It has been a very long dry Summer with very little in the way of decent rainfall throughout July and into late August, apart from the occasional light rain falling over the River Findhorn, Spey and Dee Catchments, lifting river levels slightly from time to time!
As we moved into early July, it was already becoming increasingly evident that there were some very good numbers of fresh salmon and grilse that were moving into the Lower River Findhorn System below us on Altyre Estate. However, with river levels remaining extremely low, these fish were reluctant to run any further until we got some decent rainfall! Therefore, numbers of fresh salmon and grilse continued to build up on the back of the high Spring tides.
On July 12th, we were fishing on Altyre Estate and there were one or two fish moving through the Scur Pool. River levels were running at 2” and it was a cloudy overcast day. After some bank strimming and two new seats put in place, Leslie Tyson was really unlucky to hook and lose a good sized salmon in Scur Pool on a small hitched tube, which just took off and broke the tiny size 16 hooks!
The following week commencing July 16th, river levels remained low reading just 2” on the Forres gauge. The weather forecasters were predicting some much long awaited rain, which we were hoping would materialise. On July 18th, I was fishing the Scur Pool with a small hitched “Entysonator” tube and managed to move a good fish to the fly, but it did not come to anything. A few minutes later and casting the hitch over the same lie and another fish, a grilse, popped his nose up in the white water and took the fly hard. It was a lively fresh sea-liced grilse of around 3 lbs. which gave a good account of itself on my Thomas and Thomas 11’ 7# switch rod.
By Thursday, July 19th, the weather had suddenly changed for the better and it started to rain quite heavily by late afternoon and into the evening. In fact, it continued to pour through much of the following night and I was feeling hopeful that we might see a decent rise in levels by Friday. However, the rain came to nothing in terms of raising river levels and just disappeared into the ground having been so dry for such a long period.
By Saturday, July 21st, river levels were running at 4” on the Forres gauge, but it was not enough to entice any waiting fish in the Lower River below us.
As we moved through late July and into early August, it remained generally pretty dry apart from some further rain falling on Friday, July 27th, which lifted levels to 5” on the Shenachie gauge on Saturday July 29th.
By Tuesday July 31st, river levels had risen to around 7” on the Forres gauge and I was feeling a little more optimistic that we might see some fresh fish running through the Altyre Beats. However, this rise, which would normally encourage fish to run the river, had no effect at all and the large numbers of salmon and grilse that were stacking up below us on the Lower River continued to build. Anglers fishing on the Forres AA water had been enjoying some great sport all the way through July and into August with reports of salmon and grilse lying nose to tail in many pools! After the long dry and heat wave conditions week after week, these fish had become somewhat moribund and most probably the warmer water temperatures were holding them back and not inclined to run. We were going to need a decent spate and cooler water conditions to get them moving upstream!
However, as we entered the last week of August there was a sense of change in the air with cooler air temperatures by day and by night, and with the prospect of rain approaching from the West. Sure enough the forecasters had actually got it spot on for a change and by Sunday, August 26th, we saw heavy rain falling over the River Findhorn Catchment for much of the day and into the evening.
On Monday, August 27th, river levels were on the rise and reading a magnificent 8” on the Shenachie gauge. At last things were looking up, so to speak! We were fishing on the Altyre Estate Beats combined with the Meads of St. John Beat on Darnaway, (opposite bank) for the week ahead. By mid-afternoon we saw river levels starting to rise on Altyre Estate by some 9-10” and running fairly clear, a wonderful sight to behold, but still early days. All of the beats were covered well by my clients, but very few fish to be seen through the day. Later on that evening I had word from Sean Mclean, the River Bailiff and local angler, Geoff Holloway, that fish had been seen running through some of the Lower River Pools and moving upstream.
Later on in the evening just before dark, I went back down to fish the Scur Pool from the Meads Bank and was pleased to see several fish running. I briefly hooked and lost a sea trout and moved a salmon to a small “Entysonator” tube, before heading back home. At least there were fish moving through the Altyre and Meads Beats now and it was looking more promising for my clients on Tuesday.
By Tuesday, August 28th, river levels were reading 6” on the Forres gauge and I was feeling hopeful that we might start bumping into one or two of these fish running up from the Lower River. Leslie Tyson was out early on Tuesday morning and managed to hook and release a sea trout of around 3 lbs. from the Scur Pool on the Meads Beat. Mid-morning and Leslie Tyson hooked and lost the first salmon of the day from William’s Run, taken on the dangle and briefly hooked before dropping off!
Then a little later on, he managed to hook and land another two grilse of around 5 lbs. and 4 lbs., both on his Willie Gunn Temple Dog variant. Both fish were hooked and released in William’s Run. He also got a good pull off a fish right up in the neck of Palamore Island, but it didn’t come back for another try! Just before lunch Leslie hooked and released another fish of around 7 lbs., this time from Roan Pool on the Lower Beat, still fishing his Willie Gunn TD variant double. Four fish hooked before lunch and things were indeed looking up at last!
Regular client John Butcher also managed to hook and release a sea trout of around 3 lbs. from the Scur Pool on the Altyre Bank on a small hitched tube. A little later on in the day David Tisdale hooked and landed a sea trout of around 2 lbs. from Soldier’s Hole on the Upper Beat. After lunch and into the evening it all went a little quiet with just the odd fish seen running, but at least we were back on the score board and this was a good start after a long dry lean period.
On Wednesday, July 29th, river levels had fallen back to 4” on the Forres gauge, but still a good fishable height for us on both of these beats. It was a bright sunny day and I was keen to get John Butcher into the New (St. John’s) Pool on the Meads Bank whilst it remained shaded from the morning sun. He had seen a run of fish coming through the pool and just right down at the tail he hooked and released a fine fresh grilse of around 5 lbs. on a small Stoat Tail, size 10 double. John was delighted and decided to finish on a winning note before heading off to do a little leisurely shopping before his flight to London and back home to Windsor. A happy man!
Later on in the afternoon I went down to the New Pool with David Tisdale and I put on a small “Entysonator” needle tube on a floating line. Conditions looked good and this pool can be such a productive low water pool. There was a nasty strong upstream breeze to contend with, however, my #8 Bruce and Walker switch rod handled conditions well. About half way down the pool and just as the little fly swung round onto the dangle, I got a solid take and a fish was on, terrific! The fish fought hard and after about five minutes or so I was able to swing the fish into the side and beach it carefully. It was a slightly coloured grilse of around 5 lbs. and after a quick photo was released back into the river to carry on upstream.
River levels continued to fall away over the next few days and for the rest of the week we did not see many more fish running. I gather there are still big numbers of salmon and grilse lying down in the Lower River Pools, no doubt waiting for another decent flush of water to get them moving.
With only four weeks of the season left we can only hope that the unsettled weather theme continues and we start to see more rainfall in the upcoming weeks. The Middle Beats up around Glenferness and Lethen appear to be stuffed full of fish and given the fact the Lower River is also still stuffed full of fish, the River Findhorn is in good shape as far as spawning stock goes.
I shall be updating the Fishing News for the last four weeks of the season in early October. In the meantime, if you are interested in booking up any last minute fishing on the River Findhorn with me then please contact me: [email protected] for any availability and costs. We are also now taking enquiries and bookings for the 2019 season 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.