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Issue 42 - Where to... fish for salmon

Scotland Magazine Issue 42
December 2008


This article is 9 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Where to... fish for salmon

In the latest in our new series, Dominic Roskrow looks at salmon – where to catch them, where to watch them and where to eat them.

As ways of relaxing go, standing in a river in waders nearly up to your waste while lazily casting a line into the meandering waters takes some beating.

Truth is, people don’t relax enough.

Portable computers and mobile phones effectively mean that the work office can be transported wherever you go, and that includes holidays. For many the temptation to retain an umbilical cord to strife and stress even when supposedly off message is too big a temptation to ignore. These sort of people have to be forced to switch off.

Which is why God invented Scotland. In many parts of it phone reception is often restricted or not available at all, particularly when you’re slap bang in the middle of one of the country’s many great rivers. For this reason alone, an appointment with a salmon is as much therapeutic as it is enjoyable.

Frankly you don’t even need to fish, and certainly you don’t need to catch anything – just standing in a river holding little more than a stick is a pretty good way to while away a few hours and let the mind have a holiday. If the prospect of landing a hefty salmon adds a frisson to the occasion, even better.

There are few places on earth better than Scotland for fishing for salmon, despite the fact that in recent years the salmon population has been threatened by a variety of human and natural disasters. It seems, though, that events are turning. A sensible breeding policy, a reduction in water pollution, offshore net fishing and the willingness of anglers to return some of their catch means that the decline has been halted and may have been reversed. Nor should we overstate the treat to fish – thousands are caught every year.

The beauty of salmon fishing is that you don’t have to be experienced to enjoy it and after even a short tutorial you are all set to have a go. Like anything else, though, the more experienced you become, the better your chances of catching a big fish.

Catching salmon is a challenge because they are wily fighters and do not surrender to their fate without a struggle. Indeed, part of the skill if fishing is to understand when to reel in and when to let the fish swim. Should you so wish there are scores of fishing schools where the finer points of the art of fishing can be perfected.

Should you so wish, you can immerse yourself in studies of river, seasons, currents and locations and invest as much as you want in equipment, from expensive rods to elaborate flies.

If the thought of catching fish is too brutal for you, then merely watching them may be more to your taste. Salmon return up river to breed and will leap against the river’s flow to do so. It’s exhilarating to watch and in some parts of Scotland their passage has been aided by the placing of salmon runs, where you can observe their exhausting progress.

So where are the best places to go?

Salmon are common-place pretty much right across Scotland. There are four great fishing rivers in Scotland – the Spey, Dee, Tay and Tweed, but if you find the prospect of fishing in such famed waters a mite daunting, then head for one of the many lesser known spots.

Here we offer some alternative locations to fish and where to watch salmon as they head for their spawning grounds, as well as where to enjoy them with potatoes and vegetables.

Where to fish The North The North of Scotland offers fishing in beautiful locations and there are a wide variety of options.

The season runs from the beginning of February to November and you’re more likely to catch salmon early in the season in rivers flowing East to the North Sea.

Recommended sites: Helmsdale, Thurso, Halladale, Dunard, Laxford Central Scotland Three of the big four salmon rivers – The Tay, Spey and Dee – are located here but you might find better salmon fishing at some lesser spots Recommended sites: Findhorn, Deveron, North and South Esk, Teith, Loch Lomond, Aire South The Borders region is very under-rated but 15,000 catches were made in the Tweed in 2004 and the fishing is just as good as many other regions.

Recommended sites: Nith, Annan, Stinchar, Doon, Border Esk The islands Lewis, Harris, North and South Uist and Mull all offer fishing for a unique breed of salmon Where to watch salmon The town of Pitlochry has a salmon run in its centre at the Scottish Southern Energy Visitor Centre.

From there you can walk up to the site of the Battle of Killicrankie, or visit the nearby distilleries of Edradour, Aberfeldy (with the Dewar’s World of Whisky), Blair Athol or Glenturret (home of the Famous Grouse Experience)