The 5th big Four
When someone mentions salmon fishing in Scotland, no doubt most people’s minds will instantly wander to one of the ‘big four’ salmon rivers on the east coast. This is because they are world renowned for their prolific salmon runs, not to mention in some cases their eye watering prices. There is however a 5th “big river” on the East coast (geographically that is anyway) which is always overlooked but has some cracking affordable fishing to offer and not just for salmon.
The 5th ‘big four’ is the Forth and its many tributaries which flow into its Estuary and Firth. The River Forth starts high up in the Trossachs on the west side of Ben Lomond (within the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national Park) where the Duchray water meanders its way down through the Queen Elizabeth Forest.
Rivers of the Forth
As the Forth makes its way down from Aberfoyle, it travels through the Carse of Stirling where it then approaches the town of Stirling continuing to twist and turn before it starts to widen out into the estuary and Firth. In total there are twelve notable tributaries (not including coastal burns) which enter the Forth at various stages before it formally meets the sea round about the Isle of May. These are the Biel, Tyne, Esk, Water of Leith, Almond, Avon, Carron, Teith, Allan Water, Devon, Black Devon and the Leven, all with many angling opportunities to be had. Many of the rivers have been modified over the years, especially through the industrial revolution and early 20th century when urbanisation has grown and many of the rivers were considered dead and void of life at some point in the past. This has thankfully changed and continues to change as legislation is enforced to make the water environment a healthier place. This has seen salmon runs return to rivers such as the Carron, Avon, Almond and Leven, rivers once devoid of or have very small populations, of salmon and other species.
Fishing in the Forth dates back to the first settlements dating back to 10,000 BC where middens have been found to contain fishing implements, bones and oysters. Fast forward a few thousand years and fishing still plays a large role in society with many engaging in the sport for recreation as well as remnants of commercial net fisheries. Although most of the rivers, estuary and firth have been previously impacted by industry and urbanisation, it is still possible to catch a salmon with numbers across the Forth varying from year to year. The 10-year average for the Forth is 1825 fish. One thing is for sure, there is always a number of large fish caught which range from 20 – 32lbs. Last year, the Forth District Salmon Fishery Board ran a competition for the heaviest fish caught & released in the Forth, won by Colin Wightman with a 32lbs fresh salmon at the Moray beat on the River Teith. In the Forth the salmon fishing season starts on the 1st February and closes on the 31st October. It is worth noting though that not all proprietors sell permits from the 1st as some opt to open the fishing on their rivers on the 15th march. Please always check with your permit provider on the rules of the fishery.
Join the club
There are many options to be in with a chance to catch a prime fresh run salmon or sea trout, One way is to join one of the many clubs who all offer affordable fishing in a number of rivers in the Forth. The Forth has 12 clubs, near enough one for each river in the Forth, and season permits can be purchased from £15 all the way up to £170. The Forth is also home to some of the oldest clubs in Scotland with the oldest being Doune Angling club, first set up in 1876 followed by East Lothian Angling Association dating back to 1899 with the Devon Angling Association 1905 then the Allan Water Improvement Association 1911 and then Slamannan Angling Improvement Association dating back to 1933. The other clubs such as Larbert & Stenhousemuir Angling Club, Linlithgow Angling Club, Avon Valley Angling Association, Cramond Angling Club, West Lothian Angling Association and the Mussellburgh District Angling Association all started around the 1970’s onwards and the Leven Angling Club is the newest forming in 2010.
All clubs are friendly and encourage new members. Some clubs provide events, meetings, tuition and guided days for anglers who take full advantage of some of the most affordable fishing in the UK.
The Majestic River Teith
The largest tributary of the Forth is the River Teith which offers some outstanding fishing opportunities in the Forth. Lined by ancient woodland and mountains towering high into the sky, the river Teith makes its way down the glens in the Trossachs towards Stirling. Lining its banks are many estates as well as public fishing from Blue Banks or Keir to Lanrick or Cambusmore, to Stirling Council and Drumardoch Estate there is always opportunities to catch a bar of silver on the Teith. Fishing opportunities range from season permits to syndicates or by the day.
Scenic beauty within a hour’s drive of Edinburgh or Glasgow
Even though, the Forth boasts some of the most affordable fishing in the UK, many of the rivers in the Forth have an outstanding scenic back drop. Whether it is fishing the babbling River Avon as it flows through Muiravonside Country Park or on the banks of the Forth with Stirling Castle as a backdrop, to the hills and glens of the Trossachs or the more gently undulating landscape of the Tyne; there is fishing for everyone’s tastes in the Forth. It would be insane to not buy a permit from one of the many providers to explore and find the hidden gems the Forth has to offer.
It’s not all about the salmon
The Big Four specialise in fishing almost exclusively for salmon which has a special iconic status in Scotland. However in the Forth, whilst its always possible to fish for salmon, there a great variety of species are available to the angler. Some smaller rivers have some of the best sea trout runs in the UK with many being fantastic brown trout & grayling fisheries.