The Lee and the Mark form the North Esk, and the combination of later tributaries, the West Water, the Cruick and the Luther make it a larger river but shorter river than its neighbour, the South Esk. Rising in the Grampians, and partly fed by Loch Lee the River has three distinct characteristics. Above Edzell, the River is a Highland stream, with boulder strewn pools, and reliant somewhat on spate conditions. It breaks through onto lower ground at the Loups, where spectacular waterfalls and deep pools offer a very different type of fishing.
The North Esk now enters a more benign environment, as it cuts through the Vale of Strathmore. Here the pools are well defined and offer superb fly water. The River finally reaches the sea at St Cyrus.
The spring run has declined, but salmon are now able to ascend more easily due to improvements in the fish pass at Morphie. The grilse run is impressive as is the later autumn run of salmon. Seatrout arrive from the end of April, and although this run finishes in late July, some fresh seatrout do come up in the autumn.
North Esk in Glen Esk
The lowest beats, Kinnaber, Morphie and Canterlands enjoy the best of the spring fishing, although fresh fish will be taken on the opening day right through the River. Gallery, Balmakewen, Inglismaldie Stracathro and Dalhousie are the major beats below the Loups, with the Burn, Gannochy and Millden above.
The West Water which enters the River at Stracathro enjoys excellent salmon and seatrout fishing.
The North Esk is one of the most researched rivers in the northern hemisphere. The Freshwater Fisheries laboratory have an office in Montrose and have operated a counter at on the main stem at Logie since 1981. The estimated numbers of salmon and grilse ascending the counter are shown on the graph.
Upstream counts at Logie on the North Esk
South Esk at Brechin
The South Esk rises high in the Grampian Mountains and drains some two hundred and forty five square miles of Angus, from the wilderness areas of Glen Doll to its final destination, the North Sea at Montrose.
From Glen Doll the River flows through Glen Clova, is joined by the Prosen before meandering through the Vale of Strathmore, past Brechin and through the Montrose Basin, covering forty miles.
The lower beats, especially Kinnaird enjoy the best of the early fishing although by the end of April springers will have reached Gen Clova. Grilse start at the end of May, and swiftly fill the system. The autumn fish will appear in September, and fresh runs can be expected until the season closes at the end of October.
Salmon are present in the lowest reaches of the river when the season opens. The middle reaches usually enjoy their first sport around the middle of March and the second week of April will see the arrival of fresh springers in Glen Clova. May is the best month for spring salmon fishing. Given water, grilse can be expected on summer floods from June onwards and later in the season fresh fish continue to arrive in the lower beats until the close. South Esk is best known for its runs of sea trout. Some years fair numbers of sea trout lie into its pools and provide night fly fishing. Kirriemuir Angling Club offer fishing on several miles of the most beautiful parts of the upper river in Glen Clova.
It is not just the salmon for which the South Esk is justifiably famous. Prolific runs of seatrout enter the river in early summer, and given good conditions will rapidly head upstream.
Major beats on the river starting from the mouth include the House of Dun water, Kinnaird, Brechin Castle, Kintrocket, Careston, Marcus, Finavon and Fortesk, Inchewan, Downie, Cortachy and the Kirriemuir Angling Club water.