Though miles of this unrivalled fishing are beyond reach of all but the few, there are still beats on the world-famous Spey, Don, Dee and nearby that are open to visitors and club members.
The North East of Scotland is one of the most hallowed sanctuaries of the salmon angler. Nursing the rivers Spey and Dee, two of the most prolific salmon rivers, it provides water for the Findhorn, Don, Deveron, Ugie, Nairn, Ness, Conon, Brora, Beauly, Helmsdale and Thurso—not to mention a myriad of smaller tributaries, rivers and lochs too numerous to mention.
Richard Waddington, author of Salmon Fishing—Philosophy and Practice, wrote in 1959 of the River Spey: ‘This is the king of all the Scottish rivers. Compared to the Spey, the Dee is trivial, the Tay lacking in fish, and the Tweed tedious’. More than twenty years later the fortunes of the other rivers may vary, but most salmon anglers of ex-perience would agree with him. The River Spey, from the source to its mouth in Spey Bay, offers challenging fishing, and at a time of the year when other rivers might not be at their best. The Spey does not suffer fools gladly and as a rule will yield its trophies to those who have served a good apprenticeship to it.
The season opens on February 11 and in a mild winter a few salmon will quickly make good progress into the upper reaches. It is not unusual, for instance, to get odd fresh salmon as far upstream as Grantown during the opening days and weeks. The big build-up of stocks, however, seems to come in late March, April and May—a time when spring fishing might be said to be vaguely allied to spring-like weather. Unfortunately, most of the Spey fishing is in private hands. Some may be had through various estate agents, but usually the best is reserved year upon year by sitting tenants, and it is only rarely that a new let becomes available. Competition is fierce.
A popular centre for the visiting angler is Grantown-on-Spey, where a seven-mile stretch of fishing is made available through the Strathspey Angling Association. The water tends to get heavily fished, but at £12 per week (1981 prices) it must represent about the best value for money in salmon fishing today. There are also angling courses every spring run at the Palace Hotel and the Seafield Lodge Hotel in Gran-town. Visitors can get all the instruction they need, together with a wonderful opportunity to have a few days’ fishing on superb private beats owned by the hotels.
Generally, the cream of Spey fishing begins at Grantown and thence downstream. Craigellachie and Aberlour make other good cen-tres for the visitor and there is fishing available to residents at the Aberlour and the Lour Hotels at Aberlour, and at the Craigellachie Hotel in Craigellachie.
Interesting tributaries of the Spey include the rivers Avon (pronounced Am), Dulnain, Feshie, and Truim —the latter noted for its excellent brown trout fishing. In a good year the Spey not only abounds with salmon, but has one of the most fantastic runs of sea trout which has only fractionally been exploited. There is also some excellent brown trout fishing available.
The River Dee, rising on the slopes of Ben MacDhui and flowing almost due east through Aberdeenshire, undoubtedly offers some of the finest fly fishing for salmon. It is often referred to as the Royal Dee, and the magnificence of the river and its fishing cannot be disputed. For many miles the river’s mood is more intimate than the Spey and from Braemar down there is some legen-dary salmon fishing. Unfortunately, much of the river is privately owned and let to long-standing tenants. The casual visitor can seldom find access, although you may be lucky in finding a hotel on Deeside offering a cancellation.
For the keen fly fishermen, the Dee is one of the premier rivers in Britain. Beats such as Invercauld, Dinnet, Blackhall, Woodend Cairn- :- Ss BM’W-f’ r – iWWkjs ton (where the late Arthur Wood made his fame) Crathes and Park are almost household words with the salmon fanatic