What is it about Spring Salmon fishing in Scotland that is so appealing? In the early spring months of January and February it is essentially winter-time and we have a cheek to call it Spring! At this time of year the Atlantic Salmon are pretty thin on the ground and one requires hard work, dedication and a dash of luck to connect with that prized bar of silver!
Catching the elusive “Scottish Springer” is no easy feat. However if you are fortunate to get your fly or lure in front of a springer, it could be the catch of your season. It is this level of anticipation that captures the spirit of the die-hard Salmon angler. A Spring Atlantic Salmon in Scotland is the ultimate, the “pièce de résistance” if you like. If you were to ask any die-hard Salmon fishermen what’s their favourite time of year to catch a Salmon, I reckon 95% would tell you it’s the Spring. You can even include ourselves in this statistic.
A stunning example of a spring Salmon from the River Tay for Australian Guest Mark!
When fishing for Spring Salmon you have to get into the correct mindset. Personally, I try not to think and over analyse my fishing too much or listen to theories. I’ll fish methodically, covering as much water as I physically can. The more water you cover the better chance of getting your fly or lure in front of a Salmon – that’s how I always approach my Salmon fishing.
The good thing for us anglers is Spring Salmon are generally more aggressive, therefore, better takers. Although numbers aren’t as prolific as they are during the back end, if you can cover them, you stand a very good chance of inducing a take.
Fly fishing for Spring Salmon in April
What makes Spring Salmon or “Springers” as they are more affectionately known such a sought after quarry?
- Fishing is more accessible & affordable to anglers
- There is more satisfaction at catching a spring Salmon
- Greater admiration among your angling peers
- They take and fight with unrivalled power and aggression
- The fish are in peak condition, beautifully proportioned, bright silver and often sea-liced
The Spring Salmon Fishing Season in Scotland
Spring Salmon fishing in Scotland effectively starts in January with the Helmsdale starting proceeding’s and then the Ness and Tay following on. The Tweed then follows, opening in February.
The spring Salmon season ends in June.
I must admit, it feels nothing like spring when fishing in those early months of this “Spring” period, in particular January and February, then through to the beginning of March. One must invest in good thermals!
Despite the cold, this time of year offers a great chance to connect with a spring run Atlantic Salmon!
A beautiful spring salmon from the River Tay system – our favourite river system!
Our Best Spring Salmon Fishing Rivers in Scotland
The River Tay
The Tay offers the best value spring Salmon fishing in Scotland. Scotland’s largest river can boast one of the highest numbers of rod caught Salmon in Scotland. During the early months of the year the traditional Tay method of Harling (Boat trolling) is without doubt the favoured method. From opening day the lower beats of the Tay around Stanley fish best, particularly when cold as fish back up below the first real temperature barriers in the river.
These early runners tend to be headed for the upper reaches of the system, Tummel, Isla, Ericht, Loch Tay and Dochart and some can be well in excess of 20lbs!
As March begins and the water temperatures rise the Salmon runs increase with the arrival of the spring tides. as the early spring Salmon run to the furthest parts of the system and the Loch itself can produce a number of big fish in the coming weeks.
April & May sees the peak of the Spring Salmon run and during this period they can be caught throughout the system with the Middle Tay beats often the most productive. This is one of our favourite times to be on the River Tay.
The Lower River Tummel
The River Tummel is part of the excellent Tay system. This short river has a hydro electric dam at Pitlochry which acts as a temperature barrier for migrating Salmon. Salmon will congregate in their hundreds and thousands below the dam until the temperature reaches 12 degrees. Like flicking a switch, the fish counter on the dam will start rising rapidly as Salmon run the fish ladder in their hundreds daily. As the Salmon run the fishing in the lower river Tummel becomes tougher.
The River Teith in Spring, a beautiful river with great potential…
The River Isla & Ericht
One of the most prolific spring salmon systems in Scotland. These small tributaries of the Tay offer outstanding value for money Salmon fishing and can be fished with a single handed fly rod. What the Lower Isla lacks in beauty it more than makes up for in the numbers of fish it produces.
The Ericht is a river for the more adventurous angler, access can be a challenge but for those prepared for a scramble it offers an excellent chance of a spring salmon in Scotland, particularly in April & May.
North & South Esk
The North & South Esk have to be the two most under-rated Salmon rivers in Scotland. The Esk’s are spate rivers, fishing better after a rise in water levels. If you can time the conditions right they can offer an outstanding chance of landing a Scottish springer! The beauty of these little rivers is they can easily be fished with a single handed fly rod.
The River Tweed
One of the big four Scottish rivers more noted for its Autumn Salmon fishing. In recent seasons the Tweed has seen an increase in its spring Salmon run. The Tweed is a fly fishers dream and boasts more fly caught Salmon than any other river in the central and borders region of Scotland. It is an utterly stunning lowland river and an absolute must for the avid Salmon angler!
The River Teith
The Teith is one of Scotland’s most beautiful rivers, given the right conditions it can compete with the best rivers in Scotland. The Teith is a big fish river and many twenty pound plus Spring Salmon have been landed from this system in recent years. It is where I caught my first ever Salmon, and holds a special place in my heart. Another must in our eyes!
Head Guide Callum Conner admires a true Scottish Spring Salmon
A true “springer” will be bright silver with glints of purple down the flanks and dark grey or blue backs. (As above)
As well as fresh run spring Salmon you may also encounter a few other classes of Salmon.
Kelts are what we call spawned out Salmon. These Salmon returned to the river the previous season and have spawned during winter. The Kelts are now in a recovery stage before beginning their journey back to sea again.
A not so well mended Salmon kelt caught in spring. Note the thin appearance and fungus on tail, this is not prevalent in well-mended kelts.
Although silver, Kelts are much thinner in appearance having used up all their body fat. They are often carrying gill maggots (see above) and are known to attack anything that comes in their general direction! Many inexperienced anglers can mistake Kelts for Spring Salmon.
Gill maggots, a clear give away it is not a fresh Salmon and indeed a kelt.
There is also the opportunity of Rawners or Baggots, which are male and female Salmon (respectively) that have entered the river and haven’t managed to spawn.
Salmon Baggot caught in April
Baggots and Rawners carry more colour, faded grey, purple & brown shades along body, with brown colouration on their heads. Many will have gill maggots and ragged fins (as above). They may not be a spring salmon but they do still put a welcome bend in the rod!
Good sport can be had in the beginning months with these fish.
During the early months of spring it is vitally important you wear appropriate clothing to endure the elements and increase your chances of success.
Spring Salmon Fishing Clothing
- Thick Merino Wool Socks
- Merino wool or synthetic base layer top and pant
- Fleece layer top & pant or Primaloft top & pant
- Waterproof outer layer jacket
- Breathable or Neoprene waders
- Wool hat
- Wool or windproof gloves
Click the following link to read our informative article about layering your clothing.
Never under estimate the importance of tackle choice…
After a few months of lying redundant it is important to double check all your fishing tackle and make sure it’s in fine order, replacing any old and damages lines and leaders for the new season ahead.
Spring Salmon Fishing Fly Fishing Tackle
12-15ft fly rods to suit the river size and med-fast actioned to aid sunk lines and skagit casting.
A smooth reliable drag is important and must match the size of fly rod and store approx 150 yards of backing.
Skagit iFlight, Hover sink1 shooting head, Intermediate head sink 2/3 shooting head & Full floating shooting heads.
10ft Poly/Versi leaders in various sink rates.
25lb Fluorocarbon for heavy tubes and 19lb for flies. And the old faithful 18lb or 20lb maxima chameleon
Monkeys, Black & Yellow, Willie Gunn & Ice Maiden in copper, tungsten and brass tubes during the colder months when it is imperative to get down to the fish.
As the water warms the usual dressed flies including Ally’s Cascades, Yellow Ally’s, Gledswood shrimp’s, Willie Gunn’s or Flamethrowers among many others work.
I am still great believer fly choice is more down to confidence and size/depth holds greater importance. Follow the rule, big water, big fly and vice versa
Australian lady Liz spin fishing for Salmon on the mighty River Tay in May
Spring Salmon Lure Fishing Tackle
Megabass Vision Oneten’s, Devon Minnows, Toby Salmo’s, Rapala Max Raps & Kynoch Killers are the mainstays.
9-11ft rods are the norm. I prefer a shorter 9ft rod for spinning but 10ft is considered standard. An 11ft rod is better suited to fishing Devon Minnows.
I prefer a 4000 or 5000 series front drag reels with 40lb braid for Salmon spin fishing. Traditionally many use Shimano bait runners in the 6000, 8000 & even 10000. Although fine, they are are not actually designed for spinning and can be quite cumbersome reels to fish with all day, although ok for harling.
Other Handy Items For Spring Salmon Fishing
Landing Net / Gye Net
Rubber Meshed McCleans Salmon Nets take some beating. One with a gye strap when fishing alone for transportation. You don’t want to lose that elusive springer when trying to beach on your own!
Can aid line choice and give yo an idea of how the fish will behave. You can then alter your tactics to suit.
Towel & Spare Clothing
In the lucky event you take a tumble you don’t want to end your day early. It still amazes me how many anglers don’t do this!
Auto Inflate Life Jacket
We really shouldn’t fish without them.
Acts a stabiliser and third leg when negotiating the riverbed.
An angler awaits in anticipation as his fly swings round…
Fishing Tips For Spring Salmon Fishing in Scotland
- Get some casting lessons from a qualified instructor during the closed season on techniques for sunk line and skagit lines
- Layer your clothing correctly. Base layer, mid insulating layer & waterproof layer
- Listen to local & ghillies advice – they know the river better than anyone
- Thorough check your gear for wear prior to your trip
- Fish deeper and slower to suit the colder conditions
- Fish higher and faster in warmer conditions – Don’t be afraid to work the fly faster
- Cover the river methodically, visualising your fly or lure fishing through the pool
- Monitor any catch trends in specific areas, especially in the early stages of the season
- Hire a guide if unfamiliar with the local fishing
If this wets your appetite for a Spring Salmon fishing in Scotland package please get in touch with us to discuss further.
Head Guide & Owner Scotia Fishing
Loop Tackle Design Ambassador
SGAIC Single & Double Hand Instructor