SIBing the Avalanche Shelter at Loch Carron

It’s been four years since my last visit to Loch Carron, mainly because it’s over 200 miles and 4+ hours away, and because the fishing is OK rather than good. However it’s a fine place to visit and I could do with a change from the standard winter choices of Etive or Leven, so the inflatable got packed in the car and I set the alarm for a ridiculously early start.

Arriving at Ballachulish a little over 2 hours later it was a touch depressing to realise I was just over the half-way mark to Loch Carron, but at least it looked to be a good day and there was little wind showing on the loch.

Back ashore at Stromeferry
Ashore at Stromeferry

Two hours and innumerable potholes later I finally reached Loch Carron. Stromeferry is at the bottom of a pretty steep hill, and has a good concrete slip (apart from the lobster pot clutter and all the weed on it) and is still perfectly usable for a hard boat launch if you’ve got a reasonable towcar. Apart from avoiding falling on my backside on the weed I’d no difficulty in getting the Avon ready and launched quite quickly, although the Tohatsu took a few pulls to wake up from a couple of months of neglect.

Coming alongside in the SIB
Zipping along in the SIB

There were a few ripples on the loch but nothing more and I was soon zipping up towards the avalanche shelter area. Last time here I’d been accompanied by a pair of dolphins, but they were nowhere to be seen today so it was a rather uneventful 20 minutes or so.

Mini sabikis and mini species - a poorcod takes a sliver of mackerel
Mini sabikis and mini species

The seabed here is extremely rocky and drops from 40 feet to 120 in only a few metres, so you tend to fish very close to shore. This is where I started, alternating between a set of mini-sabikis to pick up some smaller fish and a set of mackerel tipped hokkais for anything slightly larger.

Fish on - but not much of a bend in the rod
Fish on
Cod of the day - a modest 3lbs or so
Cod of the day(!)

The sabikis proved the bigger hit with a stream of small codling, Pollack and poor cod. Nothing sizeable and the biggest was a modest coddie of around 3lbs or so, but it was fairly rapid and entertaining fishing. Out in the middle of the loch I could see a pair of sea eagles searching, something I haven’t seen for quite a while – huge wingspan compared to the seagulls keeping a respectful distance from them.

Selfie!
Selfie!

The area near the avalanche shelter is tucked in under a high cliff, which hides the sun until early afternoon, and you could feel the cold air falling off the hillside – so I pulled ashore along the loch a bit to warm up in the sun as much as stretch my legs. I’d a wee play with the GoPro too, picking up some shots of the SIB from the shore.

Coming alongside in the SIB
Coming alongside in the SIB

Back along at the fishing things had slowed a little, but there was still enough to keep some interest going as I explored along the shoreline trying a few other spots and providing some distraction for any passengers on the handful of trains that trundled slowly by – almost above my head at times given how close the railway runs along the shoreline and how close to the shoreline I was fishing.

By mid-afternoon the wind had risen just a smidgen which made fishing 100 feet of water over very broken ground rather tricky as the Avon needs no excuse to move in the slightest breeze. As a result the fish more or less disappeared so I packed it in a little after four and worked my way back down to Stromeferry.

Codling alongside the SIB
Codling alongside the SIB
Glenshiel - still snow on the mountains
Still snow on the mountains

Driving back down to Fort William I was treated to the sun setting over the mountains in a clear sky, a colourful reminder of some of the other reasons for making the long trek up here just for a day out.

Glengarry viewpoint on the Kyle road
Glengarry viewpoint on the Kyle road
Sunset at Glengarry
Sunset at Glengarry
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March 4th 2011 – Loch Carron

Weather: Calm or light SW wind, mainly overcast. Chilly.
Sea: Calm, clear and cold
Time: Roughly 0845-1445 – 6 hours
Tides: LW around 1330 – largish tide

I hadn’t been up to Loch Carron for 6 or 7 years, since Ian and I had a windswept week struggling to find a few fish in late autumn 2004. It’s over 200 miles from Edinburgh, so not an easy daytrip and something like 5 hours driving if you’re towing a boat. However the plan was to use the inflatable (therefore no trailer hassle, and only a 4 hour drive), and then head up to see my dad in Nairn for the weekend. From that point of view it’s little more than a 150 mile detour – less than a Loch Etive trip.

Dolphins chase my inflatable
Dolphins chase my inflatable

An early start saw me launching from the Stromeferry slip before 9 a.m., heading towards the avalanche shelter area in search of a codling or two. After a mile or two I came reasonably close to a prawn creeler, and could see a pair of dolphins splashing around it. Once they picked up the sound of the outboard engine they made a beeline for me, easily traceable as the ploughed across the flat calm surface of the loch. I then had the pleasure of their company for the best part of an hour as I made my way up to the avalanche shelter and for a fair time afterwards as I tried to fish it. I’ve seen dolphins many times before, mainly on the east coast, but these were the most persistent I’ve encountered and the only ones I’ve ever caught on camera or video. Take a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hgiqCQjt1A

Stretching my legs
Stretching my legs

After the dolphins eventually got bored and bu**ered off I started to pick up a few fish, mainly smallish ling in the 3-4lbs bracket on mackerel baited hokkais fished on a slow drift. I’d guess I fished roughly half to three quarters of a mile of the loch, centred on the avalanche shelter. The water got deep quickly, reaching 120 feet within easy casting distance of the shelter, even deeper from the point 200 or 300 yards to the west – perhaps 180 feet or more. Over the day I picked up 8 ling and a single codling, plus a heap of mussels for dinner later in the week. Nothing big or exciting but a decent day for March and no cause for complaint. I packed up early only because I had to be in Nairn for 5’ish and I dare say the score would have been higher if I’d hung around a bit longer.

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