The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a drain, physically and time-wise, mainly through work but with my pager now off until the New Year, and a day largely to myself on Saturday I was awake, ( as I am apt to be these days when I could be lying in!) bright and early with no clear plan.

My Mrs had to work, the Christmas build up has swept up her particular sector of manufacturing and I looked out the window of the bedroom as I heard her getting ready to leave and wondered what I should do. I kind of felt I should head down the river for the Grayling but it seemed to have rained again overnight and I wasn’t really sure how the weather was set for the day. 

Brewing up a storm, little did I realise how much the calm would be shattered by the next hour’s fishing

The last forecast I had seen suggested showers, and the sky was black looking to the south. In my mind too was that I needed to take a run in to Swanswater and get my name in for the annual “Day After Boxing Day” charity competition*. So that was  mind made up, I would head to Swanswater, a place I rarely fish first thing in the morning, while it is very local, the days I am up and out my bed early I tend to reserve for the river.

I was round there for about 9, not excessively early and was amazed to see only two cars in the car park. I soon learned both these anglers were fishing from boats so when I made my way onto the main loch I had the entire bank to choose from.

The day after Boxing Day Competition

Held annually at Swanswater in support of Strathcarron Hospice this is a fun event to get you out the house after too much food and drink from the days previous. This year Alastair is taking the full event fee up front (£20) as despite deposits being paid in prior years, anglers still no-show and it is unfair to those who wanted to attend but could not get a place, and also reduces the ultimate amount raised, for what is after all a charity event. Angling is C&R and you spend a predefined amount of time at each allocated peg before moving to your next spot. You will fish all the way round the fishery on the day of the event. Morna always makes a lunch of pies, hot soup or sandwiches which is always good on a cold winters day. Get your name down now before it fills up ( I think you can sign up over the phone and pay by card). And bring something for the raffle on the day. There are usually some good prizes to be won both from the fishing and the raffle.

It was very still and I chose to make my first few casts near the dam wall. One of the boat anglers seemed to be catching “something” and it appeared it was Perch, I think I saw him pull out two or three in successive casts, Hhe was telling me later he was also getting wee Brown Trout to his lures first thing too.

When I had been getting my ticket, Alastair was saying the fish were quite high in the water and wanting something to chase. So for my initial set up I had a small lure on point, a leggy Zonker type thing in Viva colours, nothing enormous, about a size 10. I had a tailed flashback Diawl Bach on the middle dropper and a Yellow blob on the top. Once again I was surprised how clear the water was and it seems fairly low for the time of year ( in relative terms). I never caught sight of a fish in my first ten minutes and nothing seemed eager to try my fly. I had seen fish top though further up the loch and so opted to move up to the very top on the platform opposite the shelter. This gives a wide arc of water to cover. Something was moving right in at the edge and so I started casting to the margins on my left then worked round. Nothing. I changed the point fly for a Copper headed Cat and tried once more. Still nothing.

Not a fish did I see either, and knowing there are a fair few “Goldies” in just now that seemed to suggest they weren’t here where I was fishing. A few more anglers had started to drift in and with one on the Island fishing into the main basin I thought maybe now was a good time to head to fish the channel between the road and island before it got too busy and while I had my choice of spots. This proved to be very, very prescient.

As I had my pick I took the time with my polaroids on to have a look at each spot in turn and see if I could see anything. At the platform on the actual channel but with a view towards the  tree lined bank and the dam wall peg off at about 1 o’clock I was sure I saw something right tucked in near the far bank. I cast right across and sure enough I had a follow, a golden trout came along behind my fly but seemed to lose interest as it got a few rod lengths out. I tried again and then saw a fish move to my left but illicited no more interest. Another fly change. I took off the blob and opted for another DB with a different colour tail, and on the point…. let’s try the Christmas Tree Decoration again… it worked the last time I fished for Goldies. I think i mentioned this  in my last blog from Swanswater, it was a small lue, tied from what appears to be the strands from Gold Christmas Tree Garland but in the style of a damsel. ( I found it, interestingly at the very peg I was now standing at, the year before).

Unprecedented

What happened next is unprecedented ( for me)  in all my years fishing.

I cast out just as two anglers arrived to my left. By the time the fly had fished back about 1/3 of the way, towards me, there was a Golden Trout attached to the hook! A very soft take but I was delighted to be into a fish nonetheless. A Golden trout getting close to four lb I reckoned, certainly over three. I noticed a twist in my leader following this unhooking and decided now was a good time to change from the green Maxima I was trying ( I don’t think it was ideal in the clarity of the water in front of me) and made up a new leader in 6lb Sightfree flourocarbon.

Fish On! This fish was getting on for 5lb ( my neighbours estimate) Certainly it was a heavy lift in the net!

Next cast I tried the same spot, fishing outright to the far bank…. number two was on, another goldie and this time while I thought a very good four pound male with a clearly defined kype and a deep body the angler from my left who came to see me net it, thought he would give me five lb for it. Certainly it was bigger than the last fish.

To cut a long story short, in 8 consecutive casts I netted six fish and lost one. Only one was smaller than 3lb, two of the six were on the DB’s two of the fish were Rainbows (as was the one that got away) and the other four were Gold’s. Christmas seemed to have come early for this happy angler! 

All my catching had caused quite a stir around the fishery, I think everyone had become aware of what was happening. I actually got a wee bit embarrassed and offered my spot to the chap next to me who had so far, blanked despite having changed to something similar to my fly, in his case a Humungous. Though as I mentioned to him, I was on a full intermediate line, the goldies you could see might look just below the surface but in reality they were 2-3 feet down. None of the takes I had was near the top, there was no immediate splash following them inhaling the fly. And they were very gentle takes too.

Most of the fish I caught in my catch fest of a session.
Christmas tree
Not something I tied ( actually I found it last year at the same spot it was so successful at but will need to tie some more- the Christmas Tree decoration

On my ninth cast I was almost disappointed not to get an offer, I knew exactly where the pod of fish appeared to be sitting and was sure there were still more there, as I had seen other fish follow in when I had hooked one. They probably grew weary and wary of my fly. I could have stayed put and tried some more patterns, the chap next to me said he wanted to see me get to double figures but concious I was on an obvious hotspot, I opted to move on and let others have some sport.

I looked up the top beyond the burn mouth but it was very shallow and weedy and I figured it would be a snagfest. Round by the roadside it was a little better and I did see a fish cruising amongst the weeds, and though I covered it several times and did seem to get it’s interest initially it soon became a bit spooky and I headed back round near the dam wall again.

I gave it ten minutes at a couple of spots with no further success or signs I was about to get any so decided to head down to the wee ponds, have a wee cast, maybe a get a cup of tea and try my luck there.

Almost right away I hooked a fish but it came off and again i was catching on weed a lot with my full intermediate line on. So I changed to a floater, then went for that cup of tea and a rest. Returning for a final hour, I picked up three more fish in fairly quick succession and had follows from a fair few others. On one cast I landed the fly between 5 fish I could see clearly, One immediately began to follow and varying my retreive while keeping the fishes interest wasn’t inducing the take. I saw a second fish intercept the first, and then I saw it inhale the fly. I did not for one second feel anything, the line never twitched, but for what i could see with my own eyes there was no indication a fish had taken the fly. I struck and was into the fish.

You do wonder just how often that same thing goes unobserved and the fly is rejected without you ever knowing.