Today as I type this blog entry there are only 62 days to go until the start of the Brown Trout fishing season. This has me anticipating more days in the hills like this report of a fishing trip I made to the Highlands last July.
My two friends Alex and Willie informed me that they were heading up North to acquire a Munro tick and thus complete the full set of Fannichs, Na Coileachan to be precise. They kindly asked me if I would be interested in accompanying them. I used to be a regular on their mountain days but bad knees and an ever-increasing beef mountain have put an end to my long treks into the mountains and now do lesser hills and shorter walks. I agreed that I would go for the weekend but would head into the Fannichs to do a bit of fishing instead as that would be less demanding.
If I told you that I was on the Black Cuillin during the course of my weekend among the Fannichs you would perhaps think that I was deluded or quite possibly had got my geography mixed up but you would be wrong. All will become clear.
We departed the Central belt on Friday afternoon and arrived at our Highland base camp, The Aultguish Inn, in the early evening. After settling into our bunk house accommodation we moved into the operation headquarters -The Bar, to discuss our plan of action for the next day. Over a fair few bottles of fine Scottish ale it was decided that they would approach their desired destination from the parking area at the end of Loch Glascarnoch on the A835 but would drop me off first a further 3K along the road at Loch Droma Dam as I had decided that I would target Loch Sgeireach for a “troot or twa”.
I awoke on Saturday morning a little fragile after being on Skye’s finest the night before but was soon right as rain after a good hearty breakfast in the Inn.
As planned the night before I was dropped off at Droma Dam. No sooner was I walking along the track up the Alt a Mhadaidh when I was attacked, yes mugged, assaulted call it what you will. They caught me unaware and came at me with great force and ferocity. I was totally unprepared for this unprovoked attack. I was utterly helpless as I struggled to get those bloody cleggs/horse flies off me. My face and arms were left blooded and swollen as I struggled to get into my rucksack for my hat, fleece and skin so soft for protection. It was too late though as the damage had been done and it was now a case of damage limitation. I struggled up the track in the blistering heat overdressed and exhausted as I reached the weir where I would leave the track and aim for the bealach between Beinn Laith Bheag and Creag Dhubh Fannaich.
As I ascended the heather hillside a light breeze picked up which reduced the numbers of those nedish insects, but a few still accompanied me as I eventually reached Loch Sgeireach.
I sat and had my lunch and swatted away the cleggs as I contemplated how to approach my fishing on the loch. I set up with a two fly cast, which consisted of a Black spider with a mole fur body on the point and a yellow, and partridge on the dropper. I began fishing the loch where it narrows in the middle. It was quite shallow there but a few trout were splashing about here every now and again. Within seconds of my first cast I received my first bite at the loch. Unfortunately it was another blasted clegg. A couple of casts later though and I was into one of Sgeireach’s rising trout. Small and lively is the best way to describe these fish. As is the norm when fishing these mountain lochans I didn’t linger too long in the one spot. I fished all along the north shore and caught around a dozen fish or so which were all pretty much the same size and missed twice as many. After a couple of hours I reluctantly decided it was time to make my way back down but first I thought I might as well make my way to the summit of Beinn Laith Beag where there was a brief escape from those un mentionable insects. I contemplated walking east from the summit and making my way down to where my mates had started their walk but decided against it as I was unaware of what the ground would be like underfoot for my top heavy body and dodgy knees so I decided to get back down the way I came up as I at least knew what to expect.
The descent was actually not too unpleasant, as the air had cooled with a brisk breeze which meant I was Clegg free. It wasn’t too long before I was back at Droma Dam where I lay down with my rucksack as a pillow and had a welcome rest with the wind blowing up the glen at my back and waited on the arrival of my mates. After three quarters of an hour there was still no sign of them so decided to walk along the A835 to the car where I left a note under the wiper blade stating that I was hitching a lift back to the Inn as the Black Cullin were calling me. A very nice bloke from Lewis on his way to Inverness kindly stopped and gave me a most welcome lift to the Inn where I made for the bar right away. The first bottle of Black Cullin was gone in two thirsty gulps the second at a more leisurely pace as I reflected on a very enjoyable wild fishing experience.
When my two Munroist friends arrived from the hills I was pleased to see that I was not the only person to have been assaulted by the thuggish cleggs. Over a lovely Aultguish meal and yet even more Black Cullin we swapped tales of our day in the hills and tried to outdo each other like three little school boys by showing off our clegg bites. My friend Willie won hands down as his face and arms were in a terrible mess.