The Forss is a typical spate river, whose bottom section (approximately three and a half miles from Stemster Bridge to the estuary) became a timeshared rod fishery in 1986. Today, it is controlled by the Board of Management of the Forss House Fishings Association on behalf of, and fully accountable to, some one hundred owners.
There are 240 timeshared rod weeks between the end of February and the end of October, although the first three weeks and last two weeks are not fished. The Forss House Fishings Timeshare's water is divided into four two-rod beats, two below the Forss Falls, which can be fished all season, and two above the Falls, which are only fishable when water temperatures enable fish to ascend the Falls, normally by the end of April.
There are twenty-nine named pools, which are capable of producing fish in a variety of water levels. The lowest stretch, Beat One, is a rather deep channel running through a low lying strath to the rocky sea outfall in Crosskirk Bay. Beat Two starts at the beautiful Forss Falls and comprises a series of rock and cobble pools, starting at the Falls Pool. This beat can hold significant numbers of fish when water levels over the Falls restrict passage. On Beats Three and Four, the river meanders through marshland, which has some of the most diverse summer flora of any site in the North of Scotland. The boundary between these two beats is the picturesque mid-18th century hump-backed Forss Bridge, which is a listed structure.
Originally the Forss was principally a net fishery, with just the owners of the Forss Estate and a few guest anglers fishing the river each summer season. One of these, David Couper a local man, caught the river’s all time record, a cock fish of 42lb, gaffed and landed by his son Fraser, then aged 13, on 14th August 1954, a carving of which can be seen on the bar wall in the Forss House Hotel to this day.
In the past, the netting of Crosskirk Bay by net and coble at the mouth of the river regularly produced annual yields of between 1,500 and 5,000 fish, which were dispatched via Aberdeen to markets in the South.
The netting ceased with the establishment of the Timeshare in 1986. Its first River Superintendent, Gordon Dagger, ran successfully a small hatchery operation to kick-start the rebuilding of the river’s then very depleted salmon stock. Since his retirement in 1996 the stock has not only maintained itself, but has undoubtedly further increased. This is confirmed by the healthy runs of fish to be observed running up the falls at rates of 70 to 150 per hour, at times when water levels and general tidal and temperature conditions are favourable, as they clearly are in the video below.
Video of fish running the falls Sept 2013 - Mark Newton
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