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     The River South Esk, looking upstream from Indies Pool. A typical Scottish Spate river.   


Scottish rivers & streams are sadly underestimated & certainly in the angling press. For many Scottish fly fishing is loch & reservoir for Brown's & Rainbows & for river it is Salmon & Sea Trout. Many fine Brown Trout rivers are seldom fished except by the few knowing souls who are more  than aware of the fine fly fishing that is flowing, under our noses. From the Don, Spey & Tay to the lowland rivers of Clyde, Gryffe & Ayr & the border Tweed. 

All hold migratory fish but of more importance to us wet fly men hold Trutta. The mighty salmon rivers & their tributaries all hold trout in goodly numbers & after the days salmon fishers have retired to their hotels to speak of the one that got away.  The local trout man comes on the water to take advantage of its bounty. In the gloaming, rises though spasmodic in part can have the main river pools full of dimpling trout. 

A well presented team of wets or a deftly cast dry can bring to the net a trout or two. Fishing into the night with caddis & moth imitations one can see a better quality of fish caught. Many of these rivers, have spawned their own styles of flies, The Tummel & the Border patterns but most famous of all is the Clyde Style, which merits a page of its own.


Typical Stream Wet Flies

  Woodcock & Yellow      

Iron Blue Dun

   Partridge & Orange

Grouse & Green Palmer


  Malloch's Favourite


  Olive Quill

The Malloch, is one of my favourites. It is better known as a loch fly & the old boatmen on Loch Leven in Kinross still talk in awe of the fish caught by the Malloch's of Perth on this & similar patterns. Sadly the loch is but a shadow of it's former self relying on stocked Rainbows to supplement the declining indigenous Browns. I make no apologies for having it in "Streams" for with this pattern  we have one of the finest  springtime olives. Along with the Olive Quill on the right, one can safely cover the dark & medium olive which abound in the clear streams of my country. You will note that whilst the Malloch retains the beautiful Woodcock wing & a silver tip, the Quill has a wing of Starling with light side outermost. These are typical of "wet olives" Starling, Blackbird & Woodcock, paired wings, along with a stripped Peacock herl for body, maybe a touch of tinsel, a few fibres for a tail & a hackle to suit would cover most eventualities.
The Coch-y-Bondhu, on the other hand, sometimes spelled (bonddu) is of Welsh origin. Interpreted as "Red with Black Trunk" but so popular here in Scotland I consider it a "Scottish" pattern" by right of conquest *g* Sometimes know here in the land of my birth as a "Wee Cochy" It was originally tied to imitate the June Bug & is an excellent small stream pattern & what I call "A must pattern" It is also known here as The Bracken Cloch. A cloch  being an old Scots term for beetle. Whatever it is called with this on a stream cast you have one of the finest general "beetle" patterns around, a really good little wet fly. Peacock herl bodies are most important to us fly tiers & most flies that incorporate this material either in body or indeed as thorax in nymphal representations are usually  successful & enduring fly patterns. The "Bronze" taken from well down the stalk is by far the best for this situation.


Rough Olive

Woodcock & Mixed


The noted Scottish fly fishing writer R.C. Bridgett once commented, that with the Rough Olive on his cast one had the finest suggestive pattern for the dark Olive of Springtime. More commonly used as a Dry Fly but shown here wearing it's wet guise, a nice "wee" wet.

   The Woodcock & Mixed, is one of my favourite Springtime patterns. It is one of those flies  that whilst not representing any particular fly still does well. One of a series of Woodcock winged flies & all on their day can be useful. Common denominator being the use of the subtle orange /fawn Woodcock feather much beloved by us wet fly addicts.

      The Poacher, whilst thought of as a Loch fly does well for me on streams particularly in summer. A close relative of the CB, First tied by Angus Robertson son of William Robertson the Glasgow tackle dealers. Fished on Loch Lomond & got it's name The Poacher because at the time poaching was particularly rife in that area but it is by no means confined to that fine water. A fly fisher at a northern highland hotel caught so many trout one day on this pattern that the hotel was besieged for copies of the fly. A quick telegram to Robertson's requesting 2 dozen Poachers was met with some scepticism by the postal clerk who wondered why someone would want 2 dozen poachers. A phone call to the hotel in question soon allied his suspicion & the flies went duly sent. 

Was envisaged as a Sea Trout fly but as you can see from above was found to be no slouch for Brown Trout as well. So much so that it is, for it's "Buttery Yellow" brethren that it is now better known. A pretty little fly & worth of mounting on a cast not just on lochs but on small overgrown streams as well where it, like its counterparts the Wee Cochy  & Red Tag are no doubt taken for beetles & the like.


"Wait for it"                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

    A River Runs Through It (Scottish Style)                                                                                                            

 Spate stream (freestone), trout are small and easily spooked.  This is traditional wet fly country. Stealth is the byword  here a light through action  rod, DTF 4/5,single action reel, bag containing a few spools of 3-4lb nylon, some flies & a few bits & bobs. A flask of coffee. a few sandwiches & do not forget the midge repellent as they can be suicidal in high summer. Sombre dress is the order of the day, keep down, short upstream casts, search out the likely looking spots & prepare to react as the trout here whilst small are as quick as lightning & can make a mockery of even the most skilled of fly fishers.

Think like a fish, where would you take up residence? if you had to & make best use of the available food. Get that right & you are half way there. Windborne flies, midge & if you are lucky some stonefly are all you will find here. Rises are spasmodic certainly in the upper reaches but as he river quickens & gains width other insects will come into play & you should be aware of any change. A good day may bring you 10/20 trout. Three to the pound on average but always be ready for  a bigger one in the deeper pools. Even Salar or Sea Trout  may be present, if it is a tributary of a larger sea borne river so be warned you could be pleasantly  surprised what size a fish can come from so small a river. A remember once on the River Mudale in Sutherland, a nice Salmon splashing at a dry Greenwell meant for it's smaller brethren. Yes, Highlander has been known to throw a few "sneaky" dries in his time.


Red Tag

Palmered Invicta

Bluebottle Spider

Woodcock & Harelug

 For dressings of above flies or indeed any info on, The Highlander Way  feel free to contact.



Selected Bibliography

             Price   Rough Stream Trout Flies  A & C Black  1976

             Thomas Tod Stoddart  Angler's Companion   1853

             W.C.Stewart  The Practical Angler  1857




        Related Website of Interest    

                    A wet fly mans site. For North Country Flies, this site is a must.

  Selected Bibliography

                             Sylvester Nemes:  Two Centuries of Soft Hackled Flies     Stackpole Books

                            ISBN 0-8117-0048 8