| Unusually, for me at least, my first visit to my local river, the
white cart water, is in April. Fortunately, the cold easterly winds have been replaced by
rain bearing warmer winds from the opposite direction. For several days I have kept a
mental diary of these downpours. Due to a little luck and a lifetimes experience, I find
the river is in my favourite condition as it takes on the palor of strong dark tea with no
milk. The recent spate has tamely disappeared leaving only its fading signature written
First impressions of the morning include the prospect that I am alone: not having to share the river is a pleasure itself. I follow the man made path through the Linn Park, pausing shortly by the waterfall in the hope of glimpsing a salmon or sea trout negotiating this small but often spectacular obstacle. After a few uneventful but deafening minutes, I continue my journey and take up position at the top of Shuggies Pool some one hundred yards downstream of the waterfall. Attaching a lone black spider to my fifteen foot six pound leader, I make an initial short cast into the throat of this kidney shape pool. Three casts later I get a swift but unhookable offer. Next cast I retrieve my two inch draws even slower. Half way back I re-experience the unmistakeable aggressive take of a brown trout. Its initial thoughts are to return to its recent station alongside a half sunken branch. Having second thoughts, and acting like a freightened rabbit, it bolts straight for the canopy of a wind damaged tree whos branches are more in the water than out of it: who said fish are brainless? Fortunately, this Michael Johnston impersonator is not as big as I had hoped, and a minute or so later I wet my hands and cuddle a twelve inch brownie. Without removing this natural beauty from the water, I slide my fingers down the leader and gently remove the hook. With/
With only the shortest of pauses for to marvel at its colouration, I position its head upstream and silently bid it farewell. My personal angling rules include returning most of the fish I catch, with the added regulation of always returning the first of each season irrespective of its dimensions. As the wind blown tree has negated most this pool for fishing, I take my leave. Due to the height of the water and not being a natural wader, I choose to go upstream as the alternative is time consuming and physically demanding.
From the top of the foot bridge I notice a small ripple, made, no doubt, by a smutting brownie not more than thirty feet away. Brown trout are notorious for not giving away their presence, and experience has taught me that an insignificant ripple is often the trade mark of a better sized fish. Apart from being secretive, a brownies spotted pigmentation insures that this animal remains a camouflage artist. I quickly unfurl my line and cast slightly upstream of where the rise was. Without retrieving I allow the spider to come past the fish at the rivers own pace. No ones home or theyre not answering.
After re-casting, I wait for the fly to come within a few feet of the fish, whereupon I give it some agitated life signs: nothing. From the dampish comfort of the banking I re-think my tactics and question my memory. Did I or did I not see a rise? Maybe it was a minnow., maybe something fell from the trees, maybe I was seeing things. Ive now decided that discretion is the better part of valour especially now that I have an audience consisting of two elderly ladies and their dogs standing on top of the foot bridge. They loudly agree that I look like a lost soul, and before tottering off, declare how absurd it is to see anyone actually fishing this of all rivers.
(For some unexplained reason, many people, I believe, actively wish to retain their ignorance. Although the white cart water runs through the southern suburbs of Glasgow, many people believe that due to its proximity to the city centre, it is therefore fishless. Whereas, it has a population of eight resident species which include salmon, sea and brown trout).
Half way through my cigarette, I notice another more pronounced ripple in the same area: master brown trout has advertised his presence again. After a quick change to a blae and black nymph, I offer it to my watery neighbour. Several casts prove fruitless: neither the spider or the blae and black have taken its fancy.
I re-cross the bridge and decide on taking up a new position about twenty five yards upstream. It will be a difficult cast due to the surroundings, but Ill be able to hold the fly in his sights for longer. Again I change my fly and self assuredly bank on a dark olive nymph. I cast just to the left of the main flow which should push the leader towards the bank. Half a dozen small slow draws provokes a tentative reaction followed by a definite take: my persistence had paid off and Ive just conned another brownie. True to form, and like many other brown trout, he is quite happy being coaxed upstream. Within seconds he is a few feet away to my right, hugging the root infested banking.
Just when I seemed to be winning the argument we part company: no breakages, just the luck of the draw. Angling to me is hunting. The more you know about your quarry the more likely you are to catch it consistently. As secretary of the resident angling association, I am forever being asked "where is the best places/pools on the river?" Without wishing to be snobbish, I always reply that the best places are where you find them. Although the morning was initially dry, the weather is starting to insist that weve not had enough rain yet. As I have arrived without any waterproofs, in order to keep down my carrying weight, I soon realise that this visit will be brief. Measuring/
Measuring the dampness in my jacket with my fingers, I give myself less than an hour before saturation sets in. One hundred yards upstream there is a new pool! Due to big spates and the death of a large beech tree, nature has munched away a large portion of banking creating a fair sized cup shaped hole. Armed with the successful dark olive, I make a short cast below hanging branches. Before the leader has had time to straighten out, there are obvious but erratic jabs on the line. As I try to take up some of the slack, I unintentionally make a sizeable draw on the leader. This action is seized upon by a smallish but plump brownie who breaks the surface enthusiastically. Perhaps his roundness is his Achilles heel for he retires quickly to hand. I dispatch him with the promise of a slow grilling with butter and lemon. Brownies are delicious and their delicate flavour is only complimented with little or no additives.
The rain is now imitating a tropical monsoon. As my neck and under arms are dripping water, the pub is beginning to beckon. Before audibly leaving the river, I meet up with those old ladies and their boisterous dogs. Rather than ignoring them, and remembering my vocation as public relations manager for our association, I make a point of showing them my dinner.
At the local watering hole, I seek out a quiet niche much in the same way that a brownie would do. Unfortunately, my attire attracts the attentions of the resident drunk and his moronic entourage, but, unlike the brownie, I dont have the speed of Michael Johnston to get away.
© Roddy Finnie 2001