‘Biggest prize in British fly fishing’ on offer at the Harelaw Pairs

Ross Murdoch was determined to celebrate the first year of his lease holding with a special event despite these challenging times and he has confirmed a prize fund of £5,000 for the Harelaw Pairs, claimed to be the biggest prize in British fly fishing.
Ross Murdoch and his German Shepherd dog Alba at the Harelaw fishery.Ross Murdoch and his German Shepherd dog Alba at the Harelaw fishery.
Ross Murdoch and his German Shepherd dog Alba at the Harelaw fishery.

Lothians anglers were involved in the first staging last year when Steve Welsh from the Borders and his friend Graeme Bell from Cumbria topped the podium.

News of the the 2021 event has spread quickly and, within hours, only two spaces were left for the first two heats of the competition.

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Murdoch stressed that the competition will only go ahead if Scottish Government rules allow and he said he must plan ahead, adding: "After a very successful Harelaw Pairs last season I promised I would bring this competition back bigger and better this year, so here we go."

The first prize is £3,000, the runners-up will win £1,500 and the third-placed pair are to receive £500.

There are four qualifying heats using the 16 boats available at the fishery. The top top eight pairs in each heat go through to semi-final.

There are two semi-finals each featuring the 16 boats with the top eight in each advancing to the final featuring 16 pairs.

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The cost is £100 per pair for the first qualifying heat and £80 per pair after that. There is a ten-fish limit to the boat and pairs can enter as many qualifiers as they wish if space is available.

The dates for the qualifiers are Saturday, May 29 and Sunday, May 30 plus Saturday, July 10 and Sunday, July 11. The semi-finals are on Saturday, August 21, with the final on Sunday, September 26. It’s a 9.30am start for all rounds and boats must be back in harbour by 4.30pm.

Murdoch added: "If you and your fishing partner would like to take part contact me as soon as you can." He is taking a £25 deposit to secure a qualifying place with the remaining £75 to be paid on the day.

Fario Fly and Rods and Reels Scotland are the main sponsors and Murdoch said the maximum fly size will be to Scottish Club Champions rules.

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He added: "Boobies and Fabs are allowed but no weighted or beaded flies are allowed along with no light omitting flies with a maximum of four flies to be fished from each angler. However, barbed hooks are allowed."

There is a maximum of one rod for an individual angler and fishing is from a drifting boat with the aid of a drogue. No anchoring or trolling or fishing from behind the boat is allowed.

Also, anglers are not permitted to stand on the boat to cast but they are allowed to stand to play fish or stretch their legs.

Brown trout hooked will not count and must be returned.

Murdoch added: "Winners and placings will be determined by overall bag weight. There is no time bonus for finishing early, however time returned to harbour will be used to determine qualifiers/winners if there is a draw with total bag weight."

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Meanwhile, Glencorse owner Bill Taylor is keeping his fingers crossed that the Scottish Government rules are relaxed sufficiently to allow his popular fishery in the Pentland Hills above Flotterstone to re-open on Saturday, March 27.

He is in receipt of the up-to-date rules which acknowledge the importance for physical and mental well-being derived from outdoor exercise.

Angling is currently permitted provided this is within a single household group, or the group contains no more than two people from two different households. Children under the age of 12 from these households do not count towards this number.

You can travel for local outdoor sport or exercise but anglers are requested to stay within their local authority or no more than five miles from the boundary of that authority.

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Taylor said Glencorse is a boat-only facility with no bank fishing. Gatherings for fishing competitions, club outings or group meetings are not permitted, he said, under the current Scottish Government restrictions.

He said: "I am waiting for the First Minister's scheduled announcement on February 22 but I am boat fishing only and the restrictions currently in place make it difficult.

"I have gone on social media this week to alert my customers that it may not be possible to re-open."

Good news, however, for devotees of popular Rosslynlee Fishery near Penicuik. Owner Nicola Perfect said they plan to open today after a lengthy spell closed due to ice. She said: "It’s been super hard, but hopefully there is a good season ahead."

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And Bowden Springs boss Jim Gargaro says his two lochs are thawing out nicely. "We will be officially opening again for Monday (February 22)," he said.

Pottishaw near Whitburn re-opened on Thursday and Cammy McIver was the first rod of the season. He landed two "bonny" over-wintered browns and some cracking rainbow trout, according to owner Fraser Thomson.

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