Two lochs at Tinto Trout Fishery provide a variety of fishing conditions and challenges. Autopilot anglers should look elsewhere…
Three Tinto regulars showcase their surface techniques
ON another occasion, they could have been f itting epitaphs to the angling day from hell: a journalist driven to semidelirium by a torrid sun because he hasn’t any water with him, and a fisherman with arms so red that when he lowers them into the water in search of relief, you half-expect to hear hissing reminiscent of a blacksmith’s forge. Yet however inauspicious the weather for f ishing, it has been a glorious day at Tinto Trout Fisher y in ever y sense, right from the moment when Gwendoline, wife of the late owner John Reid and mother of his son and successor Munro, led me to the top of the dam wall on Loch Lyoch, the lower of the venue’s two f ive-acre lochs. As we look across the ledge on which it sparkles, against the imposing backdrop of the Tinto Hills, a sparse stand of Scots pines elegantly lining the western bank, f ly fishing seems almost to have been pre-ordained for this perfect setting.
The Reids’ wish is for this to be a f isher y for fishermen. Not a unique mission statement and one which non-anglers would find barmy, but you and I know what they mean. A place devoid of the ‘quota and conveyor belt’ mindset. There was a time when ever y thing in the two lochs was brown with dainty spots and had to be returned, but then Munro began to feed rainbows and blues into Lyoch to coa x additional visitors. Somewhere between idealism and commercialism, lies a happy medium. But f ishing by numbers it certainly isn’t. As the day proceeds, I’ll watch Greg Forrest and his f ishing partners, Gregor Fleming and Mike Walker, be up to their waists wading one side of Lyoch, while working skinny water on the other. When they take me up the hill to Loch Cleugh, home exclusively to brownies both stocked and wild, I am confronted with water that looks impossibly clear. So clear, indeed, and so crazed by thirst am I at this point, that, having watched one local happily quaff from a Perthshire loch a few days earlier, I decide to risk a mouthful. Two months on, not so much as a rash. That clear. The problem with ultra-clear water, of course, is that while seeing your f ish so v iv idly is ver y exciting, the process is enti rely reciprocal. By the time you factor in the barrier of weed just off the southern bank, through which you have to negotiate any thing you catch, you realise that this is a venue that is likely to require your A-game. A f isher y for f ishers, indeed. Greg Forrest is one of those who has embraced rather than rejected the challenge, for around 20 years. “The lochs aren’t too manicured, which encourages plent y of insect life, but feed ing can be ver y different between them,” he says. “The upper loch is deeper, so it’s more terrestrials. You get lots of heather f ly; some sedges. I use smaller f lies there and black’s a good colour.
“The lower loch is shallower, with weedbeds more a factor. There are a lot of damsels and Buzzers fish well by the dam. There are some tiger trout in there that have been taken on Buzzers. You also get a lot of black beetles and some big sedge hatches, more so than on the upper loch.” The shallows on Lyoch’s western shore, he adds, provide some great ‘f lats-st yle’ fishing when fish venture into them on cool evenings, so never wade without examining them f irst. Once it’s time to push out into deeper water, you can wade to about knee high, which should be enough to explore the deeper water in front of you. Wading to waist high is possible from the eastern bank. Submerged weedbeds ensure that there is as much food in the water as there is arriving on it. The apex forming the loch’s southern tip, where grasses emerge above the surface, can be a sedge hotbed for anyone casting in the v icinit y.
See for yourself
At the time of writing, Google Maps ser ve v isitors well, for not only does the satellite image show Lyoch’s shallows and weeded areas but it also shows Cleugh empty for maintenance. With steep sides, wading in the latter is best left to those anglers who know it intimately, for there are some sharp drop-offs. Not that those are our main problem today. Water clarity and ferocious sunlight, you’d think, would be fatal for our chances on Cleugh, yet amazingly, the boys take f ish up there, Greg netting the trout of the day - a long brownie whose golden belly is topped with crazy paving cover of crisp, dark spots. “It’s taken a CdC pattern which I got
“The Reids’ wish is for this to be a fishery for fishermen...A place devoid of the quota and conveyor belt mindset.”
from TroutFisherman, except I’ve never been able to tilt my CdC heads, so it just stands straight up,” says Greg. “It’s still caught me loads of fish, mind…” Whatever its original name, this pattern is now known as the Gumbo Special, Greg’s surname having predictably earned him the nickname ‘Gump’… On both lochs, he has fished it with two Buzzers or Diawl Bachs dangling washingline st yle behind it (see diagram). Letting the f lies settle, he eventually gives them an occasional tweak or employs a ver y slow f ig ure-of-right retrieve. “If sedges are hatching or there are a lot of olives about, I’ll retrieve with a faster f igure-of-eight,” he tells me. “The CdC emulates a sedge losing its shuck.”
Imitation all year
In deference to its wild occupants, he concentrates on imitative patterns on Cleugh through the year, the exceptions an occasional Cat’s Whisker or Damsel lure as winter arrives. With such pristine wild browns complemented by stocked fish at Tinto, I asked Greg about the adjustments he has to make when he’s had his quota of stockies and wants to target a wild trout. “It’s not such a big change here because the stocked f ish switch on to natural f lies quickly,” he replies, “but I always look to match the hatch. I’ll f ish a Bibio with a dr y f ly sometimes, because the Bibio imitates a lot of black f lies. With lures, I might tr y a Black Rabbit, as we get a lot of minnows. “A nother option if you’re after a brownie would be a Bibio with a size 14 goldhead Hare’s Ear. Sparse, Clyde-st yle wet f lies also do well on Cleugh.” Brownie, blue trout and rainbows: for three guys who were apparently “panick ing” at having to produce f ish to order for a magazine article – they cer tainly haven’t shown it. But be warned – you’re a thousand feet nearer the sun by the time you’ve climbed to Tinto, and every now and then, it will feel like it. Water bot t le. Sun cream. Enjoy.
“...he concentrates on imitative patterns on Loch Cleugh through the year...”
Mike Walker prepares to net one on Lyoch. The Tinto Hills form a memorable backdrop to the fishery.
Such impressive markings. The fish isn’t bad, either.
After a spell on Loch Cleugh, Gregor, Greg and Mike head back to Lyoch.
Working your catch safely through the weed patches is one of Cleugh’s challenges.
Sedge patterns can be deadly at Lyoch’s southern end.
An Odva Beetle (above) and regularly de-greased leader were key for Scottish international Gregor Fleming on his first visit to Tinto. FACTFILE
Odva Beetle Hook: Size 16 Thread: Black UTC 70 Body: Peacock herl with foam shell Wing: Pink Aero Wing Gumbo Special Hook: Size 12 wet fly Thread: UTC 8/0 black Rib: Fine silver wire Body: Fox squirrel and mother of pearl tinsel Wing: 4 (for calm conditions) or 5 CdC plumes
UV CdC Hook: Size 10 or 12 Kamasan B160 Thread: Black UTC 70 Butt: Red Holo Tinsel Body: UV, black and gold straggle Thorax: Squirrel dubbing Wing: 10-12 CdC plumes