Rivers


GFT works across seven major river catchments in Dumfries and Galloway- the Luce, Bladnoch, Cree, Fleet, Kirkcudbrightshire Dee, Urr and Border Esk.

We work closely with the six District Salmon Fishery Boards in Galloway and the Esk and Liddle Improvment Association (ELIA) for the Border Esk. For more detailed information on our work across Galloway please see the what we do section of our website.

From mountains to moorland and rolling hills to fertile floodplains, the landscape of Dumfries and Galloway is characterised by its lochs, rivers and their tributaries. The waters on which the Trust works provide an amazing and outstanding array of freshwater lochs and rivers which support some of the most diverse fish populations in Scotland. Each river is unique and individual in its own right and all attract much interest from anglers, walkers and wildlife enthusiasts.

Brief summaries of each of the local rivers is provided below.  For those interested in angling, the official rod catches for salmon and sea trout over the last 10 years are presented under the ‘rod catch statistics’ tab.  Five local District Salmon Fisheries Boards (for the Bladnoch, Dee, Luce, Urr and Water of Fleet) have dedicated pages under the ‘rivers’ tab where you can find information on their role, powers, contact details, minutes and date of next meeting (when available).

For more detailed angling information, particularly angling opportunities, please visit http://www.fishgalloway.co.uk. This specialised angling website provides detailed descriptions of river beats and stillwater fisheries in the Galloway area which offer angling, on-line booking facilities, recommended accommodation, daily river flows, weather prospects and regular updates on the daily and weekly fish catches. What more could an angler want!

Water of Luce

The Luce is the region's most westerly river system. With its sweeping, clearly defined pools lined with broadleaved trees, it is one of the most picturesque of the Solway rivers and is regarded as being pristine in terms of its salmon and sea trout fishing. The river is 'fly fishing only' and contains some very impressive sea trout and good numbers of salmon and grilse. Angling pressure is relatively light across the river. Like the other Galloway rivers, the Luce is a spate river that fishes best after a good fall of rain.

The Luce is fed from two Waters which originate in the Ayrshire moors - the Main Water of Luce and the Cross Water of Luce. The two Waters meet at the village of New Luce, 6 miles north of the sea. From here, the river gently flows through farmland and broadleaved woodland before entering the sea at Luce Bay. The majority of the river is managed by Stair Estates.

River Cree

The Cree rises high in the South Ayrshire hills at Loch Moan and meanders down through moorlands and forests before entering the sea near Newton Stewart. The river was immortalised in Robert Burn's late eighteenth century poem 'The Flowery Banks of Cree'. Its catchment extends over 198 square miles, draining the Carrick and Glentrool forests as well as those at Kirroughtree and Cairnsmore of Fleet. The river's appearance changes dramatically over its length, from the stately splendour of the Water of Minnoch to the tidal pools of the lower Cree. The river is a spate river with a reputation for rising rapidly and a good fall of rain in the evening can mean that the water is in perfect condition by the next morning.

Historically, the Cree supported an extensive net and coble fishery and stake net fishery in the estuary and good catches were made. The net fishery is largely closed now. Good runs of salmon and sea trout provide plenty of angling opportunities across the Cree and Water of Minnoch. 

The main settlement in the Cree catchment is the small town of Newton Stewart, with adjacent hamlet Minnigaff, which the Cree flows through for around 1.5 miles. The wildlife around the Cree is impressive with red squirrels and deer inhabiting the broadleaved woodland areas. Characteristic features of spring on the Cree are the sight and scent of bluebells which are present throughout much of the lower river catchment.

The Cree is well regarded for its aquatic life being home to some of Scotland's more unusual fish species. The most famous of these is the mysterious sparling (or smelt) that enters the Cree during the hours of darkness to spawn during the spring time. Sparling used to be present throughout the Solway region but are now in Scotland confined only to the Cree, Forth and Tay estuaries. Their appearance in the Cree is heralded by the sight of many thousands of tiny round eggs stuck to the rocks and mosses within the river. These fish smell strongly of cucumber!

River Bladnoch

The Bladnoch is a pleasant dark coloured river set in rural surroundings in the Machars of Galloway. The river rises out of Loch Maberry and gently weaves its way over moors, forestry and farmland before entering the Solway at Wigtown Bay. With a catchment area of 132 square miles, the river is a true spate river whose character changes dependent upon its water level. The Tarf Water is the largest tributary which joins the Bladnoch near Kirkcowan.

The Bladnoch salmon population is designated as a 'Special Area of Conservation' under the Habitats Directive due to the various sub-stocks found in the river resulting in salmon entering the rivers during nearly every month of the year. Anglers can catch salmon from the start of the season in February through to the season end in October.  Sea trout are rarely caught on the river.

The landscape around the Bladnoch is visually very attractive with little development having taken place. There are only three settlements along the length of the river - Bladnoch village, Wigtown and Kirkcowan. The unspoiled natural environment is host to a wide variety of wildlife with otters, deer and even ospreys being sighted in the river's vicinity.

The Bladnoch itself offers some spectacular sights from the power of the Linn (or Waterfall) of Barhoise during a spate to the beauty of springtime in Cotland Wood. The abundance of pink-footed geese, greylag geese, ducks and wading birds led to Wigtown Bay being declared a Local Nature Reserve in 1996, of which it is still the largest in Britain.

Water of Fleet

The Water of Fleet is one of the smaller Solway rivers, which runs through the town of Gatehouse of Fleet nestling between the Galloway hills. The river quietly flows through a charming pastoral landscape and is lined with oakwoods, which cast a dappled light on the water on sunlit days. The Water of Fleet has two tributaries - the Big Water of Fleet and the Little Water of Fleet. The Big Water drains the eastern slope of Cairnsmore of Fleet whilst the Little Water is fed by Loch Fleet. The Big and Little Water join at Aikiehill meandering through the countryside to become simply the Water of Fleet. It was renowned for its impressive sea trout catches and although catches have fallen it still offers good fishing including salmon later in the season.

The Fleet Valley has National Scenic Area status in recognition of its natural beauty and it is surely one of the most pleasant rivers in Dumfries and Galloway. During the springtime, the woods are filled with bluebells and in the summer it is not uncommon to see red squirrels scampering through the ancient woodlands next to the river. The autumn is packed with colour as the leaves turn on the trees, painting a fitting backdrop to the picture made by the river's silvery path.

Stake nets have always been present in the bay but recently were fished only on a recreational basis rather than as a commercial interest. Further out in the bay you will see the uninhabited islands known as Murray's Isles, named after the entrepreneur James Murray who founded Gatehouse of Fleet.

Kirkcudbrightshire Dee

The Kirkcudbrightshire Dee is the largest river in Galloway and drains a catchment of over 1,050 km2. It rises in the hills that range between Ayrshire and Galloway and follows a fairly narrow, meandering river valley in a southerly direction to enter the Solway through the pleasant harbour in the town of Kirkcudbright. Kirkcudbright was historically a busy fishing port which still continues to support some fishing vessels but is becoming increasingly popular as a yachting marina. It is now known as the "Artists' Town" supporting many local painters, galleries and craftworkers.

The Kirkcudbrightshire Dee is often called the Dee-Ken system, in recognition of the influence of its major branch, the Ken. Loch Ken, lying on the main stem of the river, dominates the catchment and is popular with coarse anglers and recreational water users. The main salmon run into the river is mainly during July and August. Detailed knowledge of these salmon runs is recorded via a Vaki fish counter located in the lower river at Tongland. 

The river is part of the Galloway Hydro scheme, upon which construction began in 1931 with the scheme being put into service in 1935-36. The hydro scheme has considerably changed the character of some parts of the catchment and there are a number of man-made lochs within the system. However, the smaller tributaries of the Dee-Ken system that contribute to the hydro scheme still retain their original character and are filled with fast flowing, broken water and stunning scenery that is of a likeness to a Highland stream. Two of these tributaries, the Black Water of Dee and the Water of Deugh, are particularly picturesque.

River Urr

The Urr is a delightful river, situated between the Kirkcudbrightshire Dee and the River Nith, which enters the Solway near the picturesque village of Kippford. The river rises a short distance above Loch Urr and like the other Galloway rivers is spatey in nature.

This river supports a healthy salmon and trout population over most of its length. It has a relatively late run of salmon and fishes right through to the end of November. Most of the angling is undertaken by two angling clubs.

The idyllic scenery that surrounds the river provides a pleasant prelude to the East Stewartry National Scenic Area (NSA) which encompasses the mouth of the Urr. The Colvend Coast is part of the NSA and boasts a magnificent coastline with spectacular cliffs which are home to a variety of sea birds. The beauty of the area did not go unnoticed by the Victorians, who were such regular visitors that it was known as the 'Scottish Riviera' for a time! Nowadays, it is still a very popular holiday destination and there are many places to stay whether you are interested in camping, caravanning, self-catering or staying in a hotel.

Border Esk

Historically, the ownership of Eskdale and Liddlesdale, through which the river runs, was a source of constant dispute between English and Scottish feudal barons for many centuries. The area that was known as the 'Debatable lands' was fought over countless times and it is said that the redness of the soil is a result of much spilt blood.

Both the Esk and Liddle, which make up the Border Esk, flow through picturesque countryside typical of the Border area and much of the bankside is wooded with indigenous hardwoods. The rivers are generally fast flowing and with beds of rock outcrop or pebble shingle with no natural weed growth. The Border Esk is particularly renowned for its sea trout catches although it still supports a strong run of salmon. Angling is a popular pastime on the river but remember you do need to have a EA rod licence. 

The Border Esk is a large productive river which has a catchment area of 430 square miles. Small burns in the Ettrick Hills gather to form the White Esk in the Eskdalemuir Forest. The White Esk then flows south through the Castle O'er Forest to Bailiehill where it is joined by the Black Esk, which flows from the Black Esk Reservoir.

At this junction the river becomes the Border Esk which then flows east down Eskdale for 3 miles to be joined by the Meggat Water near Bentpath, then southeast to Langholm where the Ewes and the Wauchope Waters enter the river. Downstream of Langholm the Tarras Water joins the Esk which flows south through woodland areas and farmland through Canonbie to the junction of the rivers main tributary, the Liddle Water.

The Liddle is formed by burns which rise in the area of Dod Fell and Windy Knowe and meet at Saughtree in upper Liddlesdale. The river flows southwest to be joined by the Hermitage Water at Sandholme, the Black Burn at Newcastleton and the Kershope at Kershopefoot. Below this the Liddle becomes the border between Scotland and England and follows a circuitous path with many twists and turns down Liddlesdale to its junction with the Esk at the famous Willow Pool downstream of Canonbie.

 

 

Latest News


The New Sparling Model Has Arrived!

GFT commissioned a Bolton based taxidermist, Phillip Leggett to create a realistic sparling model. This model accurately represents three adult sparling, which grow up to 30cm and are still present in the River Cree.

Fisheries Management Scotland- Annual Report

GFT recently attended the Fisheries Management Scotland Conference 'Salmon and People in a changing world.

Sparling Goes To School

This year's Saving the Sparling Project Intern has been continuing with the Sparling Goes to School Project by visiting local primary schools to teach pupils about the amazing Sparling.

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