Assynt Fishing Holiday 2009

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.

Clachaig

Red Squirrel campsite

 

 

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

 

 

 

Bags unpacked, we descended upon the Caberfeidh pub/restaurant for venison burger and a few pints. Returned to cottage for Father Ted and single malts.
Sunday 28th June

Awoke at 9 a.m, finally left cottage at 11:50 after numerous cups of tea, smokes and Johnny Cash for 1st day of fishing. Weekly permits for Assynt purchased (£30 each – bargain!). Drove out to viewpoint car park and short walk over to Loch Sgeireach. A small loch, but rumoured to contain above average sized trout and judging by the fish we saw jumping out this rumour is true, but apart from one offer, none of us touched a thing.
Following arrival of final member of our party, (another Stu, who I shall henceforth refer to as Smithers to avoid confusion) we gave up on Sgeireach and drove down to the Stour peat track where Phil could get gripped and sorted with his Land Rover. We fished Loch na h-Uidhe Doimhne from the bank and in float tubes (fish above average, some knocking on for 1lb) and Loch Poll Dhaidh from the bank (fish not as big).
Monday 29th June

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.

 

 

 

 

After Phil’s perilous descent we reconvened and motored back up the loch to fish a couple of bays back up at the other end. The sun beating down on our heads led us to believe we were in a low-budget episode of Miami Vice resulting in an exciting stern chase between our boats, before sense prevailed.

 

We pulled into the final bay before ‘boat bay’ and began fishing the drift again. The sun was just beginning to disappear behind the hill and fishing the slicks started to bring results but alas we had to be off the water by 10 to return the petrol cans. Curses!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30th June
Stu’s birthday, and he chose an excellent setting to spend his day, Loch Veyatie. This 4 mile long loch lies between 2 of the biggest peaks in the region, Suilven and Cul Mor. It is actually linked to Fionn-loch by a short stretch of river, Uidh Fheàrna at its Western end (more about Fionn later). After our usual, and frankly scandalous, amount of dawdling we finally collected the outboard from the Altnacealgach pub at Ledmore junction. It was another beautiful day so before departing we necked a pint of cold Amstel and enjoyed the company of the fetching young barmaid who, coincedentally, was taking a break from studying at Leeds University. Minor fuel sloshage from the outboard nestled in the rear footwell meant that by the time we’d made the short journey to the boat moored up at the Cam Loch end of Veyatie, we were suitably off our heads.
4 miles is a long way in a small boat, with a low hp-outboard, 3 other anglers, a float-tube and a massive pile of rucksacks. After 50 minutes of ass-pummeling we were glad to jump out at the far end where the river flows in (or is it out?!) and make base camp for the day. Provisions were raided, then myself and Stu took the boat whilst Smithers fished the river and Phil took the float tube out. We faired pretty well in the boat, and it was once again made clear that staying not more than about 10 – 15 yards out from the bank almost guaraunteed fish.

They were standard loch size, well under half a pound, but punched above their weight when attached to a flyline. We also took time out to moor up at the beach formed where Loch A Mhiotailt joins Veyatie and fished the shallow bay there to good effect.

Returning to base camp we discovered Phil had experienced a float tube incident leaving him with a broken flipper and waterlogged chest waders, and Smithers hankering for barbequed meat products. I left the girls to organise tea and wandererd along the rocky shore, every little point seemed to have a couple of fish loitering off it, picking up unlucky terrestials and my trusty bob fly picked up several of them. By the time I sauntered back to the kitchen the trusty disposable BBQs were underway and a driftwood fire was already fending off the midges (a bit).

Cooking on Veyatie

We gathered round to eat  burgers, minted lamb kebabs and freshly caught trout washed down with a few beers and some single malt – one of several excellent outdoor feasts we had during this holiday! We enjoyed the ‘golden hour’ with a few last casts and several gigabytes of photos between us before making the long journey back.

Golden hour on Veyatie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1st July
Another glorious day in Lochinver! This weather is too good to be true! Flasks made, packed lunches..packed, we head off to a Drumbeg to get permits to fish a loch that shall remain nameless. Clean living Phil had rather quaintly used the Internet for genuine research purposes that don’t involve viewing humourous pictures of monkeys shitting in their hands or dirty women, and struck gold with information concerning a secret loch with sackloads of trout in the 4 to 6lb range. We had an unplanned detour however, a sandy white beach and turqouise sea proved irresistible to Phil and Smithers who donned their bathing costumes whilst myself and Stu searched rock-pools for crabs.

 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”.

2nd July

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.

 July 3rd

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!

Phil at Suilven summit

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!

 

 

4th July

 

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.

4 thoughts on “Assynt Fishing Holiday 2009

  1. Ryan

    Loved reading this, i live in inveness and it reminded me of what sits on my doostep and how lovely i really is,, 🙂

  2. John

    pmsl ! , you are all guys after my own heart , someone who likes a laugh and drink with some fishing and scenery thrown in. found your story as 10 of us are heading up to inverpolly lodge just 5 mile south of lochinver in june , cant wait now . btw funny enough we are heading up to camp on loch rannoch this weekend and are going to fish a burn on the north side of loch eigheach which holds some decent browns in march early april, slanj !

  3. Stu

    You’ll have an amazing time, I’m counting the days until we set off on the Assynt 2012 mission!

    We went to Eigheach in 2006 and caught so many fish it was getting a bit stupid, the next time we went we didn’t get a pull? Fishing eh!

    I’m not sure what the burn running into Eigheach is called (it’s getting on for a smallish river in places) but we walked down from Rannoch station on the train tracks then fished it all the way up to Loch Eigheach, as I remember Bob got a decent sized brownie out of one of the pools. We then had to spend about 3 hours driving back to the cottage in Glencoe, it was a mission and a half!

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