Since my last update in mid-March, I am delighted to report that the spring salmon season is really looking extremely promising for the Rivers Findhorn and Spey. There have been some good runs of early spring salmon moving into both rivers giving some excellent sport to all anglers visiting the North East of Scotland.
David Tisdale’s party enjoyed some great early spring fishing on Upper Arndilly on the River Spey for the week commencing March 14th with a total of five cracking spring salmon landed and released. On Monday, March 14th, the river was running quite high at around three feet, but with perfect clarity falling away gradually each day. David Tisdale started off the week with a fine fresh fish of around 7 lbs. from the Upper Dipps Pool on Monday morning.
On Tuesday, March 15th, Lukasz Materek hooked and landed another fish of around 10 lbs. from Heathery Isle Pool on a 1″ Dee Monkey tube. On Wednesday March 16th, David Tisdale caught another fresh fish of around 8 lbs. from Heathery Isle Pool.
Later on in the afternoon and Leslie Tyson managed to hook and land a cracking fresh salmon of around 16 lbs. also from Heathery Isle Pool on a 1″ Monkey cone head tube fly. Finally, on Thursday March 17th, David Tisdale caught and released another fish of around 9 lbs. from Heathery Isle Pool on a 1″ Willie Gunn tube fly. As levels fell away later in the week, the fishing became a little slower with fewer fish seen and no other fish were caught on the Friday or the Saturday.
I was back on the River Findhorn for the week commencing March 21st with another new client, Jonathan Howitt from Bath, who was fishing the Findhorn for the first time. River levels were running at 11″ on the Forres gauge and water clarity was perfect. It was a cloudy and overcast day with a cold wind blowing. We saw some pods of fresh fish running through and later in the day, Leslie Tyson managed a sea-liced fish of around 8 lbs. from the Tail of Meads on a Monkey tube fly.
On Tuesday March 22nd river levels had shot up overnight with snow melt water coming down from the catchment and levels were reading 2′ on the Forres gauge and 1’11” at Shenachie. It had become somewhat warmer as well, reading a balmy 15°C here in this part of Moray! Although water clarity and conditions were good, there were not many fish to be seen apart from the one big fish that Leslie Tyson hooked and lost from the top of Roan Pool in the afternoon!
By Wednesday March 23rd levels had fallen away a little and reading 1’9″ on the Forres gauge which should be perfect for all of our pools on Altyre. Having seen some good numbers of fish showing in Roan Pool, Jonathan Howitt finally hooked his first ever Findhorn Spring salmon.
It was a cracking sea-liced fish of around 14 lbs. hooked on a 1″ Willie Gunn tube fly. (His favourite fly!) As the rest of the week progressed the fishing was much slower and there did not appear to be as many fish seen running despite river levels holding up really quite well until falling away a little by Saturday.
On Wednesday, March 30th with levels reading 1’3″ on the Forres gauge, David Tisdale caught and released a fresh fish of around 7 lbs. from Roan Pool. Then on Saturday, April 2nd, Nick Pearce who was fishing as a guest of the Laing’s wedding party caught a fresh fish of around 6 lbs., also from Roan Pool. I also gather that one of the party took an unexpected dip in to the icy cold waters of the Findhorn!
On Monday, April 4th, I was joined by regular clients, David Clark, Peter James and Andrew Shaw fishing on Altyre Estate and Meads of St. John Beats, river Findhorn. River levels were looking absolutely spot-on reading 1’6″ on the Forres gauge, perfect. Unfortunately, there was another element to the day, rain, rain, and even more rain! It was a real proper soaker! There were still one or two kelts lurking around and three of these were caught in Scur and Palamore Island Pools through the day. Finally, later on in the afternoon Peter James hooked, landed and released an absolutely cracking fresh spring salmon of around 16 lbs. from the Roehillock Pool on a purple cascade tube fly.
This was Peter’s largest ever salmon and he was really delighted with his prize. Some large single malt drams were devoured a little later on, to celebrate in the warmth and comfort of Bradbush after a very wet day on the river!
On Tuesday, April 5th, it was no surprise to see river levels running fairly high at 3’1″ on the Forres gauge and 2’10” at Shenachie. The river was looking a little on the dirty side, but not as bad as we had expected. It was another rather cloudy, drizzly day, but apart from one or two tentative pulls no fish were seen running or hooked. By Wednesday, April 6th, river levels had fallen back and reading 2’1″ on the Forres gauge. It was another cloudy/overcast day with a little more early rainfall. Water clarity was looking really perfect and expectations were running high for hooking a fish today. After lunch Ian Neale managed to hook and release a deep sea-liced fish of around 10 lbs. from Palamore Island Pool on the Meads bank, caught on a 1″ cone head Ally Dog tube fly.
A little later on in the afternoon and Peter James hooked another good fish in the top of Roan Pool off the Altyre bank. After some five minutes of a hectic fight the fish jumped clear of the water and threw the hooks and gone! Just shortly afterwards and David Clark managed to hook and land his first fresh salmon of the season, also from Roan Pool, hooked on a purple cascade tube.
On Thursday, April 7th, we were joined by other regular Findhorn clients Keith and Ros Clarke from Guernsey. River levels were reading 1’9″ on the Forres gauge and looking in perfect order. It was another cloudy/overcast day with some further showers. Keith Clarke hooked and lost a fresh fish in Palamore Island Pool fishing off the Meads bank early on in the morning. There were no other fish hooked that day, despite seeing fish running in Palamore Island.
On Friday, April 8th, unfortunately river levels had risen once again reading 2′ 5″ on the Forres gauge. I am never too happy with river levels yo-yoing from day to day and it was slow going with only a few fish seen running through Palamore Island from time to time. Finally, on Saturday April 9th, river levels had fallen away once again and reading 1’5″ on the Forres gauge. It was much better day weather wise and we even saw a glimpse of a strange sun like object up in the sky! A little later on in the afternoon, just as David Clark’s horse came a cropper in the Grand National, he hooked and landed an absolutely cracking fresh sea-liced fish of around 12 lbs. from Palamore Island Pool fished off the Meads bank. The 1″ Purple Cascade did the trick once again!
On Monday, April 11th, I was back on Altyre Lower Beat and the Meads of St. John Beat with Don Milne from Aberdeen. River levels were running at 1’5″ on the Forres gauge and water clarity was perfect. It was a beautiful sunny and bright morning, but clouding over later on with a cool Northerly breeze. Don Milne had a good solid pull off a fish in the neck of the Scur Pool early on, but it did not stick. Just before lunch Ian Neale hooked and landed an absolutely cracking fresh fish of around 14 lbs. from the Cottall Island Pool on the Meads bank.
It is a really lovely pool to fish off either bank and at this height it is simply spot on! The fish was hooked and released fishing a RIO AFS line #10/11 with fast sinking tip and 1″ Ally Dog tube fly. Later on in the afternoon Ian Neale hooked and lost another fish, which was only on briefly in the Roan Pool on the Altyre bank. Several minutes afterwards and another solid take from a good fish and this time there was no mistake, it was firmly hooked. After around ten minutes the fish was beached carefully and released, it was around 12 lbs. and covered in sea lice. What a superb day!
On Tuesday, April 12th, Lukasz Materek was fishing. It was a cloudy overcast day and river levels were reading 1’2″ on the Forres gauge. Lukasz hooked and lost a good fresh fish right at his feet in the Scur Pool and no other offers for the day. By Wednesday, April 13th, river levels had fallen away surprisingly quickly reading 10″ on the Forres gauge. It was another cloudy and drizzly day with a cold North East wind blowing upstream. Lukasz only managed one kelt and a large brown trout from Roan Pool.
By Thursday, April 14th, river levels had risen slightly reading 1′ on the Forres gauge and the river was looking in perfect order. It was another overcast day with a cold northerly wind upstream yet again. I was joined on Altyre and Meads by regular fishers, David Tisdale and Leslie Tyson. Leslie started on the Altyre Lower Beat fishing down through the Roan Pool. It wasn’t before too long that he had pulled two fish, then hooked and landed another two fresh fish of around 15 lbs. and 12 lbs., which he was really delighted with, what a cracking start to any fishing day! A little later on in the day, he managed to hook and lose another big fish in the Scur Pool fishing from the Meads bank. There suddenly seemed to be quite a big run of fish moving through the Altyre and Meads Beats, as several other fish were seen throughout the day. The spring run was suddenly moving up a gear and we were all getting really excited to see so many early fish moving into the river Findhorn system.
On Friday, April 15th, I was joined by a great old friend of mine who I had not seen for a few years, Dr. Michael Leach from Gartocharn on Loch Lomond. Mike and I have spent many years of fishing together and have enjoyed some great adventures on the Rivers Spey, Avon (A’an) and Findhorn. David Tisdale also joined us for the following two days. River levels were still holding up quite well and reading 11″ on the Forres gauge. It was another one of those cloudy overcast days and feeling cold in the brisk Northerly wind, with fresh hill snow lying up on the Dava moor. Mike went through the Roan Pool, which was looking in good order and we saw one or two fish show. Ian Neale followed him down and within a few casts hooked into a good fish. It was a dogged fight and just kept on driving his head down deep but no spectacular runs or leaps. Before long, the fish was on the surface and ably netted by Mike. It was one of those really deep spring fish of around 14 lbs. and sea-liced, which was quickly photographed and released back into the river. A ¾” Purple Cascade tube fly was responsible!
On Saturday, April 16th, river levels had risen overnight, slightly reading 1’1″ on the Forres gauge and 1’2″ on the river Divie gauge at Dunphail. This was obviously the hill snow from Friday, just melting off the Dava and running into the Divie, which had lifted the lower river levels sufficiently. I decided to let Mike and David take a run through the Roan Pool before going elsewhere. Mike suddenly got back into his old hooking ways and managed to hook and land two cracking fresh sea-liced fish about half way down, one after the other.
They were fish of around 9 lbs. and 5 lbs. just off the last high tide and Mike was absolutely delighted to meet up with these silver beauties. Both of these fish were hooked on a Par Palm Humus cone head tube fished on RIO AFS line and fast sinking tip. A little later on and he had another good pull off a fish in the Garden Pool on the Altyre bank.
Alison Alston had also enjoyed some great sport fishing just above us on the Altyre Upper Beat, with six fresh fish in three days up to 15 lbs. The fish were all caught from Soldiers Hole, Roehillock and Palamore Pools. So ended a truly great week of sport with a total of thirteen fresh spring salmon landed and released from Altyre/Meads Beats on this remarkable Highland salmon river. This really is early spring salmon fishing at its very best!
On Monday, April 18th, I was back on Altyre Estate, River Findhorn with regular clients David Tisdale and Des Dunlop. River levels were holding up really well and reading 1’8″ on the Forres gauge after further melting snow from the catchment had given levels a lift over the weekend. It was a mixed day of cloud and sunshine, but still feeling cold in that Northerly wind. Ian Neale managed to hook and release a cracking fresh fish of around 10 lbs. from Palamore Island just before lunch on a ½” Purple Cascade tube. In the afternoon, it all got better and better. David Tisdale hooked a lovely fresh fish of around 10 lbs. from the Roehillock Pool on the Upper Beat. Shortly afterwards Ian Neale hooked another sea-liced fish of around 8 lbs., also from the tail of the Roehillock Pool. David Tisdale also got a good pull off a fish in the tail of Soldiers Hole. Then the icing on the cake came when Des Dunlop hooked and released his first fresh fish of the season of around 12 lbs., again from the tail of Roehillock Pool and caught on a ½” Purple Cascade tube.
This had been indeed a red letter day with four cracking “Springers” in the net. On Tuesday, April 19th, conditions were still really ideal with levels reading 1’3″ on the Forres gauge. However, for some reason the fishing had just turned off, like a light switch! It couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the previous day and despite the fact fish were seen in all pools, but just not interested in taking a fly.
Then on Wednesday, April 20th, with river levels falling away reading 9″ on the Forres gauge it was another terrific day of sport with five fresh fish hooked, but unfortunately only one fish landed! It was quite incredible, but at least it was fun and also David Tisdale caught his biggest ever salmon of around 15 lbs. from Roehillock Pool.
Des Dunlop was the first to hook and lose a fish in Roan Pool first time down in the morning. Then after lunch Ian Neale hooked and lost a fish as it was almost ready to net in the Soldiers Hole Pool. A little later on another fish hooked in the top of Roan Pool, which played hard and decided to head off upstream as it then managed to wrap itself either around or under a large rock, with the obvious outcome, gone! Just a short while after this David Tisdale hooked another big fish further down in the pool. He managed to get it under control before the fish suddenly took a run and leapt high into the air before throwing the hooks and gone!
River levels started falling away by Thursday reading 8″ on the Forres gauge but rising a little at Shenachie early morning. Des Dunlop made an early morning venture onto the Roan Pool and managed another lovely fresh fish of around 8 lbs. from the Roan Pool. Then as the weather became drier and colder river levels continued to fall away over the next couple of days and the fishing tailed off. Peter and Joanna Taylor fished both beats, but it was slow going and only saw one fish in the two days and that was it!
However, six fresh fish landed and another four fish hooked and lost was not too bad a result considering the conditions. As I write this report in the last week of April river levels had fallen away recently and we have seen a return to winter, with heavy snow falling on the high and low ground. The cold Northerly winds prevail and it has been quite punishing, trying to cast a line in these wintry conditions needless to say. The Middle Findhorn Beats at Lethen and Logie caught their first fish late last week and I have just heard of another fresh fish being caught on Glenferness Estate, which is their first fish of the season. So, at least fish are moving up and over the Falls at Sluie and as we move into early May the Spring run should keep on improving over the upcoming weeks.
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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.