The Malted Truth – Scotch Tips for Fly Anglers

ffm25 the malted truth

To paraphrase W. C. Fields, “ I never drink water, I know what fish do in it.” I have been warned by my editor not to pick on bass or carp fishermen so I will assume that every fly angler has a favorite beverage they drink to keep snakes away and that THE favorite drink is Scotch whisky. That’s right, spelt without the “e” as it should be. A few years ago, after a long day of trout fishing in Scotland, the Ghillie and I stopped at a local pub for a wee dram (which, by the way, is measured at 65ml or 2 oz.). I asked the young lassie behind the bar what she would recommend, “ Well sir, I see you have been fishing with Geoff and I know that he is partial to Dalwhinnie”.

“In that case, we’ll have two and put mine over ice.”

“Oh no sir, we never put ice in our whisky, only a wee drop of water. The water allows the whisky to breath, ice destroys the taste.”

Since then I have acquired a taste for single malt whisky. Recently I began to think about a perfect selection of “The Water of Life” (usquebaugh in Gaelic) to stock my cabin and complement the fly fishing experience. With over 500 single malts and numerous blended Scotch whiskies to choose from, I offer the following from a costly, but entertaining, education:


  1. General blended Scotch: Famous Grouse, Dewar’s, Speyburn. I’m partial to Dewar’s and they have been around since 1846. These just work if you want a nice nip before just about any activity
  2. Scotch with other beverages just doesn’t work. Putting soda water in it is for amateurs. Scotch also doesn’t work with coffee as an eye opener. Stick with Bourbon or Irish Whisky or your fruity tootie sweet stuff.
  3. Scotch with food can be challenging. Before or after a meal is where it will work well. If you really have to eat sushi, any Scotch will kill the taste of the raw fish. With a fine smoked trout, salmon, pheasant or turkey try a smokey Scotch like Ardberg, Laphroaig (tastes like antiseptic or medicine) or Talisker You may want to stick to a nice fruity wine with fish. If you dare to eat Haggis, you are on your own.
  4. Scotch as a food ingredient. There are not a lot of recipes I’ve seen. Scotch eggs DO NOT contain Scotch. I have seen (and want to try) a fried chicken recipe using 10 year old Laphroig and Butterscotch pudding using real Scotch (Bowmore). I don’t think it works like Bourbon or Rum in a food dish. Experiment if you dare.
  5. Scotch after the evening rise or a slow day of fishing. Here is where you can “have at it” I like Dalwhinnie 15, Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, Glenlivet, or Highland Park.
  6. Special mention Scotch. The Balvenie Double Wood featured in Shakespearefishingtv,com’s series of instructional Salmon fly fishing videos.
  7. Scotch to drink after catching and releasing that great Brown, Rainbow or Brook trout or a hard fighting Salmon or Steelhead. Also a great Scotch for toasting a fine net landing by your guide. I recommend Balvenie or Abelour.
  8. Scotch for that sore shoulder from casting those “fast action” rods. Monkey Shoulder named for the sore shoulders that the workers would get from turning the peat and grains in the malting house.

Finding the right Scotch for all your fishing situations can be an arduous task. It has been for me with all the freeloaders that I fish with. Enjoy the quest for YOUR perfect beverages and SLAINTE.

La Pêche est ma Folie