2018 Season Update From Mark

IMG_5035It’s that time of year when you realise that there are only a few weeks left of the season to find fishing for this year with many rivers now closed and the conclusions and reflections are drawn on what kind of a season we have all had.

It’s been an interesting year that’s for sure! Rarely have I reflected on the weather patters quite so much as I have done this year with some really extreme conditions to have had to contend with making fishing trips once again challenging at times but you know what, still many a memory from this year that makes me smile.
I particularly enjoyed my early spring fishing this year. The bars of silver might not have been many but those that did happen along fought well and were well worthy of being retuned to fight another day!
My earliest spring fishing (if January can be called spring) was on the Tay back in January on the beautiful Dalmarnock beat with snow on the ground and blizzard like conditions to contend with. You need to be half daft I am told to venture out in these conditions but I have to admit to really enjoying being out in the snow and casting the first line of the season! Barbecue lunch outside the hut and fellow anglers inside the hut looking out at us thinking we were mad – but great fun and venison burgers to die for!
IMG_4704Next up for me was the opening few days on the Spey at Wester Elchies where we were as always looked after especially well by Sam who always has a new story and dram to share with you. Many a kelt caught but that elusive early spring Spey fish was all missing although some of the fights you get from a well mended kelt still gets the old heart racing!

Then still early on a trip to join in the fun on opening day on the Dee with expectations high as always! Fresh fish were caught on opening day but alas not to my rod. The Early season Dee conditions were cold and damp but when you meet and chat to anglers in the marque outside the Banchory Lodge Hotel it always makes me smile as the enthusiasm of the new season and what it might be is discussed ahead of rods heading out to surrounding beats.

Spring fishing in April and May is my favourite time to be on the river. So many cracking rivers to choose from and the chance of an encounter with our silver tourists meaning you typically fished hard and as long as you could stand the cold weather. Tweed spring fishing was great fun and good to see the early season being so popular, particularly on Lower Tweed where it was getting difficult to find a rod available.
Summer fishing was tough to say the least. The months of June and July were scorching and the whole fishing industry seemed to go to sleep during these months as anglers struggled to find the enthusiasm to go and venture out in these extreme conditions. I really can’t remember the summer being quite so hot, even going back to my early childhood days it never seemed to be that hot! Fishing for most during these times was limited to early morning session and late evening sessions with those who did manage to fish during these times finding some success on full floating lines and long leaders with tiny flies.

One particular day out that I really enjoyed in the summer was with the winners of the FishPal Junior Malloch Trophy. A VIP day out on Lower Scone expertly looked after by Iain Kirk and Scott Mackenzie the youngsters had a great days fishing with many a lesson had to help them fine tune their techniques although I have to say, these young anglers were superb casters and so full of energy it was a pleasure to be part of the day – oh and they caught salmon too!!

I was lucky enough to fish the Verdal in Norway in June. I headed over to Norway thinking it was good to get away from the heat wave only to find very similar conditions over there. A big river the Verdal and on its bones. The good news out there is it doesn’t get dark so you could fish the early hours of the morning away from the scorching heat and we did manage to pick away at fish. The Verdal at that time of year is home to some seriously big fish and even in those drought like conditions the occasional huge splash, similar to throwing a log into the river, kept you focused.
IMG_5060A second trip overseas in July to Iceland to meet up with our FishIceland man on the ground was a truly memorable experience. This was my first time in Iceland and expectations were high. I was not disappointed. Thanks to Jon Sigurossen I was shown all that Iceland has to offer although in reality, covered only a small fraction of the fishing available. The difference right away was that the rivers had water – quite literally in perfect condition if not still a bit cold but salmon, sea trout, artic char and huge brown trout all taking our flies.
Probably my favourite river was the Vatnsdalsa with miles of fishing available with cracking pools that kept us fishing hard the whole time I was there. I want to help develop access to fishing in Iceland and with our expert on the ground, we can help organise trips now for those who might be interested.
Glad to see the back of the UK heatwave, August was a hugely popular month for anglers. It felt like so many anglers had just not been out fishing for at least a couple of months that everyone decided to get some fishing booked as the first signs of the change in weather patterns for months started to appear.
Still tough though even with these changed conditions and really not enough rain to keep anglers happy as many a river was almost unaffected by the rain fall which was more showery in nature and didi little to fill up our rivers given just how dry everything was.
The last few weeks in September for most river however have seen decent catches as the colder air comes in to play and stirs up those resident salmon. A few fresh fish reported but manly coloured fish stirred into action.

October on Tweed and Tay have seen decent catches and again these fish are mostly coloured fish with only the odd fresh fish amongst them. Not much in the way of rain in the forecast for the remaining part of the season on the Tay so we will just need to see what if anything else comes into the river. Similarly on Tweed whose season doesn’t end till the end of November along with other rivers such as the Nith, the dury is out on whether there is still to be a fresh run of fish that will get those fishing the upper river that bit more excited.

So a year that I have to say has been pretty tough for us all fishing in conditions that have been challenging throughout the year. But I don’t get despondent, rather, fishing for me is all about the experience, the ghillie, your friends, the location and the craic and banter – and every now and then the icing on the cake to all of this, a salmon to photograph and return to the river and then argue about it’s weight and size and everything that you might expect back in the hut!
For those who still have days to fish in the coming weeks, tight lines, there are fish there to be caught and the tug most certainly is the drug so enjoy your outing. If you still fancy a day out then there is fishing available on quite a few rivers still very much open for business.
For me, I am already starting to think about next years calendar and chatting through with friends about the planning of next years adventures. A new river maybe to try or a new beat not yet fished? Much to ponder but it’s all part of the fun.
In a world of much doom and gloom around our wonderful industry remember those days that you wouldn’t want to change for the world and will remember forever. And maybe, just maybe, plan to do it all again with those pals you love. Why not……..
Mark Cockburn

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