With Jamie now safely down the road and the next guests due in a 4 days I had the luxury to try out a few lochs that I hadn’t been to for a while. The first system requires legs and stamina of a Sherpa on steroids to overcome but from memory they were always worth it. Off I trudged up “heart attack hill” cursing every step on the way. In reality the worst of the walk is over in about 30 minutes but it still doesn’t make it any easier…
From the top of the hill the path then levels out and after 20 minutes of steady walking the lochs soon come into view. The rain from yesterday had turned all of the small burns into cascading waterfalls discharging themselves into the lochs below. Guess where I was heading??
The first loch provided instant success with a nice fish of about one and a half pounds to a sedgehog. A great start by any means! The fish came thick and fast, mostly in the half to one-pound range. This was more like it all right! Moving up to loch three I worked my way around the near bank, casting to where the burns where hammering their way into the loch.
Stopping for a quick rest at one of these points I suddenly noticed a big boil about five metres out from the mouth of the burn. Quietly casting from a sitting position I covered it and after a few seconds all hell broke loose! The fish went tearing off into the loch stripping line straight off the reel. It had taken the small snatcher on the point and every inch of my body was tingling with excitement and also dread, fearing that the size 14 would loose its hold. After about five minutes the fish came into view and was carefully guided into the waiting net. What a fish! Dark brown, almost peat stained flanks and a belly stuffed full of late summer goodies. Resting it in the water to get myself composed and get my scales out it looked totally different to its cousins from the neighbouring loch. A fine fish of just under two pounds was soon kicking it’s tail and heading back out to the loch and a very happy angler was opening the hip flask!
The final loch in the system was one that I had never fished before. It looked the part but lacked any obvious signs of a spawning stream. Still, I was up here with my rod so why not?? Sitting down to change my leader my attention was suddenly drawn to a huge fish rising in the middle of the loch. It was so big that you had to pinch yourself to remember that salmon were not present. Working quietly down the loch I covered every inch of water available to me. Concentration was at an all time high every tweak on the line was followed by my eyes. After one hour and still nothing but a couple of aborted attempts from smaller fish my enthusiasm was waning. I still had about 10 minutes left before I would call it a day and decided to try the bottom corner for the last few casts.
Casting along the length of the bank and quietly walking a few steps every time soon brought me to end of the loch. My red and black sedgehog landed, bobbed on the retrieve and was suddenly engulfed in a fashion more suitable for a great white shark than a brown trout! The whole fish leapt straight out of the water revealing it’s size and sped towards me at an alarming pace. Stripping the line as fast as I could to keep in contact with the trout soon had the fish in front of me. I got all the line back on the reel only to have it all ripped back off again as the trout raced for the middle off the loch. Watching the backing come into sight I started to think about what I had just hooked. How big is this fish?? By carefully playing it out over the next few minutes (it seemed like an eternity at the time) a beautiful trout came into view and, after the nerve-wracking moments that every angler knows, was dutifully netted. The trout went exactly two and a quarter pounds and was, as all the others from the day, released after a quick photo.
What a difference a day can make!! Well over 20 trout with 2 beauties, no rain, no midges and a new loch discovered. What more can you ask for???
Time for an old favourite! This loch requires a longer walk but no leg breaking climbs. About two hours steady walking had me glimpsing the loch side. Perfect conditions awaited me as I arrived with a steady southwesterly breeze combined with sunshine and clouds. The burn at the top end was roaring into the loch and presented an obvious starting point. After three or four casts a good fish took the snatcher and raged off into the loch only for the hook to pull and see my rod shoot back. Disappointing, but at least there was signs of fish willing to take. Wading round the margins saw a few smaller fish come to the net. The fish in this loch really are a picture of perfection. With yellow bellies, golden flanks and hundreds of small black spots interspersed with red dots they really are a true joy to behold.
Working my way round the loch it became apparent that some good fish were rising about 25 metres off a point on the north shore. These are the moments when you pray that the cast lands lightly, no tangles happen and the winds stays up. The first few casts brought no interest. Maybe the fish had gone a little further out? Making the correct decision in situations like this is paramount to success and I decided to wade back in, have a small break and observe. This had paid off so well yesterday and I was in no hurry.
After 10 minutes had elapsed I gingerly recast and up came a much nicer fish to the Kate McLaren muddler only to miss it! Slowly twitching the snatcher past the boil was too much for the trout to resist though and he was on! One of the nicest sounds in angling has to be the singing of the reel and mine had gone into an overture. You simply cannot stop these fish when they build up a head of steam. His beautiful golden flanks reflecting the sunshine when he jumped was like receiving a private performance for an audience for one. Run after run was slowly subdued and eventually he came into view as the net was slowly dipped in front of him. One last flip of the tail saw him fall into the awaiting folds of the net. An absolutely perfect example of what every angler wishes to encounter when they venture up to the hill lochs of the highlands.
It weighed a shade less than two pounds and gave me a battle that will stay with me forever in my memory. He slowly kicked off back into the loch to reclaim his place as the king of the loch. The walk home was so much easier now.
And now for something completely different - isn’t this one of the greatest aspects of angling? You can be fishing for the same fish over two days but in totally different environments. From the dark, peaty, heather surrounded waters of the hill lochs I had now entered into crystal clear waters revealing a full spectrum of blues surrounded by lush farmland. These waters belong to the limestone lochs near Durness. These lochs, four in total, make up one on the most spectacular areas where an angler could ever wish to cast a fly. They are in my opinion a true national gem and one that any fly fisherman should fish in their lifetime.
Arriving at 08:00 in the morning I quickly assessed the situation. A moderate southerly breeze was giving the water that lovely enticing ripple that cries out for a bob fly and the sunshine beating down called for something small and attractive on the point. All tooled up with an olive sedgehog and an orange crunch (another secret weapon) I set out to do battle with some of the pickiest trout in Scotland. Covering fish after fish had brought some interest and a few close calls but nothing of the size that I was hoping to encounter had yet graced the net.
Working towards the narrows a long cast along the marginal shelf resulted in a proper explosion and a much better fish was on! It tore away, stripping line off the reel and heading for the island. A couple of anglers who were boat fishing had now drifted past and decided to watch the tussle unfold. “They can fight all right, eh?” shouted one of them, looking at the bent over rod and the backing coming into view. “You’re not joking!” (Or words to that effect) I replied. Once again I was wondering just how big a fish was attached to the point fly when the strange sight of a trout the wrong way round came into view. “You’re meant to put the fly in the mouth!” laughed the second angler in the boat as I, now rather embarrassed, slowly pulled the trout towards the net. Not a huge trout but, as with all the fish from the limestone lochs, a total contradiction to his hillside cousins - almost silver and white flanks without a touch of the typical dark shoulders and backs of the usual loch trout. Carefully removing the orange crunch from the anal fin I let him rest in the net until fully recovered before the usual quick photo and release. Hopefully the next one would be fairly hooked!
I didn’t have long to wait. After letting the area quieten down I recast about five metres further down the shelf when out of nowhere a big mouth came up and head and tailed over the crunch. With the usual brutal fight played out I was soon admiring a simply stunning looking trout from the bottom of my net. This one really had a proper paintjob with a myriad of spots all over its slivery white flanks. An absolute beauty!
Arriving at the North end I decided to take a break and re-assess the water now left to fish. The sun was showing no wish to go way and I was contemplating two options: going in for a dip or going home. Just as I was getting ready to head back to the car the wind also decided it had had enough of the heat and turned to a northerly blow. It certainly made for more pleasant walking and wading conditions but the fish seemed to have had enough. I decided to call it a day and walked back along the shoreline to the car.
Passing a small point in the bank I suddenly noticed a huge boil on the surface some 10 metres from the point itself. I stopped and watched. After about one minute of waiting the boil reappeared in nearly the same place. Ok, now it’s time to get down to the loch side and take up position. Quietly working my way down the slope I waited, hoping the fish would rise again. It did and the cast landed about one metre to the left of the boil. Nothing. Not even a follow. Leaving the flies rest in the water and starting to wind in the slack line the sedgehog that was dead drifting was slurped down by a mouth big enough to give Jaws the shivers! Frantically trying to get some kind of resistance against the fish the line was pulled from my fingers and the trout headed for the other shore. Now, I had already had this experience earlier in the day with my first fish and in the heat of the moment had convinced myself that it had been something really special. This, on the other hand, simply had to be something special: I had seen it with my own eyes. The trout kept on tearing away and the backing was now heading off the reel after it. Five metres, 10 metres, 15 and suddenly the rod sprang back. I think the baggage handlers at Edinburgh airport could have heard the scream that followed and whatever I had hooked was to remain a mystery for today.
You win some – you loose some. I suppose that’s one of the great things about fishing. Nothing is ever guaranteed….