Friday July 12, 2013

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24 Hours At The Storm Loch

Written by Fred Carrie

thumbIt  was the weekend of the  June 2008 Wild Fishing Forum meet over by Loch Eigheach on Rannoch Moor, and  facing a solo drive round trip from Aberdeenshire that would have cost me the better part of £50 for petrol I reluctantly decided to call off and fish somewhere a little closer to home and therefore a lot less expensive.

 The Greens have been proven right. Make fuel super-expensive and you will drive folk off the road. Perhaps they won’t be entirely happy until it’s even less affordable than it was in real terms back then in summer 2008.

 Having spent the entire spring fishing rivers, often the Don, but mainly the  Deveron,  and catching some damn good fish, I fancied a change.  Fly Fisherman cannot live by running water alone.

1 I decided on an overnight camp up at my old favourite Loch of Storms. This is a loch I try to fish a few times each year, always day trips until now. Camping up there was something I had  fancied doing for a while, so no time like the present.

 The Dug and I left the car at about 9.30AM on Friday and arrived at the loch two hours later, totally exhausted. Me that is, not The Dug. She could have gone on for miles,  but then she was not carrying the  20KG + rucksack for the five KM and 400 meter climb to  the loch side.

 2The climb featured many stops, solely for the purpose of photography of course. As  ever I revelled in the alpine botany. It will tell you so much if you are prepared to listen, but will never shout at the disinterested.

1120KG is a lot for an overnight stay, but once the tinned food (I really could not be bothered messing about with dried stuff),  the  can of beer for effective re-hydration, a hip flask of  whisky for medicinal purposes and dog food are factored in the weight soon mounts up.

Sometimes finding a decent camp site close to the water can be a real problem high up  in the hills. In the Eastern Highlands green = grass = wet,  brown= heather= rough = lumpy = uncomfortable – but at least it’s dry. I found a nice, slightly less lumpy bit on the far bank of the loch and pitched.  It was a rather fine situation actually. 3

Soon I was set up and had lunch prepared;  a packet of cuppa soup added to boiled loch  water. Incidentally, for those not used to camping in the hills, it’s worth spending a bit of time setting up your stove safely with some rocks. At night, or if it rains,  you can cover it with an upturned  pot and a rock  to keep it dry. This only takes 5 minutes and can save a nasty accident or  setting the hill alight  in dry weather. 4 The gas stove I used that  weekend was given to me by a friend and was  the best by far I had used to date. Piezo ignitor, fast, low profile  and stable. He tells me it was bought online and was quite inexpensive. Not sure of the details, but I’m pretty certain most  of the outdoor stores will  offer something similar.

If you are arranging  rocks when  camping in wild country, please be sure to put  them back where you found them when you leave. There is nothing  worse than evidence of past camps. Rocks kill the vegetation below  them; then, when finally moved,  the ground  looks like it’s suffering from chickenpox and erosion may set in.  In any case it just detracts from the wilderness experience you sweated and grunted to get there to enjoy.

Camp fires are the worst of all. They have “neds were here” written all over them and there are few things upset landowners more that open fires.

Members of the Wild Fishing Forum know many lochs like this. We tend to hold the cards detailing their whereabouts close to our chests. Envious onlookers and those not in the know  sometimes accuse us of elitism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Internet is a big place and not all fishermen who use it are conservation  minded.

Most of us have witnessed the devastation that  a few undesirables can cause to pristine waters. Dead fish, piles of rubbish left behind, discarded line, bait tins  etc. We have no wish to add to this and try to make sure that information on sensitive wild fisheries does not get into the wrong hands. Wrong hands include those who would openly publish information on websites for profit or to attract traffic for commercial purposes. Or sometimes just plain honest to goodness idiots who don’t  seem to know any better and  care even less.

We also live in a litigious society and to be seen to be  encouraging  people  to venture far off the beaten track into potentially hostile terrain could leave one open  and vulnerable to action if they got hurt or worse.

I have certainly  experienced some unbelievable weather changes in summer up  at the Loch of Storms. That’s why I named it. A few years ago, in a matter of minutes,  a pleasant, warm  late May afternoon changed  into a maelstrom of  thunder, lightening, high winds, torrential hail and sleet that laid down a thick,  even coating of hard ice chilling  the body and making the descent treacherous underfoot. An inexperienced or ill equipped person could have landed in serious trouble .

5Anglers who guide others and especially  if they take money for the services they provide should bear in mind that here in Scotland all ground above 300 meters is classed as mountain terrain (this would include parts of the upper Don in Aberdeenshire)  and should have appropriate mountain leadership  qualifications and insurance in place. I doubt very much if a standard fishing qualification would cover this.

But  back to this fine, warm day:  I was fishing with my son Martin’s travel rod. An 8 foot, 7 piece Nielsen Powerflex bought on Ebay for £35!  Quite fast actioned, it’s  a #5 weight, but it works well with a a #4 if you are even an average caster.  A really lovely rod for the money  that I would recommend if you can still  get one!  With a tiny Vosseler RC2  reel and a   DT #4 floater it was a feather-light combination and a delight to fish with.

There was a fair old wind blowing, but warm enough, so I started with wets. The wind died down a touch  and one or two fish were now showing. I changed to dries and stuck with them for the rest of the trip. I soon had a few fish on f-flies  but they were small. In fact the biggest fish I had on Friday was only about 10  inches. I had lots of them.

This was very odd as fewer and bigger fish have, in my past experience,  been the order of the day at this loch. Just like another loch  I could mention, but won’t, it looks like there must have been a very successful spawning a few years earlier and a big increase in the numbers of fish.

6Too many fish? Not enough angling pressure?  Let’s  git  a’  killin’?  Well no. Even when the fish were all bigger  this loch suffered no angling pressure at all. In nature things change, they run in cycles.  Leave them alone I say and nature will sort it out. By all means kill fish to eat, but let’s not be tempted to play God  “for the good of the loch”. Fish don’t swim around worrying about how big they are. That’s my take on it anyway.

I stopped around  5.30 PM   heated a few tins and ate. The loch was  now dead, so I went for a walk along a few of the surrounding hill ridges. These rounded hills are not high, perhaps up to 850M, but they have some odd, huge rocks balanced on their  rounded tops. Geologists call them  erratics,  they were dumped  there by glaciers.

The walk was pleasant, giving a new perspective on the loch and the surrounding area. Nature is a wonderful thing and taking time out to enjoy it just adds to the overall quality of the fishing experience.

After an hour or so I was back at the tent and still no fish  showing. Time to chill out with a  beer and a dram. The weather had been wonderful, quite hot during the day and still warm in the evening. Wild camping in the eastern  highlands in early June very often offers the best weather of the year and even after a mild  winter it’s still too early for midges and clegs. Believe me that makes a heck of a difference.9

Time for another dram. Still nothing happening  OK,  let’s have another dram. A fish rose, and another. Look! There’s another!  By the rise forms it looks like they are  feeding on buzzers. Sod it, time for another dram!  I’m way too chilled out now and catching fish  seems to have lost some of its urgency. Not that it’s ever the only or even the  first consideration, there’s more to fishing than catching fish. If catching fish is all that matters, best to forget about places like this and go to one of your local stocked rainbow ponds.

By 9.30 PM, I was dead on my feet. I clambered  into the sleeping bag  for 10 hours……………..I guess I’m not as young as I once was!  Or was it the drams? The Dug behaved impeccably in the small one man tent. I was however glad she is a small Border Collie and not a Great Dane.

I was up at 7.30 AM-ish.  A good breakfast was shared with my fishing pal.  The morning was beautiful. Rings from  rising trout dimpled the flat calm loch.   It was an idyllic scene, so rare in cold windy Scotland.

I struck camp, partly packed and was fishing by 9.00AM.

10I took a few slightly bigger fish. on a  CDC and Elk,  then one  just over a pound on a big black Klinkhamer.  The fishing was steady, but never easy. The calm conditions  called for care. These  fish fought like only  Loch of Storms fish can. Unbelievable. Pound for pound these are the hardest fighting trout  I know by a long chalk.

By 1.00 PM it was windy, bright, sunny  and roasting hot. I had lunch, finished packing  and left. I took one or  two photos on the way back to the car. It took just over an hour.

The Dug was attacked by a pair of lapwings. I guess she looks too much like a fox.

Not a bad 24 hours. It was a shame to have missed the WFF Loch Eigheach meet, but that experience certainly helped ease the disappointment.

Fred Carrie started fishing in the mid 1960's, hillwalking in the 1970's and has been combining the two on and off ever since.
Fred runs the successful Wild Fishing Scotland family of web sites and enjoys the hike up to the wild hill lochs as much as the fishing itself.

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