to reverse the score as troots 3 & 4 followed in quick succession. Fishing can be such fun at times. One on the humungous and the other to a pearly bibio. We continued to hit fish for the next couple of hours, both of us picking up another brace, before the breeze really died off and the sun came out. Time had zipped passed almost un-noticed. It was now half two and we had boated 11 fish.
As the takes vanished we headed back down the loch to the area out from where we picked up the boats. From past experiences this bay and the surrounding area can be very productive. The problem facing us all though was the weather - Flat calm. The odd trout nosed a ring or two but they were well spaced and a bit too spooky to get a fly over. This was where my first slice of luck arrived. I had to leave early for an evening engagement but I knew that not many fish would be caught in the last hour and a half. Luckily 6 fish was enough to secure all 16 points. The day had been a great success overall with 38 fish boated. Bill's 5 fish matched Hugh Skeoch's in numbers, but smaller fish meant 3 rd place for Bill.
1 st Place 16 Points (And a letter about my timekeeping!)
River Annan 22 May
The only stories I had heard of the River Annan, was that it was home to some mighty browns not many but definitely Big! Like many members of the Club I had fished this river in the past but with the exception of escapee rainbows the fishing was hard going. I didn't expect anything else from this, the Club's first outing to this venue. It may prove to be two outings rolled into one The first and the last! In terms of appeal this river has it all, well nearly all. Good clean water, long calm pools, plenty of fast riffles and popply streams, but nae fish.
Overhead conditions were against us, with blue skies, the big red ball-of-fire and a stiff breeze, but at least it was the same for everyone. Hugh Skeoch and myself started at the bottom of the Johnstonebridge beat and worked our way upstream. Rarely had I fished through such nice looking pools and runs without even the sniff of a fin. Hugh wasn't fairing any better either. It's not as if there was no food about as flies were hatching in reasonable numbers. Under the bridge itself is a cracking run and nice deep pool. I met a few bait fishers here who had just caught a pound and a half rainbow on the worm no sign of any brownies though. Further upstream wee Wullie Watters and Scott were looking dejected as they too were staring a blank in the face. To keep the hopes in tact Wullie told me that they had met a guy earlier who the previous week had landed a brownie of some 5 pounds. Ma banger I thought to myself, but I later found out that this tale may well have been truth afterall.
Hugh Skeoch was as close to a handsfree orgasm as I have ever seen and why he had spotted some rising fish in a long clam pool. Belters he exclaimed, bulls I retorted. I can hardly comment, but anyway, as usual Hugh had rose 90 and missed them all in the last ten minutes. From my higher vantage point I could see that they were indeed shoals of very small fish, apart from one! My turn for the handsfree orgasm. I was shaking like a sh*****g dog. Easy five pounds or more and no it wizny a sea troot, the red spots on this polaris were clear to see.
I sneaked down the high banking, through the trees, to get a better vantage point. The fish was cruising leisurely along the pool no more than a foot below the surface. It never rose, just swam. At one point I could have poked it with the rod point it was so close. I waited until it had passed and was a good three or four rod lengths away before unleashing the killer dry. Surprisingly I managed to present my fly into the path of this cruising fish without scaring the crap out of it. It nonchalantly came up to my fly as if to take it and then said aye right sonny do you think I got this size by eating pish like that. All season and for the past few I have had great success with the nymph suspended 6inched to a foot beneath the dry, but this time the occasion did get the better of me. It never crossed my mind as the fish wheeled round for one last tease and then disappeared, completely safe.
I decided to head back downstream to where I had parked the car, cursing myself for not putting the nymph on. For the rest of the afternoon my size 12 olive klinky had a small olive nymph tied off the hook bend. With an hour to go I bumped into Ron Hungus coming out of a fine looking stream. As we chatted I glanced over Ron's shoulder to spot a fish rising under the far side trees. In true sporting fashion and in the good spirit every club member should have, I said nothing and calmly slipped into the water still blethering to Ron. He popped up again just to remind me of where to land the fly. First cast over him and he responded in the correct fashion by confidently taking my fly. Cancel the party it was 8 inches long or two inches short to be precise. Lady luck part two was only a cast away though as another fish rose in exactly the same place. Fearing the worst I covered him nonetheless. For some reason this particular fish didn't come splashing out like the previous. It was able to keep it's head down or was it foul hooked. Ron cursed all the way as I kept repeating that this looked like a chapper. A quick check on the measure confirmed that the blank was well and truly off. I had no fear that this was worth teens of points, maybe not the full house but well up there. The fish had taken the olive klinky.
Just enough time was left for me to get back to the car and then onto to the hotel car park. From the consoling laughter it was clear that in most cases blanks were the order of the day. I heard through the mutterings that Bill had landed a chapper so I knew I wasn't alone. As it transpired Bobby the bus had also landed a fish a good one at that. Out the three fish weighed in mine was the smallest but no way was I complaining. A good result but not much learned.
3 rd Place - 14 points
River Islay 5 th June
The river Islay was virgin territory for me and the vast majority of the Club, so I did my best to get any gen from other sources. Franz Grimley had fished the river a few years back but told me it was pretty featureless and very slow. This didn't put me off any as most of us have grown up on a river that is painfully slow at times, in the River Irvine. I had no doubt that this was going to be yet another hard days fishing on the river but remained confident of putting in a good performance. The first choice of the day wasn't which fly or what method it was upstream of the bridge or downstream of the bridge. I opted to head down the way! Franz had obviously been at another section of then river as what was laid before me was superb looking water and crystal clear too.
Just for a change the weather was bright sunshine and blue skies, ideal for a low clear river. I decided to speculate with the olive klinky in the head of the faster streams to see if any trout were pepping up their oxygen levels. As usual the nymph was trialling below to give me the option. A few good runs later and not a pook. Then in a long calm straight I saw a fish rise. It was a good bit downstream of me but I did my usual and instantly looked for a marker to get the location right. A darker coloured tree was picked out as I reeled in and cleared the water to walk along the sheltered bankside. Wullie Waters passed me by and I told him that I had spotted a fish at last. He had seen nothing. I started a good bit below the marker to make sure I was settled and ready for some (hopeful) action. The post of the klinky was easy to spot in this flat clam pool, I just hoped the leader was not as visible. The answer to that was firmly put to bed as my fly landed in the zone for the first time and up popped the trout, full head and tail and he was on. Heart doing 180bmp, there was no doubt that this was a chapper. Not much of a fight though as I slipped the net under him. Ya dancer another blank off. The pressure's off now! I was surprised to see that the brownie was a stockie and by the state of it's fins a recent one. Unusual therefore to only see this one fish.
The nature of the river where I was fishing was overgrown banksides and heavy tree cover. Care had to be taken when entering the water and when casting. For the next two hours I sneaked about ducking in here and there trying to get a cast at what few trout were rising without spooking them. I was doing well, but all the fish were small. I passed Tam Campbell and stopped for a chat, ever watchful of the great big bull standing in a field of coos behind me. Tam also had a fish, another stockie and had seen one more. We were well into the afternoon now so I was very confident that I would score well, even with this solitary fish. The noise of a generator or something mechanical drew me further downstream. Round the corner and there was the farmer turning off the diesel water pump that I could hear. Amazingly ten feet above the point where the pipe entered the water was a fish rising and steady at that too. He was hard against the bank on which I was standing. Keeping well back I was able to pass the fish and then cross over the river below him. A bit of gymnastics were required on the far bank to get in through some trees and then there was the problem of casting. This was going to be a difficult one so I had to make it count first time.
I didn't quite make it with the first cast, two feet short, bit to my surprise up came the head and down went the fly. I wasn't expecting this so when I struck the rod bent briefly before straightening again erse! Luckily it was a different fish as the original target rose again. The pressure was on but I managed to land above him bang on line. A splashy rise, I struck and he was on. He had taken the nymph on the drop, hence the splashy rise. This fish did fight and although not that big, turned out to be a nice 11inch wild brownie. In my head I was now looking at 13 or 14 points surely! On my way back upstream it was only Tam that had a fish, still the one.
Fishing the area near where I had taken my first of the day, I hooked another fish out of the blue. This one zipped across the stream like a train and came off. Not happy but not overly bothered as two would be a good bag on a day like this.
A look at the watch signalled that it was almost time to call it a day. Time for another cast nothing. I flipped the dry downstream, landing in a pile as the leader tangled up then bang. Up popped a big stockie and grabbed the fly! Three fish - give me the 16 points now aff. Never mind let's get back to the bridge. I met the two Wullies who had equal bags, hee-haw. Bill was the same. As I walked along the bridge the realisation of my earlier decision to head downstream was all too evident. Bass bags lined the pavement and waving arms everywhere as tales of this fish and that fish were shared. Aye Rab got ma limit nae bother said Craig. Bobby Blackley struggled and only managed 5! Whit. I had fished as hard as I had done for ages, thought I had fished really well with accurate casting etc and was totally knackered. Everybody and their dug that had gone up the way were stinking of fish! Apparently the river had been stocked upstream a few days earlier. Craig put things in perspective when he admitted it was a total lottery up there. In the end I still really enjoyed my day and felt pleased with the two fish I had managed to land. I won the bottom half afterall.
8 th place 9 points
Lake of Menteith (Boat Venue) 3 July
This is without doubt one of the favourite venues in the Club, although I personally have never faired that well when competing with the Crown. One thing that I always take with me to a venue is confidence. I think if you lack confidence in your own ability you will perform below the levels that you can actually achieve. Menteith being predominantly rainbows is a venue where plenty of fly options are needed, just in case. As we all know the Lake is famous for it's top of the water sport, but it is also just as likely to be a hi-di and blobs or boobies. For this I set up two rods. One with the floater armed with dries or buzzers and the other rod for the lures. This is the rod that I will carry out the changes on. Whether it's lines or flies or retrieves, the lure rod is for sussing out what is working, in theory anyway. I was partnered with Ron, a previous club champion and a man lurking dangerously close enough to seriously dent my attempts at retaining my own club champion status should be interesting.
Conditions were pretty wild with a strong gusty wind blowing in from the west. The dries would be left for later then. Although feedback suggested that the Lake had not been performing as well as usual, the shooting butts had been suggested to me as the best bet. Ron and I gave it a good hour and a half without gracing the boat with a rainbow and takes were non-existent. No point in hanging about we decided, so off we went in search of new water. The water temperature was pretty high so we thought that the fish would be more likely to be found in deeper water. Cages Bay , it's the deepest part of the fishery, sloping off to some 75ft. A few boats were already in the bay but there was enough room for us to slip in. Lines were changed from the fast glass to the di-3. Things were a bit calmer in here too so a slower retrieve could also be tried. Both of us hit fish on the first drift but nothing stuck. Two more drifts without success and again it was time for a move.
This time we headed up the Malling shore, another area where the bottom slopes off quickly into deep water. Bingo, this was the place to be. Bobby Blackley was behind us and had already tasted success. Still on the di-3 and pulling quickly the takes came with ever growing regularity. Ron drew first blood with a smashing 3lb bar of silver which created merry hell as it fought for it's freedom. Soon after a fish rose in the grey zone, smack in the middle of the drift. Who goes for it? My line was already well out so spawny Ron got the opportunity. Credit where it's due though as he nailed yet another screamer; the Yellow Dancer doing the damage again. 2-0 but still plenty of time to go. I then hooked up but within seconds was off again. Rather than letting the head go down it spurned me on. It was only a matter of time.
I was soon into what can only be described as the smallest fish in the Lake . Anyway it was points on the board and that's what matters. Within 5 minutes I was in again. This time the fish took off so fast and turned sharply to the right that I had completely lost control. My line was going one way as the fish cleared the water 90 degrees the other way. As I slipped the net under the fish Ron was able to return the spawny git comment. God knows how you managed to land that. Fin perfect and fighting fit this Blue trout had taken the green pea pulled fast on the Di -3. We found that all the fish were tight in against the top bank in 4-6 feet of water. The strong wind was blowing is off shore so we were continually rowing back in to keep ourselves in the zone. It was worth it though as I hooked and landed fish number three and then spawny Ron equalised with another near-on three pounder. The yellow dancer accounting for both. As is always the case when you are both getting fish and hitting plenty, it dries up as quickly as it started.
At the Lake
We had two hours of the session remaining so that left enough time for a move. One of the most consistent areas of the Lake , in my opinion, is the area just out from the reeds at the tourists boat jetty. It always seems to hold a good head of fish. Confidence was high! Sticking with the di-3 and mini-lures we set the drift a good 70 yards from shore. As soon as we reached the 30 yard mark takes were immediate. Ron hooked up into a good fish. As I pulled my flies to clear the way I spotted a fish take my flies just as they left the water. A secondary hook up made for an interesting situation, but it was exactly that, off in a second. Ron didn't hold on to his much longer than me though as the line parted and Ron turned the air blue! It was a bit late to request a transfer to another more user friendly boat, so I gave Ron his minute of cursing before pointing the boat into the wind for a take two. That's exactly what we got. Ron re-tied the leader up in time for the 30 yard mark, hooked into another rainbow and guess what the line parted and Ron started using words from the Bible again! Most of us buy new nylon from time to time, think Ron likes to save his pennies!! In time honoured fashion you'll all have heard this before, especially from Rab Irvine's gub we really should have had our limit in those two remaining hours. (or is that Hugh Skeoch). We turned fish after fish, jagged them, missed them. What was I saying before about ability?
The weigh in proved that it really had been a difficult day all round. I think with the fishery generally off the boil and the overhead conditions the Club as a whole did very well. Bobby Blackley taking top honours with 4 fish. Ron pitched up second with his substantial 3 fish bag, beating me into third spot by several pounds!
A valuable 14 points towards the championship and also towards that elusive first Boat Quaich. The lesson learned at this venue was really to keep going and stay positive when it looked as though it was a poor day.
3 rd 14 Points
Harelaw Dam (Bank Venue) 25 July
This particular outing was always going to be in the balance for me. Not because it presented any particular challenge to me over everybody else, but because the birth of our first born was imminent. Ryan Irvine did not disappoint his dad when he arrived as his most memorable catch on the morning of Thursday 22 July and weighing a healthy 7lb 6oz. I already had my 16 points!
Determination is not easy to switch off though. I had led the overall championship for all but the first outing and was very determined to stay top of the pile. I just couldn't resist the temptation of even a couple of hours. I got clearance from mission control to leave around midday and take my chances during the afternoon. By the time I arrived and got set up there were two and a half hours to go and I had missed the best part which was the morning. Some best part at that stage the most anyone had was a solitary fish. The sonic boom of a jet breaking the sound barrier split the tranquillity, or was it Bobby the bus confirming that had had just successfully landed fish number two. I still couldn't see him!
It turned out to be a fruitless journey for me as I recorded my first blank return of the season. The only fish I touched was on the buzzers as I turned round to accept congratulations on the birth of Ryan from Bill Hunter, the rod slammed round as a fish attempted to hook itself. They don't do it very often and this occasion was no different. I still left the venue with a huge smile though.
Blank 0 points. (Ouch)
River Clyde (River Venue) 21 August
No matter where on the Clyde you fish, you know exactly what to expect hard fishing. The lure of the Clyde is the reward that is felt when you do manage to fool one of it's wary residents'. The Club's decision to fish the Wolfclyde Bridge section was a wise one as the size limit is still 10, whereas the UCAPA water has a 12 killing size.
A check through the records revealed that August was the time of the black terrestrials - black gnat and heather fly. What little time spent at the vice beforehand was focused on small and black. Fears that the river may be too high were soon dispelled as numerous heads popped over both sides of the bridge parapets to see the river in fine fettle. Slightly coloured but on the drop. More of a concern was the strength of the blustery wind. Rather than screaming out the blocks after the briefing as usual I decided to hang back and see what was what. Gear ready I strolled back to the bridge for a look see. Willie Watters and Norrie were in the run above the bridge fishing wets. A splashy rise below drew my attention to the foot of the bridge. There was more than one but the question was how big were they? Time to find out.
Norrie was the closest to the bridge but was still a good 40 yards away. I slipped in just above the bridge armed with a black compara dun. The fish were rising periodically under the branches of a tree on the far bank. Hard enough to deal with under normal circumstances but with the wind funnelling through the last arch of the stone bridge it was nigh on impossible. The only way to land the fly on the path of the trout was to cast the fly line downstream below the fish and let the wind blow the leader back up above the fish. Fine in theory but this means there is no slack between the fly line and the leader so drag sets in very quickly.
The name of the game was simply perseverance. For every half a dozen times the fly arrived on the postage stamp you would get one lucky break in the wind that would give you a drift of a few feet. It's amazing how intense this becomes as the focus takes over. I rose seven fish hooking two of them, both coming off. I blame the wind, but who knows, I can lose them in a flat calm! I believe that both fish would have made the stick but ifs, buts and maybes don't gain you any points. Incredibly I had spent 3 hours at the one spot. Norrie and Willie were long gone, fed up with the bad language.
A change was now required, so after wasting 40 mins scaling the far bank off the bridge I reverted to the side where I started and moved in below the old demolished bridge. Fish were rising in the far run which did look a tad shallow, so I suspected them to be bulls. Two fish, one after the other confirmed this. Slightly upstream a fish moved a bit more water than the rest, just in front of a sunken tree. The wind made me try six or seven times before I got it right and the fish took no bother. A firm strike and the rod was going nowhere. This was a belter all right. A short sprint upstream then a turn down towards me before heading back to where it came from and I had achieved nothing. The head just shook and I couldn't shift it an inch. A quick roll on the surface and the fecker was off.
I had barely sat down to cry when Hugh came roaring up the park, he had just been broken out twice must have bought Ron's old nylon! So we were all in the same boat. Hugh was off back down stream to seek revenge. I decided to stick around and see if the fecker had any brothers or sisters in the stream. A local passed me by moments later to reliably inform me that there is a three pound plus fish just off that tree. It had been hooked and lost the previous week by another angler and had been attracting the attention of a few luckless others Zatafact!
Hugh re-appeared and uttered those words that's the blank aff at last Rab re-arrange the following to yourself fek go tae a! Two hours to go and staring a blank in the face, no time to feel sorry for myself then. I new the pool well that Hugh had been successful in, so we both headed back downstream. Hugh had left it to give it a rest as things had quietened down. By now the wind had eased right off and the pool was generally flat calm. One or two had started to rise again. We chose or victims and set about conquering them. I was above Hugh and had spotted a second fish within range. Three or four attempts at the first one brought sod all so I focused on the other one, but with a change of tact. Not only was the small black compara dun being refused, I had no chance of seeing where it was in the failing light. On went an embarrassing size 10 (!!) big grey and within a cast or two I was able to let Hugh know that he was right, the blank was aff ha ha. The fish had stopped rising around Hugh so he decided to make for the bridge for the last hour. He left in time to see me landing a second fish, the one which had refused me earlier.
Although it could hardly be described as coming on' a couple more fish did start to rise. The big grey proved irresistible as a further two chappers followed to complete my bag limit. Hugh cursed his luck in moving away. The talk at the weigh in was all about the number of fish that had been lost during the first part of the afternoon. It seems as though the wind had effected us all and most of us had our chances, Bill and Bobby the Bus losing notable fish. But at the end of the day my four fish were enough to secure 16 points and the River Championship. I had been beaten on goal difference by Craig the previous year so it was nice to get my hands on the quaich again.
1 st Place 16 Points
Carron Valley (Boat Venue) 11 September
This was unfamiliar territory for me going into the last boat venue as top rod in the section. I had never won the Boat Championship so now was not the time for glass bottoms. The day was made all the tastier as serious championship challenger Hugh Skeoch was my boat partner.
This was the venue that nearly never was. Conscious of my previous warnings on time keeping and genuinely not wishing to jeopardise Hugh's day, I set off from Edinburgh in plenty of time. As I reached the bottom of the City by-pass the mobile rang and Dippy informed me that the loch was closed due to the high winds poofs I thought to myself. The Club were just going to head to a rainbow fishery for some fun poofs I thought to myself. I had no rainbow flies and had no notion anyway. I headed back home, well almost as Dippy called to say that fishery owner had called back with a change of mind? So it was back on then. Poofs I thought to myself.
I arrived last so was in a bit of a rush to get the gear ready and leave the jetty at the same time as everybody else. The wind was harsh but there were plenty of bays to shelter in. My information was that the road side was fishing the best, but with the conditions it really was a case of getting in somewhere that was fishable. After not much success at the dam head we headed up to Gull Island and drifter in the relative shelter it provided. We both hit a couple of fish but nothing to shout about. Nothing else for then, as we braved the wind and headed round the corner into the teeth of it. The wind was blowing us swiftly into the road shore, so a fast retrieve was essential just to stay in touch. I must confess Hugh and I enjoyed a wee breather on the bank. Well, could'nae breather would be more accurate as we ran aground and were too feeble to push the boat off in the gale. So Hugh had a fag (must have been spinach in it) and off we sailed again.
Although very windy the air temperature was still warm and so was the water. We both opted for intermediate lines which kept the flies just pulling under the surface as we expected the fish to be looking up. This proved to be the case as for the next three hours we both had some of the most enjoyable loch-style brown trout fishing in a long time - if not the most successful. Fish pouring through the waves, head and tail rises, hard bangs and the water flattening, fish on the hang, we had it all well nearly. Hugh had one and I had two. We did have loads of small fish so it wasn't all missed or lost fish that was the problem. I was having a lot of success with a small viva like mini-lure on the point, although the fiery-red sedgehog on the top dropper was attracting it's fair share as well.
After battling with the wind for three hours we decided that a rest was due and headed carefully across to Carron Bay for a bit of relative shelter. Hugh had another fag. This bay is generally shallow so fish can be caught all over its area. In fact the next two fish which I landed were almost in the middle of the bay. They had both taken the sedgehog. Both Hugh and I were hitting plenty of fish again but Hugh's moan, perhaps justifiably so, was that he could only hook bulls whilst I was into chappers. (They're easier to fool Hugh!!).
Overall I was pleased with my four fish, especially as Hugh managed just the one keeper. Plenty of fish had been caught, but with just about everyone announced it looked as though Scott had achieved his first outing win. He had done very well to land a boat limit of six fish, however Craig Osborne had other ideas with a superb bag of six fish which dropped Scott into second. On a personal note I was delighted to have secured the Boat Championship for the first time and maintain top spot overall with one outing to go.
5 th Place 12 Points
Watch Reservoir (Bank Venue) 2 October
The task was simple, don't blank and outscore previous champions, Hugh Skeoch, Ron Chesney and Bobby Blackley and I would retain my crown! It doesn't even sound easy so I wasn't going to kid myself. We had already seen some arses collapsing on the final day before, so I was taking nothing for granted. I wanted to be champion again bad. I even decided to take the day off and get a few hours reccy at this new venue the day before. The conditions were appalling with gale force winds, something that rainbows normally dislike, sending them to the bottom. I managed a couple of hours fishing and more importantly a chat with a couple of the locals. The most notable feature of this fishery which became apparent was the willingness of the rainbows to take food off the top even in the windiest of conditions. The locals confirmed that this is a true top of the water venue, which has to be seen to be believed in calmer conditions. Even though only a handful were out braving the conditions they all had one thing in common - they had bagged up in the morning. I had arrived at 2pm .
I asked for the hotspots and was basically told anywhere apart from the shallow neck up the right hand side. Hoppers, heather fly and buzzers were the killers I was told. In two hours I managed three fish a missed a few, so my confidence was high for the following day!
Conditions on the Saturday were identical, blowing a hooligan. No need for two rods set up today, keep it simple, swap between floater and intermediate and if that fails worry! To start I set up with the floating line with a small black & red mini-lure on the point and two traditionals. I walked up the right hand bank looking for a spot to begin but the numbers of anglers meant venturing into the narrow neck area which I was assured the day previous is best avoided. Tam Campbell had already tasted success as had a couple of locals even before I had the chance to wet a line a good sign. But how were my rivals doing. I could see Hugh and Ron further along the bank. As I pulled line off the reel for the first cast of the day Ron struck into a fish and was off the mark. Nae pressure then.
Luckily for me it was never going to be one of those tense affairs as after only three or four scary casts, trying to avoid hooking a lug, I hooked into and landed my first fish of the day. As I slipped back into the water I could see that Tam was obviously in the zone with another fish on. He was pulling pretty fast so I was sure he was on the lures. I was casting across the wind and slowly inching the flies back round with a figure of eight. A few cast later and fish number two was netted. Same method but a different fly. The first took the black mini-lure the second took a pearly bibio. I continued to get plenty of takes but nothing was sticking. It must have been less than two hours when Craig and Bobby Blackley passed me by smiles as wide as the Clyde with 5 fish each in the bag. Bobby had an outside chance so I had to match his five fish by the close of play. Both Bobby and Craig were sporting enough to tell me that they had caught their fish at the head of the bay so much for local knowledge!!
No time for pride here so off I headed to the head of the bay. Scott was already in wading deep and had a fish in the bag. I took the risk that the fish would no be deeper after the expert attentions of Craig and Bobby so changed to an intermediate line. Better lucky than good as two fish followed in quick succession, one on a red ersed green peter and the other on a pearly black spider. Again a slow retrieve was doing the trick.
As always the last fish can prove to be the hardest and this was no exception. We were due to finish at 5pm and it was now approaching 4pm. Hugh Skeoch laughed his arse off as fish number five was hooked and quickly lost the only fish I lost all day. I was now on the floating line and on dries. The wind had eased to a mild gale so a ginger hopper was sent out to get me that elusive trout. The heart was racing as up popped a nose and sooked the hopper down. The hooked stayed firm and the limit bag was reached. I was mightily relieved and knew now that the end result lay in the laps of the gods. If everyone got their limit on the day then I could end up last, but that's fishing! Luckily for me both Ron and Hugh finished the day with 4 each and I was crowned champion for the second year running.
2 nd Place 15 points
Season 2004 was another very enjoyable one and very successful one for me personally, but it was great to see others up there challenging. Scott almost pulling off his first outing win, Bobby the Bus keeping in the hunt until only a few outings to go and winning a couple of outings for the record and of course the inevitable challenge from the heavyweights, Blackley Chesney and Skeoch all proving that their names on the big silver one are no flukes. Craig proved once again that he has the ability to win any outing on the day, and one to watch out for this year. As for his faither, the less said the better. Osborne senior had a mare. Mr Campbell had a quiet year but after seven at the top end that's allowed.
So season 2005 is but a ba' hair away and we now have the added challenge of two new members. One, Stevie McKendrick a past member, will no doubt be looking to open up a fourth discipline The Float Tube section!! The other unknown and no doubt dangerous. Bill Hunter already has the form recorded so it will be interesting to see how his predictions pan out. One things for sure, we will all finish the forthcoming season as better anglers as we continue to learn from each other.
We all have the ability; all that makes the difference in being at the top from the bottom is focus, belief and of course LUCK! I waited long enough for mine, but I'm not sure I want to pass it on just jet. So good luck for season 2005 as long as I am a wee bit luckier. Three in a row will be a hard challenge I'm up for it, are you?
Robert Irvine finished second in the Scottish Rivers Championship fished on the St. Boswell's water on the River Tweed and so qualified for the international team to fish in England next year. Rumours abounded that anglers practicing for the final were catching huge numbers of fish but Robert after speaking to eventual winner Jake Harvey realised that it was going to be far from easy going on the day and so it turned out. Below is how he described his four sessions in the final.
I did not find the time for a practice and the final
fell smack bang in the middle of our two week family holiday so i went with
a relaxed open mind. The only thing I had thought about with any real focus
was the pegs and where I would like to be and also where I did not want to
be. There were only two starting points that I did not fancy - the golf course
on the upper section and the flat below Mertoun Bridge on the lower - incredibly
I drew both!! Rather than seeing it as a sign to give up, I took the opposite
view and really went for it.
I arrived at 7.30am and had a look over the bridge at Mertoun and the water looked great, with a slight tinge of colour. By the time the 10am start had come round the river had risen 6" and was quite coloured (12" visibility). I chose to fish at my starting point in session 1 fishing the edges where the ranunculus beds are with a trio set up of two nymphs under a dry fly. For 80 minutes all I picked up were salmon parr, almost a fish a chuck. Luckily with 10 minutes to go my dry dipped and a measure popped up to my utter relief. No other such opportunities were forthcoming in that session so I decided to leg it downstream to the Cauld. Callum Crosbie was in it when I arrived, but he came out as he had fished it through. I still felt confident of taking something here. I fished the bugs down, the trio back up, the bugs down for more parr, then got a thumping take but nothing to show for it. Back up with the trio and with 10 minutes to ago (again) I went in deeper (me that is) with the bugs and bang got a nice grayling that stayed on to be measured. So happy enough with a 1 & 1 in the first two sessions.
At the bridge there were already a few blanks being spoken of. I knew Grant Gibson had a storming morning with 3 & 4. As my second session drew to a close I could see Billy Dewar fishing the flat where I was going for my 3rd session and he had taken two fish. This made my mind up to rest that stretch after lunch and head straight for the bottom of the island. I also was hoping that the far side ranunculus beds would be acting as filters and the water would be a tad clearer, which it turned out to be. I decided to fish the stimi-nymph (a method of fishing a big dry with nymphs underneath where you basically cast into little pockets and immediately lift off again repeating a few times. The fish basically see the nymph or the dry but the food is taken away. When it appears again they tend to be ready for it. ( Exciting but hard work ). The method worked straight away and I had a measure within 10 minutes. I then got a double hook up with a nice half pounder on the tail and a maybe on the top nymph. As I drew the net over the bottom trout came off leaving me the smaller one. I had a tape cut to 20cms and it seemed to make it. After a 3 minute lung bursting run and wade my controller John gave me the bad news that it was just short. After that it was back to the parr and a few just undersize.
I decided for my final session to go up to the flat
below the bridge and try the trio again by crossing over and fishing back
into the deeper side. After 20minutes I got a cracking 43cms grayling on the
tungsten beaded Pheasant Tail Nymph. So at that point I could relax knowing
I had at least scored in all 4 sessions. I got a bonus fish after this, a
brownie that took the dry indicator (I use a size 10 Royal Wulff!!). I fished
hard and tried various methods, so was pretty sure I could not have done much
better, particularly with so many parr around.
John Buchanan my controller said he would bet me his
wallet (and I negotiated the contents as well) that I would make the team
with that return. As I started to think about who was in it and Gibby having
already stormed off I thought nah, close but no cigar. As it turned out only
Jake and myself managed to score in all 4 sessions, so 18 people had at least
one blank! I was amazed and chuffed to bits. After having tasted the travelling
reserve spot twice and suffered due to carry over's and favouritism by Tweed
Ghillies in the past, I was really keen to prove to myself that I could do
it clean in. I think the experience of the Commonwealth Championships has
been good in that I just worry about me and don't consider who else might
or might not do whatever, not until afterwards anyway. It was a tough final
with 7 borderers and the fish proving difficult. It did clear up for the last
session, but by then the sun was blazing down.
My top nymph was a size 14 Marc Petitjean olive nymph (MP34) - 3 out of my 5 fish took that. One on the gold tungsten Pheasant Tail Nymph and as I said one on the Royal Wulff.
Congratulations go to Robert Irvine on his individual silver and team gold medals at the Commonwealth Championships held on Islay recently. For a full list of winners and reports click on the link below.