Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Moor and the Loch
Loch Fishing

THE true angler is almost always a lover of nature; if not, he loses half the pleasure of his art. In following the river's course, he must of necessity pass through the finest and most varied scenery ; and that, too, at a time when beauty crowns the year. But, enchanting as are the woodland banks of the quiet stream, there is to me a higher and yet more powerful charm in the solitary wildness or savage grandeur of the Highland loch. The very stillness of those bare hills and craggy summits, broken only by the rushing of some rapid burn that intersects them, has a tendency to elevate, while it calms the mind; and I envy not the man who could frequent such scenes and not feel them.

But if the proficient in the gentle craft has an eye equally keen to the beauties so lavishly scattered around him, it happens no less often that the admirer of nature's wildest charms fancies himself an angler. Our man of taste has, perhaps, fished a few rivers near him, in the spring, when trout are lean and hungry; and, having chosen a propitious day, has sometimes returned with a tolerable creelful. He then starts on his pleasure-tour, and of course his fishing-rod forms an important accompaniment. At first he makes some determined attacks upon the finny tribe ; but, being generally unsuccessful, his rod is laid aside, and, after having been delighted with the sublimities and beauties of half the Highlands, he returns home with but an indifferent account of his piscatorial achievements. To such a one I particularly address the few simple directions in loch-fishing, which time and patience have enabled me to collect.

There are particular times in every season when trout more readily take in many of the Highland lochs, and these it should be the angler's first study to discover. For instance, the best time for trolling with the minnow, in Loch Vennachar, is from the end of February to the middle of May, when large fish may be taken. They never rise well at the fly in this loch. In Loch Lomond, the trolling does not begin till flay, and only lasts till the middle of June, when the fly-fishing commences. More may then be caught, but, with the exception of sea-trout, seldom nearly so large as with the minnow. In Loch Katrine, you may troll with success all the season. The fishing in Lochs Earn, Lubnaig, and Voil is not good till May : the trout in those lochs being small, they are never trolled except for the gillaroo, which inhabits them all, and sometimes grows to a great size. The trouting in Loch Ard is best at an early part of the year, falling off very much as the season advances; while Lochs Chon and Dhu, not so good as Loch Ard at the beginning of it, are much better afterwards. In short, a number of the lochs in the Highlands may, at certain times, be either fly-fished or trolled with greater success. There are also some which may be fished either way throughout the season; the angler's judgment determining which, as wind, water, and sky suggest. These, if inhabited by pike, are my particular favourites, especially when the greater part of the shore is so clear of weeds as to make one independent of a boat.

Many people think a loch injured by pike : on the contrary, unless very numerous, as in Loch Menteith, I have seldom seen one much worth fishing without them ; always excepting those where the Loch Awe trout or gillaroo are to be found. If a man prefers killing eight or nine dozen, with scarcely a half-pounder among them, to a dozen fine trout from half-a-pound to three pounds weight, then he may count the pike his enemy; but the latter feat will both better prove his skill and afford him much greater sport. He who wishes to excel in angling, will leave the loch with its tiny multitude to the bungler, and select the other, where all his science will be called into play.

The reason why yellow trout are always large where there are pike, is obvious: the small fry are all devoured by the latter, and the others, having more food, increase in size. A few years ago Loch Katrine was choke-full of very small trout, which have gradually become larger since pike have been introduced ; and now two or three dozen fine red trout may be taken in a day.

There are two other small lochs near Loch Katrine which breed very large pike, and are full of prime trout, Loch Arklet and Loch Dronkie; but less fortunate than their neighbours in not having been immortalized by our Great Minstrel: the latter especially, from its ill-sounding name, we cannot wonder that a poet discards, but an angler will find its attractions. The shores of these lochs being almost clear of weeds, and the ground firm, the best parts may be reached by wading, and fish taken from half-a-pound to three pounds weight. Upon one occasion, when playing a good-sized trout in Loch Dronkie, an enormous pike made several dashes, and at last succeeded in seizing it. I used every effort to frighten him away ; but so determined was he, that, though I could see him quite plainly in shallow water, with my trout held across his tremendous jaws, he would not be beat off; and at last when, kicking the water, I strained my line, he gave a plunge, broke my rod, and escaped with his prey.


The, flies I have generally found best for loch-fishing are a light speckled, or brown mottled mallard wing, according to the day; reddish-brown mohair body, red hackle, and No. 7 hook, tied with yellow silk, for a trail; and a teal-wing, claret-colour mohair body, black hackle, and No. 6 hook, tied with orange or yellow silk, for a bob. If the loch is full and muddy, add a small thread of silver tinsel to the latter, and increase the size of both; in large lochs, a green body is also very killing. In fishing a loch where the trout are small, diminish the size of your hook; even in river fishing, I seldom use any but those I have named, only much smaller and without the mohair; adding a hare's-car body and woodcock wing early in the season, and a mouse body and snipe wing at a later period.

Should the loch you are fishing contain sea-trout or salmon, ascertain from any good fisher in the neighbourhood what are the most killing flies, and tie them for yourself. Should you not be "up to this," beg, borrow, or buy them from him. In fishing with a long line, from a boat, let the trail be either a sea-trout or salmon-fly ; but if throwing from shore, never use the latter except by itself. When a salmon rises, whether in a loch or a river, you may allow him a second or two longer than a trout. He may be safely permitted to turn before you strike. A two-handed rod, large reel with plenty of line, and the lightest tackle are necessary.

If the wind is so high as to cause decided waves upon one of these small lochs, you will succeed much better with the minnow-tackle than the fly: indeed, the best plan then is to troll for pike, with a par; they always take best in high wind, but are so capricious that you may have three runs in half-an-hour, and, perhaps, not one in several apparently favourable days. High wind is prejudicial to fly-fishing in lochs where the trout are large, because it scatters them into unlikely places; and being, of course, much fewer in number than when small, you are not so apt to stumble upon them; the waves also prevent their seeing the fly so readily.

When there is a fine even breeze, immediately repair to the loch. Begin to fish those parts where the wind blows fairest from the shore; if you know the loch well, you have a great advantage. The trout have many feeding places, and shift from one to another with the slightest change of the wind. Near some one of these they generally keep watching the breeze, which blows them flies and insects. They are usually in companies; so when the angler hooks one, he should endeavour to get it away from the rest; he will then most likely rise another the next throw or two. He must keep a very sharp look-out for these places, and may generally detect them by the rising of the trout. They sometimes, but not so often, feed singly.

When a fish takes the fly, raise your arm with a sort of indescribable turn of the wrist: if this is done with a jerk, the fly is whipped away from the trout; but if omitted altogether, it will often make its escape, after feeling the hook. It is for want of knack in this particular that so many trout are lost after having risen to the fly. When you hook a good fish that never shows above water, but swims low with a dead heavy pull, be very cautious; it is most likely tenderly hooked, and, with the least strain upon the line, will break away.

The shore in many parts of the lochs is fringed with weeds, beyond which you may cast by wading. Should you hook a trout in such a situation, and not find an opening to lead it through, use every endeavour to keep it from the weeds : and when quite tired out, raise its head above water, and tow it rapidly over them. If you can reach beyond the weeds with your landingnet, the difficulty in a great measure ceases.

When salmon or trout spring out of the water, you may be sure that neither will be so apt to rise to your fly, whether in lochs or rivers.


In fishing for trout with the minnow, I also prefer a moderate breeze, unless in bright sunshine, when more wind is necessary. Your tackle should be the very best single gut, dyed with strong tea, or anything to take the shine off; a No. 13 hook and two No. 8's tied back to back : two swivels are enough, and no lead on the line. Any one with the least knowledge of angling knows how to bait. The large hook enters makes the minnow spin more lively, and is therefore preferable to a bait one: the rod-makers will say the reverse. In river-fishing, another branch and couple of small hooks fastened to the gut, and fixed in the minnow's side, are often used; but I do not recommend them for the lochs.

The best, although most tedious way of casting, is to gather the line with your right hand, and, letting the minnow hang down about a yard, throw it out, shifting the rod at the same time from the left hand to the right; you can thus make further casts, and the minnow lasts twice as long. If the wind is high, try all the sheltered bays; you may then often hook a fish where you would otherwise have had little chance. Sink the minnow a few inches below the surface, and when you see or feel a bite, slacken your line a little ; when you strike, it must be done with much more force than in fly-fishing.

When trolling from a boat, the less the breeze the longer the line; sink it with lead to a considerable depth. In baiting, use a No. 9 hook through the minnow's lips, and a 13 or 14 through the tail (vide cut). You thus bait much more quickly, and the minnow's appearance is not so apt to be injured; its tail can also be curved up, more or less, to make it spin true.

Thus baited, you may troll with it from a boat for half a day ; but if you attempt to cast, it will very soon be thrown off. Always take with you two coarse trolling-rods, that you do not mind sinking in the water, and very large reels with plenty of line, or oiled cord, if you wish.

Your boatman should be well acquainted with the ground ; but if not, endeavour to troll between the shallow and the deep, where the trout are on the outlook. Find out if there are any sunk rocks or banks, and troll round them also. Always sweep past the mouths of any rivers or brooks ; they are very likely places, either with minnow or fly.

Troll as much as possible with the wind, although in fly-fishing it is best to row against it. Take care, when you hook a fish, that your boatman does not strain your line in the former case, nor slacken it in the latter ; either of which he is apt to do, by lying upon his oars, watching your proceedings. You must, in fact, direct his slightest movement. When the waters are large and deep, such as Loch Lomond and Loch Awe, the heaviest fish are always taken by trolling with small trout, minnow, or par.

If the loch is frequented by salmon, have one of your rods baited with a par; and, if passing any of his haunts near the shore, take your fly-rod, land, and throw from it, but do not go near the place with the boat. Should no fish rise after you have thrown some time, take off your fly, put on a large bait-hook and two floats, one about six yards from the other ; the line is thus prevented from dangling near the hook, which must hang down about four yards from the last float, baited with two large dew-worms in the following manner:-Enter the hook at the tail of one, and bring it out about onefourth of an inch below the head ; pull up the worm upon the gut ; then put in the hook about one-fourth of an inch below the head of the other, leaving the same length of worm at the point ; this moves about, and entices the salmon ; pull down the first worm to the other, and your hook is baited (vide cut). When the

float disappears, be in no hurry to strike till the fish has tightened the line; you are thus pretty sure of its head being turned away, and consequently have a better chance of hooking. This should only be attempted where the shores are deep and rocky, on a cloudy day, with a stiff breeze from the south or west, and skiffs of rain. Do not give up hope too soon, for the salmon are generally swimming in small shoals backwards and forwards along the shore ; a little time may thus elapse before they pass where you are fishing.

In trolling with par for Loch Awe trout, salmon, or the gillaroo, use double or even triple gut, well dyed ; a couple of swivels are quite enough, and a very heavy lead. Bait in the same way as when trolling with minnow from a boat, only the hooks must be considerably larger to suit the par. [If the bait is large, such as a trout, three pairs of hooks tied back to back with a single one at the top may be used. The single hook passes through the bait's lips, the two middle pairs are fixed in its back, and one of the lower hooks curves up the tail to make it spin true, as in the cut. This is exactly the same as the common method of spinning with bleak or gudgeon for Thames trout, only the books in the latter case are much smaller (No. 5), and the two bottom rows have three instead of two hooks tied back to back In both cases very rapid spinning is necessary, and consequently more swivels.] Should the weather become calm, you may often hook a large cunning fish by waiting till dusk of evening, letting out a very long line, and sinking your rod in the water, with the butt against your shoulder. The biggest fish are always on the search for food at this time ; and, perhaps, the most killing bait is a loach-also excellent for large perch, some of which I have caught, when trolling, upwards of three pounds weight.


The common way of rod-fishing for pike in the Highlands is with a running-bait,-a par, or small trout, and plenty of hooks, tied back to back on gimp, stuck all round it; also a couple of large swivels, and the line a little loaded with lead. They always take best mornings and evenings, except on very windy days ; so, if the angler is inclined to try a cast for a pike, after having filled his creel with trout, he may begin about six o'clock.


Trolling with the gorge is often very deadly in weedy lochs, especially small openings that cannot be fished with the running-bait. I have seldom, however, seen it used in Scotland, except in a very clumsy way-a large double hook, armed upon wire, with the bait inverted, and no attempt to make it spin; unless pike are in a very hungry mood, this is not very enticing. The proper gorge-hook is a small double one, commonly used for eels, with very sharp barbs, slightly turned inwards ; the shank loaded with lead, in order to make the bait sink quickly, and enable you to make far casts with precision. This hook is fastened by a small brass ring to about a foot of gimp: (you require a baiting-needle) after cutting off the tail and all the fins but one of the top side ones, hook on the loop of the gimp to the needle, and insert it at the mouth of the bait, bringing it out at the middle of the fork of the tail : the lead and shank of the hook will thus be hid in the mouth and belly of the bait, and only the barbs and points visible. Tie the tail to the gimp with thread. ( Vide cut.) After casting, let the bait sink to

the bottom, then draw it to the top, and the single fin will make it spin beautifully. When a pike seizes, you must not be in a hurry to strike, or you have small chance of hooking : let out your line with your hand ; give him sufficient time to gorge the bait, and then he is fast and firm as you could wish. Use a coarse trolling-rod, with large strong rings, and reel of oiled cord : no swivel is required. Some use a large gaudy fly for pike ; I never do so, and do not recommend it, though I have sometimes caught small pike even with a common trout fly.

It is much more easy to find out the haunts of pike than those of trout. The best places are in and near the weedy bays. Fish all these with the running-bait, and, if possible, by wading, cast immediately beyond the weeds, between the shallow and the deep water ; this, however, the sinking mud will often prevent your accomplishing. If you have found the pike on the feed, you may return over the same ground with the gorge, trying all the openings among the weeds that you could not fish with the running-bait. I never troll for pike from a boat unless they cannot be reached any other way.


Although rod-fishing for pike affords undoubtedly the best sport, and requires much greater skill, yet by far the most deadly way is with set-lines. This is either done with a long line, and from twelve to twenty hooks, or with single hooks, fixed to a bottle or other equally buoyant float. I have also heard of tying baited hooks to the legs of geese, and turning them adrift : when a pike seizes the bait, the goose begins to flap its wings, and there is often considerable sport in the struggle; but it is certainly a most cruel diversion, especially if a large pike is hooked. The humane man will be more amused with the float, which I have often practised with great success.

After very tightly corking up the bottles, and fastening the cord to them, let from five to eight feet hang down, according to the depth of the water; fix a large double pike-hook, armed upon brass wire, and baited with a small perch, trout, roach, or frog to each : be sure to cut off the perch's dorsal fin and lower part of the gills. The baits are inverted, the barbs of the hook projecting from their mouths. The best time for this amusement is on one of those delicious evenings with scarcely a breath of air, when the shadow of the mountain becomes more imposing on the unrippled loch, and twilight begins to steal over the scene. Let the hum of the beetle be your warning bell.

Having arranged all your tackle, and baited your hooks, place them regularly in a light two-oared boat, and row to the weedy bay. You will now drop them one by one, about twenty yards apart, outside the weeds, between the shallow and the deep. The pike have been basking all the sultry day in the shallows, and are just emerging from their green covering in search of food. The first object that arrests their hungry eyes and craving stomachs is your tantalizing bait, suspended at such a distance from the surface as to excite no apprehension, and perfectly still. With avidity it is seized and pouched; down goes the bottle : scarcely, perhaps, has it disappeared, when another follows its example ; it is nothing uncommon to have four or five all bobbing up and down at the same time. The sport now begins, the angler stretching to his oars, first after one, then another, as they alternately rise and sink. If large pike are hooked, they will often keep their tormentor under water for a minute at a time; and to run the whole down is no contemptible evening's exercise.

In setting a long-line for pike, fix branches of small whip-cord to it, about a yard in length, and three yards apart from each other; the same hooks, as described above, appended to them, and baited in the same way. The line is set in a like situation to the floats, in the following manner: After driving a pole into the mud, fasten the end of your line to it. Your companion will now row leisurely along, whilst you lift out hook after hook, until you come to the end of the line; having done so, fix it to another pole, and drive this also into the mud. Do not make the line too "taught," or it will not hang low enough for the pike; no floats are required. The line may remain all night, and has thus the morning and evening chance.


As lines for eels are of course set at the bottom, a short description of the way to do so may be necessary. Fasten a stone to the end of the line, to which also append a branch with a float--the same at the other end-the line thus lies flat upon the ground, the floats showing exactly where. Eels may be set for in rather deeper places than pike; but be sure there is a soft muddy bottom. Both hooks and baits must be a great deal less than when setting for pike, the former armed upon strong wire. Cut the fish, or whatever you bait with, into small pieces, just large enough to cover the hook, and fix them firmly on. I recollect catching five or six beautiful eels at one haul, with no other bait than two frogs; the legs set upon some of the hooks like worm, and the bodies, cut into several pieces, for the others. The drawing of an eel-line, what with twisting and slime, is often sorry work ; if a large swivel was appended to each hook, it would both tend to prevent this and increase the chance of success. It is of little use to set single hooks for eels, as the great likelihood is that the first that comes may have a mouth too small for sucking in your hook, but,large enough to devour your bait; in fact, there are twenty small for one large ; and from a line of three dozen hooks, it is a very good night's work to kill half-a-dozen large eels.

I have thus given an outline of the different kinds of fishing in fresh-water lochs except perch, which float and worm recreation, as it has come under the ban of Dr. Johnson, I might leave the novice to find out for himself. All he has to do is to ascertain their haunt, which any one in the vicinity can show; fasten a float to his line, and a No. 10 hook-bait with an earth-worm -throw in without art, and give the fish time to gorge the bait before striking, or it may slip out of its capacious mouth after being sucked in.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus