FishTay spent a day with the head ghillie of Dalmarnock beat, Colin McFadyen, last month, finding out more about the beat known as the ‘big fish beat’. Anglers casting a line on this under-fished water have enjoyed some excellent sport in the last few weeks with a total of 32 fish caught and released.
Located just three miles downstream from the confluence of the Tay and Tummel, with the imposing Ben Vrackie, or “Speckled Mountain”, in the distance, this double bank beat is one of the largest on the Tay at just under three miles and offers anglers the opportunity to fish using the fly, spinner or harling in their 2 boats.
Colin recommended we started from the boat so we could see the pools and explained the beat is not heavily fished. There are 15 named pools, very easy wading – mostly on shingle gravel, and lots of bits in between that yield fish – read more.
With Colin’s working spaniels Tillie & Marnie safely in the boat we started fishing the Inch pool & Inch stream (wires), below the hut. In medium to low water they catch most of the fish in the lies below the cables mostly by spinning, but in the right height fish are caught with the fly. The next pool, Sowerby, is right bank fly water for 300 yards.
Oak tree pool below the bridge produced the beats first salmon on the fly this year at 14lbs. The pool is fished from the bank, and fishes well in medium to high water, fish lie close to the bank in higher water.
In summer fish sit on the shingle in the Clachtaggart. This pool fishes well in summer lows and is a lovely wade consisting of small shingle stones. Salmon at 20lb plus have been caught on the fly when the water is low. The tail of the Clachan marches with Dunkeld House Fishing, last week Dunkeld House caught its 100th salmon of the season so far.
Dalmarnock bank pool is one of the top performing pools, fishing the fly at all heights from summer lows to seven feet on the gauge. Three croys speed the middle of the pool which helps the fly. Fish 30lb plus have been caught in this pool.
Stepps is a beautiful fly pool and in summer fish tend to lie in this pool. In really low water it’s a nice sanctuary for fish to sit in the deep channel.
The glide is a lovely gravel wade and fishes well in low to medium water. During the summer its about 40 feet deep and is a big holding pool. Summerhouse pool fishes at any height, and during summer when the river is really low you can wade down the middle of the river.
I asked Colin abut the ‘big fish’ reputation the beat has.
72lb Tay Salmon
The Duke of Atholl in 1862 hooked in to a 72lb salmon on the beat (The Domesday Book of Giant Salmon page 203). The fish took the Duke on a journey down the river of 4 miles to Newtyle beat. The momentous fight lasted for more than 3 hours when the fish was finally landed in the Cottar pool at Newtyle. Sadly a wooden cast of the fish has been lost.
During summer and low water fish can’t get past Lower Kinnaird beat, so start to stack up down the middle Tay. You can catch fish on the fly in 7/8feet. We caught a 30lb sea-liced fish with a summer low, 4 inch on the gauge. When the beat was 2 inch on the gauge a 28lb sea-liced fish.
We have some of the best fly water on the river at a foot and a half on the lower gauge where every pool bar one will fly fish. The beat just off the A9 has great access to nearly every pool by car (I drive a mini) from the bottom to the top of the beat (small section at the top which needs the access improving).
Dalmarnock fishes in all heights and enjoys deep holding pools during summer lows. A day’s fishing starts in May from £55 per day – find fishing
In 2008 the beat owners allowed day tickets on the beat. Colin moved from Newtyle beat to become head ghillie on Dalmarnock beat. Back then anglers coming to the beat met in a 8x10garden shed and a touring camping burner was used to boil water for mugs of tea.
During his time at the beat he designed and built the existing hut, including kitchen and comfortable seating area, decking and electricity into the hut.
Since coming back to the beat this year he has started working on his 2015 plans which include extending the decking area for outside dining.
Colin will collect guests coming to the beat for the day by train and local hotels.
Colin McFayden can organise your days fishing, accommodation and catering if required for your trip to Perthshire – read more
Woodlands Cottage the beats cottage is the perfect base for your fishing trip or holiday in the Highlands.
Sleeps 7/9 in 3 large double/twin rooms (extra beds available at £20/night) with 3 bathrooms, ( 2 en suite and one family) a well-equipped dining kitchen, sitting room with open fire and sofa bed, full central heating, wrap-around conservatory with dining table and panoramic views of the Tay Valley. Fishing is available on Dalmarnock beat where introduction to salmon fishing days are also available – read more.
Words by Anne Woodcock
Gallery of photographs below taken by Anne Woodcock