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Secrets of salmon fishing in Scotland – (part one)

The Secrets of Salmon Fishing in Scotland (part one of four)

  • Atlantic salmon in Scotland – an overview
  • What to expect, when fishing for salmon in Scotland
  • Why salmon fishing in Scotland can be so challenging
  • Ownership and access to salmon rivers. Fishing rights and permits

The Atlantic Salmon in Scotland – an overview

Before whisky, before tartan and maybe even before we evolved to walking around on two feet, salmon ran the rivers in Scotland. Salmon have been part of Scotland’s cultural heritage for tens of thousands of years. This ancient king of fish is a symbol of Scotland.

 

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A magnificent fresh run Scottish Atlantic Spring Salmon

Scotland is blessed with clean running rivers and streams (burns) ideal habitat for salmon to return from the ocean to lay their eggs. The eggs hatch into small fish (salmon parr) which grow and live in the rivers for a few years and then make their way back to the sea. The young salmon (smolts) migrate to sea to feed off Greenland and the Faroe Islands. There they feed in the ocean on krill, sand eels, squid, shrimp, fish and crustaceans. One or more years they return to the their home river in Scotland where they were born. Even the best GPS could not compete with the accuracy of the homing instinct of the salmon. They are able to travel thousands of miles to return to the very stream where they originated, to spawn again. It is a remarkable feat and has baffled scientists for years.

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Salmon fishing the River Dee

Around 0.1% of the eggs laid in streams and rivers, result in a salmon completing this remarkable journey. Unlike Pacific salmon a small percentage of Scottish salmon (kelts) survive this spawning process and return to sea, however the majority die. Scottish salmon usually range from 3 to 35lbs with most in the 6-15lb class.

Anglers in Scotland realise the pressures that the salmon faces and most practice catch and release. Certainly if you are a passionate salmon angler, this would be second nature. Most permits you buy will be catch and release only. This is a great thing for our sport. In an effort to protect the spring run fish, it is pretty much universal across most rivers, that all spring fish are returned.

There’s an expression in Scotland…”dead fish don’t spawn” and because the salmon faces many pressures, we anglers want to preserve the sport and this magnificent species.

 

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A magnificent Scottish Atlantic Salmon, the ultimate prize.

What to expect, when salmon fishing in Scotland?

Salmon fishing in Scotland can be hugely challenging. This sport will not appeal if you are focused on quick wins and catching large numbers of fish. Salmon fishing in Scotland is more of a quest and romantic adventure, a test of your will. River fishing in Scotland for Salmon is demanding and you need to be dogged, determined and focused. These fish do not give themselves up easily. However the exhilaration of catching the King of Game Fish is unforgettable. It ranks in the top ten things to do in Scotland (by VisitScotland) indeed the world! The good news, that if you speak to any experienced salmon angler, they would know that catching an Atlantic salmon in the home of fly-fishing is not easy. So to be successful and land one, will give you bragging rights worth sharing!

 

Why salmon fishing in Scotland can be challenging

  • Atlantic salmon in Scotland do not feed when they are in the river. They are fixated on breeding. They take a fly or lure sometimes through a conditioned response or aggression. There’s no rhyme or reason. There certainly is no formula!
  • Access to fishing is somewhat complicated and being at the right place at the right time is part of the planning process. That is where our team at Alba Game Fishing can help.
  • Salmon fishing requires an element of skill. If you’ve never tried fishing with a double hand 15ft fly rod, don’t be phased! We can help and get you up and running very quickly.
  • Finally you will need to be persistent and focused. Reading a river and covering likely salmon lies requires experience and skill, this is where Alba guides can help. Salmon Fishing Packages Here.
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Salmon Fishing River Tweed with an Alba Guide

Ownership and access to salmon fishing in Scotland

Salmon Fishing in Scotland is controlled by the land owner, who also owns the fishing rights. Salmon fishing in Scotland is spilt into stretches of the river, which are typically a mile or two in length and from one or both banks. Each stretch of the river is called a “beat”. The fishing rights for a salmon river can be worth from thousands to millions of pounds, depending on how productive the beat of the river is.  The river fishery board determines the number of people who can fish on each “beat”. It is then up to the owner (and the river bailiffs) to police this and sell permits accordingly. Typically a 2-mile stretch may allow 6 people fishing. Each person fishing would be called a “rod”. There is no rod license system in Scotland.

 

Part Two to follow:…techniques, secrets and how to improve your chances…