I've long wanted to fish in Shetland, Britain's most northern outpost. I was drawn by its remoteness, beauty and the almost endless wilderness loch fishing available. A series of articles in Fly Fishing & Fly Tying magazine last year was the deciding factor and plans were made for a trip there in June...
Shetland is made up of the Mainland and 5 large islands, plus a vast number of smaller islands. It is so far north that it is nearer to the Arctic Circle than it is to London and closer to Norway than Edinburgh. Being so far north means that it doesn't get dark around mid-summer - exactly when I'd be there, but how would this affect the fishing?
So off I set on the long drive from the Yorkshire Dales to Aberdeen, where I was booked on the overnight ferry to Lerwick, Shetland's capital. I'd worked out an itinerary that over 15 days would take me across the Mainland and to 3 islands: Yell, Unst and Fetlar. I'd be fishing everyday in as many different lochs as possible, camping next to the car mostly, but with some wild camping and making use of youth hostels and camping bods whenever possible.
In Shetland there are over 300 lochs and lochans to fish and explore. Shetland Anglers Association (SAA) sell permits for visiting anglers for the extremely good value sum of £25 for the season. On some lochs they have a boat available for hire at a further £30 for the season. They produce a fantastic guide to over 70 of the best fishing locations, which along with Bruce Sandison's invaluable book "Rivers & Lochs Of Scotland: The Angler's Complete Guide" provided the foundation of all my research, though often they gave conflicting information! I also exchanged e-mails and spoke to Trout & Salmon contributor Jon Beer, who has visited, fished and written about Shetland many times. He provided me with some very useful and accurate information.
|Loch of Clousta|
Once at Clousta we launched Colin's boat and I quickly learnt my first lesson about boat fishing in Shetland: waders are required! Mine were still in my car back at Colin's house! Now I've done a lot of boat fishing in my time but it wasn't until this moment that I realised that every boat I've ever used was moored to a pontoon and I'd just stepped into them in a pair of boots. Shetland isn't like that. Here boats are left pulled up onto the bank and pushed into the water... by an angler wearing waders! Basic error, but I managed to push the boat off without getting wet feet, though the same cannot be said about getting out of the boat at the end of the day!
|A trout on my first cast in|
Shetland - you can't better that!
So minor embarrassing crisis over it was time to fish and would you believe I hooked and landed a trout on my very first cast in Shetland! I unhooked my flies from my rod, made a short first cast and there hanging onto one of my 3 flies was a trout, small admittedly, but a trout on my first cast in Shetland. Colin had been playing it very safe! Clousta is reasonably small, as are most Shetland Lochs, and it is very peaty. Therefore, bushy, brightly coloured flies, were the order of the day. This was a good day's fishing, I think we had 17 fish to the boat, pretty equally split between us, nothing big, but a good introduction to trout fishing in Shetland and more importantly I had made a new friend.
For the bulk of my trip I'd now be fishing alone, though Colin and I did have 2 further fishing sessions together. I'd be mostly bank fishing with the option of a boat on the lochs where the SAA had one available and I had a float-tube in the car. Despite being probably the perfect location for float-tubing I never put it to use. I don't know why, it just didn't happen, but I don't feel that I missed out by not using it. Trout in Shetland average around 8oz but there are fish of a lifetime there to be caught. Many of the lochs (and lochans) are capable of producing fish of 3lb plus, some lochs obviously more than others. My route around Shetland and the islands of Yell, Unst and Fetlar was planned to take in lochs which are capable of producing such fish; the trade off is usually that there are either fewer fish in such lochs, or the big fish lochs are known to be dour. Big fish lochs are often very remote - the trout get big because no-one ever fishes for them. This meant that I was in for some serious walking, or yomping to be more accurate. In the Yorkshire Dales we have some wild and rugged moorland, but nothing in comparison to Shetland. A walk to a remote loch often had me scratching my head about how to proceed. The ground would just open up into deep pits of soft peat or a literal maze of deep bog that caused a detour of some distance. From the moment you leave the road your boots are squelching through sodden ground virtually constantly, unless you are walking on rock. If you ever go to Shetland put on top of your shopping list the best pair of walking boots you can find. I used and thoroughly recommend the Scarpa SL Active boot which took everything that was thrown at them with ease.
|Loch of Ustaness, Shetland|
|Biggest trout of the trip - A 2.75lb|
trout from Jamie Cheyne's Loch
in Shetland. Caught on only my
second day it was to be my
biggest trout of the trip.
... Trout Fishing In Shetland Part Two – Enter The Dragon!
You can view all the images from my trip on my flickr album.
Northlink Ferries: http://www.northlinkferries.co.uk
Shetland Anglers Association: http://www.shetlandtrout.co.uk
Trout Fishing In Shetland Guide: http://www.shetlandtrout.co.uk/information-brochure.html
Shetland Camping Bods: http://www.camping-bods.com
Scarpa SL Active boot: http://www.scarpa.co.uk/trek/hill-mountain/sl-activ