Salmon Fishing Beats in Scotland
This is a subject that is open to some debate. Many would immediately say that the prime salmon fishing on the River Tweed, Tay, Spey and Dee would undoubtedly be the best bet. However, if you are looking for solitude, relaxation and adventure in a truly natural setting, then your decision may well be very different. Many of the prime salmon fishing beats on the major rivers of Scotland are very formal setup’s, with complicated etiquettes, ghillies in the obligatory tweed suit and tie, manicured lawns and fishing huts that resemble boutique alpine lodges. Needless to say, these beats have to finance the fisherman’s lunch, dram of Scotland’s finest and the Ghillies tweed suit, which means that the fishing comes at a significant cost.
So how can we go about choosing a beat? Well, in truth it is a very personal choice and everyone has a different budget and expectation. Many think that you must catch at least one salmon per day and are willing to pay for the privilege (both in terms of money and at the expense of tranquillity, privacy and relaxation at times). Others have an alternative measure of successful/ enjoyable days fishing and see a catch as a bonus.
I believe that most anglers have a philosophy/ expectation that falls between those described above (i.e. they are looking for a good days fishing, which offers a decent opportunity of catching, preferably within a beautiful tranquil setting). Many would like to fish majestic large salmon rivers of Scotland, but do not want to be shadowed by the mandatory ‘Tweed clad brown nose’, nor want to sit down for an hours lunch and then pack-up at exactly 5pm.
Ok, in order to makes some decisions about the ideal salmon fishing beat, let us generate a profile of a typical salmon fisherman. Let us call our angler Tony. Tony is in his forties, and like many of us has a family to take on his fishing holiday to Scotland. With this in mind, Tony needs two or three individual days fishing and cannot take a week long let. These are not Tony’s only constraints; he also has a budget of £50 per day. Well, in truth, Tony is an Avatar in ink (or pixel) for me and whilst it may seem like a hopeless situation, it certainly is not. The choice for Tony, is to fish a lesser beat on a major salmon river, or to fish a prime beat on a less prestigious river.
The river Tay in Perthshire offers many beats between £40 and £50 per day, that offer excellent opportunities of sport in a truly magnificent setting. My top tip would Farleyer Upper and Lower beats, on the upper Tay. Many large spring salmon are caught here in April and May, and the beat offers excellent sport in the summer when grilse a running.
Another excellent and under rated beat is the Sluie Beat on the middle reaches of the Aberdeenshire Dee. As with the Farleyer beats on the upper Tay, Sluie has a magnificent run of salmon, excellent pools and runs and can be fished for around £50 per day, which is excellent value for a beat of this quality on the Dee.
The first two choices are in the category of a so-called lesser beat on a major salmon river, the next option is definitely a prime beat on a less prestigious river. It is the Hoddom beat of the River Annan in Dumfries and Galloway. This beat is outstanding in the Autumn and given sufficient rain can be excellent in the summer for both grilse and sea trout. As with the other choices, this beat is beautiful, running through tranquil ancient deciduous forest.
Another excellent option is the Balmore beat of the river Glass (a tributary of the Beauly). This is another beautiful beat that offers excellent salmon fishing at reasonable prices.
In line with the majority of Atlantic salmon fisherman, I value my annual piscatorial adventures in Scotland and dream of sampling many more beats that are on offer. This article must be caveated by acknowledging that I have been fortunate enough to experience but a few of the magnificent beats available. I have highlighted the beats that I have found to be excellent during my trips, but cannot claim to have fished even a fraction of those on offer.
My final recommendation would be to research the beats on both fishpal and the many salmon fishing forums. Check that the beats fish well at the time of year you are proposing to fish, and ideally choose a beat that offers a chance of a fish at most river levels (the Sluie and Farleyer beats are ideal from that point of view as they clear very quickly following a spate and still offer opportunities during low flows).
Whichever beat you go to make sure you try cooking your own catch (assuming it isn’t catch and release). There are loads of amazing recipes out there just waiting to be tried.
I would be very interested to hear other people’s suggestions and would be delighted to receive comments.