by Pete Foster (Peapod's Angling Adventure)
Scottish Sea Angling “Caledonia Caledonia my fair and bonny Caledonia, if I never cast a line from shores other than thine I will shake off this mortal coil a happy man”.
For the modern sea angler, this little country, the jewel in the crown atop the British Isles, offers first class sea fishing from sparkling clear waters in the most amazing locations imaginable.
Come along for the ride as we take a clockwise trip of discovery around the Scottish coastal waters.
Heading west along the Euro route towards Stranraer, you are never more than a few miles from some of the best beach and rock fishing this region has to offer. Southerness boasts a massive holiday complex with an expanse of open beach that promises quality Flounder and Bass fishing, a great spot for the family to spend a few hours together and the old lighthouse on the shore just has to be the perfect backdrop for family photographs. Further along the coast sit the famous rock marks at Colvend. For those in the know, the “Sugerloaf”, “Cows Snout” and the “Monument” are words synonymous with Cod, big Cod.
Any month from November through to the beginning of March is prime time for fish up to 40lb and over but ignore this area in the summer and you miss out on great sport with Flounder, Ray and Bass. The fishing port of Kirkcudbright, a thriving artist’s town these days draws visitors from across the globe to its museums, art galleries and unashamed splendour of stunning cliff top walks offering magnificent views across the Solway to Cumbria and the hills of the Lake District beyond.
Walking the headland around Balcary gives the sharp eyed visitor the chance to spot the resident Porpoise as they break the surface, the rock marks below provide good fishing for Ray, Huss, Cod, Mackerel and Dogfish. The harbour itself and the grassy banks of the river Dee for comfortable Flounder fishing for all the family and being located right in the centre of town, non anglers are free to take themselves off to explore the sights. This area of the coastline alone is home to no less than six national and British shore caught records; testimony indeed to the quality of the fishing.
As we continue our journey westward the road meets and runs alongside Wigtown Bay. Here, Auchenlarie offers the angler one of those rare opportunities to catch Tope from the shore in summer. Smooth Hound and Bass also patrol this shallow estuarine system hunting the mackerel and crab that are so prolific throughout the summer months.
Heading further onwards, a slight detour to the left before Stranraer takes you down to The Isle of Whithorn. Apart from excellent rock and boat fishing for most species, the Isle has roots deep in Scottish history and lays claim to be the birth of Christianity in Scotland when St Ninian first stepped onto Scottish soil from Ireland to establish a religious order. The remains of his early chapel are still clearly visible on the headland overlooking the sea and each year, pilgrims attend a ceremony on the shore at the cave which bears his name.
A trip to the other side of Luce Bay takes you down to the Mull of Galloway, Scotland’s most southerly point. Along the way, you will pass numerous holiday villages, each with its own beach frontage that offers good general sport with Ray, Huss, Bass, Mackerel and Dogfish. From the Mull, charter boats will take you out from Drummore and West Tarbert into the bay for Tope, Ray, Cod, Mackerel, Pollack and the occasional Shark. The rock marks around the Mull itself are legendary for big Pollack and Conger eel and a more than even chance of a visiting Trigger Fish courtesy of the Gulf Stream.
From here, we head North and Portpatrick. If you only visit one place in the South West, let it be this one. The fishing along this stretch of coastline can be unsurpassed. Huss, Conger Eel, Mullet and double figure Pollack are regularly taken from the shore and returned but for many, the fishing comes secondary to the spectacular cliff walks offering magnificent views out over the water towards Ireland and the gothic ruins of Dunskey Castle rising out of the cliff face to stand like a silent sentinel overlooking the Irish Sea. Here, nature blatantly defies you to walk past without stopping to look at the colours and smell the freshness of the heather, mosses and lichens that are so prolific. Close your eyes for a moment, the call of Gulls and Oyster Catchers mingling with the sound of waves breaking over the rocks below and you are bound to linger here longer than you meant to.
Single, well trodden paths lead down to the more popular fishing spots while the more adventurous anglers head off the beaten track to find one of the hundreds of unfished marks that litter this shore line. The Esplanade at Greenock is the number one spot for a quick session in the Clyde, offering paved standing and fishing right out of the back of the car making it most suitable for children. The journey continues north and inland to run up the West side of Loch Lomond towards Oban, Glen Coe and Lochs Etive Leven, and Linnhe. The deep-water sea lochs that are so numerous on the Western coastline of the highlands not only provide outstanding fishing, the powerful scenery will really take your breath away as will the sightings of resident wildlife, Seal, Otter and Red Deer, each easily spotted by the quiet angler.
Oban is a mecca for big fish anglers looking to catch the fish of a lifetime aboard the various charter boats that operate from here. A trip into the Firth of Lorne and the Sound of Mull looking to hook up to one of the large Skate is the stuff dreams are made of. The reef marks here are not to be ignored; good fishing for Pollack is just a short steam away. Loch Etive has outstanding potential with Thornback Ray, Spurdog, Hake, Mackerel and Dogfish and can be fished from both shore and boat. There is a launching slip at Taynuilt and from here, self drive day launches are available. Loch Leven and Ballachulish in particular is the spot for ray, conger eel - and more, for it is on these shores that you walk in the footsteps of Kings!
The small island behind the Visitor Centre holds the final resting place for many of the Clan Chieftains that feature so prominently in Scottish history and folklore. Just a short drive from here is the scene of the Massacre of Glen Coe. In February 1692, Robert Campbell along with his clansmen called on the MacDonalds of Glen Coe and were made welcome, fed and entertained for 10 days before leaving only to return later in the dead of night to catch the MacDonalds completely by surprise and put them to the sword.
Further North, The Isle of Skye and surrounding regions will provide excellent opportunities with Pollack from both shore and boat and charter boats out of Ullapool will cater for most bottom species including skate. As we journey down the Eastern side, gearing up for the last push of our trip, we arrive at Aberdeen Beach, a pleasant change in terrain and arguably the best Flounder and Turbot fishing in Scotland. Arbroath is a proven hotspot for boat and shore anglers in search of cod. Local marks around Johnsaven and Usan, West Haven and Carnoustie fish very well with an Easterly wind.
Around Fife Ness, the scenery comes into its own. Crail is a delightful picture postcard harbour village that has been photographed more than any other, Cod and small wrasse are
the target here. At Cellerdyke, Anstruther and Pittenweem you will catch cod and wrasse from the fingers of skiers that jut out from the mainland. If being afloat is preferable, this area has dozens of charter skippers that will be happy to take you out and put you on the fish. As we near our journeys end and approach Edinburgh and the Forth Road Bridge, an opportunity to explore the depths and see the fish close up presents itself with a visit to the Marine Life Aquarium sitting on the banks of the Firth of Forth under the shadow of the Bridge. After a whirlwind tour of all that is good in Scottish sea fishing it can’t come any better than to sit back, relax and just enjoy.