The North Highlands of Scotland are a paradise for sea and loch fishing
Exploring the lochs and rocks of the Highlands for fish for the table can be as memorable as the feast itself
Anyone who has ever been forced off a single-track road north of Lairg by a thundering 40-tonne pantechnicon full of the harvested fruits of our northern seas should stop and wonder why our glorious seafood is so sought after in the smartest restaurants in Paris and Madrid. Given a little thought and ingenuity you can – and should – be enjoying this bountiful harvest in situ.
The cry is often heard that you can’t buy fresh fish in the North. It’s true that if you’re looking for boutique-style fishmongers you may go hungry, but get yourself to the dockside in any of the small fishing ports dotted round the coast and you will find fishermen only too happy to sell their catch fresh off the boat – and the price might come as a pleasant surprise. Just don’t expect them to take a credit card.
For the more adventurous the best option is to get out and secure your own catch. Bring your own tackle and off you go. First step: ask! Not just for permission, but for advice on the best spots to target. There will almost always be someone who knows someone who really does know where to fish or dive. If sea fishing is your bag there will be a multitude of shore marks to fish with every chance of mackerel, pollack, bass or even the ugly but delicious gurnard. If your pockets are deeper you can charter local boats who will organise trips ranging from a couple of hours to all-day adventures far out into the Minches to seek out fruits of the deep such as skate and halibut.
The north of Scotland is a fly fisher’s paradise and, although salmon fishing is expensive and not normally available to the casual visitor, almost every loch and burn will hold a stock of wild brown trout. It is a commonly held myth that brown trout fishing in Scotland is free, so you should always seek permission. Often you’ll find there’s no charge, or only a small fee payable to a local angling association. There can be few culinary experiences to beat wild trout fried on a fire, fresh out of a remote loch – perhaps even washed down with a small glass of our national drink.