Expert Articles: Howard Day -- The Lure of the Outer Hebrides

Destinations don’t come much more remote than the Outer Hebrides. Standing majestically at the northwest edge of Europe, this 150 mile-long island chain of beaches, moorland and mountain has played host to sporting parties for centuries. Lewis, the largest and northernmost of the islands supports thriving populations of grouse, brown trout, red deer, and migratory populations of woodcock, sea trout, and Atlantic salmon. On Lewis, it is still possible to achieve a McNab – provided you are committed to going the distance and have the kit to hand. From the air, the Isle of Lewis seems as much water as land. Having only 1.3% of the UK landmass, but boasting an impressive 15% of the freshwater surface area makes for an outstanding variety of angling opportunities. Local myth says that an angler could fish a different loch every day for a decade without returning to one.

Time was the only way to get to Lewis was by boat…if you made it through the endless trek over the Highlands. Budget airlines have made travel incredibly cheap and quick, even to obscure locations like Stornaway (the airport for Lewis). But now that they have started charging for each piece of luggage, versatility is at a premium. By the time I have packed my shotgun, rifle, appropriate clothing and footwear, and all the other miscellany, space is at a premium. When we can drive to our fishing at home in Hampshire, we can afford to carry many specialist rods in the car. But as soon as you start to travel with rods, having a few versatile tools for the job become essential. For me, a small number of TLS Power Matrix and Western2 rods of different lengths and line weights provide the solution.

Expert Articles: Howard Day -- The Lure of the Outer HebridesFor my clients, one of the many attractions of fishing in the Outer Hebrides is the diversity of fishable waterbodies – no matter the vagaries of weather and water level, there is always fishable water. In a day, it is possible to fish estuary, sea loch, mountain tarn and hill loch. And of course you can fish from the shore, bank, boat or float tube. So if you are prepared to be this flexible, your kit needs to be accommodating. I will typically travel with 4-piece TLS 9ft 5-weight, 6-weight and 10ft 7-weight rods. I pair them with MACH reels and Wonderline Generation 3 weight forward lines. This combination is flexible for everything from dry fly work on small streams, up to fishing teams of traditional wet flies from a boat. The MACH reels balance the outfits well while giving me control when I am lucky enough to hook a salmon.

Long before it exploded onto the scene I was a devotee of the Western2 range, having tested some of the pre-production development rods. When the series was released last year, I was pleased to see how many different rods are available for different types of fishing. When teamed with the Mid Arbour IV reel, both 6- and 7-weight Western2 rods can tackle loch fishing with consummate ease. Scots are notoriously cautious with their coin, so it speaks volumes that several lodges are so impressed with the value the Western2’s performance-on-a-budget represents that they are tackling up with Western 2s.

There’s no getting away from it: to have a hope of catching salmon, sea trout and loch brownies, you are going to have to cover some ground. When hiking across the heather to fish, the benefits of combined chest and backpacks become obvious. As host, ghillie and guide I can’t be caught short – whatever the bit of kit my client may break, lose, or leave behind, I have to have a spare to hand. Referred to by clients as “the Tardis”, the Safe Passage Hydration Chest and Daypack takes the pressure off and leaves my hands free for netting that specimen fish. It carries everything I need for a day including my piece and a drink. It’s comfortable, and the waterproof mobile phone pocket means that even an accidental dunking won’t prevent me from making the necessary dinner reservations!

I’ve guided for many years now in the Highlands and the Outer Hebrides for fishing, shooting and stalking. The mobile aspect of this type of sport requires specialist kit that is packable, durable and light weight - which Orvis do a great job of supplying. If you’d like to know more, please feel free to contact me.

Howard Day , Orvis Endorsed Guide
Guiding: Lochs and rivers on the Isle of Lewis; the Hampshire chalkstreams
Tel: 01794-388614