Two weeks to go and Iâ€™ve packed already.
I have my annual angling pilgrimage to Assynt the first week in September and preparations have been in full swing for the last month. Iâ€™ve been lucky enough to have had two long week-ends angling in Assynt already but coming up is my main fishing holiday week in the company of my longest standing fishing pal, Sean Elliott, who lives in Cambridge and who looks forward to our wilderness fishing as much as I do.
For Sean and I, separated by hundreds of miles as we are, part of the fun of such a fishing week is the preparation and I am sure that this is the case for many other anglers. This is particularly the case for us this year as we will be backpacking into the hills for the week rather than staying comfortably in the hotel. There is much to do. We have to make some serious decisions as to what tackle to take, what kit we can afford to carry and who will carry what. Living so far apart does not make this easy, nor do flight weight restrictions for Sean, and so I am left to procure all of our food (and drink) and provide tentage, stove and fuel etc.
Being in the Scottish hills in the far north-west of Scotland in September for a week means that we will have to be prepared for the full range of the Scottish weather and to carry a lot of food â€“ this is putting a strain on the amount of tackle I can carry as, given the terrain to be traversed, I canâ€™t afford to be carrying a pack of more than 50lbs or I will end up even shorter than I am. Those who know me will confirm I have no spare height capacity to risk this. My pack currently weighs 65lbsâ€¦
We love the rugged splendour of Assynt and the wildness of its lochs and our planned route will see us fish remote lochs on the Reay Forest Estate and others at the extremity of those run by the Assynt Angling Association. Sean and I both have season tickets for fishing the AAA waters from the bank (the best Â£50 I have spent this year) and Lin Howard in the Reay Forest Estate Office at Kylestrome has been delightful as always in sorting out our permits for their waters so all is sorted in this regard.
In terms of fishing tackle, we will be armed with 5-Weight outfits to make the most of the fighting qualities of what are likely to be modest Â¼-Â½ lb fish. Sean will be using his Orvis Frequent Flyer whilst I will be trying my new Greys XF2. Given that we will be travelling so far, we always like to have a spare rod in case of mishap and so in addition, I will be carrying my trusty old Hardy Smuggler seven-piece rod. Having them all as 5-weights means minimising our number of reels, which is good as every gram counts. We will both be taking a good selection of wet and dry flies to cover all eventualities. As I noted in a previous article, I am now fishing dry flies more often for wild browns and given the time of year we will be fishing I imagine that I will need a good supply of sedge and daddy longlegs patterns to ensure I have enough to cope with the (hopeful) ravages of the trout.
In an act of madness I will be lugging my Gore-Tex waders into the hills (can you see why my pack is 65lbsâ€¦?). I try not to wade in wild lochs but there are times when the ability to wade opens up huge possibilities in particular if there are two of us fishing a modest sized loch. Itâ€™s never a good idea to follow in another anglerâ€™s footsteps on wild lochs â€“ the first cast is the one most likely to take a wild fish â€“ and so, given the contrariness of highland winds, the ability to wade down the windward bank and fish back into the bank whilst your mate fishes the bank with the wind at their back is very useful. Gone are the days when I would have spent the day wading just in shorts to save weight.
So there you have it â€“ by the time our trip actually comes round, I will no doubt have packed and repacked my bergan a number of times in an effort to get my weight down but again, thatâ€™s half the fun isnâ€™t it?