On The Beat- with Graeme Simpson, Birse
Graeme has been at Birse since 2015, following in the footsteps of legendary Dee ghillie, Doug Murray. Like most of the ghillies on the River, Graeme is a fishing nut and has fished many places in Europe and the States. He is also a highly qualified casting instructor and holds the prestigious AAPGAI Masters level qualification for the double handed rod. A sucker for punishment, he is currently studying for the single-handed award.
I caught up with him recently to discuss the fishing at Birse. The beat has a rich variety of pools that offer plenty of fishing for the visiting anglers. One of the great things about the beat is that there is ample fishing in most water heights.
I know Graeme has a soft spot for this pool. It is a low water pool, ‘the lower the better’, he says. He likes it from 8”-1’6” on his gauge. Low water can often be accompanied by bright weather and Alt Dhinnie is always the first choice in these conditions. It is tree lined and in the morning, the sun is off it for longer than other pools and later in the day, it is the first pool to return to shade.
Upper Bridge is not a major pool on the beat but is worth a flick or two to see if there is a fish lurking. There are lots of eddies for the angler to contend with, so it’s not always fished as often as it should.
Jetty is a favourite among Birse rods. It also fishes in a range of water heights- from around 6”, which is the absolute minimum, to 3’6”. Graeme feels it needs at least 10” to fish properly. As the water rises the fish push over to the Birse side and as it drops they move towards the north bank. It is a simple pool to read and when the water is up, the fish will rest there having pushed through the heavier streams below.
The neck of Red Rock, fishes best in lower water and the rest of the pool comes into its own as the water rises and it fishes down towards the trees near the tail of the pool. Graeme like 2’ on the gauge and reckons it fishes well up to around 4’. It is a deep pool and the fish can push tight into the Birse side, where they are often taken on the dangle.
Irrigation is a high water pool, “the bigger the better” says Graeme. The tail of the pool is transformed in high water, it is slow moving at lower levels. A water height of 2’6” and more, is ideal and as it rsies the fish will push more into the Birse side.
Lummels is probably the best known of the pools at
Birse. It is the main holding pool on the beat and is a favourite spot for an early fish. The neck of the pool down the walkway will fish in lower water, but the rest of the pool needs a good push of water to bring out the best of it. A water height of between 1’6” and 2’6” is ideal. If the walkway is covered, it is probably too big to fish well.
This pool has changed a lot as a result of Storm Frank. It is a pool for running fish and Graeme reckons it fishes nicely, at 1’ plus on the gauge, from the steps down. The wading is challenging.
At 1’2” Belwade is perfect and can hold a lot of fish. From 1’8” and above, it becomes a little too ‘pushy’. At the neck, the flow is towards the north bank, but the flow opens out. It is not an early pool but can be productive from May onwards.
I like Cowdray, it is a long smooth glide, with the flow over to the north bank. From June on it really holds fish and fishes from 8” to 1’8”. It requires a delicate approach, casting the fly at a shallow angle and hovering over the fish.
Big Jetty is a year-round pool, which fishes best in a big water. It can be particularly good in the back end. It has a fast neck and opens in a bell-like shape.
Quithel is another pool to have been affected by Storm Frank. It is now a narrow, fast stream, which fishes nicely at around 9”-10”. In a bigger water, the river spills over a gravel bar at the tail of Big Jetty which puts the pool out of order.
Trees fishes from 1’6” to around 2’6”. Graeme thiks 2” is ideal. The fish sit in the middle of the river, pushing over towards the south bank. Over wading can be an issue and Graeme’s advice is to follow the line of the dry stones so as to be certain of not wading where the fly should be fishing.
Island fishes under 2′ and is a touch too fast at higher water levels. It can hold one or two fish and is often worst a quck run through
The March is at the bottom of the beat and while its a bit of a walk to get there, Graeme reckons “it is worth the trek.” It fishes from 1’8″ and lower.
Tackle and Favourite Flies
Graeme prefers to fish as small a fly as the conditions allow. He likes to encourage his guests to use their own judgement but is always ready with his own suggestions. He likes small flies with a touch of blue in them and counts the Nighthawk, Lochy Shrimp, Black Sheep and Crathie among his favourites.
Graeme is a pretty laid back character but if he has one bugbear, it is the apparent need for some rods to go as deep as possible as soon as possible. He likes to keep the fly higher in the water, only reaching for a heavy tip if conditions demand it.
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