Salmon fishing Pitlochry Dam
Salmon fishing River Tummel, Pitlochry Dam - Portnacraig and Pitlochry Beats

Pitlochry Dam Salmon Fishing

Day permits are available for visitors to fish for salmon on Portnacraig and Pitlochry beats of the River Tummel. The season runs from January 15 to October 15 and the double bank fishing on Portnacraig Pitlochry offers some of the most productive spring salmon fishing available on the River Tay system. Fresh fish arrive from January onwards and good sport can be expected from March to mid-June with spring runs best during April and May. The River Tummel is noted for its large multi-sea-winter salmon and  Atlantic Salmon in excess of 20 lbs are not uncommon. Demand to fish for salmon at Pitlochry Dam is high during April and May.  Portnacraig bank (right bank looking downstream) tends to fish best in higher flows and the Pitlochry bank (left bank) tends to suit lower water. Permit holders can commence fishing at dawn but must not fish after 17:00pm. The banks are swapped each day at 12:00 noon so everyone gets the opportunity to fish from each side of the river.

There are also good runs of summer salmon and grilse, and in some years, given favourable conditions, good catches can be made in July and August. Fishing tactics vary with the season and water level. For fly fishing, a fifteen foot rod will adequately cover most situations and line choice will vary depending on conditions, with medium sinking through to full floating lines popular. Choice of fly is a personal matter, but most of the popular patterns work in a range of sizes. Generally, larger flies (4s and 6s) and tube flies are popular early in the season, or when the water is high and smaller flies (8s and 10s) when the water is warmer and lower. For spinning which is allowed all season, a rod of nine to ten feet with fixed spool reel or multiplier containing at least 100 metres of 15 - 20 lb breaking strain line should suffice. Popular spinning baits include Devon minnows, Toby spoons and Flying Cs. Fishing with natural baits of any kind is prohibited.

In recent years fly has accounted for over 80% of the fish taken. Due to the nature of the beat anglers should be respectful of others on the opposite bank and allow a reasonable distance before commencing fishing. Anglers should also move down the runs at a reasonable pace to give everyone a fair chance of covering the water. Wading on the beat is difficult, and extreme care is required. Water levels can be  subject to rapid fluctuation and a wading stick and life jacket are strongly recommended.

Fishing off the Portnacraig bank one would hope for medium to highish water which encourages fish to hold to the Portnacraig side of the river. Starting at the top of the beat is a fast run of “riffly” water where fish lie waiting to ascend the fish ladder, which they do in increasing numbers once the water temperature has risen to around 10 deg. C. This section can be especially good for grilse in July and August. Next down is a much deeper pool which is more suited to spinning, perhaps, but the tail of this pool is a great cast for the fly. Salmon lie well back on the lip of the pool and takes can be very aggressive as the fly will be coming round at speed. When salmon are running through, they often do so very close in to this side, so there is no need to try and cast to the opposite bank. Below the Summer Stones (which are only visible in low water but are slightly upstream of the parking bay) is a long run of good holding water known as the Green Bank. Below the surface are many ledges and slabs and fish can be expected to take all the way down the run, often quite close in to the bank. There is no need to wade deeply here as all the water can be comfortably covered from close to, or on, the bank. The tail of this pool is marked by the Suspension Bridge and this is, arguably, the best taking spot on the beat. Salmon also lie in the steady water just below the Suspension Bridge, which is not deep. Casting across and allowing the fly/lure to drift round on the current is all that is required and provides many salmon off the beat. In low to medium water you can work right down under the bridge, continuing downstream about 50m until the depth and flow make it necessary to back out onto the bank. In low water conditions anglers can push much further down the bank, wading out just a couple of metres from the bank and many fish are taken very close in. 

Fishing off the Pitlochry bank one looks for lowish water which encourages the fish to run up the narrow channels on this side. Fish can be taken very close to the bank so there is no need to try to cast to the other side, fishing short will cause less disturbance and offer every chance of a running fish. Starting at the top of the beat and working down you will cover all the likely runs. As you make your way downstream to the Suspension Bridge there is a large rock beside which is some deeper water. Fish lie all through this section. Anglers would be best advised to come out at this stage and re-enter the water just under the bridge. A small burn enters the river at this point and just below this area is a favourite lie for running fish. Again, fish can hold very close in, so stealth rather than mighty casting is required. Some bank clearance has taken place below this point and it is well worth pushing 100m or so down the bank, where fish lie in the steady water.

Download/print rules for salmon fishing starting at Pitlochry Beat

Download/print rules for salmon fishing starting at Portnacraig Beat

Download/print directions for salmon fishing River Tummel at Pitlochry and Portnacraig

Google map showing River Tummel at Pitlochry and Portnacraig

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