Unlike the gin clear waters of Southern chalk streams where trout can be visible and access is easy, Scotland’s wilderness offers endless mystery that remains untouched.
The highlands and islands hold hundreds of lochs and rivers that few of us have ever fished. A plethora of fish obsessive films and articles encourage anglers to far off lands, which tease and entice us to travel, however we forget what is in our own backyard.
Although we may not match the leviathans of New Zealand, Iceland and Jurassic Lake, Scotland holds some of the most beautiful, secluded and, more importantly wild fly fishing in the world. We all search for that fish that as the poem says “Will be so large that not even I will have to lie about it afterwards,” but fish size is comparable to that of the water you’re fishing not to the fish of your dreams. What we need to understand is that there is more to fishing than just fish.
I have been lucky enough to have found some of these truly spectacular wild trout lochs, where time stands still and that first glimpse over the final summit just takes your breath away. Your imagination runs wild wondering just what is under the surface and could this be the trip that we finally find out.
Reaching these outer extremities is no walk in the park, however there are no limits when it comes to the ultimate exploration. Nothing is unobtainable and nowhere too far.
Gone are the days when I would carry almost every bit of tackle I owned regardless of whether I needed it or not. Having said this of course we would still put in a few extra bits to cover us for all eventualities. Taking only the right kit is essential for success and making sure you can physically get to your destination.
Up until fairly recently hill lochs could only be fished from the bank in wellies or the brave wet wader, which, in some places is not a bad way to fish, covering drop offs and reed beds. This is all well and good until you see that fish. It’s as if time slows and the fish’s back breaches the water leaving a heavy wave riffling across the water towards you, making your heart race. Of course this fish is well out of casting range and short of diving in after it, there is no way to reach it.
The answer is float tubing. Although carrying one on your back for hours across Scotland seems crazy, although it allows you to fish water you wouldn’t have even attempted in the past. With multiple pockets and clips these floating armchairs mean all your kit can be carried and most importantly, take lunch on your back with little more effort than a back pack. One of the great advantages of having a float tube is being able to get out on the water away from the most feared beast, the Scottish Midge. Pure paradise awaits in the middle of any loch on a calm day.
Once on the water it is the most glorious feeling and after watching one of my fishing companions drifting fast asleep across the loch, I think extremely relaxing too. Perfect control using the fins provided allows you to sit true in the wind, covering all the lies and cliff faces that would never have been fished, who knows what might be lying there.
Find a water system of fishing lochs and rivers that you can follow throughout the day. Drift one loch, walk the river, drift another loch, walk the river and have an occasional cast on the way. These trips are just the best way to spend a day catching brownies from half a pound to one pound and if you really lucky, even bigger. Although not the largest trout they put up a great fight and have the most stunning markings dependant on the type of water.
Generally a three to five weight rod is more than sufficient to make fighting these fish great sport and should you encounter a bigger fish really good fun. Be careful though and always take a spare as when fishing a small deep loch while floating tubing I witnessed an eight weight rod being bent double and the fish breaking the nylon. If it is size you are looking for, I can assure you that somewhere beneath the rippling surface there could be the fish of your dreams.
All these waters vary and I learnt that the size of the water has no bearing on the size of the fish, and for me, the size of the fish does not make the trip. Being able to catch some of the most beautiful trout in the world accompanied by a couple of friends, being surrounded by nothing but unimpaired, magical Scotland, is what fishing in these remote lochs is all about.
Losing yourself is not to be lost but to leave everything behind and explore an untainted wilderness which remains mysterious to many. I believe that fly fishing offers our minds an escape unlike any other and the untamed landscape can offer trout fishing many only dream of. Our backyard holds some of the most dramatic and beautiful places to fish on earth. All you have to do is find them.