Dougie Skedd reports…
Our second trip to Harelaw. The first had shown some very good fishing, marred only by the bone-crushing cold weather on the day. Well, for humans anyway. You need to remember that trout prefer colder temperatures than humans do. This time around we had better temperatures, although in the strong-willed it still felt distinctly cool at times. All the reports tell of great dry fly sport at this venue, so I was prepared to pig it out with dries this time, pretty much regardless. It didn’t work for me last week at Frandy, but maybe this time?
Anyway, last time old-fashioned traditionals had been very effective, so at least I had a fallback. Didn’t I? Hmmmm. I set out with boat partner, John McGonagle to test the theory. I had set up with small flies, as per the received wisdom. It looked like I might be onto something, as a fish had a go at the size 16 black terrestrial on the dropper on my third cast. The fish missed the fly. This was a pattern that was to repeat itself throughout the day. Shortly thereafter, John hooked a fish that fell off – also a pattern that was to repeat throughout the day.
After a couple of fishless drifts and not seeing much action later, I swapped my size sixteen for twelves in the hope that bigger flies might impress the fish more. Hmmmm. I suppose it did work to a certain extent, but although fish were coming to the flies there was clearly a lack of intent there. They were swirling and splashing, but not taking firmly. I was varying my methods a bit, alternating between static presentation and giving the flies differing degrees of movement. Suddenly, a fish took the sedgehog firmly and the granny was off.
I had been F-o-8-ing the flies back, so I tried that for a while, with nothing but more half-hearted rises to them. More changes. A size ten Klinkhamer went on the dropper, which actually hooked a fish, but it fell off. John was also dropping fish – a sure sign of poor takes from uninterested fish. The wind, which was veering all over the place, picked up in strength, so I decided to go with my backup plan of wets on a slow intermediate. I set up the same selection that I had been successful with on the previous visit – a Clan Chief muddler on the bob, a claret dabbler in the middle and a Connemara Black on the point. The fish were immediately attracted to the muddler on the top dropper. Unfortunately, they were still not in the mood to open their mouths and eat – swirls, wakes, bulges and splashes, but no takes.
Back to dries. More changes of footprint. A blowfly had caught a big River Annan brownie earlier in the week and I wondered if it might work a miracle for me. Well, not at first. It was the same thing again: swirls, splashes, etc. John hooked and landed a fish. His granny was off too. Then, to of all things a cover, a splendid blue ate the blowfly and doubled my catch. Hmmmm. I took off the sedgehog with a heavy heart. There had been some beautiful medium sized ginger sedges hatching in the harbour area earlier and I had high hopes for the sedgehog, but apart from the first fish it wasn’t carrying its share of the action.
I replaced the sedgehog with a foam beetle and, lo-and-behold, a fish ate it near the island. The wind was getting to be a pain by this time, so I had another go with the wets, but I had changed my point pattern to a small green and white minkie. Drifting obliquely onto a downwind shore I remarked to my boar partner that I couldn’t believe that fish wouldn’t take in these conditions. The force was with me and a decent rainbow hammered the minkie. How come on a day when the fish wouldn’t commit to the flies, one absolutely smash-takes you? That made four.
John was still getting half-hearted pulls to his buzzers and jagging the odd fish. We found a group of obviously feeding fish in the lee of a small plantation. I expected them to be eating stuff blown off the trees and to welcome my terrestrial-based offerings. One did. Round again for another try. And another. And another… but it was no use. The first one was a freak and a switch in the wind direction blew away whatever those fish were feeding on. They disappeared. More unproductive swirls and splashes were all we could muster before we gave it up. Six for the boat wasn’t a bad result on the day. We did better than most but it was a very frustrating day. Maybe next time we go the weather will be kind to us? I won’t hold my breath.