Wednesday 25 June 2014

Running Lines and Dog Days

Author's Note 11th August 2016

I have now updated this post to reflect my experience with the 35lbs BS Rio Connect Core running line in Norway this year.

One of my regular readers recently reminded me that I hadn't published the review of the Rio Connect Core running line that I took on the spring trip to the Dee.  This post seeks to redress that idleness, and also extends into some more general musings on running lines.  

But as usual I'll issue the usual health warnings: first, I'm not a casting guru; and second, I started using detachable shooting heads with pure running lines only 3 or 4 seasons ago, and as I tend to buy things and stick with them, the range of types I've used is limited.  On that basis I would only recommend buying a new running line if the old one clearly needs replacing.  That said, a running line has a much shorter service life than either the shooting head itself or a classic salmon fly line.  This is because the wear applied by the top ring during casting is concentrated in a very short length adjacent to the end loop - perhaps as little as 1-2 feet - even if you do consciously vary the 'overhang' between successive casts.  Furthermore, the PVC or PU coating is much thinner on a running line and correspondingly less durable.  If it breaks down for whatever reason, the wear then bears directly on the more vulnerable inner core of braided thread or monofilament.  Accordingly I suggest that you check the last 3-6 feet of your running line for damage and wear by sight and feel at the end of each fishing day.

The running line needs the same cleaning and lubrication maintenance as other lines and heads, which I described last year in 'D-14 The Countdown'.  If you look after your running lines and use them for, say, 10-20 days per year at most, then barring accidents and damage, they should last for up to 5 years (as compared to the 10+ you can expect from the heads and classic lines).  But there's no hard and fast rules, and you must keep a close eye on issues like cracking of the coating.

Rio Connect Core

It was wear and tear adjacent to the end loop on my oldest Rio running line that caused me to seek a replacement.  I confess to a long term loyalty to Rio: although I do own some other brands of line, I've always been pretty happy with every Rio salmon line I've bought.  But all the major manufacturers and 'branders' share the same problem.  Their products are generally excellent but last so long that it's hard for them to make a good regular profit (it's what killed most English shotgun manufacturers).  Consequently they have to keep introducing minor improvements, changing the names and advertising furiously to move enough volume to make a living.  By such means did Rio's Windcutter become the Short Spey, and the AFS the Scandi.  There's not great differences between them (apart from new colours) but the angler rapidly becomes boggled by the kaleidoscope of changing names, slogans, categories and ad-verbiage.  In my book the greatest villain is Airflo - the only British manufacturer of salmon fly lines, and uniquely in PU (polyurethane) - because I just can't make head nor tail of their range, which doesn't seem to be fully represented on their own website.  There are lines that are on the Glasgow Angling Mega-Store list, but not on Airflo's, and vice versa.

Rio introduced 2 new running lines for the 2014 season, both with thicker gripping sections, so I duly consulted the dealer and received the following advice:

  • The Grip Shooter, which has a monofil core, is best suited to experts for whom absolute distance is paramount.
  • The Connect Core, with a braided core, was the better choice for normal mortals and lesser incompetents like me.

Here you can see the extra thickness of the orange gripping section compared to the pale blue body.  It extends to some 15'/5m of additional PVC coating material.

The key question is whether it's useful.  In the first instance I found it quite helpful, especially when wearing gloves in cold spring conditions.  I could get a good firm grip of it against the cork rod handle, and feel it was there (something that isn't always easy with finer and softer products).  On those grounds I suspect that it would be helpful for anyone new to shooting head fishing who was yet to develop the knacks of running line feel, release and control.  For more experienced users it will probably be useful, but it's not transformative.

However, the best thing the fat orange bit did for me was provide much better situational awareness whilst recovering line.   It is a real boon when fishing in low light levels and semi-darkness.  When fishing with a shooting head, after a little bit of 'diddle at the dangle' you tend to strip in the rest of the running line quickly in order to get the fly out and fishing again with minimum delay.  If you're using blandly toned lines with no marked colour differentiation (like the Loop sinking 'green mamba') it's all too easy to overshoot and pull the end loop into the rings, especially if you are using the down-time to think about other things.  The arrival of the thick orange section in your hands sends an immediate signal to slow up: with a 14' rod there's about another 2' 6"/75 cm or one full left-handed strip left to go before the loop arrives at the top ring.  Thus I could position the line consistently in the optimum casting position with minimum thought whilst applying my mind to other things like positioning my feet for the next cast and so forth.  Within an hour I became convinced that this was a thoroughly good thing and well worth having.  My subsequent experience in Norway strongly confirmed this view.

I was, however, less convinced and enamored by the thin blue stuff that comprises the 20lbs BS running line.  My running line management isn't good at the best of times (you can get away with a lot on smaller rivers). This season I've been making a real effort to make orderly loops of about 6-10 feet (i.e. 12-20' of running line) on the fingers of my lower hand, although their sequential release remains somewhat erratic (my excuse is that various bits of my left side don't obey orders reliably).  But despite all my efforts I've had more blue tangles at the bottom rod ring than with other running lines I use regularly.  It's not that frequent, but it is annoying.  Although I suspect my line release may be the villain, that wouldn't explain why it happens more often with this blue line, thereby degrading the advantages of the thick orange bit.

However, in preparation for Norway I bought the heavier straw coloured 30lbs running line.  Its tangle-resistance performance is orders of magnitude better than the blue runner.  Over the course of a week, much of it casting at maximum range with a lot of loops, I had only two tangles.  In that respect it easily trumped my previously favoured Loop red runner, which I was using on my other rod.  As a result of all that, I can come off the fence to state that in my opinion the yellow Connect Core is top dog amongst the running lines I've used in the past 5 years.  But don't buy the 20lbs blue version.

Running Lines - Slick versus Balance

A lot of the promotional language used in relation to running lines focuses on 'slickness' or friction reducing designs such as 'ridging'.  Taking that to its limits, would a zero friction running line be desirable?  I discussed this with Alan Maughan during my last lesson, who staged a small demonstration of the realities.  It involved wrapping the running line around the lower blank between the cork and the stripper ring in order to deliberately add restraining friction to the shooting process.  This produced no discernible impact on distance or loop integrity.  Nor did a second wrap.  The point Alan was making is that for a shooting head to work efficiently there needs to be an appropriate balance between the running line and the head.  I pondered this further during my day on the Tweed at Rutherford where the size of the river required me to work closer to my maximum range than the Ure.  The diagram below helps my understanding of the issues.

Rio Scandi & Connect Core running line in flight
(with acknowledgement to Henrik Mortensen)
What you are aiming to achieve in the later stages of the cast is a slightly higher forward speed in the line in the top half of the loop than in the bottom, which progresses towards a smooth and complete turnover.  That condition requires the restraining drag on the bottom- predominantly made up of the running line - to be slightly greater than the air resistance of the line and fly above.  With a big fluffy fly or tube that resistance can be substantial.  If the resistance is not balanced by tension on the low side, then the unwinding effect of the loop will slow, possibly stall, or worse still go into reverse, leading to turnover failure, with the leader pointing back towards you.  If the lower side tension is excessive, the rotation of the 'wheel' will accelerate, consuming the top side more quickly and thus turning the line over before the full casting distance has been achieved.  The ultimate version of that case is the 'hard stop', when the running line comes to an abrupt halt, leading to a chaotic high-speed turnover or 'bounce-back' with the fly jerked back toward the caster.

Success requires the right balance between the top and bottom of the flying loop, which depends on active control of the running line as it goes out between your fingers and the cork during the final phases of the head's flight.  All too often, when we're starting out, amidst the effort-induced mental blur of the cast, we tend to let everything go at once, which leads to random results at the far end, across the spectrum from stall to hard stop.  A degree of control is essential if we are to achieve optimum presentation and respectable distance (note the order of those two things!).

So what do I draw from that?

  • Within limits, for the average caster, slickness is an over-stated feature.
  • 'Control-ability' is vital.  Indeed, your ability to do useful things with the running line in the later stages of the cast is as important and gripping it at the beginning.  This is more easily achieved with a thicker running line than a thin one, so consider going up another step on the thickness/breaking strain ladder.  It won't cost you distance and the greater stiffness of the thicker line should reduce the tangling risk.
  • Colour differentiation between the running line and the head is very helpful.  Note that pale green is potentially problematic in low light levels, especially if you are using yellow or orange tinted glasses.
  • The thicker orange bit on the Rio Connect Core line is generally good news.
  • I need more disciplined practice of my running line management.

Dog Days

We're having a strange start to summer in Yorkshire.  It poured with rain through May and into the first week of June, but for the past 3 weeks we've had a cool dry northerly airstream.  Many days have been cloudy and grey, with the temperature only nudging the 20C threshold.  It's had a marked effect on fly hatches on the Rye, which tailed off as it set in.  I can't recall spending 3 hours looking at a beautiful bit of trout water in mid-June without seeing a single olive hatch.  Nature can be strange at times, but its unpredictability is part of its charm and wonder, including the dog days.

I tend to leave the Ure salmon in peace at this time of year and especially under these low water conditions.  The spring fish that ran up into the upper reaches of the river during the May spate are now comfortably ensconced in residential lies, and will only become active in the early morning and late evening, if at all.  The very large hen fish which I've used as the tab for the Ure salmon fishing site was a late evening taker of a very small fly.  More generally, if I've got a beat booked and the water turns out to be low, so be it, and I'll fish.  You'll find some thoughts on low water fishing in an earlier post - Calm Reflections.  But if I know the water's low, as it is now, I won't book a beat and will leave them alone.  After all, I'm still in full time work and the garden's pretty demanding at this time of year, so I must save the rain dances until late July when the harvest's complete (so my farming friends don't lynch me).   Until then, be patient, and tight lines if you do go out.

Thursday 5 June 2014

Rutherford - Pearl of the Tweed

Following 'Casting in the Park' I packed up and left Bolton Hall shortly after 4 pm without slipping a disc whilst removing my waders.  Even after 7 years' wear the grippy bits around the ankles still exert a firm hold that is hard to release when you're becoming less good at bending and standing on one foot whilst wrestling with the other.  Thank goodness the weather had driven off the Dales tourists: I have an abiding fear of my wader disrobing antics appearing on YouTube. I'm convinced that nice Nigerian with the smart camera on Deeside snapped me lying on my back by the road with my legs in the air waiting for Patrick to assist.  All manner of boot-pullers are advertised in the country sports magazines, but true fame awaits the inventor of the device that overcomes the resistance of neoprene feet.

My original plan had been to stop off for a casting lesson with Alan Maughan on my way past Wylam, but sadly the rain had lifted the Tyne to a level unsafe for teaching.  As a result I would have to face the width of the Tweed with a Single Spey cast that at best can be described as 'work in progress'.  I'd got by for the past decade with a bodged but functional 'lift and dip' imitation sufficient for the Findhorn and Ure, but recently formed the determination to become 'modern', smooth, level and efficient (energy saving is an issue here).  Unfortunately, despite Alan's patient persistence, my first session in early March didn't go very well.  The back was playing up with only 45 degrees of right traverse; and the 40C temperature differential between Riyadh and Bywell required Michelin-man dressing (all 3 layers of Simms' Ninja gear and a Schoffel fleece).  I could barely move and 4 hours in the Tyne at 6C finished the job.  By the end of the lesson I knew what I had to do but was physically incapable of doing it.  Anyway, that's my excuse.  It is, however, one of life's ironies that the simplest-named Spey cast, with the fewest movements and a single coherent flow, is quite the hardest to do well.  Furthermore, it's the most fault intolerant with the smallest margin of error.  Perhaps it's those challenges that make me so determined to master the beast, even if I risk becoming a mite phobic.  Anyway, I digress.

After a pleasant overnight stay with friends near Corbridge I left bright and early for Rutherford on deserted roads.  As you cross Carter Bar into Scotland there is a remarkable transition from the cloud-streaked blasted moorlands of Otterburn artillery range into the sunlit rolling hills and manicured agricultural estates of the Tweed valley.  It really lifts the spirits and puts you in a positive frame of mind for good fishing.  Well, this year anyway: last March I faced 4" of unploughed snow and the descent  between the crash barriers into Jedburgh on motorway tyres was the Borders' version of the Cresta run.  Then there was the east wind, sleet and sub-zero temperatures.  But despite all that I came away smitten with Rutherford - it's simply lovely - and was absolutely delighted when Tony invited back in more temperate May, to a beat that has been performing well and is clearly above its 5-year average this spring.

There's a strong sense of traditional due process here that starts as the redoubtable Michael Farr greets you on arrival.  Indeed, Michael is tradition personified: his father was ghillie of Rutherford before him; and his son follows as described in a recent Trout & Salmon tribute to the family.  You feel the ghosts of a century's tweed-clad great and good as your rod is removed and rigged; your leader material tested (I didn't play the pike wire jape and the 15 lbs Seaguar passed); and a 'flee' selected from your box.  After Michael's consultation with my host I was assigned to the Slap run below the weir and offered a lift to cover the 400 metre distance, which I politely declined in the interests of post-drive loosening up, before marching briskly through the fat spring lambs (my historic Reiver element noting the benefits of an English tup on Scottish ewes along the way).

Rutherford Weir
The river was running at +5".  Rain during the night had added some mud and colour but not changed the level.  Michael's selection was a #8 Cascade to a plain leader.  Cascades comprise about a third of my 'Low' box, so he didn't have much to choose from, whilst looking askance at the floating Bombers that await the fulfillment of my New Year resolution.  I had been advised to start at the top of the white water, so got to work immediately.  Furthermore, as this was the unfamiliar right bank (95% of my fishing is left) I was keen to get my left handed casting warmed up before Michael's eagle eye fell upon me.

The Slap Run
The tendency of the line to dive deep in the back-eddy on the near side of the weir made rolling up and out essential.  Further down I could adopt a conventional left-handed Circle/C/T Spey.  The run is something over 40 yards wide at this height, so there was no point investing vain effort towards the far side.  Just keep it tidy and conserve energy because there was at least an hour's casting ahead.  Michael duly appeared to check all was well, told me where to expect fish (one showed on cue, so I remarked that he would need to wind it up again over lunch).  Are ghillies the only people who find my weak jokes funny and my casting acceptable?  Anyway, he considered my left-handed 30+ yards with a 13' 6" rod satisfactory.  Certainly they were enough to cover his clockwork fish, but its spring was obviously run down because it failed to respond to both my first and second iterations.  With Slap fished twice to its shallows and Robo-Salmon on strike it was time to move on.

Ann's Bank
Michael transported me by quad up to Ann's Bank with firm instruction to present my 'flee' within a yard or two of the far side.  This involved wading a long way across in shallow water: where I took the photo it was less than knee-deep.  As the sun was coming out I changed the 'flee' for a fly in the form of a #12 Cascade and set to work.  By the sixth cast the fly landed level with the first poplar in the copse and swung round gently in the oblique flow.  As it approached the dangle in shallow water the rod tip jagged: a good silver fish of about 10 lbs came up onto the surface where it thrashed about vigorously but aimlessly (never a good sign in my experience).  I leaned into it and then gave some slack in the hope of encouraging it to turn away, but instead it came upstream into shallow water whilst trying to dig its head into the gravel along the way.  Eventually it turned away and we parted company.  It's often the case with fish hooked at the dangle that you get a poor hook hold near the front of the jaw that fails early in the fight (see Crash! Bang! Pluck! for a fuller explanation).

My motivation was now sky-high and I pressed on with renewed enthusiasm.  Four or five casts later, bang! bang!, again at the dangle, followed by exactly the same fight character and loss.  I couldn't tell whether the fish were following the fly round or lying in a scour on the edge of the shallows.  Not that it mattered, as there wasn't anything sensible I could do other than carry on fishing in the knowledge that things were happening and my luck might turn.  At that stage Michael re-appeared and waded out to join me.  This clearly put him within radio range of some more of his robo-salmon, which immediately responded to his signal by showing under the far bank.  If I was going to catch a Tweed springer, this was surely the moment, or at least the next 20-30 minutes.  Failing that, I would settle for the large sea trout slashing at hatching olives off the point of the light-coloured croy in the centre of the picture.  Sadly Tweed traditions intervened at this moment in the form of leisurely lunch and resting the river.  Reluctantly I left the water to join Tony at the picnic table adjacent to the hut and enjoy the spread he had assembled that morning in Kelso.  The haggis crisps seem to be part of the Tweed tradition, although I'd be pressed to identify the flavour in a blindfold test.

One of the other rods had taken a good fish in the bottom section of the beat, and Tony had caught a nice sea trout.  I'd seen and touched more fish than anyone else, but was not at all down-hearted with the prospect of the afternoon ahead tempered only by the knowledge of how quickly it would pass.  There are times in your life when you wish to slow the clocks: this was one of them.  Lunch was convivial and pleasant.  Aided by Tony's view of what comprises a glass of red wine (chemical engineers think in wholesale quantities) I felt suitably relaxed, but there was no way I was going to snooze on the banks of the Tweed.

Between the Caulds
The tradition-appointed hour arrived and we dispersed to our afternoon allocations.  Through the generosity of my host I was in pole position 'Between the Caulds', directly below the Slap.  This stretch is one of Rutherford's most productive, with particular concentration around the large ash tree on the right bank.  Tony kindly rowed me across to the left bank (another advantage of a Cambridge education), gave me my instructions and sent me off to the head of the run.

The Caulds is slightly narrower than the Slap - about 30 yards from the wading line - so right handed from the left bank I could cover it fully with the on-trial Vision Cult 13' 8".  As the water was deeper and faster than before, I contemplated a Conehead, but increasing clarity and sunlight led me to revert to the #8 Cascade that Michael had selected in the morning.  Tony had told me that most fish would be on or beyond the main flow line, but there was ample depth for runners across the whole width.  Indeed, two of the fish I saw showed within a couple of yards of my bank.  My anticipation and morale were high, so I fished energetically but methodically down this wonderful pool.  It's quite hard to maintain your concentration in such surroundings: behind you is mature woodland echoing with the songs of innumerable birds; around you ducks, oyster catchers, plovers and waders deputise for the Master Michael in observing your casting;  opposite you is the magisterial presence of Rutherford Lodge surveying its domain; and beyond is the neat perfection of Rutherford Mains Farm and woods self-evidently optimised for showing pheasants.  Of course the reputation of the river inflates your perceptions, but in view of their pleasures, why fight the sensations?  To be fishing for spring salmon on this water in such surroundings on a gentle May day rates as one of life's great privileges.  It's so good that you can't mind not catching.  I didn't, but ended the day with a broad smile.

Sadly tea time and tradition intruded all too soon.  Sixty years on the little boy inside me bothering trout with worms is still alive and well, pleading with his father for just one more cast before tea.  Tony allowed me several before rowing back.  Yes, in Yorkshire at this time of year we view 6.30 as the third taking peak, but our traditions are rather different, and for this beautiful day I was happy to go with the flow of the Tweed.

I am most grateful to Tony for his most generous hospitality and to Michael Farr for his company, guidance and for laughing at my jokes.  Unusually I draw no lessons from this day, only pleasant memories.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Walking and Casting in the Park

Wild Rye brown trout 6lbs 8 oz - 26 May 2014
With due apology to the lyricists of 'Eliza Doolittle' and geographic pedants, whilst I was away "in Spain the rain fell mainly upon the plain" of York.  However, since my return it has scarcely stopped falling: by the end of May the rain gauge told me that we'd accumulated a remarkable 3"/78mm of the stuff.  The average is 2"/54mm falling on 14 days of the month.  This year's effort has exceeded both scores by 50%, which has had two consequences.  First, the length of the grass in my garden is up 150%; and second, my prime-time trout fishing is down 75%.   I've only been out on the stunningly beautiful  River Rye twice in the whole month, which is a personal worst record.  On the other hand I managed to catch some very big trout, including this fat monster.  With all the salmon fishing I'm a bit out of practice in the subtleties of casting back-handed round a willow tree to reach a lie overhung by cow parsley and dock leaves, but they don't call it 'Duffers' Fortnight' for nothing.

Bolton Hall in good Yorkshire May weather
8.5C drizzle and mist
With all the rain and cold; the Ure running at a good level; and reports of people taking springers on the beats above and below, I just couldn't resist another foray to the Bolton Hall beat to follow the day I described in The Joys of Spring.  The forecast said it would rain hard the night before and it did.  It was still trying to rain the next morning when I arrived in the Park: drear was a suitable adjective. Wading would be a blessed relief as the water was at least 3C warmer than the air, and with GoreTex top and bottom only my nose might feel the cold.

The Lord's Pool
+16" and rising, water 11.5C
Despite the temptations of seeking shelter in the West Wood upper half of the beat, I was determined to explore the pools and runs adjacent to the Park.  The river was well up, heavily coloured and carrying some mud.  Fortunately at this time of year the length of the grass in the pastures and density of the barley crop both hold the soil and slow the run-off.  Whilst from above it didn't look great, a quick check of the underwater visibility with the camera gave grounds for greater optimism.  Nevertheless the conditions rated a full 11 on the MCX Scoring System so the obvious choice was a Cascade Conehead tube.  However, as the beat is generally quite shallow I forebore adding a sink tip.

Lord's Bridge
Suitably eccentric
To burn off some of my excess enthusiasm before taking the lengthy walk to the top of the section, I decided to fish the pool opposite the Hall, with Tom's new hut overlooking.  At this level it comprises almost 400 metres of fishable water.  The photo above was taken from the head towards the Lord's bridge in the distance. Three casts later I had a strong take as the fly passed through the centre-line, but after a few seconds the fish was gone (the story of my week in a single phrase!).  I also discovered that the margins were full of ravenous trout, so it was essential to re-cast before the line reached the full dangle, or else waste time unhooking them.

With enthusiasm duly suppressed I took the arty photo of the eccentric Lord's Bridge and set off upstream.  As I did so the reason for the bridge's slope became apparent.  Throughout this section the right bank is formed by a post-glacial moraine, whereas the left bank is artificially created and reinforced along much of its length by embedded limestone walling.  The bridge was built in 1733, but at some point in the 20th Century someone had got loose with a drag bucket digger (a smaller version of those crane-like machines used to mine open-cast coal) and re-shaped the river, taking out the untidy bends and building up the left bank to protect the Park pastures from flooding. This sort of thing was all the rage after the Great War when maximizing agricultural production was a national mission.  Of course it's in the nature of agricultural policies that they go through a cycle of implementation followed by reversal.  In the 1960s the Ministry of Agriculture paid farmers to rip out hedges: now they're paying them to replant.  Perhaps they could now be persuaded to give Lord Bolton a subsidy for making the river untidy again, ideally by dropping some large rocks into the flow to create some more salmon lies.  Here's hoping.

Top of the Park section looking upstream to
West Wood
The man made embankment offered good going until I reached the point where I could no longer resist the urge to fish, even if this meant foregoing the joys of the run down from West Wood.

Looking downstream
And here's the reason why a stopped.  I'd just walked past 300 metres of river that literally screamed 'salmon!' at the top of its voice.  The challenge lay in the fact that at +18" it could potentially hold fish across its entire breadth.  The features that might attract, hold and concentrate running fish (and they would be moving at this height) were not easy to spot, possibly because the drag bucket operator had done a good job of smoothing the bottom and pulling out the boulders.  Covering the full width from the bank was a lesser challenge provided that I didn't try to cast too square.  Wading was not on.

Further down
The further down you went, the better it got, bending progressively to the left under a series of large ash trees.  On the way down I took and released two respectable sea trout before encountering a knowledgeable local who told me that last week someone had caught a substantial fish from where I was casting.  They're always here last week, which makes we wonder where they'll be next week, when this week has in its turn become last week.........if you get my meaning.

And round the corner - Ash Tree

The corner pool was an obvious fish holder of semi-magnetic attraction, which reaches fever pitch by the large rock set in the bank below the biggest tree.  Unfortunately the combined effects of my photography and the gloomy day prevent these pictures doing justice to the sublime prettiness of the surroundings.  This really is a wonderful place to fish, even if you aren't catching.

You enter the water about half way down to fish out the stretch to the tail.

Down to the tail
Note the beck on the right

The last 150-200 metres is nice easy wading and fishing until the flow runs out of steam and depth.  The running line and lies are towards the far bank.  In addition, any fish running up this stretch will rapidly detect the smell of the beck tumbling in from the right and pause to resolve the information.  A salmon can detect smells in water at parts per billion or more - that equates to one pub measure of whisky in 25 tons of water - and a large part of its brain is devoted to processing smell data.  It survives by being cautious, so even small changes in the smell environment will create a brief halt and a potentially catchable fish.

By now I had been fishing this stretch for almost 2 hours and was in serious need of a break.  Furthermore the water was starting to clear, so a change of fly was in order.  Even after 3 days on the Dee before Easter I am still a long way from 'casting fit' at this early stage of the season, and at my age there are distinct limits to what I can demand of a very battered and unreliable  back.  Nevertheless the Crunchie bar offered the fastest sugar hit outside Jamaica and had me up on my feet again inside 10 minutes to repeat the fishing of this stretch.

Upper Park
The next pool below comprises two long pools separated by a large willow bush, around which wading would be foolhardy in all but the lowest water.  The near side is deep and the boulders plentiful, round, smooth and slippery, so at around +15" I was unwilling to chance a swim (even at +6" the wading is awkward).  Sometimes you just have to accept that you cannot cover all the water in front of you.  Although this pool would fish well from the right bank, there's nowhere to cross at this height; you can't get it by car; and the walk down, over and back from the Lord's Bridge is about a mile.

By now the clock was running down towards 4pm when I needed to be on the road North to Kelso and the Tweed to fish the beautiful Rutherford beat in the morning (which will be the subject of the next post).  This gave me just enough time to fish part of the Lower Park pool before going into the Houdini routine of removing my waders.  The sun was trying to come out; the water was clearing; and hope sprang as eternal as ever (it always does with me!), but on this occasion without fulfillment.  Nonetheless it had been a marvelous day spent exploring a new and exciting bit of water, which I eagerly anticipate fishing later in the season.

So, apart from the beauty of the surroundings, what did I take from the day?

  • When trying for sparse spring fish you have to be realistic about your prospects.  On the Ure, at best the odds are about 10% of those prevailing in September and October, and probably lower still when the water allows them to run as freely as it did on this day.
  • When you're casting off the bank don't be too ambitious.  If you go too square, you'll catch the grass.  If you try too hard for oblique distance the over-rotation of your body will cause your D-loop to catch the cow parsley.  Take it easy and concentrate on fishing most of the water really well, which is far more productive than covering all of it badly.
  • A fast action tip-biased rod isn't a good choice for this sort of fishing because you just can't load it properly in a partial roll cast.  I was trying out a 13' 8" Vision Cult, which most unusually is described as "slow, through action".  While such terms might be a turn-off for more macho anglers, I found the Cult ideal for this sort of work, albeit it's a mite longer than this water really demands.  It's a nice rod - very confidence building and suitable for a beginner because you can feel everything happening - but it has the most ridiculous and bizarre reel seat I've ever encountered, and what's worse, it's up-locking and has no secondary lock nut! Forget the natty wood and give me a plain, simple down-locking Alps with a Teflon thread and a locking washer.
  • A smaller river like this limits your casting room and style because there's no point wading nearly half way across to make room for the D-loop.  After all, it's the forward cast that catches the fish, not the backward.  To overcome the effects of a constrained D-loop use a short headed line (mine was a Rio Scandi) and go up one line weight (or even two) in order to get a fuller and more efficient loading of the rod. 

The next post describing the glories of the Tweed will follow shortly provided the weather doesn't improve dramatically to get me out on the Rye.  In the interim I wish you tight lines on both salmon and trout.