- Lana Richardson
A Hebridean grand slam
It had been two years since my last fishing trip to the Outer Hebrides. When the ferry left Ullapool for Stornoway, I got a feeling of total excitement for what may lie ahead. On this occasion I was so lucky to spend a few days with Colin, being a native Hebridean, he knows the islands very well and the best fishing spots even better. When I arrived on Lewis, the sun was beaming and there wasn't a breath of wind, this was quite nice for a relaxed afternoon before we started fishing but luckily the weather was forecast to change overnight.
We got up early the next morning and drove down to Harris. Colin had told me that we were headed for a loch which had really big brown trout in it, double figure... and they weren't ferox! I had never caught a brown trout over 2 1/4 lbs before, the thought of catching one bigger than 10lbs, or even bigger than 2 1/4lbs, was totally mind blowing!
We arrived at Loch Langavat near Leverburgh, part of Obbe Fishings. There was a good wind, perfect for drifting the boat. After getting set up, which I did fairly quickly due to sheer excitement, we headed out onto the loch. Within the first few minutes I had hooked into a beautiful half pound brownie just off a shallow reed bed.
We kept drifting down the loch and I had another nice trout, a little bigger than my first one. The views around us were so impressive. The Harris hills have a rugged and almost fierce look to them; barren and craggy. Although it was a bright day, there were lots of big clouds moving over which broke up the sunshine, the strong wind meant they didn't hang around for long.
We reached the upwind side of a small island, it had some rocky shallows surrounding it, maybe a few feet deep. It looked very fishy...! On my first cast my fly landed on the edge of the shallows. I was hit by what felt like one of the biggest trout to have nearly been on the end of my line. I let out a squeak whilst realising it hadn't quite stuck, before I could compute what had just happened, it hit me again...! I was totally useless and completely missed it. I was so disappointed in myself for missing it not once, but twice! I was just totally blown away by how big the fish must have been. Even if it was a salmon, which was possible, I am confident it would have been generously double figured.
After fishing from the boat for another hour or so the wind began to pick up even more, we decided to have a few more quick casts and then head in to fish from the shore. Colin expertly manoeuvred the boat the entire time, seemingly tirelessly, I did offer to take over but I think we both knew that if we wanted to live then Colin should probably remain captain..!
We got back to shore and had some lunch and a cold beer. Colin decided to have a well deserved nap and I headed down to the edge of the loch for a cast. As I fished down the shore I got a few heart stopping takes but no hook ups. It is always fun fishing on the surface in a chop as the takes always seem way more splashy and aggressive than if it was flat calm. Colin came to join me after a while and we fished our way further down the loch.
Eventually I reached a rocky point which stretched out into the water. I fished away for a while and nothing happened... just as I was beginning to think the fish had turned off for the day, I got a big boil at my fly and then a few moments later... bang! I was in. I realised quite quickly that it was quite a good sized trout. It immediately shot off and took a lot of line with it. I screeched something along the lines of "aaaah, it's massive!!" and turned to look at Colin, but he wasn't there! He had gone to move his van closer to us and I hadn't realised whilst I was busy fishing. As soon as he parked up the van and could see my rod bent he came running down to me, true fishing buddy commitment! The trout wasn't as big as I was expecting it to be but it was still my PB wild brown trout at 2.5lbs. The poor fish had a large gash through its vent and up into its abdomen, which luckily seemed to be healing well. I was so shocked that it was still so strong and healthy with such a prominent injury. After a couple of quick pictures this beautiful and resilient trout was sent back on its way.
After a day of brown trout madness we decided to get ready to head back up to Lewis. Firstly we went and said goodbye to Chris, who looks after the Obbe fishings. He suggested that before we left we went for a quick cast in the millpond at Leverburgh. From what I could tell, the migratory fish run out of the sea into the millpond and can only run up into the vast system of loch's when there is a spate, otherwise the connecting stream is usually too dry. The millpond is a sort of huge holding pool for salmon and sea trout. We still had some rods set up so we fished from the bank and waded in as far as our welly boots allowed. There were certainly fish moving around and showing themselves but it looked like the majority of them were sat around the middle of the 'pond', mostly unreachable without wading further in. We soon changed our tactics to a more committed approach and went and put some waders on! Chris had told us that even though the millpond was full of fish, it was proving difficult to catch them, it was officially a challenge...!
Chris joined us and the three of us enthusiastically headed back to start fishing again. Colin and Chris didn't hesitate and waded right in but I initially wandered around and struggled to read the water. I opted to fish from the high machair bank instead of wading and chucked a long cast blindly out into the pond. I didn't have high hopes to begin with, from where I was, Chris and Colin looked to be in for a far batter chance than me. Colin shouted over to me "I've just had a take!!" at that exact moment, as if by magic, on my first cast into the abyss of the millpond, I hooked into a fish! My response to Colin, trying not to 'burst his bubble' was "i'm in!!". I didn't think it was real! I was so calm, which is quite unusual for me. I think it was the fact that it happened so quickly and unexpectedly, I didn't have time to get overly excited about it, I was just totally shocked! It was a beautiful little grilse and the first salmon I had ever caught from any sort of loch, not a river or the sea.
We fished the millpond for a while longer and I caught a couple of small sea trout, this meant that I had caught three species in one day; A Hebridean style 'grand slam'!
I was so delighted with my day, and it was only day one! Still in shock at my streak of good luck, we headed back up to Lewis. We spent the night at the green bus at Barvas, in a summer gael, which was awesome and probably the best sleep I have had this year! The next day we fished at Barvas during the day and at Grimersta in the evening. The salmon had decided to go quite quiet but I caught a couple of brown trout off of the loch at Barvas, some sea trout from the steam into the sea pool at Barvas and a small sea but very strong sea trout from loch 3 at Grimersta, it momentarily had me fooled that it may have been a grilse!
Lewis and Harris are very high up in my favourite places to fish. I feel very lucky to have had the chance to fish at some very cool places out there...until next time!