Fishing .



Fishing on Ulbster Estates (Sporting) Ltd water has a number of rules, restrictions and responsibilities for the benefit of us all.


In the interests of ensuring the sustainability of our river it is essential that each of these rules, restrictions and responsibilities are recognised, understood and adhered to by all.


Background Information


The fishing season extends from 11th January to 5th October, and fish can be caught during every month. Currently the best fishing is from March to October with the larger catches occurring from July until the end of the season.


Fishing is by fly only.


Only Single Handed/Grilse Rods fitted with full floating lines are to be used on the Tidal Section of Beat 1. No other rods are to be used!


In recent years the catch has been rising and the numbers of early running fish are increasing. Historically, the Thurso has offered some of the earliest and best spring fishing in Scotland.


Grilse can provide tremendous sport from July onwards and sea liced summer salmon enter the river, given the right water conditions, right through to the end of the season.


The slow moving, canal type waters on the River are invaluable for the conservation of fish stocks in hot, dry weather conditions and with a good wind to ruffle the water, they can be very productive.


Other Conditions


Fishing is by fair fly only and fishing with bait, prawn, worm, spinner, spoon or any other lure is expressly forbidden. Fishing is from both banks and breast waders are not necessary.


It is a prerequisite of fishing on the River Thurso that anglers sign and deliver the GYRODACTYLUS SALARIS DECLARATION FORMS (supplied via post) to the River Superintendent upon arrival of their first day at the river and before they commence fishing. Anglers who have not signed and delivered the declaration, will not be permitted to fish.


Salmon Conservation

  • From 11th January until 31st March, all salmon and sea trout should be returned safely to the River. This is now a legal requirement following intervention from the Scottish Government. After this date, although we do not have any Catch & Release Policy, we encourage anglers to return the majority of fish caught and this has been found to work very well.

  • From 1st May until 5th October, on Beat 1, anglers fishing for a week may retain up to three fish, but must not retain more than two fish any one day.



If you gain no more advice from this entire web site than you do from this page, you will do well. Bring warm clothes and plenty of them!


Caithness is renowned to deliver 4 seasons in one day - literally at any time of year. The wind howls over the Flow Country, and particularly when coming from the North or East can be bitterly cold.


There are few places on the river that require, aye that benefit, from wading. However, you will find that waders do keep you very warm and dry so I would recommend them at most times of the year. If you decide not to bring waders, then ensure you bring warm, dry, comfortable footwear.


I'll repeat my earlier advice for emphasis - bring warm clothes, and plenty of them!!




Now, let me begin by being straight with you. I'm not going to tell you everything you need to know about what works, when, on the Thurso - otherwise where would the fun be! However, I will give you a lot of pointers in the right direction.


Between January and March you would be best to use between a 2" and 3" tubes with a barbless double. Much depends on river height, but generally fairly large tubes work well. If you like to fish a double at this time of year then a size 2 or 4 should suffice.


Once the season starts progressing you can decrease your fly size to around an 1"-1.5" tube and size 6 or 8 double. If the water height starts to drop away then very small doubles - 10's or 12's tend to work well, often forfeiting a tube for a small double or two.


Towards the end of the season you would do well to go back to slightly larger flies.


With regards to patterns, flies such as the Willie Gunn, Torrish, Green Highlander, Silver Wilkinson, Thunder & Lightning, Yellow & Orange, and Fast Eddie work well on tubes. Alley's Shrimps, Hairy Mairy, Stoats Tails, Thurso Dowg, Golden Demon, Munro Killer, Macartair, General Practitioner, Templedog, Kerrie's Killer, Red Demon, Copper King and Fast Eddie fish well as doubles.




Rod requirements can vary greatly on the Thurso depending on the time of year, height of water, type of line, and - of course - personal preference.


Generally, for Spring and Back-end fishing you would do well with a 14' or 15' rod when you will typically be using heavier flies, heavier lines and (all being well) fishing bigger water too. With this size of rod you will comfortably access every pool on the Thurso.


For mid-season it really is dependant on conditions - particular river height. Personally, if the river height is around 12" or less, then I like to use a large trout rod - perhaps 10'6 or 11'. With this you can access most pools with relative ease, you are using small flies and a floating line and it really does give you a great bit of sport - no matter how small or large the fish on the end!




With such a wide variety of line choice available these days, it's difficult to give advice on what to use as so much is down to personal preference. Here is some of my personnal recommendations.


Firstly - bring a floater, an intermediate and a sinker! As they say in the scouts - "be prepared" (dib, dib, dib!).


At the beginning of the season (up until around mid-April) you will have most success with a sinking line as the fish will typically be lying low due to the lower temperatures. Depending on the height of the water, you may find it easier with an intermediate. The same is true towards the end of the season, although I've also had success on a floater at this time as well!


During the middle of the season - when temperatures rise ro 50 deg F and above - unless we have particularly high water, then a floating line (or a sink tip) will suffice nicely, and in my opinion nothing can beat that bow wave coming straight for your fly and having to hold your nerve until you feel him turn and pull!


We do, however, recommend double taper lines if at all possible. These are very much recommended by the local ghillies and will make your casting and fishing experience so much more enjoyable!