Yesterday ( Thursday ) was the annual, “Day after Boxing Day” charity fishing competition at Swanswater. A full complement of twenty-four anglers were in attendance to occupy the twenty-four staked out pegs in benefit of the Strathcarron Hospice. The main body of Swanswater along with the channel behind the island were to be the area used for this annual event, forgoeing the roadside and the section near the mouth of the burn where there is still quite a lot of weed. The water clarity seems to have been very good this year at Swanswater, and while that is definitely nicer for the angler, the weed too has seemingly had plenty light to keep growing even in the colder weather.

The Luck of the Draw

I drew peg twenty-two as my starting point and with a three peg move each forty minutes I was pretty pleased with this. While it is a fun competition and no one takes it teribly seriously- ask someone what fly they are using they will likely tell you, it is always good to have a good draw. As the day wears on and the fish take shelter from twenty-four lines dropping down on top of them, it does get progressively harder to find and catch fish. Twenty-two was on the back of the island fishing into the channel between that and the road, and was adjacent to where I did rather well a few weeks back.

More luck?

Tying on a new fly
My neighbour assessing fly selection

As the whistle blew to start proceedings my luck seemed enhanced as the angler on peg one- right by the dam wall at the entrance, was immediately rewarded with a fish first cast. Peg one would be my next move so this seemed on the face of it, fortuitous.

One to the net in the dawn light
A first fish in the early dawn light to my neighbour on peg twenty-one

My second cast seemed to be lucky too, and I felt a gentle take, I lifted and two shakes of a head, the fish was off. Oh dear! Maybe not so lucky? I kept at it though and at 09:14 I netted my first Rainbow of the day. My neighbour for the day on peg twenty-one was also soon into a fish then I had my second another rainbow. I was fishing a two fly cast, once again that tatty but still holding together Christmas-tree decoration was on point, and a strangely coloured Blob another angler gave me to try a few weeks back. It was one fish apiece early on, to each fly. The angler to my left ( Jim I think his name was) also scored a fish on the very corner of the island.

Peg Twenty-four

The outstanding peg though early on was Peg twenty-four, beside the sluice on the dam wall. The angler there, Stuart Marshall, netted four fish and dropped a further five in that early session. it appeared to be the hotspot….not on my peg cycle though. My neighbour on twenty-one must have been eager at the prospect of his next stop there.

Peg twenty-four was the hotspot all day
Stuart into one of the 4 fish he netted and 9 in total hooked on this peg twenty-four.

It wasn’t to be for any of us however, me on peg one, I never so much as had a look at a fish close in to the dam wall, and on peg twenty-four the fish were clearly visible to my neighbour, but he couldn’t reach them without catching in the trees behind, he said there was a pod of Golden Trout just sat right out in the middle. All round the fishery things just went quiet. There had been 18 fish caught in that initial opening frenzy then the rest of the morning seemed very flat, with only the very odd fish being picked off here and there.

Lunch Break

As ever Morna puts on a wee lunch for the anglers, with a cup of hot soup and a hot roll and sausage plus cakes and biscuits and even a wee nip if you are so inclined. The break at lunch is always a useful pause as the fishing stops throughout the water and the fish often move back in closer to the anglers. It is also a welcome opportunity to warm up on a cold day, though it has to be said this year was particularly mild.

Another angler find success at Peg Twenty-four
Eventual winner, Garry Waugh brings one of his max quota of 5 fish on a peg, to the net on peg twenty-four

Twenty-four strikes golds again

As the whistle blew for recommencement of hostilities, the angler on peg twenty-four, was once again in about the fish and he made no mistakes, netting his max quota of five fish in rapid time. By this time I was up the opposite end of the loch, in the “far bay” and though I did see a fish – a golden trout cruise by, I wasn’t blessed with one taking my flies. By now I had tried both of my two rods, and had used everything from buzzers, to small nymphs to Yellow Dancers, and Diawl Bachs with no luck.

A rare fish taken nea the top pf the loch
Stuart in on a two point fish under the bung- this one was the critical fish that got him the third placing on seven points.

Two pegs up the angler who had started on twenty-four, Stuart, managed to pick up a passing by fish under the bung. For much of the time the wind had dropped right off and pretty much every angler was on buzzers under indicators in the flat calm conditions, even me!

The officials
Keeping things fair, the “officials”

The top end by this time seemed to be on the whole though, a bit of a dead loss, and very few were caught in later sessions up the top end. For my part I decided to conserve my strength ( I cannot tell a lie, I was starting to feel the effects of a relatively long session in my joints), for my last peg.

Final efforts

Peg Nineteen my last stop of the day, was on the island once again with enough of an angle to be able to fish towards the overflow on the dam. I would not be getting anywhere near that but it was evident all afternoon that the fish were sat out from there as angler after angler on peg twenty-four picked off two, three and sometimes even four fish up there. I reckoned a few fish had to be hanging back far enough from the peg that with a really long cast you might be able to attract one your way from the island.

Another angler catches at Peg twenty-four
Another angler “in” on peg twenty-four though I think this one got off before it was netted.

While on peg sixteen I prepared my 9 foot 6inch, 6 weight with the Snowbee XS line- a full floater distance line and tied back on the trusty Christmas tree decoration. I think I tied the weird blob on the dropper too.

On the last peg, the wind was blustery, and at times with a lot of line out your back cast was being picked up by the sharp gusts and made the delivery a bit of a trial, not to mention a bit dangerous as you were at risk of being whipped round the head by the passing line and hooks. However, I stuck with it and spooled out all but the last 8 feet of my line and gave it a big double haul and the line went out with a satisfying smack of the rod as it tightened.

“That cast deserves a fish” said my neighbour and I had to admit I agreed with him. But nothing.

The power of Quality Street

A quallity Golden Trout late in the day
A long range Goldie to close my account.

Just about then, Ian, Alastair’s son was doing the rounds offering all the anglers a wee Christmas sweetie from the tin of Quality Street. I took a chocolate caramel and decided the sugar boost was what I needed to try the whole line. Stripping off all but the last foot of line from the reel I wound up another long cast. It sailed right out, not quite smacking the rod this time but it was a long way, and I fished back the first couple of yards, no doubt straightening it all up when there was a good pull and I had a hefty Golden Trout on the point lure. It put up a bit of a fight which managed to bend the hook on my much battered Christmas Tree decoration, as I got it to the net to end my account for the day on 5 points.

…and the winners were.

The Winners of the competition were:

  1. Garry Waugh ( 9 points)
  2. Malcolm Millar (8 points)
  3. Stuart Marshall (7 points)
The odd fish came in at the dam wall
A fish at the dam wall

Totally 46 fish were caught over the 24 anglers so an average of just shy of 2 fish per rod. The scoring system awarded two points for a first fish on a peg and one for each subsequent one. So using some reverse arithmetic it looks like the most fish that any angler could have caught was 7 as I know Garry had his five on peg twenty-four.

The twenty-four competitors at Swanswater
The Twenty-four anglers who took part (image courtesy of Swanswater Trout Fishery)

The biggest winner though was, of course, Strathcarron Hospice who get about £1000 from the fishery, the raffle ( I blanked here again- not a saugage two years running!) and the takings from the teas and coffees all year.