(For a few pictures click here)

Fly Fishing for Wild Brown Trout

Day 1

Stupid o'clock saw me picking George up at his house as we set off for our annual May week brown trout fishing in the hills of Scotland. It was 5am on the 18th of May and we had still to get any decent warm weather but we were prepared and confident of at least a few fish over the next week.

Brown Trout

[Click on thumbnails for a bigger picture]

As usual the drive was uneventful and we made good time with a stop at the MacDonald's in the Garrison so George could get his last fix before the enforced menu of camp food we would be eating for the next seven days. An hour later we pulled up in front of the big estate house and I parked the car under a big Yew tree. We were greeted by a motley crew of two dogs, a cat and numerous hens all eager it seems to greet the new arrivals as we got out of the car. I walked towards the house and met a woman, whom I thought was the owner, to enquire about permits. Unfortunately, she couldn't help as the lady of the house was away for a week and she didn't know the price but that we could call in on our way home on the Friday and pay as she was due back on the Thursday.

Back at the car we made our final preparations to walk in when a gentleman approached the car and introduced himself as Duncan. We talked about the fishing; the estate etc. and he told us of plans to put in a road up to the first loch as they were putting in a hydro scheme. The road would also make it easier to get up to the lochs and that there were plans to re-build the boathouse and put a boat back on the loch. Eventually he had to leave to get back to work, jumped into a Landrover and drove off.

Camp Site

We shouldered our packs, after checking we hadn't left anything we set off through the grounds of the big house, and out onto the hill. The first part is a gentle stroll through mixed woodland and pasture on a good path until it comes to the hill path proper, then it seems to go straight up, twelve hundred feet in a mile. Two to three hundred feet up this path and I realised something just wasn't right, I felt fine but I just didn't seem to have any energy in my legs. From that point to the top was something I had never experienced before. I couldn't do more than three hundred feet of ascent before I had to stop and rest. George was getting frustrated and concerned for my health but I assured him I felt fine except for the lack of energy in my legs, the rest of me was fine. I was breathing heavily of course but not laboured and there were no chest pains which I think he was most concerned about. Three hours it took to walk up something that should have taken us an hour and a half at most and there was still another mile or so to go to where we intended to camp.

Four hours walking that should have taken two and I was never so glad to get the rucksack off, put the tent up and get dinner made. I can only put the lack of energy in my legs down to the fact that, other that the treadmill in the house, I had done very little walking over the winter. The rest of the week was going to be a hard slog if they stayed that way. I was never so glad to get into the sleeping bag and lie down.

End Day 1

Day 2 May 19th

I feel as if I have been kicked stupid. Knees ache, thighs and calves are sore, my back aches and even my shoulders after carrying the rucksack for four hours yesterday are aching. Not to worry most of that will ease as the week goes on. Breakfast, washed, teeth brushed and rucksack filled with the fishing gear and food for the day and we set off for the first loch of the day, and the trip.

Loch, Angler and Tree

Although we were camped right next to a loch our first destination was over the hill from where we were. We were camped in what I call a snow chute. Basically, it is a wide, flat bottomed, steep sided channel. This one was some sixty feet wide with steep sides. Now the bit we had to climb up and over was some one hundred and fifty feet and I felt every step but once up it was relatively flat and then downhill to the loch.

The loch sits in a corrie and is arrow or spear shaped depending on your perception. It has two wings at the shaft end, which is the shallow and weedy end, and runs into the corrie at the 'sharp' end which is the deeper end. As we came down the hill we spotted a few fish dimpling the surface off the weeds at the shaft end and it was here I decided to start after dumping the rucksack, George went in the other direction towards the deeper end. Although the temperature was sixteen degrees there was a cold northerly wind blowing but down in the corrie we were sheltered from it.

Casting into the breeze didn't make it easy but eventually I managed a fish on the Iron Blue Dun on the middle dropper. A nice brown trout of about a pound although while removing the fly I noticed it had no top lip or nose, the deformity didn't seem to be hampering it in any way though. Once I had covered all the water in front of the weed beds between the two wings I moved round and picked up the rucksack then leapfrogged around George and started to fish down the deep water into the other wing. George moved onto the top of a very big boulder and started to cover rising fish. I had already covered and missed one then ended up with a bad tangle. As I was sorting this out George started shouting excitedly. He had covered a rising fish to his left that had come up and took his dry fly. He got himself down off the rock and to the water's edge still shouting something about a big fish. Eventually I got the tangle sorted and, laying my rod down, wandered up just as he got it into the shallows. That was when we got a good look at it before it splashed and flopped on the surface before throwing the hook. As it lay for a second George tried to grab it to get a picture but it shot off into the depths. As a conservative estimate we made it three pounds, but it may well have been heavier, we will never know. To say he was ecstatic, even after losing it, was an understatement. He touched the leader and its tail and as far as he was concerned it is the largest wild brown trout he has ever caught and from one of the smallest lochs.

Angler and Loch

After that continuing to fish the loch would have been an anti-climax so we headed up the hill to our second loch for the day. On reaching the high point we walked to the end of the ridge to look for our next destination. Looking down on it from that height it looked even smaller than the loch we had left and, as my legs were still not playing, I wasn't for walking down only to have to walk back up again. The decision was made to keep our height and walk round to the third loch on that day's itinerary.

We arrived at this bigger loch just about lunchtime. This is a more open water and the wind blowing down its length made it feel colder than the 16°C that the thermometer was reading. We saw the odd fish rising and, after dropping the rucksacks, headed to our respective fishing points. We fished it for quite a while moving down the loch to the end. We both missed fish but nothing stayed attached. As we headed down the loch the wind increased and it felt colder with low cloud slowly creeping towards us. By this time I was about done in and, as we were nearly back at the tents, we headed there as the cold mist swirled around us.

Before settling down for the night I was outside the tent, the mist had all but gone, and the sky was clear with the moon above the tents. The temperature though had dropped and the thermometer was only showing 7°C. I would be glad of my down sleeping bag as I stripped off and slid into it.

End day 2

Day 3 May 20th

Cold, windy and misty is the only way to describe the day today. After breakfast we went over the hill and back to the big loch from yesterday. Coming down the other side we were only yards from the edge when the water suddenly came into view through the mist.

We had decided to fish the opposite side to yesterday but as we moved up the loch through the mist it became obvious, with the strong wind blowing into the bank, that this was out as we prefer to fish down the wind rather than up it. We just kept going after that until we saw the end of the loch and that was when we began to fish. It can be quite eerie wandering about and fishing in the mist. Everything is so quiet except for the wind, the noise of the line through the rod rings and the swish of the rod through the air on every cast. Even a companion only yards from you can disappear and re-appear in an instant.

Angler in the Mist

There were very few fish about but I missed one and caught one of about a pound on my dry fly. The sun came out for half an hour in the middle of the day that rose the temperature from 10°C to 12°C but it didn't last long and the mist came back before we finished. George lost two and caught one brown trout of 1½ Lbs. as he followed me down so the day was a reasonable success. The only flies I saw hatching was the odd Claret Dun which were being taken off the surface by the trout, usually too far out to cover.

Lying in the tent after dinner the wind was strong enough to rattle the tent and have it creaking and flapping. Even although the sun had come out, with a temperature back down to 7°C, it felt cold outside although reasonably warm inside.

End day Three

Day 4 May 21st

This was a longer walk today down to the biggest loch in the area. It was very cold with the temperature getting no higher than 10°C and a strong and cold north wind making it feel even colder.

Where we came down to the loch is dotted with small islands. Every time I see islands like these covered in lush moss, heather and shrub trees I think how the whole country round about should look like, and also what a nightmare it would be to walk around in. Out on the biggest one at the top of a tree I watched a Cuckoo as it called to any potential mates in the area. I tried to get a decent picture but even with the 300 mm lens it was too far away and just came out fuzzy.

Angler on the Loch

George set off farther up the loch choosing not to fish the shallow water around the nearest small islands and skerries. I just started where we reached the loch and tried some likely spots where the wind was causing quiet spots behind stones and the small islands. My first fish was to the dry as I pulled it through the ripple at the side of one of these calm patches. It fought as much in the air, which most of the fish we caught seemed to do, as it did in the water but I eventually got it in and returned a very nice butter yellow belly pound trout back to the water. I fished on to the other end of this small island and took my second fish just off the end. I saw the dry fly move in the water practically as soon as it landed and lifted into another heavy fish. This one was a match to the first but only felt about ¾ Lb. and took the HillLoch Nymph on the point. We fished right to the end of the loch with George getting one fish of ½ Lb. and both of us missing a few. In the cold wind and the odd freezing shower, we felt we hadn't done too bad. Then it was off and over to the next loch of the day. My legs by this time had become accustomed to all the walking so I wasn't feeling as bad and didn't need to stop every ten or fifteen minutes to get my strength back. This loch Duncan, the chap at the big house, told us was a march loch meaning it was on the boundary between two estates and to look out for the fence that came over the hill and down to it. What a fence it was too with a four bar, shaped railing running down into the loch. George found an iron post on the opposite side embedded out in the loch itself and there were iron posts running back over the hill.

We fished around a small island when we arrived at the loch hoping that there might be a few fish feeding in the wind lanes that were streaming off and around it in the strong wind. There wasn't anything doing there, and the wind was making casting a nightmare, so we moved round to the quieter water on the downwind bank. I managed a ½ Lb. fish on the Iron Blue Dun on the middle dropper and one of 6 oz. on the HillLoch Nymph. Meanwhile George was bringing up fish to a big brown dry fly but only managed the one ½ Lb. fish on the shore.

It was late in the day and a long walk back to the tents, mostly up hill, but we had intended fishing down the big loch from the previous day back to the tents. Unfortunately while talking and going by instinct rather than maps we took a wrong turning and ended up on the wrong side of the hill. By the time we had walked down and turned around the end of it we were at the bottom of the loch, and, as it was getting colder and the wind stronger we headed up and back to the tents.

By the time dinner was over and we got into the tents the temperature had dropped to 8°C, and the strong wind had gone icy cold.

End Day 4

Day 5 May 22nd

The wind really strengthened during the night and the temperature must have been well down. The sun was shining but the wind had really strengthened and we had most of our clothes and waterproofs on to cut the chill. The thermometer was showing 7°C but it didn't feel it.

Now that my legs had sorted themselves out we went for the big walk today covering three lochs plus one that we had fished before. This one was special though as it was the one George had lost the big fish on earlier in the week and we wanted to have another bash at it.

The wind was up to gale force by this time and when we got over the brow of the ridge walking became interesting as we tried to keep our balance in the stronger gusts. The loch itself was sheltered somewhat from the worst of it so casting wasn't too difficult.

Angler Casting

We gave it an hour with George getting two fish and I returned one of 1½ Lbs. that took MyDryFly but the big fish didn't show itself so we headed on down to the first new loch of the day. This loch, and the next two, were exposed to the full blast of the northerly gale that was blowing. It was sunny between some heavy showers but far from warm with the temperature struggling to 7°C all day.

On reaching the loch we cut right trying to get some quieter water under the steep banks on that side. It wasn't the best for casting but we did manage to attract a fish or two each and I had one on the Iron Blue Dun on the middle dropper at ¾ Lb. which I managed to land. As George was in front of me and gradually running out of bank I cut across the point to the other side. I dropped the rucksack in as sheltered a spot as I could find for lunch and walked back to where a large island was causing wind lanes between it and the shore. Working my way along here, trying not to get strangled by the line as the gale was blowing from my right, I managed to get a nice Brown Trout of 1 lb.to take the HillLoch Nymph just where the deeper water started on the far side of a bar that ran out from the shore to the island.

After lunch we fished to the end of the loch turning a couple of fish but not catching anymore. We cut down the connecting stream here; only about fifty yards long, to a small round loch more like a large pool than a loch, that I knew held small fish that came to the fly readily. It was quite well sheltered from the gale too which made casting easier but there was a couple of times during the back cast that the rod seemed to stop dead and the line would shoot forward rather than go back as intended. We each took fish here, I had three at 6 oz. on the dry and the Iron Blue, before moving down the stream to the next loch.

This loch is more exposed than the first one and George walked round to the quieter water down wind. I stopped beside a high cliff face from which I had fished before and knew that there might be fish just off it. Unfortunately, the cliff face was on my left, I am right handed and the gale was coming from the right so casting into the area I wanted was a challenge. Then it happened, in amongst the rolling waves I saw a splash where my dry fly was, then again and I tightened into a lively fish that threw itself out of the water a few times before I managed to get it in. It was a fine looking ½ Lb. trout; I unhooked it and returned it to the water.

I picked up the rucksack after that and followed George round the loch and eventually onto the last loch of the day. Not really another loch as such as it is connected to the last loch and is like a long wide river rather than a narrow loch. I was pacing myself for the walk back so didn't fish this loch very much but George followed me down and managed a fine looking brown trout of 1½ Lbs.

After a quick snack we set off on the long walk and stiff climb back to the tents. We tried a few quick casts on this side of the bigger loch but the gale was blowing straight into that bank and casting was near impossible. We also passed by George's big fish loch again but it was getting late and colder and we were too tired so kept going.

We arrived back at the tents at 19:45pm. The thermometer was showing 7°C but the wind was howling and the tents were rattling and flapping even more than normal. By 20:00 the temperature had dropped to 3°C, we were cooking, and eating our late dinner in hail and snow showers, it was going to be a cold and windy night.

End Day 5

Day 6 May 23rd

The hail and wind intensified during the night so a quick decision had to be made this morning during breakfast; stay and ride it out or pack up and leave. Pack up and leave it was then; easier said than done in gale force winds and horizontal hail and snow showers. Most of the packing I did inside the tent and then I got all my clothes on and ventured outside. I had already been out and managed to get washed in between the showers and nearly lost my fingers and face to frostbite by the time I got dried.

Passing Hail Shower

The tents were the last to get packed. Normally we would do that ourselves but in the gale that was blowing, it was prudent to help each other even then it was difficult. Fortunately, I had accessed the long range weather before I left and it had said it would get colder towards the end of the week so I had packed my over gloves, as had George, but removing them to roll up and pack the tents brought home to us how cold it actually was. It was 3°C on the thermometer but with the wind-chill, we reckoned it was probably nearer -8°C, that and driving snow didn't exactly make it fun either.

Everything packed and rucksack on we checked the site in case we missed anything, walked out over the rim of the snow chute, and headed home the only thing left behind was the imprint of the two tents that would soon disappear. We were hit by wave after wave of horizontal snow all the way but nothing to what hit just before we headed down the path and respite. The wind must have been getting close to fifty miles an hour and the waves on the loch were pounding the shore. The snow was stinging any uncovered skin so it was good to finally turn our backs on it and head down. Once down the slope the difference in temperature was dramatic and we were overheating with all the clothes we had on but it felt good none the less.

End Day 6


You are probably thinking that was that. Return to the car, strip off and drive home. That was what we thought too until Duncan, who we had been talking to before we went up, came over to find out how we had got on. As we told him about our successes and size of fish he was surprised and thought we would have been down earlier as it had been so cold. He invited us into the big house for tea as he was going for some lunch himself. We accepted and followed him in once we had changed and packed everything into the car. We had tea and coffee, home baked rolls and venison. It turns out he is the husband of the lady of the house who we had been looking for. We talked about a lot of things for about an hour before he had to get back to work, no idle laird this gentlemen. What was the cost of the permit? He didn't know and asked what I had paid last time, so the four days fishing cost us £20 and an offer to drive us in the four by four to the lochs up the new road next time we go.