River Thurso

Price from:
£300 - £1525
Spring 12 Rods - Summer Autumn 24 Rods
Jan 11 - Oct 05
Full board
  • Overview

    The Scottish Highland’s

    26 miles of prime Atlantic salmon fishing in one of Scotlands most remote and tranquil fishing rivers. The Thurso is perhaps one the most prolific salmon rivers in Scotland, enjoying a long productive season, from as early as the 11th January to 5thttps://youtu.be/nrFx3A_BgMUh October. Fish can be caught during every month, but the main spring run really begins in March and continues through to early June. Given the right water conditions the fishing in May and June can offer some of the best Atlantic salmon fishing in Europe.

    The spring fishing on the Thurso can be incredible, offering the opportunity to catch large multi sea winter spring salmon in small runs on light tackle. Historically the early spring fish will head to the top of the system and often the higher beats will produce sea liced springers in some of the wildest remote parts of the Scottish highlands. The Thurso cannot be described as a spring or summer river as it receives a healthy runs throughout the spring, summer and autumn season.

    Renowned for its grilse runs, the Thurso grilse usually begin to arrive in mid-May and run through to end of August, with a peak in the middle of July.  When the grilse arrive in large shoals they offer outstanding sport and fishing opportunities. A summer spate will often produce exceptional fishing with chances to catch large amounts of fresh running grilse and salmon, along with resident spring fish that are resident in the pools.

    September often brings a smaller run of larger summer salmon entering the river. On average the river produces around 1700 salmon per year and fishing is by fly only. Since the cessation of the netting in 2005 the catches have been rising and in the last few years we seen record catches made.

    The Thurso like other rivers is fed from a loch, but unlike many of these rivers we can control the water flowing out of the loch and in this way we are able to maintain the level of the river at a good fishing height for about three weeks, once the loch is full.

    Since 2012 we have limited the number of spring rods fishing the river and up to the end of March only 12 rods are let, this gives visiting rods a chance to fish all of the river. From the middle of the June, 2 rods are allocated to each beat.


  • Fishing

    Large numbers of spring and summer salmon

    The Thurso River is a charming medium to small sized highland river that changes dramatically throughout its course. During the spring each pair of rods is allocated a rotation that contains two beats and during the week they will fish all 12 beats of the river. Single rods will also be allocated a rotation of two beats, but they will usually be paired with another angler.

    During the summer two rods will be allocated to a single beat each day. Each day you will fish a different beat and you will drop down two beats each day (until you reach the bottom of the river!). Your beat allocation will be confirmed with you when you make your booking.

    Beginning on beat 13 anglers are able to fish below the dam and fish pass at Loch More, these upper beats offer very intimate fishing and often for fresh early spring fish that are waiting to run the fish pass. The Spring fish are renowned for running quickly through the system and resting on the upper river. Below lies beat 12 and a unique part of the river system named Loch Beg. The river opens up into a medium sized Lochan with a steady stream running into the Loch. Perhaps one fo the best places to find the first fish of the season. Loch Beg can be fished from the bank and the boat and fish can be found throughout the beat. Drifting alongside the stream and casting form the boat is a very exciting way to fish on this stretch.

    The river then enters through an idyllic gorge with holds mouthwatering narrow pools before opening up again through the low lying fertile wild grass lands. The little river is the main tributary which centres the main river at the top of beat 9 often referred to as one of the best beats on the river. These deep pools interspersed with streamy runs hold a large amount of the river spring stocks throughout the season.

    The middle river holds a large amount of long slow moving pools which the Thurso is quite famous for, these pools may not appear as magnificent fly water however they act as a sanctuary for the fish during the periods of hot weather and low water. The deep slow pools fish best in high water, however when there is a good breeze on the water excellent sport can be had. Fishing the water with a ripple is key to success and often anglers will begin at the bottom of the pool make a cast and walk upstream three paces to create a curve in the line  allowing a good presentation of the fly to the fish. This technique is known as backing up and is an effective technique of fishing to maximise anglers chance of catching. Fishing a muddler minnow fly on the dropper and a small cascade on the point fly is an effective combination, and anglers that get into the mindset of working the fly across the wave, almost like loch fishing tactics will be rewarded for their efforts.

    The lower beats above and below Halkirk can be excellent all year round but specifically in low water conditions and in the summer months when the grilse are running, they are perhaps the most streamy parts of the river offering superb fly water and using tactics such as the hitch, skated flys, dry flies traditional flies and small sunrays often provide heart stopping surface action.

    Access to the beats throughout the river is excellent, guests staying at Ulbster Arms Hotel are never more than a 15 minute drive form the furthest away fishing beats. There are no start or finish times on the Thurso, this allows rods maximum flexibility each day and it is recommended that anglers not only fish the easy access pools but also explore the entire beat that they are on each day.

  • Accommodation

    A variety of comfortable options

    The Ulbster Arms hotel is situated in the small village in Halkirk, right on the river at beat 4. The Hotel provides a superb accommodation option for anglers fishing on the River Thurso. Recently renovated there are 13 rooms in the Hotel with a selection of premium double rooms over looking the river. With 9 premium double rooms, 4 small premium double rooms, 2 premium twin rooms and a premium family room – all rooms are ensuite with free WIFI connectivity, tea and coffee making facilities with short bread.

    There are also 3 luxury lodges available to let for larger groups that would prefer to experience the fishing in a lodge environment. The Dale Lodge contains 7 small double ensuite bath or shower rooms and 2 family ensuite bath or shower rooms, We have also renovated our new Executive Lodge – ‘Milton Lodge’ – which contains 4 ensuite bath or shower rooms – all rooms contain tea & coffee making facilities, remote controlled televisions, Wi-Fi internet connectivity, etc.

  • Food & Cuisine

    The Restaurant at the hotel caters for all of the visiting guests. The head Chef, Craig Brown, and his highly skilled team of local Chefs prepare menus each day, reflecting local seasonal fresh produce. From a hearty cooked breakfast and continental options, the hotel will prepare your lunch either as a packed lunch for a day out on the river, or welcome guests back to the hotel for a hot lunch option. Dinner is served in the dining room, where there is always a vibrant atmosphere of anglers sharing stories of how their days fishing went.

    The hotel prides itself on using only the best local produce reflected in the seasonal menus. Guests are encouraged to make special requests, and should you wish to try some of the wonderful variety of freshly available local seafood, such as halibut, scallops, lobster or langoustines, the kitchen team will endeavour to source these from local fishing boats who land at nearby harbours.

    After dinner, why not relax over coffee and home made petit fours in the newly furbished library or retreat to the Lounge for a wee dram.


  • Itinerary
  • Cost & Specifics



  • Where should I get flights to?

    The two airports closest to Thurso is Wick and Inverness, many anglers will hire a car from the airport and continue onwards to the Ulbster Arms Hotel in Halkirk.

  • Getting there by road

    By road from Inverness

    From Inverness (2.5hrs, approximately 110 miles), follow the A9 in a northerly direction, passing through Golspie, Brora, Helmsdale and Dunbeath. At Latheron, turn left, continuing on the A9, towards Thurso, and remain on this road (passing the wind farm) until you reach a T-Junction, approximately 18 miles. Turn left at this junction and in 1/4 mile turn left onto the B874, signposted for Halkirk. Continue until you reach the T-junction in the village, turn right and the hotel is on you left hand side.

    By road from Wick Airport

    Alternatively, if flying to Wick Airport (18 miles), drive south through the town, crossing over the Wick River, straight over a small roundabout and at the traffic lights turn right on to Thurso Road (A882). Continue on this road, through Watten, for 16 miles,  you will then reach a cross-road with the B874,turn left onto the B874, signposted for Halkirk. Continue until you reach the T-junction in the village, turn right and the hotel is on you left hand side.

  • Booking a ghiile/guide

    For some rods their ghillie is an essential part of their fishing holiday and some relationships go back over 40 years. To get the best out of your fishing we recommend all rods take a Ghillie

    All the ghillies have an intimate knowledge of the river and their aim is to ensure that you have the best experience of fishing the river Thurso. You will normally meet your ghillie at the ghillie hut situated at the back of the hotel at about 08:30 and their aim is to get you fishing by09:00. Anglers are normally expected to transport their ghillie to and from the river. The ghillie day finishes at 17:00.


    It is customary to book a ghillie in advance as we have a limited number of available.

  • Can I hire fishing tackle during my visit?

    There is a fully kitted out rod room at the back of the hotel, next to the Ghillie hut. Here anglers are able to use the drying room facilities and hang up their rods for the evening. The Hotel has a selection of LOOP Tackle rod and reel outfits hand selected for the river to ensure a balanced setup, available for guests to hire out on a daily basis. £20 per outfit per day.

  • Is there nearby trout fishing available?

    There are numerous opportunities for trout fishing in Caithness and we can provide information on the following lochs. Watten, St Johns, Heilen, Toffinghall, Calder, Syre and a number of local hill lochs. The bigger lochs are better fished from a boat and we can provide details of boat hire etc.

  • What is the best defence against the midge's

    From June onwards the midges have been known to drive anglers off the water, particularly in the evenings when the wind drops and it cools down. We recommend having a bug/midge suit handy which will put you straight at ease and allow you to keep fishing to enjoy that evenings cast.


Suitable gear

Spring - March - May

Caithness is a flat landscape which can be as wild as Scotland gets in the early spring. Anglers should dress warm for all seasons, quality wind and waterproof clothing is essential.

When fishing in the spring anglers will often overhead cast as well as spey casting, many parts of the river require you to stand back and overhead cast ready to work the flies back. The Tactical salmon line is fully integrated, allows anglers to fish sink tips and performs well both overhead and spey casting.

The river is a medium size, and the climate is often windy, anglers often fish 13′ + rods in the spring months, with 8#/#9 line ratings. This allows anglers to cover all the water required and still punch the fly into the wind when required.

Summer / Autumn - June - October

The river height and wind conditions vary throughout the year and anglers should always be prepared for high water. A 13′ + rod for 8#/9# rod is also suitable throughout the season on the river.

Switch rods are extremely versatile for the river and using a 11′ #7 rod for lower water conditions will increase anglers chances of success on the river. Even using single handed #6 and #7 rods can be beneficial during periods of dry weather.

Midgies can be out on force from June onwards, and anglers are encouraged to carry a midge jacket or net for when the wind drops and the midges come out to play.


Enquiry form

For further information on visiting the Thurso please contact al.peake@looptackle.se