Sunday, 5 June 2011

Islay Trip May 2011: A Week of Angling and Dramming

It's just over a week now since we got back from our amazing trip to Islay. I thought I'd post the remaining pics on the blog and once again it's thanks to Jason Snape for most of them.

Right through the weekend, the weatherman had been warning us of a gale that would hit us on Monday, and he wasn't wrong. I was up at 7am to get myself ready for a day's work at Caol Ila Distillery's festival open day, where I'd be pairing Caol Ila 12 year old single malt with smoked salmon and Caol Ila Distillers Edition moscatel finish with Catriona's amazing clootie dumpling. As ever, good old Terry was up making sure the stove was fired up with a good sized tray of sausages cooking within. Outside the wind was blowing and it was sure to be a wild day. It was gusting up the loch straight towards the house and the trees around Finlaggan House were bent right over in the 80mph breeze. It was sure to be a wild day, a day for folk to be at the tying table in front of the fire I thought...we'd got no one mad enough to fish on a day like this with us this time.....

Later in the week I was invited to a whisky dinner at Lagavulin Distillery where I was chatting to a whisky enthusiast. I told him that my party was staying at Finlaggan and he said that he'd visited the castle on Monday during the storm and he remarked that he'd seen two crazy anglers attempting to fish the loch amidst the chaos of the was Pointon and Kev....desperate to get on the loch to prove that a fish could be caught in such conditions, and they did. There were a few times during the week when I found myself thinking that there would be no way on earth that I would be fishing in some of the conditions we were experiencing on Islay, on our rivers back home, it would be pointless. However, when the wind is up and their are huge waves on the loch, the fishing can be spectacular. There's no problem getting a line out and the fish are on the hunt for terrestrials blown off the heather on the banks of the loch. These were ideal conditions for the lads to try the newly developed LTD 'mouse pattern', a scary looking fly that you would imagine using to catch huge angry Rainbows in the wild rivers of Kamchatcka or Alaska. Sunday and Tuesday, for me were ideal conditions and it saw all the lads taking fish. They were certainly my best two days and I wouldn't be surprised if we had a 100 fish between us.

Sometime during midweek, 'Islay time' prevents me from pinpointing exactly which, we headed out in search of a little small stream fishing and ended up gazing at the Atlantic rollers on Saligo beach. It is always a beautiful place to be but we'd just hit conditions right in the early evening for the light to be beneficial to our resident photographer, Snapey, who ran about all over the dunes taking hundreds of snaps.

It wasn't long before Pointon was seen gazing West into nothingness and beyond like a lost poet....posing for the camera basically but some nice pics were had nonetheless.....

We'd asked the landowner if it was ok for us to wet a line on the narrow Saligo river that spills out onto Saligo beach. A river that when in spate has a plentiful sea trout run. Today there was a fair amount of water in it and it's many small, dark, peaty pools made sure that my heart was in my mouth every time an angler gently flicked a wet fly into them. Pointon turned to me whilst drifting a tiny fly through the depths of a pool with a look of excitement on his face...."you know what could happen here brother!".

A take from a sea trout holding up in one of these small pools would give a fisherman the run around of his lifetime. If one of these strong fish of 3lb or more smashed at one of our flys, all hell would break loose.

It wasn't long before Glen got a take. Alas it was no monstrous sea trout but it was the most beautiful tiny wild Islay river trout that I've ever seen, and a real achievement to catch it in such a snaggy small stream.
 Later on, James missed a take from a much bigger brownie that came up from the depths and displayed a swirl of gold as it smashed at his fly. We were all gutted that we never saw the fish come to hand, but there would always be another day.

The wee troot gave Snapey some great opportunities and he's hoping to get something out of Greys and Loop for this magazine cover shot.....

Later on in the week it was time to get Herman on to the loch for the first time. It was a real dreach day but he was determined to catch a fish, even though it had been years and years since he'd wet a line.

I set him up with a single fly set up with a bibio on the point, a fly that had been performing well all week. He soon began to get takes but struggled to connect with the angry wee Finlaggan trout. Glen spent a good hour with him which saw Herman drop a good size trout and then, finally, his first Islay trout.

Ace Islay angler David Morris was on the loch preparing for the open competition that was due to take place at Finlaggan a couple of days later. He was keeping his team of 5 flys a secret, incase we told any other of the local lads what he was catching fish after fish after fish on. I was lucky enough to be taught the basics of fly fishing by David way back when I first started to visit Islay, he had me out on Finlaggan, Skerrols and Ballygrant and it was fishing alongside him that I caught my first wild brown troots. There's no pretence about these local anglers no Orvis gadgets, no fly fishing fashion just all the stuff that is required to catch and dispatch a fish quickly and to win the competition. He is a regular choice as a ghillie by the Scotland fly fishing team when they visit Islay to practice for their own competitions.

And so the final pic....and it was always going to be one of GP with the biggest fish of the week...although not the best for that was the wee one from Saligo. This fish was taken from a stretch of bank renowned for harbouring a few bigger trout. Whilst only being around the 1.5lb mark, these angry loch trout put up a huge fight and landing one is a real achievement. Well done youth!

Another great week spent with a fantastic bunch of lads, who, I'm happy to say, should all be returning with us next festival time when we'll reunite to fish the lochs of Islay and Jura, and have a laugh and a drink or two along the way!