Scotland, with its close proximity to the ocean and hundreds of lochs and rivers, has long been an angler’s haven. As the most mountainous country in the UK, Scotland is inarguably one of the most scenic places to go for outdoor water sports like fishing. In recent years, fly-fishing has gained popularity for catching salmon and trout. In fact, spinning and fly-fishing are the most common methods for angling in Scotland.
Angling is a relaxing sport and should give one the chance to commune with nature peacefully. Finding a fishing spot that is not already overrun by tourists and locals alike can be difficult, but it is not impossible. Read on to learn more about the best little-known, or off the beaten path fishing spots in Scotland.
The Best Off the Beaten Path Fishing Spots in Scotland
1. Loch Drunkie
Loch Drunkie is located within the Trossachs National Park near Aberfoyle in Stirling. It sits to west of Dun na Beinne which rises to 199 metres and is a part of the Ben Lomond range. The drive from Duke’s Pass to Loch Drunkie is a lovely, winding path with abundant woodland wildlife including deer, red squirrels, various birds and the occasional osprey.
At 1.6 kilometres in length and 0.32 kilometres in width, Loch Drunkie has a maximum depth of 30 metres. Often overlooked for the larger lochs of the Trossachs, Loch Drunkie, with its overhanging trees and calm black waters offer picturesque views year-round. Its seclusion and small size make for relaxing bank fishing, and its main inhabitant is the brown trout. Fishing is open from 15 March to 6 October and you can get fishing permits for here.
2. Loch Maree
Tucked deep in the Highlands of Achnasheen in the northwest, Loch Maree is Scotland’s fourth largest freshwater loch. It is over 20 kilometres long, 4 kilometres at its widest point and up to 110 metres deep. It contains over 66 small islands within its 26.8 square kilometres. One of these islands, Isle Maol Rubha, still has remnants of an 8th century chapel, graveyard and holy well. Legend says the waters of Loch Maree could cure lunacy, and patients would drink from the well and plunge into the loch in hopes of returning to good health.
Today, the Loch Maree Hotel in Talladale controls most of the fishing of the Loch. Brown trout and sea trout are plentiful and respond most to flies. Larger fish tend to be fond of natural bait and the dappling technique. Salmon prefer the wet fly and are more plentiful near the waters that feed into Loch Maree.
Loch Maree is also a prime breeding ground to the black-throated diver that feeds on trout and salmon. It is believed that up to 6% of the bird’s population resides here. Other wildlife spotted around the loch include golden eagles and otters.
3. The River Deveron
Beginning above the Cabrach and flowing over 96 km where it reaches the sea in Banff, the River Deveron runs over shingle and rock through the countryside. It is usually bypassed in favour of its larger and more famous neighbours, the River Spey and the River Dee. This makes it a prime off the beaten path fishing spot for anyone looking for some solitude.
Fed by both the Rivers Blackwater and Bogie, the River Deveron holds the record for the largest fly-caught salmon in the entire UK. The salmon are plentiful as soon as the season opens on 11 February, and proliferate in the higher beats. Brown trout in excess of 5 pounds can be found in April and May while the sea trout run at the end of May and can weigh up to 7 pounds. Summer salmon can be upwards of 18 pounds, and at the back end of the season, up to 40 pounds. Both fly fishing and spinning are popular techniques on the River Deveron.
There are quite a few different beats along the Deveron, allowing for many choices for angling. Wading is fairly easy along most of the river, and most controlled banks are well-maintained to allow for walking between pools. Some even offer web-cams for live views of the fishing conditions on any given day.
4. Loch Arklet
Lying in the shadows of Loch Katrine in the Trossachs National Park, Loch Arklet is a lesser-known and therefore, less visited loch in the Trossachs. Fly-fishing for brown trout is the most popular game in Arklet, but coarse fishing for pike and perch is also abundant. Only electric boats, no petrol-powered motors, are allowed in this loch.
Loch Arklet is 4 kilometres long and 0.80 kilometres wide with a maximum depth of 100 metres. It is easily accessible by Inversnaid Road from Aberfoyle and Milton. Feral goats roam the area surrounding Arklet, and osprey can be found hunting near the banks. Fishing permits can be found here.
5. The River Bladnoch
The River Bladnoch empties into the Wigtown Bay of the Irish Sea flowing from Loch Maberry in South Ayershire. Salmon and sea trout are most abundant in the river, but it is also a good source of brown trout and pike. The River Bladnoch holds the record for the largest salmon caught in 1972 at 34 pounds.
It yields about 200 salmon per season with the majority of those taken between February and May. It is illegal to fish salmon on Sunday on the River Bladnoch. As an interesting side note, the River Bladnoch is the water source used for the Bladnoch Distillery, the southernmost scotch distillery in Scotland.
Know the Rules
Before planning any angling adventure, do some research and know the local rules and ordinances. These can vary by loch or river and by season. For example, bait-fishing with dead bait, worms or maggots is only allowed during certain times of the year, and fishing with live course bait is never allowed. Likewise, both salmon and trout fishing is sometimes forbidden on Sundays. Knowing this information before embarking on a fishing adventure is advantageous in saving time and money.
For a general overview of the rules for all water users in Scotland, check out the Using Inland Water Responsibly: Guide for all Water Users. Scotland’s Outdoor Access Code covers things like respecting the privacy of local residents, respecting others on the water, and being aware of surroundings. Respecting wildlife and leaving the area used as undisturbed as possible are also covered.
In most situations, an angling licence or permit will be required. Information on fees associated with such licencing and where to acquire one can be found here. If fishing in the Trossachs National Park, this table includes seasons, types of fish, restrictions on each loch or river and where to obtain a licence or permit.
Often times, permits and licences can be purchased at angling shops or post offices located in villages near the lochs. These shops sell and sometimes let equipment, if needed.
Off The Beaten Path Fishing Experience in Scotland
Finding a tranquil area to fish in Scotland amongst the ancient Scot pines, munros and craggy lochs can be a relaxing, peaceful and serene experience if care is taken to follow the regulations. Scotland offers breathtaking views of stunning scenery and escaping the crowded, more popular fishing spots enhances the experience. It is an experience that cannot easily be duplicated elsewhere in the world.