Loch Katrine – 8 miles long, around a mile wide, and surrounded by slopes clad in marvellous mixed woodland of oak, birch and rowan, backed by mountain peaks with mysterious Gaelic names; Beinn Chabhair (933m), Stob a’Choin (869m) and Ben Venue (727m), to name but a few. The scenery is literally legendary – immortalised by history with its stories of Rob Roy McGregor, the clan uprisings and the ’45 rebellion ; and in the writings of Sir Walter Scott, who featured the region in his novel " Rob Roy " and his poem " The Lady of the Lake ". It’s hard to believe that this picturesque loch is the water supply for industrial Glasgow, and has been since 1859. One of the best ways to appreciate the breathtaking magnificence all around is to take a trip on the pleasure steamer SS Sir Walter Scott, which has been carrying tourists there for 99 years and is described in a popular guide to Scotland as " vintage Victoriana ". This only serves to add to the charm and attraction of Loch Katrine.
Angling is from the boat only, and these are based at Stronaclachar near the western extremity (the Sir Walter Scott leaves from the other end, at Trossachs Pier). Electric outboards are permitted now, though at one time, it was rowing only, and if you had taken a chance and gone down to fish the drifts off Edra or Glasahoile in placid conditions, and a force five westerly had got up, it could have taken four hours to row back to Stronaclachar. Two things will impress the angler, namely the quality of the water, which is gin clear, and the amazing variety in coloration of the brownies, which can be silver, golden or dark, with large spots, small spots or no spots at all. There’s even a strain, sometimes found over a grassy bottom, which displays the olive yellow sheen of a tench and has very few markings. There is certainly no shortage of fish, and they mainly range in size from 10oz to 1lb 8oz . Not monsters, certainly, but they fight like demons, and a floating line – or at most an intermediate – is all that’s required. I learned the art of fishing Katrine from Trossachs angling guru and fly dresser Matt Walker, who is also responsible for some of the more specialist patterns which can do so well on the loch. Here is his advice on the top drifts.
The north shore
Glengyle is a vast area of shallows, and can be difficult to fish after the end of June because of the weed growth. However, it can provide the cream of Katrine’s angling. The drifts off Glengyle boathouse can be productive up to 40 yards offshore. Drifting close to the bank at Portnellon can bring sport, and the area from the point into the bay at Portnellon and past the Highlanders’ Graveyard is a favourite with the regulars. This old cemetery contains the headstones of clan members dating back to the ’45 rebellion, and there is one single stone outside the graveyard which is supposed to be that of an English redcoat – or so legend has it !The rock face at Hangman’s Tree has some deep water which can be worthwhile, while the whole of the shore east of Ferry Bay can be productive, especially close to the overhanging oaks. Schoolhouse Bay, Strone, Edra and Letter all have their moments, but make sure your battery is well charged if you’re coming down this far.
The south shore
Directly opposite Letter is Glasahoile, with a grassy bottom holding plenty of trout and providing several top drifts. Some of the larger browns are often taken here. Heather Bay to the west of Glasahoile is also good; fish the shallows between the two submerged rock markers. Close to the shore between Mid Point and Royal Cottage should bring browns to the flies, while Fiddler’s Bay is always worth a cast or two. Peat Bay can provide reasonable angling, though Osslan Bay is better, being shallow with a grassy bottom.
Top fly patterns
Traditional wet flies in sizes 12 and 14 are often all you need, though if you can get hold of Matt’s specials, they could give you the edge. Bob flies – Kate McLaren, Soldier Palmer, Wickham’s, Black Mini Muddler, Green Tagged Kate McLaren and Gartmore Palmer. Middle dropper – Alexandra, Connemara Black, Greenwells and Gartmore Black ; tail flies – Black Zulu, Professor, Watson’s Fancy, Green Peter, Grouse/Claret, Palmered Peter and Green Professor.
(Matt’s specials are Palmered Peter, Green Professor, Gartmore Black, Green Tagged Kate McLaren and Gartmore Palmer.)
As well as the fly fishing tackle, the main essential is a pair of binoculars, since the whole area abounds with a diversity of wild life. You could see buzzards swooping above the trees, or red and roe deer feeding on the slopes. The woods are full of birds, and top attractions are the pied flycatcher, spotted flycatcher, tree pipit, wood warbler and redstart.
Loch Katrine is not the only angling attraction in the Trossachs, and there are many other picturesque waters to try, mainly for wild browns but also for other species – Lochs Achray, Ard, Arklet, Chon, Drunkie, Lubnaig, Venachar and Voil. And for the non anglers in the family, the area is packed with things to do and see. Apart from the scenery, there are historic sites, castles, a motor museum, pony trekking, mountain biking, sailing and mountain climbing.
Address for booking : W.M.Meikle, Trossachs Fishings, 41 Buchany, Doune ; telephone 01786 841692 or mobile 0850 558869. Season : March 15 to October 6
Tickets : Boat fishing only. £20.00 per boat accommodating 3 anglers. Electric outboards are allowed, and can be hired for £7.00. There are 8 boats available.
Travel tips : It’s a glorious run from the Trossachs village of Aberfoyle along the B829 Stronachlachar road past Loch Ard and Loch Chon until you come to the T junction at Loch Arklet. Turn right here for Stronachlachar and the boats. Please note that you cannot drive around Loch Katrine, but if you fancy a long country stroll, you can ramble right round the perimeter, and I doubt if there is a lovelier walk anywhere in Britain. You can also hire bicycles in the area to do the same thing.
Recommended pubs/eatery : There are many excellent places to find refreshment in the Trossachs area. Two of my favourites are the Lade Inn at Kilmahog ( 01877 330152 ), which you come to after leaving Callander and turning left at Kilmahog heading along the A821 for Loch Venachar ; and the Byre Inn at Brig O’Turk ( 01877 376292 ), from where you can drive alongside Loch Achray before turning right to Loch Katrine, where the Sir Walter Scott waits at Trossachs Pier. Other recommendations : the Altskeith Hotel, beside Loch Ard, 01877 387266 ; Braeval Restaurant, 1 mile outside Aberfoyle, 01877 382711 ;The Forth Inn, Main Street, Aberfoyle, 01877 382372 ; Inverard Hotel, Lochard Road, Aberfoyle, 01877 382229 ; Old Coach House Inn, Main Street, Aberfoyle, 01877 382822 ; Rob Roy Motel, 120 rooms, Aberfoyle, 01877 382245 ; Monachyle Mhor, Balquidder, 01877 384622 ; Bridgend House Hotel, Bridgend, Callander, 01877 330130 ; Highland House Hotel, South Church Street, Callander, 01877 330269 ; The Myrtle Inn, Stirling Road, Callander, 01877 330919 ; Riverside Inn, 8/10 Leny Road, Callander, 01877 331536 ; Roman Camp Hotel, Callander, 01877 330003 ; Sherry’s Restaurant, 114 Main Street, Callander, 01877 331070 ; Black Bull Hotel, Gartmore, 01877 382225 ; Creagan House Restaurant, Strathyre, 01877 384638