- Lana Richardson
Fishing a river which you have never fished before is always exciting, especially when it's in spate.
The river Tilt in Perthshire flows down through glen Tilt until it reaches the river Garry. The Garry is a tributary of the Tummel, which itself is a major tributary of the Tay. Any salmon which reach the Tilt have certainly made a considerable journey upstream since their entry into the system at the mouth of the Tay, in the Firth of Tay estuary.
In mid August 2021 I was grateful to be able to fish the river Tilt for a day with friends, Millie and Jessie. It is a very scenic area so we enjoyed the views on the drive up the single track glen road. The river which is very gorgey winds it’s way down the glen surrounded by riparian woodland, which towers over and clings onto the shelves and boulders of granite which line the river.
There had been heavy rainfall the night before, after a period of dry weather this was much needed but I was hopeful that the river would have settled and cleared up a bit before we started fishing. Once we arrived at beat 2, the water was still coffee coloured but had at least started to drop. We stuck some bright flies on and hoped that a salmon would like the look of them! Even though the conditions weren’t ideal, we were so excited for the day.
Some salmon and grilse will undoubtably 'get the bit between their teeth' and head directly to the river Tilt immediately after they enter the Tay in the spring and summer, but as the Tilt is so far up the system I had my suspicions that the majority of fish might not arrive until later in the season, just in time to spawn. Saying that, I am a great believer that there will probably always be at least few fish around at any time, even if they aren't there in great numbers. It’s a case of being lucky enough to find them, persevering with your efforts and having the conditions on your side. Besides my thinking, the Tilt is known to hold some fish throughout the summer so I was hoping that at least one of us would come across one, especially after a spate which quite possibly would have encouraged a few more further up stream.
I was so happy to be fishing with the girls. Throughout my life I have mostly fished with men, which is always great fun but it helps that I definitely see myself as ‘one of the boys’. However, it is definitely nice to sometimes change my usual fishing dynamic and have a girls day on the river. I had never been out fishing with Jessie before which I was really looking forward to. I don’t have many female friends who are fishers so if I sense at all that a girl friend is keen to join me fishing, regardless if they can cast a line or not, then I try to make it happen! Jessie had also never caught a fish on the fly so I was really hoping that the Tilt would provide the goods for her.
When it was possible and practical to do so, we all stayed relatively close together so we could see and hear one another. Not just is this a fun and social way to fish, it is also useful incase one of us got hooked into a fish.
All of a sudden, Jessie let out a shriek and shouted something in a panicked and excited voice which sounded something along the lines of "FISSSSSHHHH!!". I looked upstream and made eye contact with Millie, we both immediately smiled and threw our rods onto the bank then ran quickly further upstream to Jessie's aid. (Someone hooking a fish is one of the few occasions anyone will witness me running..!).
When we reached her it looked like she had a reasonable sized fish on, for a moment I thought it might have been a grilse but once it came to the surface it showed itself as a chunky and strong brown trout of approx 1.5lbs. We helped Jessie land it, got a quick celebratory picture and then returned it back into its dark, deep swirly pot. Even though it wasn't a salmon, this was her first fish on the fly so it was very special, Millie and I were so delighted for her. To be able to share that experience with someone is fantastic. Especially as she did it all without any help.
After the joy of Jessie's fish, Millie and I of course wanted to follow in her success. We chose to stick to our slightly larger and brighter flies as the water was still quite coloured. We were relieved that the sun didn't stay too bright for long periods of time, big clouds kept moving through and fending it away. You will tell by our layers in the pictures that it also wasn't that warm, which for mid august was unusual. I suppose it is Scotland after all…
After a few more hours of fishing and seeing a couple of fish but unfortunately not hooking them, we stopped for a mid afternoon riverbank nap and some food. On days where I feel like the chances of catching a fish are less, I will allow myself some time to relax next to the river, you just cant beat it. Although, if the conditions are prime and the river is full of fish, you wont usually see me stopping for long, under any circumstances!
The Tilt is a very special spate river which definitely boasts beauty and character. I really look forward to fishing it again one day.
We booked this day's fishing through Atholl Estates, link below.