Thursday, 3 October 2013

Trout Fishing In Shetland Part Four – The Island of Fetlar & A Return To Yell


Papil Water, Fetlar
Papil Water, Fetlar
I was sorry to leave Gardiesfauld Youth Hostel. It was a true home from home and had saved me from a very uncomfortable night. But I had one of the best lochs in Shetland to fish today: Papil Water on the island of Fetlar. From what I had read this was possibly the best loch in Shetland with “fish to 2lb common and 4lb+ fish also caught”. To say I was excited would be an understatement. It was an early ferry to Fetlar via Yell. I’d eaten a small breakfast in the youth hostel but the plan was to eat again on arriving at Papil Water then start fishing. Excitement got the better of me and the plan changed. I’d walk to the top end of Papil and fish one side of the loch, get something to eat back at the car then fish the other side...

If ever there was a perfect looking loch this was it. Conditions weren’t bad either with a light ripple and thin cloud cover. I expected to cast my flies onto the loch and have my rod almost ripped from my hand by a large, fit, trout. Well I blanked! There was a lot of weed that didn’t make fishing easy, but on reflection I think the 2 previous days bad weather had ruined Papil Water for me. It is meant to be a crystal clear loch but it was far from clear. It was decidedly cloudy and I couldn’t see my wading boots in water just above knee depth. To put it into perspective a fish rose that I could have touched with half my 10’ rod. You don’t get that on peat stained lochs never mind crystal clear ones! I covered every inch of water from the bank and drove away dejected. There’s not much fishing on Fetlar and my whole trip centred on fishing Papil Water.

Skutes Water, Fetlar
Skutes Water, Fetlar
I drove to Skutes Water next, cursing my luck and the weather of the last 2 days. There was a walk of about a mile to get to the loch that was supposed to be “OK”, but nothing more. As always it was quite windy and blowing towards me from across the shallow loch. I’d learnt from the previous evening and was wearing waders. The water looked so shallow I decided to wade right across the middle of the loch casting sideways into the bank, thus putting my line and flies safely downwind. It felt wrong. I’d made a bad choice and should instead have walked to the top end of the wind and waded with the wind. By chance I turned around and threw out a cast off my left shoulder and was immediately into a decent trout. That was it, decision made, I’d fish my way out onto the bank and walk to the top end. From there I could wade out to a sensible depth casting with the wind. As I fished my way to the side of the loch I captured a natural sedge (Speckled Peter) riding the surface and saw a few others too. My only fish had taken the Sedgehog on the top dropper so it was obvious there was a hatch underway.
Natural Sedge & a Deer Hair Imitation
A Speckled Peter Sedge & Colin's Deer Hair Imitation
A few days previous Colin had given me a deer hair sedge pattern and told me to use it if fish were taking hatching sedges. I took it from my fly box, photographed it in case I lost it, before tying it to my top dropper along with a Sedgehog on the point of a 2 fly cast – I was going to fish full blown dry fly. Towards the top of the loch there was a man-made rock line sticking out about 20yds into the water (Skutes is a water supply reservoir and this was the intake). I walked to the end and made a cast. Colin’s sedge was immediately engulfed by a trout and the disappointment of Papil Water was beginning to fade (ever so slightly). A few more casts produced just one pricked fish so off I went to the top of the loch and started wading out and casting, short at first but eventually as far a I could comfortably cast. I let the flies sit on top for about 5 seconds, which was usually enough to get a take. If a take didn’t come I started a slow figure of eight retrieve which often did the trick. I fished right across the middle of the loch, at times catching a trout every cast, including a double hook-up on one occasion. My biggest trout went about 1½lb and most of the fish came to Colin’s sedge. The afternoon’s fishing on Skutes
A good fish from Skutes Water, Fetlar
A good fish from Skutes Water, Fetlar
Water had all but made up for my disappointment at Papil and I came away like the proverbial Cheshire Cat! It was one of those times that are made all the better by being totally unexpected.

I was booked for the next 2 nights into a camping bod at Aithbank, in the middle of this small island. I didn’t know what to expect but what a lovely place it turned out to be. A little cottage with fully equipped kitchen, living room, sleeping for about 8 upstairs and of course full shower and toilet facilities. It was perched right on the cliff above a little inlet and beach and I had it all to myself; another place I fully recommend.

An evening walk along the cliffs from the camping bod gave me my first encounter with an Otter. Shetland has one of the highest densities of Otters in the country but they’d been elusive until this evening, despite looking very hard in every likely looking place. This was followed by another otter sighting the next morning as my ferry departed Fetlar back to Yell.

Loch of Winyadepla, Fetlar
Loch of Winyadepla, Fetlar
There is a remote loch on Fetlar that goes by the name of Loch of Winyadepla. It is quite legendry and described something like this in the Shetland Angling Association Guide: “A long walk is needed to reach this loch which has the reputation of being dour. The numbers of trout may be small but they make up for this in size as fish of more than four pounds are caught!” Well I like walking and a challenge so off I went. I bumped into a local where I parked the car. He guessed where I was going and talked about fish to 8lb being caught. It was quite walk but the view was amazing as I dropped down the hill towards the cliff-top loch. It was very bright and was another loch where waders would have helped and the book said not to wade. I fished my way round the full loch quite stealthily without a touch. I can, though, report there are still definitely big fish in there - as I left a good fish rose splashy at the opposite end of the loch.

I had a choice to make: return to Papil Water and hope it has cleared or catch the next ferry back to Yell. The ferry won despite how happy I was to see the back of Yell last time I was there. As the ferry pulled into Yell the weather was a complete contrast to what I’d left behind a few days previous. The rain, cold, wind and greyness was now replaced with bright sun, cloudless blue sky, virtually windless and amazingly warm for this northerly latitude. My first port of call was Kirk Loch at the northern tip of Yell. It was reputed to be another dour loch, but with monster trout for those prepared to persevere. Colin had told me to put in some serious time here in search of a biggie, but it just didn’t feel right. The conditions were against me again. It was far too bright and the water crystal clear, so I fished one side and packed up.

Breckon Sands, Yell
Breckon Sands, Yell
Just below Kirk Loch is one of the finest beaches I have ever seen. I spotted it from where I’d parked my car at the cemetery and I looked it up on my map – it was Breckon Sands. Green fields and rugged cliffs gave way to white sands and turquoise seas. It was time for some relaxation away from fishing with a walk along the beach and some photos. Batteries recharged, briefly, it was time to seek out the next lochs on my itinerary: Loch of Brough and Loch of Cullivoe.

Both lochs were described as being very dour but with some of the biggest trout on Yell – fish to 3lb! They both looked the part and confidence was high, especially after catching a trout of about a pound within a few casts on Brough, but that was to be all I caught there. Then I was heading south to a ‘campsite’ at Burravoe, which turned out to be no more than a few electric
Burravoe Pier Trust Campsite
Burravoe Pier Trust Campsite
hook-ups for caravans and the odd patch of (long) grass where a tent could be pitched. It looked nothing like a campsite! This is no criticism, it is typical Shetland. Camping was charged on an honesty system at £4 per night so I put £5 in my envelope and paid it gratefully. Campers and caravaners had the use of a building housing toilets, showers, microwave, washer, dryer, etc. Everything you could wish for and all spotlessly clean, modern and in good order. I put another £5 in the honesty box for the washer and dryer and did my first bit of washing! The most striking thing about Burravoe Pier Trust Campsite was the roof of the toilet block: an upturned lifeboat from the P&O liner "Canberra" – very ingenious, simple and unique!

After supper and pitching the tent I decided to have my first night fishing session through the simmer dim (Shetlanders word for the summer nights when it doesn’t get dark). I probably wouldn’t have bothered but just down the road was another of Shetland best lochs - Loch of Littlester. Reputed to contain lots of trout, with many over 2lb, it was just too tempting to leave until morning and I hadn’t yet tried fishing through the Simmer Dim. I fished the roadside shore quite hard but the only pull I got was from a patch of weed, which momentarily got my heart racing. I’d have carried on fishing but there was a pair of oystercatchers that weren’t too impressed by my presence. They were  flying in circles round me, while loudly alarm calling incessantly. Eventually I could stand no more of the din and so I returned to my tent with my ears ringing!

I returned to Loch of Littlester after breakfast and fished most of the way round. Conditions were again poor for fishing with a strong wind and very bright sun in a cloudless sky. It did, though, dry the remainder of my washing that I’d hung from a makeshift washing line between my car’s roofbars and the fence! I caught a couple of trout that were around a pound in weight but it didn’t live up to its reputation. I left feeling slightly depressed that another ‘good’ loch hadn’t produced. That’s fishing I suppose and it gives me a reason to return!

And so it was time to return to the mainland; my trip was drawing to a close with just 3 days fishing remaining. It had been tough fishing on the Islands, though enjoyable, but I was now starting to feel like I was ready for home...

...Trout Fishing In Shetland Part Five – Return To The Mainland

You can view all the images from my trip on my flickr album.

Useful Links:
Shetland Anglers Association: http://www.shetlandtrout.co.uk