With the end of the season upon us it's good to look back upon past events for though I live amongst some of the finest trout angling in the UK this does not give immunity from drama, far from it. Learning as much from mistakes as from observation is the key to long term successful and enjoyable fishing so here are some highlights from the 2000 fishing diary
The new millennium's fishing began auspiciously enough with a trip to the esteemed River Tummel in deepest Perthshire; there to enjoy a supreme lesson on the art of Czech nymphing with Scottish Internationalist Andy Walker. River trout and the art of fishing for them has been a key feature of 2000 and this short but sweet outing put the required skills on a much firmer footing. Not least was the fact that wild trout will take the most peculiar of objects (sorry flies!) in this case Glo Bugs, providing that they are presented at the right depth.
Pleasure was short lived however for, during an ultimately fruitless opening day ceremony on my wild trout lochs back home in Caithness, I managed to break the tip off my favourite rod in the car door. Even the faithful dog conspired to let me down that day when she rolled in something akin to rubby dubby (cormorant excrement, I think!) and stank the car out for weeks. One way or another it was an unhappy bunny who trundled home on March 15th but lessons had been learned! Neat rod holders now adorn the car, instead of stuffing rods in down the back. The dog sadly remains beyond saving however and studiously ignores my pleas in relation to personal hygiene!
During the first fortnight in May 2000 the records show some remarkably warm bright weather with some exceptionally good fat trout caught, despite glaring sunshine. While high pressure was a factor, the notably abundant hatches of Coch Y Bonddu beetles were undoubtedly an inspiration in getting the big fish up and moving. One local loch had a positive carpet of these beetles and the trout had a banquet taking my Coch flies with equal gusto. The little beetles had a more greenish tinge than is the norm and, interestingly, I found green imitations really did the business this year.
If you look at the traditional fly box you'll see green does not figure too highly in the colour armoury, it's more blacks, red, silver and brown. From this years hatch observations, which also included prolific hatches of large green midge, greenish tinged cow dung flies and the aforementioned beetles, I've concluded it's been something of an error to omit green from the box. The Green Tailed Zulu for example was a fabulous performer in all conditions this year, equally I now include green nymphs and olive and green Greenwell's Spiders as standard.
By the end of May the weather had somersaulted back to winter and it stayed there right to the latter part of July with cold northerly winds, a plague of haar (sea mist) and little rain except for unpleasant drizzle. With my busiest ever calendar of instruction and guiding this meant extra effort to remain cheerful and optimistic even when the other side of the loch disappeared from view in thick ugly mist! While I know fish can still be caught in these difficult conditions, visitors found similar belief difficult and the going was hard for everyone. While I churned out (absolutely true) excuses that the weather is not normally like this in mid July, even I found it a real struggle to remain upbeat.
At least the local mayfly hatch was as prolific as ever and the big trout put up a great show even if the weather failed to cheer. Some stunning hatches of mayfly were noted on the Reay Lochs and Loch St Johns. It bugs me a bit (no pun intended!) that Caithness Green Drakes often fail to be recognised nationally especially when their hatch lasts from early June to the latter half of August. Forget duffers fortnights, we have two months of bliss and no, these are not large olives or stoneflies, they are Ephemera Vulgata and draw up trout you would otherwise never know were there.
Late July brought at last welcome relief in the form of some warm sun and we had a short break on South Uist where my son scaled new heights by catching his first ever wild trout at the tender age of 7, beating his Mum`s record by at least a year. An angler was born that day on Benbecula and that thrill made up for two months of inclement conditions in one stroke.
By August the diary had recorded, amongst other dramas, another broken rod snapped in the car pre new rod holders (not guilty this time, it was a guest!). When I did get casting, I see much success was had with a Hares Ears with an orange head on both river and loch. The Hares Ear with or without a dash of orange was probably one of my most overlooked all purpose flies and I have tried hard to rectify that.
Being caught in a ferocious forked lightening storm in late August on the River Thurso when pole axing was a definite possibility was probably the most frightening aspect of 2000. As jagged bright lights sizzled into the opposite bank over a period of several hours I seriously considered getting another job. Oddly enough, during the thunder and lightening the trout rose exceptionally well, which completely turned on its head the theory that they go dour during a low pressure system.
This year I tried hard to record barometric pressure on fishing outings. The results from this make interesting reading for I feel the theory that more trout are caught during 'highs', or rising pressure, than when the barometer is falling, is a worthy one. This turned out largely to be the case with one or two thundery exceptions. Results from the diary show that though trout were still caught during lows they had to be established weather patterns, and that more trout were caught during high pressure. Less trout were caught during rapidly changing/falling pressure, though of course associated nasty conditions like high winds/torrential rain must be taken into account.
From Czech nymphing to more green in the box and from static electricity to a first wild trout, this season had it all. And what with my next book `Scotland's Classic Wild Trout Waters' about to be launched, it's been another dramatic year. Roll on 2001!