Since my last Fishing News Update in early April, we have seen some highs and lows with river levels falling away in late April, but there were still fresh Spring salmon running, despite the lower water conditions.
For the week commencing April 15th, I was joined by regular Findhorn clients, Gunther Wimmer and Claus Neumann from Austria. Fishing on the Altyre Estate, River Findhorn for the first time were Giles and Rachel Vosper-Brown. The river was still running a respectable 9” on the Forres gauge, but it was a sunny, but partially cloudy day with a brisk south easterly wind blowing, making it feel really quite cold. In the morning, Rachel and Giles headed off down to fish the Garden Pool on Altyre Lower Beat, which had been very productive through the previous week. Rachel waded out across the river and carefully worked her way towards the big stone in the middle of the pool. Sure enough as the fly was swinging around in the hot spot and bang, it was Big fish on, which took off like a bullet and in the ensuing battle finally managed to break the leader and it was away. Rachel was pretty well gutted at losing her first ever River Findhorn salmon! Next time, Rachel!
On Wednesday, April 17th, river levels were holding up nicely at 9” on the Forres gauge. Gunther Wimmer managed to hook and lose a fish in the top of the Roan Pool. Shortly afterwards, he hooked another fish or possibly the same fish from the same lie at the top of the Roan Pool on a size 8 Cascade double. It was a really lovely fresh fish of around 16 lbs. and he was delighted.
Over the next three days, river levels fell away slowly and reading 8” on the Forres gauge on Thursday, April 18th. There were little bits of action here and there but the salmon were not really inclined to take a fly. However, on April 19th Eugene Burzler’s guest, Yuri Janssen, managed to hook and release a very large brown trout of around 5 lbs. from the top of Soldier’s Hole Pool, which is a really cracking brown trout for us on the Findhorn. River levels were rising by around 2” later in the day and Yuri hooked and lost a big fresh salmon in the top of the Roan Pool just after 6:00 p.m. By Saturday, April 20th, river levels still reading 8” on the Forres gauge. Yuri was back in action again, hooking and losing a sea trout on a hitched tube fly in the St. John’s Pool just before lunch.
As we moved into late April, river levels started to fall away briefly and by Monday, April 29th, reading just 5” on the Forres gauge, which was about as low as we had seen it for many weeks! Even with the lower water levels there were still fresh seen to be running, but very difficult to tempt in such low water conditions! We really needed a good top up and as luck would have it, it was not too far away, for the Henrik Larsen party from Denmark. Henrik was hosting a party of four rods for the first time on Altyre Estate and the River Findhorn. His party consisted of Kim Christiensen, Torben Fyhring and with him was his son Lasse, who was hoping to land his first salmon.
On Thursday, May 2nd, river levels were still very low with just 4” on the Forres gauge, but after rain falling over the River Findhorn catchment levels were on the rise later in the day to 8” on the Forres gauge. Team leader, Henrik, did not waste very much time as he hooked and released his first Findhorn salmon of around 11 lbs., fishing off the island in the top of Soldier’s Hole. A little later on in the afternoon, Henrik was back in action once again with a cracking fresh Spring fish of around 15 lbs., hooked and released in St. John’s Pool on a size 8 Cascade. A great start for my Danish friends and it was looking quite promising for the next couple of days!
By Friday, May 3rd, river levels were reading 7” on the Forres gauge. It was another cloudy and overcast day with a fine mix of heavy rain showers, hail, snow, thunder and lightning and pretty damned cold! In the morning, Torben Fyhring was first on the score board with a really cracking sea-liced fish of around 10 lbs. from William’s Run on the Upper Beat. The fish was hooked and released on a small Purple Cascade tube fly. Torben was truly delighted to meet up with his first Findhorn Spring salmon.
A little later on and Torben’s son, Lasse, also hooked a fish in the same lie at the tail of William’s Run. This is always a tricky place to land a fish at the best of times and unfortunately, the fish managed to run hard against the abrasive sandstone ledge and within a couple of minutes, the leader was cut against the underwater rock ledge and the fish was gone! This would have been Lasse’s first ever salmon and his father Torben was more upset than Lasse! A little later on in the day, Lasse managed to hook another bigger fish down in Clark’s Pool of around the 16-17 lb. mark. Yet again, Lasse was denied his first salmon as after a good long tussle, the big fish managed to throw the hooks and was away! This was truly such bad luck and hopefully, it will all come good for him in 2020 when they all return to Altyre Estate on the River Findhorn!
As we moved through the middle of May, we went through another period of lower water conditions and high pressure was dominating our weather, giving much warmer and hotter daytime air temperatures! Finally, by Monday, May 20th, river levels read 6” on the Forres gauge. The forecast of much needed rain arrived with some heavy rain falling over the River Findhorn catchment through the late afternoon and into the evening.
May 20th was the first day of my new lease on the Upper Home Beat at Darnaway and I was raring to go for a cast, but with low water levels for the time being, it would have to wait, but not for too long! By Tuesday, May 21st, the river had risen significantly reading 3’4” on the Forres gauge with levels on the River Divie rising to 2’9” on the River Divie gauge. We were suddenly looking at a very big River Findhorn! Not only was the river running very high, but it was also “brown and out” so my new clients from Ireland were going to have to be a little patient and wait for the river to fall and conditions to improve.
On Wednesday, May 22nd, after further overnight rain, river levels had fallen somewhat and reading 2’3” on the Forres gauge and 2’4” on the River Divie gauge, which happened to be rising once again! Water clarity was much improved and I was hopeful of our chances of success. In the morning, Connor McNeill from Ireland hooked and lost a big fish in Roan Pool, which after a good long tussle of ten minutes or more, the hooks fell out and it was away! A little later on in the afternoon and this time, Conor managed to hook and land a really lovely deep fresh Spring salmon of around 14 lbs., once again from almost the same lie in Roan Pool on Altyre Estate, Lower Beat. The fish was hooked on a 1” Altyre Dog and after a quick photo was released back into the river. A very happy Conor was ready to celebrate!
On Tuesday, May 23rd, river levels were reading 2’9” on the Forres gauge, 1’11” on the River Divie and 1’11” on the Shenachie gauge. It was another unsettled day of weather with further spells of rain on and off throughout the day. There were a couple of pulls from fish in Roan and Garden Pools and finally Stuart Irwin from Ireland managed to hook a consolation 1 lb sea trout, which he was delighted to meet.
By Friday, May 24th, river levels were reading 1’9” on the Forres gauge. It was another cloudy day with some sunny spells and water clarity was looking perfect. Stuart Irwin was up and out on the river very early in the morning and he managed to hook and release a really lovely fresh fish of around 8 lbs. from the Garden Pool on Altyre Estate Lower Beat, just before it was time to head for home back to Ireland.
Meanwhile, back on the Upper Home Beat at Darnaway, fish were seen running through the Craigie Pool for much of the day. Jake Fraser hooked and lost a fish in the tail of Craigie early in the day. Later on in the afternoon, Ian Neale managed to hook and release a cracking fresh fish of around 10 lbs, from the top of Craigie Pool on a ½” Purple Cascade and our first fish of the season from the Upper Home Beat. Just a short while afterwards and another fish pulled, unfortunately it did not hold on, but happy days!
On Saturday, May 25th, with river levels reading 1’1” on the Forres gauge and perfect water clarity, I was feeling very optimistic of our chances. One of the pools on the Upper Home Beat that I was particularly looking forward to fishing was Whirling Hole, which is very close to the bottom of the beat and until now, had been running a little too high for fishing. I worked my way up along the rope leading to the top of the pool and it looked perfect with fish showing in several places. This was looking good! I started off fishing a short line and mending after each cast. Despite several fish showing above and below me there was nothing doing. I kept on extending my cast until the fly was fishing through the very tail of the pool. As the fly swung round almost on the lip of the pool, a solid pull and it was fish on, fantastic! The fish fought hard and ran around the pool running upstream and down until I was finally able to beach a cracking fresh fish of around 9 lbs. in the tail of the pool, this was fishing at its very best. I had arranged to go home and collect Barbara to enjoy our first picnic in the hut, when I realised that I had left my other rod up at the top of the pool.
Once I was up there, I decided that I should have another cast before I left. I rolled out a very short line below me and watched as this great big nose came out of the deep water and nailed my Purple Cascade! This was really exciting stuff and I couldn’t believe what had just happened! Then the big fish took off and really went ballistic, leaping and running all over the pool from top to bottom. At one point, it tried to leave the tail of the pool, but I hung on and played it hard finally managing to turn it and bring it back into the main pool. After another several minutes of frantic action I was finally able to beach it right in the tail of the pool, admire my silver prize and release the big hen fish of around 15 lbs. back into the pool. She shot off like a bullet, as if nothing had ever happened!
This had been really an adventurous week with two fresh fish from Altyre Lower Beat and another three fresh Spring fish from the Upper Home Beat at Darnaway. I was feeling extremely content with my new additional beat on the River Findhorn and looking forward to many more weeks of sport to come, with my clients over the upcoming Summer months.
On Monday, May 27th, I was joined by Audrey and Sam Smith with their nephew Fred Wheeler-Booth, who were all fishing on the River Findhorn for the first time. After further heavy rain falling over the River Findhorn catchment, river levels were back up once again reading 3’ on the Forres gauge, 2’7” on the Forres gauge and 1’8” on the River Divie gauge. Water clarity was actually not too bad and it was another mixed day of sunshine and cloud, but feeling quite cool. Despite the high water levels, water clarity was looking pretty good and I thought that there would be a chance of a fish in Palamore and Palamore Island.
Sam had only been fishing for a matter of minutes in Palamore, when a solid pull off a fish and he was into his first Findhorn salmon. He played it hard and after some five minutes or so the fish turned headed off downstream and the hooks came out! A few moments later, Audrey also hooked into a fish, which gave her some great sport and turned out to be a most welcome sea trout of around 3 lbs. and she was delighted. As the day progressed, the river continued to fall away slowly running at 2’8” by the close of play.
On Tuesday, May 28th, river levels had fallen reading 2’2” on the Forres gauge. It was another cloudy and overcast day with air temperatures reading a chilly 8 degrees C. The fishing was a little slow through the morning and not too many fish were to be seen. However, later in the afternoon, Sam Smith hooked another fish in the tail of Garden Pool. This time there was no mistake and after another good fight he was able to net the fish, a cracking sea-liced Spring salmon of around 10 lbs, just off the last high tide. Brilliant, well done Sam!
On Wednesday, May 29th, river levels were running at a very respectable 1’5” on the Forres gauge and water clarity was ‘Spot On’! It was also feeling a touch warmer with sunny intervals. It was looking like a good fishing day!
In the morning, Sam Smith got a pull off a fish in Roan Pool, just below the Darnaway hut. I took young Fred up to the Upper Beat to fish through the tail of Roehillock Pool, which was looking in good order. It was not too long before “Fearless Fred” was into a fish, which wasn’t a big fish, but gave a good account of itself, running off line and leaping all over the pool. Before long, he was able to wade back towards me and the fish was safely netted. It was a lovely sea-liced fish of around 8 lbs. and Fred was delighted to hook and land his first ever Findhorn salmon. The fly of choice was an I.N special Orjok tube. After many congratulations, I decided to take Fred up to Soldier’s Hole, which was also looking in perfect order. Just a couple of casts at the top of the pool and his reel screamed out as another fish was hooked and released. It was almost a twin to the first fish and around 8 lbs., just off the last high tide. What a great morning this had been.
On Thursday, May 30th, I was joined by regular client Birger Bredenbrucher from Germany and his friend, Justus Wehmer, who was fishing the River Findhorn for the first time. We were back on the Upper Home Beat at Darnaway. River levels were running at 1’1” on the Forres gauge and despite good numbers of fish showing in Craigie Pool and Whirling Hole Pool, the fish were not keen on taking a fly! Maybe they had sensed the weather to come, as by lunchtime, it was once again pouring and continued to rain all afternoon and evening. Therefore, by Friday, May 31st, river levels were rising once more and reading 1’11” on the Forres gauge. The fish seemed to have turned off, once again and despite seeing some running fish on the Upper Home Beat, there were no fish touched, as the rain set in once again!
By Saturday, June 1st, river levels were running quite high, once again, reading 2’6” on the Forres gauge, but water clarity remained perfect. Conditions were looking a little too high for the Upper Home Beat, so I was able to take Birger and Justus back down to the Altyre Beats. All of the high water pools were looking really good and I was feeling hopeful that the boys would manage to catch a fish or two. Sure enough and just before lunchtime, Birger hooked into a really lovely deep fish of around 12 lbs. in the Scur Pool on the Upper Beat, hooked on his very favourite Green Highlander tube fly, and quickly released. Birger was truly delighted!
A little later on in afternoon and Burger’s friend, Justus was also rewarded with a fresh Spring fish of around 12 lbs., from Palamore Pool on the Upper Beat. He also hooked and lost another fish shortly afterwards in the same pool. All in all, a great day’s sport for both of them and a great way to round off what had been a frustrating few days!
The Week commencing, June 3rd, saw the Leslie Tyson party of rods fishing on Altyre Estate for the week. By Monday, June 3rd, river levels were reading a very respectable 1’6” on the Forres gauge as it was a cloudy and overcast and very windy day. A little later on in the day at around 12:00 noon, river levels were on the rise again reading around 2’ on the gauge just before lunchtime. Leslie Tyson enjoyed and had a great morning of sport, first of all a small fish of around 6 lbs. from Soldier’s Hole. Within minutes of starting again and this time another good solid pull from a somewhat larger fish that took off out the tail of the Soldier’s Hole heading off downstream at a rate of knots. The big fish took off and down into William’s Run almost to the big “seal” rock at the tail of the Run, as Leslie was trying to keep up with it! He eventually brought the fish under control and was able to walk it back up and into Soldier’s Hole Pool, where all of the action had begun. It was another lovely fresh Spring salmon of around 15 lbs., which was quickly unhooked and released. Both fish had been hooked on his favourite small Monkey tube fly.
At around 6:00 p.m., Leslie decided to have a cast through the tail of the Roehillock Pool, which was in perfect order at this height. Yet again, he hooked into another very large fish, which simply took off downstream and almost in the top of Palamore Pool. Before he could stop the big fish going any further, he managed to stop it and turn it, but sadly the hooks fell out and the big fish was away! Another monster fish hooked and lost this season in the same lie! However, it had been a really exciting start to their week and more to come,
On Tuesday, June 4th, and river levels were reading 1’ 6” on the Forres gauge, it was mixed with cloud and sun feeling much warmer. Leslie reported seeing good numbers of fresh fish running throughout the day, but mainly these fish were not too keen on taking the fly! Geoff Holloway hooked and lost another big fish in the tail of Palamore after a long tussle. A little later on and Leslie hooked another smaller fish of around 6 lbs., once again in Palamore on the Upper Beat, on a small Altyre Dog tube. Meanwhile a little further upstream on the Upper Home Beat at Darnaway, Ian Neale hooked and lost a fish in Whirling Hole later in the evening.
By Wednesday, June 5th, river levels were reading 1’2” on the Forres gauge. However, heavy rain had set in, once again and it continued to downpour for most of the day. Leslie Tyson enjoyed another red letter day with two fish hooked and released in Roan Pool on the Lower Beat, one cracking fish of around 20 lbs. and another of around 14 lbs., both fish hooked on his Monkey tube fly. A little later in the early afternoon, he hooked and lost another fish from Garden Pool on the Lower Beat. Unfortunately, by 2:00 p.m., river levels were on the rise once again and it was time for home and an early Dram!
By Thursday, June 6th, Leslie was joined by two of his friends, Ross Veitch and Diarmid Harvey who were fishing with him on Altyre Estate for the next three days. Unfortunately, river levels were back on the rise again, reading 3’ on the Forres gauge! Leslie managed to hook a sea trout of around 2 lbs. from Scur Pool and another fish pulled. A little later in the evening, Ross Veitch hooked and lost a fish in the tail of Palamore Island Pool. After more heavy outbreaks of rain, the river was soon rising by late evening and fishing was over for the day.
On Friday, June 7th, river levels were still reading 3’ on the Forres gauge, but water clarity was perfect and the river started to fall away throughout the day. It was a bright and sunny day with the occasional shower, but feeling much warmer than of late. In the morning, Leslie Tyson was first off the mark with a cracking fresh fish of around 11 lbs, from Garden Pool, hooked and released on a 1” Purple Cascade. Ross Veitch managed to hook and lose a fish in the tail of Roan Pool a little later on. Then in the evening, he managed to hook and lose yet another fish in the tail of Roan Pool and this was suddenly becoming a bad habit, three fish hooked and lost within twenty four hours! Unfortunately, Diarmid Harvey, not to be outdone, also hooked and lost another fish off the broken birch at the top of Roan Pool. Four fish hooked and one landed for the day was not the best of strike rates it has to be said! Ah well, there’s always tomorrow!
On Saturday, June 8th, river levels continued to fall away reading 1’8” on the Forres gauge. It was a cloudy and overcast morning becoming brighter and warmer as the day wore on. There were plenty of fish to be seen running, but no offers were forthcoming until later on in the evening. Finally, just before the final whistle, Ross Veitch hooked and t last landed a cracking fresh sea liced fish of around 13 lbs. from the middle of Roan Pool on the Lower Beat. The fish was quickly photographed and released and the fly of choice was an RV Midden tube, sounds a little stinky, but it seemed to do the trick! Well done Ross, your first River Findhorn Spring salmon. Hopefully, this is the first of many more to come. So at the end of the week Leslie Tyson’s party accounted for seven fresh Spring salmon up to 20 lbs and hooked and lost another seven fish, which really was a great week of sport.
As we moved into the week commencing June 10th, river levels continued to remain steady and reading 1’7” on the Forres gauge. It was another day of sunshine and showers and still the fish continued to pour into the River Findhorn system and just when everyone was thinking that the Spring Run was coming to an end!
Ian Neale was fishing back on the fabulous Upper Home Beat on Darnaway and it was quite amazing to see so many more fresh fish still running through the incredible Craigie Pool. First time down through the tail of the pool and a cracking fish of around 9 lbs. was hooked and released on a ½” Purple Cascade tube. Then a little later in the afternoon, another fresh fish of around 8 lbs. was hooked on the Purple Cascade tube, once again. Meanwhile, down on the Lower River, Leslie Tyson managed to hook and release another fresh fish of around 6 lbs. from Roan Pool, followed by a lovely deep sea trout of around 4 lbs., also from Roan Pool.
As we went through the rest of the week, river levels continued to yo-yo after further heavy outbreaks of rain falling over the River Findhorn catchment. Andy and Cara Bachman from the USA enjoyed a great day on Altyre Estate Lower Beat and Andy was unlucky to hook and lose a fish from Garden Pool just after lunch. It was an all American week of salmon fishing, but unfortunately mainly due to the fluctuating river levels fishing remained on the slow side and no other fish were hooked that week.
For the week commencing June 17th, I was back on the Upper Home Beat at Darnaway fishing with various fishing guests. River levels were really looking spot on and for the first time in many weeks with levels at 11”, I was feeling confident of my chances of catching a fish in the fabulous Whirling Hole Pool. Little did I realise exactly what I was in for! I headed off down quite early and the pool was looking really perfect as I made my way along the roped walk way to the top of the pool. Fish were showing just about everywhere, as I made my first cast into the pool. I started up very short, as before and after only some three casts, as the fly swung through, a solid take and bang, it was “Fish On”. It was a lively fresh fish of around 8 lbs., which I managed to beach in the tail of the pool and which was quickly released.
I moved right back up to the top of the pool again and started to cast, lengthening a little further each cast without moving from the rock. Finally, a really long cast into the tail of the pool and there it was….another solid pull from a fish, which simply went ballistic and ran all over the pool, leaping and running in every possible direction. My little Bruce and Walker 12’4”Shooting Head rod handled the fish with ease and it was so much fun! Once again, I managed to coax the fish into the little bay towards the tail of the pool, quickly admire the sea-liced salmon of around 12 lbs. and before I released it, she shot off like a bullet.
I decided to head off for home to catch up on some work and cutting the grass before returning later on in the evening. The river levels were looking in good order, as I arrived back at the Whirling Hole around 6:00 p.m. I walked up to the head of the pool and made another few more casts and almost in the exact same lie, my Purple Cascade was taken hard and it was number three for the day. Once again, another really exciting battle ensued as the big fish made dramatic runs and turns and at one point almost went over the lip of the tail, but I was able to hold onto the fish and bring the big hen fish back towards me. Finally, once again, I was able to beach her in the little bay at the tail of Whirling Hole Pool and another lovely Spring salmon of around 14 lbs. was quickly released back into the river. Just after I had released the big fish, I noticed that river levels were suddenly on the rise again and before I knew it the river had risen by around another 6”to 7” and that was it for the day, fishing was over! However, this had indeed been a red letter day with three fresh Spring salmon up to 14 lbs. hooked and released all in a matter of a few hours of fishing. This Upper Home Beat was certainly turning out to be something very special and in only a matter of a few weeks, we had already enjoyed some really special sport. What a year this was turning out to be!
By Tuesday, June 18th, with river levels reading 1’5” on the Forres gauge, I was back on the Upper Home Beat with my good friend, Leslie Tyson who was looking for his first Upper Home Beat fish. Craigie Pool at 1’5” was looking absolutely ‘spot on’ from the top of the pool to the tail. Fish were also showing from the top of the pool to the tail and Leslie decided to head to the top of the pool, as I went down to fish the tail. I had only just managed to negotiate my way down to the tail to start fishing, when Leslie’s voice called out above me as he had already hooked into a good sized fish. I managed to get my way back up to the top of the pool in time to hook our biggest fish of the season, thus far. It was cracking fresh fish of around 16 lbs. and Leslie was really delighted as was I. A couple of quick photos and the big hen fish, when released back into the pool swam away. This was a great start to the day! A little later on, Leslie managed to hook and release another fish of around 10 lbs. also from Craigie Pool, a little further downstream. Later on in the evening, Leslie hooked yet another big fish, this time in the tail of Whirling Hole Pool. After the initial hooking, the big fish suddenly decided to turn Northwards and shot off out of the pool and down into the rapids below as Leslie’s reel screamed out with fly line and backing disappearing into the Gorge Pool below in a matter of seconds. Leslie tried to follow the fish, but it was all to no avail, as the fish finally managed to throw the hooks and it was gone! However, it was yet another great day of sport on the fabulous River Findhorn.
Over the next few days and water levels started to fall away quite slowly but fresh fish kept on running through the Upper Home Beat, with even a sighting of some early grilse showing up! By the end of the week there were fewer fish to be seen in Whirling Hole, but with river levels a little lower we were now starting to see more fish showing in the Poolie Falls, Armchair, and Rising Pot Pools in good numbers. However, despite good levels for these other pools, the fish seemed to have gone off the take over the last few days, which may be down to air pressure problems, who knows!
We have seen a little more in the way of rain later in the afternoon as I was writing this report and it seems to be an unsettled theme over the next couple of days, which will not be a bad thing. I have to say that this has been one of the best Spring runs we have seen here on the River Findhorn in several years and it looks like there will be plenty of fish on the spawning redds for this coming Autumn/Winter. Happy days, indeed! As the Spring run tails off, we are already looking forward to a good Summer run of grilse and Summer salmon.
As I write this update, I am delighted to report that the grilse run has already arrived following hard on the heels of the last of the Spring salmon. Jake Fraser managed to hook and release three lovely deep sea-liced grilse up to 5 lbs., two from the Poolie Pool and one from Flags Pool, Upper Home Beat, Darnaway, River Findhorn on Monday, June 24th. We have seen more rainfall over the last twenty four hours, which has given river levels another top up and I hear that there plenty of fresh Summer salmon and grilse moving through the Forres Angling Association beats over these last couple of days.
After what has been an amazing Spring season it is hard to believe that there are only three months of the fishing season left!
I still have one or two three day slots available through July and into August on the Upper Home Beat at Darnaway, so please do contact me for further information on dates, costs, etc. Fishing may be taken on a guided, part guided or non-guided basis.
I also have some fishing available on Altyre Estate and Glenferness Estate through the upcoming Summer and Autumn months. As always. please do contact me, [email protected] for further information on costs and availability throughout the fishing 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.