There was a time when salmon and sea trout fishing was at the top of my list and I would look forward to four, five or even six trips in their pursuit, mostly to Scotland, but occasionally to Ireland and Wales. Off the cuff I can think of eight different Scottish rivers that I have fished (there are a lot more!) and have treasured memories of magical days and nights spent in beautiful scenery enjoying total peace and tranquillity. My twin boys caught their first salmon on the same day when they were ten years old on the River Ness (lucky little beggars!) and the image of them crouched proudly behind those fish for the photograph is, amongst very many others, indelibly etched in my mind. However with prices ever rising and runs of migratory fish ever diminishing, together with my increasing interest in tropical game fish, my trips to Scotland have now diminished to a single August week on the River Lyon in Perthshire. Four of us – John, Rod, Ryan and myself self-cater in a quaint old building on the estate and basically have some ten miles of the river at our disposal. Fly-fishing, spinning and worming are all permitted at the time we are there, and there are countless pools that lend themselves to each of these methods. It`s a real “low pressure” week (no 4am starts!) and we are surrounded by red deer, red squirrels, otters, buzzards and the occasional golden eagle. Rod and I once caught sight of a wildcat – the only one I have ever seen! It is the sort of place where you will never catch 20 fish in a week, but having said that we rarely blank completely and last year managed to bank twelve salmon between us, averaging almost ten pounds, nine of which were returned to the river.
I have just returned from this year’s trip, which was greatly enjoyed as usual although the fishing was not easy. There were plenty of salmon in the river but they were not that keen to take our offerings, and when they did they refused to hang on for very long! It was somewhat of a surprise when Ryan and I returned to the lodge on Thursday evening (knackered as usual!) to find that Rodney – one of the hardest, most persistent fishers you could ever meet, had actually put a five-pound grilse on the bank. It was taken from Stronuic Burn, an attractive pool near the top of the river and, considering we were over fifty miles from the sea, was surprisingly silver. I have, over the seven or so years I have been fishing there, caught two or three fish carrying sea lice, which are supposed to drop off after 48 hours in fresh water, and this gives some idea of the speed they can move up a river if they want to!
On the Friday, our last fishing day, John drove home so that he could watch the Arsenal play football the next day, so the three remaining ‘Musketeers’ set off up the strath in one car. I suggested to Ryan, who is a relative newcomer to salmon fishing and had yet to catch one on the fly, that he should fly-fish the pool where Rod had taken his fish the previous day, but he had his eye on a promising pool slightly further down. He therefore dropped me off there while Rodney went up to the two uppermost pools to try his luck. To be honest I quite fancied my chances on Dalrymple and Stronuic Burn, my two connected pools, and remarked so to Ryan as he drove off downstream. I took my ten foot single-handed 7-weight fly rod and Airflo Balance Fly Reel, (which I got at a real bargain price of £29 in the Airflo sale!) and made my way to the pools. The water was perfect after heavy rain the previous day and I was slightly surprised when Dalrymple produced nothing. But the size 8 orange Ally`s Shrimp I had used all the week was swinging round beautifully and I was confident. Sure enough, halfway down Stronuic Burn I felt a bump and line streamed off the reel – I was at last attached to a salmon! I felt a mixture of emotions – thrilled to feel the power of the hard-won fish, but slightly sad at the thought that it might have been Ryan’s. That’s fishing however and I know his time will come! I looked upstream and down as I played the fish, hoping one or the other of my pals might be there to share the moment, but there was no one. I was alone with the dramatic hills, the gurgling river and my salmon. It fought very strongly but the Rutland Pro rod and Balance reel performed to perfection, and after some 8 minutes or so I was able to lead it through a gap in the boulders and tail it out. My normal custom is to return salmon but the other two both wanted to bring back some fish to eat so, with some reluctance and sadness, the fish was dispatched and carried up to the road.
It was slightly coloured but when I dressed it back at the lodge the flesh was as red as a tomato, and the boys were very pleased.
No more fish were taken on that last day despite our best efforts, and so another weeks holiday came to an end. We were all three totally worn out but happy with another thoroughly enjoyable week on the Lyon. Roll on next year!