|Netherdale Beat 2|
Looking upstream, water at + 20"
A rare photo taken in sunshine!
This year Just One Week migrated to the Deveron from its long term residence on the Findhorn. I'd never fished the Deveron, but its reputation, John's report from last year's reconnaissance and the enthusiastic following on the Salmon Fishing Forum combined to lift my anticipation to its usual August - September level. This year, however, a wonderful family holiday in Italy in mid August diverted me from ranting about the weather or being completely obsessive. My wife thought my covert looks at the SEPA water levels amidst the glories of Tuscany were acceptable, especially when judged against the standard of the past 15 years' seasonal daftness as evidenced in The Countdown and Divine Madness.
As always my big worry was whether we would have any water. The Deveron had a small rise in mid August but the forecast wasn't promising. It was time for all good folk to come to the aid of the party, so I issued an appeal to friends and contacts for prayers, rain dances and magic. The effects were variable: Steve, working in Italy, achieved only local effect, putting Pisa Airport under a foot of water on the morning we flew back to England, delaying the flight by 4 hours. History subsequently showed that the range of his powers increased with practice and the incentive of fishing the same beats the week after me. The locals, already in a state of grave concern at the lack of fishing, donned full regalia and took to the mountain tops. No matter who was most effective, it worked! Indeed, as you will see shortly, in some respects it worked rather too well.
Warm, not hot, soapy water
Followed by drying and polishing
Following the established meteorological tradition, the rain forecast for the Cairngorms drifted inexorably to the north whilst the Deveron's level drifted southwards. We just don't seem to get the traditional solid 200 mile wide frontal systems at the moment - just random large scattered showers. If one hits the catchment area of the river you're going to fish then you may be in luck for a short period, but if not, it just passes by leaving you with ankle deep water. This phenomenon affects the Deveron more than its neighbours, the Spey and Findhorn, because its catchment is on the north eastern shoulder of the mountains, rather than others on the west side facing the prevailing direction of weather arrival. For that reason the Spey and Findhorn fished very well throughout August, whereas the Deveron, a mere 15 miles east, was devoid of water. As I explained in The Vital (Missing) Ingredient, in most salmon rivers, no rain equals no water equals no fish.
On a more positive note, the river was stuffed with trout of all sizes,feisty sea trout and legions of salmon parr. It's always heartening to see a river full of life with a good supply of invertebrates.
|Netherdale 2 starting to rise|
Tuesday 10 am
|The first 4" of the rise|
|The product of the next 4"|
Aberdeenshire drinking chocolate! Even without hard rain and rapid run off, enough of the 'friable loam' made its way into the river to make it unfishable.
|Early stage of the rise|
Depth 20cm horizontal view in shallow water
Windows 1, 2 & 3 visible
|Putting on a brave face|
MCX in the rain
|Stable level +20"/50cm, Thursday 5pm|
Depth 3' 6"/ 1.1m
Horizontal view Window 1 & 2
On the fourth day the rain abated somewhat and the river level stabilised at around +20-24". The mud dropped out and the Deveron re-assumed its more normal high water colour, which had been described to me as "inky". This picture taken at fish depth suggests that 'Madeira' might be more accurate. In this zone even a salmon would be hard pressed to detect and react to anything much except at point blank range. However, the shot below was taken 60 seconds later in the same place but at a different angle.
|Stable level +20"/50cm, Thursday 5 pm|
Depth 3' 6"/ 1.1m
45 degree upward view of Windows 2 & 3
Looking down to Burn End
The Doctor's Run
Dour work in a squall
Some of the pools and lies were unfishable with a fly owing to the wind and uncleared bankside vegetation, most notably the otherwise productive Burn End. Once you got onto the promontory in the shot above, a machete was more useful than a fly rod.
|I wasn't even trying to cast square!|
A most unusual snag of the D loop
Dead sheep on the croy at the bottom of Netherdale 1 Upper
I don't think that my sticking with the fly made much difference, not least because the spinners weren't catching anything either
|Heavy water, raised bank and downstream wind|
This shot underlines the point about not striving to cast too far. You can't fish the lie in the foreground effectively by casting out beyond it. At this level the running line splits either side of the obstacle, which also provides some good short-halt 'breather' lies. You have to come at it from a narrower angle with a shorter line. Casting like an automaton to a fixed angle and your maximum achievable distance will win the effort prize and little else besides.
Sea-fresh grilse ca 5.5 lbs
1" Cascade conehead on slow sink polyleader
Naturally I went into breakfast in high spirits and with optimism that was rising inversely with the river's fall. Sadly our hopes for a great day were dashed by a further rising and colouring of the water - up 4" during breakfast. Patrick managed to land a fine 14 pounder mid-morning, but that was all. I got a nice solid 2 lbs sea trout at lunchtime as a minor consolation at the end of a long hard week's fishing with precious little reward - one salmon and 2 grilse between 5 rods is thin pickings for the first week of September - but that's salmon fishing.
So what did I take away from the week?
- The Deveron's a lovely river, and given respectable water levels over a fortnight or more would undoubtedly hold a lot of good fish. But you can't expect much dividend from the first 20 inch rise since the spring.
- In low clear water the weapon of choice is a small double hander (mine's a 12 footer) or strong single (10' #7), fished with very small flies (#14 & 16) on a fine leader at longer range. With the raised banks good fieldcraft is essential because the fish can see you over long distances.
- With the water at +20" a 13 footer is the weapon of choice. I was using the new Vision MAG for most of the week: my impressions will comprise the next post.
- You have to put the fly where the fish can reach it, but always present it above the sight line to increase the chance of detection, especially in dirty water.
- If you've prayed for rain, don't complain when it happens! Nature isn't fair, it's just natural.
- When the conditions are marginal you have 2 choices: retire to the lodge; or stick at it and wait for the outrageous fluke.
- The generosity of advice and kindness from my SFF colleagues was outstanding: thank you Craig and Steve.
- Gilly and John remain champion hosts and organisers: thank you.
|Forlorn hope 2015|
|A more optimistic view|
Looking back to the hut