Fly Fishing in Scotland: The Ultimate Guide

Aerial view of two anglers fly fishing in River Thurso, Scotland

Famous for its beautiful scenery, single malt whisky, and historic castles, Scotland is also home to world-famous rivers that offer the perfect scenic location for angling.

Scotland also happens to be one of the world’s premier Atlantic Salmon fly fishing destinations. There’s a wide variety of different rivers and runs across the country, where you can experience the very best of the country’s beautiful surroundings and rich wildlife during the 11-month long season.

If you’re interested in a fly fishing holiday in Scotland, keep reading! We’ll take a look at everything you need to know, including where in Scotland you should fly to for the best fishing nearby, what time of year to travel and the types of fish you’ll find in this beautiful country.

We’ll also highlight some of the accommodation options LOOP Travel offers in Scotland, as well as looking at what clothing and equipment you’ll need for your trip.

The best time of year to go fly fishing in Scotland

Generally, the Salmon fishing season in Scotland runs from early February until late October. That means you can choose from spring, summer or autumn for your fly fishing holiday in Scotland.

However, July and August are the two of the best months for fly fishing, so we recommend visiting during the peak summer season.

Summer days are long in Scotland. In the Highlands, you can expect up to 18 hours of daylight during the summer months, meaning you have plenty of time to make the most of your Scottish fishing experience.

Summer is also the best time to visit Scotland, weather-wise. There is, of course, always the chance of rain whenever you visit Scotland, but the weather tends to be much milder in July and August, with average highs of around 19°C.

In August, salmon are prolific in the rivers, meaning there’s a great opportunity to catch one of these large fish.

But salmon aren’t the only species you have a chance of catching in July and August. Summer offers a great opportunity to catch wild brown trout, and grayling fishing in rivers is also at its peak during these months.

What species of fish to expect in Scotland

Scotland is famed for its Atlantic Salmon, which can grow to over a metre in length. These fish live in freshwater as young fish before migrating to the sea as adults – and then returning to rivers again to spawn.

They’re mostly found in the north and west of the country, including the River Thurso in Caithness, in the Scottish Highlands; the River Dee in the Cairngorms; the River Tay in Perthshire in central Scotland; and on the islands off the west coast of Scotland, including Skye, Mull, Lewis, Harris, South Uist and North Uist.

However, you’re sure to encounter more than just Atlantic Salmon when fly fishing in Scotland.

Scotland is home to more than 30,000 freshwater lochs, including the famous Loch Ness and Loch Lomond. In many of these vast lochs, you’ll find huge Pike and Wild Brown Trout.

LOOP angler holding a fish caught in Scotland

Most of the bigger lochs in Scotland are rife with Pike – in fact, Scotland is one of the best places in all of Europe for Pike fishing. In many lochs, Pike can be found in huge numbers – and the fish themselves can also be enormous. The current record is a 22kg Pike caught in Loch Lomond.

There are also plenty of opportunities for Brown Trout Fishing in both rivers and lochs across the country. Brown Trout can weigh up to 2kg, and they can be fished all year round.

Grayling, Rainbow and Sea Trout are also extremely popular in Scotland. Grayling can mostly be found in rivers around the central belt and southern Scotland, including the River Nith, the River Tay, River Tummel and the Tweed.

Rainbow Trout are a non-native species, but can be found in fisheries across the country, while Sea Trout can be found in rivers and lochs between January and November. You’ll find Brown Trout in many of the same rivers as Salmon, including the Rivers Spey and Dee in north east Scotland, the Rivers Nith and Annan in southern Scotland, Lochs Maree, More and Stack in the Highlands, and on the western isles.

If you’re looking for some support when fly tying, check out LOOP Akademi’s Fly Tying Guides featuring tutorials, patterns and techniques from our team of world-class fly tyers.

River Thurso

The River Thurso is in Caithness in the Highlands, and is a great choice if you’re looking for the best fly fishing in Scotland.
The river is fed from Loch More, and although a medium-sized river, it’ll present you with a classic Scottish fishing experience. The river changes dramatically throughout its course, meaning you can try out a number of different techniques including classic wet fly techniques, as well as the hitch, skated flies and dry flies.

The River Thurso is abundant with different types of fish, including Atlantic Salmon, Brown Trout and Sea Trout. You’ll find a selection of accommodation close by, including a hotel and private luxury lodges, so there’s something for everyone in this charming Highland setting – perfect if you’re looking for the quintessential Scottish fly fishing experience.

To learn more about where you can stay to fish on the incredible River Thurso, take a look at our travel overview and enquire today.

Garynahine & Barvas

For something a bit different, consider the Barvs and Garynahine estates, located on the Isle of Lewis in the Western Hebrides.

Lewis is a beautiful island in the North Atlantic Ocean, famous for its white sand beaches, ancient standing stones, and incredible array of flora and fauna. It’s also an outstanding fishing destination for Atlantic Salmon, Brown Trout and Sea Trout.

When you visit the estates, you’ll be staying in a traditional sporting lodge, which is one of the oldest residences on the island. The lodge itself is situated just above the mouth of the Garynahine river, the perfect location for an after-dinner catch.

The lodge is self-catering, but a private chef can be organised on request, and although the fishing is for 4–5 rods, the lodge has 11 rooms, meaning it’s a great solution if you want to bring friends and family along with you for the trip.

Discover all the amazing features and enquire about booking this lodge today.

The best clothing for fly fishing in Scotland

As is probably no surprise, the weather in Scotland can be fairly unpredictable and often wet and windy. That’s why it’s important to take that extra layer of waterproof protection in your fly fishing clothing.

Woman fly fishing in Scotland wearing LOOP fishing jacket

This Unisex Anorak from LOOP is a stormproof, lightweight outer shell designed to keep you totally dry in the elements.

The Wind Blocker Beanie is made from a wool blend with a wind blocker membrane to keep you cosy and shield you from the wind, so you can enjoy the fishing experience whatever the weather.

Scotland is well-known for its midges. No matter where you’re fishing, you’re likely to encounter these pests (but they’re particularly common in the western Highlands!). The Bug Jacket utilises the latest insect repellent technology from Burlington’s No Fly Zone® to keep you out on the water for longer.

Finally, make sure you stay safe, particularly in fast-flowing water, with the Alto Belt Pack. Worn around the waist, this lightweight and discrete emergency inflation aid is manually operated should you get into difficulties, releasing an inflatable tube which supports you under the arms and around the chest.

The best fly fishing rod to take to Scotland

A 10t #6 or #7 weight single hander is the best all round rod for Hebridean fishing.

Our 7X rod series combines innovative design with the performance advantage of its exclusive heptagonal construction, to optimise power transfer, enhance rod tracking and improve energy efficiency.

Lighter and stronger than regular circular rods, it’s designed for optimal accuracy, performance and versatility, no matter what species you’re fishing for.

LOOP fly fishing rod and reel laid next to a caught fish

Where to fly to in Scotland for your fly fishing trip

There are lots of different areas that are excellent for fly fishing in Scotland, and with several international airports dotted around the country, you’re spoiled for choice on where to fly to.

Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital city, and sits on the east coast of the country’s central belt. Edinburgh Airport is the busiest in Scotland, serving over 12 million passengers every year with both domestic and international flights.

It’s a good choice if you want to try fishing in rivers in the Lowlands or central Scotland, such as the River Tay.
Glasgow Airport is the country’s second-busiest airport, serving over 100 destinations. It’s located in the central belt, on the western side of the country, and is a good option if you want to explore Scotland’s scenic west coast.

Aberdeen Airport is a smaller airport, and Scotland’s third busiest. If you’re planning a fly fishing trip to the north-east of the country, consider flying into Aberdeen.

Finally, Scotland’s fourth international airport is in Inverness. It’s the smallest of the four, but is the best choice if you’re planning to explore the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Known as the ‘gateway to the Highlands’, Inverness is the only city in the sprawling Highland region, and the perfect place to kickstart your holiday.

No matter which airport you choose to fly into, the rest of Scotland is easily accessible by car. Hire a car at the airport and you’re sure to enjoy a scenic drive on your way to your destination – just be sure to research how long your drive will be, and interesting places to stop along the way!

What to expect from LOOP Travel

LOOP Travel has extensive teams worldwide, all working to give you the best possible advice when travelling the world in search of top-class fly fishing. Our advice is totally free to you and booking with us comes at no extra cost.

Our years of experience between the teams and plethora of knowledge is second to none. The team members know these destinations backwards, having spent many years guiding, managing or fishing these lodges.

We only sell what we know, meaning we only offer the best possible advice and products.

Scotland is a fantastic destination for fly fishing, with an abundance not only of Atlantic Salmon, but also Pike, Brown Trout, Grayling, Rainbow Trout and Sea Trout.

Whether you choose to fish in the River Thurso in the Highlands, or in the rivers on the Isle of Lewis, there are endless possibilities when it comes to fly fishing holidays in Scotland, with top-of-the-range accommodation from LOOP Travel.

If Scotland sounds too wet and windy for you, we’ve also got a wide range of other destinations that might suit you better, from Argentina to Sweden. Take a look at the options and get in touch with us to book your fly fishing holiday today.