Rannoch Moor, Scotland, June 2008

Discussion in 'Trip Reports with Pics' started by Dave Westburg, Jun 28, 2008.

  1. Dave Westburg Member

    Posts: 351
    Kirkland, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +21 / 0
    As an American and a collector of fishing books I’ve always wanted to try classic loch fishing : pulling a team of wets through the waves for wild trout. I’ve also wanted to fish soft hackle wets in the land which birthed and perfected the art. My friend Greg (a London based Microsoft executive) and I settled on a trip to Loch Laidon after reading about it on the Fish-Wild website and in John Bailey’s Where to Fly Fish in Britain and Ireland and in Bruce Sandison’s Trout Lochs of Scotland. The fact that we could take the sleeper train straight from London to the fishing also helped. We departed Euston Station on the June 18 Caledonian Sleeper and arrived at Rannoch Station (the train station which is used in the Harry Potter films) the following morning. We stayed at the Moor of Rannoch Hotel.

    Each day started at 8AM with a full Scottish breakfast and ended with an excellent dinner at 6:30 followed by a bath for sore limbs and bed. Rob and Liz Conway, the proprietors arranged for Ian Nelson the estate ghillie/gamekeeper to meet us each morning to execute a plan for the day. Ian knew exactly where to send us based on each day’s objectives.

    June 19 – Loch a’ Chlaidheimh (Loch of the Sword)

    On our first day, the wind was too high to take boats out on Loch Laidon. We told Ian we wanted to stretch our legs and have some fast fishing and he suggested Loch a’ Chlaidheimh. The loch is normally a 45 minute scramble along the railroad tracks from the Rannoch Station but Ian drove us to within 20 minutes of the loch, stopping to point out the estate’s herd of deer on the way. It was a windy day with spitting rain. Fishing was fast and furious. I caught 30 fish and Greg caught 15 fish in six hours of fishing. We fished 15 foot 6-8 pound test leaders off 9 foot 5 weight fly rods.

    We started with three fly casts but cut back to two flies quickly to minimize wind tangles. We spent most of our time fishing the inlet end of the lochan to keep the wind at our back.
    The best cast was a #12-14 Grouse and Claret on the tail and a #12 Golden Olive Bumble on the bob. A Zulu and Butcher also caught fish. Two-thirds of the fish went for the top dropper and one-third took the tail fly. In the afternoon Greg took several fish on two- feather mayfly dries despite a gale force wind. Ian suggested that I fish a small lochan located just on the other side of the railroad tracks. I caught an 11 inch brown in this lochan but was hampered by a need to cast straight into the wind.

    June 20 and June 21 – Loch Laidon.

    Ian met us at the hotel each morning and drove us to the boats, making sure to caution us to stay to the right as we exited the cove at the end of the lake due to numerous underwater rocks. He gave us a map which identified some good fishing areas and areas where rocks made for hazardous motoring. It took 30 minutes to motor to the west end of Laidon. Fishing was outstanding. We averaged 30 fish each 6-11 inches each day. We’d beach the boat and fish from our feet around shallow rocky bays and points. We found plenty of fish in the outer bays of the west arm, the cove just past the west arm and the bays inside the Eilean lubhair island. We fished some bays where streams entered the south side of the loch but they weren’t as productive as the northwest shore. It also seemed to be the case that the more rocks we could see sticking up from the surface the better the fishing.

    We used 10 foot 6 and 7 weight flyrods on windy days and 9 foot 5 weight flyrods on calm days. We fished 15’ 8 lb fluorocarbon leaders on windy days and 15’ 6 lb fluorocarbon leaders on calm days with droppers 5 and 10 feet from the point fly. The best fly cast consisted of a size 12 Invicta or Golden Olive Bumble on the bob, a size 12 Hare’s Ear wet on middle dropper and a size 12 Grouse and Claret on the tail. Half the fish hit the bob fly with the remaining fish split between the middle fly and the tail. Most ofthe takes came as soon as the flies hit the water or within a couple pulls.

    June 22 – Hill Lochs Above Loch Laidon

    We told Ian we wanted to hike and fish and he directed us to a group of lochans in the hills above the south side of Loch Laidon. We beached our boat where the Alt Criche enters Loch Laidon and reached two hill lochs after a stiff twenty minute walk. Greg caught a 3 pound brown in one loch on a #12 Invicta on his first cast and then the loch went . I walked over the hill and caught 8 browns of 10-12 inches on the other loch with a #12 Invicta (bob), #12 Hare’s Ear (middle dropper) and #12 Grouse and Claret (tail). It rained and blew all day. After lunch we returned to the sheltered bays on the north side of Laidon and caught more fish until dinner.

    June 23 – River Guar and Stocked Loch

    On our last day we decided to stay close to the hotel to fish the Gharb Ghaoir or River Guar. Ian said this stretch is sometimes too low to fish but that the recent rains had put enough water into it to make it worth our while. He says large browns are in the river in the spring and again in the late fall. We fished from Loch Laidon down to the railroad viaduct. It was classic wet fly fishing. I caught 12 browns 8-10” on a #14 Stewart black spider (point), #14 Stewart gray spider (middle) and #14 grouse and orange spider (bob). A high wind down from the Loch prevented me from fishing the flies upstream as Stewart would, but the fish didn’t seem to mind a three-quarters downstream cast and a slow swing. Many of the takes were right in the surface. I’d like to visit this stretch of the river with my 13 year old son due to the reasonable walk and simple fishing.


    A delightful trip with plenty of wild fish, spellbinding surroundings, enough wind to keep the midges at bay and no crowds. We fished for five days and only saw one bank angler. “Wild places indeed and not for the timid” says John Bailey. Don’t let that scare you away. If you have the lungs to scramble to a hill loch and the boatmanship to get to the far end of Laidon the rewards are immense. We’ll be back.

    What to Bring

    10 foot 6 weight fly rod for windy conditions. 5 weight flyrod if it’s calm.
    4-8 pound test leader. We fished fluorocarbon because it was stiffer and kept droppers from tangling.
    #12-14 loch flies (e.g. grouse and claret, black pennel, invicta, golden olive bumble, hare’s ear, zulu, blue zulu and butcher.
    Good raingear. It rained hard every day of our trip.
    Waders, especially if you want to fish the shallow bays.
    Kelly Kettle.
    A copy of T.S. Eliot’s Glencoe by Rannoch to shock and amaze your friends while they brew up. If attempting a Scottish accent aim for Sean Connery and not Mike Meyers.
    Skin So Soft for the beasties of the moor. It wasn’t an issue for us because the sun and the wind kept the midges at bay. In calm or humid conditions a headnet or repellent would have been necessary.

    Contact Information

    Moor of Rannoch Hotel, Rannoch Station, Perthshire, Scotland, PH17 2QA. 01882 633238. www.moorofrannoch.co.uk. Rob and Liz Conway proprietors. Our rooms were 40 pounds/night double occupancy which includes a full Scottish breakfast. If you are from Seattle you’ll be happy that there is an espresso machine. Drinks and lunch and dinner are extra. The hotel packed us a lunch for each days fishing. There are two drawbacks of the hotel from an angling point of view: there are no flyfishing books in the hotel’s extensive library; and a small dining room means that Rob and Liz run tight scheduling for meals so you can’t stay out fishing the evening rise.

    Ian Nelson, gamekeeper and ghillie, Cruach Cottage, Rannoch Station, Pitlochry, PH17-2QA. 00 44 1882 633246 Ian rents boats with outboards on Loch Laidon for 40 pounds a day and can sell permits for the Upper River Guar, Loch a’ Chlaidheimh, the stocked loch and the hill lochs. A boat is important if you want to fish Loch Laidon because the western arm is a four hour hike from the Moor of Rannoch hotel. Ian will also ghillie for the day if you need extra attention. Ian loves to flyfish, knows the estate and is a personable man.
  2. Big Tuna Member

    Posts: 1,957
    Wenatchee, Washington
    Ratings: +39 / 0
    Great report! Thanks for sharing. I'd love to go to bonnie Scotland one day.
  3. Rob Ast Active Member

    Posts: 1,893
    West Pugetopolis WA
    Ratings: +229 / 3
    Seeing those photos reminds me of my honeymoon in northern Scotland - June 11th, 48 degrees, raining sideways. Still loved every minute of that great country.

  4. Tim Cottage Formerly tbc1415

    Posts: 1,681
    Outer Duvall
    Ratings: +239 / 1
    Thanks Dave. Great report.
    In the next few years I would like to return to the Shetlands to fish some of the lochs there. Lots of fish and few fishermen.

  5. speyfisher Active Member

    Posts: 1,053
    State of Jefferson U.S.A.
    Ratings: +133 / 3
    The Homeland

    Anyone who has even a wee bit of Celtic blood flowing through their viens owes it to themselves to visit the land of their ancestors. Beautiful country. Charming people. :beer1: Word of caution. You will not come back home the same.:D
  6. Bruce Davidson formerly hatman

    Posts: 221
    SeaTac, WA
    Ratings: +14 / 0
    Excellent report, laddie. I have a wee bit of that Celtic blood (grandpa was from Dundee) and have wanted to go there for years. Your report was a good kick in the bum to get serious once and for all. Thanks.
  7. Tim Cottage Formerly tbc1415

    Posts: 1,681
    Outer Duvall
    Ratings: +239 / 1
    With or without Celtic blood (I have none), Scotland, especially northern Scotland is a great place to visit. I have been there twice, crisscrossed the whole of it including the northern and western isles and would go back again in a minute.

  8. seanengman Trout have no politics

    Posts: 966
    davenport, wa
    Ratings: +3 / 0
    Nice pics.
  9. Jake L New Member

    Posts: 345
    Sammamish, WA
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Beautiful fish. Scottland has just been added to my list. Right below New Zealand. Or maybe it'll go above... decisions...
  10. Dave Westburg Member

    Posts: 351
    Kirkland, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +21 / 0
    It's getting much cheaper now that Northwest Airlines is competing with British Air. Plane fare: $500. My share of hotel room, drinks and three meals a day: $750. Rod fees, boat rental and ghillie fees for 5 days of fishing: $360. Sleeper train to Rannoch moor $240.

    Total cost of 5 days trip: $1,350. That works out to $270/day or about the cost of a Marriott hotel in a big city.