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Extracts from a Fishing Log

1 Illicit Sea Trout

2 Four Casts, Four Fish

3 A Good Night

Fly fishing stories from the past.


Extract #1     Illicit Sea Trout

Date : A long time ago

Place : An exclusive sea trout river

My first visit to the river left a clear and indelible impression of a most memorable catch, a defining moment in my fishing life, heralding a lifelong obsession with that most mysterious and fascinating fish, the sea trout .......

Having made our way nervously to the river's edge in the darkness of an early July night, we assembled our tackle excitedly but without much trouble, the fly and bubble float having been attached before nightfall. Everything now would be done by the meagre natural light of the summer night. We would not dare to stay long, just long enough. Fish were moving in the tail of the pool but it was difficult to assess their size. A couple of maggots on the bend of the hook and the first casts were made. But surely the loud plop of the bubble float could be heard a hundred yards away in the still of the night. Teeth gritted at each cast.

The first few casts produced one or two finnock, fish around half a pound, which were returned carefully. We hadn't come all of two hundred miles for finnock but for the larger sea trout that we knew would be running the river at this time of year and for which the river was famous. Another cast to the far side of the pool within a yard or two of the bank, pull over the bale arm of the reel manually to minimise any noise, begin a slow retrieve just sufficient to maintain a taut line and contact with the fly. Suddenly the fly stops, the line tightens as if stuck fast on a log or stone. Lift the rod. It's a fish and no finnock this time!  The light seven foot rod bends double then dips sharply as something big leaps from the water. Has the hook come out?

No, the rod is almost pulled from my hand as the fish immediately dives for the riverbed. These acrobatics are repeated two or three times as the sea trout desperately tries to regain its freedom but it is firmly hooked and, weakened by its dramatic efforts to escape, it is drawn, perhaps too hurriedly, on to the shingle. I drop the rod and fall on the bar of silver, still kicking frantically, solid muscle. I reach for a stone, knock it on the head, remove the hook and carry the fish well away from the river. Only now do I realise that my hands are trembling, my legs shaking and my heart pounding too fast for comfort. What a beauty, it must be five pounds, by far the best fish I've caught. But surely the battle must have been heard, someone will come to investigate. We crouch silently, every sense strained to the limit to confirm that we have not been discovered. Fear, though, is soon overcome by the prospect of another such fish and we edge back to the river. We catch one or two more, not of the same quality as the first but decent fish all the same. It suddenly seems as if we've been fishing for a long time, surely too long for safety. We are taking too much of a chance in fishing on, pushing our luck. So it is with relief that we agree to call it a night. We collect our fish which have been well hidden in the dry stane dyke nearby and make our way quietly and quickly away from the scene of the crime to rendezvous with friends who have been fishing a pool further downstream. In reality, as it turned out, we had fished less than an hour and the fish weighed only three and a half pounds. But what a fish!


Extract #2     Four Casts, Four Fish

Date : Monday 15th August, 1988

Place : Cowden Mill Dam, River Endrick


Diary 15th August

5 Sea Trout - 8, 4¾, 3½, 3½, 2¼ lbs.

(Total 22lbs)


After heavy rain over the weekend and a high spate on Sunday, the river had dropped by Monday evening and was running clear, at a perfect height for the sink tip line. Others thought so too as five fishers had gathered at the dam for a 9.30 start. A warm night with some encouraging cloud cover and no moon but, with the tractor lights from the haymaking disturbing the pool until 10.30pm, things were a little slow to start.

I had one smallish fish of around 2¼lbs from behind the stone in the middle of the pool, lost another and foul hooked a grilse, which was duly returned, all before midnight. Alec had two fish and two others were caught early on. Things went very quiet between midnight and 3am, by which time all but myself and two others had left. It was looking like a fairly average night.

Just occasionally, though, we experience an exceptional day or night's fishing, when all the time and effort spent on the river seems worthwhile - when, as Alec puts it, we are rewarded for good attendance. This was such a night. In the space of no more than half an hour, between 3am and 3.30am, without moving my stance, I hooked, and landed, four sea trout in four casts. The total weight of the four fish was 19¾lbs and the biggest was 8lbs, until recently my biggest ever sea trout (see Fishy Photos). I might have added to my bag but, deciding enough was enough, I called on Robert, who had been fishing some way up the pool, to take my place at the hot spot. This was one of my favourite spots, about ten yards or so above the Dam, casting to a narrow gap in the overhanging trees on the far side. The fish usually took just as the flies emerged from under the trees. Robert, on this occasion, had no success. I, though, had had a magical half hour, never to be forgotten, or repeated. I must have been casting over a shoal of large fresh fish, ready and willing to take my flies after entering the dam minutes earlier. I fished the usual 2 flies, one size 8 Pheasant tail spider on the dropper and one size 10 black and silver spider on the tail, both sparsely dressed and adorned with a few maggots. That night I was certainly in the right place at the right time.


Extract #3      A Good Night 

Date : Thursday, 10th July 1997

Place : River Earn

Thundery rain in the west. Temperature forecast to stay above 11°C. Heavy cloud cover, upstream easterly wind, not strong enough to be troublesome but strong enough to keep mist off the water.

Surprisingly, no other fishers to be seen, perhaps because the river level had dropped six inches since Tuesday and was now running very low, with a large area of pebbles exposed on the left bank opposite the fence. I had caught fish earlier last month in this height of water, though, and so was hopeful.

It was just about dark enough to start fishing, with care, at 11pm. Fishing a double taper seven floater and two size 8 flies, a ginger pearl on the dropper and a pearly dark mackerel on the tail.  I made a start in the streamy water at the head of the pool, wading carefully and casting into the shade of the bushes on the far bank.

The first fish took on the far side just opposite the log, a good firm take as I had been doing a slow figure of eight retrieve to keep in touch with the flies and keep them moving at a good pace. Now this fish, at just 1lb 14 ozs, was probably the liveliest fish I have caught, leaping clear of the water about eight times and causing a great commotion in the now shallow stream before being drawn towards the net, at which point its lively acrobatics almost earned its freedom. Just as I was drawing the fish over the net, I felt the hook come out and, for a second, the fish was free. Fortunately, before the fish realised this, I managed to scoop the net under it. An unlucky fish! It was 11.30pm.

Despite the disturbance, not wishing to miss the chance of another fish, I started in again just above where I had hooked the fish. It was only a matter of minutes before I felt a strong pull but didn't make contact. At 12 midnight, on reaching the overhanging trees on the far bank, as the flies began to swing across the current, I felt a tiny pluck, very like a bat touching the line. Seconds later, the second sea trout of the night was on, stronger than the first fish but less acrobatic. After an early leap, it ran strongly up the far side of the stream. I kept firm pressure on to keep it out of the thick trailing weed, which grew near the far bank. The hook held, though, and the second fish of the night was eventually netted, another hen fish of 2lbs 2ozs. Like the first, it had taken the tail fly.

After a short break for a cup of tea from the flask, I fished on till 12.30am. With no further offers and two fish on the bank, I decided to call it a night. I may have had the chance of a few more fish, perhaps even the bag of the season, but I was well satisfied. Two beautiful, fresh sea trout, 4lbs between them, caught within an hour of each other, with a third fish missed, on a lovely river at the height of summer with not another fisherman in sight. A good night! In fact, if you were to imagine, to daydream, of a perfect night's fishing, it might be very like this.


The Sea Trout Fisher


He comes by well worn evening path his craft to nightly ply

On quiet summer pools where sewin silver sleeping lie

Like precious stones that shine unseen beneath the silent stream

Elusive pearls that haunt the dreams that sea trout fishers dream


Home from salty sea the roaring rapid roughly run

Home to the redd their weary journey long ago begun

To rest and wait by nature's blinding light of lengthening day

To stir and wake as verdant leaf turns slowly now to grey


In twilight hour of hawking bat and silent swooping owl

The regal corbie sitting high upon an ancient bough

Surveys the simple scene of scented summer's coming night

While high above the grey veiled moon gives out a grudging light


The heron craaks his raucous craak as now a roving otter

Disturbs the even temper of the cool clear flowing water

He stops to stare unhurried at the wading fisher's feet

Then slides upstream intent again upon his nightly beat


The braid of supple silk unfurls upon the darkening river

The teal winged fly with hackle blue and subtle glint of silver

Dressed long ago with special care upon a winter's eve

Swings steady o'er the shingle bed in slow and deft retrieve


But now the ever restless sea trout shoal has taken fright

Their moonlight shadows fearful shrink away with fading light

 A chilling mist like silken shroud slips o'er the settled glen

The chance the fisher thought he had is surely lost again


.....but not always



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