Fly Fishing for Wild Brown Trout


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Moidart, Bonny Prince Charlie, the seven men, the rough bounds, or An Garbh Chriochan as it is in the Gaelic. I had read about it in novels and now here I was in the middle of it. I had driven up from home the night before and slept in the car in the grounds of Kinlochmoidart House, not the best start to the climb that faced me, but there was nothing new in that.

After four hours of uncomfortable sleep I crawled out of the car; boots on; rucksack on my back and rods in hand I walked up past the slumbering Kinlochmoidart House, it was four in the morning after all. I past the workshops and followed the path past what looked like a bunkhouse and past some ornamental ponds with geese and a manicured lawn. I caught sight of the deer at this point and as I got closer realised it was made of steel and going by the pock marks all over it presume it is used for target practice. A few yards on from it was the signpost pointing to the iron gate that would take me into these rough bounds.

The path at first passes through mature woodland before going onto the open hill. There is a gate in the drystone wall with a sign 'keep closed at all times'. I passed through and did as requested closing and locking the gate behind me. I hadn't gone more than a few steps before it started, the bellowing and lowing of a herd of cows with their calves, they obviously didn't want me wandering through them but I carried on and shooed a couple of calves off the path as I turned up the hill. This was the start of fifteen hundred feet of torture. I hadn't realised just how unfit I had got over the past few years, even my climb over Cairn Gorm didn't feel as bad as this. I shouldn't have tried it without having breakfast either, I collapsed in a heap just a quarter way up, legs shaking and sick to my stomach. I searched the pockets of the rucksack and scoffed a couple of breakfast bars, a snack size mars bar and a snack size snicker. I felt better after that and carried on. I must have stopped at least another four times after that but finally the path levelled off and there in front of me was Loch nam Paitean with its boathouse, at least the worst of the climb was behind me, except that it had started to rain. I carried on for another mile or so of hard walking, the ground has more ups and downs than a roller coaster and is all long heather and tufted grass, until I reached a spot beside a loch that looked alright for the next six days. The loch was Upper Lochan Sligeanach although there is no lower one marked on the map.

With the tent up, and being totally shattered after the early rise, lack of sleep and effort to get here I climbed into the sleeping bag and slept. At least the rain had stopped.

One thing about the early start, I woke in time for brunch so I still had all day to fish. I had a good look at the loch as I washed up my dishes. I could see big diving beetles, claret duns and large, at least an inch long, shrimp swimming in the margins. It looked promising although in the flat calm I didn't see any rising fish to all the flies that were hatching and moving across the surface. I was using my usual setup, Diawa WF98 ten foot three piece rod, WF7 floating line, Airflo intermediate braided leader, Maxima Chameleon five pound three fly cast. On the top dropper was my DryFly size 14, middle dropper was an Iron Blue Dun size 12 and the tail fly was my HillLoch Nymph size 12. The wind was blowing towards me, strong gusts intermittent with flat calm. I fished down the right side to the point then round and down the other fork but never saw or touched a fish. I am sure there are no fish in this loch as I never saw a fish rise or move under the surface the six days I was there, but you never know.

Meall a Mhadaidh trout


I woke this morning to sunshine and blue skies but with a cold wind that made it feel a lot colder than the 16°C that my thermometer would be showing later in the day, the water temperature would show 14°C which is about average for this time of year.

I was watching the shrimp again this morning and was really struck by how much they resembled an Invicta as they swam about in the shallows, and even more so when a mating pair swam by. With the darker male on the top holding the head of the female, who was hanging below him, the resemblance was even more dramatic. His darker body being the wing, her lighter, amber coloured body, being the body and the legs of both the palmered hackle. Even the blue Jay would give a sort of olive effect and the golden pheasant topping a bit of flash. I didn't know it at the time but I would put these thought processes to the test.

Heading for Meall a' Mhadaidh today. It wasn't far, up the hill behind the tent and down the other side, half an hour at most. Picking up a deer trail made the walking that bit easier as I didn't have to wade through tussock grass and long heather and I have found that they generally pick the easiest routes.

Coming over the brow of the hill the loch lay stretched out below me. I was only seeing part of it though as there are a lot of bays and small islets at the north end that obscure that part of it. Coming down to the waters edge I saw the usual pair of Red Throated Divers that seem to nest on every loch in the highlands, they slowly drifted up the loch away from me as I descended to the shoreline. Stopping and looking about there were fish rising and turning below the surface in the flat calm. Pulling line off the reel I started fishing, moving along the shore every few casts, but without success and as I reached the mid point I stopped for a breather. Looking across the loch I noticed another fisherman casting in the bays and inlets across from me, he had a German Pointer dog with him but neither acknowledged my presence and both seemed to disappear shortly afterwards. Lying in the heather I thought I heard more voices but couldn't see anyone. I thought I was maybe going hill crazy but later as I fished round a point I met a chap from Mallaig who was up fishing the lochs with two friends, it must have been them arriving I had heard. He said he usually fished this loch and Loch Dearg and walked in from Roshven, on Loch Ailort, which, although a longer walk, was easier than from Kinlochmoidart. He had turned a few fish and the others had caught a couple on black bushy flies. After he left I changed the middle dropper, the Iron Blue dun, for an Invicta size 10, those thought processes were at work, and I continued up the loch.

I eventually got one of 6 oz on the DryFly just before the head of the loch and had turned a few more to this and the nymph on the tail. As I worked my way back down the opposite shore the wind started to get stronger and it felt really cold although the air and water temperature never changed, the disadvantage of being a warm bloodied animal I suppose. I fished on and had fish jump over the DryFly, slash at the wet fly and nymph, but not connecting, until, nearly back at the place I started I caught another 6 oz fish on the HillLoch nymph on the tail.

It had been an interesting day and I would return to this loch later in the week.

Day 3

This morning dawned bright and early, so I pulled the sleeping bag hood over my eyes till it was a respectable time to get up, so at half past seven I crawled from the tent. It was cooler this morning, the air temperature would rise to 14°C and the water temperature at Loch nam Paitean, where I would be fishing, would be 12°C, bright sunshine and very little wind although it still had a nip to it.

My first view of Loch nam Paitean had been in the rain at its southern end as I passed it on the way up and there it was a wide expanse of water. The view this time was of a loch dotted with islands and bays which was nearer the north end. Again I followed the deer paths as best I could which took me round bumps and peat bogs, I wouldn't like to be here after prolonged rain as there are a lot of these about, and finally to the waters edge. There were fish moving subsurface and I fished hard for them all day but they just didn't seem interested in my flies, very frustrating. My one moment of excitement was a splashing on the bank opposite me where I thought I saw something swimming across the mouth of an inlet. It looked like a mink or an otter but couldn't be sure and by the time I had got the camera sorted it had vanished. As I fished on I was conscious of something watching me and turned to see it standing on the point across form me. As I moved to get the camera ready it turned and disappeared and I never saw it again.

A frustrating day fishing wise although there was plenty of fly life, Claret duns, Olives, Grouse Wing Sedge and Black Buzzers, not including what must have been subsurface.

I followed the deer paths back up to the tent. Well it was up, down, up, down and back to the tent, the rough bounds of Moidart are well named.

Lochan Sligeanach

Day 4

It is cloudier today with a light, but still cold breeze blowing. Is it ever going to feel warm? Even with an air temperature of 12°C I had breakfast with a t-shirt, lightweight fleece jersey and wind proof fleece jacket on.

Today was a rest day. I checked food stocks, lazed about the tent, moved it. I had been lying beside a large bump which was making me slide into the side wall of the tent since I arrived so I decided it was time to do something about it. The process is easy enough with the Argos tent. Take the heavy stuff out of the tent, I left my sleeping bag and spare clothes inside; take out the side pegs and the three guy rope pegs, leaving the two end pegs in the ground, this stops any gusts of wind blowing the tent away. If it is a big move, remove one end peg and fold in to the middle, do the same with the other end and lift the lot using the two ends and the front and back hoops and relocate. My move was easier; I just moved the front of the tent about a foot to the right then re-pegged the tent. I crawled inside and lay down just to test. There was still a slight bump at my back, but bearable.

I decided to try the loch at the tent again. I fished down the left side this time but, even with plenty of flies, Olives, Claret Duns, shrimp, water beetles and goodness knows what else on the water I neither caught nor saw a fish. As I was at the other end of the loch by now I walked up to fish the un-named loch that sits on the top of Mam na Luirginn. It is a very shallow, clear loch but I don't think it is deep enough for fish to survive the winter. The views from the top were amazing though. I could see the end of Loch Shiel, Acharacle, Eigg, Rhum, Muck and even Mull. I could also see another loch just below my camp so I decided to give it a try as it was still only late afternoon, and I could just make out the odd ring of rising trout. This loch is un-named on the map and is shallow and weedy at one end, this was where the fish were rising. Third cast and a fish jumped right over the dry fly, I then missed two more on the wets and lost one when it dived into weeds. I finally ended up with one three inch fish which took the Invicta on the middle dropper. I headed back up the hill after that for dinner but had already decided to fish this loch next day.

Day 5

I woke to another day of clear skies and sunshine. Although the temperature would read only 12°C it felt warmer, so warm in fact that the windstopper fleece jacket was confined to the rucksack for most of the day only making an appearance in the evening.

Once breakfast was over and the lunch was packed I found the deer path that would take me over the ridge to the west of the tent and down to the un-named loch from last night. I could see the odd ring of rising trout as I descended the hill. The wind was swirling all over the place, which made casting interesting, going from strong gusts to flat calm. Starting at the point I had fished the previous evening I managed one fish of six ounces in the calm water just off a reed bed to the Invicta on the middle dropper. As I moved round the loch fish kept coming to the dry fly but they either missed it completely or jumped over it. The wets weren't fairing any better with fish hitting them but not sticking including two that were on and off without even seeing them.

On reaching the end of the loch I walked down the hill to Loch na Caillich, the next loch on this chain. This is a bigger loch and, like the rest, seemed to be full of shallows and deep areas. There was also the requisite pair of Red Throated Divers in residence.

I started to fish from the shingle that had been washed down the small burn I was sitting beside. The water in front of me was crystal clear and deep, the shingle falling away sharply from the edge. There were fish to my right and straight out in front so the first casts were out in their general direction. Within half an hour I had caught and released four fish and missed some to the dry fly, they were coming short and missing it. All the fish were different. The first one looked like a sea trout with its silver colouring and black fins, the next two were silvery but more brown trout looking, these came to the DryFly. All were about six ounces, except the last which was nearer eight ounces and looked more like the usual brown trout with its yellow belly, olive back and red spots, it took the HillLoch Nymph.

I fished on round the loch and caught another two eight ounce fish on the dry fly and missed two, one of which came for the fly twice but missed it both times. Continuing to the end of the loch I missed some and caught a few more on the dry fly and some on the Invicta on the middle dropper.

I swithered a bit about moving to the next loch, Lochan a' Mhuilinn, as the walk back to the tent was all uphill from here, but as it was still only late afternoon I carried on. This loch is in two parts. The part I came to first was long and thin, like a river. The other part that I fished was round and looked like a loch. There were fish rising and I missed a few in the first few casts then nothing. Moving to the burn mouth that comes down from Lochan na Caillich I finally managed a nice fish of eight ounces on the dry fly.

This is a nice set of three lochs with some good, free rising fish, except for the walk back up the hill to the tent. That is something I never look forward to after fishing all day.

Damsel Fly

Day 6

Another fine morning, but today felt different; it felt even colder than it had been. I could feel a change in the weather coming. The 18°C temperature that the thermometer would get up to should have meant short sleeves; instead I was in full cold weather gear and, as the day went on, it progressively got windier and cloudier, rain was definitely on its way.

Decided to go back up to Lochan Meall a' Mhadaidh to fish the east side this time and concentrate on the bays and inlets that break up this shoreline. There were plenty of fish rising, some to dry fly, some turning under the surface to nymphs and I saw a few with their tails in the air obviously taking something off the bottom. It was nearly lunchtime before I finally managed to raise a fish. It came from nowhere and took the dry fly with a splash before boring deep. I could tell it was a good fish by the fight and the bend in the rod. Finally managing to get it under control I eased it into the edge, unhooked it, posed it for the picture and then let it go; estimated weight ¾ lb and a really handsome looking fish with its bright yellow belly and bronze flanks. Continuing on down the shoreline there were a few more missed fish, they were coming for the dry fly and missing, until a small four-ounce fish sucked in the Invicta just below the surface. It was returned after a short spirited fight.

Turning at this point to head back to the tent the wind had begun to get really strong and gusty, that didn't stop the fishing. With a classic head and tail rise another ½ lb fish took the DryFly on the top dropper; then missed a couple that came for the Invicta in the middle, missed a couple more that just wouldn't hang on then finally got another ½ lb one on the DryFly before packing in and heading for the tent. Another good day with some classic takes to both dry fly and subsurface wets.

Day 7

I knew the weather was on a change, it rained most of the night, which was something I didn't need as I like to pack the tent dry if possible. As it was, by the time I had breakfast and the sun had come up over the rim of the ridge, the tent was nearly dry, a few wipes with my towel and the wind did the rest. Once everything was packed and the rucksack was on my back I checked the site, other than the mark of the tent in the vegetation there was nothing to see, the grass and heather would soon recover.

I climbed the hill to the ridge and followed the track on the GPS that was recorded on my way in which took me back to the boathouse on Loch nam Paitean. I wasn't heading down right away so I crossed the small dam at its head stopping long enough to admire the workmanship and the iron wheel assembly that worked the sluice at one time. It wouldn't be surprising to find that an iron pipe ran all the way from here to the big house at the bottom of the glen.

Dumping the rucksack in the heather I walked on up the bank to the end of the promontory that nearly turns this loch into two. The weather was cloudy and there were light showers of rain. The air temperature didn't get above 10°C although the water remained at 12°C. I fished right down this shore back to the rucksack but neither saw nor contacted any fish.

After eating most of what was left of my rations, carrying it in is one thing I don't do carrying out, I said goodbye to the Moidart lochs and turned my face homewards and headed back down the steep glen only stopping now and again to admire the views and take some pictures, something I had difficulty doing on the way up.

It had been an interesting trip. Hard work at the start was rewarded by some nice fish and great scenery. If you are interested then give Mrs. Stewart at Kinlochmoidart House a phone on 01967 431609. The permit is £5 per day. It cost me £30 for my six days but that gave me piece of mind as my car was parked in the grounds in front of the house and not in the middle of nowhere at the end of a dirt track.