CATCH OF THE DAY

Michael Wi­gan and his son find an undis­turbed lit­tle haven where wild brown trout can flour­ish

Scottish Field - - CONTENTS -

Michael Wi­gan re­joices at catch­ing brown trout in the wilder­ness

Sun and high pres­sure had been un­re­lent­ing for three long weeks. Salmon nosed into rivers and as­sumed de­fen­sive po­si­tions. An­glers waited out the mid­dle of the day, re­turn­ing to the wa­ter when the sun had moved side­ways and heat was fad­ing. Catches were un­in­ter­est­ing. It had been a dry Spring.

Wild brown trout do not mind a dry spring. It means the level of the loch re­treats and they are forced more into the mid­dle, los­ing the feed­ing on the edges. The moors around were wak­en­ing. The bog cot­ton formed a white mov­ing sheet surf­ing the peat.

A pair of teal squirted from a hid­den cor­ner. Their duck­lings are hatched, maybe shel­ter­ing nearby un­der cover. Sand mar­tins were swoop­ing, com­mon sand­pipers jink­ing down the shore­line. The smell was of veg­e­ta­tion com­ing alive. Out­side, a green­shank’s wild cry car­ried on the wind.

My son and I squelched over the bog to a loch nes­tled into a sky­line. A bois­ter­ous wind was ruf­fling the wa­ter end-to-end. One bank was nice wad­ing, with soft, un­der­wa­ter grass and oc­ca­sional round boul­ders like mus­ket balls. You could see down for­ever.

We had three-fly casts and six pound lead­ers. We started down one bank. I saw him in front, cast­ing with a straight back, dou­ble-haul­ing to reach the darker mid-loch gully. Af­ter a long time I spied him far off bend­ing on the shore. We held up arms, re-con­tact­ing from the men­tal other-world an­glers slip into whilst bank-fish­ing down a loch-side.

Af­ter a while we re-con­vened, shar­ing notes. The trout were not rush­ing our way. He had a small one which leapt three times. The big­ger one bored in and zipped around near the bot­tom. He had killed it. The tail is big on a Caith­ness trout, big enough to thwack a leader and bust it if the an­gler hasn’t ac­corded the ny­lon-strength de­served. The big tail, wrap-around eyes, round mouth, and lus­trous spot­ting are what you no­tice. I rested up while he fished on. There was a small hut, cor­ru­gated but sturdy, roof wired to sunk posts. I was in a place where a pro­ces­sion of past an­glers had seen the same birds, the same far­away en­cir­cling moun­tains, gazed into the same pel­lu­cid wa­ter. There were records of in­di­vid­ual pres­ences scored in the pan­elling.

Two an­glers were both called A. Smith. Some en­tries went far back. Some­one had in­cised a leap­ing trout in the wood. It was a sig­nif­i­cant loch with his­tory, con­tain­ing sig­nif­i­cant trout.

My son di­rected me to a point where the wad­ing was rougher but the wa­ter was deeper. I lifted the rod point to skip the flies on the catch­ing breeze when the line stopped. This fish was not skit­tish nor demon­stra­tive. It took the point of the rod near the wa­ter. I backed towards the shore. Be­tween the ver­ti­cal peat bank and the wa­ter’s edge was a nar­row, stony strip. That is where, even­tu­ally, his sil­very body sur­ren­dered.

The flesh was pink. My son, wife and I ate pink trout that evening. He had asked, whilst we made the jour­ney far out onto the peat­lands, what was the point of such ar­eas, with few birds, where the deer had been culled hard down and the sheep put off? Places where the fox and the raven reign.

There was the an­swer. In a pink-fleshed thick body. Its habi­tat had not been changed, toyed with. Land use ar­gu­ments meant noth­ing to this lone­some wa­ter. Be­ing on a sky­line, noth­ing drained in. The loch was spring-fed.

A hun­dred years ago trout an­glers tus­sled over ac­cess to these prized fish­ing lochs as salmon an­glers do now for fa­mous beats. They could hunt good fish in dry weather. A hun­dred years ago they knew a trick or two.

“The big tail, wrap-around eyes, rounded mouth, and lus­trous spot­ting are what you no­tice

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