As we moved into late July, levels on the River Findhorn remained in good order for the week commencing July 25th, reading 1′ on the Forres gauge. However, as the week progressed, levels fell away quickly and it remained dry for much of the week. There were certainly plenty of smaller grilse running in off the tides on the Altyre Estate beats and Leslie Tyson managed to pick up a sea-liced fish of around 4 lbs. from the Bertha Pool on July 26th, on a small Altyre Dog tube. Leslie was back in action again on July 28th when he and hooked a grilse of around 3 lbs. and a sea trout of around 3 lbs. both fish were from St. John’s Pool on the Lower Beat.
On Friday, July 29th, Jim Sugden and Ian Hunter travelled over for the day from Deeside. River levels had fallen away and reading just 5″ on the Forres gauge. However, Ian Hunter had some great sport with three grilse hooked and released two from Roan Pool and one from St. John’s Pool. Jim Sugden hooked and lost a fish in Roan Pool earlier in the day. On Saturday July 30th, I was joined by the Philippe Hardy family party from Mauritius, who had booked the morning for his two sons, Mahe and Alban to learn the art of Spey Casting. The boys ages eleven and thirteen years were both keen and soon got to grips with the casting and sorry to see both of them hook and lose a fish each in the Roan Pool.
As we moved into the first week of August, river levels remained on the low side, reading 5″ on the Forres gauge. Fishing conditions were not really ideal as it became really bright and hot over the next couple of days. Colin MacDonald managed to hook and release a grilse of around 4 lbs. from the top of Palamore Island Pool on a small size 10 Flamethrower. On Wednesday, August 3rd, Colin was back again and caught another grilse of around 3 lbs. from the Roan Pool. By late afternoon, the rain clouds were gathering at last and the forecast of heavy rain seemed to be imminent.
The rain continued throughout Wednesday night and by Thursday afternoon, August 4th, river levels were starting to rise once again. The river was reading 1’9″ on the Forres gauge by mid-afternoon and water clarity was excellent. However, David Tisdale and Ian Neale found that despite good water conditions the fish were reluctant to take the fly. As the rain continued, levels were rising steadily throughout the evening. By 8:00 p.m. levels were reading 2’10” on the Shenachie gauge!
On Friday, August 5th, river levels were reading 2’5″ on the Forres gauge and once again, water clarity was spot on and despite seeing some running fish, David Tisdale could not manage to find a taking fish.
On Saturday, August 6th, river levels had fallen away and reading 1’3″ on the Forres gauge, which is about as good as it gets for us on Altyre Estate. It was a good fishing day, cloudy and overcast feeling a little fresher than of late. Right from the word go, we started seeing fish; salmon and grilse in good numbers, but they seemed to be running hard. David Tisdale had a brief encounter with a fish in the tail of Soldier’s Hole before it soon dropped off. Leslie Tyson fished down through Palamore and Palamore Island, without a touch, but once again, seeing plenty of fish. He then moved on downstream to the Scur Pool and managed to hook and release two sea-liced fish of around 5 lbs. and 6 lbs. and lost another just before lunchtime. Ian Neale also had a couple of brief encounters with three fish on and off in Roan Pool and Scur Pool later in the afternoon! The fish seemed to be just pulling at the fly and dropping it, which is classic running fish behaviour. However, it had been a good day with two fish landed and so many fresh fish seen in every pool. Anyway, it was good to know the river is in such a healthy condition. By late afternoon, the rain had set in quite heavily, once again, and this should be promising for the week ahead.
On Monday August 8th, river levels were on the rise once again, reading 2’8″ on the Forres gauge and falling away quickly overnight. By Tuesday, August 9th, levels were reading 1’1″ at Forres. Charlie and Charlotte Keyser were fishing on the Altyre Estate Lower Beat for the day, but apart from one or two pulls and tweaks they had nothing to report for the day.
The river fell away and by Wednesday August 10th levels were reading 10″ on the Forres gauge. Leslie Tyson enjoyed another good day of sport with two fish hooked and released of around 6 lbs. and 7 lbs. from Roan Pool on his deadly Altyre Dog tube. He also hooked and lost another two fish a little later on in the day. Upstream on the Upper Beat, Robin Birkbeck also managed to hook and release two fish of around 10 lbs. from the Soldiers Hole and a grilse of around 5 lbs. from Palamore. He also caught a sea trout of around 2 lbs. from Palamore Pool. However, more rain clouds were rolling in and river levels were rising again overnight.
By Thursday, August 11th, levels were reading 2’2″ up on the Shenachie gauge. By late afternoon, levels were reading 3’4″ down at Forres and it was completely unfishable.
On Thursday August 12th river levels were falling away once again and reading 2’5″ on the Forres gauge. Leslie Tyson hooked and lost three fish, all from Roan Pool and that was it for the day!
By Saturday, August 13th, river levels were reading 1’6″ on the Forres gauge, but with further overnight rain the river was soon starting to rise once again. By lunchtime, the river had risen another 6″ or so, but water clarity was perfect. I was joined by Ron Jungalwalla from Australia who was touring Scotland and had booked the afternoon with me on Altyre Estate, Lower Beat. He was an experienced fly fisherman, but this was his first time with a Spey casting outfit. Needless to say, he soon picked it up quickly and was able to cast a good line across the river in no time.
Our options were a bit limited due to the river height but at least the fish would be lying in close to our bank in the high water conditions. Once I was happy with his casting ability, we started fishing through from the top of Roan Pool, but nothing doing. As we made our way downstream, I kept on seeing fish showing just off the fallen pine trees close into our bank. We made our way downstream and waded in at the edge. He was fishing a 14′ Bruce and Walker Norway with a full floating line and a Purple Cascade tube. It was not too long before he got a good solid pull and gave a good solid pull back! Luckily, the fish stayed on and after a good tussle, we were finally able to net his first Scottish salmon, a fresh grilse of around 5 lbs. and Ron was delighted. Fish kept on showing all the way down the pool and apart from a couple of other brief encounters that was it for the afternoon. But it doesn’t really get much better for just a half a day on a salmon river, what a river!
Finally, as we entered the week commencing August 15th, things started going downhill quickly as the predicted heat wave set upon us and air temperatures started to soar into the high twenties C. It’s amazing that those good old boys at the Met Office know how to predict a heat wave to the day. It’s just a pity they never seem to be quite as accurate when it comes to forecasting rainfall! River levels on the Lower Findhorn were reading 9″ on the Forres gauge, which ordinarily would have seen good water conditions for us on Altyre Estate. Lukasz Materek persisted through the heat of the day having made an early start and was rewarded with a 5 lb. grilse from Roan Pool on a small hitched tube. He also managed another sea trout of around 2 lbs. from the same pool, so he was a very happy chappy! Over the next three days, high pressure continued to dominate and the unbearable heat wave continued to put the river into the doldrums as river levels fell away even lower. There were plenty of fish to be seen in most pools, but they simply were not interested in looking at a fly, not even the fresh running fish.
On Thursday, August 18th, I was joined by David Tisdale and another regular client Oliver Greaves, who brought his two young children, Edward, age thirteen and Charlotte, age eleven years. As always, the youngsters soon picked up the art of Spey Casting without too much trouble. It was another roasting hot day with no sign of any change at this point with river levels reading just 5″ on the Forres gauge. However, I was delighted when young Edward hooked his first ever salmon, a cracking little sea-liced grilse of around 3 lbs. from the tail of Palamore. To hook and land a fish in such conditions was no mean feat and he is now well and truly hooked on salmon fishing. It is always heartening to see youngsters coming into the sport and this season has been no exception. It also occurred to me that this was the third generation of the Greaves family that I have helped to catch a salmon here on the river Findhorn.
On Friday, August 19th, river levels were reading 4″ on the Forres gauge and there was a forecast of some rain to come. Sure enough, later in the evening, we saw some fairly prolonged and heavy rain falling over the river Findhorn catchment.
On Saturday, August 20th, river levels were reading 10″ on the Shenachie gauge and I was hopeful we might see a reasonable rise in water before too long. Unfortunately, the rise came a little late in the day at around 4:00 p.m., which gave us some encouragement, but yet again, the fish were clearly not interested in taking a fly whatsoever! It may have been that the water had become too warm over the period of the hot spell. It was the same just about everywhere else on other rivers and beats, the salmon had switched off! I think that what we need now is a period of much cooler weather and some decent heavy rainfall to give the rivers a decent flush out and get the fish on the move and more importantly, back in the mood for taking a fly.