The visitor to Dollag's Cottage who hasn't fished on Lewis before may wonder what tactics work for Lewis trout fishing. It is often the case that anglers have their own preferred methods and the truth of the matter is that you are often better to go with what you are used to and have faith in. A friend who I would often fish with on Lewis appears to do everything exactly the same as I do but I've fished with him on days when I've had a very many trout and he has had none. Equally I've fished with him on days when he has had all the success and I've had nothing, on one memorable occasion he had 22 sea trout for the day to about 6lb in weight and I had one tiny finnock about the length of my hand.
Much Lewis trout fishing involves walking. Sometimes the loch will be beside the road and you will only have to walk along the banks while on other days you might chose to fish a loch many miles from the road. Given this it is always good to travel light. If you want to carry your lunch and fishing gear in a bag then a rucksack is often a better option than a traditional fishing bag as it is comfortable to wear for a long walk. Apart from the rod and reel a small box of flies, some leader material, a knife to gut any fish you keep and a plastic bag to carry them home in is about all you need to fish on Lewis.
For fly fishing on Lewis and Harris a long rod is ideal and although the fish are often small and can give good sport on lighter lines Lewis gets a lot of wind and so a 6 or 7 weight line seems to be about optimum. The ideal rod is probably an 11 foot 6 or 7 weight and this will serve for brown trout, sea trout and salmon on the island. For me a rod with a more traditional action seems to work best, especially if the wind gets up.
In general most flyfishing on Lewis is done with the wet fly and the traditional wet fly patterns seem to work at least as well as anything. If you were to restrict me to a Zulu or a Blue Zulu and a Black Pennell for the season I don't think it would have any significant impact on the number of fish I catch. Flies in sizes 10 to 14 will cover all bases. On some lochs the fish will feed on fry and other small fish and so a Teal, Blue and Silver or a Solicitor can be a useful addition. I also like to have a few Green Peters in the box and if nothing else they can produce a useful disturbance on the surface that will sometimes bring fish up. There are always days when it seems the fish will only take one pattern but I have found that on Lewis matching the hatch is much less important than presenting the fly in the manner the fish expect so a large fly box with a vast selection of flies is simply not necessary.
Most anglers fishing the wet fly fish more than one fly on their cast. In the past I used to fish with 3 flies but I've since moved to using only 2 and this saves a lot of tangles on a windy day and seems to have no impact on my ability to catch fish. Relatively stiff nylon is also useful on a windy day and with the wind putting a good wave on the loch the fish are much less likely to be put off by seeing the leader, even where the fish are small I would often end up using leader material of around 10lb breaking strain just to get the stiffness I like.
For the most part wading is not necessary and, indeed, may put the angler at a significant disadvantage. Loch Raoinebhat just beside the cottage is popular with visiting anglers (it can produce some remarkable fish) and it is not uncommon to pass it and watch an angler wading around up to his waist standing in the spots where I'd like to be fishing my flies. The fish are often found close to the shore or sitting along the edge of a "drop off" which is often within 5 yards of the shore. Many experienced Lewis anglers would recommend standing well back from the shoreline and casting across the shore to drop just the leader and the flies into the water several times before actually approaching the shoreline. I can think of two lochs where I would consider that wading might be useful and there are said to be 1,200 or even 2,000 lochs on Lewis. The other thing to consider should you intend to wade is that waders are often uncomfortable to walk in and many lochs are extremely remote so should you fall in there are many risks to consider including hypothermia and the discomfort of a long walk in wet boots and socks. My experience has been that the best footwear for Lewis trout fishing is a good pair of walking boots.
Lewis fishing does not depend on having piles of gear and gadgets but rather on reading the water and having a feel for where the fish might be lying and feeding. On a loch this can be more complex than on a river as it is often impossible to tell what is going on under the water by looking at the surface. However, a good starting point is usually to "fish the points." Points are any area where the shoreline juts out into the loch and if the loch you are visiting has some good points then that is where you should head to start fishing.
Dollag's Cottage @ 7 South Shawbost
Almost all Lewis lochs hold some trout. Some lochs hold a few large fish, some hold a very many smaller trout. In general a fish of 1lb or more is considered a good fish, this is quality wild trout fishing rather than "stockie bashing," but there are larger fish in the lochs and they do occasionally get caught, often from lochs close to Dollag's Cottage. There are also some lochs where it is often possible to catch a lot of fish in a relatively short time. Such lochs are ideal for the beginner, on indeed the experienced angler looking a fun day out, and on a day with a mild westerly wind 10 or 15 fish in an hour is possible even for a beginner.
If you are set on catching larger fish then it may be worth considering a day or two at salmon if the conditions are suitable. Lewis and Harris have wonderful salmon fishing and even the beginner is in with the chance of a fish, or even several fish, for a day. If you are using an 11 foot rod for a 6 ot 7 weight line for trout then this will serve just as well for salmon and many Lewis anglers would also fish trout flies for salmon so while you might feel happier with a small selection of salmon flies you are probably at no disadvantage fishing your trout flies. Lewis salmon rivers tend to be small, often only 10 or 12 feet wide, and as with the trout the action can be fast and furious. Wading is not necessary except if the angler should wish to cross the river to fish the other bank and there is also a lot of salmon fishing to be had in lochs and this is often carried out from boats.
If you want to go salmon fishing during your stay in the cottage then talk to Dollanna and she can often point you in the right direction. If you want to fish with a ghillie or guide then such arrangements usually require advance booking and so you might be best to be prepared before arriving on the island. For trout fishing a guide or ghillie is certainly not necessary but if you were to be salmon fishing on a loch, from a boat, then you might like to have an experienced boatman especially if you are not used to controlling a boat on an exposed loch.
A lot of the fun of fishing on Lewis is the wide range of lochs and many people get a lot of pleasure from walking the moor and fishing in different places. My record is over 40 lochs in a fortnight, some many miles from the roadside. Given this tactics for walking the moor can be just as important as tactics for actual fishing. Perhaps the most important item any angler needs for fishing on Lewis is a decent map and there are both 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 OS maps available for the whole island, having a waterproof map is a big advantage and companies such as Aqua3 can supply suitably treated maps. A compass is also a requirement as if the visibility is reduced then the map isn't much use if you can't determine what direction you are walking in. If you have any concerns about your ability to navigate then don't worry - there are a very many good lochs within yards of the roads and so you can start by fishing them and then expand your horizons as your confidence increases. It certainly isn't a requirement to walk many miles to remote lochs but this "wild fishing" aspect is something many people enjoy and Lewis is probably the best place in the UK to practise it.
If you are new to Lewis and, perhaps, new to "wild fishing" then it might also be useful to get a feel for walking the moor and also for how fit you are. Walking in wasit deep heather, or soft bog, or up and down over peat hags can be very hard work indeed so start with short walks and as your confidence builds work up to more distant targets. It is also worth considering that walking on the moor can be somewhat slower than on better ground so to start with you might want to assume your average speed will be between 1 and 2 miles per hour.
Below: A nice brace of Lewis sea trout caught on a lightweight fly rod and a Lewis grilse about to be returned plus an angler on a trout loch in tough conditions.