Over recent years the likelihood of you actually catching a fish in Wester Ross has declined considerably. That is not to say that there are no fish left worth pursuing, be it mackerel or pollack in the open sea, salmon in the sea lochs and rivers, or brown trout in upland lochs. The spectacular locations that you can choose from to try your luck will more than recompense you for the paucity of fish.
The River Ewe is a trivia quiz gift, being the shortest river in Britain at just over 1 mile long. In former years it was full of wild salmon, but their numbers have declined considerably. Although short, the River Ewe has a spectacular course offering many pools and narrows that will enthral the keen fisherman for hours. Permits can be obtained from the relevant estate. The River Gruinard is also a revered salmon river in which sea trout are found. At the landward end of the River Ewe is Loch Maree, a vast loch with many small islands. The seaward end of the river flows into Loch Ewe and at times of high rainfall the river gushes under Poolewe Bridge at an alarming rate, swirling and eddying at the mouth and stirring up nutrients and food for the many birds and occasional otter that fish here.
Fishing from a boat or the shore can be carried out at many sites around the coast. Sea fishing trips are available from Charleston Harbour, with refreshments provided. Your catch might include pollack, ling, conger, skate, ray, or haddock, and will almost certainly also include mackerel in the summer months. Further out in the Minch larger prizes may be had from the deeper waters.
Whilst it is not possible to fish for shellfish, mussels are numerous on the rocks of most local beaches though care must be taken when gathering to check that there are no shellfish bans in operation at the time. Notices of these will be posted at all the relevant beaches and at the Harbour Master’s office. The sandy beaches have healthy populations of razor shells and clams. Children will find much of interest in the rock pools and shoreline, and a copy of Seashore Life by Lomond Books, available from the Tourist Information Centre in Gairloch will help to identify those strange creatures they find.
Loch Maree is the largest inland loch in the area but its fish stocks are moderate. Large areas of the loch are protected habitats, in particular the numerous small islands, which must not be landed on as the nesting birds can be easily disturbed.
The whole area offers abundant small upland lochs, some easily reached, others requiring a degree of effort. However, the locations of these lochs are often spectacular and for scenic reward alone they are worth exploring. The brown trout in these lochs can prove elusive but stocks are still there. Boats can be hired on some lochs, others can only be fished from the shore.
Children can enjoy trawling the shallows with a simple net. Brown trout fry and a myriad of other creatures can be found.
Gairloch Chandlery in Charleston has details of all local fishing and provides permits where required. Sea fishing trips can also be booked here.
If you are lucky enough to catch something big enough to eat (please ensure that you return anything too small) then the Ullapool Fish Week booklet may give you some ideas, and if you are not lucky, and only watched the one that got away, there are several excellent local restaurants that can serve you the fish you wish you had caught!
Fishing information can be obtained at the Tourist Office in Gairloch, together with more general information on the local area.
Books also available from our online shop or at the Tourist Office, which might be of interest are:
Fishing in Wester Ross: from Applecross to Gruinard Bay
Fishing the North West Highlands: From Little Loch Broom to Cape Wrath
Lochcarron Fishing: Hill Lochs and Rivers
Trout Fishing in Wester Ross
By Derek Roxburgh
One essential for the trout angler visiting the area is an Ordnance Survey map. Sheet 19 covers Gairloch and Ullapool, taking in the area from south of the Grudie river to Dundonnell in the north. There is a vast amount of water available to be fished for brown trout within the region. A lot of this water is under some form of administration so enquiries should be made about permission to fish. In the south, Kinlochewe Angling Club issues permits at reasonable cost for the hill lochs, permits available from Glen Docherty craft shop.
Gairloch Angling Club is the next in line, having over 25 hill lochs available for fishing, some with boats. Some are adjacent to the road, ideal for the less agile of us. Each village in the area has fishing around it so make enquiries at the local shop or post office. There are other fishings available, tickets from the craft shop at Gairloch Pier, or ask advice at The Chandlery near the pier. Some hotels used to have fishing available although this is largely a thing of the past – but there`s no harm in asking!
Travelling north, Aultbea is the next area where permits may be had. Enquire in the village at Bridgend stores, or at Laide post office. Here you can obtain access to the fishing on and around Greenstone Point.
North of Aultbea the permit issue is sketchy. Most anglers will just go and fish, some will ask at the Dundonnell Hotel. It is always best to err on the side of caution and ask! Generally there is no law to stop brown trout fishing in Scotland, but sometimes access may be a problem, so it pays to ask rather than risk the ire of the landowner and his staff.
Most anglers use fly in the hill lochs, but there is generally no restriction on method. Where there is, this will be stated on the permit. In my own opinion, fly fishing is the most satisfying method, with light tackle and a box of flies, but each angler will have his or her own ideas on that. Good footwear and waterproof clothing are other essentials, together with a map and compass. You are then equipped to venture into the anglers` paradise that is Wester Ross.
The trout in the great majority of these lochs are small wild trout of about 3 to the pound in old money, but there are lochs to be found by the adventurous angler with 1lb-plus trout, and bigger. The old traditional flies work well in these lochs but again the angler will have his or her own preferences. So enjoy fishing, and go into the hills safely.