The River Kirkaig and its sister river the Inver offer wild and unspoilt salmon and sea-trout fishing across a number of private double banked beats. Rentals can be for a single day or for longer periods of time and please get in contact with the office for bookings. 

The Kirkaig flows through magnificent country and fishers cast with backdrop of the mountains of Suilven Canisp and Ben More Assynt.  The river lies in a wonderfully unspoilt gorge with a series of rocky pools and runs.  The Falls of Kirkaig, two miles upstream from the mouth are an impressive barrier to the further upward migration of salmon and sea trout,  and the river below this is divided into three beats, each of two rods, which are fished on a daily rotation.  Each beat has a variety of excellent holding pools, some of which are rocky and only accessible to the most agile.  The Kirkaig is very much a spate river, and restricted to fly only with the season running from 11th February – 15th October, the main fishing months being July – October.  

 

These notes on the Kirkaig are primarily for the angler who does not know the Kirkaig river and would like to try his luck on this beautiful water. There are three wonderful 2 rod beats and these notes will give you a flavour of the river and its pools. 

 The first fish enter the river around March, and then only odd fish keep entering the river, when conditions are favourable, until June.  The main run of fish usually come into the river in July, but if there is a big flood in the latter half of June a run of fish will go up the river.  Fish keep entering in August and September, and it is quite common to catch fresh fish on the lower and middle beats in October.

Some very heavy fish occasionally enter the river, but due to the small size of the pools and the swiftness of the current it is difficult to hold them and they usually break the cast.  Fish in the teens of pounds are quite common, and over thirty pounds, by no means rare.  However the average weight is about 8 lbs.

In 2010, Dr John Anthony, a regular tenant and highly experienced salmon fisherman made contact with one of the Kirkaig’s Big Salmon & I include his account here

“ You probably have heard that I ended up with a 35lb salmon! On Monday 4th October I had 5 fish and lost a big one in the falls pool.  I had it on for approx 40 minutes and didn’t realise actually how large it was.  It broke me after a surging drive to the bottom of the pool and I lost my cascade fly with the fish.  On Tuesday afternoon (I had fished the Inver in the morning) I found my fish out of the water on the opposite bank of pool 12 (Arrow Pool) on the Kirkaig with a large dog otter feasting on the liver.  I managed to cross the river and retrieve the fish with my cascade fly in its scissors.  The otter had eaten about 5lb in weight but the fish was almost intact and silver.  Nicholas Gorton, at the Inver Lodge Hotel, made me put it into the fishing register but I put it under Mr Otter.  It weighed 35lb on the scale and measured 4ft 1” long.”

Tackle used must be strong, and a cast of never less than 12 lbs. breaking strain is recommended as fish very often rub the cast on rocks when hooked.  A good stout rod is needed, and in heavy water 13-14 foot in length is advised.

Size of flies used varies on conditions but in good heavy water 1/0-5/0 (1 ½ – 2 ½”).  In very heavy water up to 7/0 (3”).  In summer conditions small flies can be used.  A dropper can also be used and is quite effective provided the angler appreciates the hazards. 

I usually fish a 1/0 on the dropper and 3/0 on the tail.  Fly patterns depend on individual taste.  Silver Grey, Green Highlander, Black, Silver and Blue Doctor, Thunder and Lightning, are all favourites.   Waders are not essential on any beat and are never used on the top beat.  They can be of use on the middle and lower beats in certain conditions only.

Nets can be used to net a hooked fish in many pools, but in heavy water or fast current they are not of much use and you must try to handtail it.

The banks of the river in many places, particularly on the top beat, are very steep, and it is often impossible to take a fish any distance away from the waters edge, before removing the hook.  A handkerchief in ones hand to grip the root of the tail to hold the fish may help.

Midges can be extremely annoying all along the river, particularly on the top beat, so some form of repellent or protection is recommended, particularly in still, damp, weather.  Remember however that some midge repellents dissolve nylon and the merest touch of the cast with repellent coated fingers will be sufficient to cause disaster!

Fishing of the River Kirkaig is restricted to the right Bank throughout its length. 

UPPER BEAT

 

General

To the top of this beat, the Kirkaig Falls, is approximately two miles walk from where one leaves the car at Kirkaig Bridge.  The beat is very steep, and should not be attempted by anyone unsteady on their feet.  In heavy water it is impossible to follow down the side of the river in all places, and great care should be taken at all times.  It is not a place for young children.  The Big Falls pool should not be fished unless accompanied by another person, as it requires two people to land a fish.

As with other beats this beat is best fished from top to bottom, as by walking along the river bank upstream one disturbs the fish.

1.    Kirkaig Falls Pool

This pool holds the most fish as nothing can get any further upstream.  The pool fishes best in medium to high water as in low water most of the fish lie just below the falls on the left hand bank and cannot be covered.  Fish will take anywhere in the Pool.  The best taking places being near the big stone that sticks out of the water near the opposite bank, and thence down the far side of the pool right to where the water goes out into the Upper Smashie.  In heavy water fish also take under the nearside bank and in mid stream.  Fish once hooked must be held in this pool as it is quite impossible to follow a fish downstream.  To land a fish one slides down to the right hand side of the fishing stance, and onto a ledge.  There is a rope attached to the rock as a hand-hold.  When landed, the fish is handed up to the angler who must take care not to let the fish off the gaff and drop on the head of his ghillie!

2.    Upper Smashie

To reach this, one comes two thirds the way up from the Kirkaig Falls pool and then turns left and follows the steep path back down again!  It is advisable to find a way down to near the head of the pool.  If one follows the path it comes down at the tail, and walking up the pool one disturbs the main lie.

Fish will take in the fast water in the neck in thin water conditions but usually come in good conditions from half way down and in the tail.

Fish the fly into the slack water on the nearside as salmon very often follow the fly into the edge before taking.  The tail is the main lie, and fish will take on the very lip of the tail.

3.    Lower Smashie

Not as good as the Upper Smashie but well worth fishing.  Fish lie between the two streams, and in the tail of the stream running down the opposite bank.  Fish also lie under the rock face on the near bank in heavy water.

4.        Upper Nettle

Approached by the path from above or if the energetic angler has been trying the various runs between the Lower Smashie and Upper Nettle, then the pool will be approached along the riverside from upstream.  In low water fish lie in the neck and in the stream down the near bank.  In heavy water fish lie more at the edge of the stream on the left hand bank and right down the far side of the tail.  If one leaves the fishing stance at the head of the pool and walks down to the tail in heavy water there are two or three deeper lies that hold fish and can be fished from this point.  There are also one or two holding lies between this pool and the next which are worth a quick cast in good conditions.

5.      Lower Nettle

Fished from the path high above the pool.  In low water fish take in the neck and stream.  In higher water they lie down the far side, and behind a boulder in mid stream two thirds the way down.  Fish also lie in the tail and occasionally under the near bank.  The rock sticking out from the near bank at the tail of the pool is worth a cast if approached with care as fish lie immediately below it and immediately opposite behind the stones on the far side.  One cannot follow a fish out of this pool.

6.        Spring Pool

This is best fished by getting onto the rock at the neck of the pool.  The stream rushing down the far side usually holds fish particularly near the tail.  Let the fly come right round into the slack.  In heavy water the pool must be fished from above; the tail of the pool right into the nearside is the main lie.

7.        Little Falls Pool

Perhaps the best pool on the river.  Fishes well in all conditions.  Fish tend to lie in the stream right down the far side, but often will take anywhere across the tail of the pool.  Near the stone in the tail on the far side of the pool is a grand taking place, and in very heavy water the fish lie on the near side of the stream.

8.        Red Lump Stream

This long stream that starts just below the Little Falls is a very good taking place.  Fish it all carefully and right into the near bank.  In heavy water it is difficult to get down the edge of the river and great care must be taken.  It is also difficult to land a fish and often it is best to take it down to Barbara’s Pool where the current is less severe.

9.        Barbara’s Pool

A very small pool best fished from the big rock at the neck.  Holds fish in high and low water.  In low they lie in the stream.  In high water, they lie near the tail and take the fly as it is brought into the slack water on the nearside.

There is another small pool just below this which can hold a fish in medium and high water.

10.      Otter Pool

A good pool, particularly later in the year when fish tend to lie near the tail.  A difficult pool to fish, but fish lie right down to the tail.  One of the main lies is about four feet off the near bank two thirds the way down the pool.  Below the Otter pool are a series of fast runs all the way down to the next pool.  These runs often produce salmon in high water.

11.      Bow Pool

A long narrow pool with the best lies half way down near the rock on the far side, and in the tail where there are stones a yard or two out from the near side.  This pool often holds a large fish!

12.      Arrow Pool

The last big pool on the top beat.  Fishes best in July when fish are moving up.  In low water fish lie in the stream at the neck and in the stream down the far side of the trail.  In high water the main taking place is in the middle of the pool where it starts shallowing before going into the long tail.  The whole length of the tail should be fished, and the fly must cover the entire breadth of the river as fish lie close to both banks.

13.      Mackenzie’s Stream

The last named pool on the Upper Beat.  Not worth wasting time on but most certainly worth fishing.  Fish usually take here in heavy water and then they tend to lie in the slacker water half way down near the near bank or right in the tail.  A good stout cast is needed to stop a fish going downstream.

There is another small pool below Mackenzie’s stream worth a quick cast in medium to low water.


MIDDLE BEAT

General

A very good beat, the top pool approximately one mile from the car park.  Not so precipitous as the Upper Beat, and not so dangerous. Often the first salmon comes from this beat and is a grand taking beat when fresh fish are running up the river.

14.    Upper Shady Pool

The top pool, rather difficult to fish but worth going up to try.  Fish lie on the far side near the tail.  It is difficult to present the fly properly over a good part of this pool, otherwise more fish would be taken.

 15.    Lower Shady Pool

Looks very good, and holds fish but is very difficult to fish and so seldom yields fish.From this pool down to the Red pool are a series of runs and lies, all worth fishing in medium water July-Sept., when the fish are running.  It is very difficult fishing and some places one has to leave the riverside and climb up to get around the steep and rocky banks.

 16.    Upper Red Pool

Good at all heights.  Fish lie in the neck in low water, and further down at the edges of the main stream in heavy water.  The tail in heavy water is also very good.

 17.    The Middle Red Pool

A favourite in heavy water.  Fish lie in the slack water from behind the big boulder on the near bank at the neck right down to the tail.  A good taking pool in the right conditions.

 18.    Lower Red Pool

Nicely shaded with a good stream, perhaps this pool looks better than it is.  It yields fish in low water in the very neck, and in high water in the slacker water on the nearside of the stream.  Also in the tail.

 19.    Wether Pool

A pool frequently not fished.  If one follows the path downstream from the Lower Red one comes in at the neck of the Wether Pool.  Fishes right down to the tail in high water, otherwise the lie is in the neck.

 20.    Turn Pool

This is one of the best pools when the river and fish are running.  The pool is full of boulders which afford numerous lies in all heights of water.  The pool should be fished carefully from the neck to the tail.

 21.    Little Kirkaig

A pool that holds fish in all heights of water, but they are most frequently taken when the water is medium to high.  High up in the neck in the slack water between the stream and the near side, is a favourite lie, as is the middle of the pool on the near side, and the tail, the whole way across.

There are one or two runs and lies between this and the next pool which frequently yield a fish in lower water.

 22.    Hazel Pool

Another good pool, and one that holds fish in all heights of water.  Anglers seeing fish jumping in this pool frequently neglect the other pools to their own detriment.  Good in neck in low water, medium to high water fish lies either side of the stream and a good taking place is just above and opposite the iron fence post.  The tail fishes well, and fish take right across on the far side.

There is a good run below the Hazel pool on the far side of the river which can only be fished by wading.  In all heights of water this is worth fishing.  Below this is another small pool behind the island.  This is worth fishing in low water.

 23.    Fank Stream

This is the last named pool and is in fact a stream.  In medium to high water when fish are running it seldom fails, but is often overlooked.


LOWER BEAT

General

Very accessible as many pools are beside the road.  A good beat in medium to high water, but suffers in low water from tourists, picnicking and splashing about.

 24.    Heather Pool

A great holding pool and one that yields a lot of fish.  Fishes well in the neck in low water and as far as the stream runs.  In high water fishes well at the edges of the stream on both sides and in the less turbulent water towards the tail.

There is a lot of fishing between the Heather pool and the next pool which is all good in low-medium water, and yields fish quite frequently.

 25.    Bridge Stream

A good stream in low and medium water, though is too fast to fish in high water.  Fish lie near opposite bank in the slacker water, and follow the fly across.

 26.    Bridge Pool

A very good holding pool in all heights of water.  The tail of this pool is a great taking place in heavy water.  So is the slacker water close to the near bank.  In low-medium water fish can be taken anywhere from high up in the neck, right down the far side, and in the slack water close against the old bridge buttress on the far side.

 27.    Elder Pool        

A good taking pool, fish taking in the stream in the neck, and right down to the tail.  In heavy water the tail is very good.  The pool should be fished from the stones at the neck of the stream right down to the tail missing nothing.  There is a good little pool, seldom fished, being the island below this pool, and it is well worth a cast, particularly when fish are running.

 28.    Elder Stream

Good in medium to high water, but fish tend to move out of it in low water.  Fish will take in the neck, but in high water most take from about opposite the small bush on the near bank right down as far as one can fish.  It is full of stones and boulders and has many lies.  In medium to low water one can wade across the tail and fish the next stream from the opposite side.  This is well worthwhile when there is a good run of fish.

 29.    Red Rock Pool

This occasionally yields salmon, but is quite good for sea trout when they are running and in the evening.

30.    Sea Pool

Not many salmon take from this pool, but they are caught occasionally.  Good for sea trout, as is the stream from this pool right down to the estuary.

 

 

Options include

–  Inver Lodge Hotel, a convenient and very comfortable place to stay in Lochinver with the famous Albert Roux Restaurant.

–  Iolaire House , sleeps 10 , available for weekly lets on a self catered basis. A great location resting on the hill above Lochinver with glorious views across the sea to the great mountains of Sutherland

Call our team of sporting professionals direct on +44 (0)1738 451 600 or make an enquiry through our contact form.

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The River Kirkaig - Estate Info

The River Kirkaig and its sister river the Inver offer wild and unspoilt salmon and sea-trout fishing across a number of private double banked beats. Rentals can be for a single day or for longer periods of time and please get in contact with the office for bookings. 

The Kirkaig flows through magnificent country and fishers cast with backdrop of the mountains of Suilven Canisp and Ben More Assynt.  The river lies in a wonderfully unspoilt gorge with a series of rocky pools and runs.  The Falls of Kirkaig, two miles upstream from the mouth are an impressive barrier to the further upward migration of salmon and sea trout,  and the river below this is divided into three beats, each of two rods, which are fished on a daily rotation.  Each beat has a variety of excellent holding pools, some of which are rocky and only accessible to the most agile.  The Kirkaig is very much a spate river, and restricted to fly only with the season running from 11th February – 15th October, the main fishing months being July – October.  

 

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