Overnight Fly Fishing Safari with Assynt Fishing
Day two. An overnight Fly-Fishing Safari guided by Stewart Yates the man behind Assynt Fishing. Now this experience is definitely new territory for me l have never camped in this part of Scotland before and I have never been fly fishing in my life. I am not going to lie, I was nervous about this and with the underlying thought of how can you teach someone to fly fish when they have no experience whatsoever doing this. I must admit l did have some previous experience of deep sea fishing, but this is a completely different kettle of fish (no pun intended) and style of fishing which l have now come to realise.
The day started with meeting Stewart at a local café in Lochinver which l thought was great considering l was quite nervous and meeting beforehand, having lunch together and getting to know one another on mutual ground would give me a feel for how the coming days may go. Stewart thankfully was a very welcoming, relaxed kind of go with the flow vibe and instantly we hit it off chatting about our previous mountaineering experiences and some tales from trips we have been on in the past while enjoying some local fish and chips, and of course chatting about what lays ahead.
After a lovely filling lunch, we then drove further North on the single-track road a common theme in these parts of the Scottish Highlands, a personal favourite as life is much more relaxed here considering l live in the gateway to the Highlands myself just South of the Cairngorms, Scotland’s largest National Park. It’s remarkable how you can travel 5/6hrs further North and the landscape and way of life is quite different. I can already start feeling that this trip is going to be a success and an enjoyable 24hrs learning, experiencing and getting to know Stewart and his lovely dog Geo an English Shepherd who’s full of character.
Stewart had sent me an itinerary beforehand with a backup plan if the weather was bad but we lucked out and the forecast was warm Southerly winds and clear cloudy skies into the following day plus no midges (which can be an annoyance in the warmer summer months). Our camp spot was just below Quinag a lovely mountain consisting of 3 Corbett’s that sit at about 809metres where we would be fishing Loch an Leothaid and the stream flowing down from the Loch the following day, after l had hopefully gradually mastered a decent form of fly fishing.
As we made our way to the camp through Gleann Leireag, Stewart who was knowledgeable with the surroundings was chatting about specific species of flora, geology and pointing out old ancient stone structures possibly from the Iron/Bronze Age whilst I was also creating a lovely image in my head of what this place must have looked like over the years especially when the likes of Wolves and Bears once roamed this ancient land. It’s one of those things l personally remind myself of when exploring the Highlands, that it’s very easy to forget the history of Scotland both the history of the people as well as ecologically, and what used to roam here and how life used to be. I feel it’s important to know this knowledge even if certain species don’t exist anymore, plus it creates a narrative that adds an extra magical element when exploring these primeval landscapes.
After making our way up the Glen we set up camp, Stewart was very much in his element and again it’s one of those things when you are with people who are doing what is true to what they love it resonates making the experience that much more enjoyable. I was here along for the ride and Stewart and his dog Geo were great hosts, its normally me who’s doing the hosting when l am out guiding clients, so this really was a treat.
Stewart got the stove going and boiled up a hot brew before he started to show me ways of how to cast, hold the rod, which knots to tie, what type of lure to use along with the ways to approach the loch, how the Brown Trout may react plus constantly acknowledging and affirming the different ways to respect the environment, safe camping, Scottish outdoor access code etc (https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/practical-guide-all/camping) and being a good citizen whilst out in nature, something l value when l hear other people speak of the correct way to carry ourselves and be whilst enjoying our beautiful homeland.
Personally l was finding the fly fishing very challenging but Stewart was extremely patient with me which helped me have more confidence in what l was doing, and we couldn’t help but laugh together as the common quote of the trip was fly fishing is “incredibly easy but also very hard at the same time”.
My casting did improve then at times it would be terrible, all part of the roller-coaster of learning but something that l enjoyed very much plus the added layer of having amazing weather and views. The night was gradually coming to an end, the sun was setting and we made a few more casts into the Loch, l didn’t get lucky but Stewart managed to catch a couple of Brown Trout which was great to see how it was done before we started to shut things down for the evening.
Before we each headed to our tents Stewart invited me to share a dram with him enjoying the sunset and sharing some stories chatting plans for the following day to fish downstream
hopefully where l would catch my first Brown Trout.
After a warm cosy snug night wrapped up in my sleeping bag having a great sleep l peaked my head out of my tent hoping it was going to be a good day, and to my surprise it was dry, the sky was clear and l was feeling fresh. Can’t beat a night in the tent out in the wild, really a thing a beauty everyone must experience at least once in their life (whilst respecting the land on) going fly fishing or not. I heard Stewart unzip his tent and here’s Geo come running over to my tent giving me a lovely morning greeting followed by Stewart asking if l want a hot brew, tea or coffee, coffee it was. I was feeling really good and super excited to head further down stream to see what new lessons Stewart was going to teach me, but of course Stewart was being a top host and made some lovely French Toast which was a first for me when wild camping, that went down really well.
After a delicious breakfast we packed up our gear leaving a spotless site as if no one was ever there then continued to follow the stream downhill, fly fishing a stream came much more natural to me but it’s also slightly easier considering the line is a tad shorter and it’s an easier technique making sure to watch out for any nearby trees not getting your lure caught and to be quick when the fish bites which l quickly learned. The fish were way more active today which made us both happy and excited. Stewart caught a few small Brown Trout and l managed to catch my first small Brown Trout, yes! Quite the wee buzz of excitement and adrenaline, even though small it was a real joy to just get a catch.