Let’s Fish the Clyde

As I am employed by a mostly English based firm, I am generally encouraged to take English Bank Holidays.

No one forces you but being the only man in leaves you open to all sorts of crap I would rather avoid, so Monday was a day off.

Initially I considered getting up sharp and heading to the Clyde, as I have hardly fished it at all this summer ( which isn’t in itself that unusual for me to be fair) but this year having a season ticket I felt I should try use it now that the rivers are filling up a bit again.

However I peaked out the window at 7:30am and it was wet, Sunday had not stopped raining, and word had been that the Clyde Valley was very coloured up. I looked at the river levels on the SEPA site and they looked OK for the upper river but its a bit of a traipse down to Abington. I quite fancied somewhere else but would it be fishable?

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I returned to bed to ponder it with my eyes closed!

Around midday it had at least managed to stay dry but it was dull and grey and my enthusiasm was frankly wayward but no, I wasn’t going to waste a day off.

However, it would remain to be seen if the river was an option, so I decided to hedge my bets. Plan A was the Clyde at Carstairs, and Plan B would be Newmills Trout Fishery at Lanark, not that far if I decided the river was out the question and somewhere I had not been before, so not a wasted trip.

I was parked by the river by 13:00 and peered over the bridge. It was REALLY windy. If you know this area at all you will be aware, as I am, that it is very exposed and a mere breeze at home means a howling gale up here. It wasn’t windy at all when I left home but had got progressively breezier as I crossed West Lothian.

Plan A

Under normal circumstances I would have taken a look and decided, nope, this isn’t going to work, but then a fish rose….. then another. It was blowing a right hooly, was not particularly warm and the rain was making squally attempts at a downpour…. but there were fish moving…..

SIMMS Vibram Soled Headwater Pro Boots 

Simms Aluminium studs
Simms Aluminium studs fitted. Could probably do with a second pack

A wee update on my thoughts on using rubber soled boots for wading so far this season.
For the way I fish, so far I cannot tell a lie, I love them. If you follow this blog you will know I fish both rivers and lochs. (Jack of all trades, master of none). Whether I am out on the river or loch one thing thats common to both is walking on banks often wet grass and sometimes mud. Felts, for all their grip on slimey rocks( and I would have to admit there isn’t a material better at that particular job), are a nightmare out the water on a low grip surface. I can honestly say this year there are a couple of places I have fished that wearing felts would have made impossible for me and I would suggest most people. Traversing steep slimey slopes just doesn’t work in felt boots, and moreso when you have the physical challenges of arthritic joints, feet and knees.
Loch fishing doesn’t need felts, in my experience, the places I fish the bottoms tend to be fairly even and either stoney or silty. Wading tends to be easier in a loch generally compared to rivers.
I have used my new boots in a number of rivers now, from the spring creeks of Virginia USA to the Welsh Usk, my local, the River Carron and the Clyde a couple of times. Each is totally different in character. 
My first venture on a river in Virgina was a slip-fest it was like walking on marbles but in my haste to try get a cast I hadn’t fitted the aluminium Star cleats to my boots. No doubt whatsoever, without some supplementary grip system, rubber soles aren’t just poor, they are positively dangerous and scary. Like walking on black ice.
However with the cleats fitted, its a revelation. I have not had a single slip since.
You do have to keep an eye on the cleats, I notice I have lost one already and they are not particularly cheap at £20 for a pack of 10 (Simms) but they do work and on balance taking both walking on the bank AND in the water they are ( so far at least) superior overall. 
Once I have had a winter out them I will be better placed to give a final verdict but for me on balance they are great.

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The Coo with the Moo

I tackled up with my 4 weight rod and set up for a dry fly, I wasn’t sure what fly to try but that Clyde favourite, a Jingler seemed appropriate in the conditions, there was a bit of a wave on the water and while it was far from dirty it had some colour, like strongish tea.

My first cast rose a fish in near the edge, I was pretty sure just a wee one, and the second a modest fish came clean out the water about half it’s body length but somehow never took the fly., no more than 6 feet from the near edge. A few more casts and nothing as I worked my way up the edge but I had not, at least spooked the fish as they continued to rise, to what I had no idea, behind me.
Back to the start and a sit on the bank and ponder my options. The Jingler was a size 12 so down a size to a size 14 McPhails Emerger. First cast a huge bulge beneath the fly but again no take. No more interest, so another change. Casting wasn’t too bad but the fly was often landing at right angles to the line of approach blown by the wind as the leader turned over, only a fairly sharp delivery really smacking the fly at the water got things in line but only a buoyant pattern would tolerate that kind of presentation. A wee midge never got so much as a sniff and was getting drowned in the waves and gusts.

I then tied on a big Lifejacket Caddis (#12) with a wee orange beaded nymph ( about a #16). First cast near the bank and it ducked under and I had a pretty small Brown trout. While this was going on a cow from the herd on the other side of the bridge had appeared on the bank nearby and started moo’ing incessantly. And I mean incessantly…. like constant for about the next 3 hours! It was like psychological torture. I don’t know if it was moo’ing at me or what but it was brutal at times. It never bothered me when I passed it later on and was still at it when I was away down the field later. 
Anyway also while this was happening a fish rose a couple of times mid-channel, and seemed at least half decent judging by the rise and the speed of the current it was sat in. Fishing dead drift across about three lanes of current is hard at the best of times so I worked my way out towards it with my cast fishing each “lane” in turn. At lane two a fish grabbed the caddis and leapt. It was too fast for the slack I had needed to allow to get the drift right and though I lifted quickly there was just too much slack to recover and it was off. Not to worry onto the main quarry and this time second cast the fish made a slashy rise at the fly, I am not so sure it touched it, I don’t think it did but I saw its flank as it turned and it was a good fish. That was the last I seen of that one.

Moo’ving on

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Back to the nymph under a dry, as I knew this run having fished it in higher water in winter I knew that you could cross the deep looking channel. I crossed over, and got the wind behind me and suddenly it was casting and dead drifting respectably. The big caddis was rising fish but they were not taking so I changed to a Pheasant tail parachute fly and I tied the nymph off the eye of the hook to swim about 15″ below. Now I was getting confident takes. I had about 4 or 5 fairly small fish all the way up here. The pressure was on though as an AA patrolman stopped his van and sat watching me fish for about half an hour. I was fairly conscious of the audience but at least he saw me catch and came out his van,  after a couple of fish, to ask me what I was using and talk tactics. I was though quite aware of being watched and never took any photos of the better fish though they were pretty small, probably just shy of half a pound even the best one.

Clyde Brown
A wee Clyde wild Brown Trout

I must admit, I was having a bit of facebook banter with a fishing friend the other day and I was saying I have become a bit of a “chip fish” magnet this season, and arguably last year too. I don’t know what I have to do to hook and land a decent Brown Trout these days, it just isn’t happening.

Nonetheless, I fished on for a while it looked like the sun might make an appearance  and the wind drop so I decided to wander along to another spot. However by the time I got there if anything it got colder, darker windier and wetter and not a fish did I see or touch. As I had also turned a corner in the river to get here, the wind direction was different and casting with any accuracy was near enough impossible. I gave up and headed back towards the car. As I arrived back at my starting point I noticed another angler setting up and the sun suddenly came out…. obviously the sun shines on the righteous, that’s just not me. I took advantage of his personal localized incoming weather pattern and tried one more go for the decent fish that eluded me earlier, it was still there and still rising but never looked at my fly though I did snare one more wee fish on the dry. 

Sun on the Clyde
The Clyde once the sun had come out, still windy though

Over the day had about 7 of which 5 were ont he dry and a couple on the nymph and I have to say while it wasnice to be on a big river again it was a bit hard going conditions at times. Tryng to even tie a knot in 3lb nylon in a gale is nothing short of a lesson in frustration