Gartmorn Dam Fishery is located within the Gartmorn Dam Country Park in Sauchie. It is a large nature reserve popular with walkers, cyclists, sailing enthusiasts and last but not least, fishermen. The water contains both Rainbows and Brown trout but is presently in its 5th year of a Back to Brown campaign, whereby it is gradually returning itself to a brown trout only water as the seasons go by.
It was my local fishery when I was growing up and learning fishing during my school years and a place I will always return to throw a line out as I caught one of my finest ever brownies here off the dam head when I was 15 years old. It was a very strong fighting 3 pounder with amazing markings on it and almost pure yellow. Caught on a pheasant tail nymph, it was a great experience to land and admire it, and one I will always remember.
On this visit to Gartmorn though I was fishing out on a boat with my Grandad, taking part in a local competition run by regulars at the Woolpack Inn, Tillicoultry. The format was simple; whoever has the heaviest bag of fish at end of day wins the trophy, with a runner up prize of a crate of Budweiser from the pub. Having fished many times off the dam wall this was first time out fishing on a boat at the dam and I was looking forward to covering more of the water and trying different spots.
The day got off to a bad start for me though, as during a fly change I let my line drop into the water and it became tangled with the small propeller on the electric outboard. Not just a small tangle but so badly damaged that I had to chop it off and throw the remnants of my intermediate line into the bin that night.
It could only get better though, and it nearly got a great deal better half an hour later when I hooked into a fish as soon as my yellow hopper hit the water. The line tightened and I pulled the rod up striking into the fish and it turned on the surface of the water. It was some size of rainbow and it dived down quickly stripping line away before the line popped back to slack as it broke me off. Still, the short-lived tussle had blown the morning cobwebs away and I was in mood to get catching some trout now.
We moved the boat up towards the dam wall next letting the drift slowly take us down the length of the water. When fishing on a drifting boat I always try to fish into the wind so as to prevent catching up with the line too quickly and having to keep re-casting too often as needs be. On some past fishing trips out on a boat the conditions have been so windy that it is near impossible to punch a cast under the wind, so in those situations I try to cast slightly across the wind. But today that was no problem as the wind was quite light and perfect to get a cast out a good distance and use a slow retrieve as we were drifting down the water. I was using a single fly Damsel Marabou like the one shown in the photograph and was quickly into a fish, landing my first rainbow of the day to get off the mark in the competition.
After landing the fish we finished the drift and returned towards the dam wall again to start again, and straight away I was into another one. It was about a 2 pounder, same as before, and it looked like I’d found the winning combination for catching trout on this day with a slow drift, casting into the wind and slow retrieve. We returned to the dam wall again and I caught my third rainbow, so it seemed that the fish were sitting in the shallower, weedier water within 100 yards of the dam. All the boats were skulking about this area of the water now and it wasn’t long before a lot of them were getting into fish, and the trend continued for me as I caught my 4th rainbow again off the dam wall and on the Damsel Marabou.
Sod’s law struck soon after this 4th fish though, as I got well and truly snagged in the weeds and the fly ended up being snapped off, and of course had no more in my fly box. It would have been boring to catch on the same old fly all day so I changed over onto a small gold head Viva and was soon into another fish. This was the best fighting fish of the lot and took a few minutes to get landed, and I was well chuffed with the result, sitting back to admire a 2½ pound brown trout to add to the bag of rainbows. By now everyone on the boats around the area I was fishing were casting into the wind and slowly moving up and down the water catching fish close in off the dam wall. This hot spot worked wonders for most anglers so the competition was going to be a close call. The bag limit was 6 fish and about an hour before the session ended I hooked into my 6th and final trout, a rainbow, which was the heaviest of the bunch at around 3 pounds.
As it turned out only 2 anglers in the competition had caught their full limit of 6 trout and I had the second heaviest bag overall, so won myself a crate of Budweiser. I had a bit of a light hearted argument in the pub after the weigh in though, claiming that I should have taken the trophy due to the brown trout I landed, as all other fish caught were rainbows. There were no real sour grapes though and we all had a good few ales and banter about the days catch.
Gartmorn Dam is very reasonably priced in comparison to other waters and all boats come with an electric outboard so saves on the arm muscles and constant rowing. The area is very busy with walkers, cyclists, canoeists and lots more so don’t go expect a totally quiet fishing experience as you might on a water exclusive to anglers. Overall though, I have fond memories of the place and look forward to going back one day next season to hopefully catch another nice brownie.