A Highland River

Needle Tubes and Tube Flies

Trout fishing within sight of Gruinard Bay

by John Gray

The rivers and streams flowing into Gruinard Bay in Wester Ross were once noted sea trout fisheries. The Gruinard River, draining Loch na Sealga, in particular, had good runs of sea trout. But in recent years, since the coming of the salmon farmers, stocks of sea trout on all our north western rivers have declined dramatically, and those who continue to fish for them on the rivers of Wester Ross do so more in hope than expectation. The Gruinard River itself is not generally accessible to the public and recent catch records are hard to come by, while the Little Gruinard River, to the west, is known more for its salmon than sea trout. There is also a small river, little more than burn really, which flows into the same beautiful sandy bay as the Little Gruinard. This is the Inverianvie River, which runs out of Loch a Mhadaidh Mor, lying 500 feet up in the hills to the south.

Its rough and rocky descent to the sea is punctuated by a series of waterfalls, the lower of which alone presents a most effective barrier to migratory fish. Nevertheless, I wondered if sea trout might run the lower mile or so of the river below the waterfall.

As luck would have it, a good spate had coincided with our visit and the river was looking good, still running high and with a heavy peat stain but clear enough to try a fly with some hope of success. Even if there were no sea trout, there would be a resident population of wild brown trout.

The weather was fine as we took the path by the river, which begins at the bridge near the Gruinard Bay car park. We intended to walk up to the first waterfall and have a cast or two on the way back down. If nothing else, we would have a good walk in some of the most stunningly beautiful scenery in all of Scotland.

Well, we did indeed have a pleasant walk into the hills, with magnificent views over the bay. It came as no surprise that sea trout, at least mature sea trout, did not feature in the catch of a dozen or so wild trout, none bigger than about five ounces. Certainly the trout caught above the falls were brown trout but perhaps one or two of those caught below the falls were the progeny of Gruinard Bay sea trout, destined to run to sea and back again in a year or two. I hope so.

Perhaps next time, we might venture a little farther into the hills and cast a fly on the loch. Who knows what monsters might lurk therein.

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