It is a quiet and contemplative style of angling thought to date back 2,000 years – attracting thousands of enthusiasts to Scotland’s rivers and lochs every year to enjoy a spot of fly-fishing.
Now, for those looking to enhance their experience, one of Scotland’s leading fly-fishermen is to reveal some of the secret lochs where he says the best fish are to be caught.
Veteran fisherman Bruce Sandison, who is giving a talk on “Secret Lochs and Special Places” at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh on 27 September, will also discuss the “salmon wars” and what he describes as diseased and “flabby faux salmon”.
He argues that these escape from fish farms and “go upriver, interbreeding with our wild species, disturbing the genetic integrity and contaminating them with sea lice”.
Sandison, who took up fishing “at a secret place” as a young boy on the Water of Leith at Canonmills in Edinburgh, said: “Scotland is such a special place with spectacular mountains and hills and over 5,000 individual lochs and rivers.
“For me, essentially, the attraction is the silence, apart from the deer, buzzard and otters. The serenity imparts something to the mind which I don’t think anything else does. Actually catching fish is only a minor issue.
“Fishermen and women are creatures of habit and tend to go back to places they like and where they have had successes. That’s what I do and I’ll be revealing some of my favourite fishing spots in Caithness, Orkney, Shetland, South Uist and Sutherland.”
Sandison, who now writes for Fly Fishing And Fly Tying magazine, says the high number of fish farm “escapees” means there are fewer healthy wild fish, and this is harming lucrative salmon fishing and driving away many fishing fans from overseas, who now prefer to fish in Iceland, Alaska, Norway and Chile rather than Scotland.
However, Sandison, The Scotsman’s angling correspondent for 20 years, said the Scottish Government needed to do more to safeguard Scotland’s wild salmon from the environmental hazards from fish farms.
“There is a lot of talk about endangered species such as butterflies, but not salmon. The recent legislation regulating the killing of wild salmon in Scotland deflects attention away from the need to examine how fish farms are operating.”
Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, said: “Mr Sandison’s long-running campaign against salmon fishing rarely takes account of the real situation nowadays. The latest government report which highlights an improving status of salmon rivers along the “supposed aquaculture coast” appears to contradict much of what Mr Sandison is proposing to say.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “There has been a marked reduction in the number of escape incidents over recent years.
“A Scottish Technical Standard published in June 2015 will, along with training requirements, help ensure all finfish farms have equipment that is appropriate for the site conditions to prevent escapes by 2020 at the latest.
“The Scottish Government is supportive of the sustainable growth of aquaculture with due regard to the wider environment. We are working closely with the industry and other partners as the sector continues towards an improved operational model of sustainable growth.”