Hidden Gems: The Lesser Known Salmon Fishing Rivers of Scotland

Lang Tail pool on Leverattich, Glenferness Estate

Scotland is a world-renowned destination for salmon fishing, but did you know that many hidden gems are waiting to be discovered? Away from the fame of the River Tay and River Tweed, a wealth of smaller salmon fishing rivers in Scotland offer unique experiences and exciting opportunities for anglers. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through these lesser-known Scottish spring salmon fishing rivers and the unforgettable fishing adventures they promise. Get ready to cast your line into the wild waters of Scotland!

Key Points

  • The lesser-known salmon fishing rivers are some of the best in Scotland

  • These hidden gems offer high yields with uncrowded fishing spots and are perfect for guided trips.

  • Learn the best way to make your Scottish Salmon Fishing adventure successful & sustainable!

Smaller Salmon Fishing Rivers

A river with a lot of rocks and trees.

While the famous River Tay, Spey and River Tweed may dominate conversations about salmon fishing in Scotland, a world of smaller Scottish salmon rivers offers equally thrilling experiences. These smaller rivers, flowing along the west coast or branching off from larger rivers like the River Spey, can yield high numbers of salmon during the late spring and summer months, making them perfect for guided salmon fishing trips in Scotland.

Imagine playing a sizeable salmon on a 9ft-11ft #7/8 weight Switch or single-handed trout rod, especially in these picturesque Scottish rivers. So, let’s dive into some of these wonderful salmon rivers and explore the amazing fishing opportunities they provide.

River Findhorn

Nestled in the Scottish Highlands, the River Findhorn is a gorgeous river known for its thrilling salmon fishing and stunning scenery. Fishing for salmon along the Findhorn begins in mid- February and it continues until September 30th.

One of the tremendous advantages of fishing for spring salmon in smaller rivers like the Findhorn is that they are more easily coverable with a fly rod. As a fresh springer is usually quite aggressive, it will usually go on to take it if it sees a fly. The best time for fly fishing for spring fish on the River Findhorn is between April and May. Then again for the Grilse and Summer run salmon from early July through September – truly an angler’s delight.

River Alness

The River Alness offers exciting salmon fishing opportunities in a tranquil setting, with various unique beats. The salmon fishing season on the River Alness runs from February through the end of October, providing ample time to visit and fish in this beautiful little river.

The type of salmon you can expect to find in the River Alness during spring fishing, is the majestic Atlantic salmon. The best times of year for salmon fishing on the River Alness are from May to mid-June for spring salmon and from July to the end of the season for Summer salmon and grilse.

River Brora

The River Brora, located in Sutherland in the Highlands of Scotland, is a hidden gem with a rich history of being one of the Highland’s most productive rivers for salmon fishing. It offers:

  • A reputation for producing big fish

  • An excellent spring salmon run

  • Fantastic fishing from February to May

  • Large autumn fish as well

The river is renowned for its incredible yearly catch returns of over 800 salmon and grilse, making it a hugely popular destination for salmon fishing, and it also has a fantastic run of sea trout. The best season to fish for salmon in River Brora is from late February to October, with grilse and summer salmon running in late June and continuing until the end of the season.

River Helmsdale

Located in the the north East coast of Scotland, the River Helmsdale is known for its annual catches of 1500-2000 salmon, making it a renowned salmon fishing river. The river’s sources include the exciting combined lochs of Rimsdale, nan Clar, and Badanloch. The fishing season for salmon on the River Helmsdale begins on the opening day of the season on 11th January and runs through to the end of the season.

With twelve beats available for fishing on River Helmsdale, six above the falls of Kildonan and six below, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to experience this fantastic salmon river.

The Highland Salmon Experience

A man is Speycasting in a river.

We shall now journey to the Scottish Highlands’ core, immersing in the thrill of salmon fishing amidst diverse and stunning landscapes. The Highland Salmon Experience encompasses prolific salmon rivers, such as:

  • River Naver

  • River Thurso

  • River Oykel

  • River Shin

  • River Halladale

  • River Carron

Each river offers its own unique fishing experiences and challenges.

While the early spring months can bring inhospitable weather and high river levels, the excitement of catching fresh salmon in some of the best rivers makes it all worthwhile.

The long Atlantic salmon fishing season, from mid-January through the end of October, ensures ample opportunity to immerse yourself in the exhilarating world of Highland salmon fishing.

River Naver

The River Naver, located in the Scottish Highlands, is an incredibly remote and pristine river renowned for its fantastic salmon fishing opportunities. This river flows 21 miles northwards from Loch Naver to Torrisdale Bay, eventually reaches the North Sea and provides a secluded and serene setting for anglers to enjoy.

The prime seasons for salmon fishing in River Naver are generally between March and September, allowing you to experience the beauty of the Highlands during some of the most vibrant months of the year. The River Naver is known for its amazing Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) population, ensuring an unforgettable fishing experience.

River Thurso

Famed for its salmon fishing, the River Thurso is located in the north of Scotland and offers a variety of incredible beats and fishing experiences. The history of salmon fishing on the River Thurso dates back to 1700, and the river has consistently produced fresh salmon throughout the centuries. The River Thurso is among a few rivers well known for its population of Atlantic salmon, and it supports a higher proportion of multi-sea-winter salmon than many other rivers in the species’ range.

The most popular spots to fish for salmon on River Thurso are Beat 1, the Private Beat, and Glutt Water. The prime fishing season for salmon in River Thurso starts on January 11th and runs through to October 5th.

River Oykel

The River Oykel, located in the Scottish Highlands, is a renowned salmon fishing river that provides anglers a challenging and rewarding fishing experience. Flowing 21 miles from the exciting combined lochs of Badanloch, Rimsdale, and nan Clar, the River Oykel offers a stunning backdrop for salmon fishing.

The best time for salmon fishing in the River Oykel are from late February to September.

River Shin

In the beautiful and remote setting of the Scottish Highlands, River Shin offers excellent salmon fishing opportunities. The river provides a wild and rugged yet intimate environment, with stunning scenic backdrops and populations of game fish such as trout and salmon. The River Shin like most Highland salmon rivers, is managed by riparian landowners, ensuring proper fishing management and a sustainable future for this cherished sport.

The Falls of Shin and the Big Falls, located on one of the famous salmon rivers, are some of the most exciting spots for salmon fishing and watching salmon leaping the Falls, offering a truly unique experience for anglers and vistors alike.

Salmon Fishing on Scottish Islands

A man holding up a fish on a river.

Apart from Scotland’s mainland, the Scottish islands extend an array of exclusive salmon fishing experiences amid awe-inspiring landscapes and a wealth of history to explore. Some of the islands that provide an extraordinary fishing experience include:

  • Skye

  • Mull

  • Lewis

  • Harris

These islands offer coastal waters, with sea lochs, and minches, renowned for their abundance of salmon, sea trout, mackerel, and other fish species.

The islands’ stunning geography and secluded locations also provide an exhilarating sense of adventure and exclusivity for anglers, making salmon fishing on Scottish islands a truly unforgettable experience.

Skye and Mull

The famous islands of Skye and Mull boast small salmon and sea trout rivers that offer excellent fishing opportunities during the summer months.

The best times of the year for salmon fishing on Skye and Mull islands are summer and autumn, providing a unique and thrilling fishing experience in these captivating landscapes.

Other Notable Island Rivers

In addition to Skye and Mull, other Scottish island rivers offer unparalleled salmon fishing experiences in secluded and unspoiled natural settings. Some examples include:

  • The islands of Lewis and Harris

  • The Uists

  • Shetland

  • Orkney.

  • Islay.

These destinations provide incredible opportunities for salmon fishing in Scotland.

These islands’ unique fishing experiences and stunning, rugged landscapes make them a must-visit for any avid angler.

Essential Tips for Salmon Fishing in Scotland

Preparation, encompassing appropriate knowledge, skills, and equipment, is the key to an enjoyable and successful salmon fishing experience in Scotland. We will now provide you with vital tips for salmon fishing in Scotland, encompassing tackle and equipment, fishing techniques, and engaging a guide.

With the proper preparation and guidance, you’ll be ready to embark on your unforgettable salmon fishing adventure!

Tackle and Equipment

Choosing the correct tackle and equipment is crucial for a thriving salmon fishing trip in Scotland. Here are some recommendations:

  • A shorter double-handed Switch or single handed fly rod is the best choice for salmon fishing on these smaller Scottish rivers, as it allows you to effectively cover the width of the river.

  • The type of fishing reels and flies you use will depend on the specific river conditions and the time of year.

  • Popular flies like the Cascade, Willie Gunn, Jock’s Shrimp, Sunray Shadow, Ally’s Shrimp, Silver Stoat, and Stoats Tail have proven to be effective in attracting salmon.

Fishing Techniques

Two men fly fishing in a river.

Mastering various fishing techniques, such as fly fishing and spinning, can improve your chances of catching salmon in Scotland’s rivers.

Learning and practising Spey casting is also recommended for fishing on wider rivers with high banks, as it allows for greater line control and precision in presenting flies.

Hiring a Guide

A man holding up a fish in a river.

Hiring a professional guide can enhance your salmon fishing experience in Scotland, providing expert advice and local knowledge. Guides like Ian Neale “The Speycaster” offer invaluable experience and skill, helping you get the most out of your day’s salmon fishing. They provide all the essential equipment and supplies, saving you the hassle of bringing your own, and their knowledge of the best fishing spots and techniques can make all the difference between success and failure.

You’ll be in the best hands for your Scottish salmon fishing adventure by choosing a reputable guide or fishing organisation.

Conservation and Sustainability

Conservation and sustainability are fundamental in safeguarding the future of salmon fishing in Scotland. Over recent decades, the salmon population in Scotland has unfortunately declined due to a combination of factors, such as the boom in the fish farming industry, limited feeding in the oceans, and hydroelectric power schemes.

Several conservation measures have been introduced to combat this decline, such as a ban on the sale of all rod-caught wild salmon, mandatory catch and release before April 1st, and the end of netting wild salmon in Scotland’s estuaries. By adhering to these conservation measures and practising responsible fishing, we can help preserve this cherished sport for future generations.

Planning Your Scottish Salmon Fishing Adventure

Planning your Scottish salmon fishing adventure involves consulting a professional salmon fishing guide or agent who can offer priceless local expertise and comprehension. They can help you choose the best rivers and fishing spots and provide guidance on tackle, equipment, and techniques.

Ian Neale, “The Speycaster”, offers an amazing guided salmon fishing and Spey casting tuition experience on the River Findhorn, River Alness, River Spey, and River Dee in Scotland. With the right guidance and preparation, your Scottish salmon fishing adventure will be an enjoyable experience filled with unforgettable memories.


In conclusion, Scotland offers a wealth of lesser-known salmon rivers and unique fishing experiences waiting to be discovered. From the smaller rivers of the Highlands to the remote and unspoiled environments of the Scottish islands, there is a salmon fishing adventure to suit every angler. With essential tips, guidance from professional guides, and a focus on conservation and sustainability, you’ll be well-prepared for your unforgettable Scottish salmon fishing experience. So, grab your rod and prepare to cast your line into the wild waters of Scotland!

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the best salmon fishing in Scotland?

For some of the best salmon fishing in Scotland, head to the River Findhorn in the Scottish Highlands or the famous River Tay in Central Scotland. With its vast headwater loch and general accessibility, the River Tay is a great option for visiting anglers, offering plenty of good hotel options in nearby Pitlochry and Dunkeld.

How many salmon rivers are there in Scotland?

Scotland boasts an impressive 400 salmon rivers, with the ‘big 4’ (Spey, Tay, Dee and Tweed) renowned for their extraordinary fishing season. From January to October, anglers worldwide flock to cast a line and experience this exciting and pure form of sport.

What time of year is best for salmon fishing in Scotland?

Salmon fishing in Scotland is best during the season, from February to October – an unbeatable combination of unique landscape, rich history, and exciting fishing challenges!

What are some lesser-known salmon fishing rivers in Scotland?

Experience the thrill of an outdoor adventure and discover hidden gems while salmon fishing in Scotland at the River Findhorn, River Alness, River Brora, and River Helmsdale, plus many more!

What kind of tackle and equipment is needed for salmon fishing in Scotland?

For salmon fishing in Scotland, genearlly you’ll need a 13ft to 15ft double-hand Spey fly rod, reels, and a selection of effective flies such as the Cascade, Willie Gunn, Jock’s Shrimp, Sunray Shadow, Ally’s Shrimp, Silver Stoat, and Stoats Tail – perfect for a successful and exciting adventure!

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