Pure sporting paradise awaits in the middle of a remote Highland loch.
Unlike the gin-clear waters of southern chalkstreams, where trout are visible and access is easy, Scotland’s wilderness offers endless mystery that remains untouched.
The Highlands and Islands hold thousands of lochs and rivers that few of us have ever fished. A plethora of fish-themed films and articles entice anglers to jet off to faraway lands, however we often forget what is in our own backyard.
Although we may not match the leviathans of New Zealand, Iceland and Jurassic Lake, Scotland boasts some of the most beautiful, secluded and, more importantly, wild fly fishing in the world. We all yearn for that fish ‘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. Plus, there is more to fishing than just fish.
I have been lucky enough to find some of these truly spectacular wild trout lochs, where time stands still and that first glimpse over the final summit takes your breath away. Your imagination runs wild wondering what is under the surface, and whether this is the trip that you’ll 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 I still put in a few extra bits to cover for all eventualities. Taking the right kit is essential for success – as is making sure you can physically get to your destination.
Up until fairly recently, hill lochs could only be fished from the bank, which, in some places, is no curse, allowing you to cover drop offs and reed beds. But this is all well and good, until you see that fish. It’s as if time slows as the fish’s back breaches the water, leaving a heavy wave riffling across the surface towards you, making your heart race. Typically, this fish is well out of casting range and short of diving in after it, there is no way to cover it.
The answer is float tubing. Although carrying one on your back for hours across Scotland seems crazy, it allows you to fish water you wouldn’t have even attempted in the past. One of the great advantages of having a float tube is being able to drift out on the water away from the most feared beast of the hill, 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 witnessing one of my fishing companions drifting across the loch while fast asleep, it’s safe to say it’s extremely relaxing too. Perfect control using fins allows you to sit true in the wind, covering all the likely lies and cliff faces that would otherwise have never been fished. Who knows what might be lying there.
Find a water system of lochs and connecting rivulets that you can follow for the day. Drift one loch, walk the river, drift another loch, walk the river, flicking your fly in as you go. These trips are quite simply the best way to spend a day catching peppy wild brownies from ½lb to 1lb and, if you’re fortunate, even bigger. Although not the largest trout, they fight with a zip that defies their meagre weight, and have the most vivid and stunning vermilion and black peppercorn markings, depending on the type of water.
Scotland’s remote hill has freshwater lochs of all shapes and sizes. Some no bigger than a tennis court, others large enough to lose yourself on for a whole day with a rod in hand. All, however, possess intoxicating charm. Generally, a 3 to 5wt rod is more than sufficient to make fighting these fish great sport, and should you encounter a bigger fish, really good fun. But be wary, when float tubing a small deep loch last summer I witnessed an 8wt rod being bent double, before the fish broke the nylon. If it is size you’re looking for, I can assure you that somewhere beneath those ripples is the trout of your dreams.
For me, however, the size of the fish is irrelevant. Catching some of the most beautiful trout in the world accompanied by a couple of friends, while surrounded by unimpaired, magical scenery, is what fishing these remote lochs is all about.
Losing yourself is not to be lost, but to leave everything behind and explore an untainted wilderness, which, to most, remains a mystery. Fly fishing offers our minds an escape unlike any other, and the untamed landscape is the auditorium of trout fishing that many only dream of. Our backyard has some of the most dramatic and striking places to fish on earth – all you have to do is find them.