Willie Laird



Willie Laird was born on the 16th of March 1912 in Birnam by Dunkeld and by the age of 18 had taken over the position of ‘Gillie’ on the then Birnam Beat (Newtyle Beat) of Scotland’s famous River Tay. As a third generation ‘Gillie’ and also being highly tuned into Mother Nature, Willie’s knowledge and understanding of ‘The King of Fish’ was exceptional.

Everyone who had the privilege of fishing the mighty River Tay with him would surely agree that Willie was indeed a very ‘special’ man who was responsible for creating many precious and everlasting memories.

Willie was a true gentleman by nature and was consistently very generous and patient with people.

Willie and his faithful golden Labrador dog ‘Eve’ out in the boat on a fresh Spring morning searching the river for those prized ‘Tay Springer’s’was a normal sight as any Birnam river bank walker would agree.

I met this man in 1970 when I was 5 years old and was instantly captured by his magical aura. Right through to Willie’s death in 1992 (aged 80) I was fortunate to spend many days and sometimes nights out fishing the Newtyle beat with this ‘Scottish Legend’.

It was during these times together that he showed me his personal and secret deadly salmon lure, which was handmade out of brass and mother of pearl. He demonstrated to me on numerous occasions how deadly the lure was for salmon and even the highly wary Tay trout couldn’t resist its lethal ‘iridescent shimmer’. He informed me that these beautiful handmade lures were hard to come by but they were by far the best salmon lures that he had ever seen in action on the river.

It is this very lure that I have re-produced in memory of Willie so that others can experience fishing a lure of true magnificence, beauty and fish catching ability. Fishers from all over the world fished with this true “Highland Gentleman” and during his 50 years of being Gillie on the Newtyle beat he positively influenced thousands of fishermen and women.

Our “Willie Laird on the River TayWillie Laird” is badly missed by many people starting with his sisters Jean, Nellie and Morag to local Birnam people and anglers all over Europe and the rest of the world. His memory and magical aura will never be forgotten and sometimes today while fishing the Tay I could swear that Willie and Eve are right there behind me with the landing net in anticipation of that next prized Tay salmon.



A Different View of the River Tay


The river Tay is one of the finest Salmon fishing rivers in the world. The size and quantity of the Salmon attracts anglers from all corners of the globe. I have seen countless numbers of fish caught over 20lbs, and prospects of catching a 30lb Salmon are often very realistic. The river also holds the record for the largest ever rod caught Salmon in Britain, at a whopping 64ls!

But the attraction of the river Tay is much more than just the fish. The river Tay has an incredible beauty about it. This is the longest river in Scotland and it stretches and spirals across miles of stunning Scottish countryside and architecture. I love the serene beauty of floating downstream and admiring the surroundings, especially the sight of the grand Tay Rail Bridge.

I’ve taken dozens of photos over the years, and while I still love capturing some of the great moments out the river on my digital camera, I realised my quite poor photography skills weren’t quite doing the experience justice. This week we decided to take a different view of the river. Instead of our usual fishing trip, we decided to take a drone out to accompany us and take some photos of the river. I knew my brother had recently bought one for Christmas, so I called him up and invited him (and the drone) along! I made sure that John did all the flying of the drone, if I’d been in control it would have probably plummeted into the river – which would be bad for the drone, but more importantly it might have scared the Salmon away! The result – a great success. We took some great shots of the bridge and managed to see the river from an angle I’d never considered possible before. The weather wasn’t amazing but we did have a brief sunny spell and managed to take a good picture. Unfortunately the camera quality wasn’t amazing as the drone was a relatively cheap one, but I might need to invest in a better one now.

Here are some of the photos:

If you’re interested in taking part on a fishing trip down the river Tay, please contact us. All of our services are completely bespoke and we pride ourselves on outstanding customer service and satisfaction. We will handle all of your requirements and make sure you have a trip to remember.

If you’re interested in taking a drone out to take some photos. There are local places where you can hire a drone for the day, or alternatively you can buy one online. If you need some advice on buying a good camera drone, this guide will help you.


Happy New Year


Wishing you a very happy new year from all of us at Willie the Gillie. May this year be a great year for you and your family. Fingers crossed that we get a great number of fresh Atlantic Salmon this year and I hope many great memories are made again out on the rivers.


Environmental Policy


One of the duties we undertake to protect the environment is liase with the various salmon fishery boards and the Tay River Fishery Board to seek their advice on where best we can help them on their river system.

Typically the type of work undertaken is as follows:

  • Identify spawning areas and making sure that there is an abundant supply of loose gravel on the stream bed for adult fish to lay their eggs in
  • Sympathetic tree management assisted by the expertise of Scottish Native Woods where part removal of native tree species is implemented therefore creating properly balanced native forestation at the banks of the river/stream.
  • Monitoring of water ph levels on waters where we are focusing our efforts on. Particular attention being paid to riverside areas where non native acid producing coniferous trees are in abundance then liaising with forestry in order to remove such areas followed by planting of native trees which will act as a natural buffer zone and therefore protect against excess acidity.
  • Unblocking natural post spate blockages that may be hindering the upstream migration of fish. Where necessary consulting civil engineering companies who already have a track record in the construction of successful fish passes.
  • Fencing off areas where cattle are prone to destroy essential riverside vegetation when using the river/stream to drink from. This vegetation is vital to juvenile fish for both feeding and cover

Willie The Gillie © 2016