There are a small number of books about Scotland whose coverage of their chosen subject is so staggeringly comprehensive it makes you wonder how the author could conceivably have assembled it all between two covers in a single lifetime: and whose authority is so complete it leaves you wondering how any future author can really hope to make further contributions to the subject. Books, in other words, like The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry or The Scottish Islands by Hamish Haswell-Smith. Bruce Sandison's "Rivers and Lochs of Scotland: The Angler's Complete Guide", now available as a third edition in paperback, is another member of the short list of books that are be regarded by enthusiasts as bibles: as the only book on a given subject you ever really need to read, and an essential reference for anyone with an interest in, in this case, fishing.
In writing this book, Bruce Sandison set himself a goal which is simple to state but must have been vastly time consuming and complex to achieve. The aim is nothing more than providing the angler with everything they need to know about fishing in every river and loch in which fishing is possible anywhere in Scotland: more than 5,000 locations in all.
The book commences with some warnings about the law relating to fishing in Scotland, and the open and closed seasons. And it concludes with a very useful alphabetical index of the rivers, lochs, reservoirs (and the one "lake") included in its coverage. But by far the largest part of the book is made up of entries for individual rivers and lochs, divided into the areas of the 85 Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 scale "Landranger" maps which cover Scotland.
The result is 85 geographical chapters. To take an example, the section on OS Map 65, Falkirk and Linlithgow, gives detailed information about 12 rivers, lochs or fisheries such as the River Almond and Beecraigs Reservoir. It also gives a list of private water in which fishing is not permitted, and a list of cross references to locations given more detailed coverage in other sections. An individual entry can range from a third of a column up to a column or more (there are two columns to a page), and includes information about location and access; a general commentary; the fish likely to be found; the flies and tactics it is best to use (sometimes in considerable detail); and how to obtain permission to fish.