The lush land of Perthshire is rich, fertile, wooded and has lots of fascinating hidden corners.
The town of Aberfeldy is a beautiful place on the banks of the River Tay. It has captured the affections of many, including J.K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter books) who owns a country house nearby. We use Aberfeldy as a base for our fishing as it’s close to so many of the best spots to target trout and grayling, Highland pike and, of course, salmon.
The upper Tay holds many delights. There are pools where the grayling spawn and gather in huge numbers, there are also riffles and fast runs that are ideal for nymphing for brown trout. Long glides where the dry fly can produce excellent sport and some necks and tails of pools and also areas of uniform depth where spiders fished in the elevator method will bring spotty rewards!
Given the lovely weather I invited our photographer Reda along to take some shots of fly fishing for trout on the river, and for pike in a Highland Perthshire loch.
It was a warm, bright day on the upper river Tay and the water levels were particularly low and clear; not usually the best conditions for catching trout. However, knowing they’d be deep until a hatch came on, we started the morning contact nymphing.
This technique involves fishing faster runs at very close range – just under the rod tip. I tend to use three nymphs, the lowest of which taps along the bottom. It’s a great technique for those who haven’t yet mastered the art of fly casting, as it only requires a flick of the flies upstream, and no back and forth casting, so no tangles and no tree hook-ups.
The skill is in using the rod tip to drift the leader back in a level and steady manner. The flies should appear as though they are tumbling naturally in the current, without and drag or swing. Bites are spotted by the leader suddenly straightening, hesitating or being tweaked. It’s an excellent method and one of my favourites.
After a bit of practise Joe, our friend and beginner fly angler, quickly found his feet with this method and through the morning caught a few nice trout.
In the early afternoon there was a hatch of upwings. Specifically the yellow may (Heptagena sulphurea) and medium olive (Baetis vermus) and what looked like – though I couldn’t get close enough to be sure – some summer mayfly (Ameletus inopinatus). So time for the dry fly!
We couldn’t tell which of these the trout appeared to be favouring so we tried with a yellow may. After working on line management, to avoid the flies being dragged by the current, we had a take. As often happens when you’re starting out the trout are too quick for you, and by the time the strike came the fish had spat the fly out. A few more casts and another trout sucked in and spat out the yellow may imitation in a flash.
I often describe how the angler should be like a coiled spring, focusing on the fly and when a fish takes quickly setting the hook, not with force but with speed. Part of the challenge in dry fly fishing is keeping slack out of the line without dragging the fly and making it look unnatural.
It takes many attempts and a good deal of water-craft to be able to read the currents and make adjustments. These things don’t come quickly, even with coaching, and it’s observation and feel which will help you get there. Frustration and self criticism are unhelpful barriers to learning.
Joe did catch one trout on the dry which took right at the end of the drift. A good end to a great day on the beautiful river Tay.
When anglers talk about needing patience I think what is often pictured in the minds of many is endless hours of sitting on a bank waiting for something to happen. This isn’t my experience of fishing, and it’s not the sort of fishing we, at Fishinguide, do. We like active fishing, whether fly fishing or spinning – you’ve always got something to do.
Where patience comes in is in your ‘inner game’. You have to have patience with yourself. Don’t allow self-criticism to stop you ‘feeling’ what you’re doing. Don’t allow your instinct to sort-everything-out-with-more-power to take over. You can’t expect things to work perfectly for you immediately. Fly casting and effective fly fishing take time, a laid back attitude to success, and allowing yourself to relax, observe and really feel what’s going on.
Fly casting is one of the few things in life that doesn’t respond positively to more effort. Less is more when it comes to casting. The answer is very rarely more power, more speed or more determination.
The determination to practice casting for 30 mins every day, that will yield results, but forcing yourself in a single session to near exhaustion with effort isn’t productive.