July 2009

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Last weekend I decided it was high time to head for a loch and try some traditional strip-n-hope. All fishing has been on rivers so far this season. Yet as much as I love the rivers there is definitely a time to just take it easy and relax by the side of a beautiful wild loch for a few hours.


I’ve been looking for a good wild loch to concentrate on which is within an easy(ish) day trip distance of Old Smokey, and after some considerable deliberation I opted for a long strip of water somewhat out of the way and somewhat further than close. We discovered the loch was quiet and relatively un-soiled, and it would certainly be nice for it to stay that way. So The Loch of Trees it is.

Despite arriving at the back of 4pm, we still passed a wonderful few hours by tree-lined shores, in the company of naught but a good handful of trout, a stiffish westerly and about 20 rain showers. The only hitch was my leaky waders. The fresh sealant I’d smeared down the inside leg in the morning was not entirely dry when we arrived so I opted to spend half an hour tying flies with my ultra-minimalist portable fly-tying kit, hoping the scotch-mist and humid atmosphere might help. Eventually I decided to hot-foot it down to the loch anyway, and indeed it turned out that my leaky waders remained that way.

loch-2This fine example of the rare roddus leafus was one of many found in abundance by Loch Tree

The steel gray clouds which marched overhead, together with the favourable temperature, left me sure that we were in with a good chance of some action. Upon arriving I put up a standard starting cast of size 12 deer hair segde (tied extra bushy..) on the dropper with a black pennel/blae’n’black on the point. I had opted to fish with the 8.5′ 4 weight, which is a lovely light rod to use for several hours of continuous casting, but does leave a little to be desired in the cast-for-glory stakes needed with a 3 fly cast.

Arriving at the water’s edge we were greeted by a lovely ripple, and I quickly headed off upwind with the intention of fishing back down the bay, making casts out across the breeze.

It wasn’t long before the first offer, a quick slash at the DHS as it settled on the water. Missed it of course. A few minutes later another offer, this time to the wet fly on the point. Missed again, but it still seemed like a good omen. I steadily fished the flies down the bay, making slow retrieves and sometimes leaving the flies static to drift in the drift.

loch-3There followed a frustratingly long period with not a sign of anything, except a good soaking from the now continuous drizzle. I eventually decided for a switch in tactics, and opted for a butcher on the point and my favourite black zulu on the dropper.

Not too long in, and now fishing in a more traditional haul’n’hope style, a nice trout impaled itself on the zulu and put up a merry scrap. I tried to get a photo, but alas he did escape. First one always gets his freedom anyway, but a better photo of what was a gloriously marked, yellow-bellied brownie would have been nice.

Within the next short while another couple of fish opted for the zulu, though both were considerably smaller and of totally different marking; much darker and peatier. The first fish had been taken close to the far drop-off of a sandy-bottomed ledge, so I guess that accounted for his lovely condition.

Further down, into the next bay and another nice trout, probably just over the half-pound mark, and this time taken for the following day’s lunch. Interestingly the fish appeared to have been feeding on a mixture of unidentifiable black grubs and bits of loch-weed. I thought trout were carnivores..? The last time I saw weed in a trout’s stomach was from an escapee stocky on Loch Awe. Strange.. or perhaps normal and I don’t know my arse from my elbow.

As the evening wore on and the rain grew more permanent we decided to head for curry. Walking back through the forest we were once again confronted by a beautiful array of trees, quite a number of which I couldn’t identify. Work to do there. I had foolishly forgotten my wondrous wee guidebook, but I took some mental notes. Ash I now believe, interspersed with old oaks and the odd silver birch. What a fantastic place.

What is summer to you?


To me summer is late evenings on my favourite stream, casting at crimson water with sedges buzzing around my head. It’s the feeling of ariving to swarms of spinners pulsing forward and back, up and down around my car. It’s the sight of a blue winged olive perched on the windscreen, looking at all his pals in the air.

summer-5The other night I pulled the car up next to the verge and stepped out into the gathering dim. Swallows swept in their loopy dance above the field, and that feeling of summer magic crept out from its hiding place somewhere in my conciousness.


In recent months I’ve spent rather too much time contemplating where I’m going in my life, and thinking about all the things I’m not doing. Although I am still what one might call ‘young’, I do sometimes feel that life is moving on rather too fast. But on evenings with swallows and fragile little olives, I feel sure I’ve found something special and worth looking after, and enviable to most if they only knew.


Summer is blue winged olives. It’s the squinting eyes that dart to and a-fro in search of the little sherry spinner on the end of my leader, as it’s tugged forth and back through low water eddies. With the passing seasons, though, I worry less and less about actually seeing the size 16 speck on the water.


I increasingly view spinner fishing as being the mysterious brother to upstream nymphing, where the best success comes from seeing the surface of the water rather than looking for a fly lying prostrate on it. I try to focus all my attention on casting the end of the fly line to where I’ve seen a sipping trout, subconsciously timing the pace of the river as it brings the spinner back to the fish, and waiting for a rise. In the gloaming of 10pm in July it hardly seems worth the effort trying to see an artificial fly lying flat in or just under the water’s surface.

summer-11There usually comes a point in the evening where I decide that’s it’s time to cut loose and sedge for glory. This time normally arrives as I determine that it’s getting close to the point of no-tying-on-a-fly return. If the fish are obviously still on the spinner then it’s obviously a bit silly to switch to the sedge. But I have grown rather fond of the release granted by suddenly having a hunk of deer tied to a size 10 hook at the end of the leader, instead of the delicate filaments of poly-yarn and seal’s fur that comprise my sherry spinner.

summer-2It’s been a strange year down at riffle city. Since I discovered that supplementary stocking of trout takes place there, things just haven’t been the same in my head. Nevertheless, summer has become so connected with riffle city that I’m uncontrollably drawn there come July.


The trout this year have been uncommonly small. As with one of the other river’s I like to fish it has been hard work to get through the wee’uns. I’m beginning to think now that come summer the rule to follow is that there’s an inverse relationship between the apparent agressivness of the rise, and the size of the fish. So during these past two trips to the riffles I have been trying hard to spot the subtle rises.


I’ve even had some success using this principle, but have no evidence to prove as much. It’s also been a season of fish falling off.