Scottish Fishing Diary 1995

Needle Tubes and Tube Flies

Scottish Fishing Days and Nights 1995

by John Gray

Fishing Diary 1995

Diary Archive
1985 1996

A very cold start  to the season with no shortage of water. A couple of hours at the end of March on Loch Earn produced one daft stock fish of a pound which fell for a Kingfisher Butcher fished on a neutral line. The water temperature was 3 C. Brief trips to the Allan and Earn have produced nothing. The playing fields pool above Cook's Dam at Crieff looks good - I'll try it for sea trout.

The River Earn returns for 1994 show that the sea trout and salmon catches are about half the average, hopefully explained simply by the low water conditions throughout much of the season.

Earlsburn Loch

I have joined the Earlsburn club (20 plus 5 joining fee). I have been up to the loch ( the lower of the two lochs lying at the head of the Earls Burn, north of Carron Valley Reservoir  - see the map to the right ) twice in the first week of May, the second visit producing three trout, the best a nice fish of 10 oz.

May 15th

As at this time last year, May has been very cold and dry with a continuous east or north wind. Hoping for a change in wind direction and some heavy rain. It is about time now to start thinking of sea trout on the Allan and Earn.

Tuesday 30th May

River Earn, Playing Fields, Crieff   10pm - 12.30am

The river was running high due to generation water and there had been heavy rain yesterday. The River Allan also had a fair spate on Monday, hopefully enough to bring in a few sea trout. I fished at Kinbuck for a couple of hours and had a nice brownie about 10 oz.

On the Earn, the air temperature at 10pm was 11C, water temperature 10. The river looked too high for night fishing yet I had four offers and hooked a cracking sea trout of about 3 lbs just above the tail of the pool, which stripped yards of line and backing in seconds, jumped well out in the stream and threw the hook. Size 8 long shank Ginger Pearl with natural squirrel wing, fished on 10 1/5 ft Multitrout rod and DT8F Aircel with sinking braided leader. The fish seemed most active between 11.30 and midnight. Must repair leak in chest waders!

Wednesday 31st May

River Earn, Playing fields 10 pm - midnight

Similar night to last night, river a shade lower but still a wee bit high for night fishing. Only a half pound brownie - disappointing.

Friday 2nd June

River Earn, Playing fields, 10pm - 1am

1 sea trout       

The river level had dropped a little lower again with the head of the stone showing on the left bank. The height now seemed excellent for night fishing. A very pleasant evening, calm and clear with only a little cloud cover. The air temperature at 10pm was 18C, water temperature 11C. At 1am, air temperature was 11 and the water 10. Lots of insect activity, chased by swifts and then bats. The midges were not too bad. I began about 10.20pm in the top run and, after only a few casts, hooked a good fish on the tail fly, a Cinnamon and Gold dressed on a long shank 10. It fought strongly and the hook held this time and I was very pleased to net my first sea trout from the Earn in over a year, a lovely fresh hen fish of  2 1/4 lbs. I fished the 10 1/2 ft rod and DT7F line, a nice balanced combination. I fished on until 1am for only a half pound brownie, even after changing to a sink tip line. This stream really is superb to fish, at this height it has an average depth of maybe 4 to 5 feet. It is about a 100 yards long with two nice pools below and a large holding pool not far above. It would be hard to find a nicer looking stream, both for salmon in high water and for sea trout in low water.

Thursday 15th June

River Earn, Willows

The river is running low. A clear but warm night, air temperature 15C, water 12C at 10pm. Some activity from trout but no sign of sea trout. I hooked one fish of a pound which may have been a small sea trout. Before leaving I waded to the far bank to find that the pool deepens quite steeply to about 5 feet near the stony bank under the willows.

3rd July

I have heard that there are plenty of sea trout in the Earn but we have had two weeks of the driest hottest weather possible with temperatures reaching 30°C +. The rivers are very low.

11th July

We have had no rain for about 6 weeks. I did try the Coup at Crieff recently but had no offers and only heard two fish move. The river is very low but thundery showers are forecast for tomorrow night.

Friday 21st July

Two inches of rain fell over last weekend with further showers during the week. Both the Earn and Allan had risen and are now running at a good night height. I have tried both during the week with no success, although I saw one sea trout caught at the Willows, a fresh fish of 3 lbs taken on a size 8 fly.

Monday 24th July

River Earn, Coup, 11pm - 12.30am

1 sea trout

I fished the tail of the pool above the Coup. A nice mild night with good cloud cover and no wind, temperature forecast to stay above 10C all night. Trout and grayling were rising but no sign or sound of sea trout. Fishing the 10 1/2 ft rod DTF7 line and two size 8 flies - Ginger Pearl and Cinnamon and Gold, I hooked a half pound brownie straight away. Minutes later I had a good take on the far side under the bushes. The fish, a nice hen sea trout of 2 lbs, slashed on the surface for a while before coming in very easily. It had gone for the Cinnamon & Gold on the tail. I later had a grayling over a pound and a couple of missed offers.

Friday 28th July

River Earn, Upper Strowan 10.30 - 12.30

2 sea trout

A very warm night around 16C, a thundery atmosphere but I saw only one distant flash of lightning around midnight. I fished the pools at the very top limit of the Crieff club water, starting at the overhead wires just below the lower limit of the Comrie A.C. water. The river was running very low but with some flow to work the flies. At this height the pools were easily wadable all the way down.

I fished the Century 11 1/4 ft rod with a DT7F line and two Ginger Pearls in sizes 8 and 10. Almost immediately I had a good take under the bushes on the far bank from a very lively but slightly coloured cock sea trout of 1 3/4 lb which was out of the water several times before coming safely to the net. I fished down through this pool and the next, not very expectantly as I had heard nothing moving, except one heavy fish further upstream in the Comrie water. After coffee and a cheese roll, I resumed near the tail of the Sewage Farm pool, where, on my first cast I had another good take. This felt like a better fish, which stayed deep before eventually coming to the net, a lovely fresh hen fish just under two pounds, a perfect specimen . This was around midnight and, disconcerted by a distant flash of lightning while waving around 11 feet of carbon fibre, I fished the pool out and headed home, content with my two sea trout. I have decided to keep no more than 2 sea trout per night .... I should be so lucky!!!

The hot dry weather continued unabated until late August, when we had a bit of light rain, with a wetter spell forecast for mid September.

Saturday 2nd September

Fairly constant rain today and more forecast for the coming week ... at last!. I hear that dead fish have been reported on the Allan ... presumably due to the long hot dry spell.

Monday 4th September

We have had about 2 1/2 inches of rain over the last two days. Alan has gone up the Allan this morning. I went up in the evening, to find both the Allan and Earn surprisingly low.

After rain overnight and up to midday on Tuesday, the Allan was slightly high and coloured at 5 pm, just reaching a perfect height and colour around 8pm when darkness fell.

On Wednesday both the Allan and Earn were too low for good fly fishing. I had a couple of hours on the Earlsburn loch, where I rose about a dozen trout ... and couldn't hook any of them!

Friday 8th September

River Allan 6pm - 8pm

After fairly heavy rain yesterday, the River Allan is running at a perfect height, with about 4 to 6 inches of the stone showing in the back run. About 10 salmon have been caught throughout the day. I fished down the back run and round to the Kinbuck stream with no sign of a fish. At 8.20 when almost dark, a fisher in front of me hooked but lost a good fish. He was fishing sea trout flies (Greenwell and Claret Bumble). A few sea trout had been caught earlier. I was surprised as I had considered the water too coloured for success in the near darkness ... you live and learn!

Saturday 9th September

Very heavy rain in the east and north over the last 2 days has caused floods on the Dee and Spey and, hopefully, the Earn! I took a run up to Crieff in the early evening and fished at the playing fields. The river was up a bit, running at a good night height but a little low for salmon. Another foot of water would be ideal. I fished a 13 ft Daiwa Whisker rod with a DT8F with sinking leader. The rod is a good length for the Earn but might do better with a #9 line.

Wednesday 13th September

Drummond Loch 3pm - 7pm

Very little wind. The loch hasn't recovered from the "pea soup" algae that developed during the hot dry spell. There is still some algae evident but the loch looked fishable. There were very few signs of fish, however, and I only rose two trout.

Wednesday 27th September

River Earn

Although the Allan saw a rise on Monday afternoon, it is low again. The Earn is surprisingly running at a good fly height, with the head of the stone just showing at the playing fields. I fished all afternoon but saw nothing. Perhaps the salmon have haven't had time to reach Crieff. If this height is maintained for a few days the fish are sure to appear! With rain forecast for the weekend, I will fish the Earn again next Wednesday.

Monday 2nd October

1 sea trout

River Earn, Crieff  5.30 - 7.30pm

The river is running at an excellent fly height, with the level an inch or two up from the 27th. I caught a coloured sea trout of 2 1/2 lb soon after starting on a size 8 Magus. I didn't see any salmon.

Tuesday 3rd October

River Allan  7.30 - 8.45am

Overnight rain has brought the river up to a perfect height. I fished the KInbuck stream from the road side and was disappointed not to see or touch a fish.

Wednesday 4th October

River Earn 9am - 3pm

1 salmon

The Allan was too low in the morning when I passed but rain during the morning saw a continual rise through the afternoon. It was a good height at tea time but I saw no fish.

At the playing fields, the Earn was at a good height in the morning but no sign of fish. Heavy rain during the morning caused a sharp rise in the Turret burn which ran very dirty. This was soon followed by a more general rise in the main river, a rise which continued for the rest of the day. I swapped the fly rod for the spinning rod about the middle of the day, tying on a size 4 silver Mepps spoon, with little hope of success as the river was so dirty. But a salmon moved about two yards out from where I was wading. I cast the Mepp slightly beyond and upstream of the rise and, to my amazement, the lure was taken immediately. A dour struggle followed before I beached a very red cock salmon estimated at 12 pounds, my biggest salmon to date. It was returned safely.

Thursday 5th October

River Allan 7.30am

The river is high and rising, though not too dirty. I fished the fly for an hour above Cromlix bridge with no luck. The Allan and Earn will likely rise for the rest of the day as heavy showers are forecast. With more heavy rain forecast for Thursday night, the rivers may be too high on Friday but the high water may bring in a run of fish.

Friday 6th October

River Allan 8am - 9am

The river is running at a perfect height for the Kinbuck Stream but the weather is wild - wet, windy and cold. Although the level was a foot or two higher yesterday, there is no sign of fish.

On Saturday evening, the Allan is still high, with just the top of the stone showing, but dropping and the weather is now mild and calm. In just about perfect conditions, I fished until 7pm with only one small half-hearted pull in the Kinbuck stream.

Monday 9th October

River Earn 8am - 9am

1 salmon

The Earn is running high and clear at the playing fields, with the water covering the curved stone. There have been quite a few salmon taken on spinners on Saturday and again this morning. Using a Wetcel 1 DT9 line and a single Magus, size 8, I hooked and landed a fairly fresh fresh fish of 8 lb after only half a dozen casts. The fisher in front kindly stopped fishing to help tail the fish with his tailer ... which didn't work but he managed to hand tail it. A strong fish which was fortunately well hooked. I had to leave, as usual, before 9am!

Wednesday 11th October

River Earn  9am - 7pm

The river was running at a good fly height, with the head of the stone showing at the plying fields, although the level rose slightly through the afternoon. I fished fly all day with no result. Quite a few fish have been caught over the last few days when the water was a bit higher - mainly on worm and spinner. One fisher reported three sea trout on a black flying C first thing in the morning from the mouth of the Turret burn.

Saturday 14th October

River Allan 7.30am - 9am

1 grilse

On Friday night the river was slightly high but dropping, so Alan and I made an early start hoping for a good height of water. 7.30am is about the right time to start at this time of year. We found the river level just about right, with three inches of the stone showing in the back stream. At 8 o'clock I hooked a nice, fairly fresh five pound grilse just out from the sycamore tree and managed to net it within a fairly short time.  It took a size 8 Magus. I got back to the shop about 10am and Alan went back up to try to get a fish, having had a couple of pulls early that morning .... with no luck apparently. I went back up myself and fished from 5pm to 7pm. The level had dropped by four or five inches, still fishable in the faster streams, but had no luck, although I saw a few fish moving in Johnson's.

An AWAIA Autumn newsletter reports that sea trout appeared in late spring, though not in great numbers. I must try for them in April/May next year.

Wednesday 18th October 9am - 12 noon

River Earn     "A Lost Fish"

The Allan was too high in the morning so I decided to fish the Earn first  and maybe try the Allan in the afternoon, by which time I hoped it would have dropped to a fishable level.

The Earn, too, was a bit high for easy fly fishing, so I put up the spinning rod with 200yards of 12 lb Maxima on a Mitchell 300 reel. There were quite a few fishers above Cook's Dam, on both banks. I saw one or two fish moving and suspected that a few fish would have already been caught or lost. It was a nice day with the river level dropping slowly, having been much higher the day before, like the Allan, which had been up about three feet.

I began at the Playing fields with an assortment of spoons and spinners, settling for a 15 gram red and silver flying C, a popular lure on the Earn at the moment. Nothing happened until I reached the tail of the pool ... then things got a bit hectic! I hooked a salmon in the middle of the stream which seemed to hit the spinner normally enough before leaping out of the water, a big fish which may have been anything up to twenty pounds. From that point on, I had absolutely no control of the fish, which immediately turned tail and headed for the sea. Over the dam he went and into the pool below, taking line from the reel at a rate of knots. I was wearing chest waders, so I stumbled, chest high in the river, down into the next pool, trying, and failing, to keep up with the fish. I then struggled on to the bank with the help of a fellow angler, Jimmy, who had been alerted to what was happening by the anglers on the far bank.

Now things began to get interesting. We were on the left bank. Below us was a very fast, narrow stream with dense trees overhanging the river on our bank, impossible to follow the fish  ..... until Jimmy suggested that we cross the river and follow the fish downstream on the far bank, which was more open. Now bear in mind that the river was running high, and all the while the salmon pulling line from the reel on his way seawards. He was now well over 100 yards away with no sign of slowing. So, with only a moment's hesitation, I linked arms with Jimmy, who was evidently in the mood for a bit of fun, and off we strode, waist high, diagonally across the tail end of the pool, Now, in this way, we were surprisingly stable in the strong current, four legs evidently being better than two. Had I tried this crossing on my own, I would surely have been swept away in no time. I wouldn't have dreamt of attempting it.

We made it to the other side, still losing line, with the fish in the next pool downstream, where it seemed to slow a little, allowing me to recover some line as we reached the main body of the pool. But the respite was short lived. The salmon resumed his downstream journey, out of the pool and into the fast stream below, just upstream of the Crieff road bridge. Again we tried to follow but were hampered by trees bordering a deep hole near the right bank. Jimmy was game to continue, him hanging on to the tree and me hanging on to him while manoeuvring round the obstacle, with the salmon in midstream below. On the point of getting a soaking, though, I called a halt and retreated to solid ground upstream. The fish had decided to stop, now lying about 100 yards directly downstream, immobile in the fast current, having taken us more than 300 yards downstream, through two pools and across the river, all in the space of about ten minutes. What to do now? I put as much pressure on the line as I dared, with no response from the fish. It felt as though I was hooked on the bottom. I then released some line from the reel and allowed it to drift down in the current, hoping the fish might move upstream against the pull of the line , but no. On winding in the slack line and renewing the pressure, the line came back to me ... minus the flying C. The fish had gone! I hadn't even seen him since his initial leap on being hooked.

Now salmon don't, in my experience, usually behave in this way unless foul hooked, and perhaps this was the case here - I will never know. On the other hand, the line had broken just above the spinner, where it might be cut by a salmon's sharp teeth. At any rate, it was without doubt the biggest salmon I have ever hooked and the most unusual battle I am ever likely to have with one, thanks to Jimmy, who seemed to enjoy the whole affair. We made our way over the bridge and back upstream to the starting point where we began again ... after a reviving swig from the hip flask. A little later, fishing a black and gold flying C (Landa 13g) in almost exactly the same spot, I hooked a second, smaller fish of five or six pounds, which stayed down, shaking his head to try to rid himself of the hook, a tactic which seemed to work, because, when the he was just below the rod tip, he came to the surface, shook his head one last time and was gone .... not my day!

River Allan

I left Crieff about midday and headed for the Allan, hoping for some sport on the fly. I found the river running a bit high but clear. I decided to give it a go, hoping it would drop to a better level by mid afternoon. As it happened, it dropped very slowly and, as often happens, was just reaching a perfect height at dusk. I did, however, have an unusual catch just as it was getting dark. At the sycamore tree, I hooked and landed what looked like a brown trout kelt of around 1 1/2 pounds!

I fished the Earn again several times over the next week, in the early evenings after work. Despite what appeared near perfect conditions, I had no luck.

Tuesday 24th October

River Allan  7am - 9am

The river, after a spate yesterday, was running at a good height for the lower half of the back run/ sycamore tree, i.e just covering the stone, but a wee bit high for the Kinbuck stream. Robert had a coloured cock fish of 3 lb just after 7am in the back run. I had one slight pull.

Wednesday 25th October

Both the Allan and Earn were a bit on the high side. I spun at the playing fields for an hour or two and saw one or two big fish move towards the tail of the pool and a few running up the edge of the stream but the level was a bit too high for comfortable fishing - a nice morning though.

As the Allan was running high, I fished up at Greenloaning in the hope that the level would drop more quickly further upriver. A gusty wind rose making fly fishing difficult and heavy showers developed. I saw only one or two fish move. I ended up at Kinbuck with the level still a few inches too high.

Saturday 28th October

River Allan 7am - 9am

Following heavy rain over the last few days, the Allan is still running about two inches above the stone but falling. It should be fishable during the afternoon. A very cold but calm morning with mist on the river - no sign of fish.

Tuesday 31st October

LAST DAY River Allan

The river at Kinbuck was running at a perfect height in the morning. i.e. about three inches of the stone showing, but rain in the morning resulted in a slow but steady rise for the rest of the day, though it remained clear and looked very fishable. There were quite a few fish showing up and down the river. Perhaps they were unsettled by the rising river. The only fish I saw caught was a very coloured cock fish caught and returned by Robert. A lovely afternoon, very mild for the end of October. Indeed, the whole month has been wet and mild.

A disappointing season on the Allan. I have only had one salmon. Other have done much better: Robert with 7, John 7, Geordie 11.

A poor season overall but an improvement on 1994 ...


Earn - 2 ; Allan - 1

Sea Trout

Earn - 5

The main problem this season was the extended very hot and dry summer, from mid June to the end of August, i.e. the whole of the sea trout season. I heard that the Endrick fished very well for both salmon and sea trout through the whole of October!

next page

Book - Sea Trout Nights



The Ealsburn Lochs

The Earlsburn Loch



The Ginger Pearl

A useful sea trout fly

The Ginger Pearl


Body: pearl lures over yellow thread overwound with touching turns of fine nylon mono

Hackle: ginger hen

Wing: bronze mallard


A palmered version is useful to create more presence

The Ginger Pearl Palmer



Natural squirrel tail may be substituted for the mallard wing, as shown below

The Ginger Pearl with squirrel wing


 Salmon Spinhead

HMH Tube Fly Tool



Grays of Kilsyth

Salmon Flies

Trout Flies

Fly Fishing Knots

Sea Trout Fishing

Sea Trout Flies

Tube Flies

The Tube Fly Shop


 Slim stainless steel salmon and sea trout flies






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Trout and Salmon Fishing