OB226 “Iolair”

A change in the law  and a new boat

Photo 101

OB 226 “Iolair” off the coast at Fascadale

Up until midsummer 1975 it was legal in Scotland to catch salmon using “monofilament” gill nets. These were curtains of fine, and almost invisible mesh that stretched out from the coast for 100 metres or so. These nets were light and easy for a boat with two crew to work and quite feasible for a single person. They were a very efficient way to catch lots of fish. In 1975 they were made illegal, after pressure from the river angling industry


In the years immediately before the 1975 monofilament ban Fascadale had worked three bagnets and one monofilament net using the “Wee Coble” as seen in the 1975 photos The bagnets worked were the “Bay Net”, “Kilmory Point” and “Kilmory Inside”  The monofilament net was called “Kate’s Net” in honour of the Macleod’s first grandchild. It was behind the bothy.

About 2.5 miles to the east of Fascadale are the Ockle net positions. Prior to the acquisitions of Fascadale’s new salmon cobles in 1912 the Ockle nets were probably fished by a rowing coble based with its crew in the Ockle Bothy. After 1912 these nets were more likely fished by one of the new motor cobles based at Fascadale. The state of dereliction of the Ockle Bothy, even in 1975 indicated that it had not been used for many many years

There were no bagnets fished at Ockle in the years immediately before 1975. A local man, Bob Fjortoft worked three monofilament nets at the three net positions there: “Ockle Point”, Ockle Inside” and the “East Net”.  He worked these nets alone using a 15 foot wooden Norwegian “Rana” boat. He used fishing gear supplied by Fascadale; he brought his catch to Fascadale for packing and dispatch but he provided his own boat which he kept on a mooring in Kilmory Bay.

After the 1975 monofilament gill net ban the fishing effort was reduced to three bagnets, the three nearest Fascadale being fished that year with the wee coble and a crew of two. There was no fishing at Ockle

1975 was a good season for Fascadale. The three nets caught about 1750 fish. There was a feeling of optimism about the place.

The “wee coble” was too slow and too small to get up and down the coast to the Ockle nets in even Ardnamurchan’s summer weather. If the Ockle nets were to be fished bigger boat was needed.

In 1975 the 26ft coble, OB209, the one  now on display at Fascadale, was laid up in one of the boatsheds. This boat had no engine: her Petrol Paraffin Kelvin “Poppet” had been removed years before. That summer work started to re engine OB209 but this was abandoned as “much too difficult” and the decision was made, supported by the good catch that year, to buy a new boat.

Photo 704

OB 209 on her return to Fascadale in 2021

OB226 “Iolair” was a 30 ft brand new fibreglass boat, probably the first seagoing plastic coble. She was built by J Sellars and Sons, Macduff. The new boat was very heavily built and said to be the same weight as a wooden equivalent.  She was powered by a marinized Leyland Commander diesel, water cooled, and with a big fuel tank tucked away under the foredeck. She was delivered by road to Mallaig in the early summer of 1976 and then motored down to Fascadale by Rhoddy Macleod and one of his new crew for that year, Mike Barrett. Mike describes the arrival of “Iolair” in his book about the fishing “The Leaper”

© The Sellars Family

OB226 “Iolair” in build by J Sellars and Sons, Macduff. Patrick and Johnny Sellars in the foreground, with their dad. the boss, looking over the side. When Patrick saw some of the more recent photos, of “Iolair” he was delighted at its condition. Fibreglass was new then “We were making it up as we went along ” he said.

OB226 “Iolair” was a big enough and fast enough sea boat to get safely to the furthest of the Ockle nets. With the purchase of some new bagnets, and with the new boat in 1976 six bagnets were fished: the Fascadale Bay net, the two Kilmory nets, the two Ockle nets and the Ockle East net’

The new boat was big and heavy. She needed a crew of four.

Photo 101

OB 226 “Iolair” in the Fascadale boatshed, late 1970s