Saturday, 18 May 2013

May the fire be always lit


Just over a month ago my good friend Chris invited me to wet a line on his club water Craigallion Loch. I always enjoy fishing with Chris and was  delighted to be able to join him on a water I have known of for many years.

At the moment I am unsure of the history and how it came to be, but Craigallion loch lies in a cut near the village of Strathblane, very close to Mugdock country park. It will be known to many folk who have walked " The west Highland Way " as did I in the summer of 1986 with my sadly missed girlfriend of those much lamented years.


Craigallion was immortalised in Jock Nimlin's book " May the fire be always lit " which is a tale of walkers and climbers who found their freedom in the hills and glens of Scotland in their quest to escape the trials and tribulations of city life in Glasgow during the great depression of the 1930's. In the book, Jock tells of " The Craigallion Fire " around which stravaigers and marauders from the city of Glasgow and it's environs would gather to share company and maybe even a bottle or two.  The Fire was a beacon of hope and many who sat round its flames were an inspiration to the upcoming generation of walkers and climbers.  It was a meeting-place for many types. Climbers, walkers, adventurers, lobby dosser's, vagabonds, " Red Clydesider's " and wanderers talked and sometimes slept round it. By the light of the Craigallion Fire were born the legendary Creagh Dhu, Lomond and Ptarmigan climbing clubs.

 ( Glen Loin Cave Fire - photo originator Friends of the Craigallion fire )
"The Fire offered warmth, company, interesting discussions and an ever-boiling dixie of tea into which the visitor’s mug or can could be dipped. At any one time, there might be upwards of 30 people sitting round the Fire. Hill-lore, philosophy and socialist topics of the time were discussed at length for this was a great time of socialist-driven change. Even atomic theory was discussed when a local chemist used to drop in! Several of the fire-sitters would go on to fight in the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939. Adolescent schoolboys and even families with young children would come to the Fire and listen to the 'old timers' telling tales of adventure in the wild places further North. They, in turn, were fired to seek wider horizons. Some of those who sat at the Fire and shared its bounty would be notably instrumental in fighting for the freedom of all people to enjoy the Scottish countryside through the development of such things as our Rights of Way and National Parks.Some Fire-sitters became pioneers in the movement to open up Scotland's wild places to all people. " ( friends of the Craigallion Fire )

Few people who pass Craigallion loch these days on their traipse from Milngavie to Fort William via the West Highland way know the history of the area or are aware that the ghosts of folk like Jock Nimlin, Tom Weir, Chris Lyons, Bob Grieve and many others still sit by the Craigallion fire to this day singing and laughing into the wee small hours. Sometimes, if you listen carefully you can still hear them sing the Craigallion fire chant :-

Long may old Craigallian woods
Send forth abundance of their goods;
May the fire be always lit
So that we may come and sit.

Enough however of the history and folklore as we must move on to tales of fishing, companionship and boatmanship - if there is such a thing :-).

I travelled to Craigallion Loch around mid day, having finished a small job I had to attend to. Chris, as we had arranged was already there and was " bent into a fish " even as I parked the van. Things were looking good for the day and as we greeted each other at the boathouse, the big guy proudly announced that he'd already had four to the boat before I even arrived.



It wasn't a warm day but it wasn't cold either. Having said that I still put on my favourite warm hat, just in case.



Unfortunately, Chris had moved off his hot spot to get me aboard and fishing being fishing, someone had moved onto it and was now anchored up. Undeterred, while the interlopers ( and I use that term in the nicest possible way ) tightened their lines, we anchored up close to the north shore but far enough away from the " poaching lines " which have been rigged to prevent bank fishing and even as I tackled up, my boat partner was into a fish already. After about an hour of no luck on my part, the secret weapon was deployed on my cast and I was into a fish almost as soon as the fly hit the water. I did however lose it very quickly and I'm sure I caught a glimpse of a faint smile on Chris's face.



Not to worry though, I was back in action and things seemed to have cooled off for Chris. A short time later, the guys fishing the hot spot packed up and headed for home. So, we were once again back in this prime location about thirty metres away from the rushes  which were still in their winter coat of that dead straw colour they seem to go. And what a location it was. No sooner than we seemed to have anchored up than I hooked and lost another couple of trout. I was a wee bit annoyed though as I couldn't figure whether the fish had hit the Montana or the secret weapon. Having said that, after I got my fourth fish of the day to the boat on the SW within what must only have been a matter of minutes, Chris, for some strange reason changed his point fly to the closest thing he had to my killer flee and was not surprisingly back in the running. Good show.






So, we fished, we caught, we fished, we caught and so it seemed to go until about 6p.m. I think I dropped four and brought four of these extremely well conditioned, hard fighting Rainbows to the boat and Chris must've had double that number. Size wise the troots were mainly in the two to three pound mark with the biggest weighing maybe a good six or seven  pounds but I'm not too sure.



Numbers or size wasn't what it was about though and never will be for either of the two of us.

You know, as we headed for the boat house I'm sure I heard the Craigallion Fire Chant coming from somewhere down in the the Old Craigallion Woods.


 " Long may old Craigallian woods
Send forth abundance of their goods;
May the fire be always lit
So that we may come and sit. "



Tight lines.

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