Gleneagles Townhouse

The Art of Fly Fishing

29 May 2024

Make the most of Gleneagles’ location close to the River Tay with insider tips from expert ghillie Gerry Rattray.

When it comes to fishing the mighty River Tay, few are more experienced than Gerry Rattray. Growing up nearby, he’s been fishing with his father from a young age and, following a stint in the army, he’s clocked up nearly nine years as a ghillie at Gleneagles as well as representing Scotland in fly fishing at the highest level – making him the perfect candidate to share some wisdom from the riverbank. 

“Guests don’t realise just how bonnie the scenery is here until they’re out on that river – and when they see it they’re often overwhelmed,” he says of the unique draw of the river, which is particularly known for its excellent salmon fishing.

Rattray is part of a team of experts at Gleneagles who take guests out on fishing excursions throughout the year, with a typical day seeing guests sized up for waders, boots and jackets at the estate’s fishing lodge before heading off to the Tay for a day on the water, accompanied by a first-class Gleneagles lunch. One of the nuances of fly fishing is often selecting the right gear, with flies varying in their weight, colour and material – something the ghillies are always on hand to help with. Gleneagles has its own signature salmon fly, the Gleneagles Glory, which – designed and tied by resident ghillie Willie McCutcheon – is known for its good movement in the water and is presented to those guests booked onto a salmon fishing trip. 

“Choosing a fly isn’t rocket science and will depend on the height of the river and its clarity,” says Rattray, advising “bleeding your ghillie dry” for information to match a fly to the conditions. “Personally I’ve always taken a fair few fish on orange-coloured flies on the Tay when the water is clear. But if conditions are a bit cloudier I find that a fly with a bit of yellow in it tends to work better. But that’s not necessarily saying it’d work elsewhere.” 

According to Rattray, for all those hoping to land a fish there are some other fly-fishing basics worth paying heed to. “If you go to the river in your waders, don’t just wade straight into the water. Nine times out of 10 the fish are at your feet and if you wade straight in that’ll disturb them right away. Take your time and enter the water slowly.” Similarly, he recommends starting with a short line and slowly lengthening it to prevent scaring the fish that are close to the bank. Ultimately though, success is all about being out on the water whenever possible. 

“Any time of year is good for fishing here as long as you’re on the river – after all, you’re not going to catch anything sat in your hotel room!” 

To enquire about a fishing experience please speak with our Playground Planners on 01764 662231, or purchase a fishing voucher for a special gift.

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