Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Carron in a Corsa with Two-Tone Trim

A little bit late I know,

still chasing my tail a tad,

but a few weeks ago I was kindly invited North to fish the Carron an hour north of Inverness, a repeat of a trip made last year in which a triumph for drunken blundering delivered a salmon to the bank on only my fourth cast with a fly. This year I had put in several hours of spey casting practise on the outfield of the cricket pitch, purchased a new rod having broken a rather good one last year, and hopped on the same orange aeroplane for a fare whose rail equivalent would have delivered me six miles past York.

This is the age of the train - further falsehoods from Savile in the `1970’s

Few fish had been caught the week before, but relentless rain on landing and a highland capital bearing puddles across every roundabout raised hopes for the coming days.

My chariot, Europcar’s finest Vauxhall Corsa replete with two tone trim, bucket seats and baseball cap to be worn in reverse (backwards on the bonce, not while reversing the car) transported me across the Black Isle and an hour over a hill where, had it been clearer, I would have made out Dornach Firth the body of water that receives the waters of The Oykel, Shin, Carron and Cassley and hopefully full of salmon eager to run up rivers.

I trod my plotted course as inconspicuously as a Jayzee Wanabee can up a nine mile single track road that wound its way up the stunning Strathcarron, where a rising river sent many rods to chuck their chotapegs and make for the riverbank in anticipation of a pre prandial tug on a line.

The Carron is a beautiful river and a la Miss Minogue is shorter than most, but with a reasonable rise in water salmon can run a long way up its course, hence the requirement to be on the bank when fish are running as fish can quickly pass through your beat.

Five miles up the track all contact with the outside world in the form of mobile signal and wifi was lost, four miles on and I discovered my employer and her family and friends who had kindly beckoned me north.

With a quick “Dr Livingstone I presume” the formalities were done with, a beer chucked in my hand, a rod erected and I was bustled to the riverbank. Four casts in and my fly was grabbed by a gorse bush from behind. The spey casting practise had not paid the dividends anticipated, and then the mental bomb dropped that I had left my pyjamas at home.

I was to share a room in the house in which we were staying with a fellow rod, and having missed the last series of Gok’s “How to look good naked” I decided to resort to my childhood practise of going to bed in my fishing clothes for an early start the next day, bar the buoyancy aid.

The next day we first fished the spectacular Glencalvie Falls and the beats below, which are engaged from a series of precipitous platforms attached to the rock walls of the gorge that many estates in the South of England would instantly dismiss as unsafe or unfishable. Unforgettable for me and very exciting fishing, We're too soft in the south when it comes to walking the riverbank.

My first fish on the new rod was a Brown Trout of over two pounds which was probably quite a senior fish, a few salmon were sighted but none caught and sage Ghillie - Ronnie Ross expressed concern over the numbers of fish that were currently running the river.

I hadn’t appreciated how good conditions had been on my trip the previous year, when even I managed to bank two fish and the party I was fishing with caught seven in the two days I was there. Several fallow weeks had followed, and the total for the year was considerably bumped up by a productive few weeks towards the end of the season. This week the party had caught two fish to date and the party with whom we alternated beats on the Amat and Glencalvie beats had caught only one which backed up Ronnie’s theory of fewer fish running the river. There are concerns over what is happening to Atlantic salmon out at sea which serves as a reminder as to what a miracle of nature the Atlantic Salmon is. Popping out from an upriver freshwater gravel to feed for a few months before an adolescent switch is flicked that sends it swimming downstream and thousands of miles across the ocean to grow fat on seafood somewhere south of Greenland, only to curtail its comfy saltwater existence for freshwater and return to the same spawning gravel from which it emerged. The freshwater travails of the Atlantic salmon receive close scrutiny with every effort made to aid their quest upstream, but it forms a brief period of the salmon’s life and with numbers down the focus may need to be placed on its time at sea. If anyone from the Atlantic Salmon Trust or the Salmon & Trout Association approaches you in the street and rattles a tin, chuck a few coins in, they do some good stuff to aid this beleaguered creature’s quest across many international borders.

My employer banked her first fish of the week later in the afternoon quickly followed by one to my bedroom buddy’s rod which instigated vivid late night dreams during which I was sharply awoken at 2am by a cry of “get the f****** net, I’m in” from the neighbouring bed. A request that I politely ignored.

Last year, pre breakfast bumbles uncovered a Bar Tailed Godwit that probed for dainties in a splash in a neighbouring field. this year Cuckoos were quite the thing. There haven't been many in Hampshire this year but in this corner of Scotland there were plenty.

The next day proved fruitful, a few welcome tips on spey casting from one of my hosts saw me chucking a fly most of the way across the river with the biggest bush at my back, Ronnie advised us at to where to concentrate our efforts and emboldened by Margaret's superb cooking, fish duly followed. Six to be exact, with two somehow attaching themselves to my rod.

A fantastic place to fish in a superb sporting valley, if you are ever invited to fish a river in the Kyle of Sutherland do not turn the opportunity down, it is well worth the trip.

Thank you very much for the invitation.

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