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Old 18th December 2009, 14:18
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The Salmon Atlas
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Default Salmon fishing on the river Tay

The Tay-Tummel system is one of the three great river systems in the eastern Highlands which dominate spring salmon fishing, - the other prime waters being the Dee and the Spey. The Tay carries the greatest volume of fresh water in the UK and flows from its sources in the mountainous west of the region down through a long, beautiful course of some 117 miles to its wide estuary where it meets the North Sea near Dundee. In some ways the Tay system encapsulates the whole Scottish fishing scene, embracing Highland and Lowland, large and small streams and lochs, salmon, grilse, sea-trout and trout fishing and grayling for good measure. Just to emphasise the startling resources of this fishery, a rainbow, which had probably escaped from a local pond many years before, was taken in Loch Tay in the spring of 1993. It weighed 29lbs 12ozs, a record fish, and, in fact, was larger than all but three of the salmon taken that year in the whole Tay system.

In the highest reaches above Loch Tay, the river carries the name Dochart, - a slowish river with lochs on its course, offering good trout fishing and some summer and late season salmon. The Dochart flows into Loch Tay near Killin and it is in the loch that the first of the important Tay salmon fisheries is located. The loch offers little fly fishing for salmon, but is trolled in early spring and produces heavy fish. Below the loch, from Kenmore past the junction with the Lyon to Weem, Aberfeldy, Grandtully and the confluence with the Tummel-Garry system at Logierait, the Tay is streamy, with some notable pools and is memorable to fish among its leafy banks. The Lyon, which flows into the Tay near Kenmore, is an interesting river. It has a lower section of glides and streams but its higher section has a wonderful glen with rocky deep pools and a steep highland valley up to the hydro at its head. The Lyon fishes well in late spring and summer. This whole Strathtay region offers good trout fly fishing in spring especially to dark olives in April and May.

From Logierait, the Tay grows in volume and flows through the Kinnaird beats, Dalguise and other waters to Dunkeld, many of which can be very productive of spring and summer salmon. Below this, some famous and sporting stretches lie. This middle section of the river has good spring fishing followed by summer salmon and grilse and, particularly from Islamouth down, it can produce superb late summer and autumn sport. Perhaps the best months of the spring are April and May, and the runs destined for the Tummel and the Lyon must make up a good proportion of this. This part of the river also offers first class spring and early summer trouting, an attribute shared with higher and lower Tay beats also.

From Dunkeld down to Perth, the river offers anglers a series of famous waters, some of which have gone down in legend as salmon fisheries. From the earliest fishing in mid-January, through the later spring, the summer and the autumn, this section of the Tay has good, sometimes wonderful, sport to savour. Here are names to conjure with, Upper Murthly and Murthly Castle water (where Miss Ballantyne caught the UK record rod caught salmon), Burnbane, Meikleour, Islamouth, Taymount, Stanley - with Catholes and the Pitlochrie Pool, Benchil, Redgorton, Waulkmill, Almondmouth and Scone. Below this, as the river runs past the famous North Inch above Perth, excellent club fishings are found including the famous Grainhead Stream. One should perhaps say no more than that among these Tay fishings are the finest historical spring salmon fisheries in Scotland, and even in years in which the total stock has declined, there are fish to be caught from January to October and in good conditions, especially in mid spring or in the late summer runs, the Tay can stand with all its rivals as a productive and exciting fishery of great note. It is a river which can produce large fish with fish over forty pounds a possibility.

The Tay is not fished nearly enough by fly, although the numbers fishing fly now are rising. It is harled a lot in its middle and lower sections and spun much, especially in spring. This is partly a function of its size, but a stubborn local tradition also keeps the Tay harling. If Tay streams can be covered by fly, they will fish as well as any Scottish river. Certain beats have a good fly fishing tradition, Islamouth and Benchil being two of them.

The tributaries of the Tay are themselves often substantial rivers in their own right. Tummel for example, although in its modern form interrupted by the large hydro dam at Pitlochry, is a fine open, gravelly salmon river with some nice pools and streams. Its most productive fishery is now the water immediately below the dam itself. The Earn, joining the Tay estuary, is a slowish river in its middle and lower reaches, wandering circuitously from Auchterarder down to Bridge of Earn. The sections between Crieff and Strathallan, however, have good streamy water with nice trout and sea-trout fishing and with a few spring salmon as well as sometimes good summer and autumn sport.

The stillwaters in the Tay region include some of the largest lochs in Scotland, including Loch Tay itself, Loch Earn and Loch Garry, but, although there are trout in all these waters, their fly fishing demands local knowledge. These deep, large lochs have some ferox to offer specialists, but it is to smaller lochs in the hills we must turn for traditional trout fly fishing. The area is not prolific in this type of fishing, but has several trout lochs near Crieff and Dunkeld to choose from.

Bill Currie
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