Fishing for Brown Trout in Scotland

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Robert Wishart
University of Aberdeen

Fishing for Brown Trout in Scotland

Brown trout (Salmo trutta) are native to the rivers and lochs of Scotland and the right to fish for them comes from title over the waters in which they live. However, many people have fished for them with or without permission from the landholder and these types of informal relationships were important for providing some fish for the table. Brown trout are not as prized as the migratory Atlantic salmon, so they were seen as being available for eating in a way that did not take away from the sporting focus of the rivers. “Aye the lords did not bother that much with the trout so we would take a few for the pot, sometimes without permission” joked one senior trout fisher. Today many waters are governed by angling clubs that people can join for a fee and these clubs are active in management of trout populations but many still take fish for eating from these waters. Brown trout exist as migratory, sea-run populations and local populations that never leave the rivers or lochs, the migratory fish are known as sea trout or finnock when small—generally below a half kilogram in weight. Finnock which are silver rather than the buttery brown of local fish, can be caught in large numbers in the river estuaries and provide good eating as well as sport. “Oh, the finnock, when you are on them they will hit all your flies at once, sometimes you get 3 at a time and they just dance around your feet when trying to bring them in.” Larger sea trout are an important source of sporting fishing in the river systems and they, like salmon, are under tighter managerial scrutiny. Fishing for trout is generally done with rod and line and fly fishing is often the most productive legal method. In the past, sea trout were netted along with salmon both in the rivers and along the coast, but this tended to be a commercial activity. Voiced concern for trout populations mostly include the health of the rivers and the growing populations of seals which used to be managed by coastal people but is now illegal.



Thanks to the three anonymous senior fishers for providing their history and to the Brechin Angling Club.