Monthly Archives: July 2015

LADIES DAY FRIDAY 21 AUGUST- Invery/Tilquhillie


Ladies, join us at Invery/Tilquhillie for Ladies Day. We will have a fun packed day of expert angling tuition, fishing and a BBQ.

No matter what your level of experience is, we promise you a fantastic day on the river. We will provide all the kit you require, thanks to Orvis, in Banchory.

There will be men there to assist, but they know their place!!

To book a place, please contact Ross Macdonald, at or by calling the River Office on 01339 880411.



Martin Robson- Little Blackhall & Inchmarlo


Martin Robson took over at Little Blackhall and Inchmarlo in the spring and is the Head Ghillie for the beat. Martin hails from Alston, in Cumbria, where he used to fish the South Tyne as a boy. He spent a lot of his time fishing there and developed a deep and lasting love of the countryside. He went onto to study Countryside Management and Gamekeeping at Newton Rigg College in Penrith, for which he received a distinction . The placement element of his course took to the famous Grimersta fishery on the Isle of Lewis. This led to seasonal work as a ghillie on Grimersta and also the wonderful Amhuinnsuidhe on the beautiful Isle of Harris.

Martin has developed his boat skills from his time in the Hebrides and there are two boats on LB&I for guest to use, both as a ferry to fish both banks and also for positioning anglers for the best possible catch of a take. The other thing he brought with him to Deeside is his love of the Blue Elver, a much loved fly on Grimersta where it is fished as a dropper with a small Silver Stoat on the point. Martin loves the way the Elver flutters about and thinks it behaves in a radically different way to a conventional fly. The only drawback has been when two fish take the flies. It rarely ends well!

Martin also like to make sketches of salmon flies and has a few examples of his work on display in the hut.


A Fly to Try this Month- Red Frances


Frances (Peter Deane)

Tail: 3 white, 3 brown hackle stalks, with brown hair (originally calf hair) dressed round.

Body: Red wool, tied in to produce a cigar/carrot shape

Rib: Oval gold

Body Hackle: Red Game

Head: Red

The Frances has earned a reputation on the UK salmon scene as a fly that will take otherwise reluctant fish. In the past few years, as more and more anglers fish it, this odd looking fly is being used much earlier in the season. It’s not just stale fish that are uncooperative and there are times when much fresher fish require more persuasion.

The Frances has been around for decades and varieties of the style have been popular in Iceland and parts of Scandinavia since the 1970s. Today it is a must have pattern for Atlantic Salmon throughout Northern Europe and Russia.  The pattern was created by Peter Deane back in the 1960s. It takes its name from his assistant Fances Hydon who had the task of tying up Peter’s design.  It will come as no surprise whatsoever that the pattern was designed to be a prawn imitation and in common with all good fly stories it caught a lot of fish and soon came to dominate catches in Iceland. Looking back it must have been either an eye opener or anathema to those of a more conservative view of salmon flies and how to present them.

Fishing the Frances varies, it can be fished conventionally with great success.  Aficionados, at least the ones I know, insist it is when it is fished at depth and worked through a pool that the Francis really comes into its own.  The use of sinking lines/long sink tips and a Frances to find the depth that fish find it most tempting is a popular tactic as are variations of the sink and draw theme.  Fishing tubes deep to resident fish is now widely practiced. It is also a useful tactic for springers as early as March and April.   Sean Stanton the ghillie at Ballogie on the Dee is of the view that to consider the Frances as an exclusively back end fly is a serious mistake and encourages his rods fish a Red Frances for springers. Sean, who is unequivocal about the potency of the Frances believes, anglers like me, who dig it out having already passed the point of exasperation with every other fly in the box, are missing a trick. “It is the truest shrimp imitation- the body shape and feelers contribute to creating a disturbance in the water. Salmon are predators and I am sure the Frances triggers a predatory response. Fished on a sunk line it moves behaves like no other fly. Its not a last resort”

From a fly tying perspective one of the indicators of a successful pattern, at least to me, is that the variants of the Frances have grown and grown, which is always a sign that a pattern has really taken off. The Frances has evolved and changed over time. One of the original versions- known at the time as the Black Eyed Prawn- had two black eyes on top towards the rear of the fly. That seems to have been omitted over time, possibly as a simplification for the tying process. There is a school of thought that these eyes made the fly even more effective.  The pattern’s DNA can be seen in a number of patterns. Interestingly I was thinking back to my piece on the Pot Belly Pig and Pete Whittingham referred to a prawn type flies during his time working as a ghillie in northern Europe. He was clearly interested in the style back then and his innovation to swap the stalks for boar bristle resulted in the Pig. We also have Sean’s Franc N Snaelda, which I featured in my first column and Ron Sutherland’s Super Snaelda as recent variations on the theme.

To be honest I find tying the cigar shaped wool body a bit of a drag.  I have seen it done and can’t help but think it’s a bit of a pain. Fortunately changes in tube styles, such as Sean’s Signature tubes have been designed with that in mind and have made the body shape much easier to achieve than was the case with regular slipstream style tubes. I revert to my old favourite, seal’s fur for this job. I can’t recall where, although I am fairly confident that the early Black Eyed Prawn versions were made from seals’s fur. Perhaps my laziness may have been passed off as being authentic. No?

There are good videos online that demonstrate how to tie the Frances, and plenty of discussion online about its use. If you are in the mood to experiment, there is nothing to hold you back.

Ross Macdonald

First Printed in Trout & Salmon

First Salmon Fry found on Culter Catchment for 250 Years

Following the recent high water the River Office staff had their first opportunity to do some electrofishing on the Culter catchment. They returned from the Gormack Burn, very excited, with news that they had found the first salmon fry to have swam in the catchment for around 250 years. The team made three sweeps of a 100m sq section of the Gormack Burn and found 22 salmon fry approximately 13km above the fish pass installed in October 2014. The first salmon ascended the pass on 3 October 2014 and we will be keeping a close eye on how the fish are repopulating the area.P1000313 P1000305 P1000306

Fishing Report 27 July 2015


David Dick, with a 8lb fish from Aboyne Castle
There were 88 fish reported to FishDee last week. This was a step in the right direction as it is always heartening to know the rods are getting some sport. It is a start and we really need to see this as a foundation to build on this week. Banchory has started to pick up and in addition to the 18 they landed, there were several more lost. I would like to have seen more action on the lower beats, which should really be getting into full swing as we enter the last week of July. Conditions have been good; water levels have been kind to us and I am hopeful for more action this week.

Derek Weston had a couple at Middle Drum, also losing a big one at the net. Ghillie Shane Christie tells me there are a few residents in the pools now.

Lower Crathes had 6 with fish for Malcolm Tocher who had a 5lb grilse and one of 8lb for Mr Crawshaw and one of 7lb for Mr Brown. All the fish were liced.

Cairnton and Middle Blackhall had 8 for the week, including three on Monday for Gordon Robinson from the Royal Berkshire Shooting School. Gordon landed 3 liced fish from the Cairnton bank, a 15lb and 3.5lb in the Middle Ferroch followed up by an 8lbr in the Malt Steep in the afternoon. Another two were landed, one 9lbr in the Grey Mare and another of 11lb in Sandy Bay, all on size 8 Ally’s Shrimps. Things quietened off, with a few fish on and off but not sticking.

John Lewis landed a nice 11lb fish in the Rockheads, Middle Blackhall bank on Friday on a size 10 Willie Gunn. On Saturday Andy Ashcroft landed a lovely liced 9lb fish in the Grey Mare and Graham Reid landed an 8lb licer from the same pool.

Across the river Upper Blackhall produced two for the week. Christian Melville got a 5lb liced fish from the Corner Pool and Richard de Klee landed a lovely fish of about 10lb from the Ferrochs.

Ballogie picked away with 6, landing one most days. Carlogie managed four.

Phillip Wood got a lovely fish of about 11lb from Dess on Wednesday, the other two fish were taken by Eoin Smith. David Dick landed an 8lb fish on Aboyne Castle on Tuesday.

Cambus had a grilse with long tailed lice on it at the beginning of the week. That fish must have been motoring!

Good news this week that Scottish Government are looking to introduce new regulations on the killing of salmon via a licence to kill. Their proposals can be broadly summarised as:

There will be a ban on the killing of all salmon outside of estuary limits. In essence this will prohibit the operation of coastal nets.

For fresh and tidal waters to the estuary limit the killing of salmon will only be allowed under licence and this will only be when there is a clear harvestable surplus. It is the Government’s intention that proprietors will apply to them directly for a licence to kill fish.

A carcass tagging system will be introduced and all killed fish will need to be tagged.

Whilst these regulations will add another layer of bureaucracy they will stop fish being killed along the coast- perhaps a small price to pay for allowing more fish to survive and spawn. In addition the carcass tagging will make it more difficult for poachers to launder their fish. Whilst this will not cure all of the issues that salmon face it is a step in the right direction.

It’s not been much of a summer for non-fishers. For those of us that enjoy a cast, the weather has been good- plenty of cloud and rain! We will have more heavy rain this week- the forecast suggests Tuesday with lighter showers later in the week. All in all, good news- unless of course we get one of those major spates. Air temperatures will be in the mid teens. The wind will be northerly, swinging south as the week progresses.

Tactics will be the floating line with an assortment of tips. With a bit of colour in the water, the Allys is still a wonderful fish catcher, so be sure to have a few. Other long tailed flies with a bit of colour might include the Flamethrower, Ghillie and Calvin’s Shrimp. Of course the small dark flies will be always find favour among Dee anglers, so the Silver Stoat and Crathie are important patterns to have to hand.

Tight lines.
Ross Macdonald

Please send any stories, pictures and anecdotes to:

Fishing Report 20 July 2015


Mr Fielding’s 18lbr from Lower Crathes

There were 49 fish reported to FishDee last week. We would have had a few more than that were it not for the water conditions we had from midweek. Below the Feugh, the river was creeping up on Wednesday evening and was to shoot up on Friday as the Feugh went into full spate, which brought things to a halt. The upper river, too, rose several feet very quickly on Friday. You can see pics and video of the high water on the FishDee Facebook page.

The week started promisingly, with excellent water levels. Monday produced 9 fish, the majority of which came from Banchory downstream. The lower river should be getting into full swing now and it was encouraging to see Park and Lower Crathes produce 3 apiece on Monday with one coming from Altries Tuesday’s 11 was welcome, although I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed given the angling conditions.

Ardoe and Murtle picked up three over the course of the week and as the water settles we should see a few more from this part of the river. Upstream at Banchory the rods picked up 8 for the week including three on Saturday.

At Lower Crathes and West Durris Mr and Mrs Fielding and son in law Chris Pengilley enjoyed some sport with some very good salmon. Mrs Fielding had one at 12lbs, Mr Fielding 11lbs and 18lbs, Chris 4lbs, 10lbs and his best ever fish 16lbs.

River levels are more settled this morning and if we get a falling clearing water we should be in business this week. We have longed for another wet summer and it is here, so lets hope we get a spike in the catch.

Fish were seen throughout the river last week, and some of them have been running hard for the upper beats. As I write on Monday morning, Craig McDonald has just landed a 4lb grilse at Cambus O May – it had long tailed lice on it. That fish must have been motoring! Mr Thorburn’s party fishing Cambus last week had three very fresh fish- two grilse and a salmon.

Crathie have also gotten Monday off to a good start with a 7lbr this morning. There were five from the beat last week, including a number of fresh fish among them. Local rod John Fyfe, had 4 of them and former Dee Board chairman Ian Scott had the other.

Will Peake reported two for his rods at Aboyne Castle last week. They had hold of another seven, all of which came off including four on Saturday. There was plenty activity in the beat with fish moving and snatching at the fly.


Another cracker for Mr Fielding


The river is in good order. Water levels are excellent and if they remain settled, sport should be good; there is more rain forecast throughout the week, so let’s hope it stays in check. Air temperatures will be up to 18 degrees. All in all who could ask for better conditions in July?

The floating line and depending on levels combined with a range of tips will be the best approach to the river this week. As for flies, the Silver Stoat and Crathie will still do well, but with higher coloured water its also time for the long tailed flies- Park Shrimps, Ally’s, Flamethrowers and Cascades to take centre stage. The Franc N Snaelda will also be a good fly to try in high water, as will the Frances and Sunray. As ever, listen to your ghillie.

Tight lines.
Ross Macdonald

Please send any stories, pictures and anecdotes to:

Cris July 2015

Another belter from Lower Crathes. This one fell to Chris Pengilley .




Join us at Crathes Castle on Saturday 1 August, for w a fantastic day of professional casting instruction and fishing.

Participants will have the opportunity to fish the beat with ghillie Brian Sim and also enjoy expert casting instruction from Ben Dixon AAPGAI and Graeme Simpson AAPGAI.

The day is organised into two sessions 9am-1pm and 2pm-5pm and is aimed at all abilities from beginner to more experienced rods who want to tune their casting technique.

Places are limited to 8 people, in two groups of four and will be allocated on a first come basis.

Participants must be aged 14 and over. Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult.

To book a place, please contact Ross Macdonald, specifying morning or afternoon session, at or by calling the River Office on 01339 880411.


Fishing Report 13 July 2015

0 A damaged grilse by Pat from Polmonier

Pat Saville with a fresh grilse from Crathie

Dee Beat 13 July 2015

Fishing Report

There were 42 fish and 32 sea trout reported to FishDee last week. Its an improvement on the previous week, which is very welcome, with some fresh grilse appearing and running hard. Conditions were good on the whole; we had a heavy stain in the water at times, but levels and overhead conditions were good throughout the week. The numbers tell part of the story, but angling pressure has an impact too and as more rods get out as summer progresses I am sure we will see a corresponding upturn in the catch.

We should see grilse in more numbers from this point on and more action from Banchory downstream. It has been a difficult year and the mood has been sombre, but I am sure a few more of these fresh fish will encourage the rods on the lower river. As the older ghillies say you need to ‘keep a flee in the water’ to have a chance.

A case in point is Park’s three fish on Saturday, which showed the truth of the adage about being in the right place at the right time. John Pinder showed us how its done when he had 3 in twenty minutes from Coopers on a small Cascade. Two were grilse and one was a sea liced 9lbr. Funnily enough I had been speaking to ghillie Keith Cromar a week or two back and he was explaining how good Coopers was when the water dropped in summer.

It was a pleasure to meet Alex Buchan at Cairnton and Middle Blackhall on Thursday. Alex, who usually reads the FishDee report in Sydney, Australia, had a nice fish of 8lb from the Cottage on a size 6 Cascade. It was also good to catch up with local rod Andy Ashcroft, who also managed a liced grilse from Rockheads on a small Ally’s. Graham Reid also had a fish on the Cascade from Upper Ferroch.

Phillip Wood fished at Waterside and Ferrar last week and worked hard for just one sea trout of 3lb. After toiling with the full floater his friend John Forsyth switched to a slow tip ad a copper Monkey and was rewarded with a 12lbr from Upper Kirks.

We had a first fish at Aboyne Castle for Rhiane Richardson who landed a 10lbr from Symonds. George Murray got 3 of the five at Craigendinnie last week – 5lb from Tanar Mouth and two 8lbrs from Plantation and Jocky Fyfe. Dinnet and Deecastle shared 5 last week including a 5lbr from Bruiach for Mike Stevenson.

I was delighted to see Tommy and Pat Saville back on the river last week. Tommy, among many other claims to fame, invented the Crathie fly, which remains one our most popular summer flies on the Dee. At the age of 90 he still enjoys his trips to the Dee at Crathie where he and Pat continue to take fish on their wonderful wee fly. Pat managed three grilse, with lice just off their backs. Pat also hooked a large fish in McLaren’s, which (and keep this to yourselves) Tommy managed to lose 20 mins later. It had leapt about, which suggested it was not well hooked. Losing a big fish after that long is a hard one to take. The small flies, which are common on the river, can often be buried in the jaw, but at times they just don’t have enough grip. There again, its not as if larger hooks are infallible! Pete Skelton also managed a couple and Archie Hay and Stuart Walker picked up a couple of grilse on Saturday on a small Ally’s. These grilse are traveling fast, as early grilse often do, and Archie has been checking them all for lice.

0 Pat's grilse at McLaren

Pat Saville with another grilse from Crathie.


Conditions will be good all week, so when the fish come in we will have a very good chance of sport. Water levels are ideal and overhead conditions will be good all week with good cloud cover and a touch of rain as the week progresses. We have some bigger tides this week, so any fish that are on their way will have perfect conditions for running the river.

The floating line and wee fly remains the favourite combination. The Silver Stoat and Crathie, are the most popular of these. When wehave a touh of colour in the water the Ally’s is still a deadly fly for fresh fish as is Ally Gowans’ other fantastic creation, the Cascade. For fishing a bit deeper, Frances and Franc N Snaelda will be well worth a cast. When the grilse are in the streamy water a Sunray can bring spectacular sport. As ever, listen to your ghillie

Tight lines.
Ross Macdonald

Please send any stories, pictures and anecdotes to:

Fishing Report 6 July 2015


Alison Hutchison with her first ever salmon, landed at Lower Crathes.

There were 24 fish and 52 sea trout reported to FishDee last week. Without detracting from our lack of fish, conditions were unsettled last week, with sunshine, thunderstorms and high water temperatures all contributing to the return. We have had a rise, and there is more rain forecast, so we will keep our fingers crossed it draws fish into the river.

Mr Foster had a fish from Greenbanks at Park on Saturday on a Park Shrimp. There was a first fish for Alison Hutchison who landed a 9lbr at Lower Crathes and West Durris. Michael Marshall had one from the Bridge Pool at Lower Blackhall and Kinneskie.

At Cairnton and Middle Blackhall Mrs Tetley landed the only fish of the week on Saturday from Upper Ferrochs on a Tritton Shrimp. Across the river Tom Flockhart landed a grilse and a sea trout.

Dess produced two. A 13lbr for Robert Markland on a Dee Sheep and a cracker of 20ln fro Andrew Markland on a Munro Killer. Aboyne Water had two for the week. A 10lbr for Phil Lord from Lummels and a 12lbr from Irrigation for Alan Rowntree. Aboyne Castle also had two including an 18lbr for Logan Thorburn from Tanarmouth.

Neil Marchant had a liced grilse from Cambus and ghillie Craig Mcdonald tells me there was a bit more activity in the pools on Saturday.

Crathie had four for the week. Two fell to John Fyfe on Monday and Tuesday on a small Crathie as did the 12lbr Archie landed on Wednesday. Bodo Wirth, who is 9 years old, landed his first ever salmon on a size 16 Crathie. Well done young man!


It will be thundery at times this week, so be mindful of that and take cover. It is not the time to be waving a carbon fibre rod around. This will bring us some rain during the week and at this point in the summer, it can only be a good thing as any fish on the coast will have ideal water conditions to come in. Air temperatures will be a bit cooler this week and the water temeperatie

The floating line and wee fly remain the main tactics. The Crathie and Silver Stoat will be the favourites and when we get a touch of colour in the water a Park Shrimp or Flamethrower could be the answer. Remember to vary the speed and depth of your fly. As ever, listen to your ghillie.

Tight lines.
Ross Macdonald

Please send any stories, pictures and anecdotes to:

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