Author Topic: Fly Fishing in Scotland - Casting in the Shadows of Castles...  (Read 2169 times)

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Todd Oishi

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During the first spring of 2008, I had the opportunity to fly fish for wild brown trout on several of Scotland’s finest lochs. Although its waters are legendary, it was the experience of casting flies alongside the ruins of the castles that made my time in Scotland special and a memory that I will forever cherish.

In the shallows of Loch Leven, lies an island-fortress/castle that was built during the fourteenth century and served as a prison for Mary - Queen of the Scots, during the sixteenth century. The ruins of the castle stand as a symbol of the trials and tribulations that she and her country faced. 

Loch Leven has long been considered a Mecca for brown trout enthusiasts around the world and renowned for its aggressive, wild brown trout, which have been exported to rivers and lakes around the world. It is a fairly large body of water that extends nearly three miles from shore to shore at its greatest distance, which makes locating trout a challenging and daunting task.

After examining a map of the loch, my guide and I decided to start fishing in a large shallow bay on the lee-ward side of the loch. I paid the boatman the angling fees and was led to the dock where a fleet of “Clinker” wooden boats have sat for nearly a century. I was told that the boats were over a hundred years old. I marveled at the craftsmanship and was impressed by the condition of these antiques, especially when you consider the number of anglers that have hired their services over the past century.

As we motored away from the dock, we discussed the various loch-style fishing tactics and patterns that might prove effective for the current conditions. The Scottish anglers are accustomed to fishing in windy conditions and actually prefer a strong wind over a mild breeze. The reason for this is that they traditionally wind-drift while fly fishing on lochs and lakes; always casting ahead of the boat’s drift, which allows them to cover more water in a relatively shorter period of time compared to anchoring. This also allows them to present their flies to fresh fish that have yet to see the boat or any fly lines. For me, this was “loch-style” fishing at its best - and in the purest form.

As we moved into position for our first drift; I glanced into my Scottish guide’s fly box and was delighted to see that he still used traditional Scottish patterns as well as the “new-age” patterns that have been developed by today’s competitive fly fishers. I must admit that I am always intrigued by the sort of flies that are used by fly fishers in foreign waters. This trip in particular was a real eye-opener for me…

Throughout the morning I had several “bumps” that never amounted to much, and may very well have been little more than weeds, but at the end of one particularly long and promising drift I felt a harsh tug from an enormous brown trout. I struggled to get it under control as it ran towards the boat, and during the intense battle, it snapped my eight pound tippet with a violent thrashing while nearly a rod’s length from my boat.

Although I had been broken-off by a “fish of a life-time”, I was not the least bit disappointed as I had been able to admire it at close range and was able to observe which fly it had taken ( using three flies is a common practice in Scotland ). My guide was extremely apologetic about the loss of my fish, but I re-assured him that I was more than satisfied to have had the opportunity to do battle with such a fine trout, that was certainly one of the most memorable fish that I had ever hooked… but never landed! A few more trout were hooked - and some landed - but as beautiful as they were, they all paled by comparison.

As the sunlight began to fade a spectacular sunset transformed the skyline into vibrant shades of orange and red. I knew that our day on Leven had drawn to an end so we reeled in our lines and fired the motor. On the way back to the boathouse my guide beached our boat along the grassy shore of the island-fortress. I simply could not resist the opportunity to take a closer look within its castle’s walls.

As I walked the unbeaten pathway towards the castle’s keep, a large cock pheasant sounded his alarm, which sent several hens scurried for shelter within the island’s dense underbrush. While in the courtyard, I quickly snapped a few shots with my camera, but felt an uneasy presence as I walked down the cellar’s staircase and was consumed by the darkness of the cellar.

As I stood in the darkness, a chill ran down my spine as a second call from the pheasant pierced the silence within the chamber. I made my way back to the boat, but as we motored away from the island fortress, I couldn’t help but feel a certain degree of guilt, knowing that I had enjoyed the sport and pleasures provided by the very same loch, which once held a Scottish Queen captive, isolated and a prisoner within her own kingdom.

« Last Edit: March 22, 2012, 08:30:17 AM by Todd Oishi »
For me, the quality of a trout is not measured in inches or pounds, but rather by the journey and circumstances that allowed our paths to cross...

Joe Gluck

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Re: Fly Fishing in Scotland - Casting in the Shadows of Castles...
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2012, 11:12:37 AM »
A trip for me to Scotland is in the works... this just makes me more excited!

Tie one up, bro!

Chris Puchniak

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Re: Fly Fishing in Scotland - Casting in the Shadows of Castles...
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2012, 06:59:34 PM »
That was simply very good.

And I would have loved to have seen the one that 'got away"...
I will fish anywhere and find beauty in it.

Don't be a Pessimist. Don't be an Optimist.  Be a Realist and change when you need to.