Archive for April, 2014

A red letter day for a young fly fisherman

Sunday, April 13th, 2014
Spring salmon at FCW
One of the things about April on the South Esk is that new fish entering the river do so in ‘penny packets’, taking the opportunity of a rise in water temp, or some extra water, or a high tide, or a combination of those events.
Douglas and Calum Dunsmuir at Indies Hut
Calum and Douglas Dunsmuir at the Indires Hut at the start of their successful day on Indies Beat on the 12th of April 2014.
When a small run of fish do enter the river – the ‘penny packet ‘ – their speed as they swim upriver is influenced by the amount and temperature of the water. If the nights are cold and frosty, having the effect of lowering the water temp, the migration upriver will, more than likely, be slowed down. Conversely, if the water temp rises with sunshine in the days and mild, cloud covered nights, the likelihood is that salmon will keep moving quickly upstream.
The result of these stop/start, temperature-influenced movements of fish is that sometimes pools can have fish in them, while on other occasions the pools are empty. Combine that situation with bright, brassy days when salmon are disinclined to take the fly, and the result is that the going gets hard for the fly fisherman, who can spend many fruitless hours fishing without sight or feel of a fish.
Calum Dunsmuir with his 10lbs salmon (2)
Calum Dunsmuir with his first salmon. The fish was caught on a Sunray Shadow in Tollmuir Pool on the 12th of April 2014.
But not always….. Just as I finished writing that last sentence I got a call from Doug Dunsmuir, who is fishing Indies Beat today, telling me that he had caught a 14lbs salmon in Melgund Pool and his 12 year-old son, Calum, a 10lbs salmon in Tollmuir Pool. That was Calum’s first salmon! He caught it on a Sunray Shadow fished deep.
Congratulations to the Dunsmuir father & son team!
Pictures of both fish to follow in a later post. That is how it has been at FCW, after a flurry of activity with four fish caught and released on Thursday, followed by two days of nothing at all – and then a big surprise for two determined anglers. Such is salmon fishing!

Spring Salmon at FCW

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
After a long morning in the office I took the two dogs for a walk down Milton Beat, where Derek was fishing through Tyndals Pool. When I first saw him he was in the middle of the lower part …of the pool, which I thought was a bit strange. It was only when I got close to him that I realised he was quietly leading a large salmon down the pool towards Willows where he was planning to land the fish.
Derek's 14lbs salmon Derek with 14lbs salmon from Tyndals DS with 14lbs salmon
This 14lbs spring salmon was caught and returned on Milton Beat (Tyndals to Willows) on 3 April 2014.
Derek told me that he had been too lazy to change the leader from the 8lbs nylon he had been using in the bright sunny days of last week. He wanted to be fishing with at least a 12lbs cast. He was therefore playing the salmon with some care, and at that point he had not seen the fish, despite the clear and lowish water. From my position on the high bank above I could see the dark tail and grey form of the salmon’s body. It was clearly a well-built fish.
But we soon did see the fish, and it was obvious that it was a fine salmon in the teens of pounds. No net was available and my camera had packed up, so we agreed that I would use my mobile phone and Derek would do the honours. Gradually the salmon tired. We could see its broad back and silvery, violet sheen flanks as it rolled onto its side. Its broad, delicately forked tail broke the surface and the fish came quietly to the side opposite the willows at the head of the Boat Pool. What a beautiful fish! Derek gently removed the size 10 Willie Gunn from the scissors of the hen fish, which we estimated was about 14lbs in weight.
After some point-&-press mobile camera shots the salmon lay quietly in the flow beside some rocks before quietly swimming away into the deeper water at Willows.
For me this fish represents the very best of Finavon in the spring. There is something deeply consoling about knowing that such a fish can exist and return to our little river, despite the uncertainties of climate change and the obstructions and other challenges we human beings put in its way.
It is only 2 April. If there is enough water the South Esk may show us all what this fine little river is capable of producing in the spring. There really is hope, but guarded hope of course!
God speed, you fish! Do your duty. Lay your 7,000 ova in the high burns of the South Esk’s upper catchment. Confound the sceptics and show us how resilient you and all your companions returning to our shores from the Greenland fjords can be.

FCW Facebook ‘Likes’ now over 4000

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
I have been amazed by the strength of interest shown in our little fishery on the South Esk – Finavon Castle Water. This support has encouraged me to write on a whole range of topics in these posts, and the more diverse they have been, the more likes have been registered.
Christy Balcombe and Tally at DTH rs

Christy Balcombe and Tally at DTH rs

David’s Tree House (DTH)
Looking after a fishery is a fascinating and complex task which requires a balance between providing access to our visitors (whatever their interest), and conserving the natural environment of the river and its surroundings. I wouldn’t be able to do any of these things without my team of helpers, including Will & Jo Wells of Scottish Oak, Derek Strachan  and Angus Tree Surgeons, and my new assistant on the river banks keeping the pools fishable, Iain MacMaster. These people are the team that eradicate invasive weeds such as giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam, trim obstructing foliage, coppice and plant trees, remove litter, clear up flood debris, clean and supply the four huts and the Treebog, cut the grass paths, carry out safety checks, and paint huts and bridges woodwork with cuprinol etc.
Early autumn view in low water from the Red Brae Hut.

Early autumn view in low water from the Red Brae Hut.

Simon Walter, our web designer, keeps coming up with great new ideas and products, such as the new booklet, pool-by-pool fishing guide for anglers without a ghillie. The website Simon has created is widely recognised as a model of how to promote a fishery!


Indies Hut
Before we developed our Facebook pages and website our local fishing tackle retailer, Angus Angling, did much to raise the profile of FCW, especially in the period immediately after the rejoining of Fortesk with FCW in 2008. Angus Angling is one of Scotland’s best tackle shops and I am hoping that the new Lochlands Game Fishing Enterprise next to the A90 will attract visitors into the town. Two tackle retailers in the town is as it was and should be, especially if we can siphon off some of the passing traffic. Who knows? the critical mass thus achieved may make Forfar a destination for anglers in much the same way as Penrith has become. One only has to think of all those great rivers north of Forfar up the A90 to realise that there must be hundreds of anglers passing through. They now have a reason to stop. We must build on that.
Icicles and a 36F river in late March

Icicles and a 36F river in late Marc

Red Brae Hut
There is also a group of local people who fish FCW pools regularly and who give their time willingly if there’s a job to be done (like clearing rubbish from the Lemno Burn). Moray Macfarlane is our preferred ghillie/guide, who operates on a freelance basis and acts as syndicate coordinator.
Finally, but far from least, we have our developing relationship with Lochlands Game Fishing in Forfar, and the support of Ryan Balcombe, and the Lochlands owner, Phil Ritchie, and his lovely family.
Bogardo Hut
Interior of Bogardo Hut
I reckon that about 250 different anglers fish for salmon and sea trout at FCW each season, and another 250 enjoy the natural surroundings, not to mention my family and friends who love a BBQ on a summer’s evening, or a cosy bowl of soup in the warmth of David’s Treehouse on a chilly autumn day. Our 4,000 + likes are effectively spreading the word about the delights of coming to FCW to fish, or just to enjoy the river and its surroundings. Thank you again for your interest.