To begin, the River Tay is not only the largest river in Scotland, but the most consistent performer throughout the fishing calendar. If you are looking to visit Scotland to target Tay salmon, this guide will help to prepare you for an enjoyable day on the river.
When is the best time to visit and fish the River Tay?
The River Tay calendar can be broken down as follows:
Salmon fishing on the River Tay in January – what to expect?
Firstly the salmon fishing season on the River Tay commences on 15th January. Of course, the River Tay does produce early season fish, but they are few and far between. Often a days sport can be bolstered by catching “Kelts” or salmon that have already spawned. These fish should be carefully returned with minimal handling, to allow them to return to the saltwater to repair.
Salmon Fishing on the River Tay in February – Springer hunting
As the water warms up, more salmon come into the system, but the salmon fishing is still slow. Typically, the lower beats of the Tay like Cargill, Islamouth and Stobhall do well at this time of year. Occasionally, salmon are caught in the middle beats around Dunkeld. Spin casting is an effective successful method in cold conditions, as is Harling from the boat. (Harling is a traditional Tay method of trolling 3 or 4 lures and or flies, simultaneously behind the boat and the boatman controls the speed of the lures with the engine and by using the river current)
Salmon fishing on the River Tay in March – arguably now the best time to land a spring fish?
March is one of my favourite months to fish for salmon. Increasingly salmon continue to enter the River Tay system continue to increase. Typically some very big spring fish get caught in late March.
Weather patterns are changing everywhere in the world, and Scotland is no exception. March is getting warmer, and fishing the Tay in March shouldn’t be overlooked.
River Tay salmon fishing in April
As temperatures continue to rise, Atlantic spring salmon continue to enter the river system. Naturally its hard to predict how good or bad a spring run will be. Typically, Atlantic Springers are magnificent, strong, silver fish. Catching one of these River Tay springers is surely the most sought after prize in worldwide angling.
River Tay salon fishing in May and June
May and June produce good weather conditions and good sport on the River Tay. Smaller salmon flies and surface patterns like Sun Ray Shadows are effective. The middle and upper River Tay produces fish as well as the big hitting beats like Almondmouth, Cargill, and Islamouth. Finally, Sea Trout enter the Tay river system too, and can provide brilliant sport. Sea trout fishing at night is the most effective tactic.
River Tay salmon fishing in July and August – here come the grilse
Firstly, mid-summer salmon fishing depends on weather conditions and river levels. The deeper River Tay beats will fish best in low water conditions. In post-spate conditions it’s worth targeting the upper river. The Grisle run is in full swing now and this brings large number of smaller fish in the 4-8lb weight range. (Identify Various stages of Salmon Lifecycle here)
River Tay salmon fishing in September and October
September and October are peak time on the River Tay. There are now huge numbers of salmon throughout the River Tay system. Sometimes, you can catch fresh salmon off the tide, whilst others salmon have been in the river for months waiting to spawn. The River Tay salmon season finishes on October 15th. Prices of permits, peak in October. This reflects, the large numbers of salmon in the River Tay system.
How does a day on the salmon river with a guide pan out?
To begin, your guide will meet you and steer you to the river and the fishing hut. Normally you aim to arrive by 08:45am and after tea or coffee, introduction to the resident beat ghillie. The Ghillie is essentially the caretaker of the beat and the expert on that stretch of water.
Ghillies work with guides to steer them to the likely spots and control the rotation system of rods on pools. Usually fishing starts at 09:00am and breaks for lunch at 13:00. The other anglers on the beat all congregate in the hut, a chance to share stories and meet like minded protagonists.
Lastly, the afternoon session starts at 14:00 to 17:00, when the beat closes for the day. Occasionally, with permission from the Ghillie, you can fish into the evening. This is useful in the summer months, when you aim to avoid bright conditions and the heat of the sun.
What tackle and clothing is provided for salmon fishing on the Tay?
Alba fishing will provide you with everything you need. We stock quality breathable waders and boots in all sizes. You supply us with your sizes and we bring the correct gear. In addition, spin casting and spey casting salmon rods are provided. Finally we use Sage, Orvis, Diawa, Scott Mackenzie and Vision fly rods. Also hand crafted flies provided for your fishing day are lovingly created here in Scotland, by our guides.
The River Tay is a big and potentially dangerous river. When wading in the Tay, safety procedures should be observed. Alba provides you with a new Crewsaver 165 Sports, compact, comfortable PFD, auto inflate life vest.
When fishing the Tay, what is the tipping etiquette in Scotland?
Tipping your guide is normal, greatly appreciated, but not mandatory. Tips generally are 10% of the trip value, but vary greatly. In addition, we factor in a tip for the river ghillie, this is equated at £20 per rod.
What do you need to do, before your salmon fishing day on the River Tay
Firstly you should check in with your Alba guide. It’s important to confirm pick up times and locations if applicable and also check river levels. Alba will send you an email a day or two before your trip. Once we have spoken to you, we will confirm your attendance, and arrival time with the river Ghillie.
Finally, please observe and remember to bring everything on your list. For example, sunglasses, warms layers, lunch and sun tan lotion. We will supply you with a “Fishing in Scotland” Baseball Cap.
Health and safety for guides and clients, when fishing the Tay
Naturally, if you feel unwell, have cold or flu symptoms, please do not turn up for your fishing day. This puts the guides and other future guests at risk. We will happily look to reschedule your trip or offer a partial refund less costs. Please see our terms and conditions here.