Letters From Britain #1 with Robbie Bell

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Good Morning,

I have not been fishing since yesterday…

Loch Style Competitions are finished for the season but some venues are open until the end of November.

So I spent the day on Coldingham Loch with my friend Mark Howard.

I picked Mark up at his house just outside my hometown of Berwick on Tweed which is located on the east coast of England and only 2 miles south of the Scottish Border. We drove the 30 minutes north up to the Loch arriving at 08.30 to find relatively benign weather and even an odd fish rising.

We have both fished this well stocked water for over 25 years and I average about 20 visits a season. Mark just a bit less.
So with a number of “International Caps” as well as various Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals behind both of us we looked forward with confidence to our usual steady day of around 20 fish to the boat.


The day started in the accustomed fashion with the owner Gareth getting the kettle on and a “brew” made.
Good old Yorkshire Tea even though Gareth is from Lancashire… War of the Roses and all that…

Anyway after the brew and a blether we were out on the water around 09.30.

As we motored out on the electric outboard we noticed several more cars arriving so it was obvious that we would have company but there is always plenty of room. It is nice when the place is quiet but also good when you have other anglers as information is usually shared around and you can often learn a lot by just watching.

Noting the line colours and countdown as well as retrieves. Perhaps a glimpse of a Blob being launched out!

I had two rods made up. A Greys XF2 9 feet 6 inch # 6 with three small dries and a 10 feet XF2 Comp Special #8 with a couple of Fulling Mill Northern Spiders on a Fast Glass. Mark uses the 10 feet XF2 Comp rod in a #7.

Two rods set up is not allowed in our Loch Style Competitions but is allowed on pleasure and practice days and if two partners are practicing four rods set up can quickly cover a lot of ground.

I started on the dries but more in hope than expectation. Although we had seen a few fish moving they can be very selective at this time of year particularly before the day warms up. Mark started on a Slow Glass with cast of cats and cormorants.
A good hedged bet.

At three o’clock in the afternoon I was fishing a team of four size 14 Diawl Bach’s and Buzzers on a Midge Tip line when the wind suddenly veered and as our boat and my line swung quickly around and a fish took my point fly.
Six hours to hook my first fish and a lucky one at that! This was new territory for me on Coldingham.

I was earnestly willing this Rainbow not to drop off as my 10 fish ambition and expectation (and about my average catch on the Loch) had been reduced to saving the blank!

Netted… thank God for that and me an atheist!

Well that really was a relief although mine and Marks pride was continuing to be dented by news of steady if not spectacular catches all over the Loch.

We were the last ones to come ashore by which time everyone else had left and so we did not have the ignominy of answering the inevitable questions of…

“How did you get on?” Only 3 and Mark 2!

Followed by raised eyebrows and satisfied expressions that said “That’s those “professionals” put in their place!”

I did end the day with three including 2 in the last hour on the Northern Spiders with my pal Mark stuck on 2 for the last five hours or so.

20 fish to the boat… we should be so lucky!

Until the next cast.

Best Regards


1. It pays to be always humble as the fish have a vote and sometimes they use it.

2. Old fashioned flies and methods still have their day.

3. Less is often more and an old boys single fly often out fishes a “professionals” team of four.

4. Always hang back until everyone else has left if you have had a bad day.

5. Get in early if its been your day and forget No 1.

After an hour without a pull, follow or swirl we were beginning to be a bit puzzled.

This was further compounded by two old boys who were just starting, anchoring their boat just off to our left and with the rope on the downwind side! As the boat swung round the right way one of them managed to hook a fish and his partners line with his first cast. So we had the spectacle of two blokes, who could have been out of “Still Game” which is a comedy show about some pensioners from Glasgow, both playing the same fish!

Between them they managed to get it in the net and so despite giving us an hour start we were 1-0 down to a couple of old geezers in wax jackets and flat tweed caps. Better hide some of our flashy badges…

After about another two hours with many changes of flies and lines between us Mark had a fish.
A nice Rainbow around 3 lbs which is typical of this water.

When I asked him which fly his answer was a Black Pennell. Now this is a good old fashioned fly but the name is often used in this part of the world as a friendly joke when you don’t want to tell anyone what you actually caught on.
However this time it really was the fly that worked.

It is a blast from the past and Mark probably tied it on while subconsciously thinking about what the old boys might have caught on.

Another hour or so went by and Mark had his second fish. So I was 2-0 down and barely able to believe that about four fishless hours had gone by.