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Scotland’s Trout Fishing

Our resident Scottish expert Lesley Crawford gives her thoughts on fishing for trout in Scotland, with an insight into her tackle choices and recommendations.

It struck me with some force recently that I have now had the pleasure of enjoying over 50 years of Scottish trout fishing in all its glory. Over the coming months I will share some of this lengthy but happy experience with you in more detail but in this first article for I would like to give you a general taster of what is on offer.

Put simply, Scotland has over 35,000 freshwater lochs along with several hundred of rivers most of which contain trout. With such an abundance of fishable water it is little wonder Scotland has a huge history of angling stretching right back to the 1700s. To me this forms part of its intrinsic appeal; knowing that you follow in the footsteps of the angling greats like W C Stewart and Tom Stoddart should only add to the excitement.

The good thing is that even though many anglers may have fished your chosen wild water in the past, it never seems like that and you feel very much that you are discovering the fishing for the first time. It’s interesting too that during the 1800s the Victorians strongly believed that by stocking a water with brown trout it would improve it, so genetically speaking not all waters contain pure native trout. However , this past detail by no means detracts from the quality of the lovely speckled browns we fish for today though it does explain something about the very diverse markings you can encounter.

Trout Fishing in Loch Watten

Trout Fishing in Loch Watten

Today most of Scotland’s brown trout angling remains inexpensive and easily accessible and all you will need is a day ticket and/or boat hire; rod licenses in Scotland are not required. Stocked rainbow fisheries can be on the pricey side but brownie fishing remains comparatively cheap. With so much quality brown trout water on offer where to start is often a perennial problem for visiting anglers. As an easy rule of thumb assume with some conviction that the further north you travel the more `wild’ the trout fishing becomes.

Today the central belt of Scotland is mainly given over to commercial rainbow trout fisheries in lochs large and small some of which are also stocked with browns, however it is worthwhile remembering that various lowland rivers notably the Tweed and Clyde and their tributaries have good fishing for brown trout.

One of the principal brown trout lochs in the central belt is Loch Leven famed for its much prized silvery `Leven’ trout which in the 1800s were used to stock waters as far away as New Zealand and South Africa. Sadly this illustrious water does not now fish like it did in the past and today presents extremely difficult and dour angling.

As you move north from the Glasgow/Edinburgh area on the arterial A9 which forms the backbone of Scotland, first to catch the eye are the renowned rivers of the Tay and Tummel in Perthshire. These rivers hold excellent brown trout while over on the east coast the River Don in Aberdeenshire is a superbly challenging trout stream as is the Spey particularly in its upper reaches.

Going north the amount of good loch trout fishing increases with every mile. The central Highlands particularly in the Inverness-shire area have renowned trout waters like Ruthven. Branch out west and fish the many lochs and lochans of the west coast from Oban to Mallaig and then on to Gairloch, Lochinver, Scourie and Durness. It may take you a lifetime to fish all the lochs there but once hooked on these beautiful remote areas it is hard to leave. Take a ferry to the Islands of Mull, Skye or anywhere on the Inner and Outer Hebrides and it’s the same story, a zillion trout lochs and not enough time to fish them all!

Trout Fishing in Loch Tummel

Trout Fishing in Loch Tummel

Eventually you will arrive at Mecca itself in the form of the northern Highlands. Ok the counties of Caithness and Sutherland happen to be my home patch but for excellent diverse trout fishing there are no finer places except perhaps for Orkney and Shetland, my closest island neighbours.

As you can see the abundance of available trout fishing is indisputable, what to bring must be your next consideration. While it is true that Scottish trout river and loch tactics do differ you can customise your kit quite a bit. Basically you can operate with reasonable success on either water flowing or still with a light 9ft to 10ft rod along with a reel with two spools, one for a WF floater and one for a ghost tip line. Ghost tip lines (sometimes known as midge tips) are often more effective than all out intermediate or sinking lines, the only exception I have found in this is the Cortland blue slow sink intermediate line which is very effective for high (deeper) water conditions in both rivers and lochs. 4lb and 5lb BS leader is the norm, personally I always use monofilament over fluorocarbon as it does not tangle as much in high winds.

A broad selection of traditional wet and dry flies along with some weighted nymphs is enough to get you started. Some multipurpose wet flies to include are the Black Pennel, Zulu, Kate McLaren, Butcher and Soldier Palmer in sizes 10 to 14 and catch all dry flies include the Wickhams Fancy, the Adams and most brown Sedge patterns again in 10`s to 14`s. Favourite nymphs are the Hares Ear and those black Shell Back nymphs in size 12 and 14.

In my next article we will look at some specific situations in Scottish trout fishing garnered over 50 years of angling so until then, tight lines!….

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