Canooing on the Spey (CC Calum Rogerson)

In 2003 the Land Reform (Scotland) Act gave recreational access rights to the general public to most land and water within Scotland. This right applies to recreational, commercial and educational activity, including walking, cycling, horse-riding and canoeing. In 2005 the Land Reform Act confirmed the right of reasonable and responsible pedestrian access (including walkers, cyclists, horses) over land (except curtilage and cropped field) and to non-motorised craft over water. Guidance on responsible behaviour for both recreational users and land managers is contained within the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, a copy of which is available online at

Furthermore, the Scottish Canoe Association has produced detailed guidance under the “Paddler’s Access Code” (available from, about which the majority of canoeists and rafters are aware. Paddler guidance, specific to the Spey, is available online at Anglers on the River Spey are quite likely to see canoeists and rafters when they are fishing, approaching anglers from upstream. The Spey Fishery Board continues to work with the Scottish Canoe Association to try to ensure that both anglers and paddlers experience as little disruption as possible to their sport.

To facilitate this, the Spey Fishery Board and the Scottish Canoe Association have produced Guidance for Anglers. It is hoped that this will allow both anglers and paddlers to enjoy their respective sports with the minimum of disruption. The key to harmony on the river is mutual respect as well as courtesy between all river users.

The Guidance for Anglers explains that:
Anglers can reasonably expect that:

  • The leader of the paddling group will endeavour to ensure that anglers are aware of their presence, either by shouting or blowing a whistle that can be heard above the water noise.
  • Once contact has been established, the leader will request the angler’s preferred line of passage for the paddling group.
  • The paddlers will wish to cause minimum noise and disturbance to the angler and will move in the direction indicated, water depth and obstructions permitting. Where the angler is standing on the bank, the direction indicated to the paddlers may include going towards the opposite bank, towards the angler and even under the rod. If the angler is wading, canoeists will be happy, where possible, to pass behind the angler i.e. between the angler and the bank.
  • Paddler group leaders will endeavour to have their group pass in fairly close formation, allowing for a reasonable, safe distance between each boat, thus minimising the time taken to pass.
  • If an angler is playing a fish, paddlers normally wait upstream until the fish is landed or until there is an indication from the angler or ghillie that it is safe to pass in the angler’s preferred direction.
  • In the event of an inadvertent capsize, paddlers will do their utmost to affect efficient rescue and refloat the upturned canoe as soon as possible. Anglers will know that the River Spey is fast-flowing and its currents can catch out even the most experienced paddlers!
  • Once past the angler, the paddler group will quietly continue on their way downstream. Paddlers will not “loiter” unnecessarily or “play” in a pool where someone is fishing.

Anglers are requested to:

  • Acknowledge that they are aware of the presence of the paddlers.
  • Carefully consider which line is most practical for both angler and paddler.
  • Give clear direction as to the preferred route the craft should take.
  • Refrain from casting whilst boats pass by (although it is not always necessary to take in line).
  • Only resume fishing once the boats have completely passed the angler.

(Issued jointly by the Scottish Canoe Association & the Spey Fishery Board.)

Reporting Problems

Should you wish to report an incident on the River regarding access issues, this should be done by writing to the relevant Local Authority Access Officer, copied to Roger Knight, the Director of the Spey Fishery Board. The contact details are as follows:

Cairngorms National Park Authority (for the upper River Spey down to and including Castle Grant):

Adam Streeter-Smith

Access Officer
Cairngorms National Park Authority
14 The Square
PH26 3HG
Tel: 01479-873535


Highland Council (for Tulchan Estate):

Stewart Eastaugh
Access Officer, Inverness and Nairn
Planning and Development Service
The Highland Council
North Tower
Inverness Castle
Tel: 01463-702186


Moray Council (for Ballindalloch Castle down to Spey Bay):
Ian Douglas
Moray Access Manager
Environmental Protection
Moray Council
Ashgrove Depot
Ashgrove Road
Moray IV30 1UU

Tel: 01343-543451


Spey Fishery Board:

Roger Knight
Spey Fishery Board
1 Nether Borlum
AB38 7SD
Tel: 01340-810841