Fly Fishing for Wild Brown Trout

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A panorama of the corrie and the loch

It was three years in the planning before we eventually got everything together and headed for Inverlael and Lochan a` Chnapaich. I picked up Fred, the Hare, and Suzy, the Hound, in the car park at Carrbridge in warm sunny weather. The temperature had varied from 21ºC to 19ºC on the drive up and I wasn't looking forward to walking in the heat. By the time we reached the car park at Inverlael the sun was still shining but the temperature was down to 14ºC and felt colder in the Northerly airstream that was blowing down the glen.

Getting boots on and preparing for the walk takes time so the Hare thought he would get the Hound to eat one of her meals to save carrying it up the hill. She wasn't having any of that but was prepared to hoover up the crumbs and fallen lettuce from his roll, he ended up having to carry it after all.

Fred and Suzy (The Hare and The Hound) my companions

The first part of the walk is through forestry, now partly cleared but replanted, on an unmetalled hard packed forestry road making the going easy, but I find hard on the feet. This two-mile section was to set the trend for the rest of the walk. The Hound, oldest at 63 (9x7 human years) although I think that should be halved as she has four legs, roaming in front nosing into everything and anything she could find. Next the Hare, typical Munro bagger, Alpinist, hill walker style with hands stuck in the trouser pockets, head down and staccato steps eating up the miles, at nearing 58 the youngest of the party. The rear was taken by the Tortoise, nearer 60 than 59, with measured steps pacing himself for the anticipated climb still to come. Half an hour to this point was acceptable; it was all downhill, sorry, uphill after that.

The great bulk of, Beinne Dearg, the mountain we were heading for, took up the view on the horizon with the path winding its way ever higher in the foreground.

The path with Beinne Dearg in the distance

The climb from here on was on a well-made stalkers path, eroded slightly in places but still in good order, you can tell that when it is the only thing you see for three miles. That isn't strictly true I had enough rest stops to look around at the view and the back of the Hound and Hare far above me. They did stop and let me catch up a few times though so that was considerate of them.

Three and a half hours, and a touch over three miles later, we eventually reached the loch. I didn't even have the pleasure of collapsing in a heap at this point as the tent had to be put up and dinner made. The extra long sleeve t-shirt had to be put on and the lightweight fleece on top of that too as it was freezing in the strong north wind that was blowing right into the corrie.

The Hare decided on a reconnaissance of the area and the Hound accompanied him, the Tortoise mucked about the camp then, when they returned, decided that it would be warmer in the tent than standing about in the freezing wind outside.

Next day the temperature hadn't got any warmer and the wind was stronger if anything. I had woken during the night and my nose and cheeks, all that was exposed to the air, were freezing so it must have been a cold night.

Cinnamon Sedge

We had breakfast, then, without too much hope of success in the strong, cold, gusty wind, we started fishing round the loch. The air temperature at this point was 12ºC and the water the same. The water was crystal clear and I could see the bottom clearly with the polaroids. There were patches of small boulders with areas of mud and short grass like weedy areas that shone brilliant green in the strong sunshine. There were also deep black areas that could have been deep holes or just barren rocky or muddy areas. There were only a few patches of longer weeds that looked like last years growth with no new growth discernible amongst the fronds. There wasn't a lot of fly life about although the grass and heather seemed to be full of Cinnamon Sedge and Stone Fly and every time you picked up the rucksack there would be half a dozen clinging to it, I even found them inside the gaiters and boots in the morning as I was putting them on. There was the odd upwing fly that I didn't get a chance to identify but were possibly Claret or Sepia Duns. At the edge of the water I saw shrimp, snails and brown speckled tadpoles, possibly Toad.

Casting was a nightmare as the wind would go from a gentle breeze to a full on gale even as you were casting. Being a corrie loch it also had the tendency to change direction without warning in your face one minute, left or right the next then gusting in from the rear as the cast whistled by. I gave it my best and fished the whole loch, a bit more in the afternoon when the wind calmed down and so did the loch, but it wasn't to be, and I never saw nor touched a fish.

In between fishing we also managed to wander about the area. It is an amazing place with great mounds of boulders covered with short dry grass and stunted heather, real Alpine type terrain. In between, if you looked closely, were the alpine plants, small cushions with the most delicate of flowers barely above ground level. Difficult to see at first but once found you seemed to come across them at every turn.

Cornus suecica One of the many alpine plants we found around the loch

There were also large and small depressions where the rock was black and bare of any lichens as if it is under water for long periods while it slowly drains through the rocks to appear farther down the mountain exploding as a full-grown river.

It was an early night again on the Saturday as the temperature had dropped to 6ºC by 8:00 pm although the wind had dropped and it didn't feel quite as cold as it had the night before, either that or we were just getting used to it.

Next morning, our last, the cloud was right down and visibility was only thirty yards or so. We had breakfast and packed the tents and sleeping bags into the rucksacks. The loch was flat calm but, what you could see of it, was untouched by neither rising flies nor fish. We shouldered our packs and after a check of the area we walked back down the path to the car. Two hours and twenty minutes for the five and a half or so miles; downhill is certainly easier than up.

The mist shrouded the path on the way back down

The Hare, the Hound and the Tortoise taking up the rear.

If you are a walker it is worth the walk, even if you don't fish the loch. Leave the path in the corrie and wander about the terrain and, if it is June, look out for the flowers. We didn't lay Fred's ghost to rest, he was sure he had seen rising fish there many years ago, but the experience of the area and the alpine plants made up for the lack of fish.