Saturday, 23 February 2013

Salmon Fish Scotland from Amhuinnsuidhe Castle

Following on from my blog about planning fishing holidays I thought some suggestions on where to go to have a wonderful fishing holiday might be of interest. 
My first recommended location relates to Atlantic salmon and sea trout fishing in Scotland.  More specifically it relates to fishing on the Amhuinnsuidhe Castle Estate, on the Island of Harris in the Outer Hebrides. (see map).  I have been fortunate enough to have stayed at the castle and fished there on a couple of occasions. To get there you fly to Stornaway from Glasgow or Edinburgh.  The Castle provide the transport from the airport. It takes about and hour through spectacular scenery.

Just staying in the castle is a wonderful experience as it is furnished beautifully and the cuisine is superb.  It is a real fishing and deer stalking sporting venue well-equipped with everything one would expect.

The fishing is from bank or boat on the numerous lochs and from the bank on the rivers.  Lochs like Voshmid are well regarded in Atlantic fishing circles.  Each day the estate manager, Innes, and his team of gillies determine where the fishing will be most productive and off you go.  Some lochs are within a few hundred yards of the castle others are 30 minutes’ drive away in the Landrover (see map). 
Right next to the castle the river from Lady Loch runs through a gorge into the sea. In spite of being exhausted from fishing all day, I used to fly fish the sea pool at first and last light if the tide was in (see picture).  On practically every retrieve I would hook either a sea trout or a pollack.
At the time of year I fished there we would mainly fish the lochs by boat on the drift with the gillie putting us across the most productive locations.  We used a team of two flies with a silver stoat on the point and an orange tailed muddler on the dropper.  The hen salmon I caught in the picture below took the muddler.
This location provides a serious fishing experience and when I have fished there in October the weather can be a bit challenging.  It is not all blue skies and balmy days as the next picture shows.

There are big fish there but sadly I have not been fortunate enough to hook a really big fish like this (see picture)!  I wasn't even there (I copied off the brochure).

For those into hunting as well as fishing there are 55,000 acres of deer stalking (and shooting)!
Whilst I was out on the loch one time, the laird’s daughter  Rachel bagged a stag and the gillie rowed us over to collect her complete with trophy.

Well I hope you found that interesting.  The castle has a very informative web site should you require more information:-  

If you are able to spoil yourself and visit the castle and fish the waters (and maybe shoot a stag) please do let me know how you got on.



Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Back Problems When Fishing: The Solution!

I am only just learning this blogging thing, but I think that if you put your e mail address in the blank white strip at the top of this page you might get advised of new blogs automatically.
Even looking up can give you a back twinge!

Sometimes when I am teaching casting, or fly fishing with a friend, after an hour or two my companion will complain that standing for so long is giving him backache. Almost always it was their lower back that was unhappy.  This response surprised me because often they were half my age or less!
I used to suffer from lower back pain quite a lot. I put this down to being tall (6 foot 5 inches, if you think that’s tall my son Dan is 6 foot 10 inches).  My height coupled with a lot of time either sitting at a desk or driving meant I could get a sudden twinge just bending over a wash basin.  Now at the age of 66 years I hardly ever have a back concern. The reason is that many years ago I read a book, published by the UK Consumers Association (Which) called “Understanding Your Back”.  In that book there were a series of exercises designed to keep backs in good shape.  Since reading the book I have done the exercises regularly every 2 or 3 days and my back problems have gone away. If I slip up and miss exercising for a few days I risk getting a twinge!
So here in an effort to help you, are five exercises with brief video clips.  If you have existing back problems either start very cautiously or seek medical advice first.  I usually do 10 repeats of each movement.  Rather than have an old veteran like me demonstrate them I thought it would be more appealing to have my daughter Lorraine take to the floor, however, she was busy so my wife Rosalind kindly volunteered. I hope the video clips work, they are a first for me!

Exercise 1
Lie flat on your back on the floor and bring your feet close to your bottom, so that your knees are sticking up.  In that position you should be able to slide your fingers in the gap under the small of your back.  It is that gap that you want to try and close by pushing your spine down flat onto the floor. Keep pushing then small of your back down and then relaxing for the 10 reps.
Exercise 2
Still in the same position as for Exercise 1, extend first your right leg, keeping the left still with the knee sticking up. Now push the right leg along the floor away from you, such that your pelvis is moved flexing your lower back. Then pull the leg back tilting the pelvis the other way. Repeat 10 times then do the same with the left leg. This tilting of the pelvis loosens up your lower back.


Exercise 3
Still lying flat on your back on the floor with your legs extended, raise your right leg as high as you comfortably can, keeping it straight. Then raise your left leg. Repeat 10 times. This loosens your hips and stretches your ham strings.

Exercise 4
Now for my favourite move!  Lie flat on your back on the floor, bring your feet close to your bottom, so that your knees are sticking up.  Then keeping your shoulders and back flat on the floor let your knees and legs flop first to the right and then to the left. Repeat 10 times. This really loosens up the whole of your spine.  It makes me feel my back is flexible.

Exercise 5
I then tuck my toes under something and with bent knees do 10 sit ups. You might want to approach that exercise more gradually if you have a history of back problems.  I didn't do a video clip for this (I didn't want to push my luck).

Well, the choice is yours.  You can take a few minutes every couple of days and give it a go, or you can risk spoiling a fishing trip by getting a back trauma lifting your gear out of the car, or even picking up a fly you have dropped!  Whatever you decide I wish you well, meanwhile for me, it’s back to the exercises then a run (I want to fish forever)!


Sunday, 17 February 2013

Fly Fishing Small Still Waters: Failure Cannot Cope With Persistence!

Albury Estates Fisheries 16th February  2013

It was mid-morning before I decided I had to wet a line, so I quickly loaded the car by working down my “what to take list” (see previous blog dated 30th Jan 13).  I still have not found my Polaroid glasses, maybe I need to buy some new ones as I consider them essential.  The traffic was good so I cruised into the Weston Fishery, Albury, Surrey, UK in good spirits.  Immediately I noticed the Lower Mill House Lake had been drained so the banks could be limed.  I parked the car and decided to take some pictures of the drained lake as most of its features were revealed. I find these pictures are not very attractive but they are very useful because they show you what is going on underwater particularly in term of depths. 
Included in the next picture is the monk. This is the overflow structure where the water level in the lake can be set by placing planks into a couple of vertical slots in the sides of the structure. The big blue pumping set visible in the background is there temporarily to drop the water level lower than can be achieved by removing all the planks in the monk.

I then had a look at the main lake and saw someone playing a fish.  However, I decided to jump back in the car, drive a mile down the road through the village of Albury to the Vale End Fishery as I had not visited there for several months.  This venue was busier.  I asked a chap who was leaving how it was fishing and he said it fished well first thing but now it had gone quiet.  Looking around I noticed a chap trying very hard to cast but not quite making it happen.  I decided to see if I could help and it turned out it was his first attempt at fly fishing. He let me give him a few pointers and a small cat’s whisker fly. When I got him to tuck the rod handle down his sleeve to stop him flexing his wrist too much it all came together and he was casting much better.
I had a few casts with an intermediate and then a sink tip line on the large Belmont Lake but as the water clarity was not good and the water temperature was 6°C I moved to the Mill Pool.  This has the Tillingbourne stream running through it. One chap at the far end of the pool hooked a good fish but then lost it. I could sense his disappointment from 100 yards away!
So on the principle that “if you are not catching, change something” I moved back to the Western Fishery where I met a nice chap in the car park who had only been fishing for 4 months but who had caught a brace.  He was so enthusiastic that I gave him my card and said if he ever wants to have a go at fishing Bewl Water loch style I would be pleased to share a boat with him.  Then I worked my way up the west bank of the main lake trying everything I could think of.  I even resorted to a di 3 sinking line with a booby fly, all to no avail!  By this time I was beginning to doubt my own ability so I went and had a look at the Wood Lodge Pool.  The water was crystal clear and as smooth as silk (there was no wind) and I saw the water surface displaced by fish moving.  So standing well back from the water’s edge, I changed to an intermediate line (I thought that would be less likely to spook fish than a floater) downsized to a 4lb tippet, and put on that old faithful fly a PTN (Pheasant Tail Nymph).  I did a few exploratory casts to sort out distance and to make sure the fly and leader immediately went sub surface.  Then I waited till I saw a fish displace some water (humping) and I cast where I thought he was going.  The fish was straight onto the fly, took me back onto the reel and then after some careful playing (4 lb tippet) came to the net.  It was a lovely full-finned rainbow.
A nice chap (pictured above) from Slovenia came round and asked me what fly I was using.  Then we both fished on and I spotted a slight bow wave moving along the bank opposite me.  I managed to put the nymph a few feet in front of where I thought the fish was and the line tightened and I was in again.  More careful playing took place with me trying to steer the fish away from the centre of the pool so it did not spook the other occupants and mess things up for my new friend.  Then the net, the photograph and it is time to say goodbye.  I believe in quitting whilst you’re winning! 

Friday, 15 February 2013

Brilliant article on how rods get busted!

One of the advantages of blogging is that you get responses and knowledge from afar. Having read my humble submissions on how to avoid breaking rods a friendly fisher in WA, USA, sent me this link to a brilliant, well illustrated magazine article. Now I know what "high sticking" is. With contributions from the people who repair rods this is a must read!

Find it at


Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Wise Persons Guide to Planning Fishing Holidays (TOP SECRET)

My eldest son Jason with a King salmon caught in the Puget Sound, WA, USA
Around this time of year, if you have not already done so, you start to think about holidays, or more importantly holidays that have the potential to get you some piscatorial action on new waters.  This is something that has to be handled very carefully.  If the slightest hint leaks out of what your ambition is you could be in for at least a rocky ride and at worst disappointment!  Imagine having to tour the pyramids with not a stretch of fish filled water within miles.  Now how challenging the planning and execution of a successful fishing holiday is rather depends on your circumstances. So in an effort to be really helpful I have presented my tips under a series of headings, one of which, might relate to your individual circumstances. So here we go:-

YOU ARE SINGLE: Lucky you, you are “foot loose and fancy free”.  You can pick where you go and when. The only challenges are, can you afford it, and will the boss or girlfriend let you disappear when you want to? So feeling jealous, I propose no help for you.

YOU ARE MARRIED OR IN A SERIOUS PARTNERSHIP:  The ultimate relationship is with a wife or partner who fishes.  If that is the case “no problem” you just come clean and involve them in the planning and take them on the trip and you both fish your socks off!  What is more likely is that they “find fishing boring, messy or not nice for the fish”. Whatever the reason you are up against it and so have to box a bit clever. Strategies that might work are (see below) 1, 2, and 3.

YOU HAVE A WIFE/PARTNER AND YOUNG CHILDREN:  If the children are too young to safely fish with you then you definitely need Strategies 2 and 3 below. 

YOU HAVE A WIFE/PARTNER AND OLDER CHILDREN:  If the children want to fish with you and are old enough, you are laughing and Strategy 1 comes into its own. You can even try Strategy 4.

YOU HAVE OTHER RELATIVES OR FRIENDS ON THE HOLIDAY WHO FISH:  This is really useful because it can stop you being accused of being selfish. Taking granddad fishing is as good a reason for some sport as taking junior fishing. However, if you don’t want a mutiny you are advised to use Strategies 1 and 4.

YOU ARE RETIRED:  Now in theory this gives you a lot more time to fish but it still needs careful planning especially if your other half is still with you on the planet.  You might need to use all the strategies listed below!

PRIOR TO THE HOLIDAY YOU HAVE BEEN BANNED FROM FISHING DURING IT:  You can guarantee that if this happens you will find yourself in a location with the most amazing piscatorial opportunities i.e.  wonderful rivers, lakes, sea etc.  Now there are several ways to overcome this challenge. First you must establish that the person banning you from fishing is enjoying their holiday. Then you need to make the point that you would be enjoying it more if you were allowed to have a bit of R and R by the water’s edge.  Having got them feeling a little bit guilty you adopt one of strategies 6, 7 and 8.


1.       Play the “even Steven” card which is: Day 1 we do what you want, Day 2 we do what I want, Day 3 we do what you want and so on. Sometimes you might play the “weather is changing” card and get two days fishing on the trot.

2.       You are out fishing at first light, whilst they are still asleep, but back with them for a late breakfast and then you take them where they want to go and make sure they have fun.

3.       You ensure they have a busy, tiring, fun day and then you get permission to go out for some evening and late night fishing action. The only down side of this, particularly if you combine it with Strategy 2, is that when you get back home you are exhausted from being on holiday. I know I have been there!

4.       Say “why don’t you non fishers do what you want to do, whilst we fishers commune with nature and go fishing.”  Offering to pay for the alternative activities and even provide initial transport helps grease the wheels of cooperation.

5.       Suggest “it would be nice if we had some fresh fish for supper tonight”!  Caution, announcing this puts you under some serious pressure to deliver.

6.       Find an available fishing guide/ghillie who then takes you to the venue and provides the tackle and local knowledge. This can of course all be investigated before the trip using the web.

7.       Suddenly remember that by chance you did pack your frequent flyer 4 piece rod and a reel and a few flies all by accident.

8.       Announce that it would be nice to look round the local shops, this usually gets the full support of spouses.  Then when you happen to wander up a particular street (having done some advanced research on the web) and come across a fishing tackle shop that has a sale on it is only sensible to check it out!   Having got the kit then it is only logical to try it out before you leave the area in case something needs taking back.

The strategies listed above may make you think I am a “devious ratbag”. They are offered with my tongue in both cheeks!  I always find openness and honesty the best policy.  However, for a holiday to be truly enjoyable everyone has to have a bit of the action. What we want to avoid is what happens in Frederick Forsyth’s short story where a wealthy banker, on holiday in the Caribbean, with his domineering and disagreeable wife, sneaks away on the last day of their holiday so go marlin fishing.  During the trip he hooks the local legendary monster marlin.  Having fought it for hours and got it alongside the boat he orders that it be released rather than killed.  This makes him a hero with the crew.  He then decides he has had enough of being hen pecked, so on returning to his irate wife, he announces that he has bought the fishing boat complete with crew as he intends to retire and remain in the Caribbean fishing and he is divorcing her!


Sorry if there are any typos in the above, for obvious reasons I did not get my wife to proof read it!

Not to be outdone by his dad my grandson Sam with his King salmon. 
The holiday fishing trip was his birthday treat!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

PART 2 Fishing Rods: And how to avoid breaking them!

So here it is by popular demand!

Fishing Rods: And how to avoid breaking them! PART 2

See Part 1 on the Blog for the first 5 threats to rod safety and suggestions as to how to overcome them if you haven’t already done so.
Threat No 6:  Damaging the rod blank with a fly strike!  If on the forward cast a fly, particularly a heavy fly like a gold head, lead head etc. hits the rod near the tip it can either break it outright or damage it such that when it comes under strain it fractures and breaks at the point of impact.

Solution:  You could solve the problem at source by not using heavy flies and instead using sinking or sink tip line to get the fly into the catching zone.  If you are going to use a heavy fly then opening your casting loop can help, as can directing the fly further away from the top of the rod on the back cast.  Heavy flies are a danger to you and anyone near you.  Years ago I heard Charles Jardine tell how he saw a boat angler bury a gold head nymph into the back of the ear of his boat companion.  After it was dug out (I think at hospital) they carried on fishing. I few casts later the same thing happened again!   Having had the second one removed they carried on.  It was only when the third hit occurred that the victim decided to call it a day!  Hats and eye protection and nice high back casts are what I like to see.  Ideally the less experience caster should be casting over the water and not over the boat.

Threat No 6:  Falling on your rod is always a risk whether you are getting in or out of a boat, climbing down a bank or getting over a stile.

Solution:  I never get in a boat actually holding a rod. If I am on my own I put it in first.  If I am with a mate we pass the rods to whoever is in the boat first.  When climbing down a steep bank I see if I can pass the rod down first or leave it behind whilst I climb and then reach back for it.  At stiles I usually pass the rod over the fence and lean it against the fence.  If I get caught out on a slippery patch and sense I am going to fall I would rather gently toss the rod onto long grass or a bush than risk falling on it.

Threat No 7:  Dropping something heavy on the rod!  I included this because I will always remember seeing angling TV’s John Wilson catch a hard-won pike from a boat. In order to pick the big pike up so he could pose for the camera, he laid his rod across the boat gunwales. He held the pike up and smiled for the camera. The pike was camera shy and flipped right out of John’s grasp only to fall on the rod and snap it in half!

Solution:  Be careful who you pose with.

Threat No 8:  Not matching the line weight to the rod.  An ATFM (Association of Fishing Tackle Manufacturers) 7 weight rod will cast a 7 weight line perfectly.  It will also probably cast an 8 weight line reasonably well but put a 9 or 10 weight line on it and you are likely to overload it and break it when trying to cast.

Solution:  Match rod and line weights.  Years ago before I understood that, I acquired a second hand  Normark rod complete with line and reel and just could not make it cast properly.  So having given up with it I did the next best thing and gave it to my friend, Steve.  The next time we were fishing together I noticed that not only was Steve fishing with it but he was casting brilliantly. When I asked him what the secret was he told me that he had taken it down the tackle shop and the shop assistant had tried a couple of lines on it and supplied him with the appropriate one.

Threat No 9: Overloading the rod tip when playing a fish.  This is when you have a fish on and you are trying to bring him (or her) to the net. In order to do so you have the rod nearly vertical, so the rod as a whole stops being a shock absorber and a lever and all the weight and energy of the fish is stressing the fine tip of the rod.  This can snap the tip.

Solution:  Long-handled landing nets help as they keep the fish at a distance.  Bringing the fish to the net when you have got it on its side on top of the water helps.  Holding the rod high by the side of your shoulder rather than in front of you also helps.

Threat No 10:  Moving long rods by road from one beat to another.   If you have assembled a two handed rod and taped all the joints you will be reluctant to dismantle it.  Trying to relocate by tying rods to roof racks is risky and more risky still is trying to hang onto them outside of vehicle windows.

Solution: Although quite expensive, properly-designed bonnet and roof rod holders with suction clamps are the way forward.  Hopefully your ghillie or guide will have some.

FINAL TIP (literally): Most rod tip rings (tip guides, in the USA) are put on with a glue (Tip Top Adhesive) that melts when heated. So if you have a worn tip ring you can heat it with a match or lighter and pull it off. Then coat the tip of the rod with more heated adhesive and apply a new tip ring.
Well, I hope that has been of interest and you will either consciously or sub-consciously be protecting your rods more  If you have any ideas, suggestions or fishing war stories please feel free to share.



Friday, 8 February 2013

Izaak Walton, The Compleat Angler, a contemporary journey exploring the wonder of fly fishing

Can I recommend that you have a look at this You Tube video and walk in the steps of Isaak Walton accompanied by James Prosek a bright young angler artist.  Prosek got Yale University to accept his proposal to travel to the UK to visit Walton’s haunts as a subject for his Senior Thesis. His video produced by Fritz Mitchell and filmed by Peter Franchella gives you a true sense of the wonder of fly fishing and its origins and history.

I find my copy of The Compleat Angler published by The Oxford University Press interesting but quite challenging to read. However, I see it can still be bought from Amazon.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Fishing Rods: And how to avoid breaking them! PART 1

I titled my blog “Breaking Rods” because if you break a fishing rod it is a significant experience, painful if you have just stepped on your Sage or amazing if it happens whilst playing a trophy fish (and you still manage to land it).

So here are some tips drawn from my fifty years of experience of breaking and not breaking rods. My experience is mainly with fly rods but the principles can be applied generically. As you will see from the list sadly, most rods are not broken by big fish!

Threat No 1: The car door or boot lid (trunk lid in the USA). Sadly lots of rods get shut in car doors, by you, your pal, the kids or the wind. Similarly slamming shut the boot and then finding it won’t shut because it is squashing a rod ferrule is a sad experience.

Solution: Keep rods in cases when in cars or car boots. Whilst getting the rest of your kit together, having set a rod up, locate it somewhere safe where it cannot fall or be blown over. The magnetic rod holders you can clip on the side of your car are ideal, however, I have never owned one. I tend to lean the rod between the side of the car and the wing mirror, which could be courting disaster!

Threat No 2: The big foot. I am amazed at the number of fishers who leave rods lying horizontal on the ground waiting for themselves or some unsuspecting passer-by to crush it accidentally.

Solution: If you can lean the rod against something, even if it is your fishing bag and part of it is just elevated a couple of feet above the ground that makes it much more visible.  If I am teaching a group casting and they need to put their rods down, and there is no alternative, I have them lay the rods close to, and parallel with, the water’s edge. Hopefully there they are out of harms way.

Threat No 3: How you carry your rod.  If you are not very careful tips get broken off rods as you are walking along when they are carried horizontally pointing in front of you. This is because there is the danger of your wrist relaxing and the tip of the rod jamming into the ground and snapping off (see picture).
If you hold the rod tip higher there is a risk to your pal if he is walking in front of you and he turns round to say something and he gets jabbed in the eye.

Solution: Ideally hold the rod as shown in this picture. 
It is out of the way and if you go under low branches they will tend to push the top down. It is probably not a good idea to hold you rod high like this in electrical storms or anywhere where there are overhead power lines. It is appropriate to carry your rod horizontal and pointing in front of you when you are weaving your way through bankside shrubs and jungle!

Threat No 4: Using the rod to release a trapped fly.  We all get the odd fly stuck up a tree or on the bottom and we all give it a hard pull. However, some have been known to pull so hard they not only lose the fly they also break the rod!

Solution: Get hold of the line and pull that taking care to avoid cutting your hand with the line and getting the fly in your face. Years ago I read of a medic who pulled on a leader to get a fly out of a tree only to have the fly end up embedded in his eye. The irony of the situation was that he was an eye surgeon. I always wear eye protection when fishing and turn my face away when pulling trapped flies.

Threat No 5: Busting the blank.  This is when a rod joint has worked loose and the male ferrule ruptures the female ferrule. I had this happen to my 6 piece 15 foot salmon rod a few years ago when a fishing guide was demonstrating his version of the snap T cast to me. It was the largest section that got broke! Fortunately Fulling Mill provided a replacement section and the guide covered the cost. I warn new fishers that if when casting they sense a clicking of the rod then either their reel has come lose and is about to drop into the water or they have a loose rod joint.

Solution: Put the rod sections together firmly. I like to finish with a slight twist. If ferrule joints on single handed rods regularly work loose try rubbing candle wax on the male ferrule. Any form of Spey casting tends to work ferrule joints loose because of the twisting action. So Spey casters sometimes tape the joints. The way recommended by Michael Evans (suggested to him by a surgeon) is to put two longitudinal strips of tape covering the joint (the splints) and then on top of that wrap tape around the two strips. If you only wrap the tape around the joint the twisting action tends to loosen the tape.

See Part 2 (coming shortly) for some more rod breaking risks to avoid. If you have any other tips please feel free to contact me. Together let us ban broken rods!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Steelhead Action

Rainbow trout that leave the river for the sea come back to their birth river big, strong and so agressive they are called "steelheads"! The steelhead is one of the most exciting fish to catch and I have had that previledge on the Skagit, WA, USA.  When I want to relive that experience I watch one of my favourite videos at
it is called Steelhead Dreams Part 1 - by Todd Moen

It is brilliantly filmed and a joy to watch even for non fishers. I recommend it to you. Although it is filmed in BC the river shown is very similar to the ones I fish in WA.  Part 2 is good to but watch Part 1 first.

You can keep hatchery steelheads like this, identified by a clipped adipose fin (just in front of the top of the tail). Wild fish have to be released whilst still in the water or you go to prison!  This one was caught just downstream of the Wallace Hatchery by Chris one of my fishing pals. I hooked one too but I had foul hooked it so it didn't count!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Free Trout Fishing in UK Town Centres

Recently at a Surrey Branch meeting of the Salmon and Trout Assoc I heard a splendid chap called Theo Pike (appropriately named) give a talk entitled "Trout in Dirty Places". I was enthralled, particularly as he focused on rivers I knew in the middle of towns where I had always wondered if there were fish there.  His talk and PowerPoint presentation demonstrated how you could fish them for free and catch decent trout. Theo is the author of the following published by Merlin Unwin Books Ltd in 2012:-

The book lists 50 rivers that Theo has researched and fished with tips on access, urban fly fishing techniques and how to stay safe. It has over 200 colour photographs and lots of local knowledge. I was tempted to list the rivers covered but I don't want to go to prison for a copyright infringement! If you want ask me if your local river is included send me an e mail ( or reply to this blog.
Meanwhile Theo has got me course fishing the River Wandle at present but I cannot wait till the trout season starts.
PS The fishing might be free but you will still need an Environment Agency Fishing License!