Thursday, 16 June 2011

An Inverness-shire Water Bull

In my previous blog about the angler on Loch Ness, it was pointed out to me that there was a water bull story just before it! Unfortunately, the loch is not stated as being Loch Ness but a body of water four miles by two. An inspection of an ordnance survey map may reveal some likely candidates but here is the story:

"In Inverness-shire there are many lovely lakes, and many an hour and day have I passed in fishing on some of these. There was one beautiful lake to which I used sometimes to take net and boat, as well as rod. It was a piece of water about four miles long, and one or two broad ; at one end were two sandy bays, forming regular semicircles, with their beaches covered to a width of a few feet with small pebbles. Between these two bays was a bold rocky promontory running into the lake, and covered with fine old pine trees. Along one side was a stretch of perhaps three miles of grey precipitous rocks nearly covered with birch and hazel, which hung over the water, casting a dark shade on it. The other end of the lake was contracted between the rocks till it was lost to the view, while on the remaining side was flat moorland.

Indeed, the hill side which sloped down to the lake had the name of being haunted, and the waters of the lake itself had their ghostly inhabitant in the shape of what the Highlanders called the water-bull. There was also a story of some strange mermaid-like monster being sometimes seen, having the appearance of a monstrous fish with long hair."

After a bit of grubbing around various maps, I think the most likely candidate for the loch is Loch Duntelchaig which is the biggest "satellite" loch around Loch Ness and lies about 3 miles south east of Dores. It seems it once (or still does) form some of the water supply to Inverness. On an older map the loch is named "Loch Dun Seilcheig". Curiously, "seilcheig" is the gaelic genitive singular form of "seilcheag" which means "snail" or "slug". So this loch would appear to be the "loch of the fort of the slug". There are the remains of an Iron Age fort nearby but we wonder what the word "slug" connates. Ted Holiday and other Nessie invertebrate theory fans would be pleased ....

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Interesting Loch Ness story from 1846

Charles St. John in his 1846 book "Short sketches of the wild sports and natural history of the Highlands" had an interesting experience on Loch Ness:

"I was crossing Loch Ness alone one evening with my rod at the stern of the boat, with my trolling-tackle on it trailing behind. Suddenly it was seized by a large trout, and before I could do anything but take hold of my rod he had run out eighty yards of line, and bent my stiff trolling-rod like a willow, carrying half the rod under water. The loch was too deep for me, and he snapped the line in an instant, the rod and the twenty yards of line which remained jerking back into the air, and sending the water in a shower of spray around. Comparing the strength of this fish with that of others which I have killed when trolling, he must have been a perfect water-monster. Indeed I have little doubt that the immense depths of Loch Ness contain trout as large, if not larger, than are to be found in any other loch in Scotland."

Now I don't fish and I doubt Mr. St. John actually saw the brute he got a hold of if it had already spun out 80 yards of line in seconds. Note that if our intrepid angler had taken five seconds between hearing the line turn and grabbing it, then 80 yards in 5 seconds is an average speed of more than 30 miles per hour.

Clearly he was impressed enough with its strength and speed to class it as something beyond an ordinary trout - in fact he calls it a "water-monster" in Loch Ness!

Perhaps some anglers could enlighten me as to the strength required of a freshwater fish to treat a fishing line like this one. Pretty big would seem to be the answer ...