Wednesday 30 March 2011

Islay Part III - The Loch Gorm Experience

This is a report from Friday 23rd July 2010, I just never got round to posting it.

Well, after the mystery of Loch Uigeadail and with holiday time running out I had one last must fish location on Islay which was Loch Gorm. I had heard tales of and seen pictures of the lovely fish which were to be had from the water and my reconnaissance trip on Wednesday had only served to wet my appetite. Would I manage to catch one of the fabled Loch Gorm big fish ?

This being a family holiday, the girls had to come first and we had booked a pony trek for them. To say the weather was fair again would have been an understatement as the sun was splitting the sky. Excellent I thought to myself, even if it's not a great day for the troot's at least the wee one's have fair weather for their Trek.

The trek was booked for 11a.m. and after breakfast we left the cottage and headed for ballivicar farm which is a well run set-up about 1.5 miles from Port Ellen. We rounded the bend and drove up the farm road to be met by the owner and the two girls who helped run things, one of whom I'm sure was called Shona Isla and the other girl's name I forget but I think she'll forgive me as although not shy and retiring she was the kind of lassie who had a modest shyness despite her attractiveness.

The kids were out of the car before we could stop them and couldn't wait to meet their ponies who were to be Rosy and Dancer.

The kids were delighted and as they saddled up, the eldest on Dancer, I realised I'd left the camera in the cottage and had to head back to get it hoping to be able to enjoy the trek with them. Well island distances always seem to take longer than you would think and by the time I got back the girls and their mum were heading back up the farm track. Scunnered, I managed a couple of quick shot's of the wee ones before they dismounted. To be honest, I don't think they even noticed dad was gone.

Oh, well trek over and family business attended to it was now time to return to the cottage, grab a quick bite of lunch and get to the important stuff, fishing. I packed the gear I had carefully sorted the night before which included a selection of flies, four fishing lines, floating, slow intermediate, fast intermediate and sinker. I hadn't really expected to use the sinker but not knowing the loch thought it better to cover all bases. I did of course include the all essential pieces, wet weather gear and map etc,. To say my load wasn't a light one would be an understatement at the very least but I was going to be fishing from a boat and the burden wasn't going to be mine so I'm sure I must've slipped in a spare tyre or two going by the weight of my boat bag. I made sure I had the camera though because there was no way I was going to be short of photaes and even less chance I was going to come back for any forgotten essentials.

So, towards the famous Loch Gorm I headed. Home of rumoured brown trout leviathan's of the deep and possibly even a Salmon or sea trout. I arrived around 1p.m. which for many folk would be a late start but is more to my liking as I've always found late afternoon and evening sessions to be quite productive. I've heard of the dawn rise but have never seen it and have always reckonned wild brown trout go off for a large part of the day anyway. Whereas fishing the back shift they seem to come on around four O'clock and the fishing merely improves into the gloaming and before dark.

When I arrived, I got the low down from Jim at Ballinaby farm and headed down to the boat bay to find I was the only one there.

The sun had started to lose it's glare a bit and there was some cloud cover coming in which gave me a feeling of optimism. I got the gear out of the car and made the 100m trek from the car park to the boats surprised to find that they and the engines were all new. Great stuff I thought and composed a wee picture before I set on my way.

The box of flies in the photo is all I took for my day out and have been making a concerted effort to reduce the amount of flies I take with me when fishing as invariably only a dozen or so at most seem to get a swim. More often than not it's the same patterns too and I really don't see the point in carrying several hundred flies when you have use for only a few. Wild loch fishing in my opinion has more to do with experience and confidence in the patterns you're using than it has to do with having a full metal jacket in your waistcoat.

Anyway, I set out. The loch is about 1.5 miles in length by 1.25 miles at it's widest point and I really didn't have a clue where the hotspot's were. So, I headed to where I reckonned the river ran out of the loch. I think in my haste the only thing I had forgotten to bring with me was the O.S. map which is never a good idea when fishing a new water. Luckily however Loch Gorm is not like some of the larger mainland lochs such as Lomond, Awe or Ness as the whole of the water can be surveyed by eye in good visibility. The only disadvantage in not having a map is having to recce the finer details of the topography. Which is in fact never a bad thing as it may lead you to hitting hot spots you might otherwise miss.

So, I headed up past Eilan nan Uan ( island of the lamb - I think ) to where the little river Saligo, which is typical of Island outflows, leaves the loch. My thoughts had been to sit in the lee of the mild westerly which was blowing in from the sea and maybe cast a fly around the reed beds which were in abundance. To my horror though I found that quite a distance from the seaward end of the loch, the water became quite shallow and there was no way the boat could get to where I wanted. I therefor arranged my cast of flies for a drift and set off northwards down past Eilan nan Uan. About three casts along and I was into fish number one. A nice wee 1/2 - 3/4lb fish which took my sodier palmer on the point fished just under the water on my Pitsford Pirate floating line.

I brought him to the boat removed the fly and continued down past the length of the island where it was pretty much a fish every second cast in the light breeze until I came to it's end as the sun came out and the breeze died off. After 3 to the boat which were returned, the fish had stopped taking. The bright sunshine no doubt a factor. With nothing else for it, I stopped for a spot of lunch as you do when you're in the the doldrums in such magnificent scenery and enjoyed the views to the north where the island of Jura, it's Paps and the Cuillin of Skye were visible in the distance.

Well, when I got back to fishing it was that time between 2 and 4 p.m. I've always found to quite slow. Any fish taken during this period is in my experience always a bonus and unfortunately there were no bonuses for me to be had. I drifted in the light wind down to the north west end of the loch with not much luck. Again as I came towards shore the loch shallowed quite noticeably to the point of being unfishable by boat, a feature which seemed to prevail at all points in the loch. The bottom of the loch was sandy here in stark contrast to the rockiness of the west end. Only to be expected I suppose as the prevailing westerlies would no doubt carry finer particles with the current towards this end.

I spent some time at this end of the loch hoping to pick up a fish or two in the shallows but I had no luck. Starting to lose hope and thinking the action was over, I motored to another part of the loch and to my surprise just as that dark oiliness took the water when the sun begins to sink in the sky, fish, and larger one's than those I had taken previously started moving at the top of the water. This was the first I had seen anything move all day and decided upon a change of flies. I decided to opt for a sunburst Kate on the bob, muddler Zulu on the dropper and flashback haresear on the point. Again within a few casts and after moving to this which seems to be the main fish producing area of the loch I was into fish again.

I don't rush my fishing and luckily or more by design than luck, the troots kept coming at a leisurely pace. They were all around the same 10 - 12 oz mark and bonny wee fish. They didn't seem particular in which flies they were taking obviously greedy for a gubfull of anything they could grab in the height of summer before the cold winds of winter made an early return to the Machair.

So, more than happy with my lot thus far, maybe around 7 p.m. as the sun continued to set in the west, the fish seemed to go down and I decided on another move. I motored into a very strange bay which was almost damned 1 ft below the water with large rocks save for a passage the width of a boat which I rowed as opposed to motored through. Again the water became shallow very suddenly and with no fish showing and the light fading I decided to head back round to the good spot where I could cast a few more lines.

On reaching the area, I again decided on a change of flies for something I'd been hoping to use since the winter. Going for a brown Matuka on the point and the muddler on the dropper, I changed the top fly for something special and rather than the leisurely retrieve I'd been using all day, began casting and pulling as I was blown in the strengthening evening breeze in the direction of Sky and Jura parallel to the shore. Not so much a strip as a long methodical pull moving the flies through the water at some speed just as you do.

And, that's when it happened. The rod bent double, the line broke above the bob fly I had tied on, 8lb mono leader snapped like 2lb fluoro. Fish gone, cast gone, flees gone and F****** temper gone. The air turned blue in a sort of curse yourself, the fish, the line the boat and anything else you could think of way. Talk about scunnered, all day, all day just for that one take and the B****** broke me fishinscotland,fishing,trout,smiley,sad.

Anyway, no matter ( aye that'll be right ) chin up and sally forth old bean my bloody Ar**. Did I say I was scunnered, I was gutted. It couldn't have been the bottom as the lower half of my line was 6 and four pound fluoro and it was clean off at the eight. Such is life.

Well, I knew unless I could pull a miracle from the depths, my fortune for the day was to be ample sized pan fish but I could live with it I suppose. I wouldn't be a fisherman if I couldn't. It was time to start heading home as dusk was failing and the darkness was coming in with the time approaching around 9 p.m. Undefeated, I quickly knocked a new cast together and made my way across the loch casting as I went . When I reached the other side before berthing the boat I had a couple of final casts and would you believe a wee 5 inch troot launched itself from the water as I pulled my ombudsman fly for a re-cast and actually took it mid air. I put the wee fellow back and made that my last cast. Maybe I'll meet up with him another day when he's bigger.

With the light nearly gone I tied up the boat, took this photae of some troot's which had taken the fly to deep to be returned and made my way home to the cottage for a couple of beers and a wee Laphroaig for a nightcap. Loch Gorm experience and holiday almost over, I was a happy man.

( Epilogue - On cleaning the troot's I'd kept for the table it was very strange to find there seemed to be two different types of troot in the loch. One's which came from near the island which had a paler flesh and obviously predated on insect life with trout from the other part of the loch which had distinct red spots, pink flesh what seemed to be a different gizzard structure and were full of wee snails - were these relations of the fabled Gilaroo ? )


  1. I'm heading to Islay 3 weeks today for the first time ever and read your account withy great interest. Hopefully we have as much fun in our week of fishing as you appear to have had. We hope to fish Loch Gorm, Ballygrant and a few others on local advices.

    best regards


  2. Hi Iain,

    Thanks for your comment. It might be worth joining this forum

    If you're planning any future wild fishing trips in Scotland.

    Tight lines for your Islay holiday.