Conditions on Clyde finally allow success
Towards the end of October the Clyde came to life for its salmon anglers.
Catching the King of Fish isn’t easy, but some anglers reported as many as six fish in one day.
A relative newcomer to the sport even managed to net three fish on the last day of the season.
By now, everyone who bought a salmon permit should have sent their catch returns to the clubs, or associations, whose waters they had fished.
These reports of how many fish they had caught, and how many were released, will help to determine what classification might be given to the Clyde in future years.
We already know that the Clyde has been given a Category 2 classification for 2019, which means some conservation measures must be taken.
As there is already a carcass tagging policy, and limit to the number of fish that can be killed, this should not affect anglers on the Clyde.
A very unofficial report suggests there has been an increase in the percentage of salmon, rather than grilse, running the Clyde. The actual number might not have changed.
For any readers who are new to salmon angling, a grilse is a young fish that has only spent on winter feeding in the sea. A true salmon has spent more than one winter doing this.
At one time, I would have been confident to say that any fish weighing less than 6lbs would be a grilse – in fact, I thought a two-sea winter fish would weigh at least 12lbs.
A reduction in the feeding available in the sea has meant that fish as small as 4lbs might have spent two winters at sea.
The only way to be certain is by having a scale read under a microscope by an expert; fortunately, there has been a project doing just that in recent years.
Those fish estimated to weigh around 20lbs are definitely salmon.
Grayling anglers were thwarted by heavy rain in October, but conditions changed, markedly, in November.
A few nights of frost meant that the water level was allowed to drop to a normal height, and this might have prompted the grayling to come properly on to the feed.
Most anglers had a certain amount of success, but what they caught was often no more than a succession of small trout and grayling.
However, this provided a degree of sport for anglers who had not caught anything for the last few months.
More importantly, the presence of young fish proved that the bigger specimens had been there, and successfully bred.
It was not long before the anglers decided they had been practising with the parr long enough and wanted better specimens.
Not everyone will catch the grayling that weigh more than 2lbs or 3lbs, but most of them are aware that these fish are there and can be caught.
Fishing for grayling was a social activity, but we only caught fish that were said to be‘herring-sized’. It took a long time before we realised that grayling stayed together in shoals of the same size.
One of our friends literally ran away in front of us without trying any of the nearer spots. We tried our luck on our way to catching up with him.
By that time we had tales of how many small fish we had caught, and he had only caught a few, but they were three or four times bigger.
He was happy to allow us to fish his favourite spot because he knew we had virtually no chance of success.
While he was alone he could carefully fish the water before grayling were disturbed.
In those days it was not uncommon for anglers to kill every fish they caught.
Some wanted to feed their families, or dogs, or thought introduced grayling were competing with native trout, and believed that by killing the grayling they were helping the trout.
Our knowledge has moved on a lot since then, and we now know that the grayling are no threat to the trout.
Most of us are now happy to release grayling – after all, fishing is a sport, not a commercial enterprise.