fishing (urban rivers)

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Last week I met up with a pal of mine for a spot of urban fly fishing. We headed down the River Almond in Edinburgh, a really pretty river which has seen a lot of persecution over the years. I’m aware of at least 2 significant fish kills on the river in the last 2 seasons, from diesel fuel and industrial chemicals. Amazingly some fish stick it out, and can provide a nice distraction for a quick evening session. I’ll be paying close attention to things on this river in the coming seasons, and really hope it gets a bit of a clean run of health.


We got down for around 8pm, and I tackled up a little nymph to fish through the pockets of water. It was quite difficult fishing, with plenty of current tongues to drag your line around. I soon found a cracking looking spot in front of a nicely angled boulder which slowed the river current a little. It was one of those times where you absolutely know there is a fish lying there, even though you can’t see him.


It took a bit of inventive casting/chucking of the nymph, but eventually I got a really nice drift. It was really difficult to see the leader, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to detect a take. Then something wierd happened, a bit like an experience had a few months back on a similar urban river. The feeling struck, and I struck, and the fish stuck. Worth practising this nymphing lark.


Now a good part of this river is very close to Edinburgh airport, and you certainly know about it fishing in the evenings. I know Alistair has plenty to say about urban fly fishing, but this was hardcore! Planes, planes everywhere, every two minutes rushing a couple hundred feet over our heads. At first it was exciting. Then it was a little tedious. Then it began to get downright annoying. We do suffer for our sport 😉


It was getting pretty late, so we found a nice run and tackled up some big scary flies, hoping for a passing sea trout. After a good while of fruitless casting, I opted rather bizzarly to do some extreme roll casting practice. Not a pretty sight, especially when there’s a size 8 longshank muddler minnow on the end of the cast.

Actually this photo isn’t me, but my pal had better loops than me tonight 🙂

Once the water was almost completely churned up by the beautiful presentation I was getting, the fly was left dangling in the current whilst we had a natter about something or other. Probably the damn aeroplanes. Out of nowhere the line tightened sharply, and I was into a fish. For just a split second I thought maybe, maybe it’s a sea trout. But it turned out to be a feisty brownie of a nice 3/4lb. Really good for this bit of river. We decided I’d reached a new nirvana of fishing, where I hook fish without even meaning to.

In case you’re wondering, he was bigger than he looks here.


It was now getting late, and nothing more was showing so it was on with the headtorches and back home. The moon made a lovely view as it rose upriver.

I headed over to visit family in Glasgow this last weekend. Got there around half eight Friday evening and bolted straight out the door again, brother in tow, to get some fishing done. Still plenty light around at this time of year, though some dark clouds threatened us.


Actually it was the sort of evening I love. Moody with changing light, all very atmospheric. A nice rainbow (the kind we like on this river..!) promised us the fishing would be good.


Started down at a stretch I rather like after having something of a red-letter trip there last season. As ever the river provided us with some rising fish. On with the wee deer hair sedges and not long before the brother landed a pretty trutta.

Fish were in a strange mood this evening. Sometimes they splashed aggressively at the odd sedge, sometimes they barely broke the surface sipping something I couldn’t see. Needless to say I opted for the sedgey approach. Again I felt out of practice with wayward casts and general frustration. I also did my best to fall in for about the 5th time this season but somehow avoided doing so.

Fished late on and of course the fish were still moving a bit. At this time of year on this stretch you can get really close to the fish because the banks are high, provided it’s quite dark. Makes for exciting fishing with fish barely a rod tip away.


Had a couple fish to hand and a few more lost, so an enjoyable evening all round. Weather wasn’t really kind in fishing terms with the cool breeze. Given a balmy evening this stretch can be amazing with the fish nailing anything that looks like a sedge. I reckon I’ll try the old cork-fly later on this season.

Saterday was rather an off day weather wise, so we headed out on Sunday afternoon. Our fave wee tributary burns were out of action along with the main river so we went towards the source. Things didn’t look too promising when we got there with the river rather slow, brown and generally canal like. Hardly a lovely tumbling stream like some other stretches we know. After a good bit of laughter at our chances of catching we actually found a few fish starting to feed on a sparse hatch of small olives coming off around 4pm.

How expert does this fellow look?!

Brother fished a wee dirty duster (of my tying as usual) whilst I opted for a size 18 sedge-related offering. Very interesting actually watching the differences in the takes between these two flies. I’m pretty sure the fish were mostly taking the ascending olive nymphs just before emergence, and the dirty duster got takes almost the same as the normal rises. My sedge however received what I can only describe as ‘trout abuse’. I wonder if there’s such a thing as trout therepy because the aggression they showed was out of order.

Found this huge patch of nettles next to the river, just asking for an angler to take a stumble into them. This has happened to me a couple times before and caused mild stress…

On the way back I asked the some local cows if there were any hot flies for this stretch but they just grunted and kept on chewing. I’ve yet to meet a really good fly fishing cow, but you’d have thought that even the average ones had a favourite fly.

Another weekend, another fishing trip or two.
Saturday I was on some nice water, not far from where I caught a couple of rather special fish last season. This river, well particularly where I fish it, doesn’t give up its secrets very easily. In fact at times it can be incredibly dour, even with fly on the water. Your only company can seem to be the billions of wee parr that attatck anything that goes near them. I watched one little specimin have 3 attempts at eating the same dun. I think he probably achieved in drowning it in the end. Due to the generally poor showing of fish I was back to my usual river investigations. I saw a few really big duns about, and eventually was savaged on the back of the head by one of them. First thought was an early mayfly, but it turns out they were large brook duns. I reckon probably a size 10/12 easily.

I fished up the stretch a few hundred yards, and eventually found a couple of better fish moving. I crept up along the high bank to within a few yards and managed a half decent cast that brought a nice rise. Definitely a better fish it seemed, until he rolled off..
Not much else doing.. weather was variable, but never cold. Spring definitely here in some capacity. A few rainy showers with some sunshine provided the climatic interest.
Sunday and I was a bit closer to home. One of my good pals over in Glasgow is a well known (!) fisher of the Kelvin. He’s a minor celebrity really.. So for my part I have been fishing on a wee urban river in my part of the world. It’s can actually be quite a tricky little stream.. Quite panicky wee fish, no surprise really living in town. I was on the river around lunch to find quite coloured water, with nothing rising. Actually I almost convinced myself there were a few rising fish in one of the pools, but was dissapointed to find the rings were from water drops off the trees..

So I started with my usual (dry) flies, searching the likely water and getting badly tangled in the trees incredibly often. This seemed a little hopeful even for me, so I switched to upstream nymphing, and have to say I had a great time of it. One of my other pals is a dedicated and well known (some may even say famous) upstream nympher, who frequently tells me “it’s really not that difficult” or something to that effect. What I actually think is that he’s better than me, but I shall endevour to practice. Anyway, I began fishing the same water as with the dries, and it wasn’t long until I spotted a take and hooked a fish! Have to say, I was really quite surprised, and even a bit chuffed. Wasn’t long before I manged to land a couple as well, which was a bit of a result.. I’m sure you’ll agree, it was a bonny wee fish, and may one day grow to be a monster.


I’d say he was about average for this stream. I guess most people would say “strewth that’s a small fish” but I tell you, such fish are just great fun to catch on really light tackle in a tangly little burn, especially when trying out a few new tactics.
The best moment of the weekend was yet to come.. I was fishing a nice run further upstream when 3 lads shouted down to me from up the bank, wanting to know if I’d caught, and what I was fishing on. As usual my response was ‘a few wee ones’. They were very keen to see what fly I was on (which is actually great in itself – to see young lads taking up the fly, and not static bait fishing). So I offered them a couple flies, which they seemed quite glad about. They then came down and had a wee natter, which was just fine. I’m sure many people would look at such lads and presume they were out for trouble or to set fire to your car or something, but actually just talking to them a bit it was great to see their obvious enthusiasm for fishing. One of them had apparently “had 12 the day before, including rainbows” (of which there are none in the river), and sometimes fished with gold bead headed flies which “you don’t have to strike with”, which was a new one on me.. Now if I ever had 12 fish in one day on this river…..well let’s say I’d be a happy fellow.
So I talked to them a bit about how I was fishing (they seemed almost desperate to know – I reckon it was all in my fishing hat if anything) and explained the virtues of upstream nymphing, together with how it was quite tricky to get the hold of.. So I demonstrated on the run I was on, and hooked a really nice wee fish of half a pound or so. You couldn’t have written the script really.. a grand moment it has to be said 🙂 I tried to instill a little hint about how to respect the fish etc etc and how to properly release a trout, but not sure if they were listening by this point.. ach well it was a good laugh.


This is my first post to my new blog. I hope to use this blog to share a little of the passion I have for fly angling in Scotland. I’ll start things off with a wee photo of my first brown trout of the new season. Caught on my home river, the Kelvin in Glasgow.