fly fishing

Winter Fly Fishing 2nd Feb 2019 by martin bennie

I had been sent some photos by a friend this day of the Potarch bridge near Banchory and decided about 2pm to head there for some low sunlight shots with the ice. Unbeknown to me, it was the first day of the Salmon season on the river Dee and there was a gathering of guys fly fishing in the ice flows. I’d never seen this done before, so asked to take their photos as they tried to catch a salmon. As i watched them fish, i could hear the laughter and banter from the other guys behind me and it was only later, that i noticed the whisky was flowing as fast as the river.

The river Dee is one of the most famous salmon rivers in the world, but now stocks are low and this has become a catch and release river. One of the guys who had organised the event, also worked for the Aberdeen fishery board and he talked passionately about his hobby and work and explained in detail to me why stocks were low and why we could not seem to improve it without upsetting people.

I remember back in the 1980’s walking down at the beach at Aberdeen and there were salmon nets strung all along the beach front at Bridge of Don and anytime i walked past just at low tide, these were being emptied of huge salmon by local fishermen. These nets are long gone and stocks have fallen dramatically. Now we find dozens of seals and otters inhabit the rivers and coast lines adjacent to them. It is fabulous to have these creatures back in their natural environemnt, but we have no natural predators to control their population and they are devastating the fish as they enter or leave the rivers. If they are catching salmon coming up the river to breed, then we lose all these eggs that ensure the future of salmon. At the Ythan estuary further north, there are now over 1000 seals now basking at the mouth of the river and as you could imagine, thats a lot of feeding they require. I heard a story recently of seals there eating a Swan, though i can only imagine how hungry they must be to chew through all that feathers. People are finding that if they catch a fish there nowadays, the seals are taking them from the hook as they reel them in.

All of this has nothing much to do with my photography, but i find that being out and about and meeting people who both love and work in the countryside is one of the enjoyable things about photography, and ive had some great conversations with people that are like minded and out and about in the country. If im standing there taking photographs, people will come over for a look in my screen to see what it is im seeing. Nine times out of ten, im doing long exposure and as they look at the scene with a quizzical look on their face, thinking perhaps thats its not that interesting and then when i show them the water blurred or the clouds moving in the shot, it changes their understanding of what you can see if you just use your imagination.

They say a good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning. I have a passion for photography that drives me out almost every day to walk and find new scenes and destinations. Sometimes i follow the light and clouds in my car, with some good sounds on, all the while turning left or right as i feel the intuition to do so. Sometimes i walk many many miles looking to make photographs and perhaps 80% of the time i never take my camera out the bag, because the light is not right for that scene or perhaps i cant find anything of interest to use as the foreground. All these places go into my memory for future use should the light ever dictate its time to return there.