About the river
Ayrshire is renowned for its beaches, beautiful coastline, golf courses and of course Rabbie Burns. It is also blessed with six principal salmon rivers, each of which has its own character. There are only 37 miles between the mouth of the most southerly river, the Stinchar, and the Irvine and Garnock estuary in North Ayrshire. There can be few areas in Scotland with as wide a range of productive salmon rivers in such close proximity.
The River Ayr
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.
About the Doon
The River Doon starts high up in the Galloway Hills. From these hills several significant tributaries feed Loch Doon, a six mile long loch which has been dammed to form a storage reservoir for the Galloway Hydro Power scheme. The River Doon itself starts below Loch Doon Dam and immediately cascades down through Ness Glen, a spectacular gorge, dropping 130 feet in less than one mile. The river is approximately 40 kilometres long and flows north west close to the town of Dalmellington, through the villages of Patna and Dalrymple before entering the Firth of Clyde just south of Ayr.
Below Ness Glen the gradient drops and the river flows through Bogton Loch followed by several miles of canal-like water although the current is deceptively fast. This part of the river provides a huge amount of holding water. The gradient picks up again at Patna and from there to the sea the Doon flows briskly with a succession of pools and rapids.
About the Girvan
The source of the River Girvan (or Water of Girvan) is Loch Girvan Eye, situated high in the Galloway Hills and only half a mile from the source of the River Stinchar. The River Girvan passes through Lochs Cornish, Skelloch and Bradan, Ayrshire's major water supply reservoir, before making a broad sweep north via Straiton and Kirkmichael and then south-west via Crosshill and Dailly to reach the sea at Girvan Harbour. The landscape in the upper Girvan valley is very attractive with a pleasing mixture of woodland and rough grazing, while in its middle and lower reaches the river becomes more pastoral flowing through productive farming land.
Although it is smaller than the neighbouring Stinchar and Doon it is regarded highly by local and visiting anglers alike. The Girvan is a spate river, with only a small compensatory flow from Loch Bradan, although the River Girvan Fishery Board are able to request freshets throughout the season.
The headwaters of the River Stinchar are in the same Galloway Hills where the Doon, Girvan and Cree rise. The main stem of the Stinchar is 54km long and much of it is accessible to migratory fish. There is very little industry or human population within the Stinchar catchment and intensive agriculture is limited. As a result water quality throughout the main river is very good. The main land use is forestry and much of the upper catchment is covered with commercial conifer plantations.
The river valley itself is relatively unspoilt and is one of the most picturesque in the south of Scotland with a succession of fine views. The Stinchar is well known for its spate like nature as the hills surrounding the river are steep. In the past the mouth of the river tended to shift position on a regular basis, although it is much more stable nowadays. The Salmon Fishery Inspector noted this phenomenon in 1887 with the comment that "the Stinchar was remarkable for its shifting mouth". The same report also noted that the Stinchar was also famed for "yielding larger salmon than any river of its size in Scotland".