bait fishing, trout fishing, Uncategorized

Early memories

Funny how some memories come back to you without any invitation. What makes the human mind decide to delve back into the past for no obvious reason? I can think of no ‘trigger’ for suddenly and unexpectedly thinking about Ord Dam the other day. I was not reminiscing about my angling past, nor my Scottish upbringing at the time. Just out of the blue I mentally leaped back to my formative years and a small pool of water by a back road just beyond the outskirts of Aberdeen. I can place the time of these recollections quite accurately as they coincided with one of life’s seminal decisions – I wanted (and received) a fly rod for my birthday. Ord Dam was to be one of the first places I used this weapon which was going to serve me so well as I took my first faltering steps learning the gentle art of fly fishing.

I don’t know what Ord Dam was built for, the ‘river’ feeding it was little more than an agricultural drain and in summer the flow over the concrete spillway was a tiny trickle, easily negotiated by young teenagers in wellies. I guess it was intended to impound water so that the fields would be well watered. There was a good path around the whole loch except for a bay on the Northern end near the road which was heavily overgrown with brambles. And, most importantly, it was stuffed full of wild brownies. That inconspicuous puddle held an inordinate stock of fish, way beyond what would have been imagined or dreamt of. On summer evenings as the light faded and the creatures of the night came snuffling out of their dens and holes, the surface of Ord Dam became pock marked with the rises of countless fish. It was that mental image, seared into my memory banks, of the darkening skies and the frantic rise which flashed back to me across the years.

The rod was a glass fibre made by the Clan company in the Trossacks. Nine and a half feet long (all the better in case I hooked a sea trout George in Brown’s tackle shop earnestly informed me), you could nearly tie a knot in it, it was so soft. It was my present on the occasion of the celebration of my arrival on this rocky planet 13 years earlier. I loved that rod. Isn’t it funny how we become so attached to crappy tackle just because it was our first? Perhaps the same could apply to motor bikes, cars or even girlfriends but let’s not go there right now. Over the years that rod suffered an immense degree of physical abuse and by the time I gave it away to a young lad many years later it was a couple of inches shorter thanks to an unpleasant argument with a car boot and sported two very obvious extra joins where the normal two-piece set up was increased to four pieces when I fell off a bicycle while cycling home from the river Don one day. These days we would say it had ‘character’.

Ord Dam

Back to Ord Dam…………… I probably blanked more often that I landed fish there until I discovered the nefarious joys of float fishing maggots for trout. Perhaps I should feel deep shame admitting to this foul deed. Maybe there is help for reformed maggot drowners who hold meetings in drafty halls to support each other as they struggle to come to terms with the enormity of what they did. The thing is, trout are suckers for maggots and young lads who go fishing simply want to catch as many fish as they can, regardless of methodology employed. So floats and maggots became part of my armoury for fishing Ord Dam until the nine foot six fly rod entered my life. The timeless joy of watching the brightly coloured top of the float was replaced virtually overnight by the physical challenge of learning to cast a fly. Simple decisions such as one maggot or two were rendered obsolete when I was now confronted by the bewildering choice of artificial creations. In short, Ord Dam became a fly fishing classroom for me and while my fellow maggot drowners (yes you, Mickey Gibson, Alan Robertson, Bobby and Callum) stuck grimly to the float fishing slaughter I would wander the banks casting, getting caught on weeds, bushes, trees and very occasionally small trout. While my first fly-caught trout was taken on the Kintore beat of the Don most of the next few dozen were landed in Ord Dam. These fish were small, one or two of them might have made 12 ounces but most weighed half a pound or less and I longed to catch something bigger but in those days access to good water was beyond my reach so the tiddlers in the dam suffered my inept attentions instead.

I wish I could go back to those day of innocence and wonder when every trip to the dam was exciting and joyous. I can fish any number of first class lakes and rivers these days but that sense of unbridled fun I experienced as a thirteen year old learning to cast on the dam has long gone. Exactly when and how it slipped out of my life I can’t pinpoint, maybe it was gradually eroded like a pebble in a stream.

Many years later I returned to Aberdeen to visit family and as I was driving out the back road to Banchory I took a notion to look at the dam again. Something like 25 years had elapsed since I had fished there so I wasn’t expecting too much and unfortunately I was right to prepare myself for disappointment. The water level was considerably lower than before and the whole loch was a mass of weed with no clear water to be seen. I didn’t linger and drove off feeling chastised for even stopping there in the first place. Childhood fishing spots are, like old motorbikes and girlfriends, best left in corners of our memory rather than seen again in the harsh light of reality.

Footnote: All may not be so bad at Ord Dam after all. A quick google search has revealed that the dam is now under the control of Aberdeen City Council Countryside ranger service. The photo accompanying this post is the property of the service and it shows the water back to a good level and free of the weed.

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bait fishing, Fishing in Ireland, sea trout fishing

Sea trout in the Moy estuary

Killala in North Couty Mayo is a pretty little place with windy roads and old stone buildings.It’s a pleasant place to visit at any time, but yesterday we were in Killala on a mission – to catch some sea trout in the Moy estuary. Three amigos  gathered on the quay, Ben, Ronnie and yours truely.

Ben, Ronnie and me

Ben, Ronnie and me

I have done a lot of estuary sea trout fishing over the years, mainly back in Scotland when we used small flies and silvery spinners, but here on the Moy we would be using natural bait in the form of sandeels to tempt the fish.

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A sandeel mounted ready for use

The basic concept is very simple, a sandeel is mounted on two hooks, a short shanked size 10 single and a size 16 treble. It is then cast out and either allowed to drift down with the current or very slowly retrieved back to the boat. I would love to wax lyrical about the intricacies of this method but there are none. Just pop a sandeel on the hooks, cast it in and let it drift away on the current. If you get a bite open the bail arm and let the trout get a good hold of the bait before striking. A light spinning rod and 6 pound breaking strain line are all you need.

Malcolm

Malcolm

We had booked a day with Malcolm and as soon as our gear was stowed on his boat we headed off down the channel and into the bay. Within 10 minutes of casting off from the harbour we were fishing. With so much water to pick from local knowledge is vital for success. Just finding the trout is the hard part but Malcolm has years of experience and he soon put us over some feeding sea trout. Sadly our striking left a lot to be desired and we could only manage a couple of trout for the whole day despite a good number of bites.

freelining a sandeel bait

freelining a sandeel bait

The tide fairly rips in and out of the estuary as there is an average 4 metre difference between high and low water. We had started two hours after high water so the water was flowing out of the estuary in the morning and back in again in the afternoon. our biggest problem was weed – that stinking, soft brown stuff which clogs your gear and is a royal pain to remove. It was not too bad in the morning but the afternoon fishing was all but halted due to the smelly stuff.

Spinning does account for sea trout too and a small ‘krill’ type lure does well. Malcolm finds that spinners get a lot of follows but the ratio of hook ups is very low with most of the trout simply following the lure without taking it. We had fly rods with us hoping we would have a chance to chuck some fluff at the fish but alas this was not to be.

Fishing ceases at high and low water when the flow stops altogether. We used that time to have a stroll on Bartra Island, admiring the wonderful view and taking some photos. We also caught some sandeels for bait in the afternoon, Malcolm showing us how to handle the small net in a quiet backwater close to the harbour. There were an awful lot of very small eel and only a few mature ones but we got enough to keep us supplied for the afternoon session.

netting sandeels for bait

netting sandeels for bait

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Once we had sorted out the bait it was time for a short break and we nipped over to Bartraw Island. The island changes shape depending on the wind and currents and the view from the top is breathtaking. After admiring the scenery for a while it was back to the fishing again but despite numerous follows and bites we could not add to the 2 fish we had caught in the morning. Typical of sea trout – they can be impossible to catch one tide and yet throw themselves at any old lure the next.

Entrance to Killala harbour

Entrance to Killala harbour

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