Fly Fishing for Wild Brown Trout

I left home at 15:30 and travelled up the A9 till I stopped at the Information lay-by on the North side of the Kessock Bridge, at Inverness, for a bite to eat. The weather had been cloudy up to that point and it now began to rain heavily and didn't look as if it was going to get any better. I continued on my way and the farther west I got the worse the weather got. The cloud was well down over the hills. I finally arrived at Inchnadamph at 20:40 and as I pulled into the picnic area at the entrance to the Inchnadamph Hotel I could see that the cloud was well down and it was not inviting looking to say the least. I had to make a decision. I was tired and just didn't feel up to walking in that weather carrying a full pack. I decided to head back down to Achiltibuie, camp in the campsite at Achnahaird, and see what the weather was like in the morning. I arrived in Achiltibuie at 21:30, put the tent up, and was soon in my sleeping bag and sound asleep.

OS map #15 1:50,000 series

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Plover at the campsite

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Day two. May 21

Isn't it great what a nights sleep does for the morale, especially when you wake up to the sun shining through the tent. I got out of the tent and as I headed for the toilet block I noticed that the grass was covered in Plover, or so it seemed, there were dozens of them flying in a flock from here to there and back again. I had seen them on previous stays, but not as many as this.

Although it was sunny it was cold in the strong wind that was blowing from the west even with the thermometer reading 13°C.

I had a look round at the hills and they were still shrouded in cloud so I decided to stay for another night and go and fish Loch Vatachan.

You get the permits for Vatachan at the house called Badentarbat, at the end of the loch, just before the road to Achiltibuie meets the road from Polbain. The permit also allows you to fish Lochan Dubh, Loch na Creige Duibhe and Loch na Beiste, the lochs above Vatachan.

I parked in the lay-by, got my gear together, Diawa WF98 10`T, three piece, LC 80 reel. Aircel WF7F line, Airflo intermediate braided leader and 10` of 5lb Maxima Chameleon with two droppers. and set off down the road to the end of the loch. The wind of course was blowing in my face, have you noticed that it is always the same when you get to a loch? The fishing is always better at the farthest away end too.

I stopped to fish a point just before the end of the loch. I missed two to the dry fly in the first half hour but didn't connect with any so I moved round to the far side. The wind wasn't as strong here because of the protection from the hill and it was behind me so helped with the casting. I fished slowly along the bank but nothing was moving so I decided to give my new five piece 9`6" rod a try. It seemed to work well, so well in fact that I caught a nice fat half pound trout with it on the dry fly. As I fished down this side I glanced behind me and there, on the skyline, was a small group of red deer, the first of many I saw on this trip.

I fished on till I was about half way down the loch then I decided to have lunch and walk up the hill and fish Lochan Dubh.

I have never caught anything from this loch, and today was no exception. I have not given it a great deal of attention, only fishing it for an hour or so each time I have been here, but I have seen fish jumping so I know they are there.

I walked down past Loch na Beiste but only had a few casts before moving on round the hill and back to Vatachan. I only had a few casts before I reached the river that runs into Loch Vaa but didn't catch anything. I crossed the river and continued fishing down this side towards the car. The wind had changed direction now, which it seems to do up here, and was blowing from behind me. I felt a fish take one of the flies, then nothing, then it took it again and I found myself fighting a strong fish. I eventually got it in and estimated its weight at 1¼ pounds. It had taken the HillLoch Nymph on the tail of the cast. I returned it and fished on down the bank to the car missing one more fish on the way.

I returned to the tent, had dinner, then I turned in for the night. I had a big decision to make in the morning, pay for a weeks stay at the campsite or go to Inchnadamph.


Day three. May 22

I woke to another sunny day and when I got out of the tent I could see that all the tops were clear of cloud. The decision was made. I would pack up and head for Inchnadamph.

I left Achiltibuie and went into the hotel for the permit. The lochs come under the Assynt Protection Order so you have to have a permit before you start fishing.

I could have run away with the hotel by the time I got someone to come to reception and when they finally did they informed me they didn't have any permits left so I would be better to go up to Lochinver to get one.

It's Sunday in the Highlands. Everywhere that sells permits is shut. The Post Office, closed. The Tourist Information office, closed. I finally got one from the B&B behind the Tourist office, Polcraig Guest House Tel. 01571844429. The permit was £4 a day and the fishing information was free. I eventually got back to Inchnadamph and parked in the picnic area and car park at the start of the road to the Inchnadamph Hotel. It was 12:30 by the time I started walking.

My tent at Inchnadamph

You walk along the main road and across the bridge then take the first road on the right. Before you get to the ford across the river you will see the path heading up the hill to your left, this is the start of a long steady climb to the top. There was a steady light rain falling all the way and as I reached the first of the lochs the clouds were getting heavier and I thought I had heard a roll of thunder, it was 14:15, only an hour and three-quarter to walk up, so I decided it was time to get the tent up. Everywhere was wet peat and heather, not ideal camping ground but I saw a small spit of green below me at the "Fiddle" loch, it has no name on the OS map but this is what it is called in the Assynt leaflet, so I decided to set up there rather than go farther on. I would live to regret this, although not till the last but one day.

I found a deer path down the steep slope and put the tent up to the sound of thunder. The thunder had quietened down by then so I decided to have half an hour fishing and managed one small 2oz trout before it came back. I retreated to the tent as I wasn't for waving a ten foot piece of carbon about in a thunder storm, and it had started to rain.

I got up at 17:00 had something to eat and crossed the burn and fished down the loch. I missed two fish and that was it. There is another loch down from here at that end so I walked down to give it a try. No luck here either, although I did miss one. It was beginning to feel cold so I headed back to the tent, by 22:00 the temperature had dropped to 8ºC.

Day four. May 23

Day four and it was still cloudy but with some sunny intervals. I decided to walk up to Loch Fleodach Coire, an easy walk as the main hill path goes right past it. I fished up the main loch but only managed one small fish before moving over to the smaller loch. On the way there I flushed a small bird from its nest, Meadow Pipit maybe? I managed to get some photos of its four very small eggs in its tiny nest.

Eggs in nest

I fished down the south side and managed two small fish, one on the Dry Fly and one on the Iron Blue. I then had one good fish of ½lb on the HillLoch Nymph, and a fish of ¾lb on the Dry Fly. I weighed this fish to see how my guesstimates were and it came out weighing what I had guessed. I took another ½lb fish then the heavens opened, heavy rain and hailstones. I sat it out for a while huddled on the bank. It eased off and I continued to fish down the bank. I missed a few more fish before I lifted into a mini Polaris Missile of ½lb on the HillLoch Nymph just before the end of the loch. I fish barbless and new that it could throw the hook so it was a tense time but I managed to get it in and released.

I went back to the tent and after dinner fished the loch. There always seemed to be fish rising in this loch and I managed to catch one, all of three inches, and missed two around the weeds where the burn ran in. It looked as if it was full of small fish. I moved back in front of the tent and caught a nice coloured fish of 6oz on the HillLoch Nymph, then one of ½lb on the Dry Fly. Things were looking up, then to bring me back to earth, one of 3oz on the Dry Fly. It had been showery all evening and now it was beginning to get cold so I packed it in for the night.

Day five. May 24

I woke today to the warmest and sunniest day since I climbed the hill. I decided to stay around the tent drying my socks; they have been wet since the walk in, dry my boots and air the sleeping bag. I fished the loch at the tent again and caught three fish, to all three flies, weighing 6-8oz. The loch was full of rising fish and I saw Stone Flies, Alder, Black Midge and Claret Dun. I even managed to get some pictures of the Claret Duns hatching on the surface of the water.

Hatching Claret Dun

Once everything was dry and aired I walked down to the unnamed loch below the one I was camped at. The views down to Loch Assynt and the castle were breathtaking so after the photography session I started to fish back up the loch. There were fish rising all over the loch and over the next few hours I managed 6 fish averaging 6oz with one at ½lb, and a load of small ones and the usual misses. That evening the cloud cleared and the sun shone and I took another fish of 6oz and then two on the same cast. One took the Dry Fly and the other took the HillLoch Nymph, two 6oz fish give a better scrap than one at a pound. By the time I got to end of the loch I had taken another two 6oz fish on the HillLoch Nymph. It had been a good relaxing day and as I lay in the tent it had one more surprise for me. The tent turned a strange orange colour and I new it must be a good sunset, but when I stuck my head out of the tent it looked as if Glas Bheinn was on fire. The clouds were streaming up over the top and with the sun behind them made it look like fire and smoke, an excellent end to the day.

Day six. May 25

I woke this morning to the one sound that makes you feel as if you are in another world. It was the sound of the Red Throated Diver. There were four of them on the loch, which was unusual, and using the tent as cover I managed to get some good close shots of them before they sussed me and headed for the far end of the loch.

Red Throated Divers

I set off in cloud and showery rain and headed up the path to Bealach na h-Uidhe which is the saddle between Glas Bheinn and Beinn Uidhe and takes you over to the lochs on the other side. I reached the top and it was like standing on top of the world. In one direction I could see all the way south to Loch Awe, not the Argyll one, and in the other was mountain upon mountain heading north.

The path on the other side heads down hill from this point, but that wasn't what I wanted to do, I wanted to keep my height and fish the lochs I could see to my left. I scouted about till I found a deer path going in the right direction and followed it instead. I like deer paths, and sheep paths too, they make it easier to get about the hillside without having to walk through heather which seems to sap the strength from your legs. I always have to keep remembering though that deer have longer legs than sheep so take routes that are that bit more interesting, like six foot jumps over marshy bits and three foot leaps up, or down, gullies. I also find they are much better than human paths, they tend to gradually go up hill rather than straight up or zigzag all over the place making the walk harder and longer. I followed the deer path past the Green Corrie (Coire Gorm) and its loch intending to fish it on the way back up. I eventually reached the two lochs above Bealach a'Bhuirich and dropped down to fish the smaller of the two. I missed a few fish as I moved along the bank then had two on the same cast, one on the HillLoch Nymph and the other on the Iron Blue Dun. Both were about 4oz and lying side by side they looked like twins. I fished a little longer down the other side of the loch then headed over to the bigger of the lochs.

I fished all round the loch and only turned one fish but didn't connect with anything. It looks like a deep loch so it may be taking longer to heat up and might possibly have fished better with a sinking line, which I don't use. I walked from there down to Loch Bealach a' Bhuirich. This is a very deep loch at the point I came to and the cliffs come straight down to the water for about half of it so you are limited to where you can fish. I tried for about an hour but I never saw a fish so I headed up to Lochan a Choire Ghuirm, Loch of the Green Corrie, it is aptly named as it is so different from the other side with grass and mosses all over it. While I was fishing it I felt I was in an amphitheatre and felt if I had caught a fish I would hear the applause of the crowd. One of the Red Throated Divers I had seen earlier on the loch at the tent was there calling mournfully and I could see that he was guarding a small rocky island. I assumed his mate was nesting there so I only had a few casts then left them to it. I found another deer path that took me back up and over the Bealach and as I headed for the tent the cloud got thicker and lower and after dinner, at about 21:00, it started to rain so I retreated to the tent.

Day seven. May 26

Rising river beside tent

What a night. Gale force winds and heavy rain. I woke at 5:00 and lay for a while as the wind rattled and beat down on the tent. It sounded as if the rain had eased so I took the chance to pop outside for the toilet. The sight that met me was unbelievable, the loch was at least 6 inches higher than when I arrived and the small burn was now a river. I slipped back into the sleeping bag hoping it didn't rain any more or I would have to move the tent and if I did then I would just pack up and head for home.

I woke at 9:00 and it was still raining so I lay for a while listening to it beating on the tent and watching the wind bend and move the poles all over the place. Nature called again so I dressed and put on my waterproofs and ventured out. The loch was even higher now and the river was a torrent. I fished in front of the tent for a few hours and caught two fish of 6-8oz on the Iron Blue Dun and the Floating Nymph that had replaced the Dry Fly. All the while I had been watching a rock in the loch and decided when it was covered I would have to pack up and go, there was three inches of it showing, it wasn't long till it was covered. I was also watching the river and it was also still rising and it wouldn't be long till it was over the bank and onto the piece of ground where the tent was. It was now 14:00 and I new I had a one and a half hour walk and then a six hour drive to home. I packed everything in the tent into the rucksack, trying to make sure the sleeping bag didn't get too wet, and moved it all to slightly higher ground. Then I took the tent down and packed it away and all the while the loch was creeping closer and the river was getting higher. The only dry place by now was where the tent had been, but I don't think that would last long the way the loch and river were rising. Finally I had everything packed and began the walk back down to the car. I say walk loosely because if I had had a boat I could have sailed down. I kept expecting to see salmon and sea trout coming up towards me there was that much water flowing down the path. I was absolutely soaked by the time I reached the car, and it still hadn't stopped raining.

It had been an interesting trip this year starting and finishing the way it had but I still enjoyed it. I had 32+ fish and got some great photographs to jog the memory cells. I had seen literally hundreds of Red Deer; I even passed within twenty feet of two which were feeding beside the river at the main road. I had nearly stepped on numerous frogs; they were still mating up there as I saw a few mounds of eggs here and there. I had watched lizards scurry across boulders at the side of the path as I passed. I briefly saw an Eagle drift by below me. Everything that makes wild fishing what it is. The lochs are only a couple of hours walk from the hotel so could be done as a days outing and they are well worth it. The one thing I didn't like this year on arriving home was to find seven ticks, my first. I didn't have my tick magnet with me, that's George by the way, so I suppose they had to go somewhere. They all seemed to be round my legs where the top of my gaiters came to, except one. This one I didn't find till the next day, the little s**t was on the end of my p…… I'll leave that to your imagination, but I didn't see it till I went to the toilet. My wife was horrified, I just couldn't stop laughing. I managed to extract it and even took some pictures of it on my nail.

For information on the dangers of tick bites have a look here. or here.

Now! Where to next year?