There are two famous salmon rivers located in Angus. These, of course, are the North and South Esk. Traditionally the South Esk has been better known for its runs of Sea trout with the North Esk being mainly a salmon river.
The North Esk is a delightful river which starts its journey to the sea in the Grampian Mountains. It has a number of tributaries including the West Water, Luther and Cruick and is fed by Loch Lee. The river winds, its way through the stunning Strathmore Valley and flows through farmland before it finally enters the sea at St. Cyrus.
The upper reaches of the river has very similar characteristics to that of a Highland stream with fast-flowing runs and glassy glides. The river also flows through a spectacular gorge which can provide a stunning backdrop whilst playing a salmon. Further downstream the river opens up and becomes wider. However, it is still very coverable when fly fishing and much smaller to some of its more illustrious neighbours like the Dee and Tay. This is what makes the North Esk so appealing to anglers. Some of the fly water on the river is second to none and the pools vary greatly adding to the charm of the experience.
The North Esk opens in February and the season runs through until the end of October. The river usually enjoys a good spring run with fish regularly being caught on opening day. In the past, there was a temperature barrier at Morphie with the dyke and this made Morphie Dyke one of the most prolific spring beats in Scotland. However, a few years ago the dyke got damaged and now the fish can run almost freely upstream.
As well as a good spring run there are also good numbers of summer salmon and grilse caught. The summer fish usually start to enter the river in June with numbers peaking in July and August. From September the autumn run starts to gather momentum and fresh fish are regularly caught from the river until the end of October.
In terms of tackle when fishing on the North Esk, in higher water a fourteen or fifteen-foot rod can be required especially in the early spring. Once the water drops away a switch rod or even a trout rod can be just ticket especially during the summer months when stealth tactics are often the name of the game.
It has been a good season on the North Esk this year and with commercial netting no longer taking place in the estuary. Catches seem to have significantly improved especially during the summer months. This can only bode well for the future and hopefully catches on the North Esk will go from strength to strength in years to come.
So, if you are planning a salmon fishing holiday in Scotland and want to try a different river away from the “big four” the North Esk is well worth considering. There are some fantastic beats on the river with excellent facilities for anglers. The North Esk truly is one of Scotland’s hidden gems!