A few weeks back, myself and a few Glasgow Angling Centre colleagues (including the Boss!) headed down to deepest South West Scotland to revisit a private Estate Loch to try our hand at fly fishing for predators. It had been a couple of years since our last visit and this time we left it a little later in the year to make sure we missed spawning time.
The Predator Plan
The Lake has a fantastic head of Coarse fish but is relatively featureless making it tough to decide where to fish and which tactics to adopt. Having said that, at both ends of the Loch are some reed beds reaching out from the margins with a smattering of lily pad patches – ideal habitat for coarse fish fry so in turn, an ideal place to find any predators. These reed-fringed edges fell steeply into 12-15ft and more, so in theory, the first few pulls would be the most likely to produce takes. The other plan of attack was using the fishfinder to locate shoals of baitfish in the open water and fish around these.
Our Fly Fishing Set-ups
When fly fishing for predators, I prefer to set up two outfits, both 9 weights, one with a sink2/sink4 line and Flashtail Whistler fly, the other with an intermediate line and a Roach fly pattern. With this, I could fish slowly down the shelves and get deeper, quicker, if required. Brian also set up a 9 weight but with a floating line and a Roach tube fly. In addition to this, he brought along a drop-shotting kit to try for a Perch or two.
Gary set up using a 9 weight intermediate line with a sink3 tip and a Flashtail Whistler. Paul elected to try some alternative tactics for a big Perch and went for a jigging outfit to explore the deep drop-offs.
In the pleasant, calm conditions with the warm sun on our backs as we set up, we watched Red Kites and Buzzards circling above – an impressive distraction but we were here to see predators of the aquatic kind so with the rods ready to go, we loaded the rest of our gear into the two boats and set off out into the flat calm Loch.
Within feet of the boathouse we could already see small fish feeding on the surface and just on the drop off, the sounder showed a big shoal of fish in midwater in 15ft but Brian and I continued out towards the far left shoreline. Gary and Paul left the boathouse just after us and must’ve also seen the shoal as they cut the electric motor almost straight away and started prospecting. After maybe to or three casts, I turned to see Paul in the other boat hoop his rod into a fish which turned out to be a cracking Perch on a jighead shad. I guess it was only right the Gaffer should get the first fish?!
The first area Brian and I tried produced no takes or follows after about 30 mins of trying both deep water and close to the margins so we moved to the opposite shore to a more “Pikey” looking spot with some reeds and lilies around the margins. I continued to fish outwards into the deeper 8 to 15 feet with a sinking line, expecting some Pike to be laying in deeper water but this wasn’t returning any results. Brian put away the dropshot rod and picked up the flyrod. He cast his floating line and big, sparkly tubefly right into the lily pads. After the first pull I commented to Brian, “that’s exactly the sort of spot you’d expect a………”, SMASH!!! I hadn’t finished my sentence when a nice Pike exploded onto his fly! Our boat was now off and running with a nice fish. Not long after this, I noticed Paul and Gary had moved to the far end of the Loch where there is another nice looking area with plenty of aquatic vegetation, some deeper gullies and, shelves around a burn mouth… again, a nice looking area in terms of fish-attracting features. I was looking forward to seeing how they’d fare at lunchtime.
Back in our spot, Brian had another Pike hit his fly, again right under the surface in the middle of the lillies – I’d seen enough – time to swap out the sinking line for a full floater and surface popper fly! I had tied up some articulated tandem flies with Flymen fishing company Surface Seducer popper heads and a wiggle tail attachment at the back. First chuck into a little patch in the margins, I noticed a few reed stems move behind the fly as it landed. First strip and a Pike chased it down, dashing out from between the reeds, smashing the fly off the top! For me, it just doesn’t get any better than a visual, surface take. A further two Pike were taken on the surface flies before we had the call from the other lads that it was time for lunch.
As the Boss cooked up the (awesome) Venison sausages and burgers supplied by Gary, we exchanged morning reports. Gary had taken a couple of jack Pike and an absolute beast of a Perch (a new UK personal best) on a Flashtail Whistler fly. Paul had also had a few other nice Perch to add to our boat total of five Pike, so a great morning was had by all.
After our fill of burgers and cheesecake, we headed out again to see if we could repeat the mornings success. Brian and I decided to motor around a bit, looking for bait shoals and evidence of any bigger fish in open water but this proved fruitless. We lasted another couple of hours but we called it a day around 3pm. Speaking to Gary and Paul later, they had another nice Pike but not much more in terms of numbers. Still a fantastic day in the unfavourable conditions, especially for Gary with his fantastic Perch – well-done mate!