We've just had a great week on the Isle of Islay. How do I know that it was great? Well you only need to look at some of the comments that are being left on Glen's blog and my blog to know that there will be one or two extra folk returning to the magical Isle of Islay during Feis week 2012. I sent an email out to all attendees asking if they'd seen my fishing cap that I'd accidentally left in the cloak room of Finlaggan House, our home for the week, desperately hoping that someone might have picked it up. The response I got gave me a wee giggle and summed up the week in a nutshell....
"ps...didn't find cap, but had to throw away someone's pants from cloakroom floor !!??!?;-)"
Thursday 19th May was spent packing the van with way too much stuff as normal...8 rods, one of which I'd use in the week to come. 4 reels, ditto. Far too many clothes and far too much booze. The weather has always been good to me during the week of the Islay Festival of Malt and Music, but this year, the weather forecast wasn't as promising so I'd packed enough to cope with the hottest of summer days, to the coldest of the winter months.....At 4am, Pointon and Snapey arrived at Highfield and, after a few load "Wooooodddddyyyy"s and an appropriate swear word or two, we pointed the van Northwards and off to pick up Kev from Macc, and then on to the Motorways 6, 74 and 73 calling in Glasgow to collect Glen's newly purchased Sage rod that he was keen to try out on the wild lochs of Islay during the week ahead.
I had agreed to work at the Lagavulin Distillery open day on Saturday which required us to be on Islay in time for my 8am start at the distillery, and so, we camped at Port Mor campsite for the night, our accommodation at Finlaggan House not being available to us until late Saturday afternoon.
During the early evening, Glen took Kev to have a look at a nearby stream, and began casting to the wee rising troots......the perfect start to their fishing week, although Glen managed to leave his new Greys scoop net that he'd desperate miss in the open fishing competition, the following day on the famous Loch Gorm.
The campsite was very convenient for the Port Charlotte hotel and later that night, whilst Snapey and Pointon caught up with some much needed rest, Kev and I met up with Mark and Helga Unsworth and Ian Gray in the pub and checked out the Islay ales and enjoyed some local music......I'd need the ale to help me to sleep as the wind whipped and whistled about the tiny tent in which I attempted to sleep and eventually struggle out of at 6am the following morn...the facilities are great at Port Mor, under floor heating in the shower blocks and red hot showers soon warmed me up and prepared me for the day's work ahead. I was really looking forward to getting in to Finlaggan House though, the van was full of the kit of 4 blokes, most of which were geared up for a week's wild angling and one of which was geared up with a multitude of photographic equipment....it had become impossible to find anything in the back of the van, that was if you could get in to the bl@@dy thing, the doors having decided to refuse to open. How the boys laughed as my OCD reached dangerous levels.
The lads took me down to Port Ellen and dropped me off at Lagavulin Distillery, where, during their Feis Ile open day, I'd host a whisky tasting for attendees, paring Lagavulin 16 year old with Catriona MacGillivary's home made treacle tablet and Lagavulin Distillery Edition with Rochefort and Stilton cheeses...winner...
Glen was itching to enter the Feis Ile open fishing competition on Loch Gorm and Kev had decided to join in too. The pair were dropped off at the designated meeting point on Gorm and they met up with the other local anglers....Glen had met some of these local lads before, among them some of Scotland's finest fishermen. These guys put us English anglers to shame....down our way, a lot of anglers chose fly fishing because they think it gives them a certain status, they chose to do it instead of golf...they talk about the 'ethos of fly fishing' whatever that is, and thankfully, these Scotch lads fly fish because there is no other style of fishing available, that's it, so they are all normal guys, not a jot of pretence amongst them, and that's why Glen thought it appropriate to walk in the the barn full of them and say....
"Well, I've met all sorts of blokes in my time, I've met Scousers, I've met Geordies and I've met Mancs but you Jocks are the biggest c@nts of them all!"....nice one brother....
I'll let Glen tell you / explain about (delete as appropriate) the competition on his blog....seemingly it was a near run thing. One thing I will say...all the lads were incredibly brave out fishing in those conditions which was basically a storm that had blown in off the Atlantic and was reeking havok on the loch. I reckon Kev must have thought he was in Heaven when he eventually reached the comfort of Finlaggan House, and tucked into his first Islay
I finished my day's work and headed of to Finlaggan. Throughout the evening, more and more members of our party started to arrive. Glen and Kev had much to tell us about the competition and, at about 9pm, we were joined by the Luxembourg contingent which consisted of Terry, Mark and James. Introductions were made, drams were had and later, Herman and Katey joined us for drinks in the large dining room where we planned the week ahead and shared our expectations. Pointon, as ever, giving it the big 'en, kept everyone's feet firmly on the ground and it was obvious from the start that we'd managed to bag ourselves a bunch of normal people, all wanted to fish, all wanted to drink, all wanted to have fun and all wanted to enjoy the experience of eating freshly caught wild loch trout, from loch to pan to plate all within a few minutes.....
Once again we were lucky enough to be joined by Jason Snape. All the good pictures on this post (and the ones to follow) are taken by him. Jase kept an eye on things for us whilst we were out on the loch. He made sure the house was warm and that the kettle was at the ready when we got back at the end of the day. He also kept Pointon under control and at times I wondered if he'd slipped some medication into Glen's tea, so uncharacteristically chilled out he appeared to be.
On Sunday we took it easy during the morning. It was a good opportunity to get a good breakfast, settle in to our wonderful accommodation and to sort through our fishing gear. Some of the group were keen to talk about and indeed tie some of the patterns that Glen and I were recommending. At about 12 noon we left the house. The conditions were looking quite good, although a little breezy, and after a team photo or two, off to Loch Finlaggan we went....
From left to right....Mark, Glen, Me, Terry, James, and Kev.
We all dropped in to the loch in the visitor centre bay and immediately started to see fish rising to our dry flies. Islay is great for dry fly fishing, in most conditions and the rises are often spectacular. Even if fish are not freely rising to insects floating on the surface it is worth casting a dry fly even during a gale as we'll see later on....
The LTD orange tag was a favourite and some had opted for the recently launched LTD Mouse variant which received much interest from the wee angry Finlaggan troots. Mark was the first of the Luxembourg contingent to catch and he was over the moon. It was great for me and Glen to see that the lads were catching so early on, it took the pressure off us a little, there would be nothing worse than the lads blanking all week having made so much effort to be there......It was ace to see the looks on their faces each time they landed a fish..
It had been a long day and we had managed plenty of fish between us. We decided that a good feed was required and we agreed to head in to Bowmore for a curry. It was 7.30pm. I could see that conditions were improving all the time and as we walked back towards Finlaggan Castle and the house, I remember turning to Kev and Mark and saying that Glen could be on for an amazing evening if conditions continued to improve. Glen decided to stay and fish and when we got back from our huge feast in Bowmore, Glen told us how he'd had 26 fish in an hour or so worth of electric fishing and I knew he wasn't exaggerating, I'd seen how the conditions were improving and have been on the loch before with David Morris and with Glen where there have been fish rising everywhere, battering the naturals in the calm warm breeze of a quiet Loch Finlaggan Evening...superb. Glen got back to the house before us and met Herman and Katey. Herman got the stove fired up and set about turning Glen's catch into a feast. Glen told me later that it was the best fish supper he'd ever had, and washed down with a glass or two of Black Bottle, he went to bed later in no pain at all.
What a start to our Islay trip May 2011, and there would be much more to come....
Sorry....had to raid Glen's comments again as Terry left this great message....
"What a week! Fishing Islay was incredible! First and only time in my life I've been able to shoot my entire line with only one false cast but then I suspect I won't be casting in Gale Force winds with gusts of 120 Km/H too often! The memories are incredible: Shooting the bull with Glen and the guys in the evening over numerous pints and drams while the wind and rain pounded against the windows, fishing up to my ass in water while the wind and rain pounded against me, Glen cooking eggs on the Aga with a headlamp when the electricity cut out, the looks we got when we walked into the curry house and the pub wearing waders and boots, letting myself be persuaded by Mark that an eight mile hike through the woods during a gale was a good idea, watching trees and branches come down in front and behind us while hiking, watching Jase striding along with his jacket wide open and no hat while James, Mark and I looked like drowned rats, those two nice kids who gave us a ride back to Finlaggan house so we didn't have to walk the last two miles, discovering the ultimate death sauce and, maybe just maybe, adding too much to my pasta sauce, (I did noticed that everyone was walking around bowlegged the next day) turning the air blue with curses when I lost those three lovely trout on Gorm due to my lousy tippet material, bringing that first lovely fish to the net on Finlaggan, the heart stopping rises on the infamous LTD SEDGE. tying my first flies in over twelve years, the pleasure of having fish take them, the torture of having Mark and James taking swigs of Laphroaig's Quarter Cask while I was driving us from the airport and couldn't drink and most especially the memory of a bunch of fantastic people who made this a magical moment in time! I'm there next year with a cheeky smile and a glint in my eye...."
It's Bank Holiday Monday Morning, and it has taken me a good couple of days and many power naps to get over the fun packed time we have just experienced on the magical Isle of Islay. Despite the weather, the fishing, the food, and the craic was superb and all of us can't wait to get back to the wonderful Hebridean island.
One of the reasons that the week was so good was the fabulous mix of people that joined us on our trip. Glen Pointon came along as chief guide and comic, you can read all about his exploits on his blog by clicking here. We were also joined by Terry, Mark, Kev, James L., Herman, Katey, James H., Bassey, and not forgetting Jase Snape who looked after us all and made sure we came back to a warm house everyday when we came back from the windswept lochs, he was also responsible for most of the photography that you'll see on my blog as I post his pics over the coming week or so.
I'm hoping to post all the pics and stories over the next few days ago, but don't want to post them all at once as I know Glen is doing his posts a day at a time and I don't want to steal his thunder. All you need know is that we had the time of our lives, caught a lot of fish, drank a lot of whisky and had a right laugh......
'There's only one Glen Pointon,
One Glen Pointon,
He's got a glint in his eye,
A cheeky smile,
Pointon is a f**king **********'
PS....here is a comment that Kev Pollard left on Glen's blog...soz Kev and Glen but I had to copy and paste it on here as it sums up perfectly what an ace week we had....
"What a terrific week's fishing on Islay with some special people (some in fact more 'special' than others!).
Despite the freak weather comditions I'll remember: casting a fly on a small river for the first time on a beautiful evening (and losing Glen's net: perfect gent all week and didn't blame me); Gaelic music in the Port Charlotte hotel; J Snape's modern Karma Sutra expertise; Fishing my first fly match against 'the Jocks'; Gale fishing on Finlaggan; Curry house in waders (I mean ........ ' COME ON!, 'you gotta be kiddin me'); 2.30am bed; 10.30am drams; Tarte raclette?? (cheesy spuds), baked trout (done in 7.2 minutes - no longer 'ermann), Death sauce, Undertaker, Caol Ila cask strength to combat first stage hypothermia; snail gorging trout; terns, deer, hares, pheasants, angry dragons, victorian child marked with the sign of the beast and even zombies.
To tie your first fly then catch a fish on it is a real pleasure. Roll on next year and pen me in 100% because if you're like me and love fishing, scotland, whisky, wildlife and good company then you can't beat this. Special thanks to Woody and GP who organised the wonderful Finlaggan House and supplied whisky, beer, wine and expert fly fishing advice. See you next year maltmakers!
It's that time of year again. My favourite time of year. Summer is nearly here, the rivers are alive with rising fish, the evenings are getting longer and longer, some of the local farmers have cut their first grass of the year and that can only mean one thing. It's time to pack the van with as much angling and dramming related kit and people as possible, and point it North t'wards my favourite place on Earth, the Isle of Islay.....Angling and Dramming Heaven.
This time there will be quite a large party of us travelling to and meeting on Islay, some to work, some to fish, some to drink good whisky and some to do all three. Among us will be people who are lucky enough to have travelled to this beautiful island before, but there will also be people who are making the long trip for the first time and I'm enjoying seeing their faces when they encounter the island's magic and get sucked in to 'Islay Time'.
Finlaggan House with the Paps of Jura beyond by Jase Snape
During the week, our party will be fishing the wild lochs of Islay. Glen will be guiding anglers on the loch Finlaggan and we'll be exploring further afield, visiting other fishy places such as Lochs Ballygrant, Gorm and Ardnahoe. With Glen for company, I'm sure there will be laugh or two, and by the end of the week, our Islay newcomers will know for sure that they have truly been given the 'Pointon treatment'.
The Paps of Jura and Finlaggan Castle by Jase Snape
Our base will be Finlaggan House overlooking the historic Finlaggan Castle, once the home of the Lord of the Isles.
Finlaggan House by Jase Snape
Woody into the wind on Loch Finlaggan by Mark Williams
Pointon casting to rises late September evening 2009
We've picked a great week to visit Islay. It is the week of the Islay Festival of Malt and Music. I'll be working at Lagavulin Distillery on Saturday 21st May and at Caol Ila Distillery on Monday 23rd of May where I'll be holding 'nips and nibble' whisky and food matching events...I can't wait!
One of the most useful things about having ones own blog is being able to look back at how the fishing was at the same time in the previous year. This morning, before I walked down on to the river, I looked back to see what conditions were like and to be honest the start of the trout season in 2010 was a little poor. Glen was having quite a good time on the wye over in Bakewell but everywhere else in Staffordshire and Derbyshire saw a bit of a slow start. I remember the first time I saw a fish caught on the dry last year was around about now....the 3rd of May.
The start to my season this year has been amazing. I'm fishing some beautiful venues in glorious summertime like conditions. The flowers are out, and the wildlife too and to be honest, it's just a joy to sit on the river bank and a bonus to catch a wee troot or two.
This season I'm fishing some of my favourite stretches of river. I'm back on the dove with Mr Pointon, (good to see you back son, and good to see how many others are enjoying having you back), I'm fishing the Derbyshire wye, and, like last year, I'm incredibly lucky to be fishing my favourite river, the upper churnet above Leek,
The wye is so full of beautiful wild fish, the lathkill too with rainbows and brownies a plenty. The dove so often runs through glorious surroundings, the fishing is tremendous and the place is steeped in angling history.
Where I fish does not depend upon quality of fish, or how many fish or who else fishes there, or how much it costs. Of all the places I'm lucky enough to fish, the Isle of Islay aside, the upper churnet is by far the quietest. It's the one place I can be away from crowds of folk or busy roads and still be able to catch a fish or two. Don't get me wrong, I love all the places I fish but the churnet above Leek does it for me. It's the sort of place that, if you've got any worries, they can be forgotten very quickly....
The churnet suffered a major pollution incident a few years ago and over 700 fish were killed in the stretch that I fish alone. There was a fish count in October last year that was encouraging and certainly, I had a fair bit of success there last season, albeit they were quite small fish.
This season, things have got off to a good start and bigger fish are starting to show. I found a dead sea trout a little further downstream and I've seen Grayling.Further downstream Otters are now present and there is a run of salmon too...who would have thought it, our churnet that was every colour of the rainbow thanks to Leek's dying plants, and now its flora and fauna so rich. Long may it continue to prosper.
There is always an abundance of fly life above the river and during this last week I've been seeing lots of hawthornes, olives, large dark olives, green fly and a single mayfly. The fish have been smashing small flys on the surface but I've had as much success on very small flys as I have on larger sedge immitations, twitched across the surface of faster running water.
I'm a keen angler and whisky enthusiast. I'm lucky enough to have lived and worked on the Isle of Islay in the Scottish Hebrides, angling and dramming paradise! I fish for wild brown trout and sea trout whilst up North, back in Leek in the beautiful Staffordshire Moorlands I like to meet up with my pals and fish for wild brown trout, grayling and other river species in the Dane, Dove, Churnet, Manifold and Wye.
(firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to contact me)