This was the camping week that Erhard had booked back in March in Munich at the EWF. He simply walked up to me and stated that he wanted the week. I wasn’t about to argue and a plan was hatched that we could make it our camping week. This was Erhard’s vision of a true wild Scotland and I was more than happy to try and make this dream come true. After a quick Sunday evening chitchat and just one or two beers at the bar we were greeted by a fine day for Borralie. Bright skies and a light Northerly breeze had made their way through the worst of the rain and kept this far off northern corner of Scotland dry for the day. It is worth mentioning at this point that we had just experienced the tail of Hurricane Bertha sweeping across the West Highlands through the night. Let’s just say that the rivers were “up” after the rain! So much so that a couple of washed down trees had just been cut up and removed from the road to Durness as we drove north. I have never seen the rivers rise so quickly overnight before and the usual gentle rolling straights had been transformed into raging torrents that looked downright dangerous from the roadside. The fact that some people had chosen to go salmon fishing in these conditions seemed almost like a death wish to me. There are only two chances of me going near a river in these conditions: no chance and absolutely no chance! We arrived at Borralie to see that the loch was also slightly up and a few fish could be seen topping along the eastern shore.
I directed Erhard to the first good spot on the loch and it soon became apparent that casting with two flies would provide him with few problems. The trout however seemed hell bent on causing frustration beyond belief. They were caught between two minds. The takes we had were all so gentle and slow that striking them was next to impossible. Too fast and the fly was pulled away and too slow allowed the trout to discover the deception contained within its snack. Still, we persevered on and at around 15:00 the water erupted and a fine trout cartwheeled out with Erhard’s point fly firmly in its jaws. Our happiness was short lived though as after a few seconds it was gone just as quickly as it had appeared. Oh well, you win some…to make matters worse; Erhard had started to cough, sneeze and generally show the signs of a cold coming on. With rather unpredictable weather on the horizon things were not looking good.
Erhard now had the early signs of a proper cold. We discussed what to do over breakfast and Erhard insisted that we should get out there and go fishing. A moderate westerly wind and frequent light showers were on the forecast for the whole day and yet another of my safety net lochs was called upon to allow us to dodge the worst of the weather. I have to say, I admired his determination. It was obvious how bad he was feeling but he still pushed on. After a quick recce of the loch we decided to start along the far shore. The loch in question is quite small but allows a pair of anglers the chance to cover its entire length in about four or five hours. Carefully Erhard covered the water exactly like I had told him to when his bob fly suddenly vanished and this time the trout stayed on. A quick hard fight soon saw a trout just shy of the pound mark come to the net and the patient showed a marked improvement. Soon after came the next fish, slightly smaller than the first but still very welcome. Moving on to the next point saw Erhard experience a proper Highland take with the trout leaping clear of the water after his bob fly. The deer hair spider was so badly damaged after the take that it had to be changed afterwards. This trout then seemed hell bent on spending more time out of the water than in it providing Erhard with a spectacular aerial display that he will probably never forget. A fine trout of around one and a half pounds was soon being unhooked, photographed and released.
The day had gone so well and we were only into the first hour of fishing. Things could only get better, or so I thought…. At around midday Erhard started to show signs of the cold really catching up with him fast. We took a few breathers but after another smaller trout he simply wanted a break. It was at this point that he urged me to have a few casts. I normally do not fish when guiding as I want the guests to have every chance they can possibly have but Erhard was insisting that it made no sense for me to sit down for 30 minutes too. “Ok, I’ll give it a few chucks,” I thought and I started casting out towards the ledge when the wind whipped my cast from landing 20 yards out into the loch to 20 yards straight down the bank. I was about to curse my bad luck when suddenly my point fly was nailed by a fish. Over went the rod and out went the line, nearly all the way to the backing on the first run, before the trout turned and bolted towards the shore. Frantically winding to keep up with it, I soon had it under control and a lovely one and three quarter pounder was netted. I felt really bad for catching this fish in front of Erhard but he was thrilled to see it just as much as I was to catch it.
We fished on and as Erhard got more worn down by the accelerating bacteria he took more and more breaks. Again he insisted that I fished and soon two more fish of the same size plus a lovely two and a quarter pounder were landed, photographed and released. I honestly think I could have cast out blind. It was just a day were I could not go wrong. We stopped early, as I didn’t need to try any more and (more importantly) we had to get Erhard somewhere warm and dry. Oh yeah, we were meant to be camping… Oh no, the hotels were full. I have a super spot for camping when the weather is terrible. Situated just down from the roadside and right next to the lochside it meets all the requirements and it even boasts the only piece of flat smooth grass in the near vicinity! As we arrived George pulled up (he lives right next to the spot) to see how we had got on. He took one look at Erhard and realised our predicament. Before we could bat an eyelid he had opened up the boat shed for us to camp in. The shed was totally empty apart form a trailer in the far corner and would have easily had space for about 10 tents if the need arose. Thankfully, for Erhard, his tent could be put up without the need of pegs. I struggled on for about 30 minutes before the realisation that the grass outside was far more suited to my tent than the stone floor of the shed. This now gave us a dry place to cook, sit, eat and prepare for our fishing in and I’m sure it made a massive difference for Erhard. Did I mention what a truly wonderful guy George is? Hopes were high that tomorrow might see Erhard in better shape. We had to wait and see.
Wednesday: Erhard awoke with groans, aches and pains that could probably be heard in Norway. He was not in a good way. After a quick pow-wow he decided that to go fishing whilst feeling so bad was next to pointless. Erhard wanted to get his head down and rest so I went off to a different loch, managed four fish up to two pounds and provided him with peace to sleep in before coming back at 16:00.
Erhard had slept through most of the day and the only time he woke up was to receive a flask of chicken soup and another one full of coffee from George. He did seem to be getting the better of it and when George came round at around 18:00 armed with a rod, reel and a box of sea trout flies he got a lot more spirit in him again! It was a good job too as no sooner had he cast out than he caught his very first ever sea trout. A lovely fish of about a pound that made him all the happier to be back out again. Another smaller fish followed before he decided to call it quits. After a few whiskies we decided to wait and see what Thursday would bring. I was anxious to get him up to the hill lochs after all the rain we had been given on the previous Sunday night knowing full well that he could have a real red letter day. To go up though he had to be fully fit. I think I crossed every limb in my body that night when I got into my sleeping bag. I don’t know if I have ever felt quite so sorry for an angler as Erhard. He had come all the way from Germany just to get sick. It was the one week in the entire year that he had become ill. I could really understand his frustration and dearly wanted him to beat this cold for the last two days.
With much better spirits we headed off to some of the lower hill lochs that would not push Erhard to the limits to reach. We both caught fish straight from the start. Classic hill loch fish of around the three to a pound size that fought like tigers.
Sadly though Erhard just could not shake his cold and we called it off early again knowing full well that the most sensible place for Erhard was in bed. At the very least we had the hotel booked for the next day so the tents could be packed away and comfort could be replaced by luxury!
I ended up fishing for a few hours with George in the evening. Sea trout galore and so nice to see them back after a few years of absence. It was even nicer to see them in such perfect condition with no lice damage to be seen and full plump bellies. Please let Friday be the one for Erhard!
Sadly, Erhard was beaten again by the cold. I drove to the hotel to arrange an early room for him (thanks Heather and everyone at the Rhiconnich Hotel) and then drove back to inform him of his options. He didn’t take long to make up his mind and soon he was getting ready to lie down in a proper bed. Why did he have to get sick on this week of all weeks? He really had bad, bad luck. The weather had also, rather mercifully, become quite nice and soon after Erhard was ready for the hotel my thoughts began to wander towards Borralie once again. After being literally forced towards my car by Erhard I was soon on my way northwards heading for glory or failure. A light northerly breeze and sunshine greeted my arrival…wait a minute, haven’t I been here before? Well, after five fishless hours I was really beginning to think that I had written the bloody script for days like these. Time for a break. GRRRRRR! The wind dropped and some clouds came over the loch that soon had me scrambling for my midge net but wait, what was this? A slight westerly breeze sprang up and slowly it began to grow and grow. Almost by magic trout started to rise in front of where I was sitting. One, two, three, four, God, there were quite few fish! On went a highland sedge and out went the line. Almost immediately it was seized and a fine trout just shy of two pounds. My thanks go out to the couple from Yorkshire who stopped to take a photo for me!
As I came nearer to the car I realised that amongst the cows grazing along the bankside was one particularly large one with a ring in its nose. I have much to thank that bull for, as you will soon find out. I decided not play silly buggers with it and wade round the southern shore so as to keep a respectable distance between him and me. As I was going round I thought I might as well have a few casts towards the ledge running round the shoreline. After about five minutes of casting and wading I punched a really long cast out towards the dark zone before walking on. I heard the splash and reacted out of surprise to have the rod almost wrenched out of my hands. Isn’t is amazing how you can be concentrating so hard for hours with nothing showing the slightest bit of interest and then when you look away or let your mind drift it all happens in a flash! Trying hard to stop the trout from reaching the weed beds I held the rod high and guided it towards safety. It then swam straight towards me and leapt a good metre clear out of the water showing it’s true size. Slowly but surely I played it out before netting a hard earned two and a half pounder. A quick self take and she was back off home. I was left gobsmacked and decided to keep on wading and get back to the hotel too. Sometimes comfort comes first. Not usually when there are fish involved but I really didn’t need another trout after having had such a nice surprise so late in a day that had seemed like a blank only a couple of hours earlier.
Erhard had really benefitted from resting at the hotel and he came down to the bar for some food and a few pints with my two best fishing buddies, Jamie and Cameron Kennedy, who had come north for a weekend of fish-tastic fun and myself. Being a true gentleman he even refused to accept my partial refund for his bad luck. He assured me that he had enjoyed the fishing that he had managed, ,seen how good the lochs could be and would come back for the re-match. I hope that we can have you back soon Erhard only this time with full health. I owe you a day to remember in those hill lochs!