Recollections on a Big Dee Salmon

This was my third year of fishing on Balmoral so I had good knowledge of the pools and what flies worked well and where. Rain had freshened up the river and there was a slight hint of peat in the colour. Conditions didn’t look too bad but there was the threat of an easterly wind and it wasn’t exactly warm to say the least. I had already fished Scolbach in the morning and taken a fresh 7lb fish there. My youngest daughter had texted me that morning advising me of the arrival of a new grand-daughter of 8lbs 4 oz. I replied congratulations and advised her that her “salmon” was bigger than mine. I was however not to know what would happen later that evening. The ghillie headed home for tea so I moved back to Scolbach for another try. I specifically took my phone and car keys out of my pocket and left them with my car some 200 yards away. I’d recently had to replace the keys following an unplanned swim in the Wye and I was on holiday so why bother with the phone anyway? I was to regret this. Clambering down the steep back I waded in and fished the throat of the pool down. Scholbach is not a big pool and I was soon down to the rock where I’d taken the fish before lunch. I cast the fly to the right of the rock this time. The take, when it came, was dramatic and it almost pulled my arm out of its socket, such was the force. I was then conscious of a very large fish above me. I say above me as it was parallel with me and I was looking up to it for it was at the very least some 6 feet in the air. I assumed at this stage that my line, or the fish I had on, had spooked it. It was only when I saw my line hissing through the water following it that I realised I was indeed connected with this great brute of a fish. It jumped once again and I dropped the rod this time. I was not to see it for another half an hour for, after much head shaking, it bored deep and skulked offering huge resistance but little movement. I was convinced it would come off and was expecting that awful feeling of failure at any minute. When I know I’m well connected with a fish I have a ritual of glancing at my watch and noting the time. It was 5.55pm. It then ran to a routine where it continued up and down the pool before deciding to head downstream. There was no way I could have held it and a quick study showed a run of boulders for many yards and on under the Balmoral bridge. I’ve saved the day before by throwing fish line so I quickly released the disc drag and miraculously it turned and came back upstream and attempted to move up into Polmonier. I hate fish getting above me so I held my ground here and he moved back in the pool proper. Like Groundhog Day this was to repeat itself over and over again with me releasing the tension and then quickly fanning the reel to recover line when he turned. I could see cars on the main road opposite and willed one to stop, but this was not to happen. I looked back to the bank just hoping that someone would appear but the tourists are all away by then so it was just the fish and I. It was raining and my hood was up so I could actually hear my pulse moving from a steady beat when there was no movement of the fish, to a rapid one when he decided to move. I could do nothing with him but after about half an hour I was able to get him in closer and began to study where I would beach him. I finally saw his spade of a tail at about 6.25 and started to move backwards to a suitable position. I was exhausted at this stage but the fish seemed to remain in control and would draw out again into the pool. After 5 or 6 attempts I carefully steered him in onto the stones and got between him and the river and could finally see him in all his glory. It was 6.35. I reckoned he’d been up for about 3 weeks. He had that pinkish colour to his belly and his kype was not really pronounced as such. I placed the rod alongside him and the made a mark with my finger on the rod where his tail finished. This, on a Bruce and Walker 15 foot Norway Speycaster was about a couple of inches below the second rod ring. The fish seemed to stare right through me as I knelt to remove the fly, which fortunately came out very quickly thanks to barbless hooks. The next day it was pointed out to me that the other hook on the double was actually broken. I then turned him towards the current and noted the immense girth across his back – he was indeed a beast of a fish. I had thought of corralling him in with stones and running to the car to get my camera but I was concerned that this would cause problems. I stupidly didn’t even think of taking a scale from him either. I expected to hold him for some considerable time but this was not to be and with one sweep of his tail he was gone and I knelt there somewhat shaken, numb, but elated. I’ve taken fish on the Wye and in Russia to mid-20’s and I reckoned on him being 35lbs but I was well out, for, the following morning John arrived with his tape measure and reference card and at 50 inches 48 lbs. was the weight. Having now spoken to Ken Reid of the river Dee Trust the measurement should have been taken from the mid-point on the tail, so it is a few pounds below this figure. I am not complaining! How do I feel? Amazed, delighted and rather like someone who has broken the land speed record when the timekeepers, the mechanics and all the spectators have gone home for I have no proof, no photo and no witness to corroborate the event. Rather like Captain Ahab this is my Moby Dick and it will haunt me for ever. The news soon got out about the fish and several friends contacted me to say what a chump I was not to have taken a photo. One even stated that I should have clonked it on the head. I informed him that it was not exactly on given first of all where I was fishing, that my company has the Royal Warrant for two products and that there were also very strict rules on releasing fish anyway on the Dee. Additionally I am chairman of the trustees of the Wye & Usk Foundation and fully support catch and release so it would not be very good form to say the least! That evening I raised a glass to my fish and my new granddaughter. Fly fishing equipment used on my trip: Fly Fishing Rod - Bruce and Walker 15 foot 10/11 Norway Speycaster Fishing Fly - Size 14 Cascade double Fly line Rio - Rio AFS Outbound Floating Shooting Head Fly Line Fly Fishing Reel - Shakespeare Special Offer Pflueger Trion Fly Reels and Spools Leader Made up from c 25lb and 13.6lb Seaguar fluorocarbon Pool - Scolbach Date - Wednesday  6th June 2012 NJS James 11th June 2012