Me, Trad Wets and the Osprey

A few weeks ago I was having a rake around in a cupboard and came across a fly box, and it was full of mostly traditional winged wet flies. Some of these I tied myself (poorly- winged wets are not a speciality of mine) and some date back literally to when I was a lad fishing back in the late 70’s early 80’s. As you can maybe detect, I don’t really use this style of fly these days. Having said that back in 2011 when I fished Loch Laro up in the highlands I didn’t really start getting fish until I tied on a Grouse and Claret wet fly, and the wee wild Browns seemed to love it. There is no reason why these flies shouldn’t work, they just seem to have gone out of fashion with anglers, me included. They have worked for years and years previously and to the best of my knowledge fish have no collective memory passed on from generation to generation-“watch out for those Butchers lad, they will have you a gonner..”

So up at Pendreich tonight after a few casts over the grey water from the dam wall, another angler who had been using the boat called it a night and I decided it was worth having a few casts out on the loch from there. There wasn’t a bad ripple on the water, it wasn’t cold at all, but it was a bit grey and rain was forecast. There was barely a fish moving, one of these dour looking evenings.

Popper Hoppers

Popper Hoppers. The Olive variety seemed to work for my first fish

Having said that the other angler had managed seven fish though not sure how long he had been out for. He said it had been a bit hot and cold, with fish taking in bursts of activity, but then going quiet or just swirling at flies. A “Popper Hopper” had he said been working until his lost its wee foam head. So bearing all this in mind I headed out. Around the weed beds on the North East side I was just getting started with my Ginger Muddler on point, a GRHE on the middle dropper and a Kate McLaren on top dropper when two fish swirled not 10 yards to my right. I covered them and got an immediate reaction with them splashing at the Kate. This happened so often had I had a fish for every splash or swirly in that first ten minutes I would have been into double figures in that short time! But not one actual take. It then seemed to still and quietened down, no doubt the fish were fed up seeing the same flies passing them so I changed things around a little. The muddler was doing much the same job as the Popper Hopper mentioned earlier but I found one of the more modern varieties in my dry fly box and put it on the point. I replaced the Kate and the GRHE with a Soldier Palmer ( another fly I rarely use) thinking the change of colour might help in the gloomy conditions on the middle dropper, and a Dry Loch Ordie on top.

Stocked Brown Trout

The first fish took the Popper Hopper right in close to the margins

As soon as I cast this trio out, the splashy swirls started again especially at the Soldier Palmer but they still weren’t taking. I decided a wee move was needed and moved round to the east side facing the entry into the nature reserve. While there I noticed even less fish moving and it really went very quiet though the rain did start a bit off and on. After a fair few casts, from nowhere I had a splashy rise to the Popper Hopper and a fish was on, from right in close to the margins. A typical Pendreich fish of about a pound. However the fishing here wasn’t getting pulses racing and after watching the Swans have a wee swim about the weedy nature reserve with their very small cygnets and watching the Osprey search for Piscine Prey I decided to head back near to my previous spot again, it was less of a row if the weather got bad.

It was very dour though and it was then I thought, why not try some trad wets? I tied on a Bloody Butcher that I am confident was one I got from Woolworth’s back in the 70’s. Remember when Woolies sold fishing flies in wee packets? There weren’t any angling shops in Musselburgh where I grew up so Woolies was the local “Fly shop”. This Butcher was easily a size 10 and might have been a size 8, about as big a fly as I have used in some time on point. On the dropper I put on an Invicta, this one was one of my early tying efforts. You could tell what it was supposed to be but frankly, it wasn’t going to be challenging Davy McPhail’s fly tying reputation any time soon. But why not? Let’s see if the old boys still work? I went back to a Kate on top dropper. I did like how the big old Butcher being on a larger hook anchored the whole team in the water so it was fishing just below the surface.

A nice Brown trout on a trad wet

A pretty fish with a more discerning eye took the old Bloody Butcher from way back!

I had just watched the Osprey plummet into the water behind me and fail to get dinner when it tried a second time, and this time slowly managed to lift off with a fish in its talons. As it disappeared over the tree line to the west I cast to the weed beds and with a fairly fast retrieve I suddenly had a bit of a thump and would you believe it, but the Butcher had lured a fish! Not a bad trout too, probably a pound and a quarter to maybe a pound and a half. It had a bit of a belly on it and looked to have been feeding well. After putting that back I was encouraged to try again and yes! Another fish this time to the Invicta. Scruffy and unkempt it might have been but it fooled this smaller than usual fish. Had it not been it had slightly ragged pectoral fins I would have thought this was a wild fish as it was quite small for a stockie at probably less than 3/4lb.

So a lot of fun and I really must keep that old box of trad wets handy as it is a wee change to try something rarely used ( by me at least).