Last Thursday Tam, Scott and I departed Airdrie at 3 am in high spirits as we were heading to Caithness on our annual fishing break. Loch Watten was on our minds as we made good progress on the A9 in the early hours of Thursday morning. We arrived in Wick just as the shops were opening and wasted no time in calling in on Hugo Ross’s shop to have a look at the angling eye candy on show. I was tempted by an old second hand angling book, Trout from the Hills by Ian Niall, but after enquiring about the price I decided that 39 quid on this occasion would be better spent on the fishing we had arranged on our wee holiday. I did purchase some flees which I knew I didn’t need as we had more than enough but you how it is, we fishermen can’t help ourselves, even though I do tie my own flies.
After a visit to the bakers for breakfast we were off again on the short journey to our accommodation, Central Caravans, just outside the village of Watten. Tam and Scott had been here before when they fished Watten. So I knew what to expect when we arrived. The caravans were situated a few hundred yards from the Shores of Loch Watten. Our boats and engine were booked through the site owners. We just picked up the engine from the hut next to our caravan and got the key for the boat from our hosts then had it for the duration of our trip.
After settling into our caravan we sat about a while chatting and speculating what tactics we would be putting into place. It was decided that the three of us would go out on the boat but only two fishing at the one time. Tam was anxious to get started right away, he had that look in his eyes that he always has when he’s champing at the bit. We decided to go fishing at about half past two so took the two-minute drive in the car down to the boat moorings where we set about getting ready to go afloat.
It didn’t take long for Tam to get the first fish of the trip then another and an other and so it went on. Scott too got in on the act I actually struggled for the best part of the day catching only two and missing dozens. I was a bit too slow to react but the fact that I was using my soft 9ft sharps Gordon #6 didn’t help… Better was to come though. It was very wind on that first afternoon and it was a great sight to see the fish coming through the waves to grab our flies. At eleven o’ clock that evening once the wind had calmed down to a nice wee breeze the whole loch erupted with rising fish and thousands of flies of all sorts appearing. You couldn’t fail to catch fish as the fish were rising everywhere I am not exaggerating in any way when I say that we were probably experiencing the best ever fishing I have experienced. It was very pleasing to eventually start getting fish on a regular basis. The rise lasted just over an hour. Many, Many fish were caught ½ pound being about average with some larger. We kept a few for taking home for family and friends. We eventually called it a night or should I say morning at about 1am. It was three very happy anglers that headed back to the caravan at about half one, quarter to two for a huge plate of spaghetti bolognaise that Scott willingly cooked. I know it was crazy eating at that time in the morning but we didn’t care, we were absolutely starving.
After a long lie on Friday morning we were refreshed and yearning to get out on the Loch again. Scott, our designated cook made one of his legendary breakfasts for us which, as always after eating we had to lie down for a bit. We just lazed about the caravan most of the day then decided to go fishing at about five bells. Before we set out I decided to organize my fly boxes, there was no need to take my numerous boxes, as one would do as long as I had the flies that were so successful for us the day before. Loch Ordies, Watten Warriors, Claret bumbles, silver invictas and muddlers were the flies that were successful. I tied very hard to get a fish on my balloon caddis but it wasn’t to be, as the Watten residents appeared to prefer the old tried and trusted traditionals.
I have to be honest here; I did not have the best of afternoons/nights on Friday. I only managed a few small trout and as usual missed countless amounts of trout. Tam and Scott were having the time of their life though. Tam in particular had some very good trout indeed. We were fishing in a light westerly wind with fish rising regularly. I am not that good at estimating trout weight but I reckon he had one at about 1 ¾, maybe more. Tam and Scott caught countless amount of trout some of which again were kept for the pot. Once again the same flies as the night before were the troot catchers. I had a very frustrating day as I felt like a fool with the other two catching so many trout. I tried everything adjusted this and that changed fly after fly and wondered why the hell I wasn’t doing as good as the others especially as I was sitting right next to them on the boat. Two happy anglers and a down in the dumps one finished for the night just after midnight. Tam was especially pleased as he had landed some fantastic looking trout.
On the Saturday we decided to get out on the Loch about three o’clock. A strong east wind was blowing across the loch with the threat of rain never far away.
I set out on this our third and final day on the Loch with a different approach. This time I decided to use my Lochmor 10 ½ foot #7. The change in rod and slight change in flies coincided with my luck as I had an absolutely brilliant Saturday afternoon/evening on the Loch even though we fished in a strong easterly wind with big waves and eventually very heavy rain. The slight change in my three fly cast was the addition of a fly I received from the Wild Fishing Forum fly swap. The fly in question was best described as a half hog hopper with red legs. I caught countless amount of trout on this fly along with a few on the Watten Warrior and the Loch Ordie. It’s amazing how one’s luck can change. Instead of me watching my friends catching all the trout it was my turn to catch the most. Don’t get me wrong Tam was catching too but not as much as he had done on the last two days. As for Scott he was having a terrible time. He was having the nightmare that I experienced the day before. I was pleased that he eventually caught a couple before the close of play. For the most part of the day the rain appeared and it didn’t’ let up, we got thoroughly soaked in the brisk east wind but I didn’t care as I had one of the best days trout fishing that I have ever had. At around eleven fifteen we collectively decided to call it a night as Scott pulled in the drogue and Tam wound in his line I had time for another couple of casts and caught my final tout from the loch on the most suitably named pattern, Watten Warrior. It was most probably fate that the final trout from Watten on out trip fell to the Warrior. It was three very wet, tired, and hungry warriors that headed back to the Central Caravans to get dried off and tuck into our midnight feast of sausage casserole, tatties and veg.
Next morning the weather appeared to have changed for the better. We had nice blue skies and sunshine with light winds. We sat about all morning waiting on all our gear drying off which was hung all around our caravan. By early afternoon everything was dry but then disaster struck. Everything went black we had thunder and lightning very strong winds and heavy rain. We had intended on going to Loch Calder in the afternoon but instead we headed to the supermarket in Wick to stock up on beer, cider and wine in preparation for the world cup final. Yep Sunday was our day or rest and to be perfectly honest we really needed it. The fishing had been tremendous for us all. Every one of us had a fantastic time on Watten with a couple of blips for some.
The dreaded Monday arrived, the day we were going home, but it was decided we would make the most of our last day. We were going sea fishing from Strathy point on the North coast. When we arrived I decided not to bother as the terrain these two intrepid sea anglers were going to fish looked too dodgy for me. I just tagged along and sat admiring the view especially the sight of a basking shark coming in close to us.
On Tam’s first cast he caught a 6lb Pollack followed by many smaller ones. Not to be out done Scott caught a few too then eventually he caught a big Pollack at around a very respectable 5lb or so.
After a few hours they packed it in and we headed away from the outcrop back towards the big lighthouse and the road back to the car. On the way across the outcrop I nearly came a cropper. There was a section of rock that had to be negotiated along a very narrow ridge. I was carrying the fish and was very nervous moving across this ridge when I slipped and fell backwards. To my left was the sea 50 feet below and to my right a huge gully of jagged rock etc. When I fell I slipped to the right the fish went flying and I grappled to stop myself from slipping all the way down the cliff. It is no exaggeration to say that I had a very lucky escape indeed, as well as a sore back cut fingers and arm and numbness down my left leg and toes. When I got back to the car I kept getting flash backs and imagining what would have become of me if I hadn’t managed to grab onto some rocks. Anyway that’s enough of my personal dramatics.
Scott has a friend, Jim, who lives in Bettyhill, so it was decided that we would head over there to meet him before we headed on the long journey home. When we arrived at his house he was not in but his neighbour told us that he would be down at Ally’s pool on the River Naver. Off we went to meet him; sure enough he was on the river fishing for salmon. While we sat on the bank chatting etc Jim’s friend Robert appeared from round the bend carrying a salmon of about 4lbs or so. He was fishing with his dog and daughter. After chatting a while, time was getting on and it was decided that we better head for home as we had many miles in front of us. We stopped once on the way home, at Dingwall, for fuel and food. We eventually made it back to Airdrie at about 1am. Our holiday was over and I can’t wait to next year to do it all again although I don’t think I will want to visit Strathy Point ever again.