Aye, you read that right, I’m blogging an annual fishing holiday from 18 years ago! It struck me whilst writing up this year’s fishing holiday that I could use my old fishing diary and photos to make some kind of record of fishing holidays from years gone by. I’m struggling to find any photos from the inaugural one back in 1997 and I didn’t have a fishing diary then so let’s start with 1998 which will be a much shorter post than contemporary ones seeing as I can barely remember most of what we did back then!
Monday 15th June 1998
We drive up to Moffat in Phil’s dad’s Daihatsu Fourtrak towing their family caravan behind us, listening to U2 Rattle and Hum on the cassette player and smoking Bensons. F*ck yeah! The 3 hour journey seemed like a proper big mission back then whereas nowadays when we’re passing Moffat we generally have a good 5 or 6 hours of driving left to do! Upon arrival we deploy the awning and fill the hollows under the caravan seats with crisps and load up the fridge with cheese and Carling
Tuesday 16th June 1998
We are driving 40 miles to fish what is primarily a rainbow fishery! And you know what? I bloody loved it, back then I really was super excited at the prospect of catching any big fish.I think the picture below is me preparing our packed lunches for the Portmore mission and it looks like it was this holiday where Phil introduced me to small chunk Branston pickle which was pretty controversial for someone like me who up until then had only ever consumed large chunk Branston pickle. It looks like I was deploying a split flavour package for us with half cheese and Branston half Marmite. I’d be interested to see what cheese I was using, I’m pretty sure Phil would not have been able to steer me away from Double Gloucester at that that early stage in the game.
My fishing diary tells me it was very nice weather but not ideal for fishing and that I was impressed with the scenery. The fishing was hard going because of the conditions but when a thunderstorm rolled in it seemed to stimulate a hatch of something which in turn switched the fish on. Maybe they were olives because I proceeded to catch a cracking wild brownie (I don’t think they stocked browns at the time) of about 1 3/4 lbs on and Olive Dun pattern. It was also the first fish I ever caught on my 10ft #6 Wychwood light line rod which Chris Dawn (the sadly now departed editor of Trout Fisherman) gave me as a thank you for schlepping down to Peterborough for an interview to join the mag (which I didn’t get).
Wednesday 17th June 1998
This ace little 8 acre loch is on the Drumlanrigg estate in Dumfires and Galloway. I’m not sure if it is still a fly fishing venue because the Drumlanrigg website only talks of Starburn and Slatehouse for trout fishing but do reference a coarse lake called Morton Pond? Anyway, we liked fishing this place because although it could be quite hard it was very picturesque with the eponymous (ruined) castle in the background.
Another difficult day, in fact Phil blanked although did at least manage to at least hook a couple. It seems I managed to catch one well conditioned rainbow trout of about 2lbs on a Wickhams Fancy. Actually, looking back I do seem to recall that fly being one of my favourites and yet now I’m not sure I even have one in any of my fly boxes. The diary entry says we didn’t stick it out until the bitter end, preferring instead to leave early and go drinking in Moffat. I imagine we will have ended up in the Coachman.
Thursday 18th June 1998
It won’t take a genius to work out which loch this is but I’ll protect it from casual Googlers. We had visited it the year before on our first annual fishing holiday on Phil’s dad’s recommendation who in turn had followed Bruce Sandison’s advice to visit here. Whilst on that first visit to this spectacular Borders gem I half-jokingly said we should come back and camp here sometime. As the words were leaving my mouth I was already thinking that I had in fact come up with the greatest idea ever and Phil was in immediate agreement. Even better, I’d just purchased a Eurohike 2 man backpacking tent, the first of a long line of tents I have bought over the years! So 1 year later we were finally able to put the plan into action. The scariest part was probably leaving the FourTrak in the car park overnight and in fact subsequent overnighters at this loch were facilitated by taxi to avoid the risks associated with leaving the car in such a lonely location.
The loch in question is reached by a stiff 45 minute up a steep valley side and then a further half an hour or so of ankle-turning rough ground to negotiate before getting to the far end. Still fresh in our minds was the fact that on our previous visit we had not brought appropriate clothing and got rather cold and wet. This time we were prepared and seeing as it was raining we deployed our waterproofs and….geniuses that we were…decided to kill two birds with one stone by wearing our waders to lessen pack weight and keep our legs dry. We very quickly discovered that yomping up a very steep hill wearing PVC waders and a Barbour jacket whilst carrying a fully loaded rucksack with tent and sleeping bag is a spectacularly bad idea. And looking at the photos it appears we carried our 2-piece rods up in their rod tubes as well, what an absolute pair of Terry fuckwits!
As this was pre-Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, technically someone could have come along and booted us off from wild camping so we had to wait until the last casual day tripper had buggered off before pitching tent so we hid our packs and got some fishing in. There was a goodly amount of fish rising but we had difficulty tempting any to take our flies. I eventually put on the fly I called the ‘Trout Fisherman Loch Fly’ which I’d tied using a pattern from said magazine. This is the fly that eventually morphed into Bob’s Bob fly, my absolute go-to dropper fly. This did the trick and got me a couple of stunning little wild brownies which, seeing as I think I blanked on the previous visit here must have been my first ever hill-loch trout.
When we felt it was safe to do so we put up the tent and then did a bit more fishing but this was also our first real encounter with Scottish midges and seeing as we had no repellent things got pretty out of hand. I was desperate to carry on fishing so tied a t-shirt around my head to try keep them away but it did no good so we eventually retired for the evening armed with a 4 pack of Carling, a well thumbed copy of Trout Fisherman and 20 smokes each! Yup, we even lugged up 2 kilos of lager each!
Friday 19th June 1998
We awake to the awesome view of Loch **** on our doorstep! This is exciting stuff and a thoroughly enjoyable novelty of being able to get out of bed, pick up your already-tackled-up-rod and go do some more fishing before breakfast! As is often the case with this place though the morning was cold and windy and the fish were not playing ball, I managed to hook and loose just one fish.
The yomp back down was only marginally easier than the walk up but there was much anxiety over the prospect of there being no car in the car park which can only be viewed as you near the end. Thankfully the FourTrak was still there and in one piece.
But wait! We weren’t finished fishing for the day! As we were staying on Moffat Camping and Caravanning site we were literally over the fence from Moffat Fishery, back when it didn’t have a garden centre attached so we had an afternoon/evening session on there. My diary records that the weather was very pleasant down in the valley, the water on the lake was gin clear and we caught nothing! Only action was a few swirls to my dry fly and Phil briefly had one hooked before it pinged off. This place used to frustrate the hell out of us as we’d be there delicately placing tiny dries in front of cruising fish and not getting any real offers then some youth would turn up and roly poly lures in and cane them out
Saturday 20th June
Portmore Loch again, we must have really liked this place! The weather was overcast but quite windy and we had another blank. Curses! We did however notice part of the loch was coned off and further investigation revealed that they must have chucked a lorry load of golden trout in at this end. You could see them from bloody miles away! Do fisheries still stock these or were they a fad?
We must have left Portmore quite early as it seems we returned to Moffat for Fish and chips then got a £3.00 dusk ticket for Moffat Fishery again!!
When we got there the fish were going crackers for what turned out to be a Caenis hatch so once again we were up against it. I did manage to hook and play one rainbow on a size 16 Hare’s Ear parachute dry fly but it broke me before I could net it, I will have been fuming!
There endeth the entries in my fishing diary for that holiday but I know we will have driven back to Leeds the following day where I was still living at home with my dad and tying flies in the box room which I converted into a fly tying den. I was still in that absolute mad keen phase hoovering up any knowledge I could by reading all the magazines and desperately saving up for new tackle (no credit card back then) . These holidays were an absolute highlight of the year and would be looked forward to weeks in advance, lots of time devoted to planning where we might like to fish and whole evenings spent tying flies in readiness. Nowadays I still love my fishing holidays just as much but there never seems to be any time to actually just savour the anticipation, nor is there adequate time for post holiday reflection. Anyway I hope you have all enjoyed my self-indulgent trip down memory lane, there may be more soon.