Tuesday, 3 November 2020

A fish fit for the walls of the Scourie Hotel Cocktail Bar

 

The story starts back in 1990 and according to my fishing diary I was fishing Airigh Na Beinne as my Scourie Hotel beat that day. I was 30 years old fit from a full rugby season and some sevens and ready to storm up the Nan Uidh track, pass Finlaysons and Buxtons and visit a new secret loch known as Submarine which was east of my beat.

I passed the legendry Fishing aficionado Rosanne Leigh who was taking a friend up to Nan Uidh for some monster fish hunting on some mystery lochs within the beat. I overtook them on the crest of the hill and wished them good fortune and hurried on as I had still an hour to go before reaching my destination.

The day passed by with some stocking of fish into Submarine and then after a fruitless few hours I returned to my stocking area for some light entertainment with fish of around 10oz. I had four nice fish in the collapsible bucket

I managed to cross the stream below Clar Loch More and headed up to 3 lochs which were on my way home but north of the main Nan Uidh lochs. I thought that if they looked deep enough it would be opportune to drop a few in each. As I approached the lochs I luckily spotted Rosanne and kept low in the heather and skirted around to a vantage point where I could watch her fish and slip two of the trout into the mystery loch. Her technique was unusual as although using a dry fly she skidded the fly across the water at different speeds and rarely seemed to leave it stationary for long, something her Grandfather might appreciate possibly. (This fabulous fish in the cocktail bar can confirm that!)

I didn’t dwell long and moved West as the other two lochs looked very shallow and the winter cold would be too much for these trout. After 20 minutes walk I came across a loch at the end of Nan Uidh, it had weed on one side with a deep section that funnelled into a canal which led to a stream into the main loch.  The trout would be happy here I thought and made a few casts to see if there were any fish in here already. I left without a rise and according to my diary had a nightmare climbing down the waterfalls back to the road.

It was nine years later that Peter my brother and I managed to get the Mid Chain beat from the Board Master and I told him the story of Rosanne raising her eyebrow when I mentioned I had stocked this small loch. The new way to mid chain was up the Nan Uidh track cross the river at the lower reaches of the loch and head north where you would pass my new secret loch. We walked with fellow anglers from the hotel that had the Nan Uidh beat and asked if they would be fishing the north side lochs and if we could possibly  make a few casts in this small loch on the north west side. They were happy to let us adventure to the northside lochs as they were not even taking the boat out on the main loch and mainly bank fishing and then concentrating on Buxtons.

It was nearly 10am when we reached the small lochan and tackled up, it is ridiculously small and not bigger than a tennis court. We chose sides with Pete on the north shore and I on the south west area which had a lot of weeds for the first 10 yards. I was dry fly drifting with a small deer hair sedge and covering the water by twitching it in Miss Leigh style. As Peter recounts I announced after 15 minutes “there’s no fish in here” and barely as I finished the sentence a huge head rose out of the water and sunk back down with my fly. I was alert at this time of day and struck well into the fish who then exploded into life and I started to panic at the small size of loch and where he would take me in the oncoming fight. It was ten minutes of furious activity with the gillie of the day Peter sprinting around to support the capture. The fish was not keen to leave the deep water to my relief so he kept away from the weeds and I moved him further east where the bank is steeper and more difficult for netting.

Anyway, after excellent netting technique we had 4lb 14oz of beautiful brown trout on the bank and it was only 10.30am. I took many photos for the glass case man and wrapped the fish in a wet T shirt as it would be another 6 hours before it was back in the hotel tray and then in the freezer. It was a great days fishing and with my largest brown trout in the bag I had a smile on my face all day.



It happened to be Hawaiian night for our group at the hotel that evening and I was astonished to be cheered in and applauded on my entrance to the dining room. Was it my outstanding Hawaiian shirt? No nearly all the guests had become friends over the last ten years of visits and were chuffed that their week would be once again represented in the cocktail bar glass cases from the following year.

I was very honoured to have the loch named after me by Patrick on the giant map as he was keen to have one of his guest’s names on the map. Four Williams brothers had been visiting the hotel since 1985 and the number of days they have collectively fished the Scourie waters must be astronomical. Two glass cases were ordered and as my Beat that day was Mid Chain it should have that within the capture description. So naturally it creates confusion that a Loch Williams caught fish is on Mid Chain and not Nan Uidhe, something for the Boardmaster to tackle each week I guess!!

My glass case is on the wall in our dining room and is in full view from the kitchen which keeps a smile on my face in these dark days of lockdown. I just redecorated the room and brought down the case while painting and this inspired the story. The other case is in the Scourie Hotel cocktail bar, the new bar iis a great improvement and my fish sits low down on the short wall. It had its pride of place directly above the bar for 15 years, I just wished it was open in July as we passed as the grand range of cased fish here is very inspiring and we were thirsty.

THOUGHTS:

·       9 years too long to be the fish I had stocked?  a nice thought though

·       Why did it take me 9 years to return? My diary shows I was too busy fishing other beats

·       Was it a known big fish loch previously? Rosanne knew about the possibility of it but I had not heard any other rumours. Fish over 5lb have been lost in here since!

·       Size of the loch! Amazing how a fish can grow so big in such a space

·       Applauding a big fish became customary in our Hotel week after this surprising occasion and I miss the camaraderie we had in the 90’s and 00’s

·       The Board Master knows nothing! But I’m happy with that fact 😁

Saturday, 15 August 2020

The Early Days

The year was 1983 and I was twenty seven years old, single and a proud house owner. I had been coming to Sutherland for over ten years in pursuit of the brown trout and now it was time to say goodbye to camping and static caravans and stay at the famous Scourie Hotel. A visit a few years earlier which went as far as the entrance of the hotel where six huge stuffed trout adorned the walls of the entrance, and were all caught by the same angler, from the same loch, on the same day! I knew this was the place for me.

My brother Robin and I booked bed and breakfast, but it soon became apparent that there were few other choices for dinner, so we ate in the hotel that first night. Dress code was relatively formal, a blazer and tie were respectable enough for our fellow guests which included a couple of reverends and a handful of ex military personnel. Our first night was eventful, the gentleman who served us wine was a little shocked when we requested a second bottle of Valpolicella, at £3.30! I wished we had drunk even more at that price! It turned out that our wine waiter was in fact the proprietor Mr Ian Hay who over many years, became a great friend.

Many writers including Negley Farson, Jon Beer, Bruce Sandison, James Babb and Roger Pierce have their own take on this fishing oasis in the far north of Scotland. I cannot compete with their brilliant writing ability so I will just tell you my story as it is.

After our second bottle of red wine on our first evening we were summoned to the map situated in the main lounge as it was our turn to choose a beat for our first days fishing. The Board Master, let’s call him Bob , was an austere character who had sat at dinner immersed in a book in between courses, of soup, melon and mutton with capers followed by queen of puds (a favourite at that time). The Board Master demanded that we showed him our fly boxes, which were full of size 12 & 14 traditional wet flies to which he declared “useless, last week in the terrible gales we were fishing with size two salmon flies !”.  We were stunned and after some issues over our fitness which seemed unnecessary, we were allocated a beat with a short stiff climb and a fly which Bob called his green squirrel tail fly size six, as the weather was looking more favourable. We were prepared for our first day at this auspicious place with a preferred beat and THE fly despite its size, we retired to bed.


 

I would love to skip the next part of our evening but even today I shudder at my stupidity when in the middle of the night I left my single room for a nature break in the shared toilet on the landing only to hear my bedroom door close behind me.

It was late May, very light, and I was naked without my key. At least my bladder was empty. I went slowly downstairs to reception, what did I expect? Twenty-four-hour service? This was not a London hotel with 24 hour service! What sort of a hotel would be prepared for a  stupid and slightly inebriated person who had locked themselves out of their room? I returned upstairs to my brothers’ room and knocked on his door explaining the predicament. I spent the rest of my night on his floor which was cold, and I remained sleepless.

After breakfast we travelled to our beat which was indeed a short but tiring walk. Robin caught the best fish of the day after a matter of minutes on the fly which he had been given the night before in a cloudless sunny day.

People who visit the hotel tended to book the same week or fortnight every year and we got to know Bob over the years, and he became slightly less scary and more friendly year after year. Unbeknown to us some years later he had been tying a selection of his favourite flies for our group and gave us all a small packet of them.

They were beautifully created traditional flies, Silver Invicta, soldier palmers, butchers, red and silver and guess what? All size 12 & 14.

A few years on, he sadly left the hotel in tears as his permanent job had gone and he was reduced to a pension to pay for his fishing outings. His choice was Scourie or his other love Lough Corrib in Ireland. He chose Corrib but as it turned out he passed away six months later never to revisit either place.

If you are reading this then you know what I am saying, it is not a dress rehearsal so fish, fish and fish and enjoy every day because .......?


 


Peter, Michel and our dear departed friend Nigel enjoying a pint at the Scourie Hotel 2005


A letter to Michel

 

We all know the reasons that you were unable to join Graham and myself on our jaunt to Sutherland. In a way something positive had to come out of it and we believe that for future years our research in 2020 will benefit forth-coming trips. We had already realised that the Forsinard Flyfishers had enough interesting water to keep us occupied for two weeks of trouting. What we discovered this year that beyond the ‘big fish lochs’ there were lochs which I no longer classify as a 1,2 or 3 but FFF ! Yes the Fun, Fun, Fun lochs where it was possible to catch a dozen fish rise and lose that number again and hook some good fish of over a pound and some closer to two.



Every fishing day can be affected by the weather and there will be lochs where on one occasion there seemed fishless and left a feeling of never wanting to re-visit. There were a couple of examples of this, firstly Graham had a raw day on Skyline in 2018 neither catching or rising a fish all day. I persuaded him to re-visit this year and I had a nice fish but he pulled out three cracking specimens whilst on the boat. On Clach Geala I blanked as Graham landed two good fish. The Cross lochs provided us with a spectacle as we sat chomping our lunch a very large trout came into less than a foot of water in search of sticklebacks or tadpoles within ten feet from where we were sitting.

There were also of a couple of places that we probably won’t revisit ,one in particular as it was firstly ,a long bumpy drive, secondly when we arrived at the parking spot the van was covered in clegs(horse flies) , thirdly the fishing was good but the trout were small, fourthly I discovered a puncture the following morning in one of my tyres.


We have six days fishing at this location next year and my brother and I might not agree on each of our daily destination but we won’t differ much either. We are already looking forward to showing you some new and some old fishing spots in 2021.

Stay safe, Stay well


Peter

Friday, 16 August 2019

Best days fishing


The best days fishing.
On Christmas morning I unwrapped a present of three miniature bottles of port. I saw an opportunity for a port, cheese and crackers style picnic for three anglers in June. Five months to go and a lot of winter evenings looking at the OS maps and finally planning some days in search of trout. Fly boxes were re-loaded with freshly created designs and plenty of old favourites.


In 2018 my brother Graham and I had fished four days on the lochs looked after by the Forsinard Flyfishers. We sensed that this was an area of immense potential and were returning for six or seven days and staying locally in a cottage overlooking the river
Halladale.
Our friend Michel from Belgium who has accompanied us on many holidays was joining us. We booked our six days online with the Forsinard Flyfishers and looked forward to some new waters. We arrived on the first day of June and it looked as though the weather was getting better towards the end of the week and so Friday was nominated as our cheese and port picnic day.


 The forecast proved correct; it was warm, sunny with a gentle southern breeze. The week up until Friday had been a bag of mixed fortunes. Eight trout over a pound with half of these, two pound plus, a lost salmon and some very lively trout that decided to release themselves early! 

The plan was to fish up to four medium size lochs with a round trip of just under five miles. Many of the lochs in this area have boggy areas near the edge of the loch, so much so that I had lost the entire sole of one of my wading boots earlier in the week. Our starter loch was no exception to this trait. Graham headed to the north end, myself in the middle whilst Michel chose the southern end. I cast out a trusty sedgehog and on the second cast on the edge of the ripple it was ‘fish on’. The trout powered its way across the loch and I was convinced that I had hooked a glass case. My ghillies arrived as the fish tired and was coaxed into the net. The hook was in the gill plate which explained the ferocity of the fight.

First fish of the day at 50cm





Peter with his Gillie “Michel”






What a great start. Graham tempted three nice size trout to bushy wets whilst Michel, an expert with a muddler landed another three respectable fish. I had one 10cm smaller than my first and so with eight fish all over a pound we decided to move on and visit loch two. 
It was lunchtime as we arrived on what was the smallest loch of our chosen four. In the Highlands there are plenty of days when a sandwich and a beer suffice, but today pate, soft cheese crackers and tomatoes washed down with my miniature ports was just the ticket. In fact could the day get any better?

After lunch Graham decided to push on and fish the loch furthest south while our friend and I fished the ‘picnic loch’. During lunch we had seen no activity but as we started fishing Michel had spotted a feeding fish. It rose to his muddler but missed it, he attached a medium sized stimulator and cast it and this seemed to be the filet steak the trout was looking for. At once I realised that this was a good fish and assumed the position of ghillie. Having once seen the fish jump clear we both knew it needed to be played and netted expertly. After one or two tense moments it was in the net, measured, a couple of quick photos and returned. 57cm and my estimate was 4lbs 8oz or thereabouts. I saw one other rise very close to the bank and I wondered whether I had hooked a feeding fish near the bank?




Michel with his 4 ½ lb trout at 57cm “fantastic and worthy of the Big Fish title”










“I left the guys at Lochside and trudged across the burnt landscape, we had thought that the fire had been some months before but was told in the bar that evening that the whole area was burning for days and only three weeks ago. The blackened heather stalks scratched the hell out of my boots and gaiters but also left a small loch look very daunting with all its banks black as coal. I fished it as there was an amazing amount of fly life on the water but no sign of any fish.


The 3rd loch had a different look to it with reedy banks and no fire damage around the fringes. Fish were rising all over the place and I changed my bushy flies for something a lot smaller to imitate the nymphs they seem to be chasing.


 It was difficult fishing as they were fussier than your average riser but tempted a very fat 38cm fish at a corner hot spot. I hooked many more of a similar size over the next hour and netted a further three fish all 38cm and around the 2lb mark. They were all well fed, plump and gave one hell of a fight. The ¾ bottle of port and cheese that I had brought up for lunch was finished so I headed back to Loch 4 and join the boys for a beer. Graham”

The two of us headed towards our final loch where we were due to meet my brother and hear of his exploits on the loch furthest south. On arrival at the loch the wind had increased so I changed from my single dry to a couple of bushy numbers. We both had takes and fish including my capture of the smallest fish of the day a trout of three quarters of a pound. As we were approaching the end of the loch in the direction of our transport, Graham appeared, walked to the loch side had a few casts and hooked a nice 42cm trout and lost another good fish off the opposite bank from where Michel and I were tackling down ready for departure. 




The last loch of the day and Peter ready for the 50 minute walk back to the van






It was getting late in the day and Graham joined us keen to tell us of the loch he had visited with rising fish that were keen to take his fly if he could only match the hatch.




I was exhausted after such a long eventful day and struggled over the last mile. But it was all worthwhile in discovering such wonderful new lochs.






The walk back was a real trudge, so we were pleased that there were three cold beers in my campervan fridge which were dispensed with on arrival. It was during our walk back that it started to dawn us just how good a day it had been. Seventeen trout with just one under a pound and a trophy fish to top it off. Great fishing on lochs we had not visited before, a special lunch with great company, probably the best days fishing ..... so far .



Loch1


Loch2
Loch3



Loch4
Fisherman









Graham
37cm
47cm
43cm

38cm
38cm
38cm
38cm
42cm
Michel
45cm
35cm
38cm
57cm




34cm
Peter
50cm
40cm






20 & 35cm



Thursday, 13 September 2018

School Boy Error No #99 "Wild Camping"



School Boy Error No #99    “Wild camping in the hills”
from Peter Williams

After a miserable trip in 2017 where, ‘never again’ and ‘I don’t want to die of exposure’ were uttered, we were once again planning a trip up into the hills to our favourite loch not a million miles from Tongue. Preparations over the winter at home and prior to the walk to the loch had been meticulous and on a par with the planning for Buzz Aldrins moon walk. I filled my backpack and emptied it on the floor of my study, otherwise known as the nerve centre, and re-packed leaving a couple of items out.

Finally, the day in June had arrived and after a quick de-camp from Thurso campsite and the journey to the Tongue hotel, a quick pint and permits bought, we were off. The weather was mixed but not disastrous, and, with whatever weather website we had on our phones we were able to track the severity of prevailing rain and wind for the next twenty four hours or so. We found out later that, with no surprise to us, that the weather forecast in this part of the world can change often and dramatically.


I turned sixty two this year and maybe another year of abuse must have taken its toll as a note in my diary registers ‘tough walk’.  After the two hour walk we set the tents up half way down the east side of the loch as a moderate south wind blew steadily that evening.




Our Belgium friend fished the west bank carefully and was rewarded with a nice 49cm trout caught close to the bank on a sedge pattern. Graham hooked a reasonable fish in the weeds at the southern end but failed to bring it in after a few challenging minutes.

My efforts were not rewarded and I figured with another evening up here there was always a chance of one of those balmy evenings when the fish are jumping and rising in a way that torments you as though they are saying ‘Well catch me if you can!’. But if you don’t then you have “only yourself to blame”. It was surprisingly cool but with a strengthening wind, so an early night was not a surprise for all three of us.
Overnight the wind began to steadily get worse and early the next morning there was rain according to my brother Graham who was predicting world cup scores at 12.30am. The early weather report indicated that they were going to get stronger and the winds were moving directly from the west. 




By eight o’clock only the west bank was fishable as that bank had some calm water from the bank to about ten metres out. I spent most of the morning avoiding the rain by remaining in my tent whilst the other two fished. Graham had arranged to stay at the hotel that evening and as predicted, as the rain stopped the wind increased whipping the surface into a barrage of waves on a beach.

If there was one lesson from the previous year that we learned, it was use the topography for your comfort and even your survival. With help from my brother and a quick check on the weather, we moved my tent behind a ridge protecting from the now fierce westerly. Graham returned to the hotel. 


Our Belgium friend did not embrace this idea of moving his living accommodation until the last minute when his tent was seconds away to being blown into the kyle, a distance of three miles away and no vegetation to stop its flight.





I had no excuse by three o clock but to go fishing so I clambered from my tent picked up my rod to join Michel on the west bank. My first attempt was halted half way up the knoll we were camped under by gusts that made climbing a danger. So I tried to approach the loch around the other side of our protective hill. This time waves were crashing into the bank threatening to sweep me into the water forever, I gave up. Fish zero due to zero effort. Now for the most irritating part of this story. Breakfast had been a long time ago and Spartan. Michel, I noticed waved to me in a triumphant manor from the far end of the loch signalling yet another success, this time 45cms. (despite Brexit we are metric).




The new site protected from the wind and 30 yards from where we started the night before. 

One tent gone with Graham sipping coctails at the Ben Loyal Hotel Tee hee!






Finally, he came back to camp to find a very grumpy and hungry me. Actually I think those two feelings are somehow linked. I was also cold but after two barbequed burgers and a chocolate bar my spirits were raised just in time to go to bed with a gin and tonic night cap. Having spent most of the day in the tent I had a restless night and at around 3am a further night cap or two was required.
The wind had finally dropped in the early hours of the next morning but it took some time for the sun to warm things up a bit. I finally went fishing after thirty six hours of ‘what ifs’ and ‘why nots’ dreaming and fighting the cold in my tent in a sleeping bag that is to be demoted to a dog blanket. I strolled casually along the path which, the night before had water crashing onto it and proceeded to the far west bank from whence the wind was still blowing but considerably less than twelve hours before.

My go to fly is probably the sedgehog fished on an eighteen-foot leader (not sure how many cms that is). This one I had tied myself with a claret seal fur body and for once a decent amount of coastal deer hair on a barbless size 12 hook. This is going to sound somewhat familiar but there are times when, especially when the wind is behind you, the cast just straightens out perfectly and the fly sits there screaming ‘eat me, eat me’. And that is what happened at 8.15am as a slurp sucked down my offering and a trout was on. The trout was only half asleep but after the time in my tent I was the opposite and the fight was over after five minutes when 55cms lay briefly on the bank and was quickly returned.
The rest of the morning passed without any further of our finny friends being extracted from their watery world and we proceeded back to the hotel for a welcome pint and lunch.


Next year? Will we return? Will we pay any attention to the weather forecasts? What do you think? Of course we will.

Please note the trout I caught had one of those situations where the gill cover did not fully cover the gill on one side and should be easily recognise should someone catch it again. If you were holding the trout with its head pointing away from you then the damaged gill was on the left hand side.

This is Peter’s article for 2018 which has some familiar tones to others I have written. What he does not tell us is that 12 days before hand we also spent a night on the hill at “the best loch in Sutherland”. Maybe it was the four hour walk to get there, the howling wind that night and early morning or is it the fact he did very little fishing and caught nought? It was just another SBE but he has vowed to never return and I think he will never reach this loch again unless we fly him up there. I feel with our new Icross water transport we may well not need to camp out overnight in the future see www.icrossflyfish.com. Tight lines this autumn maybe some sewin or salmon next week if it rains?


Friday, 19 January 2018

Success on the Durness Limestone Lochs in 2017

Success on the Durness Limestone Lochs 2017

I had heard about them for the last 30 years, clear water, shallow, very dour at times, some of them only at night, lucky to see a fish let alone catch one and so on. But even the positive comments had always said “you will be pleased if you catch it just right and catch a couple of good two pounders”. Even the Master, Colin had agreed that they were a tough gig but should not be overlooked.

I had met fisherman at Scourie who were used to a short walk to the boats and then spend the day afloat and return to the Cape Wrath Hotel with the odd good fish. But I never dreamt of 12 fighting fish in a day from our boat with fish over 50cm and at least four over 3lb and another day off the shore a 5lb + beauty who was an old boy but over 64cm and much heavier in his prime years.  
  
This story goes back to 12th July 1932 when Sir George Willis was fishing Loch Lanlish with the dry fly. He managed to catch a lovely 9lb 8oz on his annual holiday to the Sutherland highlands while he was home from India. The fish and a photograph of Sir George sits in a bookcase arch in a house in Totnes and is admired by my brothers and myself whenever we get to visit our Sister in Devon. I have dreamt about catching such a fish for the last ten years and have been fascinated with all the stories surrounding Lanlish.



As you can see it is impressive and there must have been plenty of food around to grow this fat but as they say, there always was back in the good old days.








The Big Fish competition in 2016 had taken us much further north than our usual Assynt and Scourie haunts and we had fished from Wick to Tongue to Durness before heading to south west Sutherland. In Durness we fished for just two days and a large fish was seen on Caladail and a few fish of reasonable size were caught on both the main boat fishing lochs. I had fished Lanlish twice and seen good fish but should have taken notice of the advice received from Bruce Sanderson who we had met in Tongue a few days before and that wading was a complete no no as they cruise in the shallows.



I rose nothing, netted 21 golf balls and playing 18 holes one afternoon did not help with my fishing timetable!

Peter here demonstrating my fishing success!!





After this fairly disappointing limestone initiation we allocated & booked two further days in 2017’s trip with 2 boats on Caladail for four fishermen and a day on Lanlish for three of us. After Peter and I had been blown off the hill in Tongue we had headed for a restful afternoon at the Sango Sands campsite and bar. So we were full of enthusiasm as we approached the hill on the golf course leading to Lanlish that next morning, it is a good stroll and you are bankside in under ten minutes. 



We set up by the 6th green and had a very comfortable vantage point to scan the loch for any movement and watch the golfers approach shots across the water to the green.







I don’t remember much of the morning, a good breeze, some sunshine and assorted dry flies from the three of us. We are typical creatures of habit and used our top performers to start with and don’t tend to change flies too many time before lunch. I use some small stimulators of different colourings including black, Michel opts for a Goddards Caddis / deer hair sedge type dry fly while Peter is the master of the Turks Tarantula. The Turks, well maybe not to start with but it doesn’t take him long to abandon the small parachute flies he often uses.

We fished hard though and our flies were on the water a good few hours before a shout from the north bank and Michel was into a good fish. He was fishing the beach bay and a cruiser had taken his floating fly and was on the run to deeper water. Was he broken or did the hook not hold? Well his WhatsApp reply to my question recently was the fish ran to some weeds wrapped around them and he was broken in the process.  He was gutted, angry and even more determined to catch a fish on this loch. Pete and I were just excited that there were fish in the loch and that they could be hooked, I turned to wets and cast into the wind from the south west being aware of the possibility of golf balls flying past on the sixth fairway. I worked my way around the southern end but it was difficult and there are reeds along the shore so side casting helps but does not get the line far out. I wanted to wade but was aware of scaring all the cruising fish especially as I was nearing Michel’s bay of plenty, well one!

Lunch was taken back at the sixth green base and white wine consumed as we considered our tactics for the afternoon. Peter mentioned that he had a rise during the morning but it was well out and no idea of size. We agreed that dries or sub surface flies slowly pulled in was the way forward and we set off to cover the north west shore again for a few hours.

The boys were flagging after an hour and the day seemed to be coming to an end as they sat on the bank of a hill by the shore near the beach bay and the very shallow area that extends way out into the loch. I had put on a fresh fly to fish wet for the last time and cover the water the boys had fished earlier with dry flies. It was a Ke-He size 10 traditional colours with some extra legs, a fly I always have in my box these days as there are so few Wormfly options around.  I cast out with Peter and Michel as a potential audience but they were snoozing after discussing dinner options and aperitif selections.

We have all had those takes that you get after an initial cast and you miss it as you are getting the line sorted and not paying enough attention to the fly at the end of your cast. Well this was a classic as the fly was floating and although a fair way out in shallow water was a temporary cast area before I concentrated on a hot spot. So I was looking of sorts but shocked to see my line straighten, I struck and immediately realized I was into a good fish who was on the move and heading out to the middle and deeper water. The boys woke up in disbelief of my good fortune as they had both fished here within the last twenty minutes and initially were dubious to my appeal for support.

I have just watched my GoPro video of the playing of the fish and had to change my initial typed comments above and what follows  as the truth was told on camera- missed the actual take and boys fast asleep on bank. For some reason I struggled to play it in a calm manner, I was trying to boss it but it was strong and raced towards me a couple of times which throws you a bit. Anyway Michel netted it finally as I held him steady in the shallow water. 64cm and just over 5lb in weight with beautiful colours and spots.



 A broad back but not in best condition as I felt he was an old fish and on the way out with a saggy stomach. He was returned after measuring, weighing and extraction of Red Tag or Ke-He.





It was and is my best Brown Trout in Scotland with a 4lb 15oz being my previous PB to date. I still can’t really take it in that I have had a Lanlish monster on the line and in the net but luckily I will be back there again in 2018 and will endeavor to repeat the experience with a younger fish and preferably a little bit bigger. Maybe with some small nymphs and buzzers hanging in the water, catching the interest of big uns as they cruise around in search of food. After a few more casts from myself the guys were ready for early drinks at the campsite and we headed off down the hill to celebrate.

Caladail from the boats was our appointment the following day and we were up early making up lunch boxes and having a cooked breakfast outside the tent and campervan. Robin was on his way up from Scourie to share a boat with myself and the weather was typically average, grey sky, a bit misty with a very light wind.

We took three cars to the parking spot and unloaded fishing gear only and headed for the short walk to the boats. Peter had his new electric motor which had been a great benefit when fishing Healan and St Johns loch earlier in the week. It proved useful here but mainly to tow the other boat back for a picnic lunch at boat bay.

With the stories of big fish I had advised Robin that strong line would be needed and I repeated the advice given to us at Heilan about using a 10lb minimum   but preferably 12lb. We had heard and seen the big fish up at Wick break fisherman some on the take others playing the fish with all the weed about. We had upped our breaking strain but Robin paid the price and lost two early fish with breaks both in the weeds that are all over the loch.

It was a frantic morning I had two fish over 2lb early on and then had one over 3lb which gave hell of a fight but I was strong with him and he was netted in record time.  We moved the boat and drifted around the southern island and the wall that runs in and across the Loch from South to North.


   Here we once again got into some great fish with another large fish taking my Red Tag and being over 3lb in weight, Rob lost another one to his disgust after a brutal fight and I blamed his knots and weight of line. Probably his skills as well but that’s Brothers for you but we had a challenge to win against the other motorised boat.

As the other boat drifted near us before lunch we found that we were well behind in numbers but they had nothing of the size of our fish caught by me or lost by Rob. Anyway a shout went up and Robin was into another good fish he was careful and played it well and got it up on the top and away from the weeds. It was nearly in my net at one stage but a plunge into the deep started the fight all over again. The other boat was coming too close for comfort and with no attention to our health and safety, we screamed at it’s irresponsible skipper but it was too late the fish broke Robin’s line and another 3lb + fish lost (also his last Ombudsman).


We got a tow back to the boat bay and the gap in the submerged wall and went back to the car for our picnic spread and assorted wine selection. Talk was of the mornings experiences which none of us had expected and of the forthcoming trip to Iceland in August. Further advice was given on knots and breaking strain!!!



The afternoon was quieter but still productive and both of us on our boat managed a few more fish in the 2-3lb category. 



We were thrashed on numbers by Peter and Michel but they could not rise the bigger fish. I think there is another size a step up from these as we have seen them before but I was happy to be connecting with quality fighting fish and one of the best days of boat fishing I have ever had.







We adjourned to the campsite when the clouds got darker and the temperature seemed to be dropping. A satisfied glow surrounded the Limestone loch fisherman as they sipped their gin & tonics in deck chairs within our corral of tents and campervan. We talked of Scourie where we were heading the following day to camp and fish the Scourie and District Angling Club waters with Robin fishing the hotel beats he would select later that night.



On reflection:
  • ·         What a cracking days fishing Caladail can be.
  • ·         Unbelievable success against all the weather gods advice
  • ·         Check your leader for worn areas, knots and breaking strain- don’t just guess yesterday’s leader will be ok
  • ·         Take more white than red wine on your picnics
  • ·         Give good advice on the best picnic deck chairs before you leave home (mine can be used in a boat as well)
  • ·         Reminder to self- always buy a spare double blow-up mattress
  • ·         Don’t spend too long or too many days at Lanlish
  • ·         Take your golf clubs or hire some for £10, breaks up the fishing and drinking and you meet some great people.
     Certainly not a Bob Walker cracker but an effort to bring some life to our trip last year and the great experience of catching fish in Durness. We are back for a whole week here in 2018 and hiring the Balnakeil House to celebrate Robin's 60th with his children and family and friends. I guess we will thrash Croispol and Borralaidh boat fish Caladail, night fish Lanlish as well as play more rounds of golf
      Other than that I am fishng Achiltibuie, Assynt, Scourie, Wick and Dunnet head and all lochs south of Melivich for two weeks from the 1st June. Tight lines out there Cheers Graham