Friday July 27, 2018

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A Tale of Dap and Cow Pat

Written by Alan Goodwin

Gerry, Tim and I had caught the bus from Glasgow to Lochwinnoch early that Saturday morning. We were off to a small loch in the hills above Queenslie Muir.

We were a bit apprehensive though, as we really should not have been there.
It was a small private loch, syndicated to a few well heeled gents, and guarded by an old, gnarled gamekeeper with a mean disposition. Gerry had found it one day as he wandered the hill looking for a World War 2 bomber that had crashed in 1944. One of the engines had been dug out and could now be seen by observers. He reported back that he had found not only the crash scene but more importantly, a lovely wee loch full of brown trout.

We had fished it, well maybe poached it would be a better description, on more than a few occasions and some lovely breakfast fish we had from it too.

A small burn tumbled out from it and it was along this we crept, avoiding the gamekeeper's cottage. Occasionally we were spotted and a chase ensued, but we were fit in those days and easily outpaced him.

A boyhood matinee diet of Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger normally served us well in our endeavours to keep hidden from sight.

On this particular Saturday, we had got up to the loch unobserved or so we thought. The wily old so and so had indeed seen us and had crept up unseen. Sensing his presence, we grabbed our gear and a few fat trout we had caught, then bolted down the burn, with him in hot pursuit.

"That was a close thing. He nearly had us", said Gerry, as we lay beside the wee waterfall pool downstream puffing and panting to regain our breath. "Day's not wasted though", said Gerry, always the innovator of our wee party. "Let's dap the wee pools under the overhanging birch and rowan". Not for us the palmers or dry fly, it was the real stuff for us. We would catch mayfly, caddis in season, anything big enough to impale on a small bait hook, poke through the overhanging trees and dap on the dark stained water. Always a way to winkle out a 'better trout', this method.

A quick scour of the surrounding grass yielded very few suitable specimens, just a couple of moths and a crane fly. Noting a cow pat teaming with cow dung fly, we broke off a few small leaf branches from a convenient bush and,
creeping along, we rose up and swatted it, trapping some in the gooey mess. I got a bit stuck in my mouth, which caused a bit of laughter from the other two. Gingerly we picked out the trapped flies and stuck them into an old bait tin.

With a sense off foreboding, I squinted to the side and there, sitting on the hill above, us was his nibs, complete with his old sheepdog, observing us in silence. Warning the others, we upped sticks and ran for our lives, but this time no pursuit ensued.

Looking back, we saw him and his dog beating a hasty retreat. He had followed us all the way downstream, unobserved, the fly old devil and his dog. But why the retreat? We had no idea. Later on, as we sat and had lunch, we speculated on how the conversation at his home may have gone.

Gamekeeper: "Chased them wee bastards that have been poaching the loch....... thought they had escaped me but good ol' Shep sniffed them out."

Wife: "Aye you have been after them for a while. Poor wee souls, they are only fishing."

Gamekeeper: "Bloody poachers, boys or no'". "You'll never believe this though. Caught up with them at the wee waterfall and you will never guess what I saw them doing."

Wife: "Go on, pray tell."

Gamekeeper: "Well, they had these branches and were lying around this cow pat. Next thing they jumped up and swatted it."

Wife:" Yeah, very good, you been drinking?"

Gamekeeper: "No honest I'm no' kidding. Then they started picking at it and putting bits into an old tin, one of them even ate a bit. No way was I staying around, bloody mad men."

Wife: "Away and lie down you old fool, you have been drinking. Eating cow pat indeed! Whatever next?"

We laughed for the rest of the day. I wonder now in my twilight years if the loch is still there? If he is still there? Are the trout still rising? Indeed, would the dap still work? I am sure it would.

Tight Lines

Alan Goodwin lives in Erskine Renfrewshire, married with two children and two grandchildren. A long time devoted traditional fly fisher for brown trout. So much so, he has devoted some time to his website "The Highlander Way", to introduce new and old to the somewhat forgotten art of the "traditional flee". Alan also specializes in tying Clyde style flies and there are a couple of pages on his site about this unique form of fly fishing.

Alan can be found at


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