Wednesday 10 September 2008

The Carron Dam - A Day in My Youth

Being originally from Kilsyth, I've been fishing the Carron Dam for over thirty years. In the early days as a wee boy, myself and my mates would walk into the dam from our houses in Castlehill View. I remember those days with fondness. Long summer days as they seem now, when we would trap newt's above the high line, collect birds eggs all around Kilsyth and trap minnins in the burns. We'd swim in the Kings Lynn which was a deep pot high on the river Garrell and gudddle for troots in " The Strawberry ". Times when we had not a care in the world - great times.

The first time I ever fished the Carron Dam was with my best pal Stuart Tripney, now a fishing guide in Queenstown New Zealand and my second cousin Robert Stirling. It's many years since I've seen either Robert or Stuart but decided to write the details down while I can still remember them with at least some clarity.

It was as usual early morning when we left in what must have been the height of summer. I can't remember which month it was but the sky was clear and blue. Hardly an ideal day for fishing but we were young and fish would have been a bonus - unless you were Stuart in which case it allways seemed to be a certainty. Out the high line we walked till we made our way to the Tak Ma' Doon Road. A road which bounds the Colzium Estate and can also tak you up as well as Doon, depending on where you're going. It joins with the Crow road by way of the Carron Valley and Fintry to return to the Kelvin Valley and complete a circuit of almost the entire Campsie Fells.

Kilsyth and the Colzium Estate abound with history. From ancient Caledonian hill Fort's in the Campsies on the North of the Kelvin Valley, which were formed as a result of volcanic activity, to the Antonine wall in the lower hill ranges to the South. The Colzeum estate itself was where curling was invented and the staging ground for the battle of Kilsyth on August 15th 1645, where the Covenanter's under charge of William Baillie were defeated by the outnumbered Royalists commanded by the " The Great Montrose ". Baillie, despite a command of the high ground and the support of the Earl of Lanark and his troops coming in from the South was ordered by the "Committee of the Estates", a group of Earls Lords and clergymen into a suicidal flanking manouvre where the Covenanter's were routed in the Dullatur Bog. Stories tell that it ran red with the blood of dead Covenanter's as almost three quarter's of the force were slaughtered therein and almost a hundred years later at the cutting of the Forth and Clyde canal whole dead soldiers astride their mounts were still being recovered.

Onto the dam we tramped in what became an almost blistering flat calm day. The Minnin's or minnin's were out but the was no luck on the shores of a water where we were not supposed to be. We had no permits and it was fly only. We'd played with the fly rod's had a go at them everyone from Kilsyth did as boys but that was after you'd learned how to fish " The Diving Minnow ". It was in this dark art you learned your craft, the tools of trade being a flask or container to hold the live bait, barrel weights to get the cast out far and long a size 2 eyeless nylon whipped Aberdeen hook and a 4 inch darning needle to thread the bait to the hook. It would be unwise of me to produce a diagramme of this method as it is deadly. Not so much in that it will kill the fish it catches, but more so in it's fish attracting and catching abilities. The bait when fished is dead so is treated as humanely as possible. The quarry when it hit's is usually caught in the side of the mouth and the Minnin' with the barrel weight shoots up the line so providing a good fight and should release be a choice then so be it. More often in those days however it was not and fish could expect a quick despatch at the hands of the angler's " Priest " so called as it was required to administer the last rights.

The day wore on and we became bored so we started feeding the gulls with our pieces. Cheese pieces and gulls seem to go well and we soon had an entertaining flock on our hands. In days gone by or had we been in the Army we wouldn't have thought twice about baiting a line and hook with some bread and taking a gull or two for the pot as the fishing was unproductive but we didn't and I've never tasted seagull to this day and never wish to.

While we were attracting the attentions of the gulls, in low water levels on the dam, it soon came to our attention the gulls were attracting the attention of other not so airborne hunters. It also became quickly apparent we were not the only anglers on the water as three boats were heading towards us tout suite and no doubt the Bailiff was aboard one of them. Now we had heard stories about what this guy could do to you. If you were lucky, you'd leave with your behinds intact otherwise you were likely to receive a good kick up the backside, have all your gear confiscated and end up turned over to the local Polis as well. Geez they knew how to deal with poachers in those days.

Anyway as you do I had a last cast with the Minnow and I swear the trout must have seen it coming because as soon as it hit the water - bang fish on. Now what do you do with three boats heading straight at you and a fish on the line when you've no permit and you're using the minnow on a fly only water? The answer is of course simple, keep reeling and head for the trees.

The fish was landed, all one and a half pounds of a lovely Broonie and we were well gone before the boats got to where we'd been fishing and that was our day on the Carron Dam well and truly gubbed.We were however unbeaten and the Faughlin reservoir was on the way down the road but that's another story.

I hope to dig out some old photaes to compliment this editorial soon, but until then I hope you enjoy reading and conjuring up the pictures of three wee boys on a big water on a cracking summer's day with a cracking fish to boot hightailing it into the trees with one thing on their mind - more fishing.

Here's a photo I managed to dig out of the days catch.


Going by where the photo was taken I would have been either twelve or thirteen which dates the picture at 1979 or 1980.

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  1. I live in cumbernauld and have a lot of family in kilsyth.I fish the garrell burn further up from the kings lynn quite regularly. Tiny trout but they scrap pretty well on a 3 weight rod! a beautiful setting and more fun than you could ever ask for, and it see's a lot less visitors than it would have done then.

  2. I have been up in that area fishing last season. Lovely scenery.what type of fish are in the faughlin resevoir and are they of decent size.
    Was going to fish it but was unsure if i needed a permit?