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Dee Diaries: Saturday 18th July, 2009

Posted 22-07-2009 at 01:14 PM by cb

It had rained all night and I feared the worst. No hurry this morning as Dee was over 3 feet and rising. So on with a leisurely full-Scottish (excellent) whilst praying it would fair up.

I phoned Jim the ghillie and was told it was certainly fishable in a few places, but high of course. Again the weather forecast was terrible but it seemed ok outside with a higher cloud base than yesterday and no rain now. We decided to go sight-seeing in the morning to allow the river to steady and hopefully drop away a touch. Besides, from 2pm the Lummels pool was all mine! -- and I was there on the dot this time.

If an almost perfect salmon pool could be designed it would be like the Lummels. It fishes at any height of water (within reason) and has the most perfect broken, but steady flow for the fly. Both salmon and sea trout like it too and it will hold fish from the season’s start to the end. The Lummels is the most prolific pool on the beat yet its popularity is probably more to do with the ease and joy of its fly fishing and the fine secluded setting too.

To my surprise (I’d never seen the beat at 3 ft before) the water actually looked very good to me. Big with a peaty tinge but nothing that would put me off. I know Dee aficionado’s don’t like any hint of colour saying it makes the salmon dour, but then I fish the Tyne and I leap for joy when the Tyne gets a nice hint of sherry or tea!

So, Tyne colour – Tyne tactics – big fly - fished deep(ish). In fact I used the same fly as yesterday a whopping 4in long black and orange monkey-style fly tied on a plastic tube but this time I added a heavy cone-head to the front. I was very tempted to put on a classic Willie Gunn (2.5 in) tied on an aluminium tube but the Scandinavian type fly I used yesterday certainly attracted the fish so I was sticking with it!

On Lummels at this height of water the fish move to our side and we don’t even have to get our feet wet to cast – just step along the grassy bank – thank you very much. Short casts and the current does the rest – a few slow draws when the fly nears the bank and that’s it. The easiest fly fishing you can imagine. If you are a beginner seek out these places under these conditions and your confidence will take a massive boost!

I lazily and dreamily fished down the long Lummels pool for a good hour like this. I was genuinely surprised that I didn’t have any interest and my brain was repeatedly telling me to put on the Willie Gunn! If fact I was annoying myself so much with these thoughts that I decided to give in and change. Before I did however, my thoughts were interrupted by a handsome 12 inch brownie. That was enough to stop me – if my fly wasn’t too big for ¾ lber it wasn’t too big for a 20 lber! Silly logic I know but enough for me to keep the fly on.

With the pool to myself and no one on the other bank I started at the top and worked my way down the pool slowly again. I did see one fish right at the tail of the pool some 250 yards away which I suspected was just arriving.

Nothing. Hmmph.

By now it was 4 pm and I pondered. The water had dropped an inch or two from my marker – conditions were improving all the time. The rain had kept off completely and a nice breeze kept the air fresh. This is running water I thought to myself – that fish was telling me. Find a tail end! As it happens, when salmon leave the Lummels upstream they have a long hard climb in thin water before they reach the Lower Irrigation pool – surely they will stop there. I decided to find out.

The Lower Irrigation pool is rarely fished because it’s very awkward, with steep grassy banks on our side sloping down perilously into deep but powerful water. I’d never fished the pool before, but the ghillie had told me that it can hold springers, so I took careful stock of the flow. Sure enough at this height there was a likely spot on our side in a little grassy bay near the tail where the water lost a bit of its steam and shallowed. From a prominent granite block some 20 yards upstream I began to gradually lengthen my cast and fished down to it. Again near the end of every cast I pulled in the line in 6 inches slow-draws just before it straightened. Pluck, pluck, a very gentle knock below the surface and then the water bulged and a fish was on. I slowly lifted the rod into a good heavy salmon which then did very little! Sometimes these bigger fish don’t seem to know they are hooked. It simply swam slowly towards me. When it got close I tried to lift it in the water but it woke up then and bore down deeply. After a few minutes of dogged heavy pulling I brought it in close but then it began heavy thrashing on the top of the water. At last I’d seen it, a good clean fish of about 15lbs. Superb. How was I going to land it!

Fortunately, for me it was 5 o’clock and the other fishers on the beat above had finished fishing for the day and were walking back toward me when they noticed my rod bent. They hurried down to help, arguing all the time (apparently) about who was going to net it. Neither wanted the responsibility nor the peril of falling in! Just as they arrived still debating, the fish gave an almighty thrash on the surface and was gone. I almost heard a relieved cheer behind me!

I’m good at losing fish! It’s the draw that does it. It seems to attract them into the take but of course they don’t get a proper hold in the scissors.

Commiserations all round of course and then goodbyes. They too had lost a good strong fish (which they never saw) on Lummels in the morning and so I decided that for my last hour that’s where I’d go.

The water had dropped a further couple of inches and now looked really good. This time I fished further out from our bank as the current had eased a little in the central flow where fish always seem to lie. It was still a powerful push going through so every time I cast I mended the line upstream and then walked downstream two yards. This gave the fly time to sink before the fine current straightens the line and fishes the fly round beautifully. It is a joy to fish when you see the line sweeping round with such steady progress.

When fishing like this I keep my hands well off the line and ensure the reel is free to let off line on a relatively low drag. I also keep the rod tip low and follow the line around – sometimes in front, sometimes behind depending on the speed of the current. At 6.30pm in really quite-fast, deep water, in the centre of the pool I had what I would call the ‘classic’ salmon take. The fly line simply started drawing off the reel at a steady, but sure pace. What a sound! – the click of the drag whirring as it went (why anyone would want to fish silent reels is totally beyond me) I kept the rod low and let it go. Perhaps 2-3 yards had gone when the line curled slightly upstream and I slowly eased up the rod tip into a rock solid fish. This is a magical moment when you can feel the power and strength of a big salmon of size unknown.

This fish had incredible strength and helped of course by the powerful flow, it took me right across the pool and downstream some 40 yards. Gradually I coaxed it back upstream and a long dogged short–range battle of strength began. I began to speculate of a 25lber on the line but I was being fooled by the current.

Under protest my wife landed the fish in the huge landing net provided by the beat and we measured and released the fish. A coloured 34 inch salmon of about 16lb (from the ghillie's size-tables) in superb condition and perfectly hooked in the scissors – it really was a classic take.

And so ended a marvellous couple of days on the Dee, and I can’t wait to get back!


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Into a fish on the Lummels pool

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Well coloured 34in Lummels resident?
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