The River Ayr is the largest river in Ayrshire with a catchment area of 574km2. The infant River Ayr starts below Glenbuck Loch and is soon joined by the many small burns which drain the hills around Muirkirk. From Glenbuck Loch to the sea the river flows for 63km or over 40 miles. In 2007 a source to sea walkway was opened providing excellent access to this underrated river (www.theriverayrway.org).
Downstream of Mauchline the River Ayr is joined at the 'Meetings' by the Lugar Water, its largest tributary, and an excellent salmon and trout fishery in its own right. From this point downstream the River Ayr is a relatively large river and double handed fly rods are fished by most locals. The size of the catchment means that either the upper Ayr or the Lugar Water can be in spate whilst the other has missed the rain. Fishers are recommended to keep a close watch on the three river levels gauges for the River Ayr.
Many parts of the lower reaches flow through a deep sandstone gorge and it is often hidden from view. Fishers are often best placed to appreciate the many strikingly beautiful views that can only be seen from the riverside. Interestingly, one local history book states that the River Ayr is considered to be the 'second fastest flowing river in Scotland', although the source of this conclusion is not included.
When to fish
As with all the Ayrshire rivers the River Ayr is primarily a summer and autumn fishery. However, there is a late spring run with excellent quality double figure fish taken each year, usually starting in April and peaking in May. The regular summer floods can bring large runs of summer grilse and fresh fish are caught until the season closes at the end of October.
The Ayr used to be a well known sea trout fishery and evening fishing using a dry fly was a favoured and exciting method of capture. In recent decades the sea trout fishery has collapsed prompting the District Salmon Fishery Board to initiate a five year restocking programme. The Ayr is a more pastoral river that the rivers in the south of Ayrshire and that fertility, combined with the underlying limestone geology provides a good environment for brown trout growth. The Ayr and its tributaries hold excellent trout although not in the numbers formerly present.
Management of the river
There is a high proportion of angling club or association water on the River Ayr, providing affordable angling. The fishery is managed by the very active River Ayr District Salmon Fishery Board with scientific monitoring and advice provided by the Ayrshire Rivers Trust. The upper reaches of the River Ayr are amongst the most productive in terms of juvenile salmon production in Ayrshire with salmon able to access tributaries up to 1000 feet in altitude. In recent years catches have been improving and it is hoped that the Ayr will soon fulfil its potential as a salmon river.