The Poacher Diaries.
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The Poacher Diaries.

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing' started by crabby_old_man, Mar 27, 2012.

  1. crabby_old_man

    crabby_old_man Member

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    Monday 26th March 2012.

    10am

    The first trip of a new season. I’m looking forward to this immensely. It’s been far too long since I cast a line. The weather is unseasonably warm, very hot in fact. I would expect these temperatures in June or July. This time last year the lochs were frozen solid! Today I will be fishing Loch H. It is almost entirely unknown to me in an angling capacity, having only fished here a handful of times in the past, and never seriously. I had thought it all but empty of fish worth chasing, but having read a few favourable reports over the winter I’ve decided to give it a go.

    As mentioned, the conditions could scarcely be worse had there been a man following and blowing a trumpet in my ear. The blazing sunshine and very stiff breeze (that’s always in my face, no matter where I turn), make my task just that little bit more difficult. I say more difficult, because it’s been almost 6 months since I fished and I’m feeling a bit rusty and out of practice. I fully expect to catch more reeds behind me than fish in front. No matter, even a poor days fishing will do me the world of good. For tackle I’ll take my Diawa 10ft 8weight rod and a floating line. As I don’t know the loch or the best spots and tactics etc, I’ve decided to use a simple size 12 Bibio on its own, at the end of a 12ft leader of 2lb fluorocarbon.

    So, a mile or two’s walking with the dog (an absolutely essential piece of kit for the modern poacher) I reach my destination. There is a shallow bay at the very end of the water and a path leading around its northern bank. This will be my starting point. I have had to sacrifice a degree of stealth having brought the dog, but the bank is shallow, almost flat, so I can stand well away from the waters edge. There is a forest about 20ft to my rear, so careful casting is required. A few casts to get the feel of the rod and it feels like I never put it down. Casting across the wind yields a few decent lengths, with the fly turned over perfectly. I spent maybe 20 minutes getting everything in perfect synchronicity before I start looking for signs of a fish.

    As I said before, I had previously believed that the loch had been fished out a long time ago and that it was now full of hateful perch and minnows, but having spotted a few rises at the end of last season and reading several reports from members of the club that owns it, I was feeling reasonably confident. Even though it was very early in the year, the water was clear and warm and looked as though it might produce the goods. A few rises well out of casting range gave me hope so I started casting as far as I dared with the trees behind me. After maybe 5 casts I said to myself ‘One more then I’ll move unless I see movement’, and, of course, just as I was reeling my line in and fixing my hook to the rod, a fish jumped not 15 feet to my left.

    Its here, I’m afraid to say, that I panicked slightly and made about 20 schoolboy errors; trying to rip the leader back through the eyes, cast sideways into the wind and so on. After spending a minute or so disentangling myself, I managed to get a cast out just over the rise. The moment the fly landed on the water my quarry rose and took it in a greedy and noisy splash. Being so close to the bank and it only being a small early season fish of around 3/4lb, the fight was a short one and I landed it without any difficulty. It was a thin fish, but beautifully coloured and shining like silver in the sun. The dog was excited but confused and nosed it once before deciding that he wasn’t interested and wandered off. I had the fish hooked in the tongue and easily freed him and put him straight back into the water, where he sped off back into the weedy depths.

    A very good start to the day, and, I’m happy to say, the rest of the day followed a similar pattern. Walking round the lochs north bank, wherever I stopped I spent 20-30 minutes or so putting out exploratory lines while looking for rises, and was rewarded almost every time with a decent sized fish. Never more than one in any spot though. I had expected the fish to be a bit thin on the ground so I wasn’t at all surprised by this, although I was surprised to have caught 6 fish so early in the year. Come 3pm it had become too hot for both me and the dog; he in his thick winter coat and me in mine, so we called it a day and headed for home. I cast over a few rises on the south bank, but the trees were too close to the bank here and all I caught were branches. All in all, a good start to the years fishing. I will fish the loch again later, perhaps in June or August and will make a few non fishing related trips over the following weeks to talk to anglers there and see what information I can winkle out of them. The water is owned by a small and very exclusive club and I believe they guard their secrets jealously, but I’m up to the challenge.

    Tight lines!
     
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  2. gusmcg

    gusmcg Guest

    Thanks for that, top report great read
     
  3. Fenclare

    Fenclare Deputy Jokes Forum Examiner

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    Nice 1 crabby :thumbs:
     
  4. crabby_old_man

    crabby_old_man Member

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    Easter Sunday 12pm.

    Today I fished Loch B. I've never fished here before, although I have passed by it and had a good look at the layout and possible lies a good many times. I don't know who owns this water, but I'm pretty sure they have an accord with a local association, and I have seen fluff chuckers from both clubs fish these waters. The weather, as ever, was against me. Looking out into my garden I saw that there was very little wind, nary a breeze, but I know enough that zero wind here usually equates to a howling gale by the time I reach the hills, and today proved no exception to that rule. What was a mild and pleasant day in the valley turned into a miserable windy howler the higher I got. Oh, great. Freezing rain to add to my misery.

    So, a wet and hooded trudge up the treacherous mud slide that is laughably considered a path in these parts takes me, in time, to the loch. Now, there are many lochs in the area and they are all of a muchness. They all produce the same sized fish, more or less, the terrain and vegetation is so unremarkable that one might fail to even register thier existence from one water to the next, and unless one knew exactly where one was standing, it would be easy to confuse loch B with any other in the area. Often the only real difference is the size. I only went there today as part of this seasons diary and its doubtful that I shall ever return. Apart from anything else, come Summer it is a very busy place, with up to 20 anglers all seeking a bit of solitude. Ironic, isn't it?

    As the weather was so inclement I decided on a WF-8S line with a short 8 foot leader, to minimise the risk of wind knots, and a size 14 Lawyers Nymph on the business end. I try to keep things as simple as possible, and a team of flies in a high wind with horrid slanting ice cold rain is just asking for trouble in my book. Besides, only having one fly removes the risk of catching 2 or 3 fish at the same time and having them all panic and trying to swim in different directions. If this has ever happened to you then you'll know how unmanageable it is and you probably ended up with no fish at all after a long and tiring struggle.

    So. With a strong wind, overcast skies and driving rain I set off. There was, unsurprisingly, very little movement on the water. I spotted a rise or two, but any attempt to aim a cast in the conditions would have ended in disaster (and very probably a hook in the back of the head), so I stopped at 20 yard intervals and began casting in the fan pattern. There is nothing much of interest to report here I'm afraid. You've all fished in these sorts of conditions and I won't stir up unhappy memories by detailing my own experiences in this diary. I only caught one fish, a small half pounder. It popped up some 30 feet to my right and a few casts over it brought it to the bank. It had that shimmering blue sheen on it, the sort of colours you usually see on a freshly released stock trout, but I don't think this water is stocked, and in any case, its unlikely that it was stocked recently and even less likely that it was stocked with skinny half pounders. I could be wrong, though. Perhaps this was an overwintered fish that got here by 'accident'* and hadn't lost its blue yet, or maybe it was the offspring of a wild/stockie mating that has made its way up the network of bubbling streams that feed this multitude of indifferent murky puddles. No matter, it was caught and I saved the blank. The picture below isn't terribly good, but that's because I have a cheap plasticky camera and I wasn't about to spend 5 minutes posing the fish for the best angle and light when I had a force 3 gale trying to steal my hat.

    If I sound grumpy then its because I am. I don't know why I bother fishing these lochs sometimes. The weather is unswervingly awful and the fishing is poor and barely worth the effort, but, as my cycling friends are fond of saying, 'You have to put the hard miles in before you enjoy it'. Bloody fools.




    * Accidentally my foot. I hear troubling rumours of impatient anglers catching stocked fish and then introducing them to wild waters in order to improve the fishing. I really hope this isn't true.


    fish1.jpg
     
  5. crabby_old_man

    crabby_old_man Member

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    Thursday 12th April

    Today I fished one of the larger reservoirs in my local area. When I say local, I mean anywhere I can walk to within 2 hours or so. So, yet another wet and muddy trek to the water in question. I had a feeling that this would be worth the extra effort after reading some very positive reports from members and ex members. I came to the water on the shore farthest from the car park and clubhouse to avoid confrontations with legitimate anglers, and was met with a simply magnificent view. The reservoir was a lot bigger than I had expected and the scenery around it was beautiful. There were 2 buzzards flying low on the water and fish were jumping everywhere. In my last entry, I mentioned that I was getting a bit brassed off with these hill lochs, comparing them to muddy puddles, but this is so much better in every way then all of them put together. A fabulous place. Conditions were almost perfect too, with a slight breeze and overcast skies. This is the water I had hoped for and can't believe I had missed it before.

    So, making my way down to the waters edge I chose a spot to begin. There were a few cars in the distance but I couldn't see anybody so I thought I was safe for the time being. Alas, no sooner had I put the rod together when I head a voice asking me what the bloody hell I was doing. Thinking that it must be a trick question I just nodded and said hello to the vision I saw before me. At first I thought he was either in costume, perhaps training for Halloween, or that he must be a sales rep from Hardy's, dressed as he was in olive green Gortex from head to toe with their logo plastered all over his person. But this was no laughing matter. He was deadly serious and I could sense that he was fit to burst from the start. He was almost apoplectic with rage! How dare I set foot and line in his precious trout fishery.

    Now, I prefer to avoid conflict and generally move away if I see club members, but this time I had nowhere to hide and decided that honesty, more or less, was my best and only recourse. I explained that I was doing a walking tour of the hill lochs that day and that my plan was to catch and release one fish in each of the half dozen waters I had picked. But no, this simply wasn't good enough for him. It would be best if I were to transcribe the conversation we had, leaving out the boring bits, which were mostly his in any case.


    You can't fish here. This is a private club.

    Yes, I know that now. However, as I said, I've walked over 2 hours to get here and I will put any fish that I catch straight back.

    NO! you have to leave, you're not a member. We pay £** a year to fish here.

    OK, then how do I become a member?

    You have to apply in writing, then get a sponsor and..

    Let me stop you there. Are you going to tell me that I can only join if I already know 2 people here, one to propose me and another to 2nd that proposal?

    Yes

    So then, I can only join your club if I know the people in it, and the only way I can get to to know the people in it is to go fishing with them, but I can't do that because I'm not a member, have I got that right?

    You can call the president of the club and ask him for a form. There's a waiting list of about 2 years.

    No, I don't think I'll do that. I'd much prefer to just fish here for a while then move on. You can fume and rage all you want if you think it will do you any good. I, on the other hand, will enjoy the fishing for as long as it takes me to catch one. I have no wish to be part of your elitist and snobbish club, so I won't take you up on your offer to wait 2 years before being , maybe, considered the right sort before wetting a line here. Good day.




    That's a much shortened and sanitised version of the exchange, but the gist of it is there. I've left out the swearing and the threats to call the police etc., but that's all. To his enormous chagrin and my absolute delight, I hooked into a 3 - 4lb trout after only a few casts, by far the biggest fish I've landed in these hills. The look on his face was priceless, especially when I put it back in the water and waved him goodbye.

    I love fly fishing, I really do, and would happily pay the ticket price for this and most other good sized waters, but the process of becoming a member on almost all of them is deliberately obtuse and designed to keep outsiders out side. Almost every time I have applied to join a club or association I have been met with the same idiotic vetting processes. Do you know somebody here? Do you know somebody else here? Will they propose and 2nd your application? Can you stand on one leg and whistle the theme tune to the Phil Silvers Show in the dark? If so, sign here and wait an unspecified length of time. You might have to wait until an existing member dies, so don't hold your breath. There are a few other clubs in the area that you can join, but there criteria matches our own, so I wouldn't bother if I were you. Goodbye.

    The only reason I can see for this is to keep 'riff raff' out. Riff raff here meaning anybody who the gaffer didn't go to school with or who doesn't play on the same golf course. The snobbery surrounding fly fishing put me off the sport for a very long time, and I cant see it getting any better. What's wrong with putting a few public tickets up for sale at the start of each season? Surely the more tickets sold equals more money which in turn equals better maintenance and stocking of the water?


    But then a commoner might get hold of one of these permits and that just won't do, will it? Picture the scene. A quiet summers afternoon, you in your immaculate Greys waders and matching tackle box, gently smugging the hours away until its time to go back to your bum faced wife and crippling mortgage repayments, when along comes Johnny Housing Scheme in his denims and budget range tackle. He smells of chips and stolen cars. He's probably drunk and high on crack cocaine too! Oh my god, what if he starts a conversation with you? What will you talk about? You don't know anything about dog fighting or how to avoid the CSA . Best to make it impossible for him to join the club in the first place, it's the only way to be sure that you can keep your exclusive and secret gang safe from the likes of him. So, until the day when I can buy a permit directly from the club or from a tackle shop, I will continue to poach. Not because I enjoy breaking the law and not because I gain any satisfaction from getting one over on anybody, but because it's the only way I can go fishing in the place where I was born and raised.
     
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  6. gusmcg

    gusmcg Guest

    This thread is fast becoming a favourite of mine. Many thanks.
     
  7. ianr

    ianr Member

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    And mine, thank you.


    Ian.
     
  8. crabby_old_man

    crabby_old_man Member

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    Sunday 15th April

    5pm


    Just a short entry for today. Although I said that I wouldn't visit Loch H again until later in the year, I noticed that it had a very good evening rise on the way back from the reservoir in my last report. Having blanked there that same day (didn't I mention that?) using dry flies, I changed tactics and used a medium rate sinking line and a single size 10 generic pattern brown nymph, fished close to the bank on a 15 foot leader, and what a difference it made!

    Because the loch is so large I used a stalk and cast to the rise tactic, my usual tactic on large still waters, and was rewarded almost every time I cast over a fish feeding on or below the surface. None of the fish were particularly large, in fact most of them were around a quarter of a pound, but one or two out of the 8 or so I caught were of a decent size, although thin, and will fatten up nicely for the summer.

    As ever, I used my 10ft 7 weight rod. I would prefer to use much lighter tackle, but as it is so early in the season the fish aren't in best fighting condition, so I like to land and release them as quickly as possible. A 5 weight rod will give much better sport once they've had a chance to grow stronger and fatter. Below are 2 pictures, the smaller one is more typical of the fish I caught, the larger, around 13 inches and something less than a pound in weight, gives me hope that there is a good head of wild browns in the water. Again though, a few of the smaller fish had that blueish tinge to them, something I associate with stocked trout, but I know for certain that Loch H hasn't been stocked for many many years. Does anybody know why some have this colouration but not others? I think H will be my evening session water of choice for the coming months, if it continues to produce such good fishing.


    Notice the blue around the gills. Any ideas?

    bluegills.jpg

    Give it a month or two and this will be worth catching on light tackle.

    largerfish.jpg
     
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  9. gusmcg

    gusmcg Guest

  10. crabby_old_man

    crabby_old_man Member

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    Thats a very interesting study, although it is inconclusive. I had always assumed that the silvering found on some fishh was a result of thier diet, and indeed have been told the same thing, or that sometimes a few brown trout start the transformation into sea trout depending on sexual maturity, but that also appears to be a myth according to the study. Around 10% of the fish I catch in stillwaters have this colouration so it would seem that there is too much iodine in the water and that the fish are incapable of discharging it. I will seek out a testing kit and measure the level of iodine over the next few months and compare it with the trout caught in the same period. Thank you for the link.
     
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  11. smokin

    smokin Member

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    fantastic post! - just dipping my toes into fly at the moment and this has got me hooked! A good read and informative too.

    thanks for sharing
     
  12. crabby_old_man

    crabby_old_man Member

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    Tuesday 24th April

    6:00 am

    Having foolishly heeded the weather forecast and missed two days of perfect fishing conditions, I rose early this morning and weighed up my options over breakfast. I am quite lucky where I live in that I have 2 rivers, a few good sized streams, about 6-7 fair sized trout lochs, both stocked and unstocked, Loch Lomond and the Forth and Clyde Canal all within easy walking distance. There's also at least one trout fishery, but I've never visited one of those and I don't intend to either. Why anybody would drive past all of the spots I mentioned already in order to fish an aquarium is quite beyond me. Anyway.

    Having flipped a coin several times, my final two options were Loch Lomond for coarse or a nearby river for trout. Happily, it came down tails for trout (with only a little help). The river is perhaps better known for its salmon and sea trout, and it has a certain notoriety among independent sportsmen for the gloomy disposition of the bailiffs who patrol its banks. They are renowned for having absolutely no sense of humour at all and legend has it that, if caught, one escapes with nothing more than a broken rod and a boot shaped imprint upon the rear, then you have been very lucky indeed. Hence the early start. The sort of thugs who would roughly dismantle a chaps rod aren't the sort who rise with the lark I reckon, and if I cant outrun them then I shall have to outsmart them.

    So, setting off and choosing the bank opposite the pedestrianised, I made my way to a likely looking spot I had chosen a few days ago. It's well hidden, gives about 30 yards casting in either direction, hangs over deep water and is impossible to approach without making such a racket that any rod snapper trying to sneak up on a fellow would give him about a minutes notice in which to make his getaway. Perfect.

    The tide was on its way out when I got there, not ideal, but the trout didn't seem to mind too much, being pretty territorial. A few test casts with a size 10 Bibio brought several noisy refusals and one missed take. Not a bad start, but it seems that all this commotion had spooked the fish and they had gone into hiding. Another hour or so's casting and about 5 changes of fly and line, from floating to sinking to intermediate and back again, brought me no luck at all. By this time I was getting a little worried. On the opposite bank there was a steady and growing stream of pedestrian and bicycle traffic, any one of whom could have been the dreaded bailiffs of legend, so I tried to time my casts between passers by and was just about to give up when POP! I was into a fish. Usually I would be delighted by a take, but the thought occurred that this might be a small salmon or largish sea trout, both notorious for their uncooperative attitude when it comes to landing the buggers. The very last thing I wanted was a prolonged and noisy battle around the time the hooligans employed to prevent the private angler enjoying a bit of sport would be emerging from their caves and cellars.

    Fortunately, it was neither of those, but was instead a perfect specimen of Brown Trout, river variety, sleek and full finned, weighing in at around the 2lb mark. It allowed itself to be landed and released without to much fuss, and I decided that enough was enough. One simply cannot enjoy an hours fishing when one is constantly looking over his shoulder and expecting the cold and unforgiving hand of the law to grasp his shoulder at every moment. Next time I will buy a permit. I really will.


    I took a picture of my catch, but in between transferring it from my camera to my computer I have managed to lose it. If I'm able to retrieve it then 'll put it up.

    Tight Lines.
     
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  13. Andy Sinclair

    Andy Sinclair

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    The blue sheen is normal on wild brown trout.
     
  14. crabby_old_man

    crabby_old_man Member

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    Its only recently, relatively speaking, that Ive noticed this blueing around the gills. I will be conducting my own research into the idea that it may have something to do with iodine in the water and a thyroid problem peculiar to the brown trout, and not, as I have previously believed, that it was due to thier diet.
     
  15. Andy Sinclair

    Andy Sinclair

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    Its certainly no disease or deficiency in their diet. I have caught wild brown trout allover Scotland and just about all of them have that blue sheen around the gill cover and often along the body of the fish. Its a good way of telling wild from stockie as most stockies do not have the blue sheen even overwintered stockies will show a bit of blue sheen but nothing like a wild fish. You can see this blue sheen when the fish have went dark in spawning colours its still visible around the gill cover. There is a small river that was famous for its blue trout. These fish were thought to be left over sea trout but deeper research in the hills above showed there was lots of ancient copper mines and its believed that the copper oxide may have been responsible for the colour of these fish. I have caught a few of them in the past and as far as i know they still exist further up this river.
     
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  16. crabby_old_man

    crabby_old_man Member

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    Thanks for that. I was only surprised to see it because I have been catching trout in this area for almost 30 years and its only in the past few that ive noticed the blueing, and only in stocked waters until maybe 2-3 years ago. I had assumed that it was some discolouration due to thier diet, but now it seems I was wrong. It's interesting to read that copper deposits in the water system were responsible for the colouration of those river trout, I wonder if the same might be true of the fish I've been catching in the hill lochs? The fish lower down in the streams certainly dont show any signs of it. I shall investigate.
     
  17. Gulp

    Gulp Member

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    Many copper minerals are blue so.........
     
  18. crabby_old_man

    crabby_old_man Member

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    It's likely that the fish have ingested a copper based compound, resulting in the blueing. If its in the water then its in everything that lives in the water, and its very possible that the fish have adapted to the abnormally high levels of copper sulphate that have accrued there over the years and secret it via pigmentation. It would also explain why the same blueing isnt found in the trout that inhabit the streams below the hill lochs, where the water is fast moving and any sulphate would be diluted.
     
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  19. Andy Sinclair

    Andy Sinclair

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    The ingestion of copper oxide over a long period of time in minute amounts is a possibility in the small river i mentioned with its 'blue trout'. Where i fish just about all of the fish i catch have the blue sheen (lochs, rivers and burns) and there is no copper mines anywhere near. As i said i have caught trout like this allover Scotland. The blue sheen could simply be part of the trouts camouflage. Until you brought this up i have never heard of anyone question the blue sheen on a wild trout before to me its the norm and the sign of a healthy fish. In some peaty lochs and lochans i have caught fish that are completely silver like sea trout and from the same water fish that are very dark. I would say in general that wild fish adjust there color to suit their habitat and this can vary in the same loch. There is a Scottish duo of divers a man and wife team i believe who have been doing research looking at colours, reflections, scale, etc, from the fishes point of view i.e from underwater. I'll see if i can find a link.

    p.s not being a commercial fishery type of person the first time i heard some-one mention blue trout i thought they meant the fish from this small river
     
  20. Andy Sinclair

    Andy Sinclair

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    .................................................
     

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