Assynt Fly Fishing for Wild Brown Trout

16th May

The morning didn't start well and it was 09:00am before we got on the road instead of 08:00am. It was warm and sunny which helped the grey mood and it lasted all the way to Inverness where we stopped for lunch in the visitor laybye just over the bridge.The only downside was that a strong wind had picked up from the West and that was the direction we were heading in.

The weather deteriorated as we crossed the country and when we arrived at our destination it was throwing it down and blowing a gale. As we sat in the car contemplating the three mile 1400ft of ascent we agreed it would be stupid to attempt it and then get tents up too. When we left home the temperature had been 18ºC, it was down to 10ºC here.

By mutual agreement we headed back down the road a few miles then headed for the coast and a small campsite intending to see how the weather was next day and walk in then.

We checked in and found a sheltered spot in a corner of two walls that did a great job of cutting the wind down. The quietness didn't last long. The lad that booked us in had mentioned that there was an inshore rowing club regatta with teams and boats from all round Scotland arriving for it. It wasn't long until they started to arrive and it was amusing to lay in the tent and watch six adults trying to put a large tent up, in a howling wind, not far from us. An hour later they succeeded with the door facing 'the view' that the lady owner wanted, unfortunately it was also facing the wind and rain and we waited for it to take off, but it didn't. By the time it got dark there were nine tents in front of us, now I know why I like to wild camp.

George at the tents

[Click on thumbnails for a bigger picture]

(For more pictures please click here)

17th May

By 09:00am next morning we were up, packed, breakfasted and on our way as the weather had improved and the cloud had lifted off of the mountains. The temperature was 10ºC and didn't change much through the day. We purchased our tickets at the hotel and drove down and parked the car in the walkers car park. As we got ourselves ready the doubts started to creep in. It hadn't been a good beginning to the year for me with having to fight off a chest infection for eight weeks and my first hill walk had resulted in me struggling to keep going, without the 20 Kilo rucksack I was about to carry.

We set off along the road and onto the hill path. I took it slow and easy and felt fine at that point as it is reasonably flat. It wasn't long though until the path started to climb and I started to struggle. It was a real slog and eventually I ran out of steam and had to stop. The GPS said 0.75 Miles, it was going to be a long haul.

The path has a few 'level' parts, a euphemism for not as steep, and we eventually reached the high point, with a few more rests, and then it was downhill, across the heather, peat hags, holes and rocks at the side of the loch we had to walk around to get to where we were going to set up the tents.

The spot I had camped at a few years ago just wasn't big enough for two tents and there wasn't anywhere else nearby. I had waymarked a spot at that time and we headed there. There is a small stream connecting the two lochs we were beside that we had to cross and we stopped for a look at the other loch. There were fish rising all round the small bay and George couldn't resist setting up and trying for them. Two casts; two fish and he missed another two. We had been there ten minutes and the tents weren't even up yet.

I dragged him away and we got the tents up just as the rain came on. We had something to eat in the tents and I must have dosed off. I woke at 18:00pm and the rain was battering the tent and the wind was gusting so hard I thought the tent was going to collapse on me. At around 20:30pm the rain and wind eased enough for us to get something to eat and then it was back in the tent and the wind and rain continued right through the night.

The tents at the loch

18th May

The wind had dropped but it was still raining when we got up this morning. Temperature 13ºC and there were fish rising everywhere on the loch at the tents.

With breakfast over, dishes washed and teeth brushed we headed along the bank towards the other loch. The wind was blowing into the bank we were on and, ever ones for an easy time, we were heading for the other bank. At the crossing between the two lochs we saw that the second loch was a flat calm, bizzare considering it is only two foot higher than the one we were on and yet was missing the wind.

We fished along the bank where George had caught two the day we arrived. There were plenty of fish rising, most out of casting range, but I managed to get a few to take the flies. At one point I had two on at the same time. One came up for the surface fly, My Dry Fly, and when I started to bring it in it just wouldn't cooperate. As it came into the shallower water I noticed a swirl behind it. Now I realised what had happened, another fish had taken the HillLoch Nymph on the point and was pulling the other fish out as I brought it in. Rather than mess about persevering and getting them both in I shouted on George to lend a hand. He released the first fish on the top dropper, about ½Lb, and I then landed the one on the tail fly. This one was about a 1¼Lbs, no wonder I had difficulty getting them in. George wandered off and by the time he came back he was up to seven fish banked and a few missed.

After lunch we walked down to the other loch, same bank with the wind behind us. We walked right down to the outlet stream so we could fish back up with the wind. There was a good ripple on the loch with a few calm areas where the banking sheltered it, and a lot of fish rising. We managed a few more fish although I had a great deal of trouble making them stick, George didn't. All the fish were in the ½ to ¾ Lb range. It would make you think that there weren't any small fish in the lochs but the small bay in front of the tents would be alive with small fish up to six inches throwing themselves out of the water chasing flies and nymphs.

george fishing the loch at the tents

19th May

Last night had been warm and I hadn't slept much even though I had eventually found a decent bit to lay on. I had moved the tent three times over the last couple of days, once because the bit I was sleeping in was gradually getting water logged, the second time because I was sliding sideways into the wall of the tent and the third time because of a big lump in my back.

It was a pleasant morning, no rain, and the temperature would get up to 18ºC over the day. We headed down the loch and followed the outlet river down to one of the lower lochs. I had camped here on a previous occasion and had also fished here on my last visit. The walk down was fine although I had muscle aches where I hadn't any before and walking up hill was still a struggle. George had a couple of casts in a pool on the river as we passed but they were just small fingerlings so we moved on. There were fish rising as we arrived and the wind was at our backs so we started fishing right away.

We managed to interest a few fish but I still couldn't get them to stay attached. Some slashed at the surface fly, My Dry Fly, and others pulled at the wet and nymph, it was extremely frustrating. George wasn't having much joy either so after lunch we walked down to another loch lower on the system.

We walked over the hill following a deer path rather than follow the river down. I've done it both ways before and there isn't much difference other than the climb. When the loch came into view we could see fish rising all over the surface so it looked promising. It varied between flat calm and light breeze but we managed to get some interest and at the end of the day George had four fish to release but I still couldn't get any to stay on long enough. It was probably tiredness, sore muscles and playing them to hard that caused it.

We had a few casts at the first loch as we passed and there were still fish rising but my heart wasn't really in it and my mind was more on the climb back up to the tents. The muscle down the right side of my back was sore and certain ways I moved it was like someone punching me in the side, probably caused by all the casting that it wasn't used to. I also have an irregular heart beat that had started to play up for some reason, I haven't noticed it for months, and it tended to make me feel queasy now and again.

I sat beside the loch for a while as George annoyed some more rising fish then we followed the river back up the hill. It wasn't as bad as I expected and was fit enough to fish back along the top loch and back to the tents. There were still lots of fish rising all over the loch with a few clearing the water by a good foot or so. The casting wasn't difficult and if we got the cast into the area of a rising fish we were getting some sort of response, not always positive but set the adrenaline going.

Not long after dinner at the tents and we had turned in for the night the rain came on again. There was also a flash of lightning followed almost immediately by a tremendous crack of thunder, fortunately it was the only one.

george on his mobile

20th May

Slept reasonably well but still didn't feel right. George wanted to go up to one of the higher lochs but I just didn't feel up to it so elected for a rest day and told him to carry on and go himself and I would laze about the tents.

It was dry and warm, the temperature eventually getting up to 21ºC, so I got the sleeping bags out and aired on top of the tents and left the outer doors open to let the air dry some of the dampness out of the tents. I also watched George climb the hill until he stopped and sat on top of a slab of rock he had just climbed. I got the camera and put it on the monopod, which I use as a walking pole, and turned the telephoto up to 300mm. The auto focus brought him into view and there he was, hand at his ear, on the 'phone. Half a mile away and three hundred feet higher than me but he couldn't escape the camera.

After laying about and just chilling I decided to have a few casts just across from the tents. I covered a few fish in the flat calm until eventually one took the #12 Iron Blue Dun on the middle dropper. These fish fight well above their weight but I finally got it in and returned a nice ½ Lb Brown Trout. After a while I moved to the adjoining loch and, after covering and not catching a few of the rising fish I decided to try for the orange bubble float that was out in front of me. I succeeded in getting the flies next to it and let them drift into it and waited until the floating line had wrapped around both sides. I slowly retrieved and the tail fly hooked the line stuck to the bottom and then around the bubble float as it ran up the line. I kept a steady pressure on the line and, thankfully it was light line, it broke free and I brought it in so it was no longer a blot on the loch.

I continued fishing and eventually one of the rising fish took the Iron Blue Dun on the middle dropper and after a spirited fight I returned another well made ½ Lb trout. There were still plenty of fish rising and the fly life was extraordinary. There were large and small buzzers in black and olive, sedges, alder and upwings that were either sepia or claret duns, we saw both on the water. I kept moving along the bank covering fish and then there was a subtle rise to the surface fly and the rod bucked downwards. I knew this was a better fish and eventually I unhooked and returned the heaviest fish of the trip at 1½ Lbs.

George had said he would be back around six so I headed back to the tents in time to see him coming down the hill. The climb had been worth it with plenty of fish rising in a mirror flat calm. He missed a good fish but, even landing his flies in amongst the rising fish, they ignored them completely. Even after splashy bad casts they never stopped feeding. He sat for a while and looked through his fly box and came across a black and claret suspender buzzer that he had tyed years ago. On it went on the top dropper, cast into the middle of the rising fish and then he stood and waited. The water swirled around the fly and he caught and released a very pail, yellow finned fish of a pound (he showed me the picture). He'd said it had been a frustrating day until he worked out what they were taking and he was pleased with himself at finally making the right fly choice, even if it was at the end.

When we turned in that night we could hear thunder rumbling away in the distance, although it never came near, but it went very calm with little or no wind.

21st May

misty mountains

The rain was torrential during the night and there was a cold north wind blowing and rattling the tents. When it gets like that I tend to stay in the tent as it isn't worth getting everything wet and then trying to stop it getting on the sleeping bag. I managed to cook breakfast under the flap of the tent and lunch was the usual snacks. I slept off and on all day and, eventually at 19:00 pm the rain went off. An hour it gave us, just enough time to cook dinner, then it came back again with a vengeance and that was it for the rest of the night.

22nd May

Strange find in the middle of nowhere

Heavy rain, strong wind, puddles and running water all round the tents and both aching after spending all day in the tents. We decided that enough was enough so we had breakfast, packed the rucksacks and headed down the hill and home. Every where was saturated and even the path was a small river.We did com across this strange object in the middle of nowhere. Presumably off a quad bike.

We got back to the car damp, sore but happy with the fishing but I think next year we will have to try farther south or go in June.