Welcome to Scottish Fly Fishing
Scottish Anglers are spoiled with the range and wealth of fly fishing available to them. Fly fishing is by far the predominant form of game fishing in Scotland though there are reasonable amounts of bait anglers for trout about too. Scottish Fly fishing is renowned throughout the world, and while there are locations with bigger fish in clearer waters, there is something very special about stalking wild brown trout in the hill lochs, rivers and burns. The angler will often find himself not only contending with the fish but the fickle Scottish weather, that endears it to many.
The traditional Scottish Brown trout season runs from 15th March to 6th October (both dates inclusive), though fishing for non native or Coarse species continues into the winter months. Scottish fly fishing isn’t however limited to the Brown Trout seasonal dates, thus many smaller commercial stillwater fisheries will remain open through winter months allowing anglers to target Rainbow, Blue, Tiger, Brook and Golden Trout. Grayling are classed as a non native “coarse” species so have no closed season though they are a relative of the salmonid family ( Check out the adipose fin!) . No rule exists in Scotland like in England permitting Brown Trout fishing in closed waters. Browns are strictly off limits out of season. Coarse fishing ( other than Pike fishing) is largely a niche activity in Scotland though a number of commercial waters now exist catering to this market.
The variety of Scottish fly fishing is immense, at one extreme you have wild burns ( streams) that run off the Scottish hills, each hill will have two or three burns often harbouring a population of wild Brown Trout. Usually three to a pound but the odd bigger fish lurks there to surprise the angler. At the other end of the scale you have the big salmon rivers, the Tay, Tweed, Spey, Dee, Annan, Forth and Clyde along with numerous smaller waters, which can cater for anglers keen on pursuing the Atlantic Salmon, often considered by many the King of Fish. Unfortunately many of these bigger rivers ( especially the private beats) do not offer Brown Trout fishing on a stand alone basis though undoubtedly they are home to some specimen fish. Salmon dates vary by river, some open early January and some close as late as the end of November. It’s also worth noting many rivers opt to start their Trout seasons on the 1st April and close on the 30th September ( notably the Tweed).
A little about the law
Most Salmon rivers are covered by what is known as a protection order and this affects when the Trout angler can fish. All waters with Salmon in covered by a protection order, are off limits on a Sunday even when not targetting the species. There are some exceptions where fishing with light gear ( 4lb tippet) might be permitted on a Sunday as its unlikely you would land a Salmon on this, but assume it’s not allowed and take pleasure where you find you can get out with such a restriction ( one of my local rivers- the Carron near Denny allows Sunday fishing for trout in Salmon inhabited water, with light tackle requirements) To be honest there isn’t much need to fish rivers for trout with line heavier than 4lb anyway. Some notable exceptions in sections of Salmon river where Salmon cannot reach like the Upper Clyde escape this ruling but the same protection order also means it is illegal to start fishing these rivers without a permit even for trout, even if the intent is to buy a permit if approached by a bailiff.
Grayling fishing varies by river and by the effect of Salmon season dates. Also no rivers north of the Tay system have Grayling in. Pike too have no closed season, Pike are regarded a coarse species, and its hard to say if they are truely native to Scotland, but many anglers target these predatory fish on the fly throughout the year.
For the stillwater angler there is even more scope. There are commercial fisheries almost everywhere though the Central Scotland area around Stirling seems to have the lions share of the top commercial waters, with Lake of Menteith, Carron Valley ( Scotlands nearest thing to a Grafham or Rutland) , Linlithgow Loch plus numerous smaller waters all within a radius of about 17 miles. Wilder waters however predominate, from the huge wild lochs of Shin, Ness, Arkaig and Lomond to tiny hill lochs perched well above sea level, all housing mostly wild fish from 3 to half a pound size to the giant Ferox. Many also provide home to the Char though you will be challenged to catch one on a fly. Don’t overlook Scotland’s islands either, Scottish fly fishing for trout exists on nearly every island from the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland to Bute and Islay and Jura in the south. Scottish fly fishing has anglers visit Scotland year after year and you would be hard pushed to become jaded with the variety.