The Aberdeenshire Dee rises high in the Cairngorms and flows some 90 miles to the sea at Aberdeen. It’s source, at the Wells of Dee, is actually very close to that of the Avon. Many would say that it is the most attractive of the large Scottish Salmon rivers as well as one of the most prolific in fish. In fact the Dee is probably the best Spring Salmon river in Britain. It is a lovely tumbling streamy fast flowing river in all, but the lower reaches and it’s water runs clear with little of the peatiness so characteristic of the Spey and Findhorn. The Upper Dee flows through delightful countryside past Braemar, Invercauld, Balmoral and Ballater.
Apart from the falls at the Linn of Dee, there is no natural obstacle to the passage of fish. Along the banks are woods of Birch, Fir and Pine with hills of Heather and Rowan beyond. The middle reaches between Ballater and Banchory are home to some of the finest beats on the river. Names like Cambus o May, Dinnet and Glentanar will be familiar names even to those who have only dreamed of fishing here. The river here has lost none of it’s momentum as it weaves between one rocky pool to another.
Below Banchory the river steadies it’s pace a little but the character of it’s pools is by no means lost. Some of the finest Spring fishing is to be had here on famous beats like Park, Durris and Crathes. In fact there are numbers of fresh fish in these pools from the first day of the season and the angler is in with a real chance in February if the weather is at all kind.
Salmon fishing par excellence.
The Aberdeenshire Dee offers Spring salmon fishing par excellence. Fish will be taken below Banchory in February/March and will be settling into pools at Aboyne by April and will be up to Braemar by early May. Spring water levels are held steady by snowmelt fed from the Cairngorm and Grampian Mountains. Days lost to high water are few, as the Dee does not colour readily and soon clears after a rise.
There is a healthy run of summer salmon and grilse which quickly spread throughout the system in the warmer water conditions. The Dee also sees a very healthy run of sea trout from May onwards. Many of the fish will be coloured by September, but lower beats like Park and Crathes will take fresh sea liced fish right up to the last day of the season.
Over twenty years ago the Dee Fishery Board research programme identified that Spring salmon were not returning in the numbers normally expected. After much debate and careful consideration, a number of measures were introduced. Firstly, there has been a systematic improvement in the hatchery stocking programme.
Secondly, anglers are encouraged to fish by fly only. Thirdly, an obligatory catch and release policy was introduced in 1996. Since that time, tens of thousands of salmon have been safely returned to the river insuring a healthy spawning stock on the redds. Catch statistics and careful scientific monitoring indicates that these measures have been extremely successful. Juvenile stock appears healthy and plentiful on all beats. The total catch for the river has been steadily increasing since these measures were implemented.
2007 was an exceptional season as the total rod catch peaked at over some 6,500 salmon which was a record number of salmon caught for many years. The Dee Salmon Fishery Improvement Association should be congratulated on their work and for having the foresight to introduce these conservation policies at the time.