Robin Rolfe explains his fowling passion for the northern firths and bays
Popular since Victorian times, the waters around Scotland throng with waterfowl of all species, augmented in winter by hordes of migrants from northern Europe.
The advent of a fast and direct road system has made access relative easy, particularly to the southern firths of the Solway, Tay and other areas south of the Highland line. However the northern coastline of the Moray Firth also features some superb wildfowling areas: Findhorn Bay, Castle Stuart, Munlochy and Nigg Bays to name but a few. A study of the relevant Ordinance Survey maps will reveal many smaller places which, given the right conditions, can produce some red letter flights. Also the Hebrides and Northern Isles are becoming a ‘must visit’ venue with several estates offering some exceedingly good and most memorable wildfowling.
I have been fortunate enough to have spent over half a century fowling on and around some of the Northern Firths, often in the company of that doyen of wildfowlers, Arthur Cadman – sadly now gone to his own Valhalla. He was a great enthusiast for the then relatively little explored tide flighting; given the right conditions this can be a most exciting method of bagging a few ducks. To succeed at this, one must be endowed with an inordinate amount of patience and the usual wildfowlers disregard for cold and discomfort.
“No special equipment is needed, just the normal wildfowling gear, non-toxic shot and, of course, a degree of optimism”
I have found the ideal spot to be a boulder strewn foreshore where a fresh water runnel may emerge from a backdrop of low cliffs to encourage incoming flighting duck, usually wigeon, teal or mallard, to swing down for a drink and preen in fresh water. Combine this with a tide that has a couple of hours to fill, plus a strong wind on a lee shore; enough rocks to make a butt; and a dozen or so decoys anchored out while the tide is flooding, with a length of nylon tethered to the shore thus enabling them to be gathered later. I reckon an hour after high water is prime time. If a little sandy bay can be found then you are often in with a chance.
The duck begin to flight with the rising tide, dropping off at suitable places where food and fresh water can be found, with a modicum of shelter before returning from whence they came as the tide falls, usually further out to sea. Get it right and a modest bag may well be had. No special equipment is needed, just the normal wildfowling gear, non-toxic shot and, of course, a degree of optimism.