Each September for the last 4 years, my local fishing club, the Fenmore, based in Edinburgh, has been visiting Wick for a long weekend away, sampling the fishing venues and a few of the drinking establishments along the way. Having struck up a friendship with a local fishing club in Wick, the Back Bridge club, we decided in September 2007 to start up an inter-club competition, where we would fish against each other for a trophy as well as have a good laugh at the same time.
We obviously let the locals decide on the suitable venue, and so we got booked in to Harpsdale Trout Fishery, near Halkirk. This water is the most northerly still-water in Scotland, located approximately 10 miles West of the town of Wick in Caithness. It is a man-made water, developed over several years from a marsh into a very tidy and well run Troutmasters water with well stocked pools fed by a small burn.
There are 2 pools on Harpsdale, a smaller pool where you can catch and keep your fish and a larger water where fishers can move onto for catch & release only after they have their limit. We were all booked in for a 4 hour session including 2 fish limit then catch & release. The format for the competition was 8 men on each side all paired off to compete on a heaviest weight basis against a member on the other team.
Once fishing commenced and the 16 lines were cast out, it wasn’t long before the trout were being reeled in. In fact I reckon between 4 and 6 had a fish on in first cast and a few more hooked into one on the second cast. It was like an early morning feeding frenzy with the fish leaping out all over the place and most of them being taken on Yellow Dancers, White Rabbit or Fritz lures.
After the initial half hour of madness with fish being caught left, right and centre, things started to calm down a bit, and it seemed scores were almost even with nearly everyone on at least 1 fish. The fish weren’t chasing about after every fly or lure now so after catching my first fish early doors on a White Rabbit I changed onto a couple of okay dokey buzzers with an orange head and started fishing a bit slower retrieve. Almost every 2nd or 3rd cast I was getting pulls and tugs on the line and was surely a matter of time before I got a right good take and struck into a fish. Almost an hour later I finally did, but on a small red daiwl back this time. Most of the other anglers, with about 2 hours of the session gone, were already over on the catch and release lochan, and finally I could join them. I had 2 rainbows for about 5½ pounds and quickly headed over to the weigh-in shelter to register my tally for the competition. Having a quick look down the sheet it seemed that the average was about 2 fish for about 5 pounds so I definitely had a chance for a point I hoped.
I found the catch and release water a more interesting and challenging pond to fish on, as it had more of a drift, deeper channels, some shallower parts and overall a larger water where you could go looking for the fish and have a trek around. The dreaded highland midges were out in force though and were wreaking havoc with most of the Fenmore team. Some of the Backer team were laughing at us through their face nets, as most of them were well prepared and used to such conditions. One of our guys had some face lotion cream to hand though, so we all got a handful and plastered it on and it soon done the trick.
The fish seemed to be taking a wide variety of flies, with one of our guys catching half a dozen trout on a mixture of dry flies and daiwl bachs, while another took 3 trout on the Blob lure and a couple on the mini Nomad lure. I caught one more trout before the end of the day, an average 2 pound rainbow on the hot head damsel, and everyone else seemed to be having a successful day too. Only one angler, from the Backer team, didn’t catch the 2 trout limit on the smaller water and that one fish proved to be the difference between the teams, as the weigh-in had only ounces splitting the clubs. The Fenmore had won it 7 points to 5 and I was delighted to accept the trophy on behalf of the team.
Harpsdale had been an extremely enjoyable day out for all of us, and the owner and on-site manager, George had treated us all with great hospitality, laying on pies and beer at half-time of the competition and keeping a tally of the weights and points scored on each side. We all agreed at the time to come back and play a re-match, and so we did in September of this year. It was another close match with only ounces separating the teams again but the Backer club proved victorious on this occasion with a 7-5 reverse to win the trophy back, leaving the series tied a 1-1 so far but with more match’s to come in the future no doubt.
Visit the fishery online: www.harpsdalefishery.co.uk