For several years my annual fishing holiday was taken in the borders of Scotland, always staying at the Camping and Caravanning site in Moffat. This excellent site provided an ideal base for our angling missions throughout the region, with it’s on-site facilities and proximity to Moffat itself where you could buy pretty much anything you needed.
The town itself has a fascinating history – Robert Burns was a frequent visitor, but perhaps its most unusual guest was the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia who paid a visit during his 1817 grand tour! The icing on the cake though had to be its proximity to a trout fishery … literally a stone’s throw from the back of the campsite. Although we were in Scotland to catch wild brown trout it was impossible to ignore the chance to hop over the fence and spend a couple of hours fishing for good sized rainbows, browns and brook trout…albeit stocked.
Moffat Fishery used to be just that…..a fishery. It was a rude contrast to our favourite windswept lochs where solitude was the norm but it was pleasant enough and you could soon forget where you were as you focused on stalking huge rainbows in the crystal clear water. There was also a proper lodge where you could retreat from the elements, chat to the owner and swap tactics with fellow anglers.
Anyway, ‘progress’ found Moffat fishery and it is now part of the Hammerlands Centre where the fishery is but a sideline to a thriving garden centre, restaurant, golf driving range and adventure playground. Any vestige of ‘serious’ flyfishing that may have been possibly associated with Moffat fishery has now vanished but there’s no denying it’s still good fun and the fishing can still be challenging. The 4.5 acre springfed flyfishing lake itself is not unattractive and as mentioned earlier the water is usually very clear. The surrounding landscape is dominated by rolling hills, including the foreboding Gallows Hill where locals are still hanged for stealing bread, or sheep. Possibly. The banks are sometimes tricky for casting, depending on where you are, due to the proximity of trees or steep terrain behind you but it’s normally possible to find an easier location.
My most recent visit in May 2005 was in fact my second since it became part of the Hammerlands Centre. Successfully avoiding the temptation to purchase some pansies or a spade, we made our way through the bustling garden centre (complete with tackle shop!) and headed down to the lake which was resplendent with numerous anglers and a few inquisitive escapees from the garden centre.
As always, there were sporadic rises and I tackled up with a 10ft Wychwood Lightline rod with #6 floating line, 15ft of level 6lb fluorocarbon and a black Klinkhammer – if you’re going to fish this clear water with imitative patterns a longish leader is very important. It soon became apparent there were plenty of fish within easy casting distance and I lowered my profile by getting down on one knee before flicking out my single fly at a decent fish maybe 10 or 12 yards away. Quite how useless my casting can be was made clear when my tangled fly and leader splashed down in a heap about 4 foot away from the tip of my flyline.
The fish I had been targeting, along with several others , lazily swam away, barely able to conceal their disgust. I moved along the bank a little and tried again…this time my fly landed reasonably well and I put on my most serious hunter-gatherer face whilst focusing intently on a nearby fish that had observed this new arrival. With the typical impudence of a pellet reared fish it drifted over and lazily inhaled the Klinkhammer at which point I raised the rod and we found ourselves attached to each other, much to the trout’s dismay.
With incredible power the rainbow trout barrelled down the lake and narrowly avoided taking me onto the backing before I halted its progress. Several runs followed, along with frantic head shaking (his, not mine) but I finally managed to slip the net underneath it. Probably about 3lb, this fish had exhausted itself and took a while to recover but eventually swam off . After drying the Klinkhammer off and applying another dab of Gink it was soon resting in the surface film again but seemed incapable of attracting another fish.
I changed tactics and fished a couple of sub-surface buzzers which resulted in a half-hearted tweak and not much else. Shamefully, I resorted to tackling up with an intermediate line and plundering the lure box but even these beastly creations failed, not helped by the prolific weed which was plaguing the lake. A couple of hours passed until I could stand it no more.
In what must surely be the flyfishing equivalent of a frustrated man resorting to the company of a ‘lady of the night’ I discreetly unsheathed my secret weapon – the Fish Pimp strike indicators! I had only used them once before, at Eyebrook reservoir, and hadn’t entirely got to grips with the method used to deploy them but thought it was worth a try.
I went back to the floating line with two buzzers and fixed one of the indicators a couple of feet above the dropper. First cast resulted in an immediate swirl at the indicator…..quite what the fish thought the lump of fluorescent yellow polystyrene was I don’t know. A couple of re-casts later I was staring intently at the indicator when it moved, maybe only a couple of centimetres but it was definite enough to strike into.
I proceeded to play a 2lb rainbow until it too found its way into my net and after returning said fish I went for a celebratory stroll along the bank to see how everyone else was doing. It soon became apparent that bite indicators were the ‘in thing’ here at Moffat…at least half of the anglers I could see were using them and catching plenty of fish.
Returning to my ‘peg’ I decided to continue with this method for the last hour of fishing I had left in order to investigate its effectiveness further, purely for scientific purposes. Well, it’s not the panacea everyone makes out but it caught me fish. It also became quite boring and felt slightly ‘wrong’…consequently I think I’ll reserve this method for times of dire need.
It’s difficult to take Moffat fishery seriously but as far as put and takes go its not bad. If you’re in the area, give it a go and if you’re with the wife and kids there’s plenty for them to do as well. If you do fish it I recommend long (degreased) leaders, some good emerger patterns along with some buzzers and maybe damselfly imitations. If you’re that way inclined perhaps bring some bite indicators as well….I have to admit they put me in touch with fish I would otherwise have been unaware of.
Visit here for more info on Moffat…..
….and here for info on Hammerlands Centre