October 2006

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Last weekend I had a lovely sunday afternoon in the hills south of Edinburgh. This strip of undulating tops and glens is one of the best things about living in the city. You can be striding up a nice slope only a few minutes after leaving the chaos of Princes Street on a busy shopping day.


Unfortunately the fishing options within the hills are more limited than you’d wish for, with most of the lochs recipients of stockie rainbows. This seems to be the case in almost all the central belt with most anglers these days prefering finless wonders to bright wild trout. One of the lochs is called Glencorse, and it lay at the end of my jaunt along the tops from Nine Mile Burn.


I spent a little time sitting on the dam wall and enjoying the peace, and it wasn’t long before I noticed the odd rise. Mostly they looked like very small wild brownies, with the odd probable rainbow making an appearance. This really is a lovely spot and I would certainly fish it if it wasn’t a put and take.


I’m pretty bad when it comes to procrastination. For the last couple of closed seasons I’ve always had great plans of tying up hundreds of flies to last all season: nymphs, streamers, loads of dries. I always end up getting distracted by things like winter hillwalking and grayling fishing. This means my season’s fly supply has to be replenished on the fly (pun intended), which generally leads to panic tying and missed fishing time.


This evening I finally got myself in gear and started preparing industrial quanities of hare’s mask dubbing. All that was needed was a pair of scissors and a home made dubbing rake, made from part of an old hacksaw blade. I find I use hare’s mask, in one form or another, in most of the flies I end up tying. In past, darker days I’ve been a user of packet bought dubbings. These days I’ve grown to be in awe of the range of fantastic, buggy dubbing to be found by harvesting a mask yourself.


So I’ve now got one of those small sewing boxes full of different mixes of dubbing, all neatly compartmentalised and ready for some turbo-flytying. Tomorrow I will do the same for a couple of dyed hare’s ears I’ve got. It won’t be long before there’ll be enough dubbing combinations to take over the frigging planet.


If you’ve never tried this approach to getting your dubbing, it’s well worth a go. Half the fun is comming up with your own dubbing combinations to suit the kind of fly you’re going to tie. It’s also a lot cheaper and makes you feel like you’re a *real man*, which I find rather nice.

Newspapers love conflict. In some ways it’s what they’re all about. War in Iraq, Heather divorcing Paul, Alex Ferguson slagging Arsene Wenger, dare I say it Big Brother. Which of course means we the general public get a bit of a kick out of it too. I’m of the opinion that, fundamentally, people now are the same as people who lived 100 or 1000 years ago. The Romans LOVED conflict, at least in an amphitheatre. There really is nothing like two blokes trying to slit each other’s throats to stir you up in the morning. Today things might seem to be a little tamer. But the kick we get out of conflict is still there, and I don’t find it too hard to imagine lots of things in modern life as being watered down versions of a 1st Century blood bath.
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What a funny day it was today. All around the UK concerned people have taken to the streets to spread word about the environmental catastrophy of large scale fish farming of salmon. This is an issue many folks have been campaigning about for a good few years now, lead chiefly in this country by Bruce Sandison and the Salmon Farm Monitor group. Today was well publicised on the UK fishing forums, including the Wild Fishing Forum, from which several guys were out.

This is an important issue to me, and I think it should be for anyone with a passing interest in the well being of not only wild fish, but the environment in general. I am not a salmon fisherman. I have never fished for salmon, and I may never do so. However, the destruction wrought in the western coastal regions of Scotland, in large part due to the negative impacts of salmon farming, is truly shocking. Where there were once healthy wild fish populations there are now literally no fish at all. And the effects on the beautiful sea trout? Well, that’s even worse.

A pet hate of mine can be summed up by the phrase: “sayers, no dooers”. There is a big difference between talking the talk and walking the walk. I know this because it’s something that’s very easy to do, and I am certainly guilty of doing so on more than one occasion. This is part of what gave me the incentive to take part in the protest, or ‘action hour’ as it was called.

I joined up with a great guy called Bill in Edinburgh, and we spent an hour this morning handing out leaflets outside Marks and Spencers on Princes Street. You can just see the shop in the bottom left of the above photo. This was a particularly apt location because they sell both farmed and wild salmon. You can’t have it both ways.

There was due to be a few other folks but everyone dropped out bar the two of us, so we preached to the masses alone!

I learned a lot about life in that hour..! Some observations:

  • There are a lot of people on Princes street on a saturday morning (err..surprise there)
  • There were an amazing number of older folks (say over 70), more than I’ve ever realised. We really are living in an aging country
  • Generally, younger people were more willing to take leaflets (perhaps reflecting that they ‘related’ to me better as our ages were closer..?)
  • There are a lot of tourists in Edinburgh (and it’s flaming October!)
  • Most people in this world succeed in looking incredibly miserable as they go about their day (think faces of granite)
  • My ‘offers-to-acceptance’ ratio for giving people leaflets was probably 1 in 10. I need a bigger smile I think.

Standing in a street like this does not come naturally to me (or to most anglers I think). I didn’t really ‘enjoy’ it that much, but it was an experience. There were only a few really rude people, a couple of whom told me they were too old to give a shit about this sort of crap. Perhaps the clientele on Princes street were a little less receptive than people would have been at ‘out of town’ supermarkets. We still handed out loads of leaflets but I do wish more people had been willing to take one.

I think my overriding impression was that the vast majority of people really don’t want to be bothered as they go about their lives. I certainly know I’m bit like that. Many people don’t have the time or inclination to care about issues like salmon farming unless you’re really willing to put some effort in and spread the word. Indeed, you can literally see the horror on some people’s faces when they realise they’re walking towards you and you’re handing out leaflets and they might have to take one and oh shit oh shit it’s so horrible… Not everyone of course, but quite a few.

In the end, it was only an hour of ones time. It’s really hardly anything at all to give a tiny bit of effort like this to try and help a very worthwhile cause. There are plenty of other worthwhile causes in the world of course, but I guess this issue is one I feel a connection with because it affects wild salmonids, and I love wild salmonids.

The trout season is well and truly over for this year. The last week or so has seen autumn arrive properly here on the east coast, with much cooler evenings and a smattering of rain. This has provided unacustomed time to spend on other things. Such as fly casting.

I’ve been meaning to sort my casting out for a while now. By sort out, I mean improve my loops, get better and more consistent presentation casts and generally cast with about 1/10th of the effort I do now. So, I’ve got myself a long tape measure, a digital camera and a tripod. Before anyone makes the comment, yes I realise that sounds interesting to say the least.

For anyone looking to improve their casting “on one’s own” so to speak, I have some advice. Be prepared to spend time, a good amount of it, and get ready for a shock. Sleepless nights with phrases like “casting arc”, “late butt rotation” and “straight line path” wizzing around your head should be expected.

I knew some things were bad about my casting. Turns out I’m right.

It’s total pants.

Only when you film yourself doing the deed do you start to realise that you may have to try and un-learn everything you currently do if you want to really improve. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m starting about as basic as I can. A guy called Paul is helping me (in a round about sort of way), with some great instructions. There are also one or two kind chaps providing some pointers which is great, and really useful.

So far, things aren’t going well. I’ve realised that I am actually incapable of making a half decent back cast. It’s quite literally a mental/physical impossibility at the moment. This is SERIOUSLY PISSING ME OFF. It’s the foundation for (nearly) all you do in fly casting and I’m absolutely shite at it. Some people say this sort of stuff doesn’t matter. But to me it does. If I do something I want to do it well, and what I’m doing right now cannot be described as ‘well’ in any shape or form, no matter how many Trade Winds are involved.

This winter, come what may, I will become a good fly caster. I am determined and prepared.
If anyone is still reading this, you will be able to keep up with my progress as I link to occasional video clips in the coming weeks and months. The first ones are not pretty, though fortunately my incredible sense of fashion helps to offset the mile wide back cast loops.

Give me strength.

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