24 Hours At The Storm Loch
It was the weekend of the 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. Sadly elderly people will also freeze to death in their homes, but that doesn’t appear to be a major concern.
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.
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 dog 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 dog. 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.
The 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 it will never shout at the disinterested.
20KG 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.
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.
The gas stove I used that weekend was given to me by a friend and was the best I had used to date. Piezo igniter, 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 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 so. 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
Anglers 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 wet fly. 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.
Too 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.
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 trout 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 dog behaved impeccably in the small one man tent. I was however glad she was 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.
I 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 dog was attacked by a pair of lapwings. I guess she looked too much like a fox.
Not a bad 24 hours. It was a shame to have missed the Loch Eigheach meet, but that experience certainly helped ease the disappointment.