East Loch Bee is not a Machair loch but is a large expense of shallow brackish water with great feeding for brown trout. Our ghillie for the week, Ian Kennedy, advised us on choice of flies, which I interpreted as including a Clan Chief, the famous South Uist fly invented by Ian's father, Capt John Kennedy. Brian decided to wade first and I was somewhat surprised when Ian instructed him to wade across a great distance to an island I could just about see! The loch was consistently shallow and Brian set of with little hesitation. Alec and I were in the boat benefitting from Ian's wise words and it was not too long before my size 10 Clan Chief took a top quality Loch Bee trout of about a pound and a half. Brian took a slightly larger fish during that morning and we were looking forward to a good afternoon starting with Brian and I in the boat. I took Ian's advice about the trout responding to fry patterns far too literally and tried a sparkler booby which moved a number of fish during the afternoon but accounted for only one to the net. That was to be our lot of day one, with 3 quality trout of which Brian's was best at around 1lb 10 oz. All these fish and those we caught subsequently were returned.
The cold north wind was still with us we headed for Loch Bornish the following morning. Bornish was to be our first experience of the Machair, a loch with a shore of white shell sand which slopes very gently to the deeper weeded areas. This mix of environment provides rich feeding for the trout which grow on well and can often be caught at the machair edge as they feed in this area where the shallow shell sand meets the deeper water. Ian took Alec and Brian off in the boat and I waded the machair edge which I found to be easy to wade despite my almost total lack of experience of this sort of fishing. In the boat Brian took 3 fish from 12 oz to a pound and a half while I caught my first trout on the machair edge, a lovely fish of about 24 oz. It's brother followed a little later with a smaller fish of about half a pound in between. The wind was getting up a bit by this time and I managed one more from the boat before lunch while Brian added one more in early afternoon. Brian's best fly was the soldier palmer while my 3 'keepers' were on the 'Gerry's Kate', a Kate McLaren variant given to me by Gerry MacDonald and which has accounted for many of my brown trout in the last 3 years. The wind eventually forced us off Bornish in mid-afternoon, with a total of 7 good trout and one smaller one.
Alec was getting a bit restless as we headed for Loch Grogarry on Wednesday morning. After a fruitless first hour with only Brian moving a fish from the boat, we changed over and I was delighted to watch and photograph Alec catching his first machair trout of the trip on a 'Gorgeous George' fly supplied by Ian that morning. The fish was a good 2.5lb, and our best of the trip to date. I also had a good pull before lunch, but nothing further was converted by the time we took a break. After lunch I managed to hang on to a fish of about 2lb and was surprised a bit later as i watched an explosion in the water just beyond my fly line as trout of a similar size to the one taken by Alec treated me to a dogged fight before succumbing to Ian's net. That was to be our lot for the day. Despite it being bright, the fish we took were all in very shallow water and came out to play when the north wind dropped off a wee bit and we had some cloud cover. However, Grogarry can be a bit dour and to finish with 3 fish for around 7.5 lb is a reasonable result.
Our evenings spent with Wegg at Kinloch were marvellous and notable for the wide ranging and always entertaining conversation, coupled with Wegg's outstanding cooking. He quotes sample menus on his website, but that really does not do justice to the food - from roast beef, to Loch Bee trout, to different kinds of local hot and cold smoked salmon, to langoustines and wonderful scallops. We ate well.
Thursday and Friday were made even more challenging as the wind strengthened and stayed resolutely in the north. We tried to fish Upper Kildonan on the Thursday but decided to cut and run after an early lunch, with Brian having only one small trout to show for our efforts. Boat fishing was all but impossible in the wind and we were treated to a wading lesson in Loch Hallan that afternoon, which involved wading right across the loch to the north east shore, fishing along that shore and then fishing back across the loch to our parking spot. That produced a small fish and another of about a pound and a quarter for me, which was scant return for our efforts. Still, we weren't blank. Brian and I had a wee look at Loch Driudibeag before finishing for the day, and a lovely wee trout of just over half a pound succumbed to my rod, taken from a little bay which could almost be covered from the bedroom window of the guest house. Our Friday efforts on Loch Stilligarry, one of the Machair jewels in the crown, were just efforts. We didn't move a fish between us, and the only fish we saw was one of a couple of pounds having a jump to itself in the middle of the loch. Quite what possessed it to show on such a cold and windy day I don't know, but if its idea was to keep us out of the pubs of South Uist that Friday afternoon, it failed!
Our last hurrah was on West Loch Ollay, and as the wind had moved round to the west and had dropped off a bit, we were full of good cheer and optimism, not to mention the previous night's excellent dinner and whisky! Ghillie Ian was confident that we would do well on one of his favourite lochs, and so it proved, but not in the way he thought. After a fruitless couple of hours in the boat for Alec and I, we found Brian, only to hear that he had had a trout of about 2lb 8oz (possibly more) and an escapee land-locked salmon of about 2lb from the shore. Good angling! The boat fishing continued to be difficult and Alec added another couple of good fish from the same west shore. After a further change, Alec took to the boat and showed us how to do it with a nice fish from the machair edge, and I soon had one of 24 oz wading in the same area. I also took a couple of smaller fish from the popular west shore in our last hour, but as the wind got up a bit and the temperature dropped the fish stopped moving. Nevertheless, it was a fine way to finish our week fishing the trout lochs of South Uist.
We had a thoroughly enjoyable week in all respects. The fishing was challenging, but I suspect that is the case most of the time on South Uist. A variety of flies caught fish, including the clan chief, gorgeous george (for Alec!), golden olive bumble, Kate McLaren variant, RA green peter and the ubiquitous soldier palmer. Most fish were on size 12 flies, but with 10s working on occasion. The quality of the fish was nothing short of outstanding and the sense of satisfaction in getting one to the net will bring us back to South Uist. We've rebooked!