I must apologise for my rather late update, due mainly to the lack of time through a busy Summer season of fishing and enjoying some great fishing on the River Findhorn! Therefore, I will be delivering the Salmon Fishing News for the River Findhorn from late June through to the end of the September, 2019 fishing season.
As we moved into the last few days of June, river levels remained at a very respectable fly fishing height. I was delighted to introduce Neil and Samuel Brailsford to the Upper Home Beat at Darnaway with river levels running at 9” on the Forres gauge. Overhead weather conditions were starting to get a little warmer than of late, becoming very hot and sunny, not ideal!
However, one of the great things about the Upper Home Beat is that it is usually always fairly easy to find some shade from the sun. The Poolie Falls Pool remains completely shaded until at least lunchtime and so, I was delighted when young Samuel Brailsford hooked and landed his first ever salmon, right in the tail of the Poolie Pool on size 6 Black and Red Shrimp fly pattern. Both he and father, Neil were truly delighted and gave him some anxious moments before I was able to get down to net it for him.
As we moved into early July, river levels on the River Findhorn were starting to fall away a little and by July 2nd and was reading 6” on the Forres gauge. I was joined by another father and son team, Malcolm and Fergus Cunningham from Tasmania. They were all on a family tour of Scotland and Europe for a few weeks. Fergus had bought a day of guided salmon fishing on Altyre with me for his father’s 70th Birthday as a complete surprise!
Conditions for fishing were looking promising and it was a cloudy/overcast day with rain falling on and off. Although having done some trout fishing back home in Tasmania, this was their first attempt at salmon fishing and Spey Casting. They both picked up the art of casting very quickly. We started to see a good run of grilse coming through the Roan Pool just before lunch. Just at the right time Malcolm’s reel screamed out as he hooked into his first ever salmon, which turned to be a cracking fresh sea-liced fish of around 5 lbs., hooked in the Roan Pool, Altyre Estate Lower Beat, on a size 10 Cascade and both of them were really very thrilled.
On Wednesday, July 3rd, river levels were rising again slightly on the back of some overnight rain falling over the River Findhorn catchment and reading 7” on the Forres gauge. I was back up on The Upper Home Beat, Darnaway with my good friend, Jake Fraser for the day and there were more grilse moving through the beat. Ian Neale hooked and released a nice little sea-liced grilse of around 4 lbs. from the Poolie Pool on a ¼” GH Shrimp fly. Jake Fraser also hooked and lost a fish from the same pool a little later on fishing off the Pulpit. Another couple of fish were briefly hooked and then off from the tail of the Poolie Pool! Good to see a run of grilse all the same.
On Thursday July 11th I was joined by good old friend Michael Leach who had brought two other guests, Denis Lyons and Peter Duncan. .
The weather preceding their arrival had been pretty wet and plenty of rain had fallen over the River Findhorn catchment. So, by the Thursday morning, water levels on the River Findhorn were reading 3’1” on the Forres gauge and 4’1” on the little River Divie gauge! After a rather dry spell it was no surprise to see the river running quite dirty for much of the day and so it was a question of patience! By late afternoon, the river was at last falling away and clearing. I was fishing with another good friend, Mike Leach and his party. Mike managed to hook and release a lovely fresh fish of around 6 lbs. from the tail of Roan Pool on a Temple Dog tube fly and he was delighted. However, as we were feeling optimistic about their chances for the following day, the rains started to fall heavily again for much of the night over The River Findhorn and Divie catchments!
Sure enough, by Friday July 12th, the river levels were back up again and reading 3’1” on the River Findhorn, Forres gauge. It was also running on the dirty side yet again! Another day of persistence and patience was required!
By early afternoon, there were signs of the river falling and starting to clear ever so slightly. I decided to take Mike down to the bottom of the Lower Beat and have a cast through Clark’s Pool. The water was still very high and running through the trees and bushes, so if there was any chance it was going to be very close into the side and fishing a short line. Sure enough and only after some ten minutes of starting, Mike had seen a big fish head and tail close in. He stepped back up a few paces and put a short line into the spot and “BANG” it was fish on! It was very apparent from the start that this was a seriously bog salmon as it took off across the pool, running and leaping several times before it headed off downstream and towards Lime Kiln’s Pool below. Mike held on and managed to coax the fish slowly back upstream and back into Clarks Pool. This time the big fish decided to head across the pool and then upstream of him. Just as he thought that he had things a little more under control, it was heading back downstream at great speed. It quickly disappeared into the Lime Kiln’s Pool with a hundred yards of backing and it was not for stopping. He held on grimly, but then there was that awful “Ping” as the 19 lb. Seagur leader finally snapped and the big fish was away!!
As water levels continued to fall away, we both headed back upstream to see how his other two friends were getting on. Denis Lyons had managed to hook and release a cracking fresh grilse of around 5 lbs. from Roan Pool, followed by another fresh grilse of round 4 lbs. from the same pool a little later on in the afternoon. Both he and Peter Duncan had reported seeing some good runs of salmon and grilse running through the Roan Pool, as the levels started falling away the water clarity started to improve. Mike Leach managed to also hook and land another couple of grilse, both of around 3lbs. each from the Garden Pool on the Lower Beat later on. Mike was finally rewarded with another Summer salmon of around 15 lbs. from the tail of Roan Pool later in the evening just before finishing for the day. What a day it had been, fast and furious!
By Saturday, July 13th, river levels were falling away and water clarity was improving. Just before lunch, Leslie Tyson took Denis Lyons to fish the tail of Roan, just off the big rock. Just as the fly was swinging around and right on queue the line tightened and he was in. Unfortunately, for some reason the running line had managed to get itself stuck in between the rim of the reel and then that was it, before he knew it, it was fish off! Despite seeing good numbers of fish running for much of the day there were no other offers forthcoming.
By Monday, July 15th, river levels were reading 1’ on the River Findhorn Forres gauge. Yet again, we had seen a return to much warmer and sunnier weather than of late. I was joined by two new clients Gary Steel and Martin Hubbarb who had booked three days of fishing on the Upper Home Beat at Darnaway, River Findhorn. Despite the overhead conditions they had taken advantage of the shade and managed to both hook and release a couple of grilse of around 3 lbs. and 4 lbs. before lunch, one from the tail of the Craigie Pool and the other from the Whirling Hole Pool. Meanwhile, down on Altyre Estate, Leslie Tyson had enjoyed some great sport, with two fish hooked and lost in Roan Pool, another two fish hooked and lost in Palamore Pool and then finally one grilse of around 5lbs. hooked and released from the tail of Palamore Pool on the Upper Beat. All in all, another great start to the fishing week.
As the warm and humid weather continued, fishing conditions became a little more difficult through the daytime. However on Wednesday, July 17th, Leslie Tyson managed to hook and release another couple of fresh run grilse of around 4 lbs. each from Soldier’s Hole and William’s Run. A little later he hooked a sea trout of around 3lbs., just after losing a bigger fish in the St. John’s Pool on Altyre Lower Beat. Finally, on Saturday, July 20th, river levels were reading 8” on the Forres gauge. Overhead weather conditions had changed over the last couple of days and we were seeing more unsettled weather, keeping river levels at a decent fishable height. Martin Hubbard managed to hook and release a fresh grilse of around 4lbs. from the Garden Pool on Altyre Estate Lower Beat on his lucky Simply Red fly! Just before finishing, Gary Steel was unlucky to hook and lose another fish from the Roan Pool on Altyre Estate Lower Beat.
On Wednesday, July 24th, river levels were holding at 8” on the Forres gauge with further heavy rain falling in the early hours! Jake Fraser was up early in the morning and managed to hook and release another grilse of around 4lbs. from the tail of the Whirling Hole Pool on the Upper Home beat at Darnaway. On Tuesday July 25th, Douglas Grove hooked and released another grilse of around 3lbs. from the tail of the Craigie Pool on the Upper Home Beat, Darnaway.
As we moved into early August, the unsettled theme remained as low pressure dominated our weather systems, especially for the first full week of August. By Wednesday, August 7th, after some seriously heavy rain falling over the River Findhorn and Divie catchments, we saw river levels rising to some 8’ on the Forres gauge and an incredible 6’2” on the River Divie gauge! Finally, by Friday August 9th, river levels had fallen away and water clarity was improving all the time. Ian Neale managed to hook and release a fresh grilse of around 3 lbs. from the Roan Pool on Altyre Estate Lower Beat on a ½” Purple Cascade tube. However, it was another very wet day with more heavy rain falling for much of the day and by late evening, river levels were once again rising, reading 4’6” on the River Findhorn Forres gauge.
On Saturday, August 10th, river levels were still running high reading 3’1” on the Forres gauge and water clarity was looking quite poor as dirty water continued to run from the River Divie. By early afternoon, the water was falling away and clearing slowly. Ian Neale managed to hook and release a 3lb. grilse on a small Altyre Dog tube fly. As the water continued to fall and clear, one or two fish were starting to show in the Roan Pool and several other pulls from fish were forthcoming. Later on in the evening, Leslie Tyson enjoyed a great evening with three fish of around 3lbs., 10lbs, and 15 lbs,. all after 6 .00 pm from the Roan Pool on an Altyre Dog tube fly. Just before finishing, he also hooked and lost another fish from the Garden Pool on the Altyre Estate, Lower Beat.
By Monday, August 12th, and after further heavy rain falling over the River Findhorn catchment, river levels were running at 2’2” on the Forres gauge. For the first time, it was just starting to feel a little cooler and perhaps a touch of early Autumn in the air! Ian Neale managed to hook and land another fresh grilse of around 3 lbs. from the Palamore Pool on Altyre Estate, Upper Beat, on a 1” Altyre Dog tube fly.
By Wednesday, August 14th, river levels had fallen a little more, reading 1’3” on the Forres gauge. Leslie Tyson had taken a few days off work and managed to hook a total of six fish, landing just two of them, both grilse from Soldier’s Hole Pool on the Upper Beat. On Thursday, August 15th, Leslie was back again, this time hooking and releasing a fish of around 8 lbs. from Roehillock Pool and another grilse of around 3 lbs. from Soldier’s Hole Pool.
On Friday. August 16th. I was joined by another regular guest, Marshall Garrett fishing with Leslie Tyson. Although river levels were running at a perfect height, it was a little frustrating to see very few fish running. Ian Neale pulled a fish in Roan Pool and later on in the evening Leslie Tyson hooked and lost a cracking fresh salmon in the Roan Pool, which took off downstream and totally spooled him before the hooks fell out!! However, just before heading home and one more last cast, he managed to hook and release another salmon of around 7 lbs. from the Roehillock Pool.
Finally on Saturday, August 17th, I was joined by Pete and Tabitha Love who had travelled from the USA to enjoy a couple of day’s salmon fishing with me on Altyre Estate, River Findhorn. River levels were looking good by the time we got down to the river on Saturday morning and was reading 11” on the Forres gauge with good water clarity. This was Pete and Tabitha’s first attempt at Atlantic salmon fishing and Spey Casting with a double handed rod. Unfortunately, Pete had picked up some kind of stomach bug before arriving, so he was feeling a little under the weather and insisted that Tabitha should be the one to fish to start with at least! I soon got her started with a 13’ Bruce and Walker Norway Spey Caster and a short head Barrio Spey line, # 8/9, which she soon mastered without any difficulty. We concentrated on the top of Roan Pool to start, where I was hopeful of her finding a fish. It was frustrating, as despite good fly fishing conditions, there did not seem to be too many fish running. However, just before lunch there was a small run of fish coming through the Roan Pool and just as her fly swung through the hot spot, the line tightened and her reel screamed out as it was “Fish on!! It was obviously not a small fish and it gave a good account of itself as I helped talk Tabitha through the process of reeling in and then letting the fish run. She handled it really well and Pete was close by taking advantage of getting some great video footage of Tabitha’s first salmon! Finally, the big fish was on its side and she was able to coax it over the waiting net, brilliant!! It was a cracking, reasonably fresh Summer run hen salmon of around 11 lbs., just perfect! Well done Tabitha!!
After a celebratory wee dram of something special at lunchtime, we headed off up to the Altyre Estate, Upper Beat. Pete was, by now, feeling a little more lively and keen to get going on the casting. I started him off at Palamore Pool and once he was up to speed with the casting I started moving him down through the pool. Just as we were close to the tail of the pool, the fly line swung through the lie and tightened once again. This time it was a smaller fresh grilse of around 4 lbs which gave Pete a good tussle and he was delighted. What a great day, two Atlantic salmon on their first ever day of salmon fishing, and well done to Pete as well. Great stuff!
A little later on in the evening, Leslie Tyson was back for a last cast, managing to hook and release another two fresh grilse of around 3 lbs.-4 lbs. and both hooked in the Roan Pool on Altyre Estate, Lower Beat. What a great way to end what had been a very productive week of salmon fishing on the River Findhorn.
By Monday, August 19th, Pete and Tabitha Love had decided to stay on and fish for another day. After further rain falling throughout the weekend river levels were back up again, reading 1’ 5” on the Forres gauge on the River Findhorn. It was quite a sunny and warm morning, but clouding over and becoming quite windy by the afternoon, with the onset of more rain! Pate and Tabitha both fished hard for much of the day and just before reeling in, Pete hooked into another good sized fish, which took off downstream and threw the hooks and was away! However, he was really very happy and they had enjoyed their two days of salmon fishing on Altyre Estate, River Findhorn.
On Tuesday, August 20th, river levels were still running at a very respectable height reading 11” on the Forres gauge. Leslie Tyson and Tom Brown were fishing for much of the day and finally at around 7:00 p.m., Tom hooked and released a fish of around 7 lbs. from the Garden Pool. Well done Tam, good to know you still have the magic touch!
River levels continued to fall away over the next couple of days and fishing was generally pretty quiet. However, on Saturday August 24th, with river levels reading 9” on the Forres gauge, Leslie Tyson and Andrew McInnes were back in action on Altyre Estate Lower Beat, for the day. In the morning, Leslie managed to hook and release two fish of around 6 lbs and 4 lbs both from the Roan Pool on a small GH Shrimp tube fly, with another two fish hooked and lost!
A little later on in the day and another couple of fish of around 9 lbs. and 4 lbs. to Leslie’s rod, both hooked and released on his Secret Sunray from the St. John’s Pool on the Lower Beat, Altyre Estate, with another fish hooked and lost from the Garden Pool. Unfortunately, Andrew McInnes was unlucky to hook and lose another fish from Clark’s Pool at the bottom end of the Lower Altyre Estate fishing. All in all, another great day of salmon fishing sport on Altyre Estate, River Findhorn.
However as we moved into the week commencing Sunday August 25th, a late Summer heat wave suddenly descended upon us, which I think took us all by surprise! Therefore, river levels fell away quite dramatically and by Monday, August 26th, were reading 5” on the Forres gauge of the River Findhorn. For the first three days of the week, I was joined by another regular client Jonathan Howitt, with Leslie Tyson who had booked fishing on Altyre Estate and the Meads of St. John Beat at Darnaway for the first three days of the week.
Leslie Tyson managed to hook and release a fish of around 8 lbs. from the top of the Scur Pool on the Meads of St. John Bank, before the sun had taken its toll on the pool for the day! A little later on and another fish of around 5 lbs. was hooked and released in the shade of the tail of the Scur Pool, again from the Meads of St. John Beat. Both fish were hooked and released on a small GH Shrimp fly pattern.
As the week progressed, the late Summer heat wave continued to make its mark on our fishing with river levels falling away quickly each day! By Thursday, August 29th, with river levels at a very low 4” on the Forres gauge of the River Findhorn, there was a glimmer of hope as we saw a return to more unsettled conditions and outbreaks of rain falling over the River Findhorn catchment! The outbreaks of rain continued and by Friday, August 30th, the river levels were soon rising again by late evening.
On Saturday morning of August 31st, river levels had crept up and reading 1’1” on the Forres gauge. The rain continued to downpour for most of the day and by 2:00 p.m. it was all over as the river became very dirty, high and totally unfishable! Later on in the afternoon, river levels had finally peaked at 5’8” on the Shenachie gauge and 4’ on the Forres gauge of the River Findhorn!
Therefore, as we moved into early September, I was feeling optimistic for a good last month of the season. On Monday, September 2nd, I was joined by first time salmon fisher Duncan Nocton from Suffolk, who had won two days of guided salmon fishing on Altyre Estate and Spey Casting instruction with myself in a Suffolk based charity auction organisation: https://music4causes.com/the-auction-lots
After further heavy rain over the weekend, river levels were running at a very respectable fly fishing height, 1’ 10” on the Forres gauge. However, water clarity seemed to be an issue and unfortunately, there were few fish to be seen on Altyre Estate, Lower Beat. I managed to get Duncan casting a very reasonable line over the Roan Pool and in next to no time, he was casting an excellent line, covering the water perfectly. All we needed now was an obliging fish to take his fly!
Just before lunch and as he was carefully wading down the edge of the Roan Pool, I saw his line stop and tighten and he had heeded every word of my earlier advice in the “don’t strike” rule! He very carefully lifted his rod and then it was “fish on”! He played the fish as if he had done it all his life and before long I was able to net a cracking little fresh grilse of around 4 lbs. He and his wife Polly, on hand with the camera were clearly delighted at his first encounter of the salmon kind! We fished on until late afternoon, but that was it for the day, however, what a great start to his first ever salmon fishing experience.
After more overnight rain, the River Findhorn was rising once again and reading 2’2” on the Forres gauge by the morning of September 3rd. The little River Divie had also come up reading 1’1” on the Divie gauge and still rising. By now, Duncan’s confidence had grown and his Spey Casting ability had increased on the previous day, plus he was getting to grips with the deeper wading! It was another cloudy and overcast day, but feeling pleasantly mild, with more rain falling later on! Water clarity had actually improved somewhat and we were starting to see more fish running through the Roan Pool, which was encouraging. Just as he was wading down below the Darnaway hut opposite, another solid pull and another fish hooked. He played the fish, which was obviously much larger than his fish from the day before and it was a really strong fish which kept on digging into the current. After some ten minutes or so I was beginning to feel a little concerned that maybe he wasn’t playing the fish hard enough and I was trying to encourage Duncan to play it a little harder. However, just as he was bringing the fish across the pool towards my waiting net, the hooks just fell out as I was about to lift the net and I heard him say, “oh no it’s gone”! I couldn’t believe it, as it was so close and I could easily see it was a good double figure fish. I think that I was more upset than Duncan who took it all in his stride and just smiled!
So, it was back into the Roan Pool and he started to wade his way down, once again. A little later on and another good pull, but it never amounted to much, as the fish dropped the fly. What a day! Finally just before finishing and right down at the tail of Roan Pool, Duncan hooked and released a good consolation sea trout of around 2 lbs. with which he was delighted. What a great day!
River levels continued to yo-yo for the rest of the week and after further heavy rain falling over the River Findhorn catchment, by Thursday September 5th, levels were running high at 2’4” with water clarity was looking rather dirty.
By Monday, September 7th, river levels were reading 10” on the Forres gauge and water clarity was looking much better. Ian Neale hooked and lost a lovely fresh fish of around the 6 lb. -7 lb. mark at the top of Roan Pool and managed to pull another three fish further downstream, but they were reluctant to take a proper hold of the fly! By Thursday, September 12th, river levels were reading 1’3” on the Forres gauge. A guest of Roger Dowsett, Jason Burns, hooked and lost a fish in the tail of Palamore Pool. Then on Friday, September 13th, Mr. Burns hooked and landed another fish of around 7 lbs., once again from Palamore Pool on the Upper Beat.
By mid-September we started to see another change in the weather as high pressure started to build and river levels fell away each day, as it became rather sunny and hot! Finally, by Friday, September 27th, river levels were on the rise, once again, after some decent rain falling over the River Findhorn catchment reading 10” on the Forres gauge.
David Tisdale managed to hook and release a fresh grilse of around 3 lbs. from the Palamore Pool on Altyre Estate, Upper Beat on a small Willie Gunn tube fly. On Saturday, September 28th, David Tisdale was back again and enjoyed a good morning of sport with two fresh grilse of around 5 lbs. and 4 lbs., both from Palamore Pool on the Upper Beat. By mid-afternoon, the river had risen again becoming very dirty and unfishable! With river levels reading 10” on the Forres gauge, on Monday September 30th, Leslie Tyson and Tom Brown were both out for a cast on Altyre Estate, Lower Beat. Leslie managed to hook and release our last fish of the 2019 season, a fresh grilse of around 5 lbs. from the Roan Pool on a small Altyre Dog tube fly.
Therefore, another great season of salmon fishing comes to an end on the River Findhorn. I think that this last season will be remembered for the most amazing Spring run of salmon that we have seen on the River Findhorn for many years! We hear much doom and gloom of declining salmon runs, but the River Findhorn appears to buck the trend and continues to produce some amazing sport throughout the season.
As always, it was such a pleasure to be guiding and instructing so many delightful visiting anglers from the UK and all over the World this last season. I am very much looking forward to meeting up with many good friends again during the 2020 season, which opens on February 11th 2020 on the River Findhorn and River Spey.
Please do look at my website: www.speycaster.net to see our fishing availability for the 2020 season.
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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.