Woodburn Winter Return

I won’t bore you with the IM conversation with the Angling Elite I fish with, but the short outcome is they went for brunch, I went fishing!

Clyde river levels

A rise in rivers

The early plan had been to hit a river. Personally, I fancied the Clyde, I could minimise travel and already have a permit, the Nith was mentioned, too far for me this weekend, the Tweed…. and I threw in the possibility of the Esk in Musselburgh which I understand now has winter Grayling tickets ( though I later discovered they were limited to 30 season permits only and all were probably gone). The rain overnight decided the rivers were less of an option with a significant rise in most, so it looked like Stockie bashing was the only reliable possibility.

That or go watch them throw perfectly drinkable whisky into the Clyde in the desperate hope it attracts more migratory fish to the river where it was apparently the opening of the salmon season. Why don’t they have an opening ceremony of the Brown Trout season?

I decided to head to Woodburn, a fishery I have visited only once I think the season before last, and had a good day then. I keep meaning to go back but though it is nearby as the crow flies it is a bit of a round the houses trek to reach and is fairly high in the Campsies, it is very exposed to the elements, not a place for a very windy day. I also thought the Pro Team might still join me as it is probably as far for them as me…. but they didn’t, brunch of something called Kotlet Schabowy ( Pork in batter apparently, but looking remarkably like a fish supper)  rendered them immobile lol.

  • When I got up there I was pleasantly surprised to see it was far less windy than I first feared and there was only a slight ripple on the water. I was speaking both to the fishery keeper and one of the anglers just leaving in the car park though and both said it had been a slow morning. A couple of fish had been caught on I was told, a Cats Whiskers and a Humungous but interest had been hard to come by and when they did, cold hands and gentle takes meant they were often missed. It was then I realised that I myself had forgotten my gloves!

    Woodburn fishery

    A bleak looking Woodburn but busy with anglers, though hard going initially

    The wind was blowing roughly from the left ( western end) of the oval reservoir to the right (east) though I would say it was probably blowing into the shore a bit more the further along the southern side you went. I decided to start with a small mini cat I have found to be effective this year, and a couple of small flies on droppers all off a floating line, to the right of the boom where I started on my previous visit. Maybe the structure in the water would keep fish near hand. After 20 minutes of this on a floating line and no offers, I swapped to an intermediate line before swapping flies. After further lack of interest, I worked my way along the bank back towards the keeper’s lodge.  When fishing without success there is little point in plugging away with the same thing over and over, you need to change something. You can change flies ( I had), you can change presentation by changing lines ( I had), you can change retrieves, ( I had ) and you can change location… I was now doing this. The latter seems oft-overlooked but in recent years I think I have come to appreciate how much a difference just keeping moving can make to your results.

    I fished about half way along the bank towards the lodge up to where I had last seen anglers fishing when I arrived. By now there were few around, and I had only seen one fish caught, just as I was getting started, on the far bank. I was fancying a move right down the east end but there had been three down there earlier, and so it was only now there seemed t be a bit more space, so after two hours of fruitless and tiring casting, I decided to make the move. The plan was to try what I was using ( by now a small black tadpole lure with a chartreuse bead on an intermediate with a small nymph and cormorant on droppers) and if nothing immediately showed interest, to switch back to a floater and fish some buzzers hopefully without having to resort to a bung.

    The one angler down the bottom seemed to have the opposite idea to me and was heading to the West end and we stopped to chat for a second. He said there were definitely fish down the East end but he had tried a variety of tactics, from intermediate and floating lines and had one knock but the fish didn’t seem to want to take at all.

    A blue/rainbow trout

    My first fish, hard earned and hard fought, but safely returned

    I tried three of four casts out to a couple of clear foam slicks about 10 and 15 yards out and though I thought I might have felt one bump it might have just been the weed. Nope, this wasn’t working. So back to a floater and I tied on three buzzers, with a simple bright red silver beaded buzzer on point. I have a lot of faith in red on the point in winter buzzer casts as I feel the fish go for the red chironomid larvae and leeches you sometimes see on fish that have been lying on the bottom. This particular pattern has on its day given me a lot of success and was one I saw in Trout Fisherman magazine about 7 years ago. When it works, it works well.

    I cast out and after letting the point buzzer fall I started a slow retrieve and about halfway in, a pull and I was into a fish that was deep, heavy and determined not to come anywhere near the surface. It put up a fair old scrap and when I eventually netted it, for unhooking I was pleased to see it ( a fish over 3lbs maybe nearly 4) was on the red buzzer. The fly had taken a bit of a battering of the fishes teeth though, but I opted to leave it on. I noticed this fish had a few red leeches on its skin so it had been on the bottom. I am not sure whether the fish was a Blue or a Rainbow trout. It was very blue on its upper areas but also still retained a pink tinge down the lateral line, maybe a bit of a hybrid.

    Woodburn fishery

    The east end of the loch near finishing time

    Three more casts and into another fish very similar to the first and on the red buzzer too, and after another demanding fight it was safely netted and released. The buzzer was looking very sorry for itself and I stuck with it for a few more casts but the takes dried up. Confidence is in the psychology of fly fishing and I decided to change it. I had one more though it had a gold bead, not a silver like the first one. While it was in I replaced my middle dropper with another red buzzer pattern.  Over the next 20 minutes, I had one more pull but cold fingers seen me miss it then things livened up again with a third fish this time on the middle red buzzer. This fish being on the middle dropper made a fine mess of my leader so once it was sorted out I resumed fishing and finally I had a fish on the top dropper, a small Glass Buzzer which had a red underbody.

    I wasn’t sure of my finishing time though thought it was about five pm. However about twenty to five, a poor cast seemed to clip the bank and when I went to check my leader a few casts later thinking it seemed odd, I discovered I had broken off all three flies, presumably somewhere behind me on the grass! I had a quick look, but by now the cold was quite biting and I opted to call it a night. Just as well as when I got back to my car and looked at my ticket it was up at quarter to five and I was bang on time!