Trout Lochs of Caithness
The county of Caithness is located on the north-eastern tip of the Scottish mainland. Most of the county is low lying and relatively flat, but from a topographic and fishing perspective there are 2 very different environments. To the west and to the south is the ‘Flow Country’ a large expanse of flat blanket bog scattered with peatland lochs. To the east and north, separated by a line running roughly from the east side of Loch Calder through Loch Toftingall to Loch Hempriggs, lies fertile gently rolling farmland overlying soft limestone marls, rich in weed growth and invertebrates producing extremely productive fisheries. That’s not saying that the peatland lochs aren’t worth fishing. Although the average size of the fish is generally smaller, the trout are there in great numbers, and on most lochs there are also a few big ones.
With so many lochs to choose from, Caithness makes a great excursion destination for the trout fisherman, though it can equally fill a week or a fortnight long fishing holiday. There are too many lochs in this area to do them justice on this site, so here are some brief descriptions of just a few. If you visit the area look out for ‘A Guide to Trout Fishing in Caithness’ by Neil MacDonald – an excellent little guide covering all of the Caithness lochs available at many outlets.
Loch Watten is the second largest loch in Caithness, almost 3 miles (4.65 km) long running north-east to south-west, and with a surface area of approximately 370 ha (914 acres). Watten is a marl loch, lying just 17m above sea level with an average depth of 10-12 ft (2.5 – 3m), which means that the water tends to stay clearer after prolonged big winds than on some of the shallower lochs. Described by angler and author Bruce Sandison as 'one of the best Scottish wild trout fisheries' and by local angler and author Neil MacDonald as the 'Jewel in the Crown of Caithness lochs', this is loch fishing at its best, though sometimes a lot of perseverance is required until there’s a hatch and the fish magically ‘come on’. Traditional 'loch style' and modern dry fly and nymph tactics can be equally effective depending on the wind/wave state. The wild brown trout are beautifully marked averaging just under a pound, with plenty of fish in the 2 to 3 pounds class caught annually. The season is short, running from May 1st to September 30th only.
This is a loch where an outboard engine and drogue are essential. And don’t forget spare shear pins. There are occasional, shallow stony areas some distance from the shore, and I can say from personal experience, that it’s a very long row from the north-east end back to the moorings against a strong south-westerly!!!
St John's Moorings
Loch of Yarrows
For expert and friendly advice, and permits for most of these lochs, visit Hugo Ross Tackle Shop in Wick: Hugo Ross