By Alex Jardine – Guideline Power Team UK
This winter has seemed to drag on longer than usual. Late snow flurries held back the first vestiges of spring and big deluges of rain kept rivers bank high if not bigger. Even with forecasts of impending doom I was not going to let that deter my spring salmon trip with Guideline ambassador James Armstrong.
After a couple of months planning we had a little three day trip planned at the end of March, the idea was to fish some of the border rivers on the Scottish and English east coast. Always keen to keep things flexible due to water heights we held off booking specific beats. To our luck in the week before our trip two rods became available on one of the best spring salmon beats on the River Tweed, Upper Floors, just upstream of the town of Kelso. Our other intention was to fish the River Till and the River Coquet in the days either side.
As the fishing days approached so did the forecast of more freezing and wintery weather. Not letting that dampen my spirits I hopped on the train from Kings Cross in London for the journey up country. The joy with modern rods such as the LXI T-Pac double handers is that they break down in to 6 pieces making travel so much easier than the older 3 and 4 piece models. Arriving in the north, I was greeted by the ever smiling James and time to plan tackle for the days ahead. The next day was going to be a tributary of the Tweed, the Till. It is a delightful small river offering a mix of gravel runs and bedrock gullies. Best suited to small switch-style rods we geared up with LXI 12’6” #7/8 Ultra Compact floating heads and poly tips.
Waking in the morning we were greeted by snow blizzards outside… and in the short drive to the river the snow turned into freezing rain! Not ideal conditions, but still we headed down to the river. We strung our rods up next to a colouring and rising river, but we tied on bright flies in the hope of intercepting an early spring salmon or big sea trout. We fished our way through some stunning pools, but with the river conditions steadily getting worse we decided to call it a day by 2pm. Time for a warming ale in the pub. Still, it was good to get on the water and warm up ahead of our day on the Tweed… despite the weather the water levels were still looking perfect.
Once again we awoke to blizzard like conditions outside, but this time we loaded the car with bigger rods. James had the LPXE 14’ #9/10 teamed up with the FAVO reel and an RM Float head with 10’ intermediate poly leader. I set up the LXI 13’ 9” #9/10 with the Vosso reel and again an RM Float head and intermediate poly leader. On arrival at the wonderful small fishing hut we were greeted by the ghillies, Richie and Colin as well as two other fisherman for the day, Simon and Bill. The ghillies gave some advice on lines and so on and also were keen on black and yellow tubes for spring fishing. Not needing to be told twice James and I, secured suitable tube flies on our setups.
Dividing the beat in two the ghillies tossed a coin as to which pair would have the top and the bottom. James and I won the coin toss and opted for the upper part. The section offered several beautiful fly pools, and gave us renewed confidence that despite the 2C air temperature that a fish may be possible. As I began to fish, the upstream wind pushed from the east bringing everything from rain to sleet to full on snow. Pushing the weather straight into my face there was little joy to be found fishing in these conditions… but this is what spring salmon fishing is about. Doing my best to keep the weather out I hid behind the FIR-SKIN CGX Fingerless Gloves, Fishermans Beanie and Alta Fleece Jacket.
I fished the water hard for a good couple of hours with little interest and no sign of a fish so hopped out of the water and wandered downstream to find James. From the high bank I spied James on the other side of the river with the Ghillie, Richie, steadying the net under a big bright spring salmon. Fantastic I thought, I was delighted that one of us had caught one. Once landed James and Richie rowed across the river to tell me all the details. When they reached the shore, James beamed up from the boat “I’ve hooked 3 and landed 2…”
My delight slightly turned to jealousy… but in spring salmon fishing part of the battle is being in the exact right place at the exact right time. Following his successes James was happy to take a break and warm his hands back up. Richie, suggested that I had a quick cast through the same pool as James’ last fish in case there was another. Having just seen the success I was not going to pass this chance up… Richie suggested where to drop in to the run and pointed out the main taking spot, another 30 yards down from where I was starting. Casting and moving my way down the run I received many helpful and sometimes some not so helpful comments from my comrades behind me! Undeterred I fished on.
Stepping and casting the taking spot moved closer and closer, keen to get the fly in the right spot I kept lengthening the cast a little each time. Fishing the fly right round towards the dangle, I kept my eyes fixed on the floating head. As the fly began to slow I suddenly felt the head shaking take of a salmon, in my disbelief I kept the rod low. Sure enough the trouble tap came again and I tightened the rod into complete tension. Fish now attached, my heart rate went right up! Even now, hooking a fish is a an incredible feeling! As the fish felt the tension it then turned and headed straight to where it came from. The battle was strong, and we tussled for several minutes before I was able to lift the beautiful fresh salmon over the next. Relief and excitement all struck at once. It is a fantastic moment to intercept these beautiful fish. After a quick photo we slid her back to continue on her epic journey up river.
Returning to the hut, we met the other anglers. They had seen very little in the way of action but were buoyed by our stories of success. After a short lunch break we returned to the river but now you could see the water colouring and rising again, the story of this trip! Needless to say we were happy to call it a day now that we had both had great success, back for a celebratory beer and well-earned rest. Our last day was a complete write-off, more rain and snow brought the rivers higher and dirtier so we had to call the stay short. I was disappointed to lose fishing but nothing was going to wipe my smile from landing some earlier season Scottish silver.
Now back to normal, the trout fishing of southern England..
Alex Jardine – Guideline Power Team UK
Gallery below will additional images from the trip. Click one of the images and it . will open up in full screen slide mode.