Team Drolsay – Islay Blog 3

Wednesday was forecast to be a stinker, with winds that would render most fishing possibilities out of bounds. The general plan was to find a lee shore and have another go for the sea trout though personally I wasn’t so bothered about this. However morning confounded all expectations and it was a glorious start to the day with barely a breeze. Two of our group had headed out bright and early onto Skerrols so the rest of us, Glen, Darren, David and myself were discussing what to do with this unexpected turn of good fortune meteorologically speaking.

Drolsay Plan

The possibility was hatched to make full use of the conditions and try get to Loch Drolsay which is a remote wild loch, a fair hike up in the hills even when you have support to get access from the closest point. Drolsay is one of those places of fishing lore, with fewer fish but the possibility of a specimen wild brown. Since I heard of the place before coming to Islay I have dreamed of getting here. I was a wee bit worried I might not be able to hack the hike there and back but having been as good as I have been for sometime, this week I felt it was now or never and having looked at the route a number of times on an OS map it didn’t look impossible. Team Drolsay was to be guide, Glen Pointon, myself and fellow angler Darren. David would be looking after the others currently out on Skerrols but later returning to Finlaggan,

We packed our gear for the day with plenty of water, something to eat and the basic minimum fishing gear. Most important is your clothing, you really would not want to be caught out on these hills when the weather inevitably turns bad in anything that’s not waterproof, but also warm.

Islay view s towards Kilchoman

Views over towards Kilchoman with brooding skies

For my part, while I find my waders the comfiest things with my feet problems, I also find when I walk or wade over ground that involves lots of stepping up and down over changing levels that my hip starts to really hurt  which I think is down to the weight of the wading boots and resistance of the thick waders and I was concerned that this could stop me before I started. So I opted to pack the waders and boots and walk in hiking boots and get kitted up, at the lochside.

The walk in was tricky initially over some horrible uneven and wet ground. If it was going to be like this all the way there and back it was going to be “challenging” However we found some dry higher ground and the middle half of the hike was really pretty easy though involved an ascent to much higher ground to achieve this. The views were great up on the ridge with Skerrols,  Bowmore and the high Atlantic facing coast down towards Kilchoman all visible.

Stags on the hills

Guardians of Drolsay, a herd of Stags

However the best sight was that of Loch Drolsay nestled in a shallow valley beyond the peak we had reached, and we encountered a herd of Stag’s ahead of us, guardians of the mysterious loch beyond. The weather was glorious with only a slight wind and from the higher ground you could watch rain squalls tumble in to the island though most seemed to detour by us. The ground down to the loch became hard going again but the lure of what “might be” meant this wasn’t going to stop us.

We tackled up in sunshine with only a slight wind blowing in to us and then headed off to find some fish.

Tackling up lochside

Tackling up

Some stalking was in order at a spot where some good fish have been encountered first and Darren had the first cast honours here but nothing seemed interested in his flies. I had caught sight of a small fish jumping as we made our way in to position but we had not seen anything else on top. At a nice looking bay with the wind in a favourable direction we all started our fishing proper, I set up with a three fly cast of much as I had used already this week and as it was working, why change? Glen too had opted for a three fly cast with a Muddler on top dropper and Darren I think was on a lighter two fly set up as he was fishing a lighter 4# rod.

High Voltage

The next fifteen minutes were electric. One of Glen’s first casts was answered with a swirl barely beyond his rod tip and he then had a huge boil at his flies and saw the flanks of a huge fish. This really focuses the attention. A few more casts and he had a clear offer at his flies but it didn’t connect fully, we all saw the fish and Glen felt it’s weight. I was gingerly edging my way out into deeper water and fan casting as I went when there was a boil and a pull like I had just jammed my fingers in a 13amp socket that nearly took the rod from my grasp. Again though, these fish were not for surrendering easily and we all remained fishless.

Glen with Brown Trout

Glen Pointon with a Drolsay stunner

The secret here though as so many of these Brown Trout loch’s, is keep covering new water. Thrashing a single spot is a pointless exercise in futility and ultimately frustration. Eventually though as we waded further, Glen had first honours with a Drolsay stunner, a lovely fish around a pound. We photographed and returned it. It is worth mentioning at this point that there is a no take rule here. While fish were being hard to come by compared to earlier outings this week the motivation was high, it is an enchanting place and the mystery of what might be on your next cast keeps you hooked.

Drolsay jewelI moved round to another area as the wading was getting too deep where I started and I covered loads of water albeit fairly shallow, before getting to some deeper lies. I had a series of pulls that again did not convert to a full on take. The weather turned a bit blustery and rain came piling in but with the right gear on you just keep your back to it and keep fishing. I decided to try a beaded point fly for a while in case some fish were sitting deeper. All the action so far though had been near the top. Second cast with my bushy “micro” Humungous pattern – think Humungous but minus the long tail, and no bigger than a Kate McLaren,  got me a partial connection to a fish. I felt it resist and seen it on the surface as I struck but again it never stayed attached.  I think Glen who was parallel to me but fishing from the other side to me had a second fish though a little smaller and it came to a static floating fly as he was talking to me over the 15 meters of water that separated us. Further round the bank, Darren had encountered similar frustration after picking up a fish near the bank that again wouldn’t attach properly. These are wary, tough fish.

Positive Mental Attitude

Me and a Drolsay Brown Trout

A pound and a half beauty that came to a drifted sedge

While the fish were proving somewhat elusive I remained positive that they were still there to be caught. I changed point again this time putting on a fairly large LTD Sedge. I didn’t get anything more here but after collecting up my gear made my way across the loch again wading over some shallow ground to rejoin the lads as we fished down one side. The plan was to pepper pot our way down, each angler covering some fresh water. I passed Darren and Glen and got ahead and cast out with my Sedge. As I allowed it to swing round in the wind, and evidently over what was no more than knee deep water there was a tiny disturbance beneath my fly and I lifted and was in to a great Brown that once netted was a fat pound and a half of Drolsay magic.

Loch Drolsay

So much space, you have room to think….about huge Drolsay Browns

I was made up, all the effort had been worth it. We carried on down the bank and Glen picked up another couple of fish around a pound also on dry sedges. A little further on I saw a fish porpoise in front of me and covered it, and it came for the fly, I felt it but again it didn’t quite attach. Glen looked after us with his wee stove and a cup of hot pasta kept the energy levels up. In the end we fished right down the loch though offers seemed to dry up as the afternoon wore on and we eventually finished up as the sun coloured the heather around us as it started to drop in the sky.

Kenny's Rock

Team Drolsay at “Kenny’s Rock” on the way back

In the way that the walk to the loch was easy driven on by the anticipation of what might be to come, the walk back was fairly easy fuelled by the days adventures.

A great day and everything I came out to Islay to find. Drolsay has hooked me.

Drolsay is one of the remote lochs you can fish with Guide Glen Pointon, and David Wood of Fly Fish Islay.