Well it’s been an interesting year on many of Scotland’s salmon rivers this season and though it’s fair to say the fishing has been generally pretty tough, not helped by at times seemingly relentless rain, there have been some notable successes. Certainly big fish have been a feature of many rivers, as has what appears to be an increase in summer salmon. On the Tweed the spring catches were better than the five-year average with good sport being enjoyed from the kick off. Catches for February, March and April seem to have been above the five-year average and Tweed anglers this year enjoyed the presence of summer multi sea wintered fish. The Whiteadder also enjoyed great sport in the spring.
Another river that saw unexpectedly early sport was the Annan with a summer salmon run occurring on what has been a classic back end river. Many of these summer fish were into the high teens and there was even the occasional springer caught, including a 20lb fish caught by George Renwick at Hoddom.
Such early action, certainly over the summer months, is perhaps unsurprising considering the amount of rainfall witnessed this year but there is evidence to suggest that salmon runs on the Annan are tending to occur earlier each year. The back end on both Tweed and Annan, when most action is traditionally enjoyed, has been disappointing with river levels up and down like a yoyo. There certainly doesn’t seem to be anything like the numbers of fish in the Tweed this back end compared to the last two seasons, which were exceptional numbers-wise. It could be just a leaner year, or is it possible we’re on the cusp of a general shift to earlier runs of fish on these two rivers?
The sea trout fishing was mixed on both these lowland rivers but fantastic sport was enjoyed by some Tweed anglers over the summer months with several double figure fish encountered around Kelso in July and August and fish also being caught around Galashiels and up to Peebles. The sea trout on the Annan seem to have been sporadic but three double figure fish, of 10, 12 and 14lb were reported.
The first couple of days on the stunning Dee saw some decent catches despite low water and freezing temperatures with Invery performing well from the off. Charlie Jeffrey caught a fine springer there on opening day and shared the prize for biggest fish of the day with Malcolm Thorne fishing at Lower Blackhall. Tina Cummings, also in the Invery party, was the first lady angler to land a springer on opening day. I was hoping to get in on the action with friends at Park on the first Saturday but all the ice that had formed further upriver began to come away and the whole river became unfishable. Overall catches were down on last year’s total but slightly above the five-year average mark, apart from in July where catch returns were well above the average.
Something else well above average on the Dee was an estimated 48lb leviathan caught at Balmoral in June and it’s certainly been quite a year for big fish. One of my favourite rivers, the Findhorn, produced a 37lb fish, while a lady angler caught a 38lb specimen from the Shin. The Teith, another of my favourites which had a very mixed time of it, came up trumps again in the big fish stakes with a 40lb plus salmon. And of course, no round up of events would be complete without mention of Jim Reid’s huge salmon from Bemersyde caught in October. Recorded at 37lb it was more likely to have been over 40lb and in top condition when first entering the river, it could well have tipped the 50lb mark.
The Findhorn endured a tricky spring with warm temperatures and low water making life difficult and although there were good numbers of multi sea wintered fish spread throughout the river earlier than expected due to warm water temperatures, they were hard to come by. Wetter and more unsettled weather in July saw catches improve and such weather patterns continued through to the end of the season.
The grilse runs this year generally have been disappointing and certainly the weather has been difficult, with monsoon-like conditions for many over the summer and large areas of the north west and the Hebrides witnessing record low levels of water.
Who knows what next season will throw at us, a 50lb plus fish, shifts to earlier runs of salmon on some rivers? One thing’s for certain, the fishing will be as challenging as it will be varied and as testing as it is rewarding – and the only sure way to find out is to have your fly in the water.
Finlay Wilson is a member of the Hardy Academy and a regular contributor to Trout & Salmon magazine. He is also fishery manager of the Dawyck Estate beat on the Upper Tweed and available for instruction and guiding through FishWild.