Orkney has to be the UK's top wild brown trout fishing destination. Nowhere else will you find the amount and variety of top quality trout fishing, with such easy access. Trout fishing is part of the local culture, and visiting anglers are warmly welcomed.

The Orkney Islands are located just 15 miles or so north of Caithness, off the north east tip of mainland Scotland. They can be reached by air from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness, and by road in 4-5 hours from Inverness, including the ferry crossing.

All of the lochs on the Orkney Islands are managed by the Orkney Trout Fishing Association (OTFA). For just £20/year, visitors can join OTFA, entitling them to use their facilities (car parking, launches, shelters, toilets etc), while also supporting their excellent fishery management & conservation work.

OTFA maintain an excellent website, which will provide you with all the information you could need to fish here including detailed descriptions of all of the lochs. There's no benefit in duplicating that here, so below is a brief summary of the fishing on Orkney Mainland, and a few photos from our trips there:

troutquest overview map of orkney islands.The Orkney Islands

Orkney Mainland Lochs

The main lochs on Mainland Orkney are Harray, Boardhouse, Hundland, Swannay, Stenness, Skaill and Kirbister. Each offers varied conditions, and most have huge populations of hard fighting brown trout in the ½ lb -1½ lbs size range and occasional bigger fish up to 4 lbs. Providing weather conditions are not extreme, excellent sport can be expected.

troutquest map of wild brown trout lochs in mainland, orkney.

The Lochs of Mainland, Orkney

Harray is Orkney's most famous trout loch. It's big, covering over 2500 acres with over 14 miles of shoreline, offering excellent wading. Along the shoreline and around the islands are points, bays, shallows and skerries, and in the spring and early summer, the best fishing is in these areas, with floating lines the preferred tactic. In mid-summer, the fish tend to move to the deeper, cooler water and long drifts through the middle of the loch, often with intermediate or sinking lines will be most productive. Harray trout are said to average 10-12 oz, with occasional fish up to 2 lbs, but on our most recent trip we found them averaging around the 1 lb mark.
troutquest excursion. wild brown trout fishing by boat on loch harray, orkney.
Boardhouse is also a good-sized loch, running north-west to south-east for about 3 miles in length. It's very different to Harray; shallow throughout, becoming weedy in the summer, with long uninterrupted shorelines and very few skerries. Long drifts across the middle of the loch are often the most productive. Floating lines rule! The trout tend to average about ¾lb, but there seem to be good numbers of fish in the 2 to 2½ lbs class also.
troutquest excursion. wild brown trout fishing by boat on loch boardhouse, orkney.
Hundland is similar in character to Boardhouse, though smaller. The loch is also very shallow, with large areas of skerries at the northern, and particularly the southern ends, so a floater is all that's needed. Weed growth is prolific in the middle of the loch in summer months. From our experience most trout are in the ½ lbs to 1lb range, though we have had them up to 1¾ lbs.
troutquest excursion. wild brown trout fishing by boat on loch hundland, orkney.
Swannay is the most northerly of the mainland lochs, and is very different to nearby Boardhouse and Hundland. There are more prominent peat-hugged hills around the loch and as a result the water is peat-stained. Around the island in particular are large areas of skerries, and great care is needed on the outboard, Despite the poorer clarity of the water, of all these lochs it is the most dour in bright sunshine and local advice is to "wait for an overcast day". Swannay has great quality trout though, 2 lbs+ fish are quite common, and action can be spectacular.
troutquest excursion. wild brown trout fishing by boat on loch swannay, orkney.

Loch Kirbister
One for the less experienced, or if you are blown off elsewhere, Kirbister is noted for large 'baskets' of free rising trout, which although only average around the 1/2lb mark, can provide great sport, wading from the bank.

Loch of Stenness
The Loch of Stenness is a very large brackish loch, located next to the sea, and separated from Harray by a narrow causeway. Stenness is less popular with visiting anglers, perhaps because of its unusual character, and the varying water levels and salinity. The loch contains some specimen trout though, and sea trout enter it following high tides in summer months, so it's definitely one to consider.

Lochs Skaill & Clumly
Skaill and Clumly are trophy waters, with trout averaging over 2 lbs, and the fishing is reserved for OTFA members only. These are 'early season' lochs, partly because weed growth become excessive in the summer, and also, according to anecdotal comments, because the lochs sustain high fishing pressure from the start of the season.


A Cracker from Swannay
A Cracker from Swannay
Wading the Islands, Harray
Wading the Islands, Harray
A Beauty from Boardhouse
A Beauty from Boardhouse

More Photos from Orkney

See our Pinterest board for more photos from the lochs of the Orkney Islands:


Follow TroutQuest's board showcasing trout fishing in Orkney.

Orkney Trout Fishing Association (OTFA) Visitor Membership

  • William Shearer hardware store, Victoria St., Kirkwall
  • W S Sinclair fishing tackle shop, John St., Stromness

Boat Hire

  • Harray: Merkister Hotel, tel: 01856 771366
  • Boardhouse: Barony Hotel, tel: 01856 721327 or Mr W Hay, tel; 01856 841722
  • Hundland: Mr R Hourston, tel: 01856 721275 or Jim Sinclair, tel: 01856 771257
  • Swannay: Mr R Breck, tel: 01856 721281


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