River Tummel

 

The River Tummel is the Tay’s biggest tributary. It rises as the River Ba on the Blackmount estate, only 7 miles from the saltwater Loch Etive. From there, the Ba crosses the desolate Moor of Rannoch Moor then into Loch Laidon only to emerge as the River Gaur. While seemingly remote, this river then becomes the most industrialised part of catchment with a series of five dams. The uppermost dam, Gaur Dam, impounds Loch Eigheach, and has the longest fish pass in Britain to allow salmon access right up to the River Ba.

The River Gaur flows for a few miles below the dam before it discharges in to the 9 mile long Loch Rannoch. Also entering close by is, or rather was, the River Ericht, which drains the 16 mile long Loch Ericht. This largest loch in the catchment, stretches all the way northwards to Dalwhinnie. However, Ericht has been dammed and controlled for hydro power. The River Ericht itself is practically dry most of the time, but salmon would not access far anyway because of an impassable waterfall.

At Kinloch Rannoch, at the east end of Loch Rannoch, the River Tummel emerges from a barrage and fish pass assemblage. After a few miles, the Tummel is then arrested again by Dunlalastair Dam, forming the pretty Loch Dunalastair. While the Tummel’s flow is highly variable above Dunalastair, the flow in the three miles between Dunalastair Dam and Loch Tummel is a highly controlled compensation flow with periodic artificial freshets to encourage adult salmon upstream. Loch Tummel was once a natural loch, but it also expanded considerably when it too was dammed in 1950s with the construction of Clunie Dam just west of Pitlochry. After emerging from the Clunie Dam fish pass the Tummel continues for a few miles until it flows over the picturesque Falls of Tummel and meets the meets the Garry at the head of Loch Faskally, another artificial loch created by the best know hydro dam of all, Pitlochry Dam.

The final 6 mile leg of the River Tummel between Pitlochry and Ballinluig where it joins the Tay is the best known, especially for salmon fishing. The Tummel is another spring salmon and summer grilse river. Fishing in the lower Tummel stretch is best in spring before temperatures warm sufficiently to allow fish an easy ascent through the Pitlochry Dam fish pass. Thereafter the best of the fishing in summer and autumn is in the River Garry. While salmon do go all way up the River Tummel, some even get beyond Gaur, there isn’t really a fishery for them there. However, some stretches of the upper Tummel and some of the lochs are noted brown trout fisheries. Others have a good head of other species too, such as pike and perch.