Cowden Mill Dam

July 1986 was a dry month with one or two spates near the end of the month and into August. There were no signs of any numbers of sea trout, except the odd one, in Cowden Mill Dam (in diary entries this will be known simply as “the Dam”) until Tuesday August 12th. By all accounts, there had been exceptional catches of salmon on the river Leven early on in the season. The following entries from my diary for the 1986 season may give an idea of a fairly typical sea trout season on the Endrick in the mid eighties.

Tuesday August 12th – Dam/Coolies – 10 pm to 2 am
1 sea trout

A dry, calm night, fairly mild with occasional cloud cover, no moon. River very low and clear, with hardly any flow in the Dam. A few fish showed in the Dam but no takers. I moved up to Coolies Lynn. No fish showing here but I had one fish at 1.45 am on a size 8 Mallard/pheasant tail plus three or four maggots. A fairly fresh hen fish of 2.5 lbs. Finished at 2 am.

Thursday August 14th – Dam – 11 pm to 3.30 am
2 sea trout

Heavy rain Wednesday morning had raised the level, which had since dropped, low enough for the floating line. Rain from midnight on. A mild night and a good number of fish in the Dam but few showing. The river level gradually rose but remained clear. A total of eight fish were caught including one of 7/8 pounds to Frank. I had two before midnight, one at 3.5 pounds on a size ten black and silver spider, the other on a size 8 pheasant tail spider at 2.5 pounds. Both fish fresh.

Friday August 15th – Dam

Very heavy rain through Friday night into Saturday morning would have resulted in a heavy spate on Saturday. I heard later that several salmon were caught on the Endrick during Saturday.

Monday August 18th – Dam  12 midnight – 4 am
8 sea trout

I arrived at the Dam at midnight (Sunday night) to find three other fishers had beaten me to it. A lovely mild, calm night, sky clouding over steadily to hide a low full moon. The river was running clear but with a bit of flow. A floating line seemed right. By way of experiment, I had added a few drops of coarse fishermen’s bait flavouring (Nuttract) to my maggots. Whether this attracted the sea trout or not, I have no way of telling, but I certainly had a good night. I fished my usual two spiders, one size 8 pheasant tail and one size 10 black and silver, with a few flavoured maggots on the bend of the hook. (Not fly fishing, I know, and not an easy way of fishing, as the maggots needed to be changed, by torchlight, every half dozen casts – a delicate business as the maggots must be hooked very lightly on fine hooks with small barbs to retain a lively action – and cast very gently (no pun intended!), but, as mentioned in an earlier entry, effective in the slow flowing pools of the Endrick). The sea trout were taking very lightly, perhaps a night for Falkus’s secret weapon, but I managed to take six fish on my first run down the pool ( fish caught all the way down) and two more on my second run, the majority taken between 12 and 3 am, with the largest just over three pounds and averaging about two and a half pounds, all very fresh fish – one even had sea lice, evidence that it had run straight through the Leven and Loch Lomond and on up the Endrick, a distance of nearly twenty miles. A great night, with a total of eight sea trout. Only two other fish were taken that night, so perhaps the Nuttract did the trick.

Tuesday August 19th – Dam  10 pm – 1.30 am
3 sea trout

A calm night with a full moon rising. Cloud cover at times but generally a very bright night. The river had dropped from last night and was running low, with a very slight flow, just enough for the floating line. Very few fish showing. The pool had been fished from daylight and too early into the darkness by a couple of fishers. Perhaps the fish took a little time to recover from the disturbance but I had three sea trout – 5 pounds, 3 3/4 pounds and 1 1/2 pounds, all very fresh, the two largest fish taken on a size 8 pheasant tail spider with four maggots (+nuttract) and the smaller fish on a size 10 black and silver spider. All fish taken between 11 pm and midnight in the top half of the pool. After midnight, the moon rose and some ground mist appeared. I gave up at 1.30. One other sea trout caught.

Thursday August 21st – Dam  10 pm – 2 am
1 sea trout

The river is running very low with no flow on the Dam. Some rain early in the evening had no effect on the river level. A cloudy evening which looked promising. I waited to get on the dam till 10.30. Jack had 3 sea trout by 11.30. I had one sea trout before midnight at the tail, a fresh fish of two pounds. Peter had 2 sea trout. The total for the night ended at 7 fish. It became cold and very windy, almost unfishable. It also became very bright after midnight. I gave up at 2 am. We need more rain.

Monday August 25th – Dam  12 midnight – 3 am

The Dam is too low now. Plenty of fish but none in a taking mood. A half moon tonight , and on the cold side but with a fair bit of cloud cover. Fished till 3 am without an offer. Need rain!

Thursday August 28th – Coolies/Dam 10 pm – 1 am

A nice night with a quarter moon and some cloud cover. Started cold but the temperature rose slightly towards midnight. Only one other fisher on Coolies. Very few fish moving, one or two at the tail. River too low for good fishing, hardly any flow and no takers. Tried the dam from midnight to 1 am. Met Peter coming off with nothing to show for his efforts. No other fishers. A few fish were moving but no flow at all. Weed had to be cleared from flies regularly, even with a short leader and a single small fly fished on the floating line. No fish.

Wednesday September 3rd  –  Black Lynn/Dam 7 pm – 2 am
2 sea trout

There had been some rain on Sunday night but not enough to bring the river up. On Tuesday, though, there was heavy rain during the evening and night till about 4 am and the river was rising and colouring by 1 am, ensuring a small spate on Wednesday morning.
Early on Wednesday evening, I fished down to the Black Lynn. The water was fairly low and dropping by 7 pm. A calm evening, cool but with enough cloud cover to hide the moon, followed a very bright day.  Twelve fishers had gathered at the dam for a nine o’clock start. I waited till 11 pm to get on and had no fish until 1 am, when I had two fish, both taken in the tail of the pool. Both were fairly fresh at 1 1/4 and 1 3/4 pounds. There was very little flow on the dam. In all, about ten fish were taken, the biggest at 4 lbs taken by Alec. Need a bit more rain!

Friday September 5th  – Dam 7 pm – 2 am
1 sea trout

There was light rain all evening but it had little effect on the level of the Endrick. A very dark night with no moon.  A fine drizzle continued on and off until about 2 am. I started at 11 pm with one size 10 fly as the water was low. No touches on the first run down the pool. The bright farm light was on most of the time. I began a second run down with 2 flies and hooked a good fish of 4 1/2 pounds at the bottom end of the run under the beech tree on the far bank. Size ten silver spider and a few maggots. The pool was fairly busy with seven or eight fishers but only one or two other fish were caught.

Monday September 8th  – Dam 1 am – 4 am

Only one other fisher on the dam. Water very low with minimal flow. Temperature dropped to about zero under a clear sky by 4 am. A calm cold night. A few fish in the pool but no takers. Need rain!

Monday September 22nd  – Dam 12 – 5 am

With no recent rain, the dam is the lowest I have seen it and very few fish have been caught in the last week or so.  Apart from the lack of flow, conditions tonight were ideal – a mild night with cloud covering the moon, although it was still quite bright throughout the night. Four fishers on the dam. Gerry lost a good fish. I didn’t have a touch and no fish were landed all night.

Tuesday September 23rd  – Gartness/Dam 8 pm – 1 am
1 finnock

Began just below the Pots of Gartness around 8 pm and fished down to the meetings. I had one finnock and two small chub but no sign of sea trout. Drove up to Cowden Mill for 11 o’clock, where I found Jack, Gerry and two others on the pool. There had been nothing caught. Fish were moving in the Dam but the water was very low with minimal flow. A nice night with the moon obscured by cloud most of the time but no fish.

Thursday September 25th  – Meetings 8 pm – 2.30 am
2 sea trout

A reasonably mild night, very calm with high cloud cover, clearing after 1 am and becoming cold and misty with half moon visible. River still very low. Saw only one other fisher who left around 10.30 with one small fish taken from the run out of the Meetings Lynn. I had two fish, one of 1 lb 6 oz at 11 pm and one of 1 lb 10 oz at 1 am on fly/maggot fished on a sink tip line, both fish quite fresh. Some very big fish moving.

Monday September 30th – Dam and Meetings

Rain all day Sunday resulted in a slight flow in the Dam at midnight. A very dark, mild night with steady drizzle but nothing was caught all night…not a tough! Decided to try the Meetings on the Monday night. Fished from 9.30 till 2 am. Fish seemed to be running, some of them big. Jack had one of 8 lbs early on. Apart from that, not a touch. A mild night, dark with no moon… and no fish again!

Wednesday October 1st – Stinky Burn 8 pm to 3 am
1 sea trout

A few fish were seen or heard moving. Not a cold night but very windy. The pool is sheltered, though. There had been earlier rain. I caught a dark cock fish of two pounds at about 9.30 but had no other touches, except from a half pound brownie. The river began to rise slightly until about midnight but remained very clear. Two other fishers on Coolies from midnight till 3 am. One fish was caught. It looked fresh but the method of hooking was suspect. I had no offers. Very windy early on but very calm by 2 am. Temperature also dropped and all fish activity ceased. I left Coolies without a touch.

Friday October 3rd – Coolies 10 pm to 2 am
1 sea trout

Tried the Stinky burn for an hour or so but no fish seen. Moved down to Coolies for 10 pm, where I found three other fishers. A nice night but the water low. I had one fish on fly/maggot, size 10, at 11 pm and lost another at 2 am. Jack had two. Total catch for the pool that night was eight fish. My fish was 1.5 pounds and fairly fresh.

Sunday 5th October – Coolies midnight to 2.15 am
1 sea trout

No other fishers. Very few fish moving. A mild night with occasional drizzle, calm to begin with but very windy later. Water very low. I had one fish on size 10 fly/maggot at 1.30, 1.5 pounds fairly fresh. gave up 2.15 when the wind got up.

Tuesday 7th October – Coolies 11.30 pm -2 am

Had a run down to Wilsons/Spring Flats and fished from 9 till 11pm. Only 2 small brownies and no other fish showing. A reasonable flow in Coolies but still a bit on the low side. Two other fishers with 2 coloured fish on the bank when I arrived, fishing bare flies with no maggots. I had my doubts about the hooking method! I had one very fresh fish of 1.5 pounds below the burn mouth on a size 10/maggots. Became very clear and cold about 1.30 onwards.

Thursday 9th October – Coolies 11.00 pm -2 am
4 sea trout

Had a try in Cowden Mill dam from 7.30 to 10.30. A reasonable flow but no fish except a big eel. I arrived at Coolies at 11 pm to find Bill had had three fish. A good flow with the river running above the stone. Plenty fish about but a very strong upstream wind made it difficult to cast and keep in touch with the flies. Using a sink tip with size ten flies, I had four fish, one at 2.5 pounds and three about a pound each, between 11 pm and 1 am. Also hooked one in the tail!

Friday 10th October – Coolies 7.30 pm -1 am

The water had dropped but there was still a fair flow, too fast at the top of the pool for the floater, too slow for sink tip or neutral. Very windy early on but calmed towards midnight. Jack had two fish up to 2 1/2 pounds and one or two others were caught. I didn’t have a touch.

Thursday 14th October – Coolies 7.30 -11 pm
1 sea trout

The water was slightly higher with a good flow for the floating line throughout the pool. Some cloud cover to obscure a full moon early in the evening. Five fishers on the pool. I had one fish at the neck of the pool of 2 1/4 pounds, on a size 10 silver spider. The sky cleared about 10 pm and the temperature dropped. Gave up 11 pm.

Wednesday 29th October – Dam dawn till dusk

Last Sunday and Monday saw heavy rain and some snow on and off, resulting in a high spate Sunday night and into Monday. On Wednesday, I fished the dam from daybreak. The river was running at a nice height and colour in the morning but there were few signs of fish. Water began to rise and colour about ten am. No fish caught. I heard later that some good catches had been made at night on Drumtian.

All in all, a poor season with a total of 29 sea trout.

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