Going Fishing in Scotland? Read These Guide Tips First!

There’s something romantic about the idea of strolling a stream bed in the pre-dawn mist, your fly rod whistling through the still air as you cast. When you imagine that scene in Scotland, with its picture-perfect vistas of green highlands and wild oceans – well, it just doesn’t get any better. If you’re an avid angler, then Scotland should definitely be on your ‘Must Visit/Bucket’ list. When you get there, be sure to hire a guide for three simple reasons: they know the best locations, where the best fishing is, and how to catch Scottish fish. Further to that, it’s a good idea to find a guide with a Scottish Game Angling Instructor’s Certificate as they’re the ones who are qualified instructors, are insured and know best how to take care of their guests and get them on fish. A guide such as Duncan Pepper, for example. He’s a native Scot and the owner of Fishinguide Scotland and he has lots of experience fishing and teaching. We asked him what one needs to know about fishing in Scotland to ensure the perfect trip and here are his seven pointers:

1. Scotland is small but full of rivers that are easily accessible

The Scots are Celts and in ancient Celtic mythology all water, but especially rivers, were worshipped as places of the highest spiritual and cultural value. We have many different names for those rivers: A ‘water’ might refer to a loch or a small river, a ‘burn’ is used for smaller streams and can be found in such place names as Coalburn and Bannockburn; and the Gaelic term Abhainn, which is anglicised as “Avon,” denotes a larger river. For a country that’s less than 79,000 square kilometres in size, there are over a 6,000 rivers and around 6,00 lakes (lochs) on the mainland and Scottish Isles. (Not to mention the 16,500km of saltwater coastline.)  The fact that Scotland is small, means it’s all easily accessible in less than a full day’s travel.

2. Prepare for every weather

There’s an expression in Scotland that goes, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 20 minutes.” One of the consequences of being perched between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea is exciting weather. It can be sunny and warm one minute and cold and raining the next. In order to fully appreciate your day on the water, be sure to prepare for the cold and the damp (and pack your sunscreen).

3. Plan to fish for the genetic granddaddy of trout

Our wild brown trout are stunningly beautiful and the genetic source of most of the world’s brown trout. They’re native to Scotland but were introduced in North and South America, Asia, Australasia, and South Africa in the 1800s by intrepid anglers. There’s a reason they wanted this fish in particular to travel around the globe with them – they’re one of the most sporting species on earth. In fact, Scotland’s sea run brown trout are the equivalent of the North American Steelhead and will indeed be your favourite fish while you’re here. You’ll be amazed by the gleaming bars of silver you can catch, especially if they’re fresh run! However before you can enjoy that view, you’re going to have to use all your skill, stealth and guile to bring ‘em in.

4. Then plan to fish for salmon

Fishing for salmon is imperative in Scotland. Like a golfer visiting St. Andrews, anglers come to this country to catch salmon because Scotland is Salmon fly fishing’s rightful home. One of our rivers – the Spey, lent its name to the now world famous technique of two handed fly casting, and spey rods and lines now rule the roost for many fly anglers from Patagonia to Alaska and Russia to New Zealand, who hunt big salmonids.

The author (left) with another satisfied client

5. But don’t forgo the other species

Saltwater fly fishing has recently become popular here and you can catch powerful pollack, plentiful mackerel and beautiful ballan wrasse on the fly or using lures. (Just be careful of the latter as they’re gnashers can bite through shells. Watch your fingers!)

6. You’ve heard of the Lochs. Now it’s time to fish them.

The most popular fly fishing practice among the Scots themselves is fishing for trout from a drifting boat in a loch. “Loch” is Gaelic word which means a lake or sea inlet, and yes, you can fish for salmon, trout and pike in the world-famous Loch Ness!  We use traditional Scottish wet flies, with names like the ‘Goats toe’ or ‘Soldier palmer’  to seduce the trout, and the techniques are steeped in tradition.

7. Hire a fishing guide

We’ll be more than happy to teach you those techniques, and get you fighting a lively Scottish fish on light tackle. We’ll also take you to some spectacular locations and after instruction you’ll have some new skills to try on your fish back home.

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