Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Scotland 2015 - A trip with a difference

Regular readers of this blog will recall that for the last couple of years Burrator member Jon Perry and myself, Peter Macconnell, have made a week long trip to the Scottish Highlands in search of wild brown trout. Earlier posts 'Watten Long Way' of July 2013, and 'Taking the High Road once again', of June 2014 tell the story in words and pictures of our fishing experiences in Caithness and Sutherland. This year we decided to go to Sutherland again and to base ourselves once more in the Cairnmuir Caravan Park in Lairg, six hundred and eighty miles from Plymouth and about fifty miles north-west of Inverness. On  Saturday 30th May we set off around 4.30am and arrived at our destination thirteen hours later having stopped only for petrol, coffee and food along the way. On Sunday we were booked to fish Loch Beannach from the Lairg Angling Club boat.

Loch Beannach before the wind got up

Beannach, being one of the smaller lochs managed by the Lairg A C is very shallow and only electric outboards are allowed. Initially our fishing went well enough and we were soon catching the typical half to three-quarter pound brownies, but then the wind got up and, as we were soon to find out, this shallow loch had many rocky shoals some of which we came upon suddenly and they made using the outboard motor quite difficult. I was anxious about breaking the plastic propeller because we had no spare with us. Rowing proved no easier in the windy conditions. On more than one occasion we wondered how we were going to get back to shore as our boat, yet again, became stuck on the rocks. However we did manage to catch around fifteen trout before we made it back to the shore where I took to the car to have a snooze (I was feeling unaccountably tired) while Jon carried on fishing from the bank.

Beannach brownie in the net

 On Monday we were booked to fish Loch Shin itself, once again from a Lairg A C boat. When we arrived at the club lodge Robert McQueen one of committee and a real club stalwart was there to meet us and offer some helpful advice. Though the club has several boats to rent we were the only ones out that day. We had the whole of the twelve mile long loch to ourselves! This was a very different prospect indeed. We also rented one of the club's four horse-power petrol outboards and we certainly needed it. On Robert's advice we made our way to Tiree Bay.

Loch Shin - Jon on the outboard in less than smooth conditions

On the way to Tiree Bay

We concentrated our efforts in this area of the loch a mile or two north of the clubhouse and on the east side of the water. We had fairly continuous sport and caught in excess of thirty trout. None of them were glass case specimens but were nevertheless strong hard fighting lively fish. All in all we had a tiring but very enjoyable day.

On  the Tuesday we were due to fish Loch Merkland but a combination of circumstances prevented us from doing so. The weather was beginning to cut up proper rough out on the big lochs and I, for some reason, was starting to feel a bit unwell. I decided to have a rest day and Jon, having the previous evening had a quick try on a local burn that ran into Loch Shin, took the opportunity to fish the River Shin itself. Interestingly we never quite worked out what the legal position was about fishing these rivers. They are essentially salmon rivers and, from a commercial point of view, there was no interest in the brown trout. The advice we were given was that provided the salmon have not yet come up over the Shin Falls no one, including the Ghillies, would mind if we fished for trout so long as we were clearly using trout tackle. So there may or may not have been 'poaching' going on! Here are some pictures of Jon's results

The River Shin from the bridge by our caravan site

A river Shin fish

A small burn fish on the dry fly

On the Wednesday morning I was feeling no better, in fact a fair deal worse. My breathing had become quite laboured and immediately Jon recognised  that all was not well. Well, to leave out the grim details, a few minutes later I was in the local health centre at Lairg being examined by a doctor, and a few minutes after that I was on my way to hospital in Inverness by air ambulance. It seems I was going into heart failure. So that was the end of my fishing for the week!

Suffice it to say I survived the experience and am here to tell tale- so to speak. That is in no small part due to Jon and his decisiveness in getting me to medical help without delay and in seeing that it was definitely required. I hope I didn't completely spoil his fishing week but I think I probably took the edge of it somewhat, to say the least.

This is where I spent the next week. The care was brilliant beyond all expectations