Today was the annual “Day After Boxing Day” charity fishing competition at Swanswater in aid of raising funds for Strathcarron Hospice. As ever despite the very cold temperatures, there was a great turn out and I understand over £900 was raised for the hospice ( the final amount will, I am sure, be posted on Swanswater’s facebook page once Morna and Alastair have thawed out!).
I think a couple more degrees drop in temperature overnight and it would have been touch and go as at -2 Degrees C on the car temp gauge on the way to the fishery this morning and barely a breath of wind the frost was thick and hard. However it turned out to be fishable with only the area at the back of the island declared out of bounds but if it was frozen at the start by mid-day even that was fine, and in any case a breeze had got up by then anyway which helps prevent any further formation of ice.
My starting peg was 7 ( lucky 7?) right beside the tree near the dam end of the main loch. I was set up with nothing more exotic than a three fly cast of Gold bead Damsel on the point, a green tag black spider on the middle dropper and an orange blob on the top dropper. A fish actually swirled on top ( as they did throughout the day) to my left under a bough of the tree and A cast over it had a follow right in, to the blob and it splashed at it as I lifted off but no take. I gave it 15 minutes and had no action. Right opposite me on the island the angler there had caught a fish literally first cast but at that point that was all I was aware of being caught.
I changed to a small gold bead Cats Whiskers ( about a size 10, no bigger) and changed the blob to a Biscuit blob in daphnia blob fritz. Pretty much first cast with this and as I retrieved the intermediate line I felt a dragging sensation. It might just have been weed and I kept my slow retrieve coming and the drag wasn’t changing so I lifted and would you believe it I was hooked into a Golden Trout of around the 4lb mark. In competitive fishing like this, where you score 2 points for the first fish on a peg and 1 for each additional one, and no accounting for weight, you ideally you want to catch the scrawniest weakling in the pond so you can get them in quick and make them count. This wasn’t a scrawny weakling and put up a fight that lasted a good couple of minutes and took me a couple of goes to get it in the net, but net it I did and blank averted, 2 points on the card!
The whistle blew and we were off to peg 10 next up by the boat pier. I kept these flies on and after about 10-15 minutes had nothing. I stopped to take a few pictures ( as I am wont to do) and when I resumed fishing, almost right away was into another fish, a Rainbow this time, and a bit more in the standard 2lb stockie range, and though it had a few lunges into the weeds either side of me, was soon netted and released back, again on the Cats Whiskers. Right on the death just before the whistle blew I had a second Gold trout, another big fish and this time a big male with amazing colouration and a kyped jaw. It too had taken the Cat but somehow got itself rolled in the line and came in like a sack of tatties, but they all count, though it took me to cut off my hooks and the bottom section of tippet to get the fish untangled and free to swim off.
At the next peg ( unlucky 13?) after another pause for a break and some photos, was the same again, a fish on the first cast back in, and another gold on the Cat again, and again another chunky 3lb fish, that again wanted to bury itself in the weeds. My next peg was 16 and this was the one that is by the wee bridge over the burn. There are some trees in your backcast area which makes getting distance a problem and you have two anglers fairly tight in either side so there isn’t a lot of room and many anglers don’t bother casting at all here in the competitions. I was in no huge rush and was keen to save my energies so I had a cup of coffee to keep some heat in. I had a few casts at a modest range in front of me and nothing stirred but then a fish rose right in at the margins to my left, barely a rod length beyond my rod tip. I flicked out over it and would you believe it, number 5, another Gold Trout on the Cat again, came to the net, a more modest 2lb fish again. It was about then I thought I had to be doing quite well when I was catching on a peg many don’t bother with.
After this, my next two pegs were a bit of a disappointment. My initial Cat had given up the ghost and was shredded with all the fish it had taken so I retired it and replaced it with another one with a hothead as it was all I could find nearly size and weight like the first. There were fish moving all around by the bridge to the island but I never had so much as a touch and on the corner of the island ( peg 22 I think) I had nothing. I even swapped to a floating distance line to try cover more water with the extra reach but nope, not a thing and then it was the lunch break which was most welcome as the cold was starting to penetrate a bit. A cup or two of Morna’s soup was a great tonic against the chill. At lunch, I learned one other angler had 6 fish v my 5 but how they had come in terms of different pegs I had no idea.
My next peg 25 on the corner of the island raised my spirits again as I thought I was going to get something. I seen a fish splash right under a tree and taking a chance, I managed to get not one but three pulls off it, in three casts, twice it bent my rod over but evidently did not have the hook in its mouth and let go. The white zonker I now had on had a long tail so I brought it in and nipped half an inch off. I went to cast again and unfortunately was snagged on the backcast of the angler to my right and spent the next minutes remaining trying to un-snare my flies from his and the thorn bush they had landed in. The whistle blew and it was time to move. I told the next angler arriving there was a fish under this tree and I understand he got it more or less next cast!
The rest of the way round I had nothing and was quite glad to finish up at the end as the cold was eating in again with the falling sun. So, the results? Well, to be honest, I thought I might be lucky to get third as I was sure there had to be at least a couple of anglers with more fish. However the scoring system played in my favour and somehow I netted 2nd place overall, with nine points. I think the winner was ten points and there was one angler on eight for third and four more on seven tying for fourth. I think they said 66 fish were caught by the 30 anglers which shows it was tough at times. Usually I am happy to walk off without a blank and maybe a prize from the raffle but today I had a free days fishing courtesy of Swanswater ( which I will use when the weather is warmer!) and a handy long-handled boat net which I believe was donated by MC AUTO CARE of Bonnybridge who sponsored the event today. Big shout out to Marius for the generous prizes.