River Thurso

A Bit of History

All About the River

A bit of History...

The Thurso is one the best salmon rivers in Scotland and. It enjoys a long productive season, from 11th January to 5th October. Fish can be caught during every month, but the main spring run will start in March and continue through to early June. Given the right water the fishing in May and June can be very productive. Our Grilse run usually starts in mid-May and runs through to end of August, with a peak in the middle of July, In September we see a smaller run of larger summer Salmon enter the river. Out with drought years the river generally produces around 1700 salmon per year and fishing is by fly only. Since the cessation of the netting in 2005 the catch has been rising and in the last few years we seen record catches made. The Thurso like other rivers is fed from a loch, but unlike many of these rivers we can control the water flowing out of the loch and in this way we are able to maintain the level of the river at a good fishing height for about three weeks, once the loch is full. Since 2012 we have limited the number of spring rods fishing the river and up to the middle of June. From the middle of the June, 2 rods are allocated to each beat.


Typical day on the river

There are no start or finish times on the Thurso, this allows rods maximum flexibility each day. The way the river is fished varies slightly between Spring and Summer. During the spring we do not fish all rotating beats each day. By holding some back, we give anglers flexibility to ensure they maximise their chances of intercepting early running springers at the best "hotspots" throughout the length of the system.

From the middle of June two rods will be allocated to a single beat each day. Each day you will fish a different beat and you will drop down two beats each day (until you reach the bottom of the river!). Example if you fish beat 4 on Monday you would then fish beat 2 on Tuesday. After you have fished on our two lowest beats, 2 and 3 (we don't fish on beat 1), you then move to the top of the river. Beat 2 moves to beat 13 and beat 3 moves to beat 12. Single rods will usually be paired with another angler and your beat allocation will be confirmed with you when you make your booking. If you have booked a ghillie they will meet you at the ghillies room at the back of the Hotel at about 8:30am and there you will plan the day and get equipment ready etc. and then leave around 9.00am. Most beats have a hut where lunch can be taken. Ghillies finish at 5:00pm and normally require transport back to the hotel.

The Thurso runs for approximately 26 miles from Loch More, the river's source to the sea at Thurso east. This 26 miles is split into 13 beats, 12 of which are available to let. The other being held for local anglers and members of the Thurso Angling Assocation (Beat 1). A brief description of the remaining beats (2-13) are described below.

Length: 2.5 miles Named pools: 16 Distance from the hotel: 2.75 miles Access: A good track takes you down from the main road down to the river The track provides access to the top of the beat and to the Hut, which is located in the middle of the beat. From the hut to the bottom of the beat is about a mile and it is a relatively easy walk. Beat description: A beat of two halves, the top has some very slow water, but if there is a good breeze or the water is high, these top pools should not be ignored and many good catches come from these pools each year. The 12 named pools from the railway bridge down offers some lovely fly water with good flowing pools. The beat comes into its own in late spring till the end of the season, but if the water is low it is a good place to pick up an early springer.
Download Beat 2 Map

Beat: 3 Length: 1.75 miles Named pools: 14 Distance from hotel: 1.75 miles Access: A good track takes you from the main road down to the beat, in most conditions you can park at the hut, and with care access the lower part of the beat. If the conditions are wet, or muddy, you will need a 4x4 to access the lower part of the river. To walk from the hut to the top pools takes around 15 minutes. You can access the very top pools by parking at the Hoy Pumping station. Beat description: The top third of the beat has some lovely flowing pools. The middle third has a mixture of pools which fish better in higher or lower water. The bottom third of the beat is slower moving and is excellent in higher water. The beat fishes well all year.
Download Beat 3 Map

Beat: 4 Length: 1.75miles Named pools: 13 Distance from the hotel: 0 miles Access: There is good access to the beat. The hotel is situated a third of the way from the top of the beat and of the named pool 5 pools are a relatively short walk. Other pools are a little further, but can be easily accessed by car. There is no hut on beat 4, but anglers are welcome to use the rod room at lunch-time. Beat description: Although one of the Thurso's shorter beats, the pools it has are all worth a cast and offers some lovely fly water. The Hoy pool at the end of the beat is slower, in low water , but at all heights it is worth a cast. The beat fishes well all year and often takes very early fish, in one year the first 4 fish of the season where all taken from beat 4. The pools between the Comlifoot and Braal pool, all suffered from a large spate in 2006, but when there are grilse about they are still worth a cast.
Download Beat 4 Map

Beat: 5 Length: 1.75miles Named pools: 14 Distance from hotel: 2.5 miles Access: There is access to both the bottom and top of the beat. The top of the beat is accessed through Achadale farm (Please park in the parking place provided) and the bottom of the beat is accessed by a track that runs by the side of the railway line at the end of Halkirk Village. If you have two cars it can be a good idea to leave one car at one end of the beat and then start at the other. There is a bridge at the top of the beat, the bridge is the boundary between beats 5 and 6. Beat description: This beat excels in high water. The top and bottom has some lovey pools with a good flow and these will hold up the running fish. The middle of the beat is a slow part of the river and requires a different approach and 'backing-up' can increase your chances on the middle part of this beat.
Download Beat 5 Map

Beat: 9 Length: 3 miles Named pools: 14 Distance from hotel: 7.5 miles Access: There is good access to the majority of beat 9 and a 4x4 is not required, a track provides access to the majority of the lower beat and there is a good track to the hut, where the upper beat can be accessed. Beat 9 can be one of the best all-round beats on the river and will often produce some of the best catches of the year, particularly in high water. Beat description: One of the longest beats on the river and although the beat the gives you opportunities in all conditions, it is at best when the river is running high. There are some slower pools where backing up is best, but equally there are classic fly pools with a strong flow through.
Download Beat 9 Map

Beat: 6 Length: 2.5 miles Named pools: 18 Distance from the hotel : 4 miles Access: There is good access to beat 6, but as it is a long beat, there is a fair amount of walking required to cover all the pools. The bottom of the beat is accessed through Achadale farm. Please use the parking as indicated at the farm, a short walk takes you to the bridge at the bottom of the beat, which allows easy access to both banks. The top and centre of the beat is accessed via a track, from the road, which takes you to the hut. Here you will also find a boat that can be used to cross the river. Beat description: This part of the river has three distinct sections and you will need all the day to fish all of the beat. The top part has a mixture of flowing pools and some slower moving pools and is best fished with a reasonable amount of water in the river. The middle part of the beat, which starts at the hut, is a long slow moving canal like section, this section needs either high water to give the river a good flow, or a decent breeze to give a water a good ripple. This part of the beat will hold fish in the lowest of water. The last third of the beat gives more flowing water and a number of small runs, which will hold grilse.
Download Beat 6 Map

Beat: 7 Length: 1.25 mile Named pools: 11 Distance from hotel: 4.25 miles Access: There is good access to beat 7, a track takes you directly to the hut, there is also a bridge that allows you to fish both banks easily. Beat description: Most of Beat 7 is a very slow stretch of river, and as such does not appear to be a classic piece of fly fishing water. But, it does hold a lot of fish all year! 2016 saw the first fish of the year taken from this beat. The beat itself fishes very well in high water, if the water is lower a good breeze is need to produce a good ripple. The technique of 'backing-up' is well worth employing. There are three pools below the bridge that does offer the angler, some pools with a flow. And a single pool at the top of the beat with moving water.
Download Beat 7 Map

Beat: 8 Length: 1.25 mile Named pools: 13 Distance from hotel: 5.25 miles Access: There is good access to beat 8, a new track takes you with striking distance of the hut, if the field is dry you can then reach the hut without any problems. You can also park at Westerdale bridge and access the top of the beat. Beat description: This beat has a completely different character, when you compare the top and bottom parts. The top starts with the mill streams, which are three short fast flowing pools, it then moves to a longer straight stretch by the hut. After the mire pool, the river is narrow and twists and turns and fishes at the deep lairdie.
Download Beat 8 Map

Beat: 10 Length: 1.5 miles Named pools: 14 Distance from hotel: 7 miles Access: There is good access to beat 10. The cabin is situated in the middle of the beat and it is possible to drive to within striking of the top and the bottom of the. The Beat is signposted from the road up to Loch More Beat description: This beat has three very different characteristics; the upper part of the beat is one of the most attractive parts of the river, with a series of fast short pools favoured by grilse in the summer. The hut is located at the Cruives Eye pool, which is one of the most favoured pools on the river, and sees a good number of big fish taken from it each year. After that there is a slower stretch which fishes well in high water, and then at the end of the beat there are a number of smaller pools that have a good flow through them.
Download Beat 10 Map

Beat: 11 Length: 2 miles Named pools: 10 Distance from Hotel: 8.25 miles Access: There is good access to the top 4 pools on beat 11. The bottom of the beat and hut is a good walk, about 1.5mls from where you park the car. Distance from Hotel to parking at the top of the beat 20 mins by car. Beat description: The beat is characterised by very distinct pools with streamy water in-between and excels in high water. It is a beat that offers a lot of fishing between the pools, particularly in the summer where numbers of grilse will be found.
Download Beat 11 Map

Beat: 12 Length: Loch beg and 1mile of river Named pools: Loch Beg and 9 pools on the river section. Distance from Hotel: 9 miles Access: There is good access to Loch Beg and there is access near the bottom of the river part of the beat, the top of the river section is about a 1 mile walk. There is a good hut at Loch Beg. Beat description: This is one of the best spring beats on the river. The beat is divided in to two; firstly, Loch Beg, which is a very large pool and is fished both from the bank and a boat. The run into the top of the loch is a favourite place to pick up a springer. Secondly, the river beat which is a single stretch of slow water, with only one piece of faster water at the very top at Oaklands stream. 'Backing up' is the order of the day and a good breeze is required.
Download Beat 12 Map

Beat: 13 Length: Upper 13: 1/4 mile. Lower: 3/4 mile Named pools: The top of the beat has 4 named pools and the lower section has 6 Distance from Hotel:: 10.25 miles Access: There is good access to the top of 13, which is the top of the river, and there is a cottage there which serves as a large luncheon hut. The lower part of beat thirteen, starts downstream from Loch Beg (beat12) and is a good walk. Beat description: Although the top part of the beat is short it does account for a good number of fish, particularly in the spring. Fish will hold here, particularly when there is not enough water to allow salmon through the fish pass. The lower part of the beat resembles parts of beat 11. There are a number of manmade pools, that offer good moving water, which can be attractive for the grilse in the summer. It is also a beat where you can pick up running fish in the spring time.
Download Beat 13 Map

Trout Fishing

There are numerous opportunities for trout fishing in Caithness and we can provide information on the following lochs. Watten, St Johns, Heilen, Toffinghall, Calder, Syre and a number of local hill lochs. The bigger lochs are better fished from a boat and we can provide details of boat hire etc.

River Thurso

Meet The Team

Take a look below at our friendly team below who will be on hand to assist you during your fishing visit.


Geordie Doull

Senior Ghillie

Dougie Reid


Eddie Bremner


James Barlow


Mike MacDonald


Jim Cameron


John Wildgoose


Tim Hawes