The week in the run up to our outing on the Watch was memorable for some torrential downpours. They were much needed for the local rivers and lochs. The road up through the Lammermuirs was a bit worse for wear and clearly suffering from the impacts of the heavy rainfall. We were hoping that the water levels would have risen with all the heavy rain, so it was a surprise then that the water level in the reservoir was still surprisingly low. We were encouraged though that the northerly wind had calmed down significantly from the previous day and conditions looked promising, with a nice ripple.
The Watch is run by Kelso and St. Boswells angling clubs and is as near to a wild water as you can get, with a good head of quality stocked fish and some feisty hard fighting resident small brown trout. What was unusual was just how busy the session would be, with all boats in use and also a good number of bank anglers (and there was plenty of bank to choose from). I saw that a lot of the bank anglers were on the darker lines and some brightly coloured lures.
We had 5 boats booked for our outing, with club secretary Bob Whyte our single angler as we were still missing Colin Riach who hopefully will be back casting a dry fly or two before long. One thing about the Watch is that there is a diversity of fly fishing tactics that can work. Recent reports suggest that midge-tip/slow intermediates had been more successful. I was paired with Derek McCarron who had set up two rods; one for his dries and another with some traditional patterns. I had set-up with a team of dry flies: hoppers and daddies to begin.
It was not long before Jimmy Anderson, fishing with Allan Frances, was netting the first fish of the day, which fell to a red-headed Dawson’s olive. Not many fish were moving at the start of the day, and any that were seemed to be up and down and gone. There was not much evidence of insect activity, so any fish that showed interest in our offerings were coming blind and keeping us on our toes.
Fish were occasionally splashing and coming short to our dries for the majority of the day and the population of brown trout were as usual great fun but a devil to hook. For me it was a case of too quick for the resident rainbows and way too slow for many of the browns. Derek was chopping and changing but nothing was really standing out. Dougie Skedd gave the dap a good go and was managing to raise a number of fish, but he felt that the fish were just not committed. Mel has had a lot of success recently to small delicate F-flies but was also suffering like the rest of us to fresh air shots and dropped fish.
Bob, Peter Fionda and Matt had also been switching between midge-tip and dries but converting opportunities was proving just as difficult for them. I’d managed to pick up fish to an olive grunter, and a couple to black hoppers, but was bamboozled by how many fish I did not connect with. However, it was a really nice day to be fishing and by late-afternoon there was a good hatch of tiny buzzers and small green midge that saw fish feeding impressively right across the open water. Derek and I were by this time following a useful tip from Dougie to scale down to size 14s and 16s. This increased the number of offers but did nothing to change our success rate! We could have easily carried on fishing into the evening – it’s very hard to leave a water with so many fish on the move.
Our club ended with a disappointing 12 fish for our 9 rods. It felt like we should have done a lot better. Typical though – as we were unloading the boats and heading up to the car park, daddies were suddenly making an appearance!