in one of the remotest places in scotland

Attadale was the destination for our annual fishing trip this year. Find Kyle of Lochalsh on your map of Scotland, it's where the bridge is to Skye, and follow the road and railway line towards Inverness, when you reach Loch Carron look for Attadale station, this was our starting point.

looking back maoile-bhuidhe bothy OS map #25 1:50,000 series, Pathfinder map #190.

(For more pictures please click here)

(For a few videos click here)

Day One May 17-2003

Rose at 4am, work, finished at 10:30am, collected George at midday and drove the 200miles to Attadale stopping at Tyndrum, Fort William and the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge for something to eat, finally got there at 6:00pm.

ben dronaig bothy

We assembled our gear and finally started the walk in at 6:30pm, to say it was hard going would be an under statement, the 20 kilo rucksack felt like 20 tons by the time we had walked the four miles to the top of the pass but after that the next four miles to Ben Dronaig bothy was a bit easier. It was 10:30pm by this time and I had been on the go all day so we decided to spend the night here and continue on the next day.

The bothy was neat, tidy and dry and, after walking for the last four hours in heavy rain showers, was most welcoming. We had supper, hung up our damp clothes and retired to our sleeping bags for a well earned sleep.

Day Two May 18-2003

A good nights sleep and breakfast certainly helps and by 8:00am we were on our way. The first three miles were again on land rover track which made the going easier till we came to our first obstacle, the wooden bridge. Now this wasn't your usual bridge, it was constructed with two wire ropes stretched between two posts with wooden slats tied across them, some of which were missing, the hand rails were two lengths of fencing wire at waist height as it swung about it made an interesting crossing, and saved getting wet feet. wooden bridge

The track rises and then levels as Loch Calavie came in sight and, even with the extra weight of the rucksack, I couldn't pass without having a few casts. The conditions looked good, temp 10-12°C, light breeze and overcast but it wasn't to be and with Geo. moaning about standing about with a heavy rucksack I packed it in and we set of again, we would fish it on the way back down.

At the end of the loch we had to leave the track and cut across country to get to our final destination, Maoile Buidhe bothy, it was only about two miles but wasn't short of excitement. First off we had to ford a small burn, not easy with heavy packs. Geo was for jumping, I wasn't so sure, he tried it and fell flat on his face between two rocks, held down by the weight of his pack, I waited till he extracted himself and made sure he was alright before I laughed. I handed him my pack and jumped across without any mishaps. It was all downhill and as we reached the bottom we found that it was all peat bog so we had to cross and recross numerous deep gullies and holes, bog hopping we call it, jumping from what is solid to what you think is and hoping you don't sink up to your neck in black goo.

Eventually we reached Loch Cruoshie and the only way across was to take off the walking boots, roll up the trousers, and wade across, the cold water was beautiful on hot tired feet and made a pleasant interlude in which so far had been an epic journey, even if it was only four miles.

tents and Maoile Buidhe bothy The bothy was only a mile away now and when we got there it was midday so we had lunch, put up the tents, we had decided beforehand not to sleep in the bothy as we preferred the soft ground to wooden floor boards, and relaxed some more.

Pleasant as this was we were here to fish and the walk down to the loch was all the more enjoyable without a heavy pack on. The loch is approx. 500yards by 300yards but I was heading for the nearest part which was the south west corner. I could see one or two fish moving and started picking up fish in the 4-6 ounce size on all three flies on the cast.The cast was my usual, top dropper - floating nymph size 14ls, middle - iron blue dun size 12, tail - hill loch nymph size 14 on a ten foot five pound maxima cast tied to an Airflo braided leader and braided loop to an Aircel WF7 floating line, the rod is a Daiwa 10 foot three piece WF98. I slowly moved along the bank rising, catching and missing lots of these small fish, I even had two on the cast at the same time, I was beginning to wonder if the hard walking to get here was going to be worth it if all we were going to catch were these small fish.

Geo. had been catching his share of the fish on a pheasant tail size 12 and as the sun went down he came along the bank from where he had been fishing, we headed back to the tents and had supper before turning in, another long hard day behind us.

The weather had been showery all day and the temperature had been between 10 and 12 degrees centigrade, not the temperatures I would have liked for this time of year, I just hope it warms up a bit as the week goes on.

Day Three May 19-2003

Today we had decided to fish Lochan Gobhlach, a two mile walk on a well defined walkers path, well at least that was how it looked on the map. It turned out to be not so well defined on the ground. It was there alright but parts of it had been badly eroded away and a ford across one of the burns turned out to be an old pine tree half submerged in black peat and water, it took us twenty minutes to find a way across. We eventually came to a point on the path across from the loch which was about half a mile away, in a straight line that is, by the time we had bog hopped and retraced our steps it was more like a mile till we reached the loch.

Lochan Gobhlach is actually two lochs close together the one we reached first was the most easterly one. The water was clear and there was very little wind so the fishing should have been good. We fished both lochs all day but saw nor caught anything, this trip was turning into a big disappointment.

On the walk back to the tents that night we discussed the trip so far and we were beginning to think it was a big mistake, we were tired from all the walking and fishing and the weather had been cloudy and cool, air temp. 12-14°C water 12oc, the water temperature was fine but we would have preferred it to have been warm and sunny. sunset in attadale from Maoile Buidhe bothy

The sky was clearing as we returned to the tents for supper and the setting sun began to shine, George decided to try Loch Cruoshie after dinner, I lay and contemplated the inside of my eyelids.

Day Four May 20-2003

George had been studying the map over breakfast and by mutual agreement we decided today to fish Loch na Maoile Buidhe. The mile walk, although uphill, was on a good walkers path till we got level with the loch then it was back to bog hopping for a few hundred yards.

The loch was small but perfect, the sun was shining, the wind was light and fish were rising. We picked our spots and began casting to rising fish. They weren't big, 4-6 ounces but they fought well and the rain stayed away. loch maoil buidhe

We had decided beforehand to keep two fish each and have them for lunch, this we did and they tasted beautiful straight from the water and into the pan. It was during this repast that I had a look at the map and was surprised to find that from this spot I could see five of the highest tops in Scotland. If you are a climber or walker you will know that hills over 3000ft in Scotland are called Munros and that there are only 284 of them, and here I was looking at five of the remotest of them, twenty miles from anywhere in any direction. Another thing that struck me was the silence, no sheep! Normally in the hills at this time of year lambs are calling for the milk bar or ewes are calling for there wandering lambs, but not here, this is a deer forest and there are no sheep.

We fished well into the evening and caught and returned many of these small fish before walking back to the tents and supper. Although we had been dry all day we had watched the rain showers moving down the far side of the glen and now the sky was clear and in the half light I noticed a path leading from the bothy to the river that flowed from Loch Cruoshie. We would be heading back up to Ben Dronaig bothy the day after next and this may be an easier route, I walked down and checked it out. The crossing wouldn't be easy but there was only six or so inches of water running over a shingle bank so it was possible. I walked back to the tent and told George and then we went to bed.

Day Five May 21-2003

George informed me this morning that it had been torrential rain and gales last night, I never heard it, but the river was up six inches. If it doesn't rain for the next twenty four hours the river should drop back enough for us to cross tomorrow and save an extra mile walk and a wade across the end of the loch.

We decided to fish the river today. It wasn't the usual highland river, it looked more like a lowland stream, long flat stretches and riffles between them, with the odd waterfall thrown in. river ling

Not liking smooth pools and preferring to fish faster water I moved quickly down to the riffle at the end of the first stretch. Fishing the pool I had no success but as I reached the bend with the riffle my expectation heightened. Fishing across and down the fly curved across the top, just where the water forms the "V" before going over the edge, but nothing moved. I let the flies go over the edge and fished them down to the next pool. Just off the main stream the line tightened and a small fish took the nymph, I was still fishing the same cast of flies, it was all of 3 oz. A few casts across the stream and down the bank saw a few more small fish then a cast into the "V" of water where the stream from above entered and the rod bent down into a better fish, He ran me down stream and the current helped him put a nice bend in the rod but he eventually came to hand and a fine fish, although very dark, of half a pound, he would make a fine lunch.

We fished down the river for two or three miles picking up fish all the way, some small, one or two to the pound mark, but the average was about 6 oz.

The river Ling, as this river is called, screamed salmon but as far as I am aware no migratory fish run into it, at least not this far up. Whether this is because of obstructions further down its course I do not know.

We fished the river till evening and as we walked back up, fishing and catching a few more fish here and there, we noticed that the river had fallen by about three inches so the river crossing may yet be possible in the morning, as long as the rain stays off.

Day Six May 22-2003

Spending last night in the bothy had been the best idea because with everything packed away in the rucksacks we could set off straight after breakfast. It hadn't rained so the river was nearly back to it's original height, but the river crossing had still been "fun". George was for using the stepping stones but I wasn't for jumping the three feet from one to the other, so opting for the "high step wade" I ran across the gravel bank, the water was about twelve to fifteen inches deep, and jumped up onto the bank, a few splashes on my trousers but with dry feet. George followed me next but he hesitated for a moment and ended up with damp feet, and he was the one who showed me this technique. Maoile Buidhe bothy

For those wondering how it is done I will try to explain. You find a shallow part of the river, not to wide and set off at a fastish run across it lifting your knees high. As one foot enters the water the other is lifting out of it and as long as you don't stop your feet stay reasonably dry. The theory is that your foot forms a "hole" in the water and as long as the water doesn't fill it in before you lift the foot back out it doesn't get over the top of your boots, it also helps if you have on Yetti gaiters which practically seal the boot anyway.

The walk back up was a lot easier, partly because we were fitter and partly because the rucksack were lighter by six days food.

The views on the way up were fantastic, you get a real feeling of the isolation, and seeing the bothy all alone in this expanse was surreal. wire bridge crossing

Following an argo cat trail we had come across brought us out at the end of Loch Calavie and the ford we had missed on the way down. Now calling this a ford brings to mind wading across a shallow part of a river, this wasn't, this was a steel one inch thick cable between two wooden posts with two lengths of fence wire above head height to hold on to, it reminded me of something from an army assault course. With the rucksack and holding my rod in one hand I had seen enough game shows to visualise what could happen, it didn't and I found it easier than I thought, as did George.

We climbed out of the dip and onto the land rover track and we were surprised at the strength of the wind, it was gale force, this wasn't going to be an easy day for casting!

We moved down to the waters edge and picked out our spots and started casting, well casting was probably the wrong word, all you had to do was flick the flies up in the air and the wind did the rest, fifteen to twenty yard casts with no effort. The wind was coming down the loch over my right shoulder, my casting side, but I had fished in these conditions before and managed to get the line out more or less in front of me most of the time.

Catching fish was another story though, once I felt the hit of a fish and tightened into it. I pulled line in with my left hand as the rod bucked and bent in my right, it wasn't till the cast started to appear out of the water that I realised the fish was off and I had been playing the wind. loch calavie

Through the wind I heard a faint cry behind me and turned to see George bring in a nice fish of a pound, a while later he shouted again and when I reached him he said he had just lost a fish much bigger than that, he bent down to pick it up and it turned in the shallows and threw the hook.

Finally my luck changed and a nice fish of half a pound took the hill loch nymph on the tail and this time it stayed on, I brought it in and returned it to grow on to be as big as the rest.

The day progressed and the cloud lifted, the wind dropped slightly and casting became easier but the fishing didn't. George managed a few more fish on a big size eight dry fly and I had some splashy rises to my floating nymph and a couple of small fish took the nymph and iron blue dun and that was it. We had to leave earlier than we would have liked but we had a two mile walk to the bothy at Ben Dronaig where we were going to stay the night before heading home tomorrow.

Day 7 May 23 2003

Our last day, the weather was still a mixture of sun and showers as we set off on the walk to the car. Not long after starting out we met the head stalker in his land rover, he was taking an elderly couple to the bothy and they were going to walk it back, and during our conversation he told us about a loch just off the track on the way down. We decided to give it a couple of hours as we weren't in that much of a hurry to leave.

Loch nam Forca, The Forked Loch, just over the hill and down the zig-zags he said and you will see a small loch by the track, go to the end and walk over the hill, you can't miss it.

Highlanders seem to have no sense of distance, just over the hill was two miles and just walk over the hill was another three quarters. loch nam forca

The loch was a big loch in the shape of a star, I elected to fish the first arm and George headed round the shore to the next. We had been told the loch held big fish but were not easy to catch, and this proved to be the case. We fished all along the west shore in sunshine and torrential downpours and it wasn't till much later that George finally managed to catch a beautiful brown trout of a pound. The fish moved just to the side of his dry fly and he resisted the urge to cast to it just continuing to slowly bring his flies in, then the water under his fly exploded and he lifted into the fish. Time was marching on so we decided then to head back to the small loch, where we had left the rucksacks, and continue down to the car.

What is it about fishermen and water? We hadn't a lot of time but we had to fish this last loch before leaving.

Loch na Caillich wasn't big, but the fish were rising and willing to come to the fly. We caught and returned a number of 6 oz fish and I even managed to video George catching and releasing one, but it was soon time to leave. car park at attadale

We did the last part of the walk in record time and the closer we got to the car the heavier the rain got, but it stopped long enough at the car for us to change into the dry clothes we had left in the boot and we started the long drive home, tired, damp, fitter and lighter, George had lost half a stone, and with the memory of these sporting little fish who graced our flies with there presence.

Would I go back? Yes I would but I would make sure the rucksack was lighter, take less clothes, and I would take slightly more food, I felt I was right on the limit, without eating some of the trout we caught I would have felt decidedly hungry.

I'm now looking forward to next year.