Monthly Archives: August 2015

Park Junior Day 22 August 2015

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A group of local youngsters had a day to remember on the Dee, courtesy of Park Fishing. Proprietor William Foster invited the juniors and their parents/guardians to enjoy a day of casting instruction and fishing on the famous Park beat and served up a delicious lunch for everyone to enjoy. Mr Foster said, “I know how important it is to encourage youngsters to get into fishing and Park is delighted to have played a part in making that happen.”

Head ghillie Keith Cromar made everyone really welcome and got the group organised to set off to different parts of the beat for a cast. Top casting instructor Gary Scott, AAPGAI, donated a day of his time to the youngsters and soon had them roll casting and making double spey casts in the Cellar Pool. Down river, in the Durris Stream, Sean Rennie from Aberdeen was overjoyed when he hooked and landed a 4lb liced grilse. It set the others off and there was a buzz of excitement among the youngsters as they tried to emulate Sean’s catch.


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Mill of Dess Lodge

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Dess proprietor Jeremy Clayton has outdone himself with his recent refurbishment of Mill of Dess Lodge, near Aboyne. I popped down to have a look and to see for myself and I could not help but be very impressed with the Lodge, which is finished to the highest standards. The Lodge has 10 double/twin bedrooms and fully serviced and catered. It is ideal for fishing and shooting parties: there are kennels to the rear of the building and there is a boot room with secure gun storage and for storing and drying wet gear. It really has been developed with the sportsman in mind.

Robert and Edie Woodward look after the Lodge and guests. Robert cooks all the food from scratch using locally sourced produce so guests can expect the very best of what Aberdeenshire has to offer. There is a beautiful dining room, ideal for large parties and a beautifully appointed study to relax with a drink after dinner. The ensuite bedrooms are as comfortable as one would expect from accommodation of this standard. I like that each room is named after a pool at Dess.

Mill of Dess Lodge is a welcome addition to the accommodation on offer on Deeside.  I expect it to be in very high demand.

For further information on Mill of Dess Lodge, contact Jeremy Clayton

Mob: 07957 822623


Ladies’ Day a Big Success

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We held a ladies’ day at Invery/Tilquhillie on 21 August. Craig Mcdonald, who ghillies at Cambus O May, led the instruction, taking the ladies through building blocks of a cast. Craig completed his Scottish Game Angling Instructors’ Certificate (SGAIC) in April and was impressive throughout the day. After a while they were soon into the swing of it and spent a very enjoyable time on the river. Craig was assisted by ghillie Karl Revel, who was his usual enthusiastic, welcoming self. The ladies were really spoiled as Gary Scott, AAPGAI and Graeme Simpson, AAPGAI also dropped by to lend a handwith the casting. Tara Speirs and Shona Mutch, who own Tilquihillie, put on a wonderful lunch for everyone and Clair Kerr of Orvis, who provided all the kit, dropped by with ‘goody bags’ and gave a short talk about the products services on offer from the store in Banchory. It was another great day out on the Dee!

If you are interested in participating in future events, get in touch with Ross Macdonald at


A Fly To Try This Month- Red Flamethrower


Red Flamethrower – Duncan Egan


Rear body: Silver holographic, with oval silver rib
Rear hackle: Red cock – should extend well beyond the hook
Wing: Red bucktail plus pearl crystal flash
Front body: Black floss
Front hackles: Yellow over red.  Jungle cock
Head: Pearl tinsel


Duncan Egan has been tying flies since he was a child.  He picked up the bug for fly fishing after watching another angler fly fish for trout – up to that point Duncan and his friends fished with bait only.  Taken with the elegance of the fly rod he decided that was what he wanted to do.  After buying flies for a time, he decided that he could do better himself and got started making his own.  He began tying trout flies commercially at 12 years of age and hasn’t stopped.

He has worked in the tackle and field sports business since he left school, working at PD Fishing Tackle then Glasgow Field Sports, part of the Glasgow Angling Centre business.  His interest in salmon flies developed and he began tying commercially in his teens.  The culmination of this apprenticeship is the Flamethrower series of flies.

Duncan had been dissatisfied with the Ally’s style, finding that the long tail wrapped around the hook too often.  Being a fly tyer he also had the desire to design his own pattern.  The criteria were, to effectively tackle the tail wrapping problem and just as importantly to create a fly with a teardrop shape.  Speaking to Duncan recently he was at pains to emphasise the importance of this.

He moved the position of the tail into the middle of the hook where it is kicked up by the rear hackle and doesn’t wrap.  This simple innovation and the use of rear and front hackles to accentuate the teardrop shape has produced an exceptionally successful fly that has captured the imagination of a great many anglers.  The fly gets its name from the way it flickers like a little flame in the water – imagine the shape of a flame on a candle or lighter.  Duncan has produced several variants, each of which has a strong following in its own right; as I write, there are few places in Scotland where the Flamethrower is not one of the top patterns.

The Flamethrower should be tied on a short shank hook – salars were best, but the more recent Patriot hook from Partridge is an adequate replacement.  The fly just looks wrong tied on longer shanks.  In fact Duncan’s earliest versions of the Flamethrower sat on his desk for some time and it was only when he got his hands on some of the early samples of salars that the pattern really took off in his mind.  Early trips to the River Tummel delivered a number of solid spring fish and the rest as they say is history.

Since the original patterns in orange, yellow and red, Duncan has created several successful variants – often based on classic hairwings.  The Garry Dog is an early example, flowed by the Kinermony Killer and the Willie Gunn version is really making a name for itself.  One of the first variants was created by Jim Fisher – the Black Bear Flamethrower, which had an additional wing section made of….stay with me people, black bear.  Duncan has a few more variants up his sleeve and as his customers already know these are bound to take a lot of fish.  See

Ross Macdonald


First Published in Trout and Salmon Magazine

Fishing Report 24 August 2015


Sean Rennie, with a grilse from Park

There were 99 fish reported to FishDee last week. It was a bit of a disappointment to drop below 100 and, to be frank, we should be doing better. Conditions were good, on the whole, although the continued unsettled water levels and heavy peat stain, which has been with us for much of the past month, have not helped. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like a heavy peat stain in the river, it puts the fish off and a few of ghillies I chatted to over the weekend were of a similar view. Of course, if more fish had come in we would have caught more.

The higher water continues to frustrate the lower beats, which have seen fish bombing through the pools without pause. Altries picked up four and ghillie Kevin Fleming tells me they saw a good run going through early in the week, which would look at nothing. A drop in river levels might suit Altries and its near neighbours better. Fish were seen running throughout the week and the big question was where did they go? Lots were seen attempting the Falls of Feugh, which have been accessible to the fish for long periods this summer and many others still seem to be heading to the upper river, which is not noted for fresh run fish this late in the year.

Park held a Junior Day on Saturday and Sean Rennie was delighted to hook and land a grilse in the Durris Stream. The rest of the group had a fantastic day on the beat, courtesy of William Foster of Park Fishing. The group were well looked after throughout the day by Head Ghillie Keith Cromar and casting instructor Gary Scott. They finished with a total of 23 for the week, with a few good salmon among the grilse. Ian Simpson from Hampshire had a real beauty of 18lb from Bakebeare.


Sean, playing his grilse in the Durris Stream

Lower Crathes had a slow week with just six fish landed. Four of these fell to Richard Harris and two to Vic Abbot.

At Cairnton and Middle Blackhall the rods landed two salmon and three grilse, the best of which was a 12lbr from Kelpie for Matthew Hind on a Flamethrower, and netted by Matthew’s 10yo son Sam. What a wonderful experience for them to share. John Webb had a 10lbr from the Cottage on an Ally’s, while Howard Walton had a couple of grilse from the Cottage on a Cascade variant. Jim Cowper had a 4lb grilse in the Upper Ferroch on a small Dee Sheep.

Commonty, which was the scene of some major river works when the croys at Suicide and Otter Trap were removed last week, managed to land five. The other Ballogie beats picked away with five at Carlogie and four at Ballogie.

Will Peake and Sam Thompson had both of Aboyne Castle’s fish and several more were lost. The fish are still super fresh up there as they continue to run hard for the  upper river. Will tells me a deeply fished Red Frances was getting all the attention.


River levels are good, still a bit up and down for my liking and the peat stain just won’t shift. We will have more rain on Monday and a different points throughout the week, so we will have more of the same. A good run of fish trumps all but extreme conditions, so fish for the daft ones!

That said, the peat stain in the river will be enough to put many residents in the pools off the take. Where there are pods of fresh fish we will pick a few up, but they too may go off in the dark water. If we get good runs in this week, it is less of an issue. From a tactical point of view, a Red Frances fished deep might well persuade a few of our more reluctant fish to take. If they won’t come up-go down. The floating line, tip and a long tailed fly such as the Ally’s and Flamethrower will be the main line of attack on many beats and will account for most of the fresh fish landed. As ever, listen to your ghillie!

If you have not seen it already, please have a look at the August FishDee newsletter

Tight lines.
Ross Macdonald

Please send any stories, pictures and anecdotes to:

Removing Croys from the Dee Should Improve Pools for Anglers


Improvements in the River Dee as part of a £3.5 million UK project to improve habitat for freshwater pearl mussels and salmon got underway on the 17th of August. 24 large fishing platforms or “croys” are being broken up to restore habitat for the rare freshwater pearl mussel and for salmon. Much has be written about the habitat for salmon and freshwater mussels. Anglers, of course have a very specific interest in these works. Will it improve the fishing on the beats concerned? Will their removal make things worse?

The impact of the in river works may take a few seasons to become noticeable. Whenever we are dealing with a wild animal it would be foolhardy to predict its future movements; similarly we will have to wait and see what Mother Nature throws our way. With those caveats the work has been developed in agreement with the affected beats and issues such as bank erosion have been built into the work programme.

I thought it would be useful go to take a run out and find out first-hand what the ghillies had to say about it all.

Colin Simpson, Lower Blackhall & Kinneskie, welcomes the works with, in true ghillie style, cautious optimism.  While he can’t predict the long term impact of the changes, Colin is delighted to see the removal of the croys from his beat, where, he believes, they have had an adverse effect on the fishing since they were first introduced back  in the 1990s.

“The pools at Lower Blackhall have been particularly affected by the croys in high water, where a strong, powerful stream rushes through the middle of the river, which spoils our fishing above a certain height. I think the removal of the croys will help the beat by creating more holding water. The most obvious improvement will be a more even flow, from bank to bank, while the replacement of the boulders, removed when the croys were built, back into the river will produce more in stream diversity and create cover where fish might sit.”

Ballogie Estate’s Head Ghillie, Sean Stanton is also keen to see the croys removed from his pools at Commonty. The croys may have been put in with the intention of improving fishing, however Sean believes they have had the opposite effect.

‘The croys have no fishing purpose”, says Sean. “They were put in wrongly to begin with and have only served to push the stream out from our bank, making the pool more difficult to fish as the water drops and the fish push out. Many of our anglers avoid this part of Commonty. The wading is difficult and fishing from the croys themselves is difficult and unsuitable for many of our rods. While it will take a few seasons to really see an impact, I feel the removal of the croys will benefit our anglers, by making the pools more accessible and by creating a more even flow. I am particularly keen to see how the pools fish in high water and, while these things are a bit of a gamble, I am optimistic that our anglers will be the main beneficiaries.”

The beats would never had had the opportunity to remove these croys without the Pearls in Peril Project (PiP). While the project is ostensibly about the protection of fresh water pearl mussels it has attracted substantial investment into the catchment and is enhancing the quality of the pools on the Dee.

For more information on the project see the River Dee website and also PiP

Fishing Report 17 August 2015

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Perfect water at Banchory

There were 128 fish reported to FishDee last week. A slight dip from the previous week, but with some dirty water on Tuesday and a rising river on Saturday, it was a reasonable tally. We are still not hitting the high notes yet; nonetheless sport has been steady if unspectacular. The continued good water levels has certainly spread the fish out and the upper river is still fishing for liced salmon and grilse. These fish have not been hanging about in the lower beats, a fact reflected in the composition of the catch.

They lingered long enough below Banchory for Park to pick up 20 with the south bank doing slightly better than the north. There was the usual mix of salmon and grilse with some of the salmon in mint condition- looking more like springers than summer fish. Among the successful rods were Park regular Andy Forbes who had a 12lbr on Saturday. Derek Mennie from Aberdeen also picked a fish on Saturday. Terry Wood had her first Dee fish while Andy Crawford, Kenny Thom and Kevin Dowes and Andrew Duncan also landed fish, Roy McLone and his fishing partner did well on the south bank.

Lower Crathes and West Durris had two parties last week. Mr MacDougall’s part had two for their three days and were hampered somewhat by the water on Tuesday. Jim MacDougall had one of them and Mr Rosenburgh the other. Paul West’s party had 9-three for Paul, two apiece for sons Pete and Richard and two for Mr Inglesfield. The fish were an almost even split of salmon and grilse.

Robert Paterson took a day rod at Little Blackhall and Inchmarlo and was rewarded with a couple of fish. Ghillie Martin had a cast when it was quiet and picked up four, so well worth checking availability.

Ian Ogden’s party returned to Cairnton where the sport slowed somewhat on the previous week with four fish landed. Stewart Henderson had a salmon and the rest of the fish were grilse, with several more falling off at the net. Cascades and Flamethrowers did the damage. Across the river at Upper Blackhall Tony Donnelly got his week off to a good start with two fish on Monday morning. The first, 10lb in Upper Ferroch and the second a 6lbr from the Corner Pool. Jason Walls had a grilse from Big Girnel on Tuesday as the water came up putting an end to the fishing for the day. Partick Gray had a 10lbr and Tony Donnelly picked up his third of the week on Wednesday. Raymond Sinclair landed the the sixth of the week from the Corner Pool.

17 year old Jost Meyer from Germany enjoyed a week’s work experience on Dinnet and Aboyne Castle and was rewarded with his first Scottish fish, a 12lbr from Crofts. Andrew Butts had three and Edward Pettifer had one of 12lb. Ghillie Will Peake also picked up a fish.

Crathie had nine for the week, including five for Annie Woodsend. Mrs ‘C’, who is still fishing at 94 years of age, lost a very big fish in Polmonier after a 20 min struggle. The fish were a mix of fresh grilse and some residents that had been in the water for two to three weeks.


River levels remain at a good fishing height. We have had good river levels this season and have at no point struggled with low water. The only gripe is the regular fluctuations in levels, which will continue this week. We are due heavy rain on Tuesday in the upper reaches, which will no doubt cause the river to rise midweek. The air temperature will be in the 16 to 20 degrees range and rain aside we should have pleasant conditions.

At this time of year we get a peat stain in the river following a good rise in water, so Ally’s, Cascades, Flamethrowers and similar long tail flies will work well. When there is a stronger push of water the Franc N Snaelda fished deep will also prove worthwhile. As ever, listen to your ghillie!

Tight lines.
Ross Macdonald

Please send any stories, pictures and anecdotes to:

Fishing Report 10 August 2015

There were 136 fish reported to the FishDee website last week. Its our best week so far, but I would be much happier if we were a good deal closer to 200! We continue to have excellent water levels, the flip side has been an unsettled river for much of the week- as one angler told me, it was up and down like a fiddler’s elbow. The grilse have showed up this year after a couple of years of very poor runs. Reports up and down the river are of good quality, hard fighting, acrobatic fish. There were some good salmon among them; a number I heard of were about 15lb and Altries and Kincardine each had one of 20lb. The fish are still running hard through the lower river, which comes as no surprise given the almost perfect running conditions.

Jim Thompson of Banchory Rotary Club organised an event on the river for Rotarians from around Scotland. Forty particpants, most of the them new to the Dee, including several novices, enjoyed a fantastic week fishing the river on Little Blackhall and Inchmarlo, Lower Blackhall and Kinneskie, Banchory, Invery and Tilquillie. The group had an enjoyable week, with good sport and we look forward to welcoming them back to Deeside.

Dee regular, Charles Jeffery enjoyed the company of Jason Gaccione, a restaurateur from Milan and his friends Alberto and Enrico. Jason landed his first ever salmon, weighing 14lbs. Alberto also had a fish of 7lb. Of course, Charles himself was in on the action with a liced 15lbr from the Boat Pool on the ever reliable Gold Willie Gunn. I believe the lunch at Crathes was quite exceptional and as ever ghillie Brian Sim kept everyone in good spirits.

Banchory had the best of it with 25 for the week. Stephen Paterson dropped me a line about a productive three days on the beat.

‘Having sat on the seat outside the Banchory lodge hotel many times over the last 20 years and basically drooling over getting to fish this beat I finally managed it! Fishing with Stuart Yeats and friends Mon to Wed we had a fantastic time landing 18 salmon and the amount we lost was into double figures! Most of the grilse landed were sea liced and we also saw a lot of fish running! After the season the Dee is having it was a change to have some good news to report and hopefully the rest of the season continues on this note! Already looking forward to fishing there next year!’

Stuart, who landed 9 grilse to his own rod, also got in touch.

‘We all had a great time and well looked after by Alan. The personal highlight for me was that my nephew Kieran Yeats came out with us on Wednesday and witnessed first hand just what the Dee has to offer. Having never caught a Salmon before the look of excitement on his face being involved netting 4 grilse before lunch brought back old memories of when it all began for myself all those years ago. He certainly has got the fly fishing bug and hopefully a future generation Salmon angler.’

Cairnton & Middle Blackhall had 3 salmon and 10 grilse for the week. It was a pleasure to meet Allan Gowers from Harwich who landed three liced fish in a couple of hours- two grilse and a beauty of 15lb in the Rockheads, all on a size 10 Cascade. Cairnton regular Graeme Caton also landed three licers on a size 10 Ally’s Shrimp. John Walne from Harrogate also had three grilse for his three days and all on size 7 Flamethrowers.

Upstream at Aboyne Castle, Sian Richardson landed her first ever salmon from Tanar Mouth on Friday- a fresh fish of 5lb followed by her second grilse of 3lb on the Saturday. Well done Sian! Husband Brian had a 10lbr from Tanar Mouth on Friday evening.

Clie Miles fished Aboyne Water with hosts Geoff and Lesley Locket and tells me they enjoyed a wonderful family holiday on Deeside. They had 4 grilse which fell to the Sunray Shadow in Jetty, a Black and Yellow Tube in Irrigation, a Willie Gunn in Lummels and a Park Shrimp in the neck of Lummels.


Water levels remain good the forecasts suggests more settled conditions for the week ahead. Air temperatures will be up to 20 degrees and the forecast suggest we will have good cloud cover. The river has been carrying a peat stain for the past few weeks, which will clear as the river drops. We may get we get more rain at the end of the week. Long tailed flies have been working well and the Ally’s, Cascades, Park Shrimps and Flamethrowers are all ideal. The Red Frances is also a deadly pattern, fished deep. As the water clears it might be an idea to try the Silver Stoat and Munro. As ever, listen to your ghillie!

Tight lines.

Ross Macdonald

Please send any stories, pictures and anecdotes to:

fishing pic for report



We had a thoroughly enjoyable day of Professional Casting Instruction and fishing at Crathes Castle on Saturday 1 August.

8 participants of  different levels of ability and experience were well looked after by Head Ghillie Brian Sim and enjoyed expert casting instruction from Ben Dixon AAPGAI and Graeme Simpson AAPGAI. The particpants had a wonderful day on the river, improving their casting technique and enjoying the opportunity to fish the beat.

A big thank to Brian, Ben and Graeme for making it possible.

If you are looking for some 1-2-1 instruction, get in touch at and I will put you in touch with the experts!

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