This has certainly paid dividends, especially since the Scottish winters have not been nearly as severe as was normal in the past. For example, within half an hour’s driving distance of Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh are three locations in West Lothian which can provide bank and boat angling throughout the colder months. They also offer the trout angler the chance of contacting a variety of species and the possibility of landing a double figure rainbow.

The old county town of Linlithgow, with its superb ruined Palace, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, is a good place to start and it can be reached by train from Edinburgh. Above this historic town are the Bathgate Hills, and these shelter two of the venues; Beecraigs Loch, providing boat angling, and Bangour Trout Fishery, with its bank fishing potential. The third location is Allandale Tarn at West Calder, another place which can be reached by train from the capital.

Beecraigs Loch

Eight boats are available on this very popular 20 acre fishery, which is set in picturesque surroundings in a Country Park. It has a reputation for producing double figure rainbows at any time of the year, winter being no exception. 1999 in particular was a top season for some very heavy doubles, several of which topped the 20lb mark, including the fishery record of 27lb 2oz, caught by Shotts angler Thomas Todd on a Zonker. It is possible to amass some very heavy limits, with the record basket being a summer catch of 12 fish weighing 108lb 12oz, coming to the boat of Bathgate angler Eddie McPhillips. The Jarrett’s Montana was the main killing pattern in this fine catch.

The depths in the loch vary from 3’ to 32’, though the average is around 8’. Feeding is rich and varied, from bottom dwellers such as caddis and snails to various fry types and there are some fine buzzer and sedge hatches in the summer. However, winter fishing demands different techniques from the floating line work of the warmer months and most anglers opt for fast or medium sinkers and a selection of lures. Jim McKenna, the fishery manager, recommends a selection of cold weather patterns, including Ace of Spades, Cat’s Whisker, Black Fritz and various Minkie and Zonker dressings. Some fish will still be fry feeding, especially along the dam wall, and a successful tactic is to cast on to the dam face and work the flies across the stonework. Another top area is behind the island, in shallower water which always holds fish whatever the time of year. The third place to try is along the road shore, an area which can be difficult to fish in summer because of the marginal weed beds but which is easier in the winter when the vegetation has died back.

Bookings/ticket prices

Bookings may be made by writing to Beecraigs Fishery, Beecraigs Country Park, Linlithgow EH49 6PL - or by contacting the fishery staff on 01506 844516. Although the normal price for boat and 2 rods is £36 for a 12 fish boat limit, winter fishing has a different tariff, with a 2 rod boat costing £30 for a 10 fish limit.

Facilities

There is a very well appointed fishing lodge, with rest area, full toilet facilities and a tackle shop. The Park itself has many other attractions, such as woodland walks, deer enclosures and wild boar areas, while the loch is home to a wide variety of ducks, geese, grebes and other waterfowl.

How to get there

From the town of Linlithgow, take Preston Road ( signposted Beecraigs Country Park ), which climbs up into the hills. Turn left and then right, still following the signs, and you’ll come to the entrance to the fishery on the left. Drive slowly along the track to the car parking area.

Where to eat/drink

Before coming to the entrance to the fishery, there is a licensed restaurant, Beecraigs Restaurant, on the right. In the town of Linlithgow, opposite Preston Road, are the West Port and the Black Bitch.

Bangour Trout Fishery

A couple of miles along the road from Beecraigs is the 7.5 acre water of Bangour, though it is hidden from view behind a wood and is not visible from the road. Originally a water supply for the local hospital, it had a chequered angling history before being taken over by the present management. It was a syndicated brown trout water, then a carp fishery before being left to weed over, with bankside vegetation running wild. After months of hard work, the current team of Alan Kerr, Murray Lando and John Elliott opened a very attractive fishery to the public, with newly constructed platforms and walkways along the bank. Much of the weed was cleared out to allow easy angling, though plenty of silver birch, rowan, alder, sycamore and pine remain to provide a scenic backdrop. A car park and reception area were also made and the work still goes on as the partnership continues to improve the facilities.

The loch has a variety of depths, from a very shallow top end to around 25’ near the valve tower on the dam. Some of the best angling opportunities are from the platforms in front of and to the right of the lodge, where 12’ of water can be reached with an easy cast, and where medium sinkers can be utilised in the colder weather. Moving left to the dam wall itself can also be very productive, with golden trout in particular favouring a patrol along the stone work. On the far shore, the water is much shallower, and though the angler will get away with an intermediate or slow sink off the first two platforms, the floating line comes into use as the fisherman progresses up towards the top end.

Variety is the name of the game at Bangour, and it’s possible to catch rainbows, browns, blues, goldens, tigers and brookies – and sometimes the occasional resident carp! The venue is stocked at least once a week, and rainbows are introduced from 2lb up to double figures. The current fishery record is 12lb8oz, caught by Jim Morrison. Stocked brown trout tend to be in the 2 to 6lb size range, though the record is held by Ewan Kelly with a 10lb10oz fish. There are also some lovely native brownies which don’t run as large. Golden trout can be taken up to 4lb in weight ; the blues, though smaller in size, tend to be in better condition and normally put up a much stronger fight. Even in winter, surface tactics can pay off, and on the milder days, Blood Buzzers and Pearly CDC Buzzers can be effective. However, most anglers opt for lures on an intermediate or slow sink line at this time of year, and effective patterns are Yellow Lead Head, Black Fritz, Black Tadpole, various Zonkers and the Damsel Nymph – the Lead Speck version of the latter being particularly deadly. Bait fishing is allowed in certain sections of the loch in the winter months.

Bookings/ticket prices

Bookings can be made by phoning 0410 186689.

Tickets are priced as follows : £16.00 for 8 hours, 5 fish limit ; £13.50 for 6 hours, 4 fish limit ; £11.00 for 4 hours, 3 fish limit. Catch and release after limit is reached except for bait fishing, when no catch and release is permitted.

Facilities

The fishery is open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, with floodlights installed to assist the night anglers. There is a car park, a disabled anglers’ park, toilet, and a small retail outlet where crisps, snacks, flies and other minor tackle items may be bought. A kitchen will be constructed in the near future.

How to get there

Either go as described in the Beecraigs directions, or look for the A899 north of the M8 Edinburgh-Glasgow road. From the village of Dechmont, head up towards Bathgate but take the minor road on the right towards Linlithgow. The car park and signpost for the fishery are sited on a severe right hand bend. Walk down the path through the mixed woodland to the fishery.

Where to eat/drink

The village of Uphall adjoining Dechmont has two recommended refreshment houses – the Oatridge Hotel and the Glenmuir.

Allandale Tarn Fishery

Three outstanding features of this 3 acre bank fishery are the consistently high numbers of fish in the water, the fact that they are very free rising, even in winter and the renowned hospitality of proprietor Margo Allan, who is always ready to greet her visitors with a smile, a chat and a cup of coffee. The fact that the Tarn is such a productive water is very much governed by the stocking policy, since it is stocked on a daily basis with rainbows between 1lb 8oz and double figures, and, when available, blues, goldens and tigers. During the summer, brown trout are also introduced on a regular basis.

The fishery record is held by a rainbow of 17lb, and a ‘bow of 15lb 8oz is the heaviest 1999 fish to date. Because of the tendency for the Allandale residents – including the big doubles - to indulge in surface feeding, many of Margo’s regulars are dedicated nymph and dry fly anglers, and floating and intermediate lines are commonplace, even from November right through to the spring. Top patterns for the top of the water enthusiasts include the Claret Shipman’s Buzzer, Olive Shipman’s Buzzer, Pheasant Tail Nymph, Hare’s Ear Nymph, Daddy Long Legs and the Hopper family.

Of course, there are times when the temperatures drop too low even for these fish, and then, it’s a case of an intermediate or slow sinker and lure patterns. Fast sink lines are not necessary since the Tarn is pretty shallow, the average depth being around 8’. Black and green combine to form the deadliest winter dressings, with Black/Green Fritz, Viva and Christmas Tree all successful trout tempters. The Ace of Spades is another very consistent pattern, while those anglers au fait with the art of Booby Nymph techniques also do well. The Allandale monthly competitions are very popular, and always well supported, and Margo ensures that that there are plenty of prizes and trophies on offer. A bait angling pool offers opportunities to those who prefer that style of angling.

Bookings/ticket prices

Contact Margo Allan on 01506 873073 ; or write to Allandale Tarn, Gavieside, West Calder, West Lothian EH55 8PT.

A day ticket costs £15 for a 5 fish limit, followed by catch and release with barbless hooks ; £10 for a 3 fish limit, followed by catch and release. But Margo operates a very flexible policy, and there is a selection of prices depending on circumstances e.g. a 4 fish limit for £14, and a £9 short session ticket allowing 2 fish to be kept.

Facilities

Toilet facilities are available and these include aspects for disabled anglers. There is a spacious car park, and the lodge is comfortable, supplying snacks, tea, coffee, flies and tackle for hire. Tuition is also available, and there are various shelters around the Tarn should the weather prove inclement.

How to get there

From Edinburgh, head west on the A71. Before coming to the village of West Calder, turn right at the Five Sisters public house in Polbeth. Follow the narrow road past Gavieside Nursery, and the entrance to Allandale Tarn is clearly signposted on the right.

Where to eat/drink

The Firs is in the village of Polbeth, as is the Five Sisters. There is also the Brewers’ Fayre at the nearby village of Bellsquarry.