Monday, 15 August 2011

Imagine Durness





Last Tuesday morning I awoke to the sound of my radio alarm broadcasting “Londons Burning” there was “Panic on the streets of Birmingham” in general we had “Anarchy in the UK” This wasn’t some old punk radio show this was the News. It was ironic that I had the Smiths, The Clash and the Pistols on my compilation disc that I was playing in the car as Val and I departed the Central Belt for a few days away. As it happens we were travelling as far away as humanly possible from the English Riots. Durness was Calling, and I was hoping to get a wee bit of fishing slipped in among the sightseeing and walking stuff etc.
We arrived at Sango Sands campsite in the late afternoon and set up camp for what we thought would be four nights of looking over one of the best sea views in Scotland. It really was a wonderful spot. The rest of the day was spent walking along the dunes and beaches and we enjoyed watching huge waves crashing into the shore.
I awoke the next day to the sound of rain rattling on the tent. It was still raining after we had our breakfast but we couldn’t sit around all day in a tent. I was actually hoping to get onto one of the nearby limestone lochs with my rod and reel but it wasn’t to be as the weather was horrible so we decided to have a drive around the area looking at some of the remarkable coves and bays that were so beautiful even in the stormy skies. We then visited, would you believe a John Lennon Memorial Garden, which was situated next to the Durness village hall. “Imagine” how tacky and insincere that was. Apparently the ex Beatle spent a few summer holidays in Durness staying with one of his cousins who was a local. Talk about cashing in?
The rain was still pouring down when we visited the craft village of Balnakeil. It’s a very unusual place. I described it to Val as a New Age highland retail park. All the buildings were once owned and used by the MoD during the Cold War. The village is now home to all manner of quirky crafts, artists studios and galleries, pottery workshops, boat builders, chocolatiers even a woodwind instrument workshop but best of all was the bookshop which was a welcome retreat from the inclement weather. We spent a good few hours in there, reading and drinking superb coffee. They specialize in Scottish titles and it was a real joy to browse the shelves. Only criticism was that they had no angling books. I just had to purchase a book, I couldn’t resist. So I opted for an Ian Bank’s title. It wasn’t his usual kind of stuff. Raw Spirit was the title. A travelogue about drinking whisky all over Scotland.
I still hadn’t given up hope of fishing later in the evening but when we arrived back at the campsite my hopes of casting a wee Kate McLaren on Loch Croispol were dashed. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought that the English Riots had spread to remote Sutherland as tents were flattened, upturned tables and chairs were all over the place along with all manner of camping equipment scattered all over the place. The wind and rain had wrecked havoc but more seriously my tent had collapsed, was ripped beyond repair and my tent poles were broken.
The fishing was “well oot the windae”. My wife wasn’t keen on this camping lark in the first place; she was close to tears as we searched in vain for a B&B with vacancies. Just as I was thinking of trying the Lazy Crofter Bunkhouse which I knew wouldn’t go down well with Val, I remembered a post made by Alan from the Wild Fishing Forum last week advising me to go to the Glengolly Guest house regarding permission to fish the local lochs. Off we went with renewed hope of a vacancy to the said house. Our hearts sank as the NV sign greeted us. I decided to chap the door anyway and ask if they were aware of anywhere or anyone who might help us out. To our surprise and relief Mrs Mackay informed us of a cottage they have on the shore of the Kyle of Durness.
Quite literally those grey clouds that hung over us all day had a silver lining as the cottage we stayed in for the next three nights was absolutely wonderful. We had the Kyle of Durness at out doorstep and Loch Borralie was a five-minute walk up the back of the hill from the cottage.
The next day and for the remainder of our break the weather was beautiful all be it not exactly great for fishing but it was perfect for Val.
With my other half happy relaxing and enjoying the sun it was now time to mention to her the F word. That’s right, Fishing! She was more than happy for me to go off fishing. I decided that I would just have a walk up to Borralie though and have a look around etc; it was boiling hot and sunny and not weather to be fishing the very clear waters of this famous loch. After giving Borralie a visit I knew it would be difficult. It was a spectacular looking loch. The colours in the water had to be seen to be believed. It had every shade of blue you can think of. I have never seen a loch before with such clarity.
Next we headed back up to Durness and visited Smoo Cave. What a wonderful creation of nature that is. When we got back to the cottage Val decided to cook dinner so I decided to go out across the road to the Kyle which had a brilliant channel running along it close to the cottage and was clearly visible and accessible at low tide. Mr Mackay advised me to start fishing it at low tide and fish it hard as the tide started to come in. He said I would have a good chance of Sea Bass. I was hoping for seat trout or salmon too. I was fishing for only twenty minutes or so when I got the first fish of the day. A lovely sea bass. A short time later I caught another completing a fine brace of Sea Bass.Soon Val was calling to me from the cottage " Dinner is Ready" I had a a lovely meal and a drink and spent the rest of the night sitting in the garden relaxing, reading, drinking and taking in the scenery until the sun slipped off quitely behind the hill across the Kyle leaving behind a lovely orange glow.
Next morning the weather was just a lovely. I went up to Durness for some morning rolls and the paper and also went to see Martin for a permit to fish Borralie. Val decided we would just laze around the cottage and have a walk along to the Cape Wrath ferry and have a walk up the hills next to Loch Borralie. Then in the afternoon I at long last was going fly fishing on Loch Borralie. I made the short walk from the cottage up to Borralie passed what used to be the Cape Wrath Hotel but it's now call the CW Lodge. When I arived at the shore of this turqouise loch you would have been forgiven for thinking it was the sea such were the colours. I was surprised to meet a couple of old chaps preparing to go out on one of the boats that are moored at the south shore. I had a chat with them. One of them was local and the other was his friend. He told me it would be difficult and advised me where to fish. He said the loch was best fished in the evening just as darkness descends and to fish along the drop offs on the loch which were clearly visible about ten feet out. He wished me luck and they drifted off down the loch. I fished the east shore up to the Island casting my flies into the dropoff areas but I never rose a single fish. I next went along the south shore and up a short distance of the west but to no avail. Although I didn't contact any fish I really enjoyed myself in a beautiful location. As i was breaking off my leader and splitting my rod down etc I noticed a familiar figure coming over the hill towards me. It couldn't be couldn't it but it was. It was Val , my wife with a wee flask of coffee for me. We just sat on the shore of the loch for a while and I told her of my lack of success and how it was too windy too bright , too clear and how it would have been better to fish it with dark clouds and rain etc, you get the drift all the usual excuses.She just laughed as we made our way over the hill and back down to the cottage.
Next day we reluctantly went home.
Check back soon as I have loads of pics I want to share therefore I intend to put up a wee slide show with more pics from my trip.

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