Fly Fishing the River Spey
Clearly not in Manitoba.
As part of my trip to the UK and as part of the Scotland portion of the vacation, I book an evening of fishing. Now I made it a trout trip but salmon were a possibility.
Fly Fishing in Scotland
IF you thing the regs in Manitoba (or anywhere in Canada or the U.S.A) are complex, mixed up, unfair, etc. take a look at Scotland.
I haven’t untangled all of it but here is is in a nut shell.
- You don’t need a license.
- It is home to lakes and rivers full of trout, salmon and pike.
- It is all owned or righted to someone.
- You can’t fish it without their consent.
- Their consent is usually in the form of a ‘ticket’.
- ‘Tickets’ cost money (LIKE A LICENSE).
- They are only good for a day or portion of a day.
- Rivers are divided into ‘beats’.
- Your ticket is only good for that one beat on that one river.
- You’re in a little trouble if you fish for trout without a ticket
- You’re in A LOT of trouble if you fish for salmon without a ticket
Now these ‘beats’ are well maintained and fences have steps or gates to let anglers in. Sometimes even a shed to get out of the rain. Trees are cut down/moved/anchoured to make better runs and easier wading. They are well maintained and litter free.
To someone from Canada or the U.S. this can seem very unfair as it makes fishing unattainable for the average person. In Scotland it is just the way it is.
When a Guide Hires A Guide
Given this tangley mess, I elected to hire a guide. That alone was complex. Given that I was going to be in 3 cities. (Glasgow, Inverness and Edinburgh) and there are rivers all over theses areas. We elected to go without a car which meant trains bus and the occasional Uber or taxi.
I essentially went with the one that answered back reasonably quick and would pick me up. Turned out that was Inverness, and the River Spey.
Fly Fishing Mecca
To fly rodders, the River Spey is special. I mean, an entire method of fly fishing is named after this river. The guide picked me up at my rented flat in Inverness. Surprise he had another fly fisher with him. Not a client but a army buddy or something.
As we pulled away he promptly told me the area I was staying wasn’t very good and quite rough. We’d been there a few days and while it wasn’t Beverly Hills, there’d been no trouble, no noise and no sirens.
What he would call rough most would ‘working class’.
I think he forgot to get boots for me and we swung by his home where they were on the front step. Off to the river. After a bit of scouting we suited up. He had nice Grey’s waders (though mine was missing a suspender buckle) really liked the gators on them. I thought ahead and brought a sling pack for my water, camera, pipe, tobacco, etc.
The guide rigged me up with a 9wt switch rod and a skagit floating line. I have lots of 2 handed ability but our lack of decent rivers doesn’t give me much chance to hone the skill. I played lots of country music back in the day but I wouldn’t walk into a country gig tomorrow without a lot of prep.
The first spot had him put me under a tree. Not what I would deem an ideal spot for someone with rusty 2 hander skill. Matter of fact I felt like he was trying to give me the most difficult set up to fish.
Spey casting referesher
I was thankful for the refresher and tips on 2 handed casting and I got the hang of it reasonably soon. Since it was re-new to me, anytime I let my guard down, the cast failed.
I caught some salmon parr in the first runs. It was basically 1/4 cast, let it straighten out, twitch a few times pick up the line, throw it, move down a few steps and repeat. Very effective way to cover the water.
When we got below bridge, more of the same. The conversation was very telling and explain some of this and the rest of the day. He told me bluntly, that he had lost is passion for fly fishing and he was done. This was his last year.
I have heard of this with a few people who had made fishing their jobs. Heck I have heard of it with people in music. It is very rare. The fact he would tell a client who was getting skunked was rare and weird.
After that 2-3 hours, we climbed back into the truck and headed up stream. On the side of the road we had a delicious meal of mince pies & lemon cake.
Fishing the Evening Hatch
The few times I have hired a guide, I always choose the evening half. I hate to get up early and so staying out late is more my thing. The shadows get long, the flies hatch and the fish let down their hair.
At this point the water was real skinny and the rod was total overkill. He was trying to get me to lay down delicate presentations with a distance and wind punching rig. When I said I was having a hard time doing that with this set up. I could do it but seriously why was I using an 11′ switch rod to fish water I could use a Tenkara on??
His response was to give me a lecture about how you have to be able to everything with the same rod in Scotland!
Anyways I caught a brown and he literally laughed at it and said ‘that must be the smallest trout in there’.
Anyways we fished till 11pm, it was still light. I caught 2 browns and 5 salmon parr.
In retrospect I feel he took my $600 bucks and then used the 6 hours to show who was the better guide. (Please note his friend fished the same water with a single hand rod and caught nothing)
I am not upset I didn’t do well, that’s fishing. It was hot, no clouds all day, no real hatch at sunset, etc.
How it could have been better
- Treat me like a client and not the competition.
- Have more than one rod weight option.
- The flys weren’t working maybe change the fly?
- It was a 6-7 mile beat, we could have started high and fished down stream.
- Seeing the big ones weren’t happening, downsize the rods and go for numbers.
Now you may be wondering why I am not telling specifically who this was. It is for a good reason. While he was being a dick and counting down to the day he didn’t have to spend his days on beautiful rivers for $1200 a day, his daughter still loves fishing and is the other half of this company. (Her clients got fish that day…hmmmmmm.)