A cracking day to finish our club outings for 2022… well, up until about 2:00 p.m. it was. At that point, it started to get dreich, and it got dreicher and dreicher as the rain got heavier and more persistent. But the morning was a cracker. Mild, and dead calm. Time to go looking for some late season risers with dry fly…
Steve Kilpatrick and I headed out on half speed, keeping an eye out for rises. It didn’t take long to find some – in open water, heading for the gap. they were spread a bit high, wide and handsome, but sitting quietly, we were getting a few chances to get the flies in front of one. You never know how the fish are going to react to dries until you are confident you have cast accurately enough to have shown your flies to a few fish. The first few were not interested. We were watching the rises and a lot of them were either subsurface boils or ‘submarine surfacing’ jobs – hardly moving forwards, but just sticking their dorsal fin above the surface for a second. I said to Steve that I thought they might be on phantoms or daphnia or, as phantom larvae hunt daphnia, both!
The rises were getting more and more spread, so we took a look in Sandy Bay. That was even more sparse. We didn’t stay long and decided to go on the look. We headed back round, with the intention of heading slowly towards the Butts and Tod Hole. However, when we got back to where we had been, we were seeing better numbers of fish. They were mostly in the area just out from the south end of Arnmach. Again, we sat quietly and waited for a chance to cover. I had put a top hat suspender on the tail, and a black half-hog on the dropper to give me a sighter, both 14s. I got a nice cover on a fish that took the suspender, but it didn’t stick. A bit later, I got another that did stick… and it took the whole fly line and a fair bit of backing out, before it just dropped off! I have been experimenting with the Fulling Mill barbless ‘grab’ hooks (in the photo), and I have serious doubts about their hooking and holding performance. In fairness, Steve was having problems sticking to the fish he was drawing.
Finally, I got one to stick on the top hat. We were chapping a couple of fish and kept this one and spooned it (see photo). Our suspicions were confirmed – Daphnia and phantoms both in there in numbers, though it had not been feeding selectively. There was a good number of small beetles, as well as an adult phantom, buzzer pupae, shucks, copepods, aphids, other adults and a load of goose down that I picked out before taking the photo. Seeing the beetles in the fish, we both tried a small foam-bodied beetle on the point. We then had another period of them being really arsy with our efforts. It could have been that they were switching on and off between being on the Daphnia/phantoms and being on surface stuff – and they were only taking us when they were on the surface stuff.
We tried a move and wandered round by Chicken Leg, the Butts and along the south shore without seeing anything to make us stop. That took us down past Bogle Knowe, to the reeds along from Jimmy Nairn’s. Finally, we were seeing a few fish. I had swapped the half hog for a 14 black crippled midge. This picked up a fish quite quickly – and another not long after. By now we had a very light easterly breeze, and that allowed us to drift along the reeds, repeating it several times. As the beetle had been doing nothing, I swapped it for a 14 Adams hopper, and that picked up 2 fish as well. We were seeing fish tight in to the reeds and right into the nook behind Bogle Knowe. I don’t know if I have ever fished right into there before. I thought it would be really shallow, but it’s a good 3 to 4 feet as you go through the mouth. Mind, if you hooked a hot fish in there, you’d have your work cut out keeping it out the reeds – they are on 3 sides of you by this time.
We felt we were just making inroads into them when the rains came. We were still getting a bit of action, though mostly fresh-air shots, any time the rain eased-off. The long-term trend was however towards getting heavier, and that gradually put the mockers on proceedings, at least as far as dry fly was concerned. What really killed it was the breeze turning through 180 degrees to a westerly. Steve had 2 rods set up, and went over to having a twiddle. With a couple of hours on the clock, I could not be bothered getting everything wet by opening bags and boxes to put up a second rod, so I toughed it out with dries, but didn’t have another offer after that point.
Dougie Skedd adds…
Last outing. How did that happen? Menteith can be interesting, this late in the season. It can also be a right pain in the fundament. A frequent occurrence if the day is calm is fish eating phantom larvae. When they feed on this insect form they are extremely difficult to interest. So, when Saturday dawned windless I knew things might be challenging. Mel Mitchell and I set out without any real plan – just play it by ear. We found fish rising in very shallow water near Shear Point, but they were far too fly for us and just faded away. Mel hooked a fish on a washing line but it broke off. After that it went quiet, so we went for a tour. No luck in any of the other locations we tried, so back to International Bay/Shear Point. Another breakage for Mel. I gave up on dries and joined Mel on a washing line… 5ft sink tip, a cormorant, a Diawl Bach and a cat booby on the point. As I completed setting up a fish rose. I cast at the fish, which embarrassingly head and tailed the still dry booby off the surface. Go figure! Mel got broken again. Another fish, this time on a Diawl Bach. Mel caught one. Another on the Diawl Bach. This gave me a right bourach, so I re-rigged changing the cat booby for a black and sunburst example. Good choice – two fish on the new fly. Mel git broken again. Another fish for Mel. Another fish for me on a booby. All caught around Shear point/International bay. A lesson here for everyone though… Mel’s breakages are due to his knots. He was using blood knots in fluorocarbon monofilament. This is a big no-no. Water knots or double grinners are far superior and will reduce breakages.
The Club’s 13 rods landed 46 fish. The averages were skewed by quite a bit due to Keith Logan and John Gibson finding a big concentration of fish tight in to the harbour and getting tuned in to them on washing line tactics. They had 22.between them.