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Old 18th December 2009, 15:04
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Default About the river Helmsdale

There is, mile for mile, few more productive salmon river than Helmsdale in the whole of Scotland. It flows for only some twenty five miles from the complex of lochs above which give it birth, yet it provides six lower river and six upper river beats of the most exclusive and varied salmon fly fishing, offering sport from the earliest opening dates in January to the last day of its season at the end of September. The river flows through the lovely Strath of Kildonan, drawing its waters from the moors and lochs above, and it is naturally divided into upper and lower rivers by the Kildonan Falls.

If you were to look over the bridge at Helmsdale, where the river meets the sea beside the small harbour, you might think it was just another nice little Highland river. It is far from that. This river can produce over two thousand salmon in a good year. It is a luxurious river. The beats are for two rods and each day the rods have an upper and a lower beat at their disposal. It is fly only, as many small Highland river are. Its pools vary from streamy moorland pools in the upper river to a variety of sandy and rocky pools in the lower section. Some beats have large slowish pools where the river meanders; others have rushing streams and pots among the rocks. There are few fly fishing rivers as good and as well managed as the Helmsdale.

The spring fishings, which begin in January, strengthen in late February and are at their peak , according to year, in late March and April, are centred on the lower river,- up to the Kildonan Falls. From April, the upper river comes into ply and both lower and upper beats fish well right through the summer. Sea trout run the whole river and enter the tributaries. There are good trout lochs at the head of the Helmsdale, principally the Badanloch, Loch nan Clar, Loch Rimsdale, Loch Fearnan and, to the north several fine hill waters worth walking to and fishing. This is high, open moorland and hill country with a serenity and wildness which is marvellous to savour. The lochs are easy to get fishings on through local hotels.

The Helmsdale is, of course, not an easy river to get access to. Most of the fishings are let through the six estates which own the river. Local hotels in Helmsdale often have spring fishings available for guests. There is also a local fishing club with access to the lowest beat above the town. Access to one beat on the upper Helmsdale and to fishings on the tributaries is also available through local hotels. The lochs above are readily accessible for trout fishing, and some salmon are also on Badanloch and Loch nan Clar , from time to time. The Helmsdale has two tributaries. One, the Kinbrace river, often referred to as the Bannock Burn which joins the main river on the northern bank near the hamlet of Kinbrace and the other, joining from the southern moors, is called the Frithe (usually referred to as 'the Free'). This water is let with holiday cottages on Borrobol estate. Given water in summer, these tributaries can be good fishing for salmon and sea trout and are accessible to visitors in way less likely on the main river.

Bill Currie.
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