fishing (Southern haunts)

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Back in 2008 I had a lovely day on the river. It feels like a long time ago, so I made this video to remember it. The parts with vocals are a bit embarrasing shall we say, but anyone who’s fished for any time knows what it’s like to catch a special trout and get a bit gushy.

I think when I wrote Saturday night’s exuberantly excited post I genuinely believed that I would go forth and catch thousands of grayling. Such a rush of enthusiasm I felt, such expectant hope and yearning did I possess. What on earth did I seriously expect? Make a post like that at your peril, for it doth dearly tempt fate.


I got up at a leisurely 7:45am, wolfed down some cereal and bungled an enormous crate of gear into the boot of my car. I was prepared for anything. Spare clothes, spare rods, spare reels, gazillions of spare flies, buckets of excitement to spare, spare copies of the beat map and a spare copy of myself in the back seat. By the power invested in me, I was not going to fail out of a lack of spares. The problem with not going fishing is that the longer you’re away, the more spares you carry on your return. Unnecessarily of course, as what I should have taken were spare fish.snowdrops

I cruised down the road, carefully chosen driving music blaring, eyes gradually narrowing. I put on my ultra-serious camo-stealth polar buff, you know, just to get in the mood. Two CDs worth of tunes later, and I pulled the car up at a bridge. There was someone out already, trotting maggots. At this stage I felt no bitterness, no hint of envy or fascist rage. I quietly got back in the car and slipped off downstream.


Tackling up was like a symphonic performance. As I stepped into my waders I was sure I heard the sound of a distant violin. Was that Beethoven? No, definitely Chopin. Donning those incredibly sexy accessories known as gravel guards I could have sworn I heard the dulcet tones of at least two of the tenors warming up. By the time the grand finale came around, namely slinging a chest pack over my head, I was positively soaring, the chorus of a thousand beautiful young sopranos ringing around the valley.

Surely, surely this was fate. Eons spent away from running water, contemplating the meaning of fishing. The meaning I tell thee. What’s it all about? Hours spent at the vice, secret escape plans laid, all for these few hours alone in the company of grayling. Where was the first 3lber going to come from? Perhaps that nice wee run right there, just behind the tree. Oh yes, I could sense him sitting there, resting after a long night spent in the company of a harem of lady two pounders. Where were they by the way…hmmm… that deep gouge under the far bank looked a possibility. Oh yes, that’ll be it.. looks just right for a harem of 2lbers.


I carefully put up the days outfit. I had brought my old 6 weight Vision out of early retirement. I wasn’t going to be beaten at the last by no mother-sized 4-weight-snapping rod killer of a grayling. This was proper fishing. Err…

I opted for a big bug on the top dropper, about 7 feet from the bright yellow polyleader. About 2 and a half feet further down the line was a smallish black bead headed hare’s ear. From the tail of the bead head I tied the stinger, a tiny size 16 hare’s ear, unweighted, about 8 inches down. I added a couple of split shot at strategic places, anticipating the need to adjust depth according to the run. Finally, I attached a garish American football shaped strike indicator to the end of the polyleader, you know, just to be sure. I knew I’d be out of practice, so any help to detect all those subtle takes was welcome.


Creeping up to the bank, I could feel the electricity again. This is why getting away from fishing for a while is so important. Without a good few months of close season, fishing can become a little stale. Not too long mind, just a couple of months maybe. My own hiatus of what seemed like decades was certainly too long, but the anticipation rewarded now was just wonderful.

I slipped in to the water below a large submerged tree, and paused. I unhooked the tail nymph from the cork butt of the rod. It all felt so new, so exciting, yet at the same time the mechanical familiarity of the whole process was etched strongly into my muscle memory. I found myself manoovering without thinking. The rod swung downstream to stretch out the line on the water. I flicked the rod tip to get the polyleader out the end ring, and a tangle, straight away, before the first cast. Hmm…maybe the muscles had a slight case of memory loss after all.


Low tide at plastic bag bay

When I was eventually sorted out, I paused once again, trying to imagine the grayling I was sure I was about the catch. ‘Remember’, I encouraged myself, ‘try to find an excuse to strike at some point during every drift’. Oh yes, I know what I’m talking about, I’m practically an online expert now, preaching to the masses. My eyes narrowed further.

I flicked the cast upstream. Plop-plop-plu-dop, the nymphs dived into the water. I tracked the rod tip back with the current, helping the polyleader to maintain a slight curve above the water. I saw no take, I felt nothing, I saw nothing. The nymphs wafted around below me, the leader gradually straightening out until the whole cast lay downstream of me. My eyes bulged slightly, I felt the pull of the river against my legs, and the gentle tug of the nymphs getting dragged away by the river. Performing a kind of gasp-come-gulp as I started to breathe again, I looked back upstream. Nothing to be seen, save the sway and gurgle of the river surface. No take, certainly no fish. But I had rediscovered a feeling that has been sorely lacking in recent months. The feeling of questing for something difficult, something elusive and out of my control. Something with a pulse and a quick flash of speed and a set of shining silver scales. I suppose it’s a quest for anticipation and excitement in the end, perhaps not really a fish. But whatever I was questing for, it was good to be back.

Useless video clip containing no fish, but nice sounds:

I continued flicking nymphs upstream for the next four hours. I eventually found a lovely run, deep and swift and screaming of grayling. As I waded in a salmon jumped right in front of me, which I took to be a good sign. Grayling and salmon very often seem to inhabit the same bits of the river in winter. Well, I say very often… not that I’ve really got that much experience of actually catching grayling from salmon runs. I suppose that’s my imagination again. Imagination and reading too many expert articles.


I fished that run very hard indeed, up and down, with a variety of different shotting setups. Eventually I got so frustrated, and my feet so cold, that I stepped out of the river and loaded the line with an awesome array of BB shots. The canon method I’m calling it. Feels like you’ve got a fish on even before you cast. I got back in at the head of the run and started blasting the cast upstream. Woooshh, cabluuush, cashooomm! That’s more like it, empty the damn river if you need to.


The salmon rose again, obviously taking the piss this time. It was the middle of February for crying out loud, old sexy-timey time isn’t for another ten months. There was little chance of me catching the salmon of course, unless he was lying flat on the bottom, and possibly even under the rocks, between his outbursts. In the end I caught nothing from that run either, but I did however get wonderfully cold feet. It’s amazing what an impression of a wild west cowboy-walk one makes after a few hours grayling fishing.


Spooky animals.. If anyone knows what these tracks are, I’d love to know. I’m guessing one set is bird-like, and the other might be a pawed mammal.

As I packed up my not inconsiderable array of spare gear back into the car, another fly angler pulled his car up and enquired how I’d got on. He’d also blanked, though he had travelled for considerably fewer hours than me to do so. My mind drifted back up to the bridge and the maggot trotter. I didn’t bother going to ask.

Despite the day’s fishless outcome, I was in an uncommonly good mood as I drove back up the road. Most grand returns turn out badly, and I hadn’t even fallen in. I had rediscovered a bit of the excitement, and had a wee taste of that wonderful zen-concentration that comes along with obsessive fishing. It wasn’t yet dark, and as I looked out the window a flood of golden light was washing across the moors. I was left with the unmistakable certainty, should I ever need reminding of it, that it’s always good to go fishing.

Well the day had to arrive eventually. Yes indeed Ladies and Gentlemen, Dr. Tamanawis is going fishing tomorrow. Things have got so desperate that I’m referring to myself in the third person again. Dangerously pretentious times that clearly betray his degrading state of mind. Strewth, time to get out..

bigfishThis is a big fish. I caught this big fish, all by myself, about 3 years ago. It weighed 3lb, which is of course rather a lot for a grayling. The photo is getting trundled out yet again just to remind readers that I can catch fish, in case things don’t go swimmingly tomorrow..

So yes, yes indeedeo, I’m positively itching to get out now.. So much so that I’m wasting time writing this crap right now, at 9pm, becasuse it seems like the right sort of commemerative thing to do. So, hold your breath, there is going to be a post on Tamanawis in the next few days that actually describes fishing. I can’t wait. Tight lines Dr. Tamanawis, you’re fighting for mankind.

If there are any folks reading that have never been to Scotland, or who know little about fishing in this lovely country, perhaps this post will give a wee suggestion of why I love it here so much.

On Saterday afternoon the weekend’s fishing took a turn for the hills. We were to head up a remote burn (that’s a small stream for anyone not from around here) and to a tiny wee lochan to fish for wild brownies.

This fellow had the cheek to ask for a permit. I gave him a superbly tied DHS and that seemed to bribe him enough.

Taking our time in the blazing heat of early afternoon we stopped off for ice cream and a visit to the nearest chippy. This would prove to be a sly move due to some ration issues later on. An hour or so later and we were leaving the car and heading up the burn. Occasional drifts of cloud were welcome relief for us and maybe the fish too.

My my this was a cracking little place. Places really, because everywhere you looked there was just great fishy fly water. We knew the fish would be small, but that was part of the joy. Brother was first tackled up and fishing a stunning wee plunge pool.

Almost straight away a wee trutta dashed out and tried to grab the size 18 sedge I had tied up a few nights before. A couple more drifts and another take. An absolutely rediculous fight ensued with the fish convinced he was some kind of giant lightening bolt.

Managed to calm him down for about 3 seconds, just time for a snap and away he went. At this stage I was about as excited as I have been for a long long time. I know some may find that a little odd given the modest size of the quarry, but for me burns are where it’s at. Along with the fact that we were in the middle of nowhere and these fish had probably never been fished for it was just wonderful. It’s not a way I feel that often and I savoured the moment. Things just felt perfect.

I opted for the “I’m a real man” approach and stuck on a tiny wee nymph. Time for some busy upstream nymphing practice. This was absolutely fantastic fun. At times it was a challange with the fast turbulent water but quite often the fish took the fly very obviously just under the surface, so that you could see a clear flash of the take.

As the picture shows the water was clear and swift. Great water for getting really close to likely lies and fishing with almost only the leader out the rod tip. And for a change I found that almost every likely lie held a fish, who would almost always have a go at the fly. Typical upland fishing this, and simply fantastic fun.

For me there could be no better way to introduce someone, of any age, to fly fishing than taking them to a burn like this. I think it gives you a great insight into what it’s really about, for me anyway. No pellets, no bag limits, no tailless misery. And to be honest, it sets out right away that fishing is about more than expectations of big easy fish. True, the trout in burns like this are not difficult to catch, as long as you approach the fishing with a modicum of stealth and cast carefully. Many times all we saw when approaching a pool were little brown topedoes bolting for cover. That sort of visual lesson soon gets learnt.

Amazingly the fishing seemed to get better the further up the burn we went. Many places it was one stride wide, and in such cases it was usually very obvious where the fish would be lying. Again brother managed the best fish, an absolutely stunning fish than just gleamed brown and gold in the afternoon sun.

There really not much I find more satisfying in life and fishing than seeing a fish like that caught from a remote little burn. He was maybe half a pound, but the fight he gave was just insane. Take a gander at that tail fin!

After a good few hours working our way up we managed to pull ourselves away and strike on for the loch. We needed some dinner and to set up the tent, and I was feeling paranoid about a possible midgy attack. Unbelievably I hardly saw a single midge in the end, even in the flat calm that descended on the loch around 9pm. The gods were really grinning on us this weekend.

We took a short excursion to watch the sunset over a distant loch before returning to fish into darkness. No monsters caught this time but I know they are there.

If you’ve never been to my country let me tell you there are hundreds and thousands of wee lochans and burns full of feisty little trout. Sometimes you just fish and watch the landscape and think life can be wonderful. The fishing is only part of the experience, but together with the hills and clear highland air it can be really special.
There are also some places with feisty big trout, but I’ll save those for another time.

It’s been a pretty fishy weekend. There was a bit of an epic fishathon planned up in the highlands with several pals. Things didn’t start well as Ali was struck down with the lurgy. I suppose the trip could have happened anyway, but like Queen without Freddy, things just weren’t going to be the same. Hopefully that trip will happen another time (unlike the Fredster).

Lost without our planned fishing mission we pondered staying behind and fishing our local stretches. But we were in an itchy feet kind of mood and hastily hacked together a plan for an alternative trip. There were going to be burns, lochs and heavy backpacks involved and maybe even a fish for tea.

First though things started with a wee evening session down our local urban river on Friday. Weather was hot and bright and rather July like. Once again a good few fish were moving, but once again the rising was a little sporadic. I winkled out a few small fish and lost one maybe 3/4lb. Fishing the sedge sedge sedge as usual.
Brother managed better with two around 3/4lb and lost another larger one. There were plenty of BWO male spinners around at one stage which isn’t something I’ve really seen much of on this river. Needless to say there wasn’t a particularly noticable spinner fall.

Next morning we took our time packing everything we could find in the northern half of Glasgow into our backpacks. That I can tell you is an achievement because they like their concrete cinder blocks in these parts.

Down to a river in the south of Scotland it was we went. Amazingly we were still in a rush to get to the river despite an apparently incredibly large quantity of time when we left home. This happens too often to me. Need to sort that out, though to be fair the ‘directions’ given by the ticket required a bit of Crystal Maze style mind juggling to work out.

Fishing was ok, though not great. The weather was again hot and bright. The fish got quite excited around half nine, but I couldn’t work out exactly what they were taking. Something small and just under the surface I think, possibly caenis.

Like most Scottish rivers (outside the NW highlands) there are usually some sea trout present at this time of year, so when it got dark I had a go swinging some big, dark flies through some pool tails.

This is a wooly bugger by the way. I love this fly. What a great name. I’ve never caught any trout with it, but then I’ve not fished it much. It tends to work its way onto my cast towards the end of a quiet fishing day when a certain despondancy moves in. I know this is not a fair way to fish such a successful fly. A pal of mine would tell me to fish it stripped past sunken trees, and he’d be right (he is about many fishing things I find).

Nothing showing, probably the lowish water or my crapness. One day I plan to give sea trouting a proper go. I’ve even got a book, so I must be serious. There’s also a plan to visit the moon, which is probably marginally less likely than me becoming good at this any time soon.

Still there was enough evidence of fish to make us want to come back, which I plan to do early next season. Hopefully there’ll be some March Browns milling around at that time, and maybe some proper sized olives..!

Dinner that night was noodles. Exciting stuff.