Skye Sport: Pollock on the Fly in the Scottish Islands

January 30th, 2014| No Comments

It’s winter in the UK and trout are off the menu, but guest writer Duncan Pepper isn’t idle – he’s out in the salt looking for crash-diving pollock  

For me, making the most of Scotland isn’t about playing the bagpipes while wearing a kilt and eating shortbread, it’s about putting up with a storm, 40mph winds and driving rain because you just love being out there in it, our wild wonderful land. 


We drove 5 hours up from Edinburgh to Skye – not to climb a Cuillin, not to go for a dip in the fairy pools or take photos of heelan’ coos – we were there to catch pollock, on the fly.

Why drive 5 hours to do that? Well it’s winter, all trout are off, grayling haven’t really got going yet, and most of the salmon to be had are kippers. That’s where pollock come in, and they are more than deserving of our attention. Available all year round, more than happy to come to the fly, full of character and plenty challenging, I’m amazed this fun-packed offshoot isn’t more popular. Big, brassy and boggly of eye, these saltwater predators hit hard, and burrow like bejeesus into the kelp. You have to bully them from the get-go if you want to see the fish or, for that matter, your fly again; no relenting in your pressure can be given, otherwise it’ll be plunging to its weedy home and the next thing you feel is the ominous sway of the kelp on your line.

I set my drag to its heaviest setting, use 30lb seaguar off my fly line and still suffer the odd ‘kelping’ and almost inevitable breakage. They’re cunning, you see; they know their safe place is in the kelp, and ideally under a rock too, and unlike most other fish they put every ounce of their heft, every molecule of their being into that first hell for leather run to their haven.

The Cap’n and I set off on a Monday. Thanks to his retirement and my life of leisure we were weaving our way through Edinburgh traffic at 7.30am, not on our way to the hum-drum, oh no, rather to the sound of my car’s latest rear wheel scraping issue and the adventure of slumming it on Skye for a three-day pollock quest.

It was really slumming it for the Cap’n, whose normal accommodation on fishing trips involves him being served langoustines and other delicacies in the restaurant before retiring to the hearthside for an aged malt or twenty. But he was resigned to giving a hostel a go in the name of adventure and maybe a good fish or photo.  It wasn’t slumming it for me, quite the contrary:  the hostel is a marked upgrade from my norm – a wee single-skinned tent.

We arrived in time to get a few casts in before the light went and we tried one of Skye’s numerous pollock marks – a slightly sheltered craggy spot into a pretty bay. The wind was tricky but we managed a few pollock each, coming to black clousers and collie dogs but most fish were of the green variety. Curiously pollock size and colour seem to be related. When they’re below a pound they’re mostly green, between 2 and 4lb they’re a sort of mottled bronze and when they’re 5lb and over they’re a deep bronze. Even more curiously this seems to be mirrored, in reverse by coalies, which are sometimes bronze when wee and green as they get bigger.

Day two after Cap’n’s first night in a hostel was a harsh event. We had 30-40 mph winds, squalls of heavy rain and tricky terrain to tackle. However, it was pretty good on results, with this sizeable pollock coming to an outsize butcher.

Skye Sport: Pollock on the Fly in the Scottish Islands

Photo by Colin Riach

We had a number of other good pollock and also a surprise ballan wrasse, of hefty proportions, which to my considerable distress, freed itself at the lip of the net.

Stout tackle is required for these trips. I alternate between using a 9ft 10wt Shakespeare Agility rod with an Airflo 40+ sniper sink 7 line or a Greys’ Carnivore 9ft for a 9wt, with a Rio Outbound sink 6  line. The reel has to have heavy-duty drag and I’ve burned out two cheaper reels with the searing runs of pollock. I now use a Nautilus CCF, which has so far performed impeccably, and an Airflo T7 which, as a cheaper alternative, has done me very well indeed. Off the fly line I use an 8ft length of 30lb seaguar flurocarbon and tie the other end to a clip, for easy fly changes.

Through the years I’ve discovered that you could be fishing right next to the big, brassy beasts, but not quite getting to them, so try to fan your casts around the clock face and vary the depth you’re fishing at, counting multiples of 10 seconds on consecutive casts until you find the fish;  it works for me. If you are not catching, and there are other marks nearby, then move on, spend no more than 10 minutes in one spot without catching one. That should be enough time to explore both depth and angles from that spot.

I find doing a bit of jigging can be quite productive too, especially if you’re near a deep drop-off. If you’re on a heavy clouser, then jigging it 10 or 12 ft up and down near you can sometimes provide heart stopping moments as you see a biggie chase it up from the depths.

Something to be very aware of whenever you’re on the coast, is the tide. It’s all too easy to get absorbed in the fishing and not notice the water creeping up around you. Always know your exit, and don’t go anywhere you can’t see an easy return route from, it helps to imagine that extra 8ft of sea which could strand you. Rogue waves sometimes come sweeping in, so avoid standing on ledges with no easy retreat, and keep an eye on the swell. The rocks are often precarious, and a fall in these remote parts isn’t good, so good, grippy wellies or hiking boots are the order of the day. It’s best to know your limits and stick to them.

Pollock have a bit of a wrist on the tail and if you’re wearing gloves you can ‘lip’ them as you would a bass, but don’t try lipping a wrasse as they’ve got teeth designed for chomping through crab shells and can make light work of a finger.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys a doubled rod and some reel screaming fun in spectacular locations you can go and find your own marks or come for a guided all-inclusive trip, including all tackle, transport and lunch with me, Duncan, your FishinGuide.

If you’d like guided on a pollock trip to Scotland’s coast then email with dates and I’ll do my best to fit you in.



Share this

No Responses to “Skye Sport: Pollock on the Fly in the Scottish Islands”

Leave a Reply