For the last week in May 2009 a representative sample of the Bude Old Gits Kayak fishing club headed north on their spring migration. Most were sea kayaking near Skye, but Richard and I opted for an 80 mile paddle down the River Tay.We camped the night near Crianlarich after our rendez-vous with my brothers James and Tim and Tim’s chums Callum and George.
The next morning we set off on the insubstantial River Fillan near Crianlarich and within five minutes of departure narrowly avoided being stampeded by a psychotic (or maybe just lost) Aberdeen Angus heifer.
We passed through the shallow Loch Lubhair at the foot of the great bulk of Ben More and into the River Dochart, where we encountered our first major rapid. Nasty and rocky so we portaged.
A canal like section then followed and lulled us into a false sense of security and Callum and George tried to harness a bit of wind power…….
before the river plunged into more wild water. We shot the first section but had a long road portage through Killin to avoid the falls of Dochart.
Coachfuls of Saga holidaymakers looked on quizzically as we dragged our kayaks through the streets of Killin and Tim hurled himself headlong into the main street when he twisted his ankle on the kerb.
Paddling into Loch Tay was simply perfect. Not a breath of wind and crystal clear. We clocked up a few miles then camped right on the shore-idyllic.
The cloud was lowering as we set off the next day with two extra paddlers-Toby and Alexander, but the wind remained light. OK so it rained a bit. I caught 4 or 5 brown trout on my mini jointed Rapala and Rich caught the same number on a Mepps spinner, including fish of the day.We exited the Loch after about five hours of paddling and were thrown straight into a beefy rapid which saw Callum and I have a lengthy swim. When the River Lyon joined up things bacame a bit more sedate and we stopped to investigate a gull colony on an island. In expert Stuka fashion one sprayed me with foul smelling stuff, all over.
Then we were hurled into the renowned Grandtully rapids and somehow I holed my unholeable plastic kayak on a rock and it virtually sank. Instant major depression when I pulled out my wet sleeping bag-what could be worse?
However some positive thinking from Tim, a rubber patch and a nearly empty roll of tape supplied by a semi hippy type called Wes , effected a reasonable repair. We camped at Grandtully and Day 3 brought much more sedate waters.
We even had time to admire the best bluebell display I think I have ever seen:
Campsie Linn heralded the start of the final sequence of white water.
We called it a day at at Stanley weir, after Richard had been consumed by one of the fearsome whirlpools at Campsie. Wes had warned us that a kayaker had once been sucked down by this whirlpool and spat out after a couple of minutes looking like a ‘white puddin’ ‘.
The final day dawned with moans and groans from various tents like a scene from Apocalypse Now. Callum’s bruised thigh, George’s cracked ribs, Tim’s twisted ankle, my left buttock I had thumped on a rock while shooting the weir the previous evening (without kayak).
We mustered up the energy to negotiate the intimidating Hell hole corner before smart detective work by Callum diverted us down a tiny mill leat which took us a couple of miles through thick woodland smelling of garlic.
The designers didn’t have kayaks in mind (they probably hadn’t been invented) and a woman who had lived in the house at the end for ten years said she had never seen anyone paddling in the leat!
Having avoided being sucked into the generator at the end of the leat we rejoined the main river and had an easy final stretch before hauling out for the final time beside the first bridge in Perth.
Just a 600 mile drive home.
TOP TIP: repackage supplies to make them more robust and camping friendly. For example I have repackaged and rebranded a well known single malt , at the same time cutting out all that 80 years old rubbish so that ‘it does what it says on the tin’. (well, sample bottle, to be precise)