Saturday 16 December 2023


 The dullness of this season's salmon fishing is clearly evidenced by how few posts I've written since the last Christmas Stocking.  Indeed, my autumn on the Ure was so quiet that it didn't merit a separate post: 5 days for two fish and three unusual complete blanks.  Just as I had experienced on the Tay, there just weren't many, if any, fish around.  The decade of decline since 2014 has been marked this week with the announcement that the UK's Atlantic Salmon are now graded as 'Endangered'.  Although rod catches are a very poor analogue for population, the long-run evidence of shrinking catches does suggest that something is seriously awry, and it's affecting almost everyone around the Atlantic.  We have been witnessing a slow onset tragedy, which, like all disasters, starts slowly and then accelerates horribly.

Autumn on the Ure

At the end of September it started to rain and it hasn't stopped since.  During October we had 2.5 times average rainfall and in November more than double.  As I write, we have reached 1.5 times the monthly average by the middle of December.  There is water everywhere.

This is the left side of my orchard, taken 3 days after the water peaked at a depth of 12".  The full extent is something over 25 yards. The key point is that this is on top of a ridge, not some low-lying area.

Hut Pool at +2' 6"

High water accompanied by strong winds were the main features of my autumn fishing.  Getting a good line out on Hut pool with the 20 mph wind coming obliquely downstream and into your face was a serious test of technique, patience and sense of humour.  A particular feature of that morning was catching an extremely large grayling, by far the biggest I've ever seen and probably over 3 1/2 lbs, on a conehead tube at the dangle.

19lbs Ure salmon
Frodle Dub, Thoresby Beat
1st October 2023

The highlight was this good salmon caught on 1st October on a 1" MCX Conehead tube.  It measured 37.5" from fork to natural bone line (not tip of kype).  Although I was using a weigh net I didn't bother.  My guest reckoned it was an easy 20.  Its very soft middle and loss of mass led me to book it at 19lbs.

I turned the fight into an experiment to see how quickly I could land a large fish.  Generally you reckon about a minute per pound.  In this case, with a hefty drag setting, the full help of the Danielsson Control, and keeping the rod low, I had the job done in well under 10 minutes.  The splitting of the jaw sinew suggested that I'd pushed my luck with a small double hook, but it did mean that the fish needed no encouragement to depart very quickly after release.

I caught a further unremarkable small cock fish of about 6-7 lbs at the end of the month.  It was less coloured and its kype less developed than I might have expected, but the late-season slimming is clearly visible.

The Christmas Stocking

While not a precisely annual feature, for most of the past 10 years I've tried to find a range of items that work well, offer good value and are generally small enough to go into a capacious stocking.  Normally this is an amusing and pleasurable exercise.  However, I must confess that this year it has been downright hard work, because the tackle dealers are reflecting the wider malaise afflicting salmon fishing.  Across the board the breadth and depth of stock inventories have been reduced, in some cases quite dramatically.  Some well known brands have become hard to find.  For example, I looked across the whole market to see whether there was a deal available on a Lamson Guru 4 reel: I couldn't find the reel, let alone a discount offer.  John Norris is only carrying one mainline Sage double hander, two Hardys and nothing much else beyond Guideline.  Where discounts are available, they're mostly on reels that I consider over priced in relation to their specification.  If a reel is over £300 there's a simple litmus question: "is this thing close to or better than a Danielsson?" and inevitably the answer will be "No".

Anyway, I'm suggesting a smaller than normal range of hardy perennials and some suggestions to send you off to your local outdoor stores.  I bought some more base and mid-layer kit at Go Outdoors this autumn: the advances in materials and performance over recent years have been eye-opening.  Comfort, warmth and value happily coexist.  I've always been a strong advocate of not wearing cotton, anywhere, while wading.  The comfort of modern outdoor clothing now makes this a matter of choice rather than precaution.  Moreover, if you're on an extended trip, you can hand-wash it and it dries overnight.

After another year's service I remain convinced that Brasher's lined trousers are absolutely perfect under waders in the early and later parts of the season.  They're well cut and shaped, robust and pleasantly warm, especially when used over a good base layer.

They're currently on offer at £35 against an RRP of £75 at Go Outdoors, albeit against a very limited range of sizes.  I anticipate that the full range will be back in stock soon at £45.

A purchase this autumn was a Berghaus mid-weight fleece made from the latest Polartec material.  It's lighter than my current Simms and Berghaus heavyweight cold weather wading fleeces and ideal for autumn use.  The full length zip is extremely handy and allows you to be comfortable in a wide range of temperatures.  It's on offer at GO at £40 against an RRP of £75, in a full range of sizes.

And while you're in GO, have a look at some modern base layer outfits.

My Guideline Firskin mittens have given another year's outstanding service.  They're warmer than mid-density neoprene and much less bulky.

If you've got very big hands, John Norris has the XL size discounted by £12 to £27.99.  Otherwise most other dealers have them at £37.99.  Even at full price they are excellent value given their very high performance.  But do make sure to get the model with the orange lining.

As further illustrations of stock contraction, my hardy perennial mitten clamps are really difficult to find this year.  The small C&F tube fly box I've recommended for the past 5 years is no longer available: its successor is more complicated and I'm reluctant to recommend it until I've had a chance to see one and work out how it functions.

The Rio Cranky Kit remains really worthwhile buy and at under £10 it must be the cheapest item that Rio sells.  However, it too is no longer widely available, apart from Angling Active.

I find it invaluable.  It lives in the car box and provides the quickest and easiest solution for keeping your shooting heads in good order.

Polyleaders remain the ultimate stocking filler.  Airflo are as good as any and have served me well from the time they first appeared on the market.  John Norris have them currently marked down to £6.39.

The degree to which polyleaders have become an integral part of my Christmas was illustrated by my wife chiding me this week for not providing a link for her to buy some for my stocking!  (Yes, still, even after 45 years).

Angling Active are the winners of this year's budget nipper stakes at £6.99.  I remain utterly bemused at the ludicrous prices some brands charge for what is no more than two hardened steel edges.  As a result I derive wry amusement from seeking out the cheapest, which is what I use myself.

Father Christmas Goes Bonkers

With the Swedish Kronor showing the same submarine tendencies as the Pound, Danielsson reels offer phenomenal value for money.  This is the F3W 7/10, which is absolutely ideal for your switch or grilse rod with a #7 line.  Indeed, I imported one for a friend this year for precisely that purpose, and he's utterly delighted.  It's lighter than the F5 series and well suited to smaller rods.

At today's exchange rate it's £150 ex VAT and import taxes.  All up it should cost around £195 delivered, for a premium grade fully machined reel.  In comparison, the die cast Sage Spectrum C is £185.  Actually, there's no comparison.

Looking Ahead

Beyond wishing you a very Happy Christmas and thanking you for your continuing readership and support (J1W is heading for 300,000 page reads), I'm looking forward to 2024, which will bring some highlights.

First, we'll be going to New Zealand to visit our elder son and his family who are there on a 2-year posting on North Island.  Although he isn't a fisherman I suspect that he'll show me the legendary trout rivers around Taupo.

Second, the 3 grumpy old Yorkshiremen - John, Patrick and MCX - are going back to Norway in June to fish the Orkla.  We've decided that we're too old for self-catering (i.e. my cooking) and living rough, so we're going to a lodge.  Yes, it's expensive, but we reasoned that we'd best do it before we get too old: postponement and procrastination is a poor strategy at our age.  And if the stock of salmon continues to decline, we'd best go somewhere in an optimum week where we might actually catch one.

Third, Just One Week 2024 will be a trip into the wild blue yonder of North West Scotland and its beautiful rugged country to fish the Inver and Kirkaig.  If there aren't any fish at least the walking and photography will be fantastic.

And fourth, whatever the odds, I'll be back on the Ure whenever the water conditions permit.  Hope springs eternal, because I witnessed the recovery of its salmon population from near zero to fishable stock (28 fish in a season) in barely 10 years.  Nature is incredible and resilient.

Have a wonderful 2024.

Monday 11 September 2023

The Week on the Tay

Stanley Fishings
Panorama from Summerhill
Pitlochrie centre and left, Benchil downstream to the right

The Tay is unlike the other Scottish salmon rivers I've described on this blog:

  • It's huge: the average width in the panorama above is around 140 metres (a long roe stalking shot or a full 7-iron).  In contrast, Commonty, the biggest pool on the Spey, is only 70-80 metres.  Salmon can run into and through the Tay at virtually all water heights.  One's judgements based on experience on spate rivers are irrelevant.
  • Its size generates unfamiliar activities involving boats, spinning and harling.  I've fished from boats on the Tweed, but I hadn't cast a spinner since 1967, and harling was an entirely new experience.  When casting a fly it is just a tiny speck in the vast volume of the Tay, so you cannot just rely on chance.
  • The beats on much of the lower and middle river are lined with truly magnificent trees.  The Murthly Castle arboretum is majestically beautiful.  The rivers from the Findhorn northwards to the Helmsdale are mostly treeless.  On the Tay you feel that you are somewhere else, amidst fertile farmland and prosperous estates: it feels different, softer and less edgy than the Highlands.  But whatever the differences, the Tay is beautiful and delivers the same soothing potion to the soul.

Soul food at Murthly - The Tronach looking upstream

The Challenges

Beyond the unfamiliarity of the river and its enormous scale, we faced three major challenges:
  • First and most important, there weren't many salmon about.  During our week the major beats reporting on FishPal were catching a total in the range 12-15 fish daily, which amounted to 10-20% of what used to be expected.  Taymount was consistently above the average, but with a larger number of rods.  Bearing in mid that a proportion of that 12-15 figure were taken by harling and spinning, fly anglers were having a very thin time.  Indeed, on Pitlochrie I caught the only fish taken in the week.  There was an awful lot of gloom around and some very subdued ghillies.
  • Second, a lot of these beats fish best in lower water, which concentrates the salmon into clearly defined running lines and holding areas.  We arrived to find the Tay at +2' 8".  While this would have been a cause for celebration at Tomatin, it created additional challenges for us on the Tay.  The small numbers of salmon present were dispersed across huge acreages of water: they could run and rest wherever they chose, and it was only on the last two days as the level fell towards +1' 4" that the features became more defined.
  • Third, on some beats the higher water made it difficult to wade to a position from where you could hope to reach the target areas.  I spent a demanding morning wading waist-deep on Stenton with a big rod and full Spey line, just touching the near edge of the running line without so much as a nudge.
As a result we depended heavily on the ghillies' knowledge and advice.  Tony Black on the Murthly water and Davie Seaton and Jimmy Chin at Stanley were tireless in their efforts to put us into contact with salmon, but even they were sorely tested.  The watchwords were persistence, determination and patience, and we certainly gave it our best shots.  Nevertheless, if the house party had not been such fun there would have been a crisis of morale, which proves yet again the essential value of balance.


We fished two of the Murthly beats, Stenton and Top Water, on alternate days with three rods, two from the bank and one in the boat with Tony Black.  They are both exceptionally pretty with an intimate private atmosphere and delightful quietude.

Stenton - upper wade
Monday morning
Showing near edge of target area

Stenton presented three options for casting a fly from the bank.  I fished the two below the hut on the Monday morning, which proved to be hard work with the river running at +2' 8".  Although the wading underfoot was easy, the combination of the sheer weight of water; the need to wade deep to reach the near edge of the target area; and right bank casting in a sharp downstream breeze, made it hard work.  I don't much enjoy right handed Double Spey at the best of times, but 3 hours' putting out a full Spey line with a fast poly leader and weighted tube while up to my waist in cold water wasn't much fun.

Stenton - Island run
Monday afternoon

The Island was a totally different proposition, with a deep fast run close to the right bank.  Indeed, at the head you only needed 5-6 metres of line out.  As you fished down the 130 metre length the target area got further away but always remained with easy casting distance with a 13' 6" rod.  This was very fishy water and I approached all three runs down with the greatest (unfulfilled) optimism.  It did, however, present a tricky conundrum: any fresh fish at the short halt would be amenable to a fly presented quite shallow, but the residents would need the fly on their noses, demanding a heavy dose of T-14 to get something metallic down to them.  Having been deposited and marooned like Robinson Crusoe, with my boxes back at the hut, the latter option wasn't available.

Murthly - harling
The third option at Murthly was harling, something I had never previously encountered.  For the uninitiated, this involves towing a variety of lures behind a boat from a battery of rods.  It involves no skill on the part of the angler, and relies entirely on the ghillie's knowledge of where fish may lie.  You sit there making conversation with the ghillie until a fish takes, at which point he hands you the rod to finish the job.  It was similar to the mackerel fishing of my childhood, but with the excitement removed.  I felt like lobotomised boat ballast.  Thankfully Tony Black was great company, a real Tay legend of 34 years' experience on Murthly.

The product

It's with some trepidation that I display the product of my harling, a stale cock fish of around 6lbs.  With a substantial Hardy glass fibre spinning rod and an Abu multiplier, it took me little time to bring him to the net.  Of all the salmon I've caught, this must surely have yielded the least pride.

I understand why the estates do it - the economic pressures of the capitalised value of salmon are inescapable - but it's just not enjoyable.  All six rods in the party expressed the same distaste.

The tail of Tronach
Tuesday morning
Murthly Top Water is a stunning beat that offers two long stretches of left bank fishing.  You fish the top of the Tronach, shown above, from the grass, because the water at your feet is deep and the wading underfoot Tyne-ghastly.

Sadly this wonderful stretch of salmon nirvana only yielded a single touch, despite the intense enthusiasm I applied.  You can't catch what isn't there.

Stanley Fishings

Stanley Mills
Pitlochrie Beat

We fished two of the Stanley beats - Pitlochrie and Benchil - on alternate days.

Thursday morning
Pitlochrie offers a long 400+ metre sweep of left bank fishing with ample space for two rods, with the third casting from the boat.  Although this stretch is dauntingly wide, it is soon apparent that the most interesting water is in the nearest third and within easy casting reach without the need for deep wading.  You'll find a detailed analysis later in this post.

I really enjoyed fishing this stretch on a beautiful morning, and in view of the thoroughness with which I covered the best bits, I was surprised not to encounter a salmon.

looking up to Summerhill
In the event the fish came during my afternoon session casting from the boat in the pool directly below Summerhill, at the head of the fast water above Benchil.

Casting from a boat is infinitely preferable to harling.  Yes, you depend on the ghillie to position the boat but thereafter it's up to you to present the fly to the best of your ability.  Its other advantage is that you can use a lighter smaller rod than you need on the bank, a real bonus at my age.

Pitlochrie fish

This chunky 11 pounder was fresh but not bright silver, having been in the river for 7-10 days.  It was a runner, smack on the line that Davie indicated, and took a #8 MCX Dark fished 10-12" deep.

The space available gave it ample scope for running about without encountering any hazards, which made for an entertaining if uneventful fight.  I was absolutely delighted to have caught a decent fish on the fly.

I also missed a grilse take about 10 minutes later, followed by another when a fish took the fly and came straight at me, causing the line to slacken.  Despite an extravagant strike I failed to connect.


Benchil, directly downstream from Pitlochrie, is primarily fished from two boats, with a 350 metre stretch of right bank wading below the hut within reach of the nearer of two running lines into the lower pool.  While Benchil may appear bland - certainly the other rods in the party thought it rather dull - as the river fell you could see the running lines and short halts increasingly clearly.  To assuage their feelings I reduced the rods on Benchil to two, and took two compensating extra slots on Murthly Top Water on the Thursday and Saturday.

Benchil - Saturday

I was fishing Benchil on Thursday when a succession of pods of salmon and grilse came through, with several dozen fish showing either side of lunchtime following high water 
downstream at 1030.  We didn't connect with any of them, but interestingly they must have come to rest around Cargill later in the day, when the rods up there enjoyed an unexpectedly brisk afternoon.
Unfortunately Saturday's high tide didn't occasion a similar run.

The Takeaways

By any standard we had a very quiet week, with only 7 fish to the party.  However, we were not alone, and finished about average amongst the other beats on the Tay.  Clearly there was a dearth of fish, and you can't catch what isn't there, or if it was there, expect much of hunting dispersed needles in a giant watery haystack.

As ever, I try to learn from the experience.  In this case I have framed the lessons within some of the advice given by the retired Yorkshire Tay ghillie.

Pitlochrie defile - a 16 metre river
from the mid-point of the old croy

 1.  Look for the rivers within the river.

On Pitlochrie the Tay is a daunting 135 metres wide.  However, at this point, the croy on the near bank and the gravel shallows that occupy most of the far side force the great majority of running fish into a channel about 16 metres across within easy reach of a 13' rod.  If you don't look closely and just mechanically cast and step, you would miss the opportunity altogether.

Line of main lies in red
Secondary lies in yellow

2.  Concentrate on what you can reach.

With the river at +2' 8" the main lies on the Tronach, indicated by the succession of boils along the red line are at full casting distance with a big rod and a full line.  With a square cast it's about 30 metres and at 60 degrees oblique, nearer 35.  In either case, with the enhanced flow in higher water your fly only spends a short time amongst them.

In your enthusiasm to reach the red line, don't neglect the good lies right in front of you, which should be a central part of your plan, not an afterthought.  I missed a good take in the third one down from the top.

Balance and happiness
The Brigadier gets a fish!

3.  Balance.
  The fishing is the core of the week, but it's not everything.  I shared the week with a delightful group of close friends, and their good humour, banter and company more than compensated for the dull and largely unproductive fishing.  The surroundings were stunning and the lodge wonderful.  In any event, in the current state of salmon fishing across most of Scotland, you have to be both philosophical and balanced.

Sparkling water
Benchil - Saturday

Tay standards - a dishwasher in the Murthly Top Water hut!

Looking Ahead

Now the autumn is approaching and I am looking forward to the delights of fishing the Ure.  My unheard prayers for less water on the Tay should now be cancelled!

Tuesday 15 August 2023

D - 14 - Countdown Reprise

First exposure to fishing
Grandson on the Rye
August 2023

I haven't written anything in a long time, simply because I had nothing original to say.  Back in April I starting drafting a post titled "Delightfully Average", describing the wonderfully average spring we were experiencing in Yorkshire, a marked contrast to the predominantly very dry and cool seasons that have been a feature of the last decade.  After re-reading the draft I decided that it was awfully dull, not least because it contained nothing much about fishing, and deleted it. 

My spring was dull in salmon terms.  Our scheduled week at Orton on the Spey coincided with Easter, and as the whole team are grandparents, we collectively decided that families were more important than fish and chose to forego the week.  In the event we enjoyed a lovely family Easter, which confirmed the wisdom of the decision.  As a result of the 'delightfully average' weather the Ure rose nicely over the weekend, so I started to get a little excited by the prospect of popping out for an early excursion to Sleningford after the season opened on 6th April (why the season opens on that day in Yorkshire I haven't clue, and nor seemingly does anyone else).  However, by the time the last of the family had departed the water had gone, so reluctantly I stayed at home.  

Flesh Dub on the Ure at +24"
27th July 2023
The last time I fished this early was in 2012

While the Ure maintained a nice flow during April there just weren't the lifts to stimulate the salmon to run.  Then in May it started to dry up - just as it should - and the river remained firmly at MSL until a very wet July arrived, most of which we avoided by spending a couple of weeks in Italy, roasting gently at 35C.  However, on returning in late July, an 8' spate, followed by a succession of smaller lifts in the 3-5 foot range, created ideal conditions for a punt at Thoresby for a summer salmon.  Everything looked perfect, until burst of rain hit Wensleydale the night before, putting the river up a further 12" and filling it with mud.  But it was wonderful to be out with a rod, blow the cobwebs out of my casting and appreciate the lovely surroundings.

Stanley Fishings
View from Summerhill

So what has spurred me to write?  Following the loss of the Spey week, the team directed me to find a late summer alternative.  Ably assisted by the excellent Mungo Ingleby, I looked at all sorts of options, some with good fishing and inadequate lodges; others with good lodges and inadequate fishing; and one with a good lodge and acceptable fishing but an awful price gouging tendency (an incredible extra £90 per night to take your wife!), we finally found a solution.  At the end of August we're going to the Tay, which I've never fished before, which makes it a bit of an adventure.  As a result, the old anticipation of Just One Week has bubbled to the surface, inspiring me to put my fingers to the keyboard, while also intruding upon my sleep.

Coincidentally it's also the 10th anniversary of my post "D-14 The Countdown", which I wrote before our trip to Tomatin in 2013, which explains the title of this post.  How the years have flown!  I miss Tomatin and its wonderful atmosphere, but relish the fabulously happy memories that it gave me.  The team is largely the same old friends.  My enthusiasm remains undimmed and this year's Tay adventure has rekindled many of the feelings I expressed in that post in 2013.  Despite the passing of the years, the excitement is still there.

Yes, I've cleaned and conditioned my lines in accordance with the established discipline. I do it every year, which probably explains why my lines last so long.

I no longer have to wrestle with the challenges of the flying Koma circlip.  The Koma died and its Danielsson successor requires no maintenance whatsoever.  While on one hand I'm deprived of the satisfaction of keeping something going, on the other, I'm spared what was becoming an uphill struggle.  And my wife is delighted by the removal of the risk to her baking.

So what has changed over those past 10 years?  Of course I'm older and slower, now well into my 70s, less energetic and more reflective.  But beyond that, the big changes I observe have been:

Tomatin House Pool 2021
Wading in trainers

In retrospect the evidence suggests that 2013 was a climatic watershed that undoubtedly had an impact on salmon.  The previous decade from 2004 comprised 5 years that were wetter than average, 3 average and 2 drier (2005, 2009).  Those included the bumper fishing years of 2004, 2007, 2008, 2010 & 2011.  I well remember getting up before dawn at Tomatin on the first morning in 2011 and catching 3 salmon before breakfast.  Indeed, in 2011 I never had a blank day on any of the rivers I fished.  The decade since has been an entirely different story, almost like the Almighty had flicked a switch to stop the rain.  In the 10 seasons since 2013 we have had only one wet year (2017 when I caught plenty of salmon), one average,  5 dry and 3 droughts, including the two hottest and driest years on record in UK.  There may well be an overall decline in salmon numbers, but it's impossible to form a clear view if you have no viable fishing water.  Rod catches aren't a good analogue for population, especially in low water when salmon rapidly switch off, go into limbo and become uncatchable.

Spring on the Dee
a beautiful place to blank

addition to climate shift we are living through a period of flux.  On the big rivers I have fished over the past decade, things have become unpredictable: historic generalisations and ghillies' wisdom on salmon behaviour have become less certain.  The seasonality and timing of runs appear to be changing on several rivers.  The Dee appears to be moving from spring to summer; the Tweed may be going in the opposite direction from autumn to spring; and apart from the July grilse it's hard to discern what is happening on the Spey, apart from the observation that when the salmon do run they do so very quickly.  However, the sages and scientists on the Tweed Board note that historically - their records of net takes go back to the late 17th century - such flux causes a reduction in catches.  Unfortunately I'm unlikely to be around to see whether they are correct.

For those reasons and perhaps others unknown to me, I am no longer catching the same numbers of fish in Scotland or on the Ure, and my 'catch per unit effort' or salmon per day has halved between the two decades.  It's now very difficult to calibrate what is 'good'.  Is there a new normal, or should I continue to gauge  catches against what I knew to be 'good' in historic terms?  Those are difficult questions to answer with certainty, and no amount of speculation generates solid evidence.  Nevertheless it's been true that whenever there has been water, I've caught salmon.  In the bigger picture, just when I'm forming a view, something happens - like 2017 - to contradict it.  Perhaps it's confirmation bias, because as an optimist I don't want the truth to be really bad news: every glimmer of light perhaps stops me from seeing the dark clouds.  But just like the ghillies, I'm much less certain about things than I was 10 years ago, and that's a very big change.

Vision XO 13' 6" #8 - Yar in Excelsis
Danielsson L5W #8/12

While my catch rate has halved, perversely and contrary to my Yorkshire roots, my collection of salmon tackle has more than doubled.  Moreover, its value has increased dramatically: the Koma has been replaced with several Danielssons;  I have a couple of fabulous
Vision XOs; and a switch rod, a concept that didn't even exist when I started out in 2001 (but it makes me smile).  I can't explain when, why and where my previous parsimony went absent.  However, it's evident that the trend accelerated as I approached retirement.  It's not logical, in that I can't cast twice as far, and in any event, judging by the distances at which I caught salmon last year, that would be unnecessary.  Perhaps its an emotional thing: after more than 50 years' work my inner self said, "why not treat yourself to a few things that give real aesthetic pleasure, work well and feel great in the hand?"  So I did.  I love what I now have in my armoury and know that it will see me out while providing great satisfaction along the way.  If you don't know the length of the journey, strive to enjoy it through all means possible.

Fishing the Tay

Let's turn away from gloom to the present and my mounting excitement about fishing the Tay a fortnight hence.  We've secured two pairs of two beats that alternate daily.  

Stanley Fishing
Benchil & Pitlochrie

Benchil and Pitlochrie are on the lower section of the river adjacent to Stanley.  The lodge we have taken looks down Benchil from the top of the bluff on the west side the big bend.

This is big wide water, bigger than anything I've fished before, including the Gaula.  A friend, who is a former Tay ghillie who returned to his native Yorkshire, gave me some sound advice on how to approach this challenge:
      • Don't be daunted and strive to fish the whole of the water in front of you, because you can't.
      • Focus on what's under the surface, not the scale of what's on top.
      • Search for the rivers within the large river, and identify the channels, runs and lies.
      • Fish to the lies that are within range and forget the rest.
      • Good presentation of the fly will always trump distance, even on a river this big

Murthly Fishings
Top Water & Stenton
(Map (c) Ordnance Survey 2023)

The Murthly Fishings comprise Murthly 2 Top Water and Stenton, which are about 6 miles north of Stanley 
by road on the far side of the big loop of the Tay marked by Meiklour and Islamouth.  The are in the middle section of the river.  Perversely, the Stenton beat is on the opposite side to its parent, as is Top Water.

This is still big water but superb for fly fishing in all but the highest levels.  Murthly 2 was one of Hugh Falkus' favourite beats, and it also features in the old Michael Evans Spey casting instructional video.  The links above open YouTube videos of the beats.

I'm excited by the prospect of a week with old and close friends, fishing new water and the challenges involved.  We may catch some salmon: the Tay has been quite slow this year, but who knows?  At least it's not as water critical as the Findhorn.  The Tay is so big that any salmon that wishes to run can do so even in quite low water, so fresh fish are a possibility.  The size of the river will require the big Hero and a fully Spey line, and consequently a brush-up session with Brian Towers at Bolton Hall before I depart.

One thing that hasn't changed in the past decade is my approach to organisation.  The check of my kit tells me that all I need to purchase is a new spool of Maxima 15 lbs.  I normally use Seaguar fluorocarbon, but will compromise if a ghillie is especially insistent (like Donnie was on the Helmsdale until I brought him round) or if I need to present the fly on the surface by riffling.  The Maxima is therefore a contingency item.  I doubt that I use more than 20 yards of it in a whole season, but as a matter of habit I always replace the spool every year.  Nevertheless, I'll still stop at John Norris on the way in order to avoid offending the fishing gods, who undoubtedly are Norris shareholders.  However, my unvarying use of the MCX fly spares me all the bother and expenditure of buying other patterns, much to Norris' chagrin.

Let's hope for some more water, but not too much.  As I write the Ure is rising nicely into a 2 metre spate.  The pattern of rise and fall almost exactly mirrors 2011, which raises my expectations for September and boosts my morale.  If you're fishing this month, tight lines.