A comprehensive fishing guide can be downloaded as a Microsoft Word document.
The Halladale is a highland spate river which has its origins in the Flow country on the Knockfin Heights to the south of Forsinard and runs north for 22 miles entering the Pentland Firth at Melvich Bay. Water from the Flow country maintains a summer level but like all spate rivers, the Halladale can suffer from low water in a prolonged drought. There are three lochs in the system (Nam Breac, Sainn and Saird) which are dammed and which are used to provide extra water.
Access to the river
Access to the river is easy and cars can be parked off the road where indicated on the fishing map and in official Passing Places. There are good car parking places marked on the beat maps. The local constabulary have a policy of fining people who park in official Passing Places.
Fishing is from the banks and it is not necessary to have waders to fish the pools. It is however, helpful to have thigh waders to cross the river at will when the water is not too high. From a fishing point of view, the river is divided into the Upper Halladale and Lower Halladale. The Lower Halladale water, which is described in this guide is eight miles long and divided into four beats, fished in rotation by moving down one beat per day. Fishing is by fly only from both banks, with three rods permitted per beat.
Season and runs of fish
The salmon season opens on 12th January and closes on 3Oth September. Salmon start to enter the river at the beginning of the season and can be caught in small numbers in the early months. From the second half of March numbers of fish build up considerably, depending on the water conditions, and there can be a good run of spring fish averaging approximately 9 -10lbs with some at the 18lb mark. Grilse averaging 5Ib start to run from late May onwards and continue to do so until the end of the season. Summer salmon enter the river from June until September. These latter are heavier than the spring fish, averaging about 11 -12 Ibs with the occasional fish of 20lbs plus.
Without a loch at the top of the river, fish make their way slowly upstream to spawn and many fish stay in the lower pools. In autumn fish can be seen spawning down the entire length of the river. Each beat differs greatly in character but the river is mostly relatively shallow and its upper reaches run through peat moorland. In a spate it can be heavily coloured (though not muddy) and it becomes fishable as soon as the water levels off, which it does fairly rapidly.
The four main beats have great variety as the river flows through moorland, agricultural grassland, rocky gorges with low falls and on to the ‘canal’ with flood banks in the lowest section of the river.