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The Fishermans Dream-A tale about the first of the season

I sat on the bank and surveyed the pool where I was going to commence fishing shortly and sucked in a large mouthful of cold crisp February air. This is a time of the year where I enjoy anticipating the year progressing into longer and warmer days where nature comes alive and everything in the countryside seems busy going about its business. At this time however I enjoyed noticing what little there was going on around me, a couple of Kelts splashing erratically and a golden eye duck flying at pace overhead. The close season for salmon fishing seemed to take an age to pass and I was eager to get fishing and establish a nice fluent casting rhythm again and hunt for that elusive, but prized River Dee spring salmon.


The famous Durris Stream at Park

I proceeded to wade in to the river at the head of the pool and enjoyed feeling the strong push of water at the back of my legs which reminded me that I was in the fish’s element and needed to proceed with care and diligence. I anticipated that I would need to use my sunk line as the river was 24 inches above summer level on the gauge and the water temperature was holding steady at 2 degrees Celsius. This meant I needed to get my large tube fly down to a depth where the salmon would be holding station, probably  12 inches off the bottom would be desirable, and if I felt the odd little knock of my fly against submerged rocks then I wouldn’t be concerned, as I know my fly will be fishing at the depth I wanted it to be at. The fly itself was a cone head tube fly, and the pattern chosen was the Park Shrimp named after the famous beat that I found myself fortunate to be fishing this day. I found myself gradually lengthening line as I stripped line from my reel and flicked the fly out to get it covering the nearside water where the fish may be lying just off the stream.


Newly arrived from the sea-a pair of spring salmon

The line had been stripped of the reel yesterday, and cleaned and conditioned prior to my first session of the season, so I knew there were no overlapping loose line gripping the line, which could prevent it from coming off the reel should I hook a large fish and find it wants to run hard from me when it takes the fly. I looked up at the sky and took in the steel grey clouds scudding by on a brisk north wind, and shivered slightly, was it excitement, the cold air conditions, or a combination of both? The sensation quickly passed and I said a brief prayer asking the almighty to grant me a good productive season’s sport, something of a ritual I have done for over 20 years on the first day out, whether it works who knows? But I have no complaints at the end of the season.

I had got into a nice steady rhythm and was throwing a good length of line at an angle of 75 degrees and was pleased to see the cone head park shrimp dive into the water and sink fast and pulse and jig as the fly traversed the flow of the stream, yes this was it, fly fishing for Spring salmon–one of life’s great passions for me. I thought of the salmon greats that have departed, never to cast again, and I felt a tinge of sadness that the combined knowledge from the greats was getting lost slowly in the mists of time. But I was pleased to be fishing again, pitting my wits against the secretive and hard fighting Spring Salmon that would be in the river in their certain favoured spots. The salmon greats now departed of course knew where to look, as many years of fishing effort gradually allowed them to discover the Salmons secrets.


The Original Park Shrimp Conehead tied by Ross Macdonald

There it was, a taking fish, and I had only gone forty feet down the pool from where I commenced, a knock knock sensation coming up the line which was putting a slight bend in the rod. I relished the take from this fish, which was confident, unhurried, and showed that the salmon wanted to attack the fly and return with it to its lie, where it had departed from just moments ago to intercept my fly. I lifted the rod with a steady unhurried action that in the process drove my Loop size 8 double firmly into the fish’s mouth. Now providing the fish was well hooked I was hopeful that I would be landing my first fish of the season within a given period of time. I now had to land the fish as quickly as I could. All being well I would ensure that I return the fish to the river to continue its slow progress up river to its natal spawning area. This precise moment of excitement, tension & anxiety was one that I was very familiar with, and I slowly moved in towards the bank in order that I could gain the high ground to fight the fish. The fish seemed quite content to meander slowly upstream as I took my customary diagonal upstream steps towards the bank. This was a good sign and I thought briefly about the strong and dogged fight from the Springer and compared it to the mad hustle and bustle that a fresh run Grilse is wont to do when it’s hooked. The Springer for me is a super adversary which is both beautiful and tough, they just never seem to want to give up, and this one was no different.

I had moved initially upstream to try and remove some of the fishes strength, as the fish when above you, is fighting both your tackle and the flow of the current pushing against it; I much prefer to play the fish than have the fish well below playing me, the odds then tend to be in favour of the fish coming off. This fish had come upstream, reminiscent of a dog being taken for a walk, where it seems to be content to be led initially for a period until it becomes distracted and starts to protest and pull against the lead. I had walked upriver for about 10 yards when I decided I was in a great position to fight the fish. I proceeded to increase the pressure and angle of leverage on the fish and I was duly rewarded by the fish showing protest at the sudden change of its upstream movement and pressure, turned and made a strong diagonal downstream run away from me. It had taken about 30 yards of line and a bit of backing when it stopped and I proceeded to wind this line back on the reel steadily and the smooth progress indicated the fish was quite happy to come upstream  under a steady pressure where there were no erratic movements on my part to alarm the fish. The fish had gone about 5 yards above me and was pulling strongly into the draw of the current when I again lifted the rod and turned the angle downstream thus changing the direction of pressure on the fish. Away it went again across and downstream with real purpose and suddenly jumped from the water.


The fight underway where patience and determination are qualities required

This was what I wanted, a split fresh fish in the high teens of pounds at least, and just the perfect specimen that the large multi sea winter Springer invariably is. You suddenly have a longing to get a hold of the fish and admire its blue grey back and silver sides and white under belly. This is crunch time as the fish comes in for the third time and turns on its side, slightly betraying to you its sudden loss of resolve and power. This is the time the novice can become over eager and try to rush proceedings and this is when we find out if there are any dangers in the contest, whether the hook hold on the fish is weak or the terminal strength of our leader has been degraded. If the line is shortened too much too quickly, and the fish makes a sudden lunge then any weaknesses will cause the fish to depart and end the contest as suddenly as it had commenced.

I quietly unshipped my landing net from my sling and got a foothold on the rim enabling me to draw the handle of the net upwards and extended the length of handle by about two feet giving me a reasonable opportunity to draw the fish in towards the submerged rim, which I had just lowered into the water in front of me. I steadily drew the fish in toward me and hoped that it would stay on its side enabling me to lift my submerged net and ensnare the fish within the large cavernous body of the net. It was like so many fish that I had taken early in the season, the last 10 feet seemed to take the longest and I patiently waited until the time was right to draw the fish into the trap, lifting the net and ensured the fish could not escape without my assistance. I gasped with admiration at the fish and smiled broadly as I realised this was a fish that was close to 20 lbs give or take an ounce, and would in all probability be one of my finest captures of the season. I took the fish from the net in the water and carefully extracted the double hook with my artery forceps and carefully held the fish in the water with its head pointing upstream. This was to facilitate the passage of water through the fish’s mouth and over the gill raker’s enabling the fish to absorb a supply of oxygen and revive itself after the rigours of battle.


The elusive Springer in all its glory

I noticed immediately how cold the water was on my fingers but knew that this was a fair price to pay for fishing in February and wanting to catch and release my fish. After a few minutes when I had lost feeling from my finger tips I noticed the steady flow of bubbles rising to the surface from the fish’s gills and could feel the steady insistent pressure of the fish and knew it was ready to be released. Sure enough the fish quietly swam up and across from me and with a swirl on the surface dived strongly away downstream and was no doubt heading back to its lie. I wished it all the best and removed my hipflask and took in a gulp of the warming, slightly sweet, rusty nail mix I prefer early in the season to toast my catch. This was worthy of a celebratory toast.

This was the perfect moment, that I knew would never be repeated throughout the season, as this was the first, and the first for me is always the best. I looked forward to the rest of the day’s sport, irrespective of what may happen, but was more than happy to ponder the previous twenty minutes of sheer pleasure that I had been fortunate to have. Whether I caught another salmon today or not was not something that would not concern me, I had hit the jackpot and had caught and released a magnificent Springer. This is what early season sport on the River Dee can produce, and I had been favoured that morning and was allowed to admire the rivers magnificent treasure, truly a privilege reserved for a few lucky people, I was one of them today. I looked forward to lunch in the bothy with a broad smile from the knowledgeable Ghillie Keith Cromar who had given me sound counsel about where to fish. I always heed the sound advice from the Ghillie as they know best where you may encounter the elusive silver salmon, fresh in from the tide; you should too.


Park Estate Head Ghillie Keith Cromar with an angler enjoying his first of the season-a super springer


Stay one step ahead of the game

The early bird catches the worm and the early bird will also be the first in the queue to hear about rods made available from all the FishDee Beats as well as all the fishing reports and prospects reports. Just fill in the subscription details here which is free of charge. I’ve just entered mine for the next two years, so as soon as anything that’s of interest is made available-I will know about it first.

Fishing Availability-February 2014

There is quite a lot of fishing added to the FishDee website for February 2014 where you can get your opportunity to shake off cabin fever and go fishing. FishDee are optimistic for an improved run of Spring salmon in 2014 given the progeny of big runs of salmon in 2009/2010 should be returning home. There should be decent runs of 2 and hopefully 3 sea winter fish.

February Rods  for 2014

Date of listing:
Tuesday 26th November 2013 at 10:04 am

To book fishings, click the bold ‘Week of‘ link at the start of the relevant line

Click on the Beat/Fishery link to go to the detail page for that water Click on the Species link for an explanation of the species abbreviations Click on the Notes links (where applicable) for an explanation of the abbreviated notes If you wish, you may sort this list by clicking on any of the bold blue column headings

Week of Water Beat/Fishery Species Rent/Day Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Notes
Feb 3rd Dee Knappach as st £32 

+ vat

1 2 2 n/a D3
Feb 3rd Dee Middle Blackhall as st £75 3 3 3 n/a Min 3d3r
Feb 3rd Dee Upper Blackhall as st £85 3 3 3 3 1 1 n/a LE D2
Feb 3rd Dee Commonty as st £60 

+ vat

3 3 3 3 n/a  
Feb 3rd Dee Sluie as st £50 

+ vat

2 2 2 n/a Min 1d2r
Feb 3rd Dee Kincardine as st £90 3 3 3 n/a Min 3d1r D3 WS+20%
Feb 3rd Dee Birse as st £58 4 4 4 4 4 4 n/a Min 3d1r D3
Feb 3rd Dee Aboyne Water as st £70 1 1 1 1 1 n/a  
Feb 10th Dee Knappach as st £32 

+ vat

2 2 1 2 2 n/a D3
Feb 10th Dee Middle Blackhall as st £75 3 3 3 3 3 3 n/a Min 3d3r
Feb 10th Dee Upper Blackhall as st £65 3 3 3 n/a Min 3d3r LE D2
Feb 10th Dee Woodend as st £69 2 2 2 2 2 2 n/a GX
Feb 10th Dee Sluie as st £50 

+ vat

2 2 2 2 2 2 n/a Min 3d2r
Feb 10th Dee Kincardine as st £90 3 3 3 n/a Min 3d1r D3 WS+20%
Feb 10th Dee Dess as st £70 2 2 2 2 2 2 n/a  
Feb 10th Dee Birse as st £58 4 4 4 4 4 4 n/a Min 3d1r D3
Feb 10th Dee Aboyne Water as st £65 3 3 3 3 3 3 n/a  
Feb 17th Dee Knappach as st £32 

+ vat

2 2 2 2 2 n/a D3
Feb 17th Dee Middle Blackhall as st £75 3 3 3 n/a Min 3d3r
Feb 17th Dee Woodend as st £69 2 2 2 2 2 2 n/a GX
Feb 17th Dee Commonty as st £60 

+ vat

3 1 1 n/a  
Feb 17th Dee Sluie as st £50 

+ vat

2 2 2 2 2 2 n/a Min 3d2r
Feb 17th Dee Kincardine as st £100 1 1 1 3 3 3 n/a Min 3d1r D3 WS+20%
Feb 17th Dee Dess as st £80 2 2 2 n/a  
Feb 17th Dee Birse as st £58 4 4 4 4 4 4 n/a Min 3d1r D3
Feb 24th Dee Knappach as st £32 

+ vat

2 2 n/a D3
Feb 24th Dee Middle Blackhall as st £80 3 3 3 n/a Min 3d3r
Feb 24th Dee Woodend as st £69 2 1 1 1 n/a GX
Feb 24th Dee Sluie as st £50 

+ vat

1 1 1 1 1 n/a  
Feb 24th Dee Kincardine as st £115 3 3 3 1 1 1 n/a Min 3d1r D3 WS+20%
Feb 24th Dee Aboyne Water as st £65 1 1 1 1 1 1 n/a  




If no rods are listed, February will have passed. Rods for next February will appear here later
To book fishings, click the bold ‘Week of‘ link at the start of the relevant line

Some great fishing Opportunities

We are currently running an online auction until the end of November to raise funds for the River Dee Trust and there are two amazing fishing opportunities which currently have small bids sitting on them.

Salmon Fishing in Norway on the River Namsen. A fabulous opportunity exists for two anglers to enjoy three days all inclusive package of fishing with meals and accommodation in week 30 in 2014, at Jørem, see website .This auction lot has been kindly donated by the popular Sven Åge and Jenny Domås. There is a nice short film about the accommodation at Jørem and the River Namsen here

The wonderfully scenic River Namsen offer visiting anglers the opportunity to fly fish, spin, or even try harling for large salmon in what’s historically known as the queen of Norwegian salmon rivers. The biggest ever Namsen salmon was landed at Jørem and weighed a massive 31.5 kilos in 1924. Visiting anglers would be advised to hire the services of a local guide for this trip, which will be arranged, to ensure they have every opportunity to capture a large wild salmon. The winning bidder would be expected to arrange their vehicle hire at Trondheim to travel to Grong, cover the cost of their guide and any alcoholic drinks provided. This is a stunning river with really outstanding scenery and will provide a host of wonderful memories. Guide Price £1,000 Current Bid is only £400-this is worth a lot more than the current bid.

Sea Trout fishing, on the world famous River Mörrum, Sweden. This world famous fishery is managed by Sveasskog / Mörrums Kronolaxfiske in the South East of Sweden. They are donating an all inclusive package of 3 days fishing and 4 nights of accommodation for two rods. This will take place during the prime time for sea trout, September 2014. The successful bidding anglers stay will be in self-catering “Laxodlingen” double room with shared bathroom and kitchen . www.  Extra days fishing and accommodation may be purchased. Guiding, even for as low as two hours, can be arranged with FiskeShopen / All Fly Mörrum,  River Mörrum is known for its big sea trout, only matched by Argentina’s Rio Grande & Rio Gallegos. The average sea trout size is typically 12-13lb, with fish above 20lb landed every year. The sea trout start running the river in July and from second half of August huge fish will lie in almost all pools on the lower stretch.

Auction Lot Details, Suggested schedule for the trip

Arrival; September 1st  
Fishing; September 2nd, 3rd and 4th
Departure; September 5th

Guide Price £1,000 Current bid is only £300 – Way below what this lot is worth in this fantastic productive river.

Footage of  Morrum sea trout

If you wish to place a bid in for these and in the process see all the funds going into helping the River then click here to enter the auction.

Commercial Opportunity-FishDee

The FishDee website is looking for a main site sponsor in time for the start of the 2014 salmon fishing season. FishDee is the marketing medium used to promote the River Dee salmon fisheries and the supporting infrastructure which supports angling tourism. The website has been operating for almost 10 years and is globally recognised and respected. The website has over 2.5 million hits per annum thanks to quality regular weekly updates of fishing reports and prospects, as well as daily reporting of catches, river levels and links to web cameras. The customer base who typically uses the FishDee website will be predominately male, 50 years of age and above and ABC1 demographic profile. The River Dee is a globally recognised top destination for salmon anglers and has a global customer base. The site therefore is an attractive option for an enterprising business look to source a niche marketing opportunity to bring their business into the public domain through this unique medium of high net worth end users. The site sponsor would be provided with a banner web link platform on every web page on the FishDee website. Interested parties should contact Ken Reid at to discuss this in further detail or call 013398 80411.

Season to date page-numbers on FishDee

There is a glitch with the graphs where hovering your cursor over the columns is not showing the totals for these columns.
I have the numbers here for those who wish to take note of them:

Month   5Y/A    2012   2013

Feb        289     318     190

March    347      240     270

April       627      511     479

May       875       783     646

June       736       834     590

July        785       1191    253

Aug        1168     1131   528

Sept       1479     1297    781

Oct         759       717      759


Area     5Y/A      2012     2013

Lower    2875    2564     1971

Middle   2625    2959     1777

Upper    1540     1430     728


Period    5Y/A    2012     2013

Spring    2137    1852     1585

Sum       2689    2959     1777

Aut         2238    2014     728

River Dee On-Line Auction Update

The auction is live and quite a number of bids have been received for the wide range of interesting auction lots-some of which would make an ideal Christmas present. Make sure you put bids on for lots that interest you in case you forget or unable to do this when the auction is drawing to a close. It would be a shame to miss out on an auction lot because you were unable to bid and the lot goes for less than you were prepared to pay. Please remember that all the money raised from the auction goes into improvements in the River Dee and help us with our education programmes where we let people know how important the River Dee and its native wildlife are. You can access the auction here and you have to register by law to bid. Your details are not passed on to any third parties whatsoever. Please support this important fundraising event for the River Dee Trust.

Fishing report summary for 2013 fishing season

FishDee beats reported 4,496 salmon and 779 sea trout in 2013 which is not the final total for the river, with a number of other beats catches to be added to these totals before we finalise the 2013 catch returns,    however the salmon catch should be above 5,000 for the season. The three preceding years had produced approximately a combined total of 25,000 salmon, so the 2013 salmon catch is down a bit on these years. This is inline with other rivers throughout the Northern Hemisphere where there appears to have been a downturn in catches across virtually every country that’s sees migratory Atlantic Salmon running their rivers. There are never any guarantees of how big the annual run of salmon will be into salmon rivers as there are many variables involved which affect nature. Perhaps a good way to look at this is to consider that there’s not been a good harvest this year; but there’s not a lot wrong with the farm.

Roald Meyer

The biggest verified salmon caught in 2013 at 28lbs-Roald Meyer at Lower Crathes

The Spring period was bitterly cold, which seemed to go on for ever, salmon didn’t run in any great numbers with February seeing 190 reported, 270 for March, 479 for April and May produced 646 salmon. There were some good specimens about in March and April and Lower Crathes produced a 28lb salmon to visitor Roald Mayer which is the largest verified salmon for the 2013 fishing season. There are reports of two other 28lb salmon from Dess and Lower Invercauld and Monaltrie however neither fish were witnessed, nor were images taken at the point of capture. Some of the beats did have a pretty reasonable spring and Ghillies seemed happy at Crathes,    Invery and Tilquhillie. There wasn’t any significant upstream migration in April when the snows did melt and the river levels rose. Park and Lower Crathes did reasonably well in April and May and Carlogie had a decent May. The Glentanar and Dinnet beats normally do very well in May and their anglers had to work hard for scant rewards compared to normal.


Mark Paterson fishing at Dess in a snow shower

Summer arrived and many of the Ghillies would have been hoping for a wet summer as a drought can really put the brakes on sport for visiting anglers. The last few years had seen cool damp summers and sport had been    very decent at times. This year saw Deeside get a decent amount of sunshine, heat and very little rain, and as a result sport was slow for anglers this year. There were 590 salmon reported in June, 253 in July and 528  in August and a lot of fishermen sat in the sunshine and just accepted that you get the odd year when water conditions aren’t ideal for salmon angling.There were the two reported 28lbers taken during this period at Dess and Invercauld to Messrs Hartle and Stephenson. It was noticeable that Grilse numbers were reported to be down as were sea trout numbers.

Meriel Fisher 1

Meriel Harper playing her first ever salmon with Dad Geoff Fisher at Lower Crathes

We came into September with continued low water levels which persisted into October and this impacted a bit on catches with FishDee beats reporting 781 for September and the beats below Aboyne Bridge reported 759 for    the first fortnight in October. The welcome lift in water levels really got fish on the move and anglers were catching fish across the catchment. This was noticeable in the catch returns for Sept/October with Park reporting 200, Birse 115, Ballogie 100 and Altries with 98. The year will not be remembered as a classic by any matter of means however a positive piece of news was obtained when a visiting salmon biologist from Norway was diving in the river looking at habitat. He has surveyed many rivers in Norway and advised that the juvenile stocks in the River Dee were the best he had ever seen anywhere with a fantastic habitat for juvenile salmon recruitment. So we look forward to the 2014 salmon fishing season and it’s heartening to hear our sister River Tweed has had a very good late run of salmon-could this mean we shall have a great run of spring fish ? Well we will all have to book fishing on the Dee and come and find out. Merry Christmas to you all and Tight Lines in 2014 to all readers.

Keith 031

Keith Webster with a fine February salmon

Ken Reid Fisheries Development Officer DDSFB & River Dee Trust Office Mill of Dinnet, Aboyne Aberdeenshire, Scotland,AB34 5LA D +44 (0) 13398 80411 M +44 (0) 7979 878971 E-Mail  and

River Dee Trust Registered Charity No SC028497

The rains have finally arrived

Given the last decent rise in river levels was on the 27th June this year where we have all appreciated the nice summer weather, we have been patiently waiting what seems like a very long time to get any meaningful rain to refresh the river and give it a good clean. There have been a number of false dawns where weather forecasters have been suggesting we would get rain which alas seemed to always give the Grampians a bit of a body swerve. We noted that river levels are at a very low position which makes angling very difficult and does nothing for the salmon, where many have been waiting patiently down in Aberdeen, waiting for a rise in levels to get them up and running.

The loud staccato sound of heavy rain falling around 1 am this morning alerted this writer to the realisation that this was proper rain and what we have been looking for. Well it has continued off and on throughout the night and into this morning and is forecast to continue through the day. The Sepa gauges are showing rising levels in the upper catchment and on the Feugh and I expect the next few hours will see tributaries fill and discharge in the main stem of the river-providing the rain continues to fall in a good volume. Keep your eye out on the Ballogie Weather Station web link attached in the title which shows the timeline for this precipitation.

River Dee Weekly Audio Report

Here is the weekly audio report available to download for people with reading difficulties and overseas visitors to the River Dee

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