I need a break away from learning my new job. I’m working from home for the moment but that will gradually change over time as covid restrictions change. It is pretty intense and made all the more difficult as I am trying to pick up a complex set of instructions, comprehend them in detail and then put that information into practice over a dilapidated broadband connection. It’s quite stressful and it’s not like me to get stressed at all. Team meetings are a nightmare as I drop out frequently or people can’t hear what I am saying. I could use some angling downtime but that is only a remote possibility so I am left instead to recall happier times at this season of the year.

In Scotland, October was the highlight of my season. Back in the ‘70’s and early ‘80’s the rivers were teeming with salmon and sea trout after the first of the autumn rains had swelled the flows. There would be a few dark fish nearly ready to spawn but a high proportion of the salmon were perfectly clean. Those far off days I worked shifts so there was always time off to spend time in and around the Dee, Don and Ythan. Some of the biggest fish of the whole season would put in appearance and the fishing could be hectic. Methods varied according to where and when I was fishing, fly on the Dee in September of course, possibly spinning in high water on the Don, switching to the fly as the levels dropped back and the water cleared. Big floods on the Ythan would see me worming until I could chance the fly. I’ll freely admit I was damn near useless with the worm. I could catch sea trout on the garden flee but the salmon just laughed at me. Looking back, I did not pay enough attention to depth or controlling the bait and my worms probably drifted harmlessly above the heads of the fish most of the time. If I could turn back time and use my coarse fishing knowledge I would make a better fist of worming for salmon.

Kinclaven Bridge over the Tay

Sometimes I would head south and try the Tay, Tummel or Teith. Great rivers back in the day. The ability to throw a long line was crucial but there were some huge fish to angle for. Ally’s Shrimp was the fly of choice back then, I wonder if it is still as effective? I kept meaning to fish the Tweed during the autumn but somehow never quite got around to it. I have been lucky to fish in all sorts of places but there are always those rivers or loughs which elude you and will remain on your piscatorial wish list.

I grew to adore fishing for Grayling on the Tay system during the autumn. Only the Earn has a stock of these wonderful fish north of the Tay. I tended to fish worm under a float for them and had some brilliant days amid falling leaves on some of the best salmon beats on the river. I don’t know what it is like now but I used to buy a permit from the post office in Stanley (I seem to recall it cost me the princely sum of 50p for a day permit) and spent the days catching fish around the pound mark. I miss the grayling fishing, they are such pretty fish which gave sport at times when other seasons were closed. It’s ironic that for all my autumn grayling fishing with trotted worms my biggest was caught on a wet fly during a hatch of olives on the Ericht one fine May afternoon. I very much doubt I will ever beat that two-and-three-quarter pounder.

It is through the autumn and winter months I normally begin to plan any trips for the following season and I will miss the joy of doing that this year. With no clear timeline on the house move and where we are going to end up there is no point in even attempting to think about fishing trips.

With the packing for the house move in full flow I am keeping my eyes open for a battered cardboard box which contained hundreds of old photographs. It went missing years ago during a previous house move and it has not turned up since. There were photos of me holding up huge salmon or grinning over descent bags of trout, scenes of famous beats, celebrations in the pub afterwards, me hiking or climbing in the Scottish hills and many more gems from a sporting past. It is sad that they were lost, at my age you appreciate old photographs much more than you do as a youngster. Who knows, they may turn up yet. There are three old boxes just visible under the cobwebs at the furthest end of the loft, perhaps one of those is the receptacle I am after?

October here in the west of Ireland is far less productive. The salmon season is long over and the trout are but a memory. Pike and perch are the targets but even they have been quiet this year so far. A drop in temperature is needed to stir the pike into feeding again. I may sneak a few hours trolling for them this weekend is the weather is kind and Helen wants some peace and quiet from my moaning. A heavy spinning rod and the immense box of pike lures were strategically left on top of a pile of packing boxes, ready at a moments notice should the opportunity arise. An escape, be it ever so brief, would be a very welcome break from spreadsheets, teams calls and moving house.

With all my fly tying gear packed away the release of just sitting down making a few flies is also beyond me at present. Ideas for patterns are swirling about in my head and under normal circumstances some of these would have reached the vice by now. Instead, I will start to write the new patterns down so I don’t forget them and hopefully I will be able to get back tying sometime next year. There is a Fiery Brown Muddler I think would work and some variations on spiders that need to be tried. On top of that, my old fly box is exhibiting a few alarming gaps in the serried ranks of lough flies. The row of Octopus patterns is all but empty and Cock Robin, Deer Hair Sedges and virtually all my mayfly emergers are thin on the ground. I have also promised some mates I will make up flies for them. I was probably a bit rash on reflection with that commitment! October and November are my main months for tying usually, I like to fill my boxes early on in the close season so there isn’t a mad panic immediately before the start.

OK, that’s enough moaning from me, time to get back to work on the spare bedroom. A wild day is forecast for tomorrow so I will be busy inside again, filling the packing boxes and chucking out items we no longer have space for. I wish those of you lucky enough to be able to fish tight lines. I’m ever so slightly envious!


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