32lb Tweed Salmon on a Single Handed Rod

Borders GunroomThe Tweed is my local river so I do get to fish it through friends and customer invites etc, but, to ensure a regular days fishing I am a member of a local syndicated beat which is part of the Mertoun.

Thursday 12th June, I decided it would be worth a cast or two before work and set the alarm for 6am. The river had been unsettled with small, coloured rises which had been on-going since the previous week, but, by Wednesday it started clearing. On arrival I noticed the river was still carrying some colour and set up a 14ft fly rod and spinning rod.

I started the session with a Posh Tosh, (size 10), on an intermediate tip through Webbs pool, no success. At the Pot I decided to give the spinner a go through the deeper water, 5 or 6 casts later I hooked and landed a cracking 5lb grilse, a little bar of silver and my first fish off the beat this season. Continuing down the pool, retrieving the spinner a fish appeared in front of me out of the gloom, this must of followed the spinner in. A quick short cast hoping it may intercept the spinner on the retrieve, but nothing. I waited a few seconds and cast again, as the spinner was swinging round a salmon (7lb ),  slightly coloured, took it. After a short fight the fish was returned. Happy I wound in my line and went to work.

Brian Douglas joined me for the evening session, as he is fairly new to using a double handed rod I brought some rods, reels and lines for him to try. I also bought along the sea trout outfit I was going to use on the Dee the following week; 10ft 6″ Hardy Swift mk2 single handed rod & Rio Short Outbound line.

Borders GunroomWe drove to the top of the beat, I suggested to Brian to give the spinner a go in the top half of the pool where I had had my fish that morning. On his second cast he hooked into a fish of around 15lbs that gave a very good account of itself and after a few minutes I also tailed an absolute stunning fish, no sea lice, but very fresh. After a few pictures it was returned and swam off strongly. Brian continued down the pool and had another offer but this fish did not stay on this time.

Borders GunroomWe both waded into the tail of the Embankment after about 5 or 6 casts I hooked a lively 3lb Sea Trout after a short tussle and a few photos it was returned. Brian had a go with the rod and was surprised how easy it was to to cast a reasonable distance with ease – so with a new rod and line bought and christened with a fish, he was a happy customer (12ft double hander with a 7/8 AFS Shooting head).

Moving to the bottom pool (Webbs), whilst tying the last two flies (size 10 longshank single Silver Munro, size 12 Silver Badger) on to the leader, Brian gave a whistle confirming he was into his second fish, 8lb hen, covered in sea lice.

Borders GunroomI waded into Webbs pool and started to lengthen the line with every cast of my single handed rod. On my 7th or 8th cast down the pool the running line knotted, wrapping itself around the back of the reel and rod butt, whilst trying to undo this I lifted the rod slightly, which in turn caused the flies to fish round quicker than before. Suddenly there was the biggest, aggressive, splash I have ever seen from a fish, Brian and I said ‘what the hell was that!’. No sooner had the words left my mouth, line started to race through my fingers. I quickly had to un-tangle it and managed it as the last loop was being pulled through my fingers.

The fish sped across the river and stopped in deeper water, offering me a chance to compose myself, move downstream to be level with the fish.

I started applying more pressure, it came towards me fairly easily into the shallower water, at this point I thought, this fish does not know its hooked, Prompting it to shake its head and turn back downstream, line sped off the reel and the fish lunged out of the water, crashing onto its side as it sunk back into the depths. Turning, it headed back up stream tight against the far bank, aerial it showed its size – our calculations were growing as it became air borne 18lb to 20lbs-ish – maybe bigger!

Fly line was being drowned behind the fish as it continued upstream. Quickly I moved down stream to try and decrease the pressure on the hook and leader. It worked the fish stopped briefly before steadily dropping back towards me. Frantically I was reeling backing onto the reel and running line.

The fish was nearly opposite me when it made another run and lunged out towards the far bank, again the backing started heading back up the rod, Fortunately this allowed the fly line to stay on the surface and more in control.

The fish swam towards me, turned and headed downstream into the fast flowing water, all I could do was to follow, wading, trying to avoid boulders, thankfully the bed was mainly flat gravel so I kept up.

Fast broken water at the tail cascaded down natural steps, falling into a deep swirling mass of boiling water, sub-surface runs collided and jostled against the current – ideal place for the fly line to drown again! The imposing solid rock face from the opposite bank, strewn with debris collected from floods greeted me as the fish headed over the spout and disappeared into the gurgling depths. I continued reeling in my backing line and came level with the fish, applying steady pressure, the fish shot towards my bank, but, sensing shallower water headed out and downstream again to where the back eddy finished into a welcome flow of settled, streamy water.

I was now 300yds downstream from where it had been hooked, eventually it came into my bank, moving in around four feet of water, now was my chance. Right under the rod tip it twisted, shook its head, turned and headed out across the pool wallowing on the surface, drifting downstream.

Applying more pressure to turn the fish into the bank I was concerned something was going to snap and could only watch as its head came out of the water then disappeared followed by its huge tail. It repeated this 3 or 4 times, dropping downstream towards the tail of the pool into shallower water. The leader had become wrapped around its head and pectoral fin, keeping its mouth closed. When I applied pressure the fish came to the surface taking it downstream, less it came closer to the bank.

After about 5 minutes of stale-mate the fish rolled onto the surface and turned towards me.  I applied as much pressure as possible and brought the fish on its side to the bank, the fish was still 10 yds below me in the shallow water. Without Brain I would not have caught the fish there – it would have moved down to the next pool.

When I first saw the fish it looked about 25lbs, I knew it was a lot bigger as the wrist was massive, I could barely get my hands around it. When I lifted it out briefly to get a photograph, that’s when I could feel its weight and thought over 30lbs.

Brian found a plank of wood from a pallet lying in the debris behind us and we carefully measured the fish and marked the plank – the fish was only 2 inches shorter than the plank.

Careful handling of the fish ensured it regained its strength and swam off strong back to the depths of the pool. As we headed back to my pick-up truck carrying the plank of wood we could not believe what had just happened.

The mark on the wood was measured at 44 inches. Using the Sturdy Scale this puts the fish at 36lbs. The Tweed Foundation scale at 111cms puts it at 32.5lbs. There was a 33lb springer caught on Hendersyde in May and it was 45 inches long, so taking all weights and dimensions we calculated that the fish would weigh around 32lbs.

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