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 now lives nearby. We use Aberfeldy as a base for our fishing as it’s close to so much 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. 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 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 in the river 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 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 favoring so we tried with a yellow may. After working on line management, to avoid the flies being dragged by the line in 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 a 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 to quickly set 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 talk is made of anglers 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, 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.
Day two we went pike fishing.
Again it was a hot bright day and we headed up a rough track through the hills and heather in the 4×4. After a 40 min drive during which we saw a group of Stags bound over the hill we arrived at our venue. Setting up the rods while listening to grouse clucking on the moor and an eagle crying above we were glad to be there.
We tried a bit of fly fishing from the bank and then took the boat out. On this day it seems all the pike were in one bay. The first cast in that bay there was a follow from a big pike which came right to the boat. It didn’t take the fly, but now we were primed for action. The next cast was a take and a pike of around 4lb put up a great fight before coming to the net. Shortly after that a 7lb pike kept Joe reeling and watching his line fizz out time and time again. Great sport!
After lunch we tried again from the bank and this time found quite a few pike near the edge.
Pike are an often underrated species. They are fantastic fun on a fly rod and the sport is usually consistent. I tie pike flies to imitate the local baitfish and some which are just general attractors. Long strips with occasional pauses seems to do the trick most of the time. Depth can be critical when pike fishing so we always have three lines, a floater, intermediate and slow sinker. In the colder months we find they prefer big flies, but by summer and into October you can catch even large pike on flies of 4 inches.
It’s best to learn to fly fish for trout first, as the equipment is lighter and easier than that used for pike fly fishing.
That’s just two of the many, many fishing spots Perthshire has to offer. You can fish all year for pike and grayling. For salmon (which is what most people come to Perthshire for) the season starts on the 15th of Jan and ends in October while the trout season runs 15th of March to 6th of October.