Scotland has some of the finest salmon fishing rivers in Europe with over a hundred different rivers to choose from varying from some of the smallest and more intimate rivers to the wide and fast flowing waters such as the River Tay. All of which provide excellent opportunities for quality salmon fishing throughout most of Scotland. The salmon fishing season varies depending on the region but in the main it is from mid January until the end of October. There is no salmon fishing allowed on a Sunday in Scotland by law but you can still fish for trout or coarse species such as pike on a Sunday.
Some of the smaller rivers and tributaries of the main rivers can produce annual salmon catches almost as good as some of the top beats of the big four so for any anglers who prefer to fish on a smaller river this need not be a compromise in the quality of fishing albeit most of the smaller rivers are spate rivers and do need a certain amount of rainfall to allow the salmon to move up river.
Every river is divided into sections called a beat. A beat is determined by who owns the land on either side of the river. The landowners are known as riparian owners which means that they own the land or river bank that runs alongside the river and own the fishing rights (providing they haven’t sold or leased out the rights). The size of a beat can be as small as a kilometer or up to 4 or 5 kilometers long depending on the size of the estate the river runs through.
Although there is no national rod licence required to fish in Scotland as there is in England you do need a permit to fish for salmon. Permits are issued on a daily basis by the individual beat owners and are bookable in advance. All beats issue a maximum number of daily permits which is usually restricted to 6 or 8 depending on the size of the beat. Permit prices vary quite considerably depending on the river, quality of the beat and the time of year. For the first six or seven months of the season permits can be from as little as £20.00 per day up to £75.00 per day. The main salmon runs traditionally start in early August and last right through to the end of the season in October so permit prices start to rise quite considerably from August onwards.
During the latter months of the season prices can be anything from £60.00 a day to in excess of £450.00 per day, again depending on the on the river and quality of beat. As a rule of thumb the higher the permit price the higher the annual catch rate will be on any given beat. You can still find relatively inexpensive salmon fishing on some of the smaller rivers or less productive beats of the major rivers for £30.00 to £60.00 per day. If you hire a professional guide he or she will be able to advise you on the best salmon fishing available at the time to suit your requirements and budget and should be able to secure permits for you. If you want to fish without a guide then permits are available online either direct from the beat website or from an online booking agency. Local tackle shops can also provide permits. On the main rivers availability for the top beats in the latter months of the season, August, September and October is very limited so booking early is always advisable.
All of the top salmon fishing beats will have a resident guide/s and a fishing lodge with tea, coffee and basic cooking facilities, a dining area and toilets. The lodges do not have bedrooms and are not used to provide accommodation. They are built for the comfort of the guests as a place to shelter in bad weather and a place to have lunch. The resident guide will meet guests first thing in the morning and show them where they will be fishing. The resident guide/ghillie is there to look after the beat and will generally provide advice To get the best out of your day it is advisable to hire a personal professional salmon fishing guide with experience of the river you will be fishing. A personal guide will look after you for the day, show you where the holding pools are and how best to fish them. He will also advise on tackle and tactics for the conditions on the day.
Salmon Fishing on The River Tay
The Tay is not only the longest river in Scotland covering 120 miles, it also has the largest volume of water of any river in the UK, making it less water dependent to fish well than most of the salmon fishing rivers in Scotland. With the spring runs starting from mid March it provides excellent salmon fishing right through the season. The river starts it’s journey from Loch Tay at Killin and travels through some beautiful and spectacular scenery passed Kenmore, Aberfeldy, Dunkeld and Perth before reaching the Firth of Tay just east of Perth where the river becomes tidal.
The spring salmon run starts around mid March until the end of May and salmon can be found throughout the Tay system right through the summer months. September heralds the autumn salmon run which produces the largest number of salmon at any time during the season. The Tay produced the largest ever rod caught, salmon in Britain which was caught by Miss Georgina Ballantine in 1922, weighing 64lbs, and which still remains the British Record. There is now strong evidence to suggest that the salmon are spending a longer time at sea and growing considerably larger before entering the river system which has had the effect of producing numerous salmon in excess of 30lbs and even some in excess of 40lbs. Methods of fishing can be fly fishing, spin fishing and harling (trolling) where there are boats available. The season on the Tay is from the 15th of January until the 15th of October although some beats have now extended this to the 31st of October albeit catch and release only.
Salmon Fishing on The River Spey.
The River Spey is just over a hundred miles long and runs north east from Loch Spey past Newtonmore, Aviemore, Grantown on Spey and Aberlour joining the sea in the Moray Firth at Spey Bay just north of Fochabers. Not only is the Spey famous for salmon fishing and the Spey Cast but the waters of Speyside are used to produce more whisky than any other region in Scotland.
The salmon fishing season on the Spey doesn’t start until the 11th of February and a few spring salmon are usually present in the lower region of the river. Salmon start to increase in numbers from early April and by June can be found throughout the river. The summer months can produce some excellent fishing and many fish in excess of 30lb have been caught in the spring runs.
Most beats are fly fishing only although some beats will allow spin fishing if the water levels are too high for fly fishing. Permits can be obtained direct from the beats own websites, through an online booking agency or from the local tackle shop. The tackle shop in Grantown on Spey also does tackle hire. There are several association waters which provide permits at reasonable prices and the River Avon and River Dulnain which are tributaries of the Spey also provide some excellent salmon fishing. The season on the Spey is from the 11th of February until the 30th of September.
Salmon Fishing on The River Dee.
The River Dee is 85 miles long and runs east from the source at the Wells of Dee spring (at 4000 ft) on the side of Braeriach in the Cairngorm Mountains. The Dee runs past Braemar, Balmoral, Ballater, Aboyne and Banchory before joining the sea at Aberdeen. Unlike the Spey which has peat coloured waters the Dee has remarkable clear water despite being bordered by peat hills on its course. Even after a heavy spate the waters clear remarkably quickly.
The Dee is renowned for being one of the best spring salmon rivers in Scotland particularly on the lower beats in February and March and as the season progresses into April and May, salmon can be found on most of the river. The summer months produce some excellent salmon fishing throughout the system right up to the close of season in Mid October. The fishing is fly fishing only and owing to conservation measures introduced in the mid 1990’s to counteract decreasing spring salmon numbers a strictly catch and release policy was introduced throughout the season. The season is from the 1st of February until the 15th of October.
Salmon Fishing on the River Tweed
The River Tweed is the most southerly of the big four salmon rivers actually forming part of the border between England and Scotland and like the Tay and the Dee flows into the sea on the east coast. It is 97 miles long and starts at Tweedsmuir at Tweed’s Well a few miles north of Moffat where the Clyde and the River Annan also rise from. It first runs north toward Peebles and then veers east where it is joined by the Etrick water a few miles south of Galashiels and Tweedbank. From here it runs passed St Boswells, Kelso, Coldstream and Norham before joining the sea at Berwick on Tweed.