August 2008

(For more pictures click here)

August 13.

It had rained; rained some more and rained even more for, what appeared to be, weeks before I set off for Oban and eventually Kilmelford. As we drove up through Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Dalmally and Taynuilt the skies started to clear and for the first time I felt that it would turn out to be a worthwhile trip.

Caledonian MacBrayne ferry, Clansman, leaving Oban

[Click on thumbnails for a bigger picture]

Down the hill past the King's Knoll, along the Main Street and round behind the Columba Hotel to park in the car park, I always seem to be lucky enough to find a space here no matter what time I arrive in Oban. We strolled round the esplanade to the railway pier where we had lunch, and then back up checking out the shops on the way, with a stop at W.H.Smith for the requisite magazines and books that I always buy when here. Then it was up the main street and into Anglers Corner to pick up my permit. The young lady tried to sell me one of the estate tickets but, after explaining it was the club waters I would be fishing, she gave me the right one. I got the impression that splitting up the lochs at Kilmelford between the estate and the club is causing a lot of confusion permit wise. We went back to the car and made the short drive down the coast to the Loch Melfort Hotel at Arduaine which would be home for the next two nights.

I should explain the 'we' at this point, my wife was accompanying me as this would be her treat, sitting in the hotel being run after by the staff and watching the world go by while I fished. She loves to sit, either in the room or the lounge, with a book and enjoy the view down the sound of Jura, past Isle Shuna with Ben More, on Mull, and the Paps of Jura in the distance. There is always something to watch on the sea, yachts, fishing boats, small speed boats and sea birds. Flying round the hotel were Swallows and their young with the odd glimpse of a Buzzard working the field that runs down to the shoreline. If you look long enough you may also see an Otter working the seaweed beds around here and maybe the odd Dolphin and Whale, you never know. I nearly forgot the rabbits, hundreds of them, from small ones no bigger than mice to big bruisers that would make a nice stew.

August 14

My fishing day dawned, six in the morning, I opened my eyes and drank in the view from the patio doors that took up the whole of the wall I was facing, with an upper room we don't close the curtains when we are here. The light was just strong enough to see the calm sea and the view was spectacular, the colours just coming on the islands and the dusky blue mountains penetrating the lightness in the sky on the horizon. The sky was clearing, it would be a good day, I closed my eyes and returned to sleep; breakfast wasn't till eight.

We had breakfast at the window in the corner of the dining room with that same view nourishing our soul as the food nourished the body. The hotel has that air of yesteryear about it; hushed tones at breakfast; no blaring music and afternoon tea with the papers in the lounge; you never feel the need to rush.

It is a short, ten minute drive from the hotel to the end of the forestry track that was the start of the path to the hill lochs. As I drove down the road more and more blue sky appeared as the clouds dispersed, although never disappearing. Getting out of the car I felt the searing heat of the sun burning into the top of my head and my bare arms. It and the high humidity would make for an uncomfortable climb up the hill. I opened the back door of the car and sat on the seat to put on my boots, that was when the flies appeared; landing on my arms, crawling on my face, not biting but annoying, then the real invasion. I was sitting in the shady side of the car and the midges found me, not a lot, but enough to remind me to put on repellent before I started off.

kilmelford Hill lochs path

Boots on; rucksack on my back; fishing rod in hand, I set off along the track to where the path turns off to the right leaving the forest road and going up through a fire break. The only problem is, if you don't know this there is no path discernible on the ground and following the forestry road isn't a good idea as it doesn't take you in the right direction. I jumped the ditch and skirted the boggy ground by staying near the trees. At this point I decided to put on the waterproof trousers as the grass and bracken were shoulder high and dripping with moisture and my trousers were becoming uncomfortably wet. Going from memory I followed a path of sorts, or perhaps it was just in my head but it was taking me in the right direction. Every now and then I would get to a spot where I could see deer tracks, but no human prints, this path isn't used much any more so the regular anglers must have a different route in now. The path eventually comes out of the long grass and trees and climbs sharply through the bracken. Here and there I could just make out the worn path beneath the fronds, but it was hard going and by now I was covered in a fine film of water, the word sweat doesn't do it justice. I was regretting putting on fly repellent now as anything that landed on bare skin drowned.

The first stiff climb over I rested before the next bit, although there were still clouds about the sun felt intense. Leaving the bracken behind it was strength sapping long grass and heather up to the deer fence and the style over it. A few of the spars are missing so getting over is a bit of a scramble, but once over the walking is easier on the shorter grass from here to Loch Chaorainn.

The loch stretched out in front of me as I put the rod together and I made the decision to concentrate on the right, north shore, as I normally start the other way. I walked down to the outlet burn and crossed over the stepping stones, disturbing shoals of small fish in the process. It would seem there is a healthy breeding population in the loch. This part of the loch is shallow and there are a couple of reed beds that grow a short distance out from the edge. Going from past experience I new that there might be fish cruising off them, my first casts would be out in front of them. I lengthened line and cast out the three fly cast, it hadn't changed since my last trip. Dry fly on the top dropper size 14, Invicta size 10 on the middle and a size 12 HillLoch Nymph on the end. I started to retrieve. Nothing happened, as was expected. I moved slowly along the shore, casting and retrieving as I went, then the line just went heavy, and I missed my first fish. Lack of concentration, lost in my surroundings, tuned to the moon instead of being tuned to the fishing. I fished on.

Loch Chaorainn Kilmelford Argyll

The wind, such as it was, blew from behind me so the water was calm before a slight ripple ruffled the surface some ten yards out. I reached the first point just as I noticed a fish rise in the flat calm. I covered it as best I could and then noticed more fish rising here and there. I continued casting and retrieving in the vicinity of these rising fish until eventually a fish went for the surface fly, and missed it. I had a look around to see what they might be taking and it was then I noticed the flying ants on the rocks, on the water and on me; by now there were fish rising everywhere. I continued to cast and retrieve and then the water exploded beside my flies and I lifted into a hard fighting fish on the Invicta of all things. I brought it in and released a nice fat six ounce brown trout to fight another day.

I continued to fish from this point missing slashes and plucks until I finally caught the twin of the first fish on the HillLoch Nymph. Every now and then the sun would be covered by a big cloud, the light ripple would increase and the wind would change round to my right, but the fish continued to rise although the ants would seem to disappear. I continued round this small shallow bay to the next point missing a couple more slashes and a few tightening of the line but caught no more fish. It was time for a move.

Back the way I had come, over the stepping stones and then follow the path to the left, you can see it here, to Loch Chreachain. Cross the inlet burn here and go over the fence, the style is broken and unusable here, and on to Loch Dubhe Bheag. I walked round the loch to the far side for a change and sat there having lunch and watching the water. There was a slight ripple interspersed with flat calm but every now and again a fish would break the surface. One in particular seemed quite consistent. I finished lunch and scrambled down the bank, they are quite steep at this point, found a safe(ish) place to stand at the water and cast in the general direction of where it was rising. There were a couple of other fish rising in the area which I covered without success. I covered the original fish again and this time it took the HillLoch Nymph. I could tell it was a better fish by the fight it was putting up and I finally brought in a nice half pound brown trout. This one I dispatched as I had promised to take one back for my wife as she likes one for the Bar-B-Q.

Brown Trout from Loch Dubh Bheag a Kilmelford hill loch

I continued on for another few hours with fish rising but, although I rose a few more fish I never caught any. I finally moved back to Loch Chaorainn and fished off the point at the east end but, although there were still fish rising, I packed up without contacting with any of them.

That was it, down the hill, in the car, back to the hotel, find the wife, have a pint, up to the room for a shower and get changed for dinner. The end of another enjoyable day on some of my favourite hill lochs. My wife is even talking about next year, I just hope I'm fit enough, to climb the hill I mean.