THERE WAS a significant late run of fish into the Alness on November 16 and 17 on the back of an 18 in spate (which included early snowmelt). Several persons witnessed them surmounting the small weir on the lower river. In my book (2005) I noted: “There is still a race of heavy late-running powerful salmon, in the 12 lb to 16 lb class with much bigger fish among them, the majority of which come in during late October and November – after the end of the rod season; they are usually known as greybacks or bluebacks.” It appears that these fish are still in evidence.
The main spawning took place in the last ten days of November, continuing into early December. Roger Dowsett made an interesting brief film of this. It can be viewed (title – “On the redds”) on Youtube under Salmonquesttv along with other salmon-related films by Roger. – ANDREW GRAHAM-STEWART.
THE 2016 season ended with a whimper. Sadly, that's been the case now for a few years and the strong back-end runs of the ’80s and ’90s have diminished. There was some cheer. Newbie beat reported a slight upturn in the last fortnight, Ian Howarth catching a 12 lb salmon in Craigdale, and several really fresh sea-trout were reported, which is strange in November. At Kirkwood David Fletcher had a 20 lb cock salmon, while Joe Savage had two nice trout (browns, I think). Jim Wilson from Mount Falcon caught a 10 lb salmon in the Dungeon. Isabel Masse from France had the largest catch of the year when she caught a swan. It actually “took” a size 12 Cascade while she was learning at the Salmon School. I removed the hook from its bill – I had to use forceps – and it was released. I wonder if anyone else has experience of swans actually eating a fly or bait? The river was pretty low for most of the last few weeks and that certainly did not help catches. There was only one decent spate in the last six weeks of the season. Low water allowed many decent grayling to be caught. As the editor of T&S reported in a recent article, one of the advantages of the Annan is that if river levels drop and salmon fishing becomes difficult, it’s great to be able to get out a small rod and fish for grayling (or in the spring go for the very big brown trout). Rob Mewlark caught a 2 lb grayling at Jardine Hall. Many people have complained to me about the Government's crazy idea to categorise the Annan as a Category 3 river (ie the lowest level, and in need of desperate help) and then to offer no (or minimal) help themselves but to make anglers put all salmon back. We were releasing most fish, anyway, but it sent out a very negative message and definitely put some anglers off. I know some who just did not come on their holidays in 2016 and some who went to fish other rivers where they would be allowed to kill and eat the occasional fish. All of this was based on flawed Government models/ research/reports. Simply put, they tried to assess how many salmon were in (running) the Annan and then tried to assess how many should be spawning. Their first figures were based on catch returns – spurious at the best of times – and the latter assessment was based on “water area”. Yet they included in the water area vast tracts of water that have not seen a salmon in a thousand years – most of Castle Loch at Lochmaben, for example, is less than a foot deep and has never had salmon spawn there. The large burns Kirtle, Pow and Lochar were included apparently, yet they've never had salmon and don't even run into the Annan. Bad science is worse than no science. And it made catch returns in 2016 far lower than they would have been which means, according to their model, the crisis is even worse this year! I'm not claiming the situation is rosy, but it is not that bad. There are salmon running all year now. If the Scottish Government would only do something about the issues that they are responsible for – the high seas, massive predation by goosanders, seals etc, and aquaculture – then maybe we might get a prosperous angling tourist industry again. – ANTHONY STEEL.
WITH VERY few fish likely to ascend thereafter through the dam at Duchally, the unverified counter figure as of the end of October stood at 200. This compares to 281 in 2015 and a five-year average of 281. This year just a trickle of fish negotiated the pass after week 34 (the week of August 22). Normally, fair numbers go through until week 36; indeed the latter was the peak week in 2015 with some 50 ascending. The timing in 2016 correlates closely with the fact that there was little evidence of fresh fish entering the river after the start of August. – ANDREW GRAHAM-STEWART.
THE NEAR absence of rain caused a build-up of silt on the riverbed, making it difficult to approach the larger grayling without disturbing them. Very few over 2 lb were caught. Only once did sufficient rain fall to sweep away the silt. This was sufficient incentive to prompt large numbers of salmon to start spawning. Attempts are being made to log the locations of these spawning areas in order to give them added protection. Over a period of less than two weeks, the temperature went from 6 degrees below freezing to 6 degrees above and back again. Even now forecasts suggest that the freezing weather will give way to produce the highest December temperatures recorded for many years.
PROSPECTS Once again the United Clyde Protective Association is hosting an event to celebrate the opening of the Clyde salmon season, on Feb 11. The event will be hosted at the Popinjay Hotel, in Rosebank, and will be supported by Daiwa. The tackle manufacturer has been in nearby Wishaw for 40 years. The details of things such as who will cast the first fly and who else will be invited to attend have not yet been worked out. These will be posted on the UCAPA website as soon as they are known. – TOM MACGREGOR.
SALMON RUNS in the Conon system are to a considerable extent dependent on what is by far the largest hatchery in the North. This has been the case since the 1950s. Between 1946 and 1961 the whole of the catchment was harnessed in what still remains the most ambitious and comprehensive hydro-electric scheme in the North, involving seven main dams, 20 miles of tunnels, 15 miles of aqueducts and seven power stations. During the 1950s the Hydro Board put into place an extensive programme designed to mitigate for the loss of access by adult salmon to the traditional spawning grounds. This “compensation package” included numerous fish-lifts within dams and a very large capacity hatchery. For several years now the latter has been well past its sell-by date. Scottish and Southern Energy has now completed a new state-of-theart hatchery at a cost of £750,000. I will report in the next issue on this year’s operation to catch up broodstock at the Heck trap. – ANDREW GRAHAMSTEWART.
CREE AND BLADNOCH
IN AN effort to improve the accuracy of salmon river gradings set for 2016, Marine Scotland and Local Fisheries Biologists’ Liaison Group made concerted efforts to collect and incorporate appropriate locally held data, and create a system to allocate catches to individual rivers rather than fisheries districts. Galloway Fisheries Trust worked closely with anglers from both rivers during the 2016 season, collecting scale samples for use in research into the “grilse error” which is used in the calculation of river conservation limits. Samples collected over many previous years were also included to show the expected mix of grilse and salmon each month. The Fisheries Trust also submitted various other fisheries data, including where salmon were able to spawn, in order to try to ensure the conservation limit targets were realistic for these rivers. Using the results from several working groups, Marine Scotland Science has recently modified the conservation limits model, which has significantly changed the category of some rivers. Many anglers will be happier now that the Cree is Category 1 and the Bladnoch Category 2. Previously both rivers were Category 3. The new season on the Bladnoch opens on Feb 11, and with the right conditions we hope to see an early fish. The following list of fishing may be helpful to visitors. On the Bladnoch, Jonathan Haley has several beats: Mochrum Park, Kirwaugh and Barness, in addition to a beat on the Palnure Burn, the tidal Cree at Machermore, and a trout loch. Fishing may be booked by calling 07772 290 941. Clugston Estate has several beats on the Bladnoch and a trout loch. I hope to have a new contact for permits next month. The new season on the Cree opens on March 14. Newton Stewart Angling Association provides permits for the town water of the River Cree, six stocked trout lochs including Loch Dee, and the Penkiln Burn. Permits for NSAA waters and Kirwaugh are also available from Galloway Angling Centre in Newton Stewart. For rods at Linloskin, contact 01671 402 646 (day) or 07733 154 526 (evening) Permits for Galloway Estate may be available later in the season from Fishpal. Fishing is available on two beats of the Minnoch at Glentrool Estate. Tel: 07787 883 785. – D. A. B.
Clyde’s salmon season to open with celebration
THERE SEEMS to be a reasonable head of fish on the spawning grounds, and the weather has been kind to the fish so far. Huge contrasts, from minus 8 deg C one morning to 15 deg C the next have been a regular occurrence. We have had a few rises in water but nothing to damage any redds. The provisional figures for the 2016 catch are in and it looks as though just under 1,600 salmon and grilse and just over 400 sea-trout were caught in total. Spring fish amounted to 99, and overall return rates were 96 per cent for sea-trout and 81 pert cent for salmon and grilse. The Deveron remains a Category 1 river for 2017 and no new restrictions will apply. The Morison Trophy (awarded for the heaviest flycaught salmon returned to the river) goes to Mr Craig from Knaresborough with a fish of 34 lb caught from Kinnairdy. The trophy will be handed over to Mr Craig at the opening ceremony at Turriff Angling Association on February 11 at 10 am. As opening day is a Saturday, we are hoping for a good turnout of anglers, and perhaps a springer will be caught. Day-tickets for the river over the first few months are readily available from £10 per day. For more information on this, and weekly lets throughout the year, telephone Frank at Henderson’s Country Sports on 01888 562 428.
PROSPECTS Opening day can produce a fish or two, given the right conditions. If we can encourage more anglers out, then a few fish during the month is probable. – F. R. H.
THE BAILIFFS have been monitoring the redds since the end of the season. Although the numbers haven’t been substantial, we were consistently seeing fish on different nights so there is some encouragement. The River Board AGM was held in November. Presentations were given by the chairman, the head bailiff and the Ayrshire Rivers Trust (ART). The hatchery was discussed at length. Currently it is mothballed and ART gave an explanation of the scientific evidence which seems to point to hatcheries as being detrimental in the long term and should be a last-resort option. ART also gave details of funding they have for projects in 2017 such as invasive species control and bank maintenance and protection. The state of the fishing over the past three seasons was discussed. The ART electro-fishing results show that the Girvan still has the highest densities of juvenile fish in Ayrshire and the problems we are seeing appear to be occurring at sea. Good luck to Girvan anglers for the season ahead, which begins on Feb 25! – DALMAKERRAN.
OBSERVATION OF the main spawning areas confirmed what was apparent during the season – that there were not many grilse about. However, there were fair numbers of bigger fish on the redds. All in all it was a reasonable spawning. Most of the activity was a week later than normal, because of a lack of water. Good levels were restored in early November, enabling access
Cold weather needed for Halladale hatchery
right into the headwaters. To date (the first week of December) there has not been a major autumn or winter spate. Stripping for the hatchery was completed by the third week of November and 70,000 eggs were procured. The very mild spell in early December is likely to spur unavoidable early egg development. Usually the hatchery relies on ice in the trays to inhibit development but the ice machine has been temperamental. Unless this is fixed soon, a very cold spell in January will be required to prevent premature hatching. The season opens on January 12, although the chances of a January fish are somewhat remote. – ANDREW GRAHAM-STEWART.
THE HELMSDALE Salmon Fishery Board is once again offering a period of free open days at the start of the new season. They begin on Wednesday, January 11 and end on Saturday, January 21; this amounts to 11 days’ fishing. Anglers need to register. Registration will be available at the Belgrave Arms or the Thyme and Plaice restaurant. They can then fish on the river wherever they please. All fish must be released in line with the statutory no kill before April 1 regulation. The spawning was summed up as “reasonable”. As usual, 150,000 eggs were procured for the hatchery. In due course fry will be planted out, mainly above impassable falls. – ANDREW GRAHAM-STEWART.
AT THE recent Nairn District Salmon Fishery Board meeting the river superintendent expressed satisfaction with the high release rate achieved by the Nairn Angling Association membership. The conservation policy will be continued in the 2017 season. Data from the smolt trap installed in the spring showed the river to be in an extremely healthy state regarding production of juvenile fish. In the next year or two, work should start on a fish-pass to enable salmon entering the Cawdor Burn to ascend the weir into the upper reaches of the burn, an ideal spawning habitat. Intensive trapping of the signal crayfish in the Geddes Burn appears to have reduced the population and it is hoped that the control programme can be continued next year. The river has been mostly low in November and December and spawning activity has been “fairly good”. – ANDREW GRAHAM-STEWART.
THE CONSERVATION status of the Ness system, excluding the Moriston, has been upgraded to Category 2 for the latter part of the 2017 season following discussions between the Ness District Salmon Fishery Board and the Scottish Government during the recent consultation period.
Previously the Government had determined that, because fish destined for the Moriston (an SAC for salmon) pass through the main stem of the River Ness as well as Loch Ness en route to the tributary, no fish caught could be retained anywhere in the district in order to protect the Moriston’s stock. The Ness Board objected, emphasising the potential and likely real damage to the socioeconomics of the area’s fishery and scepticism regarding the approach used to assess the Moriston’s conservation status. A compromise was reached with the whole system remaining Category 3 until June 30, to protect spring salmon generally and all the earlyrunning fish (including grilse) destined for the Moriston. From July 1, the Moriston remains Category 3 (all fish released) but the River Ness, Loch Ness and the rest of the district will move to Category 2, allowing some fish to be retained. A new conservation policy has been agreed by the Ness Board to meet the requirement for limited or reduced exploitation in Category 2 rivers. The Board views this as an absolute minimum requirement if the Ness district and River Moriston SAC are to meet their future conservation limits. For all waters excluding the Moriston, from July 1 onwards, hen fish of any size and all cock fish over 8 lb (69 cm or 27 inches) must be released. One cock fish of 8 lb or less may be retained per angler per week, with a maximum of two for the season. All coloured and
unseasonable fish must be released. There are also advisory limits on hooks and restrictions on angling methods (such as no worming before July 1 or after August 31). The changes to the conservation status of most of the system have been greeted with some relief by Inverness Angling Club, which lost members and thus income during the Category 3 period. The Ness Board will be working with the Scottish Government to “clarify” the conservation status of the Moriston, where numbers have actually seen a modest increase in recent years. The provisional catch total for the Ness system for 2016 is 1,050, down from 1,210 in 2015. The decline reflects the lack of grilse in 2016 and the fact that the traditional late run into the lower reaches was very poor; on the positive side it was an encouraging spring. – ANDREW GRAHAM-STEWART.
DALSWINTON HAD fish of 8 lb and 14 lb in the days before torrential that fell on the evening of Nov 16. This rain continued for a night and a day, pushing up the river by six feet at one point. The water was filthy and full of leaves, taking a couple of days to become fishable. Even then it rained on and off through that week. In the last full week of the season it was snowmelt that caused the river to rise, but at end of the season and conditions became very good and Friars Carse another two at 17 lb and 5 lb. The reported 2016 season totals on the river board’s website stands at 173 salmon and grilse and 100 sea- trout. I'm sure this will be revised upwards when all the beats report, but it shows just what a poor season we have had. – ED BAXTER.
THE 2016 spring run on the North Esk was good, with many anglers delighted to catch silver fish, many of them in the teens of pounds. All beats from the sea to Edzell enjoyed some very fine fishing until May came along, when diseased fish began to appear. Many fine fish died, but it was over quickly.
North Esk remains Category 1 river
Then two weeks later the disease returned – not so bad, but bad enough. We lose a lot of fish most years at this time and I wonder if we should be looking at removing the total catch-andrelease rule and allow anglers to keep at least one fish; better on the table than lying rotting on the riverbank. In early summer we had some great fly-fishing levels and the fishing was steady, but despite some good days the sea-trout did not seem to be about in the usual numbers and by June we were still not seeing grilse. As the summer went on, neither the sea-trout nor the grilse run improved. Even the in-river nets were not catching anything like their expectations. Summer rod catches were patchy – some beats not so good and a few much better than usual. Then came the six weeks or so of low water and sport was relying on a big stock already in the river. This led to a period of better water and increasing sport, again supplied by the resident fish. There were many very large fish appearing, but the wait for the autumn run continued. In the tidal river, finnock were seen in huge numbers and it is good to see exploitation of them is continuing to decline. The autumn run did not appear, as is the case all over the east coast, but spawning seems to be heavy, especially in the Mark and higher streams. The river continues to be Category 1. – WESTIE.
CONGRATULATIONS TO 16-year-old Jamie Carruth from Strathblane, Glasgow, who is the Outer Hebrides Fisheries Trust “Catch & Release”, Fish of the Season winner for 2016. Jamie released a fresh-run 4 lb 10 oz sea-trout that he hooked on a Clan Chief on Loch Fada, South Uist, last October. Stornoway Angling Association members enjoyed a successful 2016 season boatfishing on Loch Langabhat: 48 salmon/grilse, one sea-trout and 408 brown trout were recorded, most of which were returned. The heaviest salmon landed and released was a 13 lb cock fish hooked on a copper Toby by Norman Graham in October. On the same day Norman and his boat partner, Robbie Bell, released another four grilse and a 9 lb salmon. – DONNIE MACIVER.
STEVEN MACKENZIE’S admirably comprehensive annual summary is now to hand. The total for the Lower Oykel for the spring (to the end of May) was 125 – with 11 in March, 58 in April and 56 in May. Much of May and the first half of June was dry. July was the best month, with 253 in the book; it was by far the wettest month with one spate topping 5 ft on the gauge. Good conditions continued until mid-august, when hot and/or dry weather set in; this prevailed until the final few days of September. Inevitably catches in the last six weeks of the season reflected this. The season’s total of 606 was more than acceptable when one takes into account the fact that the level was off the gauge for 13 weeks. Salmon averaged 9.4 lb and grilse 4 lb. The Cascade was by far the most successful fly, accounting for 40 per cent. The catch was split 40 per cent on Beat 1, 22 per cent on Beat 2, 20 per cent on Beat 3 and 18 per cent on Beat 4. The top two pools were Junction (67 fish) and Washer Woman (58 fish). The Upper Oykel was hindered by very low water for half of its short season. Despite this, the total catch was almost as good as in 2015. The total was 170 with 93 per cent released. Spawning generally was described as “good”, with enough water to allow access right into the uppermost head streams. In early December a dead cock kelt was found next to the Island pool. It was 45 inches long and 12 inches deep and weighed over 30 lb. A sea eagle subsequently ate most of its head. – ANDREW GRAHAM-STEWART.
THERE ARE now three strands to the mitigation for the negative impact of the longestablished hydro-dam at Lairg on fish movement (both up and down) and thus juvenile production in the tributaries that flow into Loch Shin. They are the stocking of the River Tirry; flow trials in the dam (running the machines fast) at smolt migration time; and the trapping, using rotary screw traps, of smolts and then trucking them for release below the dam. The River Fiag, which is not stocked, appears to be doing considerably better in terms of smolt production than the River Tirry, which has been stocked for decades. The most recent
Shin fishpassage problems unresolved
estimates of smolt output are 12,000 from the Fiag and 1,000 from the Tirry. The (unverified) upstream count of adult salmon through the dam in 2016 (up to November 6) stood at 237. This relatively encouraging number compares to 179 in 2015 and a five-year average of 193. It is noteworthy that a few adults, which had been pit-tagged as smolts in 2015, were still registered as passing up through the dam after November 6; thus on the 14th two grilse of Fiag origin were recorded and the following day two grilse of Tirry origin went up within minutes of each other. There are clearly still unresolved issues with fishpassage on the Shin system. The upstream count at the dam should be far greater and smolt production from the tributaries really should be in the many tens of thousands. The existing mitigation measures amount to little more than token gestures. – ANDREW GRAHAMSTEWART.
WHAT FOLLOWS is a resume of the 2016 season. On the lower river it was all despair as springers were just not being seen, but reports from the upper river told of spring fish on Kirriemuir AC water in Glen Clova. Many anglers simply did not believe it and when I spoke to bailiff Steve Hawkins in late May even he was sceptical. However, it was true, and 29 springers had fallen to the angling club’s rods by the end of June. It seems likely the fish had slipped through before opening day, for the Esk was once well known for very early running fish. The mid season passed without fanfare. Salmon were coming in most of time but followed the same pattern – going straight upstream – while sea-trout were scarce and some mid-river beats remarked on what had been "not the best sea-trout run". Finavon Castle picked away with rare blank days, catching some big fish in the process. It was at this time that an angler on the Auldbar beat of the Derby AC water introduced some technology and with underwater cameras found more than a few salmon lying in several locations. Very coloured and static, they were not bothered by a camera in their faces. Beats in the area were not catching fish at this time, but we knew then that fish were there. Upper mid-river beats were seeing fish, but the low water conditions were very unfavourable and they were not happy at all with the lack of seatrout.
Again in Glen Clova we were hearing of catches, if not in the same numbers. In August grilse entered in small shoals and I encountered them myself on the Kinnaird beats. It was exasperating, however, to watch them pass through so quickly, and again Finavon did better than most. I recorded at this time a badly diseased fish lying in the Four Croys which I reckoned weighed about 40 lb. Fishing declined in mid August as levels plummeted but some sport was had with the head of fish already in the river, although they were a bit coloured. We were all waiting for the autumn run, but as on nearly all east coast rivers, it never happened until the third last day of the season, when I saw fish off the old Brechin Brig. Fish have been reported spawning in most parts of the river, and below the Brechin Bridge there are a lot of redds. The South Esk is now a Category 1 river, according to Marine Science Scotland. This is a big jump from Category 3 but perhaps they know something we don't. – WESTIE.
BY THE time this report is published everyone will be looking forward to the Spey opening on February 11, but as I write we have not yet had the winter solstice. The days are short, and if I have not walked the dogs by four o’clock it is getting dark. December has so far been totally different from 2015, when we were visited by storms Desmond, Eva and Frank. In 2016 there has been little wind and rain and the river, rather than running at over three feet with spates of over six, is sitting not much above summer level. This morning there was frazil ice on the river, which was not surprising as the overnight temperatures at Grantown and Aviemore fell to minus 10 deg C. There are signs that spawning is under way on the main stem around Aberlour with dead cock fish lying in the margins. Having passed on their genes, their bodies are now providing nutrients for their future offspring as well as the otters, foxes and other scavenging mammals and birds. There is little to eat when temperatures remain around freezing all day. So will this different weather
pattern make any significant change to the 2017 fishing? Certainly it was thought that the relatively warm and high water in 2015 reduced the mainstem spawning and pushed the kelts out of the river. Only beats with large, deep slow-moving pools seemed to have many kelts. It will be interesting to see if that theory is proved, assuming that the weather remains similar for the rest of the winter. If we have a cold winter and it continues into the spring will this have any effect on where the fish stop? Should we be booking fishing at the bottom or the top of the river? As usual with salmon fishing, it is all a bit of a lottery, though what I have noticed is that already rods for 2017 fishing are going quickly. Everyone hopes the river remains on the low side to minimise redd washout and keep the juveniles safe. At the end of November the Board organised a public meeting in Aberlour. Director Roger Knight updated everyone on the 2016 catches, which I discussed here last month. He also explained the water abstraction from the Spey, and finally a little about the Wild Fisheries
Reform, which appears to have stalled recently. The Scottish Government published its Programme for Government in mid-september; the Wild Fisheries Reform (Scotland) Bill did not feature in it. This means that it will not be considered by Parliament before the summer recess at the end of June 2017 and we will have to wait until next September to see whether it will go before Parliament in 2018. On the subject of water abstraction, I note that Rio Tinto, which owns the aluminum smelter at Fort William and abstracts water from Spey Dam to produce the electricity required to run its plant, has agreed a sale of the entire operation to the industrial group Liberty, for £330 million. (Liberty, an Indian-owned group, recently bought the mothballed steel mill in Dalzell as well as a steel plant in South Wales, among others). Spey Dam was recently re-classified as an obstruction to fish passage by SEPA and it will be interesting to see what improvements Liberty makes to conform to the European Water Framework Directive. Interesting times! – MALCOLM NEWBOULD.
AS THIS issue of T&S hits the shops, the start of the 2017 Tay salmon season will be only days away. This year we start on Monday, January 16, because the 15th falls on a Sunday. So, what might we expect, or at least hope for? Well, given the experience of the past few years the spring has been gradually improving. While the first few weeks were largely a washout in 2016, the Tay fished steadily all the way from mid February until into June. The count at Pitlochry Dam to the end of June was the best since the late 1970s, albeit there are no nets now and most springers are released. We have everything crossed that 2017 will continue to see this improvement maintained. After last autumn, we certainly need it. But January catches, or rather the possibility of January catches, are often dictated by the weather. Wet, mild winters like 2015/16 don’t tend to be helpful. But, as I write (December 12) we have so far had quite a dry winter. The Tay is currently running at a height that wasn’t seen last winter/ spring until mid April! It hasn’t been notably cold, however. We have had a few frosty mornings, but more recently some very mild ones, too. I am tempted to say that if this dry weather keeps up, and indeed gets cooler, it will bode well for the start of the season. But things can quickly change at this time of year! Whatever the weather turns out to be, please do get out and enjoy opening day if you can make it, wherever you go to celebrate the opening. While much of the opening-day fishing may be booked up, there is plenty of fishing available in January and it’s anything but expensive. See www.fishtay. co.uk. I wish you all luck and tight lines for 2017 and I will keep you informed of how it all goes. Oh... but do remember, as has been the case for the past two seasons, it is now the law that all springers must be released before April 1. – BEN LUI.
THERE ISN’T a great deal to be said about the final two weeks of the 2016 season. After a
Some Tweed beats reduce prices for 2017 season
frustrating year for many beats, the season was just stuttering to an end, with the river closing itself. We had a complete lack of the autumn fish for which the Tweed has been famous in better years. The vast majority of fish taken through the final months were old summer fish, with new fish as rare as hen’s teeth. Some rods had had three quiet autumns on the trot and many weren’t too happy. If I had a pound for every time I was asked why the fish hadn’t turned up, I’d be a rich man. Various reasons were put forward: the river changing back to a spring fishery, seals, fisheating birds, high-seas netting and so on. I don’t think anyone really knows; it’s probably a bit of each and not one particular reason. The last week and a half were spoilt for the bottom end by extra water at the start of the last full week, on November 21. Peaking at around 11 ft at Norham, this effectively finished the season for the beats below Coldstream, and especially those below the Till. The bottom of the Teviot made over 9 ft and the Leader over 6 ft. The Whiteadder was very big and over its banks in many places with a peak of 9 ft at Hutton. Needless to say, there was a lot of colour and rubbish on the move. Frosty nights helped to lower the levels through the second half of the week, which helped the beats above Teviotmouth at Kelso. This stretch managed to fish in the falling water, which wasn’t as dirty as the stretch below Kelso. They may have managed to fish but they weren’t catching much, with daily river totals struggling to reach double figures. The final three days of the season gave the best conditions for most beats, with the water lower and clearer. Frosty weather helped lower the water as the season came to an end. Beats were struggling to get a fish or two over the final few days, with rods fishing pools with good water, but in many cases not getting a touch. Very few fish were seen and in some places the only fish taken were kelts. Although some rods did have a bit of sport through the autumn, the quality, and quantity, of fish just wasn’t there. Each time we had a bit of water we were told ,“This will bring them in” but, of course, if they aren’t there they can’t come in. It was a season to forget for many and it remains to be seen what 2017 brings. Some beats are lowering prices to attract rods, but will the fish be there? Is the Tweed changing back to a spring river as it was in the past? Some of us did well in June and July in 2016 but was that a blip – or are late spring/early summer fish going to continue to run? If the autumn run has collapsed and the spring run hasn’t yet come in numbers, it's going to be very interesting for much of the Tweed. We shall have to see as the new season will soon be here. – BOB HARRISON.
WITH SEVERAL Wester Ross rivers’ conservation categories for 2017 downgraded to levels that are more in line with the reality on the ground, following the recent consultation period, local fisheries interests are a little happier, although there is still considerable consternation at many of the unjustifiably optimistic gradings. The Wester Ross Board is recommending to all proprietors that in 2017, whatever the category of a particular river, all wild salmon should be released. Salmon in the classroom projects, in which local fisheries trusts encourage school children to learn about the lifecycle of salmon (often through the hatching of eggs in classroom tanks), have been around for some 20 years. They play an important role in educating and enthusing the young about the importance of wild salmon. What I have not come across before is the practice of taking youngsters to watch spawning. This is something that the Wester Ross Fisheries Trust endeavours to do, water conditions allowing. In November the Trust had a most successful outing, with the support of biology teachers Dr James Close and Dr Lorna Brown and Coulin Estate, taking Gairloch High School pupils to watch salmon spawning in the river above Loch Coulin (which feeds into Loch Maree) – including some dramatic cock fish fighting. Seeing frenetic activity on the redds always leaves an indelible impression and such initiatives are laudable. The visit to Coulin Estate also included helping with native tree planting in the riparian zone and witnessing the stripping of salmon in the hatchery with the estate’s Neil Morrison. The Trust’s fish-trap on the tiny River Tournaig, which flows into Loch Ewe, recorded 30 salmon for the year. This included 20 grilse caught in one day in August – a record number. Most of the fish entering the Tournaig are understood to be strays and the trust’s biologist is writing a report on what we can glean from the trap’s captures and the regular fry counts in the system. In some years no salmon fry are found. – ANDREW GRAHAM-STEWART.
THE FINAL total for 2016 has now been confirmed as 607 fish, compared to 527 in 2015, a five-year average of 627 and a ten-year average of 676. The 2016 release rate was 25 per cent. – ANDREW GRAHAM-STEWART.