You have to keep an open mind regarding the weather when travelling into Scotland. The day before our trip to the Isle of Lewis the ferry crossing was closed due to high winds. The plan had been in place for a couple of months, for the four of us to spend a few nights fishing and wild camping on the island. The ferry was running again when we arrived in Ullapool, but we suspected the Minch was grumpy after 3 days of battering from a North-North Westerly.
Ullapool was very wet, blustery and dead quiet, apart from the queue to board the ferry. Scott, Steph and I have done this trip before, but it was all new and exciting for Uta. The Caledonian MacBrayne ferry is now subsidised by the EU and costs much less than our previous trip; a car with 4 people is now about £140. You get a real sense of adventure looking back from the ferry to Ullapool that definitely adds to the trip. If you suffer from seasickness then you need to have taken seasick tablets 20 minutes prior to this point!! The departure was calm though squally, but the sea forecast was classed as Rough that day and a sudden lurch to the left, accompanied by the smashing of crockery, confirmed we were in open sea on the Minch. Sailing was ‘rock and roll' until we moved into the wind shadow 30 minutes out of Stornaway.
Stornaway was quickly negotiated via Sportsworld fishing tackle shop and W. J. MacDonald butchers (tremendous black pudding) and we were into proper Lewis scenery. No trees on Lewis, well the odd one or two, but it's all heather, rock and loch. Very, very quiet, you can wildcamp out here for days and see or hear nobody. We chose a stony cove on the East coast of Lewis, a decent hike in from the vehicle, across a couple of burns and peat bog. The pitch wasn't perfect, certainly not level, but we were happy with fitting all the kit, 3 men, 1 girl and Scotts' enormous salami into 1 tipi!!
Travelling light - Scott, Steph & Kev
Time to get some fishing in. A short distance from our camp was a killer spot perched on 3m high cliffs that dropped straight into deep sea. Steph took on his 'first cast, first fish' routine and Bang! - decent Pollock for the pot. A very productive fishing session was interrupted with the appearance of a Seal bobbing in the swell; a nice sight and also a timely explanation for the sudden halt in our fishing success. No complaints though as we had enough fish for a Thai green Pollock curry with rice and roti. Tough life this wild camping.
Next morning was windy and wet, so time for some more sea fishing. Lots of Pollock. Scott was catching well on spinners and flys and I was having great success jigging Berkley Powerbait Sandeels including a good Pollock of around 5 pounds. Steph chipped in with a lovely male Cuckoo Wrasse caught on bait (blueys), but it was a Pollock day for all of us...
Male Cuckoo Wrasse
...well more like a half day as we decided we didn't like the look of some worsening weather and got back over the hill to the tent. Within 30 minutes we were tent bound for the day. Serious blasts of multidirectional wind and horizontal curtains of rain for hours. The tent was swaying but holding firm, we were tanked up on red wine and salami with humour degenerating fast. I think that's called cabin fever and thanks to Uta we can now swear profusely in German!!
Next morning was (yep) wet and windy and we'd overdosed on the Pollock, so sights were changed to brown trout. The hike back out was considerably wetter under foot but a lot easier unburdened despite it being uphill. We took in a bit of tourism before fishing with a visit to the Callanish Stones. This is a 5000 year old, cross shaped arrangement of standing stones made of Lewisian Gneiss. An impressive feature and impressive hot soup in the visitor centre.
Time to find a loch or two. I can't fly fish so I tried a bit of spinning while watching the experts with the flys. Far too shallow a loch for spinning and I rapidly became tired of clearing hook fulls of weed. The flys were successful and we had 5 good-sized Brownies for the hot smoker. To supplement this we stopped and foraged a pan full of mussels from a sea loch. Back in camp we set up a tarp on the beach against the cliff for shelter from the persistent wind and rain. The smoker worked well, which we'd put together from an old biscuit tin and a wire rack to keep the fish above a couple of handfulls of oak dust.