As 2022 begins and we look forward to a new year with new fishing adventures in the months ahead, we asked some members of the Farlows team to cast their eyes back to 2021 and share their most memorable fish of the year.
Tom Clinton, Retail Manager
I spent a few days up in Perthshire visiting my pal and Farlows colleague, Jonny Muir, back in August 2021 and after half a week of rain followed by a few days of calm, the conditions on the River Tay were looking ripe for my one and only day’s salmon fishing of the year.
I was fishing a beat just downstream from Stanley with Jonny as my ghillie for the day. Having not cast my 15’ #10 Sage X double-hander for many months, it took a while to get back in to the swing of things (forgive the pun), but after a couple of hours and a handful of tentative plucks at the end of my line, I felt the familiar draw of a fish turning with the fly in its mouth.
Lifting into the fish after a few seconds, I heard the clicker of my trusty Abel Super 12 begin to sing as the fish began to protest. Holding tight but allowing runs where necessary, I controlled the fish in the main flow of the river as Jonny upped-anchor and motored us back across to the bank where we both disembarked and my trusty ghillie lifted the rim of his McLean net around the fish. A tide-fresh, gleaming chrome sea-licer which didn’t want to hang around for long. After a quick lift to the camera, the fish flipped out of my hands and powered off back into the Tay to continue its journey upriver. The afternoon produced several other takes and one further fish in the net. I counted my lucky stars that my one day fishing for salmon in 2021 produced two stunning sea licers!
Sam Edmonds, Sales Advisor
My most memorable capture of 2021 was also my last fish of the year. It was a bit of an effort getting up at 5.30am on Boxing Day after the Christmas festivities the day before, but the forecast for the day was meant to be calm and overcast - great conditions for targeting perch afloat on a midlands reservoir. With unsettled weather forecast for the following few days, my Dad and I didn't want to waste the opportunity!
Just before Christmas, I had one of my best days perch fishing on one of the reservoirs, landing nine perch, with four of those fish weighing over 4lb, so we were hopeful for some more action on Boxing Day. We returned to the same area where we'd caught on the previous trip, but the fish had moved, so we started searching - making drifts, covering as much water as we could and anchoring in fishy-looking locations. At around midday, my Dad had a fish take his deep diving crankbait - a perch of 3lb 14oz, which was shortly followed by a fin-perfect stripey weighing 4lb 5oz.
We carried on fishing in that location for another hour or so without any more action, then decided to move into some shallower water. At the time, I was fishing a suspending jerkbait, which, when fished on a twitch and pause retrieve, perfectly mimics an injured baitfish. Often when fishing with this type of lure, you'll get a bite when the lure has been paused, and I had a smashing take shortly after we'd moved areas. I could tell this fish had some weight to it, but I was blown away at its size when it revealed itself! It was immaculate, and beat my personal best for the species, weighing 4lb 13oz and measuring 51cm.
Jonny Muir, Marketing Executive
My obsession is salmon and, after a bumper season in 2020, 2021 was not nearly as kind to me! I never seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Trips to the Tay, Spey and Findhorn were met with frustratingly fluctuating water heights and strange weather conditions - classic excuses, I know.
One noteworthy day was on the River Helmsdale in May however, quite simply the best day’s salmon fishing I’ve ever had! After losing most of the first two days of the week to a huge flood, the river had dropped back to a good height by Wednesday and there was a fishy feeling in the air. We found ourselves on Beat 6 and as soon as we had arrived there were signs of fresh fish moving into the pools. It wasn’t long before the action started, fishing with a floating fly line, short sink tip and a small conehead tube which I had recently designed with Helmsdale pools in mind - I call it the ‘I.T. fly’ or ‘Isla’s Tail’ - so named because it is tied with the tail fibres from Isla, the family dog!
This salmon fly landed me 5 sea-liced springers that day but it was the fifth and final fish that sticks in my mind. In the particular pool I was fishing, you can wade ankle-deep along a gravel bar, casting out across the stream and letting your fly swing through the main run of the pool before it swings back in towards the shallow gravel. Of course, you’re expecting a take in the deeper run and not on top of the gravel bar. As my cast swung round onto the dangle, thinking I had fished the cast out, I began to hand-line back in so I could start to re-cast. At that moment I saw a set of shoulders and a dorsal fin appear, charging up onto the gravel to chase my fly with the fish quite literally half out of the water! Seeing this, I kept retrieving in slow pulls to keep the fly alive and the fish kept coming before smashing the fly, turning and racing back into the pool. After a spirited fight, the final fish of the day came in for a quick photo and back she went. They say it’s all about ‘the take’ and this one most definitely was!
Jack Gregorie, Fieldwear Buyer
It was late August up in the Scottish Borders and I’d just spent a couple of days at our tweed mill developing plans for Farlows' new season tweeds. As I was planning on staying north for the weekend, I decided to make use of my time to go up and visit my colleague Jonny, our Farlows in-house expert (check out his how to fish for salmon guide) on the River Tay. The plan was all his idea, to spend the Saturday on the Lower Tay fly fishing mostly from a boat. Retail Manager, Tom Clinton, had been up two weeks prior and he was lucky enough to collide with a run of fresh fish with two lovely salmon to the net (see above!). We were hoping I was going to be able to catch the back end of this run, and fortune favoured us.
Having not fished for salmon in Scotland before, it took some time to get used to the 14ft fly rod I was using. Jonny was captaining the vessel, positioning the anchor rope to line us up in the perfect position to cover the hotspots. He was kindly giving me tips to improve my casting and ensure I was able to get the fly in the correct spot where the fish would typically be lying. After half an hour or so of some casting practice at the top of the pool, we started to make our way down the pool slowly.
A few casts in, my line suddenly tightened up – I was into my first Scottish salmon! I got the slack line in to play the fish gently on the reel, whilst Jonny managed to beach us on the bank. After a lot of head shaking and a few runs the fish was safely in the net, a lovely cock fish of around 4lbs. A quick snap and the fish was away. Back out we went to carry on fishing the pool we had just left. Thirty minutes later, I’m in again! A slightly better fish this time - another cock fish, this one about 5lbs, and one very happy salmon fisher attached to it.
After a steak and black pudding pie for lunch, we fished for the rest of the afternoon for a couple more pulls but nothing stuck. We headed back to relax after a long day on the water - big thank you to Jonny for putting me on the fish and leaving me with a day to remember for many years to come.