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  1. Scotland
  2. Hebrides
  3. When and where to fish

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.

Fishing Seasons

Fishing Seasons

Spring fishing

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.

Summer fishing

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.

Autumn fishing

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



Where to fish

Here in the Hebrides you can enjoy fishing for salmon, surrounded by some of the world's finest scenery. Indeed, salmon fishing in the Hebrides is world-renowned, not only for the scenery but for the sheer numbers of fish still running its rivers and streams. Bags of half a dozen or more fish can still be taken by a single angler in one day. This may seem a lot to most salmon anglers but catches like this can still be expected here in the Hebrides.

The middle and Southern basins of Loch Langabhat, the largest freshwater loch in the Outer Hebrides

Salmon and sea trout in the Hebrides are mainly fished for in lochs, however, fish are also caught in rivers and river estuaries when conditions dictate. In the Southern Isles estuary fishing accounts for some fish; this is an exciting method of fishing for salmon and sea trout as the fish are wound up in readiness to take the river at the first opportunity. One estate on the west coast of Lewis records a third of its annual catch in saltwater, anglers wade out and cast into the sea as shoals of fish in search of their native rivers pass by, the anticipation in this type of fishing is overwhelming!

Most of the salmon fishing in the Hebrides is to be found in Lewis and Harris but with salmon fishing also being available in the Uists. The Outer Hebrides have wonderful sea trout fishing with most fisheries having good runs of fish. The Uists come into their own when fishing for sea trout, here the sea trout fishing can be exceptional with larger than average fish caught annually, two fish, each weighing 11lb - 8oz were landed in 2010 in South Uist. The wild brown trout fishing in the Outer Hebrides is excellent, here the fish are as wild and spectacular as the surrounding you find yourself in. The shallow machair lochs of South Uist offer some of the best fishing where bags of 6 fish to 17lb - 8oz have been landed as recently as 2013 - these are exceptionally good days though, but knowing this can give the angler a sense of anticipation that can be as exciting and thrilling as landing the fish itself.

 The Reedy Pool, Amhuinnsuidhe Castle Estate

Casting a line for salmon in the Reedy Pool, Amhuinnsuidhe Castle Estate

The Hebrides has a wealth of opportunities for the freshwater angler and the majority of fisheries take bookings. Although this is usually by the week for salmon and sea trout fishing, a percentage of them also give day permits. Bookings for most fisheries are via sporting agents but some fisheries do take bookings if you contact them directly. Salmon and sea trout fishing is very popular in the islands and it is sometimes difficult to get the best weeks as they are booked well in advance, however, it is always worth getting in touch with estate managers as last minute openings do occur. Wild brown trout fishing in the Hebrides is so readily available that is it unusual to have to book in advance, although it's always wise to do so, if you want a particular water.

Fly fishing for sea trout in a North Uist Sea-Pool


Lewis & Harris

Lewis offers some of the best salmon fishing in the Outer Hebrides and is also regarded as having some of the best summer salmon fishing in Europe. Lewis has an abundance of fisheries that are sure to excite and satisfy even the most demanding of anglers. From Grimersta in the West to the Creed in the east, the choice of fishing is staggering and often makes it difficult for one to decide where to cast a line. The islands are shrouded in angling history with Lewis holding the UK record salmon catch as already mentioned in the 'About the Hebrides' page. There are approximately 30 fisheries offering either salmon, sea trout or brown trout fishing from about June to October, with some fisheries starting as early as March but this being primarily for brown trout. The fisheries are all unique in their own way and all have their own individual attractions, from loch and river fishing in remote locations in some of the world’s most spectacular scenery, to easily accessible fishing within walking distance of Stornoway, the capital town of the Outer Hebrides.

Harris is probably better known for the lochs and rivers of the Amhuinnsuidhe Castle Estate, formerly the North Harris Estate and commonly known in angling circles as Amhuinnsuidhe after the Castle which lies in one of the most remote and tranquil of all fishing destinations in the Outer Hebrides. Amhuinnsuidhe Castle was built in the late 1800s by the Third Earl of Dunmore and is Britain's most westerly castle. Amhuinnsuidhe is however only one of many excellent salmon and trout fisheries in Harris with fisheries scattered from just outside Tarbert in the north to Leverburgh in the south and each offering their own piece of Hebridean magic. Harris is picture postcard country, with stunning landscapes and miles of golden sandy beaches and all of which surrounds some of the best summer salmon and sea trout fishing available today.

Uists, Benbecula & Barra

When you look at the Uists, Benbecula and Barra on an ordnance survey map, they look as much water as they do land and a large percentage of this is freshwater. The islands are littered with freshwater lochs, and it's as easy for an angler to change loch as it is to change fly. The Uists and Benbecula have two large sporting estates, North Uist Estate and South Uist Estate, and almost all the lochs and rivers are under their management. Both estates offer exceptional sea trout fishing, with a lot of this taking place in estuaries, and later in the season in lochs and rivers. The sea trout fishing in the Uists is regarded as being some of the best in the country, with the Hebrides being fortunate in having good runs of fish. Although it's for sea trout the Uist are better known, they also have good salmon fishing available and this is via both estates.

Loch Hallan - one of the famous machair lochs of South Uist

In the Uists and Benbecula most lochs hold good stocks of wild brown trout and the angling opportunities are huge. The machair lochs of South Uist offer the best brown trout fishing of all the Hebridean islands and some of the best in the country. There are two angling clubs active in the Uists and both have access to a great selection of lochs.

The island of Barra has no salmon or sea trout fishing but has some good brown trout fishing, with Loch St. Clare on the Tangasdale machair being regarded as the best.

 Tidal lagoon on the Isle of Barra

Searching for trout in a tidal lagoon on the Isle of Barra

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