After an eternity, lockdown restrictions were eased, and local anglers could return to their beloved rivers across Scotland by early June. Unfortunately, travel restrictions were limited and all hospitality businesses could not open their doors until mid-July, so any visiting salmon fishers would have to be a little more patient!
However, we did see some moments of excellent fishing sport through mid-June and into early July, with some extended periods of rain keeping river levels topped up on the River Findhorn.
On Thursday, July 2nd, David Tisdale and Leslie Tyson were fishing with me on Altyre Estate, River Findhorn for the following three days. River conditions were about as good as they get, and river levels were reading 1’5” on the Forres gauge, perfect! With perfect river levels through mid-June onwards, the Grilse and Summer run salmon were already well underway, and our hopes were running high for the next three days.
Soon after starting on the Upper Beat, it didn’t take Leslie Tyson (The Tysonator) long to hook into a big fish at the top of Palamore Island Pool. After a good long scrap, he was able to beach an absolutely cracking fresh Summer run salmon of around 12 lbs., just off the last high tide and dripping with sea lice! What a great start to the Summer salmon fishing on the River Findhorn. The fish was hooked on a Purple Hayes Variant Shumakov tube fly, and after a quick photo was safely released back into the river. What a great start to our July fishing!
A little later in the morning, Leslie moved down to the Scur Pool and managed to hook and release another couple of fresh chunky grilse of around 4 lbs. and 5 lbs. respectively. This was already turning into a red-letter day!
Later on in the afternoon, David Tisdale, fishing off the ledge in Soldier’s Hole, also hooked into a lovely fresh Summer salmon, which after some great sport was skilfully netted by Leslie Tyson. The big fish was covered in sea lice and was around 15 lbs., it looked like one of those cracking deep Spring salmon, which we catch in the early months. So, it was extremely heartening to see a couple of these big Summer fish plus two well-conditioned grilse all hooked and released safely back into the River Findhorn on day one!
David Tisdale hooks a big fish in the Soldier’s Hole, while Leslie waits patiently with the net, Altyre Estate, River Findhorn
David Tisdale and Leslie Tyson, looking delighted with this cracking Summer salmon of around 15 lbs., Soldier’s Hole, Altyre Estate, River Findhorn
By Friday, July 3rd, river levels had fallen away and was reading 10” on the Forres gauge. It was another good fishing day, cloudy/overcast and raining again by the afternoon.
The day started off with plenty of action, once again. Leslie Tyson hooked and lost a fish in Palamore Pool and then lost another fish in the Scur Pool a little later on! David Tisdale also hooked and lost a big fish in Palamore Pool, things were not looking good, but at least the fish kept on coming! Just before lunch, Ian Neale hooked and landed another Summer run salmon of around 12 lbs. at the top of William’s Run. It is quite a tricky place to land a big fish here and finally managed to walk it up to Soldier’s Hole, safely beached and quickly released! Meanwhile, just a little further downstream, Leslie Tyson was back in action with another fresh fish of around 8 lbs. from Palamore followed by a grilse of around 4 lbs. from the top of Palamore Island. Later on in the afternoon, Leslie hooked and released another two fish of around 7 lbs. and 4 lbs., both from our new “Secret Pot” on the Upper Beat!
What another great day of sport with five fresh fish hooked and released, plus another three fish hooked and lost. This is Summer salmon fishing at its’ very best in Scotland, on the River Findhorn! As we left the river for the day, the rain had started to pour once again!
By Saturday, July 4th, the river was steadily rising to 1’5” on the Forres gauge. It was another cloudy overcast day with more rain steadily falling on and off. Leslie Tyson was back in action early on and hooked a very large fish in Soldier’s Hole, which took off downstream into William’s Run! He was down onto his backing three times, but managed to coax the big fish back up into Soldier’s Hole, three times, before the hooks finally pulled out and it was gone! Gutted, I think is the expression! A little later in the afternoon and there was a consolation grilse for Leslie of around 4 lbs. from Soldier’s Hole and that was it for the day. However, it had been a most exciting three days of summer sport, with a total of ten fresh fish up to 15 lbs. hooked and released for the three days. Brilliant!
As we moved into the second week of July, the Rain Gods continued to provide ample supplies of water, in fact, almost too much at times! On Monday, July 6th, and river levels were back up and reading 2’1” on the Forres gauge. Water clarity remained good, however, and Mark Jackson briefly hooked and lost a sea trout in the tail of Palamore Island.
On Tuesday, July 7th, I was joined by my good friend Dr. Marshall Garret, who popped over for the day to have a cast on Altyre Estate, River Findhorn. River levels were reading 1’6” on the Forres gauge with perfect water clarity. Ian Neale managed to hook and land two grilse in quick succession from Palamore Pool just before lunch. Later on in the afternoon Marshall finally hooked and released his first Findhorn salmon and cracking deep fish of around 12 lbs., also from Palamore Pool on the Upper Beat.
By Wednesday, July 8th, river levels were reading 1’0” on the Forres gauge and yet again, water clarity was spot on! My fishing guests were good friends Ian Gordon and Leslie Tyson for the day on Altyre Estate.
Ian Gordon wasted no time and first time down through the pool, after pulling a fish, hooked a lovely deep grilse of around 5 lbs. in Soldier’s Hole Pool on the Upper Beat. Soon after, he hooked and released another grilse of around 4 lbs., also from Soldier’s Hole. Leslie Tyson managed another grilse of around 5 lbs. from the Secret Pot. There were clearly a lot of fish running through the pools and just off the last high tide, fresh as fresh! Ian Gordon was back in action with another grilse of around 4 lbs. from Palamore Pool. Leslie Tyson hooked and lost another fish from Palamore Island. This was some fast and furious sport and all before lunchtime!
After lunch, Leslie Tyson hooked and released another grilse of around 5 lbs. from William’s Run, followed by another grilse of around 4 lbs. from Palamore Island and then another of around 4 lbs. from Palamore. Therefore, a total of seven fish for the day and all seven were hooked on Leslie’s latest purple variant of the Purple Hayes fly! Great stuff!
On Thursday, July 9th, river levels were running at 10” on the Forres gauge. Mark Jackson managed to catch a lovely fresh grilse of around 6 lbs from the tail of Palamore. David Tisdale also hooked another grilse of around 4 lbs. in Soldier’s Hole. Ian Neale hooked and lost a fish right in the tail of William’s Run, just off the big dog stone! River Levels remained at a good fishable height on Friday, July 10th, reading 10” on the Forres gauge, but no fish were recorded and fewer fish were seen.
Saturday, July 11th, river levels were still reading 10” on the Forres gauge. David Tisdale managed to hook and release two grilse, both around 4 lbs. each in Palamore. Leslie Tyson hooked and released a grilse of around 3 lbs. in William’s Run and later on another grilse of around 4 lbs., also from William’s Run.
What an incredible week of sport with a total of 16 salmon and grilse, hooked and released during the week for an average of two rods per day!
As we moved through the rest of July, we saw a big change in the weather as high pressure dominated our weather systems and we saw no more rain until later in the month.
It was a frustrating period, especially after the earlier sport, as river levels dropped away each day and fish were few and far between. However, by July 27th, a change in the weather was imminent as the rain clouds started to move in from the West. The rain poured steadily throughout the day and by Tuesday, July 28th, river levels were reading 2’4” on the Forres gauge. Needless to say, the water clarity was running very dirty and coloured, so fishing was off for the day!
However, by Wednesday July 29th, river levels had fallen away and were reading 2’0” on the Forres gauge and water clarity was spot on! It was indeed heartening to see river levels back up to a good height and we were looking forward to more good sport. The weather was overcast and feeling much fresher and cooler than of late, at last!
I was joined by Leslie Tyson for the day and after lunch, Kit Gordon-Cumming came down for a cast. I decide to head off to Scur Pool early on and managed to hook and release a fresh grilse of around 4 lbs. on a small Purple Cascade tube. Leslie Tyson hooked and released a fresh grilse of around 3 lbs. from Soldier’s Hole Pool, then followed by a fresh sea trout of around 3 lbs. from the Scur Pool a little later on. Moving back into the Scur Pool and wading down a little further, Leslie hooked into a big fish, which took off down the pool at a rate of knots and threw the hooks and was gone! Just before lunch, I briefly hooked and lost another fish half way down the Roan Pool. Yet another great morning of sport on Altyre Estate and the afternoon was only going to get better!
Kit Gordon-Cumming joined us at the dot of 2:00 p.m., as arranged. I decided that I was going to take him down to Palamore Pool to start with, which was in perfect order. I guided him down carefully through the pool and he covered the water perfectly. Just as we were approaching the tail as his fly swung through, the line tightened and he was in, a cracking little grilse of around 3 lbs. hooked and released on the Altyre Dog tube. This was Kit’s first salmon from Altyre and he was truly delighted. I decided to move downstream and went back down to the Scur Pool, where Kit managed to hook and release another two grilse of around 4 lbs. and 5 lbs. respectively. He was really quite amazed and couldn’t believe his good fortune!
I then decided we should move back upstream and have a last run through Soldier’s Hole. Sure enough he managed to hook and release his fourth fish for the afternoon, another chunky sea-liced grilse of around 4 lbs. However, the afternoon was not over yet, as Leslie was having more success downstream on the Lower Beat, with a slightly coloured hen fish of around 9 lbs. and a fresh grilse of around 3 lbs., both hooked and released in the Roan Pool. Just before finishing, Leslie hooked and lost another big fish in the tail of the Roan Pool. Another great day of sport on this most productive beat, with eight salmon and one sea trout hooked and released.
Finally, I was back on Altyre Estate, River Findhorn with Jacqueline Evans and her partner Euan on Thursday, July 30th with river levels reading 1’ on the Forres gauge. They had both fished with me a couple of years earlier, for two days as complete beginners, so I was keen to get them both back up to speed with the casting and hopefully a fish! It was a cloudy and humid day, with more rain falling later on. There were still fish running through the pools and I managed to get Jacqueline fishing off the ledge in Soldier’s Hole. She was rewarded with a cracking grilse of around 3 lbs., which was her first fish and she was truly delighted.
By the next day, July 31st we were suddenly back into a Summer heat wave, with overhead air temperatures rocketing and river levels falling away quickly, reading just 8” on the Forres gauge. Although fish were seen and running, they were not for taking the fly in these warmer conditions! By Saturday, August 1st, river levels had fallen to 6” on the Forres gauge. Local angler, Michael Larg ably guided by Mark Jackson finally landed his first Findhorn fish, a grilse of around 3 lbs. from the top of Palamore Island Pool on the Upper Beat.
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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.