Thursday 19 June 2014

Taking the high road once again

A brace from Loch Craggie
On Saturday 7th June Jon Perry and I set off for another week of brown trout fishing in the Scottish Highlands. Last year we went to Loch Watten in Caithness, the story of which can be found in the post Watten Long Way of July 2013. This time our base was to be Lairg in Sutherland, some 688 miles from Plymouth. We were off to fish Lochs Shin, Merkland, a’Ghriama, Craggie and Dola for their legendary wild brownies.

Setting off at 4.30am and picking up Jon in Exeter at 5.15am we drove turn and turn about the almost 700 miles; taking thirteen hours including stops for petrol, coffee and food. Our home for the week was the Cairnmuir Caravan Park half a mile outside the village of Lairg. It was cheap and very cheerful, and watched over by a kindly, if slightly eccentric lady and a somewhat growly but good natured Springer Spaniel. In  reality it was just  four caravans in the lady's garden. It proved to be an absolute bargain at £160 for the week and suited us perfectly.

Sunday and Monday were spent fishing two large and very dramatic lochs, which we had booked through the Overscaig House Hotel . Sunday was Loch a’Ghriama the smaller of the two but still very large by comparison with what we are used to down in Devon. There we caught 22 truly wild brownies between us; Jon as usual getting the lion’s share. On Monday it was the two and a half mile long Loch Merkland where 23 wild trout came to our boat. The pictures below will give some idea of the stamp of fish we caught and the grandeur of the scenery in which these two lochs are situated, though it is hard do them justice. Frankly one is lost for superlatives adequately to describe the scene.

On Tuesday we had a frustrating morning fishing a tiny part of the banks of Loch Shin itself. We concentrated our efforts around the point where the Fiag Burn enters the main loch but had only a couple of trout to show. In the evening we took a boat on Loch Craggie, a much more fertile loch set amongst forestry and a couple of miles down an unmetalled road. This loch, quite shallow with alternating areas of weed and rocky shoals, seemed very fertile. On this the first of our three visits to Craggie we took only four fish before we were driven off by unremitting and torrential rain. However the trout were big enough to lead us to think they were feeding well; mainly on sedges and mayfly.

On Wednesday we were due take a boat out on Loch Shin itself, but overnight on Tuesday the wind had really got up and at 9.00am there were ‘white horses’ large enough to put us off. ‘Sassenach Softies’ we may be, but we are not fools. In the end we were able to get a boat on Loch Dola, a much more sheltered and easy loch from which we were able to extract a further 20-odd trout; again not a stocked fish or a rainbow trout in sight.

On Thursday morning Jon bank fished Shin once again while I dossed about and did a bit of shopping. That evening, and all day Friday we fished Craggie again, from which we extracted another 40 or 50 trout including a personal best wild brownie for both Jon and myself.

Our rough estimate is that over the six days of pretty steady fishing Jon had well over 100 wild trout; best 2lb 6oz, and I had around 60; best 2lb 3oz. About a fifth of the fish we caught were taken on virtually static dry flies; mainly mayflies and sedges. The rest were taken pulling wet flies at a fairly brisk pace. The most successful wets were Kate McLaren, Kate McLaren Muddler, Rob Denson Style Cripplers, and various Dabblers and Bumbles. The dries were ‘ginked up’ Sedgehogs, Klinkhammers, and large Mayflies.

We killed and kept only five fish during the week.

Our trip back was another thirteen hour driving relay.

We have already begun to think about where we will go next year.

Here are some more pictures.

Loch a' Ghriama
Typical a' Ghriama fish goes back
The view across Loch Merkland
Jon bank fishing on Merkland
Merkland brownie in the boat
Loch Dola
Jon's best from Craggie - 2lb 6oz
Peter's best 2lb 3oz
Teatime on Loch Craggie
Home for the week

Peter Macconnell


  1. Great report Peter! Lovely brownies, fabulous scenery and not another angler in sight.

  2. What superb fishing Peter. It's almost tempted me to take up fly fishing again!

    1. Hi David
      Yes it was superb. It was exceptionally good even by comparison to last year's visit to Loch Watten and Loch Toftinghall in Caithness about which there is a posting on here (Watten Long Way) which we enjoyed very much at the time, but this year' s trip was much better. We are planning to go to Assynt next June. By all accounts that is quite hard fishing but even more fabulous scenery. You are welcome to come if you fancy it!