As we moved into the middle of April, river levels remained on the high side on the River Findhorn and River Spey with snow melting water keeping levels topped up each day.
On Monday, April 16th, river levels were reading 2’4” on the Forres gauge and it was a sunny and bright day with a cool north easterly breeze. Local angler, Alisdair Ker managed to hook and release his first Spring salmon of the season, a cracking sea-liced fish of around 8 lbs. from the Roan Pool on the Lower Beat. Greg Gibb also hooked another fresh fish, which threw the hooks and was away!
It was great to see our old friend, Lukasz Materek, back on Altyre, for Wednesday, April 18th with his two sons Maks and Ben, who are becoming extremely proficient Spey Casters and needless to say, they have had one of the best tutors to teach them all about good salmon fishing and Spey casting! River levels had risen overnight and were reading 2’9” on the Forres guage. The river continued to rise and fall throughout the day, which was not ideal fly fishing conditions. However, the boys managed to enjoy some sport with a couple of well mended salmon and sea trout kelts through the day.
On Thursday, April 19th, river levels had fallen slightly reading 2’5” on the Forres gauge. Alistair Foyers from Cawdor managed to hook and release his first Spring fish of the season of around 10 lbs. The fish was caught from the Tail of Meads Pool on Altyre Estate, Lower Beat on a ½” Monkey tube fly. Just a short while later on he had another good pull from the same spot, but it didn’t stick!
River levels continued to yo-yo for much of the week and never falling below the two foot mark until later on in the week. By Saturday, April 21st, river levels had fallen away and reading 1’7” on the Forres gauge, but apart from a well mended kelt there were no other fresh fish hooked.
On Monday, April 23rd, river levels had fallen away quite quickly over the weekend reading 8” on the Forres gauge and rising on the back of snow melt water to 11” later in the day. It was a cloudy/overcast day with rain showers falling on and off. I was joined by two of my regular clients David Tisdale and Robert Booth, together with new clients, Halli Eirickson and Jon Jonsson from Iceland who were fishing the River Findhorn for the first time. Robert Booth was unlucky to hook and lose a fresh fish from the tail of Soldier’s Hole Pool before lunch.
On Tuesday, April 24th, river levels had risen overnight and reading 1’2” on the Forres gauge. It was another cloudy day with a few sunny spells, but feeling quite cool early on in the day. Later in the afternoon, Jon Jonsson hooked and landed his first fresh fish of the season and also his first Findhorn salmon from the Roan Pool. It was lovely deep fish of around 6 lbs., covered in long-tailed sea lice and hooked on a BUS (Big Ugly Snaelda) tube fly from the top of Roan Pool on the Upper Beat!
On Thursday, April 26th, I was joined by my regular Norwegian party comprising, Johan Peter Oren, Morten Taule, Vermund Girstein and Tom Handal. River levels had fallen away and reading 7” on the Forres gauge, rising to 10” later in the day. Despite seeing fish running, there was no fish pulled or hooked. On Friday, April 27th river levels were at 9” on the Forres gauge rising to 1’2” later on. It was cloudy and overcast with a few odd showers, but feeling decidedly warmer than of late. Fish had been seen running in Soldier’s Hole and Roehillock Pools just after lunch. Morten Taule briefly hooked and lost a fresh fish in Roan Pool later in the day. However, despite all best efforts there were no other fish hooked or landed.
As we moved into week commencing April 30th, river levels started to fall away quite quickly. Some heavy rain on the afternoon and evening of May 1st gave river levels a needed top up and by Wednesday, May 3rd, levels were back up to 1’2” on the Forres gauge. I was joined by another new party of anglers, Rufus Drabble and Tom Mathieson fishing on Altyre Lower Beat for three days. Tom Mathieson hooked and released our first sea trout of the season of around 2 lbs. from Clerks Pool on the Lower Beat. As the rest of the week progressed, river levels remained at a good fishable height, but unfortunately the fishing had become a bit slower and no more fish were caught.
On Monday, May 7th, on Altyre Estate, River Findhorn I was joined by another regular group of clients, David Clark and Peter James. Einar Mathieson from Norway and Malcolm Dutchman-Smith were joining the party for the first time. River levels were reading 7” on the Forres gauge and rising to 10” later on the back snow melting water from the River Findhorn catchment. It has been a while since we have enjoyed such good snow melting water conditions running into early May. Weather wise, it was a mixture of sunshine and showers, but feeling much warmer.
David Clark was the first off the mark for the week with a cracking sea-liced fish of around 8 lbs., hooked and released from William’s Run on a size 8 double Purple Cascade.
By Tuesday, May 8th river levels were back down to 7” on the Forres gauge, but rising again later on in the day to 10”. It was another day of sunshine and cloud, feeling very warm by the afternoon. Einar Mathieson hooked and released another cracking fresh fish of around 9 lbs., his first ever Findhorn salmon on his favourite Dynamite tube fly, also from William’s Run on the Upper Beat! By Wednesday, May 9th, river levels were reading 6” on the Forres gauge and a small rise of 1” later on in the day brought levels up to 7”. Einar Mathieson hooked and released another strong fish of around 10 lbs., again from William’s Run on the Upper Beat and once again his Dynamite tube fly did the trick!
As the rest of the week progressed, river levels started falling away, remaining at a steady 5” on the Forres gauge. It appeared that our much needed snow melt water had finally diminished from the River Findhorn catchment and we were now going to be dependent on rainfall to give river levels any kind of rise. As high pressure was firmly establishing itself over the country, the chances of any rainfall coming our way were looking pretty slim.
By Monday, May 21st, river levels were reading just 4” on the Forres gauge and there was the promise of some rain! I was joined by Chris and Ivan Wall and newcomers to the River Findhorn Freddie White from Gibralter and Greer Ramsey from Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, the rainfall did not amount to too much although levels were given a reasonable boost of around 4” by Wednesday, May 23rd and the river was looking in much better order. However, the day had become very warm once again and overhead conditions were making for very difficult fly fishing. Freddie and Greer decided to leave the river early and came back later on in the evening for a last cast. Although they did not manage to connect with a fish apart from one pull, they both reported seeing a really good run of fresh fish moving through all of the pools from Soldier’s Hole down to the Garden Pool, as they fished into the darkness. Full marks for a good effort indeed!
At least it is always good to know of more fresh Spring fish running into the River Findhorn system off the high tides. Bearing in mind that everything is running at least three weeks late this season, I am still feeling optimistic, that given a change of weather and some decent rainfall, we will still see more fresh Spring salmon running into the river Findhorn system over the upcoming weeks.
Please do contact me, [email protected], for further information on availability for guided salmon fishing on the River Findhorn, River Spey and River Dee.
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Ian Neale, known as the Speycaster, is a seasoned fishing guide with extensive experience in renowned global fishing locations like the Ponoi River in Russia and the Rio Grande in Tierra Del Fuego. A published author, he has written extensively on salmon and sea trout fishing, with his first book, “Shadows in the Stream,” released in 2000. Ian has also appeared on various TV programs, demonstrating his expertise in Speycasting and discussing the importance of wild Atlantic salmon stocks to local economies. His passion for fishing and respect for nature are evident in all his endeavors.