To catch such superb specimens in some of Scotland’s loveliest coastal scenery was the angling experience of a lifetime – but sadly, all too ephemeral. In came the commercial boats, some legally but plenty illegally, and those prolific marks were transformed into barren emptiness, with even the sea bed being ploughed up. But in recent years, the Clyde has once again seen crowds of anglers visiting its shores, but not to try any saltwater tactics. There are now some excellent little trout fisheries set high in the hills above the estuary, and it’s the turn of the stillwater anglers to revel in those views which were once so dear to their sea angling brothers. From Greenock down through Largs to Fairlie, the trout fisherman can find some fine sport all year round, and because of the proximity of the sea and the milder west coast climate, winter angling does not often mean having to break the ice.

Above Greenock itself is the 37 acre bank, boat and float tube fishery of Ardgowan, set in scenic moorland surroundings. Even in winter, you can get away with an intermediate line, and during the summer months, you rarely see anything but a floater being used. This is because the peaty waters average 8 to 12' in depth. The regulars stick to buzzers, nymphs and dries apart from during the winter, when lures come into their own. Black Buzzer, Green Buzzer, Heather Fly, Black Hopper, Pheasant Tail Nymph, Damsel Nymph, Bibio, Kate McLaren, Connemara Black and Blae/Black are among the top takers of Ardgowan trout. The rainbows here have a reputation of being extremely hard fighting fish, and the average 2lb 'bow will certainly put up quite a struggle. Fish in the 3 to 5lb class are regularly taken, and there are double figure fish in the water - landing them's the problem ! Ardgowan is stocked with rainbows on a weekly basis during the main part of the season, and there is a natural brown trout population. Occasionally, stocking with brownies is also carried out, and some tigers and brookies have gone in too. 1999 produced a 4lb12oz brownie ; a 5lb11oz tiger ; and a 3lb15oz brook trout. Top rainbow to date is a 12lb14oz fish taken two years ago by M Grant of Dunkeld. As well as coffee, tea and other refreshments, the lodge carries small tackle items including local fly patterns, and there are toilet facilities. To find the fishery coming from Glasgow, take the M8/A8 through Langbank and Port Glasgow into Greenock. Stay on the road signposted Irvine and Largs, the A78. After passing the vast IBM complex, take the small road on the left marked Loch Thom/Cornalees Bridge. Follow this steep and winding road carefully for around 3 miles, and you'll come to Cornalees Visitor Centre and Ardgowan Fishery. Local hostelries offering liquid and solid refreshment include the Inverkip Hotel and Village Inn in Inverkip ; and the Wemyss Bay Hotel, Wemyss Bay. The Ardgowan management also operates a 55 acre any method bank fishery, the Daff Fishery.

Next down the line is Skelmorlie Fishery, above the village of the same name. It has breathtaking views across the Clyde estuary to Argyll and Bute, and is unique in that it is surrounded by a golf course - you actually have to pass by the clubhouse to reach the water. At 2.5 acres in size, its depths range from 5' to 9', and the place is full of feeding, with a bottom crawling with caddis and snails, and shoals of minnows providing extra meat in the trout's diet. Floating lines are in use all year round, even when the temperatures are low. Certainly, a slow sinker will be the fastest sinking line ever needed. It's an excellent nymph water, with top patterns including the Damsel Nymph, Hare's Ear and Pheasant Tail, though popular lure dressings work well through the winter, notably the Cat's Whisker and Technocats. Dry fly methods are successful when the fish are feeding on the surface. Rainbows average around the 2lb mark, and are stocked on a regular basis. The fishery record stands at 16lb7.5oz, taken by Beith angler Alex Donnolly, and there are enough fish in the 6 to 9lb class to keep the angler busy. There are some decent brownies up to 6lb here, though naturally they are out of season in winter. Facilities include car parking and toilet, and anglers are able to make tea or coffee if they wish. A small selection of flies and monofilament is also available. Be careful when you turn off the main Largs-Greenock road ( A78 ) in Skelmorlie since it's a sharp turn on a very busy road. There's a steep climb above the A78 along the Skelmorlie Castle Road, when you pick up the sign for the Golf Club on your left ( coming from the north ) or right ( coming from the south ). Take this route past the clubhouse itself and follow the track to the car park below the reservoir. The Heywood Hotel just after Skelmorlie is possibly the nearest for food and drink.

The seaside resort of Largs is a major holiday destination on the Clyde, and can bustle with activity. There are plenty of restaurants, pubs and night life, and popular spots include Vicky’s ( Victoria Hotel ), Charlie Smith’s and McCabe’s. But Largs is also the site of two popular bank fisheries – Middleton Fishery and Haylie Fishery. Middleton is a 5 acre bank fishery with average depths running around the 12 to 15' mark. It is set in picturesque surroundings, and has rich feeding for the stocked rainbows and browns, with shrimp, snails, perch fry and corixae particularly abundant. The fish can be very free rising, and regular anglers tend to stick to floating and intermediate fly lines. One of the top fly patterns is a Gold Bead Damsel with a black tail, though various Damsel tyings and Hare's Ear Nymph dressings are popular, along with Black Hoppers and Black Spiders when the trout are right on the surface. There are plenty of rainbows in the 3 and 4lb class, and fish are stocked from 1lb8oz up to double figures. The fishery record is 20lb6oz, taken by Alan Ronald of Yoker. Double figure brown trout are known to frequent the waters, although the heaviest recorded brownie - taken before Iain McIntyre's time - was a fish of 8lb12oz. There are car parking and toilet facilities, and Iain sells small items of tackle such as flies and lines. Tea and coffee are available, along with filled rolls and snack items such as crisps. Coming from the Glasgow direction, take the A78 through Greenock and Wemyss Bay to Largs, and as you enter the town, look for the Inverclyde signpost on your left hand side. Take this left on to Douglas Street, and follow for around 2 miles along Brisbane Glen Road until you see the sign for the fishery on your right ; you'll also spot the dam wall.

To get to Haylie Fishery, look for a junction marked by traffic lights as you head out from Largs on the A78. Turn left here on the A760 Kilbirnie road, and this takes you up the Haylie Brae to the viewpoint car park on your left hand side. The fishery is signposted and lies just above this spot. You can either leave the car here or use the little road leading up to the disabled car park. It’s a scenic 3.8 acre lochan with some superb panoramic vistas overlooking the Firth of Clyde, from the Isle of Cumbrae to the Isle of Arran. It has been in operation for 5 years now and is stocked regularly with both rainbows and browns, though there is also a head of natural brownies, with some of these in the 7lb class. The 'bows run from 1lb12oz to double figures, with the fishery record standing at 17lb8oz, caught by Bill Storrie. The average depth is around 8', though it does fall away to 14' in one part. To the right of the lodge is the deeper dam wall area, while to the left is the more natural and shallower section. The water is very clear, and platforms have been erected to allow the angler access to the deeper water. The prolific weed growth provides very rich feeding, though the vegetation dies back in the winter. An intermediate is the most popular line at this time of year, though many regulars use the floating line with great success even now. The Damsel Nymph is a top winter pattern, and fritz lures in orange and in black also do well. However, even buzzers will take on the milder days, and with Haylie being so close to the sea, the weather can be quite kind, even in the colder months. Disabled anglers are able to drive right up to the lodge, and can fish parts of the loch quite easily. Other facilities include a toilet, minor tackle items and refreshments such as tea, coffee and snacks. Bait fishing is allowed in part of the fishery between November and February.

The final fishery in this Clyde collection is Fairlie Moor Fishery, a 10 acre hill loch which provides the visiting angler with some stunning views across the Clyde estuary.Though mainly a bank fishery, there are two boats available which are free to anglers on a first come, first served basis. The peaty waters contain some hard fighting rainbow and brown trout, but it’s the large steelhead population that really gets the pulses racing at this bonny moorland water. There is a considerable contrast in depths, from the shallow top end at around 6' to the bottom extremity with its dam, falling away to around 30'. This means that even in winter, you can get away with a floating line in the shallows, though a fast sinker is called for at the other end of the loch. Recommended patterns during the colder months are Damsel Nymph, Black Fritz and Orange Fritz, though there is some fine top of the water sport in the summer. You just never know at Fairlie Moor whether you’re going to contact a 2 pounder or a 20 pounder. There's a very pleasant and spacious lodge overlooking the water, and facilities include toilets, snacks/refreshments and car parking. To get to the fishery from Largs, head down the coast to Fairlie, and after leaving Fairlie, you'll come to a large roundabout, the Southannan Roundabout. Go straight on here and shortly after, you'll come to a craft centre/restaurant on your left, where a road, the Dalry Moor Road, climbs up into the hills. Follow this route until you come to the fishery signpost on your right. A short drive along the track brings you to the car park and lodge. If you’re looking for refreshment, try the Kelburn Hotel in Fairlie. Ardgowan Trout Fishery contact : David Moffat, Ardgowan Trout Fishery Ltd, Cornalees Bridge, Greenock PA16 9LX. Telephone 01475 522492.

Skelmorlie Fishery contact : James Mackenzie on 01475 520925

Middleton Fishery contact : Iain McIntyre on 01475 672095

Haylie Fishery contact : John Weir on 01475 676005

Fairlie Moor Fishery contact : George Murdoch on 01505 684540