Step by Step

Do you remember when to learn how to tie a fly you had to look at a series of pictures to understand the technique?

Now when you lookup how to tie a particular pattern you are directed to YouTube with half a dozen guys showing you how it is done.

This is how you should tie your flies – where and when it matters.

Which reminds me, I need to put together some fast water sedges.

Winter Kelvin

Memory Representation

So my beloved wife and I have been talking for literally years about buying some kind of painting or a print for our house. You know how it goes, she sees something that is totally weird that costs a fortune that has been mass produced by some factory that you just know will end up in a cupboard.

Anyway, it just so happens that an old school pal has taken up painting and offered to paint something. I sent a photo of my favourite spot on a river I know and voila.

It reminds me of warm sunny/overcast andalmost dreamlike days, with trout rising in all the wee knooks and crannies that you find in a river.

Simply wonderful.

Winter Projects – Vice Action.

Well that was a quick season.

No sooner than it was over I was thinking about next year and planning some winter projects. I am not a big fan of freezing my balls off hunting for Grayling and anyway looking at the photos on facebook it appears now to just be an excuse to torment out of season trout. Folk holding up a trout in January proudly saying it would be 2lb in June appears to be the norm now.

Personally I need to get my vice out.

Note to new American readers – a Vice here in the UK is used for the tool and not a bad habit.

Although weirdly for the winter I need to sort out two of them and one not just the one for fly tying.

This all started when I was trying to replace my outside tap, it turned out that a bolt was stuck on to a piece of copper pipe on the old tap and I was flummexed how to get it off. I needed the bolt for the new tap.

I messed around with it for a while until I realised that the tap had been soldered on to the pipe which meant it was not coming off.

I wandered across to my elderly neighbour old Hugh for a spot of advice as he is a man of the world and knows a thing or two. He appears to spend his day sitting in a deckchair watching the world go by – I always go over for a chat.

“Its quite simple really Alistair, you get it off using your hacksaw” he said. I glumly told him that I did not in fact own a hack saw. “No hacksaw Alistair???” he said with a look of wonderous rage ” Every man needs a hacksaw at their garage workbench!” he looked at me again and offered his to me to use. He wandered into his garage and came out with a hacksaw.

I braced the pipe and started to saw. “No NO NO” said old Hugh “Not like that, you take it and put it in your vice”

I must have looked at him blankly.

“What do you mean Alistair? First you dont have a hacksaw and now you dont have a vice?”

“What exactly do you have at your garage workbench?” he said emphasising the “do”

I glumly thought about my garage stuffed with bikes, old paint pots, my roof box, a huge fridge freezer that is only turned on at Christmas to store left over food, an old bookcase which my wife wont have in the house and I am too stingy to give away and also a boxes of stuff that we need to keep “just in case”

Old Hugh shook his head at me and indicated for me to follow him to his garage. “Excuse the mess Alistair” he said as we walked into his immaculate garage with well tended tools stored againt the walls. A row of jam jars was attached to a shelf with the screws sorted in order of size.

And there was his vice.

I knew what to do – I walked over and put the old tap in the vice and tightened it. Hugh looked at me and gave it another quarter turn.

I started to saw….. a few minutes later I could sense Hughs obvious discomfort until “Put a bit of welly into it Alistair, you are not trying to tickle it off ” I pressed harder however he bareley gave me a bloody chance.

“Do you want me to get my Grandaughter Alistair, she knows how to use a hacksaw, she could get through that in no time at all”

She was about 12 years old.

Finally I had made it through the pipe.

I thanked Hugh and retreated to my less than adequate garage to refit the tap. I must say though, fitting my new outside tap was grand and it meant that I could now shout at the kids every time they turned the water on. I thought about the vice for a bit and decided that I needed to get one. I could count at least 3 times in the last 2 years I could have used it. There was the time I needed to cut through a screw as i couldnt be bothered walking down to the shop to buy a smaller screw, and the time that I wanted to see what would happen when I squashed an old phone.

I had to get one – turns out the good ones are bloody expensive.

it just so happens though that my dear old departed father had a vice in his garage – a quick phone call to his second wife to make sure nobody had knicked it and I had a photo of an old vice. Ta Da!

To be fair he passed away nearly 20 years ago and I remember all his stuff being in a pristine condition. Still, I wandered down a few days later and almost destroyed the heavy chest of drawers he had modified into a workbench. Note to self, I need an old heavy chest of drawers to keep the tools I have aquired over the years (and some bloody jams jars) and then one day i am going to show some young buck my workbench.

Anyway, turns out cleaning up these old vices can be a lot of fun – a bit of paint and they look great after a good scrub. I just need to clear a wee space and get started.

Of course the second vice I need to sort out is for fly tying and that my friends is for another post – nothing wrong with that mighty fine piece of South African engineering though.

I love seeing the mushrooms.

Bobbin’ for Trossachs Monsters

“You know what we have never done?” I said to Alex as we discussed a plan to go fishing on Sunday “Whats that?” said Alex with a slight hesitancy in his voice as he knew this was the start of another crazy wack plan. “We have never been towed around a loch in our float tubes by an enormous Pike”

“Let’s do it” he said – only with an extra word that kind of sounds like kicking.

So we met at Venechar at around 1000 and got set up – I got talking to some Irish chaps in a camper van and we spoke about the differences in fishing practices in various countries – some of the practices I kind of doubted. I mean I know Polish fishers get a bad wrap but do they actually catch hundreds of immature bream and roach and then grind them to a pulp before eating them?

The Gear!

Anyway, we got the tubes set up and walked to the loch. There was a couple of chaps deadbaiting for Pike and I asked them where there lines were so we did not disturb them – they appeared a bit shocked that we were going out in the tubes with the gusting wind but I assured them we would be fine.

We will be fine…

We fished hard around the first bay with enormous flies and I am pretty sure I spotted a very big swirl on the surface which I am pretty sure was a very big Pike taking something from just under the surface – we spoke about that Pike a lot as quite frankly it was pretty much the only action to be had at this loch.

Still searching….

After we got back ashore after totally blanking we had some fairly tough decisions to make – do we head to another loch, stay and fish for trout or come up with an alternative.

While we decided, Alex got out his legendary frying pan and stove and proceeded to make us sausage, black pudding and haggis doublers.

He then ate a wasp.

That’s right, he actually ate a friggin wasp. The damn thing had got in his can and after drinking it he chewed on it for a bit thinking it was a bit of burnt black pudding – he then spit half of it out in his hand.

He said his mouth felt funny. I am just glad it didnt sting him – I reminded him of the horrific experiance of when he got a hook stuck in his lip and I had to tear the damn thing out. The last thing I wanted to do was go through his pockets for spare cash and transfer his gear into my car before the ambulance showed up try stuff something down his throat while his face swells up to twice its size and save his life in a very manly fashion.

We decided to head to a different loch and continue our hunt for Pike – surely the Pike would be feeding at another loch right? I mean we have actually caught a lot of pike in our time so it is not as if we are newbies at this game.

It had lots of weeds – Pike love that stuff..
I mean they really love weeds – it is like trout and boulders – find one you find the other!

OK – so this time we were even more sure – this place looked like Pike City – I mean it was just perfect, it had weeds and lots of it.

However, the water stayed like glass with no splashes amongst the weeds and no takes to our flies.

Just a jack would be good at this point….

I put on a gurgler at one point and pulled it through the weeds – any pike worth its weight in roach flesh would have went mad with those gurgles however the gurgler came back unmolested.

Like glass….

Eventually the sun was off the water and the temperature plummeted a few degrees – we finned back slowly to the shore.

“This is the second time I have blanked this year” mused Alex as we dragged our tubes up the shore – “..and both times I was with you” pointing out the obvious common denominator. He reminded me of our early season trip to my highland river which turned out equally as disasterous.

To be fair we always meet up at weird times, I mused, when I thought about it later and decided to rectify that next season.

“Wanna meet up and during the winter and do this again?”

“You betcha” I said.

Bobbin’ around.

I managed a sneaky half day from work this week. I arranged with Paul to meet somewhere for a trout attack at an ex fishery which is now hammered by the bait boys. Thankfully, we could get away from that area by using the float tubes.

When I met Paul I told him I reckoned that this would be my last trout trip of the year probably as the season just felt over for me. I had fished my highland river the day before and the place was totally dead so I was not feeling too optimistic. I had stopped my car 15mins away from the loch and felt a nice warm breeze againts my face however at the waterside the rain had started again with rolling clouds.

I stepped into the boat and pushed off, I gave a speculative cast as I finned away from the shore and a trout pounced on my fly. A fluke, I decided, as I finned my way further into the loch however it turned out to be the start of some red hot action.

big fins on the surface

Trout were splashing on the surface and pouncing on the flies and were very agressive. They were not enormous trout, the biggest was shy of half a pound but they sure were pretty.

Pretty Trout

I finned around the islands and was even catching trout in the water that did not have any movement in it – casting with the 5 weight in the stillness was good for the soul even amongst the showers.

casting towards the stillness

I told Paul this may not actually be my last trip however as soon as the action started it all seemed to be over. A cold stillness came over us and the loch went dead. The action lasted maybe two hours whereas a month ago it would have went on all evening.

I stuffed my tube into the back of the car and headed home with a wet ass due to leaking waders. I had forgotton how great fishing from the tube is – I should have got the damn thing out months ago.

Refusing trout in high water

I am pretty sure my river level app lied to me today. The app said medium water in a river which is fed by a couple of lochs and another river – I wanted to fish the tributary of the river. This highland stream is usually pocket water however when I got their it was full on fast flowing spate..

Highland River

I immediately felt very under-gunned with my 4 weight and after a 45 minute session walked back to the car to move down into the next river and string up my 5 weight SLT which is a beefier set up for these types of conditions.

When I got to the lower section again I noticed that it was even higher than the last time I was here as I was finding it difficult to get into some of the pools that were usually productive. The force of the water was just too much and it was difficult trying to control the fly.

I decided to walk downstream which proved slightly problematic as I wanted to fish the right hand bank and there is no actual path. This meant making my way through some fairly thick woods all the time stooped over.


I finally got to my long riffle that looked perfect and worked my way up it with a dry and dropper.

A riffle with no actual fish I mused as I was almost at tthe top of the riffle after 45mins of constant searching.

100m Riffle

It was only when I let my fly swing behind me did I get a take on the nymph – it was then in a moment of madness that I decided to stick on an small Allys Shrimp as I did not have any wet flies with me with the thinking that a crazy salmon could take it as well as a trout. As it was a couple of trout had a go at it but they did not stay on for long.

I started the slog back up the river to another glide and decided on a change of tactic – a stimulator went on and this time the trout were definitely interested. I could tell they were interested as every few casts I would watch trout cruising up to have a go at the stimulator and then refuse it or have a go at it resulting in an angry shake of the head after I tightened up and then the usual lost trout.

I lost count how many times this happened.

Usually thin water

I walked upriver to what is usually some pretty thin water to find it was at least 2.5 feet deep and very fast moving – finally a trout stuck to the stimulator however no picture as I dropped the trout as soon as it was unhooked.

There was a buy watching me from a bridge for a bit in what looked like thermal underwear – I guess he was a salmon fisher.

As I was leaving I noted from a dryer stone that the water must have dropped a half foot while I was fishing.

They always look bigger in real life.

I had a pounding headache all day at work however had based myself in Clydebank so that I could shoot down to the river nice and quick. The temp was hovering over 20 degrees and the sky was overcast, I could tell a change was on the way.

I keep my rod set up in the car so that I save a couple of minutes when I get to the river. It also means that if I have a spare 10mins I can stop at my wee burn, catch a few trout, and by on my way again with my fix satisfied.

The river had a tinge of color to it and was up several inches. It was high enough that the riffles were bigger and longer and just looked in excellent condition. The place was alive with buzzing insects and when I looked downstream I spotted several trout rising.

And we call it an urban river..

From the photo above you would think that this was in fact in the countryside when instead the sounds of cars honking their horns, buses moving and people shouting from a walkway just above me competed with the sounds of birds and flowing water. There are some high flats a few hundred metres away.

With hindsight I should have waded slowly down to the rising trout however I stuck to the riffle and caught nowt. I moved up the river slowly eventually picking up trout on both my size 12 Klink and my PTN dragging under it.

A wee troot.

I used to always say that you can tell a proper Kelvin trout as quite frankly it looks like it has seen a bit of action however over the last few years their condition has improved and they look bonny.

Long riffle..

Once I had finished at that stretch I headed up the road to a different section of river.

Not sure why this was happening however several trout that I caught were false hooked on their body – it must have been the way they were taking the fly.

I have started carrying my net again, I had stopped for a while their as I was just not using it however after nearly losing some big trout and paranoid about attempting to grab a trout and damaging it I decided to carry it again. It is a big net so the size of this lunker does not look that impressive, I was trying to get a classic photo in the hand when it wiggled back into the water.


There is something about catching trout after some hot weather, the river is full of oxygen and the trout pull like crazy – my wee four weight was bent over a few times and annoyingly on a couple of occasions my reel fell off while this was going on.

I guess I could have stayed out a lot longer however my headache had not subsided so I headed back to the motor and a leisurely drive back home.

No great lunkers.

I managed a few hours on my highland river this evening. There was a lot of water coming down it and I actually had a thought I might spot a Salmon. Consequently I strung up my 7 weight with an Allys Shrimp and went for a yomp down some likely pools – needless to say I did not have a scooby what I was doing and soon became bored at the lack of action and then agitated by the number of slurps from trout I was walking past.


I yomped it back up to my car and got out my 4 weight, after a few casts I kinda wished I had my 5 weight SLT however soon my klink was being pounced upon by several trout in the faster water.

Not a lunker..

After a few trout I decided to head home as I currently have some house visitors that I abandoned.

Glad I went though.