Chasing the Wild Trout of the Delightful Deveron
by Allan Liddle
Rising in the Scottish uplands of the Ladder Hills just short of the Buck of Cabrach, the Deveron is without doubt a true gem and one that should be on every angler’s ‘Bucket List.’
Famed as a salmon stream and home of the largest fly caught salmon in the UK (Clementina ‘Tiny’ Morison’s tremendous 61-pound fish from the Mountblairy Beat in 1924) the Deveron still produces a notable salmon return each season, particularly towards the second half of the season. But it is also, without doubt, one of the best wild brown trout rivers to be found anywhere in the UK, in fact (despite being a little biased) I would say it is the best one that certainly I have encountered.
From March 15th right through to October 6th good trout fishing can be had on this stunning river although it’s also fair to say that Springtime offers the most consistent sport with the trout keen to feed off the surface on a range of up-wing insects from March Brown, Large Dark Olives, Brook Duns, through to smaller Small Dark and Blue Wing Olives that appear as you move through June and into July. That said as September progresses then both the hatches of olive flies and the hunger of the trout increases again so ‘end of season’ forays can be very productive.
The Deveron holds not only a good head of resident wild trout, but also some of excellent size with wild anglers prizing these fish which are the ones that live long in the memory. As wild trout grow and gain size in a natural self-sufficient way then it is generally regarded that any trout for three pounds and above is what we trout fanatics call a ‘Trophy Trout’ and the Deveron can certainly produce fish like this.
Recently, whilst working with the Deveron trust through an electronic tagging programme the larger browns in the system were monitored and the findings were both surprising as well as very revealing; the big Deveron trout tend to spawn together on the same tributary at the same time of year; early September which is before the rest of the trout population and essentially still within the trout fishing season.
This suggests that these trout breed big trout although growth rates are much the same as the other river residents, the thinking is that the off-spring hatch out first meaning they feed freely first at the food sources around therefore reaching size and eventually maturity before the others. It does also mean, however, that these small trout face earlier predation, susceptible to more extreme weather events and the like as well as obviously being vastly outnumbered by their smaller later hatching relations. The adage of ‘Remove a large trout and another will take it’s place’, isn’t strictly true as the studies also noted that this is a precious resource and easily susceptible to over-fishing with their place being taken up with the smaller trout. Certainly this isn’t a scenario anyone would want and as such the Trust recommend that all trout three pounds and above are carefully returned to ensure the survival of these large ‘Deveron Leopards.’
Personally, I can say that yes you can catch these fish again and yes, I do have multiple caught trout each season with the gill colourations and spotting on each unique as well as the usual scars and wounds that they often carry making identification easy. The Trust can also run gill plate photos through recognition software identifying individual trout further helping to note each fish caught again and further evidence that these large trout really are more valuable to only be caught once.
And as for hunting them the Deveron is a river that offers a wide variety of different water from long slow deep pools through to fast shallow runs and glides, perfect environment for river trout. The Middle sections of this river certainly hold a lot of trout with Deveronside Fishing waters of Upper Netherdale, Carnousie and Ardmiddle being amongst the best beats you can chose to chase the residents of this beautiful river.
Personally, I love to fish dry fly to rising trout, or in likely locations where these fish might respond to a well-placed dry running over them, and it represents the method I almost always chose over all others.
Nowadays modern dry flies tend to be along the style of ‘Emerging Insects’ (insects in the final act of hatching out towards adulthood as they struggle through the surface film) and are tied more to imitate a ‘half in half out’ emerging insect. Flies such as Klinkhamer, Parachute Hackle, Cull de Cunard Wing or even hackled flies trimmed ‘level’ on the underside to let the body lie slightly below the surface would be the most used pattern styles of today.
Not that good old fashioned wet flies like Greenwell Glory, Snipe and Purple, Grouse and Orange or Hare’s Lug are not worth having, they certainly are. Wet fly ‘across and down’ is still an effective, relaxing and enjoyable way to chase the resident trout.
More modern ‘Nymph Style’ (imitating the insects in their early bottom dwelling form) tactics are also effective and more and more anglers utilising these in the search for Deveron trout, especially very early in the season when the hatches might not have commenced yet, or in the warmer summer months when the fish tend to head for the streamy flows where more oxygen can be found.
So, what you have in the Deveron as a trout stream is a water that can offer spectacular fishing over a wide range of different water styles, sometimes easy, often difficult but always enjoyable and completely engaging. As I’ve said already, for me simply the best trout stream we have in this country.