Tuesday, 5 September 2023

It was so much more than fishing

Fishing in the remote wilderness of the Scottish Highlands is a privilege to experience. The stunning scenery that surrounds you as you cast your line into the  waters of the highland lochans and Lochs is truly awe-inspiring. It's a place where the natural world takes center stage, and the act of fishing becomes much more than just catching trout; it becomes a profound connection with nature.
On a recent fishing trip with my friends to a  remote part of the Scottish highlands, we were treated to a glorious day . We wandered out to a few lochans and a Loch, armed with a variety of flies such as sparse spider patterns, leggy kates, Ordies, and various other wets. While we did manage to catch numerous trout, the size of the fish was modest. I did however lose  a sizable trout, possibly around a pound in weight, right at my feet. My companion, on the other hand, had better luck on the same small lochan and fooled a very dark, peaty loch trout weighing in at about a pound. These moments of success were sweet but were just a small part of the overall experience.
What truly made the day remarkable was the environment that enveloped us. As I sat down to eat my lunch by the lochan , I couldn't help but reflect on the first time I visited this area with my late friend, Willie Hamilton. On that occasion, our goal was Munro bagging, and we were tackling the long  slopes of Ben Na Lap. While the grandeur of peaks like Ben Nevis and the arête connecting Carn Mor Dearg was hard to ignore, it was the unassuming Ben Na Lap that captured my attention.
This seemingly ordinary hill triggered a flood of cherished memories of the countless days Willie and I spent hillwalking all over Scotland. It was a reminder of the deep camaraderie that existed between us and the shared love for the great outdoors. Fishing in this remote wilderness wasn't just about catching trout; it was about connecting with nature in a way that brought back the essence of those earlier adventures with Willie.
In the midst of the wild, surrounded by stunning vistas and tranquil waters, fishing becomes a conduit to a deeper appreciation of the world around us. It's a reminder of the importance of preserving such pristine environments and cherishing the memories created in them. So, while some anglers may  measure their fishing trips in the size of their catch, the true value lies in the experiences, connections, and reflections that the remote Scottish Highlands offer. It's a privilege that reminds us of the richness of life beyond the fish we seek to catch.
please re-visit my blog  later as I will have more pics to share from this recent stravaig.

Thursday, 24 August 2023

Hebridean Stravaig 2023 #South Uist & Benbecula

Embarking on my Hebridean Stravaig for a week of fishing to South Uist and Benbecula I was fueled by anticipation and a longing for the serene connection with nature that only angling can provide. Little did I know that this journey would be an intricate interplay of success, challenge, and camaraderie, all set against the backdrop of the unique Hebridean landscape.
The inaugural day of my expedition proved to be a harbinger of success. Bathed in the warmth of the sun's embrace and under a sky with very little cloud, the weather was probably more to the liking of a tourist rather than an angler. This picturesque canvas set the stage for an auspicious beginning, as I deftly outwitted a few unsuspecting trout. With a sense of accomplishment, I netted five of these elusive creatures. However, the following day unveiled the unpredictable nature of fishing.
Despite the improved fishing conditions, I found myself facing a tougher challenge on one of the estate lochs.The trout seemed more cautious, perhaps sensing the game afoot. I managed to land only a single trout, while a few others evaded my net by throwing the hook and some coming short .
The fickle nature of these trout reminded me that even amidst the most favorable circumstances, nature's whims can alter the course of any endeavor.
Saturday dawned with an unexpected twist. 
Our hopes of fishing at Groggary were dashed by the wind and rain, a reminder that nature's temperament is often beyond our control. Rather than let disappointment take hold, my companions and I chose to adapt. We spent the day engrossed in fly tying, a creative endeavor that allowed us to remain connected to the essence of fishing, even in the absence of direct engagement with the trout.
Sunday's success emerged against the odds. I feared  the curse of the Tattie-bogle , but undeterred, I braved the strong south wind along the Half Bottle Loch's east shore under the watchful eye of two Tattie - Bogles. As the rain stopped and the winds subsided, a newfound tranquility enveloped the scene. In this serene interlude, I managed to fool four trout, a testament to the delicate interplay of skill, patience, and the right choice of patterns — the Loch Ordie and Cock Robin.
The following day's plans for a boat trip on Loch Bornish were thwarted by the gale that swept through. Undeterred, we attempted a few casts from the shore before surrendering to the wind's unyielding force. Seeking refuge in the car, we returned to our accommodations. Here, surrounded by the dry comfort and the aroma of coffee and options of beer or spirits we returned to the art of fly tying, a pursuit that kept our spirits aloft despite the tempestuous conditions.
As the days progressed, the week's crescendo built towards  Tuesday, which brought both an end to the Hebridean fishing adventure and a sense of fulfillment. Regrettably, I was met with a blank day, a reminder that the balance between fortune and perseverance is tenuous. Yet, in a bittersweet twist, I found solace in assisting my companion, who managed to triumph where I fell short. His success exemplified the essence of camaraderie, reminding me that the joys of shared triumphs are often as profound as personal victories.
In retrospect, my Hebridean Stravaig encapsulated the essence of angling — a delightful blend of skill, patience, and adaptability. The scenic days spent on the Lochs were mirrored by the convivial evenings at the hostel, where hearty meals, drinks and animated conversations flowed as freely as the nearby streams. This journey reinforced the idea that fishing is not merely a pursuit of elusive creatures; it's a journey of self-discovery, camaraderie, and an unbreakable bond with the natural world.
Until the the next time, Slàn leibh Nunton!

Click the link below to see a sideshow of pics from the Stravaig.
Hebridean Stravaig

Monday, 14 August 2023

Some Recent Vice Work

I'll keep this brief as Im currently sitting in my room which is in a bit of a mess with all sorts gear scattered all over the place. The reason for this is that in a couple of days time I will be travelling over to the Outer Hebrides on a fly fishing stravaig. However one of the great pleasures of preparing for a fishing trip is not only pouring over OS maps, books and guides and selecting possible lochs to fish, but flyting and chosing which flies and boxes to take too. Here is a few patterns I tied recently for the trip. Hopefuilly over the next week or so I will have some pics of trout to share and stories to tell. see you soon!

Friday, 4 August 2023

Lady Caroline

Can't believe how lucky I was In the Davie McPhail monthly draw  last  Monday night, as I won a framed famous Spey Fly pattern: The Lady Caroline, tied by Davie McPhail himself.
I was so pleased and what a coincidence it was too as in the afternoon before the draw on Monday night I was listening to a podcast about the history of Spey Flies with John Shewey who is the the author of the magnificent book "Spey Flies.Their history and Construction!"
Then when I got home from work  I dug out the book from my shelves and read a couple of chapters about the famous Spey ghillie  and possible originator of the Lady Caroline pattern, Geordie Shanks. 
Unfortunately I was unable to watch the draw live in the evening as I was out for a few hours 
However it was a great  thrill to learn I had won when I watched it when I got home.
It was fate! 
There is always an array of fantastic prizes in Davie's monthly draw and it's well worth entering. I've now won on three occasions.
Click the link below to get a flavour of the draw.
This latest prize win will take pride of place in my tying room and will be something I will Treasurer! 

Saturday, 29 July 2023

Not the 3lb ers I was after!

When I finished work on Friday my mate Scott picked me up and we were soon off down the M74 for an evening fishing on the River Clyde.
We arrived at our destination in less than an hour.
We got ready to fish the river at a leisurely pace as we were in no rush to start fishing.
We then walked up beyond the Midlock burn and followed the coarse of a Roman Road to the Bellstane pool where we sat and blethered for a bit before starting to fish our way back down the river.
The weather was a bit bright for our liking but there was a good heat in the air which we reckoned would be to our adavantage.
The walk back along the river towards Crawford was uneventful as we never saw or encountered any trout but we did see a number of crayfish claws among the stones.
I'd set up with a two fly cast of a magpie & silver on the dropper and a magpie & black on the point.
It wasn't until we passed by the footbridge and Camps burn that the trout took an interest
Oddly enough we never saw any trout rising but we did see a number of birds on a few occasions swooping down to pick up flies on what I believe was a  couple of brief hatches.
Although I missed a couple of trout just past the Camps burn I was really expecting to land some from there and in the wide bend of the Castle pool but nothing materialised until on the straight run past the castle towards the Camps road  bridge where I managed a couple of trout which were fooled by the magpie & silver on the dropper.
Not the 3lb ers I was after but lovely trout all the same.
It was getting grey dark when Scott managed to get his trout at the other side of the camps road bridge.
Soon after we called it quits. I couldnt believe that it was 10pm. The time just flew by on what was a lovely and very enjoyable night of fishing on the River Clyde.

Saturday, 15 July 2023

A few wet hours on the Upper Clyde

As my short break from work was coming to an end another day fishing was just what I required before returning to the humdrum of the working week on Monday.
I decided to head down M74 on Friday afternoon. 
Within the hour I was on the river, unfortunately in the pouring rain. However my spirits weren't dampened as I was soon into a lovely wee Clyde broonie fooled by a partridge & orange fly pattern.
The troot action continued afterwards,  missing umpteen and netting three more.
I had no need to change my flies as my two fly cast of black spider and partridge and orange attracted the trout all afternoon.
Although the trout were of no great size they were lovely and put a fair bend in my rod.
All too soon my time on the river was over and I was back off up the road taking the scenic road via the Clyde valley tourist route.
I only had a few hours on the river but it was all I needed.
The Upper Clyde area really is a lovely part of world with quite a bit of Roman history which is well worth delving into. It's well worth a visit even if you're not a fisherman.

Thursday, 13 July 2023

Megan Boyd's House

Whilst on a journey north on a recent fishing trip to Caithness I stopped off at Kintradwell to visit the ruined home and flytying workshop of world renowned flydresser: Megan Boyd (BEM) who if she was alive today, could claim to have king Charles III (who was Prince of Wales at the time) as one of her many world wide customers.
The Megan Boyd story is a fascinating and intriguing one and is documented in the book "Megan Boyd: The Story of a salmon flydresser" and in the beautifully  produced cinematic documentary and hand painted animation film "Kiss The Water."
Megan passed away in 2001 and her Kintradwell estate cottage overlooking the North Sea has remained derelict ever since.
I left the A9 and walked up the track which leads towards the cottage. I had to cut through thigh high grass, and push my way through overgrown trees and bushes to get there.
When I arrived at the property I was saddened to see the condition of the cottage. 
Nature is slowly but surely closing in on the structure and sometime soon will totally engulf the house.
It will be lucky to survive another couple of winters.
The sad ruined state of the cottage is a timely reminder of the weakness and instability of human greatness and that the legacy and the important heritage of Megan's lifetime work is something that should be celebrated and recognised in the local area.
I concede that the house may well be beyond repair however the shed/workshop where Megan plied her craft and the bits and pieces of broken  furniture which lay scattered around could yet still be preserved and perhaps relocated locally and made into a museum or visitor centre.
Over the last couple of years discussions have taken place  about  commissioning an art installation in her memory and erecting a giant sculpture of one of her salmon flies at one of the gateways into the village of Brora, but as yet the ruined cottage and workshop is the only reminder of Megan's contribution to the social history of the area.

Tuesday, 11 July 2023

Caithness was Calling!

Caithness was calling  The Dabbler, The Tangler, The Tiddler and The Rookie set off on our much anticipated  trip to the far north of Scotland  on  Friday 7th July at 4 am.
On route we stopped at Kintradwell just outside Brora so that I could visit Megan Boyd's ruined house.
My companions didnt understand my fascination and enthusiasm of the Megan Boyd Story and her ruined house.. I'll speak more of that in a separate blog post.
We arrived at the Brown Trout Hotel in Watten mid morning and settled into our self-carering digs!
The digs were rather drab, rundown and basic. I wouldnt take my wife there but they were perfect us four fishermen!
The weather was scorching so we just hung around the digs until about 5pm and made the short drive to the boat moorings at Loch Watten's east end.
Loch Watten was a huge disappointment as it was green with algae and looked like pea soup.
We had a couple of drifts, went ashore for a blether then decided to make one last short drift and called the game a bogey!
On Saturday morning  we met Hugo Ross at his shop and managed to readjust our plans for the weekend. Hugo was very helpful and accommodating and arranged for us to have a boat on Tofftingal on Saturday night and Sunday during the day.
We managed 17 trout between the four of us on a very sunny and hot  Saturday night
No huge trout but braw fiesty fighters!
On Sunday we had better fishing weather: cloudy grey skies with a gentle breeze so we fished through the day!
It was fantastic and surprising to see good hatches of mayfly on the loch on both days!
The loch had a fair bit of weed up the middle, however we managed good long drifts either side of it and managed a good number of trout once again between the four of us!
The Osprey we watched on both days did quite well too!
Succesfull flies were Watten Warriors, olive bumbles and Loch Ordies.
We called it a day around 5pm as we had arranged to meet Hugo at his shop and hand back the keys for the boats and engines in the evening. Whilst in Wick we had a take - away and headed back to the digs where we relaxed and had a few drinks
On Monday morning we were up early and as ever Scott was on breakfast duty making sure we were well fed before we packed the cars and headed over to Loch Calder for a planned few hours. The two Tams and Scott caught a few trout on the spinners whilst I had a couple of small trout and numerous rises to my flies,  however Thunder and lightening halted play prematurely and that was the last of the fishing on our sojourn to Caithness.
We then started the long journey south down the A9 stopping off at Kintradwell for another look again at Megan's House. Once again my companions werent interested in that.. Next stop was Tain for a bite to eat which everyone was keen on. Then the long tiring journey home to Lanarkshire.
Although Loch Watten was dissapointing we had a great time fishing at Tofftingal and Calder and the camaraderie was fantastic back at the digs at night too.
Looking forward to another trip together sometime in the future already.

It was so much more than fishing

Fishing in the remote wilderness of the Scottish Highlands is a privilege to experience. The stunning scenery that surrounds you as you cast...