SUMMER TROUT FISHING IN NORTH WEST SCOTLAND;
PLANNING FOR SUMMER 2003
The Christmas holiday period is a popular time for planning next year’s holidays and trout fishers also turn their thoughts to warm weather angling. My favourite place is a remote area in the north west of Scotland around the small fishing port of Lochinver in Sutherland.
The main rivers in this area are the Inver, the Kirkaig and the Oykel. These are spate rivers and generally the preserve of salmon anglers. However, there is usually room for a few trout rods early in the year, ie, the first half of the river season. Thereafter the charges for trout fishing increase as the salmon fishing comes on song.
I have fished the Kirkaig and had some pleasing results with wild brown trout to a pound and three quarters. The fish are free rising with the majority in the half pound range with perhaps one in ten going over the pound mark. These bigger fish are electrifying when hooked and give first class sport. There are several good pools in the middle and upper beats of a river which is perhaps only four miles long and has a magnificent set of waterfalls about a mile from Fionn Loch which is its source.
If the water is reasonably low, careful wading is recommended but if the river is in spate it is best to keep out and fish from the bank for this river can rise quickly and pick up enormous power from heavy rain in the hills around Sulvein and Canisp, the two mountains that glower above the area.
A short rod is recommended for the middle and upper beats, for example, I have a seven and a half foot Reddington that takes a floating DT4 line is excellent for the this type of fishing where you are casting to fish just a few yards away. The trout will rise to a small dry fly, something like a size 16 Greenwell’s Glory is an excellent starter but they are very quick and take the fly the instant it touches the water and, equally quickly, they can reject it. As an alternative to the dry fly I found that casting across and letting a weighted GRHE nymph trundle down with the current was a sure way of hooking a fish. Most bites occurred at the end of the cast as the fly began to swing around with the current.
There is so much choice in this part of Scotland that the fishing is literally inexhaustible; there is so much that one could not hope to fish every loch in a lifetime of angling. The best thing to do is divide the fishing into areas and pick out a couple of easily accessible lochs in each area.
The Assynt Crofters Trust
The Trust has 200 lochs which all lie to the north of Loch Assynt and are bordered by the A837, A834, B869. Buy sheet 15 of the Ordnance Survey Landranger Series and find these roads. The land in between the roads, a rough square comprising 22,000 acres is an outdoor wilderness-cum-paradise that allows you to fish for £ 5 per day and, if you require a boat on some of the lochs, it’s an extra tenner.
Take the A837 from Lochinver and turn left on to the B869 just a short distance outside the village. Look for a roadside sign after approximately 1 mile that says “Torbreck House”. There is a track off the B869 where you can park your car off the main road. Do not park on the B869 because it is a single-track road with passing places and a parked car would seriously obstruct traffic. Walk up the track for about 400 yards and you arrive at this picturesque loch.
Take your pick! Probably you will be the only fisherman on the bank during the day with perhaps one or two others appearing after tea time. A nine foot rod with a WF6/7 floating line and a 4lb leader will be suitable and tie on one of the traditional favourites for this part of the world, Greenwell’s, Dunkeld or Peter Ross on the point and a bushy Black Pennell, Kate Maclaren, Claret Bumble or a Muddler as the top dropper. In the Summer there is a the chance of a salmon or sea trout as well as excellent brown trout fishing. You could fish Manse Loch every day for a week and not cover all the bays and swims.
Carry on further along the B869 for a couple of miles and you will pass Maiden Loch and Loch an Angeil on the right hand side of the road – both very fishable indeed. Go through the tiny village of Stoer and on a slight uphill there is a lay-by on the left hand side. Across the road is Lochan Sgeimeach which you almost pass without noticing but what a lovely little spot for half a day’s fishing. It seems a bit dour at first but move around the lochan (or little loch) carefully and you will start to get fierce little brownies attacking your flies with the occasional better fish to the one pound mark included. As on most wild brown waters it pays to keep a very low profile and tread lightly and carefully.
I tried a small dry fly first but changed to a Black Pennell and Kate Maclaren, both size sixteen, on 4lb fluorocarbon for better results.
LOCH na n UIDHE DOMINHE
Leave your car in the lay-by next to Lochan Sgeimeach and walk up the road a very short distance to the cottage on the right and turn in to the track. This track is about five miles in length and gives access to a large number of good waters, the first of which spreads out around you as you walk the track, Loch a Mhi Runaich. Resist the strong temptation to fish here- save it for on the way back just in case you have not had a successful day.
Walk about two and a half miles along the track and ignore also the inviting little lochans that you see in the middle distance. After some forty minutes the track divides and you keep to the right for Loch ‘Dominy’. Again, the chances are that you will be the only angler on the water and the trout are very enthusiastic risers for both dry and wet fly approaches. Keep to the tried and trusted flies for this area and you will catch a basketful of small fish and the occasional larger one.
Follow on the same road, B869, for a few more miles and you will arrive at Loch Drumbeg where there is an hotel and another very tiny village. Bank fishing is excellent with big hatches of sedges on most Summer evenings. Should you wish to hire a boat or decide upon some specialised tuition in trout fishing you should contact Callum Miller at the Old Schoolhouse in the village. Callum is a professional guide and casting instructor and his reasonable fees will not only enhance your holiday fishing but you will acquire new skills that will last you a lifetime.
Next week I will describe some of the fishing available south of Loch Assynt in waters controlled by the Assynt Anglers Association and some fishings a few miles away near Kylestrome and Cape Wrath.
Best times to fish
Some of the lochs do not begin to fish well until May because of the northerly position of Sutherland. Lochs at sea level warm up earlier and fish right through from March until October. Always take advice from the locals about which loch is currently on form. If you travel to Sutherland in July and August make sure that you have some midge repellent and a midge net and use both especially on warm humid days with little wind. These midges have a taste for human flesh and, if you do not take precautions in summer, your fishing will be torture if not impossible.
Callum Miller; boat hire on Loch Drumbeg and fishing tuition 01571 833269
Cruachan Guest House, Stoer B&B and permits: 01571 855303
Assynt Visitors Centre, Lochinver: 01571 855330