Mel Mitchell reports…
In keeping with all the recent sunny, warm weather we have been having, it was another beautiful early morning drive over the Lammermuirs and down towards Longformacus. There were plenty grouse to be seen flying over the hillside, and others out for an early morning stroll along the roadside. All looking like proper dandies. On the approach from Longformacus the elevation of the road provides a great panoramic view of the reservoir. Dropping down a few gears and driving slowly towards the dam wall (just to annoy Trevor) usually offers an opportunity to spot areas where there are fish moving, but today there was nothing. Not a single rise could be seen over the entire water and this unfortunately was a theme that continued throughout the day. On arrival at the car park there was a solitary cormorant perched on one of the boats. It hung around for the rest of the day, giving us the occasional fly-over. Initially I thought it was perhaps out early, reserving a Coulam for Trevor. Surely not!
It was warm and much of the usual early car park chat centred on whether we would need jackets at all and what factor sun cream would be required. Then Dougie Skedd arrived and immediately answered all the questions. From a far it looked like Dougie was modelling Snowbee’s latest fishing shorts and sandals and you could be forgiven for thinking he was heading to the beach to set up a sun bed and “sombrilla” rather than a more typical set up involving a Cortland blue and various Diawl Bachs. Before heading out onto the water Colin went on a snake hunt, looking to photograph some of the many adders to be seen sunning themselves in and around the reservoir. This had me laughing later in the day as part of an exchange with one of the bank fishermen.
Based on the weather earlier in the week I was expecting the day to be warm with relatively calm conditions and a sunny blue sky. Although conditions started out much as described they did not last. Cloud cover was to be found… eventually. The early light westerly/south-westerly wind was blowing down the reservoir, along the lodge shore towards the dam. However, this wind strengthened throughout the day and became quite gusty at times.
The club had five boats out and I was again paired up with Jimmy Anderson. We set-off into the main basin and set the boat up for a drift down onto the east road shore, just along from the run-off tower, as did most of the other boats. We had both chosen to start with dries, Jimmy using a CDC deer hair caddis and a Klinkhamer. I went with a single original double-decker pattern. We quickly realised our drift was much quicker than we had expected and out went the drogue for the rest of the day. We repeated this relatively short drift from various starting positions in the main basin onto the road shore with no success. We had zero interest in our flies and failed to see any fish moving. We hadn’t seen any other rods bending, so something different was called for. We set off into the teeth of the wind and headed for the burn mouth in the shallows at the far end of the lodge shore. Into the wind this would take us a while so I took the opportunity to set up the second rod with a slow intermediate line and a washing-line rig of, cat booby, Diawl Bach and an old favourite Zulu pattern on the top dropper.
From a distance we saw a solitary bank angler pulling something quickly and then saw his rod bend. On approach Jimmy got straight to the point and asked what he was catching on. The response was “do you know what a snake is”. As I said earlier I chuckled to myself and thought surely not!! No, he wasn’t using an adder but you can see the funny side of it. He also shared that he had caught one earlier on a bung using something that sounded like “a whatchamacallit” 3 to 4 ft below the bung. That didn’t mean much to me but it might have been a “mop fly”. This generated a “technical” discussion later in the day, as part of the car park wash-up sessions. Dougie Skedd identified that I might be in need of some medical attention! Enough said. I didn’t immediately resort to a snake or whatchamacallit or mop fly, asides not knowing what a “whatchamacallit” or “mop fly” was, never mind having one, but it was enough to encourage me to change to the slow intermediate washing-line I had set up on route. Jimmy decided to stick with the dries and see how they fared, up in the shallows.
We started a drift along the southside shore but still with zero interest and little or no fish to be seen. Jimmy decided to switch to a midge tip set-up and tried an assortment of mini lures, while I continued with the intermediate and washing-line set up, trying various boobies and buzzer/Diawl Bach combinations. We repeated this drift several times, still with no luck. Jimmy had switched to a DI-3 line by now. We then made the decision to drift the lodge shore. I switched to a mini zonker on the point (my own pattern of black rabbit strip with a tiny pink quiff of rabbit fur on the head) and first cast I was into a trout. This was quickly followed by a second to the same pattern, along with some additional tugs. The wind had strengthened and casting was becoming more difficult with the occasional tangle creeping into play. I decided to make life easier and remove the droppers (no interest so no need for them) and fish a single point fly on a long leader of 12 to 15 ft. Jimmy continued to try a number of mini lures using the DI-3. A pattern called “Sinfoil’s Fry” landed his first fish of the day. Relief all round as the blank was off.
We continued our drift along the lodge shore, where I picked up a third to the zonker, with regular tugs holding my interest. With the tough conditions Jimmy was getting somewhat frustrated and decided to give the dries another go. On went a daddy and a cinnamon ant. We continued the drift right down to the dam wall with no further fish to show for it. We saw Keith and Darrel working the drift down in front of us towards the wall and saw Keith landing a trout. They also had 4 fish to the boat at this stage, with conditions being described as tough-going. What was noticeable was that the level of interest we were generating was significantly reduced, the closer we got to the dam wall. The decision was taken to return to the far end of the lodge shore where we were at least generating interest. I think Jimmy returned to using an intermediate line and mini lures, while I switched to another mini zonker (own pattern). It had a black rabbit strip wing and yellow pearl sparkle hair and some strands of dapping floss under the wing… and a yellow head. I fished this pattern for the remainder of the day as a single mini lure along the lodge shore, halting our drift about half way towards the lodge before repeating. This pattern worked well using a varied retrieve with the fish repeatedly tugging and willing to follow right up to the boat before taking on the hang or swirling away at last minute. Interestingly, we were only catching along the far end of the lodge shore. I landed a further 3 trout and dropped another couple making 7 trout to the boat on what was a tough day that had “blank” weighing heavily on the mind early on. I also had 4 perch willing to give the zonker a chase on the day.
Dougie Skedd adds…
The Watch in September can be pretty good. It’s high enough to have avoided the August heat. It’s remote enough to avoid the over enrichment and consequent algal blooms that are a problem for waters nearer home. Its upland character can produce lots of terrestrials to bring the fish to the surface. It’s also a very pleasant run through the Lammermuirs to get there. I was looking forward to a nice day. I was looking forward to it less and less as the week progressed. The weather was roasting. The sun was scorching. The nights were stifling. And so. I arrived at the watch to find glassy flat calm and a bright brassy sun blazing over things. I was considering my options when I made a discovery.in the dawn gloom. While loading the car I had picked up a grey rod tube rather than an olive one. I had a three weight nine footer rather than a six weight ten footer. Oh dear! There’s a five weight ten footer that lives in the car. It would deal with pretty much anything I would encounter at the Watch, but I only have four lines for it. Restricted choice. OK, I’ll give the Wet Cel 2 a try. No point in dries in this heat and brightness. Don’t want to dredge just yet. I’ll try this. And with a Clan Chief muddler on the bob, a sparkly claret dabbler on the middle and a pearly cat on the point I set to it. Boat partner Peter Fionda had managed to snag us one of the better boats, so at least we would be a bit more comfortable.
We began more or less just off the boat jetty and allowed the now moderate breeze to push us across the dam. After a spell of less than very little I cast out but, before I could begin a retrieve, everything went tight. A fish had engulfed the Clan Chief. At least the granny was off. Peter was grafting away with a faster sinking line to no effect. We tried repeating our first drift. We tried further over. We tried closer to the dam. Apart from some perch, nothing. We moved to the top end. A bankie there was extracting a fair toll of the fish.on a bung and a Wotsit. Ah well, it takes all sorts. We tried a run down the southern bank. Peter had switched to dries as much for a change as anything. A fish came up and had a half hearted swirl at his flies. At least some action. As I was performing a sweeping lift a fish charged after the cat on the point. I stopped and I saw the cat vanish. A quick lift and number two was on, and a right pig he was too. We certainly knew where all the pies had gone. After that we had a long, quiet spell. Perch aplenty, but nothing else. The stripies had taken a real fancy to the sparkly claret dabbler. Pity they couldn’t persuade their spotty mates to join in. Peter changed to a blue Cortland and put on wets, with a Clan Chief on the bob. He got two fish with that reasonably quickly, but that was the end of his purple patch. We flogged away until near the end I managed to fluke a brownie on the Clan Chief and a couple of rainbows on the cat. A hard day.
The Club’s 10 rods landed 27 trout.