Well, we got back yesterday from our annual fishing holiday, man it’s depressing to leave Assynt to face the day to day shyte of the 9 to 5 existence. It was possibly one of our best trips away, weather was excellent, plenty of fish caught and the cottage we booked was bang on. I kept some notes on our activities during the week (contrary to suggestions I was detailing revenge-worthy food stealing/noisy eating incidents). Read on for exciting tales of flyfishing, daring-do and epic crisp/single-malt consumption.
Friday 26th June
10:00 a.m. Bob, Phil and Stu Depart Otley only 2 hours later than planned, Discovery packed to the roof.
10:05 a.m. No smoking rule comprehensively broken. Precedent set for rest of holiday.
Arrived at Red Squirrel campsite Glencoe late afternoon. Tents pitched in record-time, including Stu’s miniature self-abuse pod. Evening spent in Clacaig Inn followed by campfire back at Red Squirrel, 10 year old Isle of Jura and several petrol incidents.
Saturday 27th June
Second leg of journey, Glencoe to Lochinver via Tesco in Dingbat…sorry, Dingwall. Controversy over food stealing that continues to dog our fishing holidays leads to separate communal/individual trolleys and baskets, resulting in massive bill. Arrived Lochinver 7pm, weather glorious, cottage probably best we’ve ever stayed in. Ritual drawing of straws results in a win for Bob, hehe, master bedroom becomes my home for the week. View from front of cottage most inspiring
Awoke 9ish to rain, left cottage around 12:30…it’s becoming clear that this is another fishing holiday where having breakfast and making a packed lunch consumes vast swathes time. After driving out to a farmhouse on the Inverpolly estate to collect petrol tank and pay for permits we headed up to Loch Sionascaig. This spectacular piece of water is 3 miles long, up to 180ft deep in places, and surrounded by peaks which make for a very pleasing backdrop.Thankfully the weather had cleared up allowing us unfettered views of this stunning loch. We initially motored down to the far end and did several drifts which produced a few fish
We moored up at this end to have lunch and drop Phil off for his solo ascent of Cul Mor (3 hour round trip IIRC). The remainder of us walked along to the loch linked by a short ‘river’ to Sionascaig (Sandy Loch??). This is another beautiful piece of water, and we all managed to catch some fish, typically small brownies and all close in to the bank.
Once we’d finished frolicking on the beach and picking up crabs, our mission was back on track and we hit Drumbeg loaded for bear. Permits were obtained, followed by a swift pint then a ride out to ‘Location X’ where we parked up and began a long, sweaty walk in some of the most humid conditions I’ve ever taken a long sweaty walk in. We arrived at the secret loch only to be hit by a rainshower but at least it cooled us down and it certainly didn’t stop us fishing, spurred on by daydreams of these massive fish. As we began wetting lines, two RAF Tornados put in an appearance before departing as quickly as they arrived, leaving behind the deep, rolling thunder of their RB199 afterburners to bounce off the hillsides. Dear reader, I nearly fell off a rock with excitement – other than breasts and fish, few things excite me more than military aircraft.
I had excellent sport fishing a couple of wet flies on an intermediate, bringing 8 to the hand, and losing many many more. Note the phrase “to the hand”, for at no point was a net needed! 3 of these beautiful little fish would struggle to make a pound, although one or 2 were approaching the half pound. I had initially been fishing the intermediate on the deeper ‘shelves’…why is it that something deep within a man’s mind equates deeper water to bigger fish? I was convinced that this would be the way forward but I caught nothing down deep, the fish I hit were all maybe 1 or 2 feet down maximum.
So no big fish were caught. Maybe the rumours were just that, or maybe someone had been fortunate enough to find himself on this loch at the right time, in the right conditions, when all the planets were in line, when all the big fish stirred, and had experienced a brief excursion into heaven. We ended our day with a few pints and some of Stu’s homemade curry. Christ, I sound like a child writing an essay on what they did over the summer holiday where the story always wraps up with “…and then we all went home for tea”.
The heat, oh this God-foresaken jungle heat. And those incessant drums…WHY DON’T THEY JUST GET IT OVER AND DONE WITH AND ATTACK?
Recollections may take a turn for the worst now, I gave up writing notes after the 1st July so I’m relying on my memory.Thursday began with more baking hot, humid conditions. After breakfast we were visited by naked female bagpipers and hunted buffalo into near extinction using only paperclips and carrier bags, if I remember correctly. Today was scheduled to be one of the highlight of this year’s annual fishing trip (bagpipers aside), consistng of boat-fishing Fionn Loch and climbing Suilven. We were excited, but it didn’t stop us being spectacularly behind schedule once again.
We debussed in the car park alongside the River Kirkaig, taking great care not to electrocute ourselves on the overhead powerlines, and began the steady walk up to Fionn. It’s a pleasant hour long walk, taking you through woodland glades and out into open moorland and swathes of bracken, with the river polling down through the gorge on your right.
By pleasant hour long walk I mean furnace hot temperatures frying your brain as you pick up ticks and cleggs from the bracken whilst humping a sack of sh*t on your soaking wet back, because man oh man was it was warm today. Like walking into God’s hairdryer. As we neared the Falls of Kirkaig, Phil took a moment away from sucking the life out of his Camelbak to openly pray for rain.
Reaching the outflow from Fionn, we downed tools and hit the provisions. Tunnocks Ho! Munching away, we couldn’t help but notice a 10-stop ND GRAD filter had been placed over the previously benign sky. Over to our right a frightening collection of cumulo-bastards were gathering over Cul Mor, Cul Beag and Stac Pollaidh, it looked like we might get some rain, perhaps Phil’s prayers had been listened to?
A couple of raindrops were detected, we clearly were in for a shower and we decided it might be time to don waterproof jackets. I’d barely fastened mine up before the real rain began..I hesitated for about 20 seconds..weighing up pros and cons of either donning waterproof trousers or letting shower pass over and let the inevitable post storm sun quickly dry my lightweight walking trousers. BAD IDEA! Seconds later we found ourselves line abreast, cowering with our backs turned against the perfect storm. The rain, driven by a ferocious wind, stung through jackets, it soaked my legs in seconds and ran like a tap into my boots. Calamitous thunder accompanied forked lightning which occasionally struck the peaks of Suilven. The very Suilven that myself and Phil were supposed to be atop by now, if the schedule had been adhered to. We endured this, one of the worst thunderstorms we’d ever seen, for an hour until finally the rain diminished to a fine drizzle. Which allowed the midges to come out in force. FFS! As we sloshed over to where the boat was moored up, the rain actually stopped altogether and within minutes, dry patches began to appear on my walking trousers. Hooray! We clambered into the boat and motored up the loch, yours truly let out all of his intermediate line behind the boat to test it. I wasn’t trolling you understand, no way man, just making sure my line was okay. As luck would have it I caught a brownie, not far off the half-pound mark whilst trolling testing my line. Bonus! We resumed the journey and not long after I had another bump on the line. This time it was a char, a beautiful red-bellied char.
After returning Charlie Char to the dark Scottish loch, the weather came back with a vengence, strong wind and rain (again). Game over man, it was now clear that the ascent of Suilven was off the cards and furthermore, the pub was calling. We motored back to shore and un-assed our stuff from the boat. The rain stopped and the sun came out. Hmmm..maybe it’s worth staying after all? Then the rain started again. We gave up and grimly headed back down, but soon perked up after fish and chips in the Caberfeidh restaurant washed down with a few beers, and a sustained assault on the single malts back at the cottage.
Last full day in Assynt. Ugh. These holidays go too quick. Today we split into 2 groups, Piggy and Smithers took the conch and fished Loch Beanach and Loch Borraland, whilst myself and Phil decided to return to Fionn and climb Suilven, sh*t or bust! The yomp up to the Loch wasn’t quite as sweltering this time, conditions were slightly overcast but there was no rain. We made good time and were soon at the boat which we used to motor up the loch to save a mile of walking, I tested my line out the back again but nothing ‘eventful’ happened this time. Venison and cranberry pies from the Lochinver Larder were demolished then we began the coss country yomp over to the base of Suilven.
Luckily we manage to jump on a sheep/deer track that had obviously been picked up and used by fellow bipeds as a route to Suilven, which proved easier going than the ankle-bothering tussock-infested terrain. Gradually the terrain ascends until you get near the foot of Suilven, then things start getting harder. I have to say, this struck me as an odd place to find a foxglove
So things are pretty hard going…then you reach the actual ‘route’ (not path) that takes you directly up the saddle of Suilven
Then it gets really hard going, for it is steep dear reader, very steep
But the views keep on getting better
Until finally, after what I personally found to be the most taxing ascent I’ve ever done, you reach the top of the ‘saddle’ and can see over the other side.
We had a quick 5 minute chill on the saddle, then set off to climb up to the summitt. I happened to spot a couple of deer a little below us on the reverse slope and couldn’t help but wonder what on earth those 2 idiots were doing all the way up here. Simultaneously, 2 deer on the slopes of Suilven looked up above them…one says to the other….
It’s a bit of a scrabble up to the summit, and where it narrows we had to keep low to avoid getting blown off
But eventually we made it!
The views from the top were spectacular, although the hazy conditions weren’t ideal for photography. Didn’t stop us clicking away like Japanese tourists, but eventually we ran out of manly poses to pull on the cairn and made our way back to the ‘saddle’. Phil then proceeded to ‘bag’ 2 of the other 3 peaks on Suilven whilst I stay put, sprawled out on the solitary grassy knoll, staring up at the heavens and contemplating life, death and the universe whilst smoking Malboro Lights. Definitely one of ‘those’ moments.
The descent was a damn sight quicker than the way up, but care still has to be taken – mess it up and you’ll be a bundle of broken bones, to be very, very, very slowly consumed by the ‘venus flytrap’ type plants we stumbled upon.
Skipping through the heather we arrived back on the shores of Fionn to be greeted by rising fish and an aggressive jagdgeschwader of midges. Despite wearing our trusty midge-net hats, we could only tolerate the tiny assassins long enough to catch a brownie each, before getting out of Dodge quick-sharp. But, as ever, they were stunning little fish!
After extensive admin, we left our lovely cottage with heavy hearts, soiled livers and acute crisp poisoning. But thakfully the holiday wasn’t quite finished. A lengthy drive brought us down to a little village near Pitlochry in Perthshire, called Kinloch Rannoch where we stopped off to neck a swift pint and purchase permits for Loch Eigheach (the former objective proved easier to complete than the latter). We’d fished Eigheach in 2006 when, despite it being about 30 miles from Glencoe as the crow flies, we had to drive for 2 hours to get there, and then promptly baffled the locals with our request for information on Loch “Aye-Gak”. Back to 2009….resisting the temptation to get drunk, we drove on, past the shores of mighty Loch Rannoch until we reached our destination. Eigheach doesn’t have the jaw droppng beauty of some of the Assynt lochs, but it was a good break point for the journey home and is by no means unattractive. We parked up , yomped down to the water’s edge with a mighty payload of tents and provisions and spent a considerable amount of time trying to find a suitably dry and flat piece of ground for 3 tents. We made do with a tiny triangle of only slightly marshy turf next to a bottomless pool, and a stream.
Piscatorially (is that a word? it is now) our luck run out on Eigheach. So did the single malt. We caught no fish, but succeeded in getting plastered around a blazing campfire, descending into evermore philosophical conversations whilst a succession of shooting stars punctuated the inky black night sky. I can think of few finer ways to end a holiday.