About the river
The River Ness catchment is the largest in the North West Highlands, draining approximately 700 square miles. The Garry catchment in the uppermost reaches of the system rises a short distance from the Knoydart Peninsula in the west. The River Ness finally reaches the Moray Firth via Inverness in the east.
A dominant feature of the catchment is Loch Ness which stretches for approximately 23 miles. Numerous large and small tributaries decant into Loch Ness including the Garry, Moriston and Foyers which have been extensively harnessed for the production of hydroelectric power. It is the early months of the year typically, which see most angling effort expended in the upper parts of the catchment with the River Garry, River Oich, Loch Oich and Moriston as well as Loch Ness itself being the favoured locations. The latter never freezes over and thus always offers the opportunity to catch fish even in the very cold conditions that often occur in January and February. Salmon captured at this time of year have a high average weight and are highly prized by anglers.
Salmon Fishing on the Ness system
The productive season of the Ness system is a long one with the first large 'spring salmon' captured from January onwards. Catches of these large and prized early fish typically peak in April and May. Favoured areas for fishing at this time of year are River Garry, Loch Oich, River Moriston and Loch Ness. Given favourable conditions, anglers fishing the River Ness can also intercept some of these fish.
Angling effort on the River Ness generally increases with the onset of summer with grilse and salmon featuring in the catches until the closing day of the season on October 15th. The River Ness is unusual in that it usually remains crystal clear even in high flows due to the influence of Loch Ness further upstream.
Loch Ness itself can also produce prolific catches in the summer months, particularly in respect of grilse. For the system as a whole, annual catches are typically in the region of 1000-1500 salmon and grilse.
Several entries in the The Doomsday Book of Giant Salmon testify to reputation of the Ness system with regard to large salmon. Salmon up to 55lb have been landed in the past and the potential of the system to still produce such fish was highlighted by the capture of a salmon measured at 56" in length from the Dochfour beat of the River Ness in 2007.
The Ness system has always been associated with great casters including 'the wizard of the Ness' Alexander Grant who recorded prodigious distances in the 1890's. The tradition of great casters continues to this day with Scott MacKenzie and Gordon Armstrong being world famous practitioners of the art.
Management of the Ness system
The system is managed by the Ness District Salmon Fishery Board, a statutory body whose members include fishery owners, angling association representatives and netsmen. Additional scientific input into management is provided by the Ness & Beauly Fisheries Trust, a registered charity.