Whilst Scotland is not immediately spectacular, it seems to creep up on you little by little, which in reality is what you'd expect, although there's still a little part of me wanting to sue Mel Gibson for false advertising. The locals don't even speak properly; they all seem to be American.
Not that I mind this, but my idea of a holiday is being where everyone else isn't. It was useful therefore that we'd decided to avoid the more "gee whiz" areas of the west in favour of a more middle ground base camp. Perthshire. Ok so its not very remote as far as world standards go, but if it's up a hill, and it makes your legs ach getting there, then as far as I'm concerned "it's remote".
Nevertheless it is a charming place, not too touristy, not too out of the way, just perfect for a week of relaxation. The scenery is not all that dissimilar to the Lake District, albeit without the roads, people and peter rabbit (thank god).
Accommodation was adequate, if a little mouldy, although this wasn't really of any concern as being fishermen we're used to waking up to musky smells and damp sheets. In reality the real reason for basing ourselves here was the loch on the hill behind the cottage. Now I wouldn't normally subscribe to this sort of thing, it reminds me too much of a Spanish balcony holiday. No! I like to travel, move around, explore the area and sample the locals, sorry! local delicacies. I never could see the point in sitting by the same pool day after day, sipping sangria, whilst gradually turning into a pork scratching. Or maybe that's just me.
So why have I chosen this path, well, for rivers to fish really, really well you have to be at least 300 miles away from them, it's a bit like saltwater fly fishing. Five years of trying it took me to catch the only bass in Wales, and five more to fail in my attempts at capturing a welsh sea trout. Five years!! Now I know Paul's only managed several half dead salties in ten years of trying, but this is nothing compared to my plight. I don't even sleep any more.
So you see my problem, invariably there will either be too much flow or too little, and what's more it will have been fishing perfectly the week before I arrived.
It this instance the record temperatures suffered across the UK this summer (*suffered*, Yes It does take an Englishman) had reduced the rivers of Perthshire to mere trickles. On reflection this didn't really hinder my Scottish experience too much, as being geared more to salmon fishing they wouldn't really have contained any fish anyway.
Scotland is indeed a unique place, not only can you pay several hundred pounds not to catch a salmon, but you can also pay a fiver to fish in the same place and not catch any trout either. Oh well, at least it's nice for postcards.
The *Highland* Loch
Funnily enough it only began to dawn on me as I surveyed the surrounding land that a highland loch, typically being that of a lake at the end of a long walk on top of a mountain, was not just an interesting name for a lake in Scotland, but a lake at the end of a long walk on top of a mountain.
Did I mention that bit!
Why do they have to be there of all places, why couldn't they be in back gardens instead. Not that the ability to crack walnuts in-between ones buttocks is a totally un-desirable quality, but rivers are in valleys, this makes sense to me. Did the man up stairs wake up one morning and think, "well, I've invented sweat, why not give the buggers an excuse to use it?"
So over the field I trundled, past the lodge and up and up and up and up, until out of the bushes sprung a female of the red headed variety with a slightly manic look about her.
"Off up to the Loch are we"
"Yep" I replied
Then she just sighed and said, "see you real soon (snigger), just follow the signs"
Throughout my brief trek towards this mystery loch I couldn't help but think that I was following an historical path, the birth place of Sarcasm! Follow the signs, Oh you mean the wonderfully witty ones reading "up", "up a bit more" and "you're getting colder". You'd think butter wouldn't melt until you find out you need a OS Map and compass to get back too where you started. I swear they were locking the gates behind me.
Thankfully my bitterness was short lived as I was rewarded with the sight of a slightly over grown, but charmingly quaint little loch of about an acre and a half. A quite tasty network of Lilly beds complemented in the shallows by a spread of mares tail gave it an appearance more akin to an old estate lake than a highland loch. Unfortunately, fish were not immediately evident, but the whole site looked too good to be stale, so I sat for a while contemplating life, the universe and whisky, until a little later, refreshed (Slightly pissed) and revitalised (experiencing delusions of grandeur), I eased myself up from my tussock and in the tradition of all good loch fishers, tied on something small and black.
Splosh!! A fish topped in the lakes bottom corner, right on cue. Approaching my target I fell to my knees and slithered along the bank with the panache of a politician in a Soho Bar, whilst simultaneously engaging in an unstoppable bout of random mission impossible theme tune humming.
Cast one unfolded perfectly to settle just shy of a small patch of weed to the left of an old monk (the drainage kind, not fryer tuck). I slowly tweaked my offering across the surface (I'm traditional like that) until the subtlest of slurps took its place. Firmly, but with some speed, the specimen darted to the left and right of me, jumping clear of the water at times, before slowly allowing my continual pressure to edge him ever closer to my waiting hand.
The result, a fin perfect brownie of about 2lb, which for a tiny hill lock is exceptional, if I do say so my self. Oddly enough though, this was easiest fish I have come across in a long, long time. See, and I bet you were expecting me to fail, invent something miraculous and triumph after a week of refinements.
Well, sometimes shit doesn't happen.
Something small and black(ish)
Hook - a little tiny one
Thread - black silk
Over body thread - white silk
Rib - fine to medium silver wire
Thorax - peacock herl
Wings - blue dun hackle tips.
Step 1 - Start the thread and take it down to the bend.
Step 2 - Tie in a rib of wire and a good length of white silk. Now wind back and forth a few times, paying particular attention to the thorax, to form a slight taper.
Step 3 - In neat touching turns wind on the white silk to cover the abdomen and tie down. Follow this by advancing the rib to the same position.
Step 4 - Tie in two strands of peacock herl, twist slightly to strengthen and wind on stopping just short of the eye. On a tiny hook bushy herl can sometimes look a little strange. To slim it down a bit just give it a slight haircut. Job done.
Step 5 - Take two hackle tips and tie down facing backwards with the glossy side facing up. They should extend to roughly just past the bend of the hook.
Step 6 - Whip finish and varnish
Give it a go, the single layer of white silk over black may look a little odd when dry, but drop it in a little water and it takes on a nice greyish semi-translucent appearance, much tastier that a single colour. Whilst this is the variation that caught the fish, it is more of a style than a specific pattern. I've been having great fun combining silks lately, in fact I will no longer use anything else for buzzers or any kind of thread body fly for that matter. It takes on a kind of smooth, almost slimy appearance that no other material is capable of.
Love your Silk!!
Next time: Whisky galore.