To a certain extent this is true for many anglers must specialise in what is logistically the nearest form of angling to their home. Cost and ease of access often deter us from roving further afield and it is only when we venture off on holiday that we get the chance to experience something different. Sometimes the trying out of a new skill is spectacularly successful however occasionally it can lead to feelings of frustration and a general desire to 'do better'.
To assist you in the necessary tactical switches required to fish for Scotland's wild trout there follows the essential guide to the differences between our river and loch angling.
Trout loch fishing in Scotland is generally inexpensive, very easily accessed and usually productive with a wide range of trout sizes available. Depending on where you fish you can catch anything from stocked fish of, say a pound plus, to truly wild but spirited browns of between half to four pounds in weight. The waters range from tiny roadside lochans to great abysses which sprawl for miles over remote countryside. The bigger lochs (of which there are thousands)are particularly daunting to the river angler used to small gurgling streams. Vast horizons can be very off putting and to overcome this it is best to think about fishing the micro environments of each bay, weed bed or promontory rather than one apparently endless stretch of water.
Trout angling in rivers is generally, though not always, more expensive; is governed by laws concerning migratory fish and access is sometimes more difficult because of salmon rights taking priority. Trout will range from only a few ounces to two pounds plus in weight and despite less choice of venues there are still plenty of classic trout streams available like the Tummel and the Tweed (see April article). On rivers, the loch angler used to the wide open spaces of still water may struggle to adjust his perspective. It's sometimes difficult to determine the tiniest of trout lies behind small boulders or at the edges of riffles and glides. Everything is that much more compact, however at times the hypnotic intimacy of a sparkling ever moving stream cannot be matched.
ESSENTIAL TACTICAL VARIATIONS
It may seem a little obvious but the loch angler is fishing in water without flow or current whereas the river angler angles a fly over a constantly moving stream. Good fly presentation is paramount to success in both forms of angling and it is the speed of flow or lack of it that we must adjust our skills around. Remember, trout hunt and detect their prey by the way it moves in the water. They will snatch anything which looks reasonably like something they would normally eat (feeding response) or chase away from their territory (aggressive response). In addition the artificial prey, i.e. the fly we present, must not frighten the fish, which is where our casting ability comes in.
Currents in river angling give your chosen pattern a more natural appearance and therefore a better chance of stimulating a response, however there are advantages and disadvantages,
especially in controlling the fly in flowing water. Knowing when to 'dead drift' the fly and when to retrieve line in order not to lose touch is often a difficult challenge. If fishing the upstream dry, the skill lies in working the fly back toward you at a natural pace. In fast water you can easily lose control of the proceedings and any taking fish is on and off before you know it. Similarly in fishing the across and down wet, the trick is to allow the fly to drift around naturally and only fully retrieve once the 'dangle' is reached. Hardened reservoir enthusiasts often have difficulty in converting from using long heavy lines to this kind of 'touch' angling.
Loch fishing on the other hand, is all about retrieving flies at various speeds to give them a life-like appearance in essentially still water. It is rare for a completely static fly to be fished on a stillwater unless it's say, a big dry Daddy left hung in the surface film when these insects are at the height of their hatch. Flies must be retrieved at a pace that matches their design. Traditional lure like patterns like the Dunkeld, Silver Invicta or Butcher demand a fast pull to allow them to represent small fish whereas flies like the Pennel or the Palmer series require a more skittery retrieve to imitate struggling insect-like prey. Nymph patterns need a slow 'rise and fall' pull just like the natural insect.
LOCH and RIVER TACKLE
Most lochs require a 10ft rod, floating and/or intermediate line, often weight forward to cope with the gales, 4lb nylon and a cross section of traditional and modern patterns. You can get by using a 9ft rod but generally you should avoid anything much smaller as it makes distance casting very hard work. The natural diet of loch trout is more varied than most care to admit and be prepared for trout taking midge, stonefly, sedge, beetles, nymphs, olives and mayfly (yes green drakes do hatch in profusion north of the Watford gap!).
Consequently there is as much scope for natural tyings of flies as there is for the long standing traditional favourites. Have Soldier Palmers, Black Pennels, Kate McLaren, Invicta, Bumbles and Zulu size 10 to 14) in your armoury but also allow space for more subtle Rough Olive, Hares Ear Nymphs, Greenwell, Great Red Sedge, Buzzers and Green Drake (size 12 to 18). Most, though not all, loch flies tend to be heavier dressed than their river cousins. Often these are fished in teams particularly in boat fishing where the top dropper is dibbled across the surface before lifting off to recast.
Necessities for stream angling encompass the occasional use of smaller 8ft to 10ft rods, lighter DT floating lines and sparse lighter dressed flies especially for low water. River anglers of old used teams of flies (up to 12 on a cast!) however one to three well spaced patterns are more the norm today. Using flies like the Partridge and Orange, Iron Blue, Greenwell, Spiders, Hares Ear Nymph, Adams, CDC's and Ginger Quill usually brings results. Sizes can range from 12 to 22 with 14/16 probably the most commonly used. The diet of river trout is every bit as varied as that of the lochs, though the trout sometimes tend to be more picky in comparison to their stillwater counterparts. Hence smaller sparser more lifelike flies predominate.
MAKING THE CHANGE
Finding success in both mediums is not difficult, you just need
adaptability and an open mind. Some, though not all skills, in loch or river angling are interchangeable. For example you can use a 10ft rod to roll or overhead cast your fly at either venue. Equally you can use flies like Greenwells or Partridge & Orange on both loch and river with considerable success. Flexibility is the key but remember, how you present the fly and fish out the cast are the critical factors. Lochs sometimes need a bit of oomph in the casting and a fairly dashing retrieve, whereas rivers may need a more delicate control of line and fly. At the end of the day, the only judge and jury you have is a brown trout. Fool him and you are half way there.