The River Tay Salmon Fishing - Brief Overview

This is not a definitive guide to salmon fishing on the River Tay but just a brief overview of the catchment area and the course the River Tay takes from it's start at Loch Tay to the Tay Estuary south of Perth.


The River Tay is considered to be the best Atlantic salmon fishing river in the UK and still holds the record for the largest salmon caught on a rod and line at 64lbs. Unfortunately this was back in 1922 but the Tay has in recent seasons produced many fish over 40lbs. The River Tay is the longest river in Scotland stretching for 120 miles and has the largest volume of water of any river in the UK. There are a number of very large lochs contributing to the Tay system, many of which now have hydro electric dams. This has a big effect on the flow of the river in general and means that the River Tay is far less dependent on rainfall and still produces a sufficient flow to allow the salmon to run upriver even in periods of low rainfall. It also has the opposite effect in periods of heavy rain and helps and generally helps to lesson the effect of any large floods. The River Tay is probably the most consistent river in Scotland for maintaining good water levels. The salmon fishing season is from the 15th of January until the 15th of October.


Originating in western Scotland on the slopes of Ben Lui, the River Tay flows easterly across the Highlands, through Loch Dochhart, Loch Iubhair and Loch Tay, then continues east through Strathtay, in the centre of Scotland, then south-easterly through Perth, where it becomes tidal emptying in the Tay Estuary south of Dundee. The River Tay catchment area is approximately 2,000 square miles (5,200 km2) compared to the Tweed's which is 1,500 square miles (3,900 km2) and the Spey's which is 1,097 square miles (2,840 km2).


The River Tay catchment area



Salmon fishing on the Tay can be divided into 3 sections, the Upper Tay, the Middle Tay and the Lower Tay. The Upper Tay is from Loch Tay at Kenmore to where the River Tummel joins the Tay a few miles to the east and just south of Pitlochry. The Upper Tay beats are probably the least fished in recent years with most salmon beats with relatively small annual catch returns but they do provide some excellent fly waters and are very reasonably priced throughout the season. There are some beautiful stretches of river and in terms of size compare favourably to many other salmon fishing rivers in Scotland owing to the overall size of the River Tay compared to most salmon fishing rivers in Scotland. Below is a map of the Upper Tay from Loch Tay to the junction of the River Tummel just south of the Hydro Electric Dam and fish ladder at Pitlochry.


The River Tay - Upper Tay


The Middle Tay starts at the mouth of the River Tummel where it joins the River Tay. The Middle Tay beats are the backbone of salmon fishing on the River Tay with permit prices although much higher at the back end of the season are still affordable for the average angler. The land is more flat and open and the river here is made up of long pools and narrow runs which can all be easily covered with the fly under most water conditions. In high water most of the beats will offer a mix of fly, spin and boat fishing.


The River Tay - Middle Tay




The Lower Tay includes some of the best salmon fishing beats of the whole River Tay system and this is reflected in the permit prices particularly at the back end of the season when the main autumn runs of salmon take place. Starting from the mouth of the River Isla to just north of Perth where it becomes tidal, the Tay has now become a very large river and being considerably further away from the effects of the hydro electric dams on the upper tributaries and Loch Tay, the Lower Tay in high water can be unfishable with the fly and spinning or harling by boat may be your only options. In low or medium water conditions most of the Lower Tay can be covered comfortably with waders.


The River Tay - Upper Tay



Unless otherwise requested we generally fish on the Lower Tay, high end beats from January until late July when permit prices start to increase on a monthly or even weekly basis until the end of the season. From August we fish both the Lower Tay and Middle Tay beats to allow us to offer a wider range of salmon fishing trips to suit most budgets. The Middle Tay beats in the latter part of the season can provide some excellent salmon fishing at a much lower price than the high end, Lower Tay beats. At this time of the year we will give you a variety of options at different price levels and you can choose whichever option best suits your budget. For more details, availability and prices please email...