Opening day on the river Tay with Gleneagles

by | Feb 3, 2023 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

Driving down the A9 towards Gleneagles, with that beautiful winter morning sunlight beaming in. I thought about the irony of this day being dubbed ‘blue Monday’ when all I could feel was excitement for the start of another fishing season. As I made my way up the driveway, the hotel looked stunning set amongst the perfectly manicured garden and grounds, all covered in a layer of glinting frost. I was warmly welcomed by immaculately presented staff and branded Land Rover Defenders, fitted with rods and equipment, who were eagerly awaiting guests on the front steps.


Despite the blue skies and bright sunlight, the air was bitterly cold, so thermals were a non-negotiable requirement for the day! As guests arrived, the delightful chatter about the impending day could be heard. Once the ceremonious front-step photograph was captured, guests made themselves comfortable in the vehicles as we headed down to the river Tay in convoy.

A sport that has been around for centuries

The River Tay has welcomed anglers for salmon fishing for centuries but in the nineteenth century, it became an increasingly popular sport. Anglers from the south came north for long sporting holidays, often combining fishing with grouse shooting and stalking. By the end of the century, the letting value of angling had increased markedly and the more artisanal modes of fishing were outlawed and faded into history.


Angling is now practically the only way by which salmon are caught in the Tay district. The angling fishery developed quite a lot in the latter half of the twentieth century. Around the 1960s and 1970s, its popularity increased, and its value accordingly. In recent times, its popularity continues, and salmon angling is now a major contributor to the local economy.

Upon approaching the riverbank, guests were given a truly Scottish welcome, with the unmistakable sounds of bagpipes playing. Before we were ready for the river, the team kitted us out with Orvis tackle and waders and we had a quick freshly brewed coffee to help warm us up!


A moment of celebration

Finally, it was time and guests keenly gathered round, rods at the ready, and followed the bagpiper down alongside the river in a time-honored way. Robert White the Head Ghillie on the Benchil & Pitlochrie and Catholes & Luncarty beats blessed the river with a dram of Scottish whisky – then it was time to fish! We were split into two groups, with one of the groups heading off to try their luck on another beat.

This was only my third experience fishing for salmon, and still very much a novice but there was no need to worry as the ghillies were incredibly helpful and immediately put me at ease. They managed to offer the perfect balance between assisting with some useful tips, while also giving me space to put this into practice. Given the grandeur of the River Tay, it lends itself more to spinning fishing, allowing you to cast further into pools and channels where the fish may be gathering.


Despite no luck with catching, it didn’t dampen my overall experience of the day. For me, it’s about feeling the tranquillity of being by the river, socialising with like-minded guests and ghillies, and hearing and sharing stories is what salmon fishing is really all about and why people return to time and time again. Plus, it sure does beat any day in the office!

A team dedicated to providing world-class fishing experiences

Speaking to Nick Raby, who heads up the Country Pursuits department he mentioned how he wants guests “to experience the “real” Scotland and get off the beaten track” and how “Gleneagles has some of Scotland’s iconic country pursuits on offer to guests, and fully guided salmon-fishing expeditions are one of them.”

Gleneagles ghillies have a wealth of knowledge and experience, that they love to share with the guests. No more so than Head Ghillie Gerry, who has been a fishing guide for Gleneagles for over 8 years. He commented on how “Gleneagles offers fully guided fishing packages, which allow you to access to this wonderful experience, regardless of your level of skill.” Visitors can expect to “learn the art of Spey casting with a double-handed salmon fly rod, how to tie a salmon fly and hook a salmon on the fly, and how to read the water.”


By this time in the day, it was 2.30 pm and lunch was beckoning. As we returned to the fishing bothy, the stark contrast between the outside and the warmth of the roaring log burner, was a welcome sight by all the anglers. Amongst the beautiful Scottish throws, the table was laid attractively with a selection of the best Scottish produce from charcuterie, cheese, smoked salmon, and fresh bread rolls. Followed by a hearty venison stew, and delicate chocolate mousse, plus a choice of red or white wine.

My concluding thoughts

Each guest received an intricately detailed hip flask in the shape of a fishing reel, a lovely little memento to remember the day by. On the drive home, I thought about the memories made that I will never forget and how incredibly lucky I felt to be a small part of a tradition that has gone for centuries before me and will go on for years to come.


1 Comment

  1. Lovely article Chloe


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