The Top 10 “Fish-List” for Visiting Anglers
We caught up with Roger from TroutQuest who has provided us with an insight into the ‘top 10 fishing spots’ for visiting anglers to the North Coast 500!
There is a long history of game fishing in the Northern Highlands, with angling tourism beginning in Victorian times as the rail network expanded throughout Scotland.
The region offers spectacular scenery, and some of the best wild brown trout fishing in Europe. There are literally thousands of trout lochs and lochans spread across the counties of Ross-shire, Sutherland and Caithness, with the main fishing areas linked by the North Coast 500 route.
The Northern Highlands is also home to Scotland’s iconic Atlantic salmon and boasts some of the very best salmon and sea trout rivers in Scotland, over 50 in fact; all of which are crossed by the North Coast 500.
TroutQuest offers fly fishing experiences for salmon and wild brown trout, for beginners and experienced anglers alike. From our base on the NC500 in Easter Ross, we offer fly fishing experiences and guided fishing excursions for anglers of all abilities throughout Ross-shire, south and west Sutherland, and north Inverness-shire. We provide professional GAIC-qualified fly fishing instruction and specialise in custom ‘Learn to Fly Fish’ and ‘Learn to Salmon Fish’ short breaks, which can be paced to combine opportunities for other activities and sightseeing.
Our developing network of fishing guides means that we can also arrange fly fishing experiences throughout the North Coast 500 route and we can even provide multi-night fishing tours of the NC500.
For visitors looking for unguided fishing we offer salmon fishing day permits on the River Alness, and boat hire and trout permits for several local lochs.
The top 10 “Fish List” for visiting Anglers!
Perhaps the least well-known area from a fishing perspective – there are still some ‘pearls’ not to be overlooked, and whatever your direction of travel you will get two chances to fish here.
1. Strathconon Lochs
Some excellent trout fishing is available for visiting anglers in beautiful Strathconon from Loch Achonachie Angling Club who offer boat and bank fishing on lochs Achonachie, Meig and Scardroy.
2. River Alness
The River Alness is one of the most picturesque salmon rivers in the Highlands. Salmon fishing is available to visitors on the lower reaches through Alness Angling Club, and also on the private Novar beats further upstream where guided trips are also possible.
Along the length of the Wester Ross coastline are a dozen or so small spate salmon rivers as well as the larger River Ewe, which flows out from Loch Maree, but the area is also well-known for its trout fishing.
3. Gairloch Area Lochs
The Gairloch area is renowned for its hill lochs, attracting active anglers enjoying the combination of hill walking in unspoilt scenery with wild brown trout fishing. Permits are available from Gairloch Angling Club and Gairloch Estate.
This area offers some of the most spectacular scenery of all; a smooth bare rock backdrop, draped with peat bog and lochans, and spectacular towering mountains, which together create a unique landscape offering a myriad of trout lochs and short spate rivers that hold salmon and sea trout.
4. Assynt Lochs
Throughout the Northern Highlands, there is nowhere that you will you find more choices for trout fishing than in the Assynt area where the Assynt Crofters’ Trust and Assynt Angling Group between them offer visitors fishing on over 350 lochs of variable size and character. Permits are available from numerous local outlets.
5. Rivers Inver & Kirkaig
The salmon fishing on most of West Coast rivers is private and reserved for guests of local estates, but single days of fishing are sometimes available on the Inver & Kirkaig through one of the major sporting agents.
The most remote area on the NC500, North Sutherland is truly a fly fisher’s paradise offering hundreds of trout lochs, several major salmon systems, and some of the best sea trout fishing remaining on the UK mainland.
6. Durness ‘Limestone Lochs’
The famous ‘limestone lochs’ of Durness are located at the NC500’s most north-westerly point. These comprise 4 shallow, crystal clear, alkaline lochs – Borralie (Borralaidh), Caladail, Croispol and Lanlish – that can produce trophy trout, though the fishing can be very challenging.
7. Loch Hope
Several major salmon and sea trout systems flow to sea along the north coast; amongst them Loch Hope, a large loch of 6 miles (10km) in length, one of the top sea trout fisheries in Scotland. Boats can also be hired at the north end and middle of the loch through a sporting agent, and are available for the middle and south end, for guests of the Altnaharra Hotel.
There is a major change in the scenery on arriving in Caithness, starting with a large expanse of peatland (the Flow Country), which then gives way to fertile farmland in the north eastern half of the county. Both landscapes are dotted with productive trout lochs, and through both flow salmon rivers, notably the Thurso and Wick.
8. Loch Watten
The area of gently rolling farmland to the east and north, overlies soft limestone marls which produces waters rich in weed growth and invertebrates, making extremely productive trout lochs. Loch Watten is the largest and best known of these (3 miles/4.7 km in length), and amongst the very best lochs in the Highlands. Boat hire is available from Hugo Ross in Wick.
The Dornoch Firth Bridge provides a welcome short cut for most north-south travellers, but a detour via Bonar Bridge (and even to Lairg), will not only reward all NC500 tourers with some of the most stunning views that the area has to offer but visiting anglers with some superb fishing too.
9. Lairg Angling Club lochs
Lairg A.C. offer trout fishing on several varied lochs in the area. These range from Loch Shin the largest expanse of water north of Inverness, which in addition to boat fishing also offers over 18 miles of easily accessed bank fishing on its north shore, to Loch Craggie one of the very best trout lochs in the area, famed for its mayfly hatch.
10. Kyle of Sutherland
The Kyle of Sutherland is the tidal estuary for the rivers Carron, Oykel, Cassley and Shin, draining into the Dornoch Firth at Bonar Bridge. Day tickets are available for visitors to fish the kyle for salmon and/or sea trout at Bonar Bridge from the Kyle of Sutherland Angling Association.
If you are looking for more advice on fishing, where to get permits and boat hire – speak to Roger from TroutQuest.