Archive for the ‘Salmon’ Category

Does salmon fishing have a future?

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

I have a grandson and am beginning to wonder if he will ever be able to fish for salmon in the way that I have and in the way the generation before me did.  I can recall having conversations with Reg Rihgyni famed for the book he wrote about Grayling fishing and also “Salmon Taking Times”.  His generation seemed to have no issues with catching salmon they were in our rivers in abundance.  They lived in an era when most fish taken were killed.  I recall photos of a mornings catch lined up on a slab numbering dead fish in their dozens.  This I guess was back in the 1960’s and probably we could look in catch return books where  fish numbered hundreds for a season.

I was never able to experience this level of success, I started fishing for salmon regularly back in the eighties.  We had good days, a good day for us was maybe three fish, and yes sadly we behaved badly and failed to return them. Gradually the seasons appear to have become worse with fewer fish each year.  I fish regularly on a prime middle beat of the River Tay where I take a couple of weeks spread across the season.  I also always fish the fly no matter what the conditions and certainly never fish from the boat.  I would probably increase my returns for the beat if I were to spin or harl but put simply part of the attraction of the day for me is casting a fly.

My records for the two weeks indicate an average of six to eight fish each year, the twenty first century however has seen a decline and the last few years have seen this drop to three fish each year that includes two fish for one day.  Without a doubt there are less fish running our rivers  for a multitude of reasons.  Environmental issues not just in our rivers but also at sea, there are a whole host of issues why our salmon are declining.  These have been documented regularly by authors and every time you pick up an angling magazine there are articles about fish farming for salmon and how this exploits our wild fish.

Why do I salmon fish you may ask?  Well for me its probably about the process, I enjoy the environment.  The Tay is truly a majestic river in all its seasons.  Fish will run the river every month of the year there is little to stop their progress upstream.  I like the casting itself, casting in hope that I might get a tug, they say that the “tug is the drug” for me it definitely is.  For me there is pleasure to be had from wading down a river, casting to the best of my ability, if I catch a fish whilst doing so then I consider it a bonus.

BBC Scotland have today carried a feature on the national news program highlighting the plight of our Atlantic salmon.






Fly Dressing Master Class and the BFFI

Monday, February 10th, 2014

For the last few years I have been lucky enough to get an invite to a fly dressing master class that Paul Little runs in the lead up to the British Fly Fair International.  There are normally a dozen or so tiers present from the UK and the USA.  The USA sent Marvin Nolte and Stack Scoville, Peter Kealy from N Ireland and Brian Burnett from Scotland.  These were just a few names there was circa  a dozen or so of us present.

Dusty Miller Variant

Dusty Miller Variant

Paul Little was extremely patient and managed to get us to tie three flies over the two days.  We did not just tie three flies we talked a lot and discussed and demonstrated various techniques along side the tying.  I have always had issues with bronze Mallard wings on Spey flies, not being able to put them on without splitting, so we covered this in some detail, hopefully my Spey flies will be fantastic to look at and fish with in the future.

Another interesting technique was to substitute the rachis of a feather with a touch of glue off a glue stick.  When tying in feathers such as brown mallard as a wing it is normal to leave the rachis attached so as to support the fibres whilst tying in.   The rachis sometimes is on the stiff side and tends to pull on the fibres. Exchanging the rachis for glue off a glue stick left a more flexible support, its possible also to apply some to the butts of a built wing fly.

Double Winged Ackroyd

Double Winged Ackroyd

Brown Shrimp Grub

Brown Shrimp Grub








Above are a couple of other flies that we completed.  The Ackroyd is a Dee style fly with deltas wings and the grub by its name is meant to represent a shrimp style salmon fly.  All the flies in the photos were tied with gut eyes.

Following the workshop I then spent a couple of days with my GAIA (Game Angling Instructor Association) pals at the British Fly Fair   promoting the Association and tying flies.  I am always a bit like a child in a sweetie shop, as a fly dresser there is always so much to see and so many must have items.  This year I was particularly impressed by a Whiting Spey Hackle cape.  It is the perfect heron hackle substitute absolutely stunning feathers that could well have been Heron apart from the fact it was salmon pink.  Sadly I could not buy it as it belonged to one of the tiers but I did return on a number of occasions just to look at it,  how sad is that.   I will never criticise women coveting handbags and shoes again.


Clyde Style on the Saturday










The GAIA aspect of the show was good with lots of people showing an interest in what we did and how we do it.  It made me think about what our priorities where as an organisation, we definitely need to spend more time introducing people into game angling.

All three of us me, Chris and Alun and past chairman of GAIA Phil White


A day at Lanrick

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

The other day I had the pleasure of a days salmon fishing on the famed Lanrick beat of the River Teith. Lanrick is just upstream of   Deanston famous for its distillery.  The Teith itself is a great salmon and sea trout river with the added bonus of being just 40 mins from Glasgow and Edinburgh. Lanrick is some 3.5 miles long with approximately 1.5 miles of double bank.  It reminds me very much of a highland river, shallow for most part and easy to  fish at most times of the year with a floating or slow sinking line. Lanrick is in two parts Upper and Lower beats.  The lower beat is marked by a famous cauld pool called simply the “Pool” at its bottom limit .  This pool must act as a barrier and slow down the movement of fish in very low temperatures and water conditions.

The "Pool"

I shared the beat with another rod and only managed to fish a limited number of pools.  The “Pool”  and “Gravel Bank”  are two fantastic pools, in fact I am not doing the place justice as all the pools that I fished that day were great pieces of fly water.  The river also has a reputation for big fish, my second largest some 21lb was taken off the Teith albeit further up stream.  If my memory serves me right I recollect a fish close to 40lb being taken off Lanrick a few years back.

Gravel Bank

I wish that I could report that I had caught fish but sadly no salmon, I did however catch a superb brown trout of approximately 2lb from the “Garden Pool” which set my pulse racing for an initial second or two.  A down side is that whilst in the fishing hut I noticed a sign that read they practiced total catch and release which I totally support.  It then went on to say that any Grayling caught should be killed which is a bit of an archaic view towards our fourth natural game fish.  In this day and age we should value all our game fish.  If you want a days fishing close to Glasgow and Edinburgh I would strongly recommend Lanrick.


Salmon Flies on a Theme

Friday, March 15th, 2013


A couple of weeks ago at the Milngavie fly dressers we demonstrated hair wing salmon flies as a few of the guys are regular salmon fishers on the Tay and had requested several patterns.

If you look into my salmon fly boxes the  flies tend to be along a distinct colour theme, orange  yellow and black with a trace of sparkle somewhere.  I used to use Willie Gunns a lot from my days on the Brora where back in the late 80’s I met the man himself at the famous Ford Pool.  It turns out that he did not devise the fly but simply picked it out from a batch of Waddingtons that Robb Wilson who used to keep the tackle shop in Brora had for sale. Several fish later as the story goes and Willie was back into the shop for more and Robb christened the fly after him.

This colour theme runs through a whole host of modern salmon flies Cascades and Park Shrimps being juts two. Modern version tied on light tubes with cone heads, single, double and treble hooks and designed to fish on modern spey lines with tips that get the fly down have made life easier for the angler not having to cast heavy brass Waddingtons and tube.


Orange Flamethrower

• Salar Double- Size 7,9 or trebles
• Thread – Orange Uni thread 8/0
• Tag & Rib- small oval gold tinsel
• Body- Rear hot orange floss, front oval gold tinsel. Rib on rear 4/5 turns
• Body hackle- hot orange cock hackle hackle
• Wing- tied in the centre orange bucktail 1.5 hook length add 2/4 fibres of crystal flash
• Head hackle – hot orange cock
• Jungle cock – body length
• Head -Opal Mirage

Willie Gunn Tube

Willie Gun Variant

Tube – length and weight as required
Body – Black with gold rib, Gold bodied with gold oval rib, Opal mirage with Oval silver rib
Wing – Mixed bucktail yellow orange and black with crystal flash
Head hackle option – Black
Jungle cock- Optional
Cone head – Optional

Park Shrimp

Park Shrimp

• Salar Double- Size 7,9
• Thread – Red Uni thread 8/0
• Tag & Rib- Medium oval gold
• Body- Rear gold light bright or tinsel, front black floss
• Tail – Orange arctic fox or runner body length, then yellow bucktail and 3/4 strands of crystal flash twice body length. Finally orange again body length. Bind down tag ends.
• Rib – with gold oval
• Wing- Black arctic fox/arctic runner length into the orange of wing, 3-4 strands of Crystal flash
• Yellow hackle, jungle cock them orange hackle or orange badger
• Red head

Sunburst Willie Gunn Variant Trout and Salmon March 2013

Sunburst Willie Gunn

Hook – Salar Double size 9
Body- Hook shank only
Wing – Yellow and Orange Arctic Fox topped with black incorporate a few strands of tinsel
Hackle- Yellow followed by Orange Badger
Cheeks – Jungle Cock

Tie in the hackles first as they will give the wing some lift

Finally just to prove that I like the colour I posted this fly a couple of years ago under “Alaskabou Style”

New River, New Rod and Line

Friday, September 21st, 2012

I had an invite a couple of months ago to go and fish the Findhorn we booked and agreed the 13th September.  The day before arrived and I began to  doubt the sense of driving 3 hours there and back.  Nevertheless my host had taken the time and trouble to book the fishing and invite me so off I went leaving home at 5.30am.

My host Ian met me at Dulsie Bridge the gorge section of the river, turns out we were going to fish at the top of this section on the Cawdor Castle, Banchor beat.  This gorge on the Findhorn stretches from here down almost to Forres some 20 miles.

Looking upstream to the top of the beat. Suspension bridge that links to the east bank.

I new that the river would not be very wide so I was delighted to have taken my new Bob Meiser 13 ft which I had bought primarily for skagit casting from their Highlander Classic series.   Whilst I have no great opportunity to fish skagit  as a game angling instructor I needed to know about it and have the kit.  It does however give me the opportunity to have a set up which will enable me to fish in tight locations.  Instead of a skagit I have been linking this rod with a Rio, Scandi Short Versi Tip shooting head.  The rod is rate #6/7/8 with a grain window of 450 to 750 and this is a #8 weight line what can I say the versatility this outfit gives is amazing.

The rod itself is 4 piece with a through action it bends right down into the butt when using skagit lines.  It is not as light as some but extremely well put together and finished off.  At first I was not keen on the look of the part cork/composite handle but with time have grown accustomed to this finish.  The very distinctive jungle cock feather varnished into the butt section makes the rod easily recognisable as a Meiser.

Meiser Jungle Cock

Now for the scandi short line, it weighs in at 485 grains and is a #8 and it does exactly what it says in the packed and more.  Developed by Rio as a shooting head for smaller rivers and tight casting situations.  To be used with shorter double handed rods It comes as a kit and includes 4 interchangeable 10ft tips (Floating, Clear Intermediate, Type 3 Sink, Type 6 Sink).  The more, to me is that I have since used it on the Tay a big river and did not feel under gunned.  Ok you have to strip in a lot of running line but it works a treat.  I have tended to use the skagit where I have had clients who need to get spey casting in quick time.  This line is even better for this and I used it recently with a client planning a weeks fishing  and he asked to keep it for the week, so I hope to get it back!

Black and white pools

Now back to the fishing.  The river was running off after a little rain and looked as though it could maybe have done with a little more water.  Ian was quickly into a fish in the Buck pool which was quickly on and off.  He later told me that he has never managed to land a fish on this beat!  We fished on down the entire beat hoping from rock to rock.  If you are infirm in anyway this is not the beat for you.  Lunch was taken in the splendid hut available on the water and my host had made  a superb lunch including wine which I resisted as I knew I had a long drive home.

My host Ian in the Cow Pool

The afternoon was time for a fly change and I put a red francis tied on a size 10 long shank treble.  I had never used this fly before everyone said it was good but for some reason I resisted it, the limited colour I think put me off, being all red.

Red Francis

I could not understand why though as I had in the distant passed used natural dyed shrimps and GP’s.  As you might imagine it worked as I entered the big rock pool not the biggest fish in the world I would guess about 7lb but a nice clean fish for this time of year.

So there it is my first fish on this fly, on this river , on the line and on this rod always a joy.











As  a post script I was on the Tay a couple of days later and the red francis worked again this time on a fish that was approximately 17lb coloured as you can see,  on my Scott MacKenzie 15 ft partnered with another great line from Rio the AFS.

Tay Salmon approximately 17lb


I am told that the black francis will also work a treat but that might well be a step to far.