Thursday, 18 June 2020

The Strath of Glencoe

It's been quite some time since my last blog post.  It's been reasonably busy with bike hire and repairs despite the awful weather and late spring.  We have also had family commitments not least of which was attending my sons graduation from Aberdeen University.

I am having a year off the bike racing as I need to re balance my time and health.  I am however re kindling my lifelong affair with fishing.  I have fished since I was maybe about six years old and remember my mother having to put a worm on a hook for me as I didn't like them, and epic frustrations from my dad with tangled line at the tidal pool. Those who knew his patience level can imagine the expletives!
Blackbirds nest next to a place I fish.  We meet every day. She flew back in and was obviously not bothered
Pink Hawthorn or "Mayflower" which is where the saying "nere cast a cloot till may is oot" comes from.  Only this year your cloot shouldnt have been cast even in June!
Early trips up to Loch Ba with Jock MacDonald and his boat, and many future boys own expeditions wandering over Rannoch moor, losing wellies in bottomless bogs and using the sound of the train at Rannoch so we knew we had walked 180deg in the wrong direction and would miss Andrew the local bus driver waiting for us on the A82 if we didnt run were all character forming, especially when still only 10 years old. My mother was worried sick. 

Later trips to Bealach and even out to exotic locations like over the hill to Lundavra and a shot of the good boat if it wasn't out.  My early rod was a split cane 9ft with a level taper line and small flies bought from rare trips on the bus over the ferry to the excellent Rod and Gun shop next to the bus station in Fort William.  There was always good advice and help form the two older gents who ran the shop, and later when I had a few quid saved from working the "Grotto" petrol pumps they set me up with a nice hollow glass 9'6 fly rod and reel which I still have.  It was a very soft action rod and later nearly broke at the lower brass ferrule with a small grilse from the "Doctors Pool" on the Duror. There wasn't a puddle with fish in it that I didn't explore, and some rock climbing was required on occasion to reach hidden pools  I revisited one last year and the pool which would have given me a half dozen big sea trout  up to 3lbs and maybe a grilse, was absent of fish including the many small brownies that would come to the fly.  Banks of Sitka spruce have probably made the water too acidic.
Lower Coe falls and its water worn rocks.  There are intials from the ealy 19th century chipped into the rock from when Strathcona removed the arch that spanned the river to improve Salmon access.  You need to know where to look .....

It's fair to say in some ways that these explorations were among and a part of the mountains. As a teen when introduced to the heady mix of mountaineering, climbing, alcohol, women, and exotic places (but not many exotic women sadly) to pursue the mountain addiction. I suppose I became quite good at climbing, and climbed many of the classic hard routes and test pieces.  I was also lucky to be a very young member of the local rescue team at only 16, having already been going on rescues with a neighbour since I was younger.  These were the days of shepherds, stalkers and forestry workers with only a few climbers.  Money was scarce, politics of rescue non existent, and only the needs of the victims was at the forefront.  The reward was good craic, a plate of soup and a few free drams and maybe a "lock in" at Clachaig or Kingshouse.  A once a year issue of socks and thermal underwear was a bonus, but no one was without a good "Cag" and boots, the essentials.  There was no parading about like a shops dummy with overpriced Arcterxc.

Lucky for me I met Fiona who was to be my wife and climbing partner and who kicked me from manual labour as a wood cutter (my excuse - it kept me strong for climbing) to using a brain neglected from being kicked out of school.  She liked the bad boy rebel bit in me which was really nothing more than being pissed at a crap secondary school with dysfunctional teachers.Without her I would never have achieved professional level medical and mountain qualifications.
The Hump Bridge and still waters below
The thread throughout all my life in one way or another has been fishing and in particular the River Coe, who's flow has served as a metaphor for much of my life. Steady, placid, reflective, angry, raging, unclear.  I always liked Neil Gunn's book "Highland River" but only in later life when reading it again did I truly understand it as a "Quest" and how much it resembled my own life.  
Looking up "The Strath"
I had a truly lovely walk up the river today following a salmon which has a very distinguishing mark on it's nebb (nose).  Having watched it from the sea pool weeks ago, it was good to see it again having moved upriver again to another pool.  It was sitting quietly in a spot where an old local poacher "Willie the Bridge" would show me fish.  Willie is gone and so is his Rabbit snare and the need to take a fish, so it was safe lying there just waiting.  It will wait until the next fish comes to that spot then will move upriver again to another lay up. Up river there are places where a fish might lay for two months conserving its precious fat and red carotenoid energy supply until the next and final urge to reach home kicks in.  Marvellous resilient creatures that we should respect and take from only with care.
The Celtic symbol of knowledge and inheritor of Solomons wisdom lays waiting
If I might borrow again from Neil Gunn, who by the way is no relation, just imagine a nice day ambling up the river with a camera thinking of "The Atom of Delight".
House Martins? or Swifts?  have made burrows for nesting in the fallen river bank

The ever changing river course
Click the images for a larger size

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