Nigel Duncan on fishing: Scotland's ladies team make best of it after cancellation

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Scotland's ladies fly fishing team are looking on the bright side of life despite the cancellation of the scheduled Home International in Ireland.

The delay allows five new recruits from different areas of Scotland to be bedded into the team and it also allows the squad to fund raise for the trip to Llyn Brenig in Wales in June 2024.

It's one of the premier top-of-the-water trout fisheries in the United Kingdom and chairman Helen Philp said the squad will be fully prepared for the 23km lake.

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Fife-based Philp confirmed that there are 12 anglers plus a reserve in the squad and it is a costly business equipping an international team and top of the priority list is a coach to take the party south. That would give the women a real chance to bond and discuss tactics.

Helen Philp and her daughter, Amy at Pottishaw, discussing tacticsHelen Philp and her daughter, Amy at Pottishaw, discussing tactics
Helen Philp and her daughter, Amy at Pottishaw, discussing tactics

She added: "We can talk flies, we can talk fly tying en route. The whole trip is hugely expensive and unless we do fund-raising we could not go. You name it, we do car boot sales and approach fisheries like Pottishaw to do fund-raising events for us.

"The owner of Pottishaw, Fraser Thomson, is very keen to encourage ladies into angling so this is a win-win situation for us as we are encouraging new ladies into our squad."

Currently, the senior members of the squad are spending some time with the girls tutoring on different methods and increasing their skill set, including how to prepare casts. Some of them are working on tying their own flies for the first time.

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"They may have been out fishing with their partners or fathers and they have been in the habit of doing everything for them. We'll teach them what they need to know and we will help and encourage them along.

Glencorse looking towards the Pentland HillsGlencorse looking towards the Pentland Hills
Glencorse looking towards the Pentland Hills

"It can be very daunting taking up fishing, especially a women as a woman going to a fishery on her own can be quite daunting. We've had it over the past years where people did not accept ladies turning up at fisheries on their own.

“We've worked hard to get to the point where the fisheries see us as anglers, not women. Fishing is, however, not just about casting a line. We have had one open day for ladies through at Burnhouse Fishery and that was one of our main objects. We had a classroom situation where we taught them about why you would pick that type of fly and consideration of what the weather conditions are.

“You are on your own in an international match but, hopefully, you have done your work with the team ahead of the competition."

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She urged women to consider fishing as a hobby and said: “I will tell you the story of how I got into fishing. My husband fished and if I wanted to see him I had to go where there was water.

“He fished every opportunity he could and I used to go along in Loch Leven on a boat and read a book. Eventually I started to fish for an hour or two and then extended that and when I first qualified to fish for the international team I could not touch a fish.

“I used to take a bar towel with me and hold the bar towel over the fish and at that time everything was catch and kill. When it came to chapping the fish on the head I would say: 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry.'

“I could not think I could like anything like that but fishing is not just about the catching part of it. It is good for well-being, it is good for your mental health, it is good being out in the fresh air to look at all the bird life.

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“The amount of times we stop fishing and we watch a bird like the osprey that is all part of it and competition is a different side of things as you have to be very focused and up on all the methods and techniques."

Casting is not the easiest element but new anglers should not be put off by that and Philp said: “If they have go the time and patience there are plenty of people who can encourage them.

“We started a buddy system some years ago and some of the team who are knowledgeable are happy to take somebody out who lives in their area and spend a bit of time with them. We are not giving them tuition, we are not charging them, we are just giving them support and spend some time with them.”

If anybody is interested in the buddy scheme then details are on the Scottish Ladies Angling Association website and Philp said: “If you are starting out it can get expensive but it does not have to be a Hardy rod at £500. It could be a Shakespeare at £60.

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“It odes not have to be a £400 reel. We often have extra tackle and we are happy to hand over a rod or reel and even flies and let them get started. Some of the fisheries do the same as they have items which may have been left unclaimed and they will offer them out to people.

“It does not have to be expensive. I don't have expensive gear. Some people will spend £200, £300 or £400 on a fly reel. Mine was £80 with four spare spools which is more than adequate for what they need.

“I have used that for the last five years. The one before that was £23 and I only changed as I broke it. You don't have to have 30 lines. The fish don't know what you have in your tackle box. If your line is in the water with a fly on it you have a chance of catching a fish."

Philp stressed the newcomers can work on improving their casting but they definitely need to home in on why a certain fly should be used as she wants women to catch fish, not turn up at a fishery and wonder why the trout are non coming out to play.

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And the chairwoman said: “We all have blank days, you can have more blank days than good days, but again, it is not just about catching fish, it is just part of it. If you have thought about fishing then definitely give it a go. Most of the fishery owners would be more than encouraging for you to come along and have a shot."

Elsewhere, Glencorse Reservoir owner Bill Taylor has confirmed that fishing afternoon and evening fishing is now available from 2pm to 10pm at the popular water with four, six and eight hour sessions on offer. Ring to 0131 440 2572 or 07703 255955 to check availability. Day fishing is from 8.30am to 4.30pm and Glencorse is closed on a Monday.

Milhall near Polmont continues to fish well, particularly in mornings and late evening. Diawl bach, PTN, crunchers and cormorants were among the patterns which scored well as did suspender buzzers, CDC dries and daddy long legs.

Among the best catches were M Ball who tempted 12 and D Blair returned 11 with W Scott, G McEntee and R Couper each returning nine fish. Military Veterans Fly Fishers have confirmed a friendly yet competitive team event against a Scotland Select from October 18 to 20 this year at the Lake of Menteith.

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This is a 16-man/woman team event with two official practice days on September 18 and 19 and there will be a buffet supper and presentation at the Lodge after the weigh-in. The team will be announced on July 1 and to express an interest contact [email protected]

Sea fishing

Dunbar-based Chris Empson bagged eight fish to win the fifth round of the Bass Rock Shore Angling League at St Abbs Harbour. He totalled 196cm and second was his fellow Scottish international, Barry McEwan (Port Seton), who totalled six fish measuring 178cm.

Shaun Gardner from North Berwick had two fish for 55cm for third and William Stafford (Edinburgh), who won round four, was next best with two fish for 52cm with James Ogilvie (Haddington) fifth with two fish for 50cm.

Keith Forbes was sixth with a 31cm fish and Steve Biskup seventh. McEwan, who fishes for Scotland in Italy later this year, had the longest fish at 36cm and the next round is on Wednesday, June 28 at a venue to be decided.

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Aquamarine Charters from Eyemouth have started midweek fishing trips out of Eyemouth. Phone Derek on 07860 804316 for availability. They are full this weekend but recent catches have included cod up to 10lb of Marshall Meadows with squid the best bait currently.

Finally, Round three of the Pike Anglers Alliance For Scotland, Daiwa-backed, Prorex Lure League, was cancelled at Linlithgow Loch on Thursday because of the high water temperature.

Bryan Chalmers, editor of the PAAS magazine, said: "When the water reaches 19/20c it is not safe to fish for pike as they suffer due to lack of oxygen in the water. All responsible pike anglers will have put away their rods for the time being."

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