Back On The Drift.

May 31st, 2012

It doesn’t seem like five months since New Year and more unbelievable is the fact that it’s almost five years since my last post… time flies…. I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy an annual pilgrimage  to the top of Ben Lomond, preferably before the season starts. The last time I was up there it was a warm day in July and the clegs were out looking for blood. On 2nd February, good friend and fellow boatman Gerd Elsweiler and I set out from the car park at Rowardennan.


It was a fairly clear day with hard packed snow and ice near the summit, conditions for a good winter’s day out.


We didn’t linger too long at the top as the wind chill was well below freezing.


On the descent we had some good views of the Loch. Looks a bit different in winter. The round trip by the tourist path took just over five hours…not bad for a couple of old codgers!

I don’t venture down the bottom end of the Loch very often, but last Thursday in bright, warm, flat calm conditions I decided to take a sail down through Auchentullich Bay and from there across to the Boturich shoreline. Both of these area have produced spring fish so I thought them worthy of attention.


The very mention of the Boturich rocks….many Balmaha anglers just don’t go there…….ever. What you see above the surface is nothing compared to what lies beneath, rocks…hundreds of them…… some of them the size of houses. It wasn’t until my recent voyage that I could see just how dangerous an area it really is. I can only imagine that whatever glacier carved out Loch Lomond, it had a right good dump at Boturich before it moved on.


It can be a first stop for salmon recently arrived in the Loch and every year it produces fish. The ‘Boathouse’ has already given up two this season. It’s normally the  experienced Balloch angler, heading out or returning, who pays the Rocks special attention. Why would anyone build a boathouse in the middle of this pile…no wonder it seems abandoned.

I noticed while browsing the Loch Lomond Rescue Boat website that they had a callout in March to assist a 28 foot cruiser grounded at Boturich. Seems to have been a mechanical problem, before or after striking the rocks? Fortunately there were no casualties. I’d say that unless you really know your way about…..give the Rocks a wide berth.

Since my last post I’ve treated myself to a new boat. After much debate, I decided to go Irish, for several reasons, cost, finish, design and weight all being taken into account.


I didn’t realise just how many boatbuilders there are in Ireland. It was only after reading an article in ‘Trout and Salmon’ that I settled on an Anglers Fancy 19ft built by Burke Boats, Co Mayo…..yes sometimes advertising works.


The Burke family have been boat building for over 130 years and the GRP version of the Angler’s Fancy is based on the original wooden boats built for the big Loughs. I’ve found that it performs very well on the drift. A very seaworthy boat in a big wave, slicing through rather than plowing into them….no, I’m not getting paid for this…….


Some of you may recognise the scenery above….nowhere more exotic than the famous Luskentyre beach on Harris, which in the recent hot spell, where would you rather be…….


Two of our members, Alan Raeburn (above) and Kenny McDonald (below) set of last weekend on a cycling tour of the Outer Hebrides.


I think it started off as a ‘must do’ or on the ‘bucket list’…….things to do before you shed your mortal coil……. They left Oban on Saturday 27th May aboard a delayed ferry, arriving in Barra at 1.30 in the morning. Still party time there! The next morning saw them cross over to Vatersay and then back to Barra. From there the tour took them northwards through the Uists, Benbecula, Harris and into Lewis.


I heard tonight that they had reached the finishing line at the Butt of Lewis, no doubt with slightly tender butts…. about 140 miles from setting off.  Well done lads! As well as loosing a few pounds they have raised a four figure sum for charities, the Erskine Hospital and Hazelwood Vision. Next time I’ll join you, leave the bikes at home and take the fishing gear instead!!

If you’ve got any news, views or anything you’d like to share, please contact me at:


Jim Raeburn

Beleave it or not.

October 6th, 2007

  Yes it’s with us again…..autumn……when the leaves turn colour, fall or are blown into the water and without fail attach themselves to your trolled lures turning them into miniature water skiers  …..or when your carefully dabbled bob fly suddenly disappears below the waves, your heart misses a beat and you strike into a big old oak leaf! It happens every year.


   While out during the week I noticed that Ross point has almost re-established itself as one of the most scenic views on the loch following the severe scarring it suffered due to de-forestation. Sometimes we take the loch-side surroundings for-granted but when you study it closely there’s often a surprise in store…..have you ever noticed the spread of pampas grass across the hillside above Anchorage Cottage, just north of Cashel? Definitely not natural to the area….. the shape of things to come??


  The Ross point area is well known for holding sea trout and salmon.  Ross Isles, Pilot Bank and Mill O’ Ross produce fish every season. Colin McCrory and friend Jimmy Millar were fly fishing up there very recently. After numerous takes, three sea trout to 2 1/2 lbs and half dozen nebs were netted. Colin tells me it was a splendid day out which his pal thoroughly enjoyed.


  A few weeks ago Colin returned from holiday to find that Angus McRitchie and Co. had been having great sport on the Loch, so at his earliest opportunity headed out. In no time he was into good sea trout, which were taking freely, slashing at the bob fly. His biggest shown below was about 4lb. He reckons there was a shoal of similar sized fish sitting off Inchcruin.


  Unless you’ve been hiding under a stone you should have noticed from the ‘Catch Reports’ that our regular band of sea trout enthusiasts, including Dave Sunman, Gibby Bruce, Matt Stewart and Angus MacRitchie are having a very good season. I’ve been out a couple of times trying to follow their example…..but don’t quite have the same touch. Alan Raeburn and I went out on what looked like a promising day. However the wind really increased strength to the extent that it was difficult to keep a line in the water. Managed to get an offer at the Long Point to a dapped imitation daddy and hooked a couple of small fish on the wet fly. Back at the Bay we met Alex Bowie and wife who had risen a few up at the Luss Bank. I went back out to have another go during the week and found out that a rod works better when you remember to pack the reel!

  It’s encouraging to hear so many reports of good sea trout being caught again. I remember when I was first introduced to the Loch in the early 80’s. Mid May and there were at least twenty boats out in the Long Point, Short Point, Darroch areas, queuing up for drifts…..and god help anyone who started up an outboard! Long time member Walter Gilchrist reminded me that in those days the trolls were only deployed for the first couple of months and thereafter the fly was king. All you had to worry about was a trolling boat coming too close to your drift… jet skis then! I had a conversation with Donald McKellar about this trolling culture which so many…..including ourselves…. have fallen into…..the reason we concluded ….laziness!

 There have been very few reports of salmon and grilse taken on the Loch since the end of August and I would certainly suggest that any fish caught now are worthy of being returned and allowed to follow nature’s course….. which reminds me….. Kenny McDonald and pal Roly Craig went out for a troll down the Bank the other week and experienced the quality of our coarse fish…….within half an hour they had a 15lb and a 17lb pike on the boat…..not quite what they were in search of but great fun nevertheless. Lomond pike are well renowned for their tail dancing antics and at this time of the year when the first frosty mornings kick in they become particularly lively.


  A few years ago Colin Campbell, who fishes out of Burnfoot, caught a 2 1/2lb rainbow trout in the Loch. At first I thought it was a wind up….. but no, he insisted that it was caught on the troll near the Fruin. Where did it come from? The only solution we could think of was that it had found it’s way from some stocked water that eventually drains into the Loch or had been brought as live-bait by pike fishers and released. This year he had an even stranger catch…..a yellow wellington boot containing a bottle of a famous Islay malt whisky. Believe it? ……or perhaps not!


  Well it’s getting very near to the end of season again and this may well be the last tale of the year. Maybe salmon catches on the Loch weren’t the most memorable but I’m sure most of us had some great fun trying with good memories to keep us going over the winter.

Regards J.R.

Going Like A Fair!

September 11th, 2007

That’s exactly how sport on the Loch has been described to me…..and it’s certainly not exaggerated! I’ve already mentioned this year that sea trout have returned to he Loch in good numbers with several fish in the six pound class reported. September has always been one of the best months for fly fishing and this year is no exception, but with a big difference!

Since the beginning of the month fish have been showing on all the regular drifts, rising freely to the fly and dap. Angus MacRitchie is delighted with the quality of sport, and no doubt the excellent work done by the Stock Improvement Working Group is contributory.

Angus was out at the start of the month with friend John Morrison. Drifting between the Short and Long points of Inchmoan ten fish were risen……but none hooked! Finally after a short lunch break they tried again, only this time discarding the artificial daddy for the real thing and shortly thereafter boated rise No. 12.


Angus will very soon be sharing his dapping techniques and experience with us and I look forward to it. The daddy has for a long time proved to be one of the most effective dapping flies on the Loch and the natural insect can have great effect. I’ve seen Dave Sunman and his mate on a few Saturday mornings in the long grass at Balmaha collecting a supply…..I must admit I wondered at first what they were up to !!!! Watch out boys, you never know what else might be lurking in there underfoot!

Dave and his pal, whose name escapes me, have been out on the fly the last few weekends with fish in the boat every time. Matt Stewart and his son Alan have also been out with good catches of finnock and sea trout up to 2 1/2 lbs, all returned. Gibby Bruce had two sea trout at Lonaig, the best being 5 1/2 lbs. He was described as being like ‘a dug wi two tails’. Denis McLaughlin and Paul Davis also report good sport. Paul took his fish at Mill o’ Ross Bay and Firkin Point showing that our quarry are not just concentrated around the Islands. I ventured out last week and had two sea trout of 3lb and 2lb at the Hen Isle, both returned. So put away the ‘tin fish’ and get the fly rod out! Even our chairman took time off to venture out with his son for some ‘quality time’.


Although the favourite and most productive drifts are around the islands, those prepared to travel further afield may find drifts at Rowchoish and the south side of Tarbet worthwhile and if you really want to try the ‘Tap End’, the spit at Rhuda Ban and around the rocks at Ardvorlich Bay. I’ve frequently seen good fish moving up there as well as the bays between Doune and Ardleish. Best kept for an overnighter.

I recently made what will probably be my last trip of the year to the Ardlui area. At Culness Andy Buchanan sailed past with a grilse of 6lbs and shortly afterwards Colin Lewis with a fish of the same size. Approaching Ardleish the water was like glass. Suddenly there was a commotion ahead which at first I thought may have been caused by a pike chasing fry or a cormorant fishing, but a couple of minutes later came the answer. Passing the spot, I saw the silver flanks of a grilse of about 7 lbs which was taking great exception to a large hatch of daddy longlegs on the mirror like surface. Dry fly for salmon? Needless to say it wasn’t interested in my offering as I trolled on.

There has been a good run of grilse up the Leven this year but I can’t figure out where they’re hiding in the Loch. Scott Sinclair was out on Saturday and as he was in about 80 feet of water, travelling at a ‘fair old pace’ a 7 1/2 grilse took his poker. Sometimes I wonder about our methods. Peter Lyons’ future article on trolling will enlighten us. I’ve seen Peter trolling and I’ll swear that sometimes you could water ski off the back of his boat!

Walter Gilchrist is no longer in need of psychiatric help…..his twenty ninth season will not be a blank after all. A nice 6lb grilse last week at the Black Rocks broke his duck. That same morning I lost two fish, the first at the mouth of the Endrick and minutes later another at Net Bay…. the fourth loss this season…….ach well better with a couple of good pulls than nothing at all!

Back to the subject of sea trout. Just received Angus’s report from the weekend. While fishing Lonaig, he and boat partner Dave McDowell rose 23 sea trout, successfully netting 11, the largest being 5 1/2 lbs and 3 1/2 lbs….all fish were safely returned…..what a day! It’s great to hear that the Loch is re-establishing itself as a prime sea trout fishery. Tales from the Loch?…….reality!!!!

Euan McGrandle had an unfortunate experience which turned into success. Fishing off the Fruin with his ten year old son, his outboard packed in. Faced with the long row back to Balmaha he decided to put out a couple of rods in the hope……. Suddenly as he was passing the north point of Creeinch a rod sprang to life! After a spirited fight his son landed a 4 1/2 lb brown trout. The boy was delighted.

Finally I’d like to wish you all success in the remaining weeks of the season and keep the reports coming in!

Regards J.R.

Weather or not.

August 17th, 2007

Last week, along with some of ‘the usual suspects’,I made the trip to the top end of the Loch to spend a few days hopefully snaring a grilse or two. I remembered the success of the Vale camp last year when during the same week, having timed the arrival of the grilse perfectly, seventeen fish were netted. When I arrived at Inversnaid I found that although things had been very quiet, two of the lads had netted grilse near the hotel that day. As I sailed up past Rob Roy’s cave I saw the annual campsite. How many tents can you get into a few square metres?……at least a dozen…… watch out for the wild goats!


The following day was a bright, hot sunny day and to be truthful we probably spent more time ashore than afloat with nothing to report fishwise. The following morning…..with slightly hazy heads……we set off down the Loch. As I was enjoying some medicinal fresh air I saw young McDonald pull out just north of Ptarmigan, reel in two rods and lift the remaining inside rod which was showing a healthy bend. A few minutes later he netted a fine 5lb grilse……just when he thought he was going home empty handed!


I haven’t heard the final tally from the campers but I suspect it’s well down on last season. I am still receiving reports that members are seeing plenty of fish……I saw two myself last week, at the golf course and Sallochy……and there are fish being caught. The available river reports show that some grilse have been caught and suggest that a good number are running into the Loch.

The Loch has not been without water this year. With the continual rainfall and lack of sunshine the surface temperature has not reached much over 16oC.The level at present is if anything on the high side. I am left in no doubt by the more experienced among us that the weather is to blame for the lack of sport. I’m told that when the Loch’s high the water is colder at the bottom end so the fish won’t run up in search of the deeper colder water. Now that the level’s up further they’ll make for the rivers and burns……Donald McKellar lost two fish in Net Bay last week…… and already there’s good sport to be had on the Endrick……so perhaps you should tie up your boat and look out the waders.

It’s been a season of mixed fortunes for some. Robert Perrat’s had two springers and two grilse so far after experiencing a blank last season. Walter Gilchrist’s looking for a good psychiatrist!……so far this is his first fishless season ever……he had six last year …….Walter’s got it bad…… a bit like ‘cold turkey’……. I hope he gets a fish soon.

Starting to feel a bit ‘trolled out’ I went out fly fishing on Wednesday, not much to report except jagging a good fish and turning another but it was a refreshing day with good company and the feeling that you were actually doing something again! The same day Alex Bowie was fly fishing off Darroch when suddenly he thought he had been a bit heavy on the seal’s fur dressing of his woodcock and mixed……the real thing surfaced just off his line! A big blighter too which has since been spotted by at least two other fishers in the Ireland/Fad and Lonaig areas……most unwelcome!!

Passed by Colin Lewis yesterday who in reply to my ‘any fish’ held up two fingers……wasn’t sure if I had interpreted him correctly at first! But he had camped out overnight up the top end, netting a nice grilse on the way up and a second on the way back down…..good to see!


Finally I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those who have continued to update me and remind everyone that this blog, which is open to all, relies heavily on rumour, humour, speculation and information to exist. If you’ve something you’d like to add for the good of the Loch fisher please get in touch……it can be in confidence……tight lines!

Regards J.R.

Silver Sparklers.

August 2nd, 2007

  After losing a good fish at Doune recently… own fault entirely….. and having had a fairly quiet season so far, I decided it was time to make the trip up the Ben and pay annual homage which was well overdue….not that I’m superstitious or anything! Last Tuesday was probably one of the warmest, brightest days that we have had this summer, ‘not a day for fishing’ I thought and certainly not one for physical exertion, though the views made it well worthwhile…..


  On the way back down my peace was shattered… Kenny McDonald who had just netted a 5lb grilse north of Ptarmigan. He reported seeing another four boats in the Rowchoish area, all with fish. Those warm, bright conditions….you just never know, but the grilse are in! A zebra toby accounted for this sea liced silver sparkler.


  Since then fish have been caught, fish seen and fish lost…..including one which evaded me at Culness on Friday at the side of the boat. I got the feeling that it had only grabbed hold of the lure to see what was on the other end of the line…..before letting go and firing it back at me! Grilse have been seen in numbers heading and tailing, moving through the Loch and have already travelled as far north as Ardlui as Andy Buchanan can verify. He took this well proportioned 6lb bar of silver off the jetty at Ardleish and five minutes later, after turning at Ardlui, lost a heavier fish at the same spot. Well done Andy!


I know where I’ll be this weekend…..see you out there!

Regards J.R.

Midges, Clegs and Malnutrition.

July 22nd, 2007

  July is traditionally the month when some of our hardier breed give up their home comforts and resurrect their tents and sleeping bags…. some to find that these prized possessions have succumbed to the effects of mildew or mice since last used…. and join the migration to the ‘tap end’ of the Loch in search of solace, tranquility and perhaps a fish or two.

  Last week, accompanied by some of the ‘usual suspects’,  I made the journey north full of hope and expectation, ready to face the elements and unexpected. We left with the knowledge that a few day earlier a shoal of grilse had been seen entering the Loch but  it was anyone’s guess where they would head. 

  On the way up Alan Raeburn spotted a Balloch registered boat landing a good sized fish at Rowchoish and this helped fuel our enthusiasm. After pitching our tents and surviving an initial attack by clegs and midges we set out on the ‘intelligence gathering phase’… visiting the local watering hole! 

  At Inversnaid we met three fishers who had taken a 7lb grilse earlier in the day…also at Rowchoish….who spoke of seeing other fish heading and tailing in the same area. So things were looking up. The scene back at the camp site that night was one a clear sky and warm company… only hazed slightly by one’s favourite tipple!

   The next morning saw us set out in ernest and just before midday day there was a fish on the boat…a fine 7lb grilse taken on the approach to Rowchoish. A copper/black toby once again showing its worth. My wife was less than impressed when asked to make the journey to Tarbet for a collection……she did have car keys this year though!


   After this encouraging start the next few days produced little apart from some quality time, meeting other fishers, discussing all the various theories and generally ‘shooting the breeze’. Another good week was enjoyed by all though it was good to get back to a comfy bed and a square meal!

  Alex Bowie’s wife Jackie accompanied him on a recent fly fishing outing and took a fine sea trout of 2lb 10oz on the dap…well done Jackie! We’ve all heard of the capabilities of the fairer sex, transmitting their scent down the line or some other such nonsense….or was this just a ‘shaggy dog’ story Alex!


   Dave Sunman and Jim Freeman assure me that the sea trout fishing this season is still on the up. Though proving difficult to hook there are good sized fish coming up to the fly on all the usual drifts. Jim confirmed his recent 6lb fish at Inchlonaig taken on a golden olive bumble. I mentioned recently that Scott Sinclair had a 6 1/2lb sea trout on the troll at Inchgalbraith and here as promised is that very photograph. He looks a right happy man!


   As the month continues and August approaches we should see an increase in activity. Last season we thought the grilse had taken a wrong turning at sea but August proved to be the best month ….for some! Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

Regards JR.  

Red Letter Day At Balmaha.

July 14th, 2007

Some more good news to help lift our spirits…..Last Monday was a great day out for two Balmaha regulars…….

Gerd Elsweiler had an unexpected birthday present… at last!
He had been experiencing a run of bad luck with blank seasons and losing fish but has finally cracked it!
After setting out from the Bay he motored up to Strathcashell Point and put out the trolls. As he approached Anchorage Cottage, which produced a few fish last season, his inside reel screamed into life. After a lengthy fight he netted a fine 15lb salmon which was still sea liced. He says…

‘My heart was in my mouth when I was playing it after losing one the same size a couple of weeks ago, then when I netted it the net collapsed! I was shaking when I got it onto the boat!……Gerd, get someone to get you a half decent landing net for your Christmas …..well done pal and keep me some of that Schnapps! Happy Birthday!

Gerds 15lber

The same day Jim Freeman had a fine 6lb sea trout on the fly at the north west shore of Inchlonaig showing that the Loch’s run of good sea trout continues.
Colin McCrory was back out on the hunt last Saturday with a sea trout of 2 ½ lbs to the fly another about 3 ½ lbs lost at the net. Colin reckons that there’s fish to be found on all the usual drifts, not a lot, but those that are there are worth persevering for.

Perhaps things are beginning to warm up…..though certainly not the weather!

Regards JR

June Update

July 9th, 2007

June can be a quiet month……for some …. The springers having sprung and the grilse are awaited. The Loch continues to show a healthy increase in sea trout catches with some good sized fish reported both on the fly and troll.

In the middle of the month Dave Sunman had a 5 ½ lb sea trout while fly fishing off Inchmurrin. The fish, which took a golden olive bumble, is shown in the attached photo.

Seatrout off Inchmurrin

Colin McCrory was also out in mid June and had a good day on the fly with a 3 ½ lb fish at the Ladies Point at Inchcruin, rising a good number of fish and losing another at Inchlonaig.

On Saturday Scott Sinclair landed a cracker weighing 6 ½ lbs off Inchgalbraith on a trolled ‘tomic’. Scott sent me a photo which I will include in the near future…..thanks for these updates and photos guys.

There weren’t many salmon caught in either the Loch or Leven during June. A few were returned at VOLDAC which were taken mainly down the bottom end of the Loch but I heard it mentioned that a Vale fisher had a good sized fish up at Rob Roy’s Cave earlier in the month. Balmaha seems to have been fairly quiet. There are still a few fish being landed on the Leven….nothing like the numbers of last season…..and there will still be fishing running into the Loch. I certainly wouldn’t expect the grilse to appear till the end of July if the pattern follows that of the last few years, but I’ll be out there anyway….you never know…!!

Regards J.R.