There is a small and apparently insignificant lochan in the far north west of Scotland in which I have unfinished business. It is, regrettably, the subject of a typical â€˜one that got awayâ€™ story, except that â€˜it or theyâ€™ got away not once, not even twice, but three times. Given the difficultly of reaching this lochan (a five-hour â€˜up and downâ€™ hike across tough terrain), I am beginning to despair of ever being the victor in my struggle with what must be its tiny population of trout. But given that a population of tiny trout is what it most definitely does not have, I am determined to revisit it â€“ despite its remoteness â€“ and once more endeavour to extricate its finned residents from their natural habitat.
I first cast a line in this lochan two years ago when on a wilderness camping trip with two friends. Nestled close by the much larger loch we were meant to be fishing, it could so easily have been overlooked â€“ and indeed thankfully was by my companions â€“ but I sensed that it was worth ten minuteâ€™s attention and so set about prospecting round its limited margins with my cast of sedge-style wets. Within two casts I was attached to a clearly bigger than average trout which showed its displeasure by thrashing about on the surface and making such vigorous headshakes that our attachment was short lived. Whilst delighted to have hooked a better fish, its loss shook me and I found myself sitting in the heather replaying events in order to work out whether I could have done better and have landed it. I reached no great conclusion, but resolved to try again some other day. After all, I knew the trout wouldnâ€™t be going anywhere â€“ the tiny lochan offered limited spawning potential and no link to the larger loch. I couldnâ€™t imagine it held more than a handful of fish and I also surmised that being so small and unassuming, the chances of it being visited by another angler were as remote as the loch was. I just wasnâ€™t sure when I would be able to undertake such a long walk in order to do battle again, so I doffed my cap to the trout, wished it well and made my way back to camp.
This year I returned with my best friend Sean Elliott. I did not rush back to the lochan with indecent haste but I must admit that I did not spend as much time working my way along the banks of its large neighbour as I perhaps should have done, for I was eager for my rematch. I was pleased that I remembered the layout of the lochan as there was a reasonably covered approach behind a large boulder that allowed me to get close and I recalled that from this position I would be able to cover most of the fishable water. Itâ€™s funny how passion can do that â€“ if only my memory for my PIN numbers was as goodâ€¦
I cast, full of anticipation rather than expectation, and remarkably was rewarded on only my second cast with a cracking take from what was clearly a bigger than average trout which again showed its displeasure by thrashing about on the surface and making such vigorous headshakes that our attachment was short livedâ€¦dÃ©jÃ vu??? How could I have let this happen again??? Well, like it or not, it had – and I was left sitting by the lochan again shaking my head and cursing my lack of ability or whatever cruel luck was dogging me. Big wild fish in the relatively sterile northern waters where I do most of my fishing donâ€™t come along very often and so I knew I had, once again, missed a golden opportunity.
Perhaps Sean could do better? On meeting up, I discussed my missed chance and suggested that Sean might like to try his luck at the end of the day when we would be passing the suitably-rested lochan again on our way back to camp. Funnily enough, he jumped at the chance.
Some five hours later and having briefed Sean on his best approach route, I took myself to the far side of the lochan and sat ready with my camera in the hope that he would succeed where I had failed. And within a few casts he did, connecting firmly with a cracking fish (perhaps my fish?), and unlike me he managed to stay connected for more than a few moments despite the fish again making a great commotion at the surface. Unlike me, he looked fully in control and I suspect we both began to think that he was going to succeed where I had failed, but just as he drew the spent fish towards him, it made one final lunge and Sean, with his line so taught, could do nothing as it found its freedom, slipping off the hook. Foiled for the third time!
So it swims there stillâ€¦and I will undoubtedly make the effort to go back and have another go, as I do love a challenge.