We discussed nothing other than Monday's fishing...we were booked on to Islay's finest and famous River Laggan....on the Laggan Estate's beats 1 and 2 on a rotation basis. We were to fish beat 1, starting at the Sea Pool until 2pm, and then change on to beat 2 further up towards the Low Road.
Before we arrived on Islay, there had been nothing but rain all summer. As soon as we arrived, it was dry as a bone. Glen and I had looked at the river the day before, and whilst it was low, we still thought it was worth a try....we'd spent a small fortune on "Ally's Shrimps" and "Thunder and lightenings", so it might be rude not to have a go. The estate office kindly agreed that we could make our minds up in the morning.
So, we had set our alarms for 6am, and at 6am we promptly ignored them and got up at about 8. We headed for the river, arriving at 8.30am and had a look at beat 1. It looked ok, but we all had that feeling at the back of our minds that something just wasn't right. We also had no idea which pools to fish. A decision had to be made. Given that this was Glen's last full day, I just wanted him to catch fish, and thought that there would be nothing worse than for him to go home the following morning having blanked today.
I managed to persuade Glen and Peter that we should fish it the next time we visited Islay, and that it would be worth employing a Ghillie for half a day, just to get one or two tips about the river. We headed off to Gorm and fished that for a wee while, all taking one or two small Brownies, then headed off to Bunnahabhain for a brew and to re-group.
Peter was dead set on his Sea Troot, and so tackled up and waded out to sea. Glen and I decided to have a walk up the coast, on the look out for small burns where we might tempt a few Brownies. We had been very lucky with the midges all week but today there was no breeze, the trees hung low, and the ferns were at head height, perfect for midges....even better for little deer ticks.
Glen was loving it on this burn, landing a small Brownie on every other cast. The fish were very dark but had vivid red spots. The burn ran with a very dark colour from the peat. My waders are still showing the peat stain now.
After a while we headed off to the cottage and left Peter enjoying himself in the sea. He landed a couple of nice Sea Trout. Glen had a go at wading out to the rocks, had a few casts from them, in the meantime, the tide had risen and we shouted encouragement at (not to) him and ridiculed his wading style, to which he replied that this was all rich coming from me...the worlds worst wader. He was right.
We drove down to the Ballygrant stores to get some smokes for Glen and on the way back I asked him how he had got on with the ticks. "What ticks..what do you mean youth?" he enquired. I reminded him that as soon as he had got off the ferry I had told him that he would have to change his shorts to longs, but it appears that he thought I was joking.
I told Glen about how the ticks attach themselves to vegetation and wait for animals to pass and then latch on to them and feed on their blood. I told him that if not removed, over the following few days, the tick would grow to the size of a baked bean. The colour slowly drained from Glen's face.
I was now laughing and crying so much that I had to stop the van. "What do you mean baked bean?" he shouted, "What happens then?". I told him that they then drop off and skitter across the floor and then hide until another animal comes along and they jump on that one, the whole cycle starting again. I'm sure he was imagining ticks the size of Shetland Ponies appearing from behind the settee. To say that he looked panicked is an understatement. I had a quick look at his legs...and sure enough there were a good half dozen or so merrily looking for a nice spot to latch on to. "I'm going to sue you Woody!"
When we got back to the cottage, I fetched a bottle of incredibly peaty whisky, I'm not going to say which one because I will have whisky fanatics sending me death threats, and daubed some on to the ticks that had been latched on for 24 hours or so, luckily, Glen couldn't see them but they were black and already the size of match heads. I managed to get most to drop off.
Limes disease is carried by one in three ticks and is a pretty nasty illness. In the Highlands and Islands, folk have often used spirits to remove ticks, the idea being that once covered in liquid, they cannot breath so have to drop off in order to do so. Apparently, the official line is now that they must be removed by hand or with a tool designed to do the job as covering the tick with any liquid makes it more likely that the tick will vomit (sorry if you are having your tea) into the wound and thus making it more likely to pass on the disease....nice. So there you go.
During the evening, Glen, his ticks, and I fished Loch Finlaggan. We walked right up the east bank to just beyond the island, fishing all the way. Glen lost what looked to be a really good fish near to where the boats are usually moored. The last hour was great fishing. We waded right out on a spit which David Morris has shown me in the past and we both took fish after fish on the dry...the LTD sedge...it was great fun, and a brilliant way to end Glen's Islay trip.
Glen left the following day on the 3.30pm ferry. In the evening, Peter did a little more sea fishing and I had a final session at Finlaggan...managing a few fish from the visitor centre bank.
On Wednesday morning we went to see Joan at Dunlossit Estate office and purchased a ticket for Peter and I to fish from a boat on the beautiful Loch Ballygrant.
There was a lovely ripple and we spent our time drifting from the loch from one end to the other. Peter had good sport on an orange muddler and I caught 3 or 4 on green tailed Kate McKlaren, Bibio and Peter Ross.
Loch Ballygrant has a lovely boat House that can easily seat a dozen people. There is a large fireplace and ample log supply. I'm looking forward to joining a few folk to fish there next season and to have food and a few drinks and a laugh within its sturdy walls.
The week flew by and we had had a great time. Peter had never met myself or Glen before and after a couple of days we had got to know each other and were having a laugh. It was great to see Glen and Peter using styles of fishing that I had not seen on Islay before....and they were catching plenty of fish. Both Glen and Peter have said that they will return to Islay. I know Glen has fallen in love with the place, as everyone does, and he will be back with me at the very start of next season. It was a privilege to be in such good company, in such good weather, and to catch so many fish....perfect.
That's the end of my report on Islay September 2009 other than to draw your attention to an article in the Ileach, the local newspaper, from that week that was pointed out to me by John and Lindy Mac Lellan. If we had have fished the River Laggan that Monday, and blanked, imagine how gutted we would have been if we had got home that night, heads dropped, miserable, more miserable than we normally are that is, more miserable than you can possibly imagine, and have read this piece!? The air would have been very blue. Please click on the pic to expand.
Well done Beth, you've achieved more than many of us will do in a lifetime!
Anyone whising to join us on our early 2010 season trip should get in touch with me as soon as possible to avoid dissapointment.