Clackmannanshire has a rich mining history and many signs of this heritage are still visible. None are so impressive as the 167 acre Gartmorn Dam, lying at the heart of the local 370 acre Country Park and Nature Reserve.
The reservoir is the oldest in Scotland, created in 1713 and was engineered by Sir John Erskine, the 6th Earl of Mar, to power the pumps that drained his Sauchie coal mines. The water power his project provided was the catalyst for Alloa’s industrial development.
Today, the industrial development has gone; Gartmorn Dam is now a retreat for fishermen, and for others who walk around in circles and throw bread at ducks.
It had been a long time since I fished Gartmorn Dam – 1978 in fact. At that time Chris Smith was the water bailiff, and the fishery produced some wonderful brown trout fishing. Many years later – to satisfy a perceived demand – rainbow trout were dumped into the water. The venue then became popular with bait fishers and others wielding Tobies. Today’s intention is to return the venue to a brown trout fishery – the last time that rainbows were stocked was towards the end of 2010. The bait and Toby fishers still perch on the dam wall but I was told that their number has gone down. Sounds like a description of cormorants.
I am informed that the fishing lease runs until 2029, so we can hope that the brown trout experiment works – then we can have further visits to Gartmorn Dam.
On arriving at the car park the weather was promising: intermittent cloud giving some cover, an air temperature of 15C and the glass at 1025 and rising slightly. The wind was blowing from the west, just strong enough for a nice drift without a drogue. There was plenty fly life around the boat dock – quite a good day for fishing you would have thought. But how would it be in on the day – Twelve of us ventured out to see for ourselves.
Prior to the off, we were all full of anticipation – the conditions looked good for catching fish – even though we could see nothing rising to the buzzers that were hatching. I was fishing with Hugh Thomson. First drift, just out from the dock and drifting towards the Island… nothing happened. Then a drift along the length of the island… nothing happened. Then a long drift towards the top end of the water… nothing happened. Then a long drift along the top end shore… nothing happened. Then, out of the blue, Hugh was into his first fish. ‘Not much of a fight!’ said he. Well, you don’t get much of a fight from a one pound jack pike!
Believe it or not this pike revived our flagging spirits – it was the first fish we had seen all day – so we set out to motor back up the water, and all went well until the battery ran out. However, the fishery had given us a spare battery (this sounds good but it was only 11:30… a long time until 17:00!). An early and leisurely lunch was called for. We managed to make that last until about13:15. Then time for more fishing! We went through the motions for a while, passing Trevor Gibson on the way. When asked if he had had any luck, he said, ‘Yes, but all bad!’ We continued to fish until the second battery started to run out, so a slow journey back to the dock ensued… the only spare batteries available were on a boat that had been returned by two disgruntled chaps who had not seen a fish all day. One of the batteries was flat; the other got us away from the dock but ran out before we got back from our first drift.
Our twelve members caught 5 brown trout, a rod average of 0.42 – and 15 pike. A special mention must go to Derek Kilgour. With only 5 fish between 12 of us, Derek had 2 of them. He used a DI-7, catching one on a black spider, the other on a Black lure.
The consensus of opinion… nice place that has potential. But… out of the 6 electric motors, one was faulty (we were asked if we had a motor that could be used). We were informed that only 6 new batteries had been bought this year. In addition, when speaking to the staff after the outing they hinted they had been asking for new motors and more new batteries, but were given no promise that any would be forthcoming. We were also told that the first stocking of fish would take place next week! (Sounds like duffers’ fortnight has become suckers’ fortnight – ed.)
Each member was asked, would you go back to this venue? Answer: No, not until reliable motors and batteries were made available and a clear and unambiguous statement on the stocking policy was given. The staff were asked: Is ‘back to browns’ a euphemism for not bothering to put any more rainbows in? This was met by silence.
We will need to give serious consideration to any plans to return to Gartmorn Dam.