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Donkin's World: Lashings Of Fun

Richard Donkin tells of the joy of salmon fishing on the River Dee.

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Travelling back from Scotland, we called at Bampton in the Lake District to spend a couple of days with old friends and take part in the annual River Lowther raft race. In all my years in the boy scouts I never learned how to do lashings so it was good to do so here, building our raft from poles, barrels and rope. Dress this year was an Hawaiian theme.

There was beer and singing and a nice walk on the Sunday, overlooking Haweswater - a lovely way to end a great week's fishing.

Tell any salmon fisherman about a catch and the first thing they will ask you, often before asking where you caught the fish, is "What fly did you catch it on?" I do it myself.

Then we might want to know the fly size. Fly and size of fly do matter, but often they are not the most crucial details. Fishing depth, the depth of the water, the pool, the lie, the speed of flow and the time of day are all equally and probably more important.

In my case, recently on the Dee, fishing depth seemed to make a difference. How much difference is difficult to say. But in at least one pool I'm sure that a sinking tip was the difference between a take and no take.

There was plenty of water coming down which seemed to affect clarity a little so I didn't fish too small. My fishing friends in the beat above were having most success with size 8 flies and sinking tips. I found success with a size 9 Ally's shrimp. I'm sure a Cascade would have been just as effective, it was just that I happened to have been fishing the other fly.Something bright and showy is all you need unless the water is very low and ultra clear when you might want to go down in size. The size nine was exactly the size of fly that was getting results in the spring. The shorter-shanked Partridge hook was holding well too.

I read a lot about the difference that water temperature makes and I don't doubt that it does, but the truth is that here on the Dee, at least, the same set ups were catching fish in the summer as caught fish in April.

The sinking tip with a floating line seemed to do better than an intermediate line. The flies don't sink too deeply, but making it a little easier for the fish to take the fly seems to produce more takes, particularly in the deeper lies. But of course what makes most difference of all, is a head of running fish. Fresh running fish are not too choosy.

I got lucky and found some in a pool and had three before hot footing it two pools further up river in order to stay with the pod. It worked too. I had one fresh fish from the higher pool (at the top of my beat) before the pool went quiet again. Sometimes these pods of running fish show, but not always. In the first pool there was nothing out of the ordinary but higher up the fish were showing, barely breaking surface in their hurry to keep going.

Why some pools don't produce many running fish is a mystery to me when fish have to run the whole river, but I think it may have something to do with the running line (the route taken by the fish that is often far from straight). If you can find it and intercept it or find a resting place, it can make all the difference. That's where ghillies' knowledge on an unfamiliar beat is crucial, so don't upset the ghillie.

I can't be certain about the sinking tip. Gill caught all her fish on a full floating line so it might have worked just the same. But if you're having a lean time on a summer river with plenty of fish around, it's certainly worth a try.


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