Letter From Scotland
An introduction to the highlands
By Gordon McCallum
In June this year I, and three fishing friends went on our annual fly fishing expedition otherwise known as our "Troot Aboot". The "Troot Aboot" this year as last year was to the hill lochs of Assynt in the North West Highlands of Scotland where the scenery is beautiful with spectacular mountains, expanses of moor and wild and rugged coastline. The area boasts around 350 hill lochs with mainly Brownie's but also with the possibility of Salmon, Sea Trout and Arctic Char. Although the Brownies are mostly quite small, they are plentiful and they fight like small tigers and this is a wonderful experience on light tackle and small flies.
The old cottage
We stayed in a restored 19th century cottage located right on the coastal shore front just yards from the high water mark and facing out to the Atlantic Ocean. This gave us the option of sea fishing in the evening after day fishing on the highland lochs.
On the day of arrival although mid-afternoon, after unpacking, we made our way to Loch an Arbhair where we fished for Brown trout for several hours under a hot blazing sun and no wind. Not ideal conditions for Brownies, there were very few fish showing on the surface, we tried small dry flies and wets just below the surface, between us we only managed two trout the largest 1lb caught on a size 14 silver butcher.
That first evening after arriving back at the cottage and just before high tide we were greeted by a seal gliding through the bay and quite a number of fish leaping from the water. The scene was beautiful. These fish turned out to be Finnock escaping the attention of the feeding seal. We decided to try a bit of spinning from the shore and soon had caught a Pollock of around 4lbs, one of 1lb and also a first ever Finnock.
Next day we fished loch Beannach from two boats drifting Scottish Loch style with 2 rods to a boat on a very occasional breeze. Loch style fishing is simply drifting with the boat at right angles to the wind, with the wind at your back. Most fish were taken when a bit of cloud cover provided a respite from the bright sunshine which we experienced for most of the day. We returned 51 mainly small 3 to the lb. Brownies and kept 2 around 1lb for the pot. Best flies on the day were Black Pennell, Blue Zulu, Bibio, Soldier Palmer, Alexandria and Mayfly.
On day 3 we split into 2 parties, 2 rods headed on a 1.5 hour trek to the remote Loch an Tuirc (definitely the short straw) while the other 2 rods fished Loch Manse. Fishing from our small "oar driven" boats we had bright sunshine interspersed with some light cloud cover. The hike to Loch an Tuirc proved worthwhile with 70+ Brownies caught, the best around .5 lb and steady catch rate up until the wind got up and waves appeared. Loch Manse fish were slightly smaller with 30 Brownies mainly 3 to the lb. caught and also 2 small Finnock. Best flies on Loch Manse were Soldier Palmer, Grouse and Claret and Clan Chief.
The one that got Away…
Day 4 on Loch Crocach was overcast and windy, so much so that we were unable to venture out to the main loch where the wind and waves were more than our small boat with outboard could cope with. We still managed to return 20 fish and one of our party had a sorry story. Fishing from the bank, Johnnie hooked into a fine wild Brownie of around 3 lbs. and after a good fight the fish was finally brought into shallow water. He could now see this wonderful Brownie and knew that his fish was going to be the specimen of the holiday. He did not have his net with him and so he decided to beach the fish and he edged the fish towards the shingle in the shallows. Suddenly his plan for beaching this fine fish went "belly up" as his the leader on his fly line locked solid. His tail fly had snagged on a stone and the fish was on the dropper. The fish made a dash and with a sickening snap of the dropper it was all over…
Day 5 and time to go home, so in the morning we did a bit of tidal water spinning in the estuary of the River Inver with the hope of perhaps a Salmon or Sea Trout, with no luck. We saw a few fish jump but soon packed up out gear for our long journey home. Tired but happy.
Assynt is truly a wonderful place, every time that you turn another corner you reveal another hill loch and the scenery is stunning. It is a wonderful place for trout fishers and when the fish are not rising to the fly relax and enjoy the scenery.
We are planning to return to Assynt for our "Troot Aboot" again in 2013 and as we reminisce in our local pub, the stories get better and the fish get bigger...remember that fish …the one that got away!!
"Cheers" from Scotland.