Fly-Fishing and Whisky in Scotland
November 18, 2022 –––––– Shaun Tolson
For most leisure travelers, Scotland is a destination defined by whisky, castles, and golf, though not always in that order. But the Scottish countryside—wild and remote in some areas, peaceful and pastoral in others—is also laced with rivers large and small that are teeming with trophy-sized fish. Those bountiful waters present a siren call to anglers who are eager to wade in and cast flies for a memorable catch.
From pollock to pike, grayling to wrasse, the species that inhabit the waterways flowing through Scotland are as diverse as the single malt whiskies that fill the warehouses across the landscape. But brown trout and salmon represent the two most sought-after species here, and both can be caught almost year-round. When it comes to casting your line, there’s no one right way of doing it. Similarly, there are several fishing tour operators and outfitters able to arrange exceptional trips with as much time in the water as you can handle. We’ve highlighted five Scottish outfitters who can satisfy your quest for bucket-list fishing and delectable scotch.
If you’re hankering for a fly-fishing and whisky getaway to Islay, turn to Fly Fish Islay, owned and operated by David Wood, Caol Ila’s former distillery manager. The company can arrange trips for brown trout, sea trout, and salmon, depending on the season, which include a weeklong stay in a private estate with a dedicated chef. Tours can be arranged at any of the island’s distilleries. It costs about £2,400/$2,800 per person for a group of four.
Luxury Scotland Tours, like many of Scotland’s travel and fishing tour operators, can customize itineraries. Because of that, prices vary. As for what travelers can expect, a recent four-day, three-night fishing and whisky trip organized by the company included whisky tastings at Culloden House Hotel and Glen Ord Distillery, tours at Dalwhinnie and Glenturret Distilleries, fishing excursions for salmon and sea trout on the River Beauly (plus salmon and brown trout at Gleneagles), and stays at Culloden House Hotel and Gleneagles Resort.
For almost 15 years River & Green has guided fly-fishing excursions for wild Atlantic salmon and brown trout, among other species. “You can come to Scotland from March to November and have excellent fishing if you know which part of a river to fish,” says River & Green’s owner and managing director Ian Walls. Trip pricing varies, but Walls notes that guides are only necessary if clients need casting instruction. As for whisky, distillery tours are easily arranged for fishing trips on three of Scotland’s four most famous rivers, especially the Spey, where nearly 50 distilleries are a short drive away.
If you’re looking to enhance your Scotland vacation with just a single day of fishing that culminates with a distillery tour, Scotia Fishing is the ideal operator. According to fishing guide and instructor Callum Conner, the company’s most popular offering is a one-day, brown trout fly-fishing excursion in the Highlands. The full-day package, which starts at £315/$375 per person, includes transportation, all necessary permits, gear, and guidance, plus a Scottish- style lunch, photos, and a guided tour at either Edradour, Tullibardine, or Blair Athol Distilleries.
Anglers Jaunt delivers personalized fishing trips throughout Scotland that are tailored to clients’ interests, so pricing varies. An Anglers Jaunt vacation covers every aspect of the experience, minus airfare. It should be noted that the cost of a fishing permit for certain species can vary throughout the year. “Fishing for salmon in February might be half the cost of fishing for salmon in August or September,” says founder Stan Moore. Full-day distillery tours and tastings can be added to an itinerary. In other scenarios, travelers can spend half their day holding a fly rod and the other half sipping from a Glencairn glass.