Marc and his father, Reiner, made the long journey up to the Highlands and met me at the hotel after I had parted company with Ralf. We had a few drinks in the bar on Monday evening and during our final drink the bombshell was dropped: those lovely baggage handlers at Hamburg had decided to leave Marc’s main luggage in Hamburg. This bag contained his waders and boots. To add insult to injury the forecast was showing a serious bit of north wind coming in bringing rain with it. It would be a testing first day on the loch for them as they both had very little experience of fly fishing and none from a drifting boat.
Tuesday morning came and we were off. After a quick phone call to George we soon arrived at his house to pick up a full set of waterproofs and wellie boots. Did I mention earlier what a smashing, wonderful and generous guy he is? Thanks again mate! We then headed off to the boat and got ourselves ready for a tough day. Now I am very partial to a good bit of wind on the loch for a day out on a boat. This, however, was verging on downright dangerous at times and our only hope was to drift close in where we could get some shelter from wind along the nearby shoreline. Not the best zone but our only chance to go fishing without ending up on a deep-sea menu. Funnily enough Reiner missed a very good sea trout on the first drift. The big roll and the white horses made visual striking all the harder for them both as they had never done this kind of fishing before. I soon found myself shouting “Fish!” every five minutes as yet another unseen trout came up and took the bob. It’s easy when you know how… We finished up the day with both Marc and Reiner catching one trout each. It wasn’t a great day by any standards but our luck was set to change…
With the wind now back at a normal level we set off for the opposite end of the loch were we had fished the day previously. I knew this was a safer bet for some proper trout action but I wasn’t expecting the scenario that took place to have materialised that morning. We pushed the boat out and started a long drift down the shore at the roadside. Both Marc and his father had been fishing with single point flies since the day before and we saw no good reason to change this. They had both made massive improvements with their casting but a move up to a team of flies would have been rash at best. We started out with highland sedges (a firm new favourite of mine, details to come soon!) but after 30 minutes of fishless action I decided to ring the changes. Marc now fished a kate mclaren muddler and Riener had a goat’s toe. With new flies and new hopes we set off on drift number two. Not long after we started Marc had an offer on the muddler. It wasn’t a huge fish but it was a definite sign of encouragement and I quickly told Reiner to wind in so that I could change his fly to a bushier pattern. As I was tying his fly on, the surface of the loch simply exploded right next to the boat as nice grilse turned on the fly. Now this was an example of sheer bad luck. I had been telling Marc and Reiner how important it was to meet a brown trout’s take with a strike. I had also been telling them how vital it is not to strike when a salmon takes. It’s a different matter when it all happens though and Marc jumped, striking as he went. I couldn’t believe it…. How perfect could that have been? I really thought that the day was now finished for them and a deepening sense of sadness started to grow inside of me. Surely fate wouldn’t smile twice on one day?Drift number three saw us take a long line down the far shore. This shore is very lightly fished and has produced some serious brownies before. It can be tough but when the going gets tough the tough go fishing and down we bobbed with the wind at our backs. Five, ten, fifteen minutes went by and then: “Marc! Strike!” and he was in. The first of three fish caught in quick succession soon came on board for a snap shot before going back in.
As the drift was nearing to an end I suggested that we might take a short break back at the boathouse. It was agreed upon and I soon had the boat turned around for our trip back to the comfort zone. I told them both (as I had done the day before) to stick their flies out over the back of the boat on the way back. Trolling is still frowned upon by many but after 30-40 minutes casting on a drift I don’t really see a problem with it. Fishing is, after all, about catching fish and that’s what I intend to do when I go. A fly held in a keeper ring has yet to catch a fish. We had also changed the flies over before the row home and Marc got an all time classic from my box: the hollybush (this fly is strictly only for customers). We were just nearing the bank were the grilse had showed itself earlier when Marc shouted, “Fish, Fish, Fish!!!” as his rod buckled over. I slowed the boat down with the oars and waited to see what he had hooked. The fish seemed to come rather easily towards the boat and just as it was nearly visible it powered off down towards the bottom of the loch. Marc was now getting a constant string of commands from me as I knew that this was another good fish and not one to lose at the side of the boat. He coped really well and time and time again when the fish tore off he fought it like he’d been doing it for his whole life. The fish now showed itself and decided to go deep again taking line off the reel with Marc now totally focussed on the rod, the fish and my voice all at once: I don’t know how he stayed so calm? It came back up again and this time it was ours as it lay on its side and slipped into the net. Well done Marc! Three pounds of brown trout in full fighting mode lay beaten in the net Marc could not believe that he had caught it but caught it he had! A few memory shots were taken and it was put back to grow bigger. It had the sharpest kype point of any trout I have ever seen. It was almost more like a machine design from a terminator film than a bottom lip of a trout.
With the day drawing to an end and both Marc and Reiner thinking about warm beds and hot showers we stopped the fishing and agreed to meet at Durness in the morning for the final day of their trip and the Wildside season. Would they have the metal for Borralie?
The final day had arrived. What had started almost 4 weeks earlier was now coming to a close and thankfully it appeared that we had been spared from the worst of the weather. The weather had been a particular pain for the whole week. Cold, strong and unpredictable it had been sent to us courtesy of Scandinavia since Monday and the fishing had required at least 2 layers of thermals to become enjoyable. Still, it was the week that saw two big fish landed so something must have been right. Arriving at Borralie saw yet again a north wind blowing down the length of the loch. For anyone who doesn’t know Borralie, it can be really tough going and especially for beginners. Luck had been on our side though and I thought it was better to fish here with the chance of another good fish than to go an easier loch. The scenery is also stunning and I find it hard to imagine a nicer looking place to spend a day by the water.Not long after starting Marc had a take on the Daubry but sadly he failed to make contact. His strike had been perfectly timed but for some reason or other the trout failed to make contact with the fly and all we had to show for it was a swirl on the surface followed by a curse from Marc. He really was learning now!
We moved down the bank and covered as much water as humanly possible. We changed from wets to nymphs to mini lures and back all to no avail. Borralie had beaten us today. In many ways it was a real pleasure though. It was a pleasure to watch the sun beat down upon the crystal blue water. It was a pleasure to have a more leisurely day with Marc and Reiner. Undoubtedly though it was a pleasure to see how far they had advanced within three days. They had started on Tuesday as near beginners and watching Marc now forming a tight loop and shoot out 15 metres of line effortlessly was a real treat for me. Reiner had also made huge advances with his casting and I’m sure that he has the makings of a true fly angler. Remember guys – practice, practice, and practice! The fact that Marc had managed to get two takes from good fish on one of the hardest (not always but sometimes) lochs in Scotland proved for me just how far they really had come in a short time. It was soon all over with us sharing one last goodbye at the roadside before I started the long drive south towards Aberdeen where my good friend, Jamie Kennedy, had a spare bed made out for me. The Highlands had come and gone yet again. See you in 2015!