This year’s fishing trip was split into two locations: the first on the Highlands Estate of Altnaharra 39,000 acres in Sutherland; and the second at Loch Maree in Wester Ross.
The Highlands of Scotland are home to some of the most beautiful, rugged, wild, endless deep glens, and unspoilt country in Britain. My wife and I stayed at Altnaharra Hotel; it has a recorded winter temperature of -26 degrees and is stated to be the most remote hotel in the UK. The signal track road leading to the hotel is 21 miles long with passing places only, and grass growing in the middle of the track.
It’s an old fishing Inn dating back to the vintage years when Salmon were plentifully, and the waiting list at the Inn was two years for a room in the season! As you step in to the hotel you are transformed to a time of our grandfather’s era: with glass cases of sea trout, salmon, Woodcock, Snipe; with display boxes of vintage reels, rods, and every type of fly, even Megan Boyd fly’s. In the reading room there are leather bound catch records going back to 1945 and every type of Salmon fishing books’. Most of the books are signed by the author: from Leslie Crawford to Jeremy Paxton. The hotel service, food, and rooms were fantastic.
The Gillie (who I did not use) invited me into his ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ fishing shed. He was most generous with his knowledge and only wanted a chat and a pint in the bar!
The Hotel has fishing rights on the river Mudal and Loch Naver, but you are required to have a Gillie. However, there are also 3 other Lochs with a boat: on Stanga; Plantation; and Meadie. All within a distance of 5 miles where you can fish free. The single track roads can take ages to do the 5 mile journey, if (like us) you are constantly bewitched to keep stopping to watch the deer drinking in the river or the Snipe and Buzzards standing on one leg on the fence posts, and generally watching the world pass by.
I fished all 3 Lochs and the river Mudal, and caught WBT from all locations, approx. 6 to 8 inch in length, using fly’s red and blue Zulu, Alexandra, Chilton Clan and others, with a 10ft rod, 7/8 weight, 9ft leader of 6 lb, and with an 8 inch dropper.
During our stay the rivers were very short of water. It was only in the pools where the fish were lying low. The Lochs were also in need of topping up!
On loch Naver, a 9lb Salmon was taken with spinning from the boat. Visitors also use a fair selection of Tube flies on size 8 &10.
Our second stop was for 3 days on Loch Maree in Wester Ross.
Loch Maree in its time was probably the most prolific Salmon and Sea Trout Loch in Scotland with record catches year on year. Lock Maree Hotel (now mainly a B&B) used to be a magnet for fisherman with a waiting list to get a room like the one above.
Sadly, the estate over the years has changed with new owners of a younger generation and with less interest in fishing. However, the hotel charges £165.00 per day for a Gillie and a boat. Having spoken with two people who returned with a boat, their catches were only three fish. These were so small I would have put them back!
In the guest lounge/reading room there were no fishing memorabilia or books on fishing. Our room was nice with a good view of the Loch and mountains, but that’s all I can say. The hotel is crossed off of my ‘stay again list’.
During the trip with my wife Elaine we covered 1,560 miles. We used Premier Inns for overnight stops and every one was first class.
As you may be aware. I am always drawn to wild Scottish remote areas. For all those who feel the same, do try Altnaharra. You will not be disappointed.
One last note, if you decide to visit, take your head net and bug spray since the midges like the ‘Southerners’!
FDG, Grayling Society & Worcester fly Dressers Member