Scotland is renowned not only for its lochs, but also for its amazing coast, rivers and canals. Just where do you start when looking for a place to fish?

By Phil Taylor

Fishing in Scotland is a very popular past time and there are plenty of beautiful spots around the country to find a huge array of fish on display and many keen fishermen and women are always using the various rivers, lochs and coasts around the country.

History of fishing in Scotland

With the country surrounded by water to the north, west and east it has always been a part of Scotland’s history. The country has a huge fishing industry dating back to 7000 BC with the earliest settlers using fishing as a means of food; not for a past time. Herring and salmon were key during the medieval times with various religious groups granting permission to fishermen to use the shores and lakes but for a taxation free.

Herring was a key fish in the industry and Scotland enjoyed what was called a Herring Boom in 1907 which included 2,500,000 barrels of fish (227,000 tonnes) over the year being exported to Germany, Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe. The Irish Sea has been very helpful to Scotland, however, after the Second World War the industry started to decline.

But, Scotland is more than catching fish for food as it has many keen anglers who visit the country every year. Scotland is blessed with over 30,000 freshwater lochs and hundreds of productive game fishing rivers. The River Tay is the river currently holding the UK record for Atlantic salmon.  In 1922, Georgina Ballatine’s monster tipped the scales at 64lb at the Glendelvine beat on the River Tay but the chance of beating this record is miniscule now due to the size of salmon currently in the River Tay.

In 2009, Loch Lomond was taken over by some of the best anglers in the world as they battled it out for the World Fly Fishing Championship. The Scottish Anglers National Association, the ruling body of game fishing in the country, were able to host the tournament after proving they could host a competition when they held the European championships on Islay.

What are the different type of fish you can find in Scotland?

In angling terms Scotland is full of great fish to catch. Primarily it is known for salmon, sea trout, brown trout and rainbow trout. However, pike, perch, common carp and grayling also attract many anglers who are on the lookout for the perfect catch.

The brown trout is well known in Scotland and many anglers hear the name and instantly think of Scotland. Due to their aggressive nature, anglers enjoy a challenge with the brown trout and having a good old wrestle with one.

However, the Atlantic salmon is the biggest attraction and has the nicknames “the silver tourist” and “the king of fish”. The best time to fish for these magnificent creatures is from January right through to November, however, not on a Sunday. Just like the sea trout it is illegal to set your rod out and catch these fish on a Sunday according to Scottish laws.

The legality surrounding fishing in Scotland

In order to fish for freshwater fish and migratory fish (sea and freshwater) you need a written permission from the landowner or a fishing club.

There is no fishing license necessary to fish in Scotland. The only exception is the Border Esk region of Scotland, which flows into England and is regarded as English water. Although the river Tweed flows east across the Border region between Scotland and northern England there is no rod fishing license necessary to fish in river Tweed, even from the English boundaries.

For sea fishing in Scotland no permission is required. However, be careful when sea fishing in the estuary of a river, as you will need the fishing rights (permit) for the corresponding river. Roughly a distance of 1.5 km from the estuary of a river must be taken to be on safe ground.

More information can be found on the Government website regarding fishing in Scotland and it demonstrates how much the country cares about its fish.

Where are the best spots?

There are many beautiful spots across Scotland, and it is open to debate as to where the best spots may lie. However, it all depends on what time of the year you want to fish as it is well known in Scotland that the weather can be indifferent at times!

All places around Scotland have ideal times for fishing but it is said that mid to late April can be best for trout fishing on the River Annan, which runs through Annandale, Dumfries and Galloway. But the cold January days are ideal for grayling fishing on the River Tweed, which runs through the English and Scottish border.

If you want to explore the highlands the best time is late May towards June as the Salmon are ready to be caught and the famous Atlantic salmon are a real challenge even for the most experienced angler.

Loch Tummel, Loch Lomond, Craufurdland Fishery, Balmule Fishery and the River Ness attract the most tourists each year and offer a perfect view of tranquil Scotland for anybody that wants to see a more peaceful place away from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

However, the aforementioned places can be overrun by tourists at certain times so if you want the most picturesque place without the fuss then look towards Loch Drunkie, Loch Maree, The River Deveron, Loch Arklet and The River Bladnoch as these are all worthy mentions and are not as well-known but have all the qualities you need for a perfect time fishing.

How has this changed in the pandemic?

On 29th May 2020, fishing in Scotland was allowed to return. Ultimately, the government left it to the individual to make a decision as they see fit and as long as they adhere to social distancing rules.

Following fantastic behaviour from anglers, as of 22nd June, competitive fishing has returned to the country which has brough great joy to Angling Scotland. However, despite the positive news they still urged caution by issuing the statement,

“It must however be stressed that we are not out of the woods yet.  These are just the first steps on the pathway out of lockdown and to the full resumption of our sport.  Public health and wellbeing remains the most pressing priority and we all have a responsibility to do what we can to continue to suppress the spread of the virus.  It is for this reason that the First Minister continues to adopt a cautious approach and that the ‘local travel (broadly 5 miles)’ restriction remains in force.  While we realize that the travel restriction will continue to mean that a significant percentage of anglers will be unable to get back to fishing, and that in the majority of cases individuals will still not be able to attend competitions, we urge everyone to continue to comply with the guidance and stay local.”

In England, Boris Johnson, allowed fishing to resume on 13th May but Scotland have been a lot more cautious in their approach so that the virus does not spread.

As you can see there are plenty of superb spots to take your rod, packed lunch and a remarkable chance of catching some of the best fish in the United Kingdom. A hobby that anybody can take up and one that more should take up.

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