The Rivers of Scotland

Fishing in Scotland's rivers, especially for salmon, is very well documented in literature and has a worldwide reputation. The "Big Four" - the Tay, Tweed, Spey and Dee - are the best known but there are dozens of other fine rivers in Scotland, many of which hold brown trout as well as migratory salmon and sea-trout


Here are a few of the better known:


Wick River

One of the most under-rated rivers in the north of Scotland, Wick River can produce suprisingly good sport when conditions are right. Furthermore it is far easier to obtain a permit here than on more "exclusive" rivers. It has benefited enormously from the efforts of the local angling association who are to be congratulated upon their work. Fishing tends to be best following a spate in late summer or autumn. Ask about permits at the tackle shop in Breadalbane Crescent, Wick.


River Fly-fishing by Peter Lapsley
Click image for more details

River Thurso

The River Thurso rises near to the Caithness/Sutherland border and runs into Loch More where there is a dam which can be used to control the water level in the lower reaches. The best beats are fairly exclusive, especially during peak times but this is a river worth fishing if you can get on. Beats are usually let along with accommodation at the Ulbster Arms Hotel. Enquire about fishing availability at the Thurso Estate Office (phone: 01487 63134).

River Brora

The River Brora rises to the north of Lairg and flows through Loch Brora before resuming it course towards the sea at Inverbrora. Fly only is the rule on both river and loch. An unusual system of beat rotation is used on the river, with the beats changing at lunchtime each day. Details of lets can be obtained from the Perth office of Finlayson Hughes (phone: 01738 30926).

River Deveron

The Deveron is one of those enigmatic Scottish rivers that some anglers swear by - and others swear about! It can produce some good fish at the back end but sea trout fishing is especially good in the summer, water conditions permitting. Before joining the sea at Banff, the river courses for 60 miles and drains almost 500 square miles of catchment. Information about a number of beats can be obtained from the Bognie, Mountblairy and Frendraught Estates Office on 01464 7331 or the Castle Hotel in Huntly (01466 792696).

River Findhorn

A superb example of a smaller salmon river, the Findhorn provides salmon in late summer and autumn, sea trout and grilse in summer and top class brown trout fishing throughout the season. The river flows into the Moray Firth near Forres. Ask about visitors' permits at the Mitchell's tackle shop in Forres High Street or, for information about several private beats, try the Cawdor Estate Office in Nairn (phone: 01667 7666).



River Dee


The River Dee was once reckoned to be the best salmon water in the UK, certainly as far as fly fishing for spring fish was concerned. Today, after some lean years, it is regaining that sort of reputation. In 2001 early returns from 12 sample beats show catches up from a 5-year average of 295 fish to 835 salmon between March and May! Between June and August the 2001 catch for the 12 beats totalled 580 against an average of 350. The river is full of young salmon once more and the removal of all nets from the river has been a big bonus as has a catch and release policy. Fishing resumes from 1st February 2002 and catch and release remains in operation. The Dee runs for 90 miles from its source in the Cairngorm mountains, down through "Royal Deeside" to the estuary at Aberdeen. Famous beats include Dinnet, Ballogie, Cairnton, Borrowston, Woodend, Park, and Altries. Ticket agents include Savills in Brechin (01356 22187), Kincardine Estate Office (01339 884225) and Banchory Lodge Hotel (01330 22625).

Craigendinnie Estates offers a wonderful diversity of sport in particularly beautiful and tranquil settings on Royal Deeside. The estate encompasses three particularly desirable stretches of salmon fishing on the River Dee, all the beats are easily fished with a minimum of wading required. Experienced ghillies are available for sound local advice and
any tuition if necessary. In the spirit of conservation and good sportsmanship it is fly fishing only with a catch and release policy maintained. For further information and booking contact the Factor, Guy Bentinck on 01224 428252.

River North Esk

Described as "the most prolific medium-sized salmon river in the world" the North Esk flows into the North Sea just north of Montrose. It has to be said, however, that heavy river and coastal netting took the greater part of the river's "prolific" salmon production.

Fly fishing and spinning appear to do equally well and this is one river where the angler is well advised to carry both fly and spinning tackle as some of the lower beats have pools which suit both methods. Tickets are available from Gannochy Estates (01356 647331), Finlayson Hughes (01738 30926) and Joseph Johnston & Sons (01674 72666).

River Tay

The mighty Tay still holds the record for Britain's heaviest rod-caught salmon - a 64-pounder caught by Miss G W Ballantine in 1922. In reality the whole Tay system has to be considered - including the Tummel, Lyon, Garry, Ericht, Dochart and Earn - and it amounts to hundreds of miles of river. The Tay itself flows out of Loch Tay at Kenmore and passes through the Aberfeldy area before joining with the Tummel at Ballinluig. From there it really is a mighty river with a succession of famous beats before it becomes tidal at Perth.

It is, of course, very easy to fall into the trap of thinking about the Tay as being purely a salmon river. It also provides excellent trout fishing and holds good stocks of grayling and roach.

Literally hundreds of outlets can supply tickets for fishing on sections of the Tay system. A few to try are Country Sports (01786 834495), Dunkeld House Hotel (01350 727771) and Edradynate Estates (01887 840228).

River Tweed

From its source high in the hills of Tweedsmuir, the River Tweed flows for 100 miles to reach the North Sea at Berwick. With a watershed covering more than 1,900 square miles, some of it south of the border in England, the Tweed provides one of the most extensive river systems in the country. Famous tributaries - some regarded as salmon rivers in their own right - include the Teviot, Till, Whiteadder and Ettrick.

In addition to its famous runs of large salmon, the Tweed provides superb trout fishing, especially in late spring. The best sea-trout, including some up to 30 lbs., tend to move up the Tweed in numbers before turning right and entering England in the Till.

Fishing ranges from the very inexpensive stretched of the Upper Tweed through to extremely expensive beats such as the Junction Pool at Kelso. Many stretches are let by J. H. Leeming of Kelso (01573 470280) while, in the Walkerburn area, it pays to give the Tweed Valley Hotel (01896 87636) a call.




River Nith

The River Nith runs from its source near Dalmellington in Ayrshire to its estuary on the Solway Firth at Dumfries. Known mainly as a summer and autumn salmon river, it has produced some large fish. The beats around Thornhill can be productive when the water levels are suitable. Ask about permits for the lower reaches at the Tackle Shop at 6 Friars' Vennel, Dumfries (phone: 01387 52075).

River Annan

Rarely rated as a top salmon river, the Annan can nevertheless provide quite good sport in the autumn and, like most rivers flowing into the Solway Firth, it has some decent runs of sea trout in the early summer. The Annandale beats near Johnstonbridge have a good reputation and tickets can be obtained from the Annandale Estates Office (phone: 01576 470317)

River Stinchar

The River meets the sea at Ballantrae and can produce excellent results when water levels are right - which may not be very often each season! It is very much a spate river and, following rain, the levels can rise and fall very rapidly. Salmon fishing tends to be best towards the end of the season although it is always worth a try if you can get on to the river immediately following a summer spate. There is also a sea trout run in July. The best beats tend to be booked fairly well in advance, especially during the autumn. Enquiries can be made to 01465 88202 or 01465 88214.



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