When to fish
Each island within the chain that forms the Outer Hebrides has slightly different fishing seasons. For example, some fisheries on the west coast of Lewis can expect their first decent run of salmon as early as late May with some spring fish earlier in the season, whilst fisheries in Harris tend to have their first runs of fish in late June/early July thereby highlighting the different starts to the salmon season within the different geographical areas. The best overall times to go fishing for the different species are shown in the diagram below, the darker the colour the better the season.
The salmon season starts in February and, whilst there are occasional spring salmon around, they are generally not fished for. Fisheries normally choose to give the spring salmon the opportunity to run systems uninterrupted with a view to being able to spawn at the end of the season, thereby assisting in the regeneration of this much prized fish. The same approach is adopted by most fisheries for sea trout.
Brown trout fishing starts from 15th March and improves steadily with rising temperatures as the season progresses. Although anglers typically use floating lines to fish for brown trout early in the season, an intermediate line or sink tip can prove productive while the temperatures are still on the low side. Large brown trout are often caught throughout the season however some of the weightier fish, particularly the elusive ferox trout, tend to be caught in early and late season. April and May are generally considered good months for the larger fish.
The main runs of salmon and sea trout for most fisheries within the Hebrides begin in early June and peak in the middle to the end of July, depending upon the tides and sufficient rain. Most rivers within the Outer Hebrides are spate rivers which rely heavily on precipitation to raise water levels and for this to coincide with salmon entering the river estuaries. It is a spectacular sight watching shoals of salmon at river mouths, eagerly awaiting the first signs of rain so they can make their journey up the rivers to their ancestral spawning beds. Once the rain appears it is an equally amazing sight to watch them take the river, fighting some formidable obstacles before them, leaping spectacularly over river falls and often falling back many times before finally winning the struggle. This is a sight that both anglers and tourists often stop and take in at Amhuinnsuidhe.
Sea trout are plentiful in the Outer Hebrides and some wonderful sport can be expected. They are normally fished for from June onward although they are about much earlier in the season. Anglers can also expect to encounter sea trout at any time during the day as they are readily caught throughout daylight hours, and with the Hebrides boasting 22 hours of daylight in the height of summer, it's no wonder this is a chosen destination of so many anglers.
Releasing a summer salmon to the Garynahine River
Battling with a hefty sea trout on Loch Ulladale, Amhuinnsuidhe Castle Estate.
May and June are the best summer months for brown trout as there is an abundance of well conditioned, free-rising trout to be enjoyed. Anglers are asked to exercise some constraint on the amount of fish kept, as bags of 20, 30 and even more can be caught in one day to one rod.
As we leave the warm summer days behind and the weather begins to cool, salmon and sea trout fishing can be very successful in the lochs. Fresh salmon and sea trout are still entering the rivers and lochs right up to, and beyond, the end of the season, although the numbers dwindle as the season and autumn draws to a close. This is the time of year when anglers are asked to pay particular attention to the fish they keep as they will be becoming coloured as they ready themselves for the important task of spawning later in the year. This is also the time of year when anglers may be lucky enough to encounter some of the larger fish that enter the Hebridean waters - with fish of over twenty pounds caught on occasions.
The autumn is a beautiful time of year in the Outer Hebrides and this can only add to the already exhilarating experience of fishing for salmon. However, anglers may easily experience all of the four seasons in one day so the challenge is not for the faint hearted, but for those that do venture out the day's angling could be one of great reward as the larger fish are more plentiful. The salmon season ends at different times depending on the fishery - anytime between the beginning and the end of October.
Sea trout are more abundant at this time of year and although there are a lot of coloured fish around, there are also fresh run, sea-liced fish right up to the end of the season which is typically the same as the salmon season.
A sea-liced 4lb-10oz October sea trout from Loch Roag, South Uist
In September, brown trout are fairly plentiful although they may begin to lose condition towards the back end of the month as they ready themselves for spawning, consequently, care should be taken especially when returning them. Some of the larger specimens are often caught at this time of year so some excellent sport can be expected. The elusive Arctic char are also about in the autumn and can, on occasions, be tempted with a fly.
The Achmore brown trout lochs on an early summer morning