Some more new faces had now joined me. After August had left yesterday evening I had arranged to drive to a designated meeting point where the best minds in Scotland could discuss angling theories and engage in serious conversation relating to dilemmas or improvements to our pastime. I must have been given the wrong directions….
No, seriously, an old friend from last year joined me for the weekend: Andy Richardson, his partner Kim and their three faithful dogs. They had made the long trip up north in their favourite mobile hotel accommodation, or camper van, as you or I would call it. Also joining us for the weekend was Allan Liddle. I had first discussed the idea of meeting up via Facebook. I am not a huge fan of social media but this is one case where it was worth its weight in gold. Allan is not only a hugely respected angler but also a fly tying genius. The Friday night had been spent in Andy’s add on tent for their camper van. We had food, whisky and even chairs! Wow, this was civilised! Why was my head feeling a little bit numb this morning then? It must have been the uneven grass under my roll mat in my tent. Hmmm. I wonder?
Andy was the first to reel in horror and shock to our plans of going up to my favourite hill lochs. He had been up with me the year before and point blankly refused to go back up again by foot. His prayers for an argo-cat had not ben answered. In fairness to Andy, he really wanted to go for a bash at some pollack with his new fly rod and I couldn’t really blame him for doing this. Some of the finest shore angling in the whole of Scotland is nearby so it left both Allan and I free to do what we love most: seek out hill loch monsters whilst Andy went where few dare to follow…
After the walk up to the lochs (there are four in close proximity to each other) we decided to give it everything we had. The last loch in the system was reached within one and a half hours of steady walking. This loch looks about the most unlikely place on earth where you could expect to find trophy trout in. It has hardly any features and no real inflow or outflow burns to speak of. It does have superb water quality though and holds some surprisingly big trout. Big trout for those with the patience required to catch them first… This is easily one of the toughest lochs I have ever fished at but the chances of something huge are always open here. We simply had to give it a try! To cut a long story short we caught nothing. I didn’t even get as much as a sniff on my slowly pulled team of flies. Allan came much closer with his dead drifted dry fly approach and late on in our little session he missed what looked like a true monster. The massive flattening of water where his fly had once been certainly gave us that impression.
We decided to move down to the more sheltered lochs that make up the bulk of the system and see if the trout were in a more playful mood. I put Allan in pole position and told him where to best concentrate his efforts. He let out a few metres of line and then started spooling off some more to cast with. The look of shock and disbelief when one of his dries was taken at his feet quickly had us focussed on what turned out to be one of the best and most memorable afternoon/evening sessions that I have ever had. The initial take was soon converted into a nicely conditioned trout of around 1lb.
I then quickly latched into another one about the same size. In all honesty, we lost count of the number of trout we caught as we worked our way around the bank but we soon had both taken fish to over 2lbs with the average being around the pound mark. With the clock marching on we then popped over the hillside to the third loch to see what it could produce.
Again, we soon found ourselves hitting into trout from the word go and the fishing became the stuff that dreams are made off. To finish off the day in the best possible way, Allan and I took two crackers in the last few metres of bankside available. Allan’s was a few ounces shy from the magical 3lb mark and mine around 2.5lbs.
Between us we had five trout over 2lbs and easily 30 trout around or over the 1lb range. This was hill loch fishing of the highest standards and made it all so more painful that August hadn’t been able to make it up the day previously. With the light now beginning to fade we quickly made our way back down the hill to tell of our epic tales of big trout that Andy had missed out on. We met Andy at the bottom of the hill in a state of panic. He was worried that we had got lost or had an accident. Quickly calming him down we heard about the tales of the big pollack he had been pulling out up north and exchanged the tales of our own good fortune. I felt really bad about causing any worry and maybe Andy should have known that I know these parts very, very well. On the other hand, it’s always reassuring to know that you have friends who take the time to get concerned; to be worried or tense if they think something terrible could have happened to you. I think we all need friends like these.
After another night of serious (or should that be seriously deranged?) discussion we found ourselves whizzing of to another location. This time Allan was only too keen to show us one of his favourite spots: a small burn that, when in high flow, can produce trout big enough (and even salmon) to make you jump. We had to see this first hand…
Andy had brought along the camera gear for the purpose of making another film for his superb online channel, From Field to Stream TV so we were on our best behaviour. Well, for some of the time anyway. This has to be one of the most productive little streams that I have ever fished in my angling life. Although the trout were not in the same league as the ones from the day before, they were fighting fit and a joy to behold. We were catching all of them on Allan’s favourite tactic of fishing a Turk’s Tarantula and letting it drift over every likely looking lie we could find. On almost every cast we had interest from trout ranging from a couple of inches right up to the typical 10-12 inchers. Allan has taken trout of over 3lbs from here when conditions have been perfect and I would truly love to see one of them. With the filming successfully in the can we headed off to another of Allan’s favourite locations: a little pub in the middle of nowhere. With food and a couple of drinks inside us we all appreciated the joy of coming in from the cold that little bit more. It was soon time to bid Andy, Kim and the dog’s farewell and head off again for the tents. No longer would we have the luxury of chairs, lights or Andy’s midge free (once they had all been obliterated with Chernobyl grade fly spray that is) tent. It had been wonderful fun in wonderful company, which makes it all the easier. Allan and I still had one little plan up our sleeves though. There was the little stretch of burn that popped up so enticingly from the roadside before vanishing again behind the bushes that I had never stopped to fish at before. Allan on the other hand knew it well and was completely up for having a crack at it on the way back. Why not? It beats sitting in the car thinking about it for sure.
After the hilarity that you can only know from walking through true peat hags and tall grass with a blindfold on, we arrived at a spot that simply screamed “Big Trout!” This time I was put into pole position and Allan was quick to point me in the direction of a rising fish I just simply couldn’t see in the evening gloom. I still don’t know how he saw it. A few minutes later and a lovely trout of just over 2lbs lay in the net. It had been well worth the effort coming down to the burn and putting the plan into practice. Arriving back at our tents we quickly re-assessed the weekend’s results. I think it would be fair to say that we were happy as a man called Larry with the outcome and it was two very sleepy heads that made their way into their tents dreaming only of the next time the water would flatten, the spool spin out of control and the next adventure unfolding.
Again, all of these last two days were made all the easier by being in wonderful company. I'm looking forward to repeating it all again next year