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Fly fishing in Scotland still holds a special place in my heart. I have never found somewhere quite like Scotland to fly fish in my 30 years of trying to master this sport. Even after 10 years of guiding in some of the top fly fishing destinations in the world, I still love to go back there.
Table of Contents
- My Experience Fly Fishing in Scotland
- Why Fly Fish in Scotland?
- 10 Best Rivers For Fly Fishing in Scotland
- 10 Best Lochs For Fly Fishing in Scotland
- Fly Fishing in Scotland Regions
- Scotland Fly Fishing – Fish Species
- Best Flies For Scotland
- Scotland Fishing Season
- Scotland Fishing Report
- Best Fly Shops in Scotland
- Scotland Fly Fishing Licenses
- Fly Fishing Guide Services in Scotland
- Fly Fishing Lodges in Scotland
- FAQs about Fly Fishing in Scotland
I have fly-fished in Scotland many times, I think my first fishing trip there was when I was 8 years old, and I still manage to get back there most years. It has a rugged beauty to it. The rivers are still wild and ungroomed like the chalk streams of England, and the highland lochs are to die for, plus the fishing is pretty awesome too.
More Fly Fishing Destinations
My Experience Fly Fishing in Scotland
I have had a lot of Scotland fly fishing experiences, around 10, and they usually happened when a gang of us guide buddies decided to drive up north for a week of fly fishing.
We would, of course, try to focus on catching some salmon, but conditions would often turn us to the sea trout and trout fishing Scotland has to offer. Swinging flies with double-handed rods for sea trout and salmon, stripping wet flies on lochs for brown trout, and nymphing were our main tactics.
From the River Lyon to the remote lochs around Fort William, we tended to try and fish places other fly anglers wouldn’t make the effort to get to. We were at an advantage though as a gang of guides – we had a lot of info on where to fish and when, and combining this with Google Maps gives you a recipe for great fly fishing.
Why Fly Fish in Scotland?
The best fly fishing in Scotland, in my eyes anyway, is down to how remote, wild, and beautiful it is. You have to work, just enough, to enjoy some of the best fishing Scotland has to offer. Whether you catch fish or not, you’ll experience this stunning country along the way.
10 Best Rivers For Fly Fishing in Scotland
When planning a Scotland fly fishing trip, I highly recommend making the focus of the trip Scotland’s stunning rivers. This gives you the chance to target a wide range of species and if you focus on the rivers below, you’ll enjoy some of the best fishing spots in Scotland.
The River Deveron is one of the best fly-fishing rivers in Scotland. Not only is it great for salmon and sea trout, but it also has some of the best trout fishing Scotland has to offer. It is a medium-sized river, ideal for both single and double-handed rods, and it is open for easy casting. You can access it from the town of Huntly, just northwest of Aberdeen.
The River Don is just south of the Deveron in Aberdeenshire. This is also an excellent salmon, sea trout, and brown trout river. The upper reaches are particularly excellent and offer some of the top Scotland trout fishing you can find with fish over the 4 lb mark. Access is easy from the town of Huntly, it is open for casting, and there are lots of places to stay nearby.
Sitting just across the border from England, the Tweed might be one of the most famous fly-fishing rivers in Scotland. It offers excellent salmon, sea trout, brown trout, and grayling fishing, hence why it is so popular.
Swinging an Ally’s Shrimp will have the salmon and sea trout tempted, while some Euro-Nymphing will have you stuck into some excellent trout and grayling.
The River Carnach is super remote, and can only be accessed via a 2-hour hike from the most remote town in Scotland, Inverie. This is an incredible sea trout river that runs into a sea loch called Loch Nevis. The river is open for casting, can be fished with a single-handed rod, and an orange zonker is a great fly to try out.
The River Tay, in Perthshire, is one of the most famous salmon rivers in Scotland and is also excellent for sea trout, brown trout, and grayling. It is very wide in its lower reaches and can be fished from a boat – Spey casting a double-handed rod is a must. In the upper reaches, it thins out a bit – this is where wading works well and you can find some great trout and grayling fishing.
The River Clyde, just south of Glasgow, is an excellent spot to enjoy some Scotland trout fishing and the grayling fishing isn’t bad either. It is very easy to access and the fish respond well to euro-nymphing with GRHE and PHTN, as well as dry flies such as BWO and midge imitations.
The River Spey sits just south of Inverness in northern Scotland. This is another of the most famous salmon rivers in Scotland, and it also has some excellent sea trout fishing too. Named after the Spey cast, which was created on this river in the 1800s, it is an iconic place to swing a fly for salmon and sea trout in Scotland.
The River Tummel flows out of a series of lochs and eventually into the River Tay. Sitting in central Scotland, it is easily accessed from the small village of Pitlochry. The upper reaches have great trout and grayling water, while the lower reaches close to the Tay are known for their excellent spring salmon run.
In the north of Scotland, close to the town of Lairg, is the stunning River Oykel. A rather small salmon river by Scottish standards, it offers some of the best salmon fishing in Scotland along with excellent trout fishing too. You will be blown away by its beauty as you swing flies on a Spey rod or nymph through its pools.
Close by to the River Oykel is the River Shin, which actually flows through the town of Lairg before entering Loch Shin. It is a very productive salmon and brown trout river and is one of the most beautiful rivers in the Scottish Highlands. Roll casting and Spey casting are best on this river as there are areas where you will not find much room behind you.
10 Best Lochs For Fly Fishing in Scotland
You can’t go on a fishing trip to Scotland and not spend some time on a Scottish loch. A loch is a lake that is connected to the sea via a river for those of you who haven’t heard the term before, although I am sure you have. Below you’ll find some of the best fishing lochs in Scotland.
Sitting close to the West Coast of Scotland is the longest loch in the country, Loch Awe. It is a stunning loch surrounded by local history that is relatively easy to access.
You can fish it from the bank, however, it is best fished from a boat.
You’ll find large trout, sea trout, salmon, and big pike in this loch so you can change up your tactics throughout the day. Wet flies are the way forward.
Loch Leven offers some of the best trout fishing in Scotland thanks to its large aggressive browns. Just north of Edinburgh, this is an easy loch to access and you have to fish it from a boat. Sink tip lines or intermediates fished with large streamers are the way forward. You might also hook into a large pike here.
Sitting in central Scotland just west of Perth, Loch Earn is packed full of different species to target with a fly rod. Wild browns, stocked rainbows, pike, and Arctic char call this loch home.
The loch is narrow, shallow, and can be fished from the shore or a boat. Nymphs and wet flies on floating lines are your best bet here.
You’ll find Loch Shin in the Scottish Highlands. It is best accessed from the town of Lairg where you can buy a license from Lairg Angling Club. It is packed with wild browns and pike that love a streamer stripped deep. Bring your intermediate and sinking lines when fly fishing on this stunning loch.
You’ll find Loch Lomond just north of Glasgow. It is a beautiful loch with 12 islands that is packed full of browns, rainbows, and sea trout. You can also find the odd salmon and pike in here, but catches are rare. Fish form the banks or go out in a boat (recommended) and use nymphs or wet flies.
Lake of Menteith
One of the few true lakes in Scotland, the Lake of Menteith is a great place to catch some brown and rainbow trout in Scotland.
Sitting to the west of Stirling in central Scotland, you can fish it from the bank or on a boat. The fish here love nymphs and wet flies more than anything else.
Loch Faskally is home to salmon, sea trout, brown trout, and grayling. It is a rather small tree-line loch north of Perth and is one of the most beautiful lochs in Scotland in my opinion. You can fish the loch from the shore but it is best fished from a boat with wet flies on the drift.
Loch Morar reaches depths of up to 1,000 feet (304 meters) and is Scotland’s deepest loch. You’ll find it on the west coast of Scotland, just south of the town of Mallaig.
It is an excellent place to catch big brown trout and sea trout. Using a sinking line and a streamer from a boat is your best bet.
Loch Tay sits in central Scotland and is a great place to catch everything from salmon to sea trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, Arctic char, and pike. With so many species on offer, you might want to spend a few days on this loch. It is best fished from a boat with a sink tip, change your flies depending on what you want to catch.
Fly Fishing in Scotland Regions
Scotland can be split into four main regions, all of which offer excellent fly fishing. If you are planning a trip to Scotland, chances are you will only have time to explore one region, and these are the ones to focus on.
The Scottish Lowlands run from the border with England to just north of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
You’ll find excellent fishing in the River Tweed and Clyde and there are tons of small lochs to cast a fly into as well. There are also small trout streams here that are off the beaten track and offer some technical fly fishing.
Speyside is a small region of northeast Scotland that surrounds the River Spey. It is a dream destination for fly anglers who want to fish the Spey and its countless tributaries which include the e Burn of Tulchan, Allt a Gheallaidh, Allt Arder, Knockando Burn, River Fiddich, and more.
The Highlands is the largest region of Scotland and it is home to some of the best fly fishing in Scotland.
With thousands of lochs and some epic rivers such as the Oykel & Shin, it is the heart of Scottish fly fishing in my opinion, and could take a lifetime to explore.
If you want to fly fish in some of the most remote and beautiful parts of Scotland, head to the islands. These include the Hebrides, Orkney, and Shetland islands all of which off spectacular brown trout fishing in their lochs and there are some great salmon and sea trout rivers too.
Scotland Fly Fishing – Fish Species
Scotland has quite a large range of species you can target with a fly rod, which is what makes it such a great place to fly fish in my eyes. Here are the top species to target while you are there!
While Scotland’s Atlantic salmon stocks are in a bad way, some rivers still have a good run of fish.
Rivers like the Tay, Oykel, and Tweed are great places to swing an Ally’s Shrimp or Stoat’s Tail.
Scotland’s lochs and rivers are home to an excellent population of brown trout that grow up to 5 lbs max, but average out at 1 to 2 lbs. The River Don and Annan are some of the top rivers and small nymphs work a treat.
The sea trout fishing in Scotland can be quite amazing, especially on the River Spey, Dee, and Tweed.
You can catch fish over 10+lbs and I would highly recommend swinging an Ally’s Shrimp at dusk if you are looking for a big fish.
There are not many Arctic Char in Scotland, however, there are some if you are looking to tick this species off your list, and Loch Maree is a great place to do this. They love a wet fly such as a bibio or spider.
Scotland is a great place to do some grayling fishing, particularly in the south of Scotland. The River Clyde and Earn are great places to cast a line. Euro-nymphing a red tag or hare’s ear fly is guaranteed to get you some action.
The lochs of Scotland have some pretty huge pike in them and there is nothing quite like catching them on a fly rod.
Head to Loch Lomond, Ness, or Ken and throw a big streamer such as a bunny leach and you might hook a pike of 20+ lbs.
More on Fly Fishing Different Species of Fish:
Best Flies For Scotland
Whenever you are going fly fishing somewhere new, it pays to do some research as without the right flies, you won’t catch many fish. Here are the top flies to take to Scotland with you.
Between April and September, you will find some solid hatches on the lochs and rivers of Scotland. Here are the dry flies that imitate them.
- BWO: Blue-winged olives in sizes 14-18 are excellent on the rivers of Scotland, particularly in the spring
- Griffith’s Gnat: Midges are a large part of a trout, grayling, and char’s diet in Scotland, sizes 14-18
- Klinkhammer: This fly imitates a huge range of insects and works well in sizes 14-20
- Parachute Adams: Imitating everything from a mayfly to a midge in sizes 12 – 18, these work well
- Black Gnat: A great fly to use during midge hatches in sizes 16 to 22
Wet flies are some of the most effective flies on the lochs in Scotland and they also work well on the rivers too. I highly recommend having the below wet flies in your box when going fly fishing in Scotland.
- Greenwells Spider: One of the top flies on Scottish lochs and rivers as it imitates almost everything in sizes 12 to 16
- Bibio: When fish are rising on lochs, this is the fly to use as it imitates emerging nymphs well
- Butcher: Another wet fly that imitates stone flies, mayfly nymphs, and more in sizes 12 to 16
- Invicta: My go-to wet fly all over the world as it looks like a drowned fly, nymph, and fry
- Grouse and Claret: A classic Scottish wet fly that is deadly on lochs and rivers in sizes 14 to 16
If you want to catch pike, sea trout, and big brown trout, having a good selection of streamers in your box is a must. Here are the streamer flies that work best in my experience.
- Bunny Leech: This fly is deadly in olive and black as it imitates baitfish/leeches very well and has excellent movement in the water
- Hot Head Zonker: Another excellent baitfish imitation that drives fish crazy with its great action. It works best in orange in my experience
- Wooly Bugger: Effective in every color, this fly imitates large nymphs, baitfish, leeches, crustaceans, and more
- Nobbler: A variant on the Wooly Bugger, it is ideal when fishing deeper for big fish in olive/black/orange
- Minkie: With its long tail of rabbit fur, this is a big fish fly with stunning action that will tempt pike and big trout out of their lairs
Nymphs should be your go-to when targeting brown trout or grayling in the rivers of Scotland. Make sure to own them in a range of sizes and weights. I prefer tungsten as it is heavier but gold heads work too!
- Red Tag: An excellent nymph imitation with a red tag as a tail that drives grayling wild
- Pink Shrimp: It looks just like a shrimp that grayling feed on, use it anytime
- SR Grayling Special: Built for Euro-Nymphing, it is super heavy and ideal for fishing deep pools
- Pheasant Tail: A classic nymph that imitates them all in brown/tan, use it when you are not sure what to put on
- Hare’s Ear: Another classic that works well in grey or olive colors with a little bit of flash
Salmon fishing in Scotland is a little tough as the rivers do not see the same number of fish running up them as they used to. However, where there is a good stock of fish in the river, here are the flies you need to have with you.
- Tosh: A great fly for Scottish salmon in a range of water conditions, high/low/dirty
- Silver Stoat: Use this in dirty water or on dark days to get the salmon snapping
- Ally’s Shrimp: A classic salmon fly for Scotland that looks like a shrimp, use it in low & high-water
- Sunray Shadow: This fly has an amazing action in the water that drives salmon a little crazy
- Stoats Tail: Very effective in low clean water in smaller sizes such as 12 or 14
Find The Best Flies For Any Fishing Scenario:
Scotland Fishing Season
The best time to cast a line during the Scotland fishing season depends on the species you are targeting. Salmon and sea trout tend to be best in September, trout and grayling in May, and pike in October.
Scotland Fly Fishing in April
In April you can fish for every species in Scotland except for sea trout. The trout and grayling fishing is pretty good with fish focussing on nymphs as well as march brown hatches.
The salmon fishing is pretty average overall and the pike fishing is quite good as they start to feed harder with the rising water temperatures.
Scotland Fly Fishing in May
May is the ideal time to fly fish for trout and graying in southern Scotland as it gets a very good mayfly hatch, especially on the Rhodani River.
Scotland Fly Fishing in June, July, & August
June, July, and August are prime salmon and sea trout months for all of Scotland. However, this all comes down to how much rain there is as the fish will not run up the river without it.
This year (2023) had consistent rain across July and August, but last year it was very dry.
These months are great for trout, grayling, and pike in the rivers and lochs so long as it doesn’t get too warm.
Scotland Fly Fishing in September & October
September is the best time to book sea trout or salmon fishing in Scotland as you have the best chance of consistent rainfall and fresh fish. It is also a great time to fish with streamers for big trout in the rivers.
Scotland Fishing Report
My Scotland fly fishing report is a little different from what you might expect. I was dropped by Loch Arkaig and hiked for four days to Inverie, fly fishing and camping as I went.
This allowed me to fish a huge loch, a small loch, stunning rivers, and even cast my line in a sea loch.
Fishing wet flies on the lochs during the midge hatches was an amazing experience, as it runs like clock work, and the lochs are not affected by the rain. The rivers, however, we washed out on day 3 by a huge storm and it took 2 days for them to be fishable again.
I can’t complain though, as there aren’t many places in Europe where one can get lost in nature and have access to so many different fishing opportunities. The weather can get in the way of any fishing trip.
Best Fly Shops in Scotland
I strongly recommend going to local fly shops when you are fly fishing in a new place. There is no better place to get some local advice about the rivers/lakes you are fishing and to pick up some local flies that might make all the difference.
Fin and Game Ltd
- Address: 36-38 Bridge St, Kelso TD5 7JD
- Website: https://finandgame.com/
- Phone Number: 01573224066
Sitting on the banks of the River Tweed, this is one of the top fishing shops in all of the UK. The owner is very knowledgeable and it has some of the best fly gear in the world behind its doors.
TwinPeakes Fly Fishing
- Address: Milton of Crathes, Banchory AB31 5QH
- Website: http://www.twinpeakesflyfishing.com/
- Phone Number: 07766548708
A great shop in northeast Scotland with all the gear and advice you need.
Fishers Direct Tackle Shop
- Address: 9 John St, Penicuik EH26 8HN
- Website: http://www.fishersdirect.com/
- Phone Number: 01968672877
A great place to stock up on fly fishing equipment and local advice when driving past Edinburgh on your way to your fishing spot.
Scotland Fly Fishing Licenses
You do not need a national license to fish the rivers and lochs of Scotland, except for in the Border-Esk region. If you are fishing in the Border-Esk region, you can buy your national rod license here.
Everywhere else in Scotland, you just need permission from the landowner or Angling Club. You usually have to buy day tickets and I recommend renting a boat on the Lochs.
Fly Fishing Guide Services in Scotland
There are quite a few Scotland fly fishing guides to choose from, however, most of them are Ghillies who focus on guiding salmon. But, you can find some good pike, trout, sea trout, and grayling guides too.
- Address: Spital Tower, Towerburn Cottage, Hawick TD9 8TB
- Website: https://tweedguide.co.uk/
- Phone Number: 07962401770
If you want to fish on the River Tweed, this is the guide service to get in contact with. They specialize in trout grayling, and salmon and thus have you covered no matter the species you are after.
The Wild Rise Company
- Address: 6 Atholl Cres, Perth PH1 5JN
- Website: NA
- Phone Number: 07463576892
An excellent salmon guide to get in touch with if you want to fish the rivers of northeastern Scotland.
James Curley FlyFishing
- Address: Keepers Cottage, Knockan, Elphin IV27 4HH
- Website: http://www.jamescurley.org/
- Phone Number: 07815637369
For anyone looking to fish in the north of Scotland, James Curley is an excellent guide to contact. He will advise you on good rivers, when to fish, and guide you excellently too.
Fly Fishing Lodges in Scotland
Scotland fishing lodges are usually in the form of large country states that have a lodge and locks/rovers flowing through them. They are great places to stay to get a taste of Scotland and here are some of the best ones.
- Address: Fearn by Tain, Tain IV20 1XP
- Website: http://www.theglenmorangiehouse.com/
- Phone Number: 01862 871 671
This is a stunning place to stay on the northeast coast of Scotland and it has access to one of the best sea trout rivers in Scotland, Dornoch Firth.
- Address: Letterewe, Loch Maree Achnasheen IV22 2HH
- Website: https://letterewe-estate.com/lodge-resorts-scotland/letterewe-lodge-luxury-lodge-scotland/
- Phone Number: 01445 760 207
A beautiful and luxurious fishing lodge on the West Coast of Scotland with access to great trout, salmon, and pike fishing across the estates lochs, and rivers.
River Tweed Fishing Lodge
- Address: 18 Blackadder Cres, North Berwick, EH39 5FQ
- Website: https://www.albagamefishing.com/
- Phone Number: 07734 810 706
A beautiful lodge on the Tweed that has great accommodations and excellent beats full of salmon, sea trout, and pike.
FAQs about Fly Fishing in Scotland
Have some general questions about fly fishing in Scotland? I am sure you do. I have done my best to answer some below for you, if you still have more please leave a comment at the bottom of the page.
Yes, Scotland does have good fly fishing but it doesn’t compare to the likes of Iceland, for example. If you want to catch trout and grayling consistently plus have a chance at salmon and sea trout, it is a solid spot.
The fly fishing season in Scotland changes from species to species. You can fish for pike and grayling all year round, salmon from January to October, and trout from March to October.
Yes, you do need permission to fly fish in Scotland from the landowner or angling association. You also need a rod license if you are fishing in the Border-Esk region.
No, it is not illegal to fish on a Sunday in Scotland. However, some fisheries will not let you fish for sea trout and salmon on a Sunday.
Yes, you can fish in Scottish lochs, just be sure to get permission from the landowner and pay for a ticket if needs be.
Fly fishing in Scotland is something every fly angler should experience in my eyes, even if is just for the historical connection this country has to fly fishing. People have been casting flies in Scotland since the 1500s and it is where fly fishing evolved into double-handed rods, spey casting, and lots more.
Seeing Scotland’s beauty and culture is the other reason I would recommend going on a fly fishing trip there. There is nowhere on earth quite like it, and with the chance of an Atlantic salmon, sea trout, or big wild brown, it is certainly worth it in my eyes.
Also, a fishing trip to Scotland does not have to cost the earth either. You can camp anywhere (legally) and day tickets for a lot of rivers and lochs are under £50. It is the ideal place to really get into the groove and so some serious fishing and exploring.
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