Highland Fishing Trip

June 2019

This year’s trip was split into three locations but in the reverse direction as I normally go, starting with the Inverness Lochs, then the Loyal Estate in Sutherland and then on to the Altnaharra Estate.

I have fished over the years most of the Whitebridge Inverness Lochs but have never been able to get on to the very private Ruthven Loch, due to the owners only allowing rowing boats (no engines allowed) at a certain time and only three boats in total on any one day, with no bank fishing at all.  It’s also a RSPB site with special rare bird colonies and an already protected site, also a SSSI site and has a Scottish Protection Order on it.  However, Alex the gillie, who I have used for many years was informed of the dates earlier this year so that I could fish it which is why I changed the direction of my journey.

The Loch is 2.5miles long by half a mile wide with an average depth of 10ft crystal clear water, a few deep holes in the middle, and some Islands which were ideal to moor up to for lunch.  It’s surrounded by rich farming land and with trees down to the water’s edge.  There is plenty of insect life – nymphs, caddis, olive, sedge, mayfly, snails, and midge are all there in good quality.  The Loch lies on a particular rich seam of land possibly with limestone and shell derivatives, which explains why it’s one of the only Lochs in the area to have a strong Mayfly hatch, probably due to the high fertility of the surrounding land and its soft sandy Loch bed.

The day I fished was a cold windy day, with showers and some bright sunny spells.  I used a 10ft rod, 11ft leader on a 6lb line, with a set up of a team of 3 flies – Olive’s, Daddy, Loch Ordie, Greenwell’s, all on size 14, not the normal Scottish Loch flies but it was a very hard day with the weather, and Loch Ruthven isn’t like your normal Scottish Loch.

Having drifted down about 2 miles in the wind during the day, it was a long way back on the oars! The gillie earnt his money for sure this day rowing against the wind for 2 miles.

I was rewarded with three wild brown trout, the first two were one and half pound each, and the third one a lot smaller, all taken on a Black Pennell, size 12, all returned not a huge catch but well worth it.  As for wild life, not much, Buzzard, Kite, Wild Duck and a Heron. Yellow wag tail Dipper and Osprey.

Loch Ruthven
Fish Caught on Loch Ruthven

Next was Loch Knockie where I have fished before.  The new Hotel owners have built a new walk way down to the Loch and a landing stage which is a big improvement.  I expect it’s down to H&S for there insurance.

Again the weather was against me, very windy, wet and cold but we had a motor to help on the return.  The Loch is one and half miles long, 700yds wide, plenty of bays, Islands and sheltered inlets away from the cold wind, on the average 15/20ft deep and again no bank fishing allowed. I fished the same set up as Loch Ruthven with flies down to 16 at times.  I caught 8 trout and lost 6, I am still at a loss to understand why I lost so many as all now on barb less hooks I can only put it down to me not keeping the line tight when bringing them to the net, or with the Scottish fast retrieve I am too slow between the pulls, so different to what I am used to on the Stream and Rivers.  The most rewarding flies were Blue Donegal, Loch Ordie and Alexandra.

Loch Knockie
Fish Caught on Loch Knockie
View of Loch Knockie

While I was driving down a Loch road to meet my Gillie early one morning, I noticed a small plaque on a concrete pillar on the side of the road, so as you do in Scotland I stopped and went to read it.  It was presented by Alcon Alloys to the local village people of Foyers for their support in their factory in WW11.  I think interesting, I must ask Alex about this. As I have said on previous Scottish Trip reports, my gillie Alex is a mind of information and while sitting in a boat with him for 2 days it’s amazing what you can learn.  Last year it was Wind Turbine farms and this year two stories came out of my conversation with him.

 1st Story

13miles up Loch Ness on the east side, hidden by cliffs and trees in 1896 an Aluminium Factory was built on the Loch edge with its own small harbour, pier and barge loading crane, to manufacture Aluminium ingots and rolling slabs. Production first started in 1908, by the British Aluminium Co Ltd and this process requires Bauxite which came from Ghana and water from Foyers Water Falls.  The Aluminium Ingots and slabs were made here then sent down the Loch to Fort Augustus, through the canal and on south by boat to the Cheshire and the Midlands Rolling Mills and machine shops to build Aircraft Airframes for the Spitfire, Hurricane, Wellington and Lancaster Aeroplanes during the war. The factory was bombed by the Germans twice during the war without any injuries.  Scattered In and around the village of Foyers there are small hamlets of houses, in the middle of nowhere which were all built for the 600 factory workers. It was closed in 1965, and in 1997 I believe some of it was then used as a Fish Farm.  Now it’s all owned by Scottish Hydro ad being kept as a Heritage Site that you can view by appointment.

2nd Story

In the Victorian era and during WW11 the Whitebridge Lochs were well fished by estate workers and poachers to put food on the table.  After WW11 fishing on these Lochs slowed down and on Knockie it virtually stopped up until about 1958, so the stocks are now plentiful, although small fish.  It is still rarely fished but always worth a try if you’re in the area at £35.00 a day including the boat but the Gillie is extra.

Now heading north to my 2nd fishing location on the 24000 acre The Loyal Estate in Sutherland, while driving between Inverness and Tongue I take the single track road from Lairg to Tongue over the moors, we stopped at the Crask Inn (see my last year report} I still say it 2 years on, you will not get better food anywhere at their price and served by the man of the cloth, 2 homemade soups, with homemade bread and butter, 2 homemade chocolate nugget cakes and a pot of tea for two total £13.50, for two yes! Plus now you can fish the two streams north and south of him for £5.00 a day.

I feel it’s only a matter of time before it gets a little more commercialized and it will change.  What a pity it will be.

Now on the Loyal Estate which is owned by the well-known Danish Billionaire Anders Holch Polvson. Mr Polvson is very popular as he is keeping people employed and constantly improving the estate and Tongue, including doing up estate houses, renovating crumbling croft homes and boat houses on the Lochs. I also understand he has just purchased the Tongue Hotel which he now plans to be renovated.  One weeks fishing permit to fish the Tongue & District Angling Club Waters which are all local Lochs totalling over 10 Lochs for £25.00 including Loch Loyal, although a boat and gillie are extra. I chose to bank fish up here this time fishing a selection of Lochs – Dubl, Mor and Croceah, all bank fishing, I blanked the lot.  All flies tried, no rises seen or fly life, even tried a spinner, still nothing so after 6 hours I called it a day, better luck tomorrow.  The weather was cold, blowing a gale with horizontal rain off the Atlantic.

The following day started much better with the Bug spray, then the sun block cream was applied.  I thought maybe I am in a time capsule and I was on the Atlantic coast in the West Indies.  No such luck just the ever changing Scottish weather.

So once I had parked up, sorted the kit, I was off to walk round Loch Craggie, a lovely Loch.  On the west side you can wade 100 ft out on shale.  Greenshanks, Ringed Plover, Heron, Oyster catches, Wild duck, Gold finch, Green finch, Osprey high in the sky.

When I reached the Loch edge it was so full of squawking birds, so I had to walk in the water to make sure no nests were damaged.  In fact I ended up walking round the west side, waded across the neck between Loch Craggie and Loch Slaim and walked back to where I started.  It took nearly 5 hours, again sun cream added.  6 trout caught, not a brilliant day but on getting back to the car I met 2 people from the Loop Fishing Team who had be on Loch Loyal for 4 hours and only had 1 each, so not too bad. We spent our last evening with Lilla McGrory who very courageously cooked us a lovely evening meal at her cottage that she stayed in for the first time, from which the sea views of the coast and Islands were breath-taking and chatted about the ones that got away.

Loch Craggie

My last fishing stop was to the 39000 acre Altnaharra Estate.  No change compared to resent visits except the manageress has gone and a new Romanian girl in charge, and what she has done is to move away from the old Fishing Shooting Lodge style, prices have gone up for a start and although we were only there for 2 nights I feel I will have to find another base for my next visit.

Loch Hope is famous for its Sea Trout.  It is my next and last Loch to fish on this trip.  I have waited for 3 years to get a boat on this Loch and it is now also owned by The Loyal Estate.  Again no trolling, no bank fishing and only 3 beats – top, bottom and middle beats.  The Gillie and Loch price had gone up then the cost of the boat on top.  Only 4 boats to a beat and you use your own engine, and on my day, the wind and rain were intense.  I fished the 3 fly set up, 8lb line and let the wind take the cast and retrieve quick.  After 2 hours and a change of flies, I hooked one and off it went straight into the middle of the Loch, then a slack line.  On investigation the size 10 double was broken, we try again with a single hook 30mins later the same again retrieve to a broken hook.

Some 4 hours later on, now wet and cold I try the 17ft 6in dabbing rod, 5mins in and I am hooked.  ‘Fish on’ I shout, the reels screaming, the line is disappearing and now just into backing line and at last it’s beginning to slow as it is turning.  Compared to trout on the river this is another experience not to be missed.  All of a sudden wind, rain mean nothing, 15/20mins chasing a fish you can’t even see, then a silver flash comes out of the water, ‘keep the line tight, rod up’ shouts the Gillie, and at the end a wonderful three and half pound young sea trout.  Later in the afternoon I caught a small 15oz and lost one.  What an experience, talk about knee tremble.  Back to the bar for a few ‘drams’.

Loch Hope
Loch Hope

Our next stop is 2 nights of a little luxury for my long suffering wife at the Dunkeld House Hotel before going home and there the sun is out the River Tay looking wonderful and very enticing to try a line but not allowed as told I have done enough fishing this trip.

All told a good trip 1450 mile.

Some good fish caught approx. 20 and 12 lost.

Found some new BB’s at good prices, and some new Hotel/Guest houses, and as always some not so good.

Till the next trip tight Lines.

Andrew Ayres CFD, WFD, Grayling Society member.

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