Still one of Scotland’s best kept secrets – the Outer Hebrides are a fly fishing paradise.
Often thought of as a wet and windy outcrop in the North Atlantic, this natural wilderness is one of the few remaining places that still maintains a prodigious run of summer grilse – Atlantic salmon that have returned to fresh water after a year at sea.
Fish of 4-6lbs average that more than make up for their size with sheer numbers and extremely exciting fighting characteristics, the unique approach to fishing in this area offers visiting anglers a fresh and challenging experience like no other.
LOOP Travel invites you to join us for one of two hosted weeks on the Isle of Lewis, with experienced Hebridean ghillie and team member Colin Macleod fishing two incredible estates – Garynahine and Barvas.
The Barvas and Garynahine estates represent two separate systems on the north west coast of the Isle Lewis, each with differing characteristics.
The Garynahine river is small to medium sized river and is unlike any other in Scotland. It meanders across the moorland from two feeder lochs and holds good depth throughout its pools. This unique feature of long slow narrow pools ensures that the river is fishable even during periods of low water. The most favourable conditions are medium water levels and a good wind putting a ripple on the waters surface.
Tactics include fishing a single handed fly rod with a two fly setup, a muddler minnow fly on the dropper and a wee shrimp fly or stoats tail on the point. Working the muddler across the ripple will product exciting visual takes on the surface and hold on tight as these lively grilse are incredible acrobatic!
There are also many pools with good flow where anglers are able to swing the fly, and in low water conditions the sea pool can provide incredible sport as the shoals of salmon enter the pool on each tide.
Alongside this the Barvas system has one of (if not) the most productive sea pool in the Hebrides, where prolific catches can be made when the main run of fish comes in July. This old netting station holds an exciting prospect for the salmon angler looking to try something a little different to the usual tactics, as single handed rods and top of the water tactics reign supreme. Striping muddlers and little shrimp flies, eliciting angry responses from tide fresh Atlantic salmon flooding the pool, it’s truly one of salmon fishing’s most exciting and visual ways to catch.
There’s also the opportunity to catch that most coveted and rare thing – a salmon from a Scottish loch. Garynahine has two lochs in the upper reaches of the system and Barvas has a large Machair loch directly above its sea pool. Unlike in other areas where the conventional approach is trolling lures here on the islands, it is possible to catch fish from a free drifting boat casting and retrieving flies on a short line, again on the top of the water and highly visible. This is the cream of Hebridean salmon fishing and a technique rarely practised anywhere else in the world, an absolute must for any keen salmon angler.
Aside from this there are also numerous brown trout lochs on both estates, some holding a good average of fish around the 1lbs mark, with a few bigger specimens. You can try your hand fishing the sea around Barvas for sea trout in the evening, or perhaps have a go at the shoals of mullet which arrive around the start of July. Salmon are occasionally caught in the sea when the conditions are right, but are extremely difficult to catch.
In order to make sure you get the most out of your experience the week is hosted by Colin Macleod, LOOP team member and Hebridean ghillie with 20 years experience. He will be there to guide you through the finer points of Hebridean fly fishing.
Garynahine is home to a beautiful, traditional sporting lodge, one of the oldest residences in the Isle Of Lewis dating back to the 1720’s. It has in recent times been refurbished to provide a very comfortable base for your Hebridean fishing adventure.
The lodge itself is situated just above the mouth of the Garynahine river, close enough that fishers are able to wander down for a cast after dinner, or simply to stand on the bridge and watch the July shoals of salmon running in with the tide. Although the fishing is for 4-5 rods, the lodge houses 11 bedrooms (6 of which are ensuite) alongside three reception rooms and a billiards room. This makes Garynahine the perfect solution for those who’d wish to take their partner or even family with them to enjoy a Hebridean holiday while you fish. The lodge is sold on a self catering basis but a chef can be organised.
A little added bonus, Barvas estate is home to one of the best fishing huts in the country. A repurposed school bus from the 70’s affectionately known as the ‘Green Bus’ sits proud above the Barvas seapool and is as unique and charming as you might think. It’s been said by more than a few people, sitting in the big green bus with a dram in hand watching the salmon jump at sunset in the summer is very hard to beat. We tend to agree and are sure you will too.
Food & Cuisine
The lodge is sold on a self catering basis, but a chef can be organised at additional cost on request.
Day 1 (Evening)– Arrive and settle in, evening fishing available on the Garynahine river
Day 2 (Sunday) – As salmon fishing is illegal in Scotland on a Sunday, this day is spent brown trout fishing and/or sightseeing across the Island.
Days 3 to 7 – Self catering/full board lodging at Garynahine with guided fishing at Barvas and Garynahine
A typical day’s fishing will see 4 rods split up after breakfast (sunrise 4am), with 2 fishing the Garynahine river with local ghillie Donnie and the others travelling 35 minutes to Barvas with Colin. There they’ll both fish the sea pools and drift the loch.
Lunch is taken on the water or the Green Bus, before fishing the afternoon session and returning to the lodge for dinner around 6pm.
Further fishing can be undertaken on the Garynahine in the evening, with a sunset after midnight at peak summer ensuring long hours on the water.
Day 8 (Morning) – Final fishing session in the morning before checking out at midday. Guests then proceed with own travel arrangements.
Cost is £8,000 per week for 4 rods and the full lodge, which works out at £2,000 per rod.
Groups of 4 rods are recommended, although rod sharing is also available on request/
- 6 days and 7 nights fishing on both the Garynahine Estate river and Loch, and the Barvas system
- Ghillies / guides
- Accommodation at Garynahine Lodge from Saturday to Saturday
- Transport to Garynahine
- Food and drink (a lodge cook can also be arranged)
- Ghillie gratuities
A 10 t #6 or #7 weight single hander is the best all round rod for Hebridean fishing, although you may wish to take a switch rod incase there is a summer spate on the rivers.
A matched reel with a suitable floating line like the LOOP Stillwater or Evotec 85 fished with a level 12 foot leader of 12-15lbs maxima. The salmon aren’t leader shy but the wind can play havoc so heavy nylon is essential to help combat that.
Two flies are generally used, the favourite top dropper being a muddler minnow in orange or natural brown. Favourite point flies are stoats tails, park shrimp, Calvin’s shrimp, haugar and similar. Sunrays and collie dogs are useful along with a few small coneheads in case there’s a little bit of water. All fishing is done with a floating line so there is no need to bring anything else unless you like to experiment.
For sea trout and brown trout a selection of traditional Scottish wet flies will do the trick, with a teal blue and silver being an absolute must. Don’t forget your midge jacket! The midges in the Hebrides are legendary, so if you want to fish in the evenings a LOOP Mygg Jacket plus some good midge repellent is a must. Locals also wear surgical gloves on their hands which is a more surefire way to combat midge attack rather than repellent.
You’ll also need good set of waterproofs and some insulation, as this is the very northwest of Scotland and even in the summer there is a good chance you’ll get wet and a bit cold, so come prepared for all weathers. Although waders are useful, a pair of wellington boots is the best thing to have on your feet especially when in a boat. Lifejackets are available but we would recommend a LOOP Alto Belt Pack as a simple and unobtrusive life aid.