The Forss House Fishings

by Thurso, Caithness, Scotland

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Code of Practice

Guidelines for Owners and Tenants

1. For much of our part of the river we do not own the river banks and must, therefore, respect the wishes of the Owners of the land when exercising our right of access. There are some specific requests which we need to honour in connection with this. These are the following:-

(a) No dogs are allowed on the Beats with the exception of: (i) the Forss House Hotel grounds i.e. on the right bank from the Mill House down to the Beat 1. (ii) The Landowner of the right bank of Beat 1 has agreed to allow dogs on his land provided they are kept on a lead at ALL times. (iii) The Landowner on the left bank from the Ford to Hatchery pool and the left bank of Beat 2 and into Beat 1 to the top of Grahams pool has agreed to allowing dogs on her land provided they are kept on a lead at ALL times.

(b) Parking is ONLY available at the allocated parking area beside Stemster Bridge at the top of Beat 4.

(c) There is now NO parking opposite the Dunnets’ cottage at the bottom of Beat 3 at the Landowner’s request. Rod Owners/Tenants should use the car parking facilities kindly provided by Forss House Hotel.

(d) Rod Owners/Tenants are reminded that there is no vehicular right of entry via the track at the rear of the Dunnets’ cottage to access the Falls Pool so again please use the Hotel parking facilities.

(e) Please ensure that the gate at the top of the track down to the Bothy on Beat 1 is closed after entering or leaving the track.

2. At least four weeks prior to fishing, each owner will be sent a copy of the beat rota for their week. If an Owner cannot fish and has let his week he/she must pass this on to the guest/tenant. Please note that the beat change over time is 1 pm for spring rods (weeks 1-12) and 2 pm thereafter.

3. Fishing is permitted from sunrise to dusk, Monday to Saturday inclusive. Sunday fishing is not permitted. The Forss is a fly only river and only in exceptional circumstances can the River Superintendent consider requests to relax this rule. The season opens on 11th February each year unless it falls on a Sunday and in which case it will be the 12th and ends after week 34. All Owners are welcome to attend the river opening.

4. There are two tackle shops in Caithness: Harpers in Thurso and Hugo Ross in Wick. Both shops carry a good selection of salmon equipment and flies. The River Superintendent also has a good supply of flies tied locally which can be purchased on request.

5. Please keep the gate to the Bothy enclosure closed.

6.It is established practice that all rods meet with the River Superintendent at the Bothy at 8.45 am on the Monday of their fishing week where they are briefed on river conditions, the previous week’s catches and any other relevant information.  If an Owner/Tenant does not propose attending the Monday morning meeting with the River Superintendent at the Bothy would he/she please contact him to advise of this.

7. Rod Owners should be aware of The Salmon and Fresh Water Fisheries (Consolidation Act) 2003 which states that all foul-hooked fish and unseasonable fish must be returned to the water. For the benefit of Owners that are not aware of the implications of this, a foul-hooked fish is defined as connecting to a fish behind the gill line. The law also states that if an Angler is caught purposely foul-hooking or retaining unseasonable fish then a Bailiff is empowered to ask the Angler to leave the river and, if necessary, can have the offender convicted on his evidence alone. With regard to unseasonable fish then in general terms if the Angler is unsure whether to return a fish then he/she should return it.

8.a.   By law, no fish may be killed prior to 1st April

8.b.   From 1st April to the end of week 15, one clean cock fish may be killed per owner week and all hen fish should be returned.


 8 c.   After week 15, either one clean cock fish exceeding 7lb and one clean fish under 7lb or two clean fish less than 7lb may be killed per rod owner week  provided that all hen fish over 5lb are returned between 1st September and the end of the season.


Because the regulatory authority has been persuaded to accord the river a Category 1 classification for season 2019, these recommendations replace those published last year. However, to avoid any future threat of downgrading, the Board of Management urges owners to comply with these recommendations to try to increase the fraction of fish we return to at least 80%.”                  



9. Anglers are urged not to use treble hooks, especially any larger than a size 10, and to return fish carefully. It is recommended if possible to unhook a fish in the net in the water. When returning a fish it should be held in the water facing upstream until it has recovered sufficiently to swim away. It is appreciated that this is not easy to do in some parts of the river particularly in Beat 1 during low water.

10. All fish except foul-hooked fish should be entered in the catch return book in the Bothy. Rods are requested to make every effort to do this at the end of their day’s fishing. A Grilse is considered to be a fish of less than 7lb.

11. A Gyrodactylus form must be completed by all Anglers prior to commencing fishing. The forms are in the Bothy.

12. Anglers are asked to ensure the Bothy is left as they find it after use and to wash up any crockery etc. they may have used.

13. Any complaints or suggestions MUST be made to the Board Member responsible for the river- Michael Wycherley- 01609-760566 or email:  Please do not approach the River Superintendent in this regard because he provides a contracted service. If Michael Wycherley is not immediately available and the matter is urgent, contact should be made via Victoria Ross, the Administrator, who will refer it on appropriately.

14. Rod Owners are reminded that only 2 rods can be fished on any one Beat at a time.

15. The Landowners are entitled to fish for trout. It is generally understood that Salmon Fishers always have a right of way over Trout Fishers and that Trout Fishers should give way to a Salmon Fisher on a Pool. If any Rod Owners incur any problems regarding this or suspect the Trout Fisher is not using the appropriate tackle for trout he/she should bring it to the attention of the River Superintendent and should NOT approach the Trout Fisher himself/herself.

16. If an Angler catches anyone poaching he/she should report it immediately to the River Superintendent as he holds the appropriate Bailiff’s Licence to deal with the matter.

17. All Annual Management Charges must be paid by 31st January including those where sales may be pending. Owners are reminded that rods may not be fished until the AMC for them has been paid and that if the AMC for any rod is not paid by 14th March the Manager (the Association’s board of management) is, under the Deed of Trust, entitled to, and will, let the rod and apply the proceeds (after deduction of costs) in defraying the sums due by the Owner; any balance being paid to the Owner.

18. Owners are at liberty to make their own arrangements for the letting/selling of their rod weeks e.g. through Fishpal. However, the Association provides for members (via the Fishery Administrator and the Association’s website) a service for the letting/selling of rods. If Owners let their rods themselves, they are requested as soon as possible to notify the Fishery Administrator of the lessee’s name and the week (day(s)) which he/she will be fishing and, in any event, not later than 48 hours before he/she commences fishing. The notification also applies where owners have guests fishing their rods. Rents through the Association for periods of less than one week are not available. If owners sell their rod weeks themselves they should ensure that they comply with clause (THIRD) of and Parts 1 and 2 of the Schedule to, the Deed of Trust a copy of which is available from the Fishery Administrator. Owners should note that for sales the Administrator makes a charge of £50 on top of the charge made by the Trustees presently £50 plus VAT = £60.

19. Details of any rods for sale or let will be posted on the website. The website contains much more information e.g. river heights and catches on a daily basis and Rod Owners are recommended to use it. There is also information which is private to Rod Owners and Members of the Association. Rod Owners need to register to access this and how to do this is on the website. To remind Owners the website is:  The River Superintendent has a daily blog on the website which should be of interest to Owners.

20. Owners are urged, as a matter of courtesy and to promote effective river management, to inform the River Superintendent (RS) in advance if their rod(s) are not to be fished on any day or if they will not be represented at the Monday morning briefing with the RS. If on any day owners or their tenants or guests do not turn up to fish their rods, or have or have not, previously informed the RS that they are not fishing that day the RS shall, unless the owner/tenant/guest requests him not to do so, be entitled at his sole discretion to re-allocate the fishing roster for that day in respect of any unfished water among such rods as may then be present fishing. Provided that (i) should any such owner/tenant/guest come to the river that day and wish to fish rods shall revert to the original roster for that day (or part thereof) and (ii) where a beat is being fished by one rod the RS shall not re-allocate another rod to it. Owners must ensure that their tenants/guests are made aware of the foregoing provisions.

21. It is the responsibility of the Rod Owner to brief any guest or lessee of the content of the Code of Practice where appropriate. It is also his/her responsibility to notify the Administrator of anyone else fishing his/her rod. A tenant/guest must also carry the Rod Owner’s written authority on his/her person for production to the River Superintendent if requested. Appropriate cards are available in the Bothy for completion in this respect to be handed to the tenant/guest by the Owner permitting the tenant/guest to fish his/her rod. In the event of an Owner not being in a position to write out a card and wishing to pass on permission for someone to fish his or her rod then a phone text message would suffice. If a tenant/guest does not have proof of authorisation to fish then the River Superintendent has the right to disallow him/her to fish.