'The Visiting Angler' by Stan Frost
I first came to Gairloch a few years ago, a novice to fly fishing and unable to cast. I was directed to a loch by Les Lamb with the comforting advice “If you get your flies in the water you will catch fish”. I did get my flies in the water, I did catch fish and it was me that was hooked on the magic of fishing the hill lochs in the Gairloch area. I now return year after year to discover more and more of what the area has to offer. More than a hundred lochs and hundreds of miles later I am still learning about the area. My own preference is to combine fishing with walking measuring success not by the number and size of fish caught but by the sheer level of enjoyment of fishing in remote places either alone or in the company of good friends. For those of you who are prepared to walk into the hills to fish a loch and be rewarded by the solitude, to derive pleasure from simply pursuing your sport in remote and wild places Gairloch can deliver.
There are big trout to be caught. I have seen a wild brownie in excess of six pounds. Big trout there may be but I find myself wandering the hills happy to locate and land half pounders. Moving from loch to loch you will find that you can classify them as ‘three to the pound’, ‘four to the pound’ etc. One day, five miles from the nearest road, shrouded in mist and entranced by the isolation, I stood in one spot on the bank of a small loch and caught thirty hard fighting wild brownies all weighing three to the pound. For a while it seemed impossible to retrieve my flies without a fish attached. I wandered away to a nearby lochan no more than twenty yards across and too insignificant to warrant a name on the OS map. I landed two fish in two casts, both over a pound. I put them safely back and called it Lochan Stan. Dreams can come true here, even for a novice.
In the hills around Gairloch I once stood alone on the banks of a remote loch retrieving my flies on automatic while I watched, transfixed, the mist boiling in the corries on the mountain opposite. A fish took my fly and I continued to watch the mist against the arch of my rod. As I returned the fish to the water I looked up to see an eagle hovering a hundred feet above me. Does it matter that the fish only weighed half a pound?
If you enjoy historical associations make sure you read ‘A Hundred Years in the Highlands’ by Osgood Mackenzie. Mackenzie’s account of huge trout taken from the Fionn Loch will not fail to move you. When Harry Davis and Les Lamb took me to Fionn for the first time, accessed by a 4-wheel drive along a track built by Mackenzie more than a hundred years ago, I was captivated by the blend of present-day grandeur and historical significance. On this trip I witnessed Harry hook his largest wild brownie in thirty years of fishing the loch. While he struggled to bring the fish to the surface I peered over the side of the boat. A few feet below the surface I could see a white object moving around. As the fish inched closer to the surface I saw that this white object was the mouth of a large trout. Sadly the line later broke and the fish, conservatively estimated to be in excess of six pounds, swam off with Harry’s Peter Ross still in its mouth. I count it a privilege to have been there and to have heard Harry’s comment.