Fishing for ferox in Loch Awe Argyll

Duncan lives in Inveraray and runs Fishinguide Scotland, a guided fishing service providing hassle-free trips to lots of hidden corners of Argyll. Trained as an biologist and then as a teacher, Duncan has found the perfect blend for his skills in guiding. In his posts he'll be sharing his infectious passion for fishing and the wildest kinds of outdoor adventure.

Duncan Pepper

Having packed all my warmest clothes in a bag alongside 12-inch rubber trout, crimps, crimping pliers, lunch, my camera and some 80lb flurocarbon it's time for the off.

Roughly an hour later, after some hairy moments with ice and deer, I pull up to the banks of a mirror-like Loch Awe. Already there before me is my fishing companion with his big bag full of more big floppy trout, warm clothing and 50lb braid.

We jump in a tub with oars and head for the 19ft cuddy cabin which will be our ferox hunting craft for the day. She's fitted with downriggers, 6 rod holders, a huge live well and a 150cc 4 stroke. There's a layer of frost all over the boat's cover, and by the time it's packed away my hands are frozen, but that doesn't matter, in fact nothing matters except our incredible quarry.

Ferox or ferox trout are an ancient strain of Scotland's native brown trout. They tend to live in very deep large lochs where there's a population of bait fish, char seem to be their favourite, but trout, roach, perch, vendace, powan or indeed any fish between 4 and 14 inches will do. There just need to be enough of them to support a population of ferox.

Like char, our ferox have been around for rather a long time. They're pre-ice age, and they've been living out their lives in the depths of our lochs (and those of Ireland, Norway and Sweden) without us knowing much about them since then. A group of ferox focused anglers formed the ferox 85 club in, you guessed it, 1985, and over the following years have been building up a picture of how these ancient fish go about their days.

In order to fish for ferox, you need a boat, lots of specialist equipment and a dogged determination which would make most salmon or steelhead anglers, generally considered a perseverant lot, weep. The method is to troll dead trout or large lures behind your boat at a couple of miles per hour. The average time between fish is 5 days. Yup you read it right, it takes an average of 5 days fishing to catch one ferox. And that's not some 6 hour fishing day, we're talking 12 -13hrs of non-stop trolling. If it's a 15lb plus ferox you're after then ramp that up to more like 15 days.

The flip side however has three rather considerable rewards.

First there's the views - the beautiful snow-capped mountain of Ben Cruachan towers over Loch Awe, which itself has three castles and various crannogs on it. The light is amazing in this place, and the glorious solitude has time to sink in.

Second it's the fish themselves. When you do hook into one they hit the bait like a missile and tear line off the reel sending the boat's residents into heart-thumping, adrenaline charged action to clear all other lines from the hooked fish. Then there's the fight. They are very powerful fish and seem to be lacking the 'think-I'll-give-up-now' gene. Finally when you do set your eyes on a ferox in good condition they can take your breath away with their beauty.

The third reward, rarely spoken of but much thought about, is the little matter of the British brown trout record which currently stands at a precarious 31lbs and 12oz. The person I'm in the boat with today is one of only 3 anglers to have caught a ferox over 30lb, and not just one, he's had two! Nevertheless he isn't the record holder. What's more Loch Awe is the venue where the last 3 records have been taken and undoubtedly houses some record breaking ferox.

Ferox fishing is a kind of beautiful torture. It's like the moment in a horror film where the-tense-music-has-reached its-peak-and-you-know-the-bad-thing-is-going to-happpen-it's-just a-matter-of-when stretched out, over a week.

With eyes on the fish finder we spot what look, judging by where they are, like large trout hanging around under or over shoals of bait fish, but none of them seem to want our offerings, not today at least, but maybe tomorrow.

At 7pm we call it a day and after packing the rods and boat away I trundle home to dream of ferox and set my alarm for 5am.