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|Weather to go?|
John Cargill gets blown away in Skye
It had been a long drive up to Skye, but an uneventful one nonetheless and we had certainly made good progress after our Friday morning 4.45 am start. The car bumped its way up and down the twisty single track road from the Skye Bridge down to Elgol, grinding to a standstill at times as obstinate cows revealed their favourite standing place – in the middle of the road. Busy traffic too, for such an out of the way place, hindered our progress, but Davy and I arrived in good time nonetheless to see Swithun on the pier; we exchanged handshakes and warm welcomes.
Coruisk lies across the bay from Elgol, a short boat trip away across the bay. The Cuillins rise majestically from that shore line, more so on that day with puffy white clouds, light winds and copious amounts of azure blue sky. We revelled in the warm sunshine. A short while later though, some concern etched the faces of our party – it seemed that bad weather was forecast for the Monday, on the day the boat was to return to pick us up. It now seems remarkable, in retrospect, that it seemed that none of us had considered the possibility of bad weather hindering our pick up. Still, we were there, and we boarded the RIB boat with two engines, each the size of a small power-station, and skitted across the bay in around ten minutes with the speed of the RIB bringing tears to our eyes.
We ferried our not too meagre rations up from the landing jetty up to the bothy which lies a mere hundred yards away. The bothy is maintained and run by the JMCS (Junior Mountaneering Club of Scotland) and is normally used and rented by mountaineering clubs. They will though, by arrangement, allow the bothy to be used by other parties. They value their bothy too – it’s locked and secured with steel shutters and a steel door and seriously large padlocks. Thankfully Swithun had remembered to bring the keys. The bothy has two large stoves, each equipped with four rings, lights powered by gas, a gas fire, a toilet, 9 beds arranged in bunks of three and, in theory, running water from a nearby burn. Sadly, the water didn’t run whilst we were there, clearly blocked at some point in the pipe. We didn’t worry too much though and relied on ferrying large containers of water from the nearby river up to the bothy, as needed. With our stores and our bags unpacked, our thoughts turned to fishing.
We’d tried our best to find out who had the freshwater fishing rights in the area, but had realised that getting permits wasn’t going to be possible, so we’d decided that the trip should be a seawater experience. On a lovely Friday afternoon I’d wended my way round the bay to the point with a spinning rod in pursuit of whatever lay in the green and lush depths of the sea.
During the afternoon, I’d watched, from the point, a succession of boats ferrying in, it seemed, a limitless supply of day tourists visiting Coruisk for the hour or so that they were on shore, until the boat ferried them back later. It’s certainly a remote area by location, but not so in terms of people when the tourist boats are sailing. I watched and fished until the last boat departed, around six, as hoards of people had crawled like ants over the foreshore in the balmy sunshine of the day. It was the last tourist boat I was to see landing during the weekend as the weather was about to play a vicious turn. We did see though, a few walkers throughout the weekend, some camping and some passing through too. I headed up to the bothy, well content having caught a few small pollack and a mackerel, and having basked, at times, lazily in the sun. We dined on mackerel, for starters, and a home cured bacon stew accompanied by Highland Park before fishing sea pools for an hour or so in the hope of a sea trout - with midge nets much in evidence, but sea trout not so. We just might have had a beer or two, and a dram or two before hitting the sack and sleeping heavily.
Saturday dawned a different day. The wind was howling up the bay and heavy frequent showers of rain and sea spray battered the window facing out to sea.
Breakfasted, Swithun headed off on his own in deteriorating weather, whilst Davy and I headed round the point with a gale force wind howling in our faces. I fished and watched as water spouts rose and heavy gusts created complex creased patterns across the water’s surface. Defeated by the wind and tired by the early rise of the previous day, I headed for the warmth of my sleeping bag and slept soundly until Davy woke me on his return. Between us we had mustered no fish and no offers. We wondered though about Swithun’s fate as the weather closed in even more, but he returned safely, but saturated, having taken a long but low route round by Camusanary. He’d had one or two fish too, just reward in such evil weather. Curry, beer and drams accounted for the remainder of the evening. The wind on Saturday night was positively awesome, I’d lain awake for more than an hour unable to sleep for the noise and just a wee bit frightened too with such a powerful animal, just outside the window.
Sunday morning arrived with the wind abated to a mere strong wind. Although conditions were poor, I’d set my heart on the walk round the point to the ‘other’ bothy at Camusanary and a cast or two on the way there. Conditions improved though and the walk round wasn’t too unpleasant despite skiting and falling on my arse at times on the boggy parts of the path.
I spent more time walking than fishing, enjoying it despite the high winds. I’d planned to fish a few spots to fish in the sea on the way back, but the spots I’d wanted to fish looked a wee bit dangerous to get down to in high winds and heavy showers so I opted to walk back round to the bothy and to fish the sea pool there in the early evening. Another couple of wee pollack ended my day. Well, if you exclude a hearty dinner, beer, drams and a slightly drunk blether, that is. Although not as bad as the previous night, the wind blew heavily in the earlier part of the night.
We were up at six on the Monday morning, packing our ‘sacs and tidying the bothy and hoping on hope that the boat would turn up at the appointed eight o’ clock. The weather seemed ok too, a stiff breeze certainly, but not one to hinder a short boat crossing, we had thought. We looked on as a small yacht, with four on board, up-anchored and sailed out of the bay, opposite the bothy, in the direction of Elgol at around eight. We watched the sea and waited and fretted as our boat failed to appear.
By ten o’clock, we considered our options. There had been a fair old downpour overnight and the river running out of Coruisk was running heavily - perhaps not crossable. The wind had increased in force a fair bit too – it now seemed unlikely that the boat would come. We resolved to walk out later in the day to allow the river to drop a bit and in the foolish hope that the boat would come. Swithun and I took the spinning rods down to the sea pool and we went fishing. At around midday all Hell let loose in the shape of gusts as powerful as I’ve seen in all my years. At one point I had to lie on a rock with my foot pushed into a crack in fear that the wind would pick me up and toss me away like a rag doll. My fishing bag lifted and was gone in a second and I struggled between gusts to make my way the hundred yards back to the bothy. All thoughts now were gone of walking out later on, the first part of the walk involving tricky walking over and around cliff crags. If we’d encountered gusts such as these on the way round we could well have been in serious difficulty. We had enough food anyway, so we decided to just sit tight for the day. Swithun and I spun the sea loch at times during the day with Swithun picking up a few finnock and a nice sea trout around two and a half pounds.
My luck wasn’t so good dropping my only finnock at the rock’s edge as the wind played merry Hell on the sea. Wind spouts and spray walls had danced on the surface of the sea. We ate well and went to bed early, beerless and dramless. Our provisions now counted a few slices of roast beef, some eggs, some bread and a few chocolate bars – we would have to go tomorrow.
In a carbon copy of the day before, we watched, waited and fretted, waiting for our boat to come. The day was relatively benign with the wind at the stiff breeze level of the day before and it remained so as the morning progressed. By ten o’clock though, we had no choice but to pack up our sacs and walk out. With too much stuff to be reasonably carried, both Davy and I had to leave some items behind. Even so, my pack was heavier than I would normally have considered as reasonable and I knew it would be a hard walk out. By the time we got around the first point Davy and Swithun were well ahead and, on the day, my legs and back were giving me serious grief.
The guys walked on ahead as I trudged on, stopping often. At around half past eleven, from my high vantage point, the boat headed in to Coruisk laden with tourists. I guessed they’d waited to get as many paying tourists as possible before crossing, despite the fact that we’d agreed a charter fee to pick us up. Somewhat disgruntled, I trudged onwards. I caught up with the guys at the Camusanary bothy, ate my roll ‘n beef, my Mars bar and glugged a welcome drink.
Despite the problems with my legs, I didn’t feel tired at all, but my legs were shot and more walking was going to be painful. The lads knew it too and after much discussion, considering the options, we opted for the walk out over the brow of a hill which met up with the road down to Elgol. Swithun ploughed on ahead with a view to getting down to Elgol and bringing his car back up the road to meet Davy and I there later. Davy marched on, in the now incessant rain, as I hirpled up the path at a veritable snails pace, with my back and legs hurting way too much for my liking. I stopped and took two painkillers and trudged on again, the pain eased a bit. Davy twice came back for me and carried my ‘sac up the track for a bit – thanks Davy. I would’ve got there you know, albeit very slowly, but Davy made it just a wee bit easier for me on the day. Thanks too to Swithun for ploughing on ahead – hoping to bring his car back up to me. You get by with a little help from your friends.
Saturated by the rain which had started at Camusanary we reached the wee car park on the road down to Elgol. Davy and I stood there as the rain chucked it down hoping that Swithun was well down the road to Elgol by now – we waited. As miserable as we felt, we must have looked even more so, as a couple offered to take us down to Elgol despite the fact that they were going in the other direction.
Saturated throughout and with muddy sacs and clothes like wet sponges, we decided that, with my car at Elgol, that I should go down with the couple to Elgol, pick up my car and get Davy on the way back. A very pleasant couple too, with their wee lass somewhat bemused by the sight of a dripping wet stranger entering the car. The car steamed up in double quick time and I hadn’t seen Swithun on the road as the car drove down to Elgol. I was a very happy man when I got in my car and headed back up the road to Davy and about a mile up the road I spotted Swithun and picked him up and headed on for Davy, who was standing in the downpour just where I’d left him. A wee while later Swithun headed off in his car and Davy and I headed off down the road in mine for the four hour drive down the road.
When Swithun had suggested the trip, both Davy and I, I think, had jumped at the idea – it had seemed so different. It had seemed like such an adventure, just something a wee bit different. And for sure, it was certainly different. I’m at a loss to understand why I found the walk out so difficult, but I guess I’m not getting any younger, as they say – good friends though and a friendly couple came up trumps on the day. Fishing wise it wasn’t so good for me, but Swithun had a few nice fish. At one point on the Monday morning, Davy and I were seriously worried about Swithun with the wind gusting stronger than adjectives could describe. There was Swithun sitting on a rock, casting away in the maelstrom – he’s keen you know! On the drive back I asked Davy if he would go back again – he’d said no. I probably won’t ever go back either, but, you know, I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world!
John Cargill grew up in Arbroath where he developed a passion for fishing the local burns. John fishes mainly lochs these days and, money providing, travels all over Scotland in pursuit of 'troots'. John is a self-employed I.T. consultant and lives in Perthshire, Scotland.