Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Great Moor of Rannoch


A wee report from

Sun 19th - Mon 20th May 2013

 ( I finally got it written ! )

Sunday 20th May and the weather was fair and looking promising when I picked up Nic at his home in Glasgow. I arrived around 9 p.m. and after loading the kayaks onto the van, we travelled through Bearsden and Milngavie on the northern outskirts of Glasgow. Then headed for the highlands by way of Carbeth, Drymen, Balloch, Crianlarich, Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy for our intended rendezvous point with Geoff Hall at Loch Ba below the black Mount which broods forebodingly in the West over The Great Moor of Rannoch which stretches as far as the eye can see to the North, South, East and West.


Geoff was already there having arrived about an hour previously and I think we woke him from a light slumber with our voices and the lights from the van in the oily darkness of the moor as he emerged from his car a few minutes later. We shook hands, had a wee blether and then before we hit our kip, Geoff being the gregarious type of guy he is invited us to partake of a wee glass of wine before bedtime. There were no crystal glasses or silver goblets  to quaff the French white which came from the land of the Francs in it's ubiquitous green bottle but it tasted just as it should and we drained our mugs and flask cups heartily.

Vino gone and Without much futher ado save a good night, we climbed into our mobile sleep chambers and got our heads down for the night with me and Nic in the van and Geoff in his car.

Rannoch moor is a very strange place to sleep. In fact it must almost be like sleeping in space as ( outside the rutting season when wild stags bark and bay at night ) there is no sound at at all until the deafening silence is intermittently broken by the passing of some two or four wheeled velociped or velocimotor racing down what used to be called " the million pound racetrack " in Glen orchy then blasting across the moor heading no-doubt for Glencoe, Fort William or maybe even further beyond via " The Road to The Isles ". Then, around 4 a.m. it all changes as you are rudely awakened by not only the noise but the shaking of the articulated lorries heading for the supermarkets of Morrisons and Tesco which live in various locations around the highlands, reached by the same route that  the other velocimotors follow on their race northwards to the less populated parts of the British Isles.

So around 4.30 a.m. we wakened from our short slumber to the noise of the juggernauts and the shaking of the van accompanied by an unusual clunking and banging outside which we reckonned must have been the two intrepid voyageurs who had left their car to travel by Canadian canoe into the wilds returning to their vehicle. A quick look outside though and we were soon put right realising it was no other than " Wild Bill " Carroll arriving from a comfy bed and no doubt good sleep at his home near Stirling getting his kayak de-racked and ship shape. Nic and myself stumbled from the van to greet Bill, shortly to be joined by Geoff and we started to get our s*** together. There was then an early morning rush of activity which involved much de-bunking of kayaks, sorting of flees, munching of pieces and general getting readiness.

Just before we hit the water, Geoff presented each of us with this very valuable homegrown gift that his busy bees had made.



Bill was first on the water and he disappeared into the ethereal light of the moor that stretched as far as we  could see into the early morning mists of  Loch Ba. Nic and Geoff were away next with me as usual catching up as the tail end Charlie. The loch and moor are strange places at early light as you paddle into the grey light. There is something prehistoric and almost alien about the place as you head into an area of Scotland where little has changed in millenia.

( Geoff out in front )

As we stealthily glided into the morning light, the wee trout that live in loch ba were rising everywhere. Some were even head and tailing just off the bow's of our kayaks and it's remarkable how close you can get to the piscatorial wildlife as you travel silently and swiftly across the water. Some of the guys had a cast or two en route to the head of the Loch but I never got a chance having failed to rig my rod before I got onto the water. Ho, hum, on wee paddled our destination the Abhainn Ba and loch Laidon.

I reckon the paddle must've been about an hour to get to the burn called the Abhainn Ba which is a distance of about 3.6 km that we entered after Bill left some of his survival gear on a rock just before you leave the last reedy pool of Loch Ba.



( The Abhainn Ba )



(  The Norseman cometh )


So, on we travelled down the Abhainn Ba ( river Ba ), Bumping and scraping our way at some points

( The river wild )

hauling the yaks at others. For the 3 others, this was their first trip down a river something I've done many times before being fairly experienced in Scottish and Alpine white water kayaking but everyone seemed to cope well eventually emerging from the mouth of the burn into Loch Laidon ( 3.9 km ). Only after my camera decided to pack in because it had taken a drooking. So unfortunately there are no troot pictures.


We were here, around what must have been about lunchtime and we decided to have some pieces and get our gear together. Then I discovered I'd left my wet flies in the van. Luckily the guys were more than willing to help out with a few flies each and I was able to start fishing with my first to the boat around a half a pound on about my 3rd cast in the pool where the river meets the loch. There was quite a bit of fish activity here and a couple of the other guys hooked up with some bandies as well and seemed happy to stay around but adventure was on my mind and I headed off.

I must've paddled for quite a distance on my own into the arm of the loch that points towards the Buaichaille Etive Mor (  translated from Gaelic as the great shepherd of Etive Moor  ) which is a famous hillwalking and climbing peak in Glen Coe. A peak  I've climbed many times in my younger years with ascents such as " shackle route ", " agag's groove ", " bottleneck chimney ", " curved ridge " and a winter ascent of " crowberry gully " to name a few.

Anyway, after about 3.3 km's of paddling, I found myself some lovely wee bays and had about 4 trout all around the half pound mark on a fairly large double hackled mayfly pattern I tie before I decided it was time to head back and find the guys which I duly did, hooking another couple of trout on the way.

So, we joined company again and decided it was best to make the tramp back through the heather, hauling kayaks on ropes and slings, paddling through pools where we could and fishing here and there wherever we saw the small highland trout make an appearance. Luck however was on the side of the fishes for this part of the journey and nothing was landed.

( Traipsing back through the heather )

( Almost there )

( Paddling out of the wilderness )

Eventually after about possibly an hour and a half we again arrived at the weedy pool where loch Ba starts so we collected Bill's gear and made our way back through the loch in what was now a somewhat clear but blowy day. Folk tried for fish as we travelled and Nic even got a video of me landing a wee pan sized trout about 3/4 of a pound that had me in circles as I tried to land it. There's a video posted elsewhere in the blog but the title shot is actually a trout that Bill caught further up the loch after we had passed a party of about 20 Glasgow college students heading for the Tummell system in the other direction. Fair play to them but it must've been about 2 pm and they had a fair way to go with what must've been a late start a priveledge students know only too well.

A wee while after this, astonishingly, Bill decided to give the dry fly a go and this is when he hooked up with his nice trout around a pound which is more the exception rather than the rule in Loch Ba where the wee wild free rising trout seem to abound at around half that size. I had another couple of wee ones then we headed for the shore with Geoff and Nic trying their luck in what was now glorious sunshine. But to no avail and we eventually paddled our way back to shore through a mirey wee inlet that was thankfully devoid of the pond life and midges that emerge from the muddy bottoms of  Lochs later in the summer.

So, we hauled our kayaks up the banks of Loch Ba. Crossed the A82 which was now teeming with cars heading North and South and bid our farewells before departing from what had been a most memorable adventure into The Great Moor of Rannoch.


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