Monday, 22 August 2011


Have you heard the old chestnut:-

"What's the most important invention in human history?"

"The Venetian Blind- without which it would be curtains for us all."

Well, I'm afraid the midge net has now taken the crown. We were driving grouse today and although we were having a great day, the last two drives were blighted by midges. It was a warm, overcast day and the light breeze dropped at about 3pm. By 3.15 most of the entourage would have sold their granny for a midge net. I did have a spare in the rover but a) it was parked 500ft down the hill from us and b) what would I do with someone elses nan?

We finished the day with a bag of 198.5 brace. It would have been nice to have made the 200 and I dare say if we'd dallied longer we would have managed to pick them. But I reckon hamstringing would have been the only way you'd have persuaded me to dally.

By the way, the more observant of you might have noticed the pic of me with an exotic looking bird on my arm. Unfortunately it's a curlew.

I came across it on the last grouse drive on Friday. I could see it was a juvenile but I thought it was well enough grown that it should be flying. Luckily, I got to it just ahead of my dogs and as soon as I picked it up I could feel it was nothing but skin and bone.

Where I found it is very close to one of my hill tracks. I remember seeing a pair of curlews regularly in this area in the spring. I also remember thinking it was rather high up for curlew to be nesting, and on a rather dry ridge. I usually see them around the parks and boggy flushes near the floor of the glen.

Whatever the reason, I reckoned this bird was pretty close to death. I also reckoned that I was probably wasting my time to try and help it. But I thought I'd give it a go.

Three days on and I've dug a considerable patch of garden in my search for worms. I've also prowled the lawns at night scanning the damp grass with a torch. (It's another good way of collecting earthworms. Honest.) The curlew scoffs everything that's put in front of it.

I won't say it's out of the woods yet- seeing as it spends its time hiding in the Honeysuckle- but it's a good sign that it's feeding. All I have to do for the time being is- make sure it stays in the fruit garden; make sure the dogs stay out of the fruit garden; and dig about a pound of worms a day.


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Dish Out the Gruel

I just had to share this pic with you.

I had a lot of fun with the guests last week. It's about the only time of year I'm asked to ghillie on the river or loch and, I have to say, it makes a fine change.

It's also the last bit of light relief before we get stuck in with our shooting season proper.

We were driving grouse today. Despite variable winds, nearly being blotted out by mist, heavy rain and occassional onslaughts by midge hordes we still managed 169 brace for our day.

However we've also lost one beater to a badly twisted knee and we have another who might have to drop out for a day or two. He has that many blisters his feet they look like they've been bubble-wrapped.

And after a week of swanning up and down the riverbank, this all-day routemarching that is grouse beating feels just that little bit... er...GRUELLING!

Monday, 8 August 2011

Ground Rush

The days have sped by since my last blog.

Parachuting types talk of 'ground rush' when their hopefully slow and steady downward progress finishes with Planet Earth leaping up at them when they get within 20 feet. We've had the same thing from our shooting season.

In a final flurry of activity, we've sawn, clogged and split enough firewood to restock the bothies and lodge. It should see both through to the end of the stag season (20th Oct). If it doesn't, they can get their own!!

We've also sorted some roads that, although only sorted a fortnight previously, were washed out by recent torrential rain. The way this weather is going, we could be visiting them again before long.

A couple of our ponies have been shod in preparation for some early stalking. I also gave our resident (and panicky) gardener a hand in the lodge garden.

But all this is history as we are now busy with a lodge full of guests. There are a couple of stag stalking parties out each day and perhaps a roe buck stalker too. Others are going out rabbiting, walking and fishing.

As there are no stags on my ground yet, I've been happy to take folk onto the river to try for a salmon.

Yesterday, conditions were perfect. There were also a lot of salmon showing. They were jumping and splashing all over the place- including at ends of my guests rods.

Frustratingly none would grab hold. Then at 6pm one particularly determined young lady hooked into one. And it was a BIG fish.

She played it for half an hour while I assaulted her with a constant deluge of encouragement and advice. Once or twice we thought the fish was starting to tire only to have it turn and strip line off the reel again.

We'd had occassional glimpses of it through the peaty water but when it did decide to show itself, it did it in style. Out of nowhere it made a leap. It was close to us and therefore on a short line. The line parted like cotton.

We stood on that rock, speechless. When we recovered our senses we made a few philisophical noises and packed up.

Truth be told, we were both gutted and didn't have the heart to fish any more that day.