Scotland has a huge network of rivers and lochs, making it an amazing place for a fishing holiday. As well as the coast, these idyllic locations throughout the country offer fishermen, of any level, wild and peaceful havens in which they can be at one with nature and enjoy this wonderful sport.
Fishing is a sport that has been around for centuries, originating as a survival method to catch fish for food. It is slightly different these days, in that people do not fish to survive but simply to spend time doing something that they love. It is a great activity to do with a group of friends and has been known to be a good parent-child bonding activity too; there is nothing like teaching and learning to bring people together. It is also a great activity for mindfulness, a way for you to spend quiet time amongst nature.
Whilst this is a fun sport open to everyone, there are some rules! It is worth bearing in mind that you cannot just fish anywhere in Scotland, it is a regulated sport, and you have to have the necessary permits and permissions to fish on all the rivers and lochs in the country.
How to arrange fishing in Scotland
You do not need a license to fish with a rod in Scotland, but you do need permission from the landowner or an angling club who may own/rent a beat on a river. In certain places, you can buy daily permits which allow you to fish the waters – these range from £10-£15 for one day. It is sensible to do this, as many lochs have wardens who will come and ask to see your ticket.
There are angling companies throughout Scotland who you can arrange fishing with, and quite often you will get equipment hire and a guide who will go over everything from technique to playing a fish. This is a great option for those who are new to the sport and are not sure where to start! Local angling shops and village stores will usually be able to offer any information on the local fishing, so it is always worth asking.
The fishing season in Scotland generally runs from February through to the end of October, but it varies for each species of fish. The salmon fishing season differs to the trout fishing season, for example, so it’s important to look them up. The Fisheries Management Scotland website is a good source for this information.
River fishing in Scotland
Scotland is renowned for its tremendous salmon fishing, and people will spend a lot of money to come and fish on Scottish rivers. From the small and remote rivers in the Scottish Highlands to the world-famous River Spey, Scotland has it all, not to mention one of the longest Atlantic salmon fishing seasons in Europe! With over 400 salmon rivers, you will be spoiled for choice! Salmon, pike and rainbow trout are the most common fish caught in Scotland’s rivers.
Some of the best rivers in Scotland for fishing include:
- River Spey – found in the Scottish Highlands in the area of Speyside, also known for its amazing whisky trail.
- River Dee – a 90-mile river found in north-east Aberdeenshire, flowing through the Cairngorm Mountains.
- River Tay - the longest river in Scotland, flowing for 120 miles from its source on the slopes of Ben Lui to its mouth at the Firth of Tay, below Dundee.
- River Earn - found in Perthshire, where it meets the River Tay at Bridge of Earn. Popular for walkers as well as fishing.
- River Esk (north and south) – found flowing through Midlothian and East Lothian; popular with those looking to escape the city for some time in the countryside.
- River Findhorn – flows through the county of Moray, meeting the sea at Findhorn Bay.
Fly fishing is the most popular form of fishing on the rivers, and it is a rewarding feeling catching a salmon as it can take hours and sometimes even days to hook one. Salmon fishing is just as much about standing stomach-high in a river for hours amongst nature as it is about catching a fish!
Loch fishing in Scotland
Wild brown trout populate most of the lochs in Scotland, and where there are more insects, there are more trout! It is the most common fish to be caught out of Scottish lochs, and the most popular method for catching them is by wet fly from a fishing boat. The size of fish caught does depend on the area you decide to fish. The more insects and flies there are for the fish to feed on, the bigger the fish become. So, areas like Perthshire and the west coast breed bigger fish. A day well spent is a day trout fishing in Scotland.
The more rugged and wild parts of the northern Highlands have smaller fish, but the scenery is second to none, so you may catch a smaller fish but the surroundings make up for it! You also might catch more of them, as the fish are hungrier and keener to eat so will likely be attracted to your tempting fly! The Highlands is one of the most popular areas in Scotland for fishing. Other fish caught in Scottish lochs include pike and Arctic charr.
Here are some of the best lochs in Scotland for fishing:
- Loch Leven – a 6km-long loch in Perthshire. All fishing is ‘fly only’ and must be done from a boat.
- Loch Watten – you will find this loch within the River Wick in Caithness in the Highlands; it is the largest of a series of kettle hole lochs.
- Loch Morar – located in Lochaber, this is the fifth largest loch in Scotland. Like Loch Ness, there is a legend of the Morar Monster living under the surface. Salmon and trout are regularly caught here.
- Loch Maree – found towards the west coast in the Highlands, this is a large freshwater loch that meets the ocean at Poolewe. There are over 65 small islands to explore.
- Loch Assynt – a freshwater loch in Sutherland best known for catching brown trout, Arctic charr, sea trout, salmon and ferox.
- Loch Shin – another great fishing loch in the north-west Highlands, and the largest in Sutherland. It is long and thin, at 18 miles long, and is also a great spot for seeing ospreys.
Sea fishing in Scotland
Sea fishing in Scotland is free to anyone who wants to try it! For those new to fishing, there are companies that offer fishing trips from the coast and will take you out in a boat for a day. This is a great way to spend time without the hassle of having to plan anything. All the kit is usually included, and health and safety come first. This might be a safer way than arranging something by yourself, especially if you are not that experienced on the sea. There are companies all over Scotland who do this, so if you have an area in mind, a bit of research online will get you to the right people!
Here are some species of fish that can be caught off the coast of Scotland:
- Sea Bass
Everyone has different tastes when it comes to fish, but most of these fish taste delicious when cooked, and many people like to grill their catch on a BBQ or bake it for their dinner - what a reward after a day out on the water! The west coast of Scotland, Mull, Skye and the Highlands are great areas for sea fishing. The scenery is spectacular, and on a good day, you will see other wildlife like seals, dolphins and even whales. Birdlife includes eagles, ospreys, red kite and all sorts of divers!
Mackerel fishing in Scotland is one of the most popular fishing sports on the sea, as it is usually quite rewarding in terms of the amount you catch. To catch mackerel, you dangle a long line over the edge of a boat, and either sit or trawl until you feel a fish latch on and tug! You can fish from speed boats, rowing boats and even kayaks. Always follow safety guidelines, and try to avoid going out to sea by yourself - it is always safer to let someone know where you will be.
Fishing lodges in Scotland
We have some fishing lodges in Scotland that make for great trips away with your friends, so you can all get together and fish in Scotland. Fishing can be arranged privately with the owners, who are always happy to help. Some of our favourites include:
Meall Mor Lodge (sleeps 20) – A traditional hunting lodge in the Highlands. Take your pick of six lochs and fish for trout from boat or bank. There is also 1 mile of salmon river to fish on.
Creel Cabin (sleeps 2) – Located on a private island in Badachro. Take a trip on a traditional creel fishing boat with the owner.
Failte Kyles of Bute (sleeps 8) – A blissful holiday home on the coast; ideal for nature lovers. Fishing is available on the Kyles of Bute.
The Old Manse at Farleyer (sleeps 10) – A beautifully renovated Georgian house in Aberfeldy, Perthshire. Salmon fishing on two private beats on the River Tay, and eight rods available by arrangement with owners.
View our full collection of fishing holiday cottages and plan a break on Scottish water today!
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.