Sunday 9 August 2009

Loch Dochart and a nightmare on Loch Ba

Loch Dochart

Last night for some strange reason, I decided to get the Canadian out and head up to Loch Dochart. The weather was fair and I got finished a bit early but not early enough for Loch Ba so Dochart seemed a good compromise. I'd fished Dochart before but only for about half an hour with a spinning rod and felt I had to return as I've always fancied my chances.

Well, I got to the Loch at about 6 p.m. and the weather was still fair but there was that coldness in the air which made me think my chances weren't too good. I was using a roving permit.


Anyway, when I arrived there were two chaps in a motorised boat but I could see they weren't having much luck. Undeterred, I set afloat and quite encouraginly got a rise on my second cast to a very large stimulator pattern. That however was as good as it gets and apart from a pleasant night's fishing and having a chat with a chap from Englandshire there's not really much more to add.

On the way home, I pulled into the car park on Loch Luibnaig at the mouth of the Lenny and was astonished how many people were camping there and how well organised they all seemed to be. I don't know if they were all fishing but you'd have thought it was a caravan club site it was so well tidied.


The Loch was like a sheet of glass.


Nightmare on Loch Ba

Today ( which is now yesterday ), I finished work early enough to be able to catch the last two hours of light at Loch Ba.

When I left Cumbernauld, rain was coming in from the West, I think, but I could see that glimmer of light over the Campsies so reconned it would be O.K. As I drove along the motorway at the back of banknock however I wasn't so sure because the rain was coming down in sheets heavier than I have ever seen before. More than once I thought about turning back but the need to wet a line on the moor was a stronger pull than the one to just give up. As I cleared the Forth area however, the weather improved so much so that I seemed to have cleared the rain belt completely.

Driving up through Lochearnhead, Tyndrum and bridge of Orchy, things were looking good and it seemed as though the torrential rain had been isolated to the Kelvin valley.

At 6 p.m. I arrived at Loch Ba.

There was however something wrong. That coldness which had been in the air last night was still there and there were foreboding clouds covering Stob Ghabhar and the Black mount.


Many years ago I read of the black mount and the upper couloir of Stob Ghabhar in Alastair Borthwicks inspiring compendium of short stories, " Always a little further " it was in fact this book which inspired me to take up mountaineering and possibly to opt out for a couple of years in some way trying to replicate the proletariat movement of the thirties where I hitched the length and breadth of Scotland embarking on " adventures " and " escapades " which took my mind off the girl I was trying to forget at the time but somehow, probably never will.

Anyway, I digress, something about Rannoch moor and the Black Mount inspires loneliness in the soul I have always felt. Whether in the company of others or in solitary exploit, whether on the summit of Stob Ghabhar in a blizzard with triple cornices of pure and unblemished snow or on Rannoch mooor itself on a warm summer's day. This particular evening, I felt particularly lonely and isolated. Maybe it was the low pressure in the atmosphere which is the harbinger of an impending down pour, maybe it was just something entirely less or more complicated completely, who knows ? Something was wrong though and even before I wet a line I could tell I was going to have my work cut out for me if I was going to have any hope of catching at all.

The nightmare or adventure began when I put the Canadian in on the West side of Ba Bridge.


I paddled down the river or more scraped my way over the massive rocks which line the bottom. As I gained the Loch, no fish were moving and the water looked dark and cold. Had I not known the waters were only a matter of a few feet deep, I could have been forgiven for thinking them to be over a hundred. So different this loch was from the one I had fished last year with troots and fly life in abundance. It was dark, it was cold it was lifeless.

The wind caught the canoe and I was drifting faster than I could retrieve. Where did this wind come from I asked myself ? There was no wind when I arrived. Then I remembered. I had come fishing to one of the most easily accessible, inhospitable places in Scotland. I was in the heart of the wilderness, a place where the weather can change from fair to foul in minutes I was in the middle of Rannoch Moor a throwback to just after the last ice age a place where they had to " float " the railway across it.

Ach well, too late to go back, I was committed now. I cast my flies time and again, my drift was fast, I needed an anchor. Luckily, I had one. I shipped the galvanised steel bottom grappler over the side of the canoe just between a couple of islands. Problem solved I thought, now to catch a fish or two. The problems however were not solved and were only just beginning. I had a couple of casts and all seemed well but they were not. The skies darkened, the wind increased and I started drifting again. This is no use I thought. I need to find some cover. I'll pull the anchor in then paddle for a lee lie at the back of the island. The anchor wouldn't move, it was stuck fast. Must paddle upwind I thought, to dislodge it. I couldn't get upwind on the short tether before being blown back down wind. This is desperate I'm thinking to myself. I going to have to let out the full length of anchor rope and paddle for shore. If only it had been so easy. Just three feet from dry land I ran out of rope. I'm gubbed here I thought. I'll need to cut the rope. Somewhere, somehow however I seemed to get the extra few feet I needed and beached on a couple of rocks. I pulled on the anchor but it was stuck fast. I pulled again and again and eventually it came free or had it broken ? I was sure it was broken until it snagged again and then once more before I was able to pull it free from the aquatic Japanese knot weed type stuff which covers the bottom of the loch.


I recomposed myself , had a breather and then went to set out once more but my entire leader was gone. Feck, I thought what next. I tied a new leader of 8, 6, 4 lb fluorocarbon and set afloat once again. I got to the back of the island and had a couple of casts with not a touch of a fish before the rain came on. This is a waste of time methinks, I'm going home. But the loch had other ideas. Unwilling to let me escape it's clutches, the weed took hold of my leader. I'm not losing another 3 flies here I thought to myself and tried to extricate them from the living plant life of the bottom of the loch. I got one fly free but them the other one snagged, I got it free and the other two snagged again. This went on for about five minutes with me having to paddle upwind and try to get untangled before I drifted down again.

Eventually, I was free from the alien clutches of the weed and headed for the Boathouse. I took a picture of the rain as it swept through and down from the Corrie where the river Ba rises. It was on for the evening and the only thing I could now hope was that I could get back up the river and into the van before it came down as it had near Stirling.


I scraped, bumped and paddled my way back to Ba bridge. I dragged the Canadian up the bank, hauled it to the roadside and ran across the road between a break in the traffic.


The rain was in full swing now and I was reminded why Rannoch Moor is the wettest place in Britain receiving almost ten feet of rain a year. The last time I'd seen it this bad was when I did the west Highland way with the girl I'm always trying to forget and we found ourselves waking in a puddle. The rain cleared that morning but we made the tramp across the Black Mount with sodden clothes and gear. I swear it was at that time the girl resolved to leave me, maybe it was because I laughed when she was jumping up and down and crying. Maybe I should have asked her to marry me ?

It was chucking it down and I was soaked, the exertion made me cough as though I thought I was going pass out or maybe just lie down and give it all up there and then. The antibiotics the doc' had given me for my cough the week before were taking longer to work than usual, maybe I had given myself pneumonia, what a stupid thing I had done with my day but how was I supposed to know the rain would come on the way it did.

I got the canoe on the roof of the van and just as I was about to leave, two other guys arrived with a Canadian canoe too !


They had been fishing on Ba as well. We blethered, they told me they'd been at it all day without any luck also. They advised me of another Loch which may be worth a bash, we parted company.

I left and headed down through Glen Orchy where the million pound race track starts. The skies were clearing as I summited above Tyndrum. I drove on down to Crianlarich and I toyed with the idea of wetting a line at Loch Luibnaig.

When I headed past the Lix Toll and began my way down Glen Ogle a motorist coming in the opposite direction flashed his lights. Cops, I thought, at Lochearnhead. They caught me there once before. I was however very wrong. Rounding a bend I saw there were cars which had pulled up, then I noticed a dead lamb at the side of the road with the contents of it's stomach, chewed grass, spilled where it had been struck. Strange, why is there such a fuss about a dead lamb i.e. four cars stopped. Then I saw a biker at the side of the road with people gathering round him. Then I realised, there were three bikers and only two bikes. It looked like the guy had struck the lamb with the bike and the bike had ended up off the road at the bottom of the glen. I passed an ambulance and Police car as I drove down through the pass of Lenny.

I stopped at the bottom end of Loch Luibnaig again but there was nothing moving at all. The low pressure had put the fish down here as was the case on Ba.

I drove home as the darkness fell.

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  1. Thanks for your comment Alistair and for adding me to your blog roll.

  2. Sounds like a day and a half...brilliant to get home after being out in the elements.