This was our club’s first visit to Harelaw. The fishery is moderately large reservoir of around 120 acres on the South West side of Glasgow, just to the south of Neilston, near Paisley. Ross and his team deserve real credit for establishing an extremely well run fishery that has a reputation for top of the water sport. The reservoir is surrounded by healthy farmland and regardless of temperature or weather conditions there seems to be a constant supply of buzzers and insects that see stocked and resident fish in rude health. There are a number of interesting little bays and islands to explore and the average depth is around 8ft, with the deepest spot around 14ft.
Although it is a fair hike from East Lothian on a Saturday morning, the journey along the M8 was relatively straightforward and quick, so a welcome new venue for the club. There is also a great little café and shop on site, so a good place to grab a bacon roll before heading out.
We had four boats for the day. I was fishing with a guest, Shug Shaw, for the day, as we had a late call off. The weather, although it suggested an air temperature of around 8 degrees, had a biting Easterly wind and the wind chill was a significant factor throughout the day. Apparently, on the previous day the fishing had been good but the weather conditions were better and there were reports of some successful dry fly fishing. I had spent a bit of time tying some small CDCs and F-flies in anticipation of the outing, and had packed my 5-wt rod just in case. It never saw the light of day. Dougie Skedd hit the nail on the head though by suggesting that conditions were perfect for pulling tactics. It was difficult to argue with and most of us set-up with intermediates or a choice of tip lines. Dougie set up with a team of traditionals, including Clan Chief, Claret Bumble and Connemara Black, which seemed to raise a few puzzled eyebrows from the local anglers.
Shug set up with some small CDCs and a lightweight buzzer in-between. I set up with a 10 ft tip washing line, with a couple of small buzzers to start. We journeyed right up to the top of the ‘Tank’ (one of the little bays), and it offered a bit shelter. Although it is a relatively shallow water area there were a few fish showing in the quieter water. I was pretty impressed when a few fish had a good look at Shug’s dries, but they never committed. They seemed to be coming short or were just curious – it would be difficult to go down a size mind you, since he was already fishing the small stuff. As chance would have it, I landed the first fish and it was a good 3lb specimen in pristine condition. Davy and Mel were fishing in the same area to start with, but they bounced about a bit like us and their best area seemed to be drifting into Hector’s bay.
I was steadily picking up fish and enjoying some sport, the best being around the 6 lb. That prompted Shug to load up his pulling rod as well. We moved out of the Tank and headed into ‘Shooters’ and had fantastic long drifts into the shoreline from around gull island and we both had action all the way across. Let’s just say we had more than our fair share of great craic over the day. Peter and Matt were working the margins and picking up the odd fish close in and also repeating the drifts. Dougie and Brian were in their element, pulling traditionals on an intermediate, the Clan Chief doing most of the damage by all accounts.
We all enjoyed a good day’s sport, however we were delighted to get ashore out of the biting wind to warm up a bit. Peter was looking a bit shell shocked by the end; the fierce Scottish environment was a bit of a contrast to lounging about on a hammock in the Caribbean slurping a cocktail or two. Welcome home!!
Our 8 rods recorded a total of 42 fish: not a bad return in the conditions, but nothing to the dries. Next outing maybe!!
Dougie Skedd adds…
I hadn’t fished Harelaw before, but the reports I had heard were all good. After a surprisingly easy journey through from the east I arrived to find perfect conditions for fishing traditional flies. There was a good steady breeze raising a decent wave on the water with loads of foamy slicks. There was solid cloud cover overhead giving a nice even light. There was one fly in the ointment, though. It was absolutely freezing. Oh well, nothing ventured and all that…
I set out with boat partner Brian Spence to brave the Arctic conditions. I opted for a Snowbee neutral density line and Brian went with a fast Intermediate. I started with traditionals, while Brian opted for mini-lures. Brian had fished here before, so I let him select our drift. We set up to drift onto an island, and sure enough, just as we came onto shallower water a fish rolled over the Clan Chief on my top dropper as it broke the surface. Good – on the scoreboard at least. We repeated the drift, aiming for the other side of the island and another couple if fish came aboard. Another on the Chief and one on a claret dabbler. It was noticeable that the fish were coming on the lift and hang at the end of the retrieve. I did think about trying a faster sinking line and working it short to maximise the opportunities at the later stages of the retrieve, but I didn’t want to change a successful formula. Brian was working steadily away for no reward at all.
No more fish from the island drifts, so we tried down the margins to our left. I had changed my point fly from a small minkie, as it didn’t seem to be pulling its weight. I tried a Connemara Black, since I’ve had success with it on buzzer waters on the past. The change worked and another fish, this time on the Connemara. Brian changed his line to a midge tip and he began to get interest too. At the end of the day we had thirteen to the boat and had enjoyed some very good sport. All fish were taken in the top layers of the water to smallish flies fished in a fairly traditional fashion. In fact, it would have been a very good day indeed if it wasn’t for the bone-numbing cold, which wasn’t helped in the afternoon by a thin penetrative drizzle!
A new water, and one I’m certainly looking forward to re-visiting on our next outing there. Also, a big thumbs-up for the coffee and bacon rolls available in the fishery café. A lifesaver on such a cold day!