Chatting the owner of Coldingham Loch I discovered we both shared a common love for Coldingham Loch arising from reading articles in the long gone Rod and Line fishing magazine. I took inspiration from my readings and fished Coldingham a few memorable times in the mid 1970's. The cap I spoke to took matters a bit further, he bought the place!
The loch is largely man made, but not recently. It was a originally stocked as a source of food for Coldingham Priory which dates back as far as 635 AD. When the monks built the fishery I know not but it remains, a fertile and very beautiful place to spend a day.
Arriving for the evening session, I looked down on the loch from the excellent fishing hut. Memories of my previous visits 30 years ago flowed back fresh as if it were yesterday. The woods to the left, the lily pads and reed beds, the boat mooring and the old boat house on the far bank were all unchanged save for the carefully maintained condition of the fishery and it's surroundings. Cattle no longer graze on the banks ensuring a resurgent growth of broom and wild flowers, the place is now an SSSI.
Enough of that though what about the fishing. The loch is no longer eutrophic which means it is a haven for aquatic life ensuring that there is ample food for the trout. Ephemerids, buzzers, sedges, alders abound in the loch, terrestrials fly in from the land, crustaceans and perch fry are all on the menu to produce superfit, over wintered rainbows, blues and brown trout. Coldingham is a fly anglers water whether you fish the top, nymphs or traditional wets flies.
Fishing is from bank and boat, for old times sake I chose to fish the bank. Tackling up I could see that fish were on the feed. I started fishing at the platform on the wooded bank. Some hawthorns were about so I tied on a dry and tried my luck. After a few short takes I changed to a hopper as crane flies drifted into the water, no response.
I have seen trout in a surface feeding frenzy on Coldingham, it is a sight to see but the at this time the surface activity was minimal. The next logical step was to go subsurface. Attaching a 4lb fluorocarbon long leader I tied on a black buzzer with a goldhead GRHE on the tail and moved along the left bank wading out into the clear water. Some fish were showing within casting distance so I began covering them, retrieving slowly being rewarded by few short takes. Knowing I was getting closer to the magic formula I began trying a few more combinations of buzzers and pheasant tails.
Things were getting frustrating, I just didn't seem to be able to connect with a fish. Making a final change to a single red epoxy buzzer with fluorescent cheeks I cast out leaving the fly to sink sedately before retrieving with a slow figure of eight. I was in business on my third cast. Not a tweek, not a tug, not a firm pull, I connected with a run away express train!
Line screamed off my reel and a few minutes later I palmed a nice 2lb fish from the water, palmed because I had forgotten my net, numpty!
Moving along the shore to where some fish were showing I recast and after ten minutes or so I had another almighty hit. Raising my rod into the fish I found myself attached to an uncontrollable rainbow determined to swim to the other side of the loch with a lump of blanket weed draped over the line, then all went quiet.
I reeled in slowly retrieving line unsure whether the weight I felt was fish or weed. It was a fish, close in a rainbow rolled on the surface. With steady pressure the fish came to the shore where I intended to gill it and nearly succeeded but the fish had other ideas and retraced it's route across the loch, this time going so fast it torpedoed across the surface for about twenty feet, not good for the blood pressure I assure you.
I called to an other angler to see if he had a net, unfortunately he didn't but offered to help. As my welcome help approached wading into the shallows the fish came slowly toward the shore, he reached towards the now placid fish to lift it and it was off again, this time through his legs!
The situation was either grim or pure slapstick depending on your perspective. I holding a thrumming fishing rod, the fish running deep and true, helper having his nether regions assaulted by a rapidly disappearing fly line while trying to step over the line and out of the way. After all participants had become reorganised the fish, amazingly, remained attached to be gilled skilfully and brought safely ashore. 5lbs 13ozs of feral rainbow.
I was told the fish had probably over wintered three years since stocking as they stock fish of about 2lbs, just above cormorant predation size. The story goes that there are rainbows and browns in the high teens in the loch.
In the 70's, at dusk, the then owner used to come down to the loch at 10pm and hammer the corrigated iron roofed boat shed with his walking stick to tell anglers their time was up.
Standing at the car park we would look upon the loch as the evening rise reached crescendo longing for another ten minutes fishing time while the owner speculated on how big the fish were. We all offered to fish on to resolve the mystery, but the owner never rose to the bait, departing with us to the sight of monster trout rolling on the surface guzzling down flies.
Coldingham has the size and depth to allow fish the space to evade anglers allowing them to grow on to magnificence, full finned, fit, resplendent.You really don't know what you are going to tangle with on Coldingham.
Flies to try: Buzzers (black, red), Sedges, Wickhams Fancy, Greenwells Glory, Black Pennel, Bloody Butcher, Pheasant Tails Nymph, GRHE, damsels, try Klinkhammers on the top. Fly life is plentiful, forget your fishery lures, nobblers and the like - go natural.
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