Fishing & Shooting: Annoying as the woodcock ban may be, it probably stops the odd bonehead massacring hundreds of birds too weak to fly properly.

Two days before we were due to go to Skye to shoot woodcock, the hard weather ban was introduced. Sod's law.

Two days earlier I had been invited to shoot on Mormond Hill, the only hill in Buchan on the north-east corner of Aberdeenshire, where we shot 14, which almost certainly means there were a great many more we didn't see.

And those we did see and didn't shoot appeared to be in good shape in spite of nearly two weeks of heavy snow.

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Mormond is home to a surprising number of wayward and wily pheasants but clearly the woodcock like it too. It must, after all, be the first sight of land for many of them on their migration from Scandinavia.

Annoying as the woodcock ban may be, it probably stops the odd bonehead massacring hundreds of birds too weak to fly properly.

As woodcock can make up to 5 a bird, compared to 25p a brace for pheasants, there is something of an incentive for the less scrupulous. So with shooting pretty well off the menu as the snow had become tough going for beaters, let alone walking guns, I hunkered down for the duration with the Atlantic Salmon Trust 2010 auction catalogue which, as it happens, was offering two days' driven woodcock in Pembrokeshire next winter, which, even at 1,100 for two guns is probably spectacularly good value.

Pembrokeshire, like Skye and Cornwall, is on the west coast woodcock migration route. What you notice about this year's catalogue is the sensible, but rather irksome, harping on about access.

But I like to think this is simply owners being helpful to potential bidders rather than fear of litigation.

You can't say you haven't been warned on the North Tyne – "wading stick essential. Very rocky wading – a young man's river!" On the other hand the Tynes are living proof of the speed at which a polluted river can recover to produce fish of up to 35lbs.

I like the prospect of a day on a private lake at Lavenham, allegedly the prettiest village in England, as the guest of John Humphreys, the "Country Gun" columnist of the Shooting Times. You get Humphreys and a packed lunch for 100. The bulk of the lots come from Scotland.

On the Dee, two days at Cairnton will cost you 390 for three rods, in July. Incidentally, AEA Wood developed the concept of the floating line at Cairnton and in 1931 caught 202 of the beat's 753 spring fish. Be not dismayed however. There are lots on lochs for 50; disabled angling in Assynt for 40, and the most encouraging of all, again for 50, on the Lyon, a Tay tributary – trout fishing on four miles of the North Chesthill water.

"On the right day," enthuses the donor Alastair Riddell, "some wonderful fighting fish of up to 2lbs to be had."


email alastair.roberts[email protected] /shooting- fishing for all the best sporting holidays and kit in Scotland

• This article was first published in The Scotsman on 23 January, 2010