Fly Fishing the Hidden Lochs of the Highlands

Fish & Fly Team

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Fly Fishing the Hidden Lochs of the Highlands

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Nestled deep in the cols and ice-gouged corries of the North-West Highlands of Scotland are a myriad of wild lochs waiting to be discovered by the adventurous fly angler. Away from their roadside brethren who can offer great sport, but also often suffer from summertime assaults by day-trippers and holiday-makers armed with spinners and worms, a hike over the hills and peat-bogs will reveal hidden lochs and lochans glistening like jewels amongst the sombre tones of heather, bog-grass, granite and gneiss for those willing to get tired and dirty in pursuit of truly wild fish in wild places.

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Travelling light but keeping warm and dry – Editor Paul Sharman hikes the hill lochs in Wester Ross.

I took one such trip right at the end of the season last September up into the mountains of Wester Ross. It was probably less than an hours hike from the small single-track road where I left my car, but a steep ascent over rough lichen-covered rocky outcrops and the soft boggy ground in-between, flecked with the white heads of cotton-grass, soon had this Sussex sassenach huffing and puffing. The views from the high points along the way though were worth the effort and of course the first site of water glinting down in one of the hollows was enough to give me a boost of energy once more and I scrambled on with a renewed vigour and excitement.

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A dour late September day in the highlands, but the views were still worth it.

The majority of the trout in these waters are small but on the right day can be very willing as they are often hungry and looking out for any terrestrial food items falling on the water. In amongst them though there is always the chance of one or two larger fish so be prepared. It is the beauty of the different markings of these native brown trout that fascinate me and I know many others too. Even between neighbouring waters they can often look strikingly different with hardly any red spots or lots of them, small spots or large, and can be anywhere from quite silvery in appearance to my favourite, the beautiful butter-bellied and olive-brown backed variety, to almost completely dark.

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A beautifully spotted wild hill loch brown trout with a hint of yellow on the belly.

As it was just a day hike I was travelling with a sling-pack (have to say I am a big fan of my Orvis one as it is so easy to access everything in it without having to keep taking it off each time) my rod and a net, thats it. Waders and a waterproof fishing jacket are necessities of course, both for the inevitable rain and mist at that time of year as well as the yomping over the sodden peat bogs and a little wading in the larger lochs if necessary. In terms of flies, big and bushy often works a treat if there is a little breeze and the fish are looking up – I was using a sedge-hog which you can just make out in the photo above. Otherwise a good selection of traditional wet flies like zulus, invictas and mallard and clarets still work just as they have always done, either singly or as a team of 2 or 3. If you are fishing a team of flies it is not unusual to get some competition for the flies if you find some fish and a double or even a triple hookup is possible.

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A double hookup of very silvery brown trout from the corner of one little hill loch where fish were rising.

This is pure fun fishing, the epitome of ‘getting away from it all’ whether fishing solo like me or sharing the experience with a friend or two. It is likely you will have your water all to yourself but in the (very) unlikely event someone else has beaten you to it, where there is one hill loch there are likely to be others in close proximity so do your homework before and go prepared with a map. Talking about preparation, safety is key also – so particularly if you are heading out alone, be sure to let someone know where you are going in case of any mishap. It is easy to slip, trip or fall on such treacherous ground – I’ve done it and had a very lucky escape in the past which brought home to me how important it was. Be safe!



Also, please be legal. Although many of these hill lochs look like they are on open ground they are in fact on sporting estates, and/or perhaps a local fishing association has the fishing rights so be sure to check locally first whether you need to buy a ticket or seek permission from the landowner before fishing. Most of this information can be found online these days with a search, but of course you have two of the best fly fishing information resources at your fingertips – our UK Fly Fishing Forums at www.flyfishing.co.uk where it is very likely someone will know about the area you want to fish and can fill you in on the details you need to know, and our Where To Fish resource which has a great starting point for your research with a listing of estates with fishing in the Highlands.

Best of luck and tight lines for 2017.

Paul Sharman.



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easker1

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My on line Guide to the Lochs of The Gairloch area is still about according to fishtales , I have been fishing out of the way lochs for many years and I am now 80, nothing new then, easker1
 

eddleston123

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I am happy catching 'bandies' in Highland Loch. Today was the first day of my river season, my first fish was just over 18'' and fat (mild winter?). As far as weight is concerned probably a p.b. for this stream. I have reached the stage were an 8'' fish gives me as much pleasure as the one I caught today. You can believe this or not.

Your single word post suggests a hint of sneering, at catching these small fish.

Everyone to their own.




Douglas
 

easker1

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bandies it is then , but bandies are on the way to bigger fish, I like to fish and I am prepared to catch bandies if it gets me out fishing, the bigger fish come later,:whistle: easker1
 

ohanzee

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Your single word post suggests a hint of sneering, at catching these small fish.

Its the idea of walking past those easy access roadside lochs, walking a mile or so over the hill to catch...the same bandy's you can catch in the roadside lochs:D

Bandy's, Scotland's bounteous natural resource, every loch, ditch and drain, a testimony to leaving nature to its own devices, but lets face it, after 10, 20, 30 and the realisation that they just keep coming no matter what you do, challenge sort of drops from the experience, bandy's are not a fishing prize, they are the consolation.

Let me put another angle on it, I don't fish our more remote areas to catch bandy's, I can do that 10 mins away, I go to get lost in the vastness, wake up to a sound that is distinctly wild and leave my fate in whatever the weather or terrain throws, its a walk, rest and walk with one eye on bits of water that appear on the horizon, its the camp and discovering there is more luxury in having just what you need rather than a packed fridge, its also a slice of Bourach's coffee, a map, and the ambitious target you set yourself in the pub the night before, the people you meet along the way, a place that has something we have forgotten we need, the finding and the getting on with it on my own terms, something fishing once was and seems to be loosing, bandy's are just the ever present company.
 

eddleston123

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Its the idea of walking past those easy access roadside lochs, walking a mile or so over the hill to catch...the same bandy's you can catch in the roadside lochs:D

Bandy's, Scotland's bounteous natural resource, every loch, ditch and drain, a testimony to leaving nature to its own devices, but lets face it, after 10, 20, 30 and the realisation that they just keep coming no matter what you do, challenge sort of drops from the experience, bandy's are not a fishing prize, they are the consolation.

Let me put another angle on it, I don't fish our more remote areas to catch bandy's, I can do that 10 mins away, I go to get lost in the vastness, wake up to a sound that is distinctly wild and leave my fate in whatever the weather or terrain throws, its a walk, rest and walk with one eye on bits of water that appear on the horizon, its the camp and discovering there is more luxury in having just what you need rather than a packed fridge, its also a slice of Bourach's coffee, a map, and the ambitious target you set yourself in the pub the night before, the people you meet along the way, a place that has something we have forgotten we need, the finding and the getting on with it on my own terms, something fishing once was and seems to be loosing, bandy's are just the ever present company.


I understand what you are saying, but, as an angler, would you embark on these wilderness expeditions in the first place, if there was no fish in the lochs at all.

I suspect you fish these Scottish lochs many more times than me in a year. I am restricted to one, perhaps a couple of visits a year and I look forward to the change from my normal mode of fishing.

On another subject, where did the ridiculous word 'Bandy' originate?


Douglas
 

ohanzee

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I understand what you are saying, but, as an angler, would you embark on these wilderness expeditions in the first place, if there was no fish in the lochs at all.

I suspect you fish these Scottish lochs many more times than me in a year. I am restricted to one, perhaps a couple of visits a year and I look forward to the change from my normal mode of fishing.

On another subject, where did the ridiculous word 'Bandy' originate?


Douglas

I think you would have to ask Bandycatcher the origins of that one, I think thats where I picked it up from, would I go without a rod? no I'd get bored walking about hills, there is something about the combined activities, can't put my finger on it but I'm sure its the reason we venture beyond the local river.
 

Fishtales

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I think you would have to ask Bandycatcher the origins of that one, I think thats where I picked it up from, would I go without a rod? no I'd get bored walking about hills, there is something about the combined activities, can't put my finger on it but I'm sure its the reason we venture beyond the local river.

Bandy because the parr marks look like black bands on the body.............I think :)

I agree with Alan, I wouldn't be wandering about the hills as much if it wasn't after brown trout. I might do the odd walk with just the camera but, even although I take the cameras with me when fishing, it isn't the same for some reason :)
 

ohanzee

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it isn't the same for some reason :)

Its hard to define eh? I think its a particular type of fishing, more a combination of things, the place certainly, the challenge of living in it because bailing out to a hotel when it gets dark is missing the experience, bit of a hunt, part survival, part physical challenge, or for some(Sandy) a brutal iron man type challenge, the odd moment where a helicopter trip out might be an option:D and people, those that do it properly are strangely, always great company round a fire.

Take one of the ingredients out and you may as well get a day ticket somewhere more convenient.
 

easker1

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I do some of my hill loch fishing with a 2 wt rod it cancels out bandies as they are all reduced to small hard fighters,:) easker1
 

ohanzee

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I do some of my hill loch fishing with a 2 wt rod it cancels out bandies as they are all reduced to small hard fighters,:) easker1

If you fish Tollie you get bandys but you know there are bigger fish if you can get to them, or if you fish the swampy loch up past the pylon your not looking for bandy's, the great thing is you can choose to take a 2 weight:)
 

ohanzee

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Go to the lochs where you don't catch bandies, cast, and repeat :)

And suffer the pain of a 2 hour walk in, uphill, getting the weather wrong, and leave without a fish after a 10 hour round trip drive? who would risk that?:)
 

Bourach

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And suffer the pain of a 2 hour walk in, uphill, getting the weather wrong, and leave without a fish after a 10 hour round trip drive? who would risk that?:)

Every time - as the rewards far outweigh the investment of both time and effort
 

easker1

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at My age I have to get there fit enough to actually fish and not just have a nap :rolleyes: easker1
 

sebn

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Hi All,

I was hoping someone would be able to offer me some advice regarding fishing up in the highlands of scotland.

Me and a friend are planning on doing some hiking/camping/fishing up in scotland towards the end of may in the the "fisherfield forest" area of the north west highlands. There are quite a few remote hill lochs up there which are very appealing to try and catch some proper wild brown trout.

The issue that i have at the moment is that i am unsure of who to contact to ask about fishing rights in that area as we dont want to be breaking any rules and potentially spoiling the ability to fish for everyone else. Has anyone ever fished up in that particular area and has any information on where to get a ticket or ever perhaps which estate to contact to arrange fishing?

Many thanks in advance.

Seb.
 

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