Fishing in River Thurso

NorthLink Ferries enjoyed a conversation with John Drummond, who controls the operating and financial aspects of Thurso River Ltd. With a genuine passion for the outdoors, he combines his role on the riverbank with looking after operations at the nearby hotel. Here, he delves deeper into his background and gives some tips on finding the perfect catch.

Caithness is a great place to go salmon fishing due to its remoteness. As a consequence of little human intervention, little or no agricultural cultivation, and no industrial pollution, wild fish stocks and other wildlife thrive and numbers are at relatively high levels.

Fishing in Thurso River in Caithness

Q Why is Caithness a great place to go fishing?
A.
Caithness is a great place to go salmon fishing due to its sense of remoteness and isolation but yet easily accessible. Much of Caithness and The Flow Country is covered in ancient blanket peat land and is recognised as the largest such area in the world, which supports many rare birds and wildlife.  Much of the county is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Areas of Conservations (SAC) and has UNESCO world heritage status. As a consequence of little human intervention, little or no agricultural cultivation, no industrial pollution, etc, wild fish stocks and other wildlife thrive and numbers are at relatively high levels.

The salmon fishing season runs from January 11th – October 5th and generally we are fully booked throughout the entire season. Salmon fishing, like many other Scottish sports, is generational so we see families returning year after year with more members added. It’s great to see so many returning guests and seeing their families grow too, some of which have been coming for 50 years!

Beat 13 Bridge on River Thurso

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Thurso River
A.
I have a love for all things outdoor, I’ve been fishing for many decades now and began when I was just 13 years old, I enjoy many Scottish country sports but salmon fishing sits firmly at the top. I control the financial and operating aspects of Thurso River Ltd, as well as Ulbster Arms Ltd, leading the management teams in delivering great customer service both on the riverbank and in the hotel. It’s great to be able to mix my love of fishing with my day job!

River Thurso fishing

Q. Can you tell us about the places to fish in Caithness?
A.
There are numerous wild brown trout lochs dotted around Caithness and most are very accessible to visitors. River Thurso is the largest in the area with 26 miles of double bank prime wild Scottish salmon fly fishing. We have 12 beats, each fished by 2 rods, giving us up to 24 fishermen each day.

Salmon fishing takes place from a Monday morning through to Saturday evening and many visitors spend a week on the River Thurso arriving on the Sunday and staying until the following Sunday. We get visitors from across the globe coming to Thurso to make use of the fantastic river as well plenty of local people too. The local people tend to be the ones who brave the colder months.

River Thurso fly

Q. Are there any rules to adhere to?
A.
Each river has the opportunity to create its own rules, River Thurso doesn’t have too many to follow except: you can only fish during the dedicated season (and no fishing is to take place on a Sunday). Fly only and a maximum of 2 rods per beat. Government restrictions on catch and release till 1st April, then all fish above 8lb to be returned throughout the season which is a River Thurso specific rule, we believe this helps with conservation. Wild fish are a very previous resource and these days no one has any intention of keeping or eating what they catch. The satisfaction of catching it then recording it and watching the fish going back and swimming strongly through the river is what makes fishing so special.

River Thurso and Beat 10 Gorge

Q. Can you offer any tips for fishing in Caithness?
A.
My top tip would be to invest in hiring a ghillie, as their local knowledge will ensure anglers make the best of their time, taking them to the hot-spots, depending upon weather, water height, time of year, etc. My other tip would be to be prepared for the weather! Caithness is one of the driest places in the UK, but also one of the windiest.  When it does rain, it’s often horizontal and quite heavy!

Shona LawranceBy Shona Lawrance
A young quine with an energetic sense of adventure but dire sense of direction! Born and bred in the North East of Scotland with a long loving appreciation of the Scottish islands.

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