For information about where to fish on the Deveron Follow this link
For Information about where to fish on the Spey Follow this link
After stepping on dog poo, which was virtually friction free, last November my knee has been a little fragile after my left leg went west and my right knee hit the pavement at 100mph.
I haven't been out fishing so far this year, but when angling is in the blood you just have to go no matter what. Hoping for the sympathy vote I expected Lady Luck to be kind to me, so I hopped of to my favourite fishing haunts up North.
I called Charlie Whelan to say I would be coming up to Speyside on the last Wednesday in March to fish on the angling club water at Grantown.
Until the 31st of March permits are a bargain at half price and there is always a chance of a springer.
On the way I decided to conduct a photographic tour for my SpinFish photo library and ended up, predictably, on the banks of the river Deveron which is quite possibly my number one salmon fishing river.
As it happened the Deveron was in fine condition and I could not resist it's allure. A quick call to Charlie and I had changed my plans to give me a day on the Cornihaugh / Mains of Mayens beat.
When I went to get my permit from George Manson he cheered me no end by reporting, that there had been some fish off the river at Netherdale, Lathers, Avochie, Rothiemay and bless, Cornihaugh so with spirits high on a foggy morning I drove the few miles from Huntly to Corniehaugh just a mile and a half down stream from Rothiemay.
The first thing to catch my attention was the posh new fishing hut on the Mains of Mayen side of the beat and the new boat mooring on the Boat Pool.
I later discovered from the ghillie that the boat is used only to transport people across the river. Pity, for I have often thought that a boat would be the perfect way to fish Long Cast which can be heaving with fish that are just out of reach even for Scottie MacKenzie.
There was a real chill in the air caused by the heavy mist so it was with some trepidation that I tackled up and pulled on my fishing gear.
I normally wear neoprene waders at this time of year but with my mobility restricted by the injured knee I had decided to invest in a pair of Greys GRX breathables.
With my thermal undies and a pair of hill walkers lined trousers to keep me warm I pulled on the light weight waders which seem so flimsy after using neoprene for so long. Would I be freezing in the nether regions? I would soon find out.
The Boat Pool beckoned and I started to fish from just above the croy. Fish lie close into the Mains of Mayen bank from the stones (to left of the picture) along the left hand edge of the flow down to the white marker post.
A gravel bar causes the pool to shallow on the right side of the flow, a cracking good lie, not to be missed.
Some years ago I hooked into a superb fish well into the 20s fishing from the croy opposite, it came loose eventually, ho - hum!
A thorough fish through the pool down to the hut was unproductive then, just as the sun broke through the mist, I spotted the first fish of the day rolling in Island.
Island does fish best from the Corniehaugh bank so I trundled up stream to fish Moses.
Moses is divided into three parts, upper, middle and lower. At this time of year I only fish the middle and lower part of the pool. In the summer however the the streamy upper pool and flats below the trees can hold good stocks of salmon and sea trout.
Fish lie from mid river to the right or Cornihaugh bank in Moses although you should fish right into the 'V' glide where Moses flows between the croys into the Boat Pool, especially when fish are running.
The pool is an easy wade but another thorough pass through my second pool of the day proved fruitless.
Next on my list was Woodfold which fishes best from the Mains of Mayen bank, being the inside of the bend. When fish are running in good water they can be seen rolling so close to the bank that they almost brush the over hanging grass.
It is worth bearing that in mind, leave the fly on the dangle for a bit longer than usual. Woodfold is again a pleasant wade but it too proved to be unproductive.
By now I had thoroughly tested my new waders and the verdict was excellent. I wasn't cold in the least and I had the freedom of movement that breathables afford. Walking and casting had become less exacting than it would have been in corset tight neoprenes. A positive note for the day.
After lunch I crossed over to the Corniehaugh beat as I had seen another fish move in Island, my favourite pool on the whole beat,s it is where I took my biggest fish to date, a hen of about 22lbs which was returned safely. Sadly no one had a camera that day so the fish remains nothing more than a fond memory.
Fishing through Island twice I came up blank. Just not my day. In the picture below to the left you can see what is referred to as the island. Start fishing about 30 yards upstream of the island on the Corniehaugh side and fish right down to the burn mouth.
Fish lie throughout the this water especially in the 'V' flow below the Island, leave the fly on the dangle for a bit as salmon lie close into the bank. Play with your mend here try an upstream mend to keep the fly lingering, then a down stream mend to induce a quick transit.
Add a slow retrieve as you move into the deeper slower water towards the burn mouth. I fished the water quite thoroughly but failed to move any of the fish I had seen earlier. Time for a break.
As I sat on the river chucking sticks for my dog I heard an almighty splash and looked up to see a chap on the other side of the river with a bend in his rod. Someone into a fish at last. A trout as it happened but a cracker that fought well above its weight. Sportingly the angler returned the trout to live and tantalise anglers another day.
I wish I had more to report for my day on the Deveron but Lady Luck wasn't with me, even the kelts were absent.Who cares, the place is magical.
On Thursday I arrived on the Spey encountering dim weather conditions with the water at 41 / 42 degrees. The river looked enticing with a nice steady height of water for the time of year. Off course 42 degrees is 3 degrees below what you need for salmon fly fishing. At these temperatures spinning is the way to go, much as it breaks by back. Graham in Mortimers Tackle shop confirmed matters when he reported that the week before, week ending 25th of March, five fish had been taken all on the spinner.
With the portents in mind Charlie and I drove down to the river. As we tackled up I asked Charlie if he had taken any kelts. His reply was a negative, there were no kelts since the massive winter spates and few had been taken since the start of the season. That is good news because it means that these spent fish have made it back to the sea where they can recover and flourish, it also means that when a fish takes you have confidence that it is a fresh salmon.
We had an enjoyable morning fishing with nothing to report but I have to say that unproductive hours in this stunning Speyside setting is easy compensation for an empty bag.
After a quick lunch we returned to the river about 1.30pm. Charlie reckoned on the Saddle, Bends and Tarric Mor and typical of the guy he sent me into the Saddle Pool which is always a good option for a spring fish while he had a go at Poll Caich.
There is a spot on the Saddle Pool that isn't just a holding spot - its a taking spot. I had two fish there on the last day of the season a couple of years ago and Charlie had a spring fish from the same locality last year.
I decided to fish the length of the pool rather than just the hot spot and with each step down the pool me ticker beat harder. Knowing the hot spot in the Saddle Pool leads one to the temptation to go straight in, which must be resisted as there are opportunities throughout the pool that shouldn't be missed.
My Silver Stoat treble gave me confidence on a dull day. I watched the line and kept a small loop of line over the skin on the sensitive joint on my fore finger hoping for a pull. A tweak, detected by that little bit of receptive skin said a fish was about. The lightness of the touch suggested a small trout but as Charlie has found out on the Findhorn in gin clear water with the ghillie, Ewan Mason, standing on high ground observing what Charlie felt were trout takes were indeed salmon.
With that in mind I recast to the same spot and just as the fly was on the last part of the traverse through the lie coming to the dangle I had a pull followed by the signal that salmon fishers everywhere will know, the weight of a solidly hooked fish. I lifted the rod and tightened into a salmon - the fight was on. You can see from the photograph that the fish was horsing up stream and Charlie had said that all of the kelts had gone. Since he and many others subscribed to that view I got a real buzz on, my first Spey springer!
Now the first fish has to be returned for conservation reasons so my initial thought process consisted of a mulling over of the morals of whether to tell a lie and declare two fish for the day thus enabling me to keep this one. To the right side of my mind was the kill it contingent, to the left side was the return it group. When I saw the fish out there in the water and I saw a flash of silver both parties in my divided self had a serious debate. As it happened the moral majority held the day and since I had my camera with me on this occasion I knew I could get a picture which is enough to confirm to sceptics that a fish had been taken. The fish would be returned safely.
Moments after I took the picture of the fish driving up stream I noticed the dorsal fin of the fish was frayed, then the fish keeled over and came to me like a pair of wet knickers! The bubble burst for against the odds it was a kelt! Grasping the leader I pulled the fish to me and unhooked it with my foreceps without taking it out of the water, why land and distress a fish you are going to return?
As I sat on the river bank, hands shaking, I thought to myself that kelts are a springtime anglers bonus. They bring a spot of excitement on a cold day, moments of is it / isn't it questioning but be gentle with them, they are the future big spawners.
Two days fishing, one salmon kelt to show for it. Thus endeth my first two days fishing in 2007. I will be off trout fishing somewhere next week, I do fancy a go on the Clyde, lets hope I meet a tasty trout or two..