Going into the week commencing June 20th, river levels remained at good fishable height on the River Findhorn, reading 1′ on the Forres gauge. Leslie Tyson had an amazing couple of hours when he went down to Altyre Lower Beat for a cast after work. He managed to hook and release three fresh sea-liced fish of around 6 lbs., 10 lbs. and 12 lbs., one from Bertha’s Pool and two from the Roan Pool. All fish were hooked on his 1″ Ally Dog tube and quickly released. Brilliant stuff!! The fish just keep on coming in with every tide! By Tuesday, June 21st, river levels had fallen away a little and reading 8″ on the Forres gauge. Dr. James Anderson was fishing on Altyre Lower Beat and managed a cracking fresh fish of around 13 lbs. from the Roan Pool and he was really delighted. As the week progressed, river levels fell away and Ollie Alston hooked and released another fresh fish of around 14 lbs. from Palamore Pool on the Upper Beat on Wednesday, June 22nd.
On Friday, June 24th, we started to see more unsettled weather across the Highlands of Scotland with some fairly hefty and torrential downpours. There was some really heavy rain falling over the Dava Moor catchment, which drains into the River Divie.
By late evening, the river Divie was rising quickly and reading 1’8″ on the gauge. Not only was it rising quickly, but it was also coming into the Lower Findhorn very dirty and coloured by Saturday morning, June 25th. River levels on the lower river were 1’6″ on the Forres gauge and reading 8″ on the Shenachie gauge. I was fishing up on Glenferness Estate, Mini Daltra beat for the day with David Tisdale. When we arrived at the Garden Pool we were disappointed to see that the upper river was also running quite dirty, although the height was really spot-on! I must admit that I was not really optimistic of our chances when we got there and was thinking that we may be heading back home quite early. David invited me to fish through the pool ahead of him as he had never fished this beat before. Just as I waded down along the edge, I saw a fish show down below me, which was surprising in these conditions. A few minutes later, another fish showed tight into the far bank.
Then, I got a pull off a fish, not a hard solid take, but just a couple of half hearted tweaks. Suddenly I was feeling a little more confident. A little further down the pool and a few minutes later, just as I was hand lining the Purple Cascade tube I got a really good pull and this time there was no mistake, as I tightened into the fish. I was quite amazed as the fish took off down and across the pool, cart wheeling all over the place, this was great sport! I managed to get the fish under control and walked the fish down to the tail where there is a handy little sandy beach, ideal for getting a fish in here. David came down and after a couple of quick photos the fish was released and shot off like a bullet. It was a really cracking fresh fish of around 11 lbs. and I was delighted to hook such a great fish in these brown and murky conditions!
I went back into the pool and a good long cast to the far bank was followed by another hard take almost as the fly started to swing. It was another cracking fresh fish and it fought hard just before the hooks suddenly fell out and it was gone! I couldn’t believe it! We had both seen another large fresh fish as I was playing the fish, which must have been in the mid-teens of pounds. This was suddenly turning into a very exciting day and I was just hoping David would soon hook one himself. We carried on for a while longer and it appeared that the river was actually clearing quite quickly. We had wondered if there had been some heavy rain upriver that had caused one of the burns to flood and turn this dirty colour. However, it had been a fun morning and so we decided to head off back to the car for some lunch before moving back downstream to the other pools.
After lunch we headed off down towards the Lady’s Pool, where I was feeling quite hopeful of getting David into a fish, especially as the water was clearing so fast, but falling reasonably slowly. As always, I love the walk down through the tall Caledonian pines towards the Island Pool, as the anticipation grows and getting that first sight of the tail of Lady’s Pool. What a place! We walked on up towards the pool, which looked in perfect order; it really did! I put David into the tail of the pool first, as this can be so productive especially at this height. A fish showed just above us possibly a running fish, but no offers forthcoming. I took David further up to the main body of the pool and he fished it all the way down without a touch! We saw another couple of running fish show, but they were not interested in taking a fly, all very frustrating. David decided he would take a break and invited me to cast a fly over the pool, which I did, but sadly there was not a pull anywhere.
So, I decided that we should head off back down towards the Island Pool, which should be looking in good order, which it was. Again, I put David in at the headstream and he proceeded to fish it all the way carefully and diligently. We only saw one fish show much further downstream and not so much as a pull for him. This was incredible as I was so hopeful of a fish in either of these two pools. Time was getting on and I was keen to go back up to the Garden Pool as it had been well rested all afternoon. When we got back, the river level had fallen away a little, but clarity was absolutely spot-on. I was feeling extremely hopeful and put David into the pool to fish it through and I followed him down.
However, it was quiet and we only saw one fish show, which was not for the taking! We fished it through a couple of times and still not a touch, which was a little disappointing. It had been as always a most enjoyable day on the river Findhorn and with weather forecasters seemingly predicting more unsettled weather to come, we were hoping to be back on the water very soon. Back down on the lower river Leslie Tyson and Glyn Phillips were having a cast on Altyre Lower Beat, which was proving frustrating for them. The river Divie was still running very high and very dirty, which was pouring into the lower Findhorn at Logie. However, as the day progressed, the water began to clear slowly and Glyn managed a late 3 lb. grilse from the Roan Pool. Hopefully, this may signal the start of the summer run!
Going into the last few days of June, the weather remained quite unsettled with further spells of rain falling over the Highlands of Scotland. River levels remained at a good fishable height for the Lower River Findhorn for the week commencing June 27th. River levels were reading 8″ on the Forres gauge, but the fishing had suddenly tailed off a bit through Monday and Tuesday.
However, on Wednesday June 29th levels were reading 6″ and Leslie Tyson had a red letter day on Altyre Lower Beat hooking and releasing three salmon of around 14 lbs., 8 lbs. and 4 lbs., all hooked on a small Purple Cascade tube fly from St. John’s Pool. He also managed a sea trout of around 2 lbs. from Clarks Pool. The rest of the week as river levels fell away, proved fairly fruitless and no other fish were hooked.
As we moved into the first full week of July, river levels remained on the low side, reading just 5″ on the Forres gauge through Monday and Tuesday. However, rain clouds were gathering strength and by late Tuesday afternoon some heavy rain was falling over the Dava catchment.
By Wednesday, July 6th, river levels were reading 1’3″ on the Forres gauge and 1’2″ on the river Dive gauge at Dunphail. The river Divie was pouring dirty water into the Lower Findhorn for much of the day, making fishing conditions quite tricky. Ian Neale hooked and lost a fish in Palamore Island early on, but that was it and very few fish to be seen. The water started to slowly clear as the day progressed and fishing conditions improved by the evening. Leslie Tyson was back on the night patrol and after losing two fish in Soldiers Hole and Palamore Island, he finally managed a 4 lb. grilse and two sea trout from Soldier’s Hole. Things were looking up and we were hopeful that the summer run was on its way!
On Thursday, July 7th, river levels had fallen a little and reading 11″ on the Forres gauge and water clarity was improving all the time. I was fishing with regular visitor, David Tisdale and Leslie Tyson who joined us later in the afternoon. It was mixture of sunshine and cloudy conditions, but feeling much warmer. To start our day, we headed for the Upper Beat for a cast through the Soldier’s Hole because it was a must at this water height. Within a short time, Ian Neale had a good solid pull off a fish, which took off downstream like a rocket, magnificently cart wheeling across the tail of the pull before it threw the hooks! We both got a good look at it before it parted company and we estimated it to be in the mid teens of pounds, quite incredible! What a start to the day and it was just about to get better. A little further downstream, Ian Neale hooked and released a cracking little sea-liced grilse of around 4 lbs. from the tail of Palamore on a 1″ Ally Altyre Dog tube.
We moved back upstream again to Soldier’s Hole and Ian managed to hook and land another cracking fresh sea-liced summer salmon of around 10 lbs.
Leslie Tyson finally arrived later in the afternoon, just as we were leaving Soldier’s Hole to move back down to the Lower Beat. I suggested that he should stay and give the pool another cast as we had seen several other fish showing. It certainly did not take him long to get into the swing of it and managed to hook and release another two fresh salmon of around 10 lbs. and 8 lbs. respectively. This was turning into some red letter day and we were all delighted to see the arrival of our summer run fish, moving into the river in such numbers. A little later on in the evening, Leslie managed another 4 lb. grilse from the Scur Pool, having lost another two fish from the Roehillock Pool a little earlier. A total of five fish hooked and released and another three fish hooked and lost, what a day from this superb Highland gem.
David Tisdale was back on the river the next day, July 8th and managed to hook a fresh grilse of around 4 lbs. from the tail of Garden Pool on the Lower Beat. River levels started falling away over the following day reading 5″ on the Forres gauge and no more fish were hooked.
On the week commencing July 11th, I was delighted to meet up with the James Tully family party, who had taken a few days of guided fishing with myself on Altyre Estate, Lower Beat. The party comprised, David and Susan Tully who have been fishing on the River Findhorn for many years. Then there was their son, Jim and his wife, Vanessa, with their two children Lotta aged ten years and Felix aged twelve years. This was really a new experience for the young ones and Jim and Vanessa were in need of a little bit of a refresher on their casting. It did not take them long to get to grips with the technique of Spey casting, whatsoever, and indeed Felix and Lotta picked it all up with ease, covering the water perfectly. River levels had risen over the weekend after further rain in the catchment, reading 11″ on the Forres gauge. Unfortunately, whilst river levels looked in good order, water clarity was being a problem. Therefore, we saw very few fish running, but it was a day for instruction in preparation of catching a fish! Over the next couple of days, river levels started to fall away and clarity improved, plus we started seeing a few more fish moving into the Lower Beat, although they seemed to show little interest in our flies!
Finally, on Friday, July 15th, with river levels reading 5″ on the Forres gauge, I decided to take Jim and David down to the Garden and St. John’s Pools for a cast. St. John’s Pool is a great low water pool for us on Altyre. I had tied on a small Altyre Dog tube and Jim moved a fish to the fly; and next cast, bang it was hooked! It was a strong, hard fighting fish, no acrobatics but just dogged. Finally, I was able to get the fish netted and Jim was delighted with his prize… a lovely deep fresh salmon of around 8 lbs. A quick photograph was taken and the fish was released back into the river. Jim had told me that this was his first fish in fifteen years, whilst he was fishing up on Dunearn with his parents. What a way to make a comeback! A little later on in the evening and there was more action when Jim’s, wife Vanessa hooked and lost another fish in Roan Pool, after eight minutes of a hectic scrap. It was delightful to be with such a lovely family group who were keen to learn the art of Spey casting and showed so much enthusiasm. Hopefully they will be returning next year and it will be Lotta and Felix’s turn to catch a fish.
For the week commencing July 18th, I was back on Altyre Estate and the Meads of St. John’s Beat on Darnaway, River Findhorn. Jonathan Howitt was back once again, for his third Findhorn visit of the season. River levels were reading 6″ on the Forres gauge and it had become increasingly humid and muggy over the last few days. The weather forecasters were predicting an imminent heat wave coming our way, never good news for us serious salmon fishers! However, Jonathan managed to hook a fresh grilse in the top of Roan Pool, which he was delighted with, as this was his first ever grilse. A little later on I took him down to the Garden Pool where he hooked into another bigger fish of around 7 lbs. right in the tail of the pool. Unfortunately, after some long runs and acrobatics the fish threw the hooks and was gone!
On Tuesday, July 19th, the heat wave had indeed arrived in the Highlands of Scotland and air temperatures soared to 26 degrees C. It was really intense with the humidity and we decided that daytime fishing would be a waste of time. Jonathan therefore rested the beats and returned later in the evening. He returned to the Garden Pool and hooked another fish in the tail of the pool, before it too threw the hooks and was gone! It was a very warm and muggy night and as we went into the early hours of Wednesday morning we were all awoken by heavy rain, lightning and thunderstorms in this part of the Highlands. The heavy rain, lightning and storms continued through much of the morning and fishing was abandoned until they subsided. Leslie Tyson was fishing on the Meads Beat and as soon as the thunder and lightning had passed, he was soon into action, with two grilse of around 4-5 lbs. and another two fish lost from the Scur Pool. Just around lunchtime he moved down to New Pool on the Meads side of the river and managed another couple of grilse of a similar size, just before the river came down in a huge 3′ bore running high and dirty. That was it for the day and fishing was well and truly over.
I do not recall ever seeing the River Findhorn rise so very quickly in a matter of minutes, I have to say, it was really quite alarming to see the speed and intensity of this huge surge of water raging past us with trees and debris being washed downstream like match sticks! Leslie returned later in the evening to check river conditions only to find the river running even higher and dirtier, peaking at around four feet on the Forres gauge.
On Thursday, July 21st, river levels had fallen away overnight reading 2’1″ on the Forres gauge, but water clarity was still very poor. We started on the Meads Bank, fishing through Scur and Palamore Island Pools, but apart from one or two grilse seen running, it was quiet. We then moved over to the Altyre bank and Jonathan managed to hook and release a grilse of around 3 lbs. from the Roan Pool. I was thinking that our luck was about to change, but unfortunately it seemed to be quiet on all beats. A little later around 5:00 p.m., I returned to the Roan Pool and I was amazed at the numbers of fish seen running through the pool. They seemed to be showing just about everywhere, but I could not get an offer apart from a half hearted pluck! It was an amazing sight, but somewhat frustrating as these fish appeared to be running hard and not stopping for anything!
By Friday, July 22nd, river levels had fallen away overnight and reading 1’0″ on the Forres gauge. The water clarity was improving steadily, but once again we saw running fish in every pool throughout the day, but simply no takers anywhere. Leslie Tyson finally managed a cracking sea-liced fish of around 6 lbs. late in the evening, having lost another earlier both from the Soldiers Hole Pool.
On Saturday, July 23rd, river levels were reading 8″ on the Forres gauge. It was a cloudy overcast day and at last feeling a little fresher than earlier in the week. Glyn Phillips hooked and released a salmon of around 10 lbs. from the Scur Pool, fishing on the Meads beat. A little later in the evening, Leslie Tyson was back for another couple of 5 lb. Grilse, both hooked and released in the Scur Pool. He had another encounter with an acrobatic grilse in the New Pool, which finally threw the hooks and was away. However, all in all, it had been a very interesting and productive week, with a heat wave one day and monsoon conditions the next! As we move into late July, river levels have fallen away on the Lower River Findhorn and another spell of wet weather would be welcome to encourage another run of summer salmon and grilse into the rivers. It’s hard to believe we only have two more months of our season left here in this part of the Scottish Highlands. Let’s hope for another couple of bumper months to finish off this most amazing season of salmon fishing.
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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.