Rannoch Trout – an Overnight Catch and Cook

I’ve been fairly busy since lockdown ended but I haven’t been camping for 6 months now. Even longer since the kayak got wet, so it was definitely time to do something about that!

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Rannoch Moor is a wide expanse of heather and bog, covered with small pools and shallow lochs. The main road to Fort William intrudes but otherwise it is almost empty of humans. I dropped my kayak in the water not long after sunrise and set off to join the deer.

The loch is disorientating, full of narrow channels, small islands and with few features. It’s also very shallow with lots of rocks just above and below the surface. I can’t see an outboard prop lasting too long here!

Conditions were fine once I got out onto the main loch, with only a light breeze. It was quite cold though, with fresh snow on the mountains and the promise of more to come later in the day.

Island Camping

I planned to camp overnight on the largest island, and made my way towards it, casting as I paddled along. Fishing was slow but I managed a couple of brown trout to my little Mepps 0. These were pretty fish with a lovely golden colouring to them but not very big.

My little island stands out clearly, as the only spot with tree cover around here – any sapling within reach is obliterated by the local deer. After a chilly couple of hours on my kayak, I was glad to weave my way between the many rocks protecting the shoreline. Crunching ashore on a patch of gravel, I stretched my legs and explored my temporary home.

The woodland is best described as scrawny, struggling to survive on pretty inhospitable ground studded with moss covered boulders. Quite pretty, though, and obviously attractive to a large number of noisy geese too.

I shifted my kayak slightly to a better landing spot, unloaded my gear and set up camp. There are quite a few patches of flat ground in between the boulders so it was easy to find a pitch, and I was soon set up comfortably.

Once sorted ashore, I brewed a coffee and sat in the sunshine for a few minutes. Sheltered from the breeze it was quite warm, despite the hints of sleet earlier on my paddle here.

It was going back anyway…

Rannoch Trout for Dinner?

The grand idea for today was a catch and cook dinner comprising a brace of wild brownies. That meant catching a couple of suitable specimens – so it was high time I got my bum wet and did just that!

Trout showed on the surface now, in the lee of my island, and were keener to feed. My Mepps was engulfed by a succession of nicely marked fish which performed aerobatics before reaching the net. I retained one about 8oz which had hit my lure a little too enthusiastically. Dinner half sorted!

This is not a large loch, maybe 2 miles end to end as the crow flies, but full of nooks and crannies. I made my way along slowly, losing my way regularly up rock filled dead ends.

By now the sun was losing out to thicker patches of cloud and I stopped to pop my jacket on. I missed most of the wet stuff, but could see heavy showers drifting across the surrounding mountains.

Getting more wintry

I added a second trout to my table, right up at the final narrows before the shallow outlet river starts. It is possible to portage a kayak across to the next loch just over a mile away, but I decided this was definitely one for another expedition!

Back to Camp

I turned round and started working down the southern bank. From time to time my Perception made interesting grinding noises as it bounced off more submerged rocks. However, I was still finding enough obliging Rannoch trout to keep me interested, and didn’t appear to be sinking!

My luck eventually ran out, as the wind, hail and sleet caught up with me. The temperature plummeted and I had to focus on staying upright rather than fishing.

The struggle back to my tent was a slow one and I was glad to reach the shelter of the island. I wasn’t particularly soaked, but I was chilled to the bone from being largely immobile on my plastic log for hours. Fortunately, I had the solution packed along with me!

Hot tenting

I’d taken my lightweight tent stove along, mainly to use as a firebox, but I also had the chimney for it. I got everything set up and guyed out the chimney to secure it from the wind. Wow! Pretty much instant heat once it got going, and I was soon quite literally steaming inside the tent. I had a good supply of dry wood with me which kept the stove blazing away. You’ll likely not find very much on the island, so I suggest you take your own in with you.

Coffee on to boil, I set about preparing dinner. Nothing fancy, just baking the trout in foil and some fried potatoes. Delicious, if you’re a recently thawed out kayaker who hasn’t eaten for hours 🙂

They tasted better than they looked!

Things calmed down greatly as the sun set and I explored a bit more of the island before turning in for the night.

Grey Start

Next morning was grey and breezy, and forecast to turn quite nasty by mid-morning. I packed up my tent and shovelled my junk into the kayak and managed a quick coffee before heading out on the loch.

Conditions were reasonable but with a few squalls passing through. The trout didn’t agree and I had little interest as I hove too in some of the more interesting spots. I hooked a couple of fish but they didn’t hang around for long, and things were generally dour.

With little incentive to hang around, I hastened along and was hauling the kayak out by 10 in the morning. Ironically, my last paddle was in flat calm water and completely windless. An hour later however, watching white water rolling down Loch Lubhair as I drove home, I was very glad to be safely ashore.

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3 comments

  1. Nice one Doug love a good catch and cook. Sounds like you avoided the worst of the weather anyway.

    Is it a perception triumph you’re using? Been toying with giving kayak fishing a go (never tried before) and the PT seems to be a trusted entry point from what others have said.

    1. Hi Liam,
      It is a PT, which I picked up second hand a couple of years ago. I wanted something that could cover a bit of ground as well as do some fishing. I’m not a particularly committed or skilled kayak fisherman and use it to add another dimension – such as loch fishing – rather than as a core part of my fishing. For sea fishing I think a SIB is more practical use in most cases – more room, more stability and still quite portable in the smaller sizes. Horses for courses though and it boils down to personal preference and where and how you want to fish. The only significant issue I’ve had with the PT is a tendency to weather-cock in a decent breeze, which can make it very difficult to hold your course. It’s probably partly down to how the kayak is loaded for camping, with a lot of gear plus myself aboard affecting the underwater profile. Fitting a rudder has helped quite a lot, and becoming a better kayaker might help a bit more!

      1. Cheers for the feedback Doug. I can’t see myself being a die hard enthusiast either – more the the occasional dabble and access to more remote spots, probably limited to those rare occasions when the water is as flat as glass as I’ve got terrible sea legs!

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