You can certainly be sure of a warm welcome at Waterside Farm Fishery near Galston ; Springwater Fishery near Dalrymple ; and Cowans Law Fishery near Moscow ( the Ayrshire village, not the Russian city ! )

Waterside Farm has built up quite a reputation for its jumbo rainbows, with a most impressive tally of 20lb plus fish. But it is much more than a specimen water, and owner Colin Thomson has gone to great efforts to make sure that his facilities match up to the quality of the sport. Disabled access, for example, is first class, and wheelchair anglers find that the main fly only pool is easy to fish and to move around. The spacious lodge provides warm meals as well as hot and cold snacks, and there is a refreshment licence which provides another method of warming the inner man Ė as long as youíre not driving, of course. " We find that our food and drink services are very popular ", says Colin. " At £1.50 a pint and £1.00 for a whisky, weíre obviously very reasonably priced, and when itís pouring with rain or freezing cold, the anglers can come in and relax with a game of pool. Itís not all about catching fish at this time of the year, and we like to think that we can offer our visitors much more. " On the angling side, there are three pools at Waterside; two at 2 acres each which cater for the bait angling fraternity ; and the larger 4 acre fly only pond. These are regularly stocked with rainbows between 1lb8oz and 26lb, and brown trout up to 8lb in weight ( though of course the latter are out of season in the winter ). In an amazing coincidence, Jim Barclay of Galston caught both the fishery record rainbow and the record brownie on the same day. Jim was using a CDC, and landed a Ďbow of 25lb2oz and a brown of 6lb2oz. In fact, the fly fishery responds well to floating line and dries or nymphs, and the milder winter days can see surface sport. But the main December weaponry would be an intermediate or medium sinker along with a selection from the popular lures Ė Orange Fritz, Yellow Lead Head, Black/Green Zonker and Gold Bead Damsel are some of the patterns which will do well, and normally on a very slow retrieve. Colin has some special winter deals on the go at the fishery. For example, any angler catching a tagged fish from the fly only pool will receive a Touchstone Chinook wading jacket, valued at £150. One of these jackets will be on offer per week throughout the colder months. Another great offer is that from January 2000 to January 2001, the angler catching the heaviest basket of the year will receive a Hardy Ultralite 10í rod, matching Hardyís reel with two spare spools, 3 Wet Cel lines, a rod tube and a Wychwood bag. Now thereís an offer to be savoured !

Booking/ticket prices : On the fly only pool, an 8 hour ticket is priced as follows - £15.00 for 4 fish then catch and release ; £12.00 for 3 fish then catch and release ; £10.00 for 2 fish then catch and release. There are also special catch and release tickets, 4 hours for £6.00 and 8 hours for £10.00. On the bait pools, there is no time limit, and catch and release is not permitted. Spinning, worms, maggots, sweetcorn and power bait are all allowed, and prices are as follows : £5.00 for 1 fish, £8.00 for 2 fish, £10.00 for 3 fish, £13.00 for 4 fish and £15.00 for 5 fish.

Bookings can be made by contacting Colin Thomson on 01563 821186.

How to get there : The village of Galston is not far from Kilmarnock. Coming from Glasgow on the A77 Kilmarnock road, take the A719 before Fenwick and drive on past Loudoun Castle Park, a popular entertainments complex. Before joining the A71 at the major roundabout, youíll see the entrance to Waterside Farm Fishery on your right hand side. There is a large car park at the lodge.

Springwater Fishery is a well established bank venue near the village of Dalrymple. It comprises 3 pools; a 6 acre fly only pond, a 2 acre fly only pond and a bait pond at 2.5 acres. It was one of the first Scottish fisheries to stock with true steelheads, and these caused quite a stir when they started to appear in catches. Not only are they superb small-headed silver-flanked specimens but they fight like runaway express trains, and if your fly is taken by one of these fish, you know immediately that youíre connected to a steelhead. Landing it is quite a different proposition. Proprietor Danny Wilson prides himself on the quality of all his stocked fish, however, and has some fine rainbows going in to his fly fishing pool between 2lb and 20lb and also browns between 2lb and 10lb. In his bait pool, Danny introduces rainbows from 2lb to 15lb. One of the fairer sex, Miss Murray, holds the current fishery record with a Ďbow of 22lb. The 1999 season has seen some fine fish being taken, with the seasonís heaviest rainbow at 17lb2oz being caught by Derek Whitefield, and the top brownie at 9lb1oz being landed by Ross Graham. During the summer months, the floating line is all thatís required, with sparsely tied buzzers, dries and small Pheasant Tail Nymphs doing plenty of damage. One of Scotlandís top professional fly dressers, Dave McPhail, is normally on duty at Springwater, and heíll tie you up some superb patterns for the water ( or for any other venue, come to that ). Heíll also show you how itís done, and even in the depths of winter, Dave can usually winkle out a rainbow or two using the more delicate techniques. Of course, the colder months see a preponderance of heavier dressings in use, though an intermediate or slow sink is all thatís needed even then. But a selection of mini lures such as Ace of Spades or Catís variations should be carried, along with weighted nymphs such as the Damsel and larger PTN. The platforms in front of the lodge can generally be relied on to produce the goods, though the channels off the island and promontories are also worth trying. And if the weather starts to chill the extremities, then retire to the warm spacious lodge and sample the pie and beans, washed down with a cup of tea or coffee. Nothing quite like it on a cold winterís day ! There are also full toilet facilites and tackle for sale. Plans for the future include a 2 acre coarse fishery for the summer of 2000.

Booking/ticket prices : Fly fishing Ė full day, 8.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., £14.00 for 4 fish then catch and release ; £12.00 for 3 fish then catch and release ; £10.00 for 2 fish then catch and release ; £8.00 catch and release only. Half day, any 4 hours between 8.00 a.m. and 5.00 p.m., £8.00 for 2 fish then catch and release ; £5.00 for catch and release only. Bait fishing - £6.00 for 2 fish, £8.00 for 3 fish, £10.00 for 4 fish, £12.00 for 5 fish ; £2.00 to fish plus £2.00 per lb for any fish caught.

Contact Danny Wilson at Springwater Fishery, Drumgabs Farm, Dalrymple, by Ayr. Telephone 01292 560343 or 01292 560300.

How to get there : From the main A713 Ayr to Dalmellington road, take the B742 heading for Dalrymple. After passing under a railway viaduct, look for the entrance to the fishery on the right. There is ample car parking space at the lodge.

Recommended pub/eatery : Kirkton Inn in Dalrymple ; the Holly Bush in Dalrymple.

The newest of the three Ayrshire fisheries is Cowans Law, a 4 acre fly only venue which is 20 minutes from Glasgow and Ayr. Opened in March 1999, this clear water pool offers both bank and boat angling for quality rainbows and browns, with weights ranging from 2lb up to 12lb. Proprietor Jay Steel prides herself on stocking with well finned trout which will put up a challenging and spirited fight. Cowans Law has 40 well planned bank angling positions, and provides rod and tackle hire to visitors and groups. Full instruction is offered for beginners, novices and even those with some angling experience who wish to increase their skills. For a relatively virgin site, the fishery has matured very quickly, and nestles in some picturesque countryside with a variety of vistas round about. There are trees and open moorland, and the pool has quite a natural feel to it, with sheep wandering around and various waterfowl in residence. A couple of exotic locals are a pair of Black Swans which always come to greet the angler. But itís the lodge which really catches the eye as you drive into the car park. Itís an impressive former farmhouse taking 40 visitors. Itís been tastefully converted, with comfortable armchairs and a separate dining area, with the well stocked kitchen providing delicious home cooking. The artifacts adorning the walls represent both angling and shooting interests. For Cowans Law is not just a trout fishery Ė it provides some excellent on site clay pigeon shooting and also has game shooting facilities on a couple of estates nearby.The well equipped tackle shop therefore also caters for the shooting man. And still thatís not all Ė there is field archery, gun dog training, quad bikes and barbecue days and evenings in the picnic area, and Jay is delighted to arrange short break packages with accommodation. Itís a top venue for corporate and group days, with particular needs and catering requirements being tailored to suit. Fly fishing only is the order of the day, with a maximum 2 flies per cast and barbless and debarbed hooks only. There are various sessions, with the fishery open between 8.00 a.m. and dusk. The fish rise well even in the winter, and anglers using dry fly tactics will certainly find trout which are willing to take when the sun provides any warmth. On a more normal chilly day, a range of sinking lines will be a better bet, and most of the popular lure patterns will have their moments. The black and green combination is always worth a try, while patterns incorporating orange or yellow fritz can also do well. There are no hotspots either, with the whole of the shoreline liable to provide sport. But expert advice is always on hand from Jay and her team, so that there should be no excuses for not catching fish at Cowanís Law.

Booking/ticket prices : Booking is essential. An 8 hour ticket, with 3 fish limit and catch and release, costs £20.00 ; a 4 hour ticket for 2 fish and catch and release £16.00 ; an 8 hour sporting ticket £12.00 ; a 4 hour sporting ticket £8.00. An OAP can fish for 4 hours, keeping 2 fish for £12.00. An adult and child can share 4 fish over 8 hours for £24.00. All fish kept over the limit are charged at £1.75 per lb. Boat hire with outboard is £5.00 per person, while rod hire is £3.00 per person.

Contact Jay on 01560 700666 or mobile 0403 504004. E-mail jay@cowans-law.demon.co.uk

How to get there : Take a similar route to the instructions given for Waterside Farm Fishery. The signpost for Moscow will be seen as you drive on the A719, and once youíre in the quaintly named village, the fishery is also signposted.