A Duffer

A Duffer

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The sum of all the parts.

Posted on Scottish-Anglers. net 29/09/2012. 

There are but individual grains of sand left in the fishing hourglass as the trout season draws inexorably to its close. There’s just time to eke out a few more casts and blink the eyes a few times, hopefully in spells of sunshine, before the curtain closes on the 2012 trout season.  My head’s drawn to think, dolefully, about that prospect and also of reminiscences of my recent week away. During my trip up north to Scourie and Crask, with Davy, we were asked by a lady what our fascination was with our beloved fishing.  My mind wandered, as it’s prone to do, as I tried to inwardly answer that question.

Earlier in the week, we’d pitched our tents at Scourie campsite as malicious squalls marauded in off the crest of the Atlantic waves. The one street village lay quiet, an occasional rain clad figure passed by, head bowed, rain garments flapping wildly in the wind.


Hillsides lay bare, exposed to the wind, some green and some stained mauve with heather; always pocked with slabs and nuggets of rock and sometimes pocked too with sturdy houses buffeted by Atlantic winds.

Wild weather careered in during black nights, winds howled round our tents, rain sometimes pulverised the flimsy fabrics of our tents waking sleepy heads. Heads that gave some thought to the robustness of tents, perhaps, before turning to reclaim cosy dreams. The mornings had dawned sharp and cold, hands slipped snugly into warm pockets avoiding the bite of the early morning wind.

And so we fished. Daytime, it rained sometimes too, but not with the same evil countenance that we heard overnight. Rainbows shimmered at times in a melange of sun and rain. Light played tricks, both bright and dark and sometimes we sheltered from the wind, only to find it playing wickedly over the brow of the next hill.

We heated curry on peat stained banksides and talked quietly, our voices carried to nowhere in particular on the edge of the wind.  At night we sat, contentment epitomised, eating our meals in the cosy ambience of the Scourie Hotel.

We didn’t catch too many fish, I suppose that some might call it poor fishing. I’d simply call it wondrous and wild.

On Wednesday we moved on. Down the road in the direction of Crask, we’d driven through squally weather on our way to fish Merkland. The sharp air of the morning had numbed my hands as I caught my first fish of the day, and my best of the trip. With the loch high, I tripped and slid my way along the bank catching a dozen, or so, on the day whilst Davy did something similar.

Happy with our fishing, we’d returned our flies to boxes, rods to tubes, and drove on in the direction of Crask.

The Crask Inn lies lonely where moorland sweeps to the far skies as farther, darker hills break the awesome, but bleak landscape. The Crask Inn is a haven of warmth, a friendly refuge in an oft harsh and uncompromising place.

And so we fished. Wild wee, feisty and dark trout had lashed at our flies on the Tirry. On Merkland, again, we’d caught nice trout on a day where some warmth had kissed our foreheads. Even smaller trout had foraged on my flies on a ‘step down’ burn – 4-6 inches of indignation, all wild and kind of funny, as I’d got down close on knees and bum.

I had a delightful spell farther down the Tirry where I’d fished my best and caught two fine trout. Mere dots on the landscape, we fished, we rested, we ate, we slept, we talked and we chilled. Then we chilled out just a wee bit more.

Somewhere in between Merkland and the Tirry, the other guys arrived. We laughed, we joked, we dined and we fished. And somewhere between laughter and hearty food, ‘our’ lady had asked us about our love of fishing as my head had wandered off trying to find words to explain our passion. I didn’t say a word, I couldn’t express my feelings. It’s the sum of all the parts, I thought to myself, but I guess she wouldn’t really have understood what all the parts are, less so what the sum represents. I was contentedly struck dumb.

As I sit here, warm and quiet in my wee flat, perhaps wind and rain lash Scourie, perhaps deer are calling loudly on the moors and hills round Crask. Perhaps fish are rising, perhaps buzzards and eagles bank on the wind.  Thank you Scourie and Crask, thank you Davy and the guys.

Perhaps one day I might go back.

Three Days.

Posted on Scottish-Anglers. net 27/03/2012.

On Saturday night, the pain in my foot had throbbed heavily; I’d considered how foolish I would be to go fishing the next day. The forecast was delicious. On Sunday, I went fishing.


It’s a short drive from my place, along the road and down onto the Ericht. With my foot strapped, and ibuprofen on board, I’d hirpled my way from pool to pool stopping to watch the water for any sign of a fish.

Ready to hirple.

I’d flopped down by a pool known as Swirlies, cursing the pain in my foot, unaware of the day that had unfolded around me. Rested and pacified, I’d opened my eyes to the day; a blue sky from horizon to horizon, spring’s early bumble bees busying themselves, Red Admirals floating on the wind, stoneflies careering about haphazardly and the sun warming to almost unbelievable temperatures.

I caught my first troot of the season in the rippled water at the head of Swirlies. I waded about the pool trying to find a way to cast my dry fly on to it from below. I gave up and thought again. I eventually got it dropping my F-fly on to it from above. Pleased, of course, but not just for the first of the season, but also for the two or three minutes that it took me to work out how to cover it. I caught my first of the season waded nipple deep with my elbows dipping the water as I cast.

The trickle of olives brought another two fish up too. I covered one well enough, I thought, but with no response. By the time I got to target the third, the olives had disappeared and the fish had gone down ignoring the few March Browns which floated by.

“That was it then,” I thought as I packed up my gear and headed back on what was to be long, lonely and painful walk back to the car. Through necessity I stopped many times on the way, looking for risers. I’d been right though, that had been it. No more fish to be seen.
At some point during the day I’d got a bit confused about the time with my mobile and camera showing different times. With the clock change, I’d clearly messed up. When I got to the car, wearied and pained, but truly enthused about a wonderful day out, the car clock gave me a result that surprised me. I’d been out for six hours.  So what time had it been?

It’d been a time to go fishing.

My foot hurt like Hell on Sunday night. The forecast was delicious. On Monday I went fishing.


The Braan is a big favourite of mine; it sparkles as it runs it way, part highland, part lowland in character to its confluence with the Tay in Dunkeld. It’s not a salmon water as might be supposed though; the salmon restrained from their upward pursuit, somewhere between Dunkeld and Rumbling Bridge. Where I fish, above Rumbling Bridge, it's a trout-only water.

I’d thought that it might be a touch early for the Braan, but hoped that with the weather that there might be a chance of a hatch and a rise to accompany it. I’d got that wrong though and sat beside my favourite pool as the river meandered along at summer level. Gloriously warm too, an almost carbon copy of the day before. I’d thought how ridiculous it was to be sitting in summer conditions when the hatches hadn’t even started yet.

I’d had a lazy few hours, sitting by my favourite pool and sparing my foot. A time and a place for reflection, on another gorgeous day. I loved it.
A time and a place for reflection.

On Monday night my foot was very sore again. The forecast was delicious. On Tuesday I went fishing.


I headed back to the Ericht today, another stunning day. Back up to Swirlies where a trickle hatch of olives yielded three troots to the F-fly. The wee rise happened around 12.45, which I guess is the same time as it h
appened on Sunday, and then the river went dead.  The walking was a lot easier today.

A wee Ericht troot.

Three days where it was pure foolishness to go fishing with such a sore foot, but sometimes fools can find gold. A golden three days to remember in the dark days of next winter.
My foot’s hurting a bit. The forecast is delicious. Tomorrow I might go fishing.

Order and Chaos.

Posted on Scottish-Anglers. net 14/04/2012.

“I can’t buy a rising trout, just now” I said to a pal of mine, earlier in the week. There had been the wee Ericht Sunday session where the March Browns had floated down on the water in their droves; the parr plopping away as the trout lay dormant - somewhere below. Just the one fish had risen, and just once, on my trip to the Braan. On the Tay too, with Davy and Jim, the same thing – one fish, one rise. Loving, as I do, pursuing rising fish, it’s been a thin time round here.

Frustrating too, in a sense, to hear reports of rising fish up north and of big trout being caught (well done lads). Not so much with the big trout (although that would be nice), but of having rising fish to target - I’m happy, as a pig in sh*t, to chase rising trout of any size. On Wednesday night I was feeling a bit defeated, as I made my plan for the following day. My dirty washing pile was achieving small mountain proportions. Poly bags of fur and feathers festooned my floor; wee cut offs of hackle and glister had shared the bath water with me. It had to stop. It was time to clean and hoover, time to restore some order at home where chaos reigned supreme. Thursday was to be a busy day in the house.


I was up early on Thursday, ready for the Ariel, the Pledge and the hoover. Then I opened the curtains. With the room filled with sunshine and warmth, I committed to the day ahead.  “Sod the housework,” I thought “I’m going fishing”. I picked up the camera, a dirty jumper and headed on down to the river.

The temperature was a mere 9 degrees when I’d arrived at the riverside car park. Standing in the warm sunshine, though, I congratulated myself on the only sensible decision that could possibly have been made. I’d sauntered on up the water with a level of outside and inside warmth that only an angler might know.

"We're a' married. You've got nae chance."

Tending to spend my time looking for ‘risers’, I can often be found lying on the river bank – eyes peeled and ears pricked - ready.  A couple of weeks ago, as I lay horizontally, a lad sporting a trout fly rod had stopped for a wee bit blether, in the passing. “I’m pretty new to the trout fishing,” he’d said, clearly looking to me for any hints. “I tend to target just the rising fish,” I’d replied offering my unbridled sagacity. “Oh is that the best way to fish for the trout then?” “No,” I’d replied “I’m just a lazy b*stard.” “He’s just been advised by a duffer in angler’s clothes,” I'd thought as he ambled off up the river.

I’d stopped here, peeked through the trees there in the bright morning sun searching, hopefully, for a rising trout before eventually claiming a horizontal position at the head of Swirlies. The world was mine. I lost myself in random thought.

Looking down Swirlies.
Soon, about half way down the pool, I could see an odd trout or two moving and I walked briskly down the pool to get into position. I switched myself on - I was ready to fish.
In position, from upstream, I’d caught my first fish of the day – a wee sparkler in the now diminishing rays of the sun - the other close riser proving to be a cast too far. The other risers, only two or three yards more distant, couldn’t be covered, so I exited the water to see if I could cover them from downstream of their holding positions. It proved to be an easy wade, though, and I’d made my position, waist deep, ready to cover the fish which I could now see were taking March Browns. It was a delightful wee spell as the sky clouded over and coldness replaced the early morning sun. I caught two and missed two in a delightful wee session, before having to exit the water as the shivers set in and the sky grew darker. One of these fish had been the thinnest fish I’d seen in a long time. “The pie diet,” I’d said to him as I put him back in the water.

"Pies? I want pies."

My jersey, I thought I’d packed in my bankside waistcoat, wasn’t there and I’d walked back up to the head of the pool, as much to restore some warmth to my body as in the hope of seeing some risers. No risers there, I’d headed back down to the same spot where one or two ‘new’ fish were rising. I’d got back in too, still shaking, missed one lost one, before realising that my coordination had gone nullified by the overpowering  feelings of cold.

On the way back to the car park, I’d peeked through the trees spotting a couple of risers and spent 15 minutes obsessively targeting a single fish, unsuccessfully, although I did catch its pal near by. When I got back to the car I was shaking badly. The temperature was still 9 degrees, but the sky was cloaked in grey cloud; the wind seemingly layered with ice.


There had been no doubt in my mind, on Thursday night. that I was going fishing on Friday. With the forecast almost replicating the day just past, I’d hoped for a repeat performance. In the morning I’d put two fingers  up to the washing machine (accompanied by an appropriate expletive), in the passing, and went fishing. I geared up much warmer, at the car, and set off after waiting out a hail storm.

Chaotic skies.

No two days are ever the same though and that’s part of the intrigue and fascination of fishing. You can do your best, based on experiences, to pick the day, the weather, the river and the flies, but nature will serve up whatever she decides to on the day. Nature seems somehow chaotic to me, sometimes ordered and sometimes random, if that makes sense. I drew a blank on Friday.

"Whaur's the cars? I want to die."

The day did the same sort of thing as the day before, weather wise. A bit windier, I suppose, but somehow it panned out so different. There was a good hatch of March Browns around an hour and half later than the day before, but the fish largely ignored them. I did find three sporadic risers late on, but they were only there for a couple of minutes as March Browns floated and hopped their way down the far side of the pool totally ignored in the lower reaches of the glide.

Saturday morning

I’m half way to attaining some order in my flat this morning. The first load of fishing jumpers is washed; the hoover ready, the Pledge just at hand. I’ll restore some level of order to the chaos that is normally my flat today.

The sun’s shining outside, a wee bit windy and probably too cold for a rise I’m thinking in that ordered sort of way. Nature’s chaos may be proving me wrong as I type this.

Who needs chaos?

Me! Sod the flat, I’m away fishing.

Whatever the weather.

Posted on Scottish-Anglers. net 20/04/2012.

Weather forecast sites have been getting my attention recently. It’s not so many weeks ago since I ventured out on the Ericht with my top half clad in just a tee-shirt and light jumper, feeling warm and relaxed in mellow sunshine. The weather’s showing the other side of its face now, though, with cold and wet days ominously dominating proceedings. On Tuesday night, I’d ‘surfed’ around the weather websites hoping to find one to give me optimism for the next day’s planned fishing. I’d retreated, defeated there, to the sofa to consider my options. It was going to rain in the next few days, of that there was little doubt.

I’d been out on the Ericht the day before. The sun had shone, at times, although it had felt cold even in periods of bright light. Flies had hatched and fish had risen. I’d blundered my way through the hatch, first March Browns and then LDOs, landing two wee trout in that spell and leaving the water not disgruntled, but feeling that somehow I should have done better. The cold day had got to me and I’d been ‘weather disabled’ by the time the flies were hatching. I go kind of ‘gooey’ when I get cold; shivering and shaking, my coordination departs and my focus goes all to Hell. So, with rain forecast for the Wednesday, I considered my options for the following day. I did decide, though, to get out there and fish whatever the weather.


I’d eventually decided to spend some time on my ‘Sleeping Pool’ on the Braan. I have sleeping pools on a few of the rivers where I fish – a sleeping pool being defined as a pool where I can sit, watch and wait on a rising fish and, on warm and balmy day, perhaps go horizontal and lose myself in daytime dreams. Knowing full well how cold I might feel, should the rain set in, the Sleeping Pool had fitted the bill well as retreat to the car, less than a hundred yards away, was an option should the wet stuff come. I got lucky though, rain skirting my location on a couple of occasions during the day. I stayed dry.

I had maybe an hour to wait before I spotted the first riser of the day. Covered well, it had taken my ‘Sock Fly Emerger’ and I’d landed my first Braan trout of the season.

"SFE you say? Mmmm, yummy."
I’d lost my only ‘SFE’ up a tree, trying to cover the next riser, but got him too after putting an olive DHE on before the main component of the March Brown hatch had started tumbling down the stream.

A Braan yellow belly.

As fish had started plopping, my waistcoat had drifted languidly by, on the water, having fallen somehow from the bank and  into the water.  “Oh sh*ite,” I thought to myself “I’m fecked now if it rains” as my waterproof, now waterlogged, had been in a pocket of my now swimming waistcoat. With the problem addressed, I got back into the water and got back to chasing some fish.

Back to chasing fish.

Three more fish came my way and I missed a fair few too, struggling to see my fly in the ‘glarey’ light. Five river troots  for me then, a result! The rain stayed away too.


My waistcoat had dried overnight and Thursday morning had seen me tying a few SFEs before heading on back over to the Braan. In place, and geared up, I’d sat and waited in anticipation. Fifteen minutes later the heavy rain started, and stayed, as I glanced forlornly from time to time for a break in the menacing grey clouds.

Singin' in the rain? Nae chance!
Two early risers again, the only ones I saw during the day, were covered (fly ignored) as the water seeped up and inside the cuffs of my waterproof. I did get two trout casting my dry fly blind on the seams of the pool. I was a miserably cold man when I left the water for the half hour drive back to Coupar Angus.

"Normally I eat pies."


No chink can be seen in the clouds' grey armour as I look through the window this Friday. Rain is forecast too, soon in the afternoon, and today I’m not fishing. Days of temperatures struggling to make nine degrees with a wetting, more likely than not, have doused my almost insatiable appetite for fishing. Whatever the weather? No, not today!

Wait though, is that a chink of blue sky I see through the window over there?


One more thing. The three fish shown here have one thing in common. They’re what I know as ‘bum trout’. The Braan sleeping pool has a quality that can’t be found on many pools on the rivers that I fish. Namely, that from a sitting position a trout can be covered, played and landed whilst the bum remains unmoved on terra firma. So, three bum trout for the season so far for me. Can anybody beat that?

Casting my vote.

Posted on Scottish-Anglers. net 29/04/2012.

The wee entry phone ‘dingled’ in my lobby the other week indicating a visitor waiting at the security door outside. “Hello,” I said in the phone as my opening gambit. “I’m doing a door to door,” replied the visitor enquiringly. “And?” I said, resorting to grumpy mode. “Well, I’m actually canvassing for the upcoming local election, can you buzz me in please?” came the reply. “On one condition,” I said “that you don’t chap on my door – I’m in number 4.” “Aye ok then.” he replied as I buzzed him in and reclaimed my repose on the sofa to consider which way that I should cast my vote.

It was to be a coalition decision, eventually, as I cast my vote both for the Braan and the Tay in the coming week. The forecast, though, remained dark in outlook with gusty winds, heavy rain and low temperature at around 8-9 degrees dominating. Not a forecast to enthuse about, but there it was just the same.


The Braan was up a wee bit from my last visit. Still, it had looked inviting as I’d strung up my rod by the Sleeping Pool on Sunday. Three early risers had remained unmoved by my attempt to entice them and I’d lain down and watched and waited. Intermittently warm and cold, as the sun hid and showed her face, I re-entered the water to chase a new riser as the sun showed for a wee while longer. Almost as I slid myself into the water more fish started rising, as darkly shaped March Browns started showing on the water highlighted starkly in the bright light. I had a fine wee session during the hatch with around eight trout coming to hand and two more later as some more MBs trickled down. Not big fish, around 8-9 inches mostly, with the best perhaps stretching to 11 with a little imagination. A lovely session, though, and it stayed mostly dry too.

With Smurf, on the Monday, the script had been different – an olive hatch again during the warmth of a period of sun. Fish had plopped away, under my rod tip at times, and I’d sworn a bit as I failed to match the hatch and to master the fish on the day. I’d brought the only two stupid fish in the pool to hand.


I tied a few DHEs with CDC mixed in, on Tuesday morning, before heading out for my first Tay trip of the season.

No socks were harmed in the tying of this fly.

On the Murthly side of the Caputh bridge, I’d headed downstream on a cold and gusty day, later heading back up to the bridge with heavy rain clearly on its way as the sky darkened. Sheltered, but feeling very cold, I’d cowered under the bridge as it started raining.

Precipitation? Aye mibbe.

I caught my first Tay trout of the season as the rain gathered momentum covering a riser just a few yards above the bridge. Freezing cold, and with the rain now reaching epic proportions, I snuck back under the bridge, shaking as the rain added to the considerable toll already exterted on my body temperature.

"Hey missus. Get yer washin' in."

Icy water ran down my face. Snot ran, involuntarily, from my nose, and my hands, earlier purple, were now stained white as circulation started to withdraw its customary warming service. Then the fish started rising…

It was one of those ‘if only’ type of moments as I’d exited from under the bridge to approach the rising fish in the p*ssing rain and gusting wind. If only I’d been warm, if only. March Browns were piling down the water in proportions that I would measure in legions. At one point I’d cast my fly to a riser and reckoned that around 30-40 MBs were around my fly, with none of these flies more distant than a foot and half away. I wondered to myself why a fish would take my offering in a sea of naturals. I wondered, too, about my sanity. When my cast became an infinite maze of twists and knots, with my hands now totally useless, I’d retired back under the bridge, put my hands in my pockets and watched, demoralised, as fish continued to plop away in the wind creased water. After about twenty minutes, with the rain off, hands warmed and cast replaced, I’d got back in the water and managed another trout before I walked shakily back to the car. I think it was around two hours later when I finally felt warm again. Christ, I’d been cold.


On the Tay at Murthly on Friday, I’d vowed to keep myself as warm and dry as I could so that I’d be ready for the fish should they decide to show their heads.  As I’d watched the water studiously, a more typical trickle hatch of MBs had obliged, too, with the flies coming down, from time to time, during a two hour period.

Studiously watching the water.
I caught my first fish in the pool under and downstream of Caputh Bridge, got out of the water, warmed myself up, before going up above the bridge to the lovely pool there.

First fish on Friday.
Three more fish had followed and I’d allowed myself a wee smile as the last one had careered, jumping around the pool, before I brought him to hand. I was freezing again, though, when I left the water.

"Ok, ok ya got me. There's nae need to gloat!"


The northerly and easterly winds look set to remain for the coming week. Another multi layered, jumper week seems likely - more cold weather to endure. I’m casting my vote for the Tay again this week, with a wee outing to a loch in the offing too. My vote for warm spring days will likely be counted as a spoiled paper, it seems. Warm and satisfying days seem now to be a hazy dream of a forgotten time. Still, there’s fish to be caught and I’ll be out there, cold, but trying.

The fruit of the land.

Posted on Scottish-Anglers. net 08/05/2012.

“I think you should know that I hate you,” I said to Jock the other week. “Well that’s just fine, ‘cos I hate you too,” Jock had replied. Pleasantries dispensed with, we got down to chewing the fat. Jock, a man of 70 something, with the delightful and impudent cheek of a 7 year old, and I have become good friends since I moved here to Coupar Angus some four and a half years ago. Brought up as the son of an under-keeper on the Glendelvine estate, he epitomises more than most that country way of looking at the land, and the waters contained within, that a city dweller could never see. Fish, fowl and fauna, to Jock, are the fruit of the land.

Some time ago, I recounted to Jock a story of another fishless day on a warm and sunny afternoon. “Of course,” I’d said “if I’d dangled a worm in the water, then I’d probably have caught some fish.” “Aye,” he said. No more words than that, but I knew that a questioning eyebrow was raised inside his head.  “Daft b*stard,” I imagine he said, but without audible words. For Jock it’s the ‘what’, the food on the table that matters. For me, it’s the ‘how’; the rise to the fly, the setting of the hook, the bringing of a fish to hand. For me it’s the chase that matters.

Sometime recently, I told Jock that I’d taken to fishing Murthly and was catching one or two trout there. “I’ll bring you a couple sometime, if you’d like, when I can catch them.” “I’d like that,” said Jock - Murthly being just the other side of the river to Glendelvine, he looked forward to trout from his old stamping ground.


Fish eluded me on Monday at Murthly despite a wee olive hatch. Three fish risen and three missed on another cold and grey day when Spring went missing once again.


Den of Ogil, stocked and let by Forfar’s Canmore club, was the venue for a meet up with Jim on the Tuesday. It’s a long ribbon of a loch, dammed and steep sided, it had an uncompromising sort of feel on the day. The sun had shone, but the air still remained cool, on a day where fish were hard to find. Jim took the honours, with two fish on the day, whilst I added another accomplished blank to my lengthy list.

Steep sided Den of Ogil.
"The ugly b*stard got me.
Jim recounted a wee story of time gone by. In his own words:

“It would have been the late 50's, early 60's my old man worked as a Water Ballif for the Johnston's, we stayed at Morphie, my old man loved the job but it was hard to keep a wife and 3 kids on £7 a fortnight, even though he did get a company bike.”

Thank you for a lovely day out Jim. Did you eat of the fruit of the land when you were a bairn?


Wednesday, looking at the forecast earlier in the week, had been the pick of the days. In the morning, I tied a few new flies again using my old sock for body material, including a fly in Comparadun style with the addition of a blue dun hackle complementing the deer hair wing.

The Comparasock.

On the water, by 11.30, I was geared up with a ‘Comparasock’ waiting on a riser to set me off on my way. I didn’t have long to wait either, a steady riser soon showing in the pool at the bridge. I got him too, the fish hitting my ‘Comparasock’ without hesitation as I drifted the fly down past his nose.

Back out of the water, I scanned the pool where some fish were showing beyond a seam that runs down on the Murthly side of the water. I hadn’t fished this bit before; it looked like a difficult wade, but in the bright light it had looked ‘do-able’ and I’d waded carefully over planting my feet in the seam, waist deep in water. I was rewarded too with a further three fish, in a twenty minute spell as fish had plopped away, in warm sunshine. Had spring arrived?

Another rise came in the afternoon and another four fish came my way. A delightful, warming day out with eight fish to my rod. I went home a happy man.

"Dinnae gie me to Jock. They say he's carnivorous."


Thursday’s forecast had looked similar to Wednesday’s, so I’d hoped I might get some similar rewards to the day before but that was not to be. The day had been cooler, and although some fish rose, they were not steady risers. I’d worked hard for my two fish – the first one coming around 3 pm:

"Whit dae ye mean, I've got nae spots?"

A wee trout came along shortly after.

I never did get Jock’s dinner though. I’d been lost in the chase when I did catch a few fish on Wednesday, my next thought focused only on the chase of the next  rising fish. I have high hopes for Murthly though, when conditions are favourable fish are rising and they can be caught. For Jock and I we have a difference only in our perception of trout. Soon though, I hope to be handing Jock his trout dinner. On that day, we’ll both have partaken – in the fruit of the land.

They’re out to get me.

Posted on Scottish-Anglers. net 28/05/2012.

My fridge’s been playing up again. It goes just fine for weeks on end, then it goes on a strop. Cold drinks become ice one day, warm and unsatisfying the next.  Swearing doesn’t work either, I’ve tried that. Neither does a wee kick, or karate chop, to its midriff, but it does make me feel better.  Despite my regulatory attempts, though, my fridge will just do its own thing. In short, it’s temperamental, moody and totally unpredictable.  It reminds me of a woman I once knew.


The forecast remained gloomy, around 8-9 degrees all week with dark shades of grey dominating and easterly winds to the fore. The Tay has been my target, as of late, driven by my spectacular lack of success there, last season, but I opted for a wee session on the Braan - my hand forced by the high water levels on the Tay. I had a wee session by the Sleeping Pool. The Braan’s singing its tune, by now, and a few troots came easily my way. When it sings, the Braan always restores faith that fish can be caught – even for me, a duffer in angler’s clothes. A warming session, save for the rain, the crucifying east wind and the debilitating temperature.


The Tay still ran high, so I headed along the road to the Ericht. With higher water, the salmon fishers were out; a coven of them blethering and munching pieces as I geared up in the car park before I headed on up river. I went a wee bit further than normal, parking my bum on a steep sided pool which I’d never fished before and drawing my breath.

"We're flooers, leave us alone. The troots are in the water."

Plop…., plop, plop. Fish were rising, olives hatching. Without drawing breath, I got in the water and started fishing. It was the fourth fly I tried before I got a result, ny fly snaffled by a wee troot on my first cast. I went on to rise a few, missed some, caught some, before the hatch petered out and I finally got my chance to draw breath. Rested, I headed on back down to fish another pool, another one that I hadn’t fished before. The same thing there, another hatch, same flies, a great wee spell (despite the fish I missed!). I got home far later than recently. I’m totally convinced that time goes faster when fish are rising.


With the day looking similar to yesterday, I headed back to the Ericht. I planned to head back up to the same pools, at around the same time, in the hope that the hatches would repeat. I got a bit sidetracked at Swirlies, though, by a good troot whacking the earlier olives in the slower and deeper part of the pool. I’d promised myself, earlier in the season, to target the easier fish, which goes nowhere to explaining why ten minutes later I was on the other side, nettle stung, bollock deep in water, one foot on a slippy bottom, the other on a wobbly stone and with the water disappearing into oblivion just inches in front of my feet. Oh you old fool John! I gave it my best shot too, roll casting (the only choice) to cover it twice, missing the first time then getting that briefest of contacts, a big splash, before the fish turned down to the depths. Golly gosh, I missed it," I said to myself.

I wasted forty five minutes trying to get that one - the first hatch having dwindled to nothing by the time I headed on back upstream.

"Can ye no' tak up flooer arrangin' or sumthin'?"

I did get a few fish though, later on when the second hatch occurred – a great wee spell. A strange thing about Tuesday/Wednesday was the uniform size of the fish – 9-10 inches and fat wee b*ggers. The fish I missed, though, was way bigger than that. Still, I know where he lives.

8-9 degrees again, a biting cold easterly wind at Murthly on the Tay. I worked hard to get four fish on a difficult day with gusty winds.


Warmer weather final returned. Wearing three jumpers less than the day before, I’d had a wonderful hour at the Stile Pool, on the Ericht. Fish had been hammering olives from the moment I arrived. I’d got five, missed loads and dropped a couple at the net.

"Ye got anythin' to eat? I'm f'n starvin'."

Bigger fish too, I’d capped my day by catching a good troot in the head of the pool. The same fish caught by Smurf a few weeks ago, it transpired.

My washing machine (her name's Wilma, by the way) joined forces with my fridge this morning. The three control buttons now control anything that they like, rather than anything that I would like. I think they’re out to get me - my household appliances that is. My toaster, this morning, looked a bit aggressive, I thought worryingly. “Toaster goes for jugular, man hospitalised” I imagined the headline saying. I’m out to get them too, though. No! Not the appliances , I’m out to get the troots. Hell, I’ll just swear and gesticulate at the appliances like I normally do. A great week – it’s been many years since I caught so many fish on the rivers. Wholesomely good!

P.S. For sale. One fridge (with top of the range random temperature feature). One testy, disgruntled and often violent owner. Any reasonable offer secures. May swap for non-aggressive toaster.


Posted on Scottish-Anglers. net 31/05/2012.

I became quite reflective whilst sitting on the banks of the Tay on Monday morning. A beautiful morning, bright blue skies, light winds and the sun fulfilling its earlier morning warming promise as the day unfolded.

Caputh Bridge on Monday.

As I sat there, with a hot one clearly on its way, I thought to myself that I’d be lucky to catch one fish. That came prophetically true, with one trout under my belt, I’d headed off home around lunchtime to avoid the full heat of the afternoon sun. In the couple of hours, on my favourite perch at Murthly, I’d spent more time reflecting than fishing as May’s days rolled on to a close.

My favourite perch at Murthly.

Last year I’d decided that I should target, in the earlier part of the season, running water primarily. In my formative years, I’d learned all my fly fishing on the burns round where I grew up in and around Arbroath, but that was some 40 years ago, when life was viewed through widening eyes with life’s new experiences just beginning to feed the coffers of experience. Since then, I’d dabbled here and there, fished the Pas de Calais for bass, thrown a shrimp in the Indian Ocean in the hope of catching something that didn’t bite or poison and occasionally thrown a fly in the, by then, many burgeoning stocked waters somewhat nearer to home. It was around 2000 when I picked up a fly rod in earnest again, making fishing again a full time hobby. I’d started with fisheries and somewhere along the line focused attentions more on wild fish in the abundant lochs of our land. I’d fished some rivers too, mainly the Don, but I’d been dabbling really, a fool practicing in the old and trusted ways, ways learned as a stripling child.

I made up my mind last year that I could, to some extent, relive those experiences of my formative years by creating a wee challenge to myself. Could I relinquish my ineptitude on river waters? Could I remove my self-named title of ‘duffer in angler’s clothes’? I guessed I could. So, I dedicated the months of March, April and May until further notice to promoting myself from duffer to angler. At the time I decided this, I thought it might take me around five years. I still think the same.

It was inevitable, on the Tay on Monday, with May’s months dwindling away and with a week of hot and difficult fishing weather just passing, that I drew breath and considered how I’d done in my wee task. Last year, in terms of fish caught, achievements were very poor. Most of the fish I caught too were on the Braan, the easiest of the three rivers that I fish, so perhaps my achievement on my report card should have said “Must try harder.”  I set out to do just that, this year deciding that I would only go to the Braan when things were tough on the Tay and the Ericht. I was in no doubt that sometimes that that would be the case, the Tay especially can be very dour. More than anything I wanted to catch a few fish on the Tay, I hadn’t done that at all last year.

"You were lucky to get ne, us Tay troots are tough."

As I sat there, mid-morning with the sun rays strengthening, the sky cloudless and the wind only just ruffling the tops of the trees, I thought back; the day I cowered under Caputh Bridge with fish rising in torrential rain, an east wind howling up the water as I willed my cold numbed bones and sinews just to work for a wee while longer; the seemingly endless hours watching the water, willing the fish to rise; the days when I worked hard plying a fly for the solitary risers; the early starts and the late finishes. God knows I tried. Some rewards came my way too, one of the most memorable a day when I caught eight fish on the Tay – an objective realised. Whilst driving home,  I took my hand off the steering wheel and pinched myself.  “I can catch fish on the Tay” I said to myself.

"Of course I'm busy. I'm an f'n bee."

Most of all though, I remembered a day from last week while the weather still burned hot and the air was still. I’d firstly fished the Stile Pool during a wee hatch of olives. I’d fished badly, I thought, as I wandered on up to Swirlies - caught one but missed a fair few. I’d thought that the fish would be down at Swirlies, but I was wrong though, still five fish gobbling down the dwindling remnants of the hatch. I got in the water and fished… and fished as close to perfection as a man of my ability could. My wading was impeccable, positioning  beautiful , focus absolute and my casting went fluid under the hottening rays of the sun.  I took four of the five rising fish effortlessly, denied only by the fifth as the fish jumped and threw the hook. As I sat down afterwards, that day on the Ericht, grinning like a spoiled child, I remembered the hardships and efforts of the weeks before. “You’re a stupid old fool John,” I said to myself “but it was worth it.”

Sunset over Caputh Bridge.

Optimism and reality.

Posted on Scottish-Anglers. net 09/06/2012.

An angler, by definition, is an optimist - an optimistic optimist.  We dream hazy dreams of days and trips, as yet unfulfilled; perhaps of days on wild moors, of balmy weather, of dimpled rises, of sparkling trout - fresh air ruffling  our hair as birds busy themselves and sing their songs of life; of days when our minds melt and we become one with the landscape, the flora and the fauna. It’s the hope, that hazy dream, that keeps us going back, in the expectant hope that we can turn our dreams into reality.

Two or three weeks ago I took Auld Jim up to fish Balhomish loch. Balhomish is run and stocked by the Dunkeld and Birnam Angling Association and sits just off the Crieff road, secreted somewhere up there in the woods. It’s a delightful wee place too, mostly surrounded by trees, but open on one side as mottled green moorland ambles uphill slowly to the sky. The day had seemed cocooned by the trees and by low clouds of grey; the water calm as Jim and I geared up, midgies nipping away behind the ears on an intimate loch in the peace of the morning. Soft dimples here, a wee splash there, showed us that the fish were up and on the surface. Optimism reigned as I geared up with my favourite dries and I steered the boat softly out on to the glass shiny water of the morning.

Glass shiny water of the morning.

The morning provided too, with two or three fish coming to the dry flies – a few missed, a few hooked over the open water. A lovely wee and secluded place, tranquil in the quietness of the day, we’d beached the boat and attended to lunch, sorting out casts, before dipping the oars gently and edging the boat quietly out for the afternoon, chasing rising fish beside and under tree branches along the bank’s edge.

Tranquil in the quietness of the day.

Under tree branches along the bank's edge.

Reality followed, and matched, my earlier optimism as I picked up a few trout in the afternoon in a delighting spell as fish crashed unreservedly into my flies.

"Dinnae come back. Yer no' welcome here."

As much as I felt happy with my choice of tactics and as much as I thought I fished well on a God given day, I was left with more than just a tinge of sadness to nurse on the way home. Jim caught nothing. An old man, with a bad shake, he couldn’t put a hook home when fish came to his fly. The truth is, he didn’t move at all, no strike – no fish. The reactions of an angler whose days of filling the boat full of fish are gone.  Jim’s reality, my sadness. I hope upon hope though that when I and Brian take him out on Leven soon, he’ll get a fish. Every finger on my hands and toes will be crossed for that one. Optimistic? I’m an angler - it’s the only way to be!

Get to Assynt.

Posted on Scottish-Anglers. net 06/07/2012.

I can imagine my back garden surrounded on all sides by higgledy-piggledy, rustic fences stretching as far as the eye, and the imagination, can see. I’d have a wee corner reserved for a Lilliputian land, a fairy tale place where reality evaporated the further you walked both into and under its spell. A place of contrasting sometimes sharp, angular and rugged hillocks; sometimes rounded knolls, too, of all shades of brown, green and ochre drifting gently upwards to the sky and downwards to soft, water lapped edges. There would be incongruously shaped mountains, too, rising majestically from the landscape, silhouetted dark against magnificent skies. An impossibly narrow road would make wild careering turns, skirting moor and loch, sometimes cutting hewn rock and, at times, it would drop breathlessly from hill top to sea-beaches, in the blinking of any eye.

A day dream, perhaps, of one man’s over fertile imagination, I’d call my fantasy land……  Assynt.


As Steve and I sat chatting, loch-side, an onlooker would have been forgiven for thinking that two lifelong friends were perhaps recounting warm and favoured stories of their shared, childhood memories. Above us, gulls squawked excitedly, angry at the invasion of their space.

At our feet, water gently lapped the loch’s edge. Beside us water hissed and boiled. Soft spoken, ageing men drank coffee and rekindled the warmth of an, as yet, young friendship. That day we laid lines on three lochs. We caught nothing at all – I’m not sure that it mattered


Later, by now a spell unfolding,  I’d sauntered round my campsite, captivated by the emerald sea, and the rich golden sands, before driving down to Achmelvich, with the camera, as a beautiful evening firstly unfolded and then died quietly under the soft rays of the setting sun.


Water rippled gently as Andy and I nosed the boat out onto Cul Fraoich. Out on the loch, Bob and Steve already fished, their presence betrayed by dark shadows and at times by rod glint in the sun.  Sometimes, we’d beached our respective crafts; sitting to chat warmly, the merest trace of wind softly ruffling our hair. Later, the wind changed its mind, and its direction, denying my hope of a balmy evening’s fishing on the loch. There weren’t too many fish caught on the day. It didn’t seem to matter.



Loch Drumbeg lies tantalising and inviting, roadside, somewhere on a road that starts from, and goes to, nowhere in particular. All green islands, dark trees,  unfathomable bays and set by a mystical wee village, it’s the sort of place where an angler could dissolve his mind, and fishing attentions, for days on end, surfacing from time to time, only to meet life’s sustaining necessities of food and sleep. Firstly by bank, and later by boat, Bob and I fished the loch where a fair few of its feisty wee residents came our way – not that it mattered.


Bob and I stopped by the road to photograph a few ‘locals’ rooting for the truth in the damp grass of the morning. It seemed improbable, it probably was. Did I catch some fish? You know, I can’t really remember.



The Gods of Weather played their hand on Friday. Skies folded inwardly, rain reigned  and thunder clapped. As I headed home beyond Lochinver, the heavens opened and I drove a few miles in second gear whilst windscreen wipers flapped, almost redundantly, as I leaned forward with my nose as close to the windscreen as could be achieved, squinting my eyes and peering frantically to find the edges of the road.

Suddenly there was no rain, and Assynt receded into the distance behind me.

I have no back garden, the place for my mythical fairyland lies somewhere north of my home, sheathed by rain and rock. Assynt is both mystical and very real. A place sculpted by Mother Nature and weathered by Father Time. A place where cold and ragged souls enter, where souls return both warm and whole.


This morning I made a wee mistake driving. I made an apologetic wave. An apoplectic lady shouted and gesticulated wildly at me. Her voice not heard, I still had little doubt where she wanted me to go. “Get to Assynt” I thought to myself, wryly, as I nosed my car slowly in the direction of home.

A question of choice.

Posted on Scottish-Anglers. net 04/08/2012.

The light lay pale and languid as I walked into the fishing hut at Lintrathen, last Thursday. From the darkness of the back corner, a voice piped up. “Hi John, how you doin’?” I peered to find the face, taking a few brief moments to connect the voice to the person.  Jim G’S face appeared in focus as he leaned forward to the light. “What you up to today then?” Jim queried. “Just here to get a permit for Backwater, Jim” I’d replied, “I’m headed up there for the day.”  Out of nowhere, another voice piped up. “You’re after the little eens then” another figure appeared in view, a smugness and mocking laid sharp on the edge of his voice. “We all like different things in life,” I’d replied simply “that’s my choice.”  Permit procured, I drove on up the wee road to Backwater.

Earlier in the month, on my return from Assynt, I’d sat down and thought a wee bit about the fishing. “Certainly,” I’d thought to myself “the fishing round here is the equal of what can be had in Assynt.” I ruminated some more. “Not the Lilliuputian fairy tale land of Assynt, perhaps, but Perthshire has its own beauty and grandeur; its own story to unfold and tell,”  I started to persuade myself “and we’re all guilty of ignoring what we have on our own doorstep” I’d refined my own argument.  In the end, I won the argument convincingly. Homeland Perthshire was my choice for July’s fishing.

Loch Turret

It’d been some thirty years, or so, since I’d last laid a line on Turret. Turret lies high in the hills, and clouds, somewhere above Crieff. A not untypical dammed loch; green hills rise steeply from the water’s edge, raking their way to the skies. Today, low cloud hugged the hillsides, just a brief band of daylight showing between the moist low greyness of the clouds and the gently lapping wavelets of the water’s top.

A brief band of daylight.

June’s cloudy weather had rolled on into July; rain always seeming inevitable, rather than possible, as I’d cast my way through the day with fish not too easy to catch. By mid-afternoon, though, the clouds had lifted revealing an amphitheatre enclosed by dark green hillsides.

An amphitheatre enclosed by dark green hillsides.

With just a couple of wee trout claimed, I fished where water gushed down at the end of a concrete chute and a few fish were rising. I caught a few too, before the clouds reclaimed the sky, the heavens opened and the rain came down in strings. I toughed it out for an hour, sitting by the water’s edge as the water seeped up from my cuffs, laughing at myself later as I threw my wet stuff, yet again, into the car and headed home.


Backwater lay still and quiet just a few days after my visit to Turret.  Sounds seemed strangely muffled, in the morning, with the fish difficult, seeming somehow intertwined to the grey and sombre atmosphere of the day.

Backwater still and quiet.

Further up the loch, in the afternoon, the fish had woken with a fair few small fish crashing into my dry hopper. The size of the fish had disappointed on the day, though.


July skies continued grey at Shandra punctuated, from time to time, with brief chinks of blue.

Shandra - punctuated from time to time with chinks of blue.

Alone, afloat in a boat, I’d plied my single dry throughout the day. Sometimes fish had risen, sometimes they stayed down, on another day when the fish had seemed curiously timid.  I swear, too, that the fish there work in teams – often I’d been distracted by a rising fish to my left or right, whilst a fish grabbed my fly out in front of the boat. Swear words had peppered the day. A few fish caught on the day, some bright and gleaming, but most dark and green with eyes blacker than black should be.

Eyes blacker than black should be.


I’m sure that fairies and imps sing and dance when anglers and walkers go home, up in the woods round Balhomish. Jim E and I fished this stocked loch, sole occupiers of the wee loch for the day. I persevered with my single hopper on the day, whilst Jim stuck with his wet flies for the day. Jim scored a few fish more than me, but we both scored well in the blether stakes on the day. I swear that I saw a pair of sharp, mischievous and querying eyes under a bush, and the sound of a wee giggle, as we drove down the track after the fishing.

Smurf’s Loch

Smurf’s Loch lies somewhere on high, where clouds gather big and winds muster their storms.

Where clouds gather bigs and winds muster their storms.

The wind stayed down for Smurf, Auld Jim and myself on the big, heavy but reassuring boat, in a place where a grievously, wild wind can blow. We all caught fish - at times again, though, the fishing had been difficult. Both the water and the trout had sparkled on the day.

The Wee River

Unexpected, as it was, my unscheduled trip to the Wee River proved to be a wonderful day out. Firstly, up by the Sleeping Pool, Davy and I had done a bit of blethering, a bit of casting – I’d competently missed the first seven rises.  I’d shown Davy that mystical art of bum-trooting, catching troot with bum unmoved from terra-firm. Later, I’d repeated the feat sitting on a tiny shingle beach at the Big Pool. “It just makes me laugh” I’d said to Davy at the time. And it does, it just makes me laugh.

The Big Pool on the Wee River.

Back to the Wee River

The sun showed her face, a few days later, on my return to the Wee River. I fished from Google Pool up the water to the pool above the bridge that I call Logan’s Run. It was a day of delightful short line, fast water dry fly fishing. In the bright light, I could often see the fish coming off the bottom, intercepting my fly with astonishing speed and accuracy.

Short line, dry fly fishing.

It goes without saying, that I missed more fish than I caught. Still, a fair few fish came to hand – typical fish with nothing that would break half a pound.

Nothing that would break half a pound.

The fishing just died by the time I reached Logan’s Run – a shame because it’s a pool I really like. In the afternoon, I’d headed back down river remaining virtually fishless in pools where the trout had eagerly snaffled my wee dry fly, just hours before. A peach of a day out - alone on a wee part of a Perthshire paradise.

Back to Backwater

And so, back to Backwater on a day that seemed quite similar to my last trip. The fish were not so free rising, though, and I ended up chasing, at times, single fish sometimes only a foot or so from the edge. Around half the amount of fish that I caught the last time, but a good bit bigger, with the best fish, in Smurf’s Bay, not too far short of the pound – a very good fish for Backwater.

Backwater trout.
So, that was that, July’s come and gone now, she’s now just a memory. I’ve no doubt that my ‘little eens pal’ who fished for the rainbows of Lintrathen will have taken memories of two and three pounders, perhaps bigger, to recall fondly in the dark months. It’s just a question of choice, really, and I’ll have my own sweet memories to recall. Grey clouds, sparkling trout and dark green trees; soft chatter, muffled sounds and quiet laughter; dappled light, refreshing rain and balmy winds.  I’ll remember, more than anything though, the wee wild trout on the Wee River, the glint of sunshine on their flanks, launching themselves from the depths to grab my fly; my eyes wide with astonishment and pure joy in my heart.

Two days at Backwater.

Posted on Scottish-Anglers. net 12/08/2012.

I love going to Backwater when summer’s sweet song lilts softly, through a warm and rounded breeze. Three years ago, I had two fantastic days fishing during August when Heather Fly had flown haphazardly on the breeze, legs dangling ungainly under the soft rays of the sun. At times, tumbled onto the water by the easterly breeze, the fish had cavorted on to the summer feast seemingly wanting to obliterate their helpless black prey. I’ve had some success with the Heather Fly, since then, but nothing that’s quite reached the dizzying fishing perfection of those two days.

The dammed lochs of Backwater, and its near neighbour Lintrathen, provide water for Dundee, Angus and Perthshire and Kinross. Lintrathen is given over to stocked boat fishing, these days, whilst fishing on the bigger Backwater is by bank, and for its wild inhabitants only. Lintrathen Angling Club controls the fishing on both of these waters, a visit to Lintrathen being necessary to procure a permit for a day out on Backwater.


Late morning, I’d ambled my way down the wee path to Lintrathen, warmed by the emerging sun, my hair unruffled by the merest hint of a breeze. Down by the dam two boats were fishing, glints of rod and line showing, at times, anglers silhouetted hazily in the warm morning light. Billy, a kindly soul and keeper of the fishings, had welcomed me enthusiastically in that way that kindred souls of the angling brotherhood do, and we’d shared fishing stories and drank coffee as the light suffused through the open door, into the darkness of the hut.

Outside the hut, Mother duck and her brood gambolled on the water. Billy fed them bread as the youngsters eagerly rushed to food, whilst Mum stayed back, a discerning eye watching over their youthful exuberance.

Youngsters eagerly rushed to food.

"They little b*stards'll no' dae whit they're telt."

“Let me show you something,” Billy had said as he disappeared back into the hut, re-emerging with another handful of bread. By another part of the jetty, the water had erupted under another exuberant display as the seven rainbows who have taken residence under the pier lashed into their bread breakfast, led by ‘Lucy’ a fish of around 5 pounds.

Bread breakfast for raimbows.

An hour later than might have been, I drove the few miles on and up to Backwater.

Long water borne grasses, flower beds and luxuriant bottom resident weeds;  Smurf’s Bay had glowed in the sunlight.

Smurf's Bay had glowed in the sunlight.

A nice trout ‘backed and tailed’ throughout the bay, one or two others sipping down insects trapped by surface tension on rounded wavelets. A week before, I’d broken off under the combined action of a very aggressive take and an over-zealous strike and I thought I had the same fish as line pulled easily from my hand, the trout having aggressively slammed into my fly. I waded the edge of the bay, spoiling the rest of the fishing there, as I searched for an easier spot to land and photo my capture. A nice trout it was, too, but foul hooked it had given the impression of a better one. I floundered from the water and up the steep bank, then along the east shoreline under the hot, bright rays of the sun.

"Jeez it's warm. I'll just bide here for a meenit."

As clouds had floated on high, I’d tried to fish the wee shaded spells when the sun disappeared briefly behind the clouds edges. At times, I just baked happily under the sun, flies buzzing round my head aggravatingly – the only irritation of the day.

At times, I just baked happily under the sun.

At other times, I ploughed the bankside growth under long willowy grasses, camera in hand, looking and listening for the life of the day.

Ploughing the bankside growth.


I felt well washed out on Friday morning. Two days out in the sun, my previous day’s trip to Backwater and Wednesday’s trip to Kinardochy too had taken its toll. Common sense told me that I should stay indoors and rest, so I went fishing. At Lintrathen, I’d fed the rainbows by hand, mischievously turning my hand at the last minute and feeling the wee bite on my finger of a trout denied.

Breakfast is served.

"Here fishy, fishy!

At Backwater, I’d watched the sky turn its earlier grey dominance into a blue sun filled, lethargic world so reminiscent of the day before. I sat down on the boggy, grassy edges and soaked in the sun and the world.

I fished the day, bankside, either on my knees or on my bum. If I could’ve found a way to fish horizontally then I would have done that too. I watched an osprey during the day. The first time it had hit the water with an almighty crash, waking me from an almost dormant state. It had cleared the water clumsily, only slowly regaining its balance of flight, dark wings on broad shoulders, talons clutching a large trout and wheeling heavily as it regained the skies. “One of us is catchin’ then,” I’d thought to myself, and laughed.

"Ya b*stard, that osprey got my ma."

The two other attempts by the osprey proved fruitless whilst I went on to catch two on the day. As I headed on up the slope to the car, I sat down on the first stile, looking north as clouds gathered for the evening – a promising and cool looking fishing evening. I was totally gubbed.

“You’re a stupid old fool” I said to myself “chasing difficult fish on hot days, and hoping for Heather Fly.” Inwardly, I’d nodded in unhesitating agreement. “Aye, but a happy, stupid old fool,” I’d then countered defensively. A moment’s deliberation and “Aye you’ll be right there,” came back the concordant response. With the matter resolved, my knees creaked as I straightened my legs and headed on up the few yards more to the car. Behind me the unmistakable slap of fish flank on water resounded in the quietness of the evening.

Summer strawberries.

Posted on Scottish-Anglers. net 06/09/2012.

Sand dwindles slowly in the hourglass. An hour, though, can become but a minute, just a fleeting and transient moment in the passage of time. It seems like only yesterday when I ventured out on the first day of the trout season and sat down, riverside, with a whole season stretching out in front of me. Now, with just a month left, thoughts turn to long, dark winter nights – starved of both daylight hours and eager, rising trout.

August continued with fish almost always hard to get. Dark and luxuriant green trees etched themselves sharply against grey stained skies; blue skies often conspicuous only by their summer’s absence.

Rain pattered on water too, refreshing at times, occasionally heavy and persistent, drenching perhaps, the hands and face of the angler, but never that ever optimistic soul. My hoped for falls of Heather Fly just somehow didn’t happen.

Inevitably, I had a couple of trips to Backwater, always catching a fish or two, but they were never easily tempted.  I had a wee welcome change, by way of a trip to the borders - a new water and a new land for me. I’d fished with Davy and his pal Jim, stopping at times to chat quietly under changing skies with soft rounded, green hills sweeping away to the eye’s horizon.

A trip to Smurf’s Loch, too, we’d fished and talked softly at times whilst the fish stayed hard to catch. Some of us caught, on the day, some went home fishless carrying only a memory of the people and the weather of the day.

Davy and 'Blanker' Fin.
Davy and 'Blanker' Fin.

And there was Leven on Saturday, she’d played hard ball on the day. A stiff wind had often bounced the boat on foam flecked waves.

My cagoule flapping wildly, fly lines had dropped like stones, at times, our carefully thrown casts dumped disdainfully by unforeseen gusts of wind.  It had looked the part, though, and we’d all been enthused by the conditions, but it just didn’t happen. The fish stayed uncooperative as fish sometimes like to do.


I headed out for a wee spell on the river yesterday. Not really knowing where I was heading, I stopped by the Tay casting my mind back to my efforts there in previous months.  The water was too big, though, and I left that for another day. On to the Wee River, I’d sat down to watch water, and time, go by. To my right a buzzard had wheeled high on whims of the cool wind; the bleating of distant sheep, white specks on the hillside, floated long and far on the edge of the breeze. I sat passively, collecting my thoughts of the day, eating some strawberries as time had passed me by.

My strawberries were hard and sour. Sweet and succulent summer strawberries are now only a memory, until next year rekindles one of my great summer loves. The luxuriant green of summer leaves is fading too, both the colour and the sweet taste of summer is receding fast.  Soft, warming edges are dying as summer relinquishes her place.

Only four fish rose too, on the day, where just a few weeks before I’d been spoilt for choice as fish had mopped up their summer’s feast. I didn’t stay long, I felt truly tinged with sadness.

As I left, the wind sighed wearily, teasing its way through tangled webs of branches. A withered leaf fell with a tender kiss on the water, tumbled once, and floated on soft seams of water through angular stones, past seeing trout down to the chute of water at the tail of the pool, never to be seen again.

On ripples of my dreams.

Posted on Scottish-Anglers. net 07/10/2012.

On my return from Scourie and Crask, I decided to fish the last few days of the trout season on my local rivers. I’d targeted both the Ericht and the Tay, but sustained high water levels had put paid to my plans for fishing on the Tay. I’d been given some cause for optimism on the Ericht on Thursday as a decent hatch of olives had funnelled down the feeding lane, mid pool on Swirlies and I’d opened my account with a nice pounder as decent trout slammed into the hatch. Above it too, there was a better fish rising and I waded carefully, into position, to intercept my prey. My first cast had fallen a bit short and a feisty wee half pounder had grabbed my fly. Still, I’d thought, I can get the better one next cast, as I’d unhooked my prize.

"Ye'll no' get the big one, I tell you."

Almost on cue, an otter swam through the lie, its head surfaced and it dived leaving a long trail of bubbles as it swam subsurface down the pool. The hatch stopped abruptly, too, and that was that for the fishing on the day. Still there was next week, I’d thought to myself as I’d struggled to pull off my waders, later at the car.

On Tuesday, there had been a decent hatch again, more sustained this time. I’d caught a few trout, but they had been small, though lively. On Wednesday, I’d been caught out by a sharp rise in the river level and didn’t cast a line, just stopping for a friendly blether with other anglers, from time to time, on a nice day in warm sunshine. On Thursday, my only catch of the day had been a first ever grilse, on the dry fly. Alarmingly thin, a reminder that nature can be cruel on all things that live and swim. And yesterday, I had my last casts of the season. Flies had hatched, but the fish remained largely unmoved, my only connection with a trout being of the briefest kind. I was glad, though, to have the river to myself yesterday, it seemed somehow right. It also seemed somehow right that I ended my season, as I started, with a blank on the Ericht.

Today it’s the sixth of October, the last day of the trout fishing season. The worst thing about closing day is not the day itself - it’s knowing that you can’t go fishing tomorrow. Yesterday, ensconced in nature’s detritus, I thought back to season 2012. It surprised me, a wee bit, about the abiding memory that surfaces every time that I cast my mind back.

Ensconced in nature's detritus.
"Tattie bye - season 2012."

Somewhere in April, I’d cowered under Caputh bridge as rain and icy winds sought to batter me into submission. Although feeling that I was approaching hypothermia, I stayed in the hope of just a few more rising fish. Just why that moment encapsulates season 2012 eludes me. Perhaps, it embodies the hope and optimism that any impassioned angler holds close to their heart. Perhaps, it's just the actions of a silly old fool.

And, of course, there was the diary. This is the last entry in my 2012 diary. It had been my intention for a number of years to keep a season’s diary. I set out to write it as a series of recollections, stories and of honest thoughts and experiences of an ordinary angler. It’s called ‘A Duffer in Angler’s Clothes’. Just one more short paragraph to write and my diary, like the season, is closed.

The 2012 trout season lies now behind me, 2013 lies some months distant.  My mind both returns to and looks forward to that rising fish engulfing my fly, my heart racing as I seek to set the hook. For now though, that lies dormant, alive only on ripples of my dreams.