Yesterday I finally made good on my intention to get out again on the River Leader, tributary of the Tweed, on my season ticket, purchased at the beginning of the year. My attempt at a day out here the other week ended up in a rather expensive aborted trip at the Galadean turning.

I wanted to fish the top section of the Earlston water, as I hadn’t been here before. Its always with a little trepidation you approach a new water, you haven’t fished before. You don’t know where the lies and decent runs are and I always feel like there is someone passing in a car thinking or saying….”whats that eejit fishing there for, everyone knows there aren’t any fish there….!” . So a trip like this you need to put down as exploratory and expect to come away fishless, anything else is a bonus.

Salmon carcass

The carcasses of spent Salmon litter the riverbank

I did find a good access to the river and got parked and kitted up close by. As I approached the water over a bridge though the smell of rotten fish was plainly evident. The cause was clear, there were a lot of spent salmon carcasses by the river. Looks like the Otter’s won’t be going hungry any time soon. This was also ( I forgot to be honest as I don’t follow the salmon seasons closely) the final day of the Tweed salmon season. There are still a few fish in the river and I seen a few big carcasses as well as a couple of spent but still holding on, fish which were good sized on the day. I always think its very sad when one of these fish passes you by upside down having run its life cycle.

Fishing with bugs

Bugging on the River Leader

The water near the bridge looked a bit thin so I decided not to just go clattering in and start fishing but to move until I seen somewhere that looked more likely. Working my way down the bank there were several spent fish marking their presence by the smell of rotting. I came to a short glide above some rocky thinner water and at first look it was kind of hard to tell how dee it was further out, but near in it looked fishy. I managed to enter slightly upstream and get myself in position to fish down close into what was the near bank relative to my passage down the river side. Right enough there was maybe 3 feet of reasonably paced water here, and it was worth a cast. I normally fish a team of three bugs but the river depth here didn’t seem to warrant that so I was set up with just two and I had decided to fit my Czech Nymph French Leader. Not because I felt I overtly needed the reach but I just find it to be a supremely flexible way to fish. I can still fish a short line just like conventional nymphing but have the ability to get more distance if the situation dictates.

There was what looked like a deeper hole near an undercutting in the bank and I have to say I really expected  to find a fish here, if anywhere on this first section so I took my time getting a quiet approach and lobbed my bugs in upstream to trundle down. My second cast I had a definite fast knock on the flies but whatever it was didnt take . I have a feeling it may have been a small trout using the eroded bank for shelter, it had that kind of feel to it. A few more casts failed to illicit any sort of response so I decided to change flies and I tied on a Davy Downie style Squirmy wormy bug and run it through, in the hope that any fish here would be atuned to getting earth worms from the bank side erosion. But nothing took me, and I kept fishing down. At the end of the run I headed back to get my gear to make my way downstream when two cars stopped near by clearly with anglers looking to fish. One went away but the other seemed to park up somewhere out of sight.

The river was kind of hard to follow on the bank I had chosen to make my way down and had to work my way round some thick bushes to find another clear access to the waters edge. I had a look here, and once again the fishable water looked close in. I run some bugs through the near at hand water first obeying the principle that you shouldnt walk where you haven’t fished then with nothing doing made my way across the river and upstream to start in some faster water. As i was fishing another angler came by, and we stopped to blether. The chap was very helpful and pointed me at a few areas to look at. He was commenting that the river was still quite low  and fish were maybe going to be harder to find. As we talked the rain came on pretty heavily. I carried on fishing and completed the section again without any indication of a fish nearby.

The next bit down was much deeper and the chap I spoke to had indicated it was a good spot though he had beat me to it. I never see that as too much of a problem though with Grayling fishing. They are not shy fish and it can be the simple act of running the right fly at the right time through the swim that gets the fish regardless of those coming first. I have seen  this time and again. So after stopping for a rest and a couple of cups of soup I made ready to fish. The water was much deeper here, I couldn’t see the bottom and working down the section you needed to take care as the sharply steepening bottom dragged your feet down into the abyss below! It was also over hung with trees and I did manage to hook my flies up there unfortunately- along side many others from what I could see!

Nothing again, but the weather brightened. It amazed me when i looked at the time how long I had been down on the river! I realised I probably wasn’t going to get much more fishing done so I headed further down stream once again looking maybe for a final swim to fish. I eventually found some deeper water but another pair of anglers had beat me too it here too, this was the guys from the first car that had arrived and left again. They had come at the glide from the bottom of the section rather than like me from the top. I decided just to stop and watch and the guy I was beside was very chatty, telling me about the local fishing. I found out- and its useful to be aware that Earlston Garage- where you usually get your permits for the river is now closed so permits are kind of hard to get these days. The only remaining outlets are hotels and they open at night which isn’t much good for day ticket anglers. I also learned that the summer levels were especially low this year ( as I expected with the weather) . There was I heard, real fears that the resident Grayling population took a bit of a hit and many fish either died due to low oxygen levels or retreated down into the Tweed itself, as few fish were being caught this year. The chap said he had managed two small fish on this pool initially and as we talked he caught a small fingerling sized Grayling. That would need to be one of this years fish so some spawning had been successful in my view. There were a few spent salmon still here too as one made a few rolls in the water in front of us. A fish also rose too and the guy invited me to have a go as I had taken the precaution of bringing a dry fly set up too on my Streamflex rod. I put a tiny olive over the foam line where the fish had risen a few times but it never showed again. I don’t think it was a Grayling as it never left the characteristic bubbles you get when Grayling rise, and shortly after a salmon made an appearance near where the rises had been , and had probably moved any fish sat there. It was now after three and after the other anglers departed made my way further down stream but on reaching a harder to pass spot decided I had come far enough, it would be getting dark soon and it was a fair walk back to the car. A nice day out, I was surprised how sore the old feet were by the time I made it back, though nothing that could be attributed to the cold as i was roasting, it wasn’t that cold. Nice to be out and somewhere different too.