Comparing the Thurso and Tweed Part 1

Nigel Passmore

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There is a thread on this board about return of a deposit paid for fishing on the Thurso that was cancelled because of C19. As can happen, it spiralled a little out of control and turned in to a bit of a Thurso v Tweed thread. I'm not going to comment on the substance of the original thread only to say that everything I had cancelled was rolled, but I do know of one famous North Coast river I used to fish where the owners are refusing to return any monies paid. You can make of that what you will.

However, I thought it might be of interest to the body of the kirk to have a thread comparing the Thurso and the Tweed based on my experiences. I hope this might be of interest to those who have fished both, one or neither. Just to be clear this is not a Thurso v Tweed thread. Comparing the two is like apples and pears. Some of the comments published in the previous thread were silly bordering on ludicrous. So without further ado let us proceeed.

The Thurso

I had 4 weekly trips (1 in June and 3 in early September) and one half week in August in the Naughties. So I don't claim to know it intimately, but I did go as skipper of a crew of 10 experienced rods so we had 5 beats each day. Between us we fished all of the private beats 2-13 many times. So I cannot comment on the association beat but feel it is fair for me to do so generally. Also, I fished under the old regeime with the legendary Fast (very fast if you were ever in a vehicle with him) Eddy. I have no experience or observation to make under the new set-up. Friends of mine still fish it so all I will say is the observations below still hold true.

The Thurso Is a Great leveller

I was lucky in that well known fly tier Rosco McJukebox was able to provide me with a lot of helpful background info via his father the late Kenny MacDonald. What I will say about the Thurso is this, I've never known a river to be such a leveller of fishermen, even good ones. Several of my guys simply couldn't tune in to the Thurso. If you can't tune in to the Thurso you won't generally do well on it. It is absolutley nothing like fishing the Tweed most of the time.

Contrary to popular opinion, it is not all flat canal. The Thurso has some absolutley delightful classical pools. However, it does have more canals than most. Some Beats like, 13, 12, bottom of 8, 7, the middle of 6, bottom of 3 and top of 2 are litterally one big canal. Actually, fishing them is not that hard. In Spring or when it is cold back them up. In summer single hander and muddler. Very often in these sections there are narrows. But you have to fish these stretches as if you were stalking Woodland Roe Deer. Stealth and caution are essential ingrediants on the Thurso. However, there are also days when the North wind doth blow. I remember fishing beat 7 in a 40 mph NE wind and using a 15' TCR and S/H just to cast 15 yards in to it.

Seasons

In the spring to early summer the fish like to rush up to beats 12 and 13. There they sit before hitch hiking to the sanctuary of Loch Moore. In auutmn there is not much fresh above 11. This, I think, has a lot to do with one of the major spawning burns being on Beat 9. I have to say we often spent our days on 12 and 13 in September fishing for trout (and the trout fishing on the Thurso is seriously good). In the autumn I think it is much better from 9 down although an honourable mention to the Private beat between 11 and 10 with the Carry On Saucy Pool.

Tactics & Fish

Well it is fly fishing only. You might expect to use anything from a 9' #5 to a 15' # 10 depending on the wind and water. By and large it is not a deep river although it does have some very deep holes like the Mire Pool on Beat 8. Just remember you will need to work the fly on quite lot of it and wind is your friend. Oh and did I mention muddlers?

While the Thurso has plenty of grilse, so now does theTweed. The largest we caught in our trips was 18lbs. However, we had plenty of double figure fish and also plenty of fresh and sea -licers in early September - far more so than you would expect in other North Coast or Highland Rivers.

My Best Day

The most successful day I had was in September on Beat 6. Beat 6 is the longest beat on the Thurso (although now shortened to give more water to Beat 7 which used to be the shortest). Back then you parked one car at the top and one car at the bottom. You then fished the three miles of beat from top to bottom. Brillaint. In summer level I had 6 for the day between 6 and 18 lbs. Sweet.

Accommodation

When we stayed at Ulbster, the Portacabin Lodges should have been condemmed as not fit for 3rd World. I understand it is much better now. For most of the time we stayed at Strathmore Lodge as paying guests of Lord Thurso's brother and wife. I went back there in April 2019 and sad to see it is derilict now.

Summary

If I am being honest, I prefer the Halladale to the Thurso. However, I found the Thurso a fascinating challenge. I really enjoyed it, but remember you need to tune in to it.

Some Images

Where it all begins on 13 at Loch Moore

Thurso Sept 2007 - Martin Fould at Loch More.jpg

Beat 13 Thurso

Thurso Sept 2007 - Martin on Lower Carn Nam Mac.jpg


One of the Thurso's most famous scenes


The Thurso Sept 2007 - Windy on Upper Mill.jpg


Dale Winton Stream Beat 8

The Thurso Sept 2007 024.jpg


Grilse Beat 12 (from the Grilse Pool!)

Thurso Sept 2007 5lbs From Grilse Pool.jpg


Big Old Croc Beat 6

Thurso Sep 08 17lbs Froth Pool 6.jpg



Hoy Pool Beat 4

Thurso Sep 08 Hoy Pool.jpg


Red Brae Beat 3

Thurso Sep 08  Red Brae.jpg


Fence Beat 2 - the best way to fish many pools is to get in the water well above the neck

Thurso Sep 08 Fence Pool - Copy.jpg


Regards

NHP
 
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Elibank

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Excellent and instructive post, Nigel - I’ve never fished the Thurso, and I can immediately see your point about some rods not being able to connect with it. Smaller than I had imagined as well.
Looking forward to your Tweed experiences.
 

Scierra

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What a brill write up N, P. Great read and pics (y)
The river will fish well with single hand/switch rods and double handers, 12ft to 13ft being suffice , 14/15ft rods are for large rivers IMO.
 
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Nigel Passmore

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Excellent and instructive post, Nigel - I’ve never fished the Thurso, and I can immediately see your point about some rods not being able to connect with it. Smaller than I had imagined as well.
Looking forward to your Tweed experiences.
I think it worth noting, most of these pictures show the river at summer level. Add 2' water and it is rather different.
 

lax0341

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But is the Thurso really worth the money in comparison to the Tweed ?
A really good week on the Thurso is now 1500 quid without a ghillie. That’s the same amount what you pay let’s say for
a good week on Boleside, Ladykirk or even Rutherford.
 
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marty31

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A very good account of the thurso! But (for me) nothing has changed regarding what i have said previously, its anything but scenic, typically "flow country " windy, long uninteresting flats, old coloured fish, and all for the bargain price of £1500.00 excluding gillie! No comparison imo! Never paid more than £60 quid a day for fishing in my life! Gillie included, and, at the risk of a accusation of bragging! Used to a lot better pedigree of fish than the ones in GDs gallery's! Keep the flow country for me! Now its cousins the helmsdale, naver, and borgie, different class altogether!
 

Scierra

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No fishing is worth that ...Tweed or Thurso.
Thurso Beats
POA weeks up to

22 Mar to 27 Mar£300
29 Mar to 3 Apr£300
5 Apr to 10 Apr£350
12Apr to 17 Apr£500
19 Apr to 24 Apr£550
26 Apr to 1 May£700
3 May to 8 May£800
10 May to 15 May£925
17 May to 22 May£1,000
24 May to 29 May£1,100
31 May to 5 Jun£1,100
7 Jun to 12 Jun£1,150
14 Jun to 19 Jun£1,150
21 Jun to 26 Jun£1,180
28 Jun to 3 Jul£1,180
5 Jul to 10 Jul£1,285
12 Jul to 17 Jul£1,335
19 Jul to 24 Jul£1,525
26 Jul to 31 Jul£1,525
2 Aug to 7 Aug£1,525
19 Aug to 14 Aug£1,525
16 Aug to 21 Aug£1,525
23 Aug to 28 Aug£1,400
30 Aug to 4 Sep£1,350
6 Sep to 11 Sep£1,200
13 Sep to 18 Sep£1,200
20 Sep to 25 Sep£1,150
27 Sep to 2 Oct£1,000
4 Oct to 5 Oct£300
 
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Andrew B

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No fishing is worth that ...Tweed or Thurso.
This is entirely subjective and ten people may value things differently? How much is it to go to a premiership football match for 90minutes nowadays?
Funny enough it’s often the price of accommodation that pushes it over the top for me.
 

Nigel Passmore

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A very good account of the thurso! But (for me) nothing has changed regarding what i have said previously, its anything but scenic, typically "flow country " windy, long uninteresting flats, old coloured fish, and all for the bargain price of £1500.00 excluding gillie! No comparison imo! Never paid more than £60 quid a day for fishing in my life! Gillie included, and, at the risk of a accusation of bragging! Used to a lot better pedigree of fish than the ones in GDs gallery's! Keep the flow country for me! Now its cousins the helmsdale, naver, and borgie, different class altogether!
I've only fished the Helmsdale for one trip in April, but I gillied on the Borgie for a summer and was a tenant on the Naver for 6 years in early spring. So my questions is, why do you think they are 'in a different class altogether'compared to the Thurso?

Also I'd be most interested in your insight in how the Thurso compares to the Lower Oykel, Halladale, Shin, Dionard, Strathy and Forss of which I have substanital direct experience. Are they also of a 'dfferent class'?

Regards

NHP
 

Andrew B

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Always remember reading about the Thurso in the nineties and 2000s in T&S where the general saying about the river was that given water the Thurso will give you fish? Don’t know about now but funny enough most of the Red letter day articles in T&S were often either the Thurso or some of those lower Tweed beats in summer where one guy taking double figures would happen.
After following Iain Bains videos I’ve noticed that March on the Thurso doesn’t seem as good anymore.

Tell you what with how well the Eden has performed of late, you could do a Tweed v Eden comparison thread.
 

lefthandup

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Always remember reading about the Thurso in the nineties and 2000s in T&S where the general saying about the river was that given water the Thurso will give you fish? Don’t know about now but funny enough most of the Red letter day articles in T&S were often either the Thurso or some of those lower Tweed beats in summer where one guy taking double figures would happen.
After following Iain Bains videos I’ve noticed that March on the Thurso doesn’t seem as good anymore.

Tell you what with how well the Eden has performed of late, you could do a Tweed v Eden comparison thread.
Does his running commentary not do yer head in ? 😂
 

Scierra

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A very good account of the thurso! But (for me) nothing has changed regarding what i have said previously, its anything but scenic, typically "flow country " windy, long uninteresting flats, old coloured fish, and all for the bargain price of £1500.00 excluding gillie! No comparison imo! Never paid more than £60 quid a day for fishing in my life! Gillie included, and, at the risk of a accusation of bragging! Used to a lot better pedigree of fish than the ones in GDs gallery's! Keep the flow country for me! Now its cousins the helmsdale, naver, and borgie, different class altogether!

Comparing the Thurso and Tweed Part 1 ?​

This is the thread title , not "criticising" the Thurso ,and G.D.
 

marty31

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I've only fished the Helmsdale for one trip in April, but I gillied on the Borgie for a summer and was a tenant on the Naver for 6 years in early spring. So my questions is, why do you think they are 'in a different class altogether'compared to the Thurso?

Also I'd be most interested in your insight in how the Thurso compares to the Lower Oykel, Halladale, Shin, Dionard, Strathy and Forss of which I have substanital direct experience. Are they also of a 'dfferent class'?

Regards

NHP
Right where to start?
The naver is any fisherman's dream! Its scenic, fast running,well defined proper pools a dead man shoes spring dream
The borgie has the same reputation but personally haven't been there
The helmsdale is a proper salmon fly river, split into proper beats not mostly rubbish.
The oykel! It wouldn't be fair to comment as i have no experience of it.
The halladale & strathy same as above
The dionard i have walked but not fished and is a million times more scenic but needs water
The shin i have only seen it at the falls but its reputation is secound to none!
The forss i have walked and became of the opinion that other than the falls pool, it was ltd big style in anything else than high water! Basicly a stream!
Hope this answers your questions but everyone is entitled to their own opinion
I also have no regrets staying loyal to the tweed! And dont find the need to fish these expensive overrated rivers (imo)
When the waters not right! I prefer just not to fish! I like yourself have fished a lot of beats and over 37 years have also a few pics of what i would call good tweed fish! But as said before, everybody is entitled to choose where they spend their (assumed) hard earned cash)
 

Nigel Passmore

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Right where to start?
The naver is any fisherman's dream! Its scenic, fast running,well defined proper pools a dead man shoes spring dream
The borgie has the same reputation but personally haven't been there
The helmsdale is a proper salmon fly river, split into proper beats not mostly rubbish.
The oykel! It wouldn't be fair to comment as i have no experience of it.
The halladale & strathy same as above
The dionard i have walked but not fished and is a million times more scenic but needs water
The shin i have only seen it at the falls but its reputation is secound to none!
The forss i have walked and became of the opinion that other than the falls pool, it was ltd big style in anything else than high water! Basicly a stream!
Hope this answers your questions but everyone is entitled to their own opinion
I also have no regrets staying loyal to the tweed! And dont find the need to fish these expensive overrated rivers (imo)
When the waters not right! I prefer just not to fish! I like yourself have fished a lot of beats and over 37 years have also a few pics of what i would call good tweed fish! But as said before, everybody is entitled to choose where they spend their (assumed) hard earned cash)
HHmmm. Your posts will stand as your historical record. Mine will be mine. Good luck with your rantings as your record of you.

Regards

NHP
 

marty31

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HHmmm. Your posts will stand as your historical record. Mine will be mine. Good luck with your rantings as your record of you.

Regards

NHP
I would say my posts will stand as my opinion! Nothing more or nothing else! But no criticism after your " cherry picked" questions? Does that indicate that i held my own? Or are you bowing out gracefully? After all this thread was not supposed to be a comparison! Was it not?
 

Oscar

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But is the Thurso really worth the money in comparison to the Tweed ?
A good week on the Thurso is now 1500 quid without a ghillie. That’s the same amount what you pay let’s say for
a decent week on Boleside, Ladykirk or even Rutherford.

As others have already said, simply not true. The BEST weeks maybe!

Brilliant thread, thanks for sharing.

Oscar.
 

keirstream

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Well anyway, it wouldn't stop me heading to the scrap yard portacabins (which I hear are to be demolished) if some
kind hearted soul invited me. A week away fishing for me is therapeutic and I don't fancy paying for the privilege of having
to tune into the wavelengths for a few days to see what track is playing.:unsure:
So very glad you think the Halladale is a much better prospect N.
The rods I have are surely doubled in value now?
If I could get invites to (nae cash left in't kitty) the Naver and Thurso I would be on a grand slam of Northern burns this season.
Covid and Nicola permitting of course.:(
 

Cookie-boy

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I may be a bit weird but I'm not and never have been a numbers man. In truth I prefer to fish varied, smaller rivers in beautiful surroundings hence my devotion to The Banffshire Avon, the Helmsdale and Gannochy on the North Esk. From what I have seen of the Thurso, it just ain't my bag!
 

lax0341

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As others have already said, simply not true. The BEST weeks maybe!

Brilliant thread, thanks for sharing.

Oscar.
You‘re right. These are maybe the BEST weeks. Still a lot of money.:rolleyes: But I like the Tweed in September and October so much... :cool:
 

marty31

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You‘re right. These are maybe the BEST weeks. Still a lot of money.:rolleyes: But I like the Tweed in September and October so much... :cool:
Definitely agree! Absolutely no comparison! But i dont think there ever was supposed to be? But a funny thread title! For something that wasnt ever supposed to be a comparison????
 
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