I’m a hot-weather-holiday person. I like beaches and swimming in a warm sea. If you’d told me in my twenties that I’d be spending every August of my thirties fiddling around beside freezing lochs wearing several layers of cashmere and lined wellies to keep warm(ish), I’d have thought you mad. Then I married a man with a farm in Shetland and a fondness for spending most of the day fishing.
My husband spent his childhood summers fishing the lochs of Vementry, which are situated halfway up the west side of the main island. He had never seen much reason to go anywhere else. And once I got in the swing of things, I didn’t either. Why? Because it’s perfect. We don’t catch the biggest trout in the world, but all the fish are wild; last year we caught enough in an hour to feed six for lunch. The views from absolutely everywhere are spectacular, and you never know if, in between casts, you’ll see an otter, a swan with her cygnets or just a few ponies.
This summer my husband decided he’d like to fish a little further afield – just for a day. So we asked Shetland fishing expert David Pottinger if he would show us somewhere new, away from our own doorstep. Given the weather conditions on the day (sunny intervals and very little wind) he suggested the loch of Spiggie at the south end of Shetland.
Spiggie is special not just because it is beautiful and packed full of fish; it is also a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserve. So not only were a large number of hard-fighting trout caught – they were caught among a mass of Tufted Duck and Skuas. The day went well: 30 trout with most approaching 1lb in weight and the largest 2lb. (Pottinger caught that one, but then he is a former Scottish Internationalist.)
There is excellent fishing to be had in Shetland, mostly on lochs and for brown trout – although there are also a number of good sea trout runs. The lochs are also generally very underfished. Over at the Shetland Angling Association they say that “if the fish aren’t biting you don’t change your flies, you change your loch”.
The most surprising thing about all this is the price: an association permit to fish the majority of Shetland’s 500 odd lochs costs £25 a year, leaving plenty over to rent a nice cottage – or stay in the Busta House hotel, a converted 17th-century laird’s house a little further up the island. And the weather? You get used to it. I tend to start August dressed like a Brora sale catalogue but always end it in a T-shirt.
David Pottinger 07768 505300. Shetland Anglers Association www.shetlandtrout.co.uk
The Northlink ferry from Aberdeen. www.northlinkferries.co.uk; Flybe flies to Shetland from Aberdeen, Glasgow, Inverness and Edinburgh. www.flybe.com
Merryn Somerset Webb is editor of MoneyWeek and writes a column in FT Weekend Money
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