As we moved into early April, river levels were running at a respectable 10” on the Forres gauge. It was a cloudy and overcast day, but there were few fish to be seen running. We seemed to be in between runs at this time! This was the first of my two combined Spring weeks of salmon fishing on the Meads of St. John Beat at Darnaway and Altyre Estate fishing on the River Findhorn.
I was joined by regular clients, David Clark, Richard Lamb, David Tisdale and Des Dunlop. By Tuesday, April 2nd, river levels had fallen away slightly reading 9” on the Forres gauge and it was feeling somewhat warmer than of late, but still very quiet.
However, by Wednesday, April 3rd, there was a big change in the weather afoot! It was a really pretty miserable day with just about everything thrown at us, rain, sleet, snow, hail and severely strong to gale force winds! The River Findhorn was rising for much of the day and by late afternoon it was starting to get very dirty and fishing was finished for the day. Just upstream the little River Divie was coming in very dirty and reading 3’11” on the Dunphail gauge. So that was it, “Brown and Out!”
On Wednesday, April 4th, river levels had fallen away and reading 3’1” on the Forres gauge, which was quite surprising considering how much rain and snow had fallen the previous day. Another even more surprising factor was that the water clarity was looking really quite good and I was feeling hopeful of our chances of a fish. It rained steadily for much of the morning, but it was clearing up and becoming very pleasantly sunny by late afternoon.
Robert Mull was soon into the action with a fresh sea trout of around 3 lbs. from the tail of Palamore Pool, hooked and released on a small Monkey tube fly. Then a little later on in the day and regular client, David Clark hooked a lovely fresh Spring salmon of around 8 lbs., also from Palamore Pool. The sea-liced fish was hooked on a BUS otherwise known as a Big Ugly Snaelda! A couple of quick photos were taken before the fish was released and off it swam. However, in the meantime, what we hadn’t noticed in all the excitement was that my brand new landing net had just vanished! We searched from top to bottom of Palamore, but it had just gone, not a sign of it anywhere, I couldn’t believe it!
By Friday, April 5th, river levels were reading 2’9” on the Forres gauge and falling. It was looking like a good fishing day with a mix of cloud and sunny spells. In the morning, Robert Mull hooked a fresh fish of around 10 lbs. from Palamore Island Pool fishing off the Meads of St. John bank, hooked and released by long distance release! The fly of choice was a Leslie Tyson 1” Purple Cascade tube fly. A little later on in the morning, Robert hooked and lost another fish down in the tail of the Scur Pool on the Meads of St. John Beat. Over on the Altyre bank, David Clark briefly hooked into a fish up in the top run of the Scur Pool, which came to the surface and threw the hooks after thinking he had become stuck on a rock! By late afternoon, the weather was warming up a little, but then the river was starting to rise by late evening as some of the snow started to melt away.
On Saturday, April 6th, the River Findhorn was reading 2’10” on the Forres gauge. It was another cloudy, wet morning, but gradually brightening up and becoming warmer by lunchtime. In the morning, just before lunch, David Clark was into the action, once again. This time he had hooked a big fish in the tail of the Scur Pool, fishing off the Meads of St. John bank. It is quite a tricky place to land a fish here and slowly but surely, he managed to walk the fish up to some quieter water where I was able to net the big fish for him. It was a classic deep Findhorn Spring salmon of around 20 lbs. David was delighted as this was his biggest Findhorn fish to date. The BUS fly was responsible, once again! Later on in the evening and M. Pearce hooked and released another fish of around 15 lbs., also from the Scur Pool. After a slow start to the week, it was good to end the week on such a positive note and we were starting to see such good numbers of these magnificent MSW fish running in strength.
By Monday, April 8th, I was joined by regular clients, Andrew Shaw, John Butcher, and Jonathan Howitt for the first three days of the week. River levels were still running at quite a high level reading 2’6” on the Forres gauge and falling with perfect water clarity. It was a cloudy, overcast day and I was feeling hopeful of our chances ,especially on our high water pools.
In the morning, Jonathan Howitt hooked a lovely fresh fish in Palamore Island Pool and ably assisted by Leslie Tyson who was on hand to net the fish for Jonathan. It was cracking fish of around 8 lbs. and hooked on an L.T. Monkey tube fly. This was Jonathan’s first fish in over two years and he was really delighted with his catch. A little later on in the evening, Ian Neale hooked another fish in Palamore Island of around the same size, but after a good long tussle. finally threw the hooks and was away! It was great to see such numbers of fish running through Palamore Island Pool for much of the day.
By Tuesday, April 9th, river levels were running at 2’5” on the Forres gauge and with perfect water clarity again. It was another sunny and bright day and feeling a little warmer. John Butcher was first off the mark with a cracking fresh fish of around 15 lbs. from Palamore Island, Meads of St. John, hooked on his own version of a ¾” Purple Cascade tube. Over on the Altyre Estate bank, Leslie Tyson hooked and landed his first Spring salmon of the season from the tail of Roan Pool of around 12 lbs. Well done Leslie, at last!
Later on in the evening, Ian Neale hooked and landed another fresh fish of around 9 lbs. from Palamore Island Pool on the Meads of St John bank, hooked and released on a ¾” Purple Cascade. This was already turning into something very special, as far as Spring salmon fishing goes and the best was yet to come!
On Wednesday, April 10th, river levels were reading 1’11” on the Forres gauge. It was a bright sunny morning and feeling a little cooler. After putting a fly through Palamore Island Pool several times, Jonathan Howitt and Leslie Tyson decided to cast a line over Scur Pool before lunch. Just shortly after starting up in the neck of the pool and Jonathan’s Monkey fly was taken hard and the fish took off downstream at great speed. He had hooked something really special here. I watched nervously from above the Scur Pool on the Altyre bank I couldn’t believe how much backing the fish had taken off his reel! Jonathan, guided by Leslie, played the big fish hard and after some twenty-five minutes of hectic sport, Jonathan managed to bring the Leviathan to Leslie’s waiting net. It only just fit into the net, an absolute cracking deep Spring salmon of around 22 lbs., hooked on a 1” Altyre Dog tube. This was salmon fishing at its very best and both Jonathan and Leslie were delighted. This was Jonathan’s biggest River Findhorn salmon and no one could have deserved it better. Well done Jonathan and welcome back to the River Findhorn.
However, we were only just warming up as the afternoon was about to get even more exciting! After lunch, Leslie Tyson had a cast down through the Roan Pool fishing off the Altyre Estate bank. He managed to hook three cracking Spring fish of around 15 lbs., 8 lbs. and 7 lbs. before falling in trying to beach fish number three! By the time I came down from the other bank to see him, he was just walking back up grinning from ear to ear after this fantastic hour of sport! He was now also going back home to change his wet clothing! Meanwhile, just below us, John Butcher had hooked and released another fish of around 8 lbs. from the tail of St. John’s Pool on the Beats of St John bank.
Later on in the evening, I decided to head off back and have a cast through the Scur Pool on the Meads bank. Starting in at the top of the pool, I had a good solid take and it was “Fish On” again! Leslie arrived back to join me just in time to assist me with landing the fish. It was another cracking deep Spring fish of around 12 lbs. and just off the last high tide. This was really some fantastic fishing day to be sure, but it wasn’t over quite yet. Just a short while after releasing the first fish, I hooked another fish, which after a lot of head shaking finally threw the hooks before Leslie could get back up to me.
I told Leslie to go in behind me and start at the top again. I look around and thought he had started a little too far down. “Move up a little further Leslie” I called and he reeled in and moved upstream to the faster water. First cast and his line tightened into another cracking Spring fish, his fourth fish of the day! It was another lovely fresh fish of around 8 lbs. hooked and quickly released on the Altyre Dog tube fly. What a day from both banks, with seven fresh fish up to 22 lbs. hooked and released. This was Spring salmon fishing at its very best!
On Thursday, April 11th, I was joined by the Adam MacDonald party who were back fishing with me for their third year. It was a bright and sunny morning, but with a chilly south eastern wind developing. River levels had started to fall away a little and was reading 1’3” on the Forres gauge. Leslie Tyson took Adam Wiltshire to the top of Roan Pool when almost immediately hooked into a large fish, which after some hectic minutes finally threw the hooks and was away! After lunch, Adam MacDonald managed to hook a lovely fresh fish of around 10 lbs. from the Garden Pool on the Altyre bank. The fish was hooked and released on a 1” Willie Dog cone head tube.
By Friday, April 12th, river levels were reading 1’1” on the Forres gauge and then rising around 3” later on the back of more snow melt water. In the morning, Calum Gillies from the Isle of Skye hooked and released another fresh fish of around 9 lbs, from the Garden Pool. After lunch, Mia MacDonald also hooked a fresh fish from the Garden Pool on the Altyre bank of around 8 lbs., hooked on a 1” Willie Dog cone head tube fly. Later on in the evening, Ian Neale hooked another fresh fish of around 7 lbs. from the tail of Scur Pool off the Meads of St. John bank. However, as the evening progressed the wind strengthened from the South East and it became very quiet. Time to head off home for a wee dram and a hot bath!
Finally, by Saturday, April 13th, river levels were reading 1’ on the Forres gauge on the River Findhorn, rising again by a couple of inches later in the day. It was another sunny and bright day, but still with this cold S.E wind blowing. There seemed to be fewer fish running or showing.
However, in the afternoon, Ron Sutherland managed to get a good pull off a fish in the Garden Pool but it didn’t stick! A little later on and Adam MacDonald was rewarded with another lovely fresh fish from the same lie in the Garden Pool off the Altyre Estate bank. It was another fresh fish of around 9 lbs. hooked on his favourite 1” Willie Dog tube.
I had arranged for Leslie and I to go and have a final cast of the day in the Scur Pool at around 7:00 p.m. Just as I was about to head off to the river, there was a knock on the door and there was Leslie standing with an extended landing net, saying “look what I found Mr. Neale”! I couldn’t believe my eyes, as we had searched for the best part of two weeks trying to find my net, as I was sure it would come to rest somewhere as the water fell away. Leslie had been guiding Mia MacDonald on the St. John’s Pool later in the afternoon and just before finishing his foot touched something solid about 12” below the surface and buried in the sand. He looked down and there it was safe and sound, right at the very extent of our fishing boundary too! Fate and good luck had smiled upon our fortunes, that was for sure!
So, we then headed off back up to the Scur Pool to see if we could get Leslie a Birthday fish to end our two weeks of fishing on Altyre Estate and the Meads of St. John Beat. Leslie went up to the neck of the pool and I went into the tail of Scur. It wasn’t too long before I got a really good solid pull off a fish, which fought hard and took off like a rocket. I eventually walked the fish up and Leslie was soon by my side. As I brought the silver fish on to the beach, we couldn’t believe our eyes to see a really magnificent and well mended sea trout kelt of around 5 lbs., which would surely have been around the 7 lbs.-8 lbs. mark when fresh last year! Finally, as the light was starting to fade, Leslie was rewarded with a Birthday consolation prize, a lovely fresh sea trout of around 3 lbs. from the tail of the Scur Pool.
It had been a really incredible two weeks with a combined catch of 26 fresh fish up to 22 lbs. from both of the Altyre Estate Beats and the Meads of St. John Beat on Darnaway. This was Spring salmon fishing at its very best and so much great fun and sport for all of my clients.
I shall be updating the Salmon Fishing News on a regular basis. In the meantime, if you are interested in booking up any fishing on the River Findhorn, then please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org for availability and costs.