river thurso

The prolific Thurso River

 Located in Caithness in the far north of the Scottish Highlands, and is rightly regarded as one of Scotland’s premier Atlantic salmon rivers. The river flows for 26 miles/41km from its source, above Loch More, to Thurso Bay where it meets the Atlantic. 

The Thurso has a long and productive season, where Salmon can be caught on the fly from the start of the season on 11 January, until its close on 5 October. The river enjoys strong runs throughout the spring, summer and autumn periods and, when the conditions are right, the sport can be truly exhilarating! 

 Anglers are based at the wonderful Ulbster Arms in Halkirk, which has been a sporting retreat for over 150 years. Having been recently renovated, the Ulbster Arms is the perfect place to relax and unwind following an action-packed day on the river. There are also three luxury lodges available for larger parties.

The Fishing

The Thurso River is a charming medium to small-sized highland river that changes dramatically throughout its course. It presents a great variety of fishing challenges and there are one or two novel techniques to learn, such as ‘backing up’ which makes for some fascinating fishing. Classic wet fly techniques are highly productive, but tactics such as the hitch, skated flies, dry flies, and small sunrays often induce heart-stopping surface action. 

 The river has a great variety of fishing, to be both tempting and to challenge visiting anglers. There are streamy runs and fast necks which hold summer fish; a ‘lochan’ which can be fished by boat; slow-moving canal sections, which can be energised by a good upstream breeze; and classic Highland streams cascading through an idyllic gorge section. Spring fish, begin to arrive during March. Growing in number week by week, the peak time is from late April until early June. If conditions are conducive, spring fishing on the Thurso can be electrifying. 

Grilse begin to arrive during the latter half of May and keep coming until the end of August. The peak time is the middle of July when following a spate, large shoals enter the river producing incredible fishing on light tackle. These spritely, sporting fish are followed by larger summer salmon which enter the river during August and September. 

These distinct runs of grilse and salmon combine to produce an average catch of 1700- all on the fly. A wet spring and summer can see catches rocket to over 2000. The Thurso’s twelve beats (numbered 2-13) are fished in rotation. 

Hosted and non hosted trips


Join the Twin Peakes Fly fishing team on a hosted week on the River Thurso

April and July Organised Trips - Available on Request 

  • Getting there : Air - Inverness International Airport or Wick domestic airport Car - Drive Approx 2.5 hours north to Halkirk from Inverness or 30 mins from Wick 
  • Rods: January - March 12 Rods April - October 24 Rods 
  • Days: 3 Days fishing and 4 night package and 6 days fishing and 7 nights options Fishing is from £300 - £1535 per rod per week. 
  • Ghillies/guides are available at £80 per two rods 


 2 Anglers fish each beat each day, the next day they move down two beats, this allows all guests visiting the Thurso to fish the upper, middle and lower river in a given week. Each year the beat rotation moves down one to ensure that guests get the opportunity to fish every beat over a two week period. 

The spring run of Salmon begins as early as February, but it really peaks from April running into May. Grilse and summer salmon begin to run from mid June and throughout until late August.

 Anglers visiting the Thurso should be prepared to fish different tactics, we recommend a 12’ - 14’ rod combined with an integrated scandi line to cover most of the pools, anglers should also approach the river with small switch rods and single handed rods when the river is running at low levels. 

There are areas of the river with slow moving deep pools, some may say it is not the best fly water but anglers that preserver and utilise the backing up approach will be rewarded when there are good conditions and a ripple on the water.