At a time of life when my body constantly reminds me I am not as young as I once was, it was a joy to be transported back 30 or so years this evening when I returned to fish Glenquey Reservoir – the first loch I ever fished seriously for trout.
Given how much I enjoyed my return, I can safely say it’s been too long.
I grew up in Dollar and the River Devon was where my fly fishing began. Glenquey, sitting as it does just a mile or so to the north of the town was a still water venue all too easy for a youngster to walk over the hill and fish – often, I am ashamed to say, without a permit. Funnily enough, no adult ever seemed to mind in those days – they were perhaps just happy to see youngsters taking up fishing. Oh, how I wish we had the same problems these days.
My memories of the loch were of the walk over the hill (or rather, through the glen) and of casting my traditional wet flies to feisty browns of about half a pound at the West end of the loch. The East end was too much of a risk without a permit (even though the loch isn’t large) – the west end allowed us to slink off if anybody showed their displeasure with us youngsters thrashing the water. And thrash the water we did. Success was rare in those days and came mostly in the gloaming with – if my memory serves me right – a size 14 grouse and claret being my fly of choice in those far off days. Far off they may have been, but happy and carefree they were. Where are all our young anglers now?
Enough about ‘the good old days’ – an early escape from work saw me collect my permit from the Newsagents at Dollar and be at the loch by late afternoon. Despite the overly bright conditions, my spirits were raised by meeting another angler who was returning to his car in possession of four fine trout having had a good day. It seemed he had had to work hard for his fish and had taken most of them earlier when cloud cover had been better, but the fish were good ones and it showed they were prepared to take.
The brief walk from the anglers’ car park saw me crest the brow of the dam end and I saw that the water level in the loch was incredibly low. Testament to our dry Spring. It was as low as I had ever seen it, which sadly made it visually less appealing than I remembered it, despite the surrounding hillsides being nicely covered in maturing mixed woodland. They were just planting the spruce monoculture in my youth and much of this (unlike me) has now reached maturity and been felled to be replaced with native woods.
Advice from another member of the Dollar Angling Club had been to work along the shallower South shore so this is where I headed. Two other anglers were at the top end and so I had plenty of bank to myself – just how I like it.
My initial optimism waned as I fished first a floating line, then a sinking one in my search for feeding trout. An hour passed with no tightening of my line to signal success. I had just slipped into the automaton ‘cast and pull’ routine – so familiar to duffers like me, when at last I had a good pull to my point fly. A good fight ensued and shortly (and without the aid of a net which I had decided I wouldn’t need for the usual ¼ to ½ lb fish likely to be encountered) a cracking fish of about a pound and a half lay on the stone bank. Tea was secured.
Having admired my catch and sated my caffeine dependency, I walked up to the West end of the loch in order to work done the complete Southern bank before heading off home. I had a brief and pleasant chat with one of the other anglers as they worked their way West to East and then I started my own way back down the loch.
As so often happens the trout, so conspicuously elusive in the first hour, began to make themselves known and to rise as if a dinner bell had been sounded. Where once the water had shown no signs of fish, there were trout slashing at tiny hatching flies across the loch. These are conditions all too familiar to wild trout enthusiasts. Fish rising everywhere, but how to catch them? I tried dry flies – and my ‘never fail’ black klinkhammer patterns (and they failed), I tried small dark wet flies (and they failed) so I decided to ignore trying to ‘match the hatch’ and to resort to one of the most effective weapons in the wild trout fishers arsenal – a ginked-up mini-muddler bob fly designed to grab the trout’s attention, if not their feeding interest, teamed up with a tiny black point fly which might appeal if the muddler did not. Well, for the next half hour or so, whilst the fish were up and there was a good wave on the loch, this worked splendidly! A succession of beautiful wild browns came my way, both to the surface-skimming muddler and to its more imitative team-mate, all the fish pulling much harder than their half pound weight might suggest they should. Wild trout fishing to be enjoyed especially as I watched them all swim off happily after their brief encounter with me.
And in true wild trout fashion, the wind began to drop and the reaction to my flies ceased even though the rise didn’t. The culprit soon became obvious – a large hatch of caenis (the fly so rightly referred to as ‘the angler’s curse’) had taken the trout’s attention and they were fixated on these tiny, impossible to imitate members of the ephemera.
Sand martins keen to share this bonanza swept over the loch’s now glassy surface, and an incredible number of trout started to rise in the flat calm. Very difficult conditions for catching trout – and as I had my tea in the bag I was content to sit and watch this wonderful spectacle of nature as I sipped yet another coffee from my flask. I could still have been there still had not ‘the devil’s fairies’ also made an appearance and made my ‘nature watch’ less than an enjoyable experience. I therefore decided to call it a day and headed off home a happy man – delighted to have caught up with an old friend after so many years.
I will return soon.