Hidden Gems – Islay Blog 2

Monday: A wee gem

Our host for the week, David Wood of Fly Fish Islay fishing under the Rainbow

It was a bit wild out, on Monday morning, after what was I presume a spectacular sunrise, I caught the red clouds over Octovullin from my bathroom window around 6:30am the weather moved in and rendered most of the morning largely unfishable….. which is fine as it is a holiday as well as a fishing break. We have sufficient daylight here that you can start your fishing around lunchtime and still get a full 8 hours out of it. More than enough for me frankly.

We fished a loch that is little touched most of the season, and to protect it I am not going to name it here, but its a wild wee place and you can really only fish it from the bank. I imagine it would have the potential to be epic from a float tube. There is no boat here. Glen pointed out a few spots worth trying and the first one was one that had I been here myself I would almost certainly have identified as being a great starting point. I was fishing a three fly team of Kate McLaren, Green Tag Flashback spider and a Butcher on the point and I started fishing close in to the bank, then worked round in an arc until the wind precluded being able to cast further, then taking a couple of steps down the wind and starting over.

David Wood casting my Daiwa New Era

David having a go with my set up. First cast….fish on!

It proved to be a decent enough tactic and I had 7 fish along this section and probably dropped or missed almost as many, Most were what I would estimate as fat 5oz fish but I did manage one Brown of around half a pound or so, most seemed keen on the green tag flashback spider on the middle dropper,but the ever reliable Kate McLaren on the top dropper was also taking fish. The main tactic though, over all other was keep moving. Fish new water and something would happen.

I was taking a wee break and offered David of FLy Fish Islay a wee shot of my set up, which he has taken something of a liking to, and bang, first cast he had a fish on the point Butcher.

Glen Pointon tying flies

Fly tying and a dram – Glen Pointon

After finishing this section myself and David took a venture around the top of the loch to the far bank. A little challenging as we had to negotiate a fence out in the water. From the far side, again it being unfished we started picking up a few fish. David a few more than me to be fair here, and after a while where he was getting lots of offers on dries, I moved onto a dry myself and picked up a final couple of fish. Quite blustery at times and it was evident the better fish were further out but were hard to reach in the winds. I managed ten for the day with the heaviest being around 7oz I would reckon, but very fat and fighting fit for all that.

After an entertaining evening sampling a few wee malt whiskies as wild as the islands, we awoke to a very settled and brights Tuesday morning.

Tuesday: Finlaggan: A special location

I had hoped to fish Finlaggan from a boat but on the day it wasn’t possible as there were none there! Before our departure for the loch some of us had had a bit of a practice session on the lawn by the house trying out different line and rod combinations and  a wee accuracy competition which all proved interesting. You can have a look here at a video we made of us casting but be warned the language is a bit “fruity”. 🙂


Ruins at Finlaggan

While the rest of the group with Glen headed out to the island by the old settlement , I had a fish first cast and again the green tag was proving deadly. After a wee while more, I then had a double hookup of two better fish. which together probably weighed in at a good 3/4lb to14oz or so between them. One on the Green Tag the other on a Kate. The tactic of cast out, leave static, then figure of eight back seemed to be the one that worked. By the time I had fished this bank I had 4 fish, then we moved out to the island.

You really feel you are in a special place fishing by the seat of the Lords of the Isles. Is there a more enigmatic fishing location? If there is I haven’t been there yet.

Here between cups of tea and some chat, I managed to pick up another 2 or 3 fish. The wind started to pick up as the afternoon wore on and eventually it became very hard going to try cast here. I fancied the far bank but it was clear it would require some effort to get there. In the end myself and Glen decided to try give it a go. We carefully waded round the bottom end of the loch negotiating several fences.

The approach to this side is pretty hard going and you feel like you are really out in the wilds out here It was everything I have come to Islay for.. Glen was getting fish here, I was getting pulls but nothing that would stick. Finally we made it up the far side and were directly opposite the castle/ settlement where we started, The bottom here seemed almost billiard table flat and wading was not bad at all, though the occasional big boulder might catch you out nearer the bank now and again.

Tea at Finlaggan

Getting the brews on. Having a wee break around the ruins of Finlaggan

Glen was fishing down in front of me and getting the fresh un-fished water was picking up fish  after fish. For my part I had one and a few pulls. Glen was doing well on a Zulu. After the first bay He offered me the chance to take “point” and get the un-fished water. Pretty much around this time I hooked another fish and managed to get in a right tangle necessitating a replacement of my tippet. Glen offered me a shot of his rod a new Wychwood RS in a 7 weight, a wee bit heavier than I tend to like these days and a Wychwood Rocket line. As a matched distance set up it was impressive. You could fire out a silly distance of line with minimal effort. The Rocket line is a “manufactured” shooting head distance line. First cast I had a fish. Then second cast, another. Third cast nothing, fourth cast fish, biggest of the day at comfortably over the half pound. Glen was keen to suggest 3/4lb but maybe that was slightly optimistic though it was a right chubster of a trout. it had fairly hit the fly hard though so took a wee bit work to unhook.

Last fish at Finlaggan

Last fish of the day and probably the biggest to date

So again double figures…. not sure I have ever done that, two days of double figure fish counts, and to be fair the fish are getting bigger. I reckon had you had access to a boat and chose to drift from top to bottom you might have hot silly numbers of fish, covering fresh water all the time as you would be.

As a close to the day we went to have a look at a Sea Trout location but it was coloured up and unfishable so home for tea and medals