Return to Sunart

I’ve not floated my boat on Sunart during the winter months in ages, so it was high time for a return visit! I last visited on a kayak in March, just before lockdown crushed the life out of us. This was exploring rather than fishing, so doesn’t really count! However, I did find a decent camping spot and sheltered little anchorage for my boat.

I camped at the wonderfully named Fort of the Storms (Dun Ghallain) a few years ago. It’s a great anchorage but very cramped onshore and only really suitable for a solo effort. I’ve searched for an alternative for a while, and this secluded rocky beach fitted the bill.

Ian was my boat buddy on this trip as we made a straightforward launch at Salen Jetty. My little Longliner was duly rammed full of gear and we headed away down the loch to sort out our campsite.

Setting up Camp

It was windier than forecast, so a tad chilly as we made our way down Sunart. Rounding Oronsay, we headed through the narrow Strait of the Dogs and into the sheltered waters of Loch Drumbuie. This is a summer yachtie favourite, only a few miles as the boat floats from Tobermory on Mull. However it was completely deserted as we picked our way carefully ashore on this early November morning.

We hoisted the tent pretty quickly and took a while longer making it comfortable – carpets, stove and all. No carp beds this time, though! Having emptied half the boat we headed back out and round towards Laga Bay. Time for some actual fishing!

Laying out the big Robbens Tipi

I hadn’t fished Sunart for ages and neither of us had up to date info. We simply dropped anchor in a spot that had been kind in years past and hoped for the best. Coley baited rigs went down for skate and mackerel baited gear for anything else, and we sat down to wait.

Etive has a hit or miss reputation but Sunart is far worse in my experience. You can spend a day chasing a handful of LSD and not see a worthwhile fish. Today she was generous, and we were soon into decent numbers of spurdog, with only a sprinking of doggies. Ian had the best of it, with several fine fish of 14lb+

Some spurs also tackled our skate baits with enthusiasm and Ian picked up several on smaller coalfish strip baits.

This late in the year night falls early, and we had only a few hours before I switched on the cabin lights. I didn’t want to overstay our welcome as we still had to get the boat back to our campsite and get it moored safely for the night.

Ian delayed us a little longer as he captured another fine spurdog but we were soon raising anchor. Heading west, the outer loch seemed little more than a black void. Only the flashing beacons of Rubha nan Gall and Ardmore lighthouses on Mull cut through the darkness.

Ian with a fine 14lb plus spurdog from Loch Sunart

Nightfall

Sneaking inshore carefully in the blackness we dropped anchor just off the beach and made ready to come ashore. This proved trickier than I’d anticipated as thick rafts of weed choked the prop as we reversed into the beach. It got a bit silly, being 15 yards from the beach, but completely immobile! Eventually we improvised a paddle from the bait board and managed to edge ashore and offload what we needed for the night. The Longliner was roped off to her mooring and we headed for the sanctuary of the tent.

Tent stoves are brilliant, I have to say. A few logs soon heated up the yurt to toastie level and I cooked up some dinner and fresh coffee. Great fun and quite practical too, if you’ve got the space (or strength) to carry one along. I’d taken dry wood in with me too. It’s a lot easier to work with and doesn’t gunge up the stove pipe anything like as much as damp or resinous logs.

The moon poked above the horizon as we put the world to rights and made inroads to my flask of whisky, but we were snoring beneath the stars well before midnight.

Day 2

I awoke before sunrise (hardly an achievement at this time of year) and stepped out into a fine calm morning. A little hint of frost crunched under my feet but there was no wind.

Ian let out a muffled groan or two as I kicked him awake, but we were soon packing away the tent and heading back into Sunart for another session.

Today the weather followed the script, and we were soon in beautiful, calm, autumn surroundings. We fished the same spot and were soon pulling in more decent spurdog as I tried to cook some breakfast between runs on the rods – a nice problem to have! I also picked up a ray to match Ian’s thornback from yesterday. However, most of the fish were either spurdogs or LSDs (you just can’t get away from them on these lochs).

I’d say that Ian had the best of the fishing again, but I was happy enough catching, cooking and taking a few photos as we went along.

Mid-afternoon and Ian tried to go one better as a nice skate snaffled his bait. Unfortunately it munched the spurdog bait rather than the skate bait, which meant 15 minutes of rod doubling effort before his lightish trace wrapped round the skate’s tail and it was game over. I’m not sure if Ian was that bothered really, as it’s a hard haul taking a skate to the surface on light gear.

Skate on – sort of!

Things went quiet for a while, as they usually do when a skate is prowling around. However, we had time to pick up a few more LSD and spurs before the sun set over Carna and I reckoned it was time to haul anchor and set off on the long run home. You really couldn’t ask for a better day though!

Hauling anchor at sunset

(Little footnote – before anyone picks me up, this trip took place before we were all sentenced to house arrest.)

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