When we’d phoned the Loch Fishery Manager yesterday, he surprised us with the news that the fishing season ended on Tuesday 6th, so our timing was accidentally impeccable – as we awoke to lift the blinds on a mist-shrouded flat calm Loch, lapping at the water’s edge not five yards from the van.
A crisp blue autumnal sky was evident above the mist; the curious suede-finished cattle steamed as they grazed trails through their dew-soaked pasture; we bumped up the heating and layered-up. While porridge plopped and gurgled on the stove we prepped a deli-style picnic lunch; sorted out the fishing tackle and engaged in conversation with a fellow end-of-season local angler, Max, who arrived, squeezing his car into the layby as we squeezed ourselves out, heading half-a-mile down the road to find a gate labelled “Migdale Trout”, which led down an almost overgrown lane leading to a large waterside house, where we found the incongruously-Welsh-named Robert Jones happy to provide us with knowledge, flies, alarmingly skiddy van-parking, boat with outboard motor and a cheery wave as we set off up the Loch, passing Max who was now gallantly wading chest-deep off our lay-by, conducting an overture of casting towards rising fish.
Despite the magnificently promising start to the day, wind began to intrude, chopping the Loch’s surface and speeding our drifts, despite deploying our drogue, to the point where casting became a struggle and our drift speed became too fast to even troll the flies.
We sought calmer water by crossing the Loch to the “Canadian” side when marginal shelter provided one teasing brown trout, before we crossed again to “our” side, finding a little more shelter in the boat mooring bay and where several more small and beautifully marked native brown trout kept us entertaining until mid-afternoon when we returned to dry land, disembarked and struck our tackle to stowaway.
Still satisfied by our magnificently tasty onboard home-baked sandwich lunch we set off again, headed now for the east coast where our roadmap had signified sandy beaches at Dornoch, but after crossing some strangely desolate and apparently demilitarised scrubland we arrived at an isolated hamlet of bungalows reminiscent of Norman’s Bay in East Sussex, with a bleak outlook, greying skies and a scouring wind, so we retraced our route to civilisation across Dornoch Firth Bridge whence we carried on through Tain and across on the A9 to head into Invergordon on Cromarty Firth.
With little now in the way of scenery other than petrochemical installations and what looked like redundant oil rigs at anchor in the greying estuary, a fuel-stop attendant misled us about a picturesque location called Evanton which – although unlikely to win accolades in any scenic beauty competition – did at least boast two pubs on the main road and a convenient car-park flanked by a block of social housing.
Thinking we might dine-out, we supped our first investigative pints in what was clearly a locals’ bar, declined the limited food offering here and headed into option two, a seemingly newly redecorated hotel which proved devoid of any bar-staff, character or warmth of welcome and where a startled gathering of Polish decorators told us that the hotel sold neither drink nor food. So, with little alternative and now with the consumed and demonic pint preventing us from our legally moving the van, it was a quick shop in the local Co-op for mango chutney and precooked poppadoms to supplement our emergency in-van tinned chicken curry, after which we drew the blinds against the neighbourhood and weather, and snuggled down for another night in a Scottish car park. Night night.