The West Coast—where the sea is riddled with islands and the mainland riddled with water and fishing may be from the luxury of castle walls or at the end of a rugged overland trek The North West of Scotland is possibly the region least known and explored by itinerant anglers. It is not endowed with a vast network of roads and time and effort have to be taken to get there. Even then there might be little fishing of consequence unless earlier plans have been made. The area produces a high rainfall, but can also offer some wonderful fishing for migratory fish when the water is just right.
From the River Naver in the north down to Fort William there are myriad rivers, streams and lochs. Some, like the Naver and Laxford, have legendary reputations, but most do not offer fishing to the casual enquirer. At Bettyhill the Bettyhill Hotel provides for its residents two miles of sea trout fishing in the estuary of the Naver, and trout fishing on about 16 local trout lochs, while at Altnaharra the hotel provides fishing in Loch Naver, the river Mudale and Loch Hope. The season extends from 12 January to the end of September, with the best salmon fishing in March and April, trout from May to August, and sea trout from June to August. The best beats of the Naver are reserved for long-standing and permanent tenants or the riparian owners and their guests.
Fabulous salmon fishing
Salmon fishing, when it is just right, can be little short of the fabulous —with the possibility of double-figure catches per rod per day. All fishing is with fly, and at peak times frequently with single-handed rods, small flies and floating lines.
At Durness, the Cape Wrath Hotel has rights on the rivers Dionard, Grudie and Daill. Best times for migratory fish are from mid-June to mid-September, and there is also good brown trout fishing on several lochs—all at very modest cost. At Kinlochbervie the Garbet Hotel has rights on over 40 lochs and on a small spate river where sea and brown trout can be plentiful. For hotel guests the fishing is free.
Scourie is an excellent centre for the three game fish species. Out of 200 trout lochs, the Scourie Hotel has extensive fishing rights on over 100 of which four have salmon and sea trout. Boats and ghillies are available and day fishing on Loch Stack and Loch More by special permit. Nearby, the Laxford river is strictly preserved.
At Lochinver, the rivers Inver and Kirkaig can give excellent fishing for migratory fish. The Inver, draining Loch Assynt, is private, but on the Kirkaig the Culag Hotel has residential facilities with instruction courses. If not required by guests, the hotel waters are opened to the public. Sea trout can be fished for in Manse Loch, Kirkaig Seapool and Loch Culag, all of which offer boats, and there is bank fishing for brown trout on innumerable lochs nearby. Good sea fishing can be had.
Loch Assynt Angling Club has good trout fishing on 35 lochs and issues day and week tickets. These can be obtained from the secretary of the club, the Tourist Information Office in Lochinver (Tel 330), the Post Office at Stoer (Tel 201), the Drumbeg and Culag Hotels, or the Lochinver Fish Selling Co Ltd in Lochinver (Tel 228). Nearby Loch Roe and Manse Loch offer sea trout and salmon fishing from bank or boat, with day tickets available (except Sundays) during the season from 15 March to 6 October.
At Assynt, the Inchnadamph Hotel (Tel 202) has fishing facilities and boats available to residents. When the fishing is not used by guests, non-residents can apply.
June and July the best time
The best fishing begins with the first spates of June or July and much of the angler’s success will depend entirely on the state of the water. In fact, this point cannot be too highly emphasized. Some of the West coast spate rivers do have legendary reputations, but they have been gained only at times when the river has been running off following a good flood. Sometimes the sport may be confined to hours rather than days, and there is no known way of predicting conditions. A well-planned holiday even at the peak of the season can be futile if the weather does not cooperate. If this happens, there is still a chance on the lochs for brown trout.
The Altnacealgach Hotel has famous brown trout fishing on Lochs Cama, Veyatie, Urigill and Borallan, with ten boats and ghillies. Trout to 3lb are frequently encountered with even bigger fish a possibility in late spring and well into the summer months.
Farther south at Achiltibuie, the Summer Isles Hotel has salmon and sea trout fishing on Loch Oscaig and the River Garvie from July to mid-October, and brown trout from mid- March—all at very modest cost. Loch Broom at Ullapool drains the rivers Ullapool, Dundonnel, Oscaig and Broom, and fishing is available from the Royal Hotel or the Warehouse Buildings at Ullapool. Try also J Macdonald of Inverpolly and D P Morrison of 30 Walker Street, Edinburgh.
Four famous salmon rivers
Farther east, four famous salmon rivers, the Oykel, Carron, Shin and Cassley, are not for the casual visitor. Occasionally, the Benmore Estate Office at Ardgay, Ross-shire offers fishing, or the Oykel Bridge Hotel. Most of the best fishing, however, is not only expensive, but let in advance. For the Cassley, rods can sometimes be negotiated through Bellingram, 7 Walker Street, Edinburgh; but advance booking is essential.
No guide to angling in western Scotland could be complete without some mention of Loch Maree which, from July to October, is noted for its sea trout. The little River Ewe has good runs of salmon and sea trout from Poolewe up into the loch but most anglers prefer to base themselves at the loch itself. There is the Kinlochewe Hotel or the Loch Maree Hotel which is owned by an angling syndicate and provides excellent facilities. Owing to a heavy demand for sea trout fishing, early reservations are advised.
Moving south there is yet another vast network of small rivers, streams and lochs. Many are hard to reach by road and only local knowledge would prove helpful. At Mallaig, however, Loch Morar can provide good sport with the three main game fish species. Bank fishing is free and boats are available from the Morar Hotel. Between the loch and sea the short river Morar can be prolific for salmon, but it is all preserved.
The River Shiel which drains Loch Shiel and runs to the sea at Ard-namuchan is again preserved. On the loch, however, there is some salmon and trout fishing, and motor boats are available from Glenfinnan where guests may stay at the Stage House Inn (Tel 783 246).
The best fishing is not necessarily found on the mainland. Some truly wonderful sport is available in the Inner and Outer Hebrides and in Orkney and Shetland.
In the north, the islands of Lewis and Harris provide wonderful fishing for salmon and sea trout. The famous Grimersta river is a short distance from Stornoway, but it might prove difficult—not to mention expensive to reach. The river belongs to Grimersta Estate and is let to a syndicate. Occasionally rods become available.
Forty miles south-west of Stor-noway, the North Harris Estate con-trols a network of rivers and lochs over their 60,000 acres. Anglers can stay at the magnificent Amhuinn-suidhe Castle and have within easy reach the lochs Scourst, Voshimid and Ulladale. Most waters drain into Loch Resort, and the runs of migratory fish following the first July rains can be quite fantastic. Costs to stay at the castle include all fishing dues. Details from Tulchan Estate office, Advie.
North and south Uist offer many angling possibilities as does Benbecula. At Lochboisdale the hotel has brown trout fishing and some excellent sea trout fishing, but book well in advance.
Orkney and Shetland has sea and brown trout together with big skate, halibut and ling. Intending visitors would be well advised to seek more comprehensive information before making a journey, however. Useful contacts include the Shetland Anglers’ Association or the Orkney Trout Fishing Association.