The Hope, Loch Hope, and Strathmore Water have improved since the withdrawal of the nets at the mouth, in 1887; but recently the sport, though fair, has gone back a little. The angling is at its best in July and August. Salmon fry turned down in the spring of 1905 should wake up the fishing ere long.
The Kinloch, a short river, flows into the head of the Kyle of Tongue. Angling is late, and during the last two seasons, which were dry, the sport has rather gone back.
Loch Naver, which is best during spring, began to fall off a few years ago; but there was a slight recovery last season.
The Fleet, flowing east, is a late river. Salmon and grilse begin to run in July. When the water is in order the sport is fair. Sea-trout are plentiful. On the Carnach, a tributary of the Fleet, there is, at the Torboll Falls, a salmon pass, nearly four hundred yards in length and ten feet wide on the average. The fish go over the steepest part by a series of twenty-three pools.
The Brora, also flowing east, is a splendid river. Both in spring and in autumn it yields excellent sport. The best fishing in spring is on the lower part, where there is a succession of fine pools. This part of the river the Duke of Sutherland reserves for himself and guests after August 10 and in April. Sport seems to be unfailing. The record for eight years is as follows :-
From a hatchery at Carrol salmon and Lochleven trout are turned into the Brora every year.
The Inchard, a short stream flowing to the west, yields, in July and August, fair baskets of salmon, grilse, and sea-trout.
The Laxford is much the best of the rivers flowing to the west. Its sources are Loch Stack and Loch More. Between Loch Stack and Loch Laxford, only three miles, there are a dozen first-class pools. These, in some years, have yielded from 300 to 350 fish between June and the end of the season ; but the sport has slightly declined. Removal of bag nets from the estuary and an extra slap of twenty-four hours a week from July 1 are doing good. Loch Stack sea-trout are plentiful and large. Fully a thousand, many of them over 5 lbs., are caught yearly. Along with Reay Forest, the loch and the river are let to the Duke of Westminster.
The Inver, flowing to the west out of Loch Assynt, is a late stream. It is of little value before June. In July and August, when there is plenty of water, sport is brisk. Salmon and grilse are to be caught in the loch.
The Kirkaig, flowing west, is, two miles and a half from the sea, blocked to salmon by falls 50 feet high. Below the falls there are pools on which good sport is found from July until the end of the season.
The Thurso, in Caithness, is an exceptional case, which will be stated and discussed in Chapter xi.
The Orchy, flowing out of Loch Tulla, in Argyllshire, and into Loch Awe, has a bright future. Hitherto it has been a spring river below the Falls of Orchy and an autumn river above. Soon, it is expected, salmon will be abundant in both seasons all over. Lord Breadalbane is familiar with the Blackmount water, in which, he says, there are only four pools of any note. He goes on :-
" The river is a very good one at present when you get it in order; but the cream of the fishing is the Craig water,-that is, the portion which is below the falls,-where very good sport is obtained. This water I have never fished. Arrangements have been made for taking the nets off. Therefore, looking to the past and the sport that has been got on the river, I think there is very little doubt that in a year or two it will rank as one of the best salmon rivers in Scotland. This seems to be the general impression of those in the neighbourhood. The lower portion is let with the Dalmally Hotel. Then comes the piece let with Succoth shooting; next, the Craig water; then the Inveroran water, let with the Inver-oran Hotel; next, the Auch water, let with the Auch shooting; finally, the water that belongs to Black-mount. The river will be immensely improved by the falls on the Kinglass having been blasted. The removal of the obstruction has opened up a considerable extent of very fine spawning ground.""
The Awe and other waters in a very wide region which includes it are favourably reported on by the Duke of Argyll. The course of the Awe, very brief, is thrilling. Almost every yard of the four miles, from the loch in which it rises to the arm of the sea into which it falls, looks as if it must be the holt of a salmon. The river is rapid, and seems hardly ever to be low. The mountainous, wild aspect of the country on either side is very grand. There is netting on the river; but neither on that account nor on any other is there much serious hindrance to the natural habits of the salmon. Some of the fish are very large. The Duke states that one caught last season weighed 42 lbs. It must have put the captor to the extremity of his strength and skill. There are so many jagged rocks in the lively stream that the chances are with the fish. The river is somewhat peculiar in that it is neither late nor early. The best time is from May until the end of August. The Duke's rights in the Awe are derived from charters granted by The Bruce.
Loch Baa, in Mull, three miles long and three-quarters of a mile broad, has salmon, salmo-ferox, sea-trout, and brown trout. The salmon, which rise well, are rather small. The best fish of last season was a grilse weighing 10¾ lbs. The trout are heavy.
The Baa, a three-mile river flowing through the loch, yields good sport of the same kind.
Loch Assapol, a small water in Mull, seems once to have yielded salmon; but now the Duke of Argyll speaks only of grilse and sea-trout. A stream flows through the lake. I gather that sport is fair both on the running water and on the still.
Loch Dhu, near Inveraray, is affected at the lower end by the tides of the sea. Being connected with the salt-water, it has a peculiar race of brown trout, plumb and strong. Sea-trout are often abundant, and 1 am told that in favourable seasons good baskets of grilse are to be expected.
The Shira, rising in the Accurach Hills, and falling into Loch Fyne, is reserved by the Duke of Argyll for his own use. After rain in July, or in August, or in September, it yields as good baskets of grilse and sea-trout as ever.
The Aray, which rises in the Hills of Tullich and falls into Loch Fyne, holds many grilse, which now and then rise freely. Often loch-trout flies are attractive to the fish, which, the Duke of Argyll mentions, run up to 15 lbs. Now and then the sport is at its height in midsummer.
The Barr, in Argyllshire, although only five miles long, is a good river; but recently the salmon have been fewer than would be natural. " It is difficult to get at the root of the matter," Major C. B. Macalister says; "but I will state a few reasons which might, each or all of them, account for the decrease. I do not consider the trawlers' three-mile limit a sufficiently proscribed one, and at nightfall the boats often draw much nearer to the mouth of the river than even that allows. I feel sure that many salmon fall victims to the nets. The limit should be at least five miles. As there is so much irrigation on the sheep farms nowadays, the Barr comes down in fuller spate, which lasts but a short time, and I think it possible that the great volume of water may dislodge some of the salmon spawn and destroy it. It is just possible that in the higher reaches the salmon fry are taken out in large quantities. They are very easily caught by means of an ordinary bait."