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Time for a fly-fishing rain dance

Hot, dry weather is causing our rivers, fish and insects to crack, but hope is on the horizon


The Deveron, showing signs of suffering from lack of rain.
The Deveron, showing signs of suffering from lack of rain.
Rocks showing that you don't normally see.
Rocks showing that you don't normally see.
Brown slime coats the rocks.
Brown slime coats the rocks.

With the recent spell of dry warm weather continuing everyone is smiling, and it’s great to be able to get out and enjoy the wilds in the warm for a change. Well, when I say everyone smiling, obviously our farming community would like it to be a little damper to help with growth.

But the warm spell also comes with a price tag, or downside; long, dry weather in Scotland means wild fires are a real threat with one raging close to home through the coastal area close to the Pictish Capital of Burghead as I write. And for anglers it poses another real threat, fish loss due to lack of oxygen. Thankfully, the latter is rare in these parts and isn’t generally something for us to be concerned with, but last year we saw a loss in migratory fish due to some of them becoming over-stressed and picking up skin infections which caused fungal growth that spread due to the low, warm water. Mercifully, this was overcome by the return to the norm, and a few good ‘flushes’ of rain soon returned things to the status quo, but it was a concern for a while.

This time the water levels in these parts are even lower than previously, and have been for quite some time with little or no even minor relief from a bit of fresh rain (with exception in some waters of a brief, heavy downpour or two).  Weed and algal growth, especially that bottom-smothering, all-engulfing slimy brown stuff, is prolific and certainly drawing out a lot of the much needed oxygen our fish need to thrive and survive at night. Not only this, our invertebrate life has begun to succumb to oxygen lack, meaning supressed hatches or, worse still, the danger of losing many of them altogether.

Current levels on my favourite river, the Deveron, from the weather station I regularly check at Avochie, show a mere 0.234m, which is only .064m (64mm or in old money a smidgen over a mere 2 inches) above the recorded record low (dating back to 1959).

And it’s not just the Deveron; the Spey at Boat o Brig has a current level of 0.111m, against a record low of 0.023m dating back to 1952. The Don at Parkhill – currently shows 0.934m, against a record low of 0.799m (in 1988). The Dee at Woodend current reads 0.453m, just 213mm above its 1972 record low of 0.240m, and finally the Findhorn at Shenachie, with a 1960 record low of 0.072m, is reading 0.105m.

But the forecast is for, finally, some relief in the form of at least a little bit of fresh water later this week, which will offer some welcome relief and possibly help kick-start some fish movement and a boost to the fly life which the fish (residents and migratory off-spring) so readily crave. It might also mean something more akin to a regular sleeping pattern for me with a series of late nights and early mornings to take advantage of what fly life we do have. However, that said, I’ve witnessed some amazing hatches in the ‘witching hours’ and some excellent rises of fish, albeit often very brief. Trouble here is the fact this type of fishing gets addictive, crawling around the rivers in the half-light with the sounds of night time around you. Sneaking up on fish which are feeding in the shallowest of water gets the adrenalin pumping.. I'm just not so sure it’s good for the day job, however.

Let’s hope some rain does come soon (not too much though!) and I don’t have to resort to a rain-dance, people might mistake it for some form of Summer Equinox ritual with a man dancing in the half light in waders waving a fly rod to the skies. Try explaining that to the local constabulary.

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