Archive for October, 2010

Last days of 2010 season

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Mid week in the last week of the season the river is in great ply with masses of cold clear water coming off the hills from regular top-ups from showers. Tonight, as I write this blog, with really heavy rain falling in the South Esk catchment, we could find ourselves with a brown spate in the morning. Today (27/10), despite a river full of leaves, tons and tons of them all being swept downstream to the sea, we did manage to catch three salmon on Milton Beat, with the Willows performing in its usual reliable way in high water.

Releasing a sealiced hen salmon

Charlie Palmer, after a frustrating three days without a fish, managed to catch a cock salmon of about 11lbs from the middle of Willows. With William Simper’s three salmon and a sea trout, and another fish of 6lbs from the N bank groyne immediately upstream of Volcano, the total at close on Wednesday was five salmon and a sea trout. The next three days will decide the season’s final catch returns. I expect to have a salmon total of about 130 fish and sea trout at about 120. In the circumstances, especially the nine-week drought that kicked off the 2010 season, this hasn’t been a bad year, but it could have been so much better.

The week ended quite well and brought the season’s totals to 136 salmon and grilse and 121 sea trout. Two beautiful fresh salmon were caught in the last three days including a 12lbs hen salmon from House Pool, as well as a good number of red and gravid salmon and some sea trout. Water levels were up and down and the salmon correspondingly fickle. Nevertheless the season ended on a positive note. I will write a review of the season in the next few days. In the meantime rods go onto their racks, reels oiled, waders patched and an assessment made of the flies that need tying to top up the storage box during the forthcoming winter. As I write this on the 31st of October there are skeins of 200 plus greylags and pink feet geese enjoying a sustained social gabble in the sky above my head. One thing is for certain: it’s a good year for geese! And not a bad year for salmon. Now for the spawning….


Days of both famine and plenty

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

The last week was typical of late October, with lots of fish in Finavon’s pools, of which about one in five was fresh. The total of ten fish for the week doesn’t sound bad, until you learn that eight of them were caught on Friday! Air temperature dropped and the first serious snow appeared on the high hills above the Angus Glens, but the water level dropped away, the frosts nipped the leaves off the trees, and the water assumed that wintry clarity that I feel makes it a bit of a lottery as to whether the fish will take: on the other hand, was it ever otherwise?. But then on Thursday the rain came in fitful showers and in sufficient quantities to raise the river level by about 9″. On the Armchair Rock, revealed by the new webcam, that means a healthy bulge of water around the sides of the rock, with the occasional splash over the top to wet the facing surface of the armchair, and plenty of stream between the rock and the North bank (the camera is looking west).

14lbs hen fish from Indies 13/9/2010

14lbs salmon from tail olf Indies (returned)

Friday was a good day following heavy overnight rain, with salmon ranging in size from 15lbs (Simon Walter) to a 7lbs beautiful sea-liced hen fish, duly returned (Ned Malleson). The only other fish caught during the week were one each day on Monday and Tuesday in difficult conditions and after a lot of hard fishing. And then Saturday should have been good, but the river was still rising and turgid when our flyfisherman started at 0900. Only a few fish were seen during the morning with the river still rising slightly. But in the afternoon the level began to fall and the wind dropped so that the minestrone effect of a river full of leaves subsided.  There were soon fish being seen everywhere, especially in Willows, Volcano, Lower Boat and Indies Pools. Simon Walter, fishing Lower Boat Pool, had a good long pull from a salmon, which stripped line off the reel before the fly came back to him. That was the extent of the action for a beautiful autumn day.

Next week is the last of the 2010 season. With 122 salmon and grilse and 177 sea trout caught in Finavon’s pools during 2010, it is fair to say that this is an average season. There are now plenty of salmon and sea trout in the river to spawn and start the freshwater part of the lives of the next generation of our migratory fish. Provided we don’t get another massive and damaging spate, it should be a good year for procreation – if you are a salmon that is! But with one more week to go, and the river holding its level nicely, perhaps we will have a few more fish to add to our total. If that is the case it will be a happy week for Charlie Palmer, William Simper and our loyal local rods.

During the winter I will be writing a series of blogs about the history of salmon and sea trout fishing at Finavon. I will include photographs and statistics taken from the records going all the way back to the 1880s. And of course I will be writing about the prospects for 2011 as the winter progresses and the guesses of eternal optimism turn into forecasts based on observation. The one thing we cannot predict with any certainty is how many fish will return from the sea into the South Esk. We don’t know because no-one is measuring the inward migrations, and the only data we are currently using is the fickle and unreliable rod catch statistics. Things can only get better (one hopes!).


October doldrums

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

After the big spate earlier in the month the level fell away and the water cleared with the result that salmon were less keen to take the fly. Despite the reduced chances of catching a fish there were plenty to be seen, an autumn kaleidoscope of the Atlantic salmon’s freshwater livery. The main pools where salmon were lying in numbers are Tyndals (unfortunately just downstream of the webcam’s wide angle!), Volcano, Flats, Red Brae, Beeches, Haughs, Indies and House Pool. It is difficult to estimate numbers of fish in our pools, but an educated guess might suggest that there are upwards of 250 salmon in FCW pools as I write this on 16/10/2010.

Derek Strachan, fishing late on Friday, caught two nice grilse in the House Pool. Earlier in the week Donald Mowatt did well to catch three fish in Lower Boat Pool and the Flats. There hasn’t been much wind to lift the leaves off the trees which means, like our national debt, we have a massive input of all varieties of tree leaf over our heads to turn our clear South Esk water into something more like minestrone soup. Last week ended with six salmon and grilse. We also completed work on the refurbishment of our suspension bridge and hut at the Red Brae. The hut, with its shingle roof, now looks more like a Canadian log cabin than it ever did with its synthetic corrugated roof!

Tail of Indies Pool at Finavon on the South Esk

Prospects for the last two weeks depend on rain. The forecast suggests showers and intermittent, but not heavy, rain. If most of that falls in the hills we may get a 6″ lift in the river, which should suffice to stir up the resident fish, bring a few new ones into the pools, and – perhaps – into a taking mood. If you keep an eye on the webcam you will notice the “Armchair Rock” which is the best level marker we have at Finavon. If the water is bulging round the sides of the Armchair Rock, and there is a good stream on the North side of it, then conditions are good for the fly. If the water is occasionally slopping over the top of the boulder, as well as bulging around the sides, the fishing is likely to be excellent. And if the Armchair Rock disappears completely you are into spate conditions when, if the water clarity is good, you should expect to catch fish in Willows and both sections of the Boat Pool, as well as Indies Pool of course. A good way of seeing what is happening to the river level is to click on the different times in the boxes below the live picture, which depict close-up photographs of the Armchair Rock. By comparing the levels shown at different times over the previous 24 hours with the current level in the main photograph you will see whether the river has risen or fallen. Another way of checking the level is to use Fishpal’s section on river levels on the Fish Esk website. 

If you want more detailed information on catches and conditions, you can of course phone Moray Macfarlane on 07835 717 150.