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Hook, Line & Sinker - Luxury Fishing Trips In Scotland

by Linda Jackson

Picture Scotland’s kaleidoscope of landscapes... of secluded Highland glens, craggy mountains, tranquil lochs, heather cloaked hills, crystal clear brooks, and amber-tinted peat rivers. Just imagine an instant wilderness and immense space. Then, reflect on the abundance of wildlife known to lurk within – magnificent golden eagles, ospreys, wild red deer, shy otters, red squirrels, the rare pine marten. Surrounded by this plethora of wildlife, amid such peace and tranquillity; in mountain scenery so spectacular and, with the bonus of an occasional historic castle providing a dramatic backdrop, what more could anyone possibly wish for? Fishing tackle and a first class ghillie, that’s what - and maybe just a wee dram or two of fine single malt Scotch whisky.

With its striking scenery and richness of rivers, Scotland boasts some of the best and most exciting fishing in Europe. Scotland’s fishing heritage has produced a class breed of ghillies like no others - their skill and knowledge having been passed down from generation to generation. The country is blessed with an incredible number of lochs and ‘lochans’ – over 30,000 of them plus around 21,700 miles of rivers. These can be found amongst some of the most beautiful and unspoiled features in the United Kingdom today. With an abundance of salmon, trout, grayling, Arctic char and coarse fish, as well as commercially stocked waters, there is no doubt that this represents some of the greatest freshwater and sea angling on offer anywhere.

    

With such a large variety of species, Scotland offers fishing all year-round - enjoyed all the more when accompanied by a ghillie (a vital ingredient). The ghillie will know the best and most prolific beats intimately – and is most likely gifted with a wry sense of humour and stocked to the hilt with an endless supply of amusing tales.

    

The ‘Big Four’ – Tweed, Tay, Dee and Spey – are the main rivers in Scotland and are well worth getting in a spin about.

The Tweed is a great Atlantic ‘autumn’ salmon river, but is also good for brown and sea trout fishing. The Tay is the largest of Scotland’s salmon rivers at 120 miles long. The Dee is known for its superb sea trout fishing particularly during June and July, whilst the Spey is possibly the most famous salmon river in the world and excellent for brown trout too.

However, as well as these exciting rivers there are some exclusive and little-fished hidden ‘gems’ that are seriously special – lochs that are predictable and fruitful, but not easy to find without assistance.

Help is close at hand, courtesy of Luxury Scotland and some of Scotland’s finest hotels, ideally located, where a day’s fishing can be tailor-made to suit anybody from the most ardent angler to the worse novice, and where non-fishing partners can bury themselves in total luxury while their other half seeks peace and solitude.

It tends to be the three world-renowned golf courses at The Gleneagles Hotel that hog the limelight at this unique resort set within 850 acres of Perthshire countryside, just an hour’s drive from both Edinburgh and Glasgow airports. But this exclusive hotel is justifiably proud of its fishing school and myriad other sporting activities as of its golf facilities.

Founded eight years ago the fishing school sees around 3,000 people a year passing through its impressive facilities. The School has actually witnessed a huge increase in interest over the past twelve months. Currently six different lochs (soon to be more) are used to teach fly fishing, and budding anglers from eight years old to ‘no barrier at the top end’, male and female, can enrol for lessons year-round (all rods and gear provided).

 

    


    

On the corporate side, the school is able to give instruction to as many as 40 or 50 people at the same time if necessary, with no more than four people per ghillie – there not only to instruct but to entertain... the principal factor!

On the instruction side, somebody without knowledge or experience can master the basics of fly fishing in a couple of hours, and with the lochs being heavily stocked with rainbow and brown trout it’s very rare that the fish are the only ones hooked by the end of the day.

Knockinaam Lodge is a different kettle of fish. Nestling in its own sheltered cove on the coast of historical Dumfries and Galloway in the extreme southwest of Scotland, this elegant small nine-room hotel offers breathtaking seascapes and superb fishing - brown trout in the burns, good sized tope in the sea, superb coarse fish and trout in the lochs, and great salmon fishing on the Cree and Bladnoch (two famed salmon rivers).

    

The hotel can arrange day tickets for the three main salmon rivers in the area or lessons for beginners at two local lochs.

This is a fantastic sea fishing area of Scotland, it’s very quiet so fish are plentiful and with its deep water and low flat rocks jutting into the sea it’s easy to fish straight off the beach or rocks.

The hotel keeps three or four spinning rods and gear for guests; because it’s so quiet here it is an ideal location for those shy beginners, while serious anglers can take to the local fishing boats: small sharks and tuna can be caught off the coast of Ireland too, just 20 miles away. The silence can just about be heard at Knockinaam Lodge, it’s a great ‘get-away-from-it-all’ little gem.


The heart of Scotland’s castle and whisky country is where the Marcliffe Hotel & Spa can be found sitting in mature wooded grounds, yet only ten minutes from the centre of Aberdeen - the gateway to Royal Deeside and Balmoral Castle.

The region not only boasts royalty, nearly 300 castles, plus five or six rivers ideal for visitors who like to fish because of their easy access from Aberdeen, but also a whisky trail that takes in eight malt whisky distilleries and one co-operative.

    


   

Fishing here promises to be an intoxicating experience. Although not having their own beat, the Marcliffe Hotel is ideally located for guests that like to fish and can arrange (through agents) fishing on the River Don, the Spey, and the Dee – most beats are within ten to fifteen miles, one only four miles away.

The luxury end of fishing can be organised by the hotel: perfect for clients who like everything done for them. And for the ladies... spa treatments, sightseeing, visits to galleries and shopping for cashmere as soon as the men are dropped off.


The quality of fish and fishing in Scotland is as good as anywhere in the world - enough reason for many anglers to choose the West Highlands of Scotland, not to mention the stunning scenery, magnificent wildlife (rare white-tailed sea eagles are nesting here), mountains, waterfalls and lochs, and one of Scotland’s finest hotels - Inverlochy Castle, which makes a great base for a fishing foray.

Boats are available for hire (as are ghillies) on the hotel’s loch (perfect for beginners) and on other lochs further afield; fly casting and fishing tuition is available; trout and salmon fishing on the upper River Garry is an option, as is outstanding sea fishing, plus deep water trolling, spinning and bait fishing accompanied by a ghillie.

    


   

Now, just imagine a large dining table cloaked in crisp white linen, dressed with gold-plated cutlery, and decorated with pine cones and heather to give a true flavour of Scotland.

The taste of hot sizzling bacon rolls and coffee served on arrival is forgotten, replaced by thoughts of the mouth-watering gourmet lunch about to be served - pheasant casserole cooked in a red currant and port reduction, minted peas, sautéed organic potatoes... A wee dram of Scotch malt whisky is downed; the cork pops from a bottle of fine wine.

This setting is not in a top restaurant, this is ‘on location’ at a fishing day organised by Alba Game Fishing – a luxury guide service that will deliver whatever type of fishing experience their clients seek in Scotland. Passionate about fishing, cooking, natural history and photography, the team puts together an amazing day – all recorded onto a photo CD.

Exclusive hotels and exclusive fishing venues off the beaten track and not regularly fished is what Alba Game Fishing offers its clients. These fortunate folk get the whole place to themselves for the day... a private party, undisturbed, not fished by the public, totally and exclusively theirs.

Because of that, the fishing is truly dynamic. Many of their clients tend to be beginners. On corporate days over three quarters may never have fished before.

    

This year Alba Fishing have seen a rise in budding female anglers who are proving to be good listeners, have fine hand co-ordination, are more tactical than their male counterparts ... and often catch more fish than the guys. Now you might ask, is that down to expert instruction, natural born skill, or is there really something in that fishy tale about female pheromones?

      

Definitions (for complete novices)

  • ghillie (or gillie) - professional fishing guides
  • Lochans – small lakes or ponds
  • Beat – usual fishing area, stretch of river
  • Grayling – related to the trout (but with a very broad dorsal fin), valued as a game fish
  • Arctic char (or charr) – fish, both freshwater and saltwater, closely related to salmon and trout
  • Coarse fish – any freshwater fish that does not belong to the salmon family
  • Seasons – salmon can generally be fished from January-October/November (depending on river); wild brown trout from March to beg-October; rainbow trout and grayling year-round

Luxury Scotland
Tel: +44(0)1383 825 800 
Fax: +44 (0)1383 825 700
E: jeremy@luxscot.co.uk

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