Salmon Fishing in Scotland, the Holy Grail! May 29, 2020


Fishing for Atlantic Salmon in Scotland is a truly special experience. Scotland has a unique blend of spectacular scenery coupled with numerous magnificent salmon rivers to suit all angling tastes. When you combine that with Scotland being steeped in salmon fishing history, you soon begin to realise why so many anglers find it such an unforgettable experience and return year after year.
Firstly, in Scotland there are so many different salmon rivers to choose from. Each river offers its own unique challenge. From the beautiful small fast flowing mountain streams in the Scottish Highlands to larger more famous rivers like the Spey, Tay and Tweed there are truly no shortage of options for the visiting salmon angler. The location depends a lot on what kind of fishing the individual wants to experience. Most of Scotland’s salmon rivers are set on spectacular backdrop with high mountains ranges or beautiful rolling hills. Overhead, Osprey’s and Golden Eagle’s often soar. At dusk wild Red Deer arrive at the rivers edge to drink. Often you may even have to share a pool with the magnificent otter. All of this really makes you feel at one with nature.

If you prefer to pursue your quarry on smaller rivers, then the Scottish Highlands is the place for you. The Scottish Highlands is a magnet for nature lovers where the rivers are so remote and often through the course of a day you will not see another human being. It is the perfect location to lose yourself and forget the stresses and strains of everyday life. Many of the salmon rivers in the Scottish Highlands are spate rivers and so fish better after there has been some heavy rain and a subsequent lift in water. These rivers are usually productive anytime from April through until mid-September with the summer months often being the peak time.

As these rivers are smaller in size compared to some of their more illustrious counterparts like the Dee and Tay, the tackle often used especially during the summer months is lighter. In Scotland usually double handed fly rods are used when salmon fishing. In the Scottish Highlands rods ranging from twelve to fourteen feet in length are usually more than adequate. However, if the water is low and clear then stealth tactics can pay rich dividends. In such conditions, sight fishing can even be possible where you target individual fish. This can be extremely exciting as well as frustrating in equal measure especially if the fish do not want to play ball!

Away from the Scottish Highlands, there are still so many other options for the roving angler. The most famous salmon rivers in Scotland are known as “the big 4”. These are of course the Dee, Spey, Tay and Tweed. These rivers give Scotland much of its salmon fishing history and each river fishes well at certain times of the year.
The River Dee as the name would suggest winds its way through spectacular Royal Deeside. This area of the country has royal connections from being the summer home of the British royal family. Indeed, Balmoral Castle, where the queen resides during the summer months is conveniently situated on the banks of the River Dee.
The River Dee is traditionally one of Scotland’s most productive spring salmon rivers. The Dee fishes well from February through until the end of May with the peak months usually being April and May. However, in recent years, given adequate water the river has fished well during the summer months. As the Dee is larger than many of the salmon rivers in the Scottish Highlands a fifteen foot rod is usually favoured by many anglers.
Just across the mountains another very famous salmon rivers begins it’s journey. This is of course the River Spey. The Spey is famous for being the birthplace of the doubled handed Spey cast. Speyside is also the home of whisky country as there are numerous whisky distilleries dotted around the landscape. There is no better feeling than playing a salmon on the Spey while getting the faint aroma of your favourite dram being produced!

To this day, the Spey remains a firm favourite for the fly fishing connoisseur. Some of the pools on the River Spey appear to be hand built for fly fishing with beautiful fast flowing runs and slower deeper glides. The Spey usually fishes well from April through until the end of August. Much of the river is the same size as the Dee and so similar tackle is perfect for the job.
The River Tay is Scotland’s largest river and flows through beautiful Perthshire. It is often referred to as being “mighty”. Anyone that has fished it quickly realises why. The Tay is like no other salmon river in Scotland. It still, to this days holds the British rod caught record for an Atlantic salmon. The fish weighed a colossal sixty four pounds. Each year numerous fish over twenty pounds are landed and also a good number over the magical thirty pounds mark. If you want to catch a big Scottish salmon, look no further than the mighty Tay. The Tay can fish well throughout the year but usually anglers enjoy the best sport from April through to October. One of the reasons why the Tay is such a popular river is that it not only permits fly fishing for Atlantic Salmon but also spinning. Having the option of trying a different method other than the fly can make all the difference, especially when the fish are in a stubborn mood. With the Tay being such a big river, a fifteen foot rod is usually required for fly fishing. Make sure when your tackling up that you have double checked all your knots as when that line tightens on the Tay you just have no idea what size of fish is on the other end!


The River Tweed is the most southerly of Scotland’s big four salmon rivers. The Tweed runs through the magnificent rolling hills of the Scottish Borders. It is quite large in places especially in the lower and bottom sections. For years the Tweed has been renowned as Scotland’s premier autumn river. With the river being open until the end of November, in the past big catches were made from September onwards. Sadly, the autumn run on the Tweed has declined somewhat in recent years. However, the river still produces some lovely fresh salmon during the autumn period and many of these are big in size.
The salmon rivers located in the Scottish Highlands and the “big 4” are just a handful of salmon rivers that the country has to offer anglers pursuing the silver tourist. In addition, there are so many rivers which are like hidden gems, small in size but big on character and this what makes salmon fishing in Scotland so special. When you combine the sheer variety of rivers, spectacular scenery and some of the most friendly people you are ever likely to meet, it’s easy to see why for many anglers, salmon fishing in Scotland is the holy grail!


 Samantha Datta is Director of Salmon Fishing Holidays Scotland a bespoke tailor made travel company that specialises in arranging salmon fishing holidays in Scotland. For more information on salmon fishing in Scotland please email