Comparing the Thurso and Tweed Part 1

marty31

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Great post - many thanks Lewis.

Interestingly, when we fished last year (the last full week of the season) we had very low water as you know. I had my best week to date, and I put it down partly to the fact that the many fish present were easier to locate than normally. There is such a plethora of fishable water it can be hard to locate the fish at times - particularly on the longer flatter beats.

I would guess about half of our fish came from streamier water and half from flatter water.

Hopefully see you up there in September.

Oscar.
Have you any pics of these last week of the season salmon oscar?
 

Scierra

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Here's a link to the daily catch report for 03/09/19. Beat 9 had 31 fish, 17 into double figures, largest 15 lbs. River total, 60 for the day. Lucky them! And note the river height. I expect some will remark that these are all late-in-the-season coloured fish. Probably true (I wasn't there that day) but those fish didn't turn up coloured and had been available for anglers since they left the sea. River condition matters, as it does on all rivers, spate systems in particular. I think that, with a 10 year average catch of around 1700 fish the river is in a pretty healthy state.
Beat 9 ,2 and 3, are the most productive beats on the Thurso , 31 fish ,17 in double figures, to 2 rods from beat 9 in one day and the riverlevel at 2ft , is an astounding on a fly only river, speaks volumes,
 

Lewis.Chessman

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Beat 9 ,2 and 3, are the most productive beats on the Thurso , 31 fish ,17 in double figures, to 2 rods from beat 9 in one day and the riverlevel at 2ft , is an astounding on a fly only river, speaks volumes,
It is impressive, isn't it, Scierra? And in the main you are quite right. However, early season I'd be delighted to get a cast on Loch Beg as the springers often charge through the lower beats then hold up in the loch waiting to ascend the fish pass into Loch More. I love float-tubing for salmon and it's a cracking wee loch for that if you're on your own - so much more controllable and far more stealthy than the boat. Essentially, you're your own gillie and can move at your own pace, even through the red weed in the centre, working the fly right up to the edge where the salmon often lie. One evening I had an osprey fly close by three times on the hunt, ignoring me completely. I've had similar with the tube before elsewhere, with skuas and divers inspecting this 'strange bird' on their water and flying a couple of feet over my head. I even had a black swan investigate me on Harray one year!
I lent my tube to several guests last year and they all loved it, too. Great for me as, once settled and safe, I could focus on the rod on the bank with half an eye on them in case they needed the net.

My personal favourite beat is 11. The Old Woman is a cracker but once one is down to Clay Brae you're away from the road and the turbines and have some fine pools to fish given 8" or more. It may not be the most prolific beat but for me there's something special about its relative remoteness and its history, made evident by the stall, fanks and old drover's track.
I rather like Beat 8, too. It's scenic at the mill and passes from the moor into pastoral land into heath. The fact that I caught my first Thurso fish there probably helps (Dale Stream), but also some great shared moments with my guests, like a French lad who caught his first there on a single muddler. I'd told him all week, "When you get a take, let it go ...." I even had his English-speaking father-in-law translate it into French.
At the end of his week he had the single and double Spey and the Circle C off pat and had every chance of a fish. I put up the Muddler so that he'd see the take happen. At 4 pm a beauty head and tailed over the fly and turned back downstream. My man gripped the line and struck immediately!
"Let it go! Let it go!" I shouted.
Thrash, thrash, thrash - gone!
He looked at me harshly.
"I said, "Let it go!"," I growled.
"I thought you said, "Let's Go!" he replied.
Urrrghhhhh! Who would have though an apostrophe could matter so much?!!?

We settled ourselves and carried on.
Not ten minutes later another fish porpoised, the line went tight and this time he let a few yards slip through his fingers before lifting into it - We were on!
A wee while later I slipped the net under a silver 12 lber, fresh as a daisy with a couple of lice on its back. Beautiful! :)
 

reelit1

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Beat 9 ,2 and 3, are the most productive beats on the Thurso , 31 fish ,17 in double figures, to 2 rods from beat 9 in one day and the riverlevel at 2ft , is an astounding on a fly only river, speaks volumes,
Eleven fish landed in 4hrs beat 6 Morgan's Canal, I used to ghillie on the Thurso Still fish Beat I My mate had 5 further up which took it to 16 fish in 4 hours, a day to remember.
 

Scierra

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It is impressive, isn't it, Scierra? And in the main you are quite right. However, early season I'd be delighted to get a cast on Loch Beg as the springers often charge through the lower beats then hold up in the loch waiting to ascend the fish pass into Loch More. I love float-tubing for salmon and it's a cracking wee loch for that if you're on your own - so much more controllable and far more stealthy than the boat. Essentially, you're your own gillie and can move at your own pace, even through the red weed in the centre, working the fly right up to the edge where the salmon often lie. One evening I had an osprey fly close by three times on the hunt, ignoring me completely. I've had similar with the tube before elsewhere, with skuas and divers inspecting this 'strange bird' on their water and flying a couple of feet over my head. I even had a black swan investigate me on Harray one year!
I lent my tube to several guests last year and they all loved it, too. Great for me as, once settled and safe, I could focus on the rod on the bank with half an eye on them in case they needed the net.
Very Interesting read Lewis,
More so you Float Tubing on Loch beg , I could fancy that as it be stealth fishing, Rather than rowing , This is the first I have read about Float Tubing for salmon ? If you hook into a salmon 10 Lbs or more say, do you stay put and play the fish out in the loch ? net it as it be difficult to release without a net, or flipper back to shore and land ? which would be awkward with the tube attached ?

6 of the beats I have yet to fish , as fishing the following years rotation in 2018 the river disappeared in the Drought , I did fish 2 of them beat 8 and 6 only for a couple of early hrs each ,waste of energy really,, then headed home , 2019 I fished cancellation 3 day let ,but same beats as first visit. I am hoping to fish the other 6 beats in the future , Beats 2,4,6,8,11 &13 ?
 

Lewis.Chessman

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Hi, Scierra, well, if I say I've been turned on the spot by the fight from a 1 lb brownie ..... a 6 lb+ salmon can tow you around a bit! :)
I keep a Shakey triangular folding net in the backrest compartment. I'll play the fish out in the loch until I think it's 'tamed', then kick to shore, stand, remove the net, release the tube and heft it onto dry land, open the net and finish the fight - flippers still on, of course!
It's not as tricky as it might sound once you've got the method in mind, just take it stage by stage, staying in touch with the fish as you go.

I heard that '18 was a devil of a year once the drought set in - unlucky for you. I think each beat has its merit and can come into its own given the right time of the season or the right conditions. Several of the old hands would rather fish 5, 6 or 7 in a decent height and a hoolie than 9. 4, 3 or 2. (see reelit 1's post above for what can happen on these rather maligned beats!).
Essentially, they are 'larder pools', holding many resident fish throughout the season. One might consider them little, narrow lochs in their own right and attack them accordingly. I've yet to put the tube on the canal water but will if I can, and fish them 'Heb-style' with a wake fly, wee tail fly and a #6/7 single hander. I'm hoping that delicate presentation in areas and directions they've not seen before might help my cause somewhat.

I know I've mentioned stealth several times already but with good reason. The number of times I've seen fish v-ing away at the resonance of just approaching footfall has emphasised the importance of a quiet approach, especially on the peaty areas which I think conduct sound far to well for our good. This happens a lot in low water and gentle winds. If it happens to you, choose a spot and wait patiently for 10 minutes or so before making your first cast. Just let things return to normal before you begin and keep the cast as subtle as you can. It's days like these that a #6 WF or a DT and long leader can help. I recommend taking up smoking. It passes the time rather nicely.
;)
Give me a shout if you're up next season and we'll say hello in person. I might even lend you my tube if you'll sign the disclaimer!
Cheers,
James Barlow.
 

Oscar

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Have you any pics of these last week of the season salmon oscar?

Maybe a couple - I’ll see what I can dig out - nothing huge, all between 7-12lb mainly. The most amazing was a fresh fish of around 2.5lb from B11. Geordie was amazed a fresh fish could get that far up in the very low water.

Oscar.
 

Scierra

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Hi, Scierra, well, if I say I've been turned on the spot by the fight from a 1 lb brownie ..... a 6 lb+ salmon can tow you around a bit! :)
I keep a Shakey triangular folding net in the backrest compartment. I'll play the fish out in the loch until I think it's 'tamed', then kick to shore, stand, remove the net, release the tube and heft it onto dry land, open the net and finish the fight - flippers still on, of course!
It's not as tricky as it might sound once you've got the method in mind, just take it stage by stage, staying in touch with the fish as you go.

I heard that '18 was a devil of a year once the drought set in - unlucky for you. I think each beat has its merit and can come into its own given the right time of the season or the right conditions. Several of the old hands would rather fish 5, 6 or 7 in a decent height and a hoolie than 9. 4, 3 or 2. (see reelit 1's post above for what can happen on these rather maligned beats!).
Essentially, they are 'larder pools', holding many resident fish throughout the season. One might consider them little, narrow lochs in their own right and attack them accordingly. I've yet to put the tube on the canal water but will if I can, and fish them 'Heb-style' with a wake fly, wee tail fly and a #6/7 single hander. I'm hoping that delicate presentation in areas and directions they've not seen before might help my cause somewhat.

I know I've mentioned stealth several times already but with good reason. The number of times I've seen fish v-ing away at the resonance of just approaching footfall has emphasised the importance of a quiet approach, especially on the peaty areas which I think conduct sound far to well for our good. This happens a lot in low water and gentle winds. If it happens to you, choose a spot and wait patiently for 10 minutes or so before making your first cast. Just let things return to normal before you begin and keep the cast as subtle as you can. It's days like these that a #6 WF or a DT and long leader can help. I recommend taking up smoking. It passes the time rather nicely.
;)
Give me a shout if you're up next season and we'll say hello in person. I might even lend you my tube if you'll sign the disclaimer!
Cheers,
James Barlow.

I'm not sure about tubing on the larder pools though ? surely they can be covered from the bank, I know fish are easily spooked in the shallower water even levels at around the10" level when I walked some of the beats I never fished.just checking them out
Now that'll be another first for me "Tubing on a small rIver" Even in the canal larder type pools ? one thing you won't be disturbing anyones fishing on the Thurso ,
Maybe in Large rivers where they could not be accessed being so wide or tree'd and canalled , Thing is though I am still learning a thing or 2 about fishing ,Tubing for salmon !
Just asking has anyone else tubed Loch Beg ? What about some real Tubing on Loch More 🤔
 

Lewis.Chessman

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@Scierra: As far as I know, I was the first to give it a go last season.
The great thing about tubing for salmon on a loch is that they lend to hold on the leeward shore, nose into the wind to get the oxygenated water from the waves hitting the rocks. They'll lie so close in that their backs are just covered.
That's great for the tuber as a) you generally want to fish with the wind at your back, b) you won't get blown out into the middle or worse, the far side of the loch and c) when you need a pee the wind helps you quickly kick to shore! :)
You can approach a likely shore keeping your chosen distance off the bank, then by kicking to hold station and angling the tube against the wind you'll get blown sideways. This allows you to track along the shore at your preferred distance, fishing the outer edge of the likely holding water.
Then, that drift done, you drop down half a casts-length and track back, covering the water closer to the shore, repeating until you've dropped the fly right onto the shallows.
If you get a take you can kick out into deeper water, leading the fish away from any others and avoiding spooking them. Also, often, it gets shallow enough for you to stop kicking and stand awhile on one spot, taking a wee rest while covering the water as thoroughly as you wish.

As for the canal stretches, it's not something I'd do just anywhere but there are some canal 'pools' which are pretty wide and most often fished from one bank only - e.g. from Morgan's to Olgrinmore on Beat 6. I think that the fish get well used to seeing the same flies fished at the same angle day after day and often with splashy #9/10 Spey lines. I'd like to try a lighter, more subtle approach with a s-hander and a #6/7 WF, working the flies parallel to the far bank rather than from it back to the right bank - when conditions suit (low wind/low water).
I may well be crazy but I think it worth the try. :)

Going back to Beg and the fish lying close in, nose to the wind .... Let's say that wind is hard onto The Mound: It's not always easy to put a line out into it from the bank. It's a cinch from the tube with the wind at your back. Similarly from the boat, but the boat is noisier and harder to control in a good wind. I maintain that the tube is safer, too. I've fished the tube in Lewis in a 30 mph breeze when I'd not risk a boat or be able to hold it for long, let alone control it and fish at the same time.
Also, a lot of anglers walk right up to the water's edge and start casting straight out into the loch. They may well be 'standing on the fish' and few cast along the shore before moving down, so they're in danger of spooking the fish or casting over their heads. As Sidney Spencer said, ''Always fish the skinny water first."
Finally, it's often said that a salmon will take a fly more readily if it's moving from shallow to deep - it gives them security and water in which to turn. The tube gives you that advantage over the bank.
 

Lewis.Chessman

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Never done float tubing though always fancied it, but for salmon, wow.
Alan, I bought my basic Ron Thompson float tube for about £100 in 2000. It has needed absolutely no maintenance in all that time until this year when I found the start of a tear on the nylon cover, now darned.
Basic tubes aren't much more expensive now. I've replaced the flippers once (£25) and bought two manual life jackets which I've also used when wading bigger, faster rivers. so I really think I've had my money's worth.
It's probably been the best fly fishing investment I've ever made.
 

lefthandup

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Alan, I bought my basic Ron Thompson float tube for about £100 in 2000. It has needed absolutely no maintenance in all that time until this year when I found the start of a tear on the nylon cover, now darned.
Basic tubes aren't much more expensive now. I've replaced the flippers once (£25) and bought two manual life jackets which I've also used when wading bigger, faster rivers. so I really think I've had my money's worth.
It's probably been the best fly fishing investment I've ever made.
Hahahaha , I'm sure float tubing is great but I now have this image on me roping my mate down one of the bigger pools on the small river we fish🤣.
 

Cookie-boy

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"I fished a July week at Tulchan for five years in the noughties and gillied there for four seasons, 2014 - 17. Never once did I see or hear of the worm or spinner being permitted. Strictly fly only and I would have reported anything other than fly to the factor."

I beg to differ. I have spent a June week up on Speyside for 35 years. The worming at Tulchan was during a drought in the mid 90's, can't remember which year but it was the talk of the town and spinning more so, in fact I had to kit out a fellow guest at the Delnashaugh Hotel with rod reel and flying bucktail when there was high water at Ballindalloch.
 

Nigel Passmore

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Float tubing for salmon 🤩👍
Never catch me doing that..........Sandwood loch Sutherland 1995

Floattube.jpg


We tried float tubing Loch Beg in September. We weren't successful but there didn't appear to be any head of fish in it at that time of year. However, anything was better than the terrible concrete, yes concrete, boat they had on it.

Regards

NHP
 

Lewis.Chessman

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I beg to differ. I have spent a June week up on Speyside for 35 years. The worming at Tulchan was during a drought in the mid 90's, can't remember which year but it was the talk of the town and spinning more so, in fact I had to kit out a fellow guest at the Delnashaugh Hotel with rod reel and flying bucktail when there was high water at Ballindalloch.
Ah! I understand now.
Cookie-boy wrote (post #44)
I remember a week not that long ago when Tulchan were worm fishing.
The mid-90s are a quarter of a century ago now. I guess our understanding of 'not that long ago' differs! :)
 

Lewis.Chessman

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@NHP - September '95, Nigel? Good man! A pioneer!! :)

The concrete boat is still at the loch by the hut, upturned, unused, unloved. Perhaps it should be set atop The Mound like a modern-day standing stone? A monument to the poor buggers who had to pull it!
I like to tell new guests that the upright slabs on the fish pass are the gravestones of gillies lost on the job. ;)
 

Nigel Passmore

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@NHP - September '95, Nigel? Good man! A pioneer!! :)

The concrete boat is still at the loch by the hut, upturned, unused, unloved. Perhaps it should be set atop The Mound like a modern-day standing stone? A monument to the poor buggers who had to pull it!
I like to tell new guests that the upright slabs on the fish pass are the gravestones of gillies lost on the job. ;)
Actually the pioneer was my friend John Wastle. He went first as it was his Float Tube. As far as I know he was the first person in the UK to fish for salmon and sea trout by float tube - and I stress as far as I know - if anyone beat him to it I'd be very interested to hear.

Regards

NHP
 

Scierra

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If float tubing catches on on Loch Beg , those fit enough to ? maybe the ghillies that boat/row their rods will be redundant , :LOL:
When I fished Loch Beg I waded the flow into the loch and then all along the mound bank wading out to the edge of the weed , I was casting 25 + ? yards and had a couple of nips/offers right over first time through , nothing the second time through ,maybe I should of fished a short line first ? but I hand lined each cast to a rod length ,
I fished 1pm onwards as the other rod was ghillied in the boat , prob wouldn't help my fishing ?
 

Lewis.Chessman

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That's a fair point, Scierra. Tubing was much easier on my legs twenty years ago!
There'll always be those who, for whatever reason, prefer the boat. Personally, having gillied/fished Heb-style loch drifting for many years in Lewis I rather enjoy a spell at the oars - if the wind is 20 mph or less! ;)
But, if I'm with my man on the bank and I see the 2nd rod hook up in the tube I'll be off to him with the net as fast as I can, rest assured. So I hope I don't make myself redundant!

I think I ought to add that we gillies don't often get the opportunity for a cast ourselves unless invited by our guests or if there's a spare beat available and our other work is done - and even then the best free water will be offered to a paying rod first. Quite right too.
However, with Loch More being available but little fished these days that option is always open if a) I'm not too whacked and b) there's a favourable wind. It's another part of the system which I'd love to know better. Maybe this season? :)
 

Roag Fisher

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Quite a few people use float tubes for grilse/salmon on Lewis and Harris. Or did. I would imagine that people have been tubing for grilse since the first tubes came on the market in the UK.
Some people do not like float tubes, so I would not be telling anyone if you do go afloat in the Thurso River with one.
 

Lewis.Chessman

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There's a boat available on the principal pool I'm considering, Gordon, and I think a tube would create less disturbance to the water.
Plus, I wouldn't do it without a nod from the Senior Gillie.
 

tenet

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Always wonder why Loch More isn't fished for salmon in the fashion of the Irish Loughs viz short lining from a drifting boat that is held on the oars. Given the number of fish in the system you would have thought this would be a very successful method. Very exciting form of fishing especially when a fresh salmon engulfs your fly a couple of rod lengths in front of the boat.
 

Lewis.Chessman

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I've asked that myself, Doug. Before the dam was built it was the main focal point for Thurso fishing after all.
I'm told that raising the loch level ruined it as a fishery but ..... but ..... Well, I'm game to give it a go! ;)
 

Nigel Passmore

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Quite a few people use float tubes for grilse/salmon on Lewis and Harris. Or did. I would imagine that people have been tubing for grilse since the first tubes came on the market in the UK.
Some people do not like float tubes, so I would not be telling anyone if you do go afloat in the Thurso River with one.
Easy tiger:

1. In September 1995 we asked permission to fish Sandwood from a float tube. It was granted. We fished the OH regularly in the late 80s and early 90s and never heard of anyone fishing for S or ST from an FT

2. We didn’t fish the Thurso River from a float tube we fished, with permission, Loch Beg from a float tube. This is what LC said he did. I can’t think why anyone would try to fish the main river from an FT.

Regards

NHP
 
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