My return to Kilmelford was long overdue. It had been a while since I last fished the hill lochs and I was looking forward to a re-acquaintance with the likes of Chaorainn, Dubh Loch Mor and Beg.
The drive up had been uneventful, which cannot be said for the walk in. I parked at the entrance to the forestry road at nine thirty, approx. forty minutes before sunset. I thought I would have time to walk in before it got too dark, boy was I wrong. The path I remembered was non existent; all that was left was the faint outline as it snaked through long grass and bracken. By the time I got to the top I was soaking in perspiration, my trousers were soaking from the heavy due that was hanging from every piece of grass and bracken and the light had gone down to one candlepower. I was glad to climb the stile out of the plantation and onto the open hill, at least the grass was shorter. I had planned to camp farther in but as the light faded even more I stopped at Loch Chaorainn, put on the head torch that I always carry and put the tent up. It had only taken forty five minutes to walk the mile and a half to here, which is all it should have taken, but it seemed much longer in the half light. By the time I got the tent up and everything sorted out it was twelve thirty when I eventually crawled into my sleeping bag. Thankfully there had been a strong breeze so there had been no midges.
Seven in the morning and already the temperature was 18°C, the sun was shining, the skies were clear and because I was in the shade the midges were biting. Breakfast over I put on the waterproof trousers and headed back down the hill, I wasn't getting soaked again, as I had to get my permit from the shop/post office in Kilmelford. It was eight fifteen; the shop didn't open till nine. I wandered up the road passed the Culfail Hotel and took a few pictures, then back down the road and took some more in front of the big house, Glen More I believe, with two horses in the field in front. It reminded me of pictures I had seen of Wyoming and Montana. Then it was back up the road to the shop for it opening. The prices for the permit are really good, £6 for a day, £12 for three days and £25 for the weekly, I got the three day one.
Clutching my permit, and a 2 Litre bottle of water, I drove back to the parking place, drank 1½ Litres of the water and then tackled the bloody hill again. The temperature was in the twenties by now, I was surrounded by buzzing flies and the clegs were having a field day, and we call this fun.
I was completely knackered when I got back to the tent so just fished the loch from the front door, not literally, but I wasn't walking far. I missed one to the Dry Fly then one to the wets then another to the dry. I stopped and had something to eat, packed the rucksack with some food, filled the water bottle, and headed round the loch.
The fish were rising well and I missed two to the dry, then lost one, then finally landed one of six ounces on the dry. I moved round the bank a bit and lost another two fish to the Dry Fly. By now the temperature was reading 22°C so I did what I normally do when it gets too hot, I lay down on the bank and relaxed. The fish were still rising but it was just too hot and I was too tired to care at that point.
I lay for a while watching Blue Damsel flies chasing each other. I watched one male with his attached female being mobbed by his rivals. I saw Sedges dancing over the water looking for potential mates. I even had Damsel Flies and up wing flies landing on me, I had become part of the scenery and all the time I could hear the buzzing of a million wings in the heather all round me.
The fish were still rising so I walked to the opposite bank and fished back to the tent. The fish were obliging enough to come for the flies. I missed one on the dry, landed a six ounce one on the Iron Blue size 12 on the middle dropper, and missed another couple to the dry and the wets
It had been a long day; the midges were beginning to appear as I washed up my supper dishes so I retired to the tent and watched the sun set through the mesh door on the inner tent. It wasn't long after that I was asleep.
There was a bit more cloud and wind about this morning, kept the midges away though so breakfast was trouble free.
I packed lunch into the rucksack, put on the fly waistcoat and rucksack, picked up the fly rod and headed round to Loch Chreachain on my way to Loch Dubh Bheag. I had a few casts and saw one fish rise on Chreachain then I crossed the inlet burn to head up to the stile over the fence to Dubh Bheag. As I crossed the burn the shallow water at the mouth started to shimmer as hundreds of small fish headed for the deeper water. I noticed that all the lochs were like this so there is a healthy population of breeding fish in the lochs.
The walk to Dubh Bheag isn't far but the banks of the loch are steep and covered in long heather so it pays to be careful and pick your spot to fish from, remembering you will have to clamber down to the water to release or net any fish.
There are a few weed beds at this point and fish were rising in and around them. I missed one on the wets and then missed another to the dry because I was too busy watching the Ravens mobbing a Buzzard over Cruach Maolachy. I moved round the bank a bit and missed another to the dry. It must have been the heat because my reflexes just didn't seem to be fast enough for these guys. The air temperature had risen to 22°C and the water was 18°C as it had been yesterday. I had another lie down on the bank and had something to eat. I had seen a lot of hairy caterpillars in amongst the heather as I trundled about but one of them must have thought it was on holiday in Spain as it lay there on a stone just at the edge of the water. There were sedges floating about and quite a few up winged flies. The air round my head was buzzing with what I would call house flies and the clegs were still trying to make a meal of me.
Walking round to the bottom of the loch I climbed the beallach, looked down on Chreachain, and turned right and followed the deer path that would bring me out at the short arm of Loch Dubh-mhor. This loch sits in a hollow to the northwest of Cruach Maolachy. Most of the bank is fishable with care but my favourite spot is the point between the main loch and this short arm. There was the odd fish rising and I missed one on the wets then one head and tailed over the dry fly but I felt nothing.
The cloud started to get thicker as the afternoon progressed and the wind got a bit stronger. I wasn't getting much action to the HillLoch Nymph on the point so I changed it up a size to a 12 which usually makes a difference. If I had been fishing the 12 I would have changed down a size to a 14. The fish were still rising and then I managed to get a nice half pounder on the Dry Fly before I started the walk back to the tent. The path passes a small weedy loch that used to be dammed called the "Gully" loch but as far as I know there are only a few small trout in it. Be careful if you are wading it as the bottom is very soft deep mud.
Dinner over I walked round to the North side of a'Chaorainn and fished back to the tent. I missed one on the wets that gave a hard tug but never stayed hooked, then one supped the dry under but I never felt a thing, then I finally got one on the Iron Blue Dun on the middle dropper. The wind started to drop as the light went and out came the midges so I headed back to the tent. Before I got in I noticed that there must have been a hatch of Caenis as the skins of the duns were all over the flysheet but they were much smaller than the ones I was used to seeing, they must have been about a size 22, my local ones are about an 18.
It was very cloudy this morning so I got the tent down and packed before breakfast, just in time before there were a couple of light showers. At least the strong breeze kept the midges away, but not the Clegs.
The walk down was just as bad as the walk up hot, sticky, but in daylight I was accompanied by buzzing flies and Clegs.
I drove down to the car parking area at Loch an Losgainn Mor and had some fun in the bay beside the fish cages for half an hour with the small salmon smolt escapees, although I did see one jump that was about 2 Lbs.
I walked up to Loch an Losgainn Beg, a ten minute walk on a good dirt road. The loch has a reputation for big fish that are hard to tempt. After a couple of hours I gave up without seeing a fish. I sat down to have a bite to eat and there, lying in the heather, was possibly the reason. It was the card from a pack of size 6 trebles. What kind of numpties would fish hill lochs with hooks that size?
I moved over the hill to Loch na Curraigh, another favourite, and fished the open water at the far end. There wasn't a lot of activity but one fish was rising regularly he wasn't interested in my offerings though. By this time the rain was getting really quite heavy so I moved to Loch a'Mhinn, a big loch on the way back to the car. The odd fish was moving and I covered them without a touch. The rain was getting heaver and at one point the cloud was so thick I couldn't see fifty yards in front of me, as I was heading home I packed up and walked back to the car.
The high lochs I had been fishing don't seem to be getting fished as much as they were going by the lack of path. I only saw one set of footprints, and a dogs tracks, which could have been the shepherd checking his sheep. It had been strange fishing them in July, my usual time is May, what with long grass, bracken, midges and clegs to contend with it had been interesting, the heat was a problem but drinking plenty and relaxing a lot helped. I noticed on the permit, after I got home, that the lochs are no longer managed by Oban and Lorne Angling club but by Glenmore and Glenbeg, which I take it, are the estates. If I had seen this earlier I would have asked about the change, I have no idea what has happened to the angling club. They are still worth a visit though.
After this article was published I received communication from Oban and Lorne Angling Club. It seems I
made a mistake. The lochs I fished are still managed by them. Permits are available from....
David Grahams Shop, Combie St Oban Tel 01631 562069
The Anglers Corner, George St Oban Tel: 01631 566374
Rudi Graham Kilmore 01631 770647
Andy MacArthur Kilmore 01631 770667
I would like to appologise to the committee and membership for any confusion this may have caused.