Peace and Quiet on Etive

Boat camping on Etive

I’m often across at Etive over the winter months, both on my boat and from the shore. Whilst the fishing is unspectacular, it is one of the most sheltered places to sea fish in a very windy country. If, like me, you enjoy scenery, solitude and the smoke of a campfire, then Etive is also a grand place to spend a night, fish or no fish.

Today I had the boat with me and planned a mix of boat and shore fishing, combined with trying out a new camping spot. Arriving at Taynuilt a little before low water I could barely see the beach for all the seaweed cast up on it by recent storms. Hardly ideal, but I managed a zig-zag route through the worst of it that got me to the waterline without having to dig myself out of a blubbery mess. Launching finally accomplished I headed out onto a calm but overcast loch.

A small spurdog comes alongside my boat
Small spurdog

I kicked off by wasting a couple of hours down the loch fishing the same spot that had provided Ian and I with a decent bag just 3 weeks before. Today there was next to nothing, and I eventually gave up in disgust.

Floating on a Mirror

A fabulous day on Loch Etive. Mirror smooth water and autumn colours show the loch at its best
Fabulous conditions on Etive

Up at the basin around Kinglass I encountered mirror smooth water reflecting the sky. Complete silence surrounded me as I slipped a couple of baits over the side.

I had no need to drop anchor into almost 300 feet of water. In fact, over the next hour I drifted perhaps all of 50 yards. My measly rewards were a few juvenile spurdog and small whiting.

Realistically, I didn’t expect much quality today, given there were small spurdog about, but there’s no harm trying. I’ve often picked up double figure spurdog here, plus a smattering of other species such as codling, ling and rays.

Pure gold near Barrs on Loch Etive

As I fished on forlornly hoping for a fish worthy of a photograph, I set up the drone. In such stunning, calm conditions I reckoned it could earn its keep and catch a decent shot or two. I think the overall result came out well, although flying, fishing and videoing tested my multi-tasking abilities to the max.

Eventually, realising things weren’t getting better on the fishing front, and mindful of the short days this late in the year, I decided to move.

Heading further up Etive, I set up some spinning gear with an eye on the few pollack that live up here. Sneaking close inshore I had a few casts over their heads and tried my luck.

Sadly, either no-one was at home or (more likely) no-one was interested as I had no takes. I played a little more with my drone as I needed the practice and the scenery was too good to ignore.


Just how much I needed the practice soon became obvious! With the little DJI Mini 2 almost 500m away I realised that we were out of battery – and over water. Panicking somewhat, I nursed the dying drone over dry land before it announced it had had enough and was going to land, no matter what. Eek! dry land yes – but thickly forested ground studded with boulder fields. Hardly setting up a happy ending! More luck than judgement but I steered clear of the worst of the trees and and dropped down for a crash landing on the thick grass below.

Looking SW down Etive, towards the sea

Drone down, and not too catastrophically, but I was still afloat without a scoobie where it actually was. I hastily made it ashore and parked between some mean looking boulders. Happily, DJI assume owners do stupid things, so build in a tracker showing its last cry for help relative to where I was standing. Ten minutes of crashing around later, I found my orphaned friend, undamaged in some grass. Lesson learned! (maybe)

Back out on the water, I steadied my nerves with a bit more fishing.

I’d one or two slightly better fish as the sun faded, but nothing to get excited about.

Moving further across the loch, I fished on. Again, I didn’t bother to drop anchor in such flat calm, tideless, conditions and just drifted, very slowly.

Overnight on Etive

Finally, with the sun well below the horizon and light fading fast, I reckoned it was time to set up camp.

I unloaded the Longliner in the last of the twilight and helped by the moon rising over Glen Kinglass. Never having camped here before, I just picked a reasonable looking pitch by torchlight and set up home for the night.

Boat safely moored, and tent looking OK, my next move was to sort some dinner out. I’d taken my tent stove along, but it was really too mild to justify using it in the tent. Instead, I picked out an old fire circle on the stony beach and set up a cooking fire.

Hot Chocolate and whisky keeps the chill at bay

I’d taken dry wood in with me (a plus of having the boat!) and was soon cooking up some food. Venison sausages, baked potatoes and a baked apple to follow. Sitting back in my chair waiting for dinner, I watched the stars come out and satellites cut across a clear sky.

Finishing up with a hot chocolate reinforced with a hefty dose of malt whisky, I had an early night. I slept well enough, undisturbed by deer or seals, and awoke to find morning mist blanketing the loch.

A Spot of Shore Fishing

Remembering that I’m supposed to be an angler, I dug out a travel bass rod and fixed spool reel, and cast out a chunk of mackerel. Note this was before either breakfast or coffee, so shows dedication of a sort. The rod is actually Ian’s but I’ve had it on long term loan (i.e. he’s probably forgotten about it until he reads this :-)) I’ve never used it before but a travel rod is much easier to transport on the boat. It only casts 3-4oz but I reckoned I’d get away with lighter gear on this mark, as it’s fairly clean ground.

A nice curve in a bass rod

In practice it worked well, casting as far as I needed and handling the smaller spurdogs and weed close inshore. The bend in the rod was much more satisfying than I’d see from a beefy shore rod too!

Rod fishing (and successfully), so time for breakfast. I resurrected the fire from last night and got proceedings underway. Bacon and egg rolls and plenty coffee.

By now the mist had cleared but Etive retained its mirror-like finish. I inserted my last remaining battery in the DJI Mini and sent it skywards again.

Sitting ashore in a comfy seat, with a bacon roll balanced on my knee, even I couldn’t splat the drone into the landscape. The trees are losing their autumn colours now, but the deep bronze and oranges of the brackens and grasses make a fantastic backdrop to this beautiful glen. Well worth a flight, I think.

I carried on fishing and enjoying the quiet of Etive as I sipped a coffee or three. Spurdogs, small as they were, kept on coming so I didn’t get much peace to go with the quiet.

Time for a Change

Eventually it dawned on me that I needed to break camp soon or give boat fishing a miss altogether. It was lunchtime, and the days are getting very short now, so my time was running out.

I kept on fishing as I pulled down my tent and packed away a mass of gear. It always looks worse than it really is, and usually fits onto the boat without too much shoe-horning.

Overall, I think I made 10 casts over the morning and had 9 fish, so a pretty good result.

Eventually I ran out of bait and had to retrieve my boat, if only to grab some more from the coolbox on board. By now it was early afternoon, so I decided to try my luck further down the loch for an hour or two.

With my tent and gear stowed away it took a few minutes to reconfigure the anchor again before heading out. By now the rain was coming and going a bit, but Etive was still nice and calm.

Final Roll of the Dice

I decided to finish my day with a session near the bothy at Cadderlie. As with everywhere on Etive it can be hit or miss but I’ve not tried here recently and it seemed as good a prospect as any.

I did drop anchor here, as between a slight breeze and a little tide, there was a wee bit more movement in the water. A few last gasp fish showed up, mainly whiting but also this little thornback ray. No spurs at all around here though.

My only ray of the trip

Rain increasingly came rather than went and I decided to head ashore whilst there was still a little light. Manoeuvring through thick mats of seaweed in the dark didn’t really appeal!

So, one of these trips where the fish take a backseat to everything else. Peace and quiet, a lovely spot for the night and a fire to fight off any chill when the sun goes down. And still enough action to keep me busy most of the time – it’s hard to complain!

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  1. Good to see you back on Etive again Doug, do like reading your camping reports from up there. I know I say it a lot but I will have to do another wilderness camp up there at some point!

    Well done on resolving the drone dilemma as well!
    Shame the fishing wasn’t a little more productive but sounds like you had plenty to keep you occupied anyway.

    1. Hi Liam,
      I went back this weekend for an overnight stay, hiking in from Glen Etive this time rather than taking the easy way and going in by boat. The track in is now more overgrown than ever and there are a few landslips along the way too, so it was quite hard going. I was taking too much gear with me, which didn’t help (perhaps I should practice what I preach!). It was still a fine camp, but with only a handful of fish coming ashore.

  2. As always, a good read and super pics Doug. Drone pics really add to the overall presentation. You have a knack of really making people feel they are there and exploring with you. Thanks for taking the time to put your blogs together.

    1. Thanks Tony, it’s always nice to get some positive feedback. I’ve (yet) another Etive trip to pop up here, although it’s more of a slog through the backwoods than an easy cruise on the loch!

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